Category Archives: Friends

Fostering Friendship

Five summers ago, my husband and I shared a picnic blanket with a couple we’d only recently met. Perched in a parking lot alongside the Navesink River in Red Bank, N.J., we awaited the sun to set and the night sky to fill with an extravaganza of colored lights. “The best around,” they’d promised.

Fireworks weren’t all we were waiting for. That first Fourth of July we spent together was also our last as couples without children. We met during Adoption From The Heart’s education classes and, after talking long after the session ended, we exchanged email addresses in a first act of “oh-my-gosh-they-have-the-same-anxiety-and-excitement-and-questions-and-fears-as-us” friendship.

After the next class and later the video shoot, we moved our chats to a nearby restaurant where we shared stories, fielded questions and got to know each other with a fervor – for hours at a clip. Emails seeking advice or sharing thoughts flooded one another’s in-boxes. We even talked about the inevitable situation when one couple would become parents before the other. Good thing, because just weeks after that shared Independence Day, the first call from our social worker came. The second followed within the month.

Weeks later we were together again, meeting newborn baby daughters, coddling them in colossal proportions and propping them next to each other for parent-paparazzi photo shoots. We opened gifts, compared feeding and sleeping schedules, and talked about home visits from social workers. Plans were made for our next gathering and, much like proud parents of a newly arranged marriage, we imagined their future together.

We’ve since celebrated birthdays, shared their first aquarium visit (the girls eating fish-shaped crackers from their stroller trays was an irony we noted more than once), left presents under each other’s Christmas tree, picnicked at the park, visited the zoo, talked of sharing a vacation someday, had family sleepovers capping hours of boardwalk rides or beach time, and spent cool evenings by a fire with tired kids on our laps, stars twinkling and crickets serenading yet another terrific time together.

Over the years we’ve shared meltdowns, milestones and diaper drama, asked “what do you do?” when a new stage or behavior has us stumped, and shared countless new-parent anecdotes. We’ve delighted in confusing strangers who assumed, thanks to the girls’ similar curls and complexion, they were twins. “Well,” we’d respond with devious smiles, “they’re three weeks apart.” When one of us welcomed another daughter, we all shared in that joy. We chuckle nervously about the tween and teen years to come, noting our “what do you do?” conversations will be so very different then.

Last year a move took one family out of state, changing the regularity of visits. Yet we still welcomed 2010 together, sitting before a fire in a new home, surrounded by the chaos that is three girls in dress-up, singing into microphones, opening holiday gifts and blowing party horns until their little bodies could take no more.

This summer we spent yet another steamy July evening crowded onto a picnic blanket along the Navesink River. Despite geography and another imminent family move, the foursome-turned-sevensome carried on as usual, continuing a tradition that began five years ago: sharing stories and making memories, and deepening a friendship that started when making long-haul friends was the last thing on our minds.

A framed photo of the two girls – the once “arranged friends” – sits by my daughter’s bedside. Despite current preschool friends and new friends to make at kindergarten this fall, nothing can change the comforting story of her first friend. Recently, one of the girls actually reflected on their friendship: “Mom, she’s more than a friend, isn’t she? She’s more like … a sister.” Not bad for a four-year-old!

I’d like to think that when the girls really begin to process their adoptions – each with their own very different story – they can trust the foundation we’ve created for them and, much like their folks have done, lean on the friend they have in one another.

My latest Musings of An Adoptive Mama column, published Summer 2010 – http://www.adoptionsfromtheheart.org

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Discussing Adoption, Family, Friends, Latest AFTH column, Maeve, Parenting

She’s a star in my book

Before I get this ol’ girl back up and flying again with some fresh thoughts, I first must point everyone toward the pink star in the upper right sidebar. It’s for Judy, a dear online friend who often has made her presence known here in mamagigiville, and whose own blog I haunt.

Her adoptive mom status was our initial common denominator, but it’s her that keeps me coming back. She’s sassy, supportive (personal e-mails exchanged with her some time ago are just one of a gazillion indicators of that), wise, thoughtful, snarky as all get out, and she doesn’t match her socks. She’s wife to Frank and mom to six-year-old Nate, whose smile is as juicy and full of light as they come. 

Last month she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s navigating a new path now and trying to decipher each bit of medical information as it comes. Although there’s been a hiatus here for a while, I check in with her at Just Enjoy Him each day, like so many others, for an update or to show my support. If you’re so inclined, please take a moment to head there and offer her a simple sentence or two of support. The power of your kind words will last infinitely longer than the time it takes to send her a message.

