Sunday, July 29, 2007

Birthday Planning

Today I took Grace, Jack, and Henry to Walmart to shop for George for his birthday. The mere fact that I went to Walmart period was laughable, however their selection of bikes blows Target's out of the water so I had no choice. I quickly picked out a two-wheel bike for George ("WITH training wheels, Mom" as Henry ordered) and we made our way down the toy aisles. The kids have always enjoyed buying each other gifts, so I thought this would be relatively easy. I was wrong.

We struggled with three primary issues. First, the immediate selection by my children of toys that, for one reason or another, simply wouldn't work. I will admit that I'm most impressed by my ability to look at a toy --- any toy --- and discern immediately whether or not the toy will work for a 3-year-old (or 5-year-old) boy. The bottom line: most won't.

Grace's first selection: "Hey Mom? How about this game? It's called 'Fact or Crap'." My response: "Who the hell named THAT game?" I suppose my language slip went right over her head because she responded to me with, "Um, probably the person who invented the game?" Now, in Target, I would have been embarassed by that dialogue, but in Walmart it was tame compared to what was going on around us.

From there came issue #2: the boys selected a whole slew of toys that were just plain wrong. A Star Wars light saber? No. Play-doh? Absolutely not. A Pirates of the Caribbean Sword? HELL no. Toys with 150 pieces or that cost $150? No, thank you.

I quickly figured out the mentality with which Henry was shopping. He'd point something out and I'd say, "No, Henry, I don't think George will like that." Henry's response? "Well, that's okay. I'LL like it!" Super.

Final issue: Grace, who was the only one seriously looking for George without ulterior motives, simply could not find the "perfect" gift for George. After one hour, I said, "Grace find a present. Any present. I don't care what it costs." She finally decided on a baby pig that George can feed. Not sure about it, but I was too delirious at that point to really care.

On a good note, Grace is really wanting to learn Spanish, "so that I can talk to the birthmother when we go pick up my sister." The My First LeapPad games in Spanish were on clearance for $5 so I bought them all. She started this afternoon with Disney Princesses and let me tell you, I really underestimated how challenging this would be! It's a full story in Spanish! She and I have been online all afternoon looking up words in the Spanish-English dictionary. She's doing well learning to figure out words based on context though. She's my kid, so she's very frustrated that she isn't fluent yet, but we're working on it. I'm pleased to know that all the Leapster stuff comes in Spanish and, at a minimum, can be ordered online in Spanish, so that'll be great for everyone!

Speaking of that exercise, here she is and she wants to translate again. Adios!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Beach Bums

Before I forget, let me mention my "shining moment" from Wednesday.

After I rode my first big wave to shore and was enjoying the final moments of such an exhilarating ride, I felt a pop. No, I didn't break anything. My bikini top had popped right off! Frankly, I might have preferred to have broken something. The kids were all yelling at me to stand up, and I was laughing so hard that I couldn't manage to explain that I was lying on wet sand because I seriously could not stand up without getting arrested! I glanced around, half hoping to see all the men on the beach pushing aside their wives and children in an approach similar to one they would use if Pamela Anderson had just lost her top. But, alas, I was disappointed to realize that no one was even looking my way. As Grace would say, "Too bad, so sad."

Thursday was our last day at the beach, and Henry kept up with his usual approach of being the social chair of the group. The kid made at least one new friend on the beach each day. Today, it was two brothers who were using skim boards. Henry's decided that the next time we come, we must buy skim boards. Hmmm.....

We went to the Hotel del Coronado and bought a kite. We did not have huge success with the kite, primarily because I was so sunburned that it was painful to even stand in the sun, but the greatest moment was when George got it to fly for the longest period of time.

Mama trying to get the kite to a functional point. It was not as easy as the 1-2-3 instructions on the front led me to believe.

Grace is off and running!

This may be the first time these two have been this close without one punching the other!

Jack ready to give it a go

Jack hugging George after George's most successful flight!

