Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Banned by Net Nanny!!

Nicki (from Stepping on Legos, see my sidebar for the link) pointed out in the comments on my last post that Net Nanny has flagged my site for "alcohol/drug content".

Evidently, I am a bad influence. A very bad influence. Lock up your children.

I was trying to figure out how Net Nanny could possibly find my site offensive. So, I did some searching through my archives.

In EIGHT posts I have mentioned my fondness for RUM. But, hey, I am a 35 year old woman who doesn't happen to be pregnant at the moment (or at any time since I have been writing this blog.) Nor do I operate cars or machinery whilst consuming said rum. It's not like I am describing under-age rum-filled nights of drunken debauchery. (Yes, because, during my under-age nights of drunken debauchery I couldn't afford rum!) (Kidding!) (Mostly!)

In ONE post, I mentioned crack-cocaine. But, it was in the following context: "Cheetos are my own personal crack-cocaine." By which I MEANT that I find them very addictive, NOT that I consume them, at great risk to my personal health and sobriety and well-being, intravenously . That would defeat the whole purpose of eating cheetos, which is, of course, for the cheese powder-y goodness upon one's tongue. Also, I'm not entirely sure that one can get high on Cheetos.

In THREE posts I mention wine. I've been thinking about writing a post in which I announce that I officially DONE with wine, but, I guess that's the kind of thing that would get me in more trouble with Net Nanny. (The reason I am DONE with wine is that I have decided, after many years of TRYING to like it, I simply don't. So, give me some Rum or a Sam Adam's and leave me alone. I am SOOOO NOT drinking the damn Merlot. No more. No thank you.) (But, again, I'm old enough to drink it, if I wanted to, which I don't.)

In SIX posts I mention beer, and in TWO posts I mention cigarettes.

In ONE post I mention strippers. And also prostitutes. But, in the context that I was annoyed with the Ohio legislature for spending a lot of time worrying about strippers and very little time worrying about the state of our schools.

In ONE post I ranted about how much I hate meth-addicts. Not that I know any meth addicts personally, it's just that I need Claritin-D in order to function like a reasonable human being for about half of the year, and the meth addicts have made pseudoephedrine a hard substance to come by. So, I feel justified in complaining about them.

In truth, while I find it kind of amusing that I have been flagged as an inappropriate site for children, I'm not writing this blog for children. Sure, I write a LOT about my children, but, not FOR them.

So, to Net Nanny I say, in spite of you, I am a grown-up, writing a blog for other grown-ups, I think I will continue to write, occasionally, about rum, wine, and strippers. And the unique addiction of cheese-powder on puffed corn.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Photo Post

I have a little photo post up at my other blog: http://gretchenfaith.blogspot.com/
(Note that in the picture above, you can see where Lana injured her forehead...

A Modest Proposal

There is an article on CNN today about "Mommy-Guilt". I would summerize, but, it's not a very long article, so, here it is.


So, my take on this article is that:

A. mommy guilt is inevitable and both culturally imposed and self imposed, and
B. having mommy guilt can cause your children to sense that you feel guilt and therefore make them feel badly because they know you feel guilty about something and assume it is their fault

Here's the thing: I AM TIRED OF MOMMY GUILT.

I am both TIRED of feeling Mommy-Guilt and TIRED of being told that I am, essentially, SUPPOSED to be feeling Mommy-Guilt.

I propose the following: STOP. FEELING. GUILTY.

If you love your kids, if you are doing your best, if you kids are eating well and getting enough sleep and fresh air and affection...just - LET. IT. GO.

Let it go. Stop feeling guilty. If you work and like working, be okay with it. If you stay at home and like staying at home, be okay with it.

Let's stop obsessing about our mommy-guilt. Let's accept that some moms are going to work and some moms are going to stay-at-home and some moms are going to breastfeed and some moms are going to bottle-feed and some moms are going to co-sleep and some aren't and LET'S CUT EACHOTHER A LITTLE SLACK. Stop feeling guilty. Stop imposing guilt on others. Live and let live.

And, finally, as part of my modest proposal - do something just for you and DON'T FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT. Have some sex. Get a pedicure. Take a nap. FOR YOU. Just for you. Because it feels good or because you need it or because you need an hour for just you and you deserve that.

Have a mommy-guilt free day,


Thursday, July 26, 2007

I Have Two Mommies

Yesterday, Lana was looking at some photographs of her foster mother. We don't keep these photos just lying around, but, we don't hide them, either. She can find them to look at when she wants them. Yesterday she wanted to look at them.

