Thursday, December 30, 2010

'bye 2010

Looking over the blog in 2010 I mostly see dreamy love-baby posts, with a bit of this and that thrown in. So instead of linking to a list of posts I want to record what it is about this year that I think I'll remember in the years and decades to come. Maybe I'll come back and read it when J's ten and see if I was right.

Of course most of what I will remember is my daughter, and the many joys of living the first year of her life alongside her. She was baptized and lullabyed and photographed and comic-conned. She went from a wispy mohawk to a full head of hair, pending silk sheets to shore up the back part. She learned to crawl her own way, and to say my new favorite name - Mama.

But I will also remember this as the year that the many swirling thoughts I have about race in this country and my own racial identity began to integrate into something coherent. It's the year I really became a consultant and trainer, instead of someone who was training to be those things. It was the year that I began to get comfortable with all the changes that I flung myself headlong into in 2009 - school, motherhood, work of various sorts.

And, last but not least, this year I watched my husband discover what he was meant to do next. When we got married both of us knew that the chances of either of us winning in the lottery that is the music industry were slim to none. And that those chances weren't really why either of us played music. I have always known, on some level, where I was headed. But neither of us expected that Andrew would land in a career in the medical field, much less a job where he works with people who are at their very most vulnerable - victims of traumas and burns in the first days after their injuries. Helping them breathe and sometimes witnessing their last breaths. He is an amazing respiratory therapist. I know it because I've spent a year watching him live this vocation and fall in love with it. Next year is the one I'll look back on and remember his graduation. But this year is the year I watched, a little jealous and a lot amazed, as he discovered that helping people breathe, live, and sometimes die is just as good as a rock show, and his talent for doing it well is just as strong.

I have some ideas about what I want for 2011. They involve a good dose of the usual health-and-fitness, a little bit of increased financial discipline and a dash of even more intentional simple living. There are other plans in the works that aren't ready for public discussion just yet, but I'll be telling you all about it sometime in the next twelve months. I expect my J will get around to walking sometime soon, and continue to increase her vocabulary both signed and spoken.

As I type this Andrew is singing to J, her last lullaby of the year. We're staying in tonight - some good friends will show up a little later for games and food, and probably some champagne sometime right around midnight.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Christmas


The babe is finally dropping off to sleep, Andrew is playing the new game he received from his father on the wii, and I am taking a break from surfing through Amazon's free book listings for Kindle to wish everyone who reads here a peaceful end to the year, and a lovely Christmas season if you are one who celebrates.

The picture above is J with her cousin T, the official Santa photo that will likely become an annual tradition, despite the fact that it is St. Nicholas and not Santa Claus who visits us. It's been a good Christmas so far - last night Andrew and J went to the peninsula to celebrate with family while I stayed behind to honor the Christ Child with my St. Paul's kiddos. This morning was just the three of us for a bit, then almost all the grandparents joined us for presents, playtime, talk time, and fun. We have more Christmas celebrations to come, which is fitting as today is but the first day of twelve.

I haven't been inspired to blog much during the advent season. If Christmas turns out to feel similar then I will see you after the new year.
love and peace,
A

Friday, December 10, 2010

old friends



This isn't a year for Christmas parties in the A+A household. What with the juggling of the wee one's sleep schedule with our own finals and work activities we're just plain tired. Seattle is dark by 4pm, earlier if it's raining, and the outside feels reflective of my insides just now: wet and worn around the edges, waiting for newness but not expecting it any time really soon.

So I was somewhat surprised at myself last night when after putting the baby to bed I ended up crowded into the bathroom, sharing the mirror with my heart-friend Carly as we dolled up to go out. Andrew smiled when he arrived home to find me in a party dress with sparkles in my earlobes and wedge heels on my feet. "Go" he said, collapsing on the bed exhausted from his twelve hour shift, "you deserve it."

It's not the same as it was years ago, when I would pick Carly up from her studio on the hill and we'd drive off for adventures with the people we made music and life with. Of that crew I'm the only one with a babe just yet, but we're all a bit older now. The parties start earlier, at 8 instead of 11, and the settings are nicer. We've ditched group-sized rentals and made homes, bought them some of us, and several of us have paired off and married each other or found the one and brought him home, as I did. But as I stepped out on Jay's deck last night with some of the sweet ones who were among the first people in my life that I chose and who also chose me I felt some sort of emotion that was deep, strong, and hard to identify. Maybe because almost a decade ago when the ties that bound us together were mostly wisps of dreaming and drama and attraction I hardly dared to hope that years later we would be clinking our glasses together this time because of friendship and abiding love.

Come back soon, Harles. ♥
(a blurry adventure..long ago.)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Nicholmas

Happy Nicholmas!

This morning we had a special Godly Play where our two younger classrooms got together for feast to hear the story of St. Nicholas, who is celebrated on this the second Sunday of Advent. Then, at the very end of the mass St. Nicholas visits us, bringing cookies and oranges to share with the children of the parish. I love doing this lesson, because our kids are so confused. This is only the second year that we have really celebrated St. Nicholas in our parish, so most of our children aren't yet familiar with him. They are more familiar, of course, with the secular tradition of Santa Claus. So the St. Nicholas story confuses and intrigues them. This is part of the story we tell, taken from the Godly Play material:

Nicholas loved the Christ Child and wanted to give him gifts. But he lived long after the Christ Child did. Nicholas wondered if maybe there was something of the Christ Child in every child. So he began to give gifts to children on Christmas Eve. He was shy, and so he gave his gifts in secret, leaving only the present and the delight of receiving it behind. When Nicholas was old and full of years he died, but somehow the gifts kept coming. Sometimes they were left on the front porch, or came through a window or even down the chimney!

