Category Archives: Firsts

On missing teeth … and so much more

They’re dropping like flies. Little white enamel-covered flies.

Tonight, when Maeve is sleeping, floating in slumberland, her body resting up for another day of intense summer play, the quarter-laden Tooth Fairy will make yet another appearance in our neighborhood, at the homes of two of Maeve’s friends.

As for Maeve, she’s not yet welcomed this mysterious visitor. There’s been no flutter of wings that brush by her sleeping face or tiny bits of sparkle left behind on her pillow. And if her deeply rooted pearly whites are any indication, that visit isn’t on the Tooth Fairy’s itinerary anytime soon. (This, despite her pulling and pushing on each, sure that “this time” something’s come loose.)

Tooth talk is fast and furious among the five- and six-year-old set, with gleeful announcements and excited displays of tooth-wiggling and look-at-my-tongue-poking-through-the-new-hole moments.

Inevitably these casual celebrations of coming of age turn to tallies – who’s lost how many and when. Then, as if on cue, comes the natural jump to tales of genetics: When Sally’s mom got – and lost – her first tooth, if Harry’s dad was in preschool or first grade when he lost his and whether his teeth came in early or late, and what all of this means for their progeny.

At this point in the conversation, of course, there’s not much I can contribute. Spurred by maternal instinct, my mind wanders to my own childhood and tooth timeline in an effort to uncover some sort of predictor for Maeve. But in a flash I am back, a bit embarrassed I’d sort of forgotten about my path to parenthood and the lack of DNA threads tying Maeve and I together. There simply is no charted course we can follow as she nears these biology-based milestones.

The truth is, of course, I never really forget. Not just because, as an adoptive mom and a wife to an adoptee, adoption has hugely impacted my life. No. I don’t forget because each day I am presented with yet another opportunity to see my daughter learn, struggle, celebrate, fail and overcome – and I know her first mother is missing it all.

Sometimes I am there with tears of joy – seeing her dance her heart out in the year-end recital, graduate from kindergarten, earn her next karate belt with ease, or finally conquer the sight word that had eluded her. When Maeve left her training wheels in the dust, her eyes lit and my heart swelled.

Other times, I shed tears of frustration – a friend’s rejection that left her broken-hearted and confused, her recent wrestle with particularly intense stuttering (the medical forms at the speech pathologist’s office asking if there was a genetic predisposition), or a temper tantrum or bad choice that comes seemingly out of nowhere and with full force.

Still, whether celebrating or struggling, we are together and this could make it possible to “forget,” to consider myself and my carefully crafted family a whole unto itself – daily reminders like developmental milestones and medical history forms be damned.

But the fact is, we are not whole. Maeve’s own story is missing key players. And because of that, our family’s cast of characters is not quite complete.

At this time, contact with Maeve’s first mom B. is entirely in her control – her stepping back some time ago means we can only wait, our arms open and our hearts committed, for her to be ready. Honestly, it’s not an easy place to be.

No matter how much I love Maeve, or how “perfectly” I try to love her, celebrate her and support her, I will never be her first mother, the woman who made her and brought her into this world. The world in which she now celebrates, struggles and finds herself landing in all the confusing places inbetween.

And therein lies a loss that cannot be swept under the carpet or placed neatly into a box to rest on a forgotten shelf. As Maeve’s mom — but not her first mom — it’s a struggle: How can I make her feel whole when she has such a fundamental loss? I am all too aware that my very presence in her life is because someone else is absent.

My mama role means ensuring my child is healthy, happy, generous and kind; that she is whole. The work to do that, of course, is monumental. It can be exhilarating and uplifting, it can be exhausting. Depends on the day.

As we merged onto the highway after leaving this year’s adoption picnic, Maeve shared an observation from her perch in the backseat: “Hey, Mom? Dad? I didn’t see B. there.”

No, Maeve, you didn’t.

But oh how we wish you did. She could try to wiggle a tooth loose for you and share with you her own tooth timeline. She could hug you hard when you fall, try to make sense of confusion, twirl your curls around her own finger and clap as loudly as we do when you soar. We could all work on being whole together, in our own version of a family that makes sense for everyone.

