Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On the road again

In a couple days, we'll be driving 6.5 hours for a friend's wedding.  With stops, we think it will be an 8 hour trip.  It will be our longest road-trip with the Nugget to date, but as we have been making the 5 hour drive to my parents' house since we moved back to the Midwest, we feel mostly prepared.  Famous last words, I'm sure.

The Nugget is a seasoned (note I didn't say "happy") traveler.  The picture above is from a year ago - he fills up considerably more of his carseat now.  He took 2 cross-country flights in his first 4 months of life, which is not out of the ordinary for us.  We average a 3+ hour roadtrip every other month.  Several friends who don't travel often have expressed awe and questioned our sanity at traveling so far, so often with a little one in tow.  I won't say it's easy nor is it sane - all of our trips cause a certain amount of trepidation for me, and my shoulders always creep a little closer to my ears after several hours in an enclosed space with our bundle of energy - but the more you do it, the easier it becomes, and we've learned and stolen some travel tricks along the way.  Here are a few for the road (I'll do an air travel tip list another time - it's a horse of a different color):

1.  Make lists before you pack.  I start our lists about a week out.  I leave nothing out, no matter how obvious they may seem (toothbrushes, bedtime giraffe, blanket, underwear).  As I pack, I check things off the list.  Try not to stress too much - nearly any place you go, you can pick up any essentials you forgot.

2.  Make a plan for the day of departure.  Be flexible, but have an idea of when you will get up, whether you will eat breakfast at home or on the road, lay out comfy traveling clothes.  Try to plan things like hitting the ATM, gassing up the car, and dropping pets at the kennel the day before departure if possible.

3.  Plan out rest stops in advance.  Since part of our journey is on a toll road, it's a big pain to exit and re-enter.  We keep a map of the rest stops in the car so we can plot out things like lunches and diaper changes.  Be prepared to stop every 1.5 - 2 hours with a toddler to minimize road rage.

4.  Invest in new toys!  Every child is different, but all kids get bored.  Something fun and new makes being stuck in a seat a lot more tolerable.  For the toddler Nugget, we will bring a new pile of books from the library, and 3 brand-spankin' new toys - a Poppin' Pals, a See-N-Say, and a magna-doodle.  His stand-bys include a cell phone, a lap piano, and a remote control.  He doesn't get to play with many mechanized toys at home, so they are a special car treat.  You can even wrap the new toys and dole one out each hour to make it more exciting.  Yeah, it's kind of an expense, but we just budget it into our travel money.  We rarely buy toys for the Nugget and try to hold off until we are going on a trip, then buy him something we want for him anyway (often on sale!), as opposed to random junk at rest station gift shops.  The key is to look for toys that are in one piece, and toys that can't easily roll away.  In the car, it's fine if they are slightly noisy.  As Hubby and I agree, nearly any squeak or even annoying mechanical voice is less jarring that the Nugget screaming bloody murder.

5.  Make sure you have all the essentials close at hand.  You will need diapers, wipes, a spare outfit for everyone (vomit happens), a trash bag, snacks, and drinks.  Nothing is worse that making a pretzel-type reach over the backseat and smashing your fingers under a heavy duffel while your baby is screeching for his pacifier that you unwisely stashed in the trunk, 3 bags under the pack-n-play.  Not that that's ever happened to me.  Ahem.  Prioritize and organize.

6.  Think about the snacks.  Kids have sensitive tummies and traveling is stressful.  While it is tempting to bribe and distract a traveling kiddo with all manner of junk food and new treats, you could be risking upset tummies, allergic reactions, or diaper explosions.  We try to keep the food familiar and healthful, with maybe just one special treat!