She pointed to a photo of L~, her foster mother, and said, out of the blue, "I have two mommies."*

Husband responded, quietly, "yes, you do." (I personally, am waiting for the bombshell that will come in the form of "I have three mommies" - although truthfully I'm not entirely sure that Lana knows that L~ was not her birth mother. I don't think she knows anything of Lien (her birth mother) - but, I have no way of knowing. The closest we have come to talking about Lien was the day Lana asked me about the stretch marks on my abdomen. Lana asked, "why you have these?" and I told her they were from "when Gabriel grew in my tummy." Lana's response was, "where me??" Now...I may have misinterpreted her question, but, I answered her that she had grown in "a different tummy" and I said nothing else about it and neither did she. It's out there, conceptually, I just don't think we have the language to deal with it, not quite yet. And maybe I am not quite ready. I guess I feel like Lana's more immediate and important loss is that of L~, the woman who she called "Ma" for the four years before we came and took her away. I think that later she will have questions, concerns (and anger?) about Lien, but, right now...right now I think it's a good sign that she is willing to talk about L~, and her life that she remembers from Viet Nam.)

After Husband confirmed that Lana had two mommies, Lana pointed to the photo of L~ standing with her motorbike. Lana said, "Daddy, this MY motorcycle. I go fast! Very fast! VROOM! VROOM!"

I'm sure you did, baby girl. I'm sure you did.


*This is a statement of Lana's own making. We have never suggested this particular phrasing, nor have we read her any adoption related books that use this phrasing. I tend to refer to L~ as "your Ma" and to myself as "your mommy". Lana, in the past few weeks, has insisted on calling me "Mama" with a slightly saucy twang, as if we were living in Birmingham or Atlanta or something...strange.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Some Photos from our first day with our Exchange Student

Here is our exchange student, M~, with another student from Japan who is staying with friends of ours, H~ and L~. This is at a meeting for all the host families at a swimming quarry, at which we lost the girls. (Only temporarily.) I looked at H~, while the girls were missing, and said, "I cannot believe we have been parenting teenagers for less than 24 hours and we LOST them already." Our wonderful Husbands soon located the girls and all was well.

Gabe and Lana were not allowed to swim int he quarry because they are under 13 and not strong enough swimmers to pass the fairly rigorous swim test. (Not the best place for a meeting for families with little kids, but, nobody asked my opinion.) Here they are, dancing around near the ampitheather.

A picture my friend H~ snapped while the students and host families were being introduced. I think Gabe and Lana look adorable from the back! :-)
Since landing in the US on Saturday, M~ has been to a Lake Erie beach, a birthday party, a family reunion, and the grocery store. Oh, and to her intensive English academy, of course, which goes from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM weekdays.
So far, so good, with the exchange student experience.

Where does "mean" come from?

As Lana's English has progressed (and at this point she is very nearly fluent), we are occasionally having to confront a part of Lana's personality that we were not entirely aware of: the child can be mean. (Reference the day she told me that "Mommy no have pretty hair.")

She seems to have developed some serious verbal sparring tactics, and she is lacking in tact (well, she's four, so, I cannot expect her to have a fully developed verbal screen.) But still...

Yesterday, she turned to look at the girl bagging groceries, who happened to have Down's Syndrome. Lana looked at Husband and said, "Why she yucky, Daddy?"


She later ran away from a little old man who sat down next to her on a park bench, saying, "NO! NO sit by YUCKY!!"

Truthfully, I'm perplexed. Gabriel has always been a kind child (although his sister does push the limits of his ability to be nice), and I have no experience with this, and NO IDEA what the proper way to deal with part of her nature might be.

I'm pretty sure that strangling her in public is not the right choice?? (Kidding.) Nor do I think screaming at her that she cannot say "mean things" is really working very well...

Thoughts? Suggestions??


Monday, July 23, 2007

Poop...a story (Warning...Do Not Read If You Are Eating)

This one is for JDEGIRL. Who has a poop story of her own today.

I apolgize if I've told this before (although I don't think I have.) (This is actually an excerpt from an email I sent my Girlfriend K~ about a month after her baby was born.) I hope it makes you laugh.

Which brings me to my story, of the day I threw up on my baby...

It was a few weeks before Christmas in 2000. It was the day before my first ever law school exam and I was stressed to the nines. I had taken Gabriel to A~ T~ (his day care center), and then I returned home to study Contract Law.

I was curled up in bed, in my pajamas (this has always been my study ritual, since high school), studying the "law of contracts" flash cards. (Yes, flash cards. For law students. They make them. Seriously. So, if you ever have insomnia...)

The phone rang, and it was M~, one Gabe's day care providers, at A~ T~. M~ said, "I'm sorry to do this to you, since I know you have exams and all, but, Gabe's running a high fever, so, I need you to come get him."

