Saturday, December 31, 2011

and it all comes around again

"Do you miss it?" Melissa asked me as I took a sip of my thai iced tea. She is my mentor, and I suppose also my priest although I am no longer with her on Sunday mornings. We had been talking about my life before St. Paul's and seminary, before children and homeownership and all the hallmarks of adulthood that dot the landscape of my life.

I had to think about it for a moment. I have had a lot of fun in my life. Do I miss it?

"I love to remember it," I said. "But don't exactly miss it."

I'm thinking about that conversation tonight as I sit in a dark house at 9:30pm. The little ones are sleeping and Andrew is at work waiting for all New Year's Eve casualties to start pouring in to the hospital. J made a good effort, her best yet, at sleeping in her big kid bed but ended up back in the crib again tonight. S is out in the living room in the pack n play. Her big accomplishment this week has been learning how to sleep without being in our bed.

I think about other New Year's Eves, in years past. More recent years, the Jubilee years, were rung in with neighbors here at home. The last seven I have spent hand in hand with Andrew, at parties and kissing each other and friends at midnight. I wondered today if I would feel a little left out here in the dark.

But I don't. 2011 was such a year, it's almost a relief to end it quietly. Andrew graduated and launched his career, our family suddenly expanded, we began to learn how to parent two children. I keep waiting for a quiet year, and that never seems to happen. In my heart I don't think I really want it to. Today J slept a whole nap in her big bed, and yesterday S passed her four month check-up with flying colors. I can't imagine better work, better accomplishments to celebrate right now.

So 2011 - I loved you for how I thought you would be manageable and how you were unexpectedly glorious instead. You are, I think, the year my last child was born. You held in your ending some of the sweetest moments I will ever know, and I'll think of them every time Salome smiles.

But oh, 2012. I can't wait for you to get here. Mostly because I fully expect you are the year I will start sleeping all through the night again on a regular basis. (please.)

I wish you all love and wholeness this coming year. May it be full of life that you will someday love to remember.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy Christmas!

On the fifth day of Christmas I finally got around to blogging about it!
helping Daddy trim the tree
We are having a wonderful Christmas season, full of family and fun. J is old enough to be excited and enjoy things like Christmas lights, presents and sugary treats although she's not quite in a place where she understands just why we're getting to do/get/give/eat all this fun stuff. Because of this, and because I remember how crazy-making the holiday schedule was for her last year in terms of sleeping and naps we kept things fairly mellow for the first part of Advent. I buckled and we got a tree mid-December instead of waiting for Christmas Eve, and I don't regret it. It was fun to take the girls to pick one out and spend an afternoon decorating and listening to Christmas music on the record player.

We had a couple fun outings in the weeks leading up to the holiday as well, both of which had riding opportunities! We checked out Zoo Lights with Andrew's family at the zoo in Tacoma, and J rocked the camel rides. We only noticed it was for people three years old and up after we got off! She wanted to stay on the camel and go again.

Then the next week we took a drive up north and met up with my brother and his family for a Lights of Christmas extravaganza that a campground puts on up in Stanwood, WA. That was also extremely fun, if cold. They had free pony rides for anyone under four feet tall (the pony wrangler asked me how old S was and when I told him informed me that the youngest kid they'd ever put on the pony rides was 4 months old. I told him maybe next year.) J did a great job on her own on the pony with Andrew walking next to her and immediately asked to go again. This could have been our entire evening, but we cut her off after two rides.

S likes him, though!
 And that was it for us until Christmas weekend, which we spent on the peninsula with Andrew's family. This was the first Christmas in years that I haven't had church responsibilities (my internship gave me the weekend off) and while I missed going to church it was nice to finally make the big family Christmas Eve event that my husband's grandparents host each year. It was a night full of fun, food, and children that ended with exhausted babies and parents collapsing at my in-laws for a good night of sleep. We did presents there on the first Christmas morning, and spent the day lounging about in jammies and playing with their new baby kitten. Who J is inexplicably terrified of.

We did our little family Christmas yesterday morning on the fourth day - stockings for the girls and a big lovely present for J (S is too little to care and ultimately it's for her too), a new kitchen! She put it too immediate good use, and has been cooking up a storm ever since. Mostly soup (or possibly "syrup" as those are both important food groups for J and it is very difficult to tell which one she is asking for/about at any given time.)

In other news one of my out of town besties came to visit and brought her new husband along which was fabulous. Hers was one of two important weddings that I missed because of baby S's arrival and it was wonderful to spend some quality time with D+D, as I shall now dub them. (you're welcome.)

Also, I got a haircut and realized that many folks have never known me with short hair, especially around this part of the internet. I've had long-ish hair since this blog began. This makes me think that perhaps a photographic hair retrospective is in order, perhaps around birthdaversary time. I am loving having short hair again, though dreading the comments about getting a "mom haircut" which this is not. Although I will concede that S pulling constantly on my hair may have had something to do with the timing.
Happy Christmas Baby!

All in all I hope that your world is peaceful as we all wend our way toward the end of 2011 toward a new year. I am grateful for the perspectives of those who read here, and for the time each of you invest in me, and in us.

Happy Holidays from A+A+J+S! 
(A+A+fam? A+A family? We need a new nickname.)
Christmas Eve 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011


This is my favorite season of the year. I am talking about Advent - not Christmas or winter.  Advent is all about newness, darkness, and waiting. I love that the new year of my faith starts five weeks before the calendar new year. It's like pregnancy, coming first before the jubilant arrival of birth. I love that during the time of the year when even sunlight is dimmer way up north, and only here for about eight hours a day, that it is this time when hope is springing, deep and new.

Andrew and I want to have an Advent tradition in our family. It's hard to know exactly when and how to start it. There are Christmas trees going up all over facebook and I admit to feeling the pressure. I also admit to looking around our space and having not one clue where we are going to put one. I tell myself that next year, when the bassinet and the baby swing and the bouncy chair have been permanently retired, when there are two children sleeping in the kids' room and just the two of us in our bed that it will be easier to figure all this out.

I may be right.

I cannot remember an Advent when I wasn't waiting for something specific to happen. Last year throughout Advent our adoption application sat on the kitchen table and sometimes on the desk, waiting for a decision. We sent it in just after Christmas. The year before I was in the thick of first-time motherhood, waiting for it all to make sense. The year before that we celebrated the first weekend of the church year by attending a weekend adoption training, our first one. The year before that I was waiting for this brand new condo to feel like home. Before that we were moving out of our first apartment together and in with Andrew's dad during Advent - waiting to have enough money to buy a home. The year before that I was discerning whether or not to leave my job, go back to school. The year before that I was engaged and waiting to be married...and before that I didn't know it but I was moments away from meeting Andrew for the first time, on December 10, 2003.

