Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Birthdaversary pt. 2 - It's my Birthday!

I have officially, as of 7:10pm PST today, been around the sun 32 times. Other than coming home to the traditional Williamsburg Orange Cake (baked by Andrew the Master Baker) and getting to lick the frosting bowl -HEAVEN - it's been a fairly normal and regular routine day. Which is fine - 32 is sort of a normal and regular birthday. After all, I didn't get my license (although crap! my DL expired today. Just realized that.)or even a discount on car insurance.

So to keep things lively around here, and in keeping with the theme of this year's birthdaversary - our ex-rock-n-roll lifestyle - I thought I'd post a retrospective of sorts from my own rockstar days. Just for fun. And also because I was thinner back then. :P

23 years old, brand new to the rock n roll lifestyle. Photo by Kate Crowe.

First tour, I think? Photo by Jenny Jimenez.

Waiting for the ferry on the way to the peninsula to play.

I think this is from the first show we played with Andrew's band. Apparently I made quite the impression. Photo by Chris Van Wick.

Shooting our music video...I forget who the photographer was on this one - anyone know?

It's fun to look at these and realize how much fun I've gotten to have already in life. I have no doubt the adventures ahead will be just as magical. Even if I don't look quite as badass in the photos. (Having three other women around constantly to style me and help with hair and make-up was definitely a plus. ♥)

Okay. Time for cake.

p.s. my Who's Watching the Baby post got picked up by Offbeat Mama and posted today! So fun - and welcome to anyone wandering over here from there. Thanks for checking me out.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

the value of a difficult story

Yesterday morning in Godly Play we worked with the lesson "The Faces of Easter." We've been working with this lesson for all of Lent, building more and more of the story every week. The materials are made up of seven rectangular pieces of wood, each with a different "face" of Jesus - the baby, the boy who was lost, the baptism, the wilderness, the healer/teacher, the last supper, and then the last piece which is painted on both sides: the crucified Jesus, and the Resurrected Christ holding the elements of the Eucharist, bread and wine. The way the lesson works is that each week of Lent we tell more of the story - so the first week we just hear about the baby. The second week we hear about the baby and the boy. The third week we hear about the baby, the boy, and the baptism and so on.

So Palm Sunday is the day when we hear the whole story. And as the storyteller it's sort of a tough day, because it is a tough story. It's not a small thing to face a circle of 6-10 year olds and tell a story where a good person is tortured to death. They take it seriously. They find it shocking.

So, each year when this story comes around I have to ask myself: why tell it?

I think there are two reasons why I love to tell this particular story. First because it is true. Second, because they get it. Maybe even better than I do.

So the truth thing. I'm not so much talking about literal, scientific, historical truth. There may be elements of that to this lesson, but that's not the sort of truth I am concerned with. I tell this story - the difficult story of Jesus' death and resurrection - because it conveys what I believe is a central truth about life and God that cannot be told in any other way, not through science or historical fact, etc. This is the story of my faith tradition, the one that all the other stories and narratives - including the narrative of my own life as a person of this faith tradition - connects to and builds upon. It's hard and ugly. And then you turn over the picture and it is nourishing and whole. You can't have the one without the other. It is a truth, and also a mystery.

And every year I wonder if this time someone is going to be traumatized or overwhelmed by the story. But today, like in the past, I looked into the faces of my small friends and realized that kids get this. If anyone knows that the world is scary and unfair, children know it. They are still fresh enough in the world to be close to the harsher discoveries of childhood - that things don't always work out, we can't always get what we want, sometimes the things/pets/people we love die. Kids know all about betrayal. And they know all about miracles and about hope. The more often they hear this story the more its truth will become a part of them. And hopefully the more ingrained their lived knowledge of that truth will become.

