Friday, February 26, 2010

Bits and Pieces

Berit and Marta have been playing this game lately, where Marta is "Marfa" and Berit is "Carfa." They just run around calling out, "Hey Marfa, what are you doing?" "Nothing Carfa, let's play." "OK Marfa."

At Berit's fourth birthday party she closed her eyes and wished, "I wish I could be a fairy forever" before blowing out the candles.

Moments before blowing out the candles she caught sight of Brennan, age 2, walking up to watch the candle ceremony and she instinctively reacted: "NO, MOSEY!"

Status Update

We've been ... busy! But of course, who isn't? Here's what we've been up to, in brief:

Physicals: We've all been thoroughly examined, tested, weighed, measured and declared healthy enough to bring a new baby into the family.

Home study: We're going in for our second meeting, individually this time, which is two of four in our home study, after which we will officially be linked with the orphanage in South Korea and our waiting game will begin. Not to worry! We won't get bored. We've got lots of required reading and classes to take online.

Well-child exam: Berit is 41 inches (75th percentile) and 35 pounds (50th percentile), and loves to twirl (that's totally medical, right?). She had a big-girl eye exam and hearing test and passed both just fine, with only the smallest beep on her right side being questionable. She continues to have a strong, healthy heart, and any SVT occurrence henceforth will not be fatal. I repeat: We are out of the scary, scary woods for good. Not that she's even had one since before she was born, but a mother can't help but be on guard when her child's heart is in question.

Fourth birthday and subsequent party: I do have photos and a story to go with it. I will post them this weekend. I hope.

Preschools: We have failed to do anything about a preschool for next year. Really, really I plan to go check out the afternoon preschool at our church. Next week, or maybe the week after.

House: First comes love, then comes the purchase agreement, then comes the closing in the baby carriage. We are still waiting for the purchase agreement. Still. Waiting.

Marta: I cut her hair. Just a little, and I saved a ringlet. It was getting pretty fuzzy, and after several consecutive nights of calling her "Larry from Dumb and Dumber," I decided to do something about it.

So, toss in a little family time and fish suppers on Friday nights and that's us in a nutshell. Help, help, we're trapped in a nutshell! Just kidding. We're fine in here.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Today we had our first face-to-face meeting with our case worker. She filled us in on plenty of questions that we had, and over the past few days we've been answering a lot of questions that our friends and family have had. Here's a short list of frequently asked questions and their answers, to the best of our knowledge. Thanks for asking, and thanks for caring so much about our process!

How long will this process take? We will receive our referral (the name and information about our child) about 12 months after our final home study. It's looking like our home studies will wrap up by mid-March. After those 12 months, we have about 3 months, give or take a month, until we are able to pick up the baby.

How old will the child be? We have requested "as young as possible." Families usually can adopt a baby between 5-12 months old.

Will the baby be a boy or a girl? There are more boys waiting than girls, though the ratio is not extreme. Because we have two girls, odds are that we would be able to adopt a boy if we preferred to. However, we've decided that God will give us the child we are meant to have, and honestly we don't want to make that call.

What will you name the baby? The baby will obviously have a name, and we plan to use his or her birth name as his or her middle name. We will probably call the baby by both his or her first and middle name for awhile, to help him or her feel more comfortable. If the baby is a boy, his name will be Peter. If the baby is a girl, Johanne (pronounced 'Yo-hann-eh'). (Johanne is the name of a friend who lives in Denmark, and we've loved it since we considered it for our first two girls. It also goes nicely with their Scandinavian names, we think. Peter is, well, the rock. :)

Will you travel to South Korea? Yes, Trevor and I will travel there together to pick up the baby.
How long do you have to stay? About a week, maybe less.

Is the baby in an orphanage until you pick him or her up? No. The baby will be living with foster parents.

Are you telling the girls? No, not until we receive our referral.

How secure is this program? Very. Our agency has been working with this orphanage (there is an orphanage, but they place babies into foster care when possible) since 1982.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Not long ago I wrote about wondering if we were pregnant, and being happy with the idea that we might have a surprise baby on the way. And while we were of course thinking about the child, there was something bigger about the possibility that we were pregnant, that we weren't ready to share at that time.

