Monday, November 5, 2012

Halloween Revisited

So tonight was Halloween.

Yeah, you heard me.

Why?  Cause our governor picked it up and moved it.  Of course it had to be done -- on the real Halloween no one had power and many of us has trees/sand/water in the house.  No one could go out on Halloween night.

So the governor freaking changed the date.


What all this has meant for us and our extended family is a reeeally loooong  Hallllooweeeen.

It started about a month ago when I started sewing Max's costume.  He went as a lion.  And no, he didn't really get a choice about it.  Lions are just what we do in my family.  But whatever -- my little guy is so obsessed with animals that he thought it sounded great.  (Phew.  I would hate to have had to put the smack down on my two-year-old.)

So seriously, I sewed his costume.  Which means that it was fifty times as much work and five times as expensive as the costume you get at Target.  (I'm not sure how much of that I realized going into it -- in the old days my mom used to make our costumes because it was actually cheaper.)  But work and expense aside, I am so glad I managed to do it -- I mean look at this guy:

We did all the Halloween-y stuff, of course.  We went to the pumpkin patch and carved a pumpkin:

Before the storm we went to the Trunk-or-Treat over at church -- which we knew was going to be our major celebration this year.  Jason's mom had sent us a pop-up book all about Halloween so by the time we got there, Max had his "trick-or-treat!" pretty much perfect.  (When he realized that people would give him candy while wearing his costume it also made the wearing of said costume much more fun!)

And then it happened:
And Halloween was cancelled.

Actually on the 31st I had the crew over at my house (for warmth) and explaining the whole thing to Max and The Cousins was...traumatic.  Enough said.

Except then the governor saved the day!

Trick-or-Treating was a blast.  Of course.  I think it took Max about one house before he decided that walking around in the cold and dark and getting candy was just about the Best. Thing. Ever.


Happy Halloween Little Guy.  Nevermind that it's November 5.

Rethinking James

I have tried to write this post a dozen times.  It has been, at various moments, preachy, nerdy, and generally ambivalent.

Why?  Today is "Orphan Sunday" in churches across America.  The issue: the whole idea of an "Orphan Sunday" makes me feel like a cat getting rubbed from tail to nose.  I mean it seems great at first glance, right?  Who wouldn't want to help children in need, after all? Just saying that I don't like Orphan Sunday makes me feel like someone who tortures small bunnies or something.  And yet there it is.  I would like to explain why I feel this way, but the truth is that someone else has already done it better.  

But since it is Sunday, after all, I want to take slightly different approach.

The thing is that the whole "orphan crusade" is based in large part on a verse from James.  You see bits and pieces of this verse everywhere when you join the adoption community -- on websites, on T-shirts, on blog after blog after blog.  It's not a long verse and seems reasonably straightforward:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27 NIV)

It doesn't get much plainer than that, right?  So earlier this evening I was wondering why in all my Sunday school and seminary classes over the years I have never thought of this verse in the way that it is so often being used these days.  So I looked it up myself.

And realized something that made my classicist heart smile.

You see, I have always used the King James Bible, and in it, this verse is slightly different:

 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their afflictionand to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27 KJV)

When you put "orphans" and "widows" together (as in the New International Version) the verse seems to be talking about two distinct groups.  There are children without parents who need care and widows without husbands who also need care.  Two groups, two directives.  Adoption seems like a simple answer to the first problem, right?

But when I look at the King James Version, I see a different picture.  Here you have the "fatherless" and "widows" -- it seems like a single group now.  A child and a woman have both lost someone -- the same someone -- and we are to care for them together.  This suggests a wholly different mission: that we care for families in need.  This is much, much harder -- this is family preservation.

So much in one little word change!

So, because I couldn't help myself, I put on my super-nerd hat and looked up the original.  It looks like this:

θρησκεία καθαρὰ καὶ ἀμίαντος παρὰ τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρὶ αὕτη ἐστίν, ἐπισκέπτεσθαι ὀρφανοὺς καὶ χήρας ἐν τῇ θλίψει αὐτῶν, ἄσπιλον ἑαυτὸν τηρεῖν ἀπὸ τοῦ κόσμου.

I highlighted the word in question -- if you spell it our letter by letter it reads "orphanous."  Clearly it is the root of our word "orphan."  If you look ὀρφανός up (in the handy-dandy Greek lexicon on the bookshelf that hasn't been cracked open since grad school) there are several definitions, among them "orphan" and "fatherless," but also "bereaved" and "desolate."  Bereft.

