Friday, November 30, 2007

We Have a Court Date!

Our court date (where the kids will legally be declared to be our kids) has been scheduled for December 17th! That's a lot sooner than I'd hoped for! Our coordinator said she still thought we wouldn't be able to travel until mid-February at the earliest if this court date goes through, but I'm really pleased that the court date has been scheduled for December. I thought for sure that we wouldn't get one until at least January.

In other news, we finished our second round of parent-teacher conferences today. Phew! That was exhausting.

I'm sorry if I've been sounding negative or whiny on here recently. I'm going to try to focus more on the positive from now on.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Waiting Supreme: I Seem Destined to Become More and More Irrational As Time Passes

I honestly thought waiting for a referral would be the hardest part. It was driving me nuts and I really, truly believed things would be okay once we knew who our kids were. Other mothers on the adoption blog I frequent talked about how waiting to travel was even harder, but I didn't believe them. At least they have pictures of their babies and can prepare for them and realize they actually exist, I thought.

HA! They were right and I was wrong. There were about two weeks after our referral that I didn't feel any worry or stress about the wait, but those days are over now. I want them home.

Do all new parents receive more advice than they can handle? I had a professor once in college who had never held a baby before her own son was born. I remember being aghast at that and thinking that holding a baby would have been pretty high on my priority list while gestating. Still, we both have experience with babies and are reasonably intelligent people... why is it that a lot of people seem to assume we won't be able to figure out how to feed, diaper, and care for them? I'm being far too sensitive and probably paranoid. I assume people are offering to let us hold their babies because they think that we'll be at some sort of deficit since ours aren't biological kids. I've yet to meet any first-time parent who feels completely prepared and knowledgeable so I guess I just figure that we'll learn what to do pretty quickly just like everybody else does with their first kids. Allegedly, one of my first phrases as a baby was "I can do it myself." - I guess old habits die hard. Like I said, I know I'm being too touchy. We're probably going to need a lot of help and support when Atticus and Norah come home. I'm just feeling a little overwhelmed and defensive. Is this normal?

Rationally, I know the adoption probably isn't causing hormone fluctuations. I wish I could attribute my mercurial moods to that. We have parent-teacher conferences this week and I can't tell you how often I'm on the brink of tears. Honestly, that's the case every year; I love my students and I feel so bad when their parents cry and so happy when their parents are happy. This year, though, the feelings are even more intense: Parenting, it seems, is pretty serious stuff and I hope we have the presence of mind to be good parents and not let our pride and egos stand in the way of our kids' success.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Breath In, Breath Out, Throw Clay As Necessary

I had my first ceramics class in ages last night. My mom paid for a 4-week class as an early Christmas present. I've taken courses before. It doesn't seem that long ago, but I realized last night that I'd never tried to throw a pot before while wearing my wedding ring, so it must have been at least 4 years ago. I've really, really missed working with clay. There's something so therapeutic about kneading the clay, staring at the wheel, bringing up the pot, and destroying your mistakes. Plus, the studio is always warm (important in these cold winter months) and there are usually neat people that I get to know while in class. I should have enrolled in a course a long time ago.

I'm a little frustrated today about adoption stuff. We were told we would receive weight and health updates on Monday and we haven't gotten them yet. I'm pretty sure that it's because our agency has been very busy with a huge number of families whose cases went through court yesterday. As far as a I know, all of the court hearings were successful (i.e. none of them were cancelled) and all the families were also given embassy and travel dates yesterday. I'm sure our agency has had its hands very full calling all of those families and answering their questions. All in all, this is very good news. I'm delighted to know that families are making plans to travel. I'm just bummed because it feels like we don't know anything at all about Atticus and Norah. I can't tell people when they'll be home, what they like to do, or even how much they weigh. What kind of a crappy mother doesn't know anything about her kids?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy 7 Months Atticus!

Atticus officially turned 7 months yesterday. It's so weird to think about that - I try not to spend too much time contemplating what they're doing and how they're growing up without us in an orphanage because there's nothing I can really do to speed up the process. In the meantime, we spend a lot of time looking at their pictures. I really like these photos my mom took on Thanksgiving of me and my mother-in-law looking at Norah's newest pictures for the first time.
It's been a fantastic long weekend. I love having long stretches of time with no real plans and plenty of opportunities to hang out with Paul and sleep in. We bought two cribs this weekend! Our entryway looks like a baby gear store exploded since there are crib parts and baby clothes stacked everywhere. We need to start painting the nursery and assembling the cribs if only to have an organized place to put everything.!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

We received new pictures of Norah today right in time for Thanksgiving dinner!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

He's So Cute!