So I think about J. And all the difficult conversations we have ahead of us. Some of them are the ones every parent faces. Some of them are unique to families like ours. And some, ones I cannot perhaps imagine yet, will be totally unique to our little family. But I need to remember that what is important is that we are truthful: honest about the ugly parts as well as the nourishing and wonderful parts. She will get it. She will understand. It is the truth about her life, our life, just...life. That is the truth and the mystery of our family - of all families perhaps - that you cannot have good without also having the difficult, the darker parts of the story. My faith tradition teaches that even the darkest stories, the most hopeless scenarios, even those hold the promise of new life and resurrection. This week, as those in our tradition move solemnly through the darkness of our story towards the light that is coming on Sunday, I am reminded that all of our difficult stories - when told well and told honestly - can hold that sort of promise in their depths.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Nobody likes a bragger...

So I won't go into all the reasons why having this man as my partner makes me feel like the luckiest human in all the known universe.

I met him when he was but a babe of 23:
(U-district photo booth, early 2004)

Today he turns 30, marking the beginning of our 5th Birthdaversary.

This has been a big year for us, and I've watched the love of my life really come into his own despite a ton of transitions. One of the more bittersweet transitions was the ending of his band and with it an era of our lives. To celebrate I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite pictures of my husband doing one of the many things he excels at: performing.

This photo is by Ryan Scheirling, who took it during a show at Hell's Kitchen in Tacoma. Andrew's the guy up at the top, being held up by the adoring crowd.

At a packed out all ages show in the boys' hometown on the peninsula. Photo by Chris Van Wick.

photo by Breanne Curran.

Photo by Chris Van Wick.

Happy Birthday, Darlin'

You are my heart, and I am having the best time living life with you. ♥

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sweetie got me thinking..

My dad and step-mom are in town this week, henceforth known as Papa and Grandma N., so A+A+J has been having a lot of extended family time. It's been a lot of fun. It has also been the most intensive time that J has ever spent with her cousins, my brother's kids. His oldest, I'll call her Sweetie, is almost four and full of questions. Sweetie loves her baby cousin. In fact, both Sweetie and her one year old little brother, let's call him Cub, (can you tell I'm moving towards a more pseudonymous approach to blogging?) spend a good portion of the time we're together angling to touch, hold, or pet on J. It's very sweet.

Now, four year olds are very observant, so both Sweetie's mom and I have been wondering when and how she would notice that our baby J is a different ethnicity than her Uncle Andrew and Aunt Alissa.

"Auntie Lissa," Sweetie said to me the first night of Papa and Grandma N's visit, "why does J's hair stand up like that?"

"It's curly," I replied.

"Oh." She said. "Maybe she needs to wash it."

I'll admit it, my knee-jerk internal reaction was shock. What??

"Why do you say that, Sweetie?"

"Well, when Cub's hair gets curly mommy says it's because it's time to wash it." She explained.

Of course. Cub has that fine, straight white-baby hair that curls up when it gets greasy. Sweetie didn't think there was anything wrong with J's hair, she was just comparing it to the other baby she knows. My niece lives in a pretty white dominated part of town, and doesn't go to daycare. She hasn't had very many opportunities to meet and play with brown kids. We had a good little talk about how beautiful J's hair is. And also how her bald spot will eventually grow back, when she stops sleeping on her back all the time, a matter that, as it turns out, was bothering Sweetie much more than the curling.

The next day Sweetie and Cub came over for the morning so their mom could run errands. J went down for her morning nap and the other two cuddled up to me for some storytime. We read Whose Knees are These, which features some very beautiful brown knees.

"It's that little boy, they are his knees!" Sweetie pointed out at the end of the book.

"Da!" Proclaimed Cub, having his say.

"That's right," I said. "He has brown skin like baby J."

"I don't have brown skin," my niece observed.

"No," I said. "You have pink skin."

"No I don't!" She giggled, looking at her skin. "I have skin colored skin!"

"Really?" I asked her. "You know there is more than one color for skin." Sweetie looked baffled. "Baby J has skin colored skin, too, right?"

"Oh." Sweetie looked thoughtful. "Yeah, I guess so."

So the next book I reached for was The Colors of Us, recommended by a reader here. We had fun thinking up delicious names for the colors of our skin.

I feel like this is good practice - Sweetie's questions about skin color and curly hair are totally normal expressions of curiousity about something she doesn't quite understand. She won't remember these conversations, she's too young. But hopefully she'll notice the next time someone tells her something is "skin colored."