My stress level went through the roof. How was I ever going to pass my contracts exam if I lost a whole day of study time? It was ten o'clock in the morning, and the test was the next day at 1:30. How could this possibly be happening???

Tense to the point of having a nervous breakdown, I rushed to the center to pick up my 9 month old. I brought him home, and it was a little after 11:00. It was a beautiful, sunny day, with the sun shining on a few inches of snow outside. I opened all the shades in the house, hoping that the sunlight would brighten my mood.

I was hungry, so, I put Gabe in his high chair, and I went to fix us some lunch. He was in a remarkably good mood for a baby who had a high fever. I sat down at the table with my contracts outline in front of me, to eat some spaghetti. Gabe was happily eating some cheerios.

I had just finished my lunch when a god-awful smell wafted my way from Gabe's high chair. For the first time since we came home, he looked like he was sick. He had clearly filled his diaper, so, I went to pick him up out of his chair - my fingers closed around his ribs and his back with a nauseating "squish". I felt his back with my palm, and there was another "squish" as my hand pressed down on his crawler.

The poop...oh my goodness...it was coming out of his diaper and seeping up his back. When I got him fully out of the high chair, I realized, to my horror...HE HAD POOPED ALL THE WAY UP BACK, TO HIS NECK, and INTO HIS HAIR.

Yes. Poop. In his hair.

I laid him down on the changing pad on the floor in the middle of the living room. I got his crawler off of him, and when I went to open his onesie, the stench hit me, it hit me like a stench of nothing else that I have ever smelled in my life. It was totally and utterly rank. (And I had been changing poopy diapers daily for nine months by that time, so, you can imagine...it was truly an awful smell to elicit what happened next.)

I don't know what it was...whether it was the stench combined with my high stress level, or if the stench alone would have done it, but, the stench got the better of me, and I LOST MY LUNCH, yes, I puked…er…barfed…er...tossed my cookies, so to speak. ON MY BABY. And the floor. And myself.

So, there we were. The two of us. Both of us covered in poop and vomit. We were absolutely disgusting, and totally incongruous, looking like something from a horror film, in our bright, sunny living room.

I started to cry. Gabe started to cry. I stripped both of down to our birthday suits quickly. (Because I was afraid I would throw up again if I stayed one more second in the disgusting clothes.) So, now we were NAKED and covered inrefuse. And totally exposed to anyone out and about in the neighborhood since every shade in the house was up.

I was still crying. Gabe was still crying. I picked up Gabe's slippery naked body and ran upstairs to the bathroom, where I turned on the water in the shower and jumped in, still holding him. Where he became an even MORE slippery baby. I couldn't reach anything except the Baby Magic (what with trying to keep a hold of the slippery baby and crying and all), so, I scrubbed both of us from head to toe with the Baby Magic. He screamed at the top of his lungs during the whole ordeal, and squiggled and tried to get away, and it is a wonder, really, that I didn't drop him.

Finally, we were both scrubbed clean, free of vomit and poop, but, still crying. I dried Gabe off and took him to his room where I hastily got him into a fresh diaper, onesie and crawler. I dried myself off, but, did not put any clothes on, because I knew I still had to deal with the horrible mess in the family room, and, you know, why bother to put on clothes when you know they will just get disgusting from the disgusting job you are facing? So, I put Gabe in his crib, and I ran naked downstairs, with some old towels, which I used to clean up the mess on the floor (which, thank goodness, was hardwood and not carpeting), and then I picked up everything off the floor, all our disgusting clothes, the towels I used to clean up, and the diaper changing pad, and I ran to the basement with it, where I threw it in the washing machine, which I turned to "extra heavy duty wash" and dumped in a ton of soap.

Gabe was screaming in his crib. I hopped back in the shower for a minute to wash of the rest of the mess. I got out of the shower, put on some clothes, picked up Gabe, and called my husband, crying. "I threw up on the baby" I told him. He made all the right sympathetic noises while I told him the story, but, he told me later he was trying very very hard not to laugh. Then, I called my mom, still crying. My mother actually did laugh.

Something she apparently felt really bad about, since half an hour later she was at my door with a bag of Long John Silver's (because, seriously, nothing says love like fried fish and fried dough, right?) and she played with Gabe for about two hours, so I could study.

So, that's the story, of the day my baby shat all the way into his hair, and I threw up on him, as a result.

Oh, I got a B+ on the Contract exam...and Gabriel, to this day, refuses to get in a shower. He is strictly a bath boy.


**Gabriel began to take showers, on occasion, about a year ago, the summer after turned 6. But, he still doesn't like them very much, and he won't shower alone.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Once more, to the ER

My cell phone rang at 4:04 PM yesterday as I was sitting at my desk going through a file. The distinctive ring tone told me it was Husband calling, but, since he calls several times a day, I didn't think much of it.