Yet another variation on a theme.  

And now I see a connection to another post that I recently saw about Orphan Sunday that has stuck with me.  Fair warning that this post might not sit well with everyone, but it has been knocking around in my head for days.  As an adoptive mother I want adoption to be sunshine and rainbows.  It isn't.  I think we all need people to remind us that just because things seem good on the outside, that's not always what is going on inside.  Before you start thinking that I am ragging on adoption, let me also just say that as a wife I also want marriage to be sunshine and rainbows too, but of course it isn't either.

And so we come back to where I started.  One Bible verse.  Several take-home messages.

Caring for children who need it is a big, difficult, tangled-up issue.  Maybe part of my problem with Orphan Sunday is simply that it's just not big enough.

But apparently James 1:27 is.

It's kinda nice when the Bible comes through for you that way.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Blank Spot

(Nov 3) This will be a short post since we are still getting everyone in the family back on their feet in the post-Sandy world.  But I figure I already missed yesterday and two days in a row...well dang, I just plead extenuating circumstances.

But I had an interesting adoption-related experience today that I thought I would share.

I think it is tempting to look at a newborn as a "blank slate" of sorts.  I don't actually think they are -- I firmly believe that most of our temperament and talent is in fact inborn and waiting to be discovered.  It's just that babies are.. well... kind-of blobs.

When you adopt even a slightly older child (Max was 2 1/4 when he came home) the idea of the "blank slate" is more of a "blank spot."  There are whole years of Max's life that I know nothing about -- and likely never will.  As time passes, even his memories of the first two years are slowly going to fade away.  This makes me a bit sad -- and so I treasure every moment where I can see him accessing those memories.

Today it was about a hat.

A very cute lion hat that I got out for the first time in months since it is finally getting cold out.

He took one look at it, hesitated for a moment, and said, "Russia."

Why?  Take a peek:

...leaving the baby home... the hotel getting ready to go out for a walk... the park...

...taking a walk to see the cars...

It's a pretty distinctive hat and it probably has some crazy memories for him -- good, bad, and well, just plain crazy.

At least he was happy to wear the hat this afternoon.  I tell myself that's a good thing.  But dang I wish I could see inside his little mind at moments like this.

But I can't.

And all too soon I know that it will all be a blank spot.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

...And we survived...

November as it turns out, is NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) and also National Adoption Awareness Month.  I will do my best to participate in both of these happenings.

But for now I have other things on my mind.  

Like the fact that I am sitting at home with my parents, my sister-in-law and her 5 kids after feeding 12 of us for dinner.  There will be 9 people sleeping all over my house tonight.  Yesterday, I had all of them plus another friend and her 4 kids over for the day.

Why, you ask?

Because I have power.

Sandy knocked us all out around dinnertime on Monday.  It's now bedtime on Saturday.

This is not a complaining post.  It is a grateful one.  The truth is that after Irene last year, the satellite images of Frankenstorm scared the heck out of me.  After the lights went out on Monday the three of us huddled in bed and I listened to trees snapping and splitting in the wind.  

And I woke up around 6am to find the lights on. 

Grateful doesn't even cut it.

That day I was literally the only person I knew with power.  Not an hour away, whole neighborhoods have washed away.  Trees are down everywhere.  School has been out all week and the grocery aisles smell like fishsticks.  And I have internet.  

Like I said, grateful doesn't even cut it.  

And I figure that's a pretty decent way to start out the month.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Many adoptive families celebrate a day they call "gotcha day."  This is to celebrate the day that a child leaves the orphanage (or wherever) and becomes a part of their new adoptive family.  Other adoptive families feel that this just brings a feeling of "otherness:" to an adopted child and that -- even more importantly -- "adoption day" per se is often a traumatic enough event that celebrating it seems just a

I agree with both points of view.  Really.

See, the thing is that I think that joining a family -- in whatever way -- should be a cause for celebration.  After all, most of us have eaten more than our fill of birthday cake and ice cream, right?  But for my Max, the day of his birth and the day that he joined us are not actually the same.  And if someday he looks back on the day that he left the orphanage with a real sense of ambivalence, well, I can totally understand that.

Which is why I'm glad to be Mormon.

I haven't talked much about my religious beliefs on this blog, largely because (unlike in many cases) they actually had very little to do with the thought process behind our adoption.  My beliefs, however, have everything to do with how my family will continue on.

Most marriage ceremonies end with the words "until death do you part."  Mine doesn't.  I was married in a room surrounded by mirrors to remind me that Jason and I were going to be together for "time and all eternity."