In addition, the pink star planted in the sidebar leads you to a page for Judy, hosted by Dawn of This Woman’s Work, that lists some simple wishes from Judy herself, and some good ideas from Dawn. The star is a perfect symbol of our support and love for someone who is, herself, a star.

Several years ago, I participated in Avon’s three-day, 60-mile New York walk for the cure. Although fierce rain and eventual flooding actually cut everyone’s adventure there short (Ack! Took me three days just to dry out!), I raised several thousand dollars in my personal journey honoring several family members and friends affected by breast cancer. While those efforts certainly are just a tiny, rippleless drop in the vast ocean of efforts to find-a-cure efforts, each of us can continue to effect change — even one drop at a time.

In addition, of course, to making a direct donation to fund research in finding a cure, here’s a list of the current corporate partners of the Susan G. Komen For The Cure. Click individually to learn about their contributions to breast cancer research each time you patronize their companies.

Also, 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of The Power of Now tee through the retail store LF goes directly to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Yes, that’s right. 100 percent.

Until, as Judy says, she “Evicts the B*tch,” this pink star remains at the top of my blog, as she remains at the forefront of my thoughts each day. Fight the fight, sistah!

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Filed under Adoption, Friends, Making a difference, Relationships

Book Review: Daring Book for Girls

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This review is part of my participation in MotherTalk.
This, and all future reviews, will be archived on the Reviews tab above.

When I was in college, I managed a small independent children’s bookstore. From storytime under the big in-store elm tree to choosing from the myriad books, puzzles and realistic animal and bug puppets, children entering our shop were encouraged to discover the wonder and adventure in reading.

One afternoon, like most, a mother and young child sat in a cozy corner reading from a small stack of books. As I went about my work, I took delight in the ebb and flow of their voices and his determined page-turning. That is, until it came to a screeching halt when the little boy — about three years old — began to shriek in protest: “No mommy! That’s a girl book! I’m not reading that!”

It was then I realized just how young children are when they learn the unfortunate pinks and blues, dolls and trucks mindset in “traditional” gender roles. I promised myself any daughter of mine would also have a truck and handle a fishing pole, and any son would have a doll and help bake a cookie or two in the kitchen. (Ya know, alongside daddy’s apron strings. Me not being a fan of the kitchen and all.)

I also was careful in future dealings with customers not to become mired in that narrow gender-role mindset; I’d show all children all different kinds of books, sharing all sorts of adventures with all sorts of readers.

Given this, one can imagine I’m not wont to pull from the shelves a book seemingly written for one gender or another. No thank you. I don’t need a bookcover or author telling me I’m an acceptable reader simply because I’ve got breasts.

Ah. But there’s now an exception to this rule of mine.

When the recently released The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz landed on my doorstep, thanks to MotherTalk and publisher Harper Collins, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of being simultaneously intrigued and cautious.

But wait. Mamagigi’s getting ahead of herself. First, another personal story. (Yes, it relates. I promise. Yeesh.)

One spring, as a child, my parents bought a large, playground-grade swingset from my elementary school for our own backyard. Seems the school was planning an upgrade and held an auction to make room for new play equipment.

Now, this swingset was special. It was like no other in my little slice of suburbia. It was red. Cherry red. And big. Very big. It seemed to be crafted soley for the purpose of swinging higher than all the other shamed denizens of Swingset-land. This awe-inspiring swingset sat ready, its long A-frame legs and strong chains tempting us — and all the neighborhood kids — to hop on and give it a spin. You know, if you dared.

To put it simply, my sister and I were thrilled.

But alas. It wasn’t meant to be.

Just days after its arrival into our very own backyard, a tornado blew through my Midwestern town and twisted the beloved new plaything into a big, depressing, cherry-red pretzel.

We moped for days, wallowing in our misery and the unbelievable unfairness of it all. Suddenly, the once-promising summer shined less bright, and each day lingered longer than the one before it. This is what happens, don’tchyaknow, when one’s innocent childhood daydreams are squashed and all that remains is disappointment, frustration and — gasp! — boredom.

This continued at a painful pace until, well, until the day our mother had heard enough.

Without explanation or invitation, she simply marched into the backyard and began to climb a big old tree that had been uprooted during the tornado and landed in our backyard. A tree that for us, had only been further reminder of the Tornado That Ruined Our Life.

While our parents’ gift of super-sized, ready-made swingset fun was just a short-lived reality, that afternoon mom presented us with a much greater gift: a jumpstart of our imaginations. She was daring us to embrace an unexpected opportunity that had landed — quite literally — in our own backyard.