After the kite flying, we went for ice cream and, if you can believe this, to buy four small cups of ice cream and one smoothie at the Del cost $26. This is disguisting, but it shouldn't have been surprising since a bottle of water there costs $3.99 and a hot dog and bag of chips cost $8.50. I was doing the calculations and figured I could have bought nearly 10 GALLONS of ice cream at the grocery for what I paid at the Mootime Creamery. Maybe I should get into the homemade ice cream business. (That's next, Dad.)

George really enjoyed his "double dark in a cone."

Seriously, this HAS to be as bad as it gets!

Now, a business I am seriously considering is dog apparel. Seriously. Grace and I went into this store called Wag'n Tails and bought Humphrey two shirts - one with a skull on the back and one in camo - and a personalized "I have to go out now" bell for him to ring at the door. We almost got a coordinating leash and collar, but they didn't have the pattern we wanted in stock. I won't mention what these clothing items cost, but suffice it to say it's a good business. The woman who owns it said that the fastest growing industries right now in retail are pets and geriatrics. Not sure what they're making for geriatrics, but I'm all about pet clothing. Grace wants to get Humphrey his own PJs, but I told her I have to draw the line there.

Humphrey in his Skull and Crossbones shirt. Come on, it's all the rage. All the celebrities' kids are wearing it!

On a final adoption note, I did get to mail our dossier to our agency today. It will arrive Monday by 2:00 PM. To have it arrive by 10:00 AM would have been another $37. That's another business I should get into! I got brave and went to INS with the kids, hoping they'd do my fingerprints. No go. They guy working security had clearly had a very disappointing week (perhaps a very disappointing life) and he was bound and determined to make every person coming into his station feel the same way. He told me that they were "understaffed." I should have told him that by this point in my life, not only can I do my own ultrasound as well as a self-exam to determine whether or not I'm dilated, I can probably fingerprint myself. I doubt it would have worked, somehow. So, I'll be back there at 8:00 AM on Wednesday morning with fingers crossed and I might say a few Hail Mary's before going in. I don't know if this is an appropriate use of the Hail Mary, but hey, it can't hurt.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"Now We Are Six" (All of us)...

Day Three.

We are all officially six: George thinks he's six, Jack and Henry are almost six, Grace is acting like she's six (months) old, and I turned six again when I boarded my boogie board (or "my board" as Jack calls it) and headed out to sea. The pictures below were snapped for my Dad!

Before I regale you with our day, let me share some other fantastic news: it appears that if FedEx does its job and gets our dossier to our agency overnight by Monday, we will go "on the list" for a referral on Tuesday. What's so great about that you might ask? Tuesday is George's birthday! Even more reason for celebration and a great way to remember the day we began officially waiting for our fifth child. Honestly, I knew our kids would be so excited to have a new sister, but I think I underestimated just how excited they would be. Grace talks about it constantly, as does George. Everytime we go out, Jack picks out baby items and says, "We need to get this for our new baby." I went into a baby boutique yesterday and almost emptied our checking account for my sister, so it's good our baby isn't here yet! I managed to exercise restraint even for Katie, but it was MOST difficult.

Here are some photos of our fabulous day today.

Mama hits the waves and waits for a big one. No one else was daring enough to wait for a "monster wave" as Grace called them.

Riding it to shore...

Jack caught a great one!

Going back for more:
Heading out with all four...

George thought he'd take a ride (but turned around once he hit the surf).

Grace and her new bikini. Her Target one did its job for a while, but by yesterday afternoon it was so stretched out it was almost indecent!

Liz's ergonomic sand beach chair

Jack: "I caught a huge wave, and then my board flipped." He's a surfer dude in training!

Grace and Jack sunning on the sand
George and his infamous boogie board!

George wanted a special picture of him being silly. Looks a lot like Henry!

If you can believe it, the most well-behaved child, and my almost constant companion for the past 3 days? Drum roll please...HENRY! He's been amazing. Some quotes that have come from his mouth: "It's OK if you want to go get the laundry Mom. I'll watch George." "You can keep looking at the brochures if you want, Mom. I'll go back to the room myself."
More later!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Oh, how I love the beach...

