the hood of mother

what is and what was and what we remember

I don’t think he’ll remember this moment. The night we had smoothies before or maybe for dinner. The first night he sat like a big boy on the bar stool on our kitchen island. I probably wouldn’t remember it if it wasn’t that I was feeling guilty for taking a total of six pictures since Christmas and decided to grab my camera.

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It seems that most of childhood is made up of those kind of moments. The moments that are here and then gone. The moments he won’t remember. The hundred and one times I wiped his mouth or combed his hair or dropped a diaper in the trash. The picking up, the cleaning up, the rocking and soothing. The laundry.

And even the magical moments like Christmas mornings, birthday cakes, blowing bubbles and dandelion seeds seem to mostly fade away with time leaving just fragments captured here on there on film or in some corner of the mind that’s rarely accessed. Even now  I close my eyes and will myself to remember the birthday where mom made me a puppy dog birthday cake, the day she taught me how to sew, the time dad bought me a My Little Pony that came with a baby carriage, sitting around and coloring while my parents read us Christmas stories, dad putting out the baby Jesus each Christmas morning before we woke up.

And I question what I’m forgetting. What moments of wonder have been lost to time and age and replaced with much less sacred information like my ATM pin. I think of my parents who created those magic moments for us. I think of the love that they poured into those moments and I ache for forgetting them.  But I don’t believe the soul forgets. I believe every one of those moments are etched somewhere deep inside me. They helped shape me, hold me together and sustain me. They are less memories now and more a part of who I am, integrated into my psyche and shaping the beliefs I hold about my worth as a person

So I wipe up another mess and look at my son and hope for the same gift for him. I hope that these moments of simple splendor: Daddy giving him a ride on his back, me singing Amazing Grace, the cuddles and kisses and words of affirmation bury themselves deep inside of him and don’t let go. Because there’s how it happened and then there’s what the heart remembers. And this is what I hope his heart knows when all other memories of that night are gone: He is loved, he is wanted, he is treasured. Always.

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{{When I look at the first photograph I think, yep, that’s what happened. When I look at the second I think, that right there is the love I want to remember. (K’s pictures blurred for his safety while he’s not in our custody.)}}

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waiting

nesting and giving and what a dollar can buy

There’s a fine line between “nesting” and insanity. As I found myself pinning 1.5×2 inch rectangles of fabric to a piece of rick rack for the third time last night (because the first two times weren’t quite right) I realized I had crossed it. I originally thought this nesting compulsion was the domain of physically pregnant moms. Not so.

A few weeks ago I gave a donation to one of my favorite groups, Shona C*ngo. I gave it because one of the ladies in the group is pregnant and I wanted to help with her medical expenses. A few days later the stateside rep wrote me an email telling me what the money would be used for, and I can’t get it out of my mind. You see we didn’t really give much in the grand scheme of things, and the amount isn’t important, the point is she told me how far the money would go. How long it would provide for this sweet mom’s time in the hospital. It blew me away. That so little could go so far.

We’ve given that same amount and more multiple times in the last months, but it’s usually to a larger organization and while I know the money was well spent I also don’t know quite what happened to it. There’s nothing wrong with that of course but this time it was so personal. So intimate. This time I knew exactly what the money was doing. And it’s shaken me. I think sometimes we don’t see how much of a difference we can make, but really it’s huge. It’s huge because it’s someone’s life we’re touching. And not because we’re amazing or wonderful or fancy ourselves the next Mother Theresa but because we happened to have the dumb luck of being born in a country where nesting can mean sewing tiny pieces of fabric  to a piece of white rick rack and not trying to find a hospital that will be safe to deliver our baby in while we live in a refugee camp.

(For the record I’m going to repin those rectangles for the fourth time soon because the blue one happens to line up with the blue of the whale in front of it. Totally unacceptable.)

I’m sitting in K’s room as I type this. Sitting in the rocker my husband bought off of Cr*igslist for me because buying things from strangers stresses me out too much. In one of those happy happenstances the yellow matches the yellow accents in this room perfectly. And I mean perfectly. It makes me smile. I love beauty, I love that I look around this little nursery and I see love in every corner. I see the quilt my mom sewed, the hat she crocheted that looks like the flag of K’s birthcountry, the crib my husband set up and the decoration he held up to the wall while I said “up, no down, now over, now up”. My phone is sitting on the table (that still needs to have the wobble in it fixed because it’s a garage sale special) next to me and it’s been buzzing at me the whole time I’ve been typing. I know it’s my siblings and parents and friends writing back about the good news I texted to them this morning. Love. I feel it all around me.