And it would be monumental. And exhilarating. And uplifting. And exhausting.

But most of all, it would be amazing.

This is the latest Musings of an Adoptive Mama column from the quarterly publication, Adoption News, by Adoptions From The Heart.

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Filed under Adoption, Birth parents, Children, Firsts, Growing up, Latest AFTH column, Maeve, Open Adoption, Parenting

Roots and Wings

Aside from the pitter patter of pet paws and my own keyboard clicks, the house is strangely silent. As a mom of an almost five year old, this hush doesn’t happen often.

Maeve is two houses away, playing inside with two long-time neighbor girls a few years her elder – and they all are delighted. Yesterday the new threesome played in our home, reading books, dressing up, chasing cats and even plopping down at the kitchen table to ask for a snack.

This is all so new to me. Now, we’ve shared playdates with preschool friends or meet-ups at the park – but as I’ve learned today, that’s so very different than letting her “be” without me or her dad. It’s just not about her being sans parent sidekicks, but we’ve orchestrated most every decision since we changed her first diaper. (Apologies to the future tweeny Maeve reading this. Yes, I mentioned your diapers to the world. Cue eye-roll … now!)

And in these moments I wonder if she will remember all we’ve tried to instill. Who will she “be” when not reminded by omnipotent voices from a few feet away to say thank you. Pick up the toys when you’re done. Take turns. Share. Be helpful. Use your kind voice. Make a good choice.

In five months, I’ll watch her enter elementary school as a kindergartner. Will she bravely bound inside, eager for new adventures? Or will she look back at me for assurance one last time before the door closes behind her? (If it’s anything like her first day at daycare when I returned to work, perhaps I should arrange for someone to get me home afterwards – who can see through all those tears to safely navigate a car through the streets?)

My mind sends me a reminder notice that this is just the beginning of an independence I’m supposed to be cultivating. You know, roots and wings.

Yet my maudlin heart responds with equal urgency that the moments are fleeting, the cuddles are numbered and it won’t be long before we’re not holding hands in public anymore.

I can’t help but be reminded of an excerpt in the book Tuesdays with Morrie:

“Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to do one thing, but you are bound to do something else. Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn’t. You take certain things for granted, even when you know you should never take anything for granted. … A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. And most of us live somewhere in the middle.”

That tug-of-war in my heart is as fierce as her concentration while pumping on the playground swings or pushing her little Chucks into the pavement – handlebar tassels blowing in her breeze – as she and her Radio Flyer scooter sail away. Away from me, from her dad. Away from needing us so completely. Away from the cocoon we’ve enveloped her in since the day she made us a family.

The stillness in the house suddenly cuts sharply, and my thoughts are rattled back to the here and now as I hear the laughter and chatter of three new pals heading toward me, and just a few minutes after the return time I’d assigned.

The door swings open and the gleam in her eye is blinding. The energy she radiates brings me back to the bliss of my own childhood when the only concern was what to play next and how much time before dark.

Maeve smiles at me, and in this moment of welcoming, I feel so strongly the connection we’ve carefully cultivated while in that little cocoon.

That passage from Tuesdays with Morrie ends with this: “Which side wins? Love wins. Love always wins.”

Indeed.

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Filed under Adoption, Books, Children, Family, Firsts, Growing up, Life changes, Love, Maeve, Parenting

On placecards and turkeys

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thanksgivingturkeys.jpg 

Heading off this morning to make pies with Thomas’ mother. I’m not much of a fan of the kitchen, but I am all for helping out with the Thanksgiving preparations (despite never having actually made a pie before). Word is she and I have five to make so we need an early start.

Tom is thrilled because he loves his mom’s pies — and they are super delicious — so I told him not to worry, I’d pay super-close attention and be sure to remember all her tricks and secrets.

And then I’d come right home and teach him to make them himself.

One thing I enjoy a bit more than being in the kitchen is tinkering with creative projects — like this for my daughter’s day care (her first classroom was the Pink Elephants) — so when I was tabbed to make place cards for this year’s dinner with my husband’s family, I wanted to do something more than put pen to paper. Considering that recent years have numbered close to 40 people, this year’s smaller gathering of 22 made my task a bit easier.

