Mother’s Day Mommy Hacks

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.

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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.

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    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.

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    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

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.

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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.

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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 Adoption.com 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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.

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    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.

 

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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.

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Pencils, Books and Mom’s Sad Looks

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:

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

“Mommy?”
“Yes, honey.”
Silence.

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

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

“Mommy?”
“Yes?”
“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.

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Our Family is a Circle…

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.

 

Today 

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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Someday You

A few weeks ago, we converted Rosemarie’s crib to a toddler bed.  It was pretty much the last of her baby items to go.  It started with the infant car seat, which we left behind a long time ago.  Some months later, we said goodbye to the bottle, diapers were discarded this past February and now the crib has been unscrewed and rearranged into a miniature bed.  In reality, it’s just a piece of furniture, a combination of wood and metal.  But in my mind it’s a watch, or better yet, an hourglass:  concrete, tangible proof that time is passing.

On one of the first nights Rosie slept in her bed, she actually let me choose the story we would read, a rare occurrence.  I pulled Someday by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds from her closet; I had received the book as a gift from my cousin.

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The pages picture a mother and daughter; the former speaks to her child listing all the “somedays” she hopes her daughter will have as she grows.  Some are hopes for a childhood marked by magic, one in which the daughter will run so fast her lungs will burn and “swing so high, higher than [she] ever dared to swing.”

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As the pages turn, the daughter grows older in her mother’s imagination as the mother’s dreams mature as well:  “Someday you will look at this house and wonder how something that feels so big can look so small.”

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“Someday I will watch you brushing your child’s hair.”

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These authors’ words are so simply touching and reading them while seeing Rosemarie lay in her new toddler bed really struck me.  My big girl in her big girl bed.  She is only two and a half but I couldn’t resist the deep ache in my chest as I realized while she is only two, she is growing.  Every day.  Someday she won’t be a toddler.  Or a child.  Someday, she’ll be all grown up.

And I wondered:  what are the somedays I want for her?  I agree with every moment on McGhee and Reynolds’s list; I will not even try to say them better than they. 

And, of course, we all want the big things.  We all want our children to find love that warms their heart, perhaps work that makes them smile, children that complete them.

So what about some little things?  What are the little somedays I hope Rosemarie will have like swinging so high her stomach drops or running so fast her chest burns?  What are the moments I hope to be sprinkled throughout her life?

Well, Rosemarie, my big little girl, here are some wishes I have for you.  The first five items on a list I know will continue to grow.

  1. Someday you will laugh so hard your stomach aches – Not the kind of laughter that comes from a slapstick movie nor the antics of a stand-up comic. The kind that comes from real life.  From your best friend tripping and falling on the dance floor, from the joke that never ends one night. The kind of joke that makes a single word funny like pepper or elbow.

    The kind of laughter that won’t end, even when you beg your stomach to relax for the laughter just hurts too much. The kind that will make you laugh every time you remember it, days, weeks or years later.

  2. Someday you will win something (especially as an underdog) – No, winning isn’t everything but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel amazing.  I can say that I have been lucky enough to win as the favorite and as the underdog.  And nothing compares to winning when no one thought you could.  It is a feeling unique to itself.  To have worked so hard for something, to have wanted to give up only to keep going and to make it all worth it in the end.

    Enjoy the sport or the game or whatever it is you may do no matter the outcome, but someday I hope the outcome is what you fought for.  Someday, I hope you know how it feels to win.

  3. Someday you will give and receive an amazing gift – I don’t care if it’s worth $1 or $100.  I just want you to know how it feels to get a gift you truly love.  To pull off the wrapping paper, unsure of what’s inside. To lift the flimsy cardboard box top, unfold the crunchy tissue paper, and find your heart’s desire underneath. To genuinely squeal with glee.

    And just as gratifying, perhaps more, I hope you watch someone react this way to the gift you have given. I hope you feel the joy that only comes from knowing you made someone else’s day.

    It’s not about the gift. It’s not about the material. It’s just about the feeling.

  4. Someday you will hear your favorite song in a bar or club and dance to it:  Yes, the thought already makes me nervous.  You in a club, the loud music, the guys your age.  The other details I don’t even want to mention.

