It is official. We've stepped back into the international adoption arena!
I know, I know, the confetti from Devi's homecoming has just started to settle, but we all know that Rome was not built in a day just as International adoptions don't happen overnight. Our window of opportunity is closing almost quicker than we can act, and therefore if a sibling for Devi is in our future at all, we must start the administrative paper pushing part of the process now and let our hearts and emotions catch up later.
CARA, the Indian adoption governing body, has set rules regarding the eligibility of adoptive parents. While Pat and I still feel like we are barely pushing 20...okay 30, mentally and physically, our combined age is dangerously close to the cut off point for adopting an infant from India. It is possible for us to adopt an older child, over the age of 5 or 6 years old, but we both strongly feel that the best blending of our family would come with Devi remaining the oldest. And even though we brought Devi home at only 10 months old, I must be honest and admit that the mommy in me still craves some baby cooing and snuggling too.
If we were not feeling self conscious enough check marking the "ancient" age box all ready, we are also too old to employ the services of Dillon International, the agency we used before. Like surrendering the last tattered scrap of our security blanket and braving our first day of school alone, we have had to research and find a good fit in new adoption advocates. Much to our dismay, our initial search left us empty handed. Due to the instigation of the Hague treaty and other CARA regulatory changes that are still looming, there was no agency that could assist us in our adoption. We examined the possibility of adopting from other countries, but our longing for India has captivated our attention like a faint and distant song that we can't help but strain to hear.
Having exhausted all of our options, I stumbled across a posting on a yahoo site sent by a woman whose name sounded vaguely familiar. What really caught my eye was the title underneath her name – India Program Outreach Specialist. Boy! we could ever use one, if nothing else she was surely qualified to convince me to stop doing chest compressions on this project and just let it go peacefully. Ironically, the name sounded familiar because she was a source recommended to me by Karen (Jenya's mommy) months and months earlier. In Karen's initial adoption researchlong before the arrival of Jenya, she had found great comfort in the advice of this woman, but I was never successful in locating her until now. Coincidence, maybe, but for me she was the facilitator of clarity I had been hoping to find.
To our surprise she was hopefully optimistic about what we proposed and gave several insightful options to explore regarding the growth of our family. Through one of her contacts and a little more research we have found Journey's of the Heart, an adoption agency located in Oregon, who is willing to help us in our search for Devi's sister. We are hoping to add a girl from India, between the ages of 14 and 20 months to our family in the next two years. She will have special needs, to what degree we are uncertain. The last condition is that we are in somewhat of a race for time, so if for some reason the process is delayed and we become too old to adopt an infant or a child is not found that meets our profile we will reevaluate but, most likely will remain a family of three. We are typically not gamblers so this decision was incredibly difficult and is probably the biggest leap of our faith we have ever had to take. The life and family that we are suppose to lead will, in time, reveal themselves to us. Until then, isn't this what one calls an adventure? It looks like the crazy train just left the depot and Pat, Devi and I are on it!
Our motivation in adopting Devi was to become parents. This time the motivation comes from a very different place. This is an all for one and one for all family decision. We have asked Devi if she would like a sister and she always says, "uh-huh!" We take this response lightly as she is an agreeable kid and gives this response to just about everything we ask her including if she would like to eat mud ;0), but we are trying to keep her as actively participating as possible. Patrick and I both grew up with siblings and would love to share the benefits of childhood playmates with our children, as well as future confidants and advisers our siblings became as they aged.
Now, another notebook of information collection is underway. Our first application was sent to JOH on July 29th and we were approved August 9th. Our contract was signed and sent in on August 20th and the dossier instructions should arrive in a couple of days. Meanwhile, our home study interviews are scheduled (just enough time had passed that we had to start all over!) Our background information was completed and sent in on September 2nd and we just completed our fingerprints for the FBI. Our physicals are penned in for the 15th of this month and then we can take a breather from the paperwork for a little while. All of this completed, just a little more than a week shy of our first forever family day with Devi.
On a side note, I must add here that during the fingerprinting the woman asked for my social security number and for the first time in my life my mind went totally blank. I mean nothing, nada, zilch came to mind. First I rattled off my phone number, then started in on my work phone number and finally got so flustered that I had to leave the building to be able to use my cell phone and call Patrick at work to verify my number. I felt like such a dope. The woman was so nice about the whole thing and didn't even make me get back in line to wait my turn. She was really very sweet so later had to thank her with a Starbucks gift card. Talk about a senior moment....geez.
Going public with the news of another adoption is like announcing that you have just signed up for your second marathon, although you've not yet removed your running shoes and race number from the first one. And to those who are not runners, some will never understand the drive to commit to another long and grueling experience. To them, I can only say Sunno sabki, karo apne manki which is Hindi for "Listen to everybody, but do what your heart wants."
Oh how our lives have changed in the past year. This is now what I hope to see at the end of each day. Not a beautiful sunset, not a chilled glass of wine, not a fresh newspaper. No, I look forward to seeing a tiny apple sticker firmly applied to the back of my Devi's shirt.
Accident reports are printed on bright magenta paper at Devi's daycare. There is no way to not notice one. They are used to report unfortunate events that may occur on any given day. The first few I had to sign for Devi, recounted a fall from a toy or bump on the noggin from another toddler.
Over that past few months, however, I've had to sign them with a little more frequency for infractions CAUSED by my princess. It turns out, Devi is the daycare bully. Biting is her pain of choice to inflict on the other children. I was reassured that biting is just a phase that many children go through - especially when they are teething. Lord knows Devi had 8 or more teeth erupt from her gums at the same time, so surely this must be what was motivating her to bite.
