Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Holidays

There have been so many fragments of posts floating around in my head for the past several weeks but no time to sit down and form them into coherent writing. However, I know time will get only more scarce in the next weeks, and so I want to get a few things out now, inarticulate as I may be.

Last year at this time, I was a brand new mother, filled with some awe about how much my life had changed in the six or so weeks since Dylan arrived.

Now, I'm the mom of an almost-toddler, and I still can't believe how much has changed in such a short period. Of course, I continue to be grateful to be parenting such a great, great kid. Dylan is amusing, challenging, and inspiring. I think I tell him - and the universe - everyday how fortunate I feel to be his mommy.

This Thanksgiving, I want to express my gratitude for all of the people who have helped us through this major transition in life. From close family to new acquaintances (virtual and "real"), so many people have generously offered their support. And we have relied on it. From providing hours upon hours of loving care to our son, to thoughtful gifts and hand-me-downs, to just sending good wishes across the Internet, the assistance has been so, so valuable. It has cheered us through the inevitable ups and downs of new parenting and made our lives easier, richer, and often more fun.

This year, our family will be observing the holiday in a way that is atypical for us: we'll be going to a nice buffet at a hotel restaurant. I am sure there will be a point - probably when the server removes my last plate - when I will miss having the tasty leftovers that usually accompany Thanksgiving. But mostly I am so glad that we mutually agreed to avoid the burden of cooking and cleaning that is so often inevitable on such occasions in favor of emphasizing what is really important to us: enjoying each others' company.

While I am celebrating with several of the people who have been the most supportive to us, I will also be thinking of those people who we aren't able to be with this year. I want them to understand how grateful I am for their love, and for their eagerness to truly be a part of the "village" that is raising this child. I want them all to know what a difference - in big and small ways - they are making in Dylan's life, in my life. Thank you.

Doesn't this blog seem to be missing something? Yep, photos of a kid in a cute costume. Well, I'll have to rectify that!

I've always gotten a big kick out of Halloween. It's an excuse to get creative, dress up, and be silly! In fact, I have many fond memories of the holiday from my childhood. Truthfully, I barely remember trick-or-treating, though I do recall vividly coming home with a bag full of loot, spreading it out on the living room carpet, and then entering high-stakes candy trading negotiations with my brothers. What I remember most was talking and planning with my parents about what I'd "be" and how we'd make the costume. How old was I when my dad spray painted a box silver, my mom crafted tinfoil antennae, and I added red reflective tape buttons and a heart to become a robot? How delicately did my mother explain to me why, in junior high, I might want to tone down my "dance hall girl" outfit? How was it that, even when she became a single mom, working full-time and going to school, she managed to find time to sew capes and carve pumpkins?

Anyway, as Halloween approached this year, I had to temper my expectations. First of all, last year, new to our neighborhood, we were very disappointed to only have a few kids come to our door. (And most of them were so old that they barely qualified as kids.) Secondly, Dylan is too young to go trick-or-treating. In fact, I worried he wouldn't be able to tolerate a costume at all.

So, I ended up being very pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable the day was. We started it by putting Dylan in his booster seat so he could watch and "participate" while M. carved a pumpkin that eventually found its way onto our front porch.

In the afternoon, we hosted a small "Halloween Happy Hour." My dad and Dylan's aunt from Texas were in town, and his Auntie M. and Uncle B. also were excited to celebrate with us. We've been wanting to get to know our neighbors better, and this seemed like a good excuse. We invited those in the homes closest to ours over for some autumn ale and sweet treats.

Ultimately, we were joined by a couple who live two doors down from us. Though we are about the same age, they have a 20 year old, an 18 year old...and now a five month old. They are very nice, friendly people and we'd like to get to know them better, especially since our son and their daughter could well be play-mates. We were also joined by another neighbor whose daughter and her five week old baby boy are staying with her now. Additionally, some good friends who live close by brought their little girl, born in May, over. So, at one point we had four babies (plus Auntie L.'s sweet dog, who is her baby) hanging out on the porch!

And Dylan didn't just tolerate his costume, he loved it! Make that: he loved both of them. Back in August, Auntie M. called from Costc* and said there were some adorable costumes. Did we want Dylan to be a duck, a frog, a monkey, or a ladybug? M. immediately responded, "A ladybug!" You see, at the time Dylan was fixated by a toy ladybug that hung from his floor gym. So his auntie got him the ladybug costume...It was only later that it occurred to us our son would be a cross-dresser for his first Halloween!