"Hey hon," I answered, trying to decide how much to bill my client for the headache that they had caused me that afternoon. "What's up?"

Husband's voice was tense. "What are you doing right now?" he asked.

"Um...nothing too important. Why?"

"Lana just split her forehead open. The school just called. She probably needs stitches."

"I'm on my way." I hung up the phone, grabbed my purse and keys, and ran to my car. (At work, I am 10 minutes away from Lana's pre-school. Husband was at home with Gabriel, which, in Friday afternoon rush hour traffic is at least 25 minutes from the school.)

Lana had indeed gashed her forehead in a scooter accident, and the blood was impressive. Once the bleeding subsided some, she had a star shaped hole over her left eye. The closest ER is the ER where my sister-in-law, L~, is a nurse, and I hoped hoped hoped that she was on duty.

She wasn't, of course.

But, this ER experience was infinitely better than our LAST ER experience. For example, no one questioned whether or not I was actually Lana's mother. And the nurse who took care of us knew my sister-in-law, and was very nice to us. (I'm sure he would have been nice to us even if he hadn't known my sister-in-law.)

The doctor was very kind, and numbed Lana's head with something blue called "Zap" (the doctor may have been making up the name of the numbing cream), and then he put Lana's forehead back together, and remarked on how adorable she was.

He then listened to Lana's heart (at my request) and commented that he was concerned about her heart murmur. (You may recall the drama we had surrounding her heart murmur in Hanoi back in January.) This heart murmur has been a mild concern to our family doctor, however, he has only been able to hear it twice. (Is it possible for a heart murmur to come and go??)

At any rate, we are calling to set up an echocardiogram on Monday, "just to be safe" (according to the ER doctor.)

All in all, not a great way to spend a Friday night, but, significantly less awful than the drama we had in the ER last time.


PS ~ M~, our exchange student has arrived and is doing well

Friday, July 20, 2007

It's possible I have lost my mind...

In about 24 hours, our Japanese exchange student arrives.

Yes, this is a new development. A very new development.

Before you think I have lost my wits COMPLETELY, let me say that she is only staying for 3 weeks. So, this isn't an ENTIRE YEAR type of exchange student. (Although my family did host year long exchange students when I was in high school, and again after I graduated from college.) But, THIS particular Japanese student is coming to stay in our town for a 3 week International Youth Academy, so, it's not like it's a HUGE commitment.

I'm nervous about how Lana is going to deal with this, but, there were 35 kids who didn't have homes to stay in, and Husband and I speak some Japanese (well, okay, I speak some Japanese, and Husband used to be able to count and ask how much things cost.) But, anyway, she is arriving tomorrow. Her name is M~, and I've been stressing to Lana that we have a FRIEND coming to stay at our house. I keep using the name FRIEND over and over, because I don't want Lana to confuse M~ with being part of our family...

Cross your fingers for us. It's been almost 11 years since I NEEDED to be able to communicate in Japanese. I hope it comes back to me.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lawmommy behaves badly...

So. I. Uh. Behaved. BADLY. Really, quite embarrassingly badly. Snotty and bratty and spoiled and, well, really, just BADLY.

This last weekend was supposed to be our annual family camping trip, in which all of us siblings and our parents and one set of cousins who we have adopted as being our “own” go “camping” together.

Now, two of my five siblings were not able to go this year, because my brother N~’s wife recently was transferred to Nashville, and so they moved to Nashville last month. As such, it wasn’t feasible for them to drive to Nowheresville, Northeastern Indiana for two days at this juncture. And my other brother, A~, had to work. So, we were missing some of our group.

For the last few years, we have been doing this “camping” at a Jellystone “Campground”. And if it weren’t for the fact that the campground spaces we have reserved for the last several years have been right on the lake, it would SUCK. Because this particular Jellystone “Campground” is really more like a parking lot of mobile campers stacked practically on top of each other, and much less like camping – i.e. in NATURE, AWAY FROM PEOPLE. (See, it’s possible I have a bad attitude about this. Is it coming off that way??)

