Friday, August 31, 2007

B.S. # 3 Update

So I haven't written about Baby S. # 3 in a while-- maybe since before I sat for the bar exam. I have actually been updating a timeline post regularly, but I haven't added it to the site yet; I'll do that later this weekend.

Anyway, long story short, we didn't forget about the paperwork. In fact, I just picked up our finalized homestudy. Tuesday I'll walk it into our local USCIS office and hopefully I'll walk out of the office with our I-171H in-hand.

What's next after that?
  • Well, then I will take all the documents I've collected since May, and those that are not already certified (like birth certificates or marriage certificates) will get notarized.
  • I'll take all the notarized copies to our County Clerk's office. The Registrar there will certify that the notary signatures on our forms are legitimate.
  • Then I'll take all the certified documents to our Secretary of State. Luckily we have a branch right here. The Secretary of State will certify that the County Registrar's certification is legitimate.
  • Next, I'll mail all the doubly-certified documents (plus a copy of each) to the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles, where the Chinese Consul will authenticate the California Secretary of State signature.
  • Then, I'll make copies of all the doubly-certified and authenticated documents, along with the photographs we need to supply, and mail them to our agency, which will run a critical review of everything to make sure we have it all.
  • The agency will translate the documents into Chinese and send them off to China (our DTC, or date to China).
  • China will verify they've received our file by assigning us our LID, or log-in date. This is the date that will be used to determine where we fall "in line" for our next child.

And then the long wait begins.

I don't know how long it will take to get our documents back from the Chinese Consulate. I think it took us about 20 days last time. If that's the case, and everything goes smoothly with the certifying and authenticating (it did not with Marcie), and if there are no problems when our documents go through critical review, our paperwork should land in China some time in late October or early November.

It's still a little surreal, thinking about B.S. #3. I don't quite feel like the ground has settled from B.S. #2 yet. I mean, Marcie's still not even sleeping through the night (a topic of another post)! But I have no doubt that by the time our referral finally makes it to America that we will be more than ready. Dare I say downright antsy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Car and Other News

First, the good news. The car is not totalled. Not even close. It turns out the accident destroyed the radiator, a part of the air conditioning unit, and a fan in the engine. The most expensive pieces to repair are the air conditioning coolant system and the halogen headlights (at almost $250 a piece!). I don't even need new paint (isn't that crazy?!?) because the damage was to the bumper and to the latches holding the hood on (the hood didn't crumple). Anyway, I estimate I'll have our car back in about 3 1/2 weeks (I'm giving them a week of wiggle room there).

Second, the other news. Our preschool has been sold. I write our but I don't personally own it. I feel quite invested in it. This is only Casey's second year there, but we really researched which school would be best for him. And after the disaster of his first year of preschool (which I'd pretty much like to pretend never happened), we were picky. We wanted a place that was a neighborhood school. A real mom and pop kind of place. And Casey's preschool is just that. The owners live in the area. They opened the preschool more than 20 years ago because they couldn't find one they liked for their own daughter when she was 2. The curriculum is really impressive for pre-kindergarten. The teachers are nurturing. They are accommodating (for the most part). It's got diversity. It's just a good place. But the owners want to retire, and they've sold the place to Nobel, the people who own and run Discovery Isle. We got a letter today.

Here's what makes me mad about it all. We got a letter today. When we picked up our kids from school. Dated tomorrow. And they've posted signs that explain there will be an opportunity to meet the new owners and ask questions. Tomorrow. Between 11:45am and 1:00pm and again between 3:00pm and 5:00pm. Tomorrow. During work hours. Seriously? Less than 24 hours' notice? This does not bode well. I mean, I'm all for taking time off to go on field trips or volunteer. But couldn't they have done an evening question and answer? Or given me, oh, say a week's notice?

And I do have questions. They've said they will not change staffing. Will they change the curriculum to match the rest of their corporate-run schools? Will they raise prices to match their other location nearby (how could they not?)? Will they honor deals negotiated (like our discount for having multiple children attend)? Will they open the school to child care in addition to preschool, given that their other facilities in the area are open to 6-week-olds?

My biggest concern is that this will become one of those corporate places. The kind that's a day care with a little bit of preschool thrown in. Instead of preschool with a little bit of day care thrown in. And Casey has thrived at this school the way it is. If they change the curriculum, I think the change will be hard. And if they raise the prices, we'll have to go elsewhere. I don't know. I'm just not pleased with the idea of a "corporate" feel. So I guess we'll just have to wait and see. I mean, I know there are good places that are corporate. And Casey's teachers seem committed to sticking out the current school year. But I just really liked the small town feel of this particular school. Sigh.

So yeah. I'll be taking a long lunch tomorrow (and working a little late to make up for it) so that I can show up and ask my questions. I can't imagine they will be totally straight with us, though, especially when they are put on the spot. Mm Hm. I have great faith in corporate America, don't I? Them and politicians. That's who I always turn to when I want the complete truth of things.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Scam Artist

That would be Casey.

