Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Choice

The pregnancy thing was a surprise.  It strikes me as odd that when we were trying for the allotted 4-5 months it didn't happen, but that the instant our lives devolve in to chaos, we can, with no effort at all, IN FACT,  with some concerted avoidance, get pregnant.  It does make you think there is some higher power at work here, and that there is some crazy plan that no HUMAN mind would imagine or design.  At least any sane one.

This idea of a plan is going to bring me comfort.  This is my choice.  One day I will look back and understand why it went down like this.  Yes.  I will.

Yesterday was a breaking point.  Admittedly my emotions have been haywire - beyond PMS - and I've felt exhausted and a little sick, so I can't really tell how much of the crapola going on here is the children's behavior and our language issues and how much is hormonal.  I may never know.  But I do think they are generally good kids who are as frustrated as we are that we don't understand each other.  Especially the oldest and youngest.

The middle bun is my challenge.  I think it is clear that if we could communicate we could solve some problems, but it is also clear that he does have some emotional and behavioral issues as well.  Yesterday I told him we were all going out and as I tried to get his socks and shoes on him he suddenly and for no apparent reason had a huge meltdown. Number 3 of that day.  I was frustrated which didn't help, and was trying to force the socks on with Lisa's help. 

He went ballistic and he punched me in the face and then followed that up with a nice kick to the face.  It hurt, but mostly it shocked me as no one has ever done such a thing before.  They may have wanted to...but they haven't.  I was so shocked and so angry that I shoved him away from me and smacked him in the chest.  It was a pure adrenaline reaction and after I did it I was furious and I started to cry.  I yelled something angry and ran out of the room and locked myself in the study.  And sobbed. 

I was crying because I was angry at myself.  I was disappointed in myself for hitting him - it didn't hurt him at all - but I hated losing control in that way.  I was crying because I hated this situation and because I feel so emotionally wound up and because I feel like a bad person.  I don't feel like I love these kids and how could I not?  Who wouldn't love poor little orphans?  I feel like a monster. 

In a day I usually go from feeling dead inside, to feeling sad, to feeling rage, to feeling hopeless.   I feel so much fear that the emotions I have will impact the bun in my luke-warm oven. I can also see myself alienating others who want to help.  Why would I do this?  I don't like myself like this. At all.

After my meltdown, I decided I needed to find a backup host family for the kids.  I knew I would feel terrible doing that and that people would think I was a jerk, and that it might make the kids feel terrible.  But I can I keep them?  What if I hit one of them again?  What if I miscarry?  What if I feel THIS terrible for 15 more days?  One day feels like a lifetime!

I cried for a long time. 
And then I napped for 30 minutes and calmed down.

My mom and my dad gave me the great comfort of telling me that I am focusing too much on the negative and that I need to shift my focus.  Ah-ha!  What a great idea!  Oh wait- all I FEEL IS NEGATIVE.  Hard to focus elsewhere when all you have in front of you is negative.  It's a brilliant idea if it were at all possible.  This counsel made me a little angry too.

Last night we went to see Les Miserables.  For whatever reason, it inspired me.  I felt renewed.  I decided I would try.  I will try to re-focus and to look for the good.  To find God's hand in the events of the day.  I would t-r-y. 

I don't know if I can do it, or for how long, but I see enough light through the foggy, ugly mess to give it a shot.  So here is my vow: my next posts will have only positive messages about the children and how I feel.  I will start by saying that when Aloysia threw Dana off the trampoline today, he did it in a way that did not break any bones or cause new bumps on her head.  And he looked very strong and graceful doing it.

Deep Breath.

If my hormones rage, I will try my best to go be alone, work through it and come out victorious.  If Aloysia kicks me in the face I will try to just walk away and not respond.  If I feel completely hopeless, I may still cry, but I will pick myself up and move on.  I may be exhausted and not want to play with the children, but that's what DVDs are for.

This may not work - but I don't want to be miserable or les miserables any more.  I don't want to alienate those I love. And most of all, I recognize that whether it is 30 days or 30 years, I'm choosing the life I live.  No matter how hard it is, I still chose the lens I look through.  So hormones beware!  I'm taking you on...I may lose some battles but I intend to win the war.

(DC friends:  Can I now accept your playdates and offers?  I'm back Jan 2, and am ready for help! :))

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Well This Explains a Lot

Sometimes I just don't understand.

This month just got a lot more exciting.  Nothing like adding exhaustion, nausea and some other obvious complications to the mix.

I'm sure James and I will be very happy when we have time to consider this blessed news in mid-January.

Now if you could just excuse me while I cry again.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

He's an Angry Elf

About a month ago as I shopped for little presents, and cooked and froze meals and treats, and put together craft projects and bought Christmas movies for children, I pictured in my little secret heart a warm and tender Christmas filled with joy.  I pictured a real Hallmark made for TV movie starring me.

I thought, these kids may have their troubles, but they will be so grateful for a Christmas filled with family, and love and special presents just for them that as I watch them and share it with them....well, my heart will probably grow 3 sizes that day.

Let's start with Christmas Eve.  One of my little preparations was that age old cheese-ball family tradition of opening matching pj's to sleep in.  I got all of us matching red and green stripes EXCEPT James.  Unbeknownst to him of course.  I got him green thermal pants and a green elf pj top.  I knew it would look hilarious, and in my little wishful heart I pictured the kids and me laughing and laughing as he opened his up.  We would all share in the little joke of how funny papa would look.