I love this way of celebrating the secret Christmas gifts because unlike Santa, St. Nicholas isn't spending time tracking who is good and who is bad. His gifts are a celebration of something sacred that indwells every child regardless of her or his behavior. They are mysterious gifts of love and adoration, unconditional gifts that reflect the unconditional love that all children intrinsically deserve.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

a thief in the night

But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

The words above closed out the gospel reading for this past Sunday, which for those who practice a liturgical Christian tradition was the first day of Advent. I've blogged here before about how different the seasons of Advent and Christmas in my religious tradition are from the secular season of Christmas - a holiday which has roots in Roman mid-winter practices more than it does anything connected to current religious practice. Advent is, for me, a time of quiet and welcome darkness, of reflection. It is the beginning of the church year, the calendar that my best self uses to mark and manage my time in the world. I have been doing my best to practice this sort of Advent in some way for a few years now but I still experience some dissonance around it each year. It isn't easy to find space for simplicity and quiet during a time that is filled with cultural pressure to buy and spend and indulge.

I also experience some dissonance around this particular reading from Matthew. I haven't been able to exactly put my finger on why in the past, other than it rings of a certain "end times" theology that I usually find unhelpful. So it wasn't until Mother Melissa's small homily at the evening mass this past Sunday that it really clicked for me why this image seems so odd.

"This is a different image of God, isn't it?" She said. "A thief in the night?"

And it's true. One stays awake to prevent what the thief is about. You don't wait in excited anticipation for the arrival of one, or for a flood, which God's coming is also compared to here. You grimly prepare, you take precautions, and in the end you deal with the aftermath of the event.

"I wonder," she said before opening the floor for reflections from others gathered around the table, "I wonder what you know of such a God?"

I thought about it. I am still thinking about it.

My experience of becoming a mother was, in many ways, like a thief in the night. Remembering the rollercoaster first month of J's life, two weeks before we knew about her and the two weeks after, I resonate with the total unexpectedness of that thief. We suffered the theft eagerly, of course, of our sleep and time and cozy two-ness. After all, like for the God of Advent, we had been waiting with great anticipation, not knowing the hour and trying our best to stay awake.

This year I look around and this time it is my wee babe who has been stolen away. There is a strong almost-toddler where the bobbly infant used to be and I find myself wondering when did that happen? What did I miss, in those times when I could not be fully awake to her, to the expected one she is ever more becoming?

I think the changes are obvious with little ones, but they happen to us big folk as well. I look at my husband and see a man who is so much more than the man I married. It would be easy to miss. It is not hard to fall asleep to our most intimate companions, or to ourselves. I wonder what part of myself I am not wakeful to, and what the creative force of change might be coming to take from me while I lay unaware and sleeping.

For me it is sometimes easier to come awake in dim light of the deep winter than to an alarm or the stark sunlight of the same time of day in a different season. I stretch gently and remember that I have toes and fingers somewhere under the blankets. My senses begin to inform me best they can about the conditions of the day - kitties on the bed, husband awake or asleep beside me, daughter stirring in the other room or still slumbering. Every day there is Mystery to enter, for the wakeful heart and eye to discover.

This Advent I hope to come ever more awake to my life, to Mystery, to the One that I am continually expecting.

Blessed Advent.

Monday, November 22, 2010

early snow

Seattle snow day:




I can't remember if it snowed last year, during J's teensy baby-time. If it did, we stayed warm and cozy inside. This year we ventured out to let her do some exploring.

We were just in time - tomorrow we are off to warmer climes for Thanksgiving festivities with family. All that's left to do tonight is pack, finish a paper, clean the house for the guests staying here while we are away, get dinner eaten and baby to bed, and set the alarm for 5am tomorrow morning!

cake! (as in, I would like some. not so much "easy as")

Have a wonderful week internets! See you when we return.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Good Hair

Well, while some of my friends have been literally writing novels this month, I have blinked twice and realized I haven't blogged at ALL. Crazy!

And, actually, November has been fairly crazy. Lots of work and lots of school has meant that my usual blogging times (naps, after baby bedtime) have been booked solid. I should be writing a paper right this minute, but I wanted to check in and verify my continuing existence with the interwebs.

I will save deep thoughts about all I have been learning for later, however, in favor of discussing J's hair. She is starting to get a nice bit of hair, and yesterday I had my first real go at styling it. But let's back up. First I should chronicle what I have been doing for her hair.

When J was brand new we simple put baby oil in her hair every time she had a bath. This was primarily for her scalp, to help take care of cradle cap and keep her scalp moisturized. You might remember she had some nice male pattern baldness going on back then, and her hair was fairly straight and wispy:

By the time she was three months old the very top had really filled in, she had rubbed a nice bald spot in the back, and her hair was curly, curly, curly on the top and sides. The hair in the back was still baby-wispy where it wasn't rubbed away. She was rocking a nice natural mohawk, but her hair needed more than just an oil now and then. After reading a good review on a blog I bought some Original Sprout leave-in conditioner and miracle detangler, which I used as a moisturizing spray. Using the leave-in I could give some control to her curls, as in the picture below, but they never lasted more than an hour or so.
Most of the time it looked like this:

The Original Sprout routine worked really well for us right until she was around 10-11 months old. That product is fairly light, and as her hair filled in more and more I started to notice that it looked more frizzy than curly by the end of the day. She was also developing some nice wings in the back, which I thought were pretty adorable. At this point we could do little clips and bows, but I felt like the product wasn't doing enough for her hair anymore, and it certainly didn't provide enough oomph for styling.

So a couple weeks before J's birthday I took her up to Seattle's premiere salon for natural African-American hair for a product consultation. There I learned that J's multi-textured hair needed more moisture than it was getting, and her scalp as well. So we picked up some Curly Q moisturizer/detangler and Curly Q Custard Hair Cream. I still have half a bottle of the OS leave-in, so will stick with that for now.