For the past two years, Trevor and I have been on a prayer and research journey. It's one of the most serious things we've ever done as a couple. We felt called to do something in particular, but we weren't sure if we were... sure.

A few months ago this subject became clear -- just like that, God gave us an answer. So we started a process.

Last month, when we wondered about being pregnant, we were also wondering if God was sending us a message. Maybe we had misunderstood His direction, and He wanted something different for us. But no. We are on the right track.

We have never felt so sure in our lives, to be honest. We feel secure in our relationship like we've never felt. Our future feels good and solid. We get what we're supposed to do, what we really, truly long to do.

The journey we are on, the path we have been following, is about to become much more public. So over the past few days we have told our family and some friends, though we won't tell the girls for another year, probably.

We are adopting a baby.

We are working with an agency to adopt a young child from an orphanage in South Korea. We don't know much about the child who will join our family yet; this is a long process and we will have more details about the actual child in about a year. But we are moving along and things are sounding very, very positive.

I'm looking forward to writing about what we experience along the way. We are so thankful for the supportive kindness everyone has already shown, and we are completely humbled by the months in front of us and by the child who will change our lives in so many wonderful ways.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I'm Not A Doctor, But I Play One In My Head

When Berit was a baby, she had horrible, rotten, no good, very bad ears. We were in the pediatrician's office every 20 days or so -- you know, 10 days for an antibiotic to do its job, then another 10 days for another ear infection to brew. It became such a common occurrence to go in for an antibiotic injection that as soon as we'd walk into the doctor's office, Berit would start screaming and making herself throw up (that was her calling card when she was upset, no matter the problem, which was fantastic). I don't know how many times we left the office in a kids' medical gown, because she had thrown up on both of the extra outfits I'd brought for her.

We didn't have great insurance then (still don't), and I remember asking if we should consider buying one of those ear infection detectors to save us a few dollars in visits. Every time she was cranky or had a runny nose, we went in just to check, with hopes of nabbing it early and not subjecting her to the pain of an infection and many nights of restlessness. The doctor told us no, that they weren't reliable. We began hearing references to the ENT and tubes more and more, and at 9 months pregnant for Marta, I told our pediatrician that we were ready. She told us that the next time Berit came in with an ear infection she'd call in a referral to the ENT. Sure enough, one month after Marta was born and one month before Berit's second birthday, we were back in. I was a complete wreck at the time, with a newborn and a toddler with an ear infection, and took down the name of the specialist but never remembered to make the appointment. Many friends had told us that Berit's ears would probably fix themselves (they were apparently shaped in a way to trap fluid) as she grew, and wouldn't you know it, they did. That was our last ear infection with Berit.

Marta is a different story. She doesn't have frequent ear infections (though she has had her share), but she does talk -- and talk, and talk, and talk. She knows that she gets medicine when she has an ear infection, and that she gets two delicious kinds, the antibiotic and the Tylenol or Motrin. So she occasionally tells us all about her ears, that they're bothering her ("Mommy, my ears are bothering me again."), and how can you argue with a child who tells you they're sick? So we go to the doctor and they check and 10 percent of the time she's telling the truth and the rest of the time there's no ear infection, no tooth coming in, nothing. She tells the doctor all about her ailment, and the doctor looks at us like "Now who put this idea into her head?" And we pay our giant fee and get a sucker and go home.

So here's what I think. I want pediatricians to make an Ear Clinic, where you call when your kid isn't really sick but you think they might have an ear infection. You run in, a nurse practitioner or PA meets you in a tiny office so you're not taking up valuable sick-child space and peeks in the ear. If the kid has an infection they pull out the prescription pad. You pay a small fee and you're off.

We'll still need the sucker.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Wolf Dream

When we were at the pizza place, there was one wolf there and it was nice, and Mommy, Daddy, Lili, Marta and I were there, and the wolf was nice, and I got to pet it and Marta got to pet it and Lili got to pet it. And Mommy got to pet it, and Daddy got to pet it. I wore a beautiful dress that didn't touch the ground; it was a little big and a little little.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Interview With A Four-Year-Old

Berit's birthday is on Wednesday, and this year I've decided to start interviewing her annually, using the same questions each year so we can see how she changes her mind as she grows. I pulled some of these questions from the kid interviews floating around on other mommy blogs; the others we just made up as we went along.

