Category Archives: Work

NJ’s adoption leave bill lives!

Rally your troops. Circle your wagons. Write a legislator.

It’s been a year since S-2249, New Jersey’s paid family leave bill, was introduced and it still has a pulse, folks.

On Thursday, Dec. 6, the measure will face its next test as it comes up for a vote by the state’s Assembly Labor Committee. This summer Gov. Jon Corzine pledged he would sign a family-leave bill into law before the end of this year. You look at a calendar and do the math.

The bone of contention at this point seems to be the number of paid weeks off afforded to workers — it’s already been decreased from 12 to 10, and that number may fall yet again as the state’s powerful business association claims such leave is simply too large a burden for small business to bear.

Thing is — and this is most important — the paid leave program would not be financed on the backs of businesses. I detailed how it would be funded right here some time ago.

And who, exactly, would be covered? Everyone, even those of us employed by a company with fewer than 50 employees (Me! Me! Me! That’s me frantically jumping up and down and waving my arms!) — companies otherwise exempt from current state law affording 12 unpaid weeks of leave and job protection.

Here’s the thing: All newly created or expanded families — no matter how they are formed — deserve invaluable adjustment and bonding time without fearing severe financial detriment. Caring for or financially supporting one’s family shouldn’t be an either-or situation.

You don’t have to be an adoptive parent to care about this. You could know one or love one or … better yet, you could just be … a member of a family. That’s right. This bill affects you, should you ever need time off from work to care for a beloved family member. You’ll care about it then, I can assure you. Thing is, it might be too late by then. So show your support now. How? Read on.

(Not up on the issue? Doesn’t mean you can’t jump in now and show your support. Just take a gander at my previous essays in the Adoption Leave tab above for the history of this bill and you’re good to go.)

If this legislation passes, New Jersey would be the third state in the nation (California leads the pack) to offer such relief to new adoptive parents, as well as those needing to care for an ailing family member.

Find the legislators here (click Labor in the right margin for the actual committee considering the bill), and write these folks to voice your support of paid leave for families.

And if you’re not a Jerseyan, don’t think your voice doesn’t need to be heard. Write these NJ legislators and let them know what this means to families like yours, and then copy it to your own lawmakers.

We’re all in this together, one state at a time.

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Filed under Adoption, Adoption leave, Family Leave, Legislation, Paid Adoption Leave, Parenting, Work

All in a Day

It’s been four months since I went part-time at the newspaper. Since then, I’ve had two days each week at home with Maeve. My mindset is improved, my house a bit better organized and, most of all, my heart is so much happier. After all, it’s two days a week where Maeve and I take on the world. Just us.

Sharing back-patting hugs.

Leaf and flower hunting.

Reading book after book after book.

Stringing Cheerios into necklaces.

Singing “Birdie Song!” one thousand, three hundred fifty-seven and a half times. (To the rest of the world, it’s Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.”)

Snore-filled naps.

Lip-smacking kisses (also known as “sugah” round here).

Kitty-cat chasing.

Squeaky chalk as we try to write letters A, T, W and M. Then A again, her favorite.

“More milk, peeez Mah-mee!”

Wiping up spilled milk.

Swinging in the backyard.

Swinging babydoll (aptly named “Baby”) in the backyard.

Buckling Baby in.

Unbuckling Baby.

Adjusting Baby’s position in the swing.

Re-buckling Baby. Puuuuush! Wheeeeeeee!

Lunchtime break: Turkey hot dog with zesty honey mustard (with no bun), corn and banana ring peppers. (Yep, peppers. That’s my girl!)

“Sugah” for dessert.

Maeve Tickle Monster (Her little hands clenched, fingers dancing about, chases me around).

Patty-cake sloooooooow.

Patty-cake FAST!

Wagon ride up the hill (me pulling Maeve)

Wagon pull down the hill (“Maeve do, Maeve do! Mah-mee!”)

Squirrel counting: “One … Two … Three … Look! Anodder one, mahmee!”

Crayon-box diving for pink. Oh yeah, and … pink. And did I mention … pink? Oh, look, it’s pink. “Mah-mee, pink one!”

Assembly of giant fire-truck puzzle assembly followed by Fire Truck Song and Mommy and Maeve march (sometimes right onto giant puzzle).

Reassemble giant fire-truck puzzle.

Silly-Mommy Dance (This is done over Maeve, who’s on the floor, arms at her side, legs together. Note: Since this dance is not remotely attractive on my part, there’s no photographic evidence. So. Don’t. Ask.)

