November 30, 2008

Take That NaBloBlahBlah

Well, it was a worthy experiment. Posting every day, that is.

I wondered if giving myself a daily posting deadline would help me push past some of the perfectionism that keeps the thoughts in my mind from reaching the (virtual) page. Instead I ended up writing a lot of filler minutes before midnight instead of spending time writing about much of substance.

Thank you for hanging in with me this month. Rest assured, I will return to my regular slow blogging tomorrow. Quite happily.

(Thus ends the meta blogging.)

November 29, 2008

Best. Saturday. Ever.

I just woke up from a scrumptiously long afternoon nap. I can't even remember the last time I did that. It's like college all over again. Except this time I woke up to the sound of babies in the bathtub. Details, details.

November 28, 2008

I Can Put This On the Internet Because She's Still a Baby

I am typing away late at night a few days ago, trying to catch up on email, when I hear Firefly crying upstairs. The moment my face appears over her crib she breaks into a grin, eyes squeezed shut in glee, her body wriggling back and forth with excitement. I give her a few pats, but she is completely awake and flashing me the "milk" sign. Game over.

I lift her from her crib as she waves her arms around with joy, her chubbilicous face beaming at me from under her nightcap. As much as I wish she were still asleep, I can't help but think about how much I enjoy her. How grateful I am to have this wee girl, this squirmy ball of wonderfulness, in my life. It is a contented moment, the kind I don't know any parent ever stops being amazed by. A prompt for something blog-worthy even.

I am nuzzling her cheek with a smile, thinking all these things, when she rears her tiny body up straight, looks me right in the eye and--with a satisfied smirk--lets out the loudest, strongest, rip-roaringest, frat-boy fart you ever did hear.

November 27, 2008

We're Thankful for Glue

This evening we hunkered down with extended family and a turkey that weighed as much as Firefly. Because we are dorks, we talked about that coincidence at length.

Earlier in the day, the four of us worked on an art project together: a family of hand turkeys carefully decorated by Puppy, with a cloud of things we love written out above their heads. This was the list of what our family is thankful for this year. I'll leave you to guess which ones were contributed by the three-year old:
  • playgroup
  • family
  • dinners with Grandma and Grandpa
  • coaching
  • the library
  • fall leaves
  • Firefly being born
  • U-pick fruit
  • God's love
  • curly hair
  • glue
  • friends
  • football
  • the truck
  • the car
  • bike riding
  • our home
  • Saturday pancakes
  • ice cream
  • turkey
  • music
  • popcorn
  • health care
  • wrapped-up books
  • Obama winning
  • our new oven
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving (or a splendid Thursday, for those outside the U.S.)!

November 26, 2008

Thankful

There is a pumpkin streusel pie cooling in the kitchen, kidlets sleeping upstairs, a groovy husband next to me. Life is good.

November 25, 2008

First Time He's Given That Answer

A moment from the spring, preserved in the draft folder:

Puppy, Firefly and I are driving home from his babysitter's house.

Me: "So, what did you do today?"

Puppy, brightly: "I didn't hit anybody!"

Oooookay....

November 24, 2008

What's In My Basket

As I wrapped up book after book tonight, I realized our new tradition isn't so eco-friendly. Ah, well. It was a good excuse to use up some scraps of uglier wrapping paper.

It's been fun checking out the books you've recommended. Definitely some good possibilities there--keep the suggestions coming!

I thought I'd throw some of my picks into the ring, too. As far as I'm concerned, every English-speaking, Christmas-celebrating house needs a copy of The Night Before Christmas, The Polar Express, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. These are just facts and cannot be disputed. At least not on this blog.

As far as lesser-known titles, these are our favorite children's Christmas books from the three holidays we've shared with Puppy so far:

The text by Margaret Wise Brown (of Good Night Moon fame) in A Child Is Born is likable enough, but it was the gorgeous illustrations by Floyd Cooper that made me love this book. Lush paintings that seem to glow on the page depict an African Jesus, Mary, Joseph and angels. It also has the cutest picture of toddler Jesus that I've seen yet. From Hyperion's Jump at the Sun imprint.

The Legend of the PoinsettiaThe Legend of the Poinsettia The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola is based on a Mexican folktale about the origins of poinsettias. A little girl thinks she has ruined her village's Christmas procession until she learns about the beauty of simple gifts made with love. The author does a good job of telling a sweet story without being too sentimental. And it's a nice break from books about the Nativity.

B Is for BethlehemB Is for Bethlehem: A Christmas Alphabet Board Book is another one that I love because it is so pretty. The alphabet poem ("L is for Lullaby Mary would sing/To her baby, her lamb, the Messiah, the King.") is cute and nicely draws the readers into the story at the end. But it is the vibrant, detailed, colorful collage art that draws me in and makes this one such a joy to read.

