WHAT’S THE RIGHT WORD

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Sienna has a unique personality. It’s actually probably the most unique I’ve ever seen. It’s so unique that I can’t even find the right word to describe it. Several suggestions by friends and family have been posed, but none seem to fit quite right:
— divine diva
— pugnacious
— tenacious
— precocious
— spitfire

Perhaps you can help find the right word.

A bit more about her…

She’s feisty. Brae tries to hug her and she bites back (course, he’s also trying to steal her toy as he’s hugging her). She has this I don’t care what you think attitude that is strangely endearing and admirable. She walks with her chin up in the air, almost daring you to give her a punch only so she can knock you silly.

She doesn’t want you invading her bubble, except when all she wants is to cuddle in your lap. She likes to scream. But not always because she’s mad. Sometimes she screams because she’s happy, scared, uncomfortable, or just wants to fill the room with her voice. She loves dogs, food, and carrying around her baby dolls, which dolls she will also hurl into the corner when she sees a remote control car that she’d rather play with.

She doesn’t like baths. She’d rather climb into the sink and stick her face under the faucet. She doesn’t stop talking. Ever. She loves giving kisses, except when she’d rather hit you instead.

In a word, the girl is a complete contradiction. And she totally keeps me on my toes. But there has to be some word that describes this rare ball of fun.

Maybe that word is just . . . Sienna.

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SHE’S MOVING

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Brae’s birthmom is moving. Several states away. Now, she lives just hours away; soon she and her daughter will live several hundred miles away.

I’m sad. For my boy.

I adore Brae’s birthmom. And not just because of the gift she gave us, but because of the person that she is. Even apart from the circumstances that have forever welded us together, she is someone I would befriend.

And she’s always longed to better herself and her lot in life.

I remember after she delivered Brae, sitting in the hospital room with her, alone, on Halloween night. Brae was sleeping in the crib. I was lying on the (very uncomfortable) pull out hospital sofa. Rachael was in the hospital bed where just hours before she had given birth to our son.

It was quiet. It was dark. Every so often we would hear the squeak squeak squeak of the rubber shoes of nursing staff passing by our room.

And in the middle of this silence and darkness, Rachael voiced her hopes. Her dreams. She wanted to return to school. She wanted to be a nurse. She knew she could not achieve those things with another child in her home, when she did not have a partner to support her.

That was nearly 4 years ago. Her time has come. She is moving out of state to chase those hopes and dreams.

I’m so exceedingly happy for her and proud of her. And yet, my heart is breaking. For my son.

The relationship we have with Brae’s birthmom is unique. It is probably one that many adoptive families long to have. Brae’s birthmom has never been intrusive. I have never once felt threatened by her. She has always been extremely respectful of the fact that she chose us to be Brae’s parents. She has never tried to interfere or insert herself into our lives.

So many adoptive families would want that. And yet, I yearn for her to be more of a part of Brae’s life. For Brae’s sake. I know with her moving away, it will only become more difficult to engage with her and have our yearly visits.

We were set to have our next visit at the end of September. With this news, we have bumped it up to the beginning of September. I’m so excited to see her again, and to hug her. I want to tell her how so very proud of her I am that she is finally able to realize her hopes and dreams of becoming a nurse. I want Brae to see his half-sister, and watch them run around and play. I want Brae to remember these precious times with each of them and know how very loved he is by so many people.

So that if our visits with them become less frequent over the years, he will never ever feel that he was abandoned or foresaken.

He was not.

He is not.

I HAVE BECOME THAT PERSON

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I’ve become that person.

You know the one. The one that people send their friends to. The one that people can go to ask questions. The one that gets invited to coffee by acquaintances of acquaintances because they simply want to hear about someone (anyone) who has been there before. I’m the one that my friends and their friends and their friends come to when the unthinkable happens:

Infertility.

Whether the person sitting across from me at the Starbucks table is interested in fertility treatment, adoption, embryo adoption, or the other myriad of options we either did or looked at to start our family, the conversation is invariably the same. It’s my story. With all of its sleepless nights, tear-soaked pillows, flat-on-my face misery that slowly gave way for two brief periods of time to reveal the miracle of life in the births of my son and then my daughter.