So the thing I'm thinking about is, how can I create a home life for J where she doesn't grow up thinking her skin is "brown" and my skin is "skin-colored?" I think it starts with the language I use now, talking about skin color and hair texture and other differences in affirming and truly descriptive ways. There's no "regular hair" or "normal nose" or "normal skin color." Maybe, just maybe, there isn't even a privileged "normal" anything.

Just some thoughts. Not completely coalesced yet. Thanks Sweetie, you sure got your Auntie thinking. ♥

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Open Adoption Interview Project is here!!

One of the reasons I love the Internet is the role it can play in connecting people with each other. I have met some wonderful friends through this mysterious connection of wires, servers, keyboards and screens - moms parenting biological children, adoptive moms, and some wonderful first moms, and adoptees(some of whom are also moms). A few of these people I have had the privilege of meeting in person, some I just dream about one day adding the label "Friend IRL" to our shared experiences.

A lot of these connections, especially in the adoption world, were made through Heather at productionnotreproduction.com and her open adoption blogroll. That blogroll is one year old and to celebrate many of us are participating in an Interview Project. Heather has randomly assigned us a partner to interview/be interviewed by and today's the day we post those interviews on our respective blogs.

It would be hard for me to adequately express how stoked I was when I got my assignment and it was Thanksgiving Mom (TG, for short.) I've been reading her blog for over a year now, and it's a good one. TG is a first mom who relinquished her daughter using California's Safe Haven laws around Thanksgiving in 2006 and ended up in an open adoption. For blogging purposes she calls her daughter Cupcake, and her daughter's adoptive mom is Dee. Her boyfriend's call-sign is LongBoard (LB). If you're considering domestic open adoption, or are in one, I highly recommend trolling through her archives. I could talk more about how much I like her writing, her ability to speak from her own experience without assuming it's like other people's and much more, but I'd rather let her talk. So, here are her answers to my interview questions! (You can find my answers to her questions over at her place.)

In the title of your blog you describe yourself as a "Safe Haven Mom." I'd love to hear more about what role, if any, you think the way in which your daughter was placed plays in your current open adoption now.

I'm not sure how much of a role the method of placement plays in my open adoption as it relates directly to Dee and Cupcake in the present. But I think it will someday, because I'm sure there are questions that Cupcake might have relating to that. Which is a conversation that I'll save for the two of us when that time comes.

It has, however, influenced our relationship in the past. Dee and I have had our conversations about using Safe Haven, we've addressed those issues, and while they may certainly be readdressed as necessary, I don't think it affects how she sees me or interacts with me on a day to day (well, I suppose I should say on an "update to update" or "visit to visit") basis.

However, to tangent a little bit from your question (tangent-ing already?? This is gonna be a LONG interview! haha) - I think that the Safe Haven element plays a part, and always will, in my identity in the adoption community. It colors the way some people look at me, hear me, react to me, approach me. I suppose I could gently remove that portion of the subtitle, but to do so now would be to hide part of the path that brought me to where I am today.

In the past month, has there been a certain topic/forum post/theme out in the adoption blogosphere that has really annoyed or enraged you as a first mom? Can you tell us about it?


Without getting into the whole thing, there was a thread about teen pregnancy and what we should do about it. And it was said (okay, insinuated) that the old days of shaming pregnant girls was good because it taught other girls a lesson.

It made me sick. And I couldn't get over it. I'm still not over that statement. I will never, ever accept that shame should be a tactic to lower teen pregnancy rates. As a first Mom, I know how many of us placed because of shaming. And I know what it did to my dear friends. In turn, to their children.

I've been working on a whole post about this, but I'm not ready.

One of the things I really admire about your writing is that you are good (really good) at telling your story and not other people's stories. That is, you don't tend to make generalizations about adoption - like adoption is good or bad. So, speaking out of your experience, what do you think needs to change about domestic infant adoption? Feel free to write about one thing or a few things. (or none!)

I've been mulling over this question for a few days, and one of the things that bothers me most in AdoptionLand is when I hear of folks flocking to places like Utah so they can avoid having to search for a Father to sign TPR. Or wanting to adopt from a state where TPR is irrevocable immediately. Or, the worst, where a Mother (or Father!) can sign TPR before the baby is even born.

