May 28, 2009


Cleaning out a toy drawer today I found a small stuffed hippopotamus. It was one of a pair we bought right before Firefly was born. This one stayed with us, tucked near where Firefly slept. The other went home with Beth.

I know it may sound a little strange that we gave a grown woman a stuffed animal. It was an attempt at giving her something tangible to touch when she was missing Firefly in the quiet of the night, something to hold that was linked to something close to her daughter in that moment. We took a photo of Firefly's twin animal resting in her bassinet, so Beth could better picture her sleeping nestled in the red and white bedding. Those tiny details meant so much to all of us at the time.

It was a small gesture, a single sandbag put up against what must have been an overwhelming flood of grief. Maybe in the end it was meaningless; I don't know if it brought any real comfort to Beth, although the thought did at the time.

There is no grand point to this post, other than putting a memory onto the page so that it won't be lost. Until I saw the little hippo in the drawer today I had forgotten about those two linked animals. We kept that grey hippo by Firefly's bed for many months, but clearly at some point it traveled away and neither Todd nor I thought to go looking for it.

That time of transition and upheaval in Firefly and Beth's lives seems so distant to me now. Many of the details from those days are slipping away, perhaps gone forever unless a rediscovered toy or some such thing jogs my memory. And it doesn't escape me that it is my position alone in the triad with the privilege of being allowed to forget.

May 27, 2009

We Keep Things Mellow

(I meant for this to be my first crack at a Wordless Wednesday post, but it turns out I MUST HAVE MY WORDS.)

Lest you think that conversation was the only thing that happened at our house on Mother's Day: There was also a homemade banner courtesy of Todd and Puppy.

And there was tasty coffee cake. Mmmm, breakfast breads.

Firefly didn't really contribute much to the morning, aside from hugs and giggles. I cut her some slack, seeing as how she can't talk or write or purchase goods and services, but next year she'd better step it up.

Then we went for a walk along the river.

Sometimes everything you need in that moment is right in front of you. Those are beautiful days indeed.

May 23, 2009

Pictures for Mom

A couple Sundays ago, on Mother's Day, I found Puppy coloring a picture at the dining room table. We had been drawing cards together all week to send off to the many grandmothers and first moms in our family for Mother's Day. I asked him what he was working on.

"It's a picture for my mom," he told me.

We play a game often, a game which ends in grins and snuggles. "Who's my baby boy," I'll ask. "I am!" he'll squeal happily, throwing his arms in the air. More often, Puppy is the one starting it off. "Am I your baby bear?," he'll ask. "Are you my mama bear?"

That Sunday as he colored in the afternoon sunlight, I smiled and asked him, "Who's your mom," slipping into our familiar routine.

"Kelly," he said, his eyes never leaving the paper, his tiny hands still coloring. "Kelly, my mom. Birthmom Kelly. My mom."


Puppy and I had a hard couple of days together right before Mother's Day weekend. Really hard. The kind that fill up with thunder and tears and end in quiet crowded with regret. The sort of days we never seemed to have when he was younger and less independent, when I was watching over one child instead of two.

Those kinds of days when I'm not the kind of parent I want to be--the kind of parent I want to believe I can be--tap into fears that normally stay tucked deep away. The little voice starts up that says your kids didn't have to end up with you, you were supposed to be better, you chose this, they could have had parents who never lost their temper... It is hard to even admit that I think those things. If I had birthed my kids, the little voice would probably find some other impossibly high standard to hold me to. But I am a parent through adoption, so this is what it says to me.

Hearing Puppy unexpectedly call Kelly "mom" that afternoon, something that would have been more of an interesting observation on another occasion, hit me in a spot that was already tender. What on another day would be just words, on that day made me draw up tight inside.


"This side [of the paper] is an elephant. And this [side] is us. This is Kelly [pointing to the largest figure]. And Daddy and Firefly and me [three smaller figures in a row]. We're kids. Here, I'll draw you in, too. You can be a baby."

"It looks great, buddy. Have you been thinking about Kelly today?"

"Yeah. You can color with me, Mommy. Draw a horse for me."


I can hit 'publish' on this finally because Puppy and I have had some wonderful days together since that week. We're back in our groove. Maybe that is small of me to admit that I had to have some of my confidence restored before I could share this, but it's the truth. We went back to our equilibrium almost right after that Sunday, in fact.

I've been thinking more about those hard days leading up to Mother's Day. The past several months, since a little bit before Puppy's sister's birth (Kelly's daughter, not Firefly) I've been struggling with a lot of frustration in our open adoption. Babies and marriages and the like change how we relate to the people already in our lives; that is just reality. We have less time available, less emotional energy. Those changes can bring up hurts we thought were behind us. But sometimes people deal with those shifting relationships and emotions by simply pushing out the people who were there before. It's a hard thing for me to understand, especially when the one pushed aside is so young. It was on my mind more than usual as Mother's Day approached.