Today was his first swim lesson since last summer. I missed out on all the swimming last summer while I was in China or working. But this year, swim class is after work, and so I'm taking him. We talked about it all weekend. Then, this morning, I told him I'd pick him up from school and then we'd go to his swim class together. We picked out the bathing suit, towel, and shoes. And he kissed me good-bye.

Around mid-day, his teacher called. She explained he wasn't feeling well.

"Is he really not feeling well? Or does he just say he isn't feeling well?" I asked the teacher.

"No. I think he's really sick. He's not really eating his lunch, and he says his back hurts," she explained. "He said he wants his mommy."

"His back?" I repeated. "He says his back hurts, not his stomach?"

"Yes," she replied.

"Okay, I'm on my way. I'll be about 25 minutes."

All the way to the preschool, my mind struggled to figure it out. I had let him sleep on the blow-up Thomas mattress his friend Baron gave him. The blow-up bed was on his regular bed. Maybe he tweaked his back. What else could have caused the back pain?

When I arrived at the school, Casey came running up to me. "Hi, Mommy!" he cried out.

"Hi, Casey. Ms. G. says you aren't feeling well. Can you show me where it hurts?"

He lifted up his shirt and puffed out his stomach. His teacher looked at me, surprised, "He said his back hurt, not his stomach." My face must have given me away because she followed up with, "He cried with real tears."

I told her it wasn't her fault. I knew he hadn't been sick when he left for school, and I suspected this was a rouse for attention. Then, Casey confirmed it when he looked right at me and said, "Can we go swimming, now?"

The little stinker! I think he actually figured we'd go swimming whenever I picked him up-- and he figured out a way to get me there sooner. On the one hand, I'm impressed. On the bigger hand, I'm irritated. We sure gave him an earful at dinner-- after swim lessons. We didn't actually tell him the story of the boy who cried wolf, but we gave him the idea. . .

What a manipulator!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Car Accident

The lawyer-part-of-my-brain tells me not to write too much on this publicly, so I'm not going to go into any details. But I was in a car accident Friday on my way home from work. I'm fine. My neck was a little sore yesterday, but that's passed. My right ankle muscles feel a little pulled, too. But I imagine I'll be feeling good as new by Wednesday. Physically, anyway.

Thankfully, the kids were not with me. My airbag did not deploy. I was on my way home from work early, so I had time (and the presence of mind) to make sure they were picked up from their respective locations. Also fortunately, the body shop tow truck driver took pity on me to make one last stop, even though they were technically closed by the time he got the call. He dropped me off directly at the car rental place. The body shop owner was so worried about me and my car seats that she personally drove to the location of the accident just to make sure my "stuff" got to the car rental place before it closed. The claims adjuster was actually incredibly helpful (for now, at least). And I was able to pull to the side of the freeway, so I didn't impact the Friday afternoon commuters. Mostly, though, like I said before I'm grateful the kids were not with me. And that our insurance covers a car rental (a lesson I learned about 8 years ago when my car was vandalized).

So the kids understand that the black car is broken. I don't know or understand the extent of the damage yet. The tow truck driver seems to think the company might total the car. If that's the case, I just wish I were driving our 2001 vehicle (the one we own outright) and not our 2004 vehicle (for which we are still paying). Darnit.

Casey has already requested we get a mini van if we have to get a new car. Where do kids get these things?

I feel pretty terrible about it all. Terrible enough that I didn't even complain when our air mattress deflated early in the evening last night and I was stuck sleeping, essentially, on the hard ground. The kids both had inflated mattresses, of course. Oh. Did I mention we went camping in the backyard last night? The kids did great. I'll post pictures later.

So, that's what's been going on. If you feel so inclined to tell about your own personal car accident misery, feel free. Might make me feel better.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Speaking of Familyversaries

I just wanted to give a special congratulations to our friends Jennie and Max and their two new sons. Jennie and Max just celebrated their eleventh wedding anniversary, put their house on the market in Northern California, celebrated Jennie's graduation from law school and completion of the bar exam (results come out in late November), moved to Southern California and added two new additions to their family. All that in three months' time. Did I mention Jennie starts a new job in about a month? And you all think I'm crazy busy!

Seriously, though, Jennie and Max are my age-- early 30s. And they knew they wanted a family. And they fell in love with two boys, an 8 year old and a 10 year old-- and viola! Insta-family. Jennie and Max officially became foster parents yesterday on their road toward adoption. I know they have a long road ahead of them (and they know that, too). But if you could see the joy on their faces, hear the excitement in their voices. . . you would be as overwhelmed with happiness for them all as I am. And this is a family creation that's worth celebrating (because, aren't all family creations worth celebrating?).

I'm not posting pictures or using the boys' names out of sensitivity to their privacy. So you'll just have to trust me. They are super cute.

And one more familyversary date has been established . . .

