Throw Mama Under the Bus

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Four years ago today, I published my very first blog post.  In it, I discussed the doubts I had before becoming an adoptive mother, how I wondered whether I would be able to love a child that wasn’t biologically mine.  To be perfectly honest, that idea is ludicrous to me now.  I understand why I thought it of course, but the fact that I doubted that I could love my daughters, whom I now love more than anything in the world, just seems preposterous.

I love them.  Oh boy, do I love them.  And let me tell you something:  in the four years that have passed since my first post, I’ve proved it.  Because like any parent dealing with any child, if I didn’t love them, I would not put up with half of the stuff that goes on around here.

Let’s start with the way-too-frequent embarrassment that comes along with being a parent.  Remember that time I told you about Rosie’s eating the Cascade packet?  You remember.  She chowed down on dishwasher soap days after Hurricane Sandy.  As per Poison Control, I had to call an ambulance that arrived on my block tailed by a giant army tank, so all of my neighbors would peek out their windows and witness my walk of shame to the street carrying a Costco-sized tub of Cascade.

Just last year, Rosie was taking music lessons for a while at a location I won’t name.  Anthony and I had a conversation about whether or not she should continue, and I said she didn’t seem to be learning much, so maybe she shouldn’t.  Well, that very day, Rosie came home from her lesson with music homework.  We laughed at the coincidence.  I stopped laughing the next day when Rosie slipped into our conversation that she had told her teacher, “I don’t think I’m coming back to music.  My mommy said I don’t learn anything.”  I could barely look the teacher in the eye the next time I dropped Rosie off.

Mia’s certainly provided her share of humiliating Mommy moments also.  That kid has a staring problem.  A serious one.  We can’t go to a restaurant without her picking a random stranger at the next table to stare down.  And I don’t mean to smile at coyly and play peak-a-boo.  I mean a cold, deadpan, continuous stare across our tables until it becomes uncomfortable for the poor person to eat.  Sure, at first they think it’s cute.  They smile at her and wave; they tell their co-patrons how adorable she is.  But then it never ends.  They try to take a bite of their food, but they can no longer enjoy it because of the creepy, Village of the Damned child locking her eyes on theirs.  I can’t control it.  I can’t control where she moves her eyes.  I can only sit in embarrassment, encouraging the person to ignore her and just enjoy his meal while I desperately and unsuccessfully try to distract Mia and ignore the awkward tension she has created between our tables.

I don’t know about your kids, but as babies, mine had very little regard for any object they came across.  After a great deal of discipline and maturing, Rosie has grown out of this, but in truth, none of her casualties compare to the Godzilla that is our younger daughter.  I call her Destructo.  If the bathroom door is not shut completely, all bets are off.  I’ve found bath toys in the toilet and garbage strewn all over the floor.  I opened the door once to find at least ten feet of toilet paper pulled out and coiled around her legs.  Just this morning, she threw my new Lakeside Collection catalog into the tub while Rosie was showering.  It’s still drying as I type.  She grabs Rosie’s art off the fridge.  She hasn’t had a monitor in her room for months since she pulled the camera off the wall and broke it.  And if the dog’s bowls are accessible to her for the smallest, tiniest millisecond, the water is spilled and the food is spread around the floor.  Destructive?  Yes.  Loved? Absolutely.

Would we ever put up with the constant need for attention our children have if we didn’t love them?  Rosie says, “Mommy” 15,722 times a day.  How do I know I love her?  I still love hearing it.  But how do I really know I love her?  I haven’t banned the word from our home.  Twenty-seven times a day, she wants to show me her cartwheel.  Forty-two times a day, she wants to show me her fort.  Eighteen times a day, she fails to ever follow up with a question or comment or say anything else at all.  I just wait in silence forever and ever.  Okay, okay, at least five times day, she just wants to say “I love you.”  Come on, of course I love her.

Some days, Mia wants to be my siamese twin.  She wants her legs to be permanently wrapped around my hip.  No, it doesn’t matter that I am boiling pasta or cleaning the toilet.  It doesn’t mater that I’m trying to do my hair for the first time in a week or that I’m making the bed or getting dressed or doing anything at all in the world.  She wants me to hold her.  And, sometimes, even if she doesn’t want me to hold her, she just wants me.  If I try to sit on the couch, she will stand in front of me, reaching out her arms and grabbing the air over and over while moaning repeatedly until I join her on the rug.  This morning, I attempted to use the bathroom for two seconds when I woke up.  Gosh, it was such a pleasure to listen to her wail and pound on the door the entire time.  Sigh.  Mom life.

We all know children often interfere with sleep, and I don’t know anyone who would put up with this if not for complete and utter love.  I honestly have been lucky.  Both of my children sleep through the night and have done so from a young age.  I thank God all the time for this, but there are still the exceptions.  There are nights when I do let Rosie into our bed, and even though I love snuggling with her, I don’t love how she finds a way to jab my back with every part of herself.  There’s the usual:  her arms, elbows, knees, but I swear Rosie has brought me great pain with her forehead, her chin, a single finger.  It’s baffling.

Mia is one of those babies who always knows when you are about to fall asleep.  If I wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep, she’ll stay quiet the entire time I’m awake.  The minute I am about to drift back to sleep, there she is.  Awake and needing me.  During her naps as a infant, I would often try to nap along with her.  However, if I dared complete any sort of task before laying down, if I tried to wash dishes, take a shower, or pick up a single crumb from the floor and throw it away, the moment my head hit the pillow is the moment she would awaken.  Every time.  I was only allowed to nap if I lay down the moment she fell asleep.  She knew.  Somehow, that kid knew.

Before I had children, I always said there was one area in which I worried about my devotion as a mom.  That area was food.  When I’m hungry, I need to eat.  I worried about sitting down to dinner and needing to deal with my child’s food before eating my own.  I knew when I was ready for that, I was ready to be a mother.    

Rosie is an excellent eater; she just likes everything.  A slight downside? She wants to eat everything I eat.  Everything.  I can’t tell her it’s spicy or that it’s fish or brussel sprouts.  She likes it all! If I’m eating it, she wants to try it.  And I’m her mom, so I have to let her.

At restaurants, though, Rosie is pretty good.  Since she likes to eat, she’ll sit there and do just that.  Mia?  Mia wants to get up.  She wants to be passed around.  She wants to sneak her way behind my chair and race away into the restaurant kitchen, so that the entire staff is staring me down when I enter chasing after her (more embarrassment issues here).  At this point, my food is getting colder and less appetizing on the table.  Believe me.  I love her.

My point, here, is not to complain.  Truly.  I just find it crazy that I ever doubted that I could love these amazing girls, and now I love them so much that I’ll listen to the rules of Rosie’s game that makes zero sense for the fifth time in a row and haul Mia around on my hip while I drag the giant laundry basket down the steps.  I’d do more of course.  Lay down my life. Step in front of a bullet.  All that jazz.  But share my last bite of mint-chocolate-chip ice cream?  Me?  Now that’s impressive.  That’s something I can really be proud of.












When Mommy Met Mia

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When I was younger, I had some beliefs that you might call mystical. If I liked a boy, I’d read his and my horoscopes just to check if something special was going to happen that day. As a teenager, I’d drive my car and whisper, “The next song that comes on will be a sign.” Then, when “You Can’t Hurry Love” began to play, I’d think it meant that the perfect boyfriend would come in time. I “just [had] to wait.” (I was also clearly a cornball, but that’s neither here nor there.)

I continued to look for signs as I grew older but as time moved on, my faith in them lessened. Maybe it was just that I got older and wiser and realized some things really are just coincidences and nothing more. Maybe it was when my father died. Somehow, the signs didn’t seem to matter after that. When he died, when our happy lives were ripped apart, my whole perspective changed. I just couldn’t see life the same way.

As time moved on, I saw more and more terrible things happen. I saw young mothers die of cancer, leaving their children behind. I saw my father-in-law die only months after I joined his family, never experiencing the retirement he had worked his whole life to enjoy. I saw school shootings and car wrecks, heart attacks and strokes. And with every dark tragedy that happened around me, I came closer and closer to a particular outlook on life:  What’s the point? Why do we try to be happy? Why do we search for our true love if we’ll lose him down the line? Why do we have children, their footsteps the beats of our hearts, if we may have to watch them become sick and lose them too? Why try at all?

I know it’s bleak. I know it’s morbid, but that is how I began to think. And with that outlook, I could no longer justify a belief in cosmic influence. The two just didn’t blend together.

I’d love to say that when Rosemarie arrived, my outlook completely brightened, that I suddenly realized the point of it all, but that just isn’t true. I was madly in love with my daughter and beyond grateful that we found her, but I still worried about the day it would all fall apart. I still dreaded the moment the next tragedy hit.

And I still dread that now. But the day we found Mia, something changed.

Anthony proposed to me in April of 2007. Since I was a teacher, we wanted a summer wedding, and I had my sights set on June. I don’t remember why or how, but June didn’t happen; July didn’t either. I wanted a Saturday night wedding but for some reason, we ended up on a Sunday. I remember often making the mistake of thinking our wedding would be on August 8, 2008, instead of August 3. I think I just liked the sound of the repetitive eights, but the third it was.

On August 3, 2008, we had a wonderful wedding, I looked exactly as I wanted to (Anthony was there too), and our life began.