And so it goes. I guess waiting for a tree isn't that difficult to do. I want my children to experience this, the waiting and then the glory of Christmas when it does get here full of lights and greens and gifts. And as much as I dream of the day when my sweet wee baby sleeps soundly in her own bed next to her sister's I don't want to rush this.

In the Godly Play Advent lessons there is talk of the Mystery of Christmas. Such a big Mystery that it takes time to come close to it. Such a big Mystery that it is easy to miss. This year I don't want to miss it, even if it means missing some of the frenzy and fun. This is why I love Advent. It gives me permission to wait on the Christmas tree and spend some time alone, looking with gladness into the dark.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I'm doing a poetry thing, where I try to read more poetry.

Here's the one I am meditating on today:

You Reading This, Be Ready

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting 
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life-

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

~William Stafford~
(The Way It Is)

Friday, November 25, 2011


We are on the peninsula with Andrew's family. Really, truly, they are my family too. I realized this, not for the first time but again, on Thanksgiving day when I arrived without Andrew. He had to work that night. I had my two girls in tow, both of them tired from the two hour drive in the rain that I gave them instead of a nap. Holidays are hard on kids. I learn this over and over every year. So there we were, the tired three of us and an hour later I realized that I was relaxed. I didn't need to worry about where J was or who was holding S. I continue to be amazed by how powerfully cared for I feel when those who are close to us actively love on my kids. Sure they were a mess by the end of the evening but even then Grandma put J to bed in their room and all I had to worry about was snuggling my littlest one to sleep.

Sometimes making a list of all the things I am thankful for feels like bragging. Hopefully I remember to say thank you to the extensive network of support that continually lavishes us with care. Most of what I am thankful for stems from there. Including the obvious stuff, which I say a small prayer of thanks and wonder for every day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

National Adoption Month

It's this month, as I am sure many of you are aware. I wrote something for Offbeat Mama about it, which you can check out here if you like.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Three months old

Baby S turned three months old today - it's all going so fast! I have loved her third month of life so much - the babbling, the smiling, the rolling over (!!! J was five months old when this happened !!) and have I mentioned the smiling? One gummy grin and S wields ultimate control and power over any one of the other three of us. I think it's something about how her eyes smile too. I may be biased but I don't think I've ever met a baby with such a sparkly all-over smile as our little S.  She is completely treasured by every one of us - especially big sister J who doesn't consider her day complete if she doesn't start and end it with baby cuddles. S looks for J, too, and lights up when she sees her sister's face. Life with two kiddos is nuts but heck, it's also pretty freakin' good.
a typical morning scene

The Adoption Blogger Interview Project

Back in 2010 I participated in the Open Adoption Blogger Interview project, the brainchild of Heather over at Production not Reproduction. This year she expanded it to include anyone who blogs at least occassionally about adoption, and I'm glad she did.  Last time I was thrilled to be matched with a blogger I already knew and adored. (still adore her!) This time I was happy to see a name that is completely new to me and get to read Shannon's blog, One Inch of Grace. Shannon is an adoptive mom to biological siblings that she and her husband adopted from foster care and she writes with a sense of humor and blunt honesty that I found both compelling and refreshing.  Here is my interview with her - to see what questions she asked me you can head over to her blog and to explore and meet over 120 people who blog about adoption check out Production not Reproduction today. Heather is linking to all the interviews. 

And here we go:

I've noticed around the blogsphere that many adoptive and first parents who want to write about the hard stuff choose to do it anonymously, or at least under the radar from real life friends and family. Your blog is not only very honest about the challenges you face and read by your family but you also invite them to write guest posts. Could you write a little about how you came to decide to invite those close to you in real life to read and also write your blog?
My mother is a frequent guest poster on One Inch of Grace. If you read her posts, you'll see that she wasn't an enthusiatic adoptive grandmother at first. As most mothers and daughters have, we've experienced our share of struggles over the years, and our adoption was one of the most severe. She's changed her opinion over the last several years, and I think her experience is  an important one to share. Many extended family members are affected by adoption, and many adoptive families need the support of their extended families. Having my mom post on One Inch of Grace has been helpful to our relationship as we work to understand each other. And I hope her experience will help others who are reluctant to become grandparents, aunts, or uncles through adoption. 

My sister is probably one of my top readers and I think this just speaks to her personality. She is one of the most accepting people I know and I'm thankful that she wants to know what is going on in our family. She and her partner have been an incredible aunt and uncle to our kids.

I also have several aunts and friends who are regular readers and they've also been very supportive.
Most of all, I want to be honest about adoption - I want people to know it's not easy, and we're not saints.

Writing is obviously a huge outlet for you, and I really enjoyed reading the pieces you have submitted to various publications that didn't end up being published. What writers do you look to for inspiration?
I've always been a reader, and I'm a fan of classic fiction. Some of my favorites are "The Power and the Glory" by Graham Greene, "Dead Souls" by Nikolia Gogol, and "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde, and "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Brontë. I've been a member of a book club for several years now, it's really opened me to up to current books. Some of my new favorites are, "The Poisonwood Bible," by Barbara Kingsolver, "The Help," by Kathryn Stockett, and "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer.

Can you say a little about how you and your husband decided to adopt from the foster care system?
My husband, J, and had talked about adoption over the years, but we really started talking about it seriously about four years ago. We knew that the adoption process could take years and that if we wanted to go ahead with it, we should make the decision soon. We've never (as far as we know), experienced fertility issues, we simply wanted to add to our family, and felt that we had the love, resources, and desire to parent a child (or children) that are already here. We opted for the foster care system because there are many children in the system who are waiting for families. Unfortunately, they aren't as "in demand" as infants are.  

What are one or two things you discovered along the road to becoming a parent that you wish you had known up front?
There were a lot of things I knew - things that I had read or had been told about, but I didn't fully understand them until we had kids. I had read about how challenging it would be and had been told about the issues our kids would face, so I was prepared in a general sense, but I really didn't understand how it would be specifically for us. It's probably one of the hardest things I've done. 

