Monthly Archives: May 2012

He really is only 8 months old.

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Teddy has always looked older than he is. Almost from the beginning, he’s been in the 90th percentile for length (that is, only 10% of babies are longer than he is). (For the record, he’s 50th percentile for weight: i.e., average.) We’ve always had comments about his length—and requisite jokes about a future in basketball. (Fact: length as a baby is not an indicator of adult height; you can’t estimate how tall a child will be as an adult until he’s about 3 or 4.) But now, at 8 months old, that length is having an effect: He’s looking more like a little boy than a baby. [Sniff]—my baby’s growing up!

Ahem.

His length really became more apparent when we took the car seat off the stroller—because he got too long for the infant car seat before he got too heavy for it. He looks like a toddler, just sitting there, chilling out, gnawing on a toy or babbling. He looks especially “old” when he pulls himself forward, surveying his environment. He’s going to be walking before we know it! At least, that’s what everyone tells us. He hasn’t quite mastered crawling on all fours yet, though.

However, he has mastered a number of other things: army crawling, babbling “da-da” indiscriminately (still working on “ma-ma”), pulling the arches of his playmat so that the whole thing falls on top of himself (that was pretty funny—he just lay there, stunned, for a few moments), standing unassisted for a few minutes with his hands on the coffee table, passing a toy from hand to hand, objecting when a toy is taken from him, crawling to his book shelf and playing with his board books, and eating solids.

Actually, we started out well with solids, but we seem to have regressed a bit in the past couple weeks. We started with rice cereal, but quickly moved on because I got bored with that…and was eager to try my new Baby Bullet (which is every bit as awesome and unnecessary as it looks). Next up: avocado. He gobbled it right up. Did this guac-lover proud. Next up: sweet potato. He loved that, too. After a brief snag with peas (which are supposed to be the universal baby food; evidently Teddy didn’t get the memo), we were successful with squash, pears, and bananas—especially bananas and yogurt. Which totally makes sense. Americans call that combo a smoothie and pay several dollars for it.

But now we’ve hit a wall. I’ve tried several new foods that are not finding favor, no matter what I disguise mix them with. And now I fear he doesn’t trust me. I’ve fed him so many foods the last few weeks that he has made abundantly clear he doesn’t like, he’s probably hesitant to try anything I feed him. At least, I would be. So this weekend, we’re going back to his faves, and then we’ll try some new foods again next week.

We’re also hitting the “separation anxiety” stage. It isn’t full-blown yet (although a recent babysitting experience did not go as planned), but it often manifests when I’m out shopping. And Teddy is in his stroller. And can’t see me. Because he’s sitting facing forward. Cue meltdown. Well, as much of a meltdown as I’ve seen in Teddy, anyway. Recently, this resulted in my perching Teddy on one hip while bouncing in place to try new running shoes. I attempted to jog with him in my arms as well, but that didn’t work so well. I thought briefly about handing him off to one of the staff, who was fawning over him, but quickly decided that wouldn’t be a good idea. So we just cut the shopping excursion short. (He is just like his daddy—hates shopping.)

Last but not least, Teddy finished his first session of swimming lessons—and has the certificate to prove it. (Silly, but as the instructor pointed out, it’s a nice token for the baby books.) Teddy came out of the experience with a love of splashing and kicking and being dunked (just kidding about that last one, although I think by the end he wasn’t quite as traumatized after a dunking). I came out of it with the phone numbers of three new mom friends. Success. Now we get to practice what we learned in our rooftop pool. Bring on summer!

We—are— (legally) fa-mi-ly!

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Today at the Baltimore County Circuit Courthouse, Judge Ensor decreed that Teddy is our legally adopted son.

A routine proceeding for the judge, but an oh-so-momentous one for us. With the stroke of a pen, our 18-month adoption process has concluded.

What a feeling!

It was all very informal. After sitting for 20 minutes in the courtroom, making conversation with other families also waiting to finalize adoptions, we (accompanied by a dear friend who made the trek to provide moral support and take pictures) followed the bailiff to judge’s chambers. She introduced herself as “Judith” (our adoption was finalized by Judge Judy!)  and welcomed us into her office. We sat. And of course, Teddy immediately started jumping on my legs, which the judge couldn’t help but comment about. And the ice was broken.

We made small talk for a few minutes. Then the judge asked Teddy if he was ready for this. He smiled and shook his head. (Yup, you read that right. When asked if he’s ready to be adopted, the kid smiles and shakes his head “no”. He loves shaking his head. I’m assuming he has no idea what he’s doing….) Fortunately, the judge went by the smile and not the head shaking and deemed Teddy ready. She signed the decree, and that was it. While we’ve been living like a family since November 7, today, we became a legal one.

And just in time to have him dedicated at our church. In fact, the timing of our hearing needs to be filed under Fingerprints of God. As of May 7, we were legally allowed to file for finalization. We were told that once we filed,  it would take the court one to two weeks to get in touch with us to schedule a hearing, and that we wouldn’t be scheduled for three to five weeks from that call.

