Monthly Archives: June 2012

My new normal

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I was having lunch with a friend the other day, and she asked me if having Teddy was surreal. And after thinking for a moment, I realized that for the first time, it doesn’t feel surreal. It’s feeling normal. For so many months. it was surreal. I would be changing Teddy and be overcome with the wonder that I have a baby on a changing table! Or I’d put him down for a nap and look around the nursery and pinch myself to make sure it wasn’t going to transform itself back into the storage room that it was for so long.

I’m still full of gratitude for the gift that Teddy is, but I don’t experience those moments of, wow, is this really happening? to such a degree. And I’m glad. Because those moments were always accompanied by the sense that this could end at any moment. And I hated that feeling. I knew it was completely illogical and irrational. This wasn’t going to end. Teddy’s birth parents weren’t going to try to claim him (and couldn’t, even if they wanted to). The agency wasn’t going to deem us unsuitable.

But really, until the judge granted our petition to adopt and issued Teddy’s adoption decree, there was always a niggling in the back of my head that something could happen.

But once we had that decree in hand, that feeling was gone. I left the judge’s chambers that day with the certainty that Teddy’s ours. For good.

Now it just feels normal to change him, to put him down for a nap, to watch him cruise around the furniture, to stop him from gnawing on the computer cord, to wrestle the phone from him, to realize he’s outgrowing his 12-month sleepers. Ok, that last one’s a bit surreal, yet. I mean seriously, 12-month clothes are too tight for a 9-month-old?! Maybe surreal isn’t the right word there, though. More like mind-boggling.

We still get looks when we go out—and comments, lots of comments—and we always will. But that’s just part of our new normal. Now I just enjoy going about our day and am no longer anxious that it might not all work out.

 

 

Introducing Teddy to the democratic process

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A few days ago, Teddy and I spent the morning meeting with staffers in the offices of members of Congress, telling them about the Adoption Tax Credit and asking them to make sure their members vote to preserve it. Mike and I benefited from the credit this year and hope to benefit from it again when we start the process all over again to adopt a sibling for Teddy. The credit is due to expire at the end of this calendar year; effective January 1, 2013, if Congress doesn’t preserve it in its current form, it will be reduced by half (from $12,650) and will be available only to families who adopt children with special needs.

Tuesday, June 12, the National Council for Adoption organized an advocacy day on Capitol Hill, setting up meetings for registrants with members’ offices. I’m a DC resident, so I don’t have a voting member of Congress to meet with, but I’m from the other Washington, and my parents still live there, so I had a meeting arranged with their district representative. I was also invited to attend the meeting another advocate had set up with DC’s non-voting representative, Eleanor Holmes Norton.

We had so much fun! For one thing, I got to dress up. As a SAHM, I rarely ever put on my office clothes anymore, so I was excited to dust them off (ok, it hasn’t been that long) and accessorize. (Yes, I was bringing Teddy, but I wanted the outfit to be complete, so I donned the jewelry and just dealt with the little grabbing hands.) For another, while any outing is more tiring now with a baby, I still love any and every excuse to get out of the house.

We started our morning with a rah-rah session, hearing about the adoption credit from the president of the Council and getting pointers (lots of newbies in the room) about meeting with staffers. We were drilled on the talking points, including the key words to remember about our ideal tax credit: inclusive, refundable, and permanent.  I understand now why it’s important to memorize specific words like that when I’m advocating for something. For one thing, they got the attention of the people I was meeting with. For another, I’m not great about speaking off the cuff, but I easily got myself back on track by remembering those three words.

My first appointment was with Holmes Norton. I was joining another advocate, who would be doing all the talking. As a newbie myself, I was eager to sit in and learn. However, we arrived to find out the staffer had rescheduled. Since we had an hour to kill, the other advocate invited me along to his next meeting, with a staffer in a Texas rep’s office. My pint-sized advocate—and poster child for the tax credit!—was ready to eat, so I was confident we could sit in and not be distracting. The Texas staffer was not encouraging about his member’s stance on making the credit permanent, but he listened to the info presented and asked a lot of great questions. I even got to share part of our story, and Teddy shared his two cents, too, once he was finished with his bottle. If words don’t sway the staffer, maybe a dimpled face and an excited squeal will.

My fellow advocate had another meeting—now set for the same time as the rescheduled Holmes Norton meeting. He asked if I would take it, since he obviously couldn’t be in two places at once. Why not? I was feeling pretty well versed in the talking points and besides, if things went sour, I could just point to Teddy and say, “He needs a sibling!” The Holmes Norton staffer was friendly and inviting and asked a lot of great questions, too. He assured me that Holmes Norton is concerned with local issues, and he took notes about the credit to brief her about this one (plenty of families are waiting to adopt newborns, but the number of foster care children ready and waiting for adoption in the District is staggering).

