adoption related seriousness

how to kill a blog, part one (or guilt about becoming part of the noise that drowns out the voices we should be listening to)

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I abandoned this blog to wither for several reasons. The first has to do with guilt.

Last summer I had a post that went a little “viral” in some adoptive parent communities. It was about waiting moms. I should have put “parents” because I got so much grief for leaving the dads out. For the record I wrote it about myself and a few moms I’ve become close too. It wasn’t meant to be the end all be all of explaining things. It was a deeply personal reflection on the life I led for three years.

I still like the post. A lot. The mistake was agreeing to let Huffingt*n Post republish it. And then not objecting when they put it under the tagline of “12 things everyone should know about adoption” (or something like that) and took off the postscripts I had made. Looking back I should have complained to them about the tagline and not allowed the changes. To be fair to myself it happened the day my husband had oral surgery and we ended up waiting for hours in an emergency situation because they thought a piece of metal might have gotten into his lungs. I had a barely 1-year-old and barely turned 2-year-old. I thought we’d be out for two hours, we ended up being out all day. We were exhausted and tired and I was stressed out of my mind. So I didn’t handle it like I should have. And then the noise became overwhelming and I ran away emotionally.

For awhile I couldn’t figure out why this one post gathering so much notice bothered me so much. Of course the attention was a bit overwhelming to someone with a teensy tiny blog, I actually had some mild panic attacks over it. When the post hit 5k views an hour after I published it I texted my husband and said I was going to delete the entire blog. I meant it too. If there was any doubt I was an introvert this is the moment that laid it to rest.  But then when the attention faded away, when I realized most of the 60k-some people who loved *that post* weren’t interested in anything else I had to say my pride stung a little. That post isn’t my favorite. It doesn’t even make my top five.

It’s also the most narcissistic thing I’ve ever written.

Continue reading “how to kill a blog, part one (or guilt about becoming part of the noise that drowns out the voices we should be listening to)”

the hood of mother

when you’re bad at that thing you thought you’d be good at

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Yesterday we were at Gymboree when Thane got his leg stuck between two wooden dowels in a rocking toy. It was amazing how my mom instincts kicked in and how quickly I got him out…. I’m kidding. Actually my claustrophobia and panic kicked in, after pulling at the leg with no budging I started frantically looking around for a freaking ax to chop that sucker apart with, and all I could think was “in the movies there is ALWAYS an ax, always. It’s right next to the fire extinguisher. Where is the fire extinguisher? Oh my dear heavens there is no fire extinguisher, if there is a fire right now how will I get all three of us out of here?!! ” Because that’s a normal place for your mind to go.

At this point Tal came over to try to rock the stupid rocking toy. This was not as helpful as he imagined it to be. And as I sat there (for SECONDS!!) trying to figure out what to do and trying to hold Tal off, another mom calmly came over, offered to help, pulled up Thane’s pant leg, twisted things a little and rescued him. And me.

And that’s when I realized two things: we’re hardly ever actually alone. People are almost always willing to come give a hand when we’re sucking at whatever we thought we’d be good at. And second: it had happened. I hadn’t been capable of doing something my kids really needed me to do. I had failed. And the world hadn’t ended. I had really blundered at this whole mothering thing and the sky hadn’t come crashing down around us. In fact, looking around the room everyone was calm and happy. Including my two kids who were now at the top of the slide enjoying themselves.

I thanked the mom and she told me a funny story about leaving her car door open. And that was it. Everything was fine. Except for the fact that the toddlers were thirsty now and I had forgotten the sippy cups. But that’s why God made Starbucks.

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{{Pictures from the park last week.}}

adoption related seriousness

the story that didn’t start with me (birth & adoption and honoring their story)

It’s so easy, too easy really to slip into thinking I’m telling them their stories when really I’m telling them mine.

Because their stories don’t begin with the moment I heard about them, the moment that first picture made my heart go pitter patter, or the moment I met them. Their story begins with them. With their mother and father and the moment they were created. Their next nine months wrapped inside their mother. As close as two humans can be. Then more months, more changes, more stories that are theirs to have and mind to guard. A foster family, loved and cherished. And then, and only then do my husband and I step into their story. From their perspective.