The Daring Book for Girls reminds me of that day. It beckons young girls to extract the iPod earbuds from their ears, close their cell phones and embrace creativity and the important role it deserves in one’s childhood.

From its unique Tiffany blue hue and silvery glitter stylings to its heftiness as a hardcover chock-full of information, stories and tips meant to empower today’s young girls, Daring offers so much more than tired and shallow tips about blotting lipstick, walking gracefully in heels and batting eyelashes at bad boys. And this non-traditional take on activities for girls is a treat, indeed.

Its vintage feel doesn’t hurt either, with marbleized inside covers and old-fashioned fonts, parents of potential young readers can’t help but feel transported to the simpler time of their own childhood. Or the childhood they wish they’d had.

Although one could argue this packaging forces the fond feelings of yesteryear, the fact is if the book’s contents didn’t live up to its packaging, moms like me would simply place it right back onto the shelf and walk away.

But that’s not a problem for Daring — it delivers.

Readers can flip to any page and learn something they didn’t know. Or, just as delightful, relish in recollections of past adventures. There’s no need to carve out hours for reading this book, either. Each page or two offers a new activity, a new tidbit of cultural information or just-for-the-fun-of-it facts. From sports (something I admit the tweeny me would have skipped right over had this book existed then) and history (our daughters should learn about all sorts of daring women that came before them, yes?) to crafts (like making your very own sit-upon — oh, how I wish I still had mine, with its now-dated greenish-brown and ivory gingham checks and long ivory plastic waiststrings) to clever tricks and tips meant to entertain, there’s little room here for boredom.

Gather your daughter. Tell her to gather her friends. Heck, gather your friends. There are good times to be had and memories to be made.

This book will have a place in my daughter’s collection. And although she’s too young now to take full advantage, I’m not. It’s also a useful tool for me, in my role as her mom, to help keep her days full of learning, adventure and creative play — the simple charms of childhood.

So for me, its purpose is two-fold: In addition to being a guidepost for my own mother-daughter adventures to come, it’s a sweet reminder of my own years as a child when the most important thing I had to worry about was what crayons to use on the sign for my lemonade stand.

That day following the tornado, when I dusted off my imagination — thanks to a not-so-subtle dare by my own creative mother — is one of several memories I hold dear. Like dancing with her in warm summer rain showers.

Or later, sitting with friends, knotting shoelaces onto sticks and dangling them above murky rain puddles. Just us girls, fishing poles in hand, chatting it up and waiting for rainfish to bite.

This book is a must-have — for us and our daring daughters.

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Filed under Children's books, For fun, Friends, Gifts, Growing up, Parenting, Reviews

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

My Birthday By My Betrothed

For my birthday this year, Thomas had taken to planning some family activities to celebrate. I had no idea and actually, for the first time in a long time was pretty mellow about my birthday, just happy to lay low and spend it at home. Ah, the irony.

Add in a red herring by my sister, and Thomas managed to pull off a celebratory day full of surprises.

I was told the day would begin with Maeve’s contribution. We’d be doing something “she picked” to do with mommy. As Thomas drove us to the mysterious destination, he even kept the mapped directions on his left side in the car, making me look out my window when he needed to reference them.

I was thrilled when we pulled up to the Imagine That! Museum. I couldn’t believe he’d planned something like this; it’s much more my style to find a new locale and get us all out for a new adventure.

It was a great afternoon. Among the “exhibits” in this hands-on museum area music room with myriad instruments all within kids’ reach; ballet room complete with tu-tus, mirror and bar; victorian house complete with picket fence, mailbox, pretend garden and gardening gloves; grocery store with kid-sized shopping carts, food containers and a real cash register; post office, NASA shuttle and in-flight video; vintage Volkswagen Beetle sans doors for easy access; fire truck with kid-sized gear and hats; an actual prop plane with a boarding staircase that Maeve must have climbed 34 times; giant sand room; big wooden pirate ship with a slide and hatch; and art studio with paper lining the walls, water, paint and brushes.

One of my favorites was the art studio, and Maeve donned a smock and painted several pieces in true keeping, of course, with her varied moods and talents: her blue period, her purple!purple!purple! period and her ask-her-what-color-something-is-and-it’s-definitely-without-doubt-yelloooooo-even-when-it’s-actually-green period. Thomas even painted a birthday sign for me while Maeve and I painted pictures together, surrounded by brushes, colors and craft supplies. There’s a little clothesline to hang your paintings to dry.