In The Nativity, Julie Vivas weds the text of the Christmas story from Luke's gospel with lighthearted watercolor illustrations. The illustrations are full of life and emotion, and juxtaposing them with the familiar, traditional language brings a new energy to the story. From the reviews on Amazon, it seems some folks feel that the images of the Holy Family aren't respectful. But I think they're wonderful, from the visibly pregnant Mary trying to hoist herself onto a donkey to the new family of three, exhausted but elated after the birth. A great counterpoint to the haloed, serene manger scenes.

I'm getting excited about Christmas!

November 23, 2008

Our Newest Christmas Tradition

I apologize for talking about Christmas before we've cleared Thanksgiving, but what can you do when Turkey Day bumps up so close to Advent?

Tonight I pulled out all of our Christmas children's books from the garage. I once read a post on a now-defunct blog about wrapping up the holiday books and putting them together in a basket. Each evening, your kids pick one to unwrap and read before bed. I've been meaning to try it ever since hearing about it. I love the way it lets you focus on one book at a time and talk about the story. It's a bit like an interactive version of an Advent calendar. And it keeps the novelty of the books going longer for both kids and parents. With any luck, maybe this year I won't have been asked to read Christmas for 10 one thousand times before mid-December.

We're a little short of the twenty-four books it would take to do the whole season. Which means I get to do a little book shopping! I'd love to get some gems, so I need your help. What are your favorite Christmas books for young kids?


ETA: I followed-up with some of our favorites here.

November 22, 2008

3BT #11

Three beautiful things...
  1. The sharp twinkle of Christmas lights across a roofline (even if they are up a week too early)

  2. Smooth bright crimson cranberries piled in a white bowl

  3. A spouse who cleans up the mess when your grocery bag full of glass jars breaks open onto the garage floor

November 21, 2008

Some More Detail

I continue to be impressed with the revocation period discussion. A lot of good points are in there. I think it shows how many overlapping issues there are when you're talking about transitioning a child from one family to another. There's a lot of worry and risk on both sides, no matter how you structure it.

Dawn's post today made me want to talk a little about what it was like to work this out with Ms B. Firefly's first mom wasn't keen about the idea of a revocation period when we brought it up. At all. There were a few things going on there that she expressed to us or to her social worker:
  1. She anticipated that the relinquishment would be emotionally painful and worried that waiting to file the papers would drag that out.

  2. She read it as hesitancy on our part toward the match itself. Her felt need was to see us excitedly preparing to receive her daughter. She worried that we were trying to give ourselves an out--that we wanted to be able to call the whole thing off if we brought Firefly home and weren't happy with her.

  3. She was offended that we seemed to be questioning her decision-making process and her commitment to her adoption plan. I did worry about coming off as patronizing. There's a fine line between arguing that the generalized experience of many first parents makes revocation periods a good idea and telling someone, "I know better than you how you're going to feel after the birth."
Ms B's social worker was really helpful in interpreting our actions to B and putting them in the context of larger ethical issues in adoption. And she also kicked all of our asses a little for thinking so much about the other party that we weren't being 100% honest. When we had reached a bit of an impasse in one meeting, she sent all three of us home with what she called "emotional homework." I can't remember Ms B's assignment now--it had something to do with allowing herself to be recognized as Firefly's mom and acknowledging that the decision about placing always needs to be re-made post-birth. But ours was to give ourselves permission to be excited about this possibility--to set aside blocks of time when we wouldn't second-guess every emotion--and to share bits of that with Ms B.

She was more or less saying, "You've made your point, now you need to balance it with the full picture of what's going on for you." We thought we were sharing our happy anticipation, just tempered by the "if." But all B was hearing was our emphasis on the "if." She was spending too much of her time worrying that if she did place Firefly with us that her daughter wouldn't be welcomed into our family with all the unfettered joy and love that every child deserves. Which of course couldn't have been further from the truth. And B's response was to our perceived detachment was to try harder to convince us that she wouldn't change her mind. Which of course made us freak out and say "if" every other sentence. Without that social worker I think we would have turned into some kind of adoption mediation farce.*

Even with all of that, I don't regret doing it. Once we got past that impasse, the revocation thing wasn't an issue. And working through it actually got us to a more honest point with each other because we stopped second-guessing what the other party was thinking. That's had an impact on our post-placement relationship, too. She knows we're not afraid to hear if she's struggling and we know we can be free to love on Firefly around her.

The thing about domestic adoption the way we did it is that there is going to be emotional overlap between the beginning of one line of parenting and the beginning of the other. Adoptive parents can't bundle up all their love, anticipation and joy for this possible child of theirs and release it only once the relinquishment is final any more than placing parents can turn off their love the moment they sign the consent forms. And in open adoption that overlap isn't completely a bad thing. It can become part of the foundation for strong, lasting relationships. But the overlap also runs the risk of being coercive and hurtful. Finding a balance between those two possibilities was really, really hard for us (and who knows if we succeeded). Which is why I think safeguards like revocation periods and impartial advocates are important, whether they're written into law or otherwise made standard practice. In this one aspect, it would have been a lot easier if the revocation period had just been standard.

* There were a lot of good things during that match time, too, and a lot of topics where we really connected, particularly in our approach to open adoption. This was just one area where we just couldn't seem to hear what the other party was saying.