So J's current hair routine is as follows:
Shampoo: once every one to two weeks as needed. (Never needs more than that.)
Leave-in conditioner: every time her hair is wet - she takes a bath every 1-2 days, although we don't always use soap, so as to avoid overdrying her skin.
Moisturizer/detangler: this product is for when her hair is dry. I use it to get some moisture on her head so we can comb out and detangle before the cream.
Hair Cream: this goes on every night and morning after combing out.

The difference in J's hair is striking. Her curls coil up and stay soft and moisturized all day. I also trimmed up her sides, though it pained me to say goodbye to her wings. She still has more hair on top, and is pretty sparse in back where her bald spot used to be, but I love the soft, shiny, healthy look of her hair now!
And, since I was feeling brave and accomplished, I tried to really style her yesterday for the first time. I thought bantu knots would be the quickest and easiest thing to experiment with. Voila - styled baby!!
They are fairly messy, and some turned out as just defined ringlets instead of knots, but I thought the overall effect was adorable.
You can see that her hair that isn't in ringlets or knots curls up on its own, once moisturized.
She loves it! Of course I will get better at this as time goes on. And while J is used to me combing out her hair twice a day and applying product this stretched her sitting-still abilities to their limit. I might try it again today - it doesn't overnight well - and see if I can't start early with building up her tolerance for getting her hair styled. All in all it felt momentous - this is the first step in a lifelong adventure for both of us in hairstyles and styling!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!!



We went trick-or-treating at a local neighborhood park and business district with our neighbors (the parents of the unicorn pictured below.) It was so fun! J's costume has been worn by both of my brother's kids, which I also think is pretty fun!
It was a fun couple of hours, and now is the best part - eating the candy our cute kid worked so hard to get for us! (she did actually get the hang of grabbing candy and putting it in our bag, it was adorable.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Happy Birthday Sweet J

Happy birthday Sweet Baby J!!! She is one year old today. Never in my wildest hopes at this time last year did I think that on this day a year later I'd be watching my daughter eat her first cupcake. Today was a family party with Andrew's side of the tree, on their side of the water. J rocked it. Below, eyeing the cupcake...


And then devouring it, mostly the frosting (takes after her mama there). You can see the sugar rush has already hit in this shot.
The hit of the party, at least from the perspective of the kiddos, were the wee teacup pigs that Andrew's cousin is raising, Max and Lucy. This is Max.

J was enthralled, as she is by all animals.

She even managed to stay tolerably interested in present opening, mostly because she's pretty into boxes and paper right now. This was a small family party, just the perfect amount of people and the right amount of presents. We had a great time.
There are more festivities tomorrow, so I'd better stop blogging and get some rest. ♥

Monday, October 18, 2010

raw

I've been feeling a little raw around the edges this week, and - as is typical for me - having some trouble figuring out why. In usual fall fashion I am overly busy and not getting as much down time and me time as would be healthy. J is teething and somewhat cranky, not to mention clingy. Yesterday I lay down to nap with her and slept right through the evening liturgy I was supposed to be serving for. This compounded my general feelings of sensitivity and gloom, although I didn't regret the nap for a second. I don't know how many of those sweet sleep-with-baby times there are left ahead of me.

Tonight, though, as I headed into class I realized something. J is almost one year old (not what I realized, getting to that)but at this time last year I was not focused on J. I didn't know about her. No, this time last year I was days away from the second biggest roller-coaster of my life, one that ended well but sadly. This Thursday is Choice's first birthday, the little one who for a time we thought would be our J, whose mother made the decision to keep her on the day our J was (unbeknown to us) born.

So, I imagine, while some mothers spend the week before their child's first birthday remembering the last days of their pregnancy or the last days of waiting to meet them specifically, my mind and body are remembering something else entirely. I will always remember Choice this time of year, and wonder how she is growing up, how Y is doing raising her along with her other children. It was Y's choice that led to my motherhood of J, something I will always be grateful for.**

And of course Z is on my mind. There is a stack of photographs on the desk in front of me and a half written letter on the hard drive, waiting for finishing and mailing. She is, I am sure, remembering the last days of her pregnancy, the last days of waiting to meet her daughter and spend the day with J (who was not yet J)that she would have. As usual it is difficult for me to find words that capture my heart. I want to cry for her, for Y, for Choice, for J who lost her first mother the day after we lost our future with Choice, and for me - still overwhelmed at the spiderwebs of chance and tears that wove themselves together to bring me to this motherhood, of this beautiful child.

I don't know how other mothers feel, the week before their baby turns one. Some adoptive moms don't know when their child's birthday is. But this is me. Sensitive, like a bruise, or some skin rubbed raw. The celebrations are coming. But I don't think I can really get there without remembering the road we traveled, and honoring the wounds (all around) that got us here.

**that whole story, in more detail, starts here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What's in a name.

We got J's amended birth certificate in the mail today. I have mixed feelings about amended birth certificates in general and about ours in particular. I feel like they represent something that is deeply flawed about the way adoption works in our country. I knew that after we went to court and finalized that our lawyer would file paperwork with the appropriate people in Georgia and they would both seal J's original birth certificate and issue her a new one. Now no one, not even J when she grows up, will be able to see her original certificate. And the one that is public record simply lists Andrew and myself as her parents, as if I were the one who gave birth to her in the hospital which is also listed. I don't like it because it isn't true. Z, J's first mother, shouldn't be erased and her name sealed away as if it something shameful.

But I digress. This post is about names.

I was prepared to see my name in the space listed "mother" on J's new certificate. Except, my name wasn't. Instead I saw my first and middle names, and Andrew's last name. My last name was listed, but under "maiden name." It felt strange, to say the least. I am used to people, grandmothers mostly, addressing cards and letters to "Mrs. Andrew _____." But as much as I love him my last name has never been negotiable. It's mine, it's the name of the woman he fell in love with. Neither of us ever questioned my decision to keep it. So I had this sort of odd internal reaction to seeing his last name assigned to me on that certificate. It was like someone else had been legally made J's mother.