You and your kids share a race so there is nothing immediately visible about your family that screams adoption. How do you decide who and when to tell? 
I'm still trying to figure this out! Our adoption was finalized about a year and half ago, but it still seems very new, as though it is the defining element of our family. I find myself wanting to share this information at completely unnecessary times, simply because it is on my mind. I hope that as we attach and grow together, it won't always be on the tip if my tongue. I was recently at the park with my son and I happened to run into a childhood friend. She commented on how much my son looks like me. I was proud of myself - I just said "thanks," and didn't elaborate.

Reading your blog it seems like your view on the potential for an open adoption in your family has changed since you began writing - do you think open adoption is different/more/less challenging in a foster care adoption situation?
I don't know if I would say my view has changed; we've always been accepting of open adoption, but I think that my understanding of it has changed. Through reading and talking to a lot of different people, I've come to see that biology really does matter, and that I only think it doesn't matter to me because I have my biological family. If I didn't have them, I'm sure that I wouldn't take it for granted.

When it comes to our family, I say that we have a semi-open adoption. My kids were separated from their parents for neglect, but we've maintained relationships with members of their biological family. We feel that this is very important for our children's development.

What is your biggest pet peeve?
When it comes to my kids - whining. I can't think of anything more annoying. In general, people who like to argue.

You are a vegetarian and your family eats meat - what's your favorite veggie recipe to make for them?
Unfortunately, I haven't found any vegetarian foods that my kids really love. Here are some vegetarian-friendly food that they'll eat without too much complaining: tofu, hummus, couscous, veggie burgers, bean and cheese quesedillas, and soy milk.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fierce and Lovely

photos by JennyJ 
This weekend two of our dearest friends had the gall to get married, not to each other, on the same day. There was nothing to do but divide and conquer, with baby S and I flying to California for one wedding while J and Andrew stayed in Seattle for the other. Which was shot by my beloved Jenny. Above is J hamming it up in the photo-booth. Jenny sent me these to tide me over through yesterday as S and I spent time with family before coming home.

The California wedding didn't have any professional photographers but it did boast the most rockin' dance floor I've had the opportunity to shake it on in a long long time. This was my best friend's wedding, and my eyes filled with tears as I watched my childhood friend, high school soul mate, college roommate and forever chosen sister stand up and pledge her love and commitment to the woman she loves. In the eyes of the state they will now become domestic partners but the beautiful relationship that I toasted last Saturday night in my role as Nat's matron of honor is every bit as sacred as my own marriage, or any I've ever been lucky enough to witness. Natalie and I made a solemn vow as pre-teens (who read a little too much Anne of Green Gables) that we would stand up at each other's weddings. Six and a half years ago Nat did so for me and I couldn't have been happier to complete our girlhood promise. Twenty years of friendship and counting, my Natalie remains one of the most unique and beautiful people I get to know.

So yes, fierce and lovely. I'm thinking about all the women I love and those are the words that keep coming to mind.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Every child is entitled to opportunities to make friends with people of her race or ethnicity.

It feels like fall just happened here, all of a sudden. I know it's snowing in some places where people I love live, but here in Seattle it was just yesterday that summer started it feels like. And just last week the trees were hardly turning. But now in a flash there are fiery autumn oranges and reds all over the neighborhood trees and the sidewalks are wearing a carpet of fallen yellow leaves. We've had some amazing days (today is lovely for example) but also a lot of rainy ones. Luckily I've discovered that our community center has toddler gym time twice a week. This is a godsend on rainy days when J is bouncing off the walls. We can walk across the street and into the big indoor gym and play in the bouncy house or with the many many other toys they pull out of their closet. Sometimes J just runs from one end of the gym to the other, yelling with joy to have all that space.

The first time we went I was surprised to see that it wasn't very crowded. The girls and I were there with our neighbor Jen and her daughter E. There was another white mom with two girls, the youngest about J's age, and a Latina nanny with two white toddler boys who took up noisy residence in the bouncy house for most of the time we were there.  Finally an older African-American woman arrived with a little boy, I thought he was probably her grandson. He took off for the toy cars, grabbing a basketball on his way, and she sat down on the bleachers and pulled out a book. J was enthusiastically pushing a toy lawn mower from one end of the gym to the other, Jen and E were in another corner with a toy and I was tired of standing up with Salome wrapped up on me in the Moby so I sat down on the bleachers as well.

"He's adorable" I said to the woman reading, " How old is he?" She smiled and told me and then asked the same about my girls.

"She's getting big, talking now?" She said about J, as if she knew her. I said yes, and she smiled kindly at me. "You don't remember me, but I met you at the park last summer when you just had the older one there."

After a moment I did remember - she had been there with her granddaughter - and we got to chatting about parks, play times, kids, and the other things we have in common. As we talked J started chasing her grandson around and he shouted "Grandma! Look she's playing with me!"

Every child is entitled to opportunities to make friends with people of her race or ethnicity.

So this is me, continuing my reflections on the Transracially Adopted Child's Bill of Rights, as promised (and requested - hi Carly!!) I want to make sure, as I write these posts, that I am not setting myself up as some sort of example. This is the hard stuff, and I'm just thinking out loud, reflecting on what I've done that's working and how I am thinking about what might be ahead. I think the key to this particular reflection is the word "opportunities." No one makes a friend without the opportunity to do so, so it's  helpful for me to think about what sorts of situations tend to produce friend-making opportunities and how we might need to work to make this particular sort of opportunity available for our kids.  A few things come to mind.

