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Friday, October 9, 2009

October in Witch City

For those of you who don't know it, we live in the Halloween capitol of the United States. Salem, MA is the place to be for aspiring witches, ghosts, and goblins during the entire month of October. The city even has a name for the month-long series of events; tourists come from near and far to participate in the Haunted Happenings. As a result, it's not surprising to see zombies ordering lattes in our local Starbucks...even the undead get thirsty after the annual Zombie Walk through downtown. It's also darn near impossible to drive around the city all month as the streets are chock full of tour buses and pedestrians with guide books and cameras in hand...just yesterday, Kate was muttering imprecations at the folks blocking the crosswalk while they took pictures of the Witch Museum and Salem Commons. Our girl is definitely a townie, having been born and raised here and she loves the Halloween season even more than Christmas...but she doesn't think much of the increased traffic which can double or triple our drive time to the other side of town. Ah, well...we have to take the bitter with the sweet and there's plenty of both this year.

Here are a few of our sweet memories of October 2009:

Taking all 5 of our kids to the Topsfield Fair
This is an annual event for us, and watching Aniyar and Madiyar's faces light up as we entered the gates and they saw all the exhibits, food stands, games and rides. Kate, Tanya and Max had a blast showing the boys all their favorite things to do. Dad and I were reminded that last year when we came to the Fair, we only had 3 kids and we were preparing to leave for KZ two days later to adopt the boys...last year, we were just dreaming of the day when we could share the Fair with Aniyar and Madiyar. This year, it's a reality...a very cool reality.

Becoming a soccer mom
Madiyar is on the soccer team at school. In his first game, he scored a goal and his team won. The huge smile on his face and the excitement of his teammates were a thrill. I can't wait for his next game...and that's saying something for me, the athletically challenged.

Tanya's phone!

Yes, it's true, our new middle schooler has earned a cell phone. Her dad took her to the Sprint store and she picked out a jazzy red flip phone. She's been busily picking out ringtones and taking pictures...and she and Madiyar have been texting each other non-stop. I have to smile...Tanya has had a love of phones ever since we met her. The little girl who visited us in the summer of 2003 desperately wanted a phone...and when she flew back to Kazakhstan, she had a Barbie flip phone in her backpack. Tanya is still mad at the boy in her group at the orphanage who broke her Barbie phone...and she swears she's not going to let any of her friends touch this phone.

As for the bitter...well, it's more like bittersweet:

Finding Aniyar and Madiyar's birthparents
Not long ago, Madiyar told me he would like to know if his parents in KZ were still alive and I promised him I would try to find out. I asked the same searcher who helped find Tanya and Max's birthfamilies if he could help us again and he agreed. I wasn't sure how much luck he would have as we didn't even have an address, just the name of the town where the boys were born and their parents' names...but Ruslan worked a miracle for us and found both birthparents. We're still waiting for the detailed report but we do have pictures of both parents and also of the house the boys used to live in. Neither of the boys recognized their mother or father from the pictures. Madiyar wants to write to them but Aniyar was worried that we might send them back to live with their birthfamily. He told me he liked this family better and I reassured him that he and Madiyar are staying right here with us...but I'm glad they have the pictures and some idea of what happened to their birthparents.

Our Rika
Our ailing greyhound is getting weaker as her cancer progresses. She has to be carried both up and down the stairs now as she just doesn't have the strength in her legs to make the climb. She still likes to wander slowly around the yard and she's gotten quite good at telling me what she wants. I've learned to differentiate between her whines; there's a difference between her "I really need to pee" whine and her "I really need you to pet me right now" whine...but the hardest and most distinctive sound she makes isn't really a whine...it's a heart-wrenching keening that begins when her pain meds start to wear off. Sadly, the hours between doses has decreased and the amount of medication has increased so we know the time is coming...but for now, she's eating well and loving the fact that she's allowed to sleep on our bed whenever she wants to. (I knew we bought that Tempurpedic mattress for something!) We're soaking up every moment we can with Rika as her days grow short and she is milking the attention for all it's worth. She wants to be where the humans are and will move slowly but with great determination around the house with us. She also still regally solicits pats, belly rubs, and her much loved peanut butter...and we're all spoiling her silly while we have the chance.

Autumn is definitely here...the leaves have changed color and are starting to fall. The wind swirls them through the air like colorful little tornadoes. Soon the kids will rake the leaves into strategically arranged piles and show their new brothers how they jump from our top steps into them. Our summer garden is almost gone now; only a few tomatoes and our pumpkins remain. It always makes me a bit sad to see Craig put the garden to bed because it signals the approach of the long winter...and this year the feeling is underscored as we say goodbye to our canine companions. However, we have so much to be grateful for. We'll have 5 lovely home-grown jack-o-lanterns just in time for Halloween...and we have 5 terrific kids who will have the fun of carving them. The boys are still debating about Halloween costumes; Aniyar thinks he'd like to be a mummy...or a vampire...or a zombie. Madiyar wonders if he's too old...Kate has informed him that she intends to dress up until she's 30...and here in Witch City, that's pretty much the norm. Tanya and Max are still undecided. As for Mom and Dad, do they have costumes for parents who have survived a year on an emotional roller coaster? Anyway, we're just grateful that life is pretty normal these days, even with the bitter mixed into the sweet.

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