This is how it went down.  I handed out the presents and Sasha started telling me a long angry story in Russian in which the only words I could pick out were: Latvia, Pajamas, stupid, and I don't wear them.  He only guessed they were pajamas, but he was right.  When he opened them he said (and imagine an angry Russian accent) "Pajamas...niet!  Pajamas....yuck!" and then picture him throwing them only half unwrapped to the floor.

Aloysia only unwrapped and put his on after seeing me start to cry a little, and Dana bless her sweet heart was actually excited and happily changed. 

When James opened his, the rest of the family laughed, but none of our little buns were to be seen.  He agreed in good sportsmanlike manner to change in to them.  And it was the only thing that made me laugh all day.  And I will admit I laughed HARD.  Not that they didn't look splendid - not many men can truly pull off an elf outit like him.  Only Will Ferrel I'd say. 

We attempted to take a family picture that did not include Sasha, and I'll post the results of that tomorrow.  Compared to the Ellis family all holding hands and dancing in a circle singing in their matching pjs, we looked like the Bundy's compared to their Cosby show.

The angry elf part came in a bit later that evening.  I will say only took us 3 hours to put Aloysia to bed.  The 3 hours invovles us chasing him, James being bit, spit at and kicked and punched by him.  It involves screaming, and crying and finally James play wrestling with him for an hour to try to wear him out.  It is the most painful process I have ever been witness to, and these pictures show James post-wrestling match.  He emerged from the den covered in sweat in his amazing elf pajamas, tired but feeling victorious at last.

As he watched...thinking Aloysia would quietly march to bed now, the young bun dashed from the room, saw his "cousin's" full size Barbie santa gift standing in the living room, ran to it and assaulted it in a way that must have truly left her feeling violated.  And my angry elf husband began the wrestling again.

Our children were far from nestled all snug in their beds, and so began our Christmas miracle.  More Elf meets Freddy Kruger than It's a Wonderful Life.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


We are in Michigan....haulleluia. 

James and I were driving here and as we drove along in RUSH HOUR I laughed and smiled and felt all kinds of lightness.  And I suddnely realized:  I'm happy because we're leaving.  I hate driving on long road trips, and this was the happiest moment of my week.  I felt like I was tasting sweet freedom - it was in my reach.  Big houses and  yards with plenty of place to play, and lots and lots of adults and kids and toys to distract the buns.  OH JOY.

I don't have much time, so I'll do a few quick highlights of the last few days.

1.  The kids love running up and down the stairs.  This is not great in our tiny town house with close neighbors.  It is also not great because Dana has fallen down them head over heels twice.  We keep telling them to walk and showing them, and putting them in time out if they don't, but it never stops.  I can't believe no necks have been broken.  Since we've been here, she also tumbled down Shawn and Lisa's stairs.  But the mother of all stair falls happened at the Richards.  James took the kids over for a visit to his sister Andrea's house.  As he was preparing to leave they fled from him.  They ran down the stairs and Dana of course fell.  When James picked her up she suddenly melted and went unconscious.  I got a call from James that went as follows:
J:  I'm going to the emergency room.  Don't panic.
That's pretty much all I remember of our first conversation.
Long story short. She's OK, but has a big goose-egg.  I have 12 new white hairs.  I should be fully white in one month.

2.  The kids love being in Michigan.  They have loved playing with all the kids, they have loved all the space and all the new toys and attention. 

Some of my favorite moments....
-  Dana playing "tickle" wth Garrett and running from him terrified. 
- Aloysia coming in from swimming and going to Grandpa at the dinner table to give him a big hug and tell him all about it.
- The kids calling Grandma "Babushka"
- A two hour shopping break with James yesterday. It only took me one of those hours to decompress, lose all the knots in my stomach and smile again.  That last hour was nice.

My least favorite moment?
Dana going to the bathroom yesterday with the lid up (the boys didn't put it down) and taking a dump, then falling in.  Screaming to me and I find her shirt, pants, bottom and legs soaking wet in pee and poo water and her crying. 

I feel much better here, and it's been such a relief having James and family and space, which leaves me wondering why I still cry a lot, and feel so tense?  I wonder if I'm depressed.  I'm trying to focus on the happy and positive, but I admit I'm terrified of the day we leave Michigan and return to Virginia.  I dread it more than I dreaded going to Baghdad.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012


I woke up this morning ready to try again!  It took approximately 45 minutes after James walked out the door for this to happen:

You know that I no longer care one tiny bit what anyone thinks of me if I am posting this.  I mean - could I look worse?  No shower in two days, Red face, swollen eyes (no sleep for two nights.  James finally slept on the 1 foot by 8 feet of floor space between the kids' beds to comfort them every time they woke up crying) and I'm barely keeping my shirt on.  It's ugly.  Now that I think of it, that may be why Sasha kept making vampire faces at me and saying "vampira!  vampira!"  I kind of hope so, other options might be more frightening.

