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Sunday, March 25, 2012

A dog Bowl for Every Occasion

Even if you have a caseworker that is human you might be nervous. Even if you don't have anything to hide your stomach might be turning in on itself. You might sit at work in your cube and pray to stay because it's easier than the alternative. Heck, you'd even put in a few extra cold calls.

But you don't. At two-thirty, and not a minute after, you pack up your shit. As you shut down your computer, you'll notice that the sweat from your hands has left fingerprints on the mouse and keyboard. "Fuck," you'll think, "This is stupid."

So the weather is nice and you walk out of work because you're doing the right thing and you care about your family and this home study thing is only a couple hours of your life anyway and is an absolute necessity for the adoption of your own son. You'll set all your crap down in the back seat on top of the cradle that holds your unborn son's carseat. Then, with a sigh, rather, with a cleansing breath of the warm air outside, you'll get in the car and drive away. This will be the quickest drive home you'll have had in a while because today you don't really want to go.

The family is waiting when you arrive home. It is nearing three o'clock and the caseworker is scheduled to arrive at three sharp. You don't know it yet, but she'll be late. A detour will through her off her route. After walking in the door, you set down your things and promptly remind everyone, dogs and all, that they are to be on their best behavior. You don't know it yet, but they will.

After hugging your wife, you will express your nerves. She won't appease you because there is nothing to be nervous about and she isn't nervous and you, yet again, are the worrier. But it is just a nudge past three now and your wife does not like waiting for people. Neither do you, and the two of you have found a common ground.

You will wait for a few more minutes before you call. Meanwhile, your wife has excused herself to use the bathroom. She is pregnant and pees all the time. In the meantime, you have collared and leashed the beasts because they are boxers and they will level your caseworker when she arrives.

Phone in hand, you will mutter, "Jesus Christ, where is she?" Then you will apologize to the Lord for involving him at all, but will also make sure to excuse it do to the stress you have unnecessarily put on yourself. You dial, but never get to hit the green "call" button on your wife's cell phone because your daughter will chime, "MOMMMMMYYY! Someone is at the door!"

The dogs drag you to the door and you motion your caseworker in directing her to keep walking, that the dogs are leashed and will remain so until they settle. She obliges. You will state that you and your wife were getting concerned and that you were just getting ready to call to see if she was okay. She will mention the detour as she walks into your home with her shoes on, unpacks her notes, and settles in on the couch.

Both dogs carry on with their excitement and your wife has since emerged from the bathroom. You will ask the caseworker if she has a dog. She will tell that she did, a pit/lab mix, but that the dog has passed away. You will be empathetic as will your wife, but this information will create an immediate sense of relief about the size of your dogs and their rambunctious behavior. The caseworker will excuse herself to use the bathroom as you offer her a glass of water and she graciously accepts.

In a few minutes everyone will reconvene in the living room. The caseworker will get started right away.  She is just as bubbly and warm and normal as she was when you and your family visited her in Madison just a couple weeks earlier. She will start in on her list of questions, but she will incorporate tales of her own life along the way. Secretly, you will be embarrassed for your nerves, but still annoyed with the requirement of the entire process.

Curious from earlier, you will inquire about her dog. This will become a fifteen minute conversation, but it will be a conversation that is welcomed by all. At this time, your dogs have settled and are laying down. You will think this is unusual and you will state so. The caseworker will rant about how her dog used to run the neighborhood. She will tell you about the eight foot cyclone fence and the steel bars weighting down the bottom of it. She will tell you that the dog managed to escape it anyway and, to this day, she does not know how. Talk of her children and you and your partner's child will mix in with the conversation and it will be known that her dog was a precursor to her children and that her dog was her baby. She will tell you both that she used to buy her dog a different feeding dish for every holiday and that the dishes were plastic. Everyone will giggle when she reveals that her dog was allergic to plastic and this will cause you to think that she is definitely not here to judge you or your partner's parenting.

The three of you plus a child and two dogs wrap up the talk of discipline, canines, and relatives and move to the study of the home. She, the caseworker, will stand up and glance around the living room. You motion her to the dining room, next the kitchen. In the kitchen you mention the fenced in backyard and she looks out the window, but says that she had perused it prior to coming inside.

Stepping out of the kitchen, your wife leads the way to the basement and you make mention that it is just a basement and that it is creepy so the dogs always accompany you down there. In the basement, the caseworker will  agree that it is creepy and will tell both of you that she is happy to see that there aren't any bedrooms down there. You tell her that the bodies are stored in the chest freezer and open up the freezer so she can see. She peeks in the freezer and, in a sarcastic tone, you tell her that you are kidding. Your wife will beckon all of you upstairs.

Upstairs and upstairs again you visit the bathroom and three bedrooms. The caseworker will let your daughter show off her room first and, in her room, your wife will gently scold her for jumping on her bed. The caseworker will retort that her kids jump on their beds, but she will do so in a pleasant tone so that it is evident that a red check has not been added to her notes.