  • Location: If my child is the only person of her race or ethnicity living in our neighborhood that will cut out a lot of opportunity for forming friendships and connections. Now, not every neighborhood is close or acts like community, but if there are kids in a neighborhood then they'll be at parks, playing on athletic teams, and going to music classes and daycare in that community. All of these are places where my kids will have opportunities to make friends. This is a big motivator for Andrew and I to live small and stay in our diverse urban neighborhood.  J and S see and have opportunities to connect with kids that look like them every time we go to the park or community center or pool. If we lived in a different Seattle neighborhood that wouldn't be the case.
  • Example: I make an effort to talk to other parents and caregivers when we are out and about, especially those who are racially different than me. I'll be honest, it's hard sometimes. This city isn't particularly "friendly" and I think white culture in Seattle especially tends to give people "space." That is a nice way of saying that I haven't observed many white parents at parks talking to anyone they don't know and while there are usually both white and black caregivers and kids at the parks close to our home I cannot recall ever seeing them talking to each other. Likewise, while J is often approached by AA kids that we've never met and asked to play, I can't remember a time that a white child has come up to play with her at the park. I can't help but wonder if these are connected - kids observe that their parents don't cross racial lines and so they don't either. I figure that it is  important for J and S to see me and Andrew talking with, befriending, and socializing with black people. This means people we know well and have established friendships with and just being neighborly at the park. What I do, the way I behave is part of creating opportunities for my child to make friends. (Oh and bonus, it's pretty good for me too.)
  • Paying Attention to Race: J started daycare this past September, something that we put in the works last March. When we were looking around we wanted a few things: local, affordable, small, and diverse. It came down to two places, both small, local, and affordable.  But one had diversity in both caregivers and kids. So we chose that one - J isn't the only black kid at daycare, or the only adopted kid, and she also sees her race reflected in the caregivers there. There is a story that some people like to tell about "not seeing race/color." Families who adopt transracially can't afford to tell this story. Giving my girls opportunity to make friends that share their race and ethnicity means that when we are making choices as a family about where to invest our time and energy - whether it is choosing a school, daycare, neighborhood to live in, park to go to, extracurricular activities to try, etc. - we are going to need to consider whether or not that investment of our time, energy, and money is meeting this need for our children. It doesn't always trump everything else. Church, for example, is a particularly tricky one for us given my professional goals. But it needs to be the most important consideration sometimes. This isn't always comfortable, not for me and not for others. But my girls deserve these opportunities, and if I'm always comfortable they could lose out. 

When I was a kid my friends were kids that lived on our block, went to my school, and went to my church. Of all those friends there is only one that I can remember who didn't share my race or ethnicity. I don't think this was the healthiest of all possible environments for forming my racial identity, though it is a fairly typical one for a white child to experience in our culture. I grew up completely unaware that I too had a racial identity and a racial culture that influenced both how I perceive myself and how the world perceives me. There is absolutely no way that my kids could end up with the experience I had. Even if Andrew and I were the only white people they knew, my daughters would read magazines and books, watch television, and look at billboards. This item on the TAC bill of right's is about the right each child has feel normal in their own skin. That is a journey, for anyone in any skin it is a journey. Each child has the right to have some peers as they grow and figure it out for themselves, friends who are the same road they travel.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The real question

There is a question I have been dreading ever since we decided to adopt again. When I found out that baby S might be ours and really started to think about what it meant to adopt kiddos who share a first mother I started to think about the question again. And we had S for what seemed like five minutes before someone, I think it was the woman at the front desk of the Residence Inn we were staying at, asked it.

"So they're sisters?" She asked. "Real sisters?"

"Yes." I replied with a tired smile and kept moving toward the continental breakfast.

It happened again on the flight home. We had landed and were packing up the kids, me fumbling to get the Moby wrap back on and the baby in it and Andrew trying to hold S while blocking J's exit. The flight attendant from our section stopped on her way toward the front. "They've been so good," she said. "So I have to ask - are they sisters?"

"Yes" I said, looking in some confusion at Andrew who was doing his not-looking at the stranger talking to me thing.

"That is so sweet," she replied and turned to go. But then she stopped a couple of rows up and shouted back with her southern drawl "I mean REAL sisters, honey?! Are they sisters for reals?!"

I get it. And I think that even if my daughters didn't share a genetic connection to each other as long as they were both brown skinned we'd be getting this question. But I don't like it. I like it the least of any question that comes our way and in the past two years I've been asked plenty of rude questions by well-meaning and curious strangers. It comes with the territory and that's what it is.

The answer is many times over yes. Of course they are.  They are real sisters because Z is their first mom. They are real sisters because Andrew and I are their parents. Either of these would make their connection "real." That's not why I hate the question. I hate it because there is a presumption underneath it that this stranger has the right to know something personal about me and my children. And that "real" is the same as "biological" which is narrow to say the least. And I hate it because if I give out this information there is almost always a even more intrusive follow-up question or comment that is disrespectful to my children's first mother. I hate it because even now there are little ears and eyes watching me answer, learning from my responses, and pretty soon they will be wondering why people ask their mommy this question but no one ever asks their Auntie M the same question about their cousins Sweetie and Cub.

Mostly I hate it because while I know what the answer is, I don't have a response to the question that I am happy with  yet. I want them to be proud of all the ways that they are sisters. But I don't think it is okay, and I don't want my girls to think it is okay, for any stranger who looks at us to ask for personal information about how we and they came to be together.

This is one of the tensions of the kind of family that we are. And I thought I was pretty good at dealing with it, that I had my responses ready and my feelings about the occasional insensitive comment in hand. But this really bothers me. Why, you ask? Maybe that is the real question.

Monday, October 24, 2011

My sweet baby J

Two years old!

It's cliche to say it, but also quite true - I can hardly believe that yesterday my sweet baby J turned two. We're feeling pretty mellow this year, and limited our celebrations to family this time around. Grandma threw J a breakfast party at Grandma and Bobo's house, and there's our toddler chowing down on her birthday blueberry crumble, wearing the family birthday hat. She had a great time playing with her cousin T who is ten months older than J and best of all - no one got bitten. Yesterday Andrew and I woke her up with Happy Birthday, which she didn't seem to love judging from the satisfied "all done" she delivered when we finished. We then presented her with her first dollhouse, which she has been playing with obsessively ever since. 

At two years old J has lots of words and is working on sentences. (Her first sentence was "poo-poo all gone.") She is fascinated with bathroom stuff but not quite ready to commit to using the potty on a regular basis. Her favorite song is "Now" by Mates of State because she loves to sing the chorus, a string of now-now-now-now-nows that I am pretty sure she thinks are nononononononos. I suspect saying no that many times is something she finds empowering. She surprises me constantly with her willingness to help with baby sister, even when I need her to help by skipping a story at bedtime or forgoing a cuddle with me because baby needs me. She will even interrupt to say "Mama! Baby up!" (pick baby up) if she feels I am not meeting S's needs properly. It's adorable.

Happy birthday lovely one. You're amazing inside and out. 
hugging on a delighted S

Monday, October 17, 2011

Two months old!!!

S smiling at big sister.
My baby is two months old today! (or, likely yesterday for many of you reading this in the morning tomorrow) We're so so completely in love with our darling second-born it's nuts.  This also means she has been with us for over five weeks. I remember now how quickly it seemed like J hit her first milestones because we came in a little after her beginning - with S it seems even quicker. But it's every bit as sweet.

working it at the gym
 She is smiling now, and cooing up a storm during her happy times. S is so much more alert than the noodly and, I think, somewhat shell-shocked little infant we met in early September. She is content to sit without being held for longer stretches - yesterday she played on her baby gym happily for almost 45 minutes while big sister orbited around her and I folded clothes. (the ones behind the gorgeous babies in that photo above.)