Favorite food: Apples, grapes and tomatoes

Favorite vegetable: Grapes

Favorite fruit: Apples

Favorite drink: Juice and water

Favorite cereal: Cheerios with bananas
Favorite books: Princesses and Tinkerbells
Favorite music: Princess music, Family Time (Ziggy Marley), Gemini
Favorite color: Pink and purple
Best friend: Marta and Cate
Favorite thing to do in the whole world: Dance! And fly.
Favorite place to go: Carousel
What do you want to be when you grow up? I don’t want to grow up. I don’t want to be a mommy, either, because I just want to be the big sister. And a dancer.
What does your daddy do when he leaves the house? Go work. What does he do when he works? Talks.
What does your mommy do when she leaves the house? Work. What does she do for work? Talks.
Who is your favorite person to talk to on the phone? Grandma and Aunt Andrea.
What do you do to help your mommy and daddy? Do the dishes, clean up, put away the dishes, help sister get coats on, I like to help clean up.
What do you dream about? Tinkerbell and princesses.
What do you do at school? Clean up, circle time, clean up, sit at circle time, tell stories, tell somebody the talk that I talk to them, then I play, then I go home.
Favorite TV show: The Little Mermaid

Favorite toy: My heart (from Ellen) (Where’s my heart?)
Favorite game: Tinkerbell and princesses, He-Man with Daddy
Favorite restaurant: Bob-In
Favorite animal: Kitty
If you could change your name, what would you choose? I don’t want to change my name. I like my Berit name.
What do you love about Daddy? When he dances with me.
Mommy: When she dances with me.
Marta: When she flies with me.
Mosey: When I give him love.
Where would you like to go on vacation? Grandma and Pop’s and Annie and Jemma’s houses.
What are some of your wishes? Be Tinkerbell. 
What do you want for your birthday: A Sleeping Beauty dress

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More Play, Less of Everything Else

Last night I had this dream. We were at the beach, and it was really crowded. Trevor wanted me to see something down the shore, and told me to leave the kids and come with him. I didn't think about it and just followed, and suddenly it occurred to me that I had left my children alone on a crowded beach, which was on, of course, water. I turned and started running back, and I just couldn't move fast enough. I finally woke myself up, shaking.

This dream doesn't have anything to do with Trevor, I don't think. If anything he works extra hard so that I can be home with the kids. No, it's more about the babysitter.

Twice a week a babysitter comes to be with the kids so I can write. I've taken more freelance jobs lately and am enjoying the projects and the grown-up time. I also go for a run and do any quick errands that are tough to do with two little ones.

The babysitter is wonderful. My girls absolutely love her, and are so excited when it's her day to come to the house. Part of my hiring her was for their sanity, too -- they both have a tiny need to be involved in stuff that doesn't include me. They thrive when they get a few hours a week to do activities that I'm not creating for them. In fact, I had been considering putting Marta in a toddler program once or twice a week for two hours or so, just to let her do stuff without me once and awhile.

The sitter has worked out perfectly, and has been a wonderful addition to our family. She just plays with the girls -- no cleaning, very little cooking. If the girls are watching a show, she sits and cuddles with them. If the girls want to go outside, out they go on an adventure. If I were home I'd be folding clothes or making dinner or a million other little things.

I do sit and play, of course, but not all day. For five hours, twice a week, our sitter is focused on my girls. It's a fabulous arrangement, I think, and so do they.

With my freedom I find that I expect... more freedom. I can't wait for bedtime, when I should cherish the playtime. When we're all running around town I sometimes think about how much simpler it'd be if I could do it alone. I'm longing for a weekend away with my husband.

But then I realize what I'm thinking about, and I get a lump in my throat. My babies are only going to be babies for so long -- I shouldn't be finding ways to get out of the house alone so much.