We received updated pictures of Atticus tonight! Hooray! I thought he looked darling in the first photos we got, but he's even cuter in these! I want them home so badly! Paul and I couldn't agree about which of us would get to post the pictures first, so the other photo of Atticus will be appearing on his blog shortly. He's just so darn cute! We should be getting new pictures of Norah and updated weights for both of them on Monday. Cute, cute cute.


Turkey-Related Injuries

I managed to bruise both of my pinkies lifting up our turkey this morning. The metal edges of the baking pan dug into them as I was transporting it. I kept thinking about the fact that the 18 pound turkey is just about the same size as Atticus. I'll have to remember not to carry him in a roasting pan.

One of my students had a visit yesterday from her baby sister who was born the week after Norah. She was so tiny! I'm getting really antsy to have them home. The visiting baby had about 4 inches of beautiful hair. A lot of Latino babies are born with a full head of hair, and so my students were expressing dismay that Norah is completely bald in her picture. They were worried something was wrong with her. I told them lots of babies are bald and pointed to the picture of myself as an infant that's on our bulletin board (I have baby pictures of all my students on our board - it goes a long way towards helping me to treat them nicely when they're not acting like the Children of God that I try to remember them as). Anyway, one of my students looked at the picture of me as an infant and said, completely seriously, "Oh, maybe that's why your daughter is bald. She must get it from you."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Read This Before Teaching

This past weekend I read The Great Expectations School: A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Jungle by Dan Brown. Not the Dan Brown who wrote The Da Vinci Code in case you're wondering. This man graduated from NYU and then enrolled in a Teach For America-esque program and became a teacher at one of the most under-performing schools in the Bronx. He begins his tale with an account of punching his fist through a chalkboard in front of his 4th graders because he's so frustrated - you've got to love that kind of honesty.

It was exhausting to read this because there was so much I could relate to. It took me right back to those first months of teaching at my current school when I sat in my car each morning for two weeks and cried because it was so hard and I didn't want to go through another day of learning classroom management and The Unfairness of Life 101.

Anyhow, it was a great read and I'd recommend it to anyone who's thinking of entering the field of teaching - especially those headed for inner-city schools.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

This Is Why It Took All Day to Rake

Stella and my parents' dog Kramer helped us rake the yard this weekend. It turns out that with a little training Stella might be capable of being a cadaver-finding dog or something similar. She managed to find every disgusting thing that's been buried in our yard over the past two years. Dirty diapers don't scare me anymore after prying a half dozen decaying rodents out of her mouth. Seriously gross.
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Paul and I also ventured to Babies R' Us - that place is really overwhelming. I have enough of a fear of accumulating too much stuff that I'm tempted to scrap the whole baby-gear thing. How much crap can two little babies need? Still, it's really nice to be in the position of needing (well, not needing) cribs and onesies and all the accoutrements that Babies R' Us claims we must have. I am very, very thankful for that.
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I wish I could post the pictures I took of my students on our field trip Friday. We went to the big university and then the historical society. I think they enjoyed the entire thing, but their favorite part by far was when I turned them loose in the historical society's big garden. I didn't think they would be impressed but I'd underestimated the power of huge piles of leaves. It was total and completely joyful mayhem. The student I was concerned about last week had still not returned home as of Friday afternoon. The case hit the papers and news on Friday, so I feel more comfortable posting about it. She has called some of her friends, so right now she's in a better than worst case situation. Still, I'm hoping there will be good news when I get to work in the morning.
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There's a rumor on the street/in our bedroom that my dear husband may soon be launching his own blog detailing his version of our life. It may contain more Douglas Adams references than I make. I'll keep you posted.
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P.S. The formatting of this thing is driving me nuts. I need to remember to figure it out tomorrow.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ewwww!!!!

They finished our fence today! Wahoo!