We’ve been praying it would be quicker than that because my parents are flying in to town next week and we were hoping we could have Teddy dedicated at our church during their stay. We didn’t want to do the dedication until the adoption was finalized.

We filed our paperwork Friday, May 11. The court clerk called us Monday, May 14. She said the next available date for a hearing would be June 8. I asked if there was any way we could be squeezed in the previous week. She said no, but were we free Friday, May 18. Um, yes, I said. I think we can make that work. I hung up the phone and screamed.

Instead of taking as much as seven weeks, the process took one week.

And now we’re done. No more paperwork to file. No more visits with our social worker. No more trips out to our agency for training.

At least not until we’re ready to adopt number two…

“But of all God’s miracles large and small, the most miraculous one of all is the one I thought could never be:
God has given you to me.” —Fiddler on the Roof

Waffles and cake pops

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I started the day with a delicious waffle topped with real maple syrup and a generous amount of whipped butter.

I ended the day with a Starbucks cake pop.

And I enjoyed every bite of both.

Both were delicious, of course, but they also represented something amazing: my first Mother’s Day. The waffle was one way Mike celebrated this momentous event, and the cake pop was my church’s token of appreciation for all its mothers. (I have to admit, my eyes teared up a bit when I accepted the box containing the cake-y treat.)

In between, I received a card signed by both my guys (ok, Teddy’s is more scribble than signature…) and a Mommy and Me frame with a picture of me and Teddy in a tulip garden, a gorgeous necklace set from my mother (which I’m excited to wear for date night next weekend), a very sweet e-card from my in-laws, and Mother’s Day wishes from friends and family.

I felt so special. And so blessed to be Mama to the precious little boy who conferred the title on me.

The sermon at church this evening was about how sometimes life can go off script, and it’s important to stop looking longingly at the old script and instead embrace the new one and ask with anticipation, What can God do now?

I definitely know what it’s like to find out life is not going to proceed as planned. I was nodding and murmuring in agreement for much of the message (trying to keep it quiet because Teddy was asleep on my lap—precious!).

But by the grace of God, I also know what it’s like to come out the other side and fully embrace the new script.

But then, who wouldn’t, when this little guy’s part of the new script?

Honoring Teddy’s birth mom on Mother’s Day

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This Sunday is Mother’s Day, and as we do every year, Mike and I will remember our  mothers with phone calls and gifts. This year, however, we have a third mother to think about: Teddy’s birth mom. We’d like to start a ritual now of remembering her, but how do you honor someone you’re not in contact with? The usual mother’s day demonstrations of gratitude—a phone call, a card, flowers—are all impossible. Although one blogger on the adoptive families website I read wrote about having her children write symbolic letters to their birth mothers. So when Teddy is old enough to understand what we’re doing, we might adopt that practice.

But for now, we’re left with one option, really. And that is to post a letter and/or pictures on the website we use to post our annual updates. So now we ask ourselves, for the third time since starting this process, what do we write? Do we treat it as a usual milestone letter and describe all the new skills Teddy has mastered since our last update in January? Do we make it a thank-you letter, expressing gratitude for the difficult choice she made to place Teddy for adoption? Do we make it a combination of both? Or do we write a happy Mother’s Day note from Teddy’s point of view? He does have a lot to say, after all. If only I could interpret baby babble…

This will be an evolving process. What we decide to do this time won’t necessarily be what we decide is best next year. And as Teddy gets older, we’ll involve him in the conversation about what to do. The important thing for us is to be intentional about doing something every year. Starting this year.

Swimming lessons!

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Two weeks ago, Teddy started swimming lessons. He’s only 7 months, but we decided to enroll him for a couple reasons. For one thing, I love swimming. Well, to be more accurate, I love playing in the water. My form is atrocious; I can’t use swimming as a form of cardio exercise because I can’t breathe properly between strokes. But hanging out in the water, playing in waves, snorkeling? Sign me up. So naturally I want my son to have fun in the water, too. Also, we have a shallow (2′ 8″) pool on the roof of our condo and we are excited to play with Teddy in it this summer. But we knew we’d need lessons because we don’t have the slightest clue about teaching little ones to swim or even how to safely be with an infant in the water.

Oh, and if I’m completely honest, there is one more reason we’ve enrolled Teddy before he’s really even mastered crawling: that pesky parental competitive streak. See, at our parent prep course in March, another family mentioned that their baby had been in swimming lessons since he was 3 months old. We needed to get our act together—Teddy had already missed out on 120 days of water play!

So I went online and found Wilson Aquatic Center. (Classes are offered for children from 6 months, so I felt better that I wasn’t late to the game. Does beg the question where the other family took their then-3-month-old, though….) It’s a really nice municipal pool (although that means no photos allowed), and the infants instructor is a friendly guy in his mid-20s who gets in the pool with us and is great about explaining what each exercise does to build a baby’s understanding of the water.

I learned quickly that swimming lessons for a 7-month-old don’t involve any actual swimming. Sort of obvious, I guess. Teddy’s isn’t even lifting his arms in the classic “pick me up, please” pose. He’s definitely not going to jump in the water, ready to learn the butterfly stroke. (A mom can dream, though, right?)