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Vacation Photos (at long last)

I'm attempting something new here . . . something Picasa offers that I haven't tried before. Making photo collages. I think if you click the collage, it will get bigger on your screen so you can see the photos better.

It was hard to select pictures. I took 481 photos in the month of August (and it's only the 22nd!). But here's what I narrowed it down to:


These are photos of Casey with extended birth family, including extended birth family. In one photo, you see him with his great Grandma Davis. In another, he is holding a week-old kitten.

We kept busy while we visited in Ohio-- from a water park, to football in the yard, to riding the dune buggy, to playing with cars, to visiting the science museum, to just hanging around and having fun together!


Left to right: Central Park; Central Park; Karen with an MnM; Time Square; Tony's Italian Restaurant; FDNY Memorial; subway (taken for Casey); firefighters (taken for Casey); Hershey billboard.


Visiting the trains in Spencer. Casey rode in the engine, then we visited the roundhouse and the other trains.

Left to right: Casey riding a scooter; Grandpa H with Casey and Marcie; Grandpa with Marcie, me pushing Marcie on the scooter; Casey on the swing; Jason with Marcie; Casey climbing; Grandma H with Marcie blowing bubbles; Marcie blowing bubbles all by herself.

These are all photos of the kids keeping cool during the heat wave that hit North Carolina.

Painting in the kitchen; the golf course pond near my parents' house; Marcie removing her bandanna; Marcie playing at the mall; Marcie dragging her Peanut Puppy Build-a-Bear box through the mall; Casey and then Marcie playing in water at the Nature Museum; Casey performing a puppet show; Marcie sporting her new sunglasses.

I think that gives you enough of a sense of how busy the kids were. . . I should be tired from the trip, but I'm not. Strange. Honestly, I just really enjoyed the ability to completely enjoy being with the kids, unfettered by work or school or anything. I just loved watching them, playing with them, being with them. And it didn't hurt that my mom let me sleep in every day, either!


Yesterday, August 21st, was our Familyversary. Some people in the adoption community call it Family Day. Others call it Gotcha Day.* Honestly, we don't really call it anything because we don't really celebrate it. But I've dubbed it our Familyversary, at least in my mind.
The whole point of celebrating a familyversary is that it's the day your family was made. Or updated. For most families, this day is the day their child is born. For many adoptive families, though, we don't meet our children for days or months or even years. So our family isn't born, per se, until the day we meet our children.

Casey joined our family the day he was born. Though, I suppose technically, legally, he didn't join it for three days. We just celebrate his birthday. (* I should note here that some people consider Family Day or Gotcha Day as the day they finalized their adoptions. In our case, our adoptions weren't finalized/ re-finalized in California until months after we actually "got" our kids.)

Marcie, on the other hand, joined our family on August 21, 2006, a full nine months after she entered the world. So yesterday was the anniversary of our family. I imagine when we add our B.S. #3, our Familyversary date will change to the date he or she becomes part of our family. But we probably still won't celebrate it. Don't get me wrong-- Marcie is an amazing addition to our family. We just weren't complete without her. But we celebrate family all the time. And we celebrate Marcie (and Casey) all the time, too. At least I'd like to think we do.

I don't have a problem with other people celebrating their Familyversaries. It's a nice thing to acknowledge. But I don't want to emphasize it, either. The way I see it, Marcie was always meant for us, even before she was born. And we were always meant for her. It just took us a while to find each other. I guess that's not a great reason not to celebrate the day; after all, we still celebrate our wedding day, even though in theory we celebrate our marriage all the time. So I don't have a good explanation for why we don't make a big deal of our Familyversary. We just don't. I think if it becomes important to Marcie as she gets older, we'll take her lead. In the meantime, our Familyversary is just like every other day. Just with a special name. And we did create a cool name for the day, don't you think?

In any case, we did happen to go out last night. It was coincidental that it was our Familyversary. We went to Red Robin (I think Casey was going through withdrawal). I took lots of photos that show how much Marcie has grown in the year she's been with us. But here's my favorite:

I also took a photo of Marcie in the outfit she was wearing when we first met her. Check her out:


AND NOW . . . (sorry about the blurriness of the first photo)

And to all you families out there who have familyversaries to celebrate, HAPPY FAMILYVERSARY!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Traveling with Two Small Children

So we're home, safe and sound. Our return trip was, thankfully, relatively uneventful. I don't know which frightened me more-- the thought of being on an airplane with two small children who I would need to confine to their seats for the sanity of all the passengers or the thought of having a three hour layover in the Atlanta airport.

Once we got settled in near the gate in Charlotte, the kids were pretty rambunctious. For them, it was typical kid energy, but I could tell the other passengers in the waiting area didn't think they were so cute. I even commented to one older woman that I was letting them get all the energy out now so they'd be calm on the plane. She coldly replied, "I should hope so." All I could think is "What a bitch!" I mean, it's not like I want my kids to cry loudly or scream at me or refuse to buckle in on the flight either. I know small children can be irritating to other travelers, but imagine the anxiety any normal parent feels traveling with them knowing that!