I took Stella out tonight for a victory lap. She's been barking and quivering in front of the fence posts all week, so I was relieved when she immediately embraced being able to run with abandon around the yard. We were having a great time chasing each other when suddenly she stopped, pulled a dead chipmunk out of a pile of leaves and began racing around the yard with the most joyful expression I've ever seen. I'm not sure Paul and I even looked that happy when we got our referral call. Total elation made all the better for her by the fact that we were mid-game in our round of chase.

I guess tomorrow we'll be raking our backyard.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mad at the Universe

I had no idea how little the police will do if your teenager runs away on his or her own accord. Apparently runaways, even those that could be in danger, are just not worth the trouble of finding. I'm paraphrasing here, but I'm just so freaking frustrated with the system right now. I can't imagine the state I'd be in if a child of mine disappeared. They don't dispatch bulletins about runaways to the news - I never realized that before. I had also never considered how hard it would be to be a non-English speaker in this type of situation. Who advocates for those families? How could being an undocumented citizen work against you, yet again, if you hesitated to file a report for fear of being deported?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Is it Thanksgiving yet? I think everybody is very ready for a mini-vacation!

FYI, I took the pictures of our kids down for now because they're not legally our children yet. That won't happen until our court date a month or so from now. We not prohibited from posting them by our agency or anything, but I felt a little weird having them up permanently until we're legally their parents. I figured just about all of our friends and family had already seen them so it was safe to take them down. I will definitely post new pictures though as we get them. I love blogs with pictures and I don't have hesitations right now about putting pictures of our kids online. To my mind, it's akin to taking them out in public - there could be weirdos staring at them, I guess, but most strangers are nice people. I'm reminding myself to be conscientious about keeping last names/addresses, etc. off the blog and that's enough for me right now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Internet Safety

When I asked my students which of them had a MySpace account every single one of them raised their hands. Last year when I asked only a handful did. The average number of friends they reported having was upwards of 150. Only a few of them had privacy features initiated on their accounts.

The Internet is a scary place. Some friends and I were just discussing this past weekend what uncharted territory it represents for parents these days. A speaker at an education conference I attended last month referred to adults as Computer Language Learners while kids these days are Computer Language Natives. I can navigate my way around computers fairly well, but then again, so could the 4 year-old I babysat this summer who would have happily spent all day on Webkinz if she'd been permitted.

Computer skills are vital to success these days, so we'd be doing our kids a disservice to cut them off and completely restrict their access. Still, how can you properly monitor them if they know more than you do about the subject? This isn't an area where most young parents have a lot of role models. My parents certainly didn't have to monitor what I looked at on the Internet since we didn't have it until my senior year of high school.

So... I'm off to research Internet safety some more. Our kids are only infants, so I probably don't need to worry too much right now, but it's good to be prepared.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A New Look for a New Era

If there were more templates that I like, I would probably be changing the format of this blog weekly - it's fun to play around with the different choices!

It was wonderful visiting our friends this weekend. I suppose there won't be many more weekends when it's easy to jump in the car with one change of clothes and drive without much planning or gear. I'm going to try to appreciate it while it lasts! I was able to meet our friends' baby this weekend for the first time as well - such a happy and fun little guy! I can't wait to have our own at home!

Paul is still in San Francisco at a conference. I'm so, so, so grateful that he was home when we got The Call. I can't imagine what it would have been like if it had come 12 hours later when he was out of town. I'm excited for him to return tomorrow. Tomorrow will also mark the start of construction on our fence. Those of you who have visited our house know what a great addition that will be!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Glued to the Computer

It's a gorgeous day here and I'm headed down to Bloomington to see some friends. We've been planning this for awhile and I'm really excited about finally seeing their homes. I have to say though, that I'm finding it hard to move away from the pictures of Atticus and Norah on the computer. I need to get them printed so I can feel free to go places without feeling the need to constantly stare at the screen. I still don't feel like this is real.

Friday, November 9, 2007

How It Happened

Thanks so much to everyone for the barrage of good wishes! It has been so much fun getting to tell people and share our pictures! As several people predicted, I didn't sleep last night. Well, I did fall asleep for about half an hour but then I felt compelled to get up and check my e-mail again to make sure this isn't all a hallucination!

All of the sudden I have so much to post about but I'm still not feeling very articulate. Regardless, I don't want to forget the details of The Call or last night's celebrating, so I'll do my best to recount it a little bit.