Not sure what my mother-in-law had in mind when she asked me to make them, but as you can see, the final result involves lots of cinnamon sticks, ribbon, pinecones and lotus pods. And for the kids’ table? Pinecone turkeys, what else!(Thanks to my mom, who was determined to figure out how to transform a pinecone into something fun for the kiddos. And this isn’t even her gathering. Props to her!)

Now, I’m off to make a pie or two. Or five.

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Filed under Family, Firsts, For fun, NaBloPoMo

(Not) Ready for takeoff

Maeve and I leave the East Coast in two days to visit my sister (her beloved Aunt Kiki) and family, including my beloved nephew Dashiell.

In Arizona.

I’m uber-excited since I’ve never been there and haven’t seen them since they moved earlier this summer.

But I’m also afraid. Very afraid. This is Maeve’s first plane ride and since Thomas is staying back at home, I’m doing this on my own. The flight is 5 hours, 45 minutes, and that’s not accounting for any thumb-twiddling on the famously belated-in-its-takeoffs-Newark-airport tarmac.

Anyone who’s learned she and I are flying this week has said something akin to, “Well, of course you’re flying at night, right? So she’ll sleep?”

Well, um … no.

When I booked the jaunt, I just wanted to be sure we arrived in enough time that we still had the better part of a day there. Didn’t even consider the fact that our morning flight will find Maeve rested and raring to go for the day. Rookie mistake, indeed.

I’m trying to think of every trick in the book (where can I get my hands on that book, anyway?) to keep Maeve entertained, but I’m worried that the number of hours on the plane, the number of feet within which we are required to remain, and the number of years in her age just don’t make for a pretty equation. Granted, I was an English major, but that’s some math I think I can figure out.

Here’s what I am doing so far, though:

  • Bringing the umbrella stroller for easy maneuvering through the huge airport, to be left right outside the plane door for the flight attendants to stow away and then retrieve when we arrive; (especially since I’m also lugging along the carseat — but checking it — so we have one in Arizona).
  • I booked, at someone’s suggestion, the aisle seat and the window seat, with the chance that someone might not purchase the middle seat. If it remains open, we’ve got some more elbow room. Yay! If a solo flyer does snatch it up, obviously we’ll shift around and let him or her (good luck to them, whoever they are!) sit where they want in our row.
  • Bringing my laptop on board with a handful of newly purchased DVDs — Laurie Berkner Band, Elmo, Animal Adventures at the San Diego Zoo — for Maevey Gravy to watch. I can hear the gasps now, I know, I know. Our strict telly-watching rules. Well, they’re bending for the half-dozen hours we’re up in the air, kind of a “After 10,000 feet altitude, all screen-time maximums are, well, ignored, for the sanity of the flying-solo mama, the baby and everyone else.” (Mind you, I’m going to wait as long as possible before cracking open the laptop and sticking a DVD inside. Really. Seriously, I am!)
  • I’ve purchased a couple new children’s books and haven’t shown them to Maeve so they’ll be new for the plane.
  • Bringing crayons and coloring book
  • Snacks (Except for drinks, since I can’t bring anything from home, although I’m told I can buy them after security checkpoints. Right. Me, Maeve, stroller, laptop, carry-on bag of tricks — shopping and paying extraordinarily high prices in the airport shops from a limited selection of more than likely high-sugar drinks is no big deal. Arg.)
  • Someone told me not to get on the plane when they call for passengers with children first since it only extends the time they’re cramped on board. But the idea of banging my way through the aisles, with a toddler, carry-on bag and laptop in tow, all while scores of people worry it’s the seat next to them that I’m coming toward, just doesn’t appeal to me.

And …. that’s all I’ve got. So, help a nervous mama, would ya? Throw me some suggestions, ideas, words of wisdom, tricks of the parenting trade. And no, please don’t suggest flying at night. I’ve heard that one 17 times already.

