Happy Holidays!

We are staying in San Francisco for the holidays this year. It was not an easy decision, but one that is best for our little family. Missing out on seeing friends and family is hard, but we are also pretty excited about being Home for the first time ever - taking advantage of the holiday activities here as well as spending time with our chosen family - and decorating! (an interesting endeavor with a toddler) Also, thrilled about no cross-country flight with a constantly-in-motion toddler in the holiday throng, I must confess.

I'm trying to look at things through Gus's eyes - the magic of childhood and all that. Quite honestly, though, I kinda think all of it might be a wee bit terrifying. I mean, why is there suddenly a 9 foot tree in our living room? The lights are cool, but some of them have broken, so now everytime he sees the string that we hung on the mantle in the dining room, he says "uh-oh". When we go in the living room with the tree, poor guy is constantly being escorted away and told that pulling on the lights could bring the tree down on top of him - scary!  (The first time we went in there after I'd strung the lights, he walked over and waved! Really cute, but then he warmed up and now he wants to tug on everything and take the ornaments off the tree. Especially the balls, cause hello, balls are for throwing and kicking, not hanging on a tree - DUH!)

And then there are the snowglobes. We're down 2 now. One glass (yeah, BAD Mama), one plastic. All that glitter and snow and water all over the floor, the poor snowman, melting. Actually, Gus had no reaction but "uh-oh" to either of those breaking, though he is upset that we won't let him hold any others. Okay, maybe it's just me. Maybe the kid isn't being traumatized by all these goofy things we do to celebrate the holidays. Although, can I just say one more thing - Santa. Yeah, that's probably just me too. Gus loves everybody. He waves and says Hello to the garbage man, anybody walking down the street, random people in a cafe, the homeless guy on the corner. Hell, he goes up to strange kids on the playground and hugs them. (Alright, alright. It is me. I'll stop projecting my introverted Grinchy neuroses onto my kid.)

He does love all the lights everywhere. I'm with him on that one. Twinkle lights do lend a certain magic to everything. Also, the gingerbread - yum! And I can't wait to see what he does with all the presents!

i'm meltiiiing
Gus likes to "help"


I've been reading a lot of Glennon Melton lately. Love her. In my head I'm often as funny and profound as she is. In my head. (A lot goes on in this head of mine. But i digress.) Anyway, she has this concept of "happy-ish" that I love. You see, I'm just learning Happy. That is not to say that I have not had my share of happiness in my life - of course I have! But Happy and I are sometimes tentative friends. We know one another - enough to recognize each other across a crowded room, say - but sometimes, we're out of context and have a difficult time placing each other, remembering each other's names. Familiar but...not. 

My son on the other hand? He is intimately acquainted with Happy. Those guys are tight. BFFs. Blood brothers. Very rarely do you see one without the other. I love that. I'm also jealous as hell sometimes of being left out of the club. Why isn't Happy my best friend, too? When did we lose touch? Oh, right, I think it was right around the time that Hard moved to town. As in, life is sometimes hard, being a grown-up is hard, being a parent is pretty much always hard, maintaining a loving and authentic relationship with your spouse is hard times ten when you have a tiny human in the house... You get the picture.

But here's what I'm learning - from being a parent, from doing work on myself and practicing self-compassion, from reading freakin' children's books (!), from being a Human living life: Happy and Hard, they know each other. They, it turns out, can co-exist. In fact, especially when you are older, Happy doesn't mean as much without Hard. Almost everything is hard but that doesn't preclude happiness. Sometimes, Happy is Hard, but Hard can also be Happy. And really, Happy-ish is the ticket. Because that means that you know Happy. Sometimes Happy is around and sometimes she's not. But it's Oh. Kay.

I think, a lot of the time, it comes down to where you put your focus. That is what Gus is giving me. And, sure, it can be argued that perhaps he hasn't had a lot of hard so far in his life. (Except that being born is hard, and figuring out how to breathe is hard, and going through the loss of your birthparent is hard, and teething is hard, and wanting to be able to do things independently even when you can't is hard.) We all have hard. It looks different to each of us but we all have it. But Gus, Gus doesn't dwell on the hard. He just focuses on being happy. I know, it's likely not a conscious focus for him. And that's probably what makes me jealous. But it can be a conscious focus for me. I want to have a closer friendship with Happy. But Happy-ish will do, too. And more importantly, I want Gus and Happy to be besties for a long, long time. I also want him to know that Hard is not necessarily his enemy. It's all just Life.

see, it's about FOCUS. ok, and LOVE. and SILLY, too. but for consistency's sake, let's go with FOCUS.



