Wednesday, April 24, 2013

On Having Two Moms

Do you know that book I Love You Like Crazy Cakes?  For years, I have mostly avoided it.  I read it once to Marcie when she was young, and I couldn't get through the last two pages of the story without choking up.  So off the bookshelves it went to live in picture-book heaven.  Because I couldn't handle it.

Enter Tate.

Tate pulled it off the shelf one night as part of his bedtime three-book-routine.  I'd forgotten why it landed on the bookshelf.  And then I turned the first page and started to read him the story.

I change some of it.  It's a story about a woman who adopts a little girl from China.  The rooms full of little girls from China in the story doesn't fit Tate because he is a boy.  So I change the story.  Instead of a room full of baby girls, it's just a room full of babies.

Luckily, Tate can't read yet.  So it works for us.  The story itself is universal.  You know, among children adopted from China.

Anyway, in the last couple pages, the woman in the book cries as she puts her new baby to sleep-- the tears are for the child's Chinese mother, who could not keep the baby.  And the mother promises to always keep the Chinese woman alive in their home.   

Tonight, after we read the story, I asked Tate, "Did you know you have TWO mommies?"  Tate giggled.  I told him (again) that he has a Chinese mommy, and he grew in her tummy.  And I told him that he has me- I get to be his regular, every day, real mommy.  I told him that his Chinese mommy grew him inside her- that she made him. She fed him good foods and kept him warm while she grew him in her belly.  And now I keep him warm and I feed him food.  And I'm so, so lucky to be his mommy now.

Tate asked if I have two mommies, and I told him I did not.  Just the one mommy.  She is a great mommy, by the way.  He pondered this for a moment.  And then Casey chimed in with his story of his birthmom.  He talked about how he doesn't remember her and he misses her.  And how all the kids in our house have two moms- moms that grew them and me.  "You don't have two mommies?" Tate asked me one last time.  "Nope," I said.  "Just the one."  And there was this barely audible response- like a cross between a sigh and a cluck of the tongue.  I'm not sure if it came from Tate or Casey, but it was as if the boys were feeling the tiniest bit sorry for me.

Two things struck me about this exchange:
1.  I cannot possibly understand or predict what it is like to grapple with the concept of having two mothers because one made the choice to place you for adoption and the other so desperately wanted you to join her family.  Maybe nothing.  But whatever it's like, my kids will have each other.  And I'm really glad for that.

2. In American society today, normal is whatever you make it.  The other day, we talked about how our families have long histories of lengthy marriages.  My grandfather is just about to turn 90, and he and my grandmother have been married for more than 60 years.  My parents have been married for over 40.  Jason's parents have been married for more than 40 years.  And they all still like each other, too.  But other families look different. Some have step-parents. Some have half-siblings.  Some kids have three or four grandmothers.  Some kids have two moms who are raising them.  These constructs don't matter so much to me.  Or to the kids.  And they don't seem to care - or mind - how they got here.  At least not yet.  So we're creating our own normal.  And I feel pretty good about that.

Monday, April 22, 2013


No.  We're not there yet.  Thankfully.

But today I had a funny conversation with Casey about it.

One of the things I absolutely love about Casey is that he is not shy about asking me questions.  They usually come at bedtime or in the car.  Which is one of the reasons I didn't want to miss out on all the trekking of kid from pillar to post.

So today, he says, "Mom, how old will I be when I start dating?"  Of course I replied, "What do you think?" I mostly respond this way (a) because  I am trying to figure out where he is coming from and (b) because whatever answer I give is going be mostly arbitrary.

He didn't have a thought-- so I said maybe in high school.  And he seemed okay with that.  At least for now.

Then he asked, "Will my voice get deep like Blank's?"  (Name replaced with "Blank" to protect the "innocent.")

"I hope so."

"What else will happen?"

"Well, Casey, there's this thing called puberty.  And when it happens, your voice will probably deepen.  And you will grow hair under your arms.  And your sweat will really get stinky.  And you may even start to grow a moustache and beard."


He cracks me up.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Super Heroes with Laser Beam Eyes

I feel a little silly posting about the trivialities of my daily life in light of the bombings at the Boston Marathon yesterday.  I don't have anything really insightful to add -

Unlike the Newtown massacre at Christmastime, this time, my kids were not immune from the news.  It's a hard conversation to have.  Even without visual images infiltrating your mind.  We were flipping through radio stations when Casey heard a piece of news about the bombs.  I changed the station- but not fast enough.

So we talked about it a little.  The kids wanted to know if our family is okay.  (My extended family is in the New England area; my parents are from Boston; my grandparents still live there.)  They are, I presume.  Seems unlikely my almost 90-year-old grandfather ventured out to cheer on marathoners.