We call it being "sealed" -- this idea that our families are not just part of this life but also part of whatever life comes after it.  And it doesn't apply to just marriage -- it applies to the whole family.  Children born to a couple who have been sealed previously are automatically sealed to them as well.  But for Max and others, this sealing is a separate ceremony.

It's all about creating a family.

Our family started here, in Washington DC on October 3.

Our family grew by one on our nine-year wedding anniversary in the same temple:

Some people just have wedding anniversaries.

But for the rest of eternity we get to have "family days."  

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Most Wonderful Thing About Tiggers....

I may or may not be violating copyright law with my blog title post.  I'm not really sure and I rather hope that Disney will see this from my side.

I am raising Tigger.

No, really.


This came home to me yesterday when I had six kiddos at my house.  The other five belong to my brother and sister-in-law, and they were at my place while the moving truck was at theirs.

Now the six of them have been thrown together plenty over the last few weeks, mostly over at my mom's place, where Max has become something of a scapegoat for all missing things.  This is not entirely unreasonable -- if there is something in a nook or cranny somewhere, he will find it and transport it to another nook or cranny somewhere else.  (At this point the tally is one chess piece and two small game pieces, all of which are now found.  I also lost a flip-flop over there that has since come home, but I think I can only blame that on myself).  But this just goes to show that while over there, my boy is very active.  OK, he's active everywhere, I admit it.

So they were all at my place yesterday.

The "Bigs" consisted of one 12-year-old boy and one nine-year-old boy.

The "Littles" consisted of one 6-year-old girl, one 5-year-old girl, and two two-year-old boys.

It was loud and chaotic and great fun.  The Littles spent most of the morning sliding into the kiddie pool, which I tried VERY hard to take videos of and it wasn't until last night that I realized that the reason that the screen was black when I was trying to take said videos was that I had not opened the lens cap.  (Please no one tell my very camera-savvy husband about this!).  After lunch Max usually goes down for a nap, but I figured we would skip it since it would be hard to put him down with the crew there.

Except that around 2:30 he went upstairs and got in bed.

Okay, that never happens.

He was asleep about 30 minutes later, and the rest of us hung out in the family room.  We put puzzles together.  We watched Mulan.  We rode the rocking horse.

It was so...peaceful.

I could go into the kitchen to clean the counters.  If it hadn't been for the sleeping bug upstairs I could have vaccuumed in the adjoining room. I might even have been able to clean toilets.

Max woke up an hour later.  Mulan was still on the TV, and it was just getting to the avalanche part.  Max jumped on the couch yelling "uh-oh, uh-oh!" at the top of his lungs.

Chaos returned.

My single, 32-pound child easily out-louded the other five of them put together.  EASILY.

After everyone left, Jason, Max and I sat on the tablecloth on the floor for our weekly pizza-and-a-movie night.  The movie was "The Tigger Movie."

And yes, Max jumped/skipped/galloped around the room yelling "bounce, bounce, BOUNCE!" for a good half-hour.

At which point the world clicked into place inside my head.

I am raising Tigger.  Tee-eye-double-guh-rrrrrr.

He was always my favorite anyway.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Just So I Remember

We had an eventful day today.  We woke up to discover that our power (which went out at 9pm last night during a crazy thunderstorm) was still out.  This meant that before church we dragged our new generator (thank you, Mum and Dad!) out of the garage and got our fridge and freezer working again.  Can I just tell you how much I really didn't want to lose my new Omaha Steaks?? The power came on again around 3 and all was well.  Mostly I was just excited to use the generator, which we figured simply owning would ensure that we never needed it. 

Lesson learned, Hurricane Irene, lesson learned.

But since this blog is really a memory book for our family as much as it is anything, I figured it was time to start writing down more of the things I don't want to forget.

Like dinner tonight.

We got a late start on dinner (cause someone triple parked us at the park this afternoon, but that's another story) so I had leftover pizza, Jason had salad and Max was eating Spaghettios and chocolate milk.  Actually it was pretty cute; Max spent the first part of his meal looking for the chicken (meatballs) that were hiding and crowing with triumph when he found one.  But then he got bored and so dumped his chocolate milk into his bowl.  He ate it, of course.  I laughed, Jason thought it was going to make him puke, and Max thought it tasted just fine.

Now that in itself is not to far outside of normal at our house.  I have seen any number of gross concoctions from a kid who thinks the ingestion of literally any plant matter might kill him.

It was when he started drinking it all though the bendy straw that dinner really became memorable.