So internet, I have a question for you on this, the occasion of my second child's second month birthday, just days before the day my first child turns two years old. You may have noticed that I haven't been posting all that much since S came into our lives. This is, of course, totally normal given the insanity of two under two and whatnot. But I'm finding that while I don't lack material I do lack focus. So here's my question - what do you want me to write about? Are you more interested in posts about our space and how it's changing or our experience of it is changing? Or plan vs. reality posts for second baby? Or reflections on adoption and how my views have changed or not since this second one? Or just general updates? Or do you have a question for me that you've been wondering about and would like me to answer? Comment and let me know - I'll try to get to everything anyone requests. I know that most of you out there who read don't comment, which is completely fine with me. But if you're inclined now would be a good time!

And let's end with comparison photos of the girls! I find myself often looking back through our photo archives to find pictures of J that match up with where S is now and looking for similarities and differences. It is an amazing thing, and something that in all of the options Andrew and I explored for family building never really made it into any plan: children who bear a familial resemblance to each other.
baby S, two months old and smiling at Daddy.
Baby J, same age and also I think looking at her Dad.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Place Holder

I have lots to say, internet, really I do. But somehow finding the time to say it here just hasn't been happening. I may jot down a note or two to remind myself "hey - write about this thing later" but that's been as far as I've been able to get the past few weeks. Which, I remind myself, is just fine. There is school, new internship, and of course new baby to adjust to. Someday, hopefully someday soon, I'll tell you all about how daycare is going for J and why we chose to send her there twice a week, what exactly we're doing to adjust to a fourth person in our home and the neat new ways we are flexing our space to make our home make sense with two growing kiddos, and all the amazing stuff I'm being exposed to through my independent study readings in Child Theology and Kierkegaard (yes, I'm still working on Kierkegaard).

But for now I'll put a place holder here, and just be newsy and brief. I'll even use bullets!

  • All sorts of people have come to call in the weeks since we got home with our S, but one of the very most important is almost here - Nana! My own sweet mama is driving here as I type and I can't wait to have her around for the next week.  I have been dreaming of this.
  • J is almost visibly maturing, right in front of me, and I think I have the combination of growing into her new big sister role and her two days a week at daycare to thank for it. Her vocabulary is exploding and her social skills are growing, too. I'm so proud of her. 
  • S is gaining weight and already not so much the floppy newborn we met just four weeks ago. It's so fast!! She is helping me work through a whole new set of Plan vs. Reality blog posts in which I write about how we had a plan with J for _____(eating/sleeping/whatever), and we did it and then afterwards we said "man, if we have another kid we are going to do x, y, and z differently!!" and then S came along as was all "yeah - I have a different plan for that thing you thought you were going be so much better at. Suckers." Maybe I'll call it Plan vs. Reality vs. Revision vs. New Reality SMACKDOWN. It'll be awesome you guys. 
And now some photos, so that you feel like there is something worth looking at in this post!
Baby S, not quite grabbing but seriously considering it!

This, friends, is what happens when Daddy tries to help J hold the baby while also taking a picture.  It's my favorite picture today.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

visitors welcome. (photos by Jenny J)

Adjusting to life with two kids under two years of age is busy, my friends. If I had to take a quiz on what exactly has happened in the week since we got home I might not pass it. Blurry. It's all very blurry. Which means that while there is plenty to blog about (I think) the time to do it is scarce. Also, S has made it known that she is what my neighbor Shanon calls a "body baby."  That is, she likes to be held at all times and very effectively communicates her displeasure when she is not in physical contact with another person. This means she is a fantastic snuggler. But blogging whilst holding a baby is a bit challenging. We'd be lost without the Moby wrap! I can blog sometimes at night, if Andrew is home, or when grandparents are over, or at times like this when J is asleep and little S has slept in her daddy's arms long enough to be put down for her long snooze in the bassinet before her post-midnight feeding.

There have been some hard moments, times when I have just had to sort of laugh, thinking how I would have pitied myself if former-me happened to walk past our window and hear S's urgent hungry cry combined with J's louder imitation of that cry (maybe she thinks she is helping, or simply sympathizing?) while I scramble to get a bottle together with a baby in my arm and a toddler pulling on my leg.

But just this morning S smiled at me, and started to really coo and gurgle. And this afternoon J "held" her sister for almost half an hour, talking and gently gently kissing S's forehead while the baby slowly blinked at her big sister and then fell asleep in J's arms.

My visitors keep me sane on the long days when Andrew is at work. Neighbors stopping by just to check on us, friends and family bringing meals and sticking around to hold the baby while I feed or change J, or to play with my big girl for a while so I can do laundry, dishes, diapers, whatever.

Jenny stopped in last week, a favorite visitor at anytime but this time with a camera in tow. I love my girls, and I think you can see they're off to a very good start on loving each other.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings

We had hoped to leave this morning for Seattle, but our clearance came through too late, so we will be heading home tomorrow morning early. I have enjoyed this trip to Atlanta much more than the last one - Andrew is here, we know what we're doing with a wee baby, and our hotel has a pool. I was so grateful last trip to have Nana (my mom) there to help me adjust to motherhood, but it was an adjustment. This time I'm already a mom with many of my own opinions about how to do the whole baby thing - and the confidence to implement them. This relaxed attitude has pervaded this trip for me. All that being said, and despite the fact that I'll miss the sunshine, pool, and daily cleaning and linen service, we are more than ready to bring our girls home.  We bid sad goodbye to Grandma(Andrew's mom) this morning, left to only imagine how much easier the trip home would have been with her help.

There won't be a visit with Z this time. I'm totally fine with this - it is not my decision or my place to have an opinion on when she "should" see the girls or us. I feel grateful that she reads the letters we send, and there are no words for the immense emotions I feel when I consider her decision to entrust us with baby S. We pray for healing and peace for her and remain ever open to contact as and when she is ready.  I conveyed (through Debbie) that we understand and want to follow her lead here, but will continue to send letters and pictures regularly and remain open to any reciprocal communication. When the girls are a little older we will begin to travel to Georgia regularly for family vacations and there will be more opportunities for visits with their first mom.