So... the good news is that tonight my ugly, ugly video is making me laugh.  When it happened I was devastated and sobbing on the floor, and the poor kids just looked at me like the world ended.  Dana just climbed in my lap and hugged me and made soft cooing noises and Aloysia froze and stared at me from the corner.  Sasha left and then waited, listening for my big gulping sobs to end, and finally crept back up and put his arm around me.  It was very tender really.  I should cry all day in front of them, and believe me, I would if I didn't think the magic of it all might wear off.

I see small signs of progress.  In particular breakthroughs with the oldest and youngest. The middle child leaves me at my wit's end.  There is no way to punish him that can top what he's experienced.  So us putting him in a chair for time out for 2 minutes has zero effect on him.  Sasha told us we were being pushed around - that back home his punishment is one hour kneeling.  Good grief.  We obviously can't do that - but it leaves me scratching my head.  I mean if we don't want to be scary, or spank, or oh-I-don't-know, put someone in a closet on their knees.  I mean - how do they know they've done wrong?

As soon as he gets out of timeout, I make him say "sorry" then I hug him.  And then he runs somewhere to try and get my goat again.  Tonight James held him in timeout and he bit James' arm.  I have no idea.  Open to suggestions here.  Especially if you are an expert in this kind of background and psychology.

Any-old-who, I just keep telling myself I am grateful for progress.  And I am ashamed now of every single time I thought less of parents who spank their kids.  I have never felt so much rage in my life as one tiny little peson can cause in a mere moment... and it took every bit of willpower not to cock my arm back and let fly.  Oh how I hate learning lessons.  Especially about being judgmental - I've enjoyed it so much.

One more day until Michigan.  It's the only thing keeping me going.  It's a short-term goal in reach.  One more day.  36 more hours.  I've got this. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

There's more cuteness

I was looking at my phone and realized that there actually was more sweetness today and that I should probably share it in the interest of balance.  Although it must be said that one of these is cute in the way that still makes me cry.  One is wonderfully entertaining - or perhaps my idea of entertainment has sunk to new lows.

1.  I had the kids paint with me this morning.  Sasha drew this picture:

He said it was for me when he finished.  And then I pointed to the three people and said, "You, Aloysia, and Dana?"  He replied, "Niet.  Sash, Mama, Baba."

2.  Dana's favorite toy is her (well, really Aviva's) play phone.  She carries it everywhere with her and she always talks on it.  I was upstairs and had just gotten off a call when she came walking up and across the room chatting on her phone.  An unending stream of some story that her imaginary friend no doubt enjoyed.  She sat on the steps, kept talking, oblivious to me, and then got up and left the room still talking.  Enjoy:

Day Two. 26 to Go.

First, I'm so sorry if you have commented on my blog and/or FB and I haven't responded to you.  I hope all of you know how truly grateful I am to read your supportive and kind words.  Obviously I don't buy any of them at this moment, but they are sincerely appreciated.  This is one of those moments where I next write, I'm kidding - but we all know I'm only sort of kidding.  So there.

I'm seriously a mess.  I cry anytime I talk to an adult, and sometimes just with the kids.  They're probably saying to each other in Russian, "This lady is the messed up one here, not us!"  I can't stop - it's bizarre.  I finally dried up when James got home today.  I can't tell you what a blessed relief it was.  And it was cute when the kids saw him - they all yelled Baba or Papa or whatever they are saying and ran to him and hugged him.  Maybe I should look it up - perhaps Baba means Die capitalist American and isn't endearing at all.

Dana cries in her sleep a few times a night, and last night James was kind enough to get up with her.  The first two times he rocked her and put her back.  The third time was around 3:30.  He found her down in the living room looking angrily at the Christmas tree lights.  He picked her up and brought her to the basement on the bean bag and turned off all the lights.  She fell asleep. 

Yup, that's a real cute story.  Until you hear what I found at 6:30 am when I went down with the boys (up at 5:30 - hooray for progress!) to wake James up for work.  I turned on the light and James and Dana were in the bean bag - wrapped up in two towels he found in the bathroom.  He was too tired to find a blanket and they were freezing.  You see - you never know if it's funny or tragic.  Laugh or cry? 

In other nightmarish moments today, let me tell you about the dentist.  A little history:  apparently in Eastern block countries the dentists don't use Novocaine, they're a bit abrupt, the like to pull teeth and in general it's a rather unpleasant place to go. 

At the last minute I texted James' sister's sister in law, Melinda Richards, to see if she could go with me.  I didn't think I needed her, but I had a prompting to text her and ask.  I thought,  well, it would definitely help to have a translator for the kids.

That is one prompting I am GLAD I heeded.  Glad doesn't even begin to sum it up.  I told the kids ahead of time what we were doing to prepare them.  Based on their reaction to their surprise tutor yesterday I thought it would be best to give them time to mentally prepare for events.  Not so much.

When Melinda arrived, Sasha ran up to his room, got on his bunk and REFUSED to go.  The other two were crying and saying no, no, no.  I got shoes on one and then they ran away as I tried to wrangle shoes on the next.  I finally got the two youngest ready.  Meanwhile all of Melinda's Russian convincing that the dentist was a safe place didn't work on Sasha, so next thing I know she literally is carrying this 8 year old down the stairs over her shoulder and out to the car with no shoes.  I'm carrying two others - one under each arm - and we are both trying to get them all buckled in and locked in so they can't escape.  I wish I had a picture because my words aren't doing it just, but just stop and try to imagine.  I dare you.

They proceed to cry the whole way and then we wrestle them in to the lobby.  Dana is just scream-crying at this point about going to the hospital.  Hospital??   The receptionist was pleased at our arrival, as I'm sure you can imagine.  And Dana's terror grew each time a dental hygenist came out to claim the next child.  Each one left with a look and a gait that clearly implied they were going to the electric chair.  When I carried Dana back she just cried and cried and nothing would calm her.  Even seeing that her brother was OK.  The hygenist would ask Dana to open her mouth and she would do it while sobbing the whole time.

I could tell you so many more amazing details about this trip to the wonderful world of dental hygiene, but I'll stop there.  The point is, I had no idea that without Melinda I LITERALLY would not have made it to the dentist.  I simply needed more arms to carry screaming children than I have.  She saved me, and as much as I didn't want to bother her or anyone - I'm so glad I did.

(Which leads me to all you super kind people who have offered - LuAnn, Catherine, Bruce to name a few.  I'm so, so sorry I haven't called or contacted you.  There are two reasons why:  1.  I can't.  I cry every time I talk and it's pathetic and I can't bear to do it to people anymore.  2. I just don't know if it will help, and I'm scared it will be a bad experience for you and your kids.  So forgive me, I'm terribly grateful, but I don't know what to do and don't want to drag others in to this. But really, Thank you.)

Rather than end here, I will share one cute story.  Tonight Kristin brought her kids over to the park and this was the best moment of last night, and again tonight.  Because Max and Aviva are great with the older kids.  They've made friends with Sasha and they all run around together.  Bless them. 

After we finished at the park, I couldn't bear to go home with 3 long hours before bedtime stretching ahead and nothing to do, so I begged Kristin to let us come eat with them.  While we were over at their house, Aviva started playing with Dana and showing her how to dress up in her clothes.  She made Dana in to a princess and made her so happy.  See the lovely results.  (sorry, dark i-phone photo)

Aviva was so kind to her and took her under her wing.  She gave her a bracelet to take home (now I'm crying again!) and gave her a hug and a kiss when she left and told her she loved her.  It was so sweet and tender and I'm so grateful for Aviva and other little sweet moments like that which make my day.

As hard as this is, by the time I get through each day and tuck them in I do think...OK.  I can do this.  Tomorrow will be better.  And like having a baby, it may not be, but at least you forget long enough that you can make yourself do it again.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Meeting the Buns

Where to begin?

I feel like about 1 year of time has passed in the last 24 hours.  At least.  This morning James and I went to Target at 8am when it opened and we had already been up for 4 hours.  FOUR. HOURS.  And it felt like the day should be over.  If you want a way to slow down time in your life, have I found a solution for you!  (Let me add here, that if you find any typos or grammatical errors - bully for you.  I'm tired.)

It was a roller coaster of emotion.  Extreme emotion.  On one extreme we have me sitting comatose on a bean bag at 7pm last night just staring at the children running around and thinking, "I can't do this.  I understand why the woman sent that child back to Russia on a plane."  And I simultaneously hated myself for thinking it.

On the other extreme of the roller coaster I was feeling my heart fill up and overflow with love as Dana opened her little stuffed Dog on the floor of the airport and then looked up and for the first time split her face open with the biggest smile I've ever seen as she hugged it to herself.

Let me back it up.  Yesterday.

This is going to be long, so if you aren't up for it or you have somewhere to be, you should stop now and walk away from the computer.  Alright.

Story 1:   The Police Officer
We all waited at the customs exit for our children.  Finally our group came out.  It was endearing to see the little group of kids all huddled together.  One darling little boy in a wheelchair.  Some looked excited, some hid behind adults, all were curious.  We waited as different families were introduced to their groups.  I kept looking for our 3, but couldn't find them anywhere.

Finally our P143 group leader pulled a little boy over our way and introduced us to the oldest - Sasha.  (excuse any Russian spellings for the rest of time in this blog - I have no idea.)  He was nervous, but we hugged his neck anyway and handed him a present.  All the while wondering where the other two were. 

Finally number two came along: Dana.  Carried by a cop.  She was clinging to his neck and crying at first, then just clung to him.  Apparently she had run off (great news - a sprinter!) and been found by this cop.  He returned the crying child.

At this point, I think Sasha started to get concerned that his little brother wasn't there.  Turns out, no one knew where he was but they suspected he had blended in to another host group at the airport.  We tried not to panic that he was lost, and finally about 10 minutes later he came sailing up.  All smiles and not concerned at all.  He hugged us readily and as we tried to hand him his present he waved us away as he chattered and tried to pull open his tiny little knapsack.  Inside he yanked out three colored pencils and gave them to us.  Our gift.  Odd, but super endearing and sweet.

Once he handed them off he relaxed, gave us a big grin and tore in to his gift.  He was VERY excited about his dinosaurs (thank you Laura and Mason!) and glove pet.  I should also mention that our sad little Dana showed us her first giant smile when she opened her present.  As she saw the little doggie she looked up at us with this huge light in her eyes and the biggest grin and she immediately started playing with it right on the floor of the airport.  100% entertained.  It was at that moment that I lost it a little.

Out little lost sheep were finally rounded up, we noted carefully that we had runner on our hands and gripped hands tightly...until we got off the tram and crossed a busy road to the airport.  At this point, Aloysia slipped free and decided to just run RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET without even bothering to look left or right.  I screamed, but I was holding one child and a piece of luggage and James had his hands full so we could only watch helplessly as he dodged traffic better than any game of frogger I have ever witnessed.

Worst foster parents ever kill child before they even leave airport.  That is the headline.  And that leads us to story two.  (Note: these stories are not in chronological order.)

Arriving Home:
The kids had conked out in the back of Andrea's car on the way home from the airport, but once they entered the house they suddenly came alive like they had just downed 10 redbulls.  And who knows what they had in their pockets.  Honestly.

They ran up and down our two flights of stairs and in and out of every room with glee.  Screaming and...running.  I'm sure our neighbors loved it.  What I loved most was how Dana in her mad running actually tumbled head over heels all the way to the bottom of staircase #2.  Best part?  She did it again 5 minutes later on staircase #1.  And lay there for about 5 seconds like a broken rag doll while I prepared my second headline about foster parents killing two of three children in first night.  She bounced right up again though, and continued screaming and running like nothing happened.  Truthfully, I'm a little worried at their lack of response to pain.  It makes me wonder if they have been conditioned to not get care when they are hurt - or negative attention.

And this was one of the many times I learned that this was going to really suck for a while.  Because if you tell someone who speaks Russian to stop running down stairs in English, they don't really get it.  Or care.  And it's super hard to explain to someone why you are punishing them by putting them in time out or time in can't.  And your punishment makes no sense.  And probably doesn't even seem like a punishment.  Which is why they are still running down the stairs.  Sigh.

First Airplane Ride with Children:
I've watched others do this and felt sad for them.  Cause it looks horrible, and everyone on the plane pretty much hates you.  Fair or not, it is true.  We got super lucky.

We took a whole row with the Sash at the window on one end, followed by Aloysia, followed by me, and then across the aisle a lovely and friendly and HELPFUL LDS woman (convenient!) who didn't mind us at all, followed by James, with the lovely Dana at the other window.

The boys were surprisingly good.  I guess it helped that they just flew across the ocean and knew the drill.  Dana was another story.  She was wriggling like a Mexican jumping bean and was stretched with her feet all the way to the woman by James to her seat, with her head hanging over the edge of the seat.  She used all the magazines in the seat as stuffing for the space between the window and window shade, and then took all three barf bags and stuffed them over her feet.  I will admit that I frequently turned to look at James...and laugh.  He was a good sport to take her.

Here are a couple highlights from the flight.  Apart from the window stuffers.  Dana got a bloody nose mid flight and every time James put a tissue to her nose to plug it...she blew!  Hard!  And it killed any clotting and just started it flowing more.  James is left holding her, about 5 blood soaked tissues in his hand, and a confused and frightened face.  Welcome to parenthood.

The kids had been traveling and not sleeping for about 14 hours or more and it was about 11pm their time when they totally zonked out about 20 minutes before landing.  I mean just sacked out.  Except Dana.  She was spread eagle over James and his neighbor who was pleasantly smiling at Dana as she struggled to get past her and in to the aisle.  His neighbor was preventing her exit because we thought she just feel down the aisle in the fashion we were growing used to.  When Dana realized this escape wasn't going to happen she just started crying and looking hopelessly at me with outstretched arms, sobbing, "Mama, Mama."  I'm a sucker, I said let her go.

She climbed on my lap and sank her head against my chest with her arms tight around my neck and then released herself to blissful slumber.  Good think I haven't worked through my back problems- I think this kid solution might be the secret medicine I need.

As we landed James and I tried to figure out how we were going to get off the plane and to the curb.  We decided that James would take all the luggage and I would somehow get the kids.  Dana would NOT release my neck, so with her dangling from me, I tried to wake the other two.  Each time I shook one and went on to the next, the first one fell asleep again.  Finally I lifted one of them up to stand on his seat and he never opened his eyes ONCE.  He just stood there.  Asleep.

More desperate shakes and I finally got them all in coats, got all their little animals and knapsacks and dragged them off the plane.  I walked through the entire airport with Dana literally dangling to my neck  with her face pressed firmly against mine (I don't exaggerate when I say death-vice-grip) and trying to drag Aloysia behind me by the hand.   We made it.  I don't know how people do this, I really don't.

I will add though, that when I heard her crying for mama, and I heard Alyosia looking at James and crying "Baba, Baba" with arms open that it made me a lot more willing to walk a couple miles with a deadweight child hanging from my neck.

Secret to getting your kids to eat:
I've seen a lot of parents struggle to get their kids to eat.  I've got it - and it only took me one meal to figure it out folks.  We went to Wendy's at the airport and I got a frosty.  They got kids meals.  I took the nuggets and dipped them in the frosty and they ate EVERY nugget.  No joke.   I'm not going to save this secret for my how to be an awesome parent book either - just call it a freebie.

I want to add that since then James and I truly have been impressed by however and whoever trained them.  They clear their own plates after dinner, and they eat whatever is on their plate.  Some whining by one of them, but pretty darned good.

Now, let me sum up last night through tonight because heaven only knows when I'll be able to write again.  Last night - tears.  This morning - tears.  On the phone to my family - tears.  On the phone to Kristin - tears.  To the tutor I hired - tears.  To the kids after the tutor - tears.  To Kristin when she came over to meet the kids - tears.  And let's call a spade a spade, these are sobbing tears.  Yes, I am out of my league.  But James is my savior.  He has been a champ.  Patient with the kids, energetic, hopeful and loving.  He is rocking this - and I'm glad someone is.

Let me just say.  I was not prepared for all the feelings AND for how hard it would be.  And as you may remember, I was kind of imagining hard before this started.  I should have spent less time preparing bunk beds and more time preparing myself.  By learning Russian for one.  That google translate app sucks.  S.U.C.K.S.  When it actually works (which is impossible when a child talks in to it) it takes an hour to process and we sit there looking at each other just waiting.  So that we can hear the words, "I'd like a drink."

Which leads me to a couple break throughs.  In the car today Alyosia kept repeating this word over and over.  And since they talk all the time and we have no idea what they are saying, we ignored it.  Until James finally typed it in to his iphone and realized it meant drink.  This kid could die of thirst before he ever got one!

Same thing the night before when Dana wanted to go to the bathroom.  I thought she was breaking our rule to go upstairs.  So I ran after her to stop her, brought her back down and then turned around to see Sasha taking her upstairs.  I was fightin' mad, until I saw him showing her the bathroom and helping her take down her pjs.  Oh - more tears.  I don't ever know when the kids want to go to the bathroom and I prevent them.  I suck.

So this is hard.  Thank goodness for those shining Baba/Mama moments that help us keep going, cause even with them it's hard to want to at times.  And I'm terrified because tomorrow James goes to work.  And I'm alone.  So that's it - I'd write more, but it's about that time for me to cry.  And I'd hate to fall behind!

With all this said, I do think it will be fine.  I know this.  It's just hard to now.  help.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Today's the Day

We are packing up and looking at the flight tracker and realizing that in one hour we will start our journey to the JFK airport.

We made our welcome sign, bought bottles of water and snacks for when they land, brought our gift card for the chaperones and a small gift for the children.  We have their insurance forms and their beds made, and their new pajamas laying out at home.  Ostensibly, we are ready.

This morning we said a prayer together.  James asked that angels would watch over the children while they were with us and protect them, and his voice caught when he said it.  And whether you go in for angels or God or not, this is the time you might want to believe.  And I do.  Because I know we're going to need all the help we can get.

I hope we love them as soon as we see them, but that's never happened to me before so I don't know how or if it works.  I want to.  I want to have one of those experiences where you look at them and know they are yours.  But life and prayers and answers have never worked so simply for me.  I usually just have to walk blindly in to the dark night of faith and hope I come out in to light and clarity on the other side.  The good news is, when I've had the courage in the past to walk not knowing, I have always found that light.  Which makes this just a little bit easier today.  A little.

But I still hope I know when I see them.  And I hope that if this love on sight happens that we don't lose them.  So I remind myself to live in this moment only and work on the love part.  I. will let the future and any pain that might come work itself out then.

It's time.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Phantom Pregnancy Take 2

And while I'm posting, let me tell you about yesterday.

I woke up and I couldn't breathe.  At least I felt like I needed a paper sack to help the in and out part of it. 

T minus 2 days, and when I thought it was real a couple days ago, it wasn't.  Now it's real.  And it will probably keep getting real-er.  But I hope not because I may become immobilized completely.  Considering how I spent a good hour in the morning yesterday laying in my bed trying to breathe and just...staring.  And knowing I should move, but not quite making it happen.

This behavior was shortly followed by what we will loosely term, complete mental and emotional breakdown.  Perhaps I should have remained immobile and staring.

My mother sent an email that on any other day might have been a bit frustrating, but was really pretty normal and harmless.  I went from calm to insane rage in about 1 second flat.  I tried to write a calm response, but you know how sometimes "tone" slips out.  Shortly after I sent it I started to feel very bad and guilty for feeling so much rage, and I wanted to call and apologize.

I got another email from her.  It was fine.  My eyes turned red and my heart started racing and I wanted to throw something.  I shot off another "tone filled" email.  Then I felt bad.  Again.

This happened about 4 times until my mom asked me, "Have I done something to make you feel belligerent towards me?  Should we talk."

I couldn't figure out how to get rid of my insane rage.  And I laid there thinking about how I knew it made no sense, and I knew it was like 95% crazy with no base.  So I called. 

I explained for about a minute why I felt rage and then I started to sob.  Yup.  Talk about your massive mood swing.

But it was helpful.  Whenever I feel hormonally enraged, I've found I need the tears to melt the rage.  It breaks that icy heart right up and brings me back to peace. 

But don't think I feel comforted.  Should I have been having ANY of those emotions yesterday?  Nein.  Non.  Niet.  As they say.  Or will say. 

I've felt hormonally unbalanced in the past.  You know it.  I know it.  We all know it.  But this was new and exciting...and shocking unattached to any hormonal events that I am aware of.   This is messed up.

And lest you think by my craziness that I am not wanting these little honey buns, you're dead wrong.  You should have seen me the week before my wedding. 

We are Good Parents Again

Last night a brown envelope with the "safety fix" came in the mail for our recalled bunk beds.  I felt it was important to let everyone know that we followed the company's instructions so that we cannot be held accountable anymore should a freak bunk bed accident happen.  Now it's on asian world beds or whatever their name is. 

So yeah, we spent 2 hours last night taking the bed apart and putting it together AGAIN.  We were pretty excited about it.  I mean we leave today for NYC to go get the kids on Sunday and so you know, we needed one more thing to do before we left.  Thank you bunk bed people for not making the bed right the first time.  I've been meaning to learn more about building stuff and whatnot.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Phantom Pregnancy

(This pic was too funny not to post.  Awkward
family photos anyone?)

A mere 6 days to go and James and I will be <host>parents.

Up until this point I have felt a random mix of emotions.  You may be well acquainted with them after reading my last two posts.   However, the emotion that seems to be growing and dominating the rest is this giant swarm of killer butterflies in my stomach.

It's that feeling you get right before you're going to play in a big game or run a big race.  Or for the non-athlete  - before you go on stage for your first big spelling bee or big speech.  That feeling of:  I have to puke or disappear to feel better.  Period.

Of course you know you want to get out on the court or track or up to that pulpit and you want to shine and you're sure it's going to be great when it's over....but right now, while you feel sick and terrified cause this is getting this moment you think..."WHY DID I EVER AGREE TO THIS?!?"
I am insane.  (This is a statement of fact, not hyperbole.)

It should be noted that butterflies take many forms and there is definitely some of that Christmas morning excitement mixed in too.  I just find it hard at this point to determine what percentage of that sick feeling really is the excitement versus the terror. 

Allow me to share something else that's quite strange.  I think the thought of hosting has given me a "phantom pregnancy."  No, I don't know if that is a "thing".  Here are the facts: I knew I had to sleep twice in the middle of the day yesterday or I would literally DIE, My stomach itches and has little red blotches, I am a moody nightmare, and my stomach is bloated like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day float.

(Upon further research I have just discovered that phantom pregnancy is real and that men can have them too:  they are called pregMancies.  Awesome.)

Some of you may be thinking - those symptoms just sound like normal Shauri to me.  Well...yes.  Fine.  I guess it could be.  But.....but, it also could be a phantom pregnancy.  You have to give me that.  Just, you do.

Since I am sharing all kinds of personal things, I feel inclined to share one more, even though I know it could one day be used against me in a court of law.  Here it is:  I am already a bad parent.

How do I know?  I put up a bunk bed that I know may fall down.  It seems sturdy, and my nephew Max was kind enough to test it for us....but there is a chance it could collapse.  I did order the safety part that the company recommended after they (cough, cough) recalled the bed (we ordered it on ebay and found out this sad information during set up).  They say this will make it safe.  And so, I'm just leaving it up.  Because I have no other bed.  And I am a bad parent.  And I'm not even technically a parent yet.  This can't be a good sign.

My brother Ryan was kind enough to tell me about how his non-recalled bunk bed collapsed a short while ago.  His words:  "We're lucky Chloe wasn't in it at the time because it would have crushed her."

That's comforting.  In no way.
Although, I guess I should be comforted that my brother is a bad parent too and that it may be genetic making it clearly not my fault.  Yeah, that feels better.

I never knew how dangerous a bunk bed was.  Listen to me people.  These are the stories the media just aren't telling us.  I say, turn away from the fiscal cliff, back away from natural disasters my fine journalist to us about bunk beds.  The hidden dangers under our own roofs.

Six more days.  Did I mention that?
Breathe in, breathe out.  Breathe in, breathe out.  No one will die in their sleep.  Except possibly me.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

What is Hosting you Ask?

 We stumbled on hosting quite by accident.  Pause.  When I write things like "quite by accident" it suddenly occurs to me that I have been watching a lot of Downton Abbey.  (Oh how I love thee cousin Matthew.)

Moment of silence as I consider this....and I'm back.

We stumbled on hosting quite by accident.  We were looking for information on adoption on the internet and one of the agencies I explored was connected to a hosting program.  The website said, "Hosting an Orphan is a life-changing event both for the child and for your entire family."  I think that may be the understatement of the year.  I'll let you know.  Anyway, it piqued my interest and I read on.  This is what I learned:
  1. Kid(s) can come and stay with you for 4 weeks at Christmas time from Latvia, Russia, the Ukraine or China.
  2. You pay for their flight and expenses. (For us the cost was $2500 each + expenses here)
  3. You get a link to a photo listing of all the children, you read little blurbs with very basic information on each one and then you can request a child or children.
  4. Most of them are ages 11-16, all of them are older than toddlers.  The program is designed to help older "un-adoptable" children find homes, or have positive, world expanding experiences.
  5.  Without intervention, upon leaving the orphanage, 60% of girls will end up in prostitution, 70% of boys will be on the streets or in jail, and 15% will commit suicide within the first two years on their own.
I looked at the photo listing of all the sweet little faces.  They stared back at me, screaming with their eyes, "pick me!  pick me!" ....and, well... it's pretty hard not to just invite all of them to your house.  We couldn't.  But we did find out that most people will only host one or two at the most, so being the over-achievers impulsive people we are, we chose 3.  A little sibling group that hadn't gotten any nibbles.

As I mentioned, our hope for hosting is that eventually we can adopt the children we host.  The hope of the hosting organization is that people who might not consider adoption, would be more willing to open their homes for a mere month than a lifetime.... and in the process they would fall in love and change their minds about adoption.  Apparently this does happen regularly.  I am not surprised.

For us the last two months have been all about gearing up for this big hosting event.  It's shocking how much stuff you need when you suddenly add 3 children to the mix.  Stuff like, beds.  Or clothes.  I don't know, things like car seats and safety locks.  Little people are high maintenance! 

The buns however are currently very low maintenance, and will arrive at the airport with only the clothes on their backs and possibly a homemade present for us.  I cannot promise to hold it together in any way shape or form if they give us something they made.  Or even if they don't.  I am confident in stating this because a couple days ago I almost started crying when someone said...wait for it... "hello" to me. 

It is almost inevitable that I will see these kids and collapse on the floor, sloppy with tears and snot and gulping in air.  Sadly, this will be the exact moment that it will dawn on the buns that they are walking in to the home of a hysterical (not in the good way) host mom and a semi-terrified host dad.  But there is no turning back - sorry buns!

The hosting process and these children touch my heart in every possible way.  This quote from our training information really summed up where they are coming from.  It references a question a host parent asked about if the kids would prefer boxers or briefs:
 "And the boys usually prefer “boxer briefs… but not always. Clean underwear is the most requested style, and some that isn’t shared with others is a treasure."

Wow.  Can you imagine your child or a child you know thinking a gift of clean underwear that they don't have to share being a treasure?

So we plot and we plan and we build bunk beds and buy car seats and think about how to fit 2 car seats and three more people in a Prius.  We send in our background checks and write our letter to the children to introduce ourselves, and we cook and freeze meals, and my husband, Captain Safety, makes our home child friendly.  

And then we realize we're almost ready and we're one week (one week!) away from meeting the buns. 

And all those same "I'm pregnant" feelings I had in Baghdad come back:  Terror.  Joy.  Terror.  Excitement.  Yeah, why not - let's throw in one more terror.   And another excitement too.  And why the bleep is this stupid car commercial making me cry?

And I hope, hope, hope that the "miscarriage" feelings won't follow 4 weeks later.
But if they do, and all my sad.sad.sad. comes back, I know I've been there-done that.  And I definitely know it's worth it.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Just the two of us

James and I have faced a challenge here and there in our courtship and marriage.  You know,  3 moves in just over a year, new jobs, new marriage.  Oh, and Baghdad.  We rose to each new challenge people... and we triumphed. 

So rather than get bored we thought, we should have kids.  Let's be a family.  That can't be harder than living in Iraq...can it?

I'm here to tell you it can. 

I'm a bit of a, how you say.... control your life and bend it to your will kind of person, so it came as a bit of a surprise to me that I can't get pregnant when I want to.  I told everyone I had my doubts.  That I wouldn't be able to at my age, yadda and yadda and yadda some more.  But let's get serious, I'm the kind of person who believes that if I want something to happen it can...and it will.  (Thank you Delsa and Bob.)

Of course I'm in control.  I mean obviously the reason I got married at 40 was 100% choice.  Obv.

So, let me attempt shorten a long story here.  We prayed about this whole let's have a baby thing, we decided to try for a few months, and I figured blammo.  If God wants us to have a baby it'll happen.  If he doesn't - I can't lie - there's a part of me that would breathe a sigh of relief because having a baby is S-C-A-R-Y.  Don't judge me.  People have babies at 20 'cause they haven't seen what happens to their friends and siblings yet. 

So yeah, I figured I COULD have one if I wanted, but I wasn't really ready to I'd let God decide.  And as much as I believe He could make it happen...well, I wasn't exactly giving him an easy task, so I was pretty sure it wouldn't in His allotted 3-4 month window.

1.5 months later: pregnant.  Joy. Terror.  Excitement.  Terror.  Joy.
2.5 months later: not pregnant.  Sad.  Sad.  Sad.

But I'm OK.  I could write 20 pages here about all the ups and downs of the two months following the miscarriage and the things I felt and the faith promoting experiences that were part of this journey, but the short story is this:  I know we are supposed to try for natural childbirth and adoption, and if we did both there would be kids. 

So, I researched adoption in all it's forms.  Foster Care, International, LDS social services and babies vs. older children and yes, sibling groups.  I dug in.  And it was very discouraging.

What I found out is that it can take years, it can break the bank and the child you adopt can come with a wide variety of issues you never imagined existed.  I have heard stories of heartbreak from social workers and from friends who have suffered in myriad ways. 

So it's scary.  Nay, terrifying.  But then I remember, hey, I was scared to get pregnant too.  And to get married for that matter.  Oh, and to be alone. 

So I'm embracing this fear and moving in to the murky waters and believing God when He says this is the way.  James and I may experience pain in ways and places we can't imagine now. (And believe me we've been able to imagine quite a few ways!)  But the truth is we could feel pain by not having children, or by giving birth to children.  Pain is non-discriminatory, isn't that nice?  So turns out the best way to deal with pain is to accept it, feel it, and let it wash on by you.

So the journey begins.  No, continues.   And as it turns out our next step is hosting children from Latvia.  We found three little buns...scratch that...children who want to come and stay with us for Christmas.  We hope they can stay, but if they can't, we hope we can bring them some joy and that they can bring us some.  Because I think that's why we're here - to bring each other joy wherever and whenever we can.  I'm going to open that scary, oh-so-vulnerable door of love again.