November 20, 2008

Circling Back

Some interesting back and forth going on in the comments to the revocation period post. I'll throw my thoughts in the ring tomorrow.

But now it's off to bed for me, thanks to the baby who (uncharacteristically) woke up at 4:00 a.m. certain that it was time! to! play! Oy.

November 19, 2008

DIY Revocation Period

A big topic in adoption reform is revocation periods--a period of time in which a parent can revoke their consent to the termination of their parental rights. Colloquially, it's sometimes called the time when "a birthmom can change her mind." Or, more crassly, "when she can 'take back' the baby." What you think needs to be done to revocation periods depends on where you fall on the reform spectrum. If you think laws need to be strengthened in favor of adoptive parents, you want them shortened or eliminated altogether. If you want more protections for placing parents, you want them to be longer. It's not quite as black and white as that, but you get the idea.

I usually fall on the side of favoring revocation periods. Some people say that they make adoption too emotionally risky for adoptive parents. You've given your heart over to this child, to the possibility of them being in your family, and then it's all gone. That is a huge, real, very painful loss. Just thinking about it possibly happening to us was gut-wrenching. Please don't think I'm discounting that. Of course we wanted finality in our kids' adoptions. We just wanted it to be a finality we could feel good about.

The state Firefly was born in has no revocation period and no minimum waiting period after the birth before consents can be signed. Neither is there a simple way for the potential adoptive parents to legally take a child home without the consents being signed first. So in a lot of private infant adoptions in the state, relinquishment forms are signed at the hospital and are final when the baby is only a couple of days old. And having our future child's relinquishment set in stone before she--or Ms B--had even left the hospital didn't feel right.

Long story short (too late!), we talked this all over with our agency, Ms B and our lawyer. We looked for ways we could do things differently either before or after Ms B signed the consents to create some breathing room. We wanted to be able to say to Firefly twenty or thirty years from now that Ms B had time to sit with her decision after she had recovered a bit from giving birth. After she was home and away from the surreal environment of the hospital. Whether or not that will be important to Firefly, we can't know. But it was important to us.

Our lawyer came up with the plan we eventually used. He pointed out that until the relinquishment forms are actually filed with the county court, the court has no idea they've been signed. So if we hung on to them for awhile, we could create the equivalent of a revocation period. If Ms B gave the word, we could tear up the papers and it would be as if she had never signed them (from a legal perspective, at least--emotionally it would still be tough). If she didn't, we'd file them and they'd become retroactively effective to the date they were signed.

There is lots more I could say about connected issues we had to think through--legal, emotional, practical. What it was like to talk this over with Ms B and make sure she had agency in the situation. The arguments one lawyer we interviewed made against it and why I didn't agree with him. But this is already long and I don't know if anyone is even interested in reading it.

One final note: this post isn't a comment on your actions or your child's adoption. I don't think all adoptions done without revocation periods are automatically unethical. Or that this made Firefly's adoption above reproach. Not at all. There's no need for us all to nitpick each other's adoption decisions. This was just something we wanted to try given all the particulars of our situation. I wanted to put it out there in case anyone else was thinking about similar issues. It would have been nice to have ideas like this in mind when we were trying to figure out what to do.

November 18, 2008

Do and Don't

I couldn't find a meme I wanted to do, so I'm starting my own.

Five things I should know how to do, but don't:
  1. Walk in high heels. I've looked like a toddler wearing her mother's shoes in every wedding I've been in. Except my own. Because I wore flats.
  2. Answer people who ask me, "So, why did you guys adopt?" You'd think I'd have a good response by now, but, no.
  3. Purchase and apply make-up. I went through the blue eyeshadow phase in junior high, then the thick black eyeliner phase in high school, then the "make-up is oppressive" phase in college, and came out the other side with no idea how to look like an adult.
  4. Play trains. You build a track, push the train around a few times. Then what? How is this interesting? Puppy and T can play trains all evening.
  5. Speak another language. I've spent the time to become proficient in another language twice. And now I can't remember more than the basics in either one. LAME.
Five things I do well, thank you very much:
  1. Follow a recipe. I'm a great cook with a piece of paper telling me what to do. Especially baking.
  2. Keep track of money. Although it's audit time at work and I'm wishing accounting wasn't my thing.
  3. See the big picture. I'm good at taking in a bunch of information and figuring out how it all fits together and intersects. This is probably why I was good at school. This is also why you want me to sit on your organization's board.
  4. Read what's going on for my kids. I realize that will get harder as they grow older. But right now I'm pretty good at knowing what they need and how to help them in any given moment.
  5. Kiss. I'm an awesome kisser. Or so I've been told. Ahem.
If you're a fellow NaBloPopper--or just looking for something to write about--consider yourself tagged! If you pick it up, let me know in the comments so I can come read all about you.

November 17, 2008

Scottie Dogs!

So I'm noodling through Etsy tonight, trying to find a hairbow for Firefly to wear with her Christmas dress. Something tasteful and a little bit dressy.