I am kicking myself for not immediately pulling out the video camera, but at least it's here now.

Just so I remember.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Five Months Home

I know, I know -- it's been too long.  I have excuses, all sorts of them.  But the truth?  Well the truth is that my life has simply been too full for the last couple months to worry about the blog!  And I had meant to post at our 4-month-home mark, but I missed it (I blame the family we had in town at the time) and so I couldn't let this one go by too!

But as I look back at the last five months with Max I can't wrap my head around how much all of our lives have changed.

When we first brought him home his only words were "beep beep" and "moo".  Yesterday at lunch I asked him if he wanted milk or juice and he told me very succinctly: "Chocolate milk."  It sounded more like "oka mik" than anything that you or I might say, but I thought it was pretty awesome for a little guy who literally hadn't spoken before March.

Remember the little guy who wouldn't let me cuddle him after smacking his forehead on the end table?  As you recall we were practicing putting Band-Aids on owies, right?  Well the other day, he wanted to wear some (without the owie, but he had just watched his cousin put one on, so what's a mom to do?) and he was so proud of them that after they loosened in the bath he laid them across his pillow at bedtime.  In fact we had to tear the whole bed apart when when of them got lost in the blankets.

When we first brought him back there was a part of me that would dread taking him for walks around the neighborhood, because we would inevitably run into someone that he decided he wanted to go home with.  I have this distinct memory of nearly wailing in pain and frustration during the first couple weeks home when we ran into a neighbor and her young daughter who is just a year older than Max.  It was still cold, but we were playing with sidewalk chalk anyway, and Max kept running to her for hugs and clinging to her legs.  It wasn't unexpected behavior, but it still hurt to watch (since I was still persona non grata at the time and was lucky if he would hug or touch me at all).  We ran into them again a few days ago and what a difference!  He and the little girl played with sticks and wheelbarrows and every few minutes he would look up and call for me to come over and see what he was doing.  The other mom might as well not have existed. 

I think I mentioned once or twice that I was pretty much chopped liver in his world at the beginning, right?  I had read my adoption books, and I knew it wasn't uncommon for a toddler especially to reject one parent for awhile but phew! -- nothing comes close to expressing how awful that experience actually is!  Those days are a distant memory now.  I wish I could say when it changed, but it was sometime between Easter and Mother's Day.  These days I'm barely allowed to be across the room from him.  If we are hanging out, he's in my lap.  We dance and sing and he doesn't mind holding my hand in parking lots (ok, he doesn't mind any more than any other opinionated, stubborn, and rambunctious two-and-a-half-year-old).

The past few months have been remarkable.  Incredible really.  Hard and exhausting, well sure.  Duh.  But every day there is a moment.  Maybe he's playing with his food.  Maybe he's putting his animals in the barn by family group (he is OBSESSED with the idea of family right now -- everything from people to trucks gets organized into Papas, Mamas, and Babies).  Maybe he's dancing in front of the TV or climbing the rock wall at the park by himself.  Who knows.  And then I have that moment when my whole heart smiles, and I think to myself, "I love this little guy.  More than anything else in the world, I love this little guy."

(Oh, and if you want to know what we've been doing, scroll down...)

We've been playing in fountains with very clear "No Wading" signs.

We've spent lots of time at the park.

 We've been filling all the local ponds with rocks.  I expect a county water supply shortage any day now.

Wearing Mama's sunglasses...

...and hat.

It's good times at our house right now.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

First Mother's Day

So every year at church on Mother's Day, the whole service is dedicated to mothers and the youth generally pass out flowers or chocolates to all the mothers sitting in the room. The children all get up and sing and it's as sweet as can be...

...unless of course you happen to be infertile, right?

I have skipped/ tried to skip/ failed to skip every Mother's Day at church for the past few years.  About 3-4 years ago I was actually the person in charge of putting together the flowers/chocolates.  Ugh.  I have a distinct memory of sitting in a bathroom stall crying that day.  

It's not that anyone was excluding me -- not at all.  The flowers and chocolates were there for pretty much any woman in the congregation over age 18.  When I was 19 and 20 I was happy to take my share.  When I was trying and trying to have children it was not so easy.  If I took the chocolate I felt bad.  If I didn't take it, I felt worse.  It was lose/lose on pretty much every front.  

This year it was a whole different story.  This year I sat in the back of the meeting room listening with one ear while trying to wrangle a two-year-old into something resembling, um, not rowdiness.  It took Jason, my mom and myself to do it, but we were mostly successful.  We came home for lunch and naps, went for a long walk just the 3 of us to throw bread to the ducks (who were mostly absent) and came home to put together dinner for my mom and dad.

