life on the funny farm

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Till the one day when this lady met this fellow ....

...and they knew that it was much more than a hunch....

Yeah, well, you guys get the idea. Short story: A long time ago Fred and I met, fell in love, got married, had a bunch of kids.

Long version:

A Prolonged Beginning
Fred and I have been in classes together since our days in middle school, 7th grade. Didn't really get to know each other till senior year, when we worked in the movie theatre together (he an usher, me the cashier). We got to be good friends. Then the prom came, and although he went with E and I went with S, we somehow experienced love at first sight that night, five years after our first meeting (we're a little slow). We slow-danced to the prom theme song, Endless Love, and that was all she wrote. The next day a whole gang of us went to Great Adventure, and Fred and I walked the park holding hands, all lovey-eyed for each other amid much wretching and puking from our friends.
A few short months later, it was off to seperate colleges and the beginning of a long-distance, long-term relationship. This was before the days of e-mail and texting, so we actually had to write letters to each other a few times a week. On paper. I know, gasp. We talked by phone once a week, but saw each other only a few times during the school years. Still, we managed to keep the love alive in our hearts, as well as the nausea alive in the stomachs of our friends.
Because I worked through school, I took the "5 year plan" and finished college with a BS in Occupational Therapy. Fred finished with a BS in Chemistry and started med school. So after his 1st year of med school and my last year of college, we tied the knot. As per the regulations of the 1980s, the wedding was a pink and grey pastel affair, with much layering and lace. We had a 3 day honeymoon in an inn not far from Atlantic City, then got back to work.

Movin' On Up
When summer was over, we moved out of Fred's Dad's attic and into our 1st apt in Central Jersey. I finished up my internships and got a job, Fred kept plugging away at being a med student. I can remember him practicing his stitches on the back of our 2nd-hand bile-green sofa.
After graduating from med school, Fred landed his surgical residency. So we loaded up the truck (and all our collective friends' trucks) and we moved to Delaware (are you singing this to the Beverly Hillbillies tune?). We rented what seemed like a palatial split-level, 3 bdrm 1 1/2 bath house. We had so much room that we invited some friends to move in (unbeknownst to our landlord). B was in residency with Fred. They had sold their house in VA, but hadn't yet bought a place in DE. So we said they could bunk with us till they found a place. So B and J, and their children ages 4, 2 and newborn, along with their Great Dane, moved in with us for a bit and it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Ahhh, good times, good times ....
Our friends weren't there long before they found a place, and life went on. Then one day we came home to find a sheriff's sale sign in our front yard. Whatever our landlord was doing with our rent payments, paying the mortgage wasn't it. We quickly scrambled and found an old farmhouse for rent in nearby MD. It was the beginning of the end for poor Fred, in his losing battle against me and the animals. This old house had a barn and 5 acres, and I promptly put a horse in the pasture. Our critter count was upped considerably in that house. Our landlady there was a quirky old character. We could only guess her age at that time to be anywhere between 60 and 80. She smoked like a chimney and always had a floppy-eared drooling Bloodhound in tow. She kept all her important papers stuffed in Ziplock baggies and had a habit of talking to you as she was walking or driving away.

Welcome to Parenthood
Our first son was born in that house in 1995.
We moved b/c our landlady had one of her many sweet real estate deals pop up: the company that owned the adjoining land wanted to buy her property. So she sold it for millions and we moved. Again.
Instead of renting this time, though, we were able to buy our first house. Fred had finished his surgical residency, as well as a fellowship in Trauma and Critical Care at Baltimore's Shock-Trauma. He took a staff job as a trauma surgeon. I was about 7 mths pregnant with our second child when I quit my job and we moved into our first boughten house in in October of 1997. It was an amazing 260 year old stucco over stone farmhouse with 11 1/2 acres, a pond and a stream. The driveway alone was 1/2 mile long. It needed a lot of work, and was on the small side, but we loved it. We moved in and I gave birth about two months later to our little girl.
Our days seemd too short as we struggled to find the time to parent our two small children, fix up the old house, maintain 11+acres, make fencing repairs, take care of the growing array of critters, and for Fred to work the many hours of a young surgeon. But we managed, and soon added a third child to the mix, in the summer of 1999.
With three children under the age of four, I really felt we were done growing our family. So when I had to have surgery to remove my rebellious gallbladder, I opted for the 2-for-1 discount and got my tubes tied in a pretty little package. With two little boys and one darling girl, I had it all. And wanted to stop.