In the two months between the ladybug costume purchase and the big day, Dylan became even more fascinated with dogs, barking at anything and everything on four legs. And so I couldn't resist: I also got him a little puppy outfit.

Our guests were greeted by the ladybug and midway through our Happy Hour, the boy had a costume change. He was adorable in both. It was so precious to see him interacting with the other little kids in their costumes!

I am already excited about next Halloween, when we may be able to go trick-or-treating. I wonder what our two year-old will want to be?

Though it is not a national holiday, each fall now we celebrate another important date: our wedding anniversary. This year, thanks to M.'s good planning, we were able to score a cottage at Crystal Cove State Park, which made it a really special get-away.

We were joined for a long weekend by M.'s sister and brother-in-law, who graciously agreed to babysit so we could go out to dinner just as a couple.

M. and I had a lovely time. It had rained and stormed most of the day, but the evening was clear and crisp. We went to a restaurant justly known for its romantic atmosphere and were seated in a secluded corner with flickering candlelight. We ordered cocktails! We lingered over our meals! We exchanged gifts and loving words without interruption!!

As I told M., there is no one else on earth with whom I'd rather share this escapade called life. He is a fabulous partner, and I so look forward to all of the adventures we'll share together.

National Adoption Awareness Month
Though you may not have known it, there was another celebration in November. Started a few years ago to focus attention primarily on adoption from foster care, the observance of National Adoption Awareness Month has expanded to draw attention to adoption in general.

Here are a couple of different takes on it.

If you'd like my suggestion for how to observe it, this year or in the future, I'd love for you to use every opportunity you can to correct any myths or misconceptions you encounter about adoption. Help "normalize" it, for all the members of the adoption triad. Use PAL. Let whomever will listen - friends, acquaintances, legislators, the media - know how it's touched your life. And if it helps, tell them a story about or show them a photo of a little boy who is loved very much.

For me, holidays often serve as markers in my life. They provide reference points for current events and my changes in emotional state. Last year at this time, I could only speculate what my life would be like now. In many ways, my predictions were right: being Dylan's mom has added an incredible new dimension to my life. That's not simply because of my evolving role as a mother. It's because of the new relationships I've built, the existing ones that have deepened, and the better sense of self I've gained through it all.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing this Thanksgiving and in the weeks to come, I hope that this holiday season you too have a full heart and are able spend time doing things you love with those you love.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Missing Persons

Last month, we got a surprise in the mail.

Dylan's amended birth certificate arrived. It was a surprise because we received it just three months and three days after his adoption was finalized. Since our state government is in such a mess right now, we'd been warned that it might take more than three times that long.

I must say, it was very nice for something in this adoption process to go more quickly and smoothly than anticipated.

As we have after passing through several of the small and large hurdles of our journey, M. and I did a little happy dance around our living room. (We did it quiety, though, since Dylan was napping.)

Other than astonished and relieved, how did receiving this important document make me feel? Kind of strange. Actually, kind of sad.

Next to the line that says "mother," my name is neatly typed. Next to the line that says "father," M.'s name is neatly typed. There is no trace of Dylan's first parents on the document. They've disappeared, been erased.

It would take only the very assute observer to recognize something atypical: that the date of birth and the date the certificate was issued are almost exactly a year apart. Otherwise, it just looks like I gave birth to our son (at a county hospital in some strange city, I might add).

In California, original birth certificates are sealed and can only be opened with a court order. This makes me sad.

It makes me sad because it seems to somehow dimish the link that Dylan has to his birth mother.

It makes me sad that, because so many states have birth certificates that lie by omission, it is such a challenge for birth parents and adoptees who want to find each other to be reunited.

It makes me sad because it is (so far, at least) the most blatant evidence we've personally encountered that there is still a stigma associated with adoption. I keep thinking, "Can't our state come up with a better, more truthful form that provides for all of an adoptee's parents, birth and legal?" But then I assume it's the way it is because there are lots of people who don't want their association with adoption known, for whatever reason. How sad.

Having "identifying information" without having to rely on a court order is another reason why I'm grateful for open adoption. Of course, despite what his new birth certificate says, Dylan will grow up knowing all that we know about his birth parents.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rock the Vote

He didn't. But I did. Hope you did, too.