Of course I think about this in terms of my daughter, the other person who has now received Andrew's last name. She had other names when she was born too. Originally we planned to only keep the middle name that Z gave her, and that we would give her the first name we had chosen, and Andrew's last name. But over the course of the past eleven months that choice hasn't set well with me. We have never met Z, so I don't know what her preferences would be. But it didn't feel right to take 2/3 of her names away and leave them shut up in wherever it is original birth certificates get sealed. So at the last minute, moments before our lawyer headed into court, Andrew and I discussed it and changed our minds. J is still our J. And she still has Andrew's last name. But at the core, the middle, of her name are the first and middle names given to her by Z.

Now we just have to get my name fixed on the darn thing.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Before/After Blog Hop

We are coming up on the one year anniversary of my relationship with my Canon T1i Rebel digital slr camera. It is, as you can imagine, quite the milestone. I just wanted a camera that would take good photos of our then pending kiddo, but I ended up really enjoying exploring the art of photography as well. It has become a bit of a hobby! To celebrate I thought I'd try participating in the Before/After Blog hop which happens every Friday and is put on by Pixel Perfect, whose blog I have begun to read recently, as I've gotten more into figuring out Photoshop and editing processes. So here's my entry:

Straight out of Camera Shot:
Edited Shot:
Shot with the aforementioned Canon t1 Rebel, and edited with Photoshop CS4. I used a cross-processing action from the Coffeeshop blog.

I love this shot of J's feet on the swings, and the glimpse of her sweet friend next to her!

Happy Thursday everyone!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Life Hermeneutics

School started last week, and this quarter both of my classes are scripture classes. They are also both technically electives, and so it feels like I'm spoiling myself. But I had good reason to go off the rails from the core classes. Each class is a study on a particular book, both classes are taught by women, and both are classes that are especially aware of the lenses we use whenever we human beings attempt to interpret something - whether that thing be an ad for a home cleaning product, the thing our spouse or partner just said, our own life experiences, or a piece of text that has been deemed Scripture by a particular religious community.

One of my classes is on the book of Exodus and seeks to examine Exodus particularly through the lens of Jewish culture, tradition, and religious interpretation. The other class is on the book of John and the professor, in her doctoral dissertation and her classes, approaches the text from a post-colonial perspective. Both are good reminders to me that regardless of the subscriptions I make to this or that hermeneutic (which is a technical term for a particular interpretive tradition, perspective, or technique) I am also bringing my own life to any text I interact with. After all, that's the magic with literature - it becomes part of my experience, which is then brought back to it, or to a different text, or to more life experience.

Last week in the Exodus class I learned about the Jewish interpretive tradition of Pardes, or Torah-as-Garden. Basically, in Hebrew the word Pardes(which means garden) is spelled using four letters and those letters make up an acronym for four different ways in which any given scriptural text can be interpreted. They are as follows:
  • Pshat, the simple interpretation. This is the most obvious and least complicated interpretation.
  • Remez, reading between the lines. This is the meaning that is hidden. In hebrew it might be looking at the numerology, all that stuff in the DaVinci code and whatnot. Or it might be looking for less obvious symbols, hints at a secret meaning.
  • Drash, the drawn out meaning. This is the meaning that becomes a sermon, that takes the text beyond the simple interpretation and draws out actual implications for the reader, or for life in general.
  • Sod, the mystical meaning. This is the interpretation that exposes the mystery in the text, something that isn't easily explained or turned into a lesson for life but takes contemplation. This is the interpretation that is beyond explanation but worth holding nonetheless.
Of course as soon as the professor put up the powerpoint slide and began to explain Pardes I thought of how we interpret, explain, and interact with our own stories. How human beings are constantly building the story of our own lives, telling it and interpreting it to other people and to ourselves. Even looking back in this blog, which has focused mostly on the adoption and family building part of my story, I can see how I walk these paths all the time. There are parts of my story that I am content to leave as they are, simple. Other times when I search for hidden meaning, for symmetry that transcends the simple details of what transpired. I myself am particularly fond of the drash - of re-interpreting my life in ways that speak to broader principles for living it in the future, or teach life lessons. My own mother was very good at re-interpreting her own life to me in this manner and I'm sure I'll revisit her stories and my own as little homilies for J when she gets older.

The tough part, for me, is sod. I am not so good at letting mystery be mystery. But this is precisely what is called for in much of what I am living - parenthood alone, even without the complications of race and adoption that are in my mix - is full of moments that deserve contemplation without closure, small mysteries that need to be honored without being explained.

I find myself wondering how to help J learn about the hermeneutical aspects of life. I want to give her the interpretive tools to read and write her life story through multiple lenses. I want to be a family that is able to tell our story many ways, both simple and mysterious, full of hidden and obvious and inscrutable meaning.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

the next phase...

Well here it is - new name and a big girl address! Welcome to Not a Visitor. If you follow me via blogger or Google id you should transition from A+A Adopt a Baby just fine. This is the same blog, just a new address and name. If you read here via a reader you might want to update your rss feed to http://www.notavisitor.com/. I've been thinking about what I wanted to have happen with this blog after our adoption was finalized for what seems like forever. Here are a few changes that I anticipate, other than the name:
  • I will still blog about adoption, but not just adoption. Adoption is a big part of our family and my life, but it's not the only thing or the biggest thing. And it's not all I have to write about.
  • I won't be speaking for "us" anymore. Reading through past entries I realized how much I have spoken for my husband and myself in the process of blogging here. I don't regret that, and Andrew is fine with it. In fact during our trips to Georgia last year, especially the first one, this blog was a great place from which to issue joint statements about how we were doing. Originally I started A+A Adopt with the admittedly faint hope that Andrew might occassionally blog here. But from here on out this is unabashedly my own space, and I will only be speaking for myself here.
  • I'm going to write about whatever I want, at least for a while. Blogging about and through our adoption process has been amazing for me. After a few stops and starts in other formats this has been where I have really found my public blogging voice. I may eventually end up with another focus, the way adoption was the focus for the past couple of years, but for now I'm going to post whatever strikes my fancy to write about and see what happens.
  • I'd love your ideas. Given that I am going to write about whatever I want, is there anything you'd really like to see here?