7.  If an adult can ride in the backseat to help manage snacks, retrieve dropped toys, play peekaboo, it makes the trip a lot smoother.  I'll revisit this topic after we have 2 kids in the backseat who are playing, "He's breathing on me," a game I thought belonged solely to my brother and me, but apparently is widespread throughout kid-dom.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

22 months

Dear Nugget,

At 22 months, I now say, "He'll be 2 in July," when friendly folks inquire about your age.  
(And yes, they still immediately reply with a stunned, "Wow!  He's so tall!")  Here's a snapshot of you at this age:

You are both violent and tender.  When things don't go your way, you sometimes pummel Daddy and me with slaps - the only way you currently know how to get your frustration heard.  Yet between the tantrums, I have never met a more loving little boy.  You bless everything with your kisses - stuffed animals, trains, the doggie, this tortoise statue at the zoo (see above), and best of all, us!  You still don't pucker up and smooch, it's a wet and open-mouthed kiss with a snuggle attached.

You are both strong and gentle.  We were amazed to see you successfully pull 3 of your toddler friends in your wagon, albeit only for a few feet.  But now you can also gently touch a flower, lace wooden beads on a string, and slice a banana with a butter knife.

You are both clingy and independent.  A new place or an unfamiliar face sends you zooming to me at cheetah-like speed, then you proceed to fasten your limbs tightly around my body.  Sometimes setting you down feels more like peeling off a frightened octopus.  The doorbell especially sends you shrieking in terror.  But when you're at home in  your element, you run laughing away from me.  You wave me away when I try to play with you, wanting me only to be near, not to help.

You have mastered the art of constant motion.  You run, climb, jump, dance, wiggle, and spin until you literally drop in your crib.  You start swim lessons next month, and I think you'll love to learn another way to move your body.  You cannot bear to stop playing for something as mundane as a diaper change.

You love your red umbrella and like to wander around the yard with it held proudly high, the sky blue and the sun shining hot overhead.

Your conversation skills grow a little each day.  I love that you join in conversations and songs with your own little Nugget language.  Although we both wish I could understand you fully, I treasure this sweet babbling.  I know it will be gone in a blink of an eye.

You are so thirsty for knowledge.  You want the same books read over and over again so you can start to understand and recite them.  You are constantly asking, "What's that?"  You are so proud and eager to show off when you can name something with a sign or a word.  

You want to help in every way.  I have put you to work wiping your high chair tray, picking up your toys, turning off the TV after your video, "sweeping" the floors, pouring yourself a cup of water, feeding the dog.  It's all a game for now, and I'll enjoy the way you enjoy it and try to stretch that out as long as it can last.

Every month, I feel as if this parenting thing could not possibly get any harder.  And I always think I could not possibly grow to love you any more.  And every month of your life, you are proving me wrong.  I am both terrified and delighted for the month ahead.



Thursday, May 14, 2009

I feel old

Thanks to awesome sitter L, Hubby and I enjoyed a movie in the theater; possibly the first we've seen since the Nugget joined our family.  Well, there were a lot of loud action scenes, and twice I barely caught myself from elbowing Hubby to complain, "Turn that down!  It's going to wake the Nugget!"  What can I say?  I am used to watching Netflix on the couch, directly beneath the Nugget's bedroom.  Sigh.  I. Feel. OLD.  Thanks for nothing, Hugh Jackman.  (loved the movie though.)

Kid's got range

The Nugget has really found his voice.  I mean, REALLY.  In the car, he is constantly singing along to the music.  At home, he'll babble a narration to everything he is doing, whether it's taking his wooden penguin for a walk or cooking up an entree in his play kitchen.  And when we go shopping, he'll test his lung and volume capacity.  A preschooler, who had the unfortunate timing to be shopping with his mama at the same time the Nugget realized I had tricked him into stopping at Gymboree (to use my 30% off coupon on the clearance racks of course - someday he will realize that to get me to stay out of the stores, all he must do is hide my coupon folder), stuck his tiny fingers in his ears and implored, "Mom, why is that baby screaming?"  Why indeed. 

The funniest thing, at this moment in time, is that the Nugget has quite a pitch range.  He says some words in a very high, typical-toddler register, like "Doggie", "Daddy", and "Up".  Other words, like "Mama" and "Yay", get the special Barry White treatment, in a low, low voice that you can't imagine a toddler could employ.  Sometimes, they'll even be in the same sentence.  "Up-up-up! (in a high squeaky mice-in-Cinderella tone) YAY! (in his sultry bass voice).  