Anyway, the kids were wonderful on the flight. But the airline made a big mistake. They let me put the car seat in our seats, which were immediately in front of an exit row. Apparently an FAA no-no. I don't mind shuffling seats with the kids, mind you. But the flight attendant (kindly) carried the car seat to our row and set it in for me. Then the flight attendant announced that they wanted to push back in 6 minutes, they were closing the doors, and would everyone please hurry up and take their seats. My kids were already seated, happily munching on the last of the popcorn I'd brought and guzzling their apple juice boxes.

Then a different flight attendant noticed us. And all hell broke loose. They wanted us to switch seats with the people in front of us. Again, no big deal if they'd given me time to do it. Instead they wanted to give me help. Which, again, is a nice idea. But not so much when your toddler is terrified of the male flight attendant who wants to help you by unbuckling her or even just picking up the car seat (she was really mad when she thought he was taking away her car seat). She began screeching. Then Casey began whining, "What's happening, Mommy?" Of course, now everyone on the airplane is looking at us wondering the same thing Casey is, and I'm trying to calmly tell the kids to "hurry, hurry," so the airplane can push back. All the while, throwing our stuff from our well-settled location into the row in front of us.

That wasn't the end of the world, of course. Once Marcie was settled into her new location, she was fine. Until the pilot came to a screeching (and I'm not exaggerating) halt just as we'd begun to power up and pick up speed. He came over the PA and told us everyone needed to stay seated during take-off, and I wondered how he could tell from the cockpit that someone at the back of the plane had stood up (if that's why he stopped at all). But the thing was that when he brought the plane to a stop, it shuddered. Forcefully. And that freaked out the kids, causing Marcie to begin crying. At the moment, Casey was sitting in the middle seat because I'd chosen to strategically place myself on the aisle to prevent Casey from springing himself loose in-flight. I was able to shift Casey over the top of me into my seat and buckle him while sliding myself next to Marcie. Both kids were (understandably) concerned by the shuddering brakes, but once we actually took off, they were fine. Marcie slept through the second half of the flight, and Casey played with a new frog my mom had purchased for him the day before. I spent the first half of the flight trying to reattach the band-aid on my left arm/elbow. It somehow got attached to my sweater, and then I had to pull it off, but I didn't want to leave the skin exposed. I had a travel box of band-aids and neosporin with me, and I applied the neosporin to my arm. But it got too spread out and then the band-aids wouldn't fit. So I had to use the antiseptic wipes to clean the area around the wound so that I could get band-aids to stick. I'd say all in all, the process took me 5 band-aids and 30 minutes. I think it entertained Marcie. The flight was only about an hour long, and when it landed, we waited for everyone else to disembark before we unloaded ourselves.

The nice flight attendant again carried the car seat through the aircraft for me, and the double stroller was waiting for me on the jetway. Marcie clung to my pant leg for dear life while I opened the stroller and placed her in her seat, but she was fine once Casey was seated next to her. If you're wondering, Casey had his own Thomas backpack filled with toys, which he wore to get on and off the plane. Then I hung it by a strap on the stroller. Marcie's car seat when on the other stroller arm, and the kids balanced the weight by sitting in their seats. I traveled with a single backpack, in which I'd stuffed changes of clothes for the kids, the changing pad, diapers, diaper cream, PB&J sandwiches, Special K bars, granola bars, popcorn, peanut butter crackers, gold fish, graham crackers, the DVD player, the DVDs, extra wipes, ear phones, Benedryl, Motrin, a thermometer, the pack of band aids, the neosporin, and a book for me. I'd also stashed a couple toys that Casey had never seen to take out when he got bored. All that in a regular old Jansport backpack!

Once we got into terminal A, we located our final flight home-- which was going to be leaving from terminal E. So the kids and I trekked through the airport to the underground tram. On our way, I noted that there was a pretty big play area for toddlers, and I hoped there would be one in the terminal we were departing from, too. No such luck, of course. But after riding the tram and walking the entire length of the E terminal to discover this, Casey had fallen asleep.

Marcie and I ate some dinner at the food court, where I bought Casey some piping hot pizza, then we went over to our gate. I let Casey sleep for about 45 minutes, and then I woke him up because it was way past his nap time and I really wanted him to sleep on the flight home, especially since he was going to be flying during bed time. He wasn't so happy I woke him up, but after about 30 minutes and some pizza and chocolate milk, he was a little less cranky. I found a nice spot outside the window where we could see our plane. We watched them load refreshments and food, we played in the semi-enclosed area. We went to the bathroom to let Casey go, and then we returned a while later to change Marcie's diaper. And the next thing I knew, three hours had passed, and they were boarding our flight.