This doesn't happen all the time. Every single day, at least a few times, I am caught by the reality that I get to be their mom. I am dumbstruck by their nearness, by their relation. I cannot believe that they, these amazing, talking, breathing, thinking, playing creatures are my children.

But I'm finding that the more I'm away, the easier it is to leave again. And every now and then, like when those moments above hit me, I am shocked at my wanting to be away. How could I leave them, even for a second? Right now, sitting in the coffee shop I go to to work, I am secretly crying because I'm thinking about Marta's little head of curls cuddled on my lap this morning before we left to pick Berit up from preschool. "Watch a show WITH Mama," she said. Stay here; don't do the dishes.

Berit doesn't have school on Friday and I'm planning a day of their favorite activity -- the carousel. It's all the way in Traverse City and is a long drive for Marta to handle twice in one day, but once they're there, they're in heaven. I get car sick at the mention of going around in circles, but on Friday I'll ride as many times as they want. They can run all over the treehouse at the mall and I won't worry about germs. We'll get cookies and those soft pretzel hotdogs.

But still. It's time for me to slow down a little. My house is going to get messy again, because I'm going to start playing more. I'm going to ignore the phone and return calls after they're in bed. We're going to go outside every day. My pants will be messy, because I'm going to sit on the floor as much as possible.

I'm still going to leave when the sitter comes -- I think it's good for everyone. But when I come home I'm going to have a pizza and not worry about dinner or clean up. Movies are going to be watched as a family and not as a time filler. Life will revolve around family, not around home-buying.

Sometimes, I think, the bad dreams lead to good things.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

And God Said, "Take That Kid Home."

We've been tossing around the idea of having another baby lately, as much as you can toss around an idea like that. We've been saying things like, "We should really talk about when we want to do that," and "Wow, Marta is already two; should we think about another?"

So when we thought we could be pregnant last month, we sort of shrugged our shoulders. "OK," we said. When I told my sister my suspicions, she told me to march to the nearest drug store and buy a test, right now, do not bother with the coat. Which is exactly what I would tell her, if she would just get on with it already.

But we weren't in a hurry. When we were trying to get pregnant for Berit, competition made us crazy. I'd start testing long before I really should, and each negative made me more determined that next month I would win! (Next month I'd experience the miracle of conception, I mean.)

When we became pregnant for Marta we were so shocked and unprepared that we spent the first few months (throwing up) staring at each other over the dinner table, speechless besides the occasional "Holy shit." (Note to Marta: We love you! We wouldn't have it any other way!) (Note to Berit: We stopped swearing when you began repeating what we said.)

But last month we were just, "Oh remember? I might be pregnant. Pass the salt."

I wasn't pregnant, by the way. But the universe began talking to me, flashing pregnant bellies everywhere I went, showing me moms walking around with those brand new, teensy tiny babies, putting families with new babies in my aisle at the grocery store (nevermind that it was Sunday and Dad was there too, and therefore life looked easy in that family). I became very, very aware of Marta's fleeting twoness, which I love so much.

I also watched a 12 a.m. episode of Kenda, that girl from the Playboy mansion who has her own show now and apparently just had a baby (you can tell how pop-culture savvy I am), where she is 9 months pregnant and actually has her baby in said episode. Of course I cried. Trevor and I marveled at just how pregnant she was; we couldn't remember my being that pregnant and just that fact alone made me want to be that pregnant again (though Trevor did keep saying, "LOOK at her. I just can't get past how big she is. LOOK at her. This is so weird." And we don't even know who she is, except that she's a Playboy girl so she is automatically hot and skinny to begin with, so what do we think he was thinking about me when I was 9 months pregnant???). Technically I don't care about being pregnant again, ever, but just watching the show and trying to remember it made me wish for it really quickly, just the feeling of the baby kicking, or the ridiculousness of it all.

So this morning, like every Sunday morning, we loaded up the kids and went to church. And like every Sunday morning, I sat in the gathering space with Marta, whose conversation voice is louder than Father Denny using a microphone. Oftentimes, louder than the entire choir.