    Regardless, this setting is made for the perfect moment.  The moment you hear the beat of your favorite song, a song that hasn’t really begun yet but you know it’s coming.  Maybe you’ll bounce on your toes in excitement, maybe you’ll close your eyes and focus on the sound.  When the songs explodes, I hope you do too.  I hope you sing along and dance.  Maybe you’ll be the only one who loves that song.  And that’s fine.  Enjoy it anyway.

    But I do hope your friends love the song too. I hope you form a circle, yelling the words across to each other.  I hope you throw back your heads and close your eyes.  I hope you dance from the inside out.

  5. Someday you will have the perfect night’s sleep – One day, after you worked hard for many hours and you swap your binding jeans and painful shoes for worn in sweatpants and soft socks, may you climb into your bed that feels like a cloud.  May you lie down onto pillows that have taken the perfect shape to cradle your head. With a plush comforter pulled up to your chin, may you doze off easily.  And may you wake up hours later from a sleep so deep, you’re a little confused.  When you realize where you are, may you snuggle your knees to your chest and sigh in pure contentment.

None of these moments will change your life but moments like these can make your life worth living.  Enjoy them, my love.  Enjoy every last one.

 

Readers, what are other moments can you add to the list?  What are some perfect little things you want your children to experience?

 

 

McGhee, Alison and Peter H. Reyholds. Someday. New York: Atheneum, 2007. Print.

 

 


Nobody Likes a Tattletale But…

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It is one of the few moments I remember from kindergarten. I stood in the seafoam green hallway with the rest of my class as we gathered to attend an assembly.  Susie or Cindy or Mary curved her small hand around her mouth and whispered into my ear “Tell Mrs. Duane that John and Steve were talking during prayers”  I turned toward my teacher, her black hair curled around soft milky skin.

“John and Steve were talking during prayers,” I blurted.

She looked down at me, pink matte lipstick spread on her thin lips.

“Don’t be a tattletale,” she said.

I’m honestly embarrassed when I think of this memory.  Sure, it was all what’s-her-name’s idea but I was all too eager to oblige.

I’d like to think this was a rare occurrence, that the times I tattled as a child were few and far between. And I do think that is possible as I was always taught not to tattle by my parents.  I grew up knowing a tattletale was something I never wanted to be.  So much so that I’m still ashamed of five-year-old me ratting out little John and Steve.

I always assumed once I became a mother, I would pass on this aversion to tattling to my children.  So far, though, as a parent, I am finding tattling to be much more of a gray area than I thought.

Nix the Snitch

Let’s be honest. Nobody likes a tattletale.  Tattling done for the sake of tattling is simply unkind.  And on the list of qualities I hope to instill in my daughter, kindness resides at the top.  Why, therefore, would I ever teach her to do something I see as mean?  Why would I want her to tattle on her classmates just to get them in trouble as I did to John and Steve?  I wouldn’t.  I don’t.  I don’t want her to do something that hurts others just for the sake of doing it.

Tattling isn’t just a childhood act either.  As an adult, I have worked among tattletales.  I was once ratted out to my bosses by a man twenty years my senior.  And I assure you there was no reason for this tattling.  It did not help the situation.  I had not done anything malicious or unethical.  An honest mistake had been made. He believed it was mine; I believed it was his.  Either way, it could have been easily rectified between coworkers with no repercussions. Yet, this man felt the need to tell both our bosses.  It was tattling in its truest form and I thought it was reprehensible behavior.  I didn’t hold a grudge or treat him differently, but my opinion of him did change.  I just didn’t think he was very nice anymore.

I certainly do not want my daughter to be like him.  I don’t want her to find satisfaction in causing others trouble.  Isn’t that what tattletales do?

A Time to Tattle

No, I do not want Rosemarie to be a tattletale, but there are times when I think I would want her to tattle.

If a classmate repeatedly singles out Rosemarie, takes her toys or makes fun of her, wouldn’t I want her to tell the teacher?  As a former teacher myself, I know it is hard to see everything that goes on in a classroom.  I know it is quite possible that a student can be mistreated or even bullied without the teacher witnessing the behavior.  How else is the teacher sure to know, then, unless I tell Rosie it’s okay to tell her?

Beyond possible issues with her peers, there are other scenarios in which I would want Rosemarie to tattle.  We live in a scary world with dangers around our children that are simply unspeakable.  God forbid my daughter ever falls victim to a predator of any kind, I want her to know that not only may she tattle on this person but she must do so.