In short, this mother's day was FABULOUS for me.  Hands down awesome.

And yet...

I remember.

This is not the most inclusive holiday on earth.  I have good friends and loved ones who have lost children in infancy and in pregnancy.  I share my motherhood with a woman thousands of miles away that I might never know.  I know people who are barely on speaking terms with their grown children.  I have loved ones who are still waiting and waiting for marriage, nevermind what comes after.  I have more friends sitting in the same spot that I sat for the last 8 years of marriage.  I know people who are mourning their own mothers today.  

For me, on those really bad Mother's Day days, I just wanted someone to reach out and remember me.

So I'll remember for the rest of you.

If you are grieving today -- because of death, because of relinquishment, because of miscarriage -- I am remembering you today.

If you are waiting today -- for an ART to work, for someone to make those kids with -- I am remembering you today.

And to Max's other Mama -- for whom this is not a holiday at all -- I am remembering you today too.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Infertility and Adoption

So it turns out that April in National Infertility Awareness Month -- who knew, right?  Honestly I didn't know until a couple days ago when I saw it on someone else's blog.  Doh.  Truthfully, I tend not to pay much attention to that sort of stuff -- I'm not really the activist type.  I tend to have people, not causes. But a blog post seems like a pretty small step for saying a bunch of stuff that I've been wanting to say for awhile anyway.

It seems like infertility and adoption get lumped together a lot.  It drives both the infertility groups and the adoption groups a little bit crazy sometimes.  I mean think about it -- how big a deal can your (whichever it is) issue be if it's always tagging along with another one?  And so I feel a bit ambivalent about lumping the two together yet again, but I have good reasons for it.

My last and final IVF treatment was just this past June.  If you don't know the story already you can find it here.  Jason and I brought Max home from Russia in February.  I went from grieving yet another cycle to being a mother to a two-year-old in less time than if I had carried that embryo full-term.

Wild, right?  I am still reeling from the shock of it myself.

So what I'm saying is that the ins and outs of both infertility and adoption are incredibly fresh in my mind this year and so I'm going to lump the two together.  I promise to find something new next year.

Years ago when we first investigated (domestic) adoption, I distinctly remember our social worker telling us that adoption means loss for all members of  "the triad": the loss of a biological child (birth-parents), the loss of a biological family (adoptee), and the loss of infertility (adoptive parents).  I'm not sure how much it sunk in at the time (apparently enough that I remember it, at least) but it's been percolating through my head for years now, and I think I understand it better now.  Certainly now that Max is home I am confronted daily by the losses -- tremendous, terrible losses -- that he has already suffered in less than three years of life.

It hurts my heart when I think about it for too long.

Yet oddly enough it is my years of infertility that allow me to step up to the plate and look at those losses -- and mine -- with (I hope) empathy and compassion.

So often we think of adoption as a quick equation.  Childless parents + parentless child = adoptive family.  Adoption seamlessly replaces biology and all is well.

It might work that way for some people.  In fact, I think I know a few people for whom that is true.  But I know others for whom the equation is not so simple.  We want to believe that adoption "fixes" both infertility and the loss of a birth family. It seems like it should.  After all, love makes a family, not genetics, right?


The thing is that while biology is certainly not everything, it is also not nothing.

We Mormons traditionally put a lot of effort into thinking about heritage and ancestry.  It's just one of those things.  I think if you were to draw the LDS view of an individual it might look a bit like this:

We are the dot in the middle -- above is our ancestry, the great-grandfathers and long-gone grandmothers who have given us our skin color, our hair color, the shape of our eyes, our gift for music or for sports.  Below is our progeny -- a hazy future mix of genetics where maybe some future grandson or granddaughter will have the same smile, the same freckles, the same aptitude for physics.  Most people take all of this for granted -- the idea that you can set yourself directly in the middle of a past and future and take a look around to see yourself.

This is not the case for everyone.

Max's tree looks like this:

 He doesn't get to look at me and say, "Oh, so that's where I got my hair/cheeks/whatever."  There is a certain comfort to being able to do so that I will never be able to give him.

My tree is the opposite:

My little boy is clearly the most beautiful child ever born -- but I can't take any credit for it.  None of our grandchildren will have Jason's red hair or my pointy chin.  Jason and I...well, we're a biological dead end, I'm afraid.  

