December 31, 2007

3BT #7

Three beautiful things, I-want-to-win-a-fabulous-prize-from-mama2roo edition...
  1. The clean, stark line where a freshly painted wall meets the bright ceiling

  2. The satisfaction of getting the damn room painted before the end of the year just like you swore you would way back in January

  3. Looking back with a happy heart at a year in which our roots sank deeper in a new city
I started writing here in earnest 2007 and I am so glad I did. It has been a good year. I hope at the end of 2008 we can all say the same. Happy New Year, friends!

December 26, 2007

This is What I Live With

Overheard from somewhere in our house...

T: "What time is it?"

Puppy: "Time to get naked!"

December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son.

Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.

-John 1:14 (as translated in
The Message)

To those who are celebrating Christmas, may this time be marked by the simplicity of his birth and the magnitude of his purpose.

To everyone, peace and joy--today and every day.

December 24, 2007


I like the lull in activity on the internet right now. I imagine all of you gathered around sparkly trees with warm drinks in hand, enjoying your beautiful families. If you are actually trapped traveling or rushing through last-minute things, I hope you get your warm drink moment soon.

I am soaking up Christmas with a toddler who delights in the "pretty lights" and thinks every present is for him. It is said that you experience holidays in fresh ways as a parent, and that has been so wonderfully true for me. I am falling in love again with the pageantry of Christmas as he discovers it for the first time.

And perhaps it is the holiday season or the nearness of January*, but I have been indulging more and more in the delight of a possible second child. Thoughts of a fourth stocking hung and hair clips and siblings and ruffly Christmas dresses and a house made just that much more alive by the presence of another.

Of all the emotions of adopting, it is sometimes the joyful anticipation that I know least what to do with. I remember being surprised by how quickly I attached to Puppy--or rather the idea of Puppy--when we first met K and R. All my thoughts of a hypothetical child suddenly found a specific focal point. In the six weeks between first talking with K until Puppy came home, there were moments the anticipation was so much that I could scarcely breathe. I remember standing in the dark room that would be Puppy's one night a few days before K's due date feeling that my heart would burst from the not-knowing, from the possibility of becoming a parent being so impossibly close yet still not sure.

On a certain level, it frightened me. Because although the joy of building a family is one of the wonderful aspects of adoption, it is thrilling and scary all at once. Scary because I sensed how great the heartache could be if Puppy didn't become our Puppy. And scary because--although I still don't know what drives some over the edge of reason--I glimpsed what is underneath the entitled behavior we adoptive parents too often exhibit if our desire to adopt turns desperate.

When Ms B entered into our life and we into hers, I again felt that familiar thrill. But there were months to wait and the usual uncertainties and challenges of adopting to navigate. The excitement seemed neither helpful or sustainable. So into one of my many emotional compartments it went, boxed and wrapped and tied with bow, waiting for the day it would be appropriate to open.

As a girl I loved to play with the wrapped presents under the tree, sorting and shaking them and wondering what was inside. Lately I have been paying great attention to my pretty, unopened gift. Like a child sneaking a look under the wrapping paper, I have been peeking into the box, letting the thrill of possibility rush over me. Thinking about the possible day we welcome another little one into our family. And when I've dreamed for a moment, I shut the lid tight once again and set it aside, waiting to see if it will ever be opened for good.

* January was the completely self-imposed, semi-arbitrary earliest month I said I would start preparing to have a baby in the house again.

December 21, 2007

We Interviewed Lawyers Today

We live in one of those states some people term "adoption-friendly"--meaning the adoption laws are completely lopsided in favor of the adoptive parents. Think short minimum times before consents can be signed, no revocation period, and few legal rights for fathers. The laws in our neighboring state are even worse. Most infant adoptions here are essentially final before anyone has even left the hospital.

This is the state we live in and it is the state Ms B's baby will be born in, so these are the laws we have to work with. We feel that we shouldn't just blindly follow them, though. Legal is not always the same as ethical, and our hope is (obviously) to do things legally but go beyond the legal minimums. It was something we talked about before starting the process, and something we discussed with the agency during our homestudy. (Every time we start talking about our messed-up adoption laws, T says he's going to run for the state legislature. It amuses me.)

We're at the point now where we need to arrange legal counsel for the possible adoption. So we spent some time on the phone today interviewing lawyers. We always opened by asking about their usual procedures, to get a sense of where they were coming from. It pained me how quickly some touted the state's "great" adoption laws. They were so eager to assure us they could get that baby permanently in our arms as quickly as possible, so sure that would be our primary concern as the potential adoptive parents.