So I mentioned before that when he was learning to walk, Gus would clap for himself if no one was around to give him the props he felt he deserved. It's pretty heartwarming to see how proud he is of himself. For everything. He has taken to regularly clapping for himself when he accomplishes something or gets something "right".

We have been working on boundaries and limits (yes, it is going to be a theme for a while I hear). One of the things we've been working on the hardest is the way Gus treats the cats. He loves them. He gets super excited to see them. (read: you-are-so-cool-i-want-to-pull-your-tail-and-swat-at-you-because-i-am-so-excited) They are confusing because they do not react predictably, and the black cat, Indie, is the most ambivalent animal on the planet. He wants to be in the room with Gus. He even wants to play with Gus. Until he doesn't. But instead of leaving (like Neville), he stays there in the room. Sometimes he scratches Gus. Sometimes he ignores him. I'm sure it is very confounding for Gus. Anyway, to make a long story short, we are working on not pulling on the cats (mostly tails, mostly Indie). When Gus gets it right, when he snuggles Indie and gently pats him without pulling, he turns around to check with me and then, he applauds. That kid gives himself a freakin' standing ovation!

And here's the real kicker. He's started doing it for us too. He is pretty adept at communicating his needs these days, but sometimes (mostly in the middle of the night, mostly when the mommies are really out of it) we don't get it right away. Of course, he keeps insisting that there is something to be done and we keep trying. And when we figure it out...? He claps! He applauds our effort and the fact that we figured out what he needed. I mean, damn! How awesome would it be if everyone in our lives clapped joyfully for us when we helped to meet their needs? Or respected a boundary? Or, when we sang a goofy song and did a silly dance? (Yeah, he claps then too) Well, I'll tell you this. When I'm exhausted and up against the wall and wondering what I was thinking with this whole parenting thing, it's pretty flippin' awesome to hear that applause. To know that sometimes, at least according to him, I get some stuff right.

can you handle the cute? 'cause i can't


Leaps and Bounds

Gus is growing and changing and learning SO fast. It feels like he makes these giant leaps in ability and logic almost overnight. I know that isn't true, that all of these things are simmering in the background until the day he puts them together outwardly, but it feels so amazingly out of the blue sometimes. It's exciting to think about the millions of neural connections he's making all the time. (exciting for a geeky girl like me, at least)

He understands so much language and makes these really cool associations. (All animals are in the same category and called "Cat" - except he will say "Dog". All fruit is in the same category and called "App" - apple - but we are working on "Ba" - banana. I told him the other day that the dishwasher was hot. He looked at it, then toddled over and gingerly put his hand on the oven and said "Hot"!) He surprises me with the things he can do, but then again, I'm not surprised one bit. (I can ask him to meet me at the bottom of the stairs and he can navigate them slowly and safely (backwards). I can ask him to pick out socks and he will walk over, open the drawer, stand on his tippy toes, reach in and pull out a pair of socks.) He is independent but still craves snuggles. (At the park, he'll climb up the play structure on his own, run across the bridge, go down the slide or stairs, and then run over and give me a hug. So adorable and makes my heart melt.)

Of course, it's not all easy and fun stuff. He definitely has his opinions about what he wants and doesn't want, and they grow stronger everyday as we hurtle decidedly into toddlerhood. And sure, in the middle of a struggle to get his shoes on or to stop him from pulling on the cat or to keep him from throwing food - enter any boundary here - it's a little harder to be jazzed about how much he's growing. But stepping back, it's amazing to see that he is really coming into himself and growing into an independent and mostly happy kid. (Feel free to remind me I've said this when I have smoke coming out of my ears during a "mommy time-out" mid-tantrum)

I don't want to squelch that. That independence, that confidence. So even though it is extremely, extremely difficult sometimes (Oh, I'll definitely screw it up. Lots.), I'm committed to being as mindful as I can be of him as a person in making boundaries lovingly. Not punishing him for doing what he was born to do and being who he was born to be. Not crushing that bright, self-assured, jubilant spirit of his. And hopefully in so doing, I can grow by leaps and bounds too.