Then we talked about who launched the attack.  The not-knowing is not very comforting - especially for kids who sometimes see the world as a big, scary place.  Plus, kids (at least my kids) have such a heightened sense of justice and fairness, and someone hurting people for no reason is definitely not in the realm of fair.

As we drove to school today, Casey told me he wished he were a super hero.

"What kind?" I asked, half-listening as I made my way through morning traffic.

"I'd want laser beam eyes," he explained.  "One red and one green."

"What would you do with them?"

"With them, I would be able to tell who the bad guys are and I'd laser them to death," he responded.

Sigh.  If only we could tell about the character of a person by looking deep inside them.  If only.

After school, Casey and I talked about all the helpers.  The people who ran toward the blasts.  His eyes grew wide as I told him about the everyday people who stepped up to help the injured.  We talked about how brave those people were.   We talked about how we have a responsibility to the people around us. But I know he already felt that deep inside.  That's why he wants those Laser Beam Eyes.

Monday, April 15, 2013

But the Princesses Saved the Day

It's been a while since we've been to Disneyland.  We used to go pretty much annually over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend.  It's after the holidays and before the February breaks.  And the weather isn't always cooperative, so people seem more reticent to take the risk.

In 2010, we went to Hong Kong Disneyland.  That was Tate's first time in a stroller, and he was less than happy about the opportunity to roll around instead of sitting on me, attached by a baby carrier.

In 2011, we went to Disneyworld with Casey's birth family.  It was hot.  And Tate was whiny.  And, in the end, the kids enjoyed go-kart racing and feeding alligators more than they liked Disney or Universal.  That figured.

Anyway, this year, we revived the experience.  Now that Tate is three, we knew he'd be able to more fully appreciate Disneyland.  Plus, he absolutely adores all things castle, princess and Alice in Wonderland.  It was more crowded than in years past (thanks to the Tinkerbell Half Marathon), but still not as crowded as summertime.

First, we went into the castle-- at Tate's request.  I forgot how dark it is in there.  And that the fairy tale of sleeping beauty (as told in pictures) is kind of scary for a 3-year-old.  He entered all smiles.  He exited clinging for dear life and bawling.

We were in Fantasy Land at that point - and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride had virtually no wait.  So we hopped aboard.  Tate was a little more apprehensive but put on a good face.  By the time the ride was over, he was screaming in fear.  I forgot that you end the ride in a fiery hell of sorts.

After Tate calmed down some, we hit Alice in Wonderland.  He asked to go on it.  He loves the movie-- not the animated one, the Johnny Depp one.  But of course that was a bust, too.

"We have to have a positive experience," I told Jason.  And he readily agreed.  Small World it had to be.  And as we wandered toward It's a Small World, Tate spied the princess walkway and asked if he could meet the princesses.  In the end, it was probably the longest wait we had.  But it was totally worth it.  He loved meeting the princesses.  He asked each one where she slept.  And he told Princess Aurora that she should talk to the prince about getting a night light in her castle!

Things got better after that.  We met up with some of our favorite people and explored more of Disneyland.  The next day, we ventured into California Adventure, where are children were completed disinterested in Cars Land, which had just opened.  It never ceases to amaze me how unappreciative our kids can be.  I mean than genuinely; I am surprised by it.  If my parents had taken me to Disneyland for two days in a row, I think I would have been ecstatic!  Not my three.  They would have preferred to spend an afternoon swimming in the hotel pool to wandering around an amusement park.  It's crazy to me.  Anyway, here are some other shots of the trip:

The last night we were at Disneyland, I had a grande latte sitting on the top of Tate's stroller while I stopped to pick up some popcorn for Casey.  It was lodged in the closed-up shade.  Tate decided to grab the shade and flip it, sending the coffee flying all over.  Here's the thing.  Not only did the Disney workers not simply hand me a pile of rags and napkins to clean up the mess Tate just made - and it was clearly our fault, but they called two people over.  One cleaned up the mess.  The other noted that it looked like my cup had been awfully full and walked me over to the Starbucks where he went and got me a replacement drink.  Wow.  Talk about awesome customer service.

On a separate note, I used to be able to set the size of the photos-- anyone know how to do that under this newest version of blogger?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Zen and the Art of Pet Parenthood

We used to half-joke that we couldn't own anything nice while our children were young.  Tate was our worst offender.  Last August we finally repainted the walls.  They were covered in hand prints and foot prints.  They had the lingering stains of spilled sodas.  And Tate liked to decorate with pens and pencils and even nail polish.  So we repainted.  It's plain, but it looks clean at least.

We've managed to go many, many months with limited damage to our walls.  Or our floors.  For the most part.