We spent the following August 3 in Pier Village on a little couple’s getaway. I can’t tell you what we did for our second anniversary as I don’t have the slightest memory of it. The third time our wedding date came around, we received the call that changed our lives. A baby girl had been born that morning in Oklahoma. She was a tiny thing under six pounds, and about 56 hours later, she was ours and we were hers.

I loved telling people she was born on our anniversary. I loved seeing them smile and widen their eyes. “Wow, talk about meant to be,” they’d say. And I’d agree. But I’m not sure I really believed it. Of course, I knew my daughter was mine. I knew I loved her with every single piece of myself and could never love anything more. But, deep down, I don’t think I 100% believed she was destined to be our daughter instead of simply and luckily ending up that way. I wondered if she was. I considered it, but I don’t think fully accepted it.

Four wonderful years passed with Rosemarie in our lives. We watched her change from a fascinating infant to an energetic toddler and then to the very spunky little girl she is today. On August 3, 2015, we celebrated her birthday at home. We had an Entemann’s cake in our kitchen, sang to her as she wore a giant smile and watched her open gifts with glee. I meticulously took pictures and video to use in our adoption posts on Vine and Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, so that someone somewhere might see them, see our happy family, and want to choose us to raise her unborn baby.


And when the cake was eaten and the wrapping paper was thrown away, our August 3 came to an end.

Two months later, fall had arrived. We said goodbye to summer and Rosie returned to school. One late September night after we had finished eating dinner, the adoption phone rang. My mother stood at the sink washing dishes, so I escaped to my basement stairs and shut the door to hear better. And there I sat as I learned about Mia, a two-month-old girl in Texas. I was told how amazing she was, how we would fall in love with her the moment we saw her.

I smiled as I listened to her praises and when the call came to an end, I hoped Mia’s birth mother would take the next step, that she would speak to our attorney Robin the following day.

When I woke up Rosie for school the next morning, she was in a thinking mood.

“Mommy, when we get our baby, will we get a boy or a girl?” she asked as she stepped into her sweatpants one leg at a time.

“Whatever God decides. Which do you want? Boy or girl?”

“I want a sister,” she said her little chinning nodding up and down.

I smiled at her and hoped that just maybe we had found her one.

I lay on my bed that afternoon when an email from Robin came in. She had spoken to Mia’s birth mother. I scanned through the email with the usual list of information Robin obtains: name, location, age, etc. And right there on my phone, on the glowing screen, I saw it.

Baby girl DOB Aug. 3, 2015. Mia Rose Smith*.

I put my hand over my mouth and gasped out loud. The skin on my arms, neck, and legs felt as though it were sparkling. She was born on August 3. August 3, 2015. Just hours before we sang to Rosie on her fourth birthday, before we snapped the perfect family photo, Mia had entered the world. She had cried her first cry. She had fussed as the nurses cleaned her and swaddled her. She had closed her eyes as she lay in her birth mother’s arms and drifted off to sleep.


Days passed as we kept in touch with Mia’s birth family. On September 30, we flew to Texas to meet our second daughter.  We told our mothers and our siblings, but I refused to share her birthday with anyone but Anthony. I felt as if that one secret detail was holding it all together.

As we got to know our little girl with chocolate chip eyes and olive skin, we waited for the paperwork to be signed. It wasn’t all magical of course. The first time I held Mia, she pulled my hair so hard, I wanted to cry out. Instead, I tried so hard to keep smiling. (I didn’t want her birth mother to think I was mean after all.) As we held her throughout that night, she cried. She cried and she cried as we tried to soothe her. And when we had to witness her birth family’s goodbyes, it was our tears we tried to stop.

But then there were moments like the one in which the social worker texted us to let us know Mia was ours.


We bent over her in her stroller and she smiled up at us for the very first time. We Facetimed Rosie and showed her her surprise:

“See, Mommy,” she said. “I told you it was a girl.”

And soon enough, Mia got to know us and came to love us. Now, she is our daughter and Rosie’s sister and the last piece of our happy family.


I still doubt many things. I still wonder what the point of this all is. Why we seem to make ourselves happy, only to someday have that happiness taken away.

But I married my love on August 3, 2008.  Rosemarie was born on August 3, 2011, and Mia was born on August 3, 2015.

And now, I can’t help but think that some sort of fate or cosmic influence played a part here, that God wanted us together and maybe decided that long before any of us came to be.

None of that means tragedy won’t strike. It doesn’t mean there won’t be terrible things. Awful things might happen.  Perhaps my heart will be broken. Maybe our lives will be torn apart.

But no matter what happens down the line, nothing can change the fact that we are all meant to be together. The four of us are meant to be family.

We were meant to find each other even if someday we may lose each other.

I pray every day that we won’t. I pray that our lives will happy and full and long, but at least I know no matter where we end up, we are all exactly where we’re meant to be. I am exactly where God wants me. With the husband and the daughters who were born to be mine.


It’s My Party

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In just one week, Rosemarie, my teeny tiny baby girl, will turn four years old.  I don’t need to talk about how fast it all went.  I don’t need to mention how one minute I was brushing the baby fuzz atop her little head and suddenly I’m braiding hair down her soft, white neck. You know all about that.  You too turned around and saw years had passed without your knowing.  You too struggle with the gratitude and pride you feel to watch your baby grow against the sinking sadness in your chest when you think of all the moments already gone behind you.  You get it.  We all do.

But what can we do except enjoy the moments while they’re here and celebrate every day we have with these little creatures, especially their birthdays.  Rosie’s party began as a pasta party; it was her idea and I was thrilled.  I pictured a pasta bar with long, squiggly fusilli, assorted sauces and big shakers of parmesan cheese.  I found the cutest little spaghetti and meatball cupcakes online and my talented BFF Clarisse was on the case.  After a few weeks though, our pasta theme gave way to Peppa Pig.  It was on to mason jars filled with muddy puddles for dessert and miniature wellies as decorations.  Alas, Peppa Pig snorted on her way once we booked the party at a music school and Rockin’ Rosie began to play the air guitar in preparation.  Rock party it is.  I can’t reveal all the surprises before the party, of course, but we’re working on some cute little touches to make this shindig hip, cool, and just plain rock n’ roll.

Invitation JPG

Whenever I plan a party or event, I bother the heck out of my friends and family and I’ve ended up in a lot of conversations about this party, a mere four-year-old’s birthday celebration.  How much is too much? When does a cute theme become ridiculous?  Can you go too far?

I have friends and family on all sides of the issue.  Friend 1, for example, finds it all unnecessary:  “I just think it’s all ridiculous: fondant cakes, personalized invites, centerpieces…I miss the days of write-in invitations, party hats that broke…and good, old-fashioned Carvel ice-cream cake.”  Sister 1 mostly finds me annoying:  “Kimberly, why do you care? Just order the stupid dishes.  Who cares if they don’t match the balloons?”  Sister 2 finds themes fun and loves to help but only until I become obsessive. Others love all the creative mumbo jumbo as much as I do.  They too search for color-coordinated drink straws and the perfect favor to compliment the party’s theme.

I’ll admit it.  We live in an extremist society, in the age of Pinterest where everything has to be cute and themed and creative and crafty.  And there’s a lot of pressure.  Pinterest Peer Pressure.  Peerinterest Pressure.  No, Pinterest Peer Pressure will do.

I’ll admit that I want to have company over without creating a work of art out of antipasto.  I want to store my daughter’s artwork without building a multi-sectioned shadow box that holds more than Mary Poppins’s bag.  And I do think fondant cakes are overused.  I don’t really think we need a giant Elmo for a third birthday or a Taylor Swift album cover replica for a 12-and-a-half-year-old’s celebration.

I shake my head when I see photos of Sweet 16s, which for all intents and purposes are weddings without a husband.  They have bridal parties in the form of like-dressed friends on a dais.

dais2                    Photo Credit:

There are over-the-top centerpieces with feathers and flowers and crystals and pearls.  The guest of honor, just like a bride, is announced into the room with a man of her choosing on her arm.

And this all seems crazy to me.  But if Sweet 16s have become weddings, then regular birthday parties have become Sweet 16s, and I am certainly guilty of perpetuating this change.

The truth though? I love it! I thoroughly enjoy planning these parties. I love picking out a color scheme and finding all the right items to match.  I love taking a theme and sprinkling it throughout the party however I can.  Rosemarie’s first year, I loved making lemon centerpieces and lemonade place cards for the guests.

For her Barney-themed second birthday, I liked finding every purple and green item I could, including her dress and jars of purple and green play doh as favors.

Last year, I truly enjoyed turning some string cheese into tiny maps for her Dora party.


This year, I am having fun bringing a little rock and roll to the party wherever I can.  I wasn’t particulary in the mood to go over the top this time, so I didn’t. I’m doing just enough to make me happy and make my daughter happy.

In the end, isn’t that what matters?  The years do go by so fast.  Time rushes past us without mercy.  So shouldn’t we do whatever it is that makes us happy? And, furthermore, shouldn’t we allow others to do the same with no judgment passed?

I don’t care how you celebrate your child’s birthday.  And I mean that sincerely, not rudely.  My daughter has had some of the best times at the simplest parties.  We’ve been to bashes filled with custom centerpieces and themed entertainment.  We’ve been to others with some simple, fun-colored balloons and a “Happy Birthday” song.

Does it make you happy?  That’s the question.

Does it make the parents of a sweet sixteen-year-old happy to throw her a super sweet sixteen?  Does it make their daughter happy? If so, who am I to judge?  Of course, there are other issues here:  issues of entitlement and spoiled brats who demand extravagantly expensive parties.  But when this isn’t the case and if you have a daughter who is well-behaved and the means to give her the party of her dreams, shouldn’t you be able to do so without judgment?

