December 29, 2010

It's Not Easy...

As I rocked Mari before bed on the eve of Beth's visit, I told her a story about her birth and her time together with Beth at the hospital. I talked her about Beth as a mother who was loving her and taking care of her before I even knew she existed. Words I had spoken over her and to her since she was mere days old, but ones that felt right to revisit on that night. When I had finished she asked to hear it again. And again a third time.

Not too long after we had put Mari to bed that night, Beth called with a traveling problem of the logistical sort--something small and easily solved but which felt insurmountable to her. Todd offered a solution all seemed well.

Maybe an hour later the phone rang again. It was Beth. She was feeling overwhelmed by the thought of seeing Mari. There were two things making it especially hard, both that had come up at our last visit in the late summer. One, how hard it was to see Mari coming to me as a the everyday/primary/known/comforting mommy and know she would never have that with her. And, two, feeling like Mari didn't really know who she was or want to be with her so why bother? (At our last visit Beth really wanted us all to spend time with another family who is important to her. It was nice to see them, but when faced with a group of strangers like that Mari goes into shut-down, only-talk-to-mommy-and-daddy mode. So it wasn't the best interaction between her and Beth.) Thinking about those two things, she wasn't sure she was up to coming.

Beth has been through some incredibly scary things this past year. Things I've only faced in nightmares. She's found support and strength and love in the midst of it all, but it's left her with little in the way of emotional reserves. I think the challenge that open adoption can sometimes be just felt like too much to handle.

She and Todd talked for a long time (he was the one who had picked up the phone), Todd listening a lot and sometimes sharing. I heard him tell her about Mari asking to hear her birth story three times that night. He shared about the twinge he sometimes feels when he sees Eddie's first dad with Eddie and acknowledged that it must be one thousandfold harder for her. They talked about how different Mari would probably be in the safe space of her own home and how these early visits are all building blocks of her and Beth's future relationship. And that of course we'd understand if taking care of herself right now meant she couldn't come.

By the phone call's end Beth said her fears had quieted. So the next day I stood in front of the bus station with an expectant child on each side clutching a hand. The big bus pulled up and a group of passengers trailed out, some greeting other waiting folks. No Beth. The other passengers grabbed their luggage before trickling into the parking lot, until there was no one left but the people waiting to board. Still no Beth. The waiting passengers began to board.

My  heart didn't sink. But it did start to teeter.

To be continued...

December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas! - Remember it's the thought that counts as you finish reading this free ecard

I'd send you all homemade Christmas cookies if I could! Instead I will wish you all much joy and peace, today and everyday.

December 20, 2010

Christmas Books for Our Multiracial Family

My confession for the day: I have a weakness for Christmas books. Our new-ish tradition of wrapping up twenty-four books to be unwrapped and read one at a time over the nights leading up to Christmas gave me an excuse to add to our collection a couple of years ago. But I haven't been able to resist adding even more. There are too many wonderful books out there and it's such a joy to pull them out of storage every year. Thankfully Mari and Eddie are so far as fond of them as I am.

I've particularly been focusing on adding books with black characters. It's positive for Eddie to see some of the world's diversity reflected in our collection, of course. But it's especially important to me that Marian be able to place herself easily within the stories, especially those depicting the Nativity. We're surrounded by white faces in the holiday decorations at the stores, in the holiday specials on television, in most of the nativity scenes we see, and every Santa in the mall. Our Christmas books, like the decorations in our own home, are one tiny way of pressing back against that. Here are some of our favorite Christmas books for the preschool-and-under set featuring African-Americans, Africans, and even a Jamaican family living in England.

Christmas for 10Christmas for 10 by Cathryn Falwell is a rhyming count-up story in the same style as her classic Feast for 10. It's a cutie-patootie book that's a good length for toddlers. With its bouncy text and happy children, it's been a favorite of both my kids.
How Many Miles To Bethlehem?How Many Miles To Bethlehem? by Kevin Crossley-Holland and illustrated by Peter Malone, is a different take on the Christmas story. It assumes you know the basic plot and instead has everyone from the Magi to Jesus sharing small glimpses of what they're thinking and feeling. The Renaissance-style pictures depict a variety of ethnicities and Mary is brown-skinned with crimped hair. I thought the poetic style might be too abstract for little children, but something about it captivates my kids. (One heads up: Herod says he wants to rip Jesus away from his mother, which could be an intense image for some children.)
The Night Before ChristmasWe read The Night Before Christmas before bed on Christmas Eve and I had almost given up on finding a version with a black Santa. So I was glad to discover this version by Rachel Isadora which pairs the classic text with images from across Africa. The collage-style pictures are full of energy and color. And Santa wears leopard print pants. So much fun.
The 12 Days of ChristmasRachel Isadora's newest book illustrates the carol The 12 Days of Christmas. She again pulls images from different places in Africa: twelve men playing drums from Ghana and Nigeria, a woman wearing five "gold" neck rings in a style seen in parts of South Africa. The tone of the author's note at the end makes me twitch a little. But the pictures are vibrant and fun. And I may finally be able to learn all twelve days of the song!
These last few are out of print and aren't as easy to find at the bookstore. But there are lots of used and new copies available through Amazon's third-party sellers.

