Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tickets, Please

Babies are cute. No matter where you are or whatever feelings you have toward them, something about these tiny humans makes you want to pinch their cheeks and speak in high-pitched voices. Despite their stinky diapers and shrill 3:00 AM cries, babies have a certain magnetism that draws people in to ooh and aah over teensy fingers and itty bitty noses.

No one knows this better than our little bundles of joy because they have a double whammy of cuteness on top of the regular baby charisma. First of all, they are foreign. For some reason, foreign babies draw in an unusually large crowd. I don’t know if it is the steel blue eyes or the “tall noses”, but everyone from the check-out lady at the grocery store to the crabby taxi driver wants to sneak a peek at these mini foreign devils. Secondly, there are two of them. It is awesome to watch people’s faces melt into adoration when they see one baby and then light up again in surprise and delight as they realize that they are not having déjà vu but there are, in fact, two babies.

Going to the airport to pick up my dad brought the baby magnet experience to a whole new level. As we waited, it came about that both girls needed a change of diaper. So as to not miss my dad as he came through customs, I went to change the girls one at a time while my mom waited patiently at the exit door. As I set the first baby down on the changing table, I noticed a crowd beginning to gather. The women began to beckon their friends to come and take a gander at the Western babies. Never before had I seen so much interest in baby poo. When the change was complete, I made my way through the crowd to obtain baby #2. This change drew an even bigger audience. In fact, not only did I have spectators, I also had one woman participate in the diaper change. Without warning, she grabbed a baby wipe to clean her hands and proceeded to “help” me put the baby’s pants back on. She then swept away the dirty diaper to dispose of it properly. Had the experience ended here, I would not have thought too much of it. However, end here it did not.

My new helper now took it upon herself to see to the well-being of my children. She followed me out of the bathroom and pantomimed to me how my babies must be freezing because they were not wearing socks. After attempting to communicate that we appreciated her concern but that our babies were not cold, she decided to call in for reinforcements. She summoned the rest of her traveling entourage who all gathered around us to tell us to wrap up the babies because they were so cold. As we attempted to slip away, we found that each new circle of people made us feel increasingly like we were the newest exhibit at the petting zoo. Throngs of people circled around to look at the babies, grab their hands, stroke their hair, caress their cheeks, squeeze their toes, or whatever else they could get their hands on. I have to admit, at first it was a little fun to have others appreciate just how cute my babies are. However, after the five hundredth person decided to put their grubby paws on my pristine baby’s face, it lost its charm.

After much consideration, I have decided that the best way to solve this problem is to sell tickets, $5 to look, $10 to touch, $15 to give me advice. The proceeds can go toward all of the hand sanitizer with which I will shower people before they come close to the girls. What do you think?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mission Impossible: Baby Passports

As you are probably aware, international travel requires that one have proper documentation from one’s country of citizenship, namely a passport. While I didn’t have need of such credentials until I was in high school, our little bundles of joy will be making their first international voyage at the tender age of four months when we return to the United States this summer. Not only that, but making one’s residence in a foreign country also requires obtaining a visa of which our girls are also in need. As these documents take some time to process and we want to make sure that the little BOGOs are not illegal aliens when we bring them “home”, this week we decided to venture to the U.S. embassy in order to make Lily and Lucy officially citizens of the United States.

Most of the documentation process is relatively painless. As you might imagine, there are a plethora of forms to complete followed by several swipes of the credit card to appease good ol’ Uncle Sam. In preparation for our embassy trip, Chris filled out the necessary forms and made an appointment to hand in said forms. So far, so good. However, there is one part of the passport/visa process that strikes fear and anxiety in the hearts of parents around the world: the passport photo. If you have ever gotten your passport picture taken, you know that there are certain requirements about size, background, etc. that must be met for the photo to be valid. One cannot simply show up with the latest Glamour Shot to impress the customs agents. In the same way, there are requirements for infant photos. As might be expected, they also must have a white background and have a straight-on shot of their face. No problem. Here’s where things get a little ridiculous. Infant passport photos also require that they baby’s eyes be open, mouths closed, and their hands away from their face. Seriously? When has this magical trifecta ever occurred naturally in a three-week-old child? Excuse my cynicism but why not make them recite the Pledge of Allegiance while we are at it? Nonetheless, this was the task that my mom and I set out to conquer earlier this week.

Having received several recommendations for a photo shop near our school, we packed up the babies and said a little prayer for success. We headed to the photo shop where I hoped that the Korean owner would understand me when I asked him for “passport photos”. We were quite relieved when, not only did he understand me, he was also evidently aware of the perfect storm of requirements for these photos. We all prepped ourselves and geared up for a long afternoon in the photo lab. Much to my surprise, the babies cooperated so nicely that we were actually on our way out the door a mere 20 minutes after we arrived, enough time for my mom and I to enjoy a lovely celebratory lunch.

Pictures and forms in hand, we headed to the embassy to make our little babies legal. Everything was going swimmingly until we reached the last window before we were sent on our way. The nice lady closing out the girls’ files mentioned to us, “Oh, by the way, these photos won’t work.” What? Why not? We had achieved the trifecta! What more could she want? Was it indeed time for the girls to recite the Pledge of Allegiance? You see, the photos we had received were Korean passport size. We needed them to be U.S. passport size. Weary from a sleepless night and not a little frustrated, the nice lady directed us to a passport photo place near the embassy. So, off we went in search of said photo place. After following a map, we found ourselves standing in front of a photo booth. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we were expected to achieve the trifecta in a photo booth just like the carnivals when you were a kid and you took four photos of you picking your nose and sticking out your tongue. Frustration level rising, we found another photo shop who said that they could take the pictures that we needed in the size required by the embassy. So, we spread my mom’s white jacket over the red velvet chair that the photographer wanted to use as a background and we propped up the girls pleading with them to open their eyes and shut their mouths. Eventually, success was achieved and we received the painstaking photos. Wearily, we made it back to the embassy where the new photos were approved.

Here is the funny part to me. While the government requires these incredibly difficult specifications for babies’ passports in order for one to be sure of their identity, the passports that we will receive in a few weeks will be good for five years. Five years! That means that these precious moments will be captured in the BOGOs passports until their first day of school. Ah, Uncle Sam, how silly you are.