And it’s love that should compel me to keep giving, to keep helping, to keep loving. Love is something we all have extra of. There’s a never-ending supply of it in the universe. You can’t give it away fast enough.

And now I’m off to buy a new diaper bag from Shona C*ngo, and I’m going to think of that other mother whose nesting looks far, far different from mine but which I know shares one powerful force: love for our babies.

If the above links don’t work for you, you can find out more about Shona C*ngo here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Shona-Congo/112885348272 and here: http://shonacongo.com/meetus.html and buy their beautiful handiwork here: http://www.shonacongostore.com/ Please “like” them on Facebo*k and get the word out about their products.

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{{On the right is a beautiful piece I bought from the ladies of Shona C*ngo and which hangs in K’s nursery. On the left those tiny pieces of fabric I’ve been working on, also for K’s nursery.}}

transracial families

an open letter

Dear Patrons of Whatever Store/Mall I Happen to Be Visiting:

Yes, to answer your question he is with me. Believe it or not I do not often follow random toddlers through the store for the fun of it. Though I can see it catching on as a work-out craze.  But no, I am in fact trying to keep up with my son who believes that every long empty aisle is a gift from the running gods, made so he can practice his current running style which is a cross between a trotting horse and an interpretive dance by someone auditioning for “So you Think You Can Dance” who… can’t. I know I could insist he walk nicely next to me throughout our visits but I’m one of those annoying parents who believe as long as it’s safe and he’s not running into people it’s okay to let him express his happiness with speed. Also, I want him to nap a long time today so I can get something done. Like watching The Bachelor.

I am grateful that having a child has reinforced my belief in the goodness of the human heart. Because he gets so many concerned looks from people wondering where his parents are and there’s something really sweet about that. I do sometimes think I’m going to get a shirt that says “he’s with me!” though. Or maybe one for him that says “that white lady back there is my mom, but feel free to go ahead and ask me if I know where she is because I will screech my lungs out at you and run back into her arms which she kind of loves.” That’s a little long maybe.

And to the amazing grandma-type who stood in the aisle with us for a good three minutes and who didn’t get offended when my sometimes shy little guy didn’t want to say hi, thank you. Thank you for complimenting his shoes and then clapping for him when he did a little dance for you. My favorite though was when you started dancing along with him. You kind of made his day. And mine.

-A first time mom of the cute little curly haired boy who just dashed past you

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{{Look! I got him to hold still in a store!! Okay, so it was only because I plopped him down on this chair display to take a picture of his cute outfit for his Gigi but still…}}

adoption related seriousness, mountains that don't move, waiting

the grace of twilight

a thousand years

This adoption process has me reduced to finding solace in “Twilight” quotes. Okay, it’s not quite that bad. It’s actually from a song written for one of the Twilight movies. I didn’t know that though when I first heard it. When I sat there and felt like someone had seen into my soul. Maudlin much? Picture me doing a Kristen Stewart type lip tremble here but with more facial expression.

I’m ashamed to admit this but way back when, shortly after we heard the first child we were matched with was dying, I wondered why our adoption journey had to be so hard. So painful and soul-rending. I wasn’t expecting a rose petal covered path but I was hoping that some almighty power would at least keep the thorny brambles cleared off of it.

But here’s the thing: if there was any fairness in this world my children would never have needed me in the first place. And there is something quite horrific about the arrogance of believing that God would make this easy on me when it wasn’t easy for my children’s other parents. Or for my children. He could easily keep every child from becoming parentless. He could stop death, war, and everything else that leaves babies vulnerable and alone. But He doesn’t.

So who am I to think that I would be spared pain and setbacks? Where was that part of the deal?

Comparison is an ugly thing. Always. Unless you’re comparing yourself to characters from trashy reality television. In which case comparison is one of the cheapest forms of therapy because compared to most of them my life totally and utterly rocks and I am a completely normal and sane person. But that aside, comparison in the adoption world can make you crazy. Because there’s always someone who gets a form faster than you. Who accepted a referral after you and got their baby home before you. Who seems to be getting the easy path.

And there’s a temptation to believe that it all means something. That it somehow has something to do with your worthiness and specialness and iamsogreatness. Or your unworthiness.

