Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jeremy, you totally get it!

Dear Jeremy,

I have heard all my life that the people in the family who are most alike tend to get on each others' nerves the most. Sweetheart, we are no exception. One of the things I marvel at with our adoption of you and Zachary is how much you and I have in common. We are both actors, we both have a flair for the dramatic, we are joyful souls, we have artistic talents, and we both want the complete attention of whomever we are talking to. Don't get me wrong, with all this in common, we aren't constantly at odds with each other. In fact, we get along famously! It's just that we also know how to press each others' buttons. So it's more like we're constantly getting along AND bugging each other all at the same time!  It's not uncommon for us to be laughing one moment, bugging each other the next and then hugging and making up two seconds later. That just seems to be how we roll.

But my do we have FUN! Since I love photography, you have grown accustomed to regularly mugging for the camera, but you're not always in the mood, which results in many of photos of you ignoring me, making silly faces or running around like a crazy person. Imagine my surprise and delight when this morning, you put your arm around Zachary while you were sitting on the sofa and said, "Mama, take picture!"

"Yes!", I thought to myself, "Jeremy totally gets it!"

After that, you wanted me to take pictures of you dancing. Your one-man dance parties consist of you hurling yourself across the floor in a break-dancing sort of way, accompanied by an occasional somersault, and general swaying to the rhythm of the music. It's awesome.

This morning, during one of our many regular mall walks, we passed an open door to a closed off warehouse area, and through the door, we beheld the beauty of many Christmas trees and decorations being prepared to deck the halls of our local mall.

"What are those?" I asked you.

"Trees!" you responded.

"What kind of trees?"

You paused for a long while, then a look of cautious optimism flashed across your face as if you weren't sure you wanted to risk saying it out loud. "Christmas?" you asked so hopefully.

"Yes! Christmas!" I confirmed.

"Mama! Me feel SO HAPPY!"

Mama does, too, Jeremy. Mama does, too.

In that moment, I felt so grateful and thrilled to have a son who is so much like me, who delights in the same things that I do. I don't care that Halloween hasn't arrived yet. I LOVE seeing the store windows beginning to be trimmed with lights and trees. Jeremy, I look forward to a lifetime of sharing in the sheer JOY of Christmas with you, year after year after year!

God bless us, everyone!


Monday, October 3, 2011

Book Review: No Biking in the House Without a Helmet by Melissa Fay Greene

A few weeks ago, as I stood with my sons in front of the carousel at the mall, I was approached by someone with a vaguely familiar face. Tracy?, she wondered aloud. It was a high school friend who I haven't seen for the last 19 years. She was with her husband and their beautiful four year old daughter. Immediately, I wondered if their little girl was adopted, since she looked distinctly Latina. I wasn't sure, though, because my friend's husband had dark hair, and I thought maybe he had the dominant genes that were passed on to their daughter. Also...I've learned as an adoptive mom that sometimes you just don't feel like talking about your adoption story every time someone asks. I decided to keep my mouth shut and just enjoy catching up with a long lost friend, but after a few minutes, her husband said, "So I just have to ask. Are your sons adopted?"

As it turned out, their daughter was also adopted, and we had a wonderful conversation about our families' adoption journeys. I learned that my friend's husband had biological children from a previous marriage. Brimming with pride and love for his adopted daughter, he gushed, "It's no different from having biological children!" I knew instinctively what he meant. Of course, the journey that adoptive parents and adopted children take to become a family is very different from the way a biological family is formed. He was simply saying that his love for his adopted daughter was no different from the love he has for his bio kids. His bond with her was no different. She was his daughter--full stop!

As an adoptive mother who will more than likely never give birth to biological children, I have felt the pangs of envy when I see my friends and even perfect strangers with round, pregnant bellies. I have wondered how Brian's genes and my genes would combine--what those strawberry-blonde, freckle-faced cuties would look like. I have longed to be able to nurse a baby at my breast. All these things that in some way I've felt that I'm missing out on, I have grieved and grieved deeply.