Our final meeting of the day was with my home state’s office. Teddy was getting tired of being constrained to the stroller, so we headed over early in the hopes the staffer would be available. She was. I gave the spiel and then we made small talk while I fed Teddy again. (I think she felt awkward leaving while I was still there….) She didn’t make many notes, but I know Rep Reichert is supportive of adoption in general.

You don’t have to meet with your member of Congress to tell them to support the adoption tax credit. You can email them, too. Just enter your zip code in the search field on this “Find Your Representative” page and copy paste the sample email from page six of the Adoption Tax Credit Advocacy Kit.

Please lend your voice to the cause. We want this credit to be around for years to come, to help us in our adoption process and all our friends who are also interested in adopting.

Albany, Cooperstown, and Skeneateles

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Over Memorial Day weekend, Mike and I flew to Upstate New York (or northern New York, as one native referred to it). Friends were getting married in Skaneateles (pronounced “skanny-atlas”), and I quickly realized we could make a weekend out of that affair by touring the Albany capitol (#15 for me—I have a goal of visiting all 51) and the National Baseball Hall of Fame (one of Mike’s bucket-list items).

We had made these plans before we learned about Teddy (although we hadn’t purchased tickets yet), and once we brought Teddy home, we figured we’d go ahead with them, although we hadn’t thought through logistically how that would work. And then my parents mentioned wanting to visit over Memorial Day weekend. How would they feel about staying with Teddy over the weekend while we were gone? They’re grandparentsWho live across the country from their grandson. Three days to spoil him with no parental interference? They loved the idea.

So we settled them into our condo, left detailed information about Teddy’s schedule (including feeding and naptime instructions we knew they would disregard completely) on the kitchen table, kissed our boy goodbye, and headed to Albany.

We were delayed for several hours at DCA. (This was not good for someone feeling a lot of nervous energy. I had far too much time to compulsively check my phone for text updates from my mother, who, unsurprisingly, didn’t have much to report at that point.) The last capitol tour was at 3 pm, and fortunately, we made it with about 10 minutes to spare. We don’t always get a guided tour in capitol buildings (although my rule is that I have to tour it, even if I’m just walking around it myself), but I’m so glad we made it for this one. Our tour guide was one of the best we’ve had: passionate about the capitol and full of knowledge. We were allowed in to the Senate meeting room and the Assembly (known as the “House” in most capitols) meeting room, which isn’t always a given.

Among other things, we learned that New York’s first capitol building was on the same grounds as the current building, although New York City was the first capital city, where members met in people’s homes or pubs. And we learned that a company was commissioned to replace the ceiling of the Senate meeting room with oak, but instead replaced it with (much cheaper) plaster of Paris painted to look like oak. New York sued the company—and lost. But that plaster of Paris ceiling ended up saving the capitol when a fire started. Had the ceiling been oak, the fire would have consumed the room and spread to the rest of the capitol. Instead, it was contained long enough to be extinguished before spreading. Today, that ceiling is still plaster.

The highlight of the tour was the sandstone “Million-Dollar Staircase,” with its four points of entry. Gorgeous color, smooth round pillars (amazing given that they were cut square), and detailed craftsmanship including faces of historical people (and locals who had cash for the artisans) atop those pillars.

The lowlight was getting stuck in the elevator. Yeah. After the tour ended, I asked the guide where the governor’s office was. He directed us back to the second floor, and our whole group followed us. Once the 16 of us were back in the elevator, we pressed the button for the second floor. And…nothing. The door was stuck. We were enclosed in that seemingly increasingly small space for probably no more than 10 minutes, but once we were freed, we decided we didn’t need to see the governor’s office that badly. Besides, our parking meter had run out, and while we figured Albany would be a bit more relaxed than DC, you never know.

Next up, Cooperstown. We had no idea the National Baseball Hall of Fame was so isolated! It’s out in the middle of nowhere! That said, the drive to the middle of nowhere is gorgeous. And the town itself is really pretty, very leafy. Living in the city, I forget how much I love trees! Our whole time in Upstate New York, we were surrounded by them. Anyway, this part of the trip was solely for Mike. He’s a HUGE baseball fan. (He’s also a fan of the local team, wherever he is, so he was a bit frustrated by how under-represented the Nats were in Cooperstown, given how young they are.) And here, where anyone can rattle off not only statistics about their favorite team but basic information about every other team as well, Mike was in baseball heaven.