We told them some of our discomforts with the current laws and that we hoped to find someone who would help us to find creative ways to work around them. (Hm, "around" sounds like we're trying to evade the laws. It's more "beyond" them.) It was discouraging how most just tried to talk us out of our convictions. One guy straight up lied to us about the law.

We just finished a conference call with a lawyer who seems promising, though. He generally represents more first parents than adoptive parents and understood our perspective. He was animated when brainstorming options. He had some good points that we hadn't considered. He seemed excited about trying something new and potentially using it with other clients.

In all of this, I can help thinking that it shouldn't be so much work for us. Not adopting a child--obviously that's not a process that someone should breeze through on a lark. But the work of trying to do this in a way that respects us and Ms B and her daughter and the father. A way that tries to acknowledge the harder aspects of adoption. A way we can feel good about twenty years from now. Sometimes that feels like an uphill battle.

December 18, 2007

Waging His Own War on Christmas

The nativity sets are getting a lot of action in our house these days. Many nights after dinner T and Puppy act out the nativity story using the little figurines with a few ornaments thrown in for good measure (Mary and Joseph sometimes take the train to Bethlehem and Emperor Augustus looks quite a bit like a nutcracker). Puppy especially appreciates the sheep and seems convinced that their numbers are the mark of a good celebration. "More sheep! More sheep!" he chirps.

Last night he insisted we build a house for baby Jesus. Tiny infant Jesus soon had a Lego home with a modest castle next door for the Magi.

Later T and I were having a conversation in the kitchen and apparently not paying Puppy the attention he felt he deserved. There was a crash from the living room followed by Puppy running circles through the house yelling, "I smash Jesus! I smash Jesus!"

He was so proud.

I only wish I had a video to send to my parents-in-law, who remain convinced I am just this side of heathen.

December 14, 2007

I'm Just Discovering These

I ordered this little series of pocket guide books a while back for Ms B. Several were on the agency's suggested reading list and I thought she might appreciate them. She doesn't do the internet (I know!), so I didn't think she would pick them up on her own. They arrived earlier this week. I've been flipping through them and they're really good.

You can read the descriptions of the four guides at the Open Adoption Insight website, but they're sort of expanded brochures on some of the major issues for first parents in domestic adoption:

  • What is Open Adoption? -- Advocates for fully open adoption and emphasizes the importance of honesty, respect and flexibility. Touches on some of the philosophy behind child-centered open adoption.
  • Being a Birthparent: Finding Our Place -- Discusses of some of the unique challenges birth parents face and the ways in which becoming a birth parent is a transformative experience (for better and worse).
  • Birthparent Grief -- Acknowledges the huge loss that results from adoption and defines some aspects of the resultant grief. Resolution isn't described as "moving on," but rather as integrating the loss of a child into your life in a sustainable way.
  • Your Rights and Responsibilities -- An overview of expectant parents' legal rights throughout the process, but also their responsibilities to themselves and their children (like honesty, being well-informed). Covers a whole range of issues and questions--all those things that so many first parents have said they wish they had known to consider.
The material is upfront about the lifelong loss inherent in adoption, but not fatalistic. The focus seems to be living with grief in a healthy way. From my perspective they would be entitling (in a good way) for first parents in open adoptions because they are so affirming of the unique contribution they can make to their kid's sense of identity and wholeness. I appreciate that they're written by a real-life first mother who has actually been through what she's writing about (the always insightful Brenda Romanchik). Although geared toward first parents, I think anyone close to adoption could learn from them. I could see the grief booklet or the open adoption booklet being useful for family members who are struggling with the whole openness thing. We've all got an aunt or grandfather who just can't figure out why we open our hearts to our kids' first parents, right? The grief booklet actually gave me some new insight into some things K has said recently, too.

I just wanted to let you all know about them as potential resources, if you hadn't heard of them already. (I'm probably the last one!) Nothing replaces in-person counseling but the written word is powerful in its own way. I am the sort of person whose epiphanies often come in the quiet of my room with a book on my lap. And I figure even if these are things Ms B has already talking through with her therapist and/or social worker, it can never hurt to have the information in another format.

December 11, 2007

Ramble With Me

I owe you an update on the adoption process. I have been at a bit of a loss for what to write about it lately. Not because there is nothing on my mind, but because there is so much.