Both of these decisions/events -waiting for permission to leave GA and Z's choice not to have a visit - have me thinking about how much adoption is teaching me about letting go of the things that are not mine to decide or control. This is hard, especially when it comes to my children and what I believe is best for them, but a good discipline to engage in, not to mention just the way life works. There are so many people involved in our family building who are not J or S's parents, and another person who I've never met who is also their parent. I can't control what these people do or make them decide what I want or in the way that I want. Controlling them is not my job.  My job is to let them do the work that is theirs while doing the best I can at the work that is mine, in this situation the work of mothering two amazing people to adulthood. It some ways it sucks (other people don't have to wait for someone else to tell them they can travel with their kids!) and it other ways it's pretty clarifying.

The cool thing about knowing that I can't control stuff that's not mine, even if I want to, is that I don't have to waste energy worrying about that stuff.  Last trip to Georgia I fretted, worried, chafed and cried over not being able to come home with J when I expected to. This time I've just been making up lists of my favorite things about being here - not least of which has been the chance to take a week of just us-ness (plus Grandma) before we fly home to the many welcoming arms waiting for us there.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

There would be no us without (all of) you

J is sputtering down to sleep in her pack n play, all of her stalling tricks deployed and nothing left but to bite the bullet and go to bed. Andrew is sitting behind me on the red couch that my friends and family on facebook must be completely tired of seeing in pictures by now, whispering sweet nothing into tiny baby ears. And I am sitting at the computer thinking about all of you out there. Yes, you - the ones who do and don't read this blog, our family biological and chosen, the urban tribe of folks I know in real life and here in this world of type and photo: the people who love us in all the ways you do. It is impossible to count them.

You are our family: my mom who traipsed all over figuring out how to wire money to our account so we'd have enough for "everything" with our early baby, Andrew's step-dad who immediately booked us a hotel, and his mom who arrived today to help out with everything. Andrew's dad and my parents and our siblings who waited with us, and rejoiced with us when we found out that she was to be ours.

You are our neighbors - news spreads like wildfire in our building and all week as we prepared and waited baby things kept showing up outside our door. One day it was a bag of newborn clothes, the next a moses basket. Someone brought us a bassinet and there are more clothes and diapers waiting there for us when we get home.

You are my far away ladies - the three of you out there - whose ridiculous generosity and unlimited willingness to share my joy and pain I rely on more than you'll ever know. Maybe. You're all pretty darn smart so, maybe you do know.

You are the bloggers who are brave and honest about your experiences with parenting, adoption, race, and life who educate me as I make big decisions in what can feel like dangerous territory.

You are the invaluable cloud of support that we find ourselves at the center of in moments like this moment - who text and call and answer calls and post lovely jubilant words under facebook photos and announcements and read these words I write and just love us so very well in all the big and small and visible and invisible ways that you do.

So I am thinking about you and it occurs to me that you - all of you - are a big part of why there is an us. I know without a doubt that I bring my girls not only into the little family of Andrew and I plus them, but that because they are ours they are also to some degree yours. You are part of what makes our us so good. We wouldn't be the same without you. We wouldn't be us without you.

So thanks. We love you, too.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Long Story

The long story of our Baby S, or I should say my long story because this is my story of how she came to be with us and no one else's, started this past February or March. We had gone ahead and applied for one of the last available adoption grants with WACAP at the end of 2010 and were stalling with the paperwork.  Our not-so-secret hope was to procrastinate as long as we possibly could so that J would be at least two years old when we were matched for baby #2. So there we were, applied, accepted and procrastinating when I started to think a lot about Z, baby J's first mom.

Andrew and I had decided before ever re-applying that the only matching agency we wanted to work with was the one in Georgia that we had adopted J through. (for an explanation of how our WACAP program worked, see the FAQ that was the very first entry on this blog) I had a lot of reasons for wanting this: it was familiar, our children would share a birth state making trips to the homeland more efficient, and finally I wanted to give Z a chance to see J.  I've never met Z, but I knew from a few emails to the agency in GA that she had been picking up the letters and photos we were sending. Initial paperwork had indicated that she wanted to see J again someday. I thought if I started talking about it letters then maybe she would have time to think on it and perhaps be ready.

The more I thought about Z the more I realized how little I knew about her.  I had been afraid to ask many questions when we had gone to GA to pick up J, it just seemed like my focus should be on my new baby.  But I had some wonderings - inconsistencies in paperwork about her and whatnot. I decided to set up a phone call with Debbie, the social worker in GA who spoke the most often with Z. I told Debbie that was just going to ask her the questions that kept coming up for me, and I asked her to let me know what the appropriate boundaries were - to tell me if I was straying into territory that wasn't my business, or that Z wouldn't want me to know.

I learned a lot from that phone call. Most of it isn't my stuff to tell here on this blog. But the pertinent thing I learned was that Z was pregnant again, and while she had not decided what to do just yet she was considering relinquishment.  Debbie was under the impression that she had just found out about the pregnancy which, by our calculations, meant she was due sometime mid to late fall.

So that's the unbloggable thing I referred to here.

Because of when you are reading this, you probably are able to guess the end of the story. But I want to be clear - I did not at that moment, or even afterward, assume that we would be adopting Z's baby. In fact I worked pretty hard not to assume it. I felt a lot of things in the months between then and now, all of it pretty confusing. My heart broke at the thought of J having another family member out there in the world that she didn't know or see.  My heart broke at the thought of Z losing another child. But my feelings weren't the most important thing - the most important thing was to be ready should Z need to place and supportive of her if she didn't. We accelerated our plans with the goal of being ready to adopt by fall.  Z stopped calling Debbie and picking up photographs. About a month ago Debbie emailed me saying that maybe Z wasn't pregnant after all, that she really thought she would have heard from her if she was.

Of course, she was wrong. Z was pregnant, and further along than any of us knew. S was born full term on August 17th and a few days later Z decided she needed to give her up. When I got the call last week I was completely dumbfounded - I think I actually said "oh no!" It's the only phone call in my memory that made me feel physically dizzy. I suddenly had to sit down.

So we scrambled and waited all at once. S was still in the ten day waiting period when Debbie called to tell me about her. She normally doesn't do that, but she knew we would need time to get ready. It was a hard wait, despite being unexpected. This baby looked so much like my J, I felt so connected to her already. It was hard to remember that she wasn't yet ours.

But the days passed, and here she is. She is Z's daughter, our daughter, and J's sister in more ways than one. I still have Z on my mind, how could I not with two of her beautiful babies forever in my heart and my life? Salome is darling, sweet, already different in some ways from her older sister and yet eerily the same.  We've spend so much time the past 24+ hours marveling at her and at our two girls together. No adoption happens without something in the world going wrong - but looking at them it feels infinitely right that they are together. So we are doubly, triply, infinitely blessed.  J and S will grow up together.  I get to be their mom. It's overwhelming and amazing.