This is important because it’s too easy to slip into thinking that our story is the one they are living. And it’s not. Adoption isn’t meant to be a rewriting of everything that’s gone before. The family they have now doesn’t erase the family they don’t. And it’s their right to feel whatever they feel for that family. And it’s our duty as their other parents to listen. To be okay. To celebrate what they received from that family. To acknowledge that our children’s feelings are “right” no matter what they are because their feelings are theirs. Continue reading “the story that didn’t start with me (birth & adoption and honoring their story)”

broken and okay

today is the yesterday you’re going to be all nostalgic about tomorrow

We’re in Colorado, in the town where Nate and I met, spending the holidays with family. Our first little condo is here, the one we bought right before our wedding. I hadn’t been been back there for years. We went over Monday to check on some things, to figure out new flooring once the current tenants leave, and to reminisce. On the drive back I told Nate “I miss the us that lived there.” The truth is I miss the us that I remember. The slightly edited version where all the spectacular memories rise to the top and the boring ones sink to the bottom and you’re left with nothing but the creamiest cream and the peaches to put it on. {{If we weren’t lactose intolerant/allergic to dairy. But why spoil a perfectly good word picture?}}

We also hauled around 8 boxes out of the rafters in the garage that have been there since we moved. Boxes of costumes. See, I used to write and direct little plays for a little group of kids at the little church where we met. And it was one of my favorite things ever. As I sorted through the boxes and put 99% in bags to go to goodwill I smiled at every funny memory they contained. Super Truth’s blue sequined cape. A hideous plain blazer. A horrible poodle costume. I smiled at every single one. And that made me glad I waited to go through them. Because when we left they did nothing but make me cry.

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Continue reading “today is the yesterday you’re going to be all nostalgic about tomorrow”

broken and okay, mountains that don't move

in defense of the imperfect story: finding hope at christmas

the perfect Christmas story

Growing up I loved to read the Christmas newsletters and cards my parents would receive. From all across the United States they would pour in, spinning their beautiful tales of promotions, graduations, and vacations. Magical moments captured in dream like perfection. And then social media came with Facebook and blogs to give us that same feeling year round, perfect lives captured in perfectly composed pictures. And then Pinterest. Pinterest is like those old Christmas newsletters played at high-speed while a disco ball throws light to every corner of our imagination. Everything is insanely, impossibly perfect. It’s a world in which recipes for dessert after dessert can live side by side with pictures of flat stomachs. Where rain boots are lined up by the door with no hints of melting snow or mud or rain beneath them. A world in which children’s rooms can have white bedding.

Even back in my childhood I knew when I read those Christmas newsletters that they weren’t the whole story. That theirs were a varnished truth. A slight retelling where Joseph wasn’t sold by his brothers into slavery but rather was seeking career advancements overseas. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think dreamy perfection is lovely sometimes. But it can get overwhelming, if we start to believe in it a little too much.

And so, it’s to this world I’d like to offer my defense, my defense of the imperfect story. The ones that start out not with a stride but with a stumble. The ones that have messy middles that don’t make sense. The ones that don’t come with a golden ribbon ending. At least not one we’ve seen yet.

Continue reading “in defense of the imperfect story: finding hope at christmas”

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our seven favorite holiday books this Christmas

Without being deliberate to think about it I’m fairly certain our holiday collection of books would feature the same white Santa with rosacea that is seemingly everywhere. But because my children are African-born and because their father and I are of European descent I choose to think about it. I want them to see their skin tone mirrored in the books we read, especially because they do not see it in their parents’ faces.

Our holiday book collection is still small. Because we are still in the “read the same book four hundred times and then read it once more in case we missed something” stage of reading. But slowly we’re adding to it. Here are our current favorites, all bought second-hand online.

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“A Child is Born” by Margaret Wise Brown

This is a simple board book that tells the story of the birth of Jesus without ever mentioning his name. The illustrations are lovely, the words rhyme and we read it year-round.

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“Over the River & Through the Woods” a Jump at the Sun Holiday Classic

I have never met a book published by Jump at the Sun that I don’t like. And we have several as they also do fairy tales and Bible stories. This one can be sung to the “Over the River” song (obviously) and features a large family that fills up the sleigh as more and more people pile in. The horse’s expressions are also quite funny. Thane’s favorite page is the last one where he always proudly declares that it is Gigi and him and they are eating pumpkin pie. We also like the page with the whole family gathering around. It’s fun to see which person the kids decide is which person in our family.

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“Twas the Night Before Christmas” a Jump at the Sun Holiday Classic

If this book looks worn out that’s because it is. Based on the classic poem it tells a slightly different version of the same story. Our family doesn’t do presents from Santa but we do love this story.

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“Christmas for 10” by Cathryn Falwell

This is a simple counting book. It counts to ten twice all the while showing fun holiday activities. Again, featuring a large and loving family.

