Monthly Archives: March 2012

Peek-a-boo is Grandpa’s game

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A friend recently shared something interesting with me. As part of market research for her job about elderly (but young at heart!) people, she came across a study that researched 15 grandparents whose grandchildren were adopted and concluded that grandparents relate to their adopted grandchildren no differently than their biological grandchildren. Grandparents go through phases, but ultimately they consider the adopted child an integral part of the family. When they talk about their adopted grandchildren, they don’t use adoption language: They speak of the children as they would their biological children.

I love seeing this play out in my own family. We got our first taste of it over the holidays, when both sets of parents went into full grandparent mode. This weekend, my in-laws are visiting, and they’re jumping right back into that role. My mother-in-law, upon walking into the house, set a large plastic bag on the table and began pulling out all the clothes she “just couldn’t resist.” She had some really cute stuff, including an adorable baseball sleeper. And let’s not forget the toys. Teddy was out of sight but not out of mind during a recent trip to Orlando. A personalized souvenir T-shirt had already arrived by post, but my mother-in-law decided to hand-deliver a Mickey stackable toy as well as one of those plastic balls that has shapes cut out (similar to this, but with cut-out pieces that, evidently, can double as cookie cutters–both my father-in-law and mother-in-law pointed this out).

Now, Teddy’s at that age when he’s beginning to show a little aversion to “strangers,” so when we initially handed him to my father-in-law, his face scrunched up in apprehension and he whimpered a little. But my father-in-law wasted no time winning him over. Within minutes, he was playing peek-a-boo with a cloth, tossing it so it landed on Teddy’s head and then pulling it off to reveal Teddy’s startled face,  and had Teddy laughing and bouncing on my mother-in-law’s knee in anticipation of the next toss. Teddy’s never really shown much interest in peek-a-boo before. Guess he was just waiting for Grandpa to play with!

I treasure these moments so much. I appreciate my family so much. Teddy’s our son, and he’s their grandson (their favorite grandson, of course). End of discussion.

“You guys are doing a great job.”

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As part of the adoption process in the state of Maryland, we’re required to be foster parents for six months. Only after we’ve had Teddy for six months can we finalize the adoption, at which point we get a new birth certificate for Teddy naming us as his parents. (His current certificate lists his birth parents and is sealed from us.) The six-month probation period, so to speak, gives our social worker sufficient time to assess the placement and ensure Teddy is connecting with us and we’re successfully making the transition to parenthood. She does this through three home visits, two of which we’ve already had. If we weren’t doing well and/or Teddy  wasn’t connecting with us and we were having serious issues, and our social worker decided the placement wasn’t working, it’s much easier to remove a child from a foster home than from an adoptive one.

We’re also required during the six months to take a parent preparation course at the agency offices. Last Saturday, we checked this off our list. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the class and in fact had low expectations because this was the second of two parent prep courses we had to take (the first was pre placement) and the first we found to be mostly a waste of time. I was sort of hoping we’d have a different teacher this time. So when we walked into the room and I saw the same woman sitting at the head of the U of tables, I had to restrain myself from rolling my eyes.

The first class was quite discouraging. It was mostly a lecture and focused on how challenging transracial adoption is, even showing a video featuring black adoptees lamenting being raised in a white household. I left wondering if there were any positive aspects to adopting a child of another race or if it was all challenges and hardships. I can appreciate the agency wanting us to enter transracial adoption with our eyes wide open, but a little encouragement would have been nice.

Fortunately, the second class was much better, mostly because the teacher would simply mention a topic and then ask us to share any experiences related to that topic. Every adoptive parent I’ve ever met is never at a loss to speak about their adoption experience, and these couples were no different. We all had stories to share. And of course sharing those stories led to requests for suggestions. Some requests were adoption related: “Our birth mother doesn’t want a relationship. How do we tell our child that when he’s older?” We all looked to the teacher for the answer to that one. Some were questions every new parent has: “What’s the easiest way to travel with an infant?” Those of us who had traveled already were quick with advice for that one.

My highlight from the class, though, actually had nothing to do with the class. Every new parent wants validation that (s)he’s doing a good job, but I think adoptive parents soak it up a bit more because we’ve heard so many times that the first few months post-placement are particularly important for adopted babies because they’ve been hearing their birth moms’ voices for nine months and suddenly have a strange voice now speaking to them. It seems all we hear about pre-placement is how important attachment is. So any time anyone points out how attached Teddy seems to be to us, I breathe a tiny sigh of relief. Our personal pat on the back this time came during a break, when one of the social workers who had been present on our “Gotcha Day” and was in that day to do some office maintenance stopped by to say hello. She lifted Teddy up and chattered to him, and he giggled and squealed in response. She turned to us and said, “You guys are doing a great job,” and proceeded to explain that Teddy’s responses to her engagement indicated great connection. Phew! We know he’s doing well, but to hear it reaffirmed–and spelled out like that–was wonderful.