We had a crucial conversation the night before we visited the Hall of Fame. Mike let me know that it was perfectly acceptable for me to bring my book. He knew he’d be lingering, reading everything, soaking in every detail. He knew I’d get bored—quickly. I appreciated his permission to not stay with him through every exhibit and feign interest. So I downloaded my book club book onto the kindle app on my phone (I didn’t want to be so conspicuous, with my actual kindle; besides, with my phone, I could always pretend I was checking baseball scores…), and after I finished an exhibit, I sat on a nearby bench (put there for people like me, I’m sure) and read.

We were in the museum for 5.5 hours. I finished my book club book. (We did go outside for lunch. We munched delicious slices of pizza—Mike’s favorite food—while sitting on a bench outside in the sunshine. Bliss.)

Needless to say, Mike loved every minute of those 5+ hours. And I enjoyed watching him in his element. I think he got our money’s worth for both tickets. That said, I did enjoy what I paid attention to. I learned a lot about the history of baseball and its transition from an amateur sport to a professional, commercial enterprise. (Did you know the Green Monster was built to block the view of unpaying spectators?) I also enjoyed learning about the press’ role in baseball, and how people were really nervous about broadcasting games, first on radio, then on TV, because of concern that if people could listen, and then watch, from home, they wouldn’t feel the need to buy tickets. (Commentators were so detailed that one reporter noted he could write a story about the game just by listening to it on the radio.) However, such concerns proved unfounded. Attending a game is a uniquely American experience, after all. And of course, I enjoyed watching Albert and Costello’s classic Who’s On First.

Our final weekend stop was the wedding that inspired the getaway to begin with. It was a beautiful affair in Skaneateles, a small town about three hours west of Albany. The ceremony itself was outdoors and then we ate dinner in an old barn. One of my favorite details was the centerpieces: wooden boxes with potted herbs. I love that! I could flavor my own dinner with basil and oregano and sage and mint. (Not that I did, of course. Dinner was delicious without any additional seasoning.) And there were cornhole boards set up so the guests could entertain themselves before dinner while the wedding party was posing for pictures. Too fun.

And then we arrived home to find that my parents had had just as much fun over the weekend as we had! In fact, they informed us we’re welcome to go away any time we want.

 

Bringing Teddy into our spiritual family

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When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took [Jesus] to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”). —Luke 2:22-23

We dedicated Teddy to God at our church last weekend. While there’s no one specific age that parents dedicate their babies, I think most generally do it earlier than we did, say around 3 or 4 months. We waited because we wanted the adoption to be finalized first, but we discovered there’s a perk to dedicating when your child is a bit older: He can hold his own dedication certificate. When our pastor handed us the blue and orange document stating that Theodore William Kruger had been dedicated to God, Teddy reached for it. And took it in both hands. And held it long enough for friends to take pictures. In fact, he showed no sign of wanting to let it go. Daddy was so proud. I just laughed.

It was definitely a “cherry on top” moment. We’d scheduled this dedication back in February, back when my parents bought tickets to fly out to visit. And we spent the next several months hoping and praying that the adoption would be finalized in time.

And it was.

We’ve watched many baby dedications, so we knew what to expect. They’re always beautiful, but our few minutes in the spotlight was an amazing time. Standing on the stage with Mike and my parents, holding Teddy, knowing so many friends were supporting us (both in the audience and in spirit), listening to our pastor speak about adoption and pray for Mike and me and for Teddy, I soaked in every second.

Our church has many locations, and while we used to regularly attend the location where we had Teddy dedicated, it’s a Sunday evening service that collides with Teddy’s bedtime, so we’ve become more regular attenders at a different location. However, it was important to us to have Teddy dedicated at the Sunday evening service because we feel very connected to the pastor there. Also, when we first brought Teddy home, the congregation there gave us a generous financial gift that was so very helpful during those first few weeks when we were maniacally outfitting a nursery that up to that point had been a storage room.

So it was extra meaningful looking out and seeing (metaphorically, since the stage lights make it impossible to actually see anyone) all the people who had supported us and still do.

At the end of the service, our pastor mentioned us again and encouraged everyone to give us a hug and Teddy a kiss on their way out. Since we were seated right at the exit, we turned into a sort of receiving line (or rather, the opposite of that since people were leaving…), which was awesome.

And now, looking at pictures taken afterward, I see that Teddy was gazing intently at Pastor D. Perfect. 

Thank you, Pastor D! You gave us another moment to savor forever.