At one point during the afternoon, there was when an announcement made that the art studio was closing for the afternoon and anyone interested in keeping their paintings should retrieve them at that time and leave them near the exit. So Thomas went off to collect our masterpieces while Maeve and I continued checking out the exhibits.

When it was time to go, one of the women running the gift shop gave me a balloon — word had spread there was a birthday girl on the premises, thanks to Tom — I just don’t think they expected it to be the mama not the toddlah!

As we made our way to the car, I noticed a significant lack of artwork in the husband’s hand. Turns out, he only collected his happy birthday sign, and left all of Maeve’s creative efforts behind.

Hello? Am I missing something?

To put it nicely, I sorta flipped, and between my astonishment, annoyance and subdued laughter, I murmured semi-threateningly about making a blog post outta this one! The daddy who let the daughter’s paintings hit the trash while he saves his goofy birthday sign. I’d had thoughts of saving one or two of her paintings to commemorate the special day together.

The best part of it all was the look on his face when I asked where her pictures were — it clearly never dawned on him to collect anyone’s work other than his own. Rrrright.

But who can stay annoyed too long at the guy who plans the entire day, makes a stop for chocolate and peanut butter milkshakes (my favorite!) and is hurrying to get us home for Phase Two of Project Gretchen’s Birthday?

As we headed home, Thomas explained that my sister was babysitting Maeve that evening and we’d need a quick turnaround time at the house to head back out for more celebrating.

OK. So let me paint this picture for you (brushes and colors not necessary): It’s a wicked hot summer day, we’ve been running around a kids’ museum all afternoon, and the last thing I was worried about on the way home was how I looked. By now any makeup had long worn away, and the sweltering sun had taken its toll on my hair. I was happy to dig up one of Maeve’s hair barrettes in the car and I used it to sweep my bangs straight up off my forehead. And, I’m slurping my heavenly milkshake. Got the image? Good.

We park the car and round the bend into the backyard, where we are greeted by 40 or so of my friends and family.

“Suuurrrrpriiiise!”

So clearly I don’t have my finger on the pulse of everything going on in my house. Seems there have been rented tables and chairs in my garage for days, a caterer was hired and a menu chosen, a gazillion limes purchased for Karen’s Trinidadian Rum Punch, linens and balloons in place, and people invited.

And sweaty, pink-and-purple-barretted me?

I’m shocked. I’m not fond of being the center of attention (I try to wriggle my way out of the little work celebration of my birthday each year). I’m wondering if my house is clean enough for all these guests. And I’m trying to sneak away to put on some makeup and run a brush through my hair.

But most of all — after the panic and shock wears off — I’m not just impressed by my husband and all the planning and effort it took on his part, I’m loving him more than ever for caring so much.

(Oh — and the Rum Punch? Well, it never was made, he tells me, due to logistics and time. But lemme tell you, those limes are a chillin’ in my fridge’s crisper drawer, the liquor’s purchased and in the pantry, a 10 pound bag of sugar mocks me and her rhyming recipe is on the ready.)

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Filed under Children, Family, For fun, Friends, Love, Maeve, Parenting, Relationships

Logo-rific

Some time ago, I wrote here that something exciting was happening in mamagigi-land. I quickly realized I may have set the excitement bar too high as I received a handful of comments and a plethora of personal e-mails in all sorts of e-mailboxes from friends, family and newer online friends wanting to know the scoop. (Even my mother delurked.) One friend thought we’d somehow been placed with another child and quasi-chastised me for not letting her know sooner and personally, if this was, in fact, the news.

In reality, I was eager to share I am now writing a column addressing adoption, open adoption and first-time motherhood for the newsletter of my adoption agency. I just wanted to wait until it hit the newsstands, if you will.

Anyway, my first column is out and I’ve now wedged the column’s logo into my sidebar.

Aside from that, six inches of water have been shop-vac’d and push-broomed out of our finished basement — that recent rainy Nor’Easter was a doozy — and we dealt with a Cold Turned Touch of Croup in Maeve that had me thankful for her birth mother’s medical history.

Turns out I never needed any history as the Battle of the Wicked Cough and Lips Turning Blue-ish were a cold turned something akin to croup, but in those first moments when one’s imagination runs wild after witnessing her child sick with something she’s not seen before, there is relief in knowing there are medical records and ways to reach out if needed. That’s open adoption, for ya.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Discussing Adoption, Family, Friends, Maeve, Open Adoption, Parenting, Writing