Silly-Maevey Dance (Done over me, which always ends with her collapsing onto my belly.)

“Westing” (She stops mid-play to rest her head on my shoulder. Just as I realize what she’s doing, she’s gone again, off to play.)

Reading more books. And then a few more again.

Mommy Tickle Monster emerges.

Silly Laughs.

Big Hugs.

Some more sugah sharing.

Maeve and Mommy Tickle Monsters Reunion!

As much as I enjoy my work at the newspaper, I gotta say, being with Maeve like this is by far The. Best. Job. Ever.

NaBloPoMo Stats: 5 down, 25 to go.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Family, For fun, Love, Maeve, NaBloPoMo, Parenting, Work

OK, already! (And a photo op)

lakegirls.jpg
Two girlfriends chillin’ lakeside.
(Taylor, left, and Maeve)

I’ve been hearing it lately from folks in my life (in a snarky tone): “What, no new blog entry?” And those of you that e-mailed to see if I’d fallen off my computer chair and just couldn’t get up? Thanks for checking in. Makes a mama feel loved.

It’s true, I fell off the radar for awhile, ever since I returned from my jaunt to Arizona with Maeve. So, why so quiet ’round here? I could say the flight home was really, really, really delayed (hey, Newark’s got a reputation for that!), but the truth of the matter is when we returned home, I had to hit the ground running.

We weren’t home but 12 hours when I was at our local reservation/park setting up for my local adoption group’s fall fun picnic — from storytime to pinatas to painting pumpkins, the kids (and adults!) had a really nice time. It was especially nice to see all the children touched by adopton — in vastly different ways — all playing together and hopefully beginning to form friendships for the future.

Around the same time, I had some writing assignments that required me buckling down and getting them done and filed.

And the last two-plus weeks I’ve been filling in for another editor at the newspaper, trying to cover my work and hers, and the hours and schedule have been well, rather unscheduled. And when I get home, if Maeve was still awake, the first thing I wanted to be doing was being with her, not logging back onto a computer. Kinda defeats the purpose of blogging on first-time parenting and adoption if I’m not spending time with my daughter, isn’t it? Of course, she’s the priority.

This week alone there’s been a couple adoption programs to attend: my local group’s monthly meeting and an agency program, for which Thomas and I were panelists. The topic of both meetings? Openness in adoption. And y’all know I’ve got some opinions on that.

Lest anyone think it’s been all business ’round here, there’s been some kid-fun things squeezed in, too. From getting Maeve’s Halloween costume ready (oh, just wait for the photos, just wait!) and pumpkin-picking, weekly swim classes (just don’t make her float on her back!) to a recent getaway weekend at the lakeside cottage in the country with our dear friends we met through adoption (whose daughter is just a few weeks younger than Maeve and was placed through the same program we were). Between both girls at the house, the petting farm we visited, and time spent tossing stones into the lake, there’s pah-lenty of photos to sort.

Bottom line? It’s been a whirlwind, but overall a welcome change, because being super-busy always makes me appreciate the norm that much more, once we return to it.

There’s lots to talk about, including some of the events I’ve mentioned, plus some other asides, including the question of NaBloPoMo (super-wary that I’m able to successfully complete the task), plus a very interesting link to a site about commercialism for children that’s got me thinking. And there’s a book review scheduled, too, as I’m now affiliated with MotherTalk, a book review site for blogging mothers, and Harper Collins just sent to my doorstep my first book to review.

So, thanks for coming back — and stick around. Listen closely and you’ll hear me cranking up the gears, as I’m getting this girl back to a nice, happy internet hum.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Maeve, Open Adoption, Parenting, Work, Writing

Adoption: Employee benefits

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal discusses how increasing numbers of companies are stepping up with adoption benefits, or increasing the adoption benefits they already offer, including longer paid time off or increased reimbursement of adoption expenses.

The article contrasts the bump up in benefits for some with the increasing amount of red tape and restrictions in international adoptions. So, while those adopting overseas now may have a bit more time to spend bonding with their child before heading back to work, it’s more difficult to prepare for the time away from the office, since the restrictions are tighter and more complex, and many waits are longer.

Still, most interesting to me is the increased awareness of adoption and the need for employee flexibility and benefits — issues the article does address, including facts like this: 20 percent of companies offer adoption benefits, up four percent from 2003, according to a study this year of 590 human resource managers.

Good news, but still lots of work to do.

(Oh, and while you’re already surfing the WSJ, here’s an article on the best at-home lead tests for checking up on your children’s toys — and whether they are as accurate as  they could be.)