And there is also the issue that I do not want to discourage Rosemarie from sharing information with me, any information.  I want my daughter to feel comfortable talking to me.  I want her to know she can tell me things that are troubling her.  I want her to know no matter what she tells me, I will still love her.

And, yet, a few months ago after playing with her cousins, she ran up to me to tell me about something one of them had done.  Maybe her cousin took a toy; maybe she wouldn’t give her a turn on the iPad.  I don’t know what it was because when she began to speak to me and I heard her utter her cousin’s name, I quickly cut her off with “No tattling, Rosie.”

As she walked away from me, I was immediately guilty.  She had tried to tell me something and I didn’t listen.  She had tried to share something that was bothering her, and I shut her mouth instead of opening my ears.

I learned from this moment and I will not do the same again but, in essence, if I teach her tattling is wrong, aren’t I telling her it is wrong to tell me certain things? Aren’t I already teaching her that she cannot tell me anything, an idea that is the very opposite of that which I want her to believe?

A few weeks ago a friend posted a quote on Facebook that caught my eye:

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I can’t say it any better than that.   If I agree with Wallace, and I do, I need to listen to my daughter no matter what it is she wants to say.

 

 

As I said, for me, tattling has become a gray area and I am trying to find ways to address it that are appropriate.  When Rosemarie approaches me now to tell me that a friend hit or or pushed her, I start by asking if she is okay.  Once she says yes, I sometimes simply say “Good, I’m glad.”  Other times, I might mention that we need not tattle unless we need help.  I’m trying to simultaneously instill in her that she can tell me anything while also teaching her that tattling shouldn’t be done without a reason.  Maybe I’m just confusing her instead.  I’m not sure.

I try also to explain when tattling is necessary and when it isn’t.  I tell Rosemarie I need to know if someone’s hurting her or mistreating her or anyone else for that matter.  But I don’t need to know that Dina drew on her hand with a marker or that Michael ate one too many cookies.  In truth, Rosemarie is too young to tell the difference at this point, but maybe if I start now, she’ll get it by the time she is old enough.

I’m not sure if I’m doing it right just yet.  So much of parenting is trial and error after all and I suppose we shall see.  I do intend in some way to teach Rosie when it is right to “tattle” and when it is time to mind her business.  Learning to the tell the difference will be a valuable skill to have as she grows.

What about you?

What is your take on tattling?

How do you address the issue with your kids?

 


A Second Child: To Have or Have Not?

 

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I have written about this subject before, the question of whether or not Anthony and I should add another child to our family.  At the time, that question seemed to loom ahead in the future.   It felt distant and far away.  I said if I did have a second child, I wanted to wait until Rosemarie was somewhat self-sufficient:  potty trained, walking well on her own, and climbing into her car seat, before I had another baby to take care of.

It is clear now that that time is almost here.  It is no longer a decision to be made down the road.  One never knows how long it will take to bring a baby home, adopted or otherwise, and since I would want my children to be fairly close in age if I had another, the time to act is now.

And yet I can act.  I can’t move forward because I still don’t know the best answer.  I still don’t know whether or not I want a second child.

There are times that I do.

When my friend brings over her eleven-month-old little girl, and Rosie bends down to her face smiling ear to ear, calling her “baby”, tickling her and giggling all the while.

When frosty snow covers the ground and Rosemarie stands at the door ready to go out and play.  And guilt fills my heart that she will have to make snow angels all by her lonesome, that she won’t have a partner for a snowball fight.  Of course, I can play with her but let’s be honest.  The older she gets, the less fun it will be to have her mother as a playmate.

When I see my adult friends who are only children with sick parents and the weight of that burden, far too heavy for one person, rests solely on their shoulders.

When Rosemarie grabs my hand as I fold the laundry asking me in her sweet voice to come in the play room to build a tower.  While I’m tempted to finish folding the towels in front of me, I can’t refuse her, for all I see in my mind is her sitting all by herself on the chevron rug, placing the Legos on top of each other, yelling “tada” once she’s done to an empty room.

When we drive away from her cousins’ houses, and her cries fill my ears as she calls their names from her car seat long after we have left their homes behind.

When I realize almost all of the children around Rosemarie have siblings. And no matter now much they love her, no matter how much their parents instill in them that they must love Rosie and protect as if she is their sister, she isn’t.  Believe me, I am not speaking biologically here.  What I mean is they have siblings with whom they will grow every day, siblings with whom they will share bedrooms, parents, and the kind of memories you can only make when you live in the same home.   In this way, they all have sisters and brothers.  But Rosie only has them.