Can I preface this by saying that camping isn’t really my thing? I mean, as children, we camped, in a very serious way. From the time I was seven until the summer after my freshman year in college, we had a MAJOR LEAGUE family vacation, in which we drove all over the country, camping, for two weeks at a time. I have camped from just east of Philadelphia to just west of Los Angeles, and as far north as north of Toronto and as far south as some miserable border town in Texas. I have CAMPED with my family, is what I am saying. And I did enjoy it, as a child and as a teenager. (To the extent that a teenager actually enjoys much of anything). But, truthfully, I didn’t know, really, what other vacation options existed. And, as an adult, I really prefer the kind of vacation where one lies on the beach with a stack of books and contemplates going snorkeling, while handsome men in brightly colored shirts come around and ask if one wants some more rum. Or, the kind of vacation where one stays in a nice hotel in a big city and goes to lots of good restaurants and goes shopping and visits quirky museums like this one http://www.tenement.org/. Or the kind of vacation that involves really really fast roller coasters and enormous water slides. Or the kind of vacation that involves rugged guys named Jake who offer to teach one how to ride a horse, while one stays at a comfortably appointed, yet charming, "rustic" cottage. This is just who I am. But, as far as hanging out in a campground, particularly a campground that is CROWDED…it’s not my best thing. It doesn’t really make me happy. (Does this make me a misanthrope?)

What DOES make me happy is having the opportunity to just hang out and enjoy my obscenely large family, which is kind of hard to do, because there are six of us siblings (plus six spouses) and 14 nieces and nephews and two parents, and all together that is 28 people, which is a lot to fit into one place, like someone’s house. So, we’ve been going and hanging out at this campground for the past few years, for one weekend per summer, and mostly, floating in the lake drinking beer is the main form of entertainment for the adults. (Save my mother. Who is a clergy person. And therefore generally refrains from drinking beer because she thinks it is unseemly. Or maybe because she just doesn’t like the taste.) And at night we sit around the fire and make s’mores and maybe switch from drinking beer to drinking wine. And the kids play and swim and fish or whatever.

Back to my behaving badly…I had a late real estate closing on Friday afternoon, so, Husband and Gabe and Lana and I didn’t leave for Indiana until Saturday morning. And when we arrived at the Jellystone “Campground” of many many RVs stacked on top of eachother, the lady at the gate charged me $32 just to come in.

This is after we had paid $440 for the four campsites for 2 nights.

Am I the only one who thinks this is an obscene price for a campground that is not really a campground??????????????????

And the woman was kind of a sanctimonious shrew about the whole thing. Essentially, from my point of view, she acted like I was trying to sneak into the Ritz Carlton or the Bellagio or something. Not, that I was simply appalled that after having paid $70 (our families share of the $440), they wanted me to pay an ADDITIONAL $32.00 because “there are too many people at your sites and you are TRYING TO BREAK OUR RULES.” As if I had some kind of devious plot in mind to sneak into the damn Camp F**KING Jellystone.

So…I threw something of a fit. And I begrudgingly handed the shrew my credit card for the additional $32.00, and when I arrived at our campground I threw a class A hissy fit about coming out to “Hell” to “pretend to camp” and wasn’t there something more fun the 28 of us could do for $472??? Etc. Etc. I was kind of a huge bitch about it. And then I sat in a camp chair, listening to Harry Potter 6 on my new Zune, staring at the lake with a brooding, angry look on my face for the next two hours.

At which point two of my sisters and one of my brothers physically dragged me off behind the campground’s restrooms, where they thrust a cigarette into one of my hands, a beer into the other hand, and informed me that I had 10 minutes to drink one, smoke the other, and bitch uninterrupted. After which I was to “stop being a bitch” and “just enjoy being together.” (This was kind of a throwback to our teenage camping trips, when we would sneak off to smoke the cigarettes that one of my sisters had bummed from her boyfriend, who was old enough to buy them. None of us ever really smoked much, except that it was something for jaded teenagers on vacation with their parents to do.)

Anyway, I tried to have a better attitude about the whole experience after that, I did lighten up a little, and tried to have a good time. And it WAS cute when 9 of the children (Lana and Gabe included) all piled into our four-man-tent and fell asleep for the night, curled up around each other like a pile of puppies. (And thus allowing Husband and I to sleep in one end of my sister’s pop up camper, which was better, from my point of view, than sleeping in the tent. On the ground.) But, I couldn’t help feeling like I had kind of ruined the weekend with my incredibly poor attitude. And I'm still ticked about the $32.00.



Friday, July 13, 2007

Prepare to be SHOCKED

The federal government...yes, the federal government of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, true to it's word (via "Boris" at the Social Security Administration (see my post entitled "Fun with the Feds") delivered TWO social security cards to my home, one for me with my ACTUAL MARRIED NAME on it, and one for Lana with her new American name on it.

Yesterday, we were able to apply for her US Passport (and Gabe's US passport, for that matter, although there was (obviously) nothing holding us up in applying for that except that we were waiting on Lana's social security number so we could apply for both passports together.)

I will b**ch for a moment that the government makes BOTH parents of any minor applying for a passport show up IN PERSON at the post office (or other government office) to make the application, and yet, at least in the this part of the country, will only accept passport applications between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM on a weekday. NO SATURDAYS. So, if both parents work, both parents have to take a day off work (or at least a few hours) off work, AND bring the child with them, in order to apply for the passport.

