Sunday, May 15, 2016

Waxing Schizophrenic

Sometimes I diagnose myself as a Mild Schizophrenic.  I'm truly all over the place, bless my poor husband's heart.

For the past year -- no, for the past 18 months -- I have been all over the playing field on the topic of adopting another baby:

I want another.  I don't want another.  

No, I really want another.  But I am almost 40.  

Okay, now I'm 40.  We'd better try this again.  

No wait, what am I thinking?  A new baby at post-40?!  

So what gives woman? 40 is the new 30, after all.

Like I said:  Mild Schizophrenia.

But whatever, schizo or no schizo, we are going for it one more time.  It was about ten days ago that I told my husband I was on board for sure, and then we both choked up a bit and got all sentimentalish, gave each other a hug, blah blah blah.  I won't lie:  I am completely freaked out, and I have no idea how I will be full-time-stay-at-home-and-home-school-Mommy-post-40 with a newborn.  And it REALLY freaks me out to think of getting a boy.  Honestly, I love my girl and I want another one of those.  I get girls because I am one.  Boys are kind of weird and awkward and smell funny, although I guess my husband was one of those once (still is, actually) so maybe they aren't so bad after all.  But still.... I'm shaking in my boots about the whole scary process, if I must be brutally honest with you.

"Wouldn't it be nice," I sometimes think to myself in a very modern-American-woman kind of way... "Wouldn't it be nice to just stop now, enjoy early middle age with grace, maybe take a European trip with our family of three, add a splendid new deck to the house, remodel the bathroom or kitchen, etc etc.?"  Yes, wouldn't that be nice? 

It would be nice, yes.  I hate our 60s-era crumbling concrete patio, and I've long wanted to see Vienna.  My hubby makes a very nice salary, so we could do those things; although we are not rolling in it, and we are a rather frugal one-income family, so we would have to pace ourselves.  But it would be feasible -- and very nice indeed.  Life would so much easier, so much more elegant, so much less stressful if we just stopped now, yes?  

When Lilia was an unbelievably mobile 18-month-old, I heard the prayer of a friend of mine.  It went something like this:  "Lord, help us to cherish when our children are small, even when it's hard, because they get big so fast, and then we're sad." 

I wondered then how on earth I could be sad to have the days of constantly following a toddler around be over?  Of preparing special, age appropriate meals for a small kid?  Of car-vomit-clean-up duty and bathing-duty and basically-doing-everything-duty for a small kid?  No way, Jose, bring on the big-kid days!  Other people might get sad, but I can assure you that yours truly will not be one of those saps.   

I'll confess something now:  Lilia turned six a month ago, and I actually cried -- not from joy, but sadness.  I mean I was happy that she actually GOT to turn six, and I loved seeing her blow out the candles and all that, but "six" sounded so... big girl.  When Jerry carried her to bed that night the size-eleven feet dangled down nearly to his knees; they used to rest like stubby knobs on his belt buckle.  It made me sad.  (I think perhaps I should have eaten humble pie that night instead of six-year-old birthday cake).

It's true, you know, that it goes by too quickly, and it's also true that it makes you sad.  And maybe I'm waxing philosophic or maybe I'm just waxing schizophrenic again, but I don't think I'm ready to give up this magic quite yet.  After all, what do a few weeks in the Western European countryside compare to years of that small hand, so trusting, holding yours?  (Not much.)  And what is the wealth of some snazzy granite countertops and stainless steel appliances to the treasure of hearing them crack their first joke and then laugh hysterically at their own awkward wit?  (Pretty small.  And besides, I don't even like granite and stainless steel).

So here we are, post-40 parents, ready to tackle mountains of annoying paperwork, background checks, intrusive home studies and many evenings of pre-packaged frozen dinners.  Here we are, ready to fork over no small sum in exchange for the greatest, the hardest, the most exhausting joy that life can give.

I'm 100% certain that I'll continue to be at least mildly schizophrenic about the whole thing.  But oh, what the heck?  I'll throw in my sanity with the lot on this roller-coaster ride.  

I know now that it's worth it. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Where Ruby Slippers Lead

My daughter will dress up as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz for Halloween.  In preparation, I ordered an exceptionally cute blue-and-white checked dress for the occasion, straight from Amazon Prime.  There will also be, in all likelihood, a woven basket to hold her small pink, stuffed dog  (who, in the absence of a real Toto, must suffice). There will be cute little pigtails bedecked in blue ribbons.  There will be baby blue, ankle-length socks.  But the most important feature of her outfit, the "piece de resistance," must surely go without saying:  The ruby slippers.  

Arguably the most memorable moment of the classic film occurs when Dorothy clicks the heels of those ruby slippers together three times while chanting, "There's no place like home, there's no place like home."  Perhaps a bit cheesily, I always tear up during this scene.  Maybe it's because I'm a girl.  Maybe it's because of the token background violin music that cues up.  Or maybe it's because I think that the phrase is actually true:  There is no place like home.