We boarded early again. Marcie still didn't like being removed from her stroller and cried as she clung to my pant leg. This time I carried the car seat myself (though the flight attendant did offer). And we settled into our row-- nowhere near the emergency exit. It was a 767, which meant a configuration of 2 seats, then 3 seats, then 2 seats, and we were in the 3 middle seats. Marcie took one aisle seat and Casey took the other. I sat in the middle. As the aircraft boarded, I pulled out one of the new toys Casey had not seen before-- a tube of air crafts (balloons, fighter jets, bi-planes, water-planes, a blimp, and a hang-glider). That occupied him for about 30 minutes. Then, as we were taking off, I pulled out his Jay-Jay airplanes and the two model 767s we'd bought on the trip, and we played like we were flying our airplanes. Marcie played, too.

By the time we got up into the air, Marcie had fallen asleep, and Casey was ready to watch The Little Mermaid. Which he did. Followed by a Thomas DVD. And the machine was still working halfway through his second Thomas DVD when Casey told me he was ready to go to sleep. Marcie had just woken up, and she was not interested in the DVD player, so she and I played with some other toys while Casey slept.

Marcie was pretty upset as we began our final descent into San Diego because I took away her apple juice (because she was going to spill it all over herself!). She cried so loudly, I finally took her out of her car seat for a few minutes, explaining that she had to sit back down when they told us we had to put up our tray tables. She wasn't happy when that time finally came, but she didn't squawk loudly enough to disturb anyone, either.

When we arrived in San Diego and got off the final elevator, the kids were thrilled to see their grandmother waiting to give them plenty of hugs and kisses. You'd think we'd been gone for weeks they way they ran to her, screaming, "GRANDMA!" Yeah, I know, we were gone for weeks. But just 2 of them! Still, I'm glad they were happy to be home.

After I gathered up the bags, and the kids had given Jason kisses, I pulled out the last toy I had stashed away. I carried it with me from San Diego to Ohio to North Carolina and back home again and never needed to give it to Casey. I told Casey how proud I was of him for being such a good boy during our long, long day of travel. I told him I was giving him a brand new Snuffy (a character from Jay Jay the Jet plane) because he was so good and listened so well.

He's been carrying Snuffy around ever since.

So here's my advice on traveling with small kids:
  1. If you can afford it, buy the kids a seat. If they are in a car seat, use it. They know their car seat and are comfortable in it. It will give them a sense of security during the flights.
  2. Don't be afraid of layovers. Even though trekking through an airport with so much stuff is a hassle, the layovers break up really long flights.
  3. Pack lots and lots of their favorite snacks and as much of their drinks as you can. Comfort food is, well, comforting.
  4. Have a small stash of secret toys to introduce at various points during the trip, especially for a preschool aged child. This will help pass the time.
  5. Bring one of those DVD players (or a laptop) if your kids like movies.
  6. Explain to your kids everything that's going to happen in advance. Repeatedly. And again while it's happening.

So there you have it. How I survived my summer travel!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Beaten to Bloody Pulp

Ok. So I'm exaggerating, I admit it. But really, I'm thinking that if I were a full-time, permanent stay-at-home-mom, I'd be in pretty poor physical shape. Not for lack of exercise (though that may be true, too), but because I'm insanely accident prone.

In Ohio somehow I landed a monstrous bruise on the underside of my left arm. It didn't hurt right away, so I'm not sure how I got it-- though my guess is that I got kicked on one of the water slides. At least I protected Marcie from that injury, since she was on my lap when it happened (a guess, I realize, but she was on my lap every time I went on a slide, so a pretty reasonable one).

Last week, I was trying to get the kids to stop running in circles around the first floor. As one of them came careening through the dining room, and around a corner of the kitchen, I bent over to stop her before she smashed into the counter top. Once I stopped both the kids, I stood straight up-- and smacked my own head on the corner of the counter top. Yup. Another bruise-- this time on the right side of my head.

Then when we went to Carowinds earlier this week, Marcie started to freak out a little while we were waiting for them to start the carousel moving. My dad was stationed next to Casey who was on a horse that was immobile, but Marcie likes the horses that go up and down. To calm her, I decided to launch myself up onto the horse behind her. In doing so, I managed to swing my right shin directly into the horses tail. Literally. The knot and bruise were immediate. And ugly.

Yesterday we took the kids to Monkey Joe's, which is a giant warehouse full of bouncy houses. I had Marcie on my lap going down a slide. I realized about halfway down that Casey wasn't going to get out of the way despite my yelling, so I shifted my weight over to my left side to avoid kicking him the head. The skin near my left elbow slowed me (and Marcie) down, keeping Casey from harm. My arm on the other hand has some painful rubber burn (which is just like road rash) as a result. Ouch.

Sigh. At least I haven't fallen down the stairs here. Of course, I'm not gone yet . . .

