Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Making the most of every inch...

We live in a townhouse. It's a nice townhouse, we have quiet friendly neighbors, and it's on a dead-end street that leads to a secret path and a field full of blackberry treasure and winter adventure walks. Someday we'll have a place with actual space around it, maybe a few acres to grow some food and build a treehouse or two. For now, it's awfully nice to never mow a lawn or worry about leaving our house empty with all our travels.

So, all that aside: it is feeling tiny lately. I wonder how well it will function with another little set of feet running around. I have always wanted the boys to be able to play outside but because our unit is at the entrance driveway of the complex, it's not possible for them to play freely in front.

The back, well, the back has been like this for 8 years:
This is actually the tidied-up version.
There were spider webs from the 80's up in there,
little spider VCRs plugged and set to record Cheers.

Hey, if you look past OUR deck, you can see that the neighbor's is pretty cute. 
That HOA-provided bark mulch on the ground is the stickery kind (that's my Eeyore voice right there).
So doing something with the porch has been a theme conversation in our house since the first day we walked through it. At one point when the boys were littler we had a rocket-shaped chicken-wire fort dug into the dirt. Another year we had a sand bin, but two year-old Isaac would not stop eating by the shovel-full it so we threw that out. After that, it pretty much became a lousy unused space for close to 3 years. Every once in a while I would raise my head, grumble a bit about it sucking back there, then get distracted and not do anything to make it better.

This summer, with a new kid coming to our space, I am finding my need to make every inch count has finally spurred me to action. Lots of action. I mean, I cleaned out the whole pantry cabinet, our big living room sideboard, re-did part of our homeschool. People, I taught the boys how to alphabetize using our whole kids dvd collection as the practice zone. I'm a little obsessed. The nesting has pushed out into the porch rather than into a specific room for her since she'll probably start out in our room anyway.

So adding to the chairs and an umbrella we had bought (but never put in a holder or raised), I found a cute outdoor rug at Walmart and a few other fun things at TJ Maxx.

The main porch is just about complete, and we have been using it every night. This is a great thing, a new space! Isaac in particular loves being out here.

I figured it was as good as it would get, since the part of the yard off the deck is a dirty weedy stickery mess slowly being washed away by lousy gutters when it rains. Then yesterday I made a great find at IKEA: they have plastic snap-together decking in packs of 9 for $25. It turns out I could have gotten away with one pack, but having two makes the space look better/larger.

Now that it's on the internet I realize the pattern is
not in keeping with my usual OCD tendencies.
And I'm not going to fix it. Well, not tonight, anyway. 

Those of you concerned with physics and flammable objects should know we haven't actually lit the BBQ in around 4 years so the ridiculously overgrown shrub and our A/C intake is in no danger... yet. I am thinking of ripping out the sadly hollow-backed bush (take that, Gwen Stefani!) so we can put the bbq in its spot and actually, y'know, cook stuff on it. Maybe we could even cultivate some grown-people friends to invite over. Anything is possible.

Clowns added for size comparison.

Hunting and gathering

We're deep into adoption preparation. I accidentally spent the bulk of the last two days dragging the boys around doing errands to complete our packing list.

At the start of the day, brothers.
Today we braved Goodwill, looking for books they can take to Grandma's house while we're gone and for cute things for our daughter.
We were successful at Goodwill.

The register malfunctioned, inputting the SKU number rather than the dollar amount. I was kinda impressed that Toby figured that out just by glancing at the back of the book we were buying. I'm slowly catching on that you have to find the humor in all these little things in adoption. Doing it in day to day life is good practice for me as a parent and for them as my kids.

The total for the things I could thoroughly justify buying for our trip.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The final weeks of waiting...

... have not gotten any easier. We're busy cleaning up from three weeks of music camp, organizing next year's homeschool, and making travel arrangements. Busy is a close proximation of comfort at this point.

I wonder how her foster family feels just now, and whether they have grown to dread the day they have to leave her at the Child Welfare Institute. We won't meet them; the hand-off is performed by orphanage workers. Maybe the fosters are experienced, and have the right metric of loving care + personal preservation intact so they're able to help children make this transition again and again. I hope the bittersweet knowledge that she will have a family is a comfort to them.

There are so many things I don't want to miss for her. What if we forget to ask something that could become important to her when she's older? I've been trying to research and find out what the parents who have done this and who have grown children now would do if they were new like us. You can ask for information about the leaving spot, the note (if any), pictures of the child on that day. People don't always get them and they don't always get even enough to find a family later. It would be such a shame to miss out on information she will want because we simply didn't think to ask. I trust our agency (Holt) but still, the responsibility for so much of this lies with us.

We're going to try to post a laminated picture that announces to her city (of 10.2 million) that she will be okay. That her surgery was a success and she'll have a family who can care for her, and that someday we will come back to visit all together. Her beginning will always be a part of her, and while I never understood this when I read other adoptive parents' words, I believe I already love all of her. It might be harder later as a mom and a human being, but right now I hope she does want to embrace China and find the beauty in its relationship with her.

Our plane tickets are purchased, our first few nights in Hong Kong reserved. Now to prepare the boys' school work and little gifts to open at Gramma's while we're gone... just 17 days left.

My expression when I learned there is more paperwork to be done in China! (and that there are at least two Starbucks within walking distance of our hotel in every city we'll visit...)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Travel Approval!

We have travel approval! We should be in the mid-August group and will find out for sure within the next 48 hours as Holt hears back about our necessary visa appointments. That's the very last bit, the last cog to turn before we buy tickets and lose what's left of our minds.

We've been waiting so long, it is an odd mix of emotions now that we're finally here.

Becoming a parent of three kids is a big change. We've had people tell us it's much more than going from one to two. The boys are old enough now (6 and 8) to entertain themselves, to be helpful and to have glimmers of self-sufficiency. Our first adoption... our first girl... and to have her join us at almost two years old...

Preparing for it is kind of like preparing for the first time leaving home. You can ask people all the right questions, read all the right books, take the classes, and still have no idea what you will really need. She will be unique, and our big day (week, month, year) will be unlike any of the others we've seen described.

One thing I know. Adopting adds layers to the anticipation of a new kid; travel, more paperwork, having a baby in a hotel, meeting a child with expressible opinions and set needs about which we will have no idea. Our daughter will need a thorough check with a specialist when we get her home. She probably won't need further surgeries, but she could. Sometimes kids in the special needs program have other issues as yet undiagnosed. There is simply no preparing for any of this.

We're going to call her Primrose.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Allllmost leaving. Allllmost home.

We are supposed to travel about a month from today. If all goes as our agency expects, we'll need to be in her city (Wuhan) by Monday, August 18th to meet her. To take her with us. To start caring for her in person, with our actual hands and feet. It's like that part of a mega roller coaster where it's ratcheting up the hill, jerking and clicking along, building anticipation in the region of your lower abs.

I watch the videos on YouTube. Search "China Gotcha Day" on there and pull up a box of tissues. I really love the ones that show the people become a family and then go on to show the next year of the new member's life. The changes in their bodies, their health, their lively eyes. The way they become at home.

What will our day be like? Will she cry and struggle to get away? I imagine my boys would have, had they been handed to a foreign family just months before their second birthdays. I can't go too far down that road, actually, or I get weepier still.

We're going to cheat and bring her treats, bring ipods, bring all sorts of distraction tools. Someday when we look back, I wonder already which things will stick out. Which will be important because they showed the core of her personality from the start? It's a lot to have entrusted to a couple of average parents. I'm so grateful we'll have a lot of years to wrap our minds around the depth and richness of that blessing.

Here she is! Matching outfit, beautiful little human.