Are you wondering about the name? It is from a poem, by Mary Oliver. I'll reflect more later, perhaps, on just why this poem resonates especially with me at this particular phase of my life. But for now, I'll just offer it to you.

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Our Adoption Timeline

Here it is, our now complete adoption timeline:

  • 9/7/10 - go to court and legally become a family! Adoption completed!
  • 2/13/10 - obtain an adoption lawyer,begin work on finalization.
  • 2/2/10 - second post-placement visit
  • 12/8/09 - first post-placement visit
  • 11/09 - accept our match with baby J and become parents!! ♥ ♥
  • 10/09 - match falls through, waiting again..
  • 9/09 - get the call! accept the match, and wait a little longer..
  • 2/09 - waiting for the call
  • 1/09 - Homestudy Approved, Profile complete
  • 12/08 - Homestudy visit
  • 12/08 - WACAP Weekend
  • 10/08 - Began work on Homestudy Documents
  • 09/08 - accepted into WACAP AAI grant program
  • 09/08 - application accepted
  • 08/08 - WACAP Informational Meeting

There will be lots of other important milestones along our road as an adoptive family. But this chapter is closed.

Some stats:

Time from initial application to finalization = 2 years, 1 month

Time from initial application to meeting baby J = 15 months

Time officially waiting = 9 months

Time from placement to finalization = 10 months, almost to the day

Monday, September 27, 2010

J and the Pacific









And with that we bid goodbye to J's first summer and look toward her second fall. It wasn't much, weather-wise, but I'll always love our memories of these past few "summer" months especially.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Eleven Months


It is hard to believe that in one month baby J will be a year old. Not to be cliche, but how did that happen? It all goes so fast!! Time flies when you're having fun! Other trite-but-true cliche sayings of the same nature@!

I am still working on putting the next phase of this blog into action, but I couldn't let this milestone go unmarked. J is fun and hilarious - she will dance to anything and if there isn't music playing she makes her own and dances to that. She even dances to the washing machine, which she loves to watch run - probably the only interest she holds in common with the cats at this point her life.

She is "crawling" or at least quite mobile if not traditionally so. She has this one legged hitching scoot that works quite nicely. I can hear the slap-drag noise it makes on the bamboo floors as she chases Sam and Penelope. Both are quite alarmed at this mobility direction the small human is taking. And we've babyproofed, which feels good to finally have done.

I could write for hours about what she does and how she does it, but we are prepping to leave town for a weekend on the seashore and there is much to be done before we put our little one in jammies and cross fingers that she sleeps for the drive.

Happy eleven months sweet girl!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A+A Adopt(ed) a baby (J!)


Yesterday morning a little after 9 am we promised to care for our J until she reaches adulthood and, if necessary beyond. Our petition to adopt was granted and our family is now official in the eyes of the state! It was a pretty great day.

Being sworn in:

The judge was especially impressed with the number of our friends and family who came to witness our finalization. Thirteen of our adult family and friends showed up, with folks flying in from Minnesota and California, and four kiddos came along to boot. Here is J with her three cousins from both sides of our family.

J was stoked that her friend Phinney made it to her special day!

And our family portrait, on our finalization day.



I have to admit, it feels pretty good to be official. I really liked our judge, who deviated from the required script and asked me to introduce everyone in the room to him and gave us an opportunity to say some words of our own, on record, about our daughter and what she means to us. I don't remember what I said but I did appreciate the opportunity to say it!

And a special thanks to my dear friend Breanne who took all these pictures for us. Check out more of her work here.

So that is that, blogosphere! It looks like, at the very least, this blog needs a new name. I have some ideas about where I'll be taking it next that should become reality sometime in the next couple of weeks. September is busy - lots of catching up on work and consulting jobs before school starts again at the end of the month, not to mention Sunday School launching this weekend - but I'll do my best to be quick about it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Golden Moments Abound


We had a great time on vacation. The train, the nature, the family time were all wonderful. Some pics:






Our time since getting home has been pretty wonderful, too. I'll tell you more about it very soon!

Monday, August 30, 2010

We're going on Vacation!

Every year we head down to Northern California to "camp" (tents, yes, but also running water, flush toilets, and a camper with a full kitchen) on some beautiful property my father owns. Last year (pics here) one of the things we were vacationing from was our wait for news of our child. This year we are boldly taking her! So tomorrow morning we will feverishly finish packing and head to the train station, with the hope that a 14 hour train ride will be easier to pull off with a 10 month old than a 12 hour drive in the car.

So far the strangest thing about vacation has been buying jarred baby food and disposable diapers for the road. I stood in the baby aisle in Safeway tonight for almost 30 minutes completely unsure of what in heck to buy. There are not, however, laundry facilities where we are going so into the paper dipes our little girl's bum will go! After all, that's what they were invented for.

Wish us luck everyone, and stand by for some changes 'round here after the vacation draws to a close.


A+A+J

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Donna, this one's for you.

You may remember, back in January, I blogged a little about my friend who lives and works in Haiti. Kurt is the director of a relief and development organization there, and as you can imagine he has got his work cut out for him currently.

