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


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.