I hate the idea of these, often called, "Adoption Friendly" states. I would love, love, love to see standardized practices developed at a Federal level. I would love for the amount of time required as a minimum before TPR to be standardized - and fair! Before birth is barbaric. 24 hours doesn't seem much better to me. I'd like to see TPR's not being signed in hospitals at all...I'd like for new Mother's to not be on pain medication, possibly recovering from surgery, and experiencing huge hormonal changes when they make the most important decision of their lives. And then I'd like that signature to be revocable for an adequate amount of time. (Which I haven't yet determined, so I'm being vague on purpose here). I'd like to see something done about this Putative Father Registry, because it's a joke. Most men don't even know it exists, so how would they know that they need to be on it? There's a LOT that needs to be done, if you ask me - which you did! - regarding ethical domestic infant adoption.

I could write about this for days, and I'm leaving bunches out, but these are just some initial ideas on what really rubs me wrong...

Who do you think you'll tell about Cupcake first, your family or LB?

Long Board.

Absolutely, no question about it.

I know I haven't spoken about this recently, but that doesn't mean I don't think about it often.

I've seen you write about your degree in passing, but I'd love to hear more about it..it's a Masters in...Education? See. I need to pay more attention. I'd also love to hear more about the type of work you do.

I have a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Studies with a double emphasis on Interpersonal and Organizational Communication and General Public Speaking. I then got my Masters Degree in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Social Scientific Research. I've been published in a peer review journal, which I thought was pretty cool, but regrettably don't get to do much of that anymore.

BUT - spoiler alert - I've been secretly working on developing a research study focusing on perceptions of first and adoptive Moms. I'm pretty psyched about it, now I just have to actually start writing it. Then I've got to find people that can help to gather date...so if you're a college teacher, then expect a call for help from me someday!

I currently work for a major non-profit health organization that I don't like to name publicly because of the venting that I'm apt to do here. (Though if folks have paid attention I'm sure they can figure it out, I still just don't want to be the one that says it outright). For them, I am responsible for all the fundraising in my area. I organize and execute a Gala that's a 500 person event with Silent and Live Auction, dinner, dancing, live entertainment, etc. It's coming up next month and I'm crazy stressed about it! I do other fundraisers as well, but they're on a smaller scale.

I also implement programs and services in the community, focusing on our advocacy, education, and patient service efforts - and I LOVE this part of my job.

When you dream about what it might be like to have even more openness in your relationship with Dee and Cupcake, and think about the future, what is something you can't wait for Cupcake to ask/to tell her?

In some ways the thing that I'm most afraid of her asking is the thing that I'm most looking forward to as well. I have kept the story of her birth fairly close to the vest. Sure, I've shared the factual portions as they pertain to me: labor, delivery, etc. But I've never put into words, the right words, what it was like when I first saw her. When I first touched her. The joy and pride that I have that I was the first person on the planet to do those things. I can't wait to tell her about those first moments we had together. That time when the rest of the world didn't exist because it was just the two of us.

Of course, the hard part is the next part. Where the world came into such extreme focus that it was hard to see anything. Where the two of us seemed like a distant memory because o fall the commotion and all the other people that were now, and would forever be, ingrained in our story.

Is there anything you're dreading her asking/telling her someday?

Uh, see above?

But also....I dread talking to her about her biological father. I don't know what the right amount of honesty is. I haven't even come to terms with my feelings about him, let alone begun to figure out the way to talk to my child about him.

Do you want to get together for coffee next time you hit up Seattle? I could make a good case for how fun it is to live here!!


It's practically on the books already if you ask me!

Cake or Pie?

Can I get away with being UBER cheesy and say (cup)cake???

Aw come on! You ASKED for it! Haha!

Okay, brushing away my desire to be corny....depends. I do LOVE cake sometimes. And not just like, "BAM - chocolate cake - easy answer." But we're talking Red Velvet, Lemon, Spice, Carrot, (no Angel Food though, thank you), Funfetti, Strawberry, plain ol' white, you name it!