Maybe something like this?


(I don't want to link to the listing, but it's real and could be yours for only $10!)

November 16, 2008

Revelations

I once joked with an online friend that our blogs would never be popular because we couldn't write a good rant. I rant rather decently in person, if I know you well enough. But I can't write angry.

Not that I don't try every now and then. In fact, I've been trying this week, writing and rewriting this post since Tuesday night, hoping to find some catharsis. But I could never bring myself to publish it.

Then I read Erin O's challenges for knowing when to speak about a difficult situation: "Is it kind? Is it necessary? Does it improve upon the silence?" And I realized that publishing what I had written would be little more than an attempt to make me look good at someone else's expense. Chastened, I erased it all and started over, trying only to leave what was necessary and removing what was unkind. Whether it improves upon the silence I will leave up to you.

Here is our latest family news: Puppy has a new baby sister, born to his first mom a week ago.

Puppy took in the surprising information in the same matter of fact way we presented it to him. "OK," he said. "Let's play trains."

I admit I'm not taking the news as well. Not because of the new baby (how can you be angry about a baby?) but because of some lies the birth revealed. It probably goes without saying now that the story I shared awhile back about K acting as a surro.gate was not true. I apologize for unknowingly giving you false information. I work very hard to be honest when I write. I believed it at the time, enough that I went through much heartache and fretting for K and for Puppy.

The surro.gacy turned out to be just one of many interwoven falsehoods told to us over the past several months. Stories I was expected to pass on to Puppy. Stories I am still expected to believe.

I once had a mentor who insisted that anger is never a primary emotion. There is always something underneath the anger and only by facing the thing beneath can you find release. When I dig down right now, more than anything I feel betrayed. Open adoption takes such a huge amount of trust to work the way it is supposed to. Over the past three years I have sometimes pushed myself to extend the benefit of the doubt when my initial response was skepticism, to trust that we all would put our concern for Puppy ahead of our own self-interest. Now I don't know if I'll be able to do that for awhile, or even if I should. I am unsettled and unsure about a relationship that seemed much more solid just a week ago. And so very sad about so many things.

November 15, 2008

November 14, 2008

Friday Five

  • Our local open adoption group meets tonight at our place, so I'm attempting to clean the house right now. I am not convinced it's even possible to clean for company with kids awake and underfoot. Is there any evidence it's ever been accomplished?

  • I'm nearly halfway through NaBloPoMo, and while it's been a good exercise to post everyday, I'm not sure the trade off in quality is worth it.

  • I do have some real posts coming, so hang in with me, pretty please. On my mind: the Jane Brown talk, revocation periods, some family news, and our doll experiments with Puppy.

  • Puppy is snuggled into my side right now as I type. I kissed his head and told him I loved him and he said, "Thank you." Life is good.

  • I promise I won't pimp for Northwest Mom Finds every other post. Really, truly. From now on the current contests will always be linked over in the righthand sidebar. But we have some nifty giveaways going on right now, in addition to the Ergo. And we all need gifts for the holidays, yes? Click on a picture to jump to a specific post.
Lucky Charm Necklace Color Me Rocket Olive Kids Personalized Placemats Under the Nile Organic Toys

November 13, 2008

Love Protects

Last night after dinner, the dishes stayed unwashed. No one picked up toys or started a load of laundry. No one went online or even to the mailbox. None of the things we usually push into the space between dinner and bedtime.

Instead the four of us sat on the floor in the living room in front of the warm fireplace. Puppy and I played with his cars and dolls. Firefly rocked back and forth at T's feet, pretending she was interested in learning to crawl. Mostly we were just together. Together as a family, enjoying each other. Resting in the bonds we share.

This week we've been rocked by some difficult revelations in our extended family. T and I are, I think, feeling a little pummeled from trying to be shields and filters for our children. In times like this, when other people's brokenness crowds in on my kids' happiness, part of me wants to shut out the world. I want to gather them to me like a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wing, as if by hiding them I can protect them just a little bit longer.

Of course, I know that this not only impossible but unwise. I'd be failing my kids if I pretended difficult relationships didn't exist instead of helping them learn how to process them. But how I wish I could spare them the hurt that comes along with that.

Giggling with Puppy on the floor last night, I wanted to promise him that this family will always be a safe place. A place of unconditional love and honesty. An emotional refuge when life's inevitable battles come along. But those are the kinds of words better left unspoken, even if he were old enough to understand them. The kind of refuge I want our family to be for them is built through actions, not words.

Last night we played and snuggled and forgave each other small wrongs. Today we rise to do the same. Building our shelter for them, piece by piece.

Happy Love Thursday. I hope you all have a refuge of love and safety somewhere.

November 12, 2008

E-R-G-O!

Did you know International Babywearing Week kicks off today?

Wearing your baby doesn't mean you're a better parent. But it sure is an awesome way to bond with your little ones. And, on the practical side, both of your hands are free to get things done.