She ran, twirled, screamed, kicked. She was happy to be at church, she was mad when Berit came back and I had to take her to the potty. She didn't like that those people right there were sitting kind of near to our coats. She loved loved LOVED LOVED that little baby over there, MAMA WHAT'S HER NAME WHAT'S HER MAMA'S NAME CAN I ASK HER I WANT TO ASK HER? She told me about every saint in the gathering space, and while she could explain that she wanted to sit "In front of that Jude," she couldn't quite remember "WHO'S THAT MAN, MAMA, WHOSE DADDY IS HE?" when she got to Jesus.

After 45 minutes of this, she twirled a record 50 times in a row then sat down and started crying because she wanted to sit with Daddy and Berit, who were comfortably and quietly sitting in the church proper, and yes she could be quiet YES SHE COULD and then she started doing those ACK! ACK! sounds that are babies' ways of saying mean things to you.

So we left. Kicking and screaming the whole way, we left the church, and I sat in the car saying to myself, "Oh sure, have another baby and you'll manage just fine, see? you can go to one place for one hour and manage to keep two children quiet, sure you can."

I think that, if God was purposely putting baby stuff in front of my face to send me a message, He would have given us one easy Mass, where we could sit and worship in peace with our little family, so we could say hey, we can do this. We are good at this. Maybe even the people behind us would tap us after Mass and say, "What good children you have!" like they used to when Berit was two and Marta was new and sleeping through church.

Just now, just after I typed 'church,' Marta woke up and started yelling, like maybe there was something seriously wrong, so I went in and picked her up and rocked her, and she fell asleep in my arms like she did when she was small. When I went to put her back in her bed she said, dreamily, "No, no sleep on the kitten."

Oh Marta. You are such a monster.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


We had big plans for today. We told the kids over breakfast -- I even drew them a picture -- that we were headed to the WINTER SPORTS PARK! For SLEDDING!

We loaded the car up with the sleds, more layers of clothing and winter gear than a family of four could ever wear and the stroller. Because in addition to SLEDDING, we were going to walk around DOWNTOWN! (The mention of this word always sets the kids off singing "Down-town, dadadadada DOWN-TOWN...") We'd get hot chocolate and muffins and go to the book store!

When we made it downtown we realized that it was freezing. Below freezing. Like, 10 degrees. And when Berit screamed about walking from the car to the coffee shop, we chose to forego sledding and stick to the calories begging to be consumed in each of our favorite shops.

At Roast & Toast the girls got chocolate milk, pancakes, eggs, bacon and fruit and ate everything. We ordered coffees and egg wraps and saw people and laughed and shook hands while sitting down and let the kids hug other kids they knew. We went to McLean & Eakin and the girls ate their donuts and we poured ourselves more coffee, adding shots of the girls' chocolate milk to them for cream. We played and read then attempted a walk and when Berit nearly froze RIGHT TO THE STREET (ahem) we got in the car and made new plans. We went home, took the dog for a walk on the lake (our new backyard) and packed our SWIMSUITS! Because we were going to the POOL!

Gaylord has a great family pool, with a gradual entry and lots of sprayey and squirty things, and the girls have always loved it there. And while Berit did her typical dance and prance because she's still afraid of swimming (lessons start this spring), Marta literally dove head-first into the water every chance she got. She's what, two-and-a-half feet tall? Picture head entering water, repeatedly, face-first, Trevor and I pulling her out, cracking up with those wide eyes blinking out the chlorine. She was furious with us for holding her in the deep end, even if it meant she would sink. We stayed for an hour, only an hour, because when she realized there was a slide in the lap pool for big kids, as in teenagers only, over four feet tall, she wouldn't rest until she conquered it. As she wasn't allowed and would, you know, drown, we had to go.

Both girls slept on the way home, giving us plenty of time to drive by the house we're hoping to buy twice and for a stop at the Bob-In Again, where I picked up a quart of frozen custard and four chocolate-dipped waffle cones, two with sprinkles and two with nuts. When we got home the girls were so excited for their treats, and following the ice cream we all had quite a long stretch of sugar mania.

They played mermaids in the tub while Trevor said silly things like, "OH, you're a permaid? A merman?" and the girls giggled and corrected him.