Did it make my daughter happy to see Dora centerpieces?  Yes, it did.  No, she wouldn’t know the difference without them but it makes me happy to see her react and, quite honestly, it makes me happy to see what I can create (with Clarisse’s help here and there).

That, I think, should be the deciding factor.  Don’t order a fondant bust of Optimus Prime simply because you think you should.  Don’t search for rainbow-striped napkins because the woman on Pinterest named them a must-have for a rainbow-themed party.  Do what you want to do.  Do it because you want to and for that reason alone.

Let’s stop pressuring one another.  Let’s stop judging each other. Let’s just be happy for each other when we have the guts to overcome the peer pressure and find the will to do whatever it is that makes us smile.








Mother’s Day Mommy Hacks

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Tomorrow, we will once again celebrate Mother’s Day and with it, all of the mothers in our lives. We will remember our own mothers, our grandmothers, godmothers, maybe some aunts and friends.


Personally, I view Mother’s Day like we Catholics see any Sunday, a day of rest.  I am lucky.  I have a very helpful husband on all days of the year but on Mother’s Day, especially, I love to enjoy a day off.  Of course, I want to be with my daughter, but I want to be with her while I lay back, relax and maybe even prop up my feet.

All mothers know, after all, that there aren’t many days off for us.  Motherhood is a full-time job, all hours in the day, all days in the week.  And I’m not complaining.  I really do love being a mother, and I really am so grateful that I am lucky enough to stay home with Rosemarie.

That being said, motherhood is still hard.  Along with all the joy and fun of being a mother, comes challenges and while the good days seem to win out, there are some bad days too.

For Mother’s Day then, I decided to share some of my own little Mom tips that can maybe make those bad days a little easier.  Okay, so I’m not an expert.  I only have one child and she is only three and a half after all, but since I always appreciate any help I can get, I thought I’d share some of my own.

Ya know those little life hack posts that make their way around the Internet, little videos on YouTube, some BuzzFeed lists, even creative memes like these?

 lifehack4 lifehack5 lifehack8Great ideas, right?

Well, here are some Mom hacks for all you mothers out there.  Happy Mother’s Day to you all! May your good days far outweigh the bad ones and may the worst of your bad days be merely made up of temper tantrums and giant spills.

  1. Don’t throw those clothes away too fast:  Kids, especially babies, grow very quickly.  Unlike adults, who usually stay in a certain size for a long amount of time, kids breeze through them at top speed.  If you are anything like me and dislike clutter, you may be tempted to get rid of an item of clothing as soon as your kid outgrows it.

    The good thing about little girl clothes, though, is many of them have nine lives.  Those adorable dresses your toddler waddled around in last summer?  They can be tunics on the newly slim body of your preschooler.  Down the line, those tunics can be regular ‘ol shirts.  And the full-length leggings of last year or even last spring can easily become capris the following summer.


    One item you definitely want to hold onto are those little diaper covers that come with all those frilly dresses.  Eventually, they stop making those ever-useful bloomers.  Apparently, once your daughter potty trains, she is also supposed to learn to keep her skirt down and cross her legs.  We all know this isn’t happening, so save ’em up.  They will come in handy while your daughter frolics around the dance floor of your cousin’s communion and shows everyone just how well she does cartwheels.  Her Dora the Explorer undies just don’t go with the Ralph Lauren plaid dress you so carefully picked out.  The best part?  Those bloomers last a long time.  Rosie turns four in August and I just now got rid of those she had in 24 months.

    I apologize to those of you with only boys.  I doubt there are many second-life uses for T-shirts and jeans. 

  2. Invest in a pair of food scissors:  Okay, I thought everyone knew this.  My oldest niece is 20 now and her mother used one to feed all of her toddlers, my sister uses one with her three kids and, of course, I used one to cut up Rosie’s food as well.  I have used food scissors since I had to turn chicken cutlets into morsels small enough for Rosie’s tiny-toothed baby mouth.  While I don’t need to cut up much of her food nowadays, I still break out the scissors whenever I do.foodscissor

    I had no idea this was a unique use for food scissors. I did not know this until I suggested my friend use them to cut up her son’s food and she looked at me as if I had suggested she use a cooked piece of spaghetti.  In further conversations with my sister, I learned that many of her friends had the same reaction.  And in speaking with my brother-in-law recently, I found that he found the idea ridiculous.*

    None of these people understand how much easier feeding a baby/toddler becomes when you use the darn food scissors!  Seriously, I have shaved hours off my food preparation by using this gadget.  Instead of schlepping away with a knife and fork, cutting….one….small….piece at a time, I can cut four or five at a time instead!  Please try it. I promise it is worth it.

    *My brother-in-law swears by a pizza cutter for this purpose.  I do not agree but, heck, try both!  Pick your favorite.  Both are better than the butter knife and miniature, Toy Story fork you’ve been using.

  3. The plastic tablecloth = your new best friend:  This one seems really, really obvious.  Please don’t think I actually believe I am the first person to think of this idea.  However, if you are anything like my mother was when we were young (Love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day), it is possible you really haven’t.

    I have exactly three memories of playing with Play Doh as a child.  One was in my grandmother’s sunroom in Florida. I remember how the dough got stuck on the faux grass floor.  The other was in my cousin’s basement…the unfinished basement (Apparently, my aunt was a lot like my mother.), and the third was in my backyard.  It must have been during the changeover from winter to spring because the yard wasn’t set up yet and the patio table was still dirty with the remnants of winter.  I remember being cold.  It was still chilly, but I wanted to play with Play Doh, and in my house that meant I had to be outside.

    Since my mother banished me to the yard despite the chill in the air and probable goosebumps on my arms (maybe even a blue tone to my lips), I can only imagine that she didn’t think of my brilliant plastic tablecloth idea.

    It’s simple, ladies.  Just keep a plastic tablecloth with your kids’ Play Doh. (I have been using the same Christmas Tree Shop one for three years.)  Every time they want to play, lay out that tablecloth on the floor.  No Play Doh is allowed to leave that area. Ever.  And once they are done, pack up the dough and all its paraphernalia, roll up the plastic, take a step outside and shake it out.  The rain will eventually wash away the lime green and hot pink bits that are now sprinkling your front stoop.

    Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 2.21.24 PM

    Extra tip:  I use the same tablecloth for painting, particularly messy gluing, egg coloring, etc.

  4. Keep strolling with that stroller:  The first few times I went shopping with Rosemarie in her stroller, I was amazed.  Sure, it can get a little tricky when the baby needs to eat or something, but I was lucky that way.  Rosie was always good on the go.

    That, however, is not what amazed me.  What amazed me was the fact that I had been shopping for so many years without a stroller, a stroller equipped not only with a large basket to hold my winter jacket, my wallet or what-have-you, but also one or two handles that could hold two or three Mommy Hooks on which I could hang my purchases.

    What on Earth did I do before?  Did I seriously walk around the mall for hours carrying these bags, their plastic holes for handles cutting into my fingers?  And what did I do with my iced coffee?

    I just can’t imagine.  And thank goodness it is now something I only need to imagine.  You may be thinking, “But Rosie is almost four. She must not really need a stroller anymore.”  And you are correct! She doesn’t need one most of the time.  Sure, if we are on a particularly long walking trip, it is good to have it around for when her little legs get tired. But more importantly, we need it so that my arms don’t get tired!

    Keep that stroller easily accessible in your trunk.  Forever.  I was at the mall this week.  I took the stroller and what sat on the seat while I pushed it around?  My pocketbook, of course.  And I still attached my cup holder for my food court drink and each time I made a purchase, I hung that baby on a handle.

    When Rosie turns seventeen, I may still bring a stroller to the mall. Keep it around, people.  You’ll thank me later.

  5. The smaller the stall, the better:*  I happened upon this Mommy Hack by accident.  When Rosie needs to use the potty in public, I normally use the extra large stall whenever possible.  I am even more inclined to do so when I have one or more of my nieces with me.  The other night, however, with only a regular-sized stall available in the Applebee’s bathroom and my bourbon skillet getting cold on the table, I took all three of them into that very small stall.

    Do you know what I discovered?  It was far easier than the using the stall that actually has space for four bodies.  Yes, if you are claustrophobic, this tip is not for you, but if you are cool with confined spaces, read away.

    Why is the small stall better?  Control.  Restriction.  In the big stall, Rosemarie will insist on showing me her dancing school dance that I have watched only three times a day for six months.  Lynda will proceed to hug the others while they meanly whine in protest and attempt to push her off.

    In the small stall, ain’t nobody got room for that.  All arms must be crossed and hugged to one’s own chest.  One child uses the potty, I slide her back into her spot and lift the next child for her turn.  There is no room for dancing, hugging, playing, falling, etc.  It is quick and efficient.  I will be a loyal small stall user from now on.

    *Disclaimer:  This tip will not apply when you are using Tip #4.   The stroller just can’t make it into a regular stall without someone or something having way too much contact with the toilet.


Well, there you have them, fellow moms.  I hope one or two of my tips will help one or two of you.  What about you? What hacks do you have for me?  Share below!

Adopting: The Second Time Around

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Well, Anthony and I have taken the plunge.  As you may have read here and here, we had a hard time deciding if we would adopt again, if growing our family was the best thing for all of us.  This summer, I finally decided that I should either do it or shut up about it.  I chose the former.  With a call to our attorney and a few conversations, we were once again hopeful adoptive parents (AP’s).