I'm an incurable baby carrier buyer, held back only by financial constraints and the sneaky feeling it might be in bad taste to own 45 slings. Our latest is an Ergo (thanks to the awesome Lori). It rocks because I can carry three-year old Puppy in it and feel all comfy and supported. A great choice for someone looking for something that works with a wider age range than a sling and who doesn't want to learn how to tie a wrap.

And you can have one, too! We're giving away an entire Ergo system (carrier, backpack, and front pack) at Northwest Mom Finds. Go enter!

Visit here to read more posts in honor of International Babywearing Week and maybe even win a new sling for your stash!

November 11, 2008

One Veteran

During my dad's final year of college, he was drafted into the Army. Not by lottery, but by a draft board who looked over the young men in his small Michigan town and decided which were expendable.

My dad did not support what his country was doing in Vietnam and did not want to fight for a cause in which he didn't believe. Faced with three options--prison, becoming a fugitive, or fighting in a war--he decided that risking his life in the jungle was the least frightening. Soon after graduating from college, he entered the Army.

In my parent's wedding photos, his neck is thick from basic training. My mom and dad spent part of their first year of their marriage on an Army base while he completed officer candidate school. Then she moved back in with her parents while he went off to Vietnam. He went with a single goal: don't get killed. Not to be a hero. Just to not get killed.

Growing up, my dad's veteran status was just another bit of trivia for me. It was the pieces of useful army gear we used when camping and a dad who jumped at sudden loud noises. Already knowing the ending of the story--knowing that he obviously survived to father me--made the information tame. My brother and I would string up his old green army hammock between the trees and spin ourselves around and around.

Several years ago, my dad took my brother and me to visit Vietnam. He wanted to finally learn something about the country he had been in so long ago, experience it without the fear and violence. It was right after I got engaged and my mind was full of dreams about my future life with T. We traveled across the country, taking it in. There are stores where you can still buy the detritus the US military left behind thirty years ago. I bought a green hammock for myself and thought about camping with my own kids someday.

One afternoon, after some searching and help from locals, we stood at the edge of road looking out at an expanse of grass and trees where my dad's base camp once was. There on that strip of gravel under the bright sun, just a few years older than my dad had been, the reality of my father's experience, his youth, his separation from his new wife, finally hit me. My god, they sent my dad to a war.

So this Veterans' Day, thank you to those who willingly sacrifice for the honor of serving their country. And thank you also to the ones who feel forced into service by circumstances out of their control and who find no glory in it. You all have my respect.

November 10, 2008

If Not a Gift, Then What?

Luna asked about what language we use to talk about our kids' placements, given my comment that I'm uncomfortable talking about them as gifts given to us by their first parents.

I should back up and say that somewhere in K's home there is probably still a card in which I go on and on about what an amazing gift she and R made in placing Puppy with us. So, you know, this is an evolving thing for me. It can be a profoundly moving experience to have someone entrust their child to you and "gift" language seems to fit at first blush. After all, someone literally gave us their child to parent.

It was in the early months after Puppy's adoption, as I talked to folks and practiced telling his story to him, the "gift" concept started not sitting right with me. It felt--to me--like it made the story all about the adults, reducing him to an object being passed between us. It was as if we were the story's heroes, our plotline finally being resolved when we at last had a baby tucked in our arms.

I instead thought about what I was trying to communicate with the "gift" imagery. I was relying on it to describe the actual transfer of him into our family. I was also trying to convey the sense of gratitude I have toward his first parents for trusting us to raise such an amazing kid. So I started working on other ways to say those things.

We keep things pretty matter-of-fact when we talk to Puppy about adoption. So in talking about the actual placement, I might say something like, "After you were born, K and R and Daddy and I were all at the hospital taking care of you. K and R decided that Daddy and I would be your parents. You came home to live with us and we get to be your Mommy and Daddy for always." If I'm talking about them selecting us, I might tell a story about K and R looking and looking until they found just the right family to take care of their little boy, and how happy we were that they wanted us to be his parents. It seems more self-centered from our adult point-of-view to phrase it that way. But I think it more accurately coveys to a toddler what was going on for his first parents. From their perspective the adoptive family was a gift they were giving to their child, not the other way around.

T and I went to a great talk by Jane Brown of adoption playshop fame last week. One of the things she warned against was relying on euphemisms or metaphors when talking about adoption with kids. Sometimes we do this because it's the first language that springs to mind (this is why I practiced talking adoption with baby Puppy), sometimes it's to avoid facts we think are too painful or uncomfortable. We need to think through our answers from their point-of-view. For a child Puppy's age, that means everything will be taken literally and filtered through his limited life experience. Telling him, "Your birthparents gave us the precious gift of you," wouldn't really help him understand what happened in that first week of his life or where his life started. It would probably only make him think he was wrapped up in paper and tied with a bow.

It occurs to me now that Luna may have been asking what language we use when we talk with other adults, not with our kids. Maybe I will talk a little about on another day, because gift/sacrifice language is being used differently in those contexts, but is equally loaded. Especially when used by adoption workers or in advertising.