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“Carol of the Brown King – Nativity Poems” by Langston Hughes

I first heard this poem during a production we attended a few years ago. It was beautiful and happy and the illustrations in this book match the tone. Just gorgeous. It has a few other poems as well.

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“Snowflake Kisses and Gingerbread Smiles” by Toni Trent Parker

This has to be the world’s shortest book. I think there are like five pages. However each one features smiling faces of adorably cute children doing something festive and with my kids’ obsession over older children it’s getting worked into our rotation.

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“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Kwanzaa!” a Jump at the Sun Holiday Classic

The pictures in this one are especially gorgeous and full of life. The happiness from the family just radiates off the pages. I am in the very beginning of learning about Kwanzaa so I feel unqualified to speak to how well it represents the holiday. And it’s goal is not so much to educate as to celebrate.

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Lastly in our holiday collection, these are some books we’ve been given that are really sweet but which are a little too “old” for my toddlers. If you’re looking for ideas for your own elementary age kids though they are very nice. Though the bottom two are a little preachy about giving and sharing. Are all children’s books like that and I just didn’t notice when reading them as a child? “An Angel Just Like Me” directly speaks about race and the issue of so many decorations being white-white-white. I think it will be a good topic starter as the kids become older.

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I’ve also begun collecting books we can use for our advent readings someday. But those will wait to be posted until next year or the year after. Whenever good intentions morph in actual celebrations.

Until then, Merry Christmas, and if you have a favorite holiday book that happens to feature brown or black characters please leave a comment.

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a song for the broken hearted (or: virtual hugs for waiting adoptive parents at Christmas)

The last three Christmases we spent waiting. Waiting for a referral that was supposed to come and then came for a baby that didn’t live. Waiting for our oldest. Waiting for our youngest. Three holiday seasons filled with waiting.

I often felt alone.

I want you to know you’re not. There are other moms and dads wrapping presents for children that won’t be there to unwrap them. There are other parents curled up next to Christmas trees crying their eyes out. There are other parents waiting for paperwork that will bring the child they love one step closer. There are other parents who feel alone. Alone in the weird in between stage of loving a child that isn’t quite theirs, or who is theirs but who isn’t with them.

You’re not alone.

Adoption and loss are two partners in a dance of imperfect answers.  Adoption is honoring the past while creating a future. Adoption is complicated.

Love is not.

And love ties us together. The birth families, both living and dead. The adoptive parents who hold their children and the ones who don’t. And the children. Always the children.

Because adoption is for them. Each beat of your heart that hurts more than you can bear right now is for them. It’s building something strong in you. It’s building a love that can walk through fire and fight through enough red tape to tie the world up in a Christmas bow.

That love is powerful. That hope is strong. And you are not alone.

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{{Lyrics from my favorite Christmas waiting song, “Ornament” by The Trans-Siberian Orchestra}}

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nine months (or time slow down already you crazy thing you)

Nine months together. It seems like yesterday it was six. Time feels like it’s skipping and I can barely hold on to the moments, let alone the memories. Maybe it’s the time of year but everything feels like it’s in fast-forward and I want it to just slow down already.

I know I’m alone in this sentiment, no one that has ever held a little one close has wished for time to stand still for just a few tiny minutes so you can get a few tiny minutes more… Nope, I’m the first one ever.

Tal is our little snuggler. He adores being held and Daddy continues to be his favorite person. He spends most of every night snuggled into the crook of his arm, he rushes into his arms when Daddy gets home from work, he “asks” to talk to him on the phone, and he’s still insanely jealous if anyone else dares to hug him. Because clearly Daddy is his and his alone. Or so he would say if he could talk that much.

Our agency asks us for pictures/reports throughout the first two years. In putting together the set for this anniversary I found this picture. I adore these two together.

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Daddy got Tal dressed this morning before leaving for work. And I took some pictures. Because that’s the best way to make time freeze, if even for just a minute.

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holidays and lists and expectations… oh my

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There is a Christmas tree in the corner of my living room. It has white lights twinkling everywhere but the very bottom, waiting on the replacement strand I bought last night. Outside my window the valley has cleared of fog, the evergreen trees make it look like it’s Christmas everywhere. Behind me, on the sideboard , are two tiny pumpkins. And in the fridge there are what I’m calling “Thanksgiving Leftovers”, actually just pans I don’t feel like scrubbing yet. The holidays are here and apparently I want to celebrate all of them together.