It's not the worst thing in the world, being a dead end.  I can think of plenty of worse things.  But it is a loss. And yet this is a loss that allows me to see the losses of Max's life more clearly.  They are not the same, of course.  Our losses are the inverse of one another's.

I think of all the times when I have heard people say (online or in real life), "I could never look for my biological family because I think it would hurt my adoptive parents' feelings."  And yet...biology is not nothing.  If in five years it were miraculously possible for me to have a biological child, would I turn the miracle down?  How would I not want to plug that final hole?  Knowing this, then how could I do anything but support my adopted child(ren) if someday they want to find the people that are biologically "theirs?"  

Adoption agencies often tell prospective parents that before they commit to adoption they need to "resolve their feeling about infertility."  I think this is part of that -- to realize, deep down, that there is a loss that both adoptive parents and their adoptive children share.

And yet families have never been strangers to loss.

We lose pets.  We lose grandparents.  We lose jobs.  We lose children.  We lose parents.  We lose marriages.  We lose spouses. We lose trust.  We lose faith.

And we move on despite those things.  We do the best with what we have -- no matter how much or how little there is.  Our relationships stretch to protect the scars that those losses leave behind.

A few months ago a few friends threw me a toddler shower.  I had already met Max at this point and was well on the way to finally being a parent.  One of my friends suggested for the benefit of the others that I tell "the story."  I am a pretty decent storyteller most of the time, but this one fell remarkably flat.  Ostensibly this is a happy story -- and it is, I assure you! -- and yet there are veins of grief running through it.  I don't hide them completely, though it's tempting.  But "the story" -- and by this I mean the circumstances of Max's background and my struggle with infertility before adopting -- is never going to end up being shared in casual conversation.  It's too complex and too fraught with false starts before finally winding to the happy beginning.

And yet is is a happy beginning.  Mark my words, it is a marvelously happy beginning.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


So about two weeks ago we had a major upset one afternoon.  I started to blog about it, but never got past the post title, which was: "My fat lip and his goose egg."  Essentially the story went like this: one afternoon while my friend was visiting, Max was sitting on my lap and did one of those two-year-old head butt things that pretty much ended with me trying to hold a conversation while holding an ice pack to my lip.  Not even an hour later he was clambering around on the couch and took a flying leap off.  I caught him...sort-of.  While he didn't hit the floor, his forehead made an audible bonk on the end table.

(Just remember for a moment that at this point I have been a mother for all of...oh maybe 40 days).

After the bonk, Max freaked a bit.  He wouldn't let me touch him, and cried for oh, maybe a minute.  I was thinking, "Phew!  That was close."  Fast forward two minutes and he's sporting a big old goose egg.  I've heard about these, but never seen one in real life.  The thing stuck out almost half an inch from the middle of his forehead!  It was terrifying.  I wrangled him into letting me look at his pupils and my friend and I managed to mostly get an ice pack on him while putting on the TV.  (He seemed fine at this point, and though I kept a close eye on him for the rest of the day, we barely even ended up with a bruise afterward).  

But it was a bit of an eye-opener.  

Max was in panic mode -- you could tell.  He trusted no one to comfort him -- least of all me! -- and honestly he barely cried, considering.  I know you are all thinking, "Wow, tough kid."  And he is.  But it's more than that.   He never noticed when something hurt.  Scraped hands?  Not worth bothering about.  Bonking your head on Mama's?  Hysterically funny.  The truth is that he had never quite learned to communicate when something hurt.  And it is learned response when you think about it.  Why throw a fuss if there's no guarantee that someone will pay attention to it?

So...I decided that Max needed to learn about owies.

Every time he did something that might have hurt, I exclaimed, "Owie!" and ran right over to give it a kiss.  (This was not always a welcome response, by the way.)  We played with Band-aids until he will occasionally even let me put one on his hand for all of 15 seconds.  

Then last night he was a crazy man as he was going to bed.  He was wearing a set on monkey pajamas and boy did he ever live up to them!  Jumping on the bed, throwing pillows, you name it.  And what do you know?

He bumped his head.

I said, "Owie!" and leaned over to kiss his head, even though he hadn't hit it very hard.  He didn't pull away.

Then he did it again and I did the same.

The next time, as soon as he bumped his head he immediately stretched out for me to kiss it.  

He did it twice more -- on purpose this time, I think, just to repeat the experiment.  And of course I always kissed the owies and eventually my little monkey decided it was time to sleep.