I know I sound dramatic.  I am not claiming Rosemarie spends all her days weeping from her loneliness.

Still, these are the moments when I want a second child.

But, alas, there I times when I don’t.

When I do enter that play room with Rosemarie.  I can sit on the floor and play with her because I have time to do so.  Because I do have to hold the house together and wash the dishes and cook dinner, but I can find the time for it all because there is only one child to tend to.  I don’t have to change someone else’s diaper or help someone else with homework.  I can give her the attention she needs and also give some attention to my house, my husband, and myself.

When I am around my sister (Love you, Kris) and her three children and I see how incredibly busy her day is. When I see how it just never ends.  Because when one child is settled, the other needs juice and when that child’s thirst is quenched, the baby needs a clean diaper.

When I see my own mother with her four grown children (Love you too, Mom) and I notice that sometimes she too is stretched across her daughters.  She babysits for me on Monday, helps Kristen plan a party on Tuesday, visits a college with my niece on Wednesday and cooks dinner for my nephew on Thursday.

And I’m not saying my mother or sister is unhappy with her life. I’m not saying anything for either of them. I’m simply saying maybe I don’t want the the same thing.

Maybe I want to have time.  Time to write.  Time to read.  Time to wrap every Christmas present with ribbon, tree branches and candy canes.  Time to decorate for Valentine’s Day.  Time to see my friends.  Time to just do.  No, I don’t have time to do everything I want to do.  Just yesterday, I got my nails done for the first time in three months, but I think I have more time than mothers with more than one child.

I know what you’re thinking. The list of reasons to have a second child far outweighs the list not to have another, right?  Plus, my reasons to have second are all in the interest of Rosemarie; most of my reasons not to have one are about me.  As mothers, isn’t it our job to put our children’s needs before our own?

When I consider this, two things come to mind.  First, I think of the other major reason I am unsure about a second baby:  my stamina.  I will not delve into this in depth again as it was discussed at length in my other post on this subject, but it’s a huge factor in my inability to decide.

Of course if we adopt another child, I will fall in love again.  All my fears of having not enough time, of feeling too chaotic will pale in comparison to the joy a son or another daughter will bring to my life.

But my stamina will not just magically increase.  My frequent need for a midday nap will not instantly disappear. There will still be times when I feel I can’t keep up as a mother of a toddler or a preschooler or a teenager.  And it’s possible having a second will only make matters worse.  It is possible Rosemarie and this other child will have a less attentive mother, a mother who needs rest more often and who will have less energy to give to her kids.

And what about this other child?  All of my reasons to have him or her are about Rosemarie.  Is that really fair? Is it right to have a second child just for the sake of your first?  Let’s remember.  This is a bit different when adoption is involved.  If I were to have a biological child, that child literally would not exist unless I decided to have him.  But with adoption, the adopted child will exist and will live whether or not Anthony and I adopt him.  Is it right to bring the child home, to make him ours, if I want him mostly because of the child I already have?  Is it right when another couple desperate for a first child or second or third could adopt him instead?

(Sidenote:   To my second child, if you do come into our lives, please know I love you with every bit of myself.  Please know that now that I have you, I can’t imagine life without you.  When I wrote this, I just hadn’t met you yet.)

Perhaps all of this means I am just thinking too much.  Perhaps not.  I know people who have had more children without every really knowing if it was what they wanted.  I also know people who have always wanted two or three or more.

What I don’t know is what I want.  What I don’t know is the best choice for my family.  And what I really don’t know is how I will ever decide!

Some couples leave such a question up to fate.  Some couples can just say “if it happens, it happens.” But others, like adoptive parents or those who need infertility treatments, have to definitively decide if this is what they want.  We must decide.  We must move forward.  I just don’t know how.

 

 


New Year’s Blues

Is it just me?  Am I the only one who doesn’t feel excited as New Year’s approaches? Am I alone in the fact that the hours spent before counting down those ten seconds until we enter a new year don’t fill me with joy but instead a sinking sense of sadness?

Granted, I do spend every New Year’s Eve watching at least twelve hours of The Twilight Zone, which isn’t exactly uplifting, but it must be more than that.

Because it wasn’t always this way.