The Call occurred when I was driving to get my hair cut at about 3:45pm yesterday. My cellphone rang and I didn't recognize the number. I usually don't talk while I'm driving, but decided to answer it because I thought it was a friend who had been trying to get a hold of me for some time. When I answered, our adoption coordinator was on the other end. As she said hello, I told myself she was just checking in and I shouldn't get excited. Then she asked if I wanted to know who our kids are. I said I needed to pull over! She asked what I wanted to know first. EVERYTHING! She started out by saying we had a baby daughter. A DAUGHTER?! A BABY?! Born approximately 8/5/07. And we had a SON born approximately 4/24/07! I took notes as she was telling me about where they were found and their health records. I felt reasonably calm at the time, but my notes prove otherwise.

When we hung up, I started frantically trying to reach Paul. I tried his cell, I tried his office number, I tried the cell numbers of several friends he works with, I tried random numbers within the company's system. I couldn't reach him. It had only been about 10 minutes at this point, but I was already beginning to wonder how long I would last before calling other people to blurt out the news if I couldn't reach Paul. I had to tell someone! The hair salon ended up being the first to know we'd gotten our referral because I had to call to cancel my appointment that I was already late for.

I drove home and finally reached Paul. Our coordinator had e-mailed me photos and medical information about both kids immediately after getting off the phone with me and I was DYING to see those photos. We decided to open them at the same time. However, I couldn't get the pictures to open when I clicked on the links of Wokenesh and Paul could. He was tearing up and telling me how beautiful she was and I couldn't see! A few frantic minutes later, we'd solved the problem and I don't know how long we looked at the pictures and talked about them tearily before hanging up so Paul could drive home.

When he arrived at home we spent more time looking over their pictures and medical history and just hugging each other in disbelief. By that point I was getting really antsy to start calling people, but we needed to call our coordinator first and ask her some follow-up questions. Finally, the time had arrived for us to begin calling family and friends. It was a really, really fun night.

Paul had to leave the house this morning at 4 am to make a flight to San Francisco for a conference this weekend. I had planned to get the laundry done yesterday afternoon, but that obviously didn't happen so I have no idea what he ended up packing. Like I said, we didn't get much sleep last night!

This morning I arrived at school a little early so I could show off our kids to my coworkers who have also been waiting impatiently. More fun! I also had my yearly physical scheduled. My blood pressure was 30 points higher than it usually is which concerned the nurse until I told her about our excitement. I showed her the pictures and she asked me to wait a moment. She came back in with a photo of a happy family with two little boys. She pointed to the baby in the picture and told me it was her son that she'd placed for adoption three years earlier with the family and then raved about what a great family they were and how happy she was that her son was with them. My doctor was adopted herself and has been very supportive of us through the process, so she was also really excited to see the pictures. (Yes, I did show EVERYONE the pictures today, even the college volunteers at school who don't know me.)

Oh, and we have agreed on names! They will be baptized Atticus Tedros Ourlast and Norah Wokenesh Ourlast! We had been fairly certain that we would be going with the name Norah if it fit a daughter, but we were truly undecided about a boy's name until last night. The name Atticus had been on the table for quite some time and it was my personal favorite, so I was delighted when Paul said he thought it would be a good fit. He could have demanded to name the baby Bubba and I still would have been over the moon, but finalizing two names that we both like made the night even happier (as if that were possible!).

It will probably be several months (February or March I'd wager) before we're able to fly to Ethiopia to bring them home. It's sure to be a whole new torturous time of waiting, but for now I'm just really happy although, of course, we both wish we could fly over there right now. They're so little and I just hope they're being taken care of and loved by the staff at the orphanage.

I'm sure I'll think of more I should have added later, but for now I think I'm ready to crash. Again, thank you to everyone for your enthusiasm and support! Getting to spread the word last night made for one of the best and most memorable times in my life. I promise I'll keep you all updated!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

OH MY GOSH!!!!!

Introducing our son Tedros and our daughter Wokenesh. We got the call a few hours ago and we're going nuts. I'm far too frazzled to post much yet. He is about 7 months old and she is 3 months old. Holy Freaking Cow!!! This is a good feeling.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

An Ode To Our Families

(Okay, not really an ode because I recognize that I'm a terrible poet).