Don't get me wrong - as a divorce attorney, I strongly support the fact that both parents have to apply for the passport (having once been embroiled in an ugly custody dispute wherein the father tried to leave the country with the children.) However, in my own personal life, it would have been SO MUCH EASIER if Husband, a teacher, could have handled this transaction on his own. Or if we could have taken care of it on a Saturday, together.

But, it's taken care of now, and it is almost the very last piece of paperwork we will ever have to deal with in terms of Lana's adoption. (We still have our six-month post placement home visit coming up, and we will still have to send 10 photos and a report of Lana's progress to the government of Vietnam every November for the next 14 years...but, in terms of final hurdles, it feels pretty significant.)

Soon, there will be nothing to stop the four of us from jetting off to Paris for the weekend, if we are so inclined. (Yeah, right!)


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

You Probably Shouldn't Do This to Avoid Jury Duty


So...if, you are not ACTUALLY a homophobic, racist who is a habitual liar, for Pete's sake, don't LIE about it.

If you lie ABOUT being a liar, what does that make you??


Monday, July 09, 2007

Six Months

It was six months ago yesterday, in a city on the China Sea, on the other side of the world, in a room with a bust of Ho Chi Minh's head, two officials of the People's Committee of the Province of DaNang released Lana to us. Husband and I each spoke for a few minutes, promising that we would love and care for Lana as our own, and that we would teach her about Vietnam and make certain she would be proud of where she came from.

Lana solemnly peeled and ate a tangerine through the whole ceremony.

After the ceremony, we walked back to the hotel, and the three of us sat looking at eachother and looked at eachother like, "Well, now what?"

We took Lana down to the hotel lobby, and the concierge called us a taxi, and we went to a market, and we bought Lana clothes and shoes and coloring books and crayons and boxes of strawberry and vanilla milk, and shampoo. And I realize, now, with six months of knowledge of Lana, that she was probably in a state of shock.

We went to eat at a restaurant in DaNang called "Bread of Life", and the Vietnamese girl who waited on us tried to coax Lana to eat some bread, and she made her milk with sugar in it...but, Lana drank and ate very little.

Later, we ordered her squid and rice at the hotel restaurant, and she cried when the waiter spoke to her in a soothing voice and tried to sneak rings of squid and spoonfuls of rice in her mouth.

She fell asleep watching a Strawberry Shortcake DVD, and we woke her up the next morning (six months ago today) to take her on her first airplane ride, and she vomited the whole way from DaNang to Hanoi.

Yesterday, Lana put on her pink bathing suit, and ran out the sliding glass doors of our kitchen, and flung herself, joyfully, into the pool. She splashed her brother and her cousin Taylor and her new friends Alison and Adam, and later sat on the front porch, perched on her beach towel, and voraciously ate two hotdogs (no bun) and a plate full of cantalope. She laughed, a lot, yesterday.

It's still not easy. It's not perfect. We are not melded together with 100% accuracy, but, we are a family. She and Gabriel fight. A lot. Like cats and dogs, even. But, sometimes they snuggle up next to eachother, to watch a video, or share a bowl of popcorn, or build a tower of legos, and it's pretty darn adorable.

Last night, just before she fell asleep, she said, "Mommy. Hold my hand. Sing a song." And I said, "what song, baby girl?" and she answered, "Sing 'small world' mommy." So, I held her hand in my hand, and I sat on the side of her bed, and I sang a Disney song, about the world being small.

And I cannot decide, really, considering the last six months, if I'm finding the world to truly be small, or really, really big.


Friday, July 06, 2007


I think I may have sounded overly flip, or cold, or uncaring yesterday, when I said that I hadn't worked very hard to have children.

Please, allow me to clarify. Actually getting my children here, bringing them to my family, was not the kind of struggle that many parents have experienced. There were no struggles with infertility, there was no gut-wretching or hand-wringing or wondering if I would ever have a child.

That said, parenthood itself, actual MOTHERING, the act of being a MOTHER…that…that has been hard. It has been the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, to be truthful.

Becoming a mother was easy. Being a mother is not. I’d like to think that actually being a mother might come easier for those who struggled much harder to become a mother. But I don’t know. Is it?

Having admitted that I do not find motherhood easy, I find myself, on occasion, faced with a feeling of melancholy, a feeling that I have trouble articulating.

Eight years ago, when Gabriel was just a vaguely formed creature, tap-dancing madly on my bladder, I believed him to be a her. I was quite certain that the child I was carrying was Veronica.