Stupid Sisters
It's all my sisters' fault. Mary and Veronica are like my best friends. We've been through a lot together and it's made us close. One day it dawned on me that my Rosie would never know the joy of a sister stealing her clothes or hogging the phone or taking too much time in the bathroom. I wanted to have another daughter, but knew that even if I had a reversal of my surgery, there were no guarantees I'd get pregnant again, and certainly no assurances I would ever have another girl. So we (meaning I) decided to add to our family by adoption.

Adoption Pregnancy
So after convincing Fred I wasn't interested in adopting a baby (he wanted no more middle-of-the-night feedings, dirty diapers or teething), we started the research in January of 2003: Domestic or international? Which country? Which agency? What age child? Are we crazy or just eccentric? We finally signed with an agency in February, sent them our completed dossier in May, and beleive it or not, travelled to Kazakhstan in August and brought home our little five year old girl Bella in September. Never even got any stretch marks.

Life Goes On
We settled into some sense of normalcy for awhile with our now four kids. We also hosted some exchange students and I decided we needed to move to a bigger house. So in April of 2005 we said goodbye to our old farmhouse and hello to our new farmhouse 15 mins up the road. We more than doubled our living space, and went from 3 bedrooms to 7, but we downsized our property from 11+ acres to just shy of 7. Fred, laughing nervously, said he hoped I wouldn't decide all those rooms needed to be filled.

Just One Little Problem ....
There was this boy I met while I was over in Kazakhstan visiting our daughter. He was an amazing kid, but since I had no thoughts on adopting a boy, I thought I could find him a forever family through the network of adoptive parents I had met. But as it turned out, they told me he was not available for adoption. So sad, but OK, what can I do? So I thought we would just stay in touch with him. Problem is, the first time I sent him anything, I learned he had been transferred to another orphanage. We lost touch for more than two years, but we finally found him by hiring an in-country PI of sorts. We were still told he was not available for adoption, but at least we could finally begin writing to him as we had hoped. He remembered me, and we began writing letters to each other, and I would send him small packages from time to time. Two years passed this way, and I was finally told I could "try" to adopt him. Yes, they told me if I was crazy enough, I could spend months of my time and an exorbitant amount of money to prepare a dossier and fly halfway around the world so someone could review the case and decide if we could adopt him. Unfortunately for Fred, I am indeed crazy enough, and that's exactly what we did. I started preparing the dossier in October 2007, and was finally given my Letter of Invitation (aka greenlight) to travel to Kazakhstan in October of 2008. Five years and two months from when we were there before.

Just One More Little Problem
Of course, things are never simple. Because along the way of this second adoption journey, we learned that Borya had a younger sister, and that they could not be separated (though they were already placed in two different orphanages and never had any contact with each other). So it was decision time. If we wanted to adopt Borya, we would also need to adopt his sister. Could we adopt a 10 year old child we knew nothing about? Could we go from 4 kids to 5 to 6? Could we one day handle three 15 year old girls all living under one roof? Once we met her, all doubts flew out the window. She's a lovely child, and just, shall we say "interesting" enough to fit into our crazy crew seamlessly. So end of October 2008, Fred, Bella and I flew to Kazakhstan (again) and stayed there about a month to complete the adoptions of Borya and Yulia. Adoptions in Kazakhstan are different today than they were five years ago, so after court, we flew home to await the arrival of Borya and Yulia a month and a half later.

And that, in the biggest nutshell you've ever seen, is how we went from one kid to two, then three. Added a fourth, then brought home the fifth and sixth. As my kids used to say when they were toddlers, "All done!". Fred can only hope ....

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