Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weird Weekend

Things that probably should not have happened this weekend:
  • Lil Sweetie singing "I like big butts and I cannot lie, you other fellas cannot fly, when a girl walks in with a pretty good chin and farts in your face."
  • Dreaming about Rhinestone Abraham Lincoln.  All I remember is rhinestone-covered replicas of the Lincoln Memorial, a dread "the emporer has no clothes" feeling around my friends who were very enthusiastic about this endeavor, and (with apologies to Glen Campbell) singing "Like a Rhinestone Lincoln."  I still can't get that stupid song out of my head.
  • A drastic reduction in my vision in my right (bad) eye.  It's like I'm looking underwater.  I worry that I may have another tear to my retina.  Fun times.

Gone Too Long

Mr. Sweetie has been gone so long.  Absolutely weeks and weeks.  (Ok, only in Sweetie Pie time.)  He is in Houston helping out his sister who is receiving cancer treatment.  A noble and worthy cause, one for which I am gladly willing to sacrifice. 

However, I am not cut out for single parenting.  I lose patience with Lil Sweetie, there is no one to step in when I lose my cool and need a break.  I don't ask for much, but just to get to go to the bathroom without being forced into cookie negotiations through the door.  When Mr. Sweetie isn't around, it's the little things that fall by the wayside.  The laundry is never completely done, the mail stacks up, the dogs start to stink.

I know that some people do this all day, every day.  There should be a Congressional Medal of Honor for single parents.  And the families of our troops, who add the worry about the safety of their loved one to their never-ending list of things to do.  Other days, I am too sweaty and petty to care about anyone's pain but my own.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Stinky and Dogboy

Pet Parade

This is Dogboy. He is so ugly, he’s cute. He is a great dog, the Cary Grant of dogs. He is suave and debonair and always carries a handkerchief. He hover-sits so as to not wrinkle his trousers. He is extremely low maintenance. He would rather die than potty in the house.

This is Stinky Weaselton. She is the Amy Winehouse of dogs. Don’t invite her over, she will get drunk and throw up on your rug. She pees out of spite. She was Catherine the Great in a former life and has a vastly exaggerated sense of entitlement. She demands your attention every minute. She has every bad habit a dog can have—she’s a barker, she’s a digger, she’s a chewer and a trash picker. We thought of the people we hate most in the world and put their number on her tag, but we can’t get her to run away. She’s an a-hole.

An Important Question

As children, we color, cut, and paste regularly. We squeal with joy when an adult pulls out the glitter or paints. We skip, we laugh, we dance. When something moves us, we mooove. We don’t stifle the urge to laugh, to cry, to wiggle our bodies to the beat.

As adults, we say, “I’m not an artist...I’m not a dancer...I’m not an athlete.” We decide that glitter is messy and a waste of money. We take up hobbies and take lessons and practice, practice, practice, striving always to improve, turning our hobby into work. We pass by playgrounds without any temptation to swing upside down from the monkey bars. We never skip. When moved, we choke back laughter or tears. We stifle the urge to wiggle to the beat.


I Call B.S.

When Lil Sweetie was a babe, people told me it was important to talk to her, that it would help her develop her language skills.  So I talked to her constantly, giving her a running play-by-play of what we were doing, what I was thinking and feeling, what we were seeing, etc., etc., blah blah blah.  I have now decided this theory is utter B.S. because I now have a 7-year-old who chatters constantly.  CONSTANTLY.  I am now treated every waking moment to a running play-by-play of what we are doing, what Lil Sweetie is thinking and feeling, what we are seeing, etc. etc. blah blah blah.  Why wouldn't she think this is normal behavior?  It is often very entertaining but on occasion, I could really use a few moments of peace.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Keeping Up Appearances

I used to try my darndest to always look put together.  I shaved my legs every day, even in the dead of winter.  I didn't leave the house without my hair and makeup done.  I was raised to be a Southern lady and that's what I did.

I never felt like I was particularly successful at it.  I always felt like I had a run in my stockings and lipstick on my teeth.  But I made the effort.

Nowadays, I have decided that it is ok for my outsides to match my insides, for my appearance to look as frazzled as my mental state.  Consequently, I have been going to work with no makeup.  No one seems to have noticed.  But I have had a lot more time in the mornings for reading and relaxing.

I'm not sure what the lesson is here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

More Therapy

Here are some more things I have been playing around with.  From this first one, I learned that photos and gel medium do not mix.  Next time I want to use a photo, I will make a color laser copy of it and try that.

This next one I have shown before, but I thought it was missing something.  Milly was right, it need something gold and so I added a gold cross I had in my scrapbooking stash.  It doesn't show up well in the photo but I think it helps provide balance.

This one is just something I was playing around with.  It's not my favorite.