Many people who know we are trying to adopt have asked if the process is any less complicated when you have adopted before.  No, it is not.  Adoption laws don’t care that you have already adopted, already had a criminal background check, already had your home studied.  They don’t even care that you’ve already been fingerprinted.  With the exception of the last example (since I can’t understand why anyone has to be fingerprinted more than once), I’m not bothered by the repetition of it all.  Adoption is that big a deal.  We’re talking about people, about becoming parents to someone else’s biological child.  I don’t mind the scrutiny.

So, after filling out a large amount of paperwork, purchasing a new accordion folder (my OCD self did a cartwheel), and sealing a few envelopes, we had our homestudy this past September.  On February 2, we were officially cerfitied to adopt. Again.



I was just kidding about the grabbing a baby part.  Lighten up, people. 


The search has begun.  Any day, week, month or year now, we will bring another bouncing baby into our home.  I’m definitely nervous.  I’m definitely anxious.  And I’m definitely thrilled.

 I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas Anymore 

With the help of Anthony’s friend, we put together our website.  I set up our Facebook and Twitter pages and our profiles on various adoption websites.  The strange thing is only three years have passed since we were last in the adoption game, and yet a lot has changed.  Last time, I felt like the adoption tech guru.  Not everyone had websites then and, honestly, most that I saw were pretty basic.  Our “fancy” blue and brown paisley, Vistaprint-template site was unique.  I also came up with the idea to use Google Search Ads to promote our site.  At least 50% of the women who called me mentioned seeing our ad on Google.  Back then, some other hopeful AP’s I knew didn’t even advertise online but only in print.   I guess technology wasn’t that huge in the adoption world yet.

Now? I feel a bit like Beatrice in that Esurance commercial who posts photos on her living room wall and thinks she’s on Facebook.


Everyone is all over the internet.  Everyone has a website and the websites are gorgeous! They’re unique and professional with themes and motifs.  There are tons of searching AP’s on Facebook and Twitter, and EVERYONE uses Google Search Ads.  It seems I have lost my edge.  I have no edges at all.  I’m basically a big, round thing.  Sigh.

Family First

My new found technological incompetence is not the only difference though.  The bigger difference has nothing to do with anyone or anything else, not other APs or or any of that.  It has only to do with us, with our family, and mostly with Rosemarie.

The first time we adopted, we were open to many things.  I’m not claiming we were open to anything.  As we were told, we made our choices before the process began.  We decided what we would accept and what we wouldn’t.  They say you must make these decisions early because when that phone rings or when that baby cries, it is very, very hard to walk away.  It may sound crude. Unfortunately with adoption, there are decisions you must make.  Are you open to drug use? Alcohol? Transracial adoption? etc.  We made our choices and stuck with them.

But we would have traveled anywhere.  I would have agreed to pretty much any sort of contact with the birthmother.  And we would have taken risks.  I would have brought a baby home and fell in love, even if I didn’t know if that baby was definitely mine.  I would have done these things. But I can’t anymore.

As all mothers know, all of your decisions and actions change once you become a mother, for anything you do is now influenced by your children, by their well-being and their happiness.  The same has happened for me as we search for our second baby.

Same Difference  

I cannot share details of Rosemarie’s birth family here.  As I’ve discussed in the past, it isn’t my place to share.  I will speak hypothetically only.  If I were to adopt a second child whose birthmother wants more contact than Rosemarie has with hers, would that create issues for Rosemarie? Will it be hard for her to watch her brother or sister talk to his/her birthmother more often than she does?  What if we adopt a baby that has less contact than Rosemarie? He or she could struggle with this disparity as well.  What if we have one child who does not have contact with his/her birthmother and one child that does? Won’t that either create or intensify any feelings of rejection of abandonment?

Of course, every child is different and every birthmother is different. I don’t expect to find a situation that is exactly the same as Rosemarie’s.  I only mean that we may need to walk away from a situation that is too different from Rosemarie’s, for her sake or the sake of our second child.  It won’t be easy.  Now that we are in it, I want so much to bring our baby home, but as a mother, it is my job to make the hard decisions.  And if saying yes sets up Rosemarie or Baby #2 for grief, then yes can’t be the right answer.

Running the Risk

Every state has different adoption laws. In Nevada, for example, once a person signs a consent for the adoption, she cannot revoke that consent. In California, however, a biological mother has 30 days until her consent becomes irrevocable. Some states fall in the middle. In New York, a birthmother can revoke her consent within 45 days but the process of regaining custody is complicated and requires a “best interests” hearing if the adoptive parents choose to contest.

Before, I may have willingly adopted a baby from California or a state with similar laws. I would have taken that baby home and cared for him, feeling love for him grow in my heart even while fear grew there as well. I would have prayed that he would be mine but accepted the risk that he may not be.  Now, we’re not sure we will accept such a situation because, now, Rosemarie will be here too.  Rosemarie will be meeting that baby, calling him her brother, kissing his cheek good night.  We don’t plan to allow Rosie to fall in love with a baby and then have to say goodbye.  At only three, she cannot possibly understand and while she would of course overcome the loss, we really don’t want to expose her to it anyway.


Where does this all leave us?  Well, the downside is that the more you aren’t open to in adoption, the longer it may take to adopt.  We aren’t shutting the door on any of these.  We have discussed each of them and we are going to take each situation individually.  When we do receive a phone call from a birthmother, we will not walk away prematurely.  Instead, we will look into the details and make sure it will work for our family.

It often feels strange to make such decisions.  If we were having a biological child after all, there wouldn’t be many choices we could make. Alas, this isn’t my favorite part of the adoption process but it is part of it nonetheless.  So, as Rosemarie’s mother and Baby #2’s mother, I will make every decision as best as I can for their sake.

There’s Something About That Binky

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Rosie was a binky baby. An utter and complete binky baby.

I know not all babies love the pacifier.  I have heard other mothers say they tried to give one to their babies only for the little one to spit it out in anger or disgust.  For us, Rosemarie’s binky was part of her from the very moment we met her.

I think it was in her mouth the first time we saw.

“Mommy and Daddy are here!” an Oklahoma nurse exclaimed.

Anthony and I took slow steps forward and peeked over the shoulder of another nurse sitting in a cushioned chair. There, along her one arm, lay Rosemarie.  Her cheeks puffed in and out as she suckled the binky, the round rubber circle of the Avent pacifier covering most of her tiny face.

Before we arrived, we had spoken to some nurses and the pediatrician in charge of her care.  They each told us what a wonderful baby she was, how very easy to soothe she was.  And they were right. She was all those things.  But the binky played a large part.  She adored it.  In her teeny, tiny world, it was her favorite thing and it remained that way for the next few years.




This December, Rosemarie finally said goodbye to the binky for good.  There are a few reasons I waited so long to rid her of the pacifier.  Some were just about me as a mom in general and, to be perfectly honest, my own laziness.  Others, though, were more complicated. I did not simply let time waste away while she continued to use a binky.  I thought long and hard about that little piece of plastic and I made conscious decisions about it.   I think I still believe I made the right ones.

Can’t Let Go

I don’t really believe in forcing transitions on babies.  Each mother must do what she sees as right but for me, there is no need to force a baby into a change that she will eventually make when she is ready.  As my mother always says, “She’s not going to walk down the aisle wearing diapers.”

For most of Rosemarie’s transitions, I simply waited until I felt she was ready and that worked for her.  One day, when it felt right, I stopped giving her a bottle and she never asked for it again.  After attending months of a Mommy and Me transitional program, I took a chance on leaving her in the room without me.  Accroding to the teacher, she hardly noticed and happily played with the toys before her.  After she showed interest in the potty, I brought home some Disney princess panties.  She ran into the bathroom to try the potty and trained within a few days.  She slept soundly her very first night in a toddler bed.  I was lucky.  She just didn’t have much trouble with transitions.

The binky was a different story.  If I tried to take it away, she knew it.  She cried for it.  She begged.  She cried for a new one if the nipple had a hole. She loved that binky.  She was attached to it, physically, emotionally and every other way.


And as her mother, even though I knew she needed to be rid of it eventually, I did not feel comfortable taking it away before she was ready.  I believed that if she had transitoned so easily before, if she had given up other objects without issue, there was something about that binky that was special to her. There was some reason she needed it so much.

Did her adoption play a part? 

As I’ve discussed in the past, some experts believe in the existence of what they call the primal wound, the emotional wound left on adopted children by the trauma of being separated from their birth mothers. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if the primal wound exists. Since I was not adopted, I don’t believe I will ever fully understand it.  For my daughter’s sake, I will try.

Regardless, I do think that whether or not the wound remains for years to come, the original trauma is real.  I believe it is traumatic for a baby to be separated from the one being she has ever known. I believe it is traumatic to for her to no longer hear the only voice she’s ever heard, to no longer smell the skin that kept her safe nor feel the rhythm of the heart that beat above her as she grew.

As I pondered the reasons for Rosemarie’s over-attachment to her binky, her first days of life came to mind.  Perhaps she found comfort in the little, rubber pacifier when her whole little world turned upside down.  Perhaps it became her source of security when the mother she was biologically programmed to love was replaced by another.


Where Do You Go, My Mommy? 

