Friday, October 30, 2009

Born

Here's the reality of my life at this very moment: I cannot watch anything on television or on the computer until the two-year-old in my care falls asleep. He's at the point of feeling that he's missing something if he hears noise other than the clink of dishes into the dishwasher or the fall of water into my glass. This happens with most two-year-olds, and it doesn't stop until roughly the time that you'd like them to sleep less and take more responsibility for themselves. As we move ever-so-slowly-yet-steadily towards getting our adoption paperwork in order, I recognize how much life will change. More than a decade of getting children in and out of bed has taught me plenty. My alarm ringing at 8am has troubled me lately, but I haven't seen the half of it. Once we bring home a baby, I may never sleep again.

But life is always changing, and I've changed with it, mostly for the better, I hope. When I quit taking care of my big kids in order to find more balance, I just rearranged the weights as opposed to really balancing the scale. But that's okay. I'm figuring it out. And I'm figuring me out. This may sound strange if you know how old I am (early thirties, about to turn the corner into mid-thrities, oh boy), but I don't think we ever stop learning more about who we are and what we need and how we can do better with what we've been given. I don't expect to wake up one morning and know exactly when to say no and to whom. I don't imagine that I won't keep resetting my diet with completely healthy foods only to slide slowly back into treatsville. I also don't imagine that I'll be able to roll with all the punches just yet. I still get frustrated. I still get worried. It's better, but it's not perfect. I'm not perfect. Never will be. I suppose I've learned to live with that, mostly anyway.

Four years ago, which seems like a lifetime in many ways, I was heartbroken and hurt and angry. I still am sometimes, but not for the same reasons. It was that time in my life that led to an enormous shift in my faith. I don't write much about faith here anymore; that was part of the shift. But the other part of the shift was that I suddenly realized that for all my own heartbreak and hurt and anger, there was worse heartbreak and hurt and anger being experienced by people who had seen tragedy much worse than being left by a person they loved. That was where it got sticky for me. That was where I couldn't reconcile the good and loving God that so many people assured me was the God that existed with reality. A God who created all things beautiful and lovely and perfect? Sure. But a God who would allow poverty and excruciating pain and rape of children and slavery and every kind of loss? I couldn't get behind that. People can say all they want about Adam and Eve sinning in the garden, and they can tell me everything they know about the Bible and everything being for a purpose, but the level of suffering that exists in the world is still hard for me to swallow and then say a Hallelujah. I still believe in God, but it's different. I still believe in goodness and love, but that's changed, too. I'd like to tell you how I made it all make sense, but I can't. I know it has a lot to do with giving credit where it's due and withholding it otherwise, with accepting that our world isn't perfect and I'm not sure why. Because it still doesn't make sense, and I still don't know a lot of things, but I still believe in redemption and hope, somehow. I still believe that love conquers all. Like most things in my life, I'm still working it out, still rearranging the weights on the scale, not even close to any sort of balance. I don't think God minds. If he does, he doesn't say so directly.

When we adopt our daughter, we will be adding a member to our family--a much loved and wanted and hoped for member--due to someone else's dire misfortune. Our joy will be born out of an entire continent's long and complicated era of tragedy. We will love her and we will nurture her and we will put her to sleep with all the stories and songs we've collected for her, but her story is forever changed because of what never should have occurred to anyone, anywhere. I don't pretend to understand why this happened either, and I don't pretend that it seems 100% right that we should receive a baby that is relinquished due to someone else's poverty or illness or death. But here we are anyway, because the situation is what it is, and children need families, and we want very much to build our family this way. Not because it is right to the core, but because it is the rightest thing that can be done in these circumstances. I believe that I was meant to do it. Even in the days when I doubted if I'd ever get married, I knew that I would become a mother this way. Not because it is noble or good, as some suggest, but because it just seems born into me. Motherhood born of tragedy and loss, but motherhood born of love and joy all the same. When I see her face, I will weep for all these things.

People often mention to me with great excitement that perhaps I'll get pregnant once we adopt, as if that is the ultimate goal. It doesn't seem normal or natural to many people that I would not long for pregnancy; they ask if we will ever have "our own," as if common DNA is the only way to become someone's own. On my best days, I am patient and calm. On my worst, I am judgmental and my tone of voice belies the words that exit my mouth. We are all still figuring this out.

I would do well to remind myself of that more often.

Monday, October 26, 2009

My Favorite Season

At night I move through quiet houses. I put away the toys we missed when I made the kids help, I fill the formula pods, I unload the dishwasher. I do a walk-through to find any stray mugs or cups that have rolled beneath furniture. It's a good feeling, having put everyone and everything to bed for the night. I am here late tonight, and the cable doesn't seem to be working, but I don't mind. I just wish I'd brought a book.

This morning was our home study, and yesterday's cleanup and decluttering made our own home quiet, and not just in the sense of lack of noise. I always feel more peaceful when everything is in its spot. There was the leftover feeling of homemade bread and good jam and hot coffee. There was golden light spilling softly through our windows, and all the cats were curled up, cozy. There was nothing pressing to do. It was perfect. This is the quiet of autumn, when everything is golden and orange and flaming red, and I don't think there's anything better in the whole world.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Aaaaand We're Back. Sort of.

Good news! The cat vomit did not kill Jarod's iPhone. Also, Jarod seems to have recovered as well. We are back in working order, just in time for me to work through much of the weekend. The one thing that seems to be missing is the type of weather that makes me want to get things done as opposed to sitting in front of the computer, drinking coffee and getting caught up on Grey's Anatomy. And Ugly Betty. And The Daily Show. Whoops! Looks like my day is full!

