Monday, September 27, 2010

This Stay-At-Home Mom, In A Coffee Shop While Her Kids Are At School

How did you get so big?
When did you learn so much?
Did I teach it to you? Or did you absorb it from society? What do you think about it all?

When did you get so tall? Did it happen at school, when I wasn't watching? Is that why you woke up crying last night? Because your bones were growing, again?

Who taught you to talk like that? You sound more like your 6-year-old cousin than yourself these days. You have inflection and attitude and a very teenaged opinion of your ideas. Pardon me while I gently remind you that you are still four-and-a-half.

How is it for you, leaving for school for so long, so often? You seem to love it. It must be difficult, sometimes. These are new teachers, new kids, a whole new school. There is nothing familiar here. How are you so brave? Why don't you worry like I do?

Why are you in school? You should not be ready yet. Are you, really? Are you sure?

You are just a baby. You are a baby. You're a baby, a baby, my baby. Why are you so eager, so jumping-bean excited, to go to school twice a week? How can you leave me? Can you possibly miss me as much as I miss you? Do you miss me at all?

Was I not doing enough with you? Were you bored? Was I not meeting creative and outdoor-play needs? Were our days not stimulating enough for your clever brain? Should I let you go that third day a week, like you want to? Am I starting to let you direct your life, 15 years too soon? Can you believe, can I believe, that in a few months you'll be 3? And yet, only 3!

Do you get frustrated at school? Can you even squirt the glue on your projects? Are you proud that you're there? Do you stand up for yourself?

And still, you are so small. You are only 4 (and that all-important half). I tend to think of you, to speak to you, to expect you to be, like a friend, a sister to my sister and me. Why is that? Is it because my mother did that with me? Is it because you can often act like you're older? You have a way of hanging out in which you go with everyone's flow, being one with the situation, whether it's at Dad's work, shopping with Grandma or mingling in a room full of grown-ups. I constantly have to remind myself that you're small, still.

I am not goofy with you. I don't lean toward the cuddly stuff. You crave these things from me. I watch you do them with others and I make a mental note to do them myself. I don't know why, but I am not inclined to constantly squeeze and hold and snuggle you, as I am to bake and read and play with you. And then you remind me, by becoming overly bouncy or giggly when I hold you, or by asking me to carry you this time. And I feel terrible.

Because I've always got you in my arms. I can't stop cuddling you. I am horrified by the idea that the new baby, the much-wanted and already-so-loved new baby in our family, will steal your baby status, just like I was with your sister when you were on your way. And you did. And the new baby will. Will I have enough room, mentally, for all of that love? Will you suddenly become a mature little kid, like your sister seemed to? Please, please don't. It's not that it's a bad thing to do - your sister handles it beautifully - but you are so good at being a baby. Don't you think? As you are school this very minute, don't you think you are a baby? Or have you left that behind for good?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Quick Thinking

Berit wants to take ballet, highland dance, violin and piano. Couldn't someone just make a preschool that included all of these?


Marta has developed a fear of everything scary, even a little bit. Like, for example, Swiper from Dora. Possibly due to something I allowed her to watch because it bought me time doing something else? Probably.


When we move into our house, would someone please have U2's Beautiful Day, or something similarly celebratory but perspective-putting, playing on our radio? I might be so giddy that I actually hang from one of the five crystal chandeliers (two of which were given to us by kind, kind people).


Tomorrow I have to run 10 miles. In three weeks I have to run 13. Last night I ate half a jar of Nutella.


In the past two weeks we've been in the doctor's office or radiology department at the hospital no less than seven times.


Baby files came in from Korea last night for our consideration. Devastating, as always, to say that we're not ready yet. We need a house of our own.


Marta can navigate our trips to town, to school, to Harbor Springs, to Meijer, to our old house, to our new house, and towards Traverse City.


There's color on the exterior of our house.


Friday, September 17, 2010

With Gratitude And Hope And Support

As a writer, I tend to let my fingers do my talking, my thinking aloud, my sorting out. Even when I'm internalizing a situation, I'm writing it in my head, and when I do that, the pieces fit together in the right way. Some people lift weights or garden. I write.