At the same time, Puppy is getting older and starting to have expectations of the people in his life. He's sorting out, in a basic way, what it means to have birth family and reaching out more. It would take so little to make him feel loved and important. A birthday card. A phone call. Part of me now wonders how much that was in this thoughts with all the talk of Mother's Day. If my struggle to practice compassion and his questions collided beneath the surface.


If there is anything that is true about open adoption, it is that it's about our kids, not ourselves. We meet them where they're in at in in any given moment. That day we sat and drew and talked a little about Kelly. Puppy finished his picture and asked me to mail it off. We colored together as the sky turned pink outside and I wished that I could read his mind. And wished that loving people wasn't so complicated.

A Hack for Password Protected Posts on Blogger!

May 21, 2009

A Throwdown + a Giveaway: "The Double Daring Book for Girls"

Pre-reader Puppy picks up a hardback book with shiny pink title glittering across a black cover. "D-A-R-I-N-G-I-R-L-S," he spells out. "Big Book of Fun. It says The Big Book of Fun, Mama!"

I can't think of a better description of The Double-Daring Book for Girls, Andrea Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz's follow-up to the very cool The Daring Book for Girls. It is just one big book of fun. Puppy and I have been having a great time paging through the zillion activities, bios of cool women, trivia and quirky lessons (tips on how to pee in the forest, anyone?).

The unstoppable Mel is throwing a book shower in the authors' honor and I jumped at the chance to join in. Since the Daring Books for Girls are all about playing, learning and doing, we've been asked to throw down a challenge to our readers based on a chapter from the book. Something a little more exciting than a typical book review.

actual worry dolls, as opposed to my sad example later in the postAlthough tempted by How to Dye Your Hair Using Kool-Aid (p. 48), I decided on Worry Dolls (p. 167-8). The wee dolls are a Guatemalan tradition; you tell them your troubles before you go to bed and they do the worrying for you while you sleep. I've had a lot on my mind lately (haven't we all?) and Puppy was charmed by the thought of tiny dolls. So we sat down tonight after dinner to make some of our own.

To prove to you that even the un-crafty can make them, I photographed one of our dolls in progress. Pay attention, because you'll be making your own later. (Sorry about the quality of the photos--I apparently don't know how to use my camera. Maybe there should have been a chapter in the book about that?)

Gather your supplies. I used: plastic twist ties (the kind that come with garbage bags), embroidery floss left over from other projects, pony beads, scissors, glue and a Sharpie.
Make a body out of two twist ties--one vertical and one horizontal.
Wrap embroidery floss around the twist tie body to make clothes.
Add a bead head. Aw, look, your doll suddenly became adorable.
Add hair through the loop at the top and you're done! Now to start downloading your worries to your new little friend...

Now it's your turn! I lucked out and won a copy of The Double-Daring Book for Girls right as the review copy was on its way. So I'm passing one along to you as a prize for this throwdown. Anyone can enter to win by leaving a comment on this post telling me something you would tell your worry doll--that's good for one entry. But everyone who plays along by making their own worry doll and posting a picture on their blog gets TEN entries (don't worry about leaving ten comments--leave one linking to your post and I'll throw your names in a spreadsheet or a hat or something). If you don't have a blog, describe your doll-making fest in a comment.

Here are the actual instructions from the book, in case my stellar how-to above wasn't enough (click to make bigger):

To sum up: Leaving a comment = one entry. Being a daring girl and joining in the fun = ten entries plus the satisfaction of making your very own worry doll. (Comments open until midnight PST on 6/1; winner will be chosen at random; open to U.S./Canadian residents, but if you're in Canada I may politely ask you to kick in a few bucks for postage as this sucker is heavy.) Can't wait to see what you come up with!

Congratulations to winner Brimful Curiosities!

May 20, 2009

Forgot to Mention

I forgot to mention that we're giving away another Ergo baby carrier (and backpack and front pouch) over at the group review blog. This one is even organic. The Ergo is a good bet if you're looking for a mainstream alternative to the Bjorns or Snuglis of the world. More supportive (especially with bigger kids), gender-neutral and lets you carry baby on your front or back. Anyway, today is the last day to enter, so if you're interested, hurry!

May 18, 2009

My Cracker Junkie

Firefly--my little doodlebug, my baby girl--turned fifteen months old on Friday. Fifteen months. It's the age Puppy was when we moved into this house, all baby pudge and careening, flat-footed steps. Now he is a lean little boy who builds elaborate block structures and runs for what seems like hours.

I forget Firefly is fifteen months old sometimes. She is smaller than Puppy was at this age, and moves, eats and plays more like Puppy did when he was about ten months old. So I see her crawling around and think of her as younger than she really is. When I stop to think about it, I realize that of course she is older. You can see it in the way she interacts with us and with her surroundings, in the ways she communicates. But I have to pause and think.