Ah, the joy of store after store filled with the same shot glasses, T-shirts, sweatshirts, flip flops, hats, tacky magnets, and shell necklaces. There's simply nothing like the beach, and now that I'm here I realize that I must be here far more often. We are fully situated at El Cordova Hotel in Coronado, California. And I even managed to get everything from the packing list into the car (except the beach umbrella, which I mistakenly left in the back left corner of the garage).

On the way into town, Grace advised us of the breed of positively every dog we saw (and there were many). She has a dog book at home that teaches about all different breeds, and that's where she got the info. Her positive ID of a labrador retriever? Not surprised. Nor by her pointing out the poodle or the cocker spaniel. But when she shouted out, "That's a pembrooke welsch corgie!" I almost passed out. I was like, "A WHAT?" She repeated herself and then proceeded to spell it in case I needed even further clarification, which I did.

We hit the beach bright and early this morning, and were even able to rent an umbrella for $6 from a cute little shop named Little Sam's, which is right next to our hotel entrance; not a bad deal! The "bad deal" was that the umbrella was found to be broken upon attempting to erect it in the sand. I had to leave the beach to return to said shop to exchange it. Let me mention that we're using the beach at the Hotel Del Coronado across the street, and it's a fantastic beach. It's also HUGE. The walk just from the spot where we'd set up back to the sidewalk felt like miles. Grace agreed to go with me, and the cost of that companionship was a rented Little Sam's boogie board. All the child wanted to do was boogie board. My dad will be so proud! Here are Jack and Grace giving it a go ---

On the ride after this one, Grace flipped off the boogie board and went under. She came up hacking and spitting everywhere. I thought, "Well, that's the end of that." Once she could speak she said with great enthusiasm, "That was specTAcular!" and headed out again.

Henry, on the other hand, preferred to simply lie on the boogie board on practically dry land.

By the end of the day, the kids felt it was imperative that they have their own boogie boards. So, the boys "rested" and Grace and I went shopping. We bought the three older kids boogie boards, and when we got back George was wondering when he'd be big enough for a boogie board of his own. We'd seen a really small one on clearance for $3.99 so we went back and got it on our way to dinner and he could NOT be happier. He carries it everywhere, singing his boogie board song, "Riding the boogie board."

It's 8:30 and no one seems to be anywhere near sleep (except Sharon and me). George is lying on his boogie board.

I'm off to uncork a bottle of moscato. More tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

INS, Mining Museum, and an Emergency Dental Visit (all before 10:00AM)

It has been another very interesting day.

First, I headed to INS in central Phoenix (my new home away from home). You see, when one adopts internationally, many, many people get to review your fingerprints; some people even get to do it twice. The FBI is one of those groups. I had an appt to get my fingerprints done by INS last Friday, but I was visiting my family in Delaware so I could not make that appt. (By the way, the term "appointment" is used very loosely by these wonderful folks; David's appt, which was supposed to last 15 minutes, was last Friday at 12:45. He exited the building around 3:00). If you miss your appt., you can go back any Wednesday after your scheduled appt between 8:00 and 2:30. The woman told David that it would be best for me to arrive by 7:15, and that they open the doors at 7:45. Therefore, I left my house at 6:15AM with the hope of getting there by 7:15. This did not happen. I sat in the parking lot otherwise known as I-10 for 1 hour and 15 minutes, landing me at INS at approximately 7:28AM.

By this point, the line that had formed outside was quite similar to those that are formed 30 minutes before opening time outside any establishment at which one would have bloodwork done in the Phoenix area. Very long line. So there I am, standing up, very hot (but thankfully in the shade), reading The Faith Club, and listening to Spanish on all sides, hoping to maybe get a language lesson out of all of it. The problem? They were all talking too quickly and too quietly. At one point, I almost said, "Could you speak up?" but then I remembered that a Spanish lesson for the only English speaker in a 7-block radius probably wasn't first on their priority list.