Learning to Walk

Gussie is walking! Like really, really doing it. Letting go of the furniture, standing up from the floor by himself, walking. It is amazing.  It happened practically overnight. He had taken a few steps tentatively from one of us to the other a month or so ago, but then lost interest. Who can blame him? His funny little one-leg-tucked crawl is fast. He's perfected it. It's his preferred way to travel.

So last week, he started taking a few steps away from the furniture to try to get the cat. He'd been walking around holding onto the furniture but showing no interest in letting go for awhile. Anytime he realized he was standing up by himself, he'd look around like, "WTF?" and slowly lower himself to the ground. But the cats, the cats were just too tempting. Indie was just a few feet away from the couch, and well, Gus just let go! The look on his face when he realized what he'd done was so cool. I clapped and said, "Good job!" and he broke out into the world's biggest grin. It was super fast after that. He kept doing these little journeys from various pieces of furniture out into the wide world. He got more and more adept. (He went from looking like Baby Godzilla to looking only slightly drunk in less than a week.) If we weren't there or didn't realize quickly enough to clap for him, he clapped for himself!! How awesome is that?

The reactions I've gotten to his new "talent" have been mixed. It seems to be some variation of one of two things. People in the first camp say "OMG! Watch out. Your life just got way harder. Get your running shoes." People in the second camp say "That's so great. He has so much more independence now." I find it very interesting. The first one is more about the parents, the second one more about the kid. I know it may complicate things in some ways, but I'm so happy. Because he is happy. I saw it in his eyes. And that helped me see it through his eyes. I hope he can always be that joyful and confident and proud of his accomplishments!

And He is so proud! I think it's really cool. I have a lot of trouble feeling proud. I even had arguments in my head with myself about whether it was okay to feel proud of him for walking (it was my first reaction). I thought, "that's just what babies do and why am I feeling proud?" Then a friend of mine told me that I totally had every right to feel proud. That I was here for him and loving him and that (Shelley and) I had a lot to do with how joyfully and confidently he took those first steps. I'm working on believing that.

Sometimes I think that raising children, in addition to being about evolution of the species, is about the parents' evolution. At least for me it feels that way. This gig is hard. As I've said before I know I think a lot, but I doubt I'm the only person that has shit come up for them when raising a kid. It makes you face your demons. Partly because you want so badly to banish them so your kid doesn't have to fight them, partly because you want them out of the way for your own sake, so you can just enjoy this amazing little person in front of you. I think learning to walk is a good metaphor for it. You take a few tentative steps. You fall down. A lot. You keep getting back up and trying again. You are unsteady on your feet but so excited about your newfound freedom. Then, you get more confident, more steady. Perhaps even start running. But you always are on the lookout for something in your path, waiting to trip you up. Maybe, just maybe, I'll have it mastered by the time he's 30.

Mirror, Mirror

Parenthood feels to me like a giant effin' mirror being thrust in my face all the time. I examine, and re-examine, and over-examine almost every decision I make during a day with Gus. I guess it's not totally fair to blame it all on the parenting. Some of it (okay a lot of it) is just me. But it does feel like decisions are more dire now. Before, if I forgot to eat or chose to eat badly, eh - it's only affecting me (and maybe Shelley cuz I'm supercrank when my blood sugar's low). But now, it's also affecting little dude. In multiple ways. There's cranky mom and also bad-model mom. I don't want to be grumpy with him for no reason. I also want him to learn to eat well. Anyway, you get the point.

The thing about mirrors, though, is that sometimes they can be distorted. Sometimes the glass is warpy or there's a crack that throws off the whole reflection. And, no matter how perfectly the reflection is coming through, it's also about what I choose to see when I look. I'm kind of a master at seeing all the wrinkles and flaws. But for Gus's sake, I need to get better at seeing the good stuff. I don't want him to necessarily experience the world in the way that I do. I want him to experience it in his own way. I want to be careful not to distort what he sees with my own warpy glass.