Now we just have one more visit with our social worker, which is scheduled for next week, and then we’re on our way to finalization!

Praying for friends still on the other side

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We’ve had Teddy for nearly five months now, and I have to admit, it’s still a little surreal. We waited so long for this chapter of our lives to begin, it’s amazing to realize we’re actually living it now.

But I have several friends who are still on the other side, waiting: either undergoing fertility treatment or going through the adoption process. These friends ask for prayers and advice, which I’m glad to provide when I can. And for those compiling paperwork and preparing for “the call,” I know what to say, mostly the same things you’d squeal to someone announcing a pregnancy: “I’m so excited for you!” “You’re going to have a baby before you know it!” I can joke around that they need to go on lots of date nights now–before they’re parents. I also know what to ask; I can interrogate them about where they are in the process because it’s so familiar to me.

With friends undergoing fertility treatment, though, it’s different. I still know what to ask. I went through all that, too, and know all the terminology and acronyms and can nod my head in sympathy at each detail and shake my head in remembrance of my own experience.

But I struggle with what to say. And this really bothers me. I’ve been there. I should know exactly what to say. I should have insight into what words and phrases will be comforting and encouraging. When a friend pours out her frustration and anxiety and hope and dread, I should have wisdom to share. I mean, did I not learn anything during my own time of need? I know I yearned for encouraging words when I was waiting and wondering and hoping. I didn’t even know what people could say that would make me feel better, but I wished they did.

And yet, now that I’m on the other side of this journey, I know, it’s not that easy–even though I’ve been there. Sometimes there aren’t words to say. Because, really, when I think about it, the only thing I wanted to hear was, “It’ll happen for you,” said with absolute certainly, as if the speaker had heard from God himself. But of course, no one could because no one had. Well, people did say that, but not with conviction; rather the words were said in earnest, as if merely speaking them would make them true. They wanted so desperately to have something, anything, to say, they went with that. It wasn’t helpful for me at the time, but I understand where they’re coming from now.

What I know now is that  sometimes the best response is simply to acknowledge the difficulty of the situation. Sometimes all I can do is give a hug, promise that I’m there to listen, and commit to pray.

Because I definitely know what to pray. I pray they are successful, of course, but I also pray very specifically for these friends for a host of other things as they struggle to build their families. And since I was so encouraged by friends telling me they were praying for me, I hope these friends who are squinting to see the light at the end of the tunnel will also be encouraged by that.

13.1, here I come!

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This weekend, I’m running a half-marathon. (A full requires more training than I’m willing to commit to.) It’ll be my second: I ran the same half-marathon (although different sponsor) last year. Both times, I’ve run with my running buddy of several years, Sarah.

We started training in January. During a long run a couple weekends ago, Sarah mentioned how pleasantly surprised she was that I had gone ahead with training for the half after getting Teddy. Over the holidays, she had purposely not mentioned starting weekend long runs in the new year because she figured I’d be too tired/too busy/no longer interested/unable to commit to weekly runs. She said she wouldn’t have minded. She might not have continued herself, and she’d decided it wouldn’t be a huge loss to forfeit the registration fee. So when I emailed her about when we’d go for our first long training run and how far we were supposed to run, she was a bit taken aback but eagerly joined me in making plans.

Honestly, it never occurred to me to not train for and run the race. For one thing, we’ve been running together since we started training for our first race four years ago, the Race for Hope, a 5k that supports brain tumor research. A running friend was keen to teach a bunch of us how fun running can be. To motivate us to get started, she suggested we (six of us) train for a race. Sarah’s friend and co-worker is a brain cancer survivor and runs the Race for Hope 5k every year, so Sarah suggested we register for that one. Ever since then, Sarah and I run together almost every Tuesday morning (same route every week–we never tire of running on the Mall). And during training seasons, we do long runs together every weekend. Occasionally other friends will join us, but the majority of the time, it’s just us.

Also, I don’t really have any excuse not to train. Tuesday mornings, we run before Mike gets up; weekends, Mike considers my running time his Teddy time; and for my second run during the week (for the record, this is why I could never run a full marathon–I can’t seem to regularly fit an essential fourth run into my week), I have the BOB, a baby shower gift from the five ladies in our original training group. (This thing is awesome, by the way. I recommend it for any runner moms.)