This one happened by accident and I like the way it turned out.

This one is a nod to that quote by Ghandi, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

This last one is another happy accident.

I've always thought of myself as "not artistic" but now I've decided that everyone is artistic.  Don't get me wrong, I have no delusions.  I'm just trying to embrace the fun and play and creativity that I see Lil Sweetie use everyday.  I think it's a shame that so many of us give that up as adults and I'm trying to reclaim some.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Why is Open Adoption Attractive?

JemJam asked an interesting question.  She says, "It seems that an open adoption would be complicated and emotionally exhausting, could you enlighten me as to why this is attractive?"

One reason why open adoption is attractive is that in US domestic adoption, the birthmoms generally get to pick the adoptive family. If the adoptive family is strongly opposed to an open adoption, they may eliminate themselves from consideration. I hate to put it that way--it's sounds so crass. But when you are desperate for a child, it seems a small price to pay to agree to send someone some photos or to meet with them on occasion.

But the most attractive thing about open adoption for me, is that I truly believe that it is what is best for my child.  Lil Sweetie does not remember a time when she didn't know she was adopted.  She has had a photo of her birthmom in her room since she was a baby.  We have detailed medical information from her birthmom, and her birthmom has been good about calling the adoption agency and asking them to pass on additional information on occasion.  As questions come up for Lil Sweetie, we have access to answers we might not have otherwise.  
Contrast that to the way most adoptions were handled when I was a kid.  I remember hearing horror stories of kids who did not know they were adopted until a mean older cousin told them at a family gathering, or they came across their adoption papers in snooping through their parents things looking for their Christmas or birthday gifts.  Adoptive families had little or no information about the birth family, including medical information.  There is even a book (Identical Strangers by Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein) about twins who were placed for adoption with different families who were never told their child had a twin.
In addition, open adoption is better for the birthparents.  Ashley doesn't have to wonder about how Lil Sweetie is doing; she gets regular updates.  As I stated in my earlier post about open adoption, Ashley is somewhat of a stranger to me, but I love her fiercely.  She did a very brave and beautiful and difficult thing when she placed her baby for adoption.  If sending her photos and letters on occasion makes this difficult thing the tiniest bit easier, I feel like I owe her that.
But mostly it's about my kid.  Lil Sweetie doesn't have to wonder about why her birthmom decided not to parent; she has a letter from her birthmom that explains it.  She doesn't have to wonder whether her birthmom loved her, I can tell her how bitterly Ashley cried when she let her go.  She doesn't have to wonder where she gets her lefthandedness from.  She doesn't have a fantasy that her birthparents are secret royalty that will come back to claim her and place her in rightful place upon the throne; she knows who she is and where she comes from.  That, to me, is what makes open adoption so attractive.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Creepy Mom

Please, please, for the love of all things holy, PLEASE do not tell me how hot you think one of the Wiggles is, how attractive you find Zac Efron.  It's inappropriate and wrong and more than a little bit creepy.  Besides, Corbin Bleu is the hot one. 

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Listening To...

"I didn't know your mother
But this is what I have been told
That she cried and she cried
When she gave you up at three days old
She was from the countryside in Cambodia,
A farmer's wife with too many mouths to feed
She wanted you to see a better life

Love takes the best of you, Love takes the best of you
Love takes the best of you, Love takes the best of you

Now you don't look like me
And baby we don't look like you
But our love is so complete
It don't matter eyes are brown or blue
There are people in this world
Who won't understand this family
We'll protect you where we can
Sometimes you'll have to stand and help them see

'Cause love takes the best of you, Love takes the best of you
Love takes the best of you, Love takes the best of you

Every night when I watch you sleep
I want to watch over you forever
Keep you safe with me
And I wish I could promise you a beautiful world
That would never break your heart
Maybe that's what we are here for
We try and fix what comes apart

Love takes the best of you, Love takes the best of you
Love takes the best of you, Love takes the best of you"

~ "Love Takes the Best of You" by Catie Curtis

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Open Adoption

I’m a big fan of open adoption, but I will be the first to admit it ain’t easy. We have a semi-open adoption with Lil Sweetie’s birthmom, which means we send her letters and photos and gifts through the adoption agency but do not know her last name or contact information. Or that’s the way it is supposed to work, anyway. The hospital left the bracelet on Lil Sweetie when I brought her home from the hospital and so I know that she was once “Baby Girl X”. The adoption agency said that happens a lot.

I feel a little guilty about that, but you can’t unring a bell. I just try to be extra-special careful not to reveal the name of Lil Sweetie’s birthmom to anyone. Only a few very close friends even know her first name, and I think only me, Mr. Sweetie, and my mother know the last name.