He came through town this week, and we were lucky to host him at our place for a few days. This was his first time meeting baby J, of course, and she took to him immediately.
I've blogged before about how blessed I feel to have friends both near and far who are real and important parts of my life, our life, and now J's life as well. She won't be seeing much of her "Uncle" Kurt, of course, but it sure was fun for her to meet him. And fun for me to have him here for a while, popping in and out as he visited Seattle friends, and figuring out how to get the best deal on printer toner for him to haul back to Haiti.
Relief efforts are ongoing and money is still needed, as you probably know. MCC, the organization Kurt works for is doing great things. You can read more about what they are up to in Haiti here.
Oh, and in case you're wondering about the title of this post - Donna is Kurt's mom. ♥

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ten Months Old





Our sweet girl turned 10 Months old yesterday! To celebrate, here are ten fun facts about baby J:

1. She loves planes! J spends a lot of time outside these days and her favorite hobby is watching the sky for planes. When she spots one she waves her arms excitedly and imitates the noise it makes.

2. She also loves boats - Andrew and J go to a beach on Lake Washington pretty often, and watch the boats. She loves to wave at them. Once when they were there a seaplane landed and apparently J was so blown away she fell over and rolled down the hill, shouting and waving her little arms in joy.

3. J loves our kitties and imitates their meows when she sees them. She also meows at dogs, babies smaller than her, pigeons, otters and bears at the zoo, and pretty much anything living that isn't a person her size or larger.

4. The bald spot on the back of her head is finally filling in.

5. She loves to dance, and for J dancing means shaking her head back and forth whenever she hears music she likes.

6. She is now the custodian of one visible tooth!


7. J recognizes and responds to the signs for milk, more, kitty, no, drink, water, eat, all done, and we think mama and daddy.

8. She makes the sign for milk very clearly and we think all done, but she is less clear about that sign.

9. J shows no fear when meeting dogs, but was not a fan of the birds the first time we visited them at the zoo. The second time, however, she tried to grab one.

10. When baby J is very happy she claps her hands, as if applauding life itself.

It's easy to forget how much she has grown, but it really hit last week when my good friend D brought her sweet little one over for a visit. Baby S is three months old, and J loved her. Here's the two of them together:

That was one of our best shots, as most of the time Andrew was trying to protect little S without ruining the pictures:


It's crazy to think that pretty soon these two will be considered the same age!



(Sidenote, how adorable is wee baby S ------->
you're welcome.)










Then and now:


You've come a long way, baby J. It's been as fun as it is fast - with is to say very much on both counts. ♥


Thursday, August 19, 2010

speaking of living small...

This is a plan vs. reality post, of a sort, although it's mostly just showing off.

We had planned to share a bedroom with baby J until she was somewhere between one and two years old, and then figure out where to go next. But somehow a few weeks ago Andrew and I found ourselves sleeping on the pull-out couch in the living room while J learned how to sleep in her crib. It was just easier. And then she learned, and was a champ at sleeping in her crib and we didn't move back to our bed. We like it out there. That's the reality.

So we are initiating Phase Two of our plan early! Our home is basically two good size rooms, one of which has more closets than the other and is further from the kitchen and so has been deemed "bedroom" while the other has the door to the hall and open kitchen access and so has been deemed "living room." Lucky for us, both rooms have their own bathroom. We've decided to chuck these semi-random room designations and make both of the rooms multi-use. Baby J(and possible future children) will sleep in the former "bedroom" which will also be a family room/playroom/crafting room space. Andrew and I will sleep in the former "living room" which will continue it's other uses as living room/reading room/music room/tv room/dining-room-when-company-is-over/playroom/office.

But we cannot continue sleeping on the IKEA pull out couch. So we found a great affordable carpenter on Craigslist and yesterday he came over and did this:
This is our new bed when it is closed.


And here it is open! Our comfy regular mattress fits in just fine, and we ended up putting the tv back on the wall inside the bed. Which I love, because I don't like rooms where it seems like the tv is a central focus of attention.

We have more work to do, before Phase Two is complete. The family room/J's room is a disaster at the moment because it has our old bed frame AND the Ikea couch AND her crib and dresser and toybins all crammed in, but it will seem quite roomy once we get the bedframe out and the rest all fixed up. But the wall bed is a big step forward in our new plan.

Monday, August 16, 2010

loving living small(er)

Seattle is in the midst of our annual heat wave, with temperatures that are in the (gasp!) mid-nineties. Those who don't live here often laugh at us Pacific-Northwesterners and our bellyaching about the heat when we haven't even topped 100 degrees, but trust me it's a thing. No one has air conditioning in their homes, here, or few of us do. It's hardly worth it, for what amounts to less than two weeks out of the year. But it does mean that those two weeks have the potential to be fairly miserable. Our condo is partially below grade, basement level, a nice side-effect of which is that we stay cooler in the hot parts of summer and warmer in the cold parts of winter. But those who live above us in our 1928 brick walk-up aren't so lucky. "We've been spending a lot of time in the shower," a 3rd floor neighbor informed us yesterday, on his way back in from walking his dog.

I am actually quite fond of this weather. Sunday was a perfect example of why. J and I spent the morning at church while Andrew went to work at his new internship position. He arrived home just as we were waking up from afternoon nap, around 3:30. We were considering what to do when my phone beeped - a text message from one of our building friends. We are outside with ice cream, it read.

I immediately texted back, on our way!

We hauled baby J's high chair to the front patio where our friends J+K and their new two week old daughter sat, bowls on the picnic table and ice cream waiting. The six of us spent the rest of our day outside enjoying the shade of our building and the company of other neighbors who wandered in and out. I popped in to bake a pie at one point, K+J were in and out to change dipes, heat up food. Andrew started the grill around six and other neighbors showed up with food to put on it. Friends who don't live with us wandered by to hang out. Andrew took baby J in to bed around 6:45 and when she was down came back out, video monitor in tow. It was an idyllic evening, full of laughter and relaxed conversation. And this happens many, many summer nights round these parts.

We've had a few visitors come 'round this summer, cycling through for an afternoon, or an overnight or two. They sleep on the pull out couch and at some point usually get around to asking "so, how long do you think you'll be here?" or "is it starting to feel cramped, living in a one bedroom?" Most days my answers are a half-serious "forever" and a totally serious "not even a little."