Between the two of us, my husband and I have lived in a total of 9 states (10 if you count his summer internship at NASA in D.C).  We've gotten to see some amazing sights, experience a wide variety of the American Subculture, and meet some interesting personalities along the way.  It's been great! 

But for me, Washington State is my home.  There's nothing like that rich evergreen fragrance, the majestic mountains, the coast, and the laid-back-flannel-mountain-biker-with-coffee-in-hand stereotype of the Northwest.  Sigh.  I simply love it there.

And for my husband, Kentucky is his home.  There's nothing like those green, rolling hills dressed up with deciduous trees and horse farms.  Banjos, bluegrass, Bernheim and bourbon.  Nothin' like it.  

But here we are now as residents of -- and I'm still not quite sure if it's really hit me yet -- upstate New York.  Let me say that again just to make sure I heard myself correctly:  Upstate New York.  I vaguely remember learning in grammar school that the capital of New York is Albany, and that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge.  Apart from that, I knew that New York boasted a very large city "that never sleeps"; some kind of summer reclining chair called an "Adirondack"; and lots and lots of brash and noisy people who are always honking their car horns at you.  I remember that my general impressions of the Northeast in general were not positive.  I also vividly remember my husband looking me in the eye a few years back and saying quite distinctly, "I will never move to the Northeast."

God has a quirky sense of humor.  I'm so glad He serves me Humble Pie for dessert when I very clearly ask for Chocolate Cream.

So today marks the one year anniversary of New York State being our home.  It's Fall, and the leaves are changing in glorious splendor, and the mornings are darker, and soon I imagine that snow will be spread across our lawn.  We'll sled on our hill the way we did last year.  Then Spring will come, and Lilia will help our elderly neighbors plant seeds for a new season, and we'll take walks in the rain.  And then there will be Summer and play dates with neighborhood friends and camping trips in the wooded Adirondacks.  Jerry and I will comment again on how New York looks like a combination of his home and mine, a merging of Washington and Kentucky.  We'll pick apples next Fall, Lord willing, and we'll continue to be surprised at how our impressions of this place were mostly wrong.  

Lilia and I discovered a new library today in Scotia, a charming old converted farmhouse with a loquacious librarian.  She energetically told me all about the history of the building and showed me pictures of it spanning the past century.  She smiled when learning that we moved here one year ago today from Oklahoma, and when we left she wished us a good day, "And welcome to the East Coast!"

The funny thing is that we do feel welcome here.  We feel very welcome, and we feel very at home.  It certainly isn't "home" the way Washington is for me and Kentucky is for Jerry.  If I had a pair of ruby slippers on my feet and said those same words, I would be dreaming of the Columbia River Gorge and Mount Rainier and places with names like Skookumchuck, Clackamas and Willamette.  

This is the place, though, that we now call home.  It's been our home now for one year, and we are hopeful that it will remain our home for some time.  Perhaps it will never be to us a Washington or a Kentucky, a place where we wish Ruby Slippers will lead.  I have a feeling, though, that it might come close.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Something to Talk About

As we get closer to our little Peanut's fifth birthday, I am more and more grateful for the miracle of adoption.  There really aren't words, my friends.  Somehow this little life that you didn't conceive, that you didn't carry, that you didn't birth -- somehow this life has born a love in your soul that you didn't even realize was possible.  My favorite thing to tell people about adoption is that "I wonder if I could love a biological child as much as I love Lilia."

Thankfully our culture has come a great long way in its understanding and acceptance of adoption.  This is a good thing (especially because God has always celebrated it, both spiritually and physically -- lots of adoption in the Bible, folks).  Thankfully my experience with people who find out Lilia is adopted has been, generally speaking, quite positive.  I have lots of friends with adopted kids, too, and most of them usually have the same kind of experience.  Not all of them, though, or not all of the time.

So even though, yes, our culture has come a long way in its understanding and acceptance of adoption, there are some steps that would still be well worth taking.  And since I am an adoptive mommy with a Ferocious Mother Bear Love for her adopted bear cub, I thought that I might take a few moments to lay out some guidelines as gently and tenderly as I can.  Hey, none of us is perfect, and if you've said something really stupid to an adoptive mommy (me or someone else), then chances are I've said ten more stupid things to John Doe about any number of topics under the sun.

But here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Do not ask, "Are you going to have any of your own children?"  We all know what you really mean, but please do NOT word it in this way.  The Fierce Mommy Love is just hugely offended by this wording, rightly or wrongly.  This kid is my own.  Period.  A better choice of wording would be, "Are you going to have anymore children?"