So I don't know what I was thinking when I agreed to add another member to our family.  After all we have clean walls!  We can buy nice things again!  Our family is complete!  But somehow, getting a pet felt okay.  And the opportunity just fell in our laps.  It was a fluke- a high school teacher (and colleague) of mine - someone whom I adored and who was always very good to me - bumped into my family at the grocery store the day before Easter.  We got to talking, and it turned out he breeds Labrador retrievers.  He very graciously gifted us one.

As much as I love children, I'm not so much a pet person.  I've never had a puppy. And I'm pretty sure I could have made it through life without ever having had one.  But the kids are happy. And Jason is thrilled.  And the dog is cute.  We thought of all sorts of names we liked, but I didn't want to give him any names that would lead to self-fulfilling prophecies (like Digger).  I pushed hard for Dozer.  But he's not a sleepy puppy.  So we landed on Bandit.

Here's the new family photo:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

January - Casey Turns Double Digits!

Casey hit double-digits in January.  And for his party, he insisted on a soccer tournament - the Casey Dia Soccer Tournament.  He picked the name because of the play on "Casey dia" and "quesadilla."  He put his friends on soccer teams and they played in a round robin tournament.  There were ribbons to signify how the boys played.  There was a homemade soccer ball cake.  There were cousins and friends and lots of smiles.

Our local pizza place- usually closed on Sunday morning- agreed to provide us food. So we had good pizza and great salad to scarf down after the soccer play and before the cake.

On Casey's actual birthday, instead of cake he opted for frosted brownies.  We kept it low key, but we celebrated all the same:

I can hardly believe he is 10 years old already.  Sometimes I feel like I blinked and here we are.  When I left my big firm job to take a job teaching and directing an academic success program at a law school, I thought for sure people would think I was insane.  To jump off the partner track.  To walk away from all the money. To leave just when I was really getting the hang of it.  And after all the years of sacrifice, just as we were starting to catch up financially.  And to do it before I'd finished paying off the student loans.

So I was surprised that I got quite a different reaction.  I'm sure there are people who thought all those things and were polite enough to just not say it.  But a number of people told me they were proud of me.  Called me brave.  Said they were impressed that I was making this choice, at this point in my life.

The money was nice.  I liked going on vacation every year.  But some days, many days, I felt like I was living to get from one vacation to the next.  I didn't interact with the kids' teachers.  I didn't know the names of the kids on their soccer teams.  I felt mostly removed.  And that was by design-- Jason was handling the home front, and I had plenty on my plate with work.  But I missed it.  I looked around and saw another three or more decades of working long hours with limited interaction with my family.  I know it's not like that for everyone.  But it was for me.  I'd watch partners go on vacation -- and then answer emails constantly or set aside 2-3 hours a day to work.  And I'd wonder if I'd be resentful doing that for the rest of my life.  I don't have an answer to this.  Customer service is incredibly important when you're an attorney-- you really can't just drop off the face of the earth for a week.  And I thought I'd be okay with that.  But then I began to think more about it.  I was in law school when Casey and Marcie were little.  Which meant I saw them for about an hour a day, four days a week.  They don't remember that time, of course.  But I do.  And now I was sacrificing more time.  They had a full-time parent at home.  But I was struggling with it.  I just kept thinking that I'd blink and they'd be in college, and I'd never really have known them.

What's the point of going through the effort of adopting children you never really know?

Sometimes I miss it.  I still dream about practice.  I miss the complexities and the competition of it.  But I don't regret the decision.  At least not yet.

Leave it to me to turn a post about Casey's birthday into a post about me.  But the point is this.  I have eight more years with him and then he'll be off to college (hopefully).  And I want to be here for these eight years.  Because Casey is this warm, funny, interesting kid.  He is athletic.  He wants to make good choices.  He is thoughtful about what makes a good friend.  And I don't want to miss out on being a part of his everyday world while he grows into a man.  Life is just too short.  And he is just too cool of a kid.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Like an Old Friend

I've been composing blog posts in my head lately.  I guess that's better than composing them out loud.  Sometimes I wonder if anyone would hear me anyway.  After all, with three kids competing for talk-time, it's not like they are listening to me.

I looked back at some cake pictures I took when Marcie was younger, and I was so glad I had documented it.  And then I felt sad that I've documented virtually nothing for Tate.

I really do think it gets harder to blog about the kids as they get older.  Things are so much more personal because the consequences are bigger.  I mean, if you yell at your 18 month old every once in a while, the toddler is (hopefully) not going to remember it.  But the 7 and 10 year olds?  Yeah.  Memories like elephants.  Not for the good times, of course.  Just the mis-steps.  Sigh.  I guess the good news is that by the time they are my age, their whole childhoods will mostly be blurs-- and hopefully, with a little luck, what they will remember is an overall positive feeling.  That's what I'm aiming for.

So I have some thoughts.  And I've begun drafting.  And I hope someone is still out there who cares enough to read them because they're coming very soon . . .

Along with pictures.