I have a hard time imagining, though I am sure it happens, the sort of close and spontaneous community that we have found in our building happening somewhere where neighbors are separated by yards and fences. And I know for a fact that Andrew and I would be weighed down by more possessions that we don't need, if we only had the room for them. In fact, even in the small space we have we are constantly on the look out for what we can give/throw away or recycle. I think tossing stuff is almost as fun as making plans for increasing our efficiency in using our space. Andrew, who gets stuck implementing my schemes that make the final cut, might not agree. We didn't buy a small place because it was our ideal, exactly. We bought it because it was what we could afford, in the area we wanted to live in. And the priority was location, not square footage. It's a counter cultural choice, to a degree, but coming in after dark the other night with the echos of friends voices in our ears and the satisfaction of shared food and drink in our bellies we couldn't imagine living any other way.*

So I am starting to wonder, in what other ways would scaling back my expectations, making smaller choices, increase the satisfaction I experience in life? I'm talking about material expectations, mostly. What could we not purchase, in what ways could we live an even smaller material life? How can we increase quality - as I feel we have in our living situation - by decreasing quantity? On the one hand someday our condo will be crowded for three people. On the other hand, maybe close living is worth the other potential benefits- having the money to travel as a family, take more vacations, pay for J to go to college, the potential to completely pay off our mortgage before we're old.

I'm thinking about this a lot this week in terms of family size. We've always assumed that we would have two children, minimum. But what if we only had one? Recent studies are showing that only children score better on intelligence tests than kids from large families, and do just fine socially - contrary to popular opinion. They are also more likely to go to college, and obtain graduate degrees. How would the quality of our life as a family increase if the quantity of our children was limited to just baby J? What about the quality of her life? Would she miss having a sibling to grow up with?

This is the first time I have ever seriously considered having an only child. And I'm just playing with the idea with right now. These thoughts are symptomatic of becoming aware of how well most of the counter cultural choices we have made are working out for us, and the high level of satisfaction I feel with my family as it is right now, A+A+J. I believe that parenting is a vocation, and I know that as such there is a discernment process around choosing to bring any child, first, second or fifth, into our family that we haven't entered into in any meaningful way yet for anyone new. But it's nice to dream all sorts of dreams, and to feel that we're great as we are, where we are, right now.

*I just want to mention that I am aware that all of these choices - to live in a smaller space, to consider adopting or not adopting again, etc. are markers of privilege especially when viewed through a global lens. I don't mean to imply that we are in any way better or more noble or less wasteful than anyone else by choosing the way we do! There are those who do much better at small, simple living than we do. I just mean to imply that we're loving what we're doing. ♥

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

grace margin and the benefit of the doubt.

One of the posts I'm most proud of from pre-J, some advice on hearing someone's "we're adopting" announcement or making one yourself, is re-worked and up on Offbeat Mama today. Working on that post again got me thinking about how things are different now, when people ask us about our adoption process on this end of things. While some of the same principles apply, I think I have pulled in my own boundaries a bit in terms of my internal response to some of the common questions people ask.

In that post about announcing intent to adopt I wrote:
Remember all the questions you had, internal and external, about adoption before you knew anything about it and don't hold your friends to a higher bar than you would have held yourself before the idea of adopting first crossed your mind.

Now that J is here my attempts to hold that line of grace take more effort than they did before we were connected to a flesh-and-blood child. For example, last weekend Andrew and I were at a party that we attend every year with Andrew's dad. This is usually the only time we see this particular group of friends, most of whom are our parents age. Many folks asked us about J, and what our lives as new parents are like. A few people hadn't heard yet, and it was fun to tell. But somehow I found myself in a conversation, losing my patience with the obviously uninformed and unaware person asking me questions. It is a familiar conversation, and for some reason I usually find myself having it with people who don't know me very well, if at all. It went like this:

Other Person: What happened to her mother?

Me: What do you mean?

OP: Was she a drug addict? Why did she give up her child?

Me: I don't share personal information about J's first mom, but she chose to relinquish J because it was the best option for her child.

OP: I have two children, maybe you can't imagine this because you don't have biological children, but I just can't imagine giving them up.

Me:....

At this point another less idiotic person cut in and changed the subject, obviously embarrassed at the turn the conversation had taken.

This is the most dramatic example of this conversation that I've had so far, but it seems like the two themes of "was her mother a drug addict" and "as a biological mother of my children I can't imagine a situation where I would let someone else raise my child" keep coming up when white folks get curious about baby J. Both of these themes really piss me off.

First, I don't share personal information about J's first mom with strangers, especially not strangers who look at my child (or in this case a picture of my child) and jump to drug addict. This is hard for me, because I want to say NO NO NO SHE IS NOT A DRUG ADDICT YOU GIANT RACIST JERK. Sometimes I will, because it is true and saying nothing makes it seem like I am hiding a secret. Or because people need to know that while poverty and drugs are often connected they aren't synonymous and most people in dire economic situations aren't there because they are addicted to drugs. I usually leave off the GIANT RACIST JERK part, though. Even though there is no doubt in my mind that the assumption is racially motivated. If J were white most white people would picture her first mother as a misguided teenager. Because she is black they picture someone else entirely. (For the record, no black person has ever asked me for personal information about Z, or asked in hushed tones if J was "born healthy" or done anything to imply that she is other than beautiful and perfect.)

Second, no - I cannot imagine what it is like to have a biological child. But my inability to imagine parenting a child I have given birth to pales in comparison to the ability of any biological mother I know who is parenting her child to imagine the situation that a woman must be in to face the choice of making an adoption plan. So shut up about it - you are not every woman who has ever given birth. Your experience of biological motherhood doesn't give you any special information or special right to make judgments about anyone else, just because they have also had the experience of giving birth.