For the last 5 years, I have been in a storm. The rain stopped and the sun shone on me the first time nearly 4 years ago with the birth of my son through the miracle of domestic adoption. And then the storm sucked me back in as I longed, yearned to be pregnant and give birth. Then, the rain stopped again and the sun shone on me for the second time just over a year ago with the birth of my daughter through the miracle of embryo adoption.

Now, I’m disappointed (and ashamed) to say, I feel back in the storm yet again. Because I long for one more. I’m angry at myself that I cannot seem to simply be content with the abundant blessings I’ve already been given. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

(That was the voice in Jan’s head in the Brady Bunch series, in case you’re wondering. I have a similar voice. In my head. It’s equally tormenting. But at least it says my own name and not that of the 70s character).

If I didn’t know myself better, I’d say that I tend to feel more comfortable in storms. And maybe I do. Perhaps I like to prove wrong the old adage, “You are either just exiting a storm, in a storm, or about to enter a storm” by simply remaining in my storm.

But I digress. Or maybe I don’t. I have become that person who encounters others in the midst of their storm.

And while I may still be in my own storm, I hope that as I sip my cup of coffee across from my new friend, at least I can offer a hand to this girl in the storm next to me to let her know she is not alone.

I will endure the storm with her.

THERE IS SOMEONE YOU CAN TALK TO

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A good friend of mine is embarking upon the embryo adoption journey for the first time.

She’s scared. She’s nervous. She’s excited. She’s optimistic. She’s pessimistic. She’s realistic. And she needed someone to talk to. And, her donors needed someone to talk to.

While I can absolutely walk alongside her on this path I’ve journeyed ahead of her, I wouldn’t know the first thing to say to her donors, who also felt very scared, nervous, excited, optimistic, pessimistic, realistic.

So, I texted our donors and asked if they would be willing to talk to her donors. I knew without hesitation that they would. And they did. My friend’s donors now have others who can walk alongside them on this path that my donors have journeyed ahead of them. And that is just beyond cool to me.

The adoption community is pretty small. And it’s intimate and well-connected. I had the privilege of meeting other women on the adoption journey that I now consider friends and in whose lives I am deeply invested. But perhaps even more important, my children also have a community that is intimate and well-connected through these other children who have been where they are. Felt similar emotions. Experienced similar thought processes. Encountered similar people to whom they had to battle cancerous misconceptions about the adoption process. I’m grateful a community like that exists for them.

And if you are considering adoption, in whatever form, there is someone YOU can talk to as well. A donor, a recipient, a birthmom, a birthfather, an adoptive family. You don’t have to go at this alone, and you would be doing yourself a great disservice if you did.

As an aside, there is a new series on the Oxygen channel called “I’m Having Their Baby.” I’ve only seen two episodes, but it is a raw look into the hearts and minds of birthmoms and adoptive families. I have not been disappointed in their portrayal of adoption; quite to the contrary. It doesn’t shy away from the hard emotions that both sides feel, and yet it is respectful of each side’s journey.

This show is just one more example that adoption has changed so much in the last few decades. Adoption is not secretive. It’s not shameful. It’s not something to whisper about. It’s something to celebrate. To honor. To seek to understand and respect those who have journeyed through it. And know that if you want to take that leap of faith, you will have someone who can take your hand and jump too.

TEACHING YOUR CHILD A SECOND LANGUAGE

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Sienna said her first Spanish word the other day. It is “agua” (water). That was also Brae’s first Spanish word (and maybe even his first word, period).

Since my kids were each 3.5 months old, they have been going to a Spanish immersion daycare/school down the street from my house. I felt like I hit the jackpot when I found this place. Not only is it incredibly close to our home, but it is reasonably priced. The headmaster has her Master’s degree in elementary education, and she tries to keep the prices affordable for teacher’s kids (of whom there are a lot at the school).

The school is set up like an actual school, not a daycare. This was also a big selling point for me. It’s not a fancy school with the latest gadgets or toys. It has a very neighborhood, organic, grassroots feel to it. I love it.