And I think it is about time I met their mother. We are hoping for a visit while we are here - Debbie is helping us with the coordination and details. I won't push, but there are a few people working to make it happen. I know without an atom of a doubt that my girls' first mother loves them completely. It is my hope that we can go forward together, as she is able.

In the meantime, hello family of four! I always thought that our second child would be a boy - the name I had picked out, M, was a boy name. But this - this is beyond anything I could have thought up or asked for. She is perfect, lovely, and everything I've ever wanted. (plus now I don't have to decide about circumcising anybody!)

Thank you so much for your love and support! Our adventure is only beginning...

Sisters and daddy, hugging it out.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Turns out someday is now!

 So guess what? Remember back, oh, last post on this very blog? When I said that "someday" when we had a baby J would share her room? Or even way back when I told you that we were planning to adopt again, and I said that fall was the soonest we could possibly be matched? Well, turns out I was wrong about fall and someday was, well, it was today! Meet Salome, our gorgeous perfect new daughter!

 There is a long story and a short story here, and I'll do my best with both. Although it is evening, and we are in a Residence Inn outside of Atlanta and Andrew is sleeping in one room with J because something went bang and frightened her and I am waiting with bated breath for my darling sweet new new baby to wake up hungry any second. (whew!)

Short Story: Salome was born August 17th, and the agency called us about her on August 30th. We did some serious scrambling, and as soon as her ten days were up - which was yesterday morning- we got on a plane. We drove out to her care home this morning, signed papers this afternoon, and now here we are a family of four. Amazing!! It feels like it all took about as long as it took me to type this - a whirlwind.

The long story, actually I changed my mind. The long story is going to get a post of its own. But now you are caught up, internet. Salome is here, rejoice!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Making (a) room

With a new baby on the way someday in the who-knows-exactly-when future, Andrew and I decided it was more than time to get moving on the baby room/family room re-decorating scheme. You may remember that my brilliant friend Andrea outlined a design plan for us a while ago. Okay, over six months ago. In our defense we've been busy, moving slow.

So - I thought it would be fun to highlight the way our "bedroom" has changed over the four years we've lived here.
Here we have its very first incarnation, in 2007. I was quite proud of the dark blue accent wall, and and our Ikea bed with storage underneath. Note the cds (since ripped and discarded). In fact, I think the only piece of furniture in this picture that we still own is the kids' armoire from Andrew's childhood bedroom. It's currently in the closet and between you and me internet, its days are numbered. 
Next we started getting ready for J, and the first step was the addition of my baby cradle, made by my dad when my parents were expecting my older brother. Note we'd found a piece of art we liked for the wall, and acquired night stands. 

Here's the view of the other side of the room. Looking back, I can start to see our current incarnation forming in this picture - the painting by Megan Myers, the drum and a couple of the little toy pieces are all still with us. 

We eventually ditched the cradle for a crib, and finally even ditched our bed and moved out to the murphy bed so we could have our own sleeping space. We switched some stuff up - with most of the stuff on the walls - picture and art wise - from the bedroom going to the living room, and the fun bungee rocking chair from the living room coming to live in the bedroom.
Still, it seemed like we didn't live in this room as much as in the rest of our home, which was a shame because square footage wise, it's over a third of the total space. 

Part of the reason for this was likely that J sleeps in there for fourteen hours a day, but I also felt like there was some wasted potential. Andrea's vision was the push I needed, and I started to make plans. And we're finally getting there.

May I present - our kid/play/sleep/family room:

I used IKEA picture ledges as front facing bookshelves, and we decided to hang our his and hers guitars on the wall for easy access, making that corner a fun play corner for all of us. Andrew picked out some of his favorite records to display as well, which helps us feel like the room has something for us grown-ups as well as some rock n roll flair. The futon, also from IKEA, is a place to cuddle and for grown-ups to sit, as well as somewhere for mommy to crash on those nights when J just can't make it through without someone in the room with her, or for both us big people to sleep if we have guests on the murphy.

 The adorable alphabet sticker is from Blik, and pretty much the rest of the furniture is IKEA. Shocking, right? I think eventually the doors are going to come off the closet and some sort of organizational system will be installed that includes space for the futon to be embedded in there. This will make way for a big girl bed for J, and the crib will go to the new sib. But that's a ways off.

We've been in the "new" room for a couple weeks now, and so far it's just exactly what I wanted. The bright colors make the most of the sunlight from the single window, and the combo of J's reading chair, the futon, and the bungee rocker make it a comfy place for adults to hang out too, especially while supervising playtime. The kitties love it too, and I once again have to do a sweep at nap and bedtime to flush them out.

All in all this transformation was pretty inexpensive, done over time, and I'm very happy. The room feels more like home, and more ready for eventual double occupancy. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

our new it baby (doll)

On Saturday afternoon J and I trundled off to IKEA with good friend and neighbor Sarah to do a little shopping. IKEA is always an experience - for those of you who've been there the store is a little bit like a maze, a labyrinth, or if you are more familiar with the layout a choose-your-own-adventure. It is very difficult for me to get out without spending at least $100, however, so I try to visit infrequently.

This trip had clear parameters. I had made a list in advance of the must-have items to put finishing
touches on our J's/J+new baby/family room, which we've been redecorating over the past couple of weeks. I also wanted to check out the toddler beds, and get a couple things for the living room. Sarah needed to visit lighting. Given this, I had a pretty good idea what shortcuts we could take to get to the important areas without getting sidetracked in kitchenware or rugs.

We couldn't avoid the children's section, however, and that was how we came to be standing in front of a bin full of these
baby dolls trying to figure out why they didn't have any black girl babies available. There was what appeared to be a girl doll on the display shelf, wearing a soft pretty dress, but none were in the bin for purchase. It took me a few minutes of sorting through the bin (which also had white and asian dolls) to figure out that the doll in the dress was the same doll as the one in the bins - just in different clothes.

I was amazed at how my perceptions of the same doll were shifted by putting it in "girl" clothes. (And here I thought I was enlightened in regard to gender!). In the end I couldn't resist and I let J pick out a doll to take home as well as a pack of clothes for it.
I am really impressed with this very affordable doll and its packaging, I have to say. It is soft and cuddly, washable, and lightweight enough for J to tote it around with her without getting tired. It's brown all over (she has one "black" doll that inexplicably only has brown plastic hands, feet, and head and then a body of stark white cloth - so confusing, and not something that was obvious before it was out of the box) and soft all over. The sets of clothes for the doll all include boy-ish and girl-ish options for the doll as well, so it can be whatever the person playing with it wants, and that can change.