So, I stand there until 8:00 (let us now remember the part about "We really open at 7:45," and let's also remember that it was already 103 degrees in the shade with 30% humidity) at which point the head INS lady comes out to inform us that we cannot have a cell phone with us AND (and this is the important part) that for the next four days they will ONLY be processing naturalization applications. Am I applying for naturalization? No, I am not. The picture of the woman above fairly accurately represents the expression on my face when the INS Lady in Charge made this announcement (sans cell phone, of course, since those were the rules, after all). So apparently, my status as an already naturalized U.S. Citizen worked against me today and I had to leave my place in line (#5, for the record) and get into my air conditioned vehicle. I was informed that I could return next Wednesday, and when I noted that I will be out of town next Wednesday, I was casually informed that I could most certainly come the NEXT Wednesday, as though they can't wait to see me whenever I do show up. I can also go on a Saturday. So, I plan to attempt to take myself and all four children in there a week from Saturday (while David's traveling back from the land of no cell phones, electricity, or plumbing). I'm sure that'll be a treat for everyone involved. But it takes up to 3 months to get this set of fingerprints processed, and the result is the oh-so important FDL (Favorable Determination Letter) from the U.S. Embassy (I think it's from the Embassy --- at this point, who knows), without which you cannot adopt internationally. So it's somewhat important that we get this taken care of as soon as possible. And if that means having to practically break all parenting rules to keep my children under control in there for up to 2 hours while I wait with a room full of spanish-speaking applicants applying for who knows what, so be it. We'll consider it a cultural experience.

We then headed to the Mining and Minerals Museum in central Phoenix, which was most fascinating. The kids took the place over, running from this to that while I chanted, "The sign says 'don't touch the windows'" and "please don't touch the fossil; it costs $10,000." I think the two lovely 80-year-old women who were no doubt volunteering to take my $2 and tell us where the bathrooms were were more than a bit anxious sitting at their posts watching all this unfold. The kids got to pick out three free rocks (something in this world is still free!) and we bought a crystal growing kit. We just ventured out to the wash behind our house to collect rocks on which to grow crystals which was lovely except that it's 116 out with 30% humidity. Jack said on the way out, "I'm a little freaked out about the passing out." As well he should have been. It was like, "Grab a rock. Any rock. I'm grabbing one for you. I now have 3rd degree burns on my hand." The experiment is complete and we'll now wait to see if the crystals actually grow.

Lest I forget, after emerging from the Mining and Mineral Museum, but before growing our crystals, Grace mentioned that her mouth was really hurting. I looked and found that she had an abscess growing on her gum toward the back of her mouth. What does one do in this situation? She calls her husband and tells him to call the dentist (I can't make such professional calls with the four in the backseat), which he does and calls me back to say "They'll see her in 20 minutes." Twenty minutes later she was fully reclined having this thing drained. Lovely. Apparently something got caught in there and it got infected and swelled and will take 10 or so more days to heal. Lovely. "It's no problem," she professed. "I can still eat on the other side."

The two documents I was waiting on from Illinois thankfully arrived today (anyone who saw me at the mailbox likely determined that either I had gotten something important or my feet had caught fire), so now all we're waiting on is our home study which is presently being reviewed by our agency. By next Friday, I hope (read: plan) to have it all submitted and be "on the list." And what better reason to buy a very large chocolate cake!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A little politics...A little culture...

Today was, shall we say, interesting.

After dropping off Grace and Sunny at Camp Invention, I took the boys to the Secretary of State's office in downtown Phoenix to get twelve documents state certified for our dossier. Jack and George were ushered outside before I was finished (ushered by me) because they were having a spitting contest; who could soak the other more was the ultimate question, apparently. At one point, I casually reminded them that there was a jail nearby. That didn't seem to have much effect.

Afterward, we met David for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory (I shudder to think how much food that restaurant throws out by the end of each day; their serving sizes were designed for elephants!), and I took the boys to the Chinese Cultural Center in Phoenix, thinking they might enjoy looking at the Buddhas, the bonsai, and in the Chinese grocery. I think I had a FAR better time than they did! The market was fabulous - I felt like I was back in Asia. Unfortunatley, we had to leave when Henry's behavior became more abominable than anyone could tolerate (and I've seen it all). I hope to return one day soon with, perhaps, Grace, who I know will appreciate every inch of that place!