We have had one meeting with Lil Sweetie’s birthmom, Ashley (not her real name). She requested it when Lil Sweetie was about 6 months old. The meeting was at the adoption agency and a social worker was there to help us along but it went fine. We ate pizza and cookies and Lil Sweetie played on the floor with her toys and looked adorable, and I took a jillion photos of her with her birthmom, and that was it. I was afraid that Ashley might cry and it would be difficult, but her reaction seemed to be more of disbelief, like she couldn’t believe that this creature had actually come out of her body. There are two things that I remember vividly from that meeting. The first I am ashamed to admit, but I was secretly pleased that Lil Sweetie seemed to prefer me over Ashley. How ridiculous is that? As if it were a competition! Ashley will always be Lil Sweetie’s birthmom and I will always be the mother who raised her. Both roles are important. I know that intellectually, but emotionally, I guess I had a fear that some instinctual bond would draw Lil Sweetie to her birthmom and leave me out in the cold. Silly!

The other thing I remember vividly is that Ashley said that Lil Sweetie looks just like Ashley’s mom. I am so curious about this woman! I would so love to see a photo of her. I would so love to know what her deal is, as she has refused to acknowledge that Ashley has a daughter she placed for adoption. But that is a whole ‘nother story, one that I am not privy to.

When Lil Sweetie was about 4 years old, Ashley requested another meeting. We agreed, and it was all set up. Mr. Sweetie and I took off work because the meeting was going to be held during business hours at the adoption agency, and we arranged to pick up Lil Sweetie early from pre-K. Because Lil Sweetie was old enough to understand more of what was going on, we let her know that we were going to see her birthmom and let her be somewhat involved with the planning. I thought it might be a little awkward, so I let Lil Sweetie pick out party supplies and cupcakes, thinking that would give us something to do. We also packed up Lil Sweetie’s scrapbook thinking Lil Sweetie could show it to Ashley and it would give them things to talk about.

Well, at the last minute, Ashley called the adoption agency and cancelled. I have to admit I was livid. On one hand, I can imagine that meeting your 4-year-old birth child would be extremely difficult and would bring up a lot of emotions. But my job is to look out for Lil Sweetie, and I was terrified that this would scar her in some way.

But Lil Sweetie handled it like a trooper. We went ahead and picked her up early and told her we wanted her to be the first to know that Ashley had had something come up at work and could not make the meeting after all. Lil Sweetie’s biggest concern (that she vocalized, anyway) was whether she was still going to get a cupcake. I think at the age she was, she didn’t understand enough to feel rejected by Ashley’s cancellation. I think she just picked up her cues from us, and we acted like we were little disappointed but ok with the cancellation and so she was too.

I do want to mention how great our adoption agency was. I spoke to the Director about my concerns over the cancellation, and in my anger, I have to admit that I mentioned that all our correspondence with Ashley was one-way, that she had never sent a card or note or anything to Lil Sweetie ever. The Director assured me that she would not allow another meeting to be scheduled without first meeting with Ashley and making certain that she felt she could go through with it. She also told Ashley that it wasn’t fair to Lil Sweetie for the openness to go only one way. One of the many things that I love about our adoption agency is that I feel they are extremely fair in advocating for both the birthmoms and the adopted children. I also think it is amazing that years after Lil Sweetie’s adoption, they are still here for us, facilitating our open adoption and offering advice when we call with adoption-related questions.

Even in light of the cancelled meeting, I still am a big fan of open adoption. I think it is healthier for Lil Sweetie that she knows her birthmom’s name and has photos of her. So far, Lil Sweetie has not wanted to write Ashley on her own, but she often tells me things to say to her or questions to ask when she knows I am writing her. She helps me pick out gifts for Ashley and often gives me a picture she has drawn or some schoolwork she wants to include in our package to Ashley. I just think it is good for Lil Sweetie that her birthmom is not some scary concept to her but rather a real person with a name and a face.

I won’t lie and say it is easy. It is odd. In some ways, I have such love for Ashley. She did a beautiful thing when she gave her child a life and a family. I know it was terribly difficult for her, and yet she did it anyway. I love her fiercely for that. I feel almost maternal towards her. On the other hand, she is very much a stranger to me. I know her favorite color and what kind of pizza she likes and I have a vague idea of what she does for a living, but that’s it. This makes gift purchases extremely challenging! I get frustrated for her when she makes bad choices in life. (We hear vague references to what is going on in her life through the adoption agency.) I want her to make good choices and have a good life, both because she did an extremely difficult and beautiful thing and I think she deserves it, and also because I want her to be someone that my child can be proud of. So it is very odd having such intense feelings for a person who is basically a stranger to you.

So, our open adoption is far from perfect. Still, the only regret we have is that our adoption is not MORE open. Most adoptive families we know feel the same way. If that doesn’t speak well for open adoption, I don’t know what would.