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Filed under Adoption, Adoption leave, Family Leave, Paid Adoption Leave, Parenting, The Call, Toy Safety, Work

Ready? Set. Go!

As not-so-slyly mentioned in a previous post, things have been changin’ here in mamagigi-land in big ways and today’s the first official start of it all.

In an effort to spend more time with my beloved Maeve (sappy, I know) and devote more of me to my writing — on that note, I’ve just filed my next column with AFTH, once it’s published I’ll be sure to link to it here and in my sidebar — I’ve decided to go to part-time status at the newspaper.

After 12 years spent full-time with 25 or so colleagues in getting out the weekly legal newspaper and its 24 or so magazines each year, it’s beyond strange to wake this morning and not be juggling Maeve, my clothes that still need ironing for the day, feeding and dressing her, and getting us out the door remotely close to on schedule.

Instead, we spent the morning playing together as I set up shop in our new playroom and our new “activities room,” as Thomas likes to call it. It’s essentially my art studio pared down and blended with a crafts/puzzle/game space for Maeve. As he describes it, it’s the room for anything that requires a table. It’s colorful and fun, with cool storage and lots of bucket-drawers for supplies, and I’ve framed some of her artwork from her little school to adorn its walls. Her trestle table and mini-Windsor chairs are set up for her to play, and there’s a bright striped area rug and an easel awaiting many creative adventures.

The playroom has a beautiful, dark storage unit with baskets separating her toys by genre. We’ll see how long the organization lasts, but since she’s good at putting things away before opening anew, I’m hoping it might last longer than I expect.

We’ve placed her little armchair underneath the giant green leaf from IKEA, and she’s already spent lots of time there this morning sitting, reading and looking up at the leaf’s underside!

For a finished basement, it sure has become quite the colorful, inviting playspace we envisioned. The third room in the basement will become our TV room, as we’re moving it out of the living room altogether. Since Maeve arrived we watch so much less telly, thank goodness, and we DVR anything we really have our hearts set on and just watch it when she’s asleep. We promised each other we won’t have the TV even turned on when she’s awake unless it’s for her to watch a special program we’ve selected and feel comfortable with — and that’s just once a day for 25 minutes, if she asks for it, of course. Nothing too commercial. The Brainy Baby series has programs with kids at the San Diego Zoo and Wildlife Park, and since she loves her giraffes, elephants and monkeys, that’s a fun no-brainer. It’s that, or Jack’s Music Show, which features Laurie Berkner and all sorts of musical-based vignettes. She loves music and since we’re happy to oblige her on that front, that’s often her telly choice for the day.

Maeve still will be attending her wonderful school three days a week while I’m at the newspaper. This morning during breakfast, she began counting her little plastic farm animals in the distance … in Spanish! I couldn’t believe my ears! Spanish, English and back again. We love the school and all she learns, as well as the little friends she’s making and learning to play with. In fact, tomorrow she graduates to her new class, the Friendly Fish and leaves Little Ladybugs behind. I still can watch her from the cameras in her classroom, so that’s a fabulous plus for those days I am in-office.

So far today I’ve managed to do laundry and run a vacuum, play with Maeve, write a while, and think and plan ahead for some events this week. Nothing I’ve been able to do while in the office, reading for the newspaper.

I’m neither a cook nor a cleaner type. (I’m pretty sure that was somewhere in my vows.) I do what needs to get done and am grateful each day that Thomas is as involved as I — between us both we get done what needs to get done. Of course, it helps to have a husband who loves to cook. And since I try to only pass through the kitchen and spend no real time there, that works for me.

In any case, my being home means my house might get a bit more organized and a bit cleaner a bit faster, but what I’m really hoping for is a saner me who can not only better cherish every moment with my daughter and husband, but make better use of time for me and my writing career.

And as for eating my cake and having it too, (yes, that’s the correct way that expression goes, folks) I’m looking forward to arriving at the office not feeling like the whirlwind I usually do when I sit at my desk each morning, my head aclutter with what I’ve forgotten, what I’ve remembered, what I’ve forgotten I remembered and what still needs doing. All that and a day’s worth of work ahead of me.

I’ve had too many times recently of feeling like I’m barely keeping up. With Maeve’s second birthday just weeks away, time’s atickin’ and I want to live life with her, and more for myself, embracing its juicy details, not trotting after it, working up a sweat, or being dragged behind it, exhausted. Make sense?