Can you tell my patience levels have gone down, since the days when I would happily field all sorts of questions about our then-future adoption?

I have been thinking about this change, and I think it has to do with the person of my daughter and the fiercely protective love I feel for her and anyone connected to her. This especially applies to her first mother, and biological family, who are not here daily in our lives to defend themselves. Despite knowing better I feel surprised when I find myself in interactions like the one mentioned above, where someone feels free to ask about information that is obviously quite personal simply because it pertains to a baby who is too young to know and a woman who must seem, to the inquirers, very far away. I am still happy to educate people, and usually to answer questions about our process and the parts of our adoption story that belong to Andrew and I, or the three of us. But I am much less willing to give nosy inquirers the benefit of the doubt, now that my daughter is here. My margin of grace has definitely shrunk.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Echo

I imagine this is something that happens to all of us, as we grow. It started, for me, the first time I lived on my own in a house with a kitchen (not a dorm). I would be cleaning something and for a moment a faded memory from childhood would superimpose itself over my activity - playing house, or watching my mother scrub a counter. It was something like deja-vu but different. The sensation is similar to how I feel now when I go back to where I grew up and drive once-familiar roads; everything is different but the memory of how it used to be lingers like a fog.

Last week we had our first night out for fun without J. She goes to bed early, by 6:30 most nights, and so was all tucked in when our seventeen year old babysitter arrived a little before seven. I took Beth on a quick tour of the kitchen, microwavable pizza and popsicles in the freezer, this is how to stream netflix on the wii, etc. and Andrew took out his wallet to pay her. We promised to be back around ten and off we went. As the door shut I could see her settling into one of the chairs, pulling out a book.

We were giddy, rushing to the car and off into the night to meet up with friends. As we drove away towards white wine and candlelight I could feel the echo, memories of watching very grown-up people head out for evenings of whatever-it-was-they-did while I watched their televisions, got their babies to bed, and scanned their bookshelves for something racy. I had always preferred babysitting at night, because of the sense of freedom and alone-ness once the little ones were snug and dreaming. I don't recall the least bit of curiosity about their parents' activities, out being adult somewhere.

Well, I thought to myself, leaning over to thread my arm through Andrew's and rest my head on his shoulder while he drove. This isn't so terribly grown-up, after all.

Friday, July 30, 2010

And a cherry on top!

I've seen these award-thingys passed around the blogosphere before, but since I got this one from one of my very favorite bloggers, TG, I'm going to play this time! TG got hers from Andy, another open adoption blogger who I have a lot of respect for.

Apparently these things have rules, so here I go:

1) Thank the person who gave you the award.
I have a date with TG in about a week, to meet her in person, and I couldn't be more excited. Those of you who read here might remember her from the Open Adoption Interview Project, when I was thrilled to draw her as my person to interview. She is smart, thoughtful, and has provided me with a lot of insight into what it is like for one person, at least, to be on the first mom side of the adoption triad. Thanks lady!

2) Insert award into post


3. Name 3 things you like about yourself.

1.When my mother was here to visit a few weeks ago I was expounding upon my love for our condo, even though it is small and one-bedroom-y, and how it is the perfect place for us now, and for a long time to come and why. She looked at me and said "One thing that is wonderful about you is that wherever you are you are utterly convinced that it is the most perfect place to be." I was surprised because that statement hasn't always been true for me. But I like that right now, it is.

2.I'm not a neat freak. Not by a long shot. But in years of loving and interacting with people who are - who I appreciate - I have come to like that I don't need everything to be spit spot all the time. Could I do better at cleaning? Yes. But my dirty secret is that I kind of like a little comfortable, lived-in clutter. And I like that I like it!

3. I like that I always have not one, not two, but at least five plans for any given situation. Need options? I got'em. And if I don't just give me a couple minutes.

4. Post a photo that you love.


This is me and baby J yesterday afternoon. We were out gardening with one of our neighbor families, and Andrew came home and snapped this.

5. Tag 5 people to pass the award on to.
First let me say that TG stole at least two of the people I would have passed this along to, with herself making three. Thanks for making it hard, lady! Let's see (and seriously, no hurt feelings if you don't want to play!)

1. Debbie B. at Always and Forever Family. I've been reading Debbie's blog for a long time now and am constantly impressed with the honest way that she approaches parenting her gorgeous little Belle. She is also an inspiration to me with hairstyles! I hope I can be as good at doing J's hair as she is with Belle someday!

2. Andrea Shiftercars whose blog isn't adoption related at all but who constantly inspires me in many ways! This woman designed my wedding, people, and is currently the only person I trust to pick out my eyewear. She doesn't post much, but if I could afford (and justify) to pay someone to style my life, I'd pick her. Andrea is also the reason I started blogging, way back in my LJ day, because her writing was as stylish and compelling as everything else about her.

3. Carrie at Growing a Baby. I first started reading Carrie's blog when our blogs were pitted against each other in a contest last year. I kept reading it because she is so very honest about the issues that confront her as a stay at home mom and truly never sugar-coats the experience. Also, her kids are super cute.

4. Jenny at PhotoJJ. So if I had endless funds and zero scruples about spending them all on making asthetic improvements to my life I would hire Andrea to style me and Jenny to hang out with me every day and take my picture. (Also, incidentally, Ruthie would make all the clothes for my entire family.)I met Jenny when she started playing bass in my band and only later discovered that her true calling is behind a camera lens. If you like any of the photos I've taken of J it's probably due to coaching Jenny's given me. Her blog is all photographs of people I don't know but I love looking at them anyway. Life through Jenny's lens is always beautiful and never the same from one frame to the next.

5. Evergreen at Evergreen Baby. Evergreen was one of the first blogs I read from before adoption through the whole process. She doesn't post as much now that her little one is over a year old and keeping her quite busy, but I always go straight to her on my reader when there is something new.

That's my Friday-fun post! Look for meatier topics again next week.