And yet. Tonight I am so drained, so overly emoted, so anxious and a dish rag and a wet-noodle that my fingers don't want to press the keys. I have written this story a thousand times in this day, as the hours dragged on. I'm reminded of when my girls were infants and I had nothing left, and I didn't write for sheer exhaustion, and though I wish I had, I recognize the lack of writing as lack of brain function, lack of sorting ability, lack of cohesion.

I'm tired from crying, from gut-wrenching sadness, from earth-moving goodness.

And oh, God.

We had our day-long adoption training today. We left early - at least an hour before the sun rose - and though we were excited, we felt relatively prepared. We read the books, the blogs, the travel stories. We have gotten it, and we're just ready already. We're so ready that we're tired of feeling ready. We're so ready that we're choked with excitement about being ready.

It was good to be surrounded by people who support adoption. It was good to talk about it again, single-mindedly, and speculate and wonder and be in the company of those who are also ready.

The morning was ruled by extreme possibilities and maybes - hepatitis, ADHD, low birth weight, non-attachment, terribles and scaries and could-be-manageables and treatables.

And there were photos. Photos of happy children, photos of babies lined up on potties where there is no running water. Photos of goats' bottle nipples and babies who don't leave cribs and of children who don't know how to walk on tile/grass/carpet, for whom physical touch is actually painful because it's so uncommon.

Oh, God.

Movies. Movies from orphanages. Hundreds of diapers hung to dry. Dozens of broken-down baby shoes lined up. Blank stares. Empty plates.


And happy stories, of course, of families and children and good outcomes. Stories of hard work and its rewards within families. Stories of absolute ease and joy from the first meeting.

Stories that weren't intended to make anyone cry - a walk through a city, the first time trying a Korean dish. Tears, still.

Stories of success, stories of short stature and 3-inch heels and oh, God, why am I still crying?

Stories about children, from those very children, who remember being taken to the orphanage by their mothers and being left there. Confusion. Sadness. Fear.

Oh, God.

Somewhere within every half hour today I wanted to round up all of the children in whatever photo, movie or book I was looking at and tuck them under my arms, against my chest, behind my back. I don't care, give me 300, I'll take them all just get them out, God, why doesn't everyone work together to get. them. OUT.


And while we were there, our two darling daughters had their first long day of school, in which they began together and separated later and did first new things. Trevor's mom took them, and I didn't get to see their faces when they were finished, or hear their stories, or give reassuring hugs. I watched my movies about my Korean baby, who is at this very minute in an apartment on the other side of the world, being cared for by someone else, and I was crying for all of the kids, none of whom had their mother or father, who were both so very, very focused on their lives today.

And the guilt. Our Korean child comes from foster care. His or her birth mother was in a maternity ward run by the orphanage. He or she is healthy and bonding and stimulated. We are so very, very fortunate.

Because so many others don't have enough food to continue to survive another week. So many others are in physical and psychological peril. These children, these babies, have no one to pick them up, to rock them to sleep. They quit crying because no one answers. Oh God, the guilt. Why are we making it so easy? Why aren't we adopting one of these more needy children?

And then we speak to Marta on the phone, who tells me about the sucker she got at the bank today, and that she made a bracelet for her sister at school, and that in the library she'll be very, very quiet. And we know why.

On our run we finalized baby names (though we always think we do this). We missed our big girls. We celebrated our seventh anniversary. We imagined what our baby was doing just then, and we were glad for it.

The social workers today advised us to write a "coming home" story. It seems natural that I would - I've written down both of my daughters' birth stories. But when I imagine that time, when our child is home and our family is complete, I don't imagine writing a single word. It's a physical sensation that arises instead, one in which I wrap my arms around three children and don't think, don't write, just protect and hold and rock and sing and be grateful.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

On The Eve Of Her First Day Of School

Does this look like a school-aged kid to you? Me, neither. 