It’s totally nuts and a huge leap of faith, for sure. Cutting my salary in half is enough to cause me heart palpitations and rapid gasping for air when I think too long about it — and with a second adoption on the horizon, no less! — but I’m really choosing to believe that the quality of life, for me both personally and professionally, will pay off in spades. Isn’t there a bumper sticker about taking such chances? Wish me luck and send those good vibes my way a little while, wouldya?

So, enough about my day thus far as an official part-timer. I promise there won’t be posts outlining which dish was washed or which boo-boo kissed, ’cause I’ve got lots to say and me being home a bit more isn’t going to change that content. Got it? Good.

Since there’s lots to catch up on and I’ve got bits and bobs of pieces in the hopper for you from the last few weeks, including my recent birthday and what my most amazing husband did for me. Let’s just say it involves lots of secrets (the good kind), Karen at chookooloonks’ super-delicious Trinidadian Rum Punch (sort of) and many friends and family members in my backyard (unbeknownst to me). Stay tuned …

I’m excited. Ready? Set. Go!

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Filed under Adoption, Family, Life changes, Maeve, Work, Writing

Berry-good, cherry-good

The bad news?

My day began bright and early, in a dentist chair, white knuckles gripping plastic-clad armrests, while sounds of drilling reverberating relentlessly inside my head. An hour and a half later, I left the dental office with a small envelope of gargantuan pills to ease the arrival of forecasted pain and discomfort.

I arrived at my office soon after only to have to dig my desk out from a blizzard of 80 or so proof pages (in 8.5-point font reduced 30 percent) requiring a careful read and deliberate eye, numerous rounds of corrections, and an extra hour-plus at the office this evening in order to push the project closer to completion before tomorrow’s 3 p.m. printer deadline. (It was middle of the afternoon today before I realized I’d not yet left my desk for the ladies’ room.)

The good news?

I am one seriously lucky woman.

This evening, feeling completely beaten by the day’s events, I arrived home to the sight of Maeve nestled in her daddy’s lap, fed, freshly bathed and smelling sweet, the regimen of her curly locks complete, listening to him singsong her book-of-the-moment, Jamberry by Bruce Degen. I watched her big, brown eyes travel from each turned page of adventure in Berryland to her father’s lips, where she watched intently as he recited, just for her, rhyming waterfalls of words like, “Raspberry, Jazzberry, Razzmatazberry, Berryband, Merryband, Jamming in Berryland.”

Also awaiting me was a dinnerplate of easily chewable foods, my favorite beverage well-stocked in the pantry and fridge, and, as a special sorry-your-day-stunk surprise, all the fixins for a tooth-friendly ice cream sundae. Maraschino cherries, too. (The one exception to my no-fruit-with-caloric-pleasure rule.) All of this handiwork, by the way, from the husband who called amid the paper frenzy at work to offer post-dental support. I am, after all, known for having needed intravenous anesthesia in order to make it through a previous (and tortuous) dental visit some time ago.

Gosh, I love this man.

Taking off my coat, I knelt beside Maeve and Tom while they finished the Jamberry fest already in session.

And a funny thing happened. I forgot about the drilling, the rinsing and spitting, the numbness and pain. I forgot about dropped copy, missing charts and 3 p.m. deadlines. I was no longer consumed by these events that had marred my day. Also gone was the looming pressure of night and household routines awaiting execution.

After all, before me in all her juicy glory was a baby girl who — ok, at 18 months she is every day less Baby and more Spunky Little Girl — is simply so lovely to love. When she had registered the sound of my jingling car keys as I entered the house, I’d heard her little voice whisper to daddy excitedly, “Mommy! Mommy!”

She and I soon hunkered down to read, to play, to giggle and wiggle. Me, still in my work clothes and shoes, her, set securely into the curves of my lap like there was nowhere else in the world she expected to be. And that’s just fine with me, because there’s nowhere else I’d rather have her.

Gosh, I love this little girl.

There’s nothing better than walking smack into the love in your own home to remind you how little drilling and deadlines matter.

Later, after Maeve was tucked into bed with visions of “Quickberry, Quackberry, Pick me a Blackberry” and “Trainberry, Trackberry, Clickety-clackberry” swirling in her head, Tom and I sat down for an ice cream sundae together.

Feeling corny and especially lucky with the little threesome that is my family, I dropped some extra cherries on top. Three in all. And it was perfect.

A good day, I’d say.  A berry-good, cherry-good day.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Children's books, Curls, Editing, Family, Gifts, Husbands, Love, Maeve, Parenting, Relationships, Work