So what do children 6 months to 2 years (that’s the age range for Teddy’s class) learn in swimming lessons? Quite a bit, actually. The class aims to familiarize babes with the water and help them understand that their bodies are buoyant. So we pull them through the water on their tummies. (Most kids keep their heads up, looking around. Not Teddy. Face plant in the water, every time.) We support their hips and sway them through the water on their backs, singing about a motor boat going slow and fast, and splashing their legs in the water as we go. (Most of the kids are ok with this; Teddy’s getting there, but he generally doesn’t like his head in the water. Well, except his face.) We pull them into the water from the pool’s edge, using a cue (1-2-3-GO!) so they know something’s happening. And we blow in their faces and, during the split second of shock, dunk ’em. Teddy HATES this. Although, as the instructor pointed out when I mentioned this, who doesn’t hate being dunked? But he surfaces with the most hilarious body language: lips pursed like he sucked a lemon, eyes accusing (I trusted you!), and head shaking as if to rid himself of the traumatic event (or just shake the water from his hair…).

Fortunately, babies have a memory of about 2 seconds, so Teddy quickly forgets the betrayal and returns to kicking happily in the water.

And that’s how we spend 30 minutes, twice a week for four weeks.

During our building’s pool opening party this week, we sat Teddy on the pool’s edge, and he happily kicked his feet in the water—and the water was COLD!

Looks like the familiarizing is working!

It’s the simple questions that trip me up.

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We’ve started swimming lessons and in the locker room our first day, a lady oohh’ed and aahh’ed over Teddy, exclaiming how cute he is. We made small talk for a few minutes, and when I got him out of his Ergo, she saw how long he is. And then she asked a very simple question that I had no idea how to respond to: “Is his dad tall?”

Well, no. And, maybe.

This very nice lady was (presumably) assuming my husband is black. And if so, if he were tall, that would explain Teddy’s length. Because I’m pretty average, so he’s clearly not getting it from me.

I could have answered this with a simple, “Nope.” And left it at that. And probably left the poor lady really confused. “We have no idea where he’s getting his length–our whole family is pretty average!”

Another answer leads to way more questions than I want to get into with a nice stranger in a locker room right before going out to swim lessons.

“His dad isn’t tall, but his birth dad might be–we’re not sure.” Yeah, hate that response.

In the end, I didn’t go with either, but my response was awkward all the same, something  along the lines of, “Oh, he’s adopted…but we do wonder if he’s going to be tall!”

Sigh.

We’ve received advice about how to answer questions about Teddy’s history that we’re not comfortable talking about: tell the person asking that that information is Teddy’s to share and we’re saving it for him. And then move on to safer territory.

(For the record, I haven’t yet received a question I feel compelled to use this response for. Actually, that’s not entirely true. There have been a couple times when I haven’t wanted to share the details a virtual stranger was asking for, but it felt rude and unnecessary to do anything other than simply answer the question.)

But advice about simple questions such as the above? Nada. Guess it’s time to stalk those adoption forums again…

I’m not anonymous anymore.

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I’ve been going to my farmers market for four years. Every Thursday, from May through November, I’ve walked the five blocks to the market, buying produce from the same three or four vendors. Never once have any of the vendors shown the slightest hint of recognition.

And then I started bringing Teddy. Now I’m recognized. The second week I brought him, one of the vendors I always visit said (to Teddy, that is), “I remember you! You’re back!” I smiled, but internally, I was laughing. Then I visited my second vendor and had roughly the same conversation, although she added, “I saw you on the metro the other day! But I was at the other end of the train….” Her addendum was presumably to explain why she didn’t say hello. I wasn’t sure what to say to that. “Um, great!”

I know part of this is simply because I have a baby now. All new moms are subject to more attention than they experienced before they became mothers. All mothers have strangers oohh’ing and aahh’ing over their adorable infants.

But another part of it is because I’m a mother of a child of a different race. And there just aren’t that many people like me around (that I’ve seen, anyway). Teddy and I are memorable. And our differentness provokes questions and comments and conversation.

This is fun and exciting and I love having conversations with people I wouldn’t ordinarily connect with. And, of course, I love watching people fawn over my son.

But I’m an introvert. Constantly donning a bright smile and  making small talk with  total strangers and thinking on the spot about how I want to educate those who maybe ask less appropriate questions or whether I want to respond at all to totally inappropriate comments is exhausting. I’ve wondered the last few months how caring for a baby who’s so easy going and sleeps through the night can be so tiring, and I honestly think this is part of it for me. I’m not anonymous anymore. I’m chatting with new people all the time. That’s draining for an introvert.

I don’t have a solution for this except to be intentional about giving myself down time after a particularly social day.

The other day, I posted a picture on Facebook of Teddy surrounded by books, which he’d pulled from “his” shelf after crawling to it. A friend commented that life as we knew it would never be the same. She, of course, meant that mobility changes everything.

But all I could think of was that life as we knew it changed dramatically the moment we got Teddy–in so many ways–and it seems that I’m learning new ways all the time.