This is such a tricky time, because there is no clear ethical road map. The right choices seem simpler to me in the beginning of the adoption process (find a trustworthy agency, be honest) and while waiting to match (don't stress, don't go advertising for babies). This post-match/pre-placement time is less obvious, partly because it is so unique to each individual situation. It's hard to make a comprehensive black-and-white list: do this, don't do that.

We made peace with well-mitigated pre-birth matching at the beginning of the process (although I think the ongoing debate over it is an important one). But in any case, right now I am in this budding relationship with Ms B and clearly no baby has been born. So I am faced with how to conduct myself in the situation I am in now, inside the system we have now. The larger ethical debates are always in the back of my mind, but the choices I'm making are terribly personal to our tentative little triad. It is the tension you always face when doing justice (and I do think how one adopts can be a means of working for justice)--how to connect your ideals to the real.

I have been grateful for this time, not only for the opportunity to get to know one another but for the chance to ask questions about her situation and her process thus far. In an ideal system adoptive parents could come to a placement confident that the placing parents had made their decision fully informed and free of pressure. But we don't yet have that system. And in domestic infant adoption as it now stands I don't think we can chalk all the ethical issues up to systemic failures. We have personal ethical choices to make about our own conduct throughout the process. I feel I owe it to my kids to make sure I did everything I knew to do to make sure their placements were as ethical as possible. When the agency's role in all this is over, I'll still have to answer for the actions I took and the things I said or didn't say. I don't want to look back and realize I did too little.

I've noticed a change in Ms B since we first met her, a certain freedom in her emotional connection to her daughter. More talking to her and about her, a stronger sense of being bonded to her. More feeling like a mother, I suppose. Maybe it's just this final stage of the pregnancy. But Ms B and her social worker have both said that meeting our family made a difference in her general peace of mind. It is as if having the pieces of an adoption plan in place allowed her to more fully give herself to the pregnancy and to motherhood. If adoption is something she tries on and ultimately discards in favor of parenting, then the trying on seems to have helped her toward that in a way. It is a good change, in my mind. Now is the beginning of Ms B's lifelong relationship with her daughter, whether or not that is filtered through an open adoption. And as the social worker commented, unless that bonding is present, it is hard to really consider the ramifications of choosing adoption.

Ms B and I have talked some about options, we've talked about parenting. We've talked about loss and regret. It is an odd place to be in, because I am not her therapist, I am not her social worker, I am not family or friend. I am not even someone who knows her all that well. I don't think my job--or anyone's job, for that matter--is to talk her in or out of anything. This is her process, not mine. I'm seeing one small piece of her life; only she knows the how all the pieces fit together. But I also don't think I can just take everything at face value. I owe it to her, to her daughter, to myself to prod a little. To make sure all the things I believe are important to say have been said. It's not my role, necessarily, but I feel it's my obligation.

She asks us questions, too. About our approach to open adoption and about transracial parenting. About how our family works and how she would fit into it. She wanted to spend time with us with Puppy. There have definitely been times I have felt like we're auditioning for something. And more power to her for that. Being entrusted with someone else's child should be the hardest job I ever interview for.

It is difficult, because the more we trade questions, the more I sense her trusting me. The trust that is essential in a healthy open adoption, but potentially coercive prior to placement. And so I stay back, trying to give her space. Always trying to keep the balance.

December 09, 2007


Recycling my December Blog Exchange post here. The writing prompt was Silver and/or Gold. Behold the level of cheesiness which my mind can produce...

I held my first gold bar just over ten years ago. I was spending the summer in Ghana—a West African country where gold is inextricably connected to the history, traditions and economy—when our hosts arranged a tour of a local gold production plant.

Whatever mental image of gold I had up until that point—a polished wedding band, the flutter of thin gold leaf—was nothing like what confronted us at the refinery. Gold is no longer tapped from thick veins in a tunnel wall or panned from a stream, but chemically extracted from ore. Giant excavators scoop load after load of earth from open pit mines. We saw gaping holes where mountains once stood, crossed catwalks over enormous vats where pulverized rock was mixed with cyanide and acid with the goal of luring out the few dozen grams of gold hiding in each ton of ore. Trucks constantly moved earth; out of that maybe a couple gold bricks were produced each day, small enough to hold in two hands.

At the end of the tour, we were ushered inside to watch the final step in that process. A dingy powder (what now remained of the piles of earth) was poured into furnace. A worker carefully swept everything from the floor and tossed it in to make sure not even the smallest bit of the valuable dust had escaped. The fire burned until we could feel the skin of our cheeks begin to tighten. At the right moment, a stream of molten gold cascaded from the tipped pot into a waiting mold.