Buut then....ooooh, pies! Strawberry rhubarb, chocolate cream, banana cream, pumpkin, homemade apple!

And let's not get me started on cheesecake, okay??? I'll never shut up!

Why do you love football so much? It is purely familial, or is there something integral to the sport itself that really appeals to you as an individual?

Football definitely started as a family thing. Pops is into it, my Mom is into it, and I have four older brothers....that all helps. But I'm definitely the biggest fanatic in the family. My Mom would challenge that statement, but I maintain that I'm a football fanatic, while she's a football lunatic. And yes Mom, there is a difference!

I don't know...my love for football is really this crazy gut thing. I just LOVE it! I love the whole atmosphere of the sport - the tailgating, the school spirit at college ball, the band, the cheerleaders, the music pumped into the stadium at pro games, and all the amazing memories that I've made at games. Part of it, I suppose, is that I can't separate the sport from my experience of the game. I've been going to college games since I was a little girl - tailgating with my family, shaking pom-poms, being allowed to scream in public! And now I travel to games - to San Diego, Notre Dame, Indianapolis, New York, Boston - taking in games with friends, making new friends, these lasting memories that I'll never forget.

I can accept that a lot of people see football as this barbaric sport where men basically beat the crap out of each other, but it will always be so much more to me.

You read a LOT of adoption blogs if your blogroll is any indication. Many of them are written by adoptive moms. I would imagine that there are some who you like, some you really like, and others whose perspectives you're not so fond of. Thinking of the adoptive moms you know (Internet or otherwise) and really like, what are some of the qualities they have in common? What about the ones whose approach to adoption makes you feel more of a not-like sensation?

When I first read this question, one adoptive Mom jumped out in my mind - and the first thing I found myself thinking was, "What do all the other women that I appreciate and respect have in common with her?" And then I thought of one common bond she has with one woman, and then that woman connects to the next, but there isn't this one thing, you know? Leading me to conclude that there's no recipe for "Favorite Adoptive Moms" in the TG Cookbook of Awesome People. (Bonus points for weird corniness!)

I love and respect many different adoptive Moms for just as many different reasons.

For believing in me and making me believe that I deserve the title "Mom." For always taking the high road in her reunion, when her child's birthparent makes that as challenging as possible. For maintaining an open adoption when many people would have shut down ages ago. For being able to see that all first parents aren't the enemy, even when their personal experience would completely validate that perception. For putting in the time, effort, and the passion to prepare for their child and be able to better understand their culture, race, and all the things that they could lose because of adoption if not for such diligence. (That one's YOU by the way!)
(aww!thanks!) For really, truly putting the child first. For admitting they don't know everything, and for being open to engage in dialogue. For a million different reasons, that I could never finish compiling. I'm honored to know, either in person or through blogs and forums, so many of these amazing adoptive parents.

The ones that I don't respect?

The ones that make me feel like I'll never deserve the title "Mom." The ones that tell me that open adoption is a gift to me - and one for which I should shut up and be grateful. The ones that assume the worst about their child's birthparents and jump to conclusions at a moments notice. The ones that say, "It's what's best for my child," when behind the thin veil it's apparent that phrase is the way to say "It's what's best for me." The ones that say "birthmother" like it's a bad word.

And with that I've ended this interview on a bad/sad note!!! Which is icky!!! SO, back to that coffee....fingers crossed for August!!!

Don't worry fair readers, when TG and I finally do get to add "friends IRL" to our credentials, I'll be sure to blog about it!

To read more interviews, head on over to Heather's blog where she's linking to all of them.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Looking back a bit...(geek-heavy)

Everyone marks time differently. I mean, most of us use the whole second-minute-hour-day-week-year method, but in reality there are other thing that happen that truly let us know how much time has passed.

For us one of those things is Emerald City Comic Convention. Because we're giant geeks. Last year it was a little later in the year, closer to our Birthdaversary (if you don't know what that is just wait until the week of March 27-April 2nd and all will become clear). This year it was last weekend, and somehow I crammed a day of it in between papers and various work and church commitments. Because I have priorities.