The house is nearly clean and Trevor and I are about to sit down to play Trivial Pursuit. At one point I played Gemini's version of "Everybody Loves Saturday Night," and while its folksy, multi-lingual verses bopped Trevor and I caught eyes across princess puzzles and a bowl of tomatoes, grapes and blueberries the girls were munching on and agreed that yes, we were kind of like a movie today.

Friday, February 5, 2010


Marta's running around next to me, a little runny in the nose and doing her dinosaur puzzle. She's obsessed with dinosaurs right now, like Berit was at this age.

After we dropped Berit off at school this morning, Marta and I headed downtown to look for a party dress for B, for her big fourth birthday in two weeks. We didn't find one but did find ourselves in a bookstore that we never go in, typically favoring McLean & Eakin because it's local and because it has donuts. This one today, though, was attached to the local children's store so we went in to amuse ourselves and I once again realized how loud Marta is.

I don't know why I'm constantly surprised by this. She's loud at home, but I think I'm used to it, much as parents on an airplane don't really notice their children kicking the seat in front of them, or parents in a restaurant don't mind when their kid turns around and waves and chats with the people in the booth behind them. I'm the parent who overlooks her kids' yelling.

It's not that Marta's crying or screaming. She's just talking, and she's got a lot to say. She also says it with tons of emphasis. "MOM! THAT'S A DINOSAUR!" "MOM! LOOK AT THE CARL BOOK!"

Now, at our favorite bookstore it's not that big of a deal, because in the kids' section we're sort of covered by shelves and displays. But here the kids' section was right by the cafe area, and we were getting lots of dirty looks from childless laptoppers, sipping coffee with the whole bookstore-chic atmosphere.

I remember that time. That's when Trevor and I used to say things like, "We'll never let toys take over our house," or, "Our kids will just enjoy doing what we do, because it's all they'll know."

Now I just don't care what those people think so much. No, I never let my kids get carried away. I don't let them go table to table, chatting with folks at the coffee shop. I don't let them yell across the room and if they start having a meltdown in the store, we just leave (provided we're not in the checkout or close to it). I think we're polite parents.

But the thing is -- this age is the coolest. Berit, at age just-about-4, is easy. We just tell her what is expected and 98 percent of the time she does it. Marta is wild (I wish this blog template would allow me to put 'wild' in squiggly green letters, which would better demonstrate the emphasis on the word). But she's curious and funny, smart and crazy. She says the coolest things, even when she says them loudly.

I remember when my sister-in-law, way back before we had kids, told me she didn't love the newborn stage (while of course loving a newborn itself). I thought that I was different, that I loved newborns the best because they were so tiny and sweet. Then I had one, and yes, they are very kitten-like and sweet and perfect, but they're not fun. This age, age 2, is the coolest. Everything is a miracle to 2-year-olds. They love the little noises you make with your tongue. They love finding shapes where you never thought to look. They think everything you do is cool. They still have their chubby baby bodies and don't mind cuddling, and they sometimes need baby-style rocking and loving in the middle of the night, while telling you neat stories about their dreams and making magical moments. They're independent enough to play by themselves for a half-hour. They love to dance in goofy ways. They are passionate, to the point of being very, very loud.

I think that, when the girls are grown, I'll think back to my babies and miss the littleness and newborn stage for the pure need to care for them, for the innate pull they had when they were brand new. But I will long for my 2-year-olds, before they were restrained for school or etiquette, before they worried about the lines of their socks and whether or not their ears would fall off in the cold (ahem).

I keep trying to commit every second of Marta's twoness to memory. The way she scoots across the floor with her round knees and chubby feet that remind me of Girl Scouts peanut butter cookies, with the layer of squishy peanut butter on the top. I hope the people at the grocery store we visit twice a week will remember the way she insists that they call her "Sugar Plum."

I know every age is special. But there's something about the freedom of two, of screaming "NO MAMA!" and "YES MAMA!" in the same breath, of honestly, truly believing you're a goldfish all while realizing that you are COOL when you wear your sister's sunglasses that is perfect.