Before our amazing trip to Kazakhstan fades too far into the back of our minds (isn't it amazing how the present pushes out the past?), I wanted to write a post about the adoption prep that has been the most useful so far in our journey. Of course, our life with Sasha is just beginning, but we have been so blessed with a fantastic start and I want to pass along our most helpful lessons so far.
Best adoption prep: Listening to podcasts from Creating a Family.
We tried to do as much adoption prep as we could and I am so, so grateful for every book we read and article we studied. Particular favorites were The Complete Book of International Adoption, Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft, and Attaching in Adoption but I have to say that my prize for best adoption prep goes to Dawn Davenport's podcasts. She interviews authors and experts on a wide variety of topics (she does both infertility and adoption podcasts. I only listen to the adoption ones, but I bet the infertility ones are great as well) and it has been so helpful to get an hour's worth of introduction to so many themes. There are a 1001 topics that an adoptive parent needs to be familiar with, and Dawn's radio show continues to give us a great introduction those as well as suggestions for further resources if and when we need them.
Best travel advice: Remove the word "should" from your vocabulary
It is so easy to fall into the "should" trap when traveling for a child - "That family's form XYZ only took 2 weeks, mine shouldn't take 2 1/2!" "Coordinator B should be more responsive to my needs." "The food here should be edible" "They shouldn't make me dress my child up in 14 layers when it's 75 degrees inside". You get the idea. But the fact is that this trip isn't about you, your culture, your wants, or even your needs. It's about successfully, legally bringing a child into your family. I'm not saying you should completely suppress your opinions or desires, but everybody (including you) is going to enjoy your trip a whole lot more if you remove "should" from your vocabulary.
Best travel prep: Learning the Cyrillic alphabet
Being able to sound out Russian words was so helpful in Kaz and made us feel a whole lot more self-sufficient. Our trip was filled with exclamations like, "vuh-nnnn-eel. Oh, vanil! Steve, I found the vanilla pudding!" And trust me, "ваниль" looks nothing like "vanilla" at first glance. You're probably not going to become a proficient Russian speaker before traveling, but learning the Cyrillic phonograms is hugely helpful.
Best toy we brought: Unbreakable crib mirror
The mirror was really our breakthrough toy with Sasha. She loved looking at herself, it was a quiet toy that she could play with in our laps (remember, Sasha was very shy in the beginning), and it was a great bonding tool because we could make eye contact even when she wasn't quite ready to turn her face to look at us full-on. We played funny face mimicking games for hours those first few days. Eventually we got familiar with each other and no longer needed the mirror, but it was simply indispensable for our first meetings.
Best coming home advice: Home is for the immediate family
This has been really hard, but I'm glad we asked others not to visit our home for the first few months. Keeping home focused on the five of us has a)helped us stay sane and b)shown Sasha in real, physical ways that we are her family and that we're different than any other people in her life. We are her special people, her go-to people. Our home is unique and is unlike any place she has ever lived and I think that keeping home focused on the five of us for these first few weeks has helped us attach to each other. Of course, I am looking forward to having our families visit, hosting parties at home again, and inviting folks over for meals and play dates, but for now keeping home quiet (as quiet as a home with three children can be) and focused is right.