Firefly opted to postpone crawling a bit, and while she waited she perfected sitting to an art form. Growing up we had one of those inflatable punching bags weighted with sand at the bottom, the kind you could punch down and watch pop back up (ours was Darth Vader, so very late '70s). Firefly was like that at the peak of her sitting phase. No matter how far off balance she went, how close to the verge of toppling over, she always seemed to roll right back upright again. Now she is perfecting her standing technique, seemingly in no hurry to take the next step (heh) into walking. She can stand herself up from the floor unassisted, clap, dance, hold heavy objects, twist to and fro, and do an impressive series of squats, balancing all the while. But she has absolutely no interest in lifting a foot and going forward. I watch her repeat this process of unhurriedly reaching perfection at one stage before moving on to the next and think to myself, "My word, this child is going to take nine years to finish college."

Her smile starts at the top of her face, with a scrunched up nose and crinkled eyes. I can't help but smile in return. She is very reserved around the general public, and is so stingy in smiling at them that our friends treat it like some sort of miraculous event when she does finally crack a grin. I feel as if there is a secret Firefly--a loud, chatty, often-smiling Firefly--that only a tiny band of us are lucky enough to see. Everyone else she regards with wary suspicion.

She is terribly proud of the words she can sign. Proud and sloppy. Much like when a child first starts talking, her family members are probably the only ones who can understand what she's saying without hints. (Puppy has become her interpreter when they're with the babysitter or my parents.) She makes sure anyone taking care of her knows her sign for "cracker," because she considers crackers and milk the most important--nay, the only worthwhile--foods in the world. She loves crackers beyond any sort of logical reason, the way some adults adore chocolate or wine or narcotics. She asks for crackers when you lift her from her crib, when you change her diaper, when you look at her from across the room. Despite hardly ever getting her wish, every ten minutes she's politely inquiring about a cracker. Whenever we drive in the car, Puppy's voice is bound to pop up from the backseat at some point: "Firefly's asking for a cracker. Again."

Her eyes shine like pools of sunlight.

The anniversary of her adoption finalization comes up next month. It feels like the last of the one year milestones. For the past several months they have swept past, one after another: it's been one year since we learned she would be a girl, one year since we first held her, one year since she came home. It's when I remember that day in the court room, Firefly still small enough to tuck into the crook of my arm, that I realize just how much time has truly passed and how much she has reshaped our family. Thinking back to those years as family of three, it is as if we were always waiting for her to arrive.

May 12, 2009


It is strange the way we often feel compelled to speak just to acknowledge a silence, isn't it?

Silences are scattered across my life right now. An email from a dear online friend sits unanswered, weighing on my heart. A thank you note remains unwritten. Phone calls go unmade. And, of course, this space. I have been feeling tender and vulnerable, and those feeling have drawn me close in to myself.

Life is not silent, by any means. I have a little boy who narrates each moment as it is lived and a baby who sings her way through the day, demanding crackers every ten minutes. (She does the ASL sign for cracker wrong, on the inside of her arm, and looks like a tiny addict pounding for a vein.) I'll add some noise of my own soon.

May 05, 2009

Circle of Influence

A few days a week, Puppy and Firefly go to a babysitter's house while Todd and I work. We had to find a sitter in a bit of a rush when we moved here two years ago, but we lucked out and the kids absolutely adore her. She is a former Montessori preschool teacher and has an uncanny knack for convincing children to move out of diapers. Babysitting gold.

She is also an adoptee. I'd say I find her story fascinating, but the truth is I find all adoption stories fascinating (granted, they're not always told in an interesting way, but the stories themselves draw me in). She was adopted as an infant at the tail end of the Baby Scoop Era and grew up in a closed adoption. By the time she was eighteen, both of her (adoptive) parents had passed away. (Can you imagine having both parents die before you're really even an adult? Wow.) That was when she started searching for--and found--her first family. She's vaguely mentioned that the reunion was bumpy at first, but for years and years now it's been happy and healthy. They are the family she visits for the holidays, the only maternal grandparents her children have known, the ones filling the role of extended family. I listen to her story and in my mind it is as if I see her moving from her first family to her adoptive family, then back again to her first. Reunion without any overlap between the two family trees.

I can't remember now how she and I first started talking about adoption, but it was very early on. To be frank, it was a bit of a relief. When I acknowledge our family's open adoptions with important new people in our lives, it is often with a slight holding of my breath as I wait to see how they will respond. Will they be unphased by our family's blurred boundaries? Or will they spout back the misconceptions we've all heard too many times before?

I never worry about what Puppy and Firefly are hearing about adoption while they are at daycare. I don't fret that they'll be chided for mentioning their first parents or taught that adoption is something to hide. Instead I know that they are seeing someone who is comfortable talking about blended families, and secure in her identity as an adopted person. At this formative stage, I believe kids should be surrounded by people who support their family structure without reservation; the time for learning to defend and deflect disapproval and ignorance comes later. To find a caregiver who not only equally values birth family and adoptive family, but has lived out adoption herself? What a gift.
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