For the record I don’t think it does. I don’t think mountains that move are indications of an Almighty Power saying that I deserve something and the ones that don’t move aren’t indicating the opposite either. Because if I did, if I did believe that then what does that say about my belief towards my children’s other parents? Where was the mountain-moving when they needed it?

Theologians have been debating what is God’s will and what is man’s choice since the dawn of time. They’ll probably be debating it in the afterlife. Maybe there will be a whole section of heaven set up for it. It will be like the internet in physical (metaphysical?) form for all eternity. And some days I get caught up in that. I wonder why some are given so much and some are given so little, and the injustice of it all makes me want to resign from the human race and volunteer for a deep space mission to Mars. With apes.

But on the rest of the days I resign myself to the not knowing and I come back to this belief that I carry in my soul: Each of us were put on this earth for a reason, we were each entrusted with love and grace that is ours to hoard or to give away. And that’s all I’m doing, it’s all I know how to do. I’m just holding out the love I have and saying  – here, I have some extra – who can use it? Knowing that others have given me love and grace when I was the one needing it. And somehow I have to believe that all that love and grace melts together and oozes something beautiful. Not something that makes up for the ugliness of a broken word, but something beautiful none the less.

So yeah, I’m quoting Twilight today. Or it’s theme song. Or whatever. And thinking deep theological thoughts that can’t all be shared. And somewhere deep inside I’m holding thoughts of a little boy who I desperately wish will be in my arms sooner or later. Who I hope beyond words grows up in a family. Who I’ll love until the day I die. Who might someday read these words and curl up in a teenage ball of embarrassment. Sorry kiddo. Maybe use it as emotional blackmail to get me to buy you that new phone or laptop you’ve been bugging us for. Or, you know, a hovercar.

adoption related mushiness, expectations

expectations of love

A few days ago I woke up in the middle of the night to a little voice calling “mommy! mommy! mooooomyyyyyy”. The little voice crawled from down by our feet where he likes to sleep on top of the covers up towards me. Then his plead changed to “quish! quish!” So I gave him a little squish and he settled down in my arms to fall asleep again.

That’s it. No big deal. It only changed my life.

I remember the first time he woke up and crawled towards me for a cuddle. I thought my heart would stop. I remember the first time his little voice tried to say “I love you”. I remember the first time he smiled at me.

I never really expected him to love me. I knew I loved him. I knew from the minute I saw his picture that I would move the world to make sure he had a family. But I was careful to remember during those months of waiting that he wasn’t waiting for me. He had no idea who I was.

A few months ago we tried leaving him at a church nursery. Epic fail. Long story. But before we left I told Nate “I’m not sure how he’s going to handle it, he’s never been left with strangers before.<pause> Except you know for that time they gave him to us.” Yeah. Strangers. Complete strangers. And they put him in our arms and that was it. We had to muddle our way through to becoming a family.

And when these little moments happen that say we are, we are becoming a family, they still surprise me. It surprises me when I’m with my mom or sister and he wants me and not them. It surprises me that my cuddles sometimes have magical properties that make owies disappear. It surprises me that when he threw up for the first time while we were in CO I was the one expected to clean it up. It surprises me that I’m the mom now.

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This month it will be ten years since I fell in love with my husband. We’d been dating four and a half months and then it hit me – love. It took the wind out of me and I knew life would never be the same. He proposed a week later. I guess in some ways love is always a surprise. First it isn’t and then it is. Or maybe it was there and you just didn’t realize it. And for me it’s always come when I wasn’t looking or prepared or expecting it. Like a rainstorm out of a sunny sky.

I’d like to keep that attitude through life. I’d like to keep not expecting love and then being surprised by it. I often think about what life will look like when our boys are adults. Will we be friends? Will we be close? In some ways it doesn’t matter what happens, and it can’t be my focus. All I can do today is love. Because love is eternal. Love that we put out into the universe can’t return void. Maybe we won’t see the rewards or results of it. Maybe it will feel like it just fades away into the air. But somewhere out there that love is doing something. It’s changing things, it’s changing people. It’s the divine light I crave. It’s something more, something outside of me.

When I was putting the baby to bed a few nights ago Daddy said “I love you” to him. And for the first time he responded “I love you mo”. And Daddy replied “I love you most.” And another little family ritual got passed down. Passed down to a beautiful soul that somehow ended up as our son.

Speaking of surprises, I found him finger-painting with yogurt on the living room mirror yesterday so I gave him some on his highchair tray to play with instead. Apparently he decided a yogurt facial and hair treatment were needed.

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