And if you’re scheduled on my flight, please be nice. And patient. Maeve and I are good people, really. Really, we are.

(Oh no! I just thought about the ear-popping. What if that freaks her out? How do I explain that?)

Ack.

Who knows, maybe I’m worrying for nothing. I mean, why wouldn’t a two year old want to sit still for almost six hours in a confined space with tons of strangers surrounding us?

Silly me.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Children's books, Family, Firsts, Maeve, Parenting, Still learning

Monday Morning Maeve

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My friend’s end-of-summer party:
Food, friends, pony rides, magic, bounce house, face painting …
and an ice cream truck.  In the driveway.  Just for her guests.
And Maeve’s first kiddy tattoo.
(She keeps checking that her “fu-her-fly” is still there.)
Good times.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Firsts, For fun, Friends, Maeve

Decaf next time?

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Can hardly sit still and don’t really know why that is, thoughts moving through my mind faster than I can make them into words for you here, I’m trying to figure out why that is but as soon as I think I have the answer I forget what I was trying to think of, isn’t it silly how that happens, as Maeve would say, silly mommy, she would laugh and I would laugh and there would be lots of laughing and maybe even some tickling and falling to the floor but right now I can’t think of much else other than the fact that I can’t sit still and focus and I don’t know why that could be, by the way today Maeve received a cute tea set for her birthday from a friend in my local adoption group whose daughter turned two a couple weeks before Maeve did, they came by and the girls played outside and inside and even got pulled in the big red wagon and collected rocks from the driveway and had orange juice popsicles on a hot, sunny day, and then when daddy came home tonight he helped open the tea set and showed Maeve how to set it up, cute in itself dontchya think, a big strong daddy sitting down to tea and showing Maeve how to pour and stir and use a pink saucer, she watched every move he made and I watched both of them silly happy at how cute it was and before we knew it we were all having an impromptu tea party, our very first ever, and Maeve was pouring tea for both of us and sometimes into the little bowls and onto the saucers too and then she’d just turn the tea kettle over and rest it in her lap while she drank from the teacup but that’s ok because it was only her first tea party after all and a girl’s gotta learn, and hey, wait a minute, I think I just figured out why I can’t sit still, it must be the 183 cups of tea Maeve poured for me tonight, because by the end of the “teapahty!” we were all just smiling and sipping and smiling and sipping and maybe, just maybe …

I sipped too much.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Firsts, For fun, Friends, Gifts, Husbands, Maeve

Look, Maeve! It’s a-maize-ing!

Maeve loves corn and peas. I mean really loves them. In fact, I’d say it rivals my unhealthy peanut-butter-cup obsession. (Well, except for the “unhealthy” part.)  But I digress. (Already.)  We realized after barbequeing recently that she’d never actually seen corn on the cob, nevermind eat it that way.

Alas, this light-bulb moment didn’t come until we saw the look on her face when The Cob And Its Corn were presented for dinner along with the usual suspects. Unfortunately, we couldn’t grab the camera fast enough to document her total look of simultaneous confusion, horror and intrigue. You’ll simply have to trust that this Most-Hysterical Face was priceless.

Beg your pardon? Oh no, no, dear Maize-Lovers, don’t fret! Some other juicy kernels of her corn-cob encounter were successfully captured for posterity. In fact, many seemed to pop right off the camera’s view screen! One could even argue the results are a veritable cornucopia of priceless moments. Yes, a photographic garden ripe for the picking.

Alright, alright, at the risk of having already jumped the corniness shark, I’ll get to the point, my little niblets. I’ll get the the photographic point.

Ahem, Ahem. (Clears throat, and in a husk-y announcer’s voice says …)

Maeve Very, Very Seriously Watching Daddy Eat Beloved, Cherished Corn
From The Bumpy Yellow Thing,
Then Trying To Master His Precise And Decades’-Old
Spin-Nibble, Spin-Nibble, Spin-Nibble Move.

 
Maeve, meet Corn’s Cob.  Corn’s Cob? Maeve.
I trust you’ll forge a sweet and juicy friendship.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Family, Firsts, Maeve, Parenting