Every year I have my picture taken with Wil Wheaton, my first ever celebrity boyfriend. (We grew up, moved on, and now he's just my celebrity-person-I-wish-I-could-have-over-for-dinner-and-be-friends-with.)


and finally last weekend:

It is amazing, dear readers, what a little foundation and a decent camera can do for a girl when she's getting her picture taken with Wil Wheaton. Also I am pretty sure I haven't had a haircut since last year's photo. Hence my new obsession with braiding.

But of course the best and biggest difference this year is that our geeky family tradition is finally being passed on to the next generation. Baby J will be able to point back to this weekend accusingly, and blame us for everything that goes wrong in her life.

Here's a couple more from the fun times:

Live long and prosper, friends. This is Andrew about to make a very cool face. But they don't let you hang out with this guy long enough to really pose. Hence Andrew and J looking weird and me starstruck and covering J's starfleet insignia with my hand by accident.

Proof that we are raising her to respect both major geek traditions.

Pretty much all the bad guys we posed with forgot to be fierce because of the cuddly baby. C'mon! WE ALL KNOW THAT KLINGONS HATE BABIES!! GRRRAAAH!

J's newfound interest in animals extends to Ewoks evidently. (no offense to Ewoks, of course.)

and last but not least - 100 Geek points if you know who these two are:

Anyone? Bueller? Anyone? Susiebook takes the honors right out of the gate! Ya'll are geekier than I had suspected!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hey look I got featured!

Grown In My Heart, a blog dedicated to adoption issues, featured one of my posts from my TAC Bill of Rights series in their Sunday Showcase yesterday.

Thanks GIMH!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Photo Narrative

Baby J is down for her morning nap and I'm flipping through the gorgeous photos from the family portrait session we did a little over a week ago with Joshua Longbrake. It was a gift from some of the parents I work with at church, and what a wonderful present.

It's got me thinking about photographs and the stories they tell. I guess I'm trying to figure out why exactly photos are so important to me. I feel greedy about them, almost, like I can't possibly have enough.

Over a decade ago I took a road trip with my best friend and the person she was dating at the time, M. M was a man of mystery of sorts who lived (still lives, hi M!) a life that, when retold, seemed too crazy to be real. He presented himself as a loner and a roamer and I loved him for it. D, my friend, did photography as a hobby and so our trip was well documented - the three of us in a dirty white mini-van trekking across the country and back again. M wasn't so much a fan of all the picture taking. I remember his diatribe on why photos were unnecessary, how they could never never capture the reality of a moment and so he had no use for them. D and I took tons of pictures of him anyway.

To some degree he was right. The memories I have now of the road trip are defined less by any clear mental recollection I have of it, and more by the stacks of photos that sit in our storage space. I run into them whenever D is in town and we go on a ramble through my poorly organized boxes of memorabilia from days gone by. A little after that trip M and D broke up, and a few months after that he left our circle of friends for parts unknown. None of us knew what happened to him, no one heard from him for years. I missed M, and part of me wonders if one of the reason I loved to take his picture was a desire to have something of him - just an image - to keep my affection for him alive when he finally chose to go away.

We're back in touch now. Which is fun. I emailed him scans of some of the photos from our trip. He didn't mention them in his reply.

In some ways J's babyhood is like being on that road trip. I know that none of the photos I will hoard on my hard drive and hang on my walls from this time really capture the reality of what it's like to be a family right now. But we are building a narrative. I don't plan on anyone in this family disappearing anytime soon. Babies change so fast, though, so in a way there is a new J every single day. I can never meet this baby J, today's baby J, again. She is so wonderful, it is so sweet to be family with her and with Andrew right now, I just want as many snapshot memory moment photos of it as I can get. I want her, and also Z, to look at these photos someday and get that while the reality of our right now isn't recoverable to our future lives together there are pieces of it - the love and care, the delight in each other, the intention to share who we are with some degree of honesty and intentionality - that will never stop being real.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Who's watching the baby??

Don't be alarmed by the title of the post - currently the answer to that question is me. It's morning naptime and I'm watching her with the assistance of some wonderful modern technology, the video baby monitor. I love this thing, without it I would have no idea how hard she works to maintain that nice smooth bald spot on the back of her precious head!