Party All the Time

Growing up, New Year’s Eve was one of the most fun celebrations for my family.  Filling the long rectangle of my aunt and uncle’s dining room, we ate and laughed and sang and cheered.  My uncle always brought out his karaoke machine and we passed the black microphone around the table singing Frank Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, and Billy Joel.  I can still picture my little grandmother, the mic in her sweet, wrinkled hand as she sang “Where Or When”, her voice a little shaky, but still filled with the talent of her youth.

By the end of the night, the other children and I always performed some sort of musical number.  Our first ever was “Just a Gigolo”; my sister Kristen wore a plastic New Year’s hat to play the main role.  I was one of the girls on her arm.  But my favorite of all time was “Copacabana.” I can still remember the joy that filled my chest when I picked Lola’s name out of the hat and knew I would be the star of our little show.  A half hour later, I danced around the blue carpet of my aunt’s den trying to move as a showgirl would.  Kristen and Fannie fought over me as Ricky and Tony, poor Kristen falling dead after that fatal gunshot.  Our family exploded in applause.

New Year’s Eve was a blast then and well into my teenage years.

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The More Things Change

I know the change must have begun when my father died.  The first New Year’s after that, we simply pretended it wasn’t New Year’s at all.  We spent the night together but Dick Clark stayed off our televisions and no countdown was shouted out loud at midnight.  Of course we were sad that year.  We were distraught.  Our loss was only four months old.  We hadn’t even begun to grieve yet.

The next year, we celebrated mostly for the sake of the children.  At my aunt’s house, we laid bubble wrap along the floor.  When midnight hit, the kids jumped up and down in glee popping the bubbles with their tiny feet.

But the sadness was still there.  And midnight came with just as many tears as it did smiles.

I suppose every year it got a little bit easier.  As more babies were born, the more fun and joy returned to our New Year’s Eves.   And for the past several years, even though we could feel the void of my father’s presence, we had a good time.  My mother’s house was often crowded with family and friends.  Some years, we munched on fried rice and egg rolls.  Others, we snacked on spicy chicken wings and slathered ribs.  We drank and talked and laughed and cheered.

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But no matter how much fun we had, that melancholy mood still lingered within me.  Each year, at some point in the night, I found my way to the couch in the den, curling up to watch some more of Rod Sterling’s chilling stories.

This year, I didn’t even make the effort to make sure we had any real plans for the Eve.  With Anthony working and most of our normal companions having other plans, we ended up with midnight bells of no more than five people.

I know it’s my fault.  I didn’t plan because I don’t really care about celebrating on New Year’s but I don’t believe my father’s death is the only reason for my aversion to the last night of the year.

Because for me, New Year’s is a unique holiday in this way.  I think of him on every holiday and every day of every year and there are moments when his death hits me all over again, but I am still able to feel the joy of special moments.  I was elated watching Rosemarie make the sign of the cross during Grace on Thanksgiving, seeing her press her small palms together as she said “Amen.”  I felt true joy on Christmas morning as she ripped the wrapping paper off her Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and yelled “Meeska, Mooska, Mickey Mouse!”

But New Year’s still brings that pit in my stomach, the kind you feel on a Sunday night as a child when school looms the next morning.

 

What is it about New Year’s then?  I know I am not the only one who feels this way.  I have friends who also admit to feeling down on December 31st every year.  And these friends don’t all have a loss they consider to be life-changing in their past that could be the reason for their melancholy.

Is it just the fear of getting older?  Is it the unavoidable pang of sadness we feel when we realize how quickly our children are growing?

 

Let’s Get This Party Started

Whatever the reason, I’ve decided it’s time to shake that sadness off and bring the joy back to New Year’s.  I don’t want Rosemarie growing up with a New Year’s celebration that’s tainted with her mother’s sulkiness.

Next New Year’s, I have to find a way to cheer myself up and jazz up our night.  Maybe I need to fill the night with more friends and family.  Maybe I need to plan activities ahead of time.  Maybe I just need to psyche myself up for that night.

The good news is that I have a whole year to figure out how I can make this change.   And there I have my first resolution for 2014.  Somehow, someway, I will give Rosemarie a New year’s Eve that’s filled with the fun and joy that I remember feeling as I danced around with yellow feathers in my hair, as I counted down with a sparkling sip of champagne in a plastic glass.  Rosemarie will have New Year’s celebrations to remember.  I resolve to make it happen.

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