Friday, May 8, 2009

For My Mom

Dear Mom,

I never knew how much you loved me until we adopted the Nugget.  A mother's love is too hard to describe or define; it's something that can only be felt.  

Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.  Elizabeth Stone

Each and every day, I am so thankful that the adoption agency chose you to be my Mom.  Some things in life are certainly chance, but I have to believe that God knew that I needed you.  Not just any mom, but YOU.  You instilled my work ethic, generosity, and compassion.  You patiently forgave me my impulsive streak, my dramatics, my teenage melancholy, my stubborness.  You comforted me through skinned knees, heartbreaks, and convinced me that I didn't have to become a nun if I didn't want to.  You let me get a dog, as if wrangling 4 children wasn't hard enough.

All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother. Abraham Lincoln

Now that the Nugget has made you a Grammy, there is something unbelievably tender about watching you plunge happily into that role.  

Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do.  Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.  Alex Haley

Thank you for all that you are, all that you have done for me, and all that you will continue to do and be.

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie. Tenneva Jordan

Happy Mothers' Day to US

One question I get a lot about open adoption is, "How can you bear sharing your son with his birthmom?"  Variations include, "Aren't you afraid he will go back to her when he grows up?"  "Who does he think is his REAL mom?"  "Isn't it confusing for him?"

I suppose I don't have these insecurities because as an adoptee, I know a child views his parents as the ones caring for him or her day to day.  I am completely confident that the Nugget will always view us as Mommy and Daddy.  Now, he might like his Tummy Mummy and Poppy "more" at times because they're not the ones who have to limit his TV time or ensure that his entire dinner doesn't consist of french fries.  But really, in my opinion, a parent's job isn't to be popular - and if the 9 year old Nugget claims he'd rather go visit Tummy Mummy than be at home, I'm not going to take it any more personally than if he said he'd rather go visit Grammy or Uncle J.  And you know what, I WANT him to love his birthparents (shocking!  scandalizing!), because I love them.

It's very difficult for me to sum up my exact feelings for the Nugget's amazing Tummy Mummy without getting all gushy and rambling, so I thought I would attempt to make a top 10 list. 

Why I LOVE the Nugget's Tummy Mummy:

10.  She supports us 100% in our parenting.  Although every open adoption is different, ours is not a co-parenting relationship.  We make all the parenting decisions, and she supports us.  I'm not saying she agrees with every choice we make, but she supports our right to make them.  I know if the Nugget ever disagrees with us and cries to her on the phone, she will cheerfully tell him to suck it up and kick him back over to us! 

9.  She is smart, funny, and sweet.  If I had just met her as an individual and she wasn't the birthmom of my son, I would still adore and admire her.  

8.  Having her in our lives gives the Nuggets roots I never had.  I don't feel the need to search for my birthmom at present, but what I wouldn't give for a photo of her.  Is there a woman in Korea with my eyes/my love of chubby things/my tendency to lose things when I put them someplace where I won't lose them?  I may never know.  The Nugget has photos galore, emails and letters, a genealogy, a medical history, gifts and cards, and the ability to call her and ask questions or just to say hi.  If you are a bio child, you probably take for granted the offhand comments of how you have your mother's nose and your dad's hair, that you could knock out a family tree project for school without a fuss, and that you can check off your medical history at the doctor's.  Not having these things in my life, these simple things folks take for granted, pained me as a child and still makes me feel a wee bit empty today.  Our Nugget will not have that pain.  (Just admitting that pain is a huge step for me.  I used to think that any feelings of loss or curiosity about my adoption meant I was horribly ungrateful to my adoptive family.  So untrue.  Everyone wants and deserves to know their roots.  My longing for roots has nothing to do with the love I have for my family.)

6.  She has this incredible drive and determination.  When she puts her mind to something, I know it will happen, despite the odds.  She has passed this stubborn tenacity onto the Nugget, and I am so grateful for it.  I am excited to see where she goes in life.  