Image Source:

I expect that he is suddenly going to find lots more owies, and that's ok.  Because this time he can trust that I will be there to kiss them away.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

First Easter

Easter is my favorite holiday.  Always has been, and now I think it always will be.  Since meeting Max, our family has celebrated several major holidays (starting with Thanksgiving and a November birthday and all the way through the winter holidays).

Today was the first major holiday that we spent together.

We started out with Church -- he made it maybe 15 minutes through the first part of the service, which is truly a continual improvement!  Afterwards, Jason gave him his "baby blessing" -- the Mormon version of a christening. Both of our mothers were there, Max wiggled like the mini-tornado he is, and it was a really special moment for everyone.

The Easter Bunny came while Max was asleep for his nap -- and happened to be VERY generous this year. OK, maybe it was a little over-the-top, but I am quite convinced that several different bunnies happened to be a part of this Easter...table.

Afterwards we took ourselves out to the front of the house for an egg hunt!  It took Max a few eggs to get the idea of it (partly due to the fact that he was totally fascinated by the lawnmower running next door!) but pretty soon he was finding eggs all over!  (Even better -- he seemed more interested in finding the eggs just because it's sort-of fun than because the eggs are filled with sugar!).  Later in the afternoon he even went back out to look for more!

Amazing what you can find in the yard!

Happy Easter from our family to yours!

Friday, April 6, 2012

One Year Ago Today

I'm not generally a person that remembers dates.  Really -- ask my best friend.  She can tell you that any scheduled event in my life tends to occur give or take a week.

So I find it odd that I can remember exactly where I was one year ago today.

Last year on this day I spent most of the day at the IVF clinic for an egg retrieval.  Jason was there with me, I got to wear one of those super-sexy hospital gowns, and my ovaries were the size of softballs (yes, it was incredibly uncomfortable, if you are wondering).  And I distinctly remember telling Jason that I had a good feeling about this one -- that this was going to be the time that worked.  And I suppose that last time was the closest we ever got but still...not so much.  It was wrenching and I came so close to giving up on having a family at all.

And yet tonight as I write this, Max is asleep upstairs in a room full of monkeys after a day at the zoo.

So much can change in a year.

I don't know exactly what exactly Max was doing a year ago today, but I know just where he was.  And (as I think I have said before) while his baby home was not the sad, awful place that so many people imagine an orphanage to be, neither was it a home.  There were no sloppy dog kisses, no cuddles with Mama and Papa, no trips to the zoo, and no cookies to bake when you get up from nap.

And yet tonight as I write this, Max is asleep upstairs in a room full of monkeys after a day at the zoo.

So much can change in a year.  

Saturday, March 31, 2012


When I was about ten I remember my mother writing me a note -- I still have it somewhere -- in which she told me that she hoped that I would grow up to have courage.  At the time, she meant to have the courage of my convictions, the courage to stand up for my beliefs, and the courage to make my actions reflect those beliefs.

As I look around my family today, I see courage everywhere.

I see my both of my brothers on the other side of the world, both standing up for an ideal.  One of them is headed into a war zone while the other has spent two years learning a language that looks like spaghetti (Georgian, if you're curious) -- but both of them are living courageously.

I see my sister-in-law as she says a long farewell to her husband while surrounded by five children. I can't even imagine what that would be like.  And yet she has faced it all with grace and perseverance.

And I see the two newest members of our family -- two children home for less than a month who have joined us from the other side of the world.  They came to our family without knowing the language, without knowing our customs, without even knowing what it means to be part of a family.  But Max and his cousin Vi are handling this complete upheaval of their lives with more courage in their pinky fingers than most of us display in a lifetime.

There are no cowardly lions in this family, I assure you.  Not a one.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Things We Don't Say

Actual conversation this morning while I was lying in bed, even more lethargic than usual:

Jason: "Hey are you OK?"
Me: "No, not particularly."
Jason: "Worried about Dean?" [this is my brother, if you didn't know]
Me: "Yeah.  Really worried."
Jason: "Me too."

The subtext in my head before and after than conversation:

"Worried?  Worried?  Do you know what his job is?  Do you know where he's going?  He's in the ARMY.  He's headed to Afghanistan -- like in days.  Do you realize what happens to him when he goes there?!?!?!?  He goes there and people SHOOT at him.

"Like with guns.  And RPGs.  DO YOU KNOW WHAT AN RPG LOOKS LIKE?!?!?!  DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY DO?!?!?!?!?

"I played with Dean all my growing up years.  We put He-Man figures on the My Little Ponies and Stars Wars figures in the dollhouse.  We told each other what we were getting the other for Christmas one year.  We've fought like 3 times in our whole lives and one of those was when I was 4 and he was 18 months and he didn't understand that the prince was supposed to be kiss Sleeping Beauty to wake her up!