Back to the title of the post. This is, hands down, the question that I am asked most frequently when I am out and about. I spend a lot of time out of the house without Andrew and baby J. Last week, for example, I spent 20 hours working my university job, nine hours in class, about 11 hours doing consultation projects in a couple different parish settings, three hours at yoga class and three hours at my own parish prepping and teaching Godly Play. Add a few hours of travel and transition time in to that and you're getting close to 40 hours. Andrew, on the other hand, has about 11 hours of classtime, 12 hours of clinic and 1-2 hours of study groups each week. So he's home more right now. The funny thing is that this possibility - the possibility that when I am out working Andrew is home with baby J - doesn't really occur to many people first thing.

"Who's taking care of the baby while you work?" It seems like a harmless question, and really it is. But I didn't realize until I became a mother how against the grain of our current culture it still is for a father to be just as involved in parenting and primary care-giving for a child - especially an infant - as the mother is.

Another common question is this one: "So, is daddy babysitting today?"

I'd bet our mortgage that no one has asked Andrew if I was "babysitting" our daughter when he's been out and about without us. I'm not offended when I'm asked these questions, at least not for me. But I feel a little irked for Andrew. What, because he is a man the best he can do is "babysit" his child? It's not seriously offensive in any way, but I do feel like this is one way our culture shortchanges our men. Let me explain.

One of the things I love about making an effort to engage the world from a feminist perspective is the flip side to feminism. There's the main idea - that women are full human beings in every respect, equal to men and just as deserving of respect, care, safety, and power. I like that and I believe that. These ideas are most often highlighted and played out in direct respect to "women's issues" - women deserve equal pay, the right to move up the corporate ladder, to do whatever men do etc. etc. etc. The freeing aspects are focused on freedom for women. But the whole thing falls apart unless this perspective is freeing for men too. Sometimes that part is neglected.

So the flip side to believing that the arenas of power and control that have traditionally belonged to men should also belong to women and offer them equal opportunity (stuff like politics, powerful careers, high pay, working outside the home for money, etc.) is believing that the arenas of power and control that have traditionally belonged to women also belong to men, and they should be offered equal opportunity there. This is stuff like capacity to nurture and care for children, ability to organize house and home, desire to be involved in an intimate and daily way with the business of the nuclear family. Part of looking at life from a feminist perspective, for me, means believing that these spheres of influence are equally valuable and important, despite the disparate value that our culture places on the public sphere, and that there are human beings of both genders who have the capacity to excel in either arena. Maybe even in both. It proposes the hypothesis that for every woman whose true gifts could have led her to dramatic success as a business person, contractor, fireman, police officer, CEO, state senator, doctor etc. if only she hadn't felt pressured to stay home and raise a family there is also a man out there whose true gifts could have led him to dramatic success as a child-rearer, household organizer, nurturer, and homemaker if he hadn't felt pressured to have a career in more traditionally male role.

When Andrew and I sat down, years ago, to talk about how we wanted to build our family I had concerns from my feminist perspective about expectations. I am not built to be a stay-at-home mom, and I needed him to know that. At the same time, I found the prospect of being the sole financial provider for our family daunting. And I didn't want any children, should we choose to have them, to spend a lot of their babyhood in daycare. Turns out, he was much on the same page himself. It was such a relief for us to let go of the pressures of traditional gender expectations, AND the pressure from the other side to be so radically different that we "reverse" our roles. What if, we thought, we just figure out what we'd each be best at and what our real priorities are and worked from there?

Right now that means that I'm doing more in the public world than Andrew is, and he's taking care of a lot, but not all, of the business of homemaking for the three of us. It means that our baby is always with one of her parents. It means that we have to really talk to each other about all of our household routines because we both have to know how to do everything. It also means that we hold these things as impermanent - we are open to a time when he's doing more "out there" and I'm doing more at home. Or when it's more 50-50.