Eaten Alive

At least that's how it feels. Apparently I have delicious skin. Mmmm. Yummm. A couple mornings ago, it was cool enough to go outside and play in the yard. It was shaded. The kids were having a blast. And then I felt a bit itchy on my calf. A minute or so later, I looked at my hand and caught a mosquito biting me. I got rid of it, but not before it bit me, dangit.

The kids didn't seem bothered, so I went inside and used bug repellent wipes and went on my merry way. I smelled like summer camp (apparently I used bug spray a lot at camp growing up) the rest of the day, but the bugs left me alone.

The next morning, I opted not to venture into the yard, leaving my parents and my friend to contend with the four kids on their own. I stood on the screened-in back porch and waved to them. . .

Apparently my absence led to a new victim. Poor Marcie. I don't think they are mosquito bites because she's not really scratching, but she has maybe half a dozen on her legs and arms. And one on her face. Right to the side of her eye. I know not to use Deet on them, and I know Cutter is supposed to be safer for kids. But instead, I'm opting to keep them out of the grass and woodsy areas for the rest of our trip (which is only a couple more days).

I'm just chalking this up to one more good reason to live in Southern California . . .

Some Pictures (at long last)

Some time last week I promised to upload some photos of our trip. Unfortunately, I sent the card reader home with Jason, so I don't have any way to get any of my pictures onto a computer here. Fortunately, my parents have taken some snapshots and are giving me free reign over the computer where they are stored. So, finally, here are some pictures:
Apparently we arrived in North Carolina along with a huge heat wave. It hasn't rained in a couple weeks, and the temperatures have consistently been in the 100 degree range. That means that outdoor play is virtually unhealthy, leaving us to seek refuge in air conditioned places or outdoor places with water and/or shade. To combat the heat-- and potential boredom of playing inside, we have taken to hitting the pool each afternoon after nap time. Here's Marcie floating around in her ring.

While Jason and I were in New York, my parents kept the kids on their feet. I think this is the Discovery Place. I just like the picture of Casey-- I think he looks so grown up here-- except for the doll house in the background, of course.

The morning Jason left, it was cool enough to head over to Jetton Park, where we hunted for ducks along the shore of Lake Norman and let Casey ride the scooter. He refused to be in our family picture, as luck seems to always have it. But Marcie sure looks cute with us. She recognizes herself in the picture, by the way. Even calls herself "Marcie" now.

The kids have had Dairy Queen soft serve twice now. They prefer chocolate. Marcie will eat the cone with her hands, but this is a little less messy, I guess (not much, though!)

Casey road in the engine he's standing in front of. It was quite loud inside, and the whole time he clung to my dad for dear life and repeatedly expressed his desire to be done with it. When the ride was over, though, he told us he'd ridden in the train engine and that it was "awesome." It's too bad he only seemed to enjoy it in retrospect. It was a great experience anyway. We also went to the round house and road the turn table. He thought that was too loud, too. It figures. The kid loves trains, and he'll talk about the experience like it's the best thing that's ever happened-- but he sure didn't act that way while he was there!

My friend Danielle of South Cackalie (check out her blog by clicking the link on the menu bar) came to visit us for a couple days with her kids Emma and Nicky. Her oldest child, Emma, and Casey really hit it off. My parents treated us all to an afternoon at Carowinds (in South Carolina) while they were here, and the kids really had a blast. This is Casey and Emma in front of my mom, Marcie, and me on the Dora the Explorer train ride. Danielle and Nicky sat it out because he wanted to wiggle all over the train car. . .

When we first got to Carowinds, Casey was a cautious ride-goer. The first time on this airplane ride, he really hunkered down and clung to the rail. The ride probably goes less than 5 miles per hour. A lot less. By the end of the day, though, he was riding it with his hands in the air like he was on a giant roller coaster. Speaking of roller coasters, he rode one at his request with my dad. I don't think he'll be doing that again any time soon! And he also road the log ride-- for which I was very proud of him. And he was proud of himself, too. There's a big drop at the end, and he did great on it!

Marcie also took ride-going a bit seriously. She really wanted to go on this boat ride, during which she turned her wheel carefully and rang the bell repeatedly. She really had a good time.

Here's Nicky with Marcie after dinner. He's such a happy kid-- always a ready smile!

And here is Emma and Casey. They spent a lot of time dragging each other around like this-- they really were two peas in a pod.
So those are some highlights. There's a lot more to write about-- and show, but I think this will take care of some of your curiosity!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Second Leg

We arrived safely in Charlotte, North Carolina yesterday. At some point early next week (maybe as early as Sunday), I will post some photos. But Jason and I are leaving tomorrow for Leg Three of our trip, so it'll have to wait until we return to North Carolina for that.