However, I've also marveled at some of the things I've experienced as an adoptive mother that biological families will never know. Some of these things are nothing short of miraculous, and I am humbled and honored that God has allowed Brian and me to be part of a life experience so precious and transforming as adoption: the way our sons (with DNA all their own) fit so seamlessly into the fabric of our family. The way Jeremy has his birthm0ther's gleaming white teeth, but he has my smile. The way I felt the first time Zachary was placed in my arms--like Heaven itself had descended to Earth and given me a gift so beautiful, words will never be able to aptly describe it. Suddenly, the tables had turned and instead of feeling sorry for myself, I felt a little bit sorry for those poor fertile couples who will never know this special joy, the uniqueness of this special journey!

Melissa Fay Greene expresses it beautifully in her adoption memoir No Biking in the House Without a Helmet:
Down a narrow, rocky lane we bounced, then parked outside the cement walls of Layla House, AAI's orphanage. Selamneh [my driver] honked for admission. I was beside myself with excitement and a kind of stage fright. For the second time in my life I prepared to meet a child who was going to call me Mama.
There can be no other demarcation of time, no other "life-cycle event" as significant a crossing-over as this one. Marriage is momentous, but in most of the modern world, brides and grooms stand at the altar beside their beloved. Childbirth is a major event, but it, like marriage, follows a deep prior connection. Now the elderly guard pulled open the gates and I prepared to meet a person who would join, and change, my life permanently.
I remember that moment with both of my children. That first meeting that would change my life forever, for the best!

No Biking in the House is a wonderful book, detailing the path her family took as it grew from a family with four biological kids to a family with nine kids total (the additional five by adoption from Bulgaria and Ethiopia). Greene is a masterful wordsmith and I enjoyed the story of how her family came to be as much as I enjoyed the way she wrote about it!

Her tone is loving, her stories both triumphant and heartbreaking, but her style is never preachy. After I finished the book this morning, I had to spend some time processing the myriad feelings I had--joy, heartbreak, and a burden to do something to help make a change in the world. I realized as I processed these feelings what a genius Greene is--she inspired so much thought in me without ever hammering me over the head with it! She simply told her family's story, and in doing so reminded me what a big difference a family can make.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Dear Jeremy,

You're three! I feel like we've been celebrating your birthday for days because, well...we have! On Wednesday, you got to bring cupcakes to preschool to celebrate your birthday with your classmates. You've been asking for "cupcake football" for weeks, and finally the day was here. The result? Pure JOY!

The next day was your actual birthday, and I just had to do a little photo shoot of you on the day you turned three. You are truly beautiful inside and out!

Nana came over on your birthday to spend some time with you and to give you this awesome birthday present...a see-saw!

After your nap, I asked what you wanted to do the afternoon of your birthday, and your reply was "cupcake"! (Do you see a theme emerging here?) So Nana, Zachary and I took you to a local bakery for a special treat. You loved the sprinkles!

Today, we had your birthday party. Because you can't get enough of baseball, football, basketball and soccer, we went with a sports-themed party. We all decked out in sporty clothes!

Even Zachary was a little slugger!

We had a soccer ball piƱata...

football and baseball cupcakes...

...fun with family and a few close friends...

...and oh, how you love opening presents! You definitely understand the concept now, and the best part of it is that you respond with the best and most expressive comments. Here you said, "Boots! Me cowboy!" With each gift you shouted and squealed with delight, and I'm not kidding when I say that you were hoarse by the time the party was over from all of that joyous squealing!

The family really loved watching your expressive reactions to each gift you opened....

...and the big hit of the party was this gigantic inflatable soccer ball that your aunt, uncle and cousins gave you. There are openings for a child to climb inside and then they can be rolled around the yard. It was so much fun--even Aunt Jilly climbed inside!

Jeremy, one of the things we love most about you is your zest for life. You live "in the moment" and I stand in awe of the way you truly are so full of life and joy!

 We are so glad God gave you to us to be our son, and we are so excited to see the journey God will take you on through the months and years to come. God bless you, our precious son!

Mama and Daddy