Our home study is almost completed, and when I received the draft today from our social worker, I was immeasurably pleased to read the following last line of the 10-page document:

"[Agency name] approves David and Elizabeth Lyons as potential adoptive parents." Well, praise the Lord! Let me tell you, I continued to repeat to myself, "You are likely on video camera. You are in the middle of a home study" as I trekked through the asian market with Henry on my heels chanting all sorts of inappropriate and unfortunate things at the top of his lungs!

All of our documents are ready to go. As soon as I receive two documents back from Illinois that are being state certified and our home study all will be sent and we'll wait! Right now, "just waiting" sounds really good!

Monday, July 9, 2007

This is what I feel like I'm walking into each time I walk out my front door these days. It is seriously HOT in Phoenix right now. So hot, in fact, that the other day as I walked to get the mail (which is in a communal box across the street), I thought, "If I passed out between here and the front door, I would have 3rd degree burns before anyone found me!"

The last few weeks have been, shall we say, overwhelming in the adoption department. The acquisition of the final documents we needed to get our dossier put together and submitted to our agency proved challenging.

First, I received a witness letter (confirming that David and I are who we say we are, basically) that had the notary's name typed improperly, rendering it void. The biggest problem with that? It came from Illinois. So getting it redone wasn't as easy as one might think.

Issue #2: the letter from our kids' pediatrician confirming that they are all in good mental and physical health and are up to date on their immunizations. This didn't sound too complicated, and my pediatric group is fantastic. However, the letter had to be notarized. Do they have a notary on staff? No. That would be too easy. So I had to beg my friend Trisha (who also happens to be a notary, but is a very busy woman) to ride up to the doctor's office with me (oh, and the four children) to notarize the doctor's signature. Now, that's sounds relatively simple. However, the letter was ready to be signed by one doctor, who was not available the day Trisha WAS available, so the whole file had to be reviewed by another doctor who WOULD be available when Trisha was available. But it got done.

Now, what happens for people who have a doctor's office that not only doesn't have a notary on staff, but doesn't have a friend who's a notary? I asked Trisha, "What would I have done? Put on a low-cut dress, sauntered into Chase Bank, and gone up to the notary, who happens to be a man, and said, 'Hey buddy, want to go for a quick ride in my car?'" Glad I didn't have to find out.

By this Wednesday, I should have all documentation signed, notarized, state certified, and ready to submit to our agency. The only missing piece (and it's a big piece) is our home study, which should be finished by next week. I sure hope our social worker approves us! At least at our final meeting Henry refrained from screaming, "I do not WANT to talk to her today" from the office as he did at the last meeting. Thankfully, Grace and George talked enough for all four of them.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Finally, there is some light at the end of this paperwork tunnel! We have almost everything we need to submit our dossier to our agency. We're waiting on a few final forms to arrive, and we have a few forms to send back to Illinois for state certification, but hopefully by July 20th, we'll be on "the list" for a referral! (The acquisition of said referral could take another 6-9 months.)

George has gotten very excited by the idea of having a baby sister, seemingly. Last night, he set the dinner table for the kids and he set out five plates. David reminded him that we only needed four plates. He said, "No. Five. George, Aycie, Jackie, Hemmy, and my new baby sister." It was so adorable. I asked him what he would do with her when she arrived and he said, "Play. But I won't pick her up. Because she's too small."

We learned this week that Jack is quite allergic to cats. We were caring for our neighbor's kittens while they were on vacation and one day, Jack picked one up and carried her around for about five minutes. Within ten minutes of arriving back home, his face blew up like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. If you've ever seen Hitch, he very much resembled Will Smith when Will had a reaction to something or other. A few doses of benadryl and 3 days later, he's back to normal. But we won't be going around cats anymore! Thankfully, he seems completely unaffected by Humphrey.

That's it for now!