We left Ohio around 5:30am yesterday, and everyone woke up to send us off. Casey didn't want to say good-bye to his big brother Bryce, and I think that's actually a good thing. We've spent a lot of time wondering how his relationship with his birth family will grow over time, and he obviously feels a sense of belonging and connection, which we were hoping for. I know that as Haley and Bryce get older and have their own interests, our visits will in some way be an interruption. But for now, they seem to genuinely enjoy Casey's participation in their summer break. And Marcie took to both of them like she was their sister, too. In fact, Bryce at one point asked me what Marcie's role was-- and I wasn't really sure how to answer. It's one of those things I've thought about with respect to Marcie. I mean, I expected Marcie to ask that question in a few years. But I hadn't considered that Bryce or Haley might wonder the same thing.

How do you classify it? Does her relationship have to have a title? I suppose not. Bryce asked if she was his sister-- and I suppose she is by mere virtue of being Casey's sister. I mean, there's no question about that relationship even though they aren't biologically related. So does that make her Bryce's half sister, too? Even though they aren't biologically related? Or is she like his half sister once removed? I know that it doesn't matter what you call it-- that Marcie will just always look up to Bryce and Haley the same way that Casey does. And I am so grateful Casey's birthfamily has taken in Marcie just like an extension of the family -- because that's obviously how we think of her. It's just one more example of how we know we hit the jackpot with them-- just one more reason to thank Casey's birthmom Angie for picking us to parent him.

But I digress. After leaving at 5:30am and driving a couple hours to Dayton, we had no trouble checking our bags curbside. The sky cap did a nice job figuring out why the airline had us down as checked in with checked bags already, and I tipped him well. So then he covered Casey's booster seat with plastic, which we sure did appreciate. We had enough time to stop for breakfast. And then we watched the planes for a while before we boarded ours. It was small. The kind with one seat along one aisle and two along the other aisle. Marcie and I sat behind Jason and Casey for the flight to Cincinnati, which was less than 20 minutes long. The bummer for us was that even though it was the same aircraft taking us to North Carolina, we had to remove everything when we deplaned. Including Marcie's car seat.

Inside the airport, the kids and I browsed a toy store, where Casey picked out a new airplane to play with. We returned to our plane and flew the hour and a half to Charlotte, where my dad was waiting for us at the gate! Back in the old days, your family and friends always met you at the gate. But nowadays because of security no one can do that. Unless you're lucky enough to have an airline employee for a friend or family member. As it turned out, my dad was on his way to his own flight (as a pilot), so he was there to greet us in uniform and everything, which Casey thought was so cool. As a matter of fact, my dad has models of all the various air craft he's flown in his study. Casey keeps taking my mom in there to point out the one that looks most like this most recent flight we took. He says, "Remember, Grandma, when we took that airplane?" as if she flew with us!

After lunch and a short nap, my mom and I took the kids over to the pool, then we had dinner, where Marcie ate more broccoli than I have ever seen a child eat.

This morning we headed over to a city pool that's an indoor water park! The only bummer was that I couldn't put Marcie on my lap to go down the slide, and she kept flopping backward and landing under water (thankfully she knows to hold her breath), so she wasn't long for the water slides themselves. The kids ate there, then home for a nap again. Casey begged us to go to a nearby park to ride a scooter. I don't know if he didn't like all the gear (helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, etc) or the heat-- or both. But after getting everything loaded into the car to go, Casey wailed that he wanted to go to the pool instead. So we did.

And now the kids are asleep. So leg two is going well so far. Then again, the real test will be these next few days-- while we're in New York and Marcie is here with my parents.

As for me, I am really enjoying this unfettered time with the kids. They make me laugh. Marcie is so determined and independent and inquisitive. Casey is so busy and musical and smart. And I did manage to finish a couple books (including Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).

Observations on Ohio

We look forward to visiting with Casey's birth family each year. And we look forward to visiting their home, too. It's pretty different from suburban San Diego. Casey's half brother and sister live in what we would consider a small town-- Jason tells me he remembers hearing it's got a population of around 4,000. Our home town, dubbed "the city in the country," on the other hand, has a population in the neighborhood of 40,000. I bet the geography has similar acreage, though. And that says a lot.

Each time we visit, Jason comments that we should buy a place in their home town. There are plenty of rolling hills and wide open spaces. And generally when we visit, even though it has always rained during our trip, the weather is more or less pleasant. Of course, we've tended to visit in the spring. And apparently it's a tad bit hotter and more humid in August. That doesn't mean we didn't have a blast at the water park and visiting Cosi, the Columbus science museum, where there were plenty of wet activities to keep the kids engaged and cool. And we were pleasantly surprised during our foray up to Cleveland for my good friend's wedding to have even escaped the humidity for a while.

One thing we noticed, the thing that really struck me is this: people actually drive the speed limit. Now, I'm no speed demon or anything. But I don't drive the speed limit either. When we explained that we'd be taking an interstate, people repeatedly commented with statements like, "Oh, that's good. You can drive 60 (or 65) on that road." 60 or 65, huh? I don't remember the last time we drove that slowly on an interstate! And when expressed our surprise at the conformity with the speed limit to my friend's other wedding guests, we were warned to take it easy-- lots of state troopers. We didn't believe it. After all, we'd traveled from Dayton down to south of Chilicothe, up to Columbus, and up to Cleveland and run into exactly one state trooper in two days. And we'd passed two highway patrol stations!