While I do believe Rosemarie experienced a loss when she was separated from her birth mother, I also believe she bonded with me quickly and completely.  I made bonding a priority for us especially during her first few months.  I held her skin-to-skin as often as possible and let her nap on my chest and in my arms.  While some new mothers train their babies to nap in a cradle or soothe themselves to sleep, I did just the opposite.  I believed Rosemarie should need me; I knew the more she needed me, the more our bond would grow.

Whether it was my actions or just the natural course of events, we bonded.  In only a matter of days,  just like any other mother, I became her favorite person.  And like most children, when she was tired or sick or cranky or sad, she wanted me.  While she could always separate from me easily outside of the house, she was very attached to me at home.  And one of this attachment’s strongest times was the summer of 2013 when she was just about to turn two years old, the very same time I needed to enter the hospital for open heart surgery.

We had recently been working on cutting down the binky.  Although almost two, Rosemarie spoke very few words. After consulting a good friend who works in speech pathology, we limited pacifier use to nap time and bedtime.

Then my surgery came.  It kept me out of the house entirely for ten days. I have never really asked how Rosemarie was emotionally while I was gone because I couldn’t bare to hear it. I do know, though, that when I came home, the binky had become a 24-hour companion. I don’t blame Anthony who was home taking care of her.  I am sure she needed it.  And when I came home but couldn’t really care for her, she still needed it.


I know others may disagree. I know some will think I was too soft.  But as someone who has had her run-ins with both physical and mental health issues, I know both are important.  I knew Rosemarie’s speech could be affected but I also knew I wanted her to be okay emotionally.  So, for a while, I let her have the pacifier whenever she wanted it.  Once I was back on my feet and life was back to normal, we cut it back down to nap and bed.

Could this experience have affected her connection to the binky? Is it possible her attachment to it became even stronger when it once more became her source of comfort when her mother went missing?

I know.  It sounds dramatic.  I know I wasn’t really missing.  I thank the Lord I only had to leave my daughter for ten days.  Things could have been far worse as they are for others.

But none of that changes Rosemarie’s perspective of the situation. None of that means her two-year-old mind couldn’t have been anxious or worried and that the binky didn’t serve as her security.

The Time Had Come
As soon as Rosemarie turned two, she began talking much more. Over the next year, her vocabulary blossomed as she learned more and more words and strung them together to make sentences.

Unfortunately, her articulation of these words and especially her sentences was somewhat problematic.  For a while, I thought it was improving on its own and with my emphasis on correct pronunciation, but one summer weekend in 2014, we attended three parties with three different groups of people.  Watching Rosemarie talk to so many different children and adults, I realized how few people could understand what she was saying.  The next week, I called a friend for a recommendation and set up private speech therapy sessions.

And after our first meeting, what was the first question Rosemarie’s wonderful speech therapist asked me? I knew it before she even finished the sentence:

“Does she use a pacifier?”

I answered honestly. I explained my reasons for letting her keep it. Our therapist was very understanding and kind. She didn’t pressure me but plainly explained that while there was no definite proof, it seemed many of Rosemarie’s speech issues were connected to the binky and while they would improve with therapy, she couldn’t truly learn to make certain sounds without being rid of the binky.

The time had come. I knew she wouldn’t adjust well so I made a plan. First, the binky was gone during the day. She could no longer use it nap.  Much to my dismay, she pretty much stopped napping. Now and then, she would doze off in the car or after a very active day but for the most part, naps were a thing of the past.

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town 

In September, we began planting the seed. We told Rosemarie Santa would be taking her binky this year to give it to another baby whose family didn’t have much money.

She ate it up. She started telling others about her binky and Santa.  She picked her special present she would receive for being so kind to this other baby:  a Dora house.

For three months, we talked about it and talked about it. One morning in early December, our elves brought Rosie a surprise: a letter from Santa and a picture of Billy, the baby who needed her binky. Rosemarie was elated.




Two weeks later, we returned from vacation. Rosemarie and I went straight to my mother’s from the airport. Anthony, A.K.A. Santa, sneaked home to set up Rosemarie’s new bed, an early surprise! In a second letter, Santa explained that since Rosemarie would sleep without a binky that night, he wanted her to have a big girl bed fashioned with Anna and Elsa bedding.


When she walked into her room once we were home, she was amazed.

That night, we brought Rosemarie into her room for bedtime, an envelope in hand to send her binky to Santa. The scene was pathetic. Rosemarie sat on Anthony’s lap, clutching her binky to her chest.

“I don’t want to send my binky to Santa, Daddy. I’m going to miss it,” she cried, her blue eyes wet with tears and her cheeks red with flush.

“It’s okay, Rosie,” Anthony explained, “You know Billy doesn’t have a binky and he needs one. You have to help him.”

“You can do it, honey,” I said, “and then you’ll sleep in your big girl bed.”

This went on for a little while until we finally convinced her. I held out the envelope. She reached across with her little hand and dropped the binky in, only to burst into tears the moment it fell to the bottom.  She reached out her arms to me and I hugged her while she cried on my shoulder.

And who else cried?  Why, Mommy and Daddy of course.  Like two fools, we looked at each other with tears on both our faces.

It’s Not Over Yet

That night, Rosie had a hard time falling asleep. I stayed with her. I laid with her. I sat in the chair and sang to her. And that has pretty much been the case for the past month.  Rosemarie was a wonderful sleeper before. After a story and a lullaby, she would go to sleep on her own. She woke up here and there, of course, but for the most part, slept through the night.

Without the binky, she is much more needy at bedtime.  Anthony or I stay in the room until she falls asleep and many nights, she wakes up crying more than once and has trouble falling back asleep.

I can’t lie. I hasn’t been that fun. And I’m a definitely more tired with less sleep but things could be worse.

As I said, I thought long and hard about the pacifier and made a decision to let her keep it for so long.  I think I made the right one.  I still believe Rosemarie’s experiences could have created an overly intense attachment to the binky and that taking it away too soon wouldn’t have been good for her.

Does that mean I’m certain I did the right thing? Of course not.  Does that mean at 3 am when she wakes me up and begs me to lay next to her with my hip pressed up against the metal bar of her bed railing that I don’t regret not losing the binky two years ago? No, it doesn’t.

But, on the good nights, like last night when she stayed in her bed the ENTIRE night without calling me or crying or pitter pattering into our room, I feel good about my choice.

I feel good that while most nights Anthony and I suffer from our decision, I believe I saved my daughter from suffering instead.  Furthermore, I think bedtime would have been much worse a year or two ago without the binky.  I think it would have involved screaming and shaking and thrashing.  Rosemarie is just starting to accept a little bit of logic nowadays.  And I can use that to soothe her back to sleep.  I would not have had that option before.

And I definitely know I am glad we used the method we did to say goodbye to the pacifier.  While finding a way to make giving up the binky fun and exciting, we were also able to teach Rosemarie an important lesson in the process.  We taught her something about giving to others and about helping those who are less fortunate with us.  And we were able to positively reinforce that behavior by not only praising her for her altruism but by having Santa reward her as well.

She still talks about Billy.  She still mentions him and how happy he is with her binky.  If nothing else, that makes me happy.  If nothing else, I know I did that part right.


Five Things You Should Never Say to an Adoptive Mother

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A few weeks ago during a break at my team’s cheerleading practice, my co-coaches called me over to the front of the gym to ask me a question.  They wanted to know if I find it insulting when someone says that my daughter looks like me.  I will explain my response below but when we finished our short conversation, they suggested I post a blog on this topic.  They said some people want to know when they are saying something rude to an adoptive mother; they all wanted to know more.

So, I listened and here it is.

Let me be clear.  I know most of the time when someone makes one of these remarks, their intentions are completely innocent.  I know it is hard to understand what makes these comments rude when you haven’t experienced adoption.

Before Anthony and I adopted Rosemarie, we both said things that I would find insulting now.  For example, we weren’t sure if we adopted a boy if we should name him after Anthony.  We thought perhaps it didn’t make sense for the baby to be a junior if he wasn’t our biological son.  I am appalled at that thought now. It is so entirely ridiculous that I wish I could go back in time and hit myself for thinking it.  Oh, and with whom did we share these completely offensive thoughts? Just my adopted sister-in-law.  No biggie. (So sorry about that, P.)

I wish I had known how rude that comment was.  Of course, we were entitled to our thoughts.  We were entitled to our journey to where we are now but that doesn’t mean we had to share these ideas with an adopted person.  I wouldn’t preach about the unnaturalness of infertility treatments to a person pregnant via IVF.  Of course, I am not against IVF but even if I was, I would keep my comments to myself.  Why?  Because it would be mean to share them.

Some of you may read this list and think I need to lighten up.  You may feel that I am being too sensitive. You are entitled to your opinion but please know the vast majority of the reasons I hate hearing these comments is their effect on my daughter, not me.  If you are a parent, then you will understand why I am willing to be seen as whiny or sensitive. You will understand that protecting my daughter is far more important.

Five Things You Should Never Say to An Adoptive Mother

  1. Did you ever meet her real mother?

    Why, yes, I met her thirty-two years ago.  I meet her every day in my bathroom mirror.  I am her real mother for heaven’s sake! And as her real mother, I can’t help being insulted by your use of this language (So much so, that I found it necessary to revisit this topic even though I already discussed it in a previous post.)

    Please stop using this terminology. I do not want my daughter to hear this language.  I don’t want her young mind to become confused, or worse, worried.  Adopted children often fear their families aren’t permanent, that an adoption can be undone and they will lose the family they know and love.  The mention of this mysterious “real mother” could exacerbate this fear and confuse my daughter who believes I am her real mother.