2. When referring to the biological mom or dad, PLEASE use the phrase "birth mother or birth father."  Again, we all know what you mean when you say "REAL mom," but just follow the logic of the above point.  I'm the real mom.  My husband is the real dad.  That "real mom and dad" stuff just rips our hearts to shreds.  And worse, it may confuse our kid if she happens to overhear you.

3. If you ask, "Does she know that she's adopted?" please do not ask it in the presence of said child.  If she happens not to know, she will undoubtedly know by the time the final syllable of this question has escaped your lips.  (And yes, she does know).

4. Please do not say something like, "Well, now you'll be pregnant in no time," or some other such remark involving reproductive fertility.  
First, most adoptive parents -- but not all -- have experienced fertility problems, and with that, no small amount of emotional pain.  They probably do not want "to go there" on the topic of pregnancy.  

Second, adoption is not a means to an end (hey, if we adopt this kid then we'll probably get pregnant -- yay for us!).  Please, please, please hear me on this one.  The child given through adoption is just as precious to the parents (and yes, maybe even a teensy bit more so) as the child given through pregnancy.  Also, this precious adopted child has brought a great deal of healing to the parents over the pain of not conceiving.  We do not regret the absence of pregnancy.  We regret that we could not carry the adopted child.

Thirdly, there is probably still some lingering pain there for the parents involving infertility and how this might affect family size (if a larger family is wished for).  It's probably best to simply avoid the topic altogether. 

5. If you happen to come across parents with kids of another color, and if this happens to offend you, and if you cannot think of anything beautiful or tactful to say, then PLEASE do not say anything at all.

6. If you happen to be gung-ho about breast feeding, please do not get on this soapbox in the presence of an adoptive mommy.  We adoptive mommies cannot breast feed our children.  We did not produce milk.  We must give them formula.  And we would like to hold on to some small shred of hope, however feeble, that feeding our babies formula will not be the means of completely annihilating their physical, emotional, and social development through the years.  (Sheesh).

7. Please do not speak about the "inevitable" problems that will arise because of genetic heritage.  Wherever you are on the Nature versus Nurture spectrum, I think most of us can agree that there is a fair number of factors on BOTH sides that contribute to a kid's personality, the good or the bad.  Whether raising an adoptive or a biological child, there WILL BE problems because we are all sinners.  But there will be beautiful things, too, because we are all created in God's image.  Parenting is hard enough without worrying about things over which we have zero control.

8. If you are someone who has considered adoption and then decided against it, please do not explain by saying, in the presence of an adoptive parent, "because I never thought I could love an adopted child as much as I love my own."  Hopefully I do not have to elaborate on this one.  It should be a no-brainer.

9. Please respect the adoptive parents and their decision on the Open versus Closed Adoption spectrum.  My hubby and I happen to lean toward preferring a more Closed Adoption, and we have our reasons.  Lots of our friends have more Open Adoptions, and they have their reasons.  The last thing we need is people telling us "we should have done it that way."  It is a decision based on conscience for every adoptive family, and all of us are doing what we believe is truly the best thing for our families and our children.

10.  This one is a little different, but... Please give baby showers for adoptive mommies.  We are just as excited about the baby coming to us as a pregnant lady is for hers. We have waited and longed for the child, too.  And even though it's not in our tummy (or maybe baby is already here!), we still really really really want the joy of opening baby gifts and celebrating with our family and friends.  And please DO go all out -- invites, plans, decorations -- yes, even if it's post-baby!  Let those Adoptive Mommies get the full-on experience. 

So in summary, please just be careful how things are worded in the presence of adoptive parents (or the adopted child!).  We know that things are very rarely meant to hurt; but the hurt can be real, nonetheless.  There's lots of anxieties attending adoption, anyway, so please celebrate with us and choose your words carefully.

And to end on a truly eloquent note -- Yay for Adoption!!  And Yay for a little Peanut named Lilia, who has spent the better portion of the past five years teaching Jerry and I what it means to love.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Ten Things I Like About You (And One Thing I Don't)

We've been in the Albany, New York area for almost three months now.  As we adjust, adjust, and continue to adjust, Jerry and I find ourselves commenting not infrequently on the many things we truly like about our new home.  I've decided to compile a list of those "things," so that our family and friends might have a little view of our new life in New York.  Here goes....

1. People Here are So Dang Friendly 
When I say that "people here are friendly," I mean that they are truly, genuinely, amazingly friendly.  With no disrespect to Washington, Kentucky, or Oklahoma intended, the people here are THE friendliest people we have EVER met.  Our mouths are still gaping open in astonishment on this one.

2. Moisture
It's really moist here, so it reminds us of our homes.  It's probably more moist than Kentucky.  It might be more moist than Washington (but it probably isn't, judging by the absence of slugs).  It's the complete opposite of Oklahoma in this respect.  When living in Oklahoma, there were three ways to describe the moisture levels:  Borderline Drought, Drought, and Severe Drought. (Oh yes, well that actually describes the lack of moisture, doesn't it?  You get the idea.)