We had chosen the name Veronica for a girl, and had narrowed down our choices for a boy to three – Gabriel, Sebastian, or…Josiah? Or was it Jonas? (I cannot remember and it’s not really relavent anymore.) I was sure it didn’t matter, because I was carrying Veronica.

Except that I wasn’t carrying Veronica at all.

On the day I learned that Veronica was, in fact, Gabriel (or Sebastian or maybe Jonas), I was sad. I cannot remember how long I was sad, just that I was sad for a while, and then after a while I wasn’t sad anymore, and I just assumed that I would have Veronica someday, and then Gabriel was born…Gabriel, my sweet, sleepless, beautiful boy. My charming, sleepless, funny little boy. My stubborn, sleepless, strong-willed son.

Did I mention sleepless? Like, three years of sleeplessness?

And being a mother was hard. And being in law school was hard, but, not as hard as being a mother.

By the time we began to talk about having another child, we settled on an international adoption, and I had not thought about Veronica for a very long time. The child I so briefly imagined I was having. The daughter I so briefly imagined I was having.

And I won’t tell you that I dwell on this...Spectre? Non-person? Veronica…I don’t dwell on this un-child, this might-have-been, this never-tried-for-daughter, very often at all.

But, there is one child who conjures up the essence of Veronica for me, and that is the daughter of my friend CB. (Who is probably reading this right now and wondering why the hell I am bringing this up, and all I can say is that I need to get it out of my head). CB’s daughter, K~, was born only a few months after Gabriel was born. Nine weeks later, I think. So, perhaps she would remind me of the non-Veronica in any case, being as she was a girl baby born around the same time as my son. But, I think the real reason is the fact that K~ looks EXACTLY like her older brother, only, you know, like a girl. And for some reason, some reason I do not understand, looking at her and her brother together, makes me wonder what Gabriel’s biological sister would have looked like. Because I think Veronica, had we made even a cursory attempt to actually bring her into being, probably would have looked as much like Gabriel as K~ looks like her brother. And I’m wondering if it’s possible to miss a child I never tried to have.

You’re all thinking I’m off my damn rocker, right now, don’t you? You may be right. This is a particularly bad and horrible day, a day for remembering, a day for thinking about what might have been and what ought to have been, and for regretting the seemingly innocuous choices of others that seem irrelevant until they become unfairly tragic – like, oh, just by way of example, when a very dearly beloved person decides to stop for a cup of coffee that ultimately leads to his untimely death at the hands of a sausage truck driver who was changing a CD instead of looking at the road...just by way of example.*

So, I find myself, sitting in my office today, feeling sad for someone who was and who, by all rights, still should be; and sad for someone who never was, whose existence was only fleetingly imagined for a short period of time before an ultrasound tech confirmed her to be not-her. And simultaneously wondering if feeling sad about the Veronica-who-wasn’t, is some kind of unforgivable betrayal to the daughter I DO have. The Lana-who-is, so to speak.

You might note that Lana is not named Veronica. And that is because, well, there are MANY MANY reasons why Lana is not named Veronica – the most important being that her name is LANA. But, also, even if we had given her an entirely new name at the time of her adoption, it would not have been Veronica. She might have been a Sophie, or an Anya, but, not Veronica. Because that is not who she is. She is Lana, and I’m learning to love her, and she astounds me every day. And I honestly hope that she never knows that I ever wondered what might have been. Because, truly, if we had conjured Veronica into being, Lana would not be with us now. Of that much I am certain, and that would have been a sort of tradgedy in and of itself.

*TTT…it’s been six years. You are still missed. I wish you could see your daughter’s face – she’s so beautiful it could break your heart.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Philosophical Question...or, a Question of Priorities

First, I want to say that I had a lovely 4th of July and managed to not almost kill or maim anyone the whole time, except for a couple of Japanese beetles who had, unwisely, flown into my pool. Are you listening, wretched shiny, pinching beetles?? STAY AWAY FROM MY POOL OR I WILL SMITE YOU.


Yesterday, as I was lounging in the hammock, listening to Husband playing with the children in the pool, I was reading a book. (Are there too many active verbs in that sentence? I think there might be.)

The book is fiction, but, it's about a woman who embarks on an international adoption. I'm not going to tell you which one it is, because, I don't think the question I'm going to ask would really ruin the book for anyone, especially considering I am only about a third of the way through it, but, if you are senstive about such plot twists I don't want to upset you. (Although, I suppose it is possible that you will leave this post feeling that I have ruined the potential reading experience of any number of fictionalized accounts of international adoption. Yeah...sorry about that.)

