Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos

Sometimes when I read “adoption books,” I feel like I’m back in graduate school and trying to learn a foreign language.  So when I saw that Nia Vardalos (writer and star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding) had written a book on her adoption of a three-year-old girl from the foster care system, I thought I’d give it a whirl.  The book is basically a memoir of her experience, with some funny stories about her life and movie-making thrown in.

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Here’s what I learned: we would totally be friends if we ever met.  Even though I’m not Greek.  Here are a few examples of things she wrote that made me feel like we might be twins.

“Googling ‘adoption’ took me to strange places.  It was all a late-night Internet search haze.”

I totally remember during the first year of researching adoption the number of nights I would stay up until 2:00 AM clicking on link after link.  Eventually I wouldn’t even be on agency sites, but watching YouTube videos of some random family’s Ethiopian adoption.  Of course, that’s also where I met many of my blog friends and decided to start writing about our own process, so a lot came out of the world wide web that has enriched my life,too.  There is just so much information out there, and none of it corresponds to what you’ve been told or what the last site said.  It can leave your head spinning (and the lack of sleep doesn’t help either).

While waiting for the adoption process, Nia and her husband adopted a dog.

“That’s what I feel when I look at this yellow Lab with giant paws.  I love him.  I love him immediately.  Ian loves him, too and we sign the papers and officially adopt him.”

We adopted our dog Edgar when we’d been on the wait list for 10 months.  I can’t explain it, but I just had this need to bring ksomething else into the house to nurture.  The weird part is that I already two kids, so you’d think that would tide me over until something happened, but I just knew that I had to get a dog.  Andrew was sure that as soon as we brought home a puppy, we’d get a referral and we’d be housebreaking and helping two kids adjust. As it turned out, it was another 10 months until we got our referral and another six months till they were in our house, so the dog gave me something to do.
Upon meeting her daughter for the first time:

“Because now I know who I have been waiting for.  I know exactly why the other processes didn’t work.  I know I was supposed to wait for this little girl.”

As our wait stretched on, we began to request the files of a few sets of siblings who showed up on our agency’s waiting child list.  These kids usually have special needs or are older kids.  In all, we looked at three different files.  And each time, things just didn’t work out.  It was devastating to look at those files and fall in love with those kids, then have reasons that prevented us from moving forward.  But now, when I look at Ayub and Lucy in our family, I can’t imagine those other kids sitting here.  Ironically, we have become friends with two of the families who adopted those kids, and I feel the same way about them.  Everybody ended up where they belong. For a system that has so many flaws, it just worked.  It’s almost eerie.

“At social gatherings, Ian and I meet many other people who have adopted their children.  We all tend to gravitate toward each other with a dreamy expression in our eyes, as if someone just whispered to only us that there’s actually no fat in carbonara.”

So true.  Being an adoptive parent is like belonging to a secret club.  I now know the handshake.   Some families we’ve met through our blogs (and theirs), and some we’ve met in real life.  But there is just something so comforting in knowing that someone else “gets it.”

“When I met Ilaria, as I’ve described, It all went quiet.  That whirring in my head is quiet, like that moment you turn off the stove fan and realize that sound had been getting on your nerves.  That’s what it feels like when you meet your kid.”

Yes.  This.

“Also, when someone says your daughter is beautiful, you don’t have to murmur modestly.  You can just booming lay and boisterously concur at the gorgeousness that is your kid And even point out her perfect bow mouth and tiny fairy ears, ’til that person backs away slowly.”

With my biological kids, I also got comments bout how cute they were.  And I responded with a politically correct, polite “thank you.”  I guess because to gush on about them would be somehow celebrating my own genetic material.  But with Ayub and Lucy, I take others comment and run.  Instead of a polite thank you, I find my self agreeing and extrapolating on their comments.  Is this rude, or just true?

So don’t you think Nia and I would be best friends?

Overall, I thought the book was pretty good.  I think her goal was to encourage people to think about adoption, especially foster adoption.  She is very balanced, though, and realizes there are a lot of different paths that are equally valid.  It’s not an adoption how-to, although there are references and FAQs at the end.  It’s also not entirely about adoption.  There are some fun stories about Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, as well as some fun family stories (yes, even involving Windex).  It was a fun read, and I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a lighter-than-Karen-Purvis book.

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Hair – Bippity Bop Barbershop

When we got a referral for an older boy and a baby girl, I breathed a sigh of relief that I wouldn’t have to instantly start braiding hair.  I figured I’d have a few years before my precious girl asked for her hair to be long and smooth or until she was disappointed that it didn’t look like the Cinderella’s.   I thought that we could just use the clippers on a boy and keep it really short.  I never imagined that he would care.  I was wrong.

Yes, Ayub is having issues with his hair.  He has made it clear that he wants it to look like Dad’s.  On our first trip to Ethiopia, he spent a lot of time running his hands over the top of Andrew’s hair.  That should have been my first red flag.  He never paid attention to my hair, even though it was long.  He was already thinking then that he’d like to have Andrew’s hair cut.

Now, he spends time in the bathtub pouring water over his hair and flattening it with his hand until it’s relatively smooth.  But then, when he gets out of the tub and we dry him off, he gets angry that we’ve messed up his pretty hair.  He will touch Andrew’s sideburns and then his own and tell us that he wants them the same.  Ummm….not gonna happen, kid.

So, being the avid children’s book collector that I am, I turn to literature to try to help him be proud of who he is.  I found this book, by the same author as I Love My Hair and ordered it as fast as I could:

The description talked about a young boy, Miles, who had some apprehension about his first trip to the barbershop.  Since the theme of Tarpley’s other book was loving the hair you’ve got, I thought this would be a perfect read for us.

Turns out, a big theme in this book is Miles’ decision about what kind of hair style he would like.  And guess what?  He decides he wants his hair cut JUST LIKE HIS DAD.  (Sorry if I gave away too much and spoiled the suspense.)  That doesn’t help me.  At all.  It is a sweet book, with themes of friendship, pride, and family.  It has beautiful water color illustrations, similar to the previous book.  For the average toddler, it would be a great book to read before a haircut.

But my little boy will never have the option of having dad’s hairstyle.  It’s just another in his long string of losses.