"And now he's going somewhere that people are going to shoot at him?

"No, I am not OK.  Not even close."

This is like the third time I've tried to write a post about this.  The others were sort-of philosophical.  This one...not so much.  But this is what I'm thinking.

I picked a fight with my rosebushes this afternoon because I was mad.  I didn't have any gloves and it hurt and I was just a bit glad of it.  Eventually it hurt enough that I decided gloves would be a better idea -- but I couldn't find them.  But the job was only half done, and that made me mad.

So I went back to finish it.  And it hurt.  And my fingers bled.  And I was still mad and still glad.

And then Max -- who was sleeping in the car -- woke up, and I went back to my regularly scheduled life.  And when you ask me about it, I'll tell you just what I told Jason (who in fact does know the subtext) and I won't want to say much more, but now you know the subtext.

Now pass me the box of Cheezits.  And go get the unopened one from downstairs, if you don't mind.  I'll need them both this afternoon.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Yeah, I realize that I've already posted tonight and that this is just overkill, but these two posts just can't be combined.  (Just scroll down for the cheerful one about Max.  I wanted to write that one first since this one is a major downer...)

Such is the schizophrenia of the past few weeks.

We brought Max home a month ago.  We learned that Bella was gone on the same day.

She would have been three today.

I think that for most people, a dog's birthday is something that you may or may not mark -- it's on a paper somewhere (or not), but without real memories attached to it, it has no real meaning.

That's not the case for us, though, because Bella was literally born in my lap.

This is Bella (then Squeaker) and Mia (then Red-tail and then Rosie) the next morning.  Bella is the one of the bottom -- though the only way to tell is from the red nailpolish on Mia's foot!  They were born around 2am and we put a foam mattress next to Cleo's whelping box so that we could make sure everything was OK with mom and puppies for the next few nights.  The funny thing is that the mattress has been in Max's room in the exact same place for the past few weeks for pretty much the exact same reason.

Puppies grow up fast.  Too fast.  The next 8 weeks or so were some of the happiest memories of my life.  Bella and her sister were just that adorable.  

It seems like it took forever for them to open their eyes, but when they did...well, that's when things really got interesting at our house.

(I guarantee that this was Bella.  Mia was always better behaved...)

(Proud mama!)

Eventually Mia went to live with some dear friends of ours (and we still get baby-sitting privileges, which is pretty awesome) and Bella went to live with Jason's sister.  She came home to us about a year later, and while we had never planned on having three dogs, there was always something about Bella that just made you love her.  She was the loudest and the naughtiest of our dogs, but she was also the snuggliest and the softest.  

I miss her terribly still.  It's a quiet grief now, I am guessing that only Jason still realizes how much it remains present in our life -- simply because it is the same for me.  But every day there is a moment -- when I go to fill a dog bowl that isn't there or when I automatically check the front window as I drive up to the house to see if someone has jumped over the gate again -- when it hurts enough to choke.  

Somewhere she is three years old today.  Happy birthday Bellsabee.  I miss you.

Watching the Grass Grow

He's been home a month already!  It's almost impossible to believe, let me tell you.  As I was putting him to bed this evening I suddenly realized how much had changed in this month, not just in terms of our lives, but also in terms of our relationships.

It's hard to be the mother of a two-year-old that you don't know.  You don't know what things he loves, you don't know what will set him off.  I think that by the time most moms get to the toddler stage they already know things like, "He hates having to take off clothes and shoes except before a bath."  When we took him to his first pediatrician's check-up (two days after we got back) I didn't know this and we all...well...kinda freaked.  Today when we went in for a follow-up I knew this going in.

It's the little things that make a difference.

I feel like I am watching the grass grow.  I can't lie on the lawn and watch the green blades lengthen, and I can't look out at the end of each day and see a difference.  And yet at the end of each week, it's time to get out the lawnmower.

Small steps.

So what have we been up to?

We've done a few chores.

We've hung out where all the other Crawford (fur)babies seem to hang out.

We've toured around the neighborhood.

We've hung out at the nursery school with Babushka.

We've made friends with the dogs.

We've been to the zoo.

We've inspired bad poetry:

Only you
Could lose your shoe
At the zoo.

We've gone for walks in the woods with Dyedushka.

We've thrown countless pebbles into the lake.

We've tried out the slide headfirst...

...and we've decided we like it better that way!

Green grass growing.