Finally, running has become more essential for me since we got Teddy. He’s a super low-maintenance baby, so it’s not that I need a breafrom him, per se. But it is nice to get out of the house. And my weekend and Tuesday morning runs provide some of that precious me-time that so many SAHMs crave. I’ve actually stopped bringing my ipod with me on runs because I use the time to think and pray–and chat with my running buddy! And of course getting those endorphins pumping is never a bad thing.

The thing is, even things that you know are good for you–and that you know you’ll enjoy doing–are sometimes (read: often) hard to get out and do. Which is why races are key. If I wasn’t registered for a race, if I didn’t have an on-the-calendar, paid-for reason to get out there, I’d likely not.

So my response to my running buddy? What race are we doing next?

Date night!

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We have several baby books, so we’ve been reading a lot about what to expect developmentally with Teddy. And of course, we’ve become convinced that Teddy’s a little genius, way advanced for his age. But that’s for another post…

I was reading one baby book and was thrilled to be urged by the authors to maintain a regular date night. The authors noted that one of the most important things you can do for your child is maintain a healthy marriage, and one way to do that is continue to have fun as a couple.

I needed no further encouragement. We’ve always reminded the newlyweds in our Bible study about the importance of continuing to date each other now that they are married. I recognized the same logic applied once you have kids, especially since each transition makes it more difficult to make that effort regularly. The authors recommend getting out once a month and then having weekly in-home dates once the baby is in bed for the night. I immediately committed to getting monthly dates on the calendar. (We’re still working on making weekly, in-home dates part of our routine…)

Our first date was at the beginning of December. We went to see the latest Sherlock Holmes movie because I love Sherlock Holmes–particularly with Robert Downey Jr as the detective. He better fits the character I’ve pictured in my head after reading all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories.

January’s date: steak frites and margaritas at Gordon Biersch (with their deliciously tangy Marzen bbq sauce) and a walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, marveling at how beautiful the Capitol looks at night. It was a lovely evening, so mild for the middle of winter, and on the way back, we stopped to read all the headlines on the featured newspapers at the Newseum. One final stop: Red Velvet for a Madagascar vanilla and bourbon cupcake, enjoyed on the steps of the National Gallery of Art. Really, every date night should end with a cupcake.

February’s date night coincided with a friend’s birthday party at ChurchKey, a bar known for it’s amazing beer selection. We began our evening with dinner there (fig/proscutto/goat cheese flatbread for me; a burger for Mike) to celebrate and continued on to Riot Act Comedy Theater to see the winners from the DC Shorts Film Festival. We were in stitches most of the evening (not all were funny) and repeated particularly memorable lines to each other the whole way home.

This month, we celebrated Mike’s birthday (the 5th) for our date night. We toasted 36 successful trips around the sun with “flights” of wine, dips, and crackers at Veritas Wine Bar. Each flight comprised three wines, each about half a standard serving. We ended our meal with a flight of ports and three (tiny) chocolates: montezuma (with chipotle pepper and cinnamon), warm clove, and caramel.

April is Mike’s month to plan, so if you have any ideas, I’m sure he’d love to hear them!

These date nights are brought to you by our amazingly generous friends, who are willing to spend a Friday evening with our fun, adorable son. Although, when I put it that way…Ahem…Regardless of Teddy’s cute factor, our friends are still wonderful to give up their time so we can go out.


“She’s his mama ==>”

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I quit my job but that doesn’t mean I quit my colleagues. Yesterday, I met two former-colleagues-now-friends for lunch at Chick fil-A. It was gorgeous out, so we hovered outside with our bags of crispy chicken sandwiches and fries until a trio of women took pity on us and cleared out. They were finished; they were just enjoying the 70-degree afternoon. While we ate our lunches and caught up on the past few weeks, Teddy entertained himself in his stroller. When my friends were finished, they took turns holding Teddy.

While we continued chatting, several passers-by stopped to comment on how adorable Teddy is and ask how old he is. Every time, I responded. I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary until one of my friends, who is black, pointed it out: The question was always directed at her. Which, when you think about it, is the logical conclusion in the given situation: Three women, two white and one black, are chatting while playing with a black baby–naturally the black woman will be presumed to be the baby’s mother.

Of course, my black friend did not attempt to respond to any of the queries, instead letting oblivious me do the honors. But she clearly felt awkward about it, as she commented later that she wished she were wearing a sign saying “She’s his mama,” with an arrow pointing at me.

I’m not bothered. However, I will likely be aware of it the next time I’m out in public with her or any other black friend.