A A Child Is Born: Child Is BornI enjoy Margaret Wise Brown's (of Good Night Moon fame) version of the Nativity story in A Child Is Born, but it was the gorgeous illustrations by Floyd Cooper depicting an African Jesus, Mary, Joseph and angels that really drew me to this book. It has a picture of an adorable toddler Jesus that makes me want to nibble on his cheeks.
Waiting for ChristmasIn Waiting for Christmas by Monica Greenfield with illustrations by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, a sister and brother can barely contain their excitement as they pass the time before Christmas Day doing little things like drinking hot cider with cinnamon sticks and looking for their presents "one more time". I love the little girl's braids. I also covet the pretty house in which they live.
Happy Christmas, Gemma, written by Sarah Hayes and illustrated by Jan Ormerod, makes us giggle. A big brother shares his family's Christmas activities--and reports on the ways his baby sister Gemma "helps". "First of all we made the Christmas pudding. I stirred the mixture and made a wish. Gemma threw the spoon on the floor." It was published in Great Britain, hence the "Happy Christmas" in the title.

What are some of your favorites for small children?

[Disclosure: The links above are part of Amazon's affiliate program.]

December 09, 2010


I have three unwritten blog posts jostling for attention in my brain, two lovely people who I am tardy e-mailing, and one suitcase waiting to be unpacked after a business trip ended yesterday. But Mari's first mom, Beth, arrives tomorrow for a weekend stay, which means I'm frantically trying to get things in order so we can spend the next few days relaxing together.

I'm currently paying someone to play with my kids downstairs while I clean the house. Something is backwards here.

But hurrah for tomorrow!

December 06, 2010

In the Dim Lamplight (Her Edition)

She asks to be rocked "like a baby," so I drape her across my body, filling my lap with what once fit into the bend of my arms. The song blends with the quiet light of the nightlight. In the dark I can only just make out the countours of her face as she smiles up at me. My big girl. My baby.

(His edition.)

Read more perfect moments at Write Mind Open Heart

December 04, 2010

Open Adoption Roundtable #21

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don't need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you're thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points--please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

Publish your response--linking back to this post so your readers can browse other participating blogs--and leave a link to your post in the comments. Using a previously published post is perfectly fine; I'd appreciate it if you'd add a link back to the roundtable. If you don't blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

Last year we wrote about the holiday season in general. This year, inspired by a recent post by Claud, I thought we could focus in on traditions.

How do open adoption and holiday traditions intersect in your life?


The responses so far:

Jess (adoptive mom) @ The Problem with Hope: "Usually I give the [photo] session and whatever pics they want to order to them for Christmas and it always makes me smile to see the Christmas card that R sends out--my daughter's "other" family, her included, because while she is obviously also on OUR Christmas card, there's something right about the way she BELONGS on both both sets of portraits. And how in one set, the families overlap."

Racilous (first mom) @ Adoption in the City: "As I approach my first Christmas as a birth mother, I truly want J to have traditions, the hard part is letting go of the idea he needs to have my traditions... With open adoption, it’s can neither be about my adopting their traditions or their adopting what I have always done, rather I think its important that we find the traditions which we are comfortable continuing together and then perhaps create a few new ones of our own."

A Life Being Lived (first mom) @ Carrying a Cat By the Tail: "The part that comforts me most is that I know Bluebell won't be in my shoes when she's my age. She has an amazing family, two wonderful parents, two great older brothers. She has more cousins and aunts and uncles than she will be able to count. I can't do much about my own lack of family, or the fact that I didn't know my grandparents. Yet through adoption, I could give her a family, and all of the love and holiday traditions that goes along with that."

Cindy (first mom): "Christmas is a time when my feelings of loss in reguards to my son are heightened. When my worries over what his adoptive parents really think of me are soul-crushing because they really don't let me know what they think about anything most of the time."

Amber (adoptive mom) @ Bumber's Bumblings: "Last year, we got together with Ashley and her family the weekend before Christmas and celebrated Christmas together and exchanged gifts. We had a great time together and plan on doing a similar get together every year. We are very open all other times, but Nathan and I felt like Christmas day and Christmas Eve should be just our immediate family."

Susiebook (first mom) @ Endure for a Night: "Today I spent the afternoon decorating the Christmas tree with my mother. It’s Cricket’s birthday, and I’m sure that she doesn’t remember that—she’s been bragging to people about the birth of her first grandchild, and only last night said that 'I’ve been saying for a couple of years now that we need to have a baby for Christmas.' Today I’ve had a few quiet, sad moments, but there is also Christmas stuff going on and I want to be involved. Sure, I’d rather we were doing it tomorrow, but my mom has today off work, and here we are, listening to carols, me thinking about Cricket and feeling my breasts ache. It is the strangest thing, that physical reaction. Cricket got a gift from us last week and hopefully a card today, we’ll send two books in a week or so . . . and our December is otherwise completely separate from him. I think about the fact that my father’s birthday is on Christmas Eve and Cricket’s birthday is apparently usually going to be during Hanukkah. I hope he doesn’t mind."

December 02, 2010

Crafty Crafty

I'm hankering to make holiday decorations. Someone needs to stop me from bookmarking more and more and more projects. Or--I'm just throwing out ideas here--someone needs to pay me a salary to a) write online, b) do all sorts of super wonderful things with Open Adoption Bloggers, and c) make holiday decorations. Patronage for my leisure activities.

Here is some of what I'm eyeballing:

Colorful trees for the cream bookshelves we have downstairs

Circles, straight pins, and a styrofoam wreath form: I can do this. Would it work in red and green? Perhaps in multiple shades of all green...
The felted ball garland. How very of the moment.
I'm daydreaming about felt lately. Felt, people. I've got urges to get all crafty, all the time.

When my friends and family inevitably find this blog and read all my secret thoughts, it will be that last sentence that sends them into shock. The Heather they know rolls her eyes at the mere mention of Martha Stewart.
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