Many potential adoptive parents (PAPs) are hurt to find that their extended families are less than overjoyed by the news that they're adopting. "Don't you want a baby of your own?" is a question I see lamented far too frequently by other PAPs on adoption boards. Family members have concerns about bringing a "stranger" into the family, the possibility of a genetic roulette, birth parents swooping back in years later to reclaim their children. Misgivings stem from all sorts of sources, usually out of the desire to protect the PAPs. Add in the myriad of issues that arise from a trans racial adoption and there's a lot of room out there for ignorant and hurtful comments that indicate hesitation on the part of the extended family. We've gotten tastes of this from acquaintances who have hinted that adopting is a consolation prize for us, including one rather drunken admonishment that we just have to have biological kids because they would have, like, super powers or something. Uh, thanks but no thanks.

This post, however, is designed to praise our own families who have been amazingly supportive of this adoption from the very beginning. There are a lot of special people who are waiting to welcome our kids into the family and that means the world to me. My mother-in-law has a Moses basket waiting on her hearth to symbolize waiting for new grandchildren. I think my mom would have purchased enough baby clothes to outfit an entire orphanage by now if she only knew the sizes and genders of our kids. My grandma has been knitting mittens. My dad asks about the progress every time I talk to him to the point that I'm tempted to tell him that yes, actually, we leave tomorrow to pick them up. Oops, did I forget to mention that when you asked about the status of the process yesterday? We have a little niece and nephew praying for their future cousins. I don't want to leave anybody out because we've gotten so much support and it's been so wonderful. Adopting can be a very boring process; it's a lot of waiting and paperwork and more waiting. It helps a lot knowing that our families are impatient too and are excited about our children. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Another Article That Made Me Cry

About 85% of infants placed for adoption in Ethiopia were found abandoned. My understanding is that a former law prohibited living birth-parents from placing their children for adoption. Many still assume the law is in effect and so abandon their children. In addition, there aren't enough spaces in the orphanages and so children who have living family members are often turned away in favor of those who are abandoned or who have no living family members. For birth-parents who are truly desperate to place their children in better situations, I would assume that abandonment might seem like the best possible solution.

We are sincerely hoping to make contact with our kids' birth-families. If that's not possible, however, our agency has suggested that we might want to try going to the town where they were found, contacting those who found them, or asking around their villages for people who might recognize them.

This story from The New York Times is about one man who made contact with the person who found his daughter on the streets of China and took her to the orphanage. I was rather skeptical about trying to contact someone who might have found one of our children, but after reading this beautiful account I am much more convinced that it would be worthwhile.

The Good Wife's Guide

Most of us have probably seen The Good Wife's Guide at some point in time. It's allegedly from a 1955 edition of Good Housekeeping and extols wives to prepare for their husband's return from a hard day at work by gussying up, tidying the house, and admonishing the kids to be quiet. It's sexist and sets the bar a tad bit high. I remember thinking the first time I read it, however, that it would be so, so nice to come home to a clean home and a welcoming spouse each day. Who wouldn't love that?

I returned home from New York last night to find Paul had scrubbed out the inside of our refrigerator, vacuumed, wiped down the bathroom sinks, and generally tidied up. He has a much higher threshold for messiness than I, so this was done purely for my benefit. What more could anyone want (except for a referral, of course)?

Speaking of referrals, Paul had his own short-lived excitement yesterday. He opened an envelope from our agency to see a bunch of paperwork entitled "Understanding Your Child's Referral Information". A bunch of medical test results, developmental reports, and a letter about where the child was found were included. Unfortunately, when he looked more carefully he saw they were all clearly labeled SAMPLE. Bummer.

There has been another delay for the families from our agency who are awaiting travel dates. Their court dates have been pushed back an extra week. Again, I think we might have to wait for a referral until after they pick up their kids, so... who knows - More waiting for everyone involved.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Live from New York

I'm away from home visiting my grandparents this weekend. I'd forgotten how early it gets dark on this side of the country. When we finished our supper at Old Country Buffet last night it was only 5 pm, but already it was completely black outside. When I was at Middlebury this used to hit me hard every year. By December it would get dark by 4:15 and I would be ready to go to sleep for the night. We don't get much more daylight in the Midwest, but it's enough that it makes a difference. Score one for team Indiana.

I think we're all going to Bingo tonight - wish me luck!