5.  She is proud of the Nugget.  Even though she may be judged harshly for making adoption plans, she never hesitates to introduce him to friends, to brag over his pictures, to claim that she has a son that she is not parenting.  When we are together, she introduces us by saying, "This is my baby, and these are his parents."  It would be so easy for her to "sweep him under the rug", but she never does, and I am in constant awe and gratitude for her pride and honesty.  By sharing her story, she opens minds and hearts to adoption.  The Nugget will always know he is not a dirty secret.  She is my constant reminder that love triumphs over fear.

4.  Although her life is busy, she goes the extra mile to keep in touch and let us know what's going on in her life.  I have complete confidence that she will always be a part of our family and I won't have to explain to the Nugget why his Tummy Mummy disappeared without a forwarding address.

3.  Instead of having to speculate on the reasons for his adoption plan, the Nugget will always know why he was placed and that he has always been loved and wanted by both his adoptive and birth families.  I never have to say, "I think your birthmom loved you because she chose to carry you."  I can say, "I KNOW your Tummy Mummy loved you when you were growing inside her, and she loves you today.  I know that because she told me.  Would you like to call her and talk to her?"  I struggle to this day with people-pleasing, because deep inside, I believed my whole childhood that I was placed for adoption because I was defective and my birthmom didn't love me.  My parents always loved me with all their hearts and tried their best to convince me that she must have loved me too because she made my adoption plan...but that wasn't enough for me.  I needed to hear it FROM HER.  The only thing that has healed me is witnessing the love the Nugget's Tummy Mummy has for him.  I live vicariously through that love, hoping that my birthmom loved/loves me that way.

2.  She loves, loves, loves OUR son.  That's right, I do share him with her.  We are both his mothers.  Maybe that unnerves people but I don't care.  It is so much fun to brag and gush about our boy to each other.  I think it's fantastic that he will have another person to cheer him on through life. 

1.  She gave us the most incredible gift a human can give.  She gave us life.  She endured morning sickness, teasing and glares from foolish people, swollen ankles, cravings, summer heat, 11 "extra" days of pregnancy, a C-section, and her first words after giving birth to the Nugget were, "I can't wait to show him to his Mommy and Daddy."  I can never, ever repay her a fraction of the happiness and joy she has given us.  All I can do is pay her love forward to the Nugget and thank God that she chose us.

P.S.  Hey Lil Sib's birthmom...if you ever read this in future world, know I will love you too, for the person you are, but our relationship is sure to be different because you are a different person.  Please don't ever feel that you need to measure yourself against L, just as we would not ever expect our children to be alike in every way.

Friday, May 1, 2009

It's Daddy's Turn

I realize that I never did post about my first night away from the Nugget.  I went to Chicago with some girlfriends.  We stayed on the Magnificent Mile, enjoyed some shopping sans strollers, hit a few bars, and stopped at IKEA on the way home.  We had a really fun time, and I surprised myself by not crying.  I did have a nearly tearful moment at IKEA, while befriending a sweetly rambunctious toddler girl about the Nugget's age.  I just imagined how much he would have enjoyed meeting her and how much I missed him in that moment, but we were on our way home, which was perfect timing.

Daddy and Nugget managed beautifully while I was away.  The house was in its usual state, the Nugget did not go without meals, and they both were happy and content with their quality man time together.  Daddy reported that the Nugget didn't even seem to miss me, which prompted mixed feelings.  I am super glad that Daddy is so capable and competent, that the Nugget trusts and loves Daddy, but a tiny selfish part of me wanted to be missed.

Next week is Daddy's turn for some time away.  He'll be at a conference from Sunday through Friday.  Eeek.  I can definitely manage a couple of days, but I'm pretty nervous about solo parenting for a full week.  Some days it feels like an eternity before he arrives home from work, and I immediately run for the office for some computer time or lock myself in the kitchen to make dinner.  It's not a lot of alone-time, but it does help keep me sane.  I've called in Grammