Friday, June 24, 2011

Minutes turn to hours, hours to days... those days complied our first year home

Sappy sentimental or might make you laugh??? This one is for the ankle biter who has brought the smile back to my life.  This is how we celebrated one year home:

Reading his favorite book  "I love you like Crazy Cakes" to Corbin's preschool class and talking about adoption

Me and Miss Adi with our "Crazy Cakes" ready to take to school.                                                                                                                  
The eating of the Crazy Cake

Miss Leslie (Corbin's teacher) and his favorite friend at school.  They stick together like 2 peas in a pod.

Toasts to "One Year Home Mama!" after our trip to see Cars 2.  Yes... begrudgingly it's McDonalds... lest I deny his request on this special day.  At least he does eat any veggie on his plate.

His first trip to build a bear yielded his new friend "Mater the dinosaur" hmmm I wonder what inspired THAT name???
One year ago, after 2 flights, two mid air meltdowns (one mine, one his - well mine was a melt down, his was a night terror - he gets the pass on this one) figuring out that he was TERRIFIED of the airplane toilets (OK it wasn't hard to figure - he clung and clenched his tiny cheeks anytime we got in the vicinity of the flying loo - he had the LONGEST pee ever at YYC airport), eating "stinky fish" on Aeroflot for the very last time and announcing to the first person to hug me after coming through the gates at home to the cheers of family and friends, "sorry I smell bad" we were home.  Finally being able to relive the grand finale of our arrival on video taken at the airport made me think of a few things:  
  1. It was a Thursday afternoon - shouldn't all of you slackers have been working?  (thank you for not working that day... it means the world to me :) The crowd was big, the cheers were loud and someone brought me a Jugo Juice... you won the gold star for the day (up until Kelly showed up on my doorstep with wine... you suddenly slipped to silver star)  
  2. I'm grateful Tag didn't rip the thule off the top of my van in the parkade.
  3. OK I see all of you snapping pictures in the video... now I need to stalk you until you to send them :)
  4. Good thing I wasn't driving... I couldn't articulate clearly what day or time zone I was in never mind recall with confidence which side of the road we drive on here??? 
  5. Boy I looked like I could use a beer.  I was gonna miss the OPTION of buying it at the side of the road...  (and I say OPTION because I never did buy a piva from a road side stand but you don't know when you might WANT to be able to... alas it will remain a Russian privilege). 
  6. Where the heck was my sister and Mom? - OK the decorated house, chicken stew with dumplings, cake and welcome were worth seeing you scramble in bringing up the rear.
  7. Hmmmm.... I think I had a dog... yup... I'm pretty sure I did because if I heard  "good yeh moi sabacka? (where is my dog?)" from Corbin just one more time I was going to be forced to figure out the driving thing and get her that night - we dealt with that later.  
  8. Balloons, dinky cars, teddy grahams, flowers, gift bag of wine (thanks Nik - you knew Shiraz says 1000 congratulations in a language I am fluent in) hand made welcome home posters and the big CHEER!!! sign - where was the mayor with the tiny white cowboy hat???
  9. International bathroom ranking: A+ Canada... you are among the sanitation elite in the world. There were no foot prints beside an open chasm, the toilet paper was remotely plush, no ominous looking Baba guarded the door for her 3 rubles and automatic flushing... I need say no more.  
We were home and it was heaven.  The drive home was surreal - you in your car seat, me up front... this was really really real.  We were home...
We didn't play by the adoption rules guidebook chapter 4, paragraph 2 that states:  "Thou shalt cocoon.  Arrive in a shroud of silence and go directly to your home veiled in darkness and anonymity  where you shall remain for a period of no less than one month. Do not pass go, do not give some random Russian official a stack of ironed unmarked $100 bills - just go directly home - alone - and stay there."  We had family friends and random strangers in the crowd at the airport cheering for us, a family gathering at the house, a friend who arrived to help Mama bath him (OK she actually just held  my wine glass while I fetched tub toys and lathered) before I shooed her out to rock my son gently to sleep for the very first time.  Exhausted yes... smelly... still.  Bath, vino, skype from the tub and the sweet sweet slumber in my own amazingly comfortable...  nope wait a minute - I valiantly tried the co-sleep thing for 4 nights and then peacefully returned to the sanctity of my own bed with bags under my eyes and little elbow marks up my side.
We rolled with the punches, settled in and figured one another out.  Well, the figuring is pretty much over - I know him - he knows me.   The verdict is in: we like one another.  I looked at the post it note on the board in my office that I refuse to take down.  In scrawled penned numbers that I used to estimate / guesstimate and count the number of days in until we were home. June 24th is circled in red ink.  June 24th was the day... we did it kid.  We made it.
I no longer count time in terms of number of sleeps or If / then ("what if the document is received / approved / reviewed" by xyz date then that means I could...)  or have my mind wander to dream about what you are doing.  I no longer have the knot in my stomach and I don't count the time you've been home in days or months... you've been here a year and I am so very glad.  Yes, sometimes you are like a bad room mate who gets to eat all the good food, bums rides places, makes me pay for everything, takes my money and spends it on things I'll never use but, you are the best "room mate" I've ever had.  I hated the well intended platitudes back then of you will "forget" the pain but I will say I no longer recall it with the sensitivity and reverence I thought I'd never shake.  At the end of the day, if I could have chosen an easy, fast route but it wouldn't have brought me Corbin... well... that's rhetorical now isn't it?
Your innocence, your enthusiasm, your unwavering love... I love you like crazy cakes my boy.  You have filled my life with wonder, laughter and love.  One down and the fun has just begun.
xoxoxo Mama

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Letter of resignation

Dear Mr. Corbin,
I am writing to you today to thank you for allowing me to be your employee for the past year.  When I started on your team I wasn't sure that my previous experience would allow for me to provide the quality work that you demand.  Looking back on our time together I have found you to be very patient, kind and forgiving when I make mistakes or don't do things exactly how you might have liked.  I have learned a so much with you as my boss and your great sense of humor and quick laugh has made the duties so much fun.  But, I can't say that the last year has been all skittles and rainbows.  You have been hard on me.  You have made me cry.  You have kept me working late into the night and demanded that I be at work before I have even had time for a morning coffee.  I regularly carry you and I clean up the mess you leave behind every day with a smile.  I have learned a huge industry specific vocabulary including "sippy cup", "soapy truck", "cons-ruction", the difference between a "back hoe" and a "track hoe", and am also now familiar with all associated team members and their duties including Thomas, Percy, James, Bertie, Harold, Toopy & Binoo and have garnered strange looks when using this vocabulary outside of our working environment.  I have been vocal about my pride for your personal growth this year as well.  I hope that you have heard me cheering as you succeeded at doing something new or accomplished a task you had been working hard on.  Seeing you smile back at me is all the payment I need.  Nothing about this job makes me happier than seeing you succeed and grow.  I hope that you recognize my efforts in helping to expand your network of associates and enjoy their company in social circles.  I have watched these little people enrich your life and make you smile.  Sharing and learning with them has given us so much more to talk about and I know you look forward to seeing them as often as possible.
So Mr. Corbin, it is with mixed emotions that I come to you today to give you my resignation.  Although you have been everything I could hope for in a boss I resign to be a better employee today.  I resign to regain balance in my life by job sharing with another employer.  While this corporation does not have nearly the family orientation that you have provided me, it does offer compensation in a currency that can be utilized to pay the bills and fund our future adventures (the gummy bears you offer as trade are not widely accepted currency unfortunately).  It will afford me the time to be with you to watch you grow and learn on a daily basis but provide an outlet for me to return to 5 and 6 syllable medically related vocabulary that bring a smile to my face.  I will regain the ability to get things done quickly so that they don't impact the time we spend together.  Going forward, I hope you will be flexible with this new arrangement and enjoy your time during the day which will be spent with my assistant Adina.  Our overall schedule will not change: I will continue to read to you every morning when you come into my "office" and wake me up from my nap, I will help you choose your "suit" for the day and ensure you have a good breakfast, your day will be spent playing and learning and exploring with Adina and in the afternoon I will cross the hall from the new office full of desks, paperclips, printers, and teleconferences with the promise of fun activities since there will no longer be messes to clean and household chores to do.  I can commit to you that, I will be there for any and all important activities and accomplishments with short notice.  I will be the one to comfort you when you are sick, afraid or lonely - just call and I will be there.  I resign to do better, try harder and continue to be an employee that you see being on your team for eternity.   As I head back to the professional work world I know that I will treasure coming home to my second shift in a corporation that makes me feel like the most important employee on payroll.  I am thrilled to be taking on these extra responsibilities and promise that there will be swimming, road trips, bike rides, ice cream, camp fires, and even some surprise afternoon adventures just to see you smile.  As I head back to work we start a new adventure and this employee will see if her suits still fit.  I love you very very much - always and forever.
Signed, Mama

Dear Mama,
I want a grilled cheese sandwich shaped like a train with broccoli smoke and carrot tracks for dinner.  Please turn on Micky Mouse before you start using those words I don't know and stop telling me to be quiet when you are on the phone.  My company has always been based on a foundation of enthusiastic communications done at a HIGH volume - that is unlikely to change.  I hope Miss. Adi  likes my stories.  And, one more thing; I love you very very much - always and forever.  Now go make some money - this bread and water thing is getting old!

Friday, June 17, 2011

We are most certainly NOT the Cleavers...

Well, since I am a single Mama to one child, we are more like the "Cleav's" - we're missing a few consonants and a couple vowels but we're family and it works.  This blog topic was suggested by a fellow blogger (you will see many blogs with this title today) as an opportunity to tell about the "ugly" or "real" parts of adoption that don't often make the blog.  If you know me you know that I wear my heart on my tongue and in my blog, there isn't a lot that I don't include... but there is some.
The some that I refer to isn't what I had prepared myself for.  I did the time waiting, read the books, the blogs the on line adoption sites for Russia and I felt comfortable that I'd at least know where to look for help.  Perhaps I am simply a naive person who through some hard knocks in life has become accustomed to figuring things out alone and looking on the bright side but, I don't feel like there have been any issues that specifically relate to Corbin having spent 3 years of his life between a less than optimal birth family and an orphanage.  Maybe Corbin being my first is a blessing - ignorance is bliss.  I don't have other children to compare him to in terms of milestones or achievement but I don't think I'm blind to what other children his age are accomplishing / enjoying or learning.  I re-read this part and wanted to add that I did something up front that to me makes a huge difference: I was careful and definitive in using an IA doctor that I trusted implicitly to take the emotion out of deciding on a referral.  I had my heart broken in turning down a referral that without her (Dr. Bledsoe) I would have happily accepted.  She counseled me and advised me to decline. It wasn't what I wanted and if I'd followed my heart, I'd be writing a different post today.  Does using an IA doctor mitigate risk 100%? No.  Did I trust their experience and advice and know what my limitations were? Yes.  I was braced to say no if I had to and for me, it was the right choice.  Corbin was meant to be mine.  A preemptive piece of adoption advice? Know YOUR limitations and trust your IA doctor.  I knew I couldn't parent a child with high special needs and chose to limit that risk as best I could.  The happy part of my "we're not the Cleavers" is that - developmentally, socially, educationally, physically, and inter-personally Corbin has done incredibly well and would be indistinguishable from a "home grown" Canadian kid.  The IA doctor we see at home says he's an easy case and laughs that he doesn't make her work very hard .  I know I'm blessed because I know there is a strong chance that if you are undertaking an IA you may encounter some challenges in any number of areas.  Development, health, attachment, sensory, trauma, pre natal exposure... you name it, it's a risk.  I can't say for sure that I have gotten off scott free... but so far so good.  It's weird but there are times that I feel like I am somehow judged for not having dirty laundry to air about things that Corbin is struggling with - like I'm hiding it or glossing over any challenges.  I'm not.  The 2 things we dealt with were dental work and battles over eating or rather the amount of time he took to eat.  I don't feel like less of an accomplished AP because I don't have to deal with extra challenges - but I respect those who do.
So what have I not talked about?  What's my dirty little adoption secret?  Being a single adoptive mother by choice is harder than I thought for reasons I never considered.  I don't talk about it because I don't feel like I have the "right" - after all, I CHOSE this... so don't complain.  And I try not to.  I arranged my "community" of support and they are... well... supportive and wonderful.  Here's the trick: you have to become vulnerable and open to asking for help... and that's tough for someone who has lived just figuring it out proving that I'm OK on my own.  Asking for help seems like the sensible thing to do, but for someone who chose this path, I'm conflicted because if I need help am I saying I can't do it on my own??? But didn't I know I would be doing it on my own???
I am blessed to be Canadian where we have the opportunity to bond with our newly adopted child for 37 weeks or so.  All said and done, I chose to take off 53 weeks in the pursuit of bringing Corbin home and settling in.  I felt the situation demanded that I take off whatever time I could to ensure that Corbin was content and secure in his life and home.  It was a wonderful albeit long, hard, solitary year.  When you are on your own, there is no one else to share the load financially, time wise or just conversationally at the end of the day.  Everything I did was a consideration of money, or time.  Nothing was a fast 5 minute stop - there was always the car seat tango, the game of 9zillion questions, Mama can I have that please... and 25 minutes later I triumphantly would buckle back in with the coveted toilet paper that led me there in the first place.  This isn't unique to single AP's, it's a reality of single parents everywhere.  Next it's the 5pm lock down: If it's not in your fridge, in the pantry or in the house next door, it wasn't getting got until the next day at the earliest.  Lock down - dinner, bath, books, bedtime.  I couldn't run the dog, go to the store, go for a drink or dinner... it was lock down.  Which leads to the next point: Babysitters are expensive.  I continued to play soccer and hockey for my own sanity.  They were often after Corbin was in bed - I just needed a sitter to hold down the couch and keep the remote company.  After dues, gas, and sitter, I figure each game cost me about $50... now I love the games and the social aspect but OUCH! Having a sitter led to another complication: Thou shalt rush.  It's 11pm and the final whistle goes.  Now begins the get out of your equipment scramble (don't shake hands - you'll save 2 minutes).  I was out of my gear and had my shoes on before most of my team had untied their skates or cleats.  I'd RUSH home having missed the after game laughter and companionship and come home feeling physically exhausted (good) and empty because I didn't fill my friendship / adult conversation tank (bad).  Then there would be the "hey, do you want to go out with the girls" invites... which begged the financial consideration that often ended with, "I can't because of xyz" reason I made up because I couldn't justify the cost when I was going in the hole deeper and deeper each month.  I spent a lot of time alone... which is deafening.  I did a lot of grocery shopping because I could be with people - yes they were strangers and I technically didn't have any conversations but Corbin could be contained in a cart and I could buy things that weren't frivolous (like new heels or clothes) - I stocked up (see my freezer full of discount chicken thighs, pizza, roasts...) but I was out where adults were talking. (note: a cart is REQUIRED for shopping, otherwise it's like walking the isles with a blender... with no lid).
I think there were points that I would say I was depressed - not with my son or because of him... but because of the isolation.  I can only imagine how much harder this would be on your own having a child who came home with additional needs or if I had to go back to work right away.  Would I trade the time off I had with Corbin? Not in a million years - I just didn't think it would be that hard or lonely.  Having a spouse to share the trials and tribulations with would make all the difference.  I now treasure my alone time doing adult work but can't wait to come home to hear about the triumphs of his day.  My nanny... that's en entirely different and glorious blog post in and of itself - is my saving grace - more on that topic another day.  So, advice for the single girls taking on adoption?  Have girlfriends over for wine and sleepovers, don't rush home when you have a sitter.  Take the extra 10 or 15 minutes to fill your tanks and ask for help.  When you figure out the last point, please message me... I still suck at it.
So no, we most certainly are not the Cleavers but we have learned to be a pretty incredible dynamic duo.  Under medicated, over worked, over joyed and loving being a mom to my really awesome, totally adorable 4 year old son who thinks the sun rises and sets on his Mama.  Yeah, that's right - someone thinks I'm the bomb... how could I stay in a funk knowing that?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

First "Famiversary"

Paka Paka Babas.  The one in the blue cried and hugged him tight.  She loved him special - she love him best
Dressing my boy for the last first time

Nothing beat watching him sleep

My favorite trip II picture - he's so small
Corbin and Zhenya... sweet sweet Zhenya.  If only my suitcase were bigger.
Bath #1 - not sure if he was cleaner before or AFTER the bath in the dingy tub.  That smile... oh that smile.

Natasha the lovely

Like it was yesterday:  I had waited out the 10 days impatiently to board the overnight train from Khabarovsk to Komsomolsk and was welcomed by a hot, sticky and anxious ride.  It was quiet and tense.  My facilitator Elya (or the horned beast as I liked to call her) had quit after my court date (and collecting her money while trying to extract more from me for "extra fees") and become very elusive in providing any sort of service to me.  I was to be at the train for our 10pm departure by about 9:15 and she was to pick me up at Anna's apartment at 9pm.  At 7:45 I received a message saying that I would have to take a cab to the train station as her plans had changed.  Hmmm, that seems about right, send the foreign girl who doesn't speak Russian in a cab with all of her luggage to the train station because you are too lazy to do your job - sorry - I guess I'm not completely over it.  (BREATHING DEEPLY.  Like it was yesterday).  Thankfully I had Anna and Ole so that I didn't have to fend for myself.  We loaded into the train compartment in silence and Ole and I took the top bunks.  There were few words spoken as the final passenger joined us.  She was a middle aged woman who disembarked after only a few stops.  I found the train peaceful and safe even though the heat was stifling.  Sleep didn't come easy but the drone of locomotives wheels had a way of taking the edge off and allowing me to rest.  As the sun peaked through the gauzy curtains, I quickly rolled up the prickly woolen blanket and crunchy flannel-esque sheet placing them back on the fold away shelf.  The bathrooms were always an adventure where you figured out exactly how long you could hold your breath for and tried to avert your eyes from watching what may have flowed under the rubber mat on the floor.  We were greeted at the station by Natasha.  Natasha was... well... interesting.  She was a much more sane driver than Anton was from trip one (read: she didn't try to kill  me... not even once).  She was writing an exam that day so had arranged for some other guy who charged WAY more but at this point, it felt like resistance was futile - I just wanted to get there.  We checked into the dingiest hotel you can imagine and paid by the hour as a place to put our things and maybe have a nap in after we returned from picking Corbin up.  We arrived just after the children had been put down for their nap.  I wasn't really just a visitor in the baby home anymore - and the baba I liked best told me I could "go and get my son".  I walked through the silent halls my feet skipping over the broken tile mosaic floor to a crib with a number that would no longer be home to my son's dreams.  There he was - sweaty in his underwear, looking up at me with his big grey eyes and a smile.  He reached for me and finally said goodbye to the room full of "cra-vat-kies"  I was in such a hurry to get him out of there... in retrospect, I wish he could have hugged his little friends goodbye.  Perhaps that would have only been for me - we'll never know.  Quietly, in the directors office we laid out the gifts we had brought and I dressed him to leave.  It was about a million degrees out so the shorts, t-shirt and sandals were just fine.  You were measured and weighed one last time - 27.5 lbs and 90 cm tall.  We exchanged hugs, tears, cards and took some photos before unceremoniously piling into the van to head to our new life together.  There was a trip to the amusement park across the street with associated train rides, driving of cars, parks to play in and bottles of water to drink (you were so dehydrated and it was so so so hot) and a poo-nami followed by yet another bath.  After bidding adieu to "The Visit" hotel, we boarded the train bound for Anna's.
And the celebration began. 
Today, you have grown in every way conceivable and in more ways than I could have ever imagined.  As I sort through the first season of clothes that you wore last year I am reminded of how physically you have changed.  Last night after your bath you weighted 39 lbs and measured 114 cm tall placing you on the top half of the charts for all measures.  You came home wearing size 2 and even some 24 mos old clothing and now, I'm sadly retiring anything smaller than a 4T.  I could list all the wonderful things about you but this post would go on forever. We've grown as a family and it's safe to say we are both 100% in love.  You are my son and today we celebrate our "Fami-versary" (otherwise known as "gotcha day") .  I couldn't have asked for a more perfect match.  You are the face I love to see in the morning and the sleepy eyes I tuck in each night.  You are the happy voice on the phone in the middle of my day and the flying hug with endless stories when I come through the door at the end of the day.  One moment it seems like an eternity since you've been here and the next, it's hard to believe a year has already passed.  Forever is a long time, I'm glad you are ok with that.

xoxoxo Mama.

My soccer coaches aka "the Grandpa Guys"

For every tear I cried... this says it better than a blog full of words.