As the days progressed, however, I was arriving to pick Devi up, only to find stacks of bright magenta glowing papers attached to Devi's report card for me to sign. I was beginning to wonder if we would be charged for the extra filing cabinet required to hold them all.
In all seriousness, we were at our wits end. Trying to back up the daycare by reinforcing that "we don't bite people", "biting is not okay" and spending minutes in the thinking spot wasn't really working because she rarely, if ever, did it at home. Devi, herself, would tell you that we kiss people, no biting. And, I can't tell you how guilty you feel when you see another child holding an ice pack to their arm!
Finally, I was met one Friday afternoon by the daycare director who, realizing our frustration, was waiting for me. Yikes, sort of took me back to being called into the principals office in my much younger years. We discussed some possible options to help spare the other children's delicate skin and get Devi to move out of this "phase".
Whether our conclusions are true or not, we will never know, but it stands to reason that Devi, like many children who have spent time in an orphanage, don't have much of their own nor have they had much personal space. We know she had cribmates that she shared a small space with. Miss director told me she watched Devi attempt to bite anyone who got too close to the toy she was playing with - even if they didn't attempt to take it or share it. What we concluded is that she was "fighting" for what she thought was hers. We don't have the problem at home, because...well, ALL the toys are hers!
Miss director went on to explain that most kids Devi's age are still learning what is acceptable vs. unacceptable behavior, but Devi knows perfectly well that biting is unacceptable, but the need to keep the others away from what is hers is worth risking punishment for.
With this in mind, we devised our new plan. Knowing what a people pleaser she tends to be, we started rewarding Devi every day she did not bite, emphasizing being kind to her friends and causing no ouchies. Viola! It was that simple. She has never chomped on another kid since we started the reward system. It is a major big deal to her to have that sticker slapped on her back at the end of each day. "Momma proud?" she asks. Absolutely, good, kind girl!!
I am happy to report that our refrigerator is full of apple stickers and she loves to show them off. An apple a day, keeps this momma's gray hairs away! We've nipped this one in the bud (hehe)
Her latest accomplishment? Yep, walking on her tippy toes! Amazing how something so small can bring a child such joy. With the grace of an elephant, and the determination of an ant under heavy load, Devi surprised us the other day, parading through the kitchen squeaking out "Tippy toes, tippy toes" as she bobbled by.
This new talent is only matched in enthusiasm by her mastery of bubble blowing...all by herself. The successful blow is always followed by an appropriate "Bub-bles!" exclamation at an ear splitting, glass breaking decibel range.
Tonight we were blessed by the cutest rendition of the Happy Birthday song I've ever heard. The whole thing. I have no idea how she learned this but she got so excited when she inserted her own name into the proper spot. She never ceases to keep us entertained!
Ethnic Fest July 26th 2008
Dancin' with daddy
Denise and Devi's boyfriend, Ben. Devi does not understand he is married!
Our summer has continued to keep us busy attending festivals in our area. Ethnic fest was celebrated in late July with 2 full days of music and dance from around the world. Devi enjoyed dancing through the crowd, meeting people along the way. A local cameraman took a shine to her and gave her a little cameo seen on local television. Ah...a star is born! I think our favorite performers were the Trinadad/Tobago dancers and a pan drum group. Of course, we dined on a plate of food from Gateway to India, our favorite local Indian fare.
Holi Picnic, July 27th, 2008
We also attended our first activity with a local group of other Indian adoptive parents. We had a picnic, flew kites, blew bubbles and rounded out the day's activities with the tossing of colored powders, typically celebrated during the Hindu holiday, Holi, in March. It is meant to mark the beginning of spring and good weather - a time to celebrate and "let loose". This was Devi's first opportunity to meet and interact with other Indian children. She had a great time and is still commenting on that fun day.
Last weekend, August 9th, was our annual cul-de-sac party. With our addition, the children in our neighborhood number 8 this year! Typically we roll our BBQs out into the street and the adults enjoy grown up conversation while the children play. Patrick, a kid at heart, plays with the kids and invariably ends up in time out! This year, he was kept in check by the periodic downpours that kept us all jumping into, and out of, the limited dry tarped spots protecting the food and us from the elements. Devi had a blast! She got to play with the big kids, ate her hot dog that hit the ground, stomped in puddles, chased after gigantic bubbles and fell into bed at 7, absolutely exhausted!
Summer Picnic at one of our favorite parks
The angel sleeps :)
Sometime during all those events our daughter lost her innocence and purity, uttering her first nasty word. We call it the toilet trauma story. Daddy was holding Devi on his hip and was attempting to smooth her bath towel across the shower curtain rod to dry. Somehow during the single handed flip of the towel to the bar, the hood of the towel caught the porcelain lid on the toilet tank. The weight of the tank lid caught daddy off balance as the lid catapulted itself into the air. Daddy managed a round house kick over the seat of the toilet, catching himself on the other side in the bath tub with baby still comfortably straddling his hip! Turning to witness the broken bits and full extent of the damage, the shock caused daddy to waver and he said, "damn it!" which he claims was soon followed by a quiet, sweet replica of that same phrase. With a hung head, I say what is a mother to do? I praised daddy for his true fatherly instincts to protect the baby...not the towel :)
Soon thereafter,we were out walking with Devi and our dog. We were startled by this sudden fierce barking coming from a teeny tiny dog which thankfully was fenced. Anyway, Pat made a comment..."He's a killer!" joking about the size of bark vs. size of animal. Whoops!!! tiny ears heard it too! All the way to the coffee house destination we heard Devi saying "He's a killa" in her small little girl voice. Okay, inappropriate, I know, but it was sort of hilarious. Slow learners? Yes, we parents are :)!!!
The proud girl received her social security card, ironically, one year to the day that we became her legal guardians!