Berit started her third year of preschool last week (she has one of those birthdays that had her starting preschool in the winter, and she won't be eligible for kindergarten until next year - which is the right thing for her, anyway), and Marta of course comes along for each drop-off and pick-up. 

And like any little sibling, she wants to do what her big sister does, and in this case it's go to school. St. Francis Xavier School, where Berit attends preschool, has a child development center. You can drop your child off any time of the day, and he or she will stay for as many hours as you like. It's a whole lot of preschool, with lunch and naptime thrown in. We visited the CDC on our first day to SFX and we really thought it was cool - and so did Marta. 

Each time we drop B at her class, Marta begs, pleads to go to school. Yesterday I sat down in front of her and said, "Marta, do you really want Mama to take you to school and say 'Bye-bye Marta!' and then come back to pick you up later?" She looked me square in the eye and said, "YES. That is what I want."

I recently took on another writing job, and had considered hiring our sitter twice a week instead of once. But now that Marta's become so keen on school, we've decided to let her attend twice a week for three hours at a time, while Berit's in class. Marta is THRILLED. She has a new backpack that she doesn't take off, and she has a lunch box that she opens, closes, opens, closes, hoping to find lunch in there. 

I've had her with a sitter for over a year now, once a week, and she does wonderfully. She loves the change of pace, the fresh ideas. She's happy when I come home, but she's happy when I leave, too. I've left her for a night with my in-laws - once even for two nights - so it's not as if I've never been apart from "my baby."

And yet. She is my baby, still. When Berit's at school she and I meander around town, looking at stuff and cuddling and telling each other neat things. I have a hard time thinking about her being gone for six hours plus five with the sitter each week. And I'm not the overly sentimental type, when it comes to school. It's just... she's so little

But she's getting bigger, she'd be quick to point out. In fact, when we first visited the CDC and she loved it so, I told her that she'd be able to attend once she could go pee-pee on the potty (apologies for the baby and potty talk to anyone who's not a parent and who is still hanging with me through this mess of emotions). 
We've not been pushing the potty thing at all because I wasn't too fond of knowing exactly where the nearest bathroom was everywhere we went, because Berit just decided one day to be potty-trained and that was that, because it's just so much easier to deal with diapers than emergencies or accidents. 

But when I said that, when I told her she had to be potty-trained to attend school, do you know what she did? She said, "OK." And that was it. Guess who's going pee-pee on the potty regularly now? Even in public? Our little 2-year-and-9-month-year-old. 

And so, tomorrow is her first day of school. I truly think she's going to love it, and I think they'll love her, too. 

And if you're trying to find me during those three hours, have a peek into the stairwell just outside the CDC's door. 

Friday, September 10, 2010


After three months of first walking, then bouncy-walking, then jogging, I'm about to run my first race. I did do a 5K last year, which was admittedly really hard for me to do. But I'm talking about something bigger - something I've been working on constantly. Tomorrow is only 8 miles (and really, I'm still just jogging). But in a few weeks I'll be doing 13.1, which is something I never thought I'd be able to do.

It's a strange place for me to be. I've never, ever done anything non-kid-related since the girls came along. Maybe a shopping trip or a quick night away with Trevor or my freelance writing... but I've never set out on a goal and accomplished it because I truly wanted to. Kind of pathetic, really.

So I'm excited about this. I know I can run 8 miles. I've done it a few times now, and even though I haven't had a good run in two weeks (weather + garage sale + busy husband), I feel like I can make it work. My sister, on the other hand, is running a whopping EIGHTEEN MILES tomorrow, as she prepares for her first marathon. I can't even imagine what it takes to run 18 miles, but she's got it, and she always has. She's such an inspiration, and I feel so happy to know that someday, her children will know that their mom is not just their cook, their cuddler, their go-to gal. She has a life, and it's a healthy one. It's a concept I'm trying to emulate, and I think it's working. Berit has recently come down with a case of High Energy In The Middle Of The Day and has started asking to run with me. Well, sure. Why not?