J hasn't named her doll yet, and probably doesn't care whether it is a boy or girl doll. But I'm happy to have found this "it" doll - in a world where many dolls come bearing pink or blue outfits,and gender specific names it's nice to find one that leaves so much room for imaginative play. Not bad for ten bucks.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Transracially Adopted Child's Bill of Rights (Revisited)

Longtime readers may remember a little series I used to do here on the blog, reflecting on the Transracially Adopted Child's Bill of Rights, a document adapted by Liza Steinberg Triggs from "A Bill of Rights for Mixed Folks," by Marilyn Dramé. I started this project in the months before we were matched with J, and continued it a bit after her placement. My initial goal was to write a blog reflection on each item in the list. Recently I thought I would look back at these, maybe pick it up again and finish. I looked back at the list, and noticed a theme with what I have and have not written about. Here it is again, with links to my reflections for the ones I have written about:

There are a couple different ways to look at my progress through this list so far. One is that I made it a little over halfway through the list, became a mom and didn't finish it. And there's truth to that. But I also look at the list and realize that the further down the list I get the more pursuing these rights for my transracially adopted child leave the world of intellectual exercise and reflection and enter the world of me getting outside my personal comfort zone to make something happen. And by "something" I mean making sure that my kid gets the chance to know, love, be loved and be formed by people who share her race and racial culture.

I would hazard a guess that this is one of the most difficult things for white adoptive parents of non-white kids to figure out and make happen. I was recently added to a facebook group that is focused on the discussion of racial issues and as I read through the posts there I was struck by the number of white adoptive parents who mentioned in passing how their adopted child was the only person of color in their town/neighborhood/school/social circle.

This has been a challenging arena for me as well. I feel pretty lucky that Andrew and I started our parenting journey already connected to a couple of amazing and supportive black families, people we count as friends and neighbors. But after J arrived I found myself questioning my desire to spend time with them, and to intentionally "make" more black friends. Was it fair, I thought to myself, to pursue a friendship with someone because I want to expose my child to that person's racial culture? Is it fair to J not to, just because I feel uncomfortable? Are there ways that this can happen organically and if so, how?

I don't think there is a simple answer to that question.

So this fall I am going to tackle the final seven on the TAC bill of rights, and share my reflections on them here. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

choosing two

I hung up the phone with my brother feeling emotionally exhausted, but better than I had when I had called him almost two hours prior. Ben and I are pretty different, and once again our fundamentally different ways of operating had caused tension, hurt feelings, and some of the trademark passive-agressive behavior that has been a family legacy for what I can only assume is generations. That, at least, is something my brother and I share.

Because we are so different the stories that our families tell about us are different stories - Ben is like our parents: quiet and calm, conservative, introverted with his feelings and protective of his personal time and space. I am, well, not like anyone in my immediate family. I am like my "crazy" aunts (I have one on each side): outgoing and dramatic, a risk-taker, a liberal with her heart on her sleeve, overcommitted and sort of into everybody's business. Our stories depend on each other - they define each other to a certain degree. There are things that I like about them and of course things that are painful to me. The story I tell about myself isn't quite the same as my family's story about me. This is the nature of the stories families tell - good or bad we use them to measure change in ourselves and in our family members and to have some idea of what to expect from each other. My family's story about me is one of the biggest sources of pride and of pain in my life. I'm sure yours is the same. I have a suspicion it just works this way for most of us.

So my sibling and I have been trying, for most of our adult lives, to do a better job of caring for each other. It's hard work, but incredibly rewarding. We've become allies and friends in addition to the sibling dynamics good and less-good we still have, may always have, as a result of sharing a childhood. As a second born child I was literally unable to imagine a life without my big brother. Now as adults we get to choose to spend time together, involve each other in decisions and big questions, and do what all siblings ultimately must do together - deal with our (beloved!) parents together.

About this time last year I became taken with the idea that maybe we would have one child, just our J. This wasn't something I'd ever considered before. Given my place in the birth order the idea bordered on blasphemy for me. If my parents had considered it I wouldn't exist! But I was putting some time into thinking about living small, and conserving energy. I started to wonder what else might be better, smaller. I floated the idea by Andrew, who felt pretty positive about it, typical first born that he is. So I tried it on for a while.

There was a lot behind my love affair with only-child-dom. I resist the idea that any child should be part of a checklist, or that any big decision involving family building should be. You know the checklist: husband (check!), house(check!), kid #1(check!), kid #2 (pending...),etc. I have this sneaking suspicion born of my six years in child welfare research that there are a few too many people who become spouses or parents more because there is pressure to make and achieve a list like this, and less because they feel truly and specially called to the big work that is marriage or the big work that is parenting. And given my place in the birth order I resisted the idea that a second child come into a family simply to provide a sibling for the first born child, or with any less deliberation, care, and loving thoughtfulness than the first. Finally, I felt the only way to truly choose a second child would be to fully imagine and embrace the idea of an only child. Just as Andrew and I were not less-than as a family unit before J, neither was our cozy threesome deficient or incomplete pending the arrival of one more child.

This went on until fall, when two things happened. First, I found baby M's name. Let me explain. J's name is a name that Andrew and I have had since before we were married. It came to us, oh I don't know when, but sometime when we were still in giddy-in-love-dreamland almost all of the time we were together. Before we even decided we wanted kids we knew that IF we had them our first daughter would have this name. It was the only name we ever both felt 100% confident of, though of course we eventually had a boy name picked out as well. So despite us both being reasonable people on some level when she showed up and was herself and our J it felt like fate. In early November last year I found the name M. I told Andrew and for the first time ever he seemed interested in a second baby. It was the right name. Despite us both being reasonable people it felt like fate.

The second thing that happened was that we went on vacation with Ben and his family. I watched his kids with each other. They're a little over two years apart. And I watched us, Ben and me, with each other. And I watched my mother, who was with us, watching it all. I think it was then that I decided. I want that for J. And I want it for M. We are complete without another child but we'll be even more complete, have even more opportunities to love and learn and grow and tell stories with two.

I'm not sure that the vacation had quite the same effect on Andrew as it did on me. But that's not my story to tell. Suffice to say that was late November and by the end of 2010 we had submitted our second adoption application. We knew our little M(or whoever s/he turns out to be) was out there.