Okay, the adoptive mother in this book, after having struggled with infertility, eventually convinces her husband to pursue an adoption (although he is reluctant, having two nearly adult sons from a prior marriage.) The couple loses their original referral, and they are offered a new referral almost immediately by their agency. (This is where the book feels very fictional, because the referral is from an entirely different country, and I was left thinking, "But what about their DOSSIER???" But, that's neither here nor there.) At that point, the husband tells his wife he cannot go forward with the adoption. He cannot. He does not feel that he has it in him to raise another child. And so, the wife gives her husband an ultimatum - essentially, "adopt this baby with me, or I will adopt the baby alone, but, if you refuse the adoption I will leave you."

And he says he cannot do it, and she says she is sorry, and so it seems it is all over between the two of them. (I keep hoping for a happy ending, but, I don't honestly know. I'm not done with the book yet.)

And I, the reader, felt like I had just been kicked in the shin by the character I was starting to be kind of fond of.

Then, the book goes on to describe a conversation that the novel's main character has with mother, explaining why she is separating from her husband. She says, "I need to be a mother more than I need him [her husband]." And she says essentially the same thing to her sister, and her sister says, "I know."

This whole description takes place over less than 5 pages of the novel, so, really, even though it's an important plot point, I don't think I'm ruining the story.

What I found quite shocking was that anyone would leave an otherwise happy marriage over this. And so that is my question - would you leave your spouse, for refusing to adopt a child with you?

Let's take it one step further - would you leave your hypothetical spouse (your otherwise loving, supportive spouse with whom you have an hypothetically healthy relationship) for refusing to have a child with you, regardless whether it was through birth or adoption? (Because it's just too easy a question if the hypothetical spouse is lying, abusive, drunken rat bastard).

I'll answer first, and my answer is "no". I honestly cannot conceive of a such a thing, for *myself*. To contemplate that one might feel a need to mother a hypothetical child, more than one might need one's actual husband is kind of astonishing to me. But, then, I have been accused of being somewhat self-absorbed. And I've also never known any great, all-consuming drive for motherhood. (I love my kids, but, I don't remember feeling a driving NEED to have them before I had them, and I didn't really have to work that hard to get them. I wanted to have a baby, and a year later, I did. I wanted to adopt a toddler, and about a year later, I did. I never felt like options for parenthood were being withheld from me, so, it's possible that my answer is empty.)

So, I'm curious. Would you leave a loving spouse for a hypothetical baby?



Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Would've Could've Might've

The girl on the bike was just a tiny slip of a thing, perhaps 13, perhaps 17, no older, no younger, I don't imagine. She had her pretty brunette hair pulled back in a pony tail this morning, and I am deeply, deeply grateful that I did not crush her with my car this morning.

I was only 5 minutes into my daily commute, and hence still within the confines of cute little town where I live, on my way to big city downtown where I work*. I was almost to the library, and the town was decorated for the 4th with bunting and flags, and I was looking at the decorations and feeling happy, feeling almost blissful at how adorable it all looked, and thinking that I needed to fish into my purse to find my phone to call my mother to ask what time she wanted us for dinner this evening, and I was pulling through the light just west of the library and town square and thinking about reaching for my purse to find my phone, when, out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of yellow t-shirt, and then, there she was, THERE SHE WAS RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY CAR and brakes slammed-tires swerved-horns honked and my car stopped (thank you God thank you very very very much my car stopped) just inches from her and the fear on her face as her bike hit the curb and she fell over, she fell over but SHE WAS NOT CRUSHED (thank you God she was not crushed), and my hands shook as I tried to find the button to roll the window down, to speak to her as she picked up her bike to walk it over the curb across the grass to the sidewalk, and she was crying and I was shaking and I said, "Are you okay?? Are you okay?" and she cried "Yes, I'm fine, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have turned" and I realized that traffic was backing up behind me and pulled forward and drove away.

The man who had been directly behind me pulled up next to me at the next light. He was looking at me, and I was looking at him, and my fingers still shook as I rolled my window down, and he did the same.

"Did I run that light?" I asked, voice shaky.

"No," he said. "It was green, it had been green for a while, it was still green. I don't know where she came from. I don't know which one of you looks more terrified right now...but, it was green. Are you okay to drive?"

And I nodded my head and probably looked very much like I WASN'T okay to drive, but, the light turned and I pulled onto the highway entrance ramp anyway, and my fingers, really, my fingers didn't stop shaking until I sat down at my desk.

And I cannot help but dwell on what might have happened, what could have happened, had I been reaching for my bag, had I been dialing my phone, had I been distracted further from the road. It would have been cold comfort to me, to know I was in the right, to know the light was green, if I had crushed her beneath my tires.


*by which I mean, big city for the part of the country where I live - I mean, clearly, not big city like Chicago or New York or anything

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