After all the rooms are said and done, there is a gathering in the hallway. She will tell you and your wife that smoke detectors are needed in every room and you will kind of argue that the smoke detector in the hallway is three feet outside of each bedroom. She will push back and you will submit. After all, it is only a couple of smoke detectors.

The three of you plus a child and two dogs make way down the stairs and you notice that the caseworker is gathering her things. You will glance at the clock and note that she has been at your house for nearly two hours, plus drive time, and you will see more dollar signs.

The caseworker will remind you and your wife to add the smoke detectors and send her photos of them installed. She will tell you that everything else seems to check out but that they will be double checking all documents back at the office. You excuse her, tell her to drive safe, and, closing the door behind her, claim the rest of the evening as your own.

On a walk with your family, that same night, you will recall the dog bowls. There was one for every holiday. You and your wife will chuckle in the silliness of it, but will also relish in the moment because for this home study you both got to deal with someone human.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

An Afternoon Extravaganza

Sit me down with coffee and, please, get a water for my wife. Oh, and my daughter would like some juice. You know, the kind in the pouch, the kind that she doesn't get at home because there is too much sugar in it. Make us comfortable on your broken-in sofa, your davenport. Our asses could use a bit more squish after our hour and forty-minute drive to visit. Thank you for your hospitality. Will you please badger me?

Sara, Sara's pregnant belly (a.k.a. Kazmer), Graisyn, and I arrived in Madison at The Law Center for Children & Families and Adoptions of Wisconsin (A.O.W). I had just finished a near full day of work and Sara had racked her brains with everything medical. It was 4:34 p.m. The weather was shit, but much better than it could have been. It was a balmy thirty-two degrees so the wet that fell from the sky was slushy. We considered these ideal driving conditions and arrived to our destination safely. It was February 29th and our first face-to-face introduction with our case worker.

On our arrival, a young man let us into the unsuspecting office building shared by The Law Center for Children & Families and Adoptions of Wisconsin. The building was not immediately accessible. Maybe this was for security. Probably it was because it was after hours. Immediately we were greeted by a short woman. She was young. Sara's age, I think. Her hair was wavy and plain brown, but she wore a warm smile and a presented a soft handshake. She introduced herself as our caseworker...the A.O.W. side of things. I think I was relieved.

We were early. Our appointment wasn't until 5:00 p.m. It was 4:34 p.m. We would wait. Our newfound caseworker had a few things to finish up, some paperwork and some calls to make. It was okay though. We were early and I had a three-year old and a wife doing the pee-pee dance. We could wait.

After we all relieved ourselves, we greeted back in the hallway by our lawyer. She was just as pleasing as she was when we went through Graisyn's adoption. Tall and slender and also young. She was smart and always reassuring, plus a real stickler for the rules. Her familiar face was relaxing as she settled us into the little suite with the sofas and our beverages.

We took the opportunity to catch up while we waited for our caseworker to complete her tasks. It was nice. We had lots to talk about. She was curious about life since Grai's adoption and our dogs as she too was a boxer lover with a bouncy boy herself. We wrapped up the conversations with blurb on adoption related next steps and good-byes. It was 4:54 p.m.

Shortly thereafter, our caseworker joined us in the room. She sat down facing Sara and me. Grai played quietly in the corner behind her. She was armed with pen and paper. We were armed with credit card and documents supporting our relationship and our family. Between the three of us, we could have burned the building to the ground.

"We're here to talk about the children today," she stated, "When I do the home study, we will talk more about you."

She segued into small talk about herself and her family and I was quickly realizing that this interview wasn't going to be anything like the one that we had when I was pregnant with Graisyn. She was conversational. We didn't feel degraded or interrogated or scrutinized. She welcomed our answers and related them to her own life. It was unusually comfortable, like talking to a friend.

We chatted about many things that evening. What are our discipline philosophies, like Love and Logic, for example? What things does Graisyn like to do? How does Graisyn feel about a sibling? A brother? Do we do things as a family? If so, what? Does Grai have child care during the day? Does she like it? Will Kazmer go to the same home to be cared for? Do we have pets? If yes, how do they interact with Graisyn? How do we think they will respond to a baby? How do our families feel about the children? Are they supportive? Do we have a surrounding of friends that are involved in the children's lives? ARE WE NORMAL?

Yes we're normal and, no, she did not ask us that. Admitting that many of the questions seemed a bit odd since Kazmer is being born directly into our family, she made certain to document all of our responses. These responses, coupled with the findings of our home study on March 21st, would create our adoption story. These and our money and our application for adoption and our trial would make our son ours.

It was 5:49 p.m. Our interview was done. Even though our case worker and our lawyer did all things possible to ensure our comfort and ease our anxiety, we were all exhausted. Swiping our credit card and bidding our farewells, Sara, Grai, and I headed back out into the sleety weather and piled in the car. The grumblings of our tummies played in tune to the radio. I'll take a foot-long veggie on wheat. Toasted, please. Sara will take the same and quarter that for Grai with a side of parfait and a cookie. So long, Law Center for Children and Families. Until next time, A.O.W. Subway, here we come!