And, I am a mirror to him. I try to mirror back at him what I see on his face. If he's joyful or grieving or proud or whatever, I try to be attuned to that. I want him to feel felt and known. I want him to be as satisfied with the reflection of himself that he sees in me as he is with the one he sees in the mirror.

'Cause right now, he LOVES what he sees when he looks in a mirror. He smiles. He laughs. He leans forward and kisses his reflection. It is the cutest thing I've ever seen. And, I must confess, I'm freakin jealous! I wish I could look at my reflection and be that happy with it. I think, for his sake, I have to find a way.

The great thing, though, is that he's a little mirror, too. And the reflection I see of myself in his eyes blows me away! He doesn't care what I look like on the outside. He doesn't see all the flaws (inner and outer) that I do. All he seems to see is awesome. And needs met. And love. I'm sure as he gets older he will see things he doesn't particularly like. But that's okay too. All of what he sees is Mama.


I've been thinking a lot about expectations (cause I'm a nerdy introvert who sits around and thinks about all kinds of weird shit. all. the. time.) People have all kinds of expectations about pretty much everything (or at least I do). And that's a giant set up for disappointment, in my opinion. As adoptive parents, I think we, by necessity in some ways, have less expectations about our kid than a biological parent might. Or, at least, we try to expect less. Or, rather, be open to more. Because we have less knowledge about the genetic things that may come into play. Our kid isn't necessarily going to look like us or stick out his tongue while concentrating like I do. But I'd be kidding myself if I said there weren't certain other expectations we had - about parenthood, and about open adoption. I don't think we expected an open adoption relationship to be easy - we weren't that naive. But I do think we expected it to be hard in different ways than it is, maybe.

One of the things I struggle with in thinking about our open adoption relationship - one of the ways it is not what I expected - is that it's not the rosy picture painted when we started down this path. It is not the relationship that other families we know have. In short, I am disappointed that it isn't this amazing, happy "we're all family" experience. I know that it is okay that it's not. I know that relationships can be hard and can be different at different times, and things can change. But I wish it could be easier. I wish I was less frustrated and triggered. I wish K (Gus's birthmom) seemed more interested in Gus, the person. And I don't know - I just don't know - what really is best for Gus right now. He is one. He is happy. He loves everybody he meets. Right now, will it matter to Gus when and where and whether he sees K? I honestly can't answer that. Separating out what is best and works for us from what is best and works for K from - most importantly - what is best and works for Gus is really difficult. There are a lot of feelings to maneuver. And also having to think about whether what might be best or work for all/some/any of those people now vs. what might be best for them in the future is a difficult task. Because, let's face it, I'm no Kreskin.

I know that I will feel guilty if we can't make a visit happen soon. I know that before he was born we made a commitment that was about him. I know that fear comes into play. I know that, frankly, we are overwhelmed and inconvenienced thinking about one more possible trip this year, one more thing on an impossibly long to-do list. I know that despite her seeming lack of interest in Gus over the past year, K is grieving and I imagine it is a very difficult thing for her to live each day knowing she is unable to raise this awesome kid she gave birth to. I know that the biological connection is strong and important, and that there is a reason we chose open adoption. I know that no matter what, the focus here, the most important person in all of this, is Gus.

But, of course, with all that I do know, there is even more that I don't. I don't know how to make Gus stop wanting to eat sand at the park or climb into the stream at the Discovery Museum. How to explain to him that he can't swim with the fish in the aquarium at the Academy of Sciences. I don't know where the heck he gets all this energy that allows him to go full throttle from sun-up to sun-down. And I don't yet know how we will handle negotiating this ongoing open adoption relationship.

Being a parent is hard. Navigating the day-in/day-out of it plus thinking about how what you are doing or are not doing will affect this tiny human in the future? Phew. It's like standing at the top of a zipline looking down into a ravine, hoping the rope is going to hold you and then - stepping the fuck off. And zipping at an impossible speed toward a sheer rock face. Over and over again, several times a day. Incredibly scary. But, sometimes, if you remember to breathe, open your eyes, and just let go, it can be a lot of fun, too! Terrifying, nauseating fun.

