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.