3. History Schmistory
The stuff around here is old.  We live in a home built in the 1960s, and that's one of the newer ones.  I realize that any visiting European would laugh at my calling stuff here "old," and with good reason.  But for this American girl who grew up on the West Coast, where a building established in 1909 is ancient, the stuff around here is dang old.  Since Jerry and I are history geeks, we are loving this!  The first American home with working electricity is located in Albany!  When visiting Rhode Island last weekend, we walked by the first Baptist Church in America, founded in 1634! The idea of visiting Plymouth Rock, a mere 3ish hour drive from our home, gives us goosebumps!  Before moving here, we hadn't considered the uniqueness of American history to our new location.  Icing on the cake!

4. Really Good Food
We've eaten really well since we've moved here.  There are no limits to the number of authentic ethnic restaurants around these parts (and we tend to love ethnic food!).  And even if it's not ethnic, it's just really, really good.  I'm a Chicken Pot Pie junkie, and I will tell you that I have eaten the three best Chicken Pot Pies of my life since we've moved here, all from different restaurants.  Oh yeah, baby.

5. Bright Lights, Big Cities
All within a four hour drive or train ride:  Boston, Philadelphia, Montreal, Providence, and New York City.  Add another two hours, and you can snag Baltimore, Toronto, and D.C.  

6.  Trees
There are many, many things we loved about Oklahoma, and many things we miss about it.  The lack of abundant, diverse forests is not one of them.  Jerry grew up in Kentucky, with lots of trees.  I grew up in Washington, with lots of trees.  If you could combine the deciduous forests of Kentucky with the evergreen forests of Washington, you would get the forests of New York State.  (Insert prolonged sigh of contentment here).

7.  Snow
Everyone here tells us we'll hate the snow next year.  That is possible, but I will add:  THIS year we love it!  We know there will be days when we curse the snow.  Overall, however, I think we'll keep liking it.  We like playing in it.  We like the beauty of it.  We like the quietness it evokes.  We want to rent snow shoes and cross country skis and take Winter weekend trips to the heart of the Adirondacks.  Given a choice, we'd prefer to be cold (or, in my husband's case, cool) as opposed to fainting in the heat.  Add to this the fact that my aim with a snowball is superb; therefore, I know there's lots of fun snowball fights in store (for me, at least!).

8. Vermont
Socialism notwithstanding, Vermont is cool.  It's pretty, pastoral, quiet, old, and very green (as in the color).  And it's a mere 35 miles from our house.  Enough said.

9. Culture and Sophistication
This is the part where I will sound like a snob.  Jerry and I like nice things.  When I say "nice," I do not mean "expensive."  I mean "nice" in the sense of having some kind of classical, intellectual or refined quality.  Think Frasier and Niles Crane.  We are bookish types.  We like fine music.  We prefer nearly anything to a digital device or television program (unless, of course, that television program happens to be British).  See, I told you I would sound like a snob.  I think we are discovering, Jerry and I, that the Northeast seems to suit us.  It's kind of classical and refined. (Snobby, if you will.)  *wink*

10. Oh, Oh, The Places You'll Go
Again, we loved many things about Oklahoma, but one of the things that was very difficult was the DISTANCE of Oklahoma from so much of the rest of the country.  If you happen to love Dallas, then you would be okay with that.  But for us, with family in distant locations and being the travel junkies we are, it was extremely hard.  It was difficult for us to plan trips and such (and again, I say that with much fondness for Oklahoma in my heart).  What we have found here is that there is SO MUCH NEARBY.  We can take vacations galore for the next ten years and never even leave the region!  So new to us!  

I did declare in the title of this blog entry that I would mention one thing I dislike.  Here it is:

Coffee Options
Here is what I have to choose from in New York:  Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks.  That.  Is.  All.  I'm still in shock over this one.  Once we knew we'd be relocating, my daydreams began:  Visiting quaint coffee house after quaint coffee house, delightfully sipping mochas and dark roasts for days on end until finally deciding upon my fave local haunt.  

No dice, folks. 

There are a few local coffee houses.  One of them has the charming eccentricity of the Northwest coffee houses that I loved (but it's fairly far).  The others scare me.  It's one thing to walk into an eccentric coffee house.  It's another to feel, upon walking in, that I may be required to offer up my cat on some sacrificial altar in lieu of payment.  

So hear this Albany, New York:  When I can definitively say from experience that Arkansas, Oklahoma, and even Texas have BETTER COFFEE THAN UPSTATE NEW YORK, something is dreadfully wrong.  

Overall, however, we are pleased.  We are enjoying our new life here.  We are pleasantly surprised in many ways.  We are adjusting happily.  

(And I'm thinking of opening up my own coffee house, too.  Just in case you were wondering.)