Full. Throttle.
This was after he tried to crawl in, but before he started
lapping up the water. Like a dog.

Obstacles? I don't see any obstacles.

I've been thinking about obstacles while watching my son. He doesn't know what they are. Something is on the floor in your way? No matter, you crawl over it, force your way under it. There is a step, or a piece of furniture, or a cat in your path? Just keep going. If only it were that easy for the rest of us. One of his favorite games at the moment is to have Mama (me) crawl around behind him on the floor. He crawls a few feet, then stops and turns to make sure I'm following. I'm usually closer than he expects, I guess, and he bursts into peals of laughter, his right cheek dimple on full display. Then he takes off again. Usually under the dining room table and chairs. Despite the bruises on my knees and the pain in my wrists, I kind of love it. But I can't make my way through the chairs like he does, I have to move them. I can't fly across the floor with abandon - I need to move the toys and pots and pans. I choose to go around the cats.

Psychologically speaking, I feel like I come up against a lot of obstacles. Many I put there myself. (I'm working on this) Some were put there for me. Some, quite frankly, are put there by this kid - the one who seems so rarely hindered. I'm not necessarily complaining about this. It's all a learning opportunity - and on the days where I'm feeling okay and I've had enough quiet, introverted time to myself and I've eaten as often as I should, I dig learning opportunities. But obstacles are still hard. They trip us up. Make us falter in our stride. Change direction.

As much as I sometimes think, "How can I encourage him to continue to be blind to obstacles?" I ultimately think that would be doing him a disservice. Not everything should be easy. Learning opportunities are vital to growth. Changing direction is how we deal, how we stay alive, really. But I do hope that he will continue to be mostly unfazed by them, or at least that they won't throw him as far off his path as they sometimes do me. I want him to learn. To grow. To cope. And to get up and keep going if (and, most assuredly, when) he falls down. I hope I can foster in him an ability to meet his obstacles with less anxiety than I meet mine. I hope he will always be willing to try. If his personality now is any indication, I think (fingers crossed) it's a real possibility.

What do you mean I don't fit under here with this pack on my back?


525,600 minutes...

I've written a ton of blog posts this past year. In my head. But i think it's time to put more of it out there. We celebrated Gus's first birthday yesterday and I thought I really should update the blog. So here it goes:
Quick summary: We finalized Gus's adoption. We got LEGALLY married, under a tree outside City Hall with our kid playing in the grass beside us (how cool is that?!). We began the journey of learning how to parent this really cool kid. (also - diapers, formula, teething, tummy time, crawling, smiling, solid food, walking!)
It's been an amazing year. A hard year. A shorter than short year and the longest year ever. The thing they neglect to tell you in those cute diaper and baby food ads is that even though kids are adorable (and mine is the most adorbz of all, of course), parenting is hard freakin' work. Taking care of an infant, taking care of yourself, maintaining a relationship with your spouse, maintaining friendships, staying sane - it's some of the hardest shit you'll ever do. I want to say that all the giggles and big slobbery open-mouth kisses and first steps and that way he twirls his curly blond hair when he's tired and the way the light catches in his eyes when he's full-on beaming at me makes it all worth it. I want to. And many days, even most days, it does. But I won't pretend that there aren't days where I wonder "what was i thinking?" Where I think I am definitely on the wrong side of mental health and on the way to crazy-town.
Some things have gotten easier over the past year. Other things have gotten harder. Finding balance as a stay-at-home-parent (me) is a challenge. So is finding balance as a working parent (Shelley). But what's life without challenge, right? It's adventure we signed up for and that's definitely what we're getting.
The adoption component of Gus's first year is something i'll write about later. I don't think it has necessarily made any of this harder than normal. I just think that once people are through this adjustment period, they forget what this kind of exhaustion feels like. They just look back at the pictures and hold onto the happy stuff. (at least i really, really hope that's the case!)
There's more in my head. So much more. I'll stop for now, though. Hopefully I'll have the time and wherewithal to continue with this.

Adoption Finalization Day