Not everyone will react the same way I do, of course. And I should add that not even all the first parents in our family share my perspective on this. I'd be interested to hear how others approach this in their families.

November 09, 2008

3BT #10

Three beautiful things, rainy weekend inside with the kids edition:
  • Listening to a toddler explore and experiment with language.  Puppy has a slew of made-up words that he gleefully uses at every opportunity: stromp, stromboom, boomstromp, stromdrum, roh-hah. And lately when he doesn't have an answer to a question, he tells you, "I can't know, Mama. I can't know."

  • Baby girls in dressy coats and rib knit tights

  • That final peaceful, focused look babies give you before drifting to sleep in your arms
What is beautiful in your world today?

November 08, 2008

What's for Dinner?

What's making me happy today? My dinner.

Since losing our nighttime social life becoming parents, T and I have fallen into a pattern of comforting, nostalgic dinners on Saturdays. And easy to make meals, because who wants to spend Saturday cooking something complicated? Saturday dinners should be like big hugs that congratulate you for getting through the week.

Tonight we had chicken and noodles. It was a windy, rainy day, T lit the fireplace for the first time, and I thought, "We need to eat chicken and noodles today." So we did, along with our friends who came over for dinner. Chicken and noodles is like chicken noodle soup with all the best parts exaggerated. Pair it with bunch of cut-up veggies and you've got a tasty, easy meal. We ate it in my house growing up. Since neither my parents nor I develop our own recipes, my mom probably got this off a bag of noodles. Or a Ladies' Home Journal. You know, where people found recipes before the glorious internet.

Recipe below, but do tell: what did you have for dinner?

***

Chicken and Noodles
  • 3 lbs. chicken pieces (I like to cut up a whole chicken, but in a pinch you can use a pack of all breasts or thighs, etc. Just make sure it's bone-in so you get tasty broth. I also remove the skin, because who needs all that fat?)
  • 4 medium carrots, bias cut (I usually add more)
  • 2 stalks celery, cut in 1 inch pieces (I usually add more)
  • 1 large onion, halved, then sliced
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley (skipable, if you don't keep have parsley on hand)
  • 1 T. salt
  • a few generous shakes of pepper
  • 8 oz. egg noodles
  • 1/4 c. flour
Combine 1.5 quart water, chicken, carrots, celery, onion, parsley, salt and pepper in a Dutch oven or big saucepot. Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for one hour.

Remove chicken, debone and chop coarsely. Add egg noodles, return to boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Combine flour with 3/4 cup cold water. Add the flour-water mixture to the pot along with the chopped chicken and cook for 3 more minutes, or until noodles are soft and the broth thickens a little.

November 07, 2008

Review: "Did My First Mother Love Me?"

"Did My First Mother Love Me?: A Story for an Adopted Child" is written as a letter from a first mom to her daughter.

When little Morgan asks her adoptive mother the book's titular question, her mom pulls out a well-read letter from Morgan's first mom. (The book implies they're in a semi-closed adoption.) In the letter, Morgan's first mom lovingly describes how she bonded with, thought about, and talked to Morgan during her pregnancy. She explains her decision to plan an adoption as a wish for a better life for Morgan, citing her desire for such things as a two-parent household, house with a yard, and a family who could provide love and attention.
For me, I wished to be the one to give you all these wonderful things. Sadly, I knew this one wish would not come true. My dearest child, to your parents I have given the precious gift of you. And in my heart I know all my wishes for you have now come true.
The love Morgan's first mom has for her daughter is apparent throughout. The book closes with Morgan secure in the knowledge that both her moms care for her and that each validates the love of the other.
Morgan smiled as she snuggled in her mom's arms. "I'm glad my first mother loves me too," she said.
The book's simple language will be easily understood by young children. I appreciated the change from the ubiquitous "birth mother" in adoption literature. Morgan's first mom is sometimes called "her other mother" and Morgan calls her "my first mother." (We do use "birth mom" in our home, but also other terms.) I also liked finding a book written from a first mom's point of view and by a real-life first mom.

Two things give me pause, however. First, the description of the adopted child as a gift from the first mother to the adoptive family makes me uncomfortable, and is one we try to avoid in our family. Second, the first mom's experience and reasons for placing are very specific and, in many ways, represent an idealized placement experience. It plays into the common assumption that being single and a little less financially secure than the adoptive family are sufficient reasons to place in and of themselves. Particularly in a situations in which little or nothing is known about a child's placement/abandonment or which are more complicated, this book may not be appropriate.

Even in our family's situation, in which we know quite a bit about the reasons for our childrens' placements, I'd hesitate to add this book to our library. If one of their first parents gave it to us, I might feel differently. But it feels presumptuous for me, as an adoptive parent, to frame placement in such a detailed, glossy way.

Ages 4-8. The illustrations are done in black and white, but the characters all appear Caucasian. There is a short guide for adoptive parents on "Talking with Your Child About Adoption" in the back of the book.