    Rosemarie knows she was adopted; Anthony and I have told her all about it since birth.  However, she knows the woman who gave birth to her as her birthmother.  That is one of the terms we adoptive mothers prefer.  Some families use others like tummy mommy or first mother. Whatever term a family chooses, I can pretty much guarantee it will not be real mother.

  2. Was her birthmother young? Did her birthmother have other children? Was her birthmother married? or any other question about her birthmother

    I don’t mean to be rude but Rosemarie’s birth story (or any other adopted child’s) is nobody’s business but hers.  And, even more than that, it isn’t my story to tell.  As much as her birth family has changed my life in every way, the story belongs to Rosemarie, not to me or Anthony.  At only three years old, she cannot tell me how much of the story she wants to share with others and what details she wants to keep all to herself.  So, please, don’t ask these questions of adoptive parents.  It only creates an awkward moment when we have explain why we can’t answer.

    I cannot speak for all adoptive parents.  I’m sure there are some that are willing to share details of their child’s birth story and that is their decision.  However, if you aren’t sure, it is definitely safer to just not ask.

  3. My sister’s cousin’s teacher’s daughter adopted a baby and then she got pregnant!

    First of all, calm down there, Lord Helmet.  Secondly, sigh.  If I’m being perfectly honest, this comment angers me.  Not always.  Not when it is said with a sense of awe or simply to share an amazing story like couples who end up with “twins”: one biological child and one adopted of the same age.  I find these stories fascinating. I am bothered, though, when it is said with the intention of comfort, when the speaker really means “Don’t worry. You can still get pregnant. You can still have a biological child.”

    In September 2010, Anthony and I had just begun the advertising stage of adoption. We were certified to adopt and were now in the search for a birthmother whom we would find through advertising—newspaper ads, online profiles, and simply word of mouth.  For that purpose, we created business cards that we could give out to family and friends and, if the opportunity arose, strangers.  I spent hours on Vistaprint choosing the perfect design, days picking our most appealing picture, and weeks discussing a catchy slogan.  It was Anthony who came up with it in the end: Too much love for only two of us.  The shipment arrived with stacks of the straight-edged cards neatly packed in small white boxes.  Each of us placed a small pile in our wallets just in case we met someone who could help.


    A few days later, at the wake of friend’s relative (No, it wasn’t exactly appropriate but I was desperate back then.), I met an older woman.  She was friendly and seemed kind and mentioned that she worked in the office of a Staten Island OB-GYN.  I smiled and worked up the courage to pull a business card from my wallet. For the first time, I told a stranger about me and Anthony and our search for a baby and I handed her our brown and blue card with a smile.   She took the card and glanced down at it for a moment.  Maybe she said she would keep an eye out for us. I’m sure she put the card in her wallet or purse.  But what I remember most is that she wasn’t all that interested in our adoption quest.  Instead, she leaned in closer to my face.

    “Ya know, my daughter had a hard time getting pregnant.   She decided to adopt and three months later. Poof! She got pregnant. “

    She nodded and smirked as she spoke. “You never know,” she said.

    No, she did not mean any harm.  She wasn’t trying to be hurtful but this type of statement is rude for more than one reason:

    • It implies that adopting is second rate, a last resort.  In truth, yes, it is probably the last resort for most people.  Most people probably try like hell for a biological child before turning to adoption.  But once those same people adopt, they are flabbergasted by the fact that they waited so long.  I know people outside of the adoption world can’t understand this; you simply don’t get it until it happens to you.  But I swear that it is true.  So when you meet someone already on the adoption path, it just isn’t kind to act as if they can still be saved from the horror of adoption.
    • You really don’t know why some people choose to adopt.  For some women, pregnancy is not a possibility whatsoever.  There are women like me whose bodies can’t handle the strain.  There are women without a uterus, women who don’t ovulate.  There are even men and women who simply choose to adopt because they’d rather give a home to a child in need of one rather than bring another child into the world.  For many of us, “you never know” doesn’t make sense because we do know, and we’ve chosen and embraced our path.
  4. She looks just like you.  You don’t even have to tell anyone she’s adopted!

    I don’t mind at all when someone says my daughter looks like Anthony or me.  I obviously think she’s beautiful so that’s quite a compliment.  And that is our typical go-to comment when we meet someone’s children, right?  I do it constantly. “Oh, I think she looks like her husband.” and “She is your clone.” are things I have often heard myself saying.  I personally am not bothered by this comment about my daughter.

    What does pose an issue is the second sentence that often follows. “You don’t even have to tell people.” “No one even has to know she was adopted.”  Why? Why would I not want to tell people?  Why would I not to share the most amazing and important success of my life?

    To imply that I would want to keep Rosemarie’s adoption a secret implies that there is something wrong with being adopted.  No, I don’t tell every stranger, each one that comments on her nose looking like mine (poor thing) or her light eyes despite my chocolate brown, that she was adopted.  It just isn’t necessary every time.  But sometimes I do.  Sometimes I smile and say, “That’s so funny you think we look alike. We adopted her.”

    And why are there times I choose to say it? Because I want Rosemarie to know that there is no shame in being adopted. I want her to know that I am proud to have found her in this massive world of seven billion people. I am proud that somehow after months and months of almosts and over miles and miles of country, we found each other.

    And why don’t I say it every time?  Because it matters but it isn’t the only thing that matters. We are an adoptive family but our family is about so much more than adoption.  And Rosemarie was adopted but she also builds “birthday cakes” made of Legos, loves to sing but can’t carry a tune,  squeals a long high-pitched “Hi” each time she sees a baby, and wants to play basketball but can’t dribble a lick.  She is a complete and total person; her adoption is only one part of who she is.

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  6.  How could her birthmother give her up?  
  7. There are many things wrong with this question.  As I said earlier, it’s really not a good idea to ask any question about an adopted child’s birthmother.  On top of that, the term “give up” is problematic and I discussed as much in that earlier post.

    The biggest issue with this question, though, is its connotation, the way it implies that by choosing adoption, a birthmother is doing something less than honorable, something that deserves reproach.  I’m sure there are some birthmothers who choose adoption for the wrong reasons, for there are bad people in every social category and even good people make mistakes.

    However, when Anthony and I were still searching, we received almost fifty phone calls from prospective birthmothers.  Almost every single one of them was considering adoption out of love.  Almost every one explained that she couldn’t afford to care for another baby or couldn’t give a baby the life it deserved.  If you were able to talk to birthmothers at the moment they must make that decision final and sign away their rights, you would hear about the overwhelming anguish they feel.  If you watched episodes of I’m Having Their Baby, the reality show that follows a birthmother and adoptive parents until the baby’s birth, you would see this anguish in real time.  You would see the pain and the tears and the torment. Birthmothers break their own hearts for the good of their children and they deserve great respect.

    Beyond this, this question paints Rosemarie’s birthmother in a negative light and I cannot allow such a thing.  I have no idea what feelings Rosemarie will have about her birthmother.  I am sure they will be complicated, and I know I will never attempt to sway those feelings toward the negative.  As her mother, I will allow her to feel her own emotions and I will always let her know how grateful I am to her biological mother for giving me the greatest possible gift.



Well, there you have it.  I am by no means the final authority on this subject, but I would suggest you avoid saying these five things to an adoptive mother.  And just to balance things out, here are some things that are totally cool to say to me as an adoptive mother:

  1. Where do you adopt her from?
  2. Did you wait a long time to find her?
  3. What was the adoption process like?
  4. How lucky are you.
  5. Wow, you’re pretty.

Of course, be sure to refrain from #’s 1-3 until after the parent has mentioned the adoption, specifically if the child is present.  These days, most adopted children know their story but we don’t want anyone pulling a Chandler Bing.


Pencils, Books and Mom’s Sad Looks

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September means many things for me nowadays.  As it did for me as a student and then as a teacher, it brings to mind the crisp smell of new workbooks, the smooth surface of contact paper or the perfect points of newly sharpened pencils.  September is school to me and so many others.

Since 2001, however, this month, one filled with the first sightings of red and orange leaves and the chilled breeze of the early morning, also makes me think of 9/11.  Of the feeling not only on that day but on the days before it, before we knew of the horror that was to come.  And on the days after.  The days spent waiting and watching, crying and wailing, falling down and standing up.

When I thought about writing a post for this month, I couldn’t decide what to discuss:  the back-to-school part of September or the day that changed everything.

This year is Rosemarie’s first in school.  At three years old, she has begun Pre-K and on Wednesday she had her first real day of school ever.  This year, then, I will talk about school.  For Wednesday—a happy day, a good day of good things—changed Rosemarie’s everything too.

Pencils, Books and Mom’s Sad Looks

Almost every day of Rosemarie’s life has been spent with me.  Of course, there are exceptions:  the two weeks I spent in the hospital for my surgery last summer and the weekends I spend away every year with my girlfriends or with the cheerleading team I coach.

Most days, though, Rosie is with me and she is with me for the entire day:  from the moment she wakes up and clomps over to my room to climb in my bed, to the time I pull her blanket over her shoulders and kiss her cheek and nose and cheek again to say good night.

School changes that.  Of course, I will still be there for the majority of her days.  Of course, her three little half days of school don’t technically change that much.  And she did attend camp this summer.  I did drop her off two days a week for a half hour longer than she will spend at school.