Most importantly it means that there are no babysitters living in this house - no, not even Daddy.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Words on Wednesday

I was going to make a Wordless Wednesday post but then I realized that I have some stuff to say! But never fear, there will be pictures as well. A couple weeks ago we did an impromptu photo shoot with Rose from Rosemary Photography, with J modeling some baby tutus by Ruthie of Ruthie's Uniform. I think you'll agree, they turned out fairly irresistible:

This sort of posed photography isn't usually my cup of tea - I am wary of objectification and really prefer photojournalist-style pictures - but Rose knows her stuff. Of course it doesn't hurt that my baby is pretty much the most adorable person I know.

We took J to her four-month old well baby check-up yesterday, and she's doing great. Her weight and head size are holding steady in the 35-40th percentile but her height has just shot up! At 25.75 inches long my girl is now in the 90th percentile. Our sweet tall baby girl! Of course, those numbers don't mean much at this age, but so far she's only gone up - at her 1 month she was 40th percentile for height, at 2 months she was 60th. It feels good to receive confirmation that we have a happy healthy baby. Of course after her second round of vaccinations she was not so much "happy." But she was a champ about it overall.

I feel like I'm settling in to this new phase of life, this motherhood thing. Now that the weather is warmer J and I are out and about a lot. I haven't gotten very many offensive comments - although someone asks me about her whenever we're out and about together. I don't mind, I like talking about my baby. I'm starting to feel like I don't have to explain myself anymore when J isn't with me and I tell someone I'm a new mother. The next question is always "how old is your baby?" and when I'd answer "6 weeks" or "two months" I always felt the need to stave off the inevitable "oh, wow you look great for giving birth just ___ weeks/months ago!" (I'm never sure how to feel about that one - do they mean that I look like I could have been pregnant recently and just am on the road to getting my body back? Or should I just take it as a compliment, because I do look great for someone who adopted a baby ____ weeks ago and has been living on less sleep and more processed food than I'm used to? But then, nobody has said "oh well you must have adopted, just look at you! No way you gave birth just ____ ago!") You see how my brain works.

Now there are just three weeks of school left this quarter, and I'm hoping we'll get a court date before the end of March. Life is sweet, busy, overwhelming and wonderful. Which is pretty much how I like it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A box full of darkness

"The Uses of Sorrow"

Someone I loved once gave me

a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand

that this, too, was a gift.

-Mary Oliver, Thirst, 2006

I have grief and loss on the brain tonight. There are the obvious reasons why this may be so - the loss of my aunt and the fact that grief,loss and their relationship to the human existence were a main topic of the lecture in my class this morning top that list. The poem above was written on the whiteboard before class began. Our class was about more than the simple topics of grief and loss - it is a class which has the purpose of introducing students to basic listening skills and the foundations for developing a pastoral presence with others. Much of what we discuss deals with the fundamentals of human interpersonal experience and, like it or not, grief, loss, anger and conflict are inseparable from more desirable experiences such as love, joy, and intimacy.

Yesterday I heard Andrew explaining to one of our neighbors the difference between arteries and veins. Veins, apparently, are a low pressure system. The blood is flowing back to the heart and takes its time. When you take blood from a vein you need to draw it out, coax it from its leisurely path. Arteries, on the other hand, are high pressure. They are full of freshly oxygenated and just-pumped blood. To take blood from an artery you just need to nick it. Once its open the blood will pump itself right out, all over. Our bodies are pretty smart - we keep our veins close to the surface and bury the arteries nice and deep, where its harder to get at them. Grief, loss, anger and conflict feel dangerous and vulnerable to me, like suddenly all my emotional arteries are up at the top, where the veins full of joy and happy should be.

At the same time, I think that these perilous artery-type feelings are sort of like the artery blood. They come from the heart of who I am as a person - that strange and strong central muscle that beats seemingly all on its own, keeping me moving, breathing, living and clean. Without conflict, loss, grief, and even anger I would be so much less alive. Still, even knowing this, I'd hardly choose it for myself or anyone I love.

I am so thankful to read blogs by first moms, and by adult adoptees. They (you, for those of you who are my companions here) help me stay in touch with the loss that my daughter and her first mother have experienced and prepare for the grief she may feel as she grows and incorporates that loss into her identity. It is a unique thing, to be adopted. It is, perhaps, its own box full of darkness.