(written by Kathryn Ann Miller, illustrated by Jami Moffet, Morning Glory Press, 1994)

November 06, 2008

I Will Be Big

I am driving the kids home from the babysitter's house. Waiting at a stoplight, Puppy turns his face away from the rain pounding on the car window to look at me.

"I will be big."

"Mm-hmm," I answer absent-mindedly.

"When I am big, I will hold her."

Ah, we're talking about his baby sister. "Sure," I reply.

"I will be big and I will pick her up."

"That's right. When you are big you can pick her up." He's trying to tell me something, but I'm not sure exactly what. And, truthfully, my mind is on the post-election news on the radio, and on dinner, and on the traffic light that will not change.

"When she is scared, I will hold her. And I will say, 'It's alright, Firefly. You don't have to be scared.' I will make it better when she cries."

Suddenly grateful for the red light, I turn toward the little boy looking expectantly at me from his car seat. Since he became the "big brother," I sometimes forget how young he still is. I think of how often lately I've scolded him for making her cry when he scares her as he plays, how I scoop her up to safety with a frustrated sigh.

"Yes," I answer, reaching out to pat his leg. "I think you will be very good at holding her and making it better."

Yes, I know you're trying. Yes, I know there are still so many limits to what you can do. Yes, that is okay.

Love is someone just waiting for the day they will be big enough to be the one who comforts you. Happy Love Thursday, everyone.

November 05, 2008

Thank You, America


Puppy: "Why are those on your face, Mommy?"

Me: "Sometimes I'm so filled with happy that it spills out of my eyes."

Photo credit: Shawn Thew / European Pressphoto Agency

November 04, 2008

Skip This One if You Don't Want to Read About My Politics

I'd been puzzling over why my emotions today felt so familiar. Twitchy optimism, cautious excitement making it hard to concentrate, trying to ignore the potentially heartbreaking outcome that you're pretty sure won't come to pass but you know could. Then I realized this is what it felt like in the days before my kids were born. So there you have it: elections and adoption have more in common than I thought.

My first election memory is from kindergarten, although I don't know if it was Election Day or Inauguration Day. I saw a news clip of Carter waving goodbye and stepping onto an airplane. My parents told me he lost the presidential contest to Regan and couldn't be president anymore. I felt sad for him.

During the next twelve years--essentially my childhood--Republicans filled the Oval Office. From my parents, I learned how to respect the office even when you don't respect the person occupying it. They took me to knock on doors during an election when I was in second grade. I stood in front of the class for Show and Tell and announced, "This weekend I went canvassing!" Twenty-four pairs of eyes stared blankly back at me. Served me right for trying to show off my new vocabulary word.

I couldn't vote in the 1992 presidential election, as I was three months shy of my eighteenth birthday. Even so, I acted like I could, wearing buttons and debating with my friends with all the enthusiasm of youth. I had embraced my inner American history nerd by that point and knew all the presidents, their years in office and the major issues facing the nation during their terms. (No, I don't remember much of it now.) I still recall the rush when Clinton won the first time, thinking, so this is what it is like to see your guy win.

Puppy woke up today knowing that it was a special day but not able to remember why. Tonight we're decorating the dinner table in red, white and blue to celebrate democracy--and hopefully the election results. At eight months and three years, my kids won't remember this election. They won't remember the way their mom had to wipe away tears whenever she saw Sen. Obama on stage with his family and saw her daughter in his girls' faces. I always thought the first non-white president would be a conservative. That it might be someone whose positions I (mostly) respect and support has been almost too much to believe.

But four years from now, they will be four and seven. Old enough to have at least a memory of who was in the White House. And eight years from now (fingers crossed), they will be eight and eleven. Old enough to maybe start to grasp what it means that a man whose race so often makes him Other in our country represented us before the world. Old enough to be shaped for the better by that fact, the way my generation was shaped for worse by the aftermath of Watergate.

I know it may seem like hubris to be talking about this now, when the election could still conceivably be lost (or stolen). But if that happens, I want to remember for myself, for them, what it felt like to be poised in this moment. Considering the very real possibility of having a president who shares so many of my values after eight years of an administration which mocked the liberties I hold most dear. Considering the possibility of a President Obama and all the significance of that.

November 03, 2008

Writing About Adoption to Take My Mind Off the Election...

A recent piece at Harlow's Monkey has me stewing yet again about the persistent stigma faced by people who were adopted.

She notes some recent examples of adoptees having their birth certificates challenged when they go to apply for a passport or a driver's license. These problems aren't new, especially for people born overseas, but in the current political climate, documents that prove identity and/or citizenship are receiving even more scrutiny than in the past. Which means more adopted people, including those born and adopted in the United States, are facing trouble. For no reason other than the stupidity of a broken-down system.

For those of you who might not know, when an adoption is finalized in the United States, a new birth certificate is issued with the adoptive parents' names replacing the first parents' names. It creates a weird hybrid document that makes it look like the adoptive mother gave birth to the child. It is called an amended birth certificate. In almost all states, when the amended birth certificate is issued, the original one is sealed for good, meaning pretty much no one has access to it. The only other Americans who have their original birth certificates put under lock and key like that are those in the witness protection program.