But there we were, driving home around midnight, coming down a hill onto a straight road, about to pass under an overpass when we saw the vehicle, sitting with all his lights out in an unlit area. And though Jason slowed immediately, it wasn't enough to prevent us from attracting the officer's attention. It turns out it wasn't a state trooper, but a local officer. And when we tried to hand him Jason's license and our rental agreement, he told us he knew it was a rental and just wanted to know where we were from. One look at the California license and he sighed a knowing sigh and said, "Well, I'm just gonna give you a warning as long as your license comes back clear. But you were going 75, so take it easy." And he was pretty nice about the whole thing.

On the rest of the four hour drive, we didn't slow down to 60 (except when we got lost downtown-- why are the freeway signs in Ohio so darned confusing?!?--and when we hit construction zones with speed limits of 45mph). And we still rolled in the door around 4:10am. That was after a deer darted across the road in front of us as we took our last hill back to the house. Fortunately, Jason has quick reflexes.

Cleveland was fun-- mainly because my friend was a beautiful bride. By now I think we've seen about all of Ohio you can see from interstates. Of course, there are plenty of fields and other places to explore. And lucky for us, we have family sprawled across the state, and in one small town in particular, which beckons us back to "the country."

Monday, August 06, 2007

First Leg

We made it to Central-ish Ohio safe and sound. We flew from San Diego to Atlanta and Atlanta to Dayton, then drove a couple hours south east to our final destination. The kids traveled like champs. I was heartily impressed. My strategy? New toys.

I bought Casey three small toys (two from Bob the Builder and one from Jay Jay the Jet Plane). I put one in his carry on and two in mine. He found the first one on our way to the airport, and he played with it all the way to Atlanta. Of course, he also watched a movie and ate some snacks. And the flight was smooth, so he was able to stand up in the aisle between me and Jason. But he didn't try to run off or anything, so it was good. Marcie was in her car seat much of the flight, but she wasn't pleased about it all the way.

We only had one hour in Atlanta, which was barely enough time to switch terminals and go to the bathroom, so no lunch. Fortunately, the kids didn't mind. They both fell asleep during take-off (so I never introduced one of the new toys). When we landed in Dayton and got in the rental car, we could plug in the DVD player to the car to run another movie. Plus, I'd brought Casey a new toy and I had my secret weapon-- popcorn which I'd popped the night before and put in a gallon-sized zip lock. Of course, by the time we'd traveled nine hours without any real food, I was famished, so we stopped for food at the start of the drive. At the restaurant, we sat next to a family with a toddler wearing a Hooters bib. That was a new one!

Casey's aunt and uncle sold their goats, so they weren't here when we arrived, but his half siblings were waiting for us and came running out to the car when we pulled up. Casey was ecstatic to see them, and he didn't even notice the new Thomas Tidmouth Sheds toy they'd bought him at first! He spent the night with his big brother in a big boy bed, and he had so much fun with Bryce in the morning, that he didn't even come wake us up for breakfast when he first got up.

I'll leave off there. I'll just mention briefly how much both kids loved the water slide park. And true to form, Marcie insisted we go down the biggest, tallest slide in the children's area. Saturday, Jason and I drove 4 hours to Cleveland and back for my good friend Poornima's wedding. She looked beautiful, of course, and the food was amazing. And her new sister-in-law is a massage therapist in New York, where we are headed in a few days-- so you can imagine we'll be calling her!

Ok. I've gotta go now, the kids are wrestling next to me on the couch. I told Casey this morning that we'd be leaving tomorrow, and he was pretty upset by the news, even though I also told him he'd get to go on another big airplane, see Grandma and Grandpa, and go swimming in their pool. We expect that from here on out, it will get harder and harder for Casey to say good-bye to his older siblings. And it's gonna be hard to watch. But I think it's a good thing, too. Because it means he feels a connection with them, with his birth family. And that's what we wanted for him. And I think his birthmother would have wanted that for him, too. They are, after all, his family.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Auto Out of Office Reply

They don't really have one of these for blogs. If they did, it would read:
I'm out of the blogsphere for a short stint, experiencing new things to write about so this blog doesn't become stale. I hope you'll forgive the short hiatus and check back in a week to hear all about my latest adventures!

Here's the deal:

We're off on our trip tomorrow (actually today-- in about five hours. Good lord, I hope the kids sleep on the plane because I'm obviously going to be exhausted!). I don't know what my computer access will be while I'm away or how much time I'll have to write.

I expect to post a blog update within the week though-- my guess is next Tuesday (the 7th) at the latest. I'll have lots to tell about. I'm a little nervous about what to do with the kids on the plane. I've packed sufficient snacks, though-- so many, in fact, there's no room for Harry Potter (but that won't stop me from bringing his last book along).