But still.  This is different.  There is an entire place in her life now that doesn’t involve me.  It’s a room painted different shades of blue with a weather chart and a birthday board.  A snack room with round tables and miniature chairs and a gym with a plastic basketball hoop and Playskool slide.  A place where Rosemarie will exist without me.

School is a world that is all her own and that is something she has never really had before.

This makes me think.  It makes me wonder.  It makes me ask questions as I picture my little girl in her classroom, her messy Elsa braid she insisted on wearing the first day and her navy skort too big for her tiny hips.

I know I am not alone.  I know other mothers must ask the same questions.  I think some other mothers will nod along as they read this list.

Is everyone being nice to her?

The truth is until our children go to school, we choose their friends for them. Rosemarie does not spend time with any children if I do not set up that time for her.  Her best friends are her cousins and the children of my best friends.  I know each of them and I know them well.  I know if they take a toy from Rosemarie, she will probably take one from them ten minutes later.  I know if one of them pushes her, next week Rosemarie will do the same.

And I know my sister and friends will deal with the behavior as I would.  We may not have the exact same parenting styles but I trust each of them and I know I never have to worry that Rosemarie is being mistreated by one of their children.

There are other children in Rosie’s world of school, though, that I do not know, whose parents I do not know either.  Am I saying all other children are mean and their parents absent-minded?  Of course not.  I know these children, my daughter included, will take turns misbehaving.

But I still don’t know how they are treating my little girl and I can’t help but wonder about it.  I can’t help but wonder if she is making friends.  If the other kids will find her as charming as I do.  Will they find it funny when she says “Gimme a chance” in Steve Martin’s Little Shop of Horrors voice?  Or will they think it’s weird?  What if they just don’t hear her at all?

I am not asking for her to be the most popular.  I only want her to find kindness in others.  I only want to know she feels happy and safe.

Is she different without me there?

I’ve heard it said that children sometimes act differently in school than they do at home.  I heard it as a teacher from my students’ parents.  My own niece, who is now 18, was a goofy, crazy chatterbox at home and a quiet, shy mouse in school.

I wonder if that will be Rosemarie as well.  At home, she is a ball of energy. She loves to sing and run and jump and flip.  And she never stops talking. She will ask me the same question 27 times. She will tell me about the same doll over and over again.  In the car, my entire ride is filled with the sound of her voice:

“Yes, honey.”
“What’s that?”
“A truck.”

“Yes, honey.”

“Yes, honey.”
“Um, where we going?”
“The supermarket.”

“What, Rosie?”
“We’re going to the supermarket to buy food?”
“Yes, honey.”

“Where we going?”

How will this all translate in school?  Will she be talkative, so talkative she gets in trouble?  Or will she be entirely different?  Will she be shy or quiet?  Will she clam up when asked a question?

I look forward to the day I find out because I truly find it fascinating.  Who will she really be in life out there in the real world:  the person I see each day or the person she shows the teacher?

Does she miss me?

As I said before, I am the one with whom Rosemarie spends her day.  I am there when she wakes up and eats breakfast, when she takes a bath and gets dressed.  I am there when she plays with her Legos and Peppa Pig house.  I am there when she sings “Let It Go” around the living room.  It is me who listens when she cries, who hugs away her tears.  It is me to whom she runs when she stubs her toe or bangs her head.

But there is another woman in her life now:  an adorable, blonde young woman with a kind smile and tiny feet.  Another woman who will calm her and play with her, another woman who will teach her new things and give her praise.

I know.  I sound jealous.  I would never discourage Rosemarie from getting to know her teacher or from admiring her.  But it does hurt my heart a little.  It does hurt just a bit to know I am not the only one anymore.  Yes, I am her mother and she will continue to adore me.  But gone is the time when it was only I.  Gone is the time when I, and I alone, was her teacher.

I don’t want her to be sad at school but I do hope deep down she misses me.  Just a little.  Just enough.

Because I certainly miss her.

Am I a bad mother if I enjoy my alone time?

Yes, I miss her.  I truly do.  But I wrote this post while sitting in Dunkin Donuts with my laptop.  I took breaks from typing to sip my iced coffee and break off pieces of my plain whole wheat bagel.  I wrote for two hours with hardly any interruption.

I do miss her but I am glad to have this regular, scheduled alone time.  I’m glad to be able to sit and write or read or maybe shop or sleep or get my nails done.


This is the one question to which I know the answer.  No, that does not make me a bad mother.  I think it is a good thing that my feelings are mixed because as two o’clock draws near even if I want my alone time to continue, even if I want to read one more chapter, I simply can’t wait to see my girl with her happy eyes and a backpack so big, it covers her behind.

I am a woman.  I am a writer.  But I am a mother too and I am always a mother first.


Our Family is a Circle…

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My family and I returned Sunday night from a week-long vacation in the Outer Banks.  By “my family,” I mean everyone:  my mother, my three sisters and my cousin, our spouses and all our children, nineteen of us in total.  Kill Devil Hills, the quiet, beachy town where we stayed, offers little activities.  Having fun means making fun and that we did.  Whether it was laughing together on the beach, working on cheerleading stunts in the pool, or yelling and singing over a game of cards at night, we had our fun.

And while we were having it, I couldn’t help but think of the beach vacations I took growing up.  The vacations when my father was still here, when only two of my nieces were born, when I was only a child and my future with Anthony and Rosie was many years away.

The ’90s

For four or five years, we spent our summer vacations in the Hamptons.  My mother, father, sisters and I would stay in our own condo while my “Italian” cousins and their parents stayed in another.

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Each day we’d trek to the beach, slipping off our flip flops at the end of the dock and pressing our bare feet into the squishy sand.  I watched as the men–my father, uncle and brother-in-law–unfolded yellow striped lounge chairs and pushed umbrellas deep into the ground. Pack ‘n Plays were opened underneath where my sun-flushed baby nieces would drift off to sleep throughout the day.

I spent the day so many ways.  At times, I sat in a beach chair, a sketchbook on my lap swiping a pencil across the page to draw the swimsuited backs of my nieces as they stood along the shore.   My aunt sometimes peeked over my shoulder and shared pointers on perspective and shading.  Later on, I sat on the edge of a lounge chair along with my mother and the other girls and women. With a chair between us, we laid out our cards for May-I, catching them as fast as we could when the wind breezed itself across the beach.  Or I stood in the ocean with my sisters and brother-in-law bopping as the soft waves lifted us up, ducking under the bigger, rushing ones or riding them into shore.

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A large amount of my time, though, was spent with my sisters as we played with our nieces. The scratchy grains dug into my knees as we flipped buckets of wet sand into miniature castles and dug tiny moats around their edges. We took turns letting the girls bury us.  Lying face-up on the sand as they covered me with shovel-fulls, I wiggled my fingers and toes, feeling them escape into the open air as the little girls giggled around me.

Back in the house, once the sand had been washed from our skin, we pulled on our soft, long-sleeved tees from Breezin’ Up, pieced together puzzles, sang songs, and tickled the little ladies until they lost their breath.  In the morning, we began it all again.  Each day.  Every year.


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A New Millennium

Five years after our last Hamptons trip, so much had changed.  My sisters and I had become women, my first two nephews had joined the world (and a couple of years later, my new niece, Olivia) with their chubby cheeks and pudgy knees.

And my father was gone.

People say when someone dies there is a hole left behind. But the word hole doesn’t seem like enough. It’s more of a crater, a chasm.  One so deep, it seems to begin again and again before it ends.  But that’s not all that remains.  Debris remains too, a pile of fragments left behind.  And when you put your pieces back together, when you build it all back up brick by brick, it is nothing like it was.  It can’t be  But you have to build it, for that is the only way to carry on.

So we didn’t return to the Hamptons; we didn’t rent a condo at the Heritage as we always had.  But we did begin annual outings to L.B.I.  My nieces were older then but still little girls.  They’d spend hours in the ocean with their father; I’d watch them beg him to take them in again and again and again. Those days, I didn’t play with them as much in the sand honestly.  I was working on my tan.  In the pool, though, we played unending rounds of Goofy or simple games we made up for fun.  When the girls had had enough, I’d take a nephew on my hip and jump up and down or spin splashing the water around us.

And in the house, we just played and played.  We sang our own version of “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid, lifting the girls up in the air on the end notes.  We lined up along the couch and sang Father Abraham moving our heads up and down.  And then our arms and then our legs until we collapsed onto the sofa in fits of laughter.  Even the babies chuckled at our antics.

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We slapped down our cards on the coffee tables, claiming piles in Spit or hoping for the higher card in War.  My sisters and I would search for a low card among our decks to make sure the girls could win now and then.  We started teaching them to play May-I too, letting them sit on our laps and be on our teams, singing “You Can’t Throw That” and dancing to M. C. Hammer’s beat whenever someone threw an illegal card.  And each year I brought a craft to make with all the kids.  One year we colored white sneakers with fabric markers; the next, we made our own T-shirts with bright, shining paint.

When I remember these vacations, those of my childhood and my young adulthood, it is my nieces’ and nephews’ faces that I see.  When I remember the moments of laughter, the moments of joy, they are there all around me.



Now, eight years later, a entirely new generation has joined our family.  My sister’s daughters, five and three, and her ten-month-old son. And, of course, there is Rosie.

So there we were again. At the beach. In the pool.

I played with Rosie. I dug with her in the sand. I took her to the edge of the ocean and watched her freeze up as the cold water ran over her pale feet. I spun her around in the smooth pool water; I threw her up in the air and let the water swoop her down and push her back up.  I watched her laugh as Anthony swam around the pool with her. We made memories. And I enjoyed every moment.