There has been only one staff member change in the 3.5 years that we’ve gone there. All of the instructors know Spanish as their first language. And it is 100% espanol, all day long. It is also the only school of its kind in the entire Portland, Oregon area. I’m completely amazed that Brae can go from Spanish and English in the same breath when he talks to me, and then when he turns to talk to his teachers.

And yet, I’m astonished that there are not lines out the door trying to get into this school.

A recent Parents magazine edition had a lengthy article about the importance of teaching your child a second language, and the earlier, the better. Not only does it give them a leg up in the job market, but it actually activates a part of their brain that is otherwise not activated when you don’t speak a second language. It’s called the executive function of the brain, which allows you to focus on a task while distraction surrounds you. Plus, the United States is an anomoly in that we don’t teach our children another language from the time they are born. You travel to any other industrialized nation, and the children speak at least one other language.

I’ve heard it said many times by parents who resist a bilingual education for their kids that they themselves don’t speak the second language. I understand that resistance and hesitancy. I do. But, with all due respect, that should not be the reason a child is deprived the opportunity to learn the second language. Plus, it is a fantastic opportunity for the parents to also learn the second language.

I started studying Spanish when I was in 7th grade. I ended up minoring in it in college, and did an exchange abroad to Puerto Rico. I’ve gone on several missions trips to Mexico. My sister is a high school Spanish teacher. My mom speaks Spanish and has used it on medical missions trips. And yet, my 3.5-year-old son is still teaching me new words.

So, I’m here to get on my little soapbox and encourage all of you parents who have been hesitant (for whatever reason), to reconsider a bilingual education for your child. It doesn’t have to be by going to an immersion school. It can be by watching a cartoon or movie in another language. It can be by getting a book in another language (most have the second language and English so you can compare). It can be by getting flashcards. It can be by listening to music in another language. Anything that exposes them to actually learning words in another language.

They just may thank you for it down the road.

Off soapbox. The juggling act is next.

BRAE-ISMS

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Brae is a complete chatterbox. In fact, at our recent family vacation (pictured below with Sienna and their cousin), he attracted the new nickname “Comma.” (because there are no periods when he talks). With that, here’s the latest edition of Brae-isms:

1) Brae: “Mommy, will you marry me?”
Me: “Aww, I love you, son, but I can’t marry you. I’m married to Daddy.”
(Wheels turning)
Brae: “If I were taller, would you marry me?”

2) I was upstairs in the laundry room getting ready to take Brae to the park. He’d just peed his pants (which he often does if he hasn’t gone for a while, and starts playing really hard). He was taking off his wet pants, putting them in the washing machine, and putting on a new pair. As he was doing this, I thought, “It’s really hot outside. I should probably change out of my jeans.” So, I pulled a pair of my shorts out of the dryer (yes, clean clothes often stay in our dryer for days, and sometimes require re-drying to get the wrinkles out). As I was taking off my jeans, and putting on my shorts, Brae looked at me, wide-eyed, and said, “Mommy, did you pee your pants, too?”

3) Brae has learned the word “stupid.” I think from the older kids at school. I scold him whenever he says it, and sometimes he has to go to time out if he doesn’t stop saying it. The other day, I caught him singing, “Stupid, you so stupid, stupid, alalalallaaaaaa, you are s-t-u-p-i-ddddddddd!” “Brae!” I said. He turned to look at me, in bewilderment. “Brae, I’ve told you we don’t say that word. It’s not nice.” “But Mooommmmmyyyy,” he began, “I’m just singing my song.”

4) I was hosting my friend’s baby shower. She and I were outside by the front door just chatting, watching some of the kids play in the front yard. Sienna was sitting on the front stoop. Suddenly, I turn to see Brae standing at the open front door, above Sienna. And before I could even catch my wits about me, he had dropped his trousers to his ankles and was peeing right over Sienna’s head. It was like the McDonald’s golden arc right over my daughter’s head. I thought my friend may have gone into labor right then and there, she was laughing so hard.