There's a lot going on and a lot of nothing going on. Life cycles back into the normal, in which a range of daily chores and special projects keeps us busy. We miss our friends that we haven't seen since we got back, and if that's you in that bunch, know that seeing you is at the top of our list of desirable activities. From the bottom of my little introvert heart, I thank you in advance for forgiving me for not being in touch just yet. I've needed this week to get back into the groove of things, but I also need all of you. I have this little fantasy in which some of you come along on our next vacation. You will, won't you? I hope your answer is yes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Turbulence

We returned Sunday evening to desperate cats and a chilly house that smelled faintly of something unpleasant. It didn't take long to press the appropriate buttons to generate heat and eliminate the offending odor and leave our suitcases haphazardly all over the house, where they stayed until I unpacked them today. It was good to get home, and for me it was good to get home knowing that the kind of existence I was trying to sustain pre-vacation was over. Yesterday was a whirl of adoption paperwork and errands, and I couldn't have been happier about it. Today started out swimmingly, but then Jarod called home sick, I banished him to the bedroom so I could get things done (obviously because I care for him and want him to get his rest and feel better, not because, ahem, this introvert had maybe had enough of people and needed a little space to work independently), and before we knew it our elderly cat had vomited on his iPhone. So now we've got one sick husband, one iPhone convalescing in a bag of rice, and one introvert who has to hold herself together until her young charges are in bed tonight. It's not gone as smoothly as I hoped, but I'm just going to switch on my internal seat belt sign and ride it out. It's not perfect, but it's better, and like any turbulent plane ride, it will eventually get me where I intend to go, just with a few more bumps along the way than I'd prefer.

I'll get back to you when I've landed and we've taxied to the gate. You can wait for me near baggage claim with a sign that says WELCOME BACK and a balloon bouquet.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The End, Just in Time

It seems I'm in charge of packing tonight, as soon as the laundry is dry. Jarod is asleep already, having been worn out by a long day and not enough sleep besides, not to mention by his wife, who's capricious whims lead who-knows-where for who-knows-what. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's not. This trip, it's been a mixture. I'd love it if every vacation were perfect, but life isn't perfect, so I'll take the good bits and brush the bad bits off as we take off. There were, after all, a lot of good bits. A whole lot.

We walked down the steps from the chateau at dusk.

oh, oh, evening, i love you best


We enjoyed Renoir's very own view.

renoir's terrace

We walked along the Promenade des Anglais at night.

negresco at night

We had cake for breakfast.

last lazy morning chocolate breakfast

We walked through the gardens of a palace.

elaborate palace, elaborate gardens

When our umbrella broke, we still survived the rain.

us, convex

We played tourist, and we played our part well.

another cheesy tourist shot

Tomorrow, it will feel good to be home. After all, these dumb cats are waiting, and we're long overdue for having someone try to sleep on top of our faces.

cat pile

See you at home tomorrow. Sweet dreams.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

As Previously Mentioned

It occurred to me while I was showering that I mentioned in my last post that we'd been taking video on this trip, but I didn't actually give you links to any of the videos. I've posted links to those videos pretty much everywhere except my blog, so if you follow me anywhere else on the internet, you've probably seen them. If you don't follow me anywhere else on the internet, I apologize for the oversight. Here is a list of links, in chronological order.

Apartment Tour

First Gelato Report

Climbing the Rope Playground...Thing

Second Gelato Report

Bike Ride to Cagnes-sur-Mer (loooong, features my back side)

Third Gelato Report

Fourth Gelato Report

Fifth (and final) Gelato Report (with bonus footage!)

Hampton Court Palace

The River Thames!

SQUIRRELS! (also pigeons, but who cares about them)

We've got a bunch more, but the guy that's in charge of editing and posting them is tired or something. It's not like we walked all the way from Waterloo, to Buckingham Palace, through Hyde Park (the longest way possible, as is our custom), up to Paddington Station, and then back to Waterloo today. Oh, wait, I guess we did. It's like I'm attempting to win an award for most miles covered on foot in order to avoid paying for transportation. Jarod's a pretty great sport about it, even when I spend that money we saved on coffee. Or on items for our hypothetical baby. Of all of us, Magnolia has the most souvenirs from this trip, and she might not even exist yet. Oh, well. What can I do?

Nothing, that's what.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Utter Silliness

We've always got plenty of photographic evidence of what we do outside the apartment on vacation, and this year we've even got video for the internet to see. But we rarely take photos of what we do inside the apartment because, well, you'd be bored to tears to watch us doing it. However, I find that many people enjoy a good re-enactment, so here it is. Meet Meringue Escargot, a delightful treat that enjoys long walks on the beach, romantic candlelit dinners, and re-enacting the dull activities of humans on vacation in the South of France. (Respond to Box 3382 if you like bubble baths, foot massages, and egg whites laced with sugar.)

Every morning, Meringue Escargot sleeps in until at least 11am, closer to noon if he's feeling particularly worn out by all that gelato.

meringue escargot sleeps in

When his snail feet finally hit the floor, he shuffles into the kitchen to make himself some tea, then settles in with a good book. He's almost done reading The Poisonwood Bible, and he highly recommends it, even though it was one of those dreadful Oprah Book Club selections.

meringue escargot enjoys reading and a cup of tea

Once he tires of reading, if the computer is free, he checks his e-mail. He wishes he'd get messages from someone other than Buca di Beppo and MoveOn.org, but he's not complaining.

meringue escargot checks email

Once he's saved any good coupons from Buca (free dessert is his favorite--who doesn't like a giant bowl of tiramisu?) and signed a few online petitions urging his elected officials to pass healthcare reform, he simply enjoys the view.

meringue escargot thinks of nothing of consequence while enjoying the view

It's good to be a cloudlike dessert vacationing in France. Well, until someone gets hungry...