Each state handles amended birth certificates a little differently. But they can cause problems for adoptees when for all sort of reasons because they can look a little "off." Sometimes the registration date on it is months or years after the birth (because that's when the adoption took place), which raises eyebrows. Or the location of birth is blank, as in the case of my friend's daughter, who was born overseas and re-adopted in the U.S.

What happens is that when an adoptee tries to establish citizenship and/or identity for some basic thing--like applying for a passport, getting a driver's license, or establishing work eligibility--they are challenged because their birth certificate looks suspicious. Or because a particular law specifically requires an original birth certificate--which they can't get because they are sealed. The same system which created the amended certificates in the first place turns around and treats adoptees like criminals when they try to use them.

Harlow's Monkey urged adoptive parents to advocate for open records and for changing state laws to recognize amended birth certificates as proof of identity/citizenship. I heartily agree. I'd also like to share some things that T and I are also doing in hopes of preventing our kids from being treated like second-class citizens when they're happily applying for their first driver's license or filling out the paperwork for their first job.

When you're still a pre-adoptive parent, you have a shot at getting a certified copy of the original birth certificate before the adoption is finalized and the records are sealed. You can't do it yourself, but you can enlist the help of people who can. If your agency is not willing to assist you with this, work with a lawyer who is. Both agencies we used provided us with a certified copy. Our children's first moms were also able to request copies before they signed any relinquishment papers. Try to get more than one if you can, especially if you don't live in an open records state. That way your child's first parents can keep one for themselves and you have an extra in case one is lost. They need to be certified copies, since uncertified ones aren't really useful in proving identity or citizenship.

Once the adoption is finalized, keep the certified copy of the adoption decree somewhere safe and handy. In other words, not stuffed in with the reams of paperwork you collect during the adoption process. We were able to request an additional copy from the courts for a small fee after we adopted Puppy, so we'll have one to give to him when he moves out someday. If the amended birth certificate is questioned, you can often use the adoption decree to help explain why there are discrepancies. (This helped me at the Social Security office when I was changing the name on Puppy's card.) Also, sometimes when a government agency won't accept an amended birth certificate, it will accept an adoption decree. They're also useful in the short-term while you're waiting for the amended birth certificate to show up. Puppy was eighteen months old before we got his amended certificate, so there were a couple of times I used his original certificate along with the decree.

We also got a passport for Puppy (and will for Firefly when her new birth certificate finally arrives) and plan to keep it renewed. We figured if the State Department is going to put up a fuss over the amended certificates, we'd rather get the argument out of the way now while the kids are little. Even if you're not planning on traveling, a current passport can often be used in place of a birth certificate at the DMV and other places you need to establish identity. So having it might allow your kid to avoid pulling out the amended birth certificate in the first place. And with the changing regulations at the Mexico and Canadian borders, it is a useful thing to have on hand anyway. Minors still need to reapply for passports after age sixteen (instead of just renewing), but the previously issued passport counts as proof of citizenship. The passport card is a cheaper option, but it is so new that most state laws haven't changed to recognize it as proof of identity yet.

Eliminating the closed records system (or better yet, coming up with an alternative to amended birth certificates altogether) is obviously the more just and permanent solution. But T and I are hoping that getting our ducks (or, in this case, documents) in a row now will help our kids avoid potential problems in the future. Or at least have some ways of fighting back. They never agreed to having their birth certificates messed with in the first place, after all.

November 02, 2008

Do You Think Xavier Roberts Signed Their Bums?

As long as we're talking about dolls, get a load of these:


Why, yes, those are Cabbage Patch Kids in the form of the Democratic and Republican nominees.

Poor Joe Biden looks like a cross between a baby and an over-the-hill Mafia accountant. Apparently the males are wearing special Democratic and Republican boxer shorts. No word on what is gracing Gov. Palin's special bits. But they sure went all out with the trademark Cabbage Patch cankles on her.

The eBay auction for the Palin doll is currently over $9,500. For this:


Biden's is stuck at $710.

We're almost there, folks--Tuesday is close enough that we can count down the hours! I'm bubbling in the rest of my ballot tomorrow and having Puppy drop it in the ballot box at our grocery store. (I love voting in this state. So freaking easy.) What are your voting plans?

Whichever candidate you're supporting, I hope all of you (eligible Americans) are voting. Our nation wasn't founded on the principles of free-market capitalism (whatever some might try to make you believe), but the belief that the governed should have a say in the government which represents them. Exercise your rights, use your voice.

November 01, 2008

And We Have a Winner

Well, that was fun! Thanks to all who stopped by and entered.

With a little help from Random.org, a winner has been chosen from the 549(!) entries received. The winner of a $15 gift card to her choice of Target, Amazon or Starbucks is #458 Davina. Congratulations, Davina!

But the real question is: did this increase my giveaway winning luck? So far, it looks like it did not. I didn't win so much as a pencil in the Bloggy Giveaways. Boo! So y'all come back in three months for the next round and we'll try this thing again.
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