After the bar cooled and was pounded from the mold, I walked up to the white-clothed table where it lay, worth enough to pay for my college education and beyond. I picked it up. It was remarkably heavy for its size, over fifty pounds. Thousands of tons of ore had been reduced to one single shining brick.

Of all that I saw that day, the one thing which has lingered in my memory is the weight of the gold bar as I struggled to lift it, the roughness of its surface against my palms, the absolute solidity of it. Every time I slip the nothingness of a gold chain around my neck I cannot help but contrast it to the rawness and heft of that brick. But so much else from day has drifted away from my memory without me noticing.

So many of my memories are this way—one strong impression left, but the details lost. Even as I look back over the two brief years since my son was born there is much which has grown hazy. There are of course the big moments that remain: seeing him for the first time, his first smile, watching him crawl. Those are the gold nuggets of memory, easily plucked from the stream bed. But the everyday things are harder to pick out, lost among the business of everyday life. What made him laugh during that first hot summer? What did he sound like when he started to babble? What did I think about as I rocked him in the middle of the night? Everything felt so vivid, so important as it was happening during that first year—I thought I would remember forever. But already I don’t.

The small memories which do remain are those I was deliberate about picking out and saving, those captured in a photo or words. But they are so few. A handful of moments saved on a blog or written into a letter. A picture of something which at the time felt mundane, but now seems so worth recalling.

I have set my mind to be more disciplined about regular reflection on our life together as he grows. To do the gritty work of reflection in order to draw out the small yet worthy moments from the mundane details of our everyday life, the ones hidden like those few grams of gold in the pile of ore. To mine the mountain of our days to find what is precious, and to refine it into something solid and lasting to carry with me into the years to come. My own block of memories, raw and rough and golden.

December 07, 2007

Drumroll, please

Thanks to everyone who entered the book giveaway. I wish I had a copy for each of you. has chosen a winner for us:

By my count, #18 is...Tammy! Congratulations! Email your address to me and the book will be on its way.

December 06, 2007

Reminder: Book Drawing

Just a reminder that I have a copy of The Daring Book for Girls to give away to one lucky person tomorrow. It would make a nifty holiday gift for a little girl in your life. Did I tell you the cover is sparkly?

Leave a comment here by the end of today (Thursday) to be entered. Easy peasy.

December 02, 2007

3BT #6

Three beautiful things...
  1. The soft stillness inside a home when everyone else sleeps and

  2. sit wrapped in a quilt alone with your drifting thoughts...

  3. ...while outside the wind swirls hungrily, fighting for a way in.

December 01, 2007

Silver & Gold

Courtesy of the Blog Exchange, today's post is by Jennifer from The Life of a School Bus Driver. Be sure to visit there for Heather's post on this month's theme: Silver or Gold.

I honestly get all excited from the blog exchange. It has seemed to come so quickly this month, when did Friday get here anyways. I am wracking my last minute brain trying to think of something to write about with the silver and gold theme today. I had all sorts of ideas when I took on this task a few weeks ago. Today though the golden thing in my mind is all the beer that I saw last night. Nope, I didn't drink not one single drink. I was the driver like my usual task. I enjoy being the driver. I know that is a bit odd, but that is me. I like the setting, the loud music, the friendships that I have. I am not a drinker though, so being the designated driver sort of gets you off the hook.

I think of that golden almost free flowing golden beer from lat night and think that this is such a corny story, why is my mind stuck?? I think it has something to do with that I didn't get home until after 4 this morning and I was up driving a school bus at 6 yesterday.

I move on. I just got a gold pan last week. I have intentions to go gold panning in the near future. I doubt I actually find any, but there is supposed to be some gold in a few places of southern Pennsylvania where I live. I haven't done this yet though. I just have the supplies. How boring is that??

So, I move onto silver. You will hardly ever hear me utter the word silver though. I much prefer the color "Chrome" which is essentially silver. Chrome was one of my favorite colors long before that song. I was a truck driver though, so what truck driver doesn't like chrome. It is almost an essential for the job, if you don't like chrome. Don't drive a truck.

So, here it very casual Production not Reproduction today. I guess that is okay though, I am very casual type girl and if you like it casual like this, you will probably enjoy my site. The Life of a School Bus Driver. Have a great day.
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