But that’s not all I enjoyed.  I loved watching the full circle we’ve made.  I loved seeing how my older nieces and nephews are the big kids now while my daughter, my new nieces and youngest nephew are the babies.  I loved watching as the bigs sat around the kitchen table, helping the littles string wooden beads onto a necklace.  I loved hearing Rosie yell “Ready or not, here I come” as her older cousin hid under the kitchen table. The older kids held the hands of the younger ones in the pool, pulling them around the water and singing “Let It Go” over and over again.  They played Marco Polo and Goofy, guiding the babies along the length of the pool and cheering them on as they “raced” each other.   They lay on the beach and let Rosie and the others bury them with sand; they built sand castles and helped them collect shells on the shore.

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Isn’t life amazing?  Isn’t it incredible that what seems like only a few years ago, these tall, dark, beautiful young woman and were just little girls, laughing at my every joke. And these almost teenagers were only tiny babies, sitting on my hip in the pool, laughing at a game of Peek-a-boo. And, here they all are now, making my daughter laugh, laugh with her eyes closed and her mouth open.

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This is what family means after all.  This is family.  Family is this.

Moments and memories and change.  Change that doesn’t change what matters.  Falling apart and coming back together again.  Growing and moving and staying and loving. Forever.


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Memorial Day Weekend: Then & Now

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Last weekend, we celebrated Memorial Day, the kickoff for the rest of the summer.  Before we know it, we’ll be watching fireworks burst in the night sky on the 4th of July and then summer will come to a close with Labor Day barbecues and pool parties.  Each of these holidays represents something so much more important than hamburgers on a grill and games of Marco Polo.  I respect the meaning of each of them and the significance of what they are meant to honor.

As each of them passes, though, I can’t help but reflect on my personal experience with these summer holidays.  I can’t help but laugh and shake my head at the enormous difference between the way I celebrate each of them today and the way I used to spend them before I met Anthony and settled down into our happy, little life.

Ten years ago, Memorial Day weekend was when my girlfriends and I moved into our shore house in Belmar.  The weekend was filled with backyard parties, Happy Hour, and nights spent in the dark, crowded space of D’Jais.


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Today, Memorial Day weekend is family time.  We had a barbecue every day of the weekend filled with swing sets, bouncy castles and baby pools.

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Oh, how times have changed.  Let’s take a look.


Memorial Day Weekend: Then & Now

Breaking Out the Summer Wardrobe:

Then:  I could not possibly be down the shore and want a pink shirt or denim skirt I had left at home.  Good God, no!  So what did I do?  I took my entire summer wardrobe from the storage crates, every pair of jeans from my closet, and all my tees and tanks from my drawers and packed them into my giant royal blue duffel bag with bright orange straps.  Remember, I can’t do heavy lifting.  So who had to carry this 40 lb. bag to and from the car or up the stairs to our loft?  My sister, my friends, my best friend’s boyfriend.  How very selfless of me.

Now:  With the crazy back and forth weather we had this spring, I had yet to remove any of Rosie’s winter clothes from her room when this weekend arrived.  Monday, when I finally switched them out for her summer wardrobe, I found her Christmas nightgown and Thanksgiving T-shirt squashed in the bottom of her drawers.  It took four hours but the satisfaction I feel looking into her organized closet, TOPS–BOTTOMS–DRESSES–ROMPERS, and at the piles of color-coded leggings in her drawer makes it all worth it.

Thrills & Spills

Then:  A regular occurrence.  With the amount of bodies in D’Jais and the amount of alcohol in those bodies, drinks were knocked over on a regular basis.   Some of those summers, my head was fuzzy with alcohol and during those that I didn’t drink, the fun in the air was enough to make me carefree.  So I was never bothered when a cold beer spilled onto my back or a Malibu baby breeze splashed onto my feet.  Not to mention, the floor in there was flooded with a dark liquid made of things far worse than liquor.  Our feet were always black when we left; a little spill was the least of our worries.

Now:  A regular occurrence.  On Saturday, Rosemarie spilled her milk on our drive to Long Island for my nephew’s birthday party.  It’s awesome when milk spills.  On upholstery.  In the summer.  At my friend’s barbecue on Saturday, she took a full cup of water from the water table and poured it over her head and down her dress.  And on Monday as she sat on my lap in my mother’s backyard eating dessert, sticky, cold rainbow ice regularly poured from her cup, her mouth, and her chin onto my bare thighs.  Like I said, a regular occurrence.

Kissy Kisses

Then:  Okay, there were kisses.  It was the shore! It was the summer! I was young and tan and blonde.  It was dark and crowded and steamy.  So, yeah, there were kisses.  Sometimes, they were fun.  Sometimes, when I opened my eyes after, I’d smile at my partner, his nice eyes or chiseled cheeks.  Sometimes, they were sloppy and I’d open my eyes horrified by the sight in front of me.  What can I say?  It happens to the best of us.

Now:  Is there anything better than a kiss from my daughter?  When she plants her mouth right on mine, grabs the back of my head and hums a long MUUAAHH onto my lips?  Nope, nothing better.


Then:  Yes, I counted down.  I waited for that weekend the way Ralphie waits for Christmas morning.  One year, a friend and I counted down together each day on IM.  Every morning, he’d send the update:  “T-minus 15 days.”  I’d respond with a Woohoo or an Oh yeah.  The day before Memorial Weekend began, I beat  him to the punch.  “T-minus 1 Day,” I typed and pressed Send with sheer glee.  The countdown was over.  The summer had arrived and all the fun that came with it.

Now:  Countdowns are a lot more negative nowadays.  Instead of ending in drinking and dancing, they end in timeout.  “Rosemarie, put those socks on your feet in 5–4–3.”  “You better be in that bathroom in 5–4–3–2–1 1/2.”  Yes, I resort to half counts and with the amount of time I let pass between each number, I am surely misleading her about the length of five seconds.

Cruising Down the Highway with the Radio on, Baby

Then:  It felt like half of my time during those summers was spent driving down the shore and back up and down again.  Alone for the ride, I’d slide CD after CD into the radio of my blue BMW yelling out my summer anthem by Bon Jovi:

“Till I’m six feet under
I won’t need a bed
Gonna live while I’m alive
I’ll sleep when I’m dead”

When I’d had enough of 80s rock, I’d bounce my knee to the club beat of “All This Time” and “I Like It,” pumping my shoulders and singing the lyrics.  Throw in a fist pump and an Italian flag and I was the female version of Pauly D.  So classy.

Now:  When Rosie became cranky on our drive down the L.I.E. on Saturday, my only salvation was the Disney station on Pandora.  I turned up the volume and she and I spent the rest of the ride belting out the lyrics to “Let It Go” and “Part of Your World.”  I even made her listen to a favorite from Mulan even though she’s never seen the movie:

“Let’s get down to business
To defeat the Huns.
Did they send me daughters
When I asked for sons?”

I even slapped my hand on the steering wheel on the cymbal sounds between each line.  Rosie wasn’t nearly as entertained as I was.


Then:  Occasionally, there were nights when we just never made it to bed.  After leaving D’Jais, we’d find our way to a friend’s shore house and hang out in the yard or kitchen playing cards.  We’d listen to music and talk about nothing until the sunlight rose around us.  No worries.  A little catnap in the afternoon refreshed us for that night’s party.

Now:  Okay, I am lucky.  Rosie never actually stays up all night but as she does now and then, on Sunday night she woke up repeatedly, crying in her bed for no reason and calling “Mommy” over and over.  Each time, I pulled myself out of bed, sulked over to her room and soothed her back to sleep.  A lot less fun than shore all-nighters and, ten years later, a lot more draining.

The Time of My Life

Then:  This time spent down the shore with my girlfriends was another world.   We’d dance the hours away every night standing in a circle, yelling the lyrics to our favorite songs.  We’d pull our hair back into ponytails and ignore the aches in our feet until the lights came on at 2 am and “Summer Wind” played over our heads.  Then, we would sit at the food counter outside, split cheese fries and burgers and stroll home in the dark summer air climbing into our shared beds or futons and doze off.  The next morning, we’d wake up to laughter as we reviewed the antics of the night before.  During the day, we’d lounge in canvas beach chairs in our yard or on the beach with ice coffees making wet circles in the sand.

We seven girls had to share one shower, two mirrors and one A.C but we also shared makeup and clothes and laughs so long, they burned.  We became family on those hot, summer days and nights.  We had the time of our lives.

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Now:  But this is the time of my life too.  I wanted to be a mother since I was a little girl, but I never knew how much I would love it.  I didn’t know how happy it would make me to see my daughter’s face in the morning, her hair mushed around her head, her dolls in her little arms and her face smiling.  I didn’t know how the very sound of her footsteps throughout the house could melt my heart.  I didn’t know the way she sings “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” scrunches up her nose and tells me “Lambs don’t go to school” would make me laugh from the pit of my belly.  I didn’t know everything would make sense when she tells me she loves me, when she holds my hand, hugs my leg and tells me I’m her best friend.

No, it’s not the same kind of fun; it’s not a fun that is loud and bright and crazy.  But it is the kind of fun that makes me happy.  The kind of fun that makes each day one to remember.

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Bon Jovi.  “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.” Keep the Faith.  Mercury, 1993.
Osmond, Donnie. “Make a Man Out of You.” Mulan: An Original Walt Disney Records Soundtrack. Walt Disney, 1998.