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I’ve had this running list in my head of what I want these months to be filled with. Things I’ve waited so long to do with two little ones I love with every beat of my heart. And their daddy. 😉 I want the holidays to be perfect and magical and holy. I don’t need presents (Nate and I rarely give gifts to each other) but I do want to DO things. To feel my heart pound in wonder and excitement. And so I make my mental lists. And in my head every moment is perfect.  That’s the beauty of dreams – they have a shimmery glow and nothing goes wrong in them. In real life you forget the diaper bag and both children find themselves in desperate, desperate need of one at the same time. But not in dreams. In dreams things are never stinky.

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blog - deleteMy list goes something like this:

  1. Pumpkin Patch
  2. Dress up party at Daddy’s work
  3. Play in the leaves
  4. Thanksgiving at home, make it an epic weekend
  5. Christmas tree farm to get our tree
  6. Decorate the tree and the house
  7. Hang up some lights outside
  8. New stockings made of fabric from DRC
  9. Add to the Christmas books collection
  10. Visit “The Lights of Christmas”
  11. See a production of “Black Nativity”
  12. Go to Colorado for Christmas
  13. Have a date with Nate on New Year’s Eve

I know we won’t get to all of that. Because apparently Seattle isn’t hosting “Black Nativity” this year. (Here’s hoping the movie version is good.) And I’m pretty sure #7 isn’t happening but the rest we’re making some good progress on.

We started with the pumpkin patch. And in my head it went like this: Thane laughing his way down the huge slide, the reason we choose this specific farm. Both little ones, with huge smiles, in the  corn bin. Some perfect pictures in front of a perfect field of corn. Maybe some skipping among the sunflowers. A crisp day with a warm sun but a cool breeze. Perfection.

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In reality it went like this: I didn’t want to leave the house. It was foggy and wet. The chronic pain condition I have has been bad lately. I was still bummed we missed the weekend before when the adoptive family group went together. I was… crabby. But somehow we managed to get ourselves into the car, drove the 45 minutes and my dreams started to sparkle again. Until Thane decided that the slide was the worst thing we had ever asked him to participate in. The crowds were overwhelming. The corn bin cramped and dusty as all get out. The youngest refused to be out of my arms or go anywhere near it. My dreams they were dying and I had moved past crabby and into wretched territory.

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Thankfully, Nate wasn’t joining me . He brought us back to reality. A reality that was actually, surprisingly, pretty awesome. Thane had the time of his life on this huge bouncy thing (no pictures because I couldn’t crop out all the other kids’ faces),we took a wagon ride and admired the semi-rotting sunflowers, and then we got to the pumpkin patch itself and Tal and Thane took off running and loved every second. I even got some cutie pie pictures, if not the two babies on a pumpkin picture I had envisioned.

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Reality is good. So are dreams. But I’m learning to think of them not as a play with carefully composed scripts but rather like a night of improv. Untamed, unscripted, wonky and wonderful. Also, I’m bringing the diaper bag.

{Pictures, obviously, from October.}}

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this year there will be no “next year…”

This year there won’t be a picture frame on our Thanksgiving table of the family member who’s missing. This year there won’t be presents labeled for babies that aren’t ‘home’. This year every moment won’t be filled with dreams of “next year…”

This year we’re together.

I write that and I feel a chill go through me. It seems unreal. This time last year I held serious doubts that little Baby K would ever be coming home. I waited for news on his health and news on his adoption paperwork. And now, now there is nothing but snuggles and kisses. (Also diapers and feeding and rocking and picking up of endless messes.)

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But for so many of my friends they still have someone missing. Someone who is on the other side of the world, or on the other side of eternity. Some will be united here, some will never be until heaven. I think too of my children’s other families. Loss.

So it hardly seems fair that our little family of four is together does it? But we are. And I have to rejoice in that. I want to rejoice in that. I want to hug the fact to my heart and do a happy dance with it.

And still there is a tiny part of me that aches for our first little guy. The one who didn’t make it. The one whose last days I’ll never know about, never get answers for. And I know, I do know that if he was here then Thane wouldn’t be. And more than likely we never would have been matched with Tal either. I also know that heaven is a beautiful place for him, that it won’t be full of pain for his little hurt body but will be a place where he can dance and sing and be at peace.

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He was never ours, that little guy. He was going to be, but he wasn’t. That’s the hard thing with adoption. You fall in love with them but have to keep at the forefront of your mind that they might not ever be in your family. And so you wish for a family for them. And you hope it might be yours. But mostly you hope for peace and love for them. And I believe he has that now. I have to believe that.

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And so we are four. A family of four. So much smaller than I envisioned when I was younger. And yet perfect. Us. And this year, this year we’re together. That’s something so worth celebrating. That’s something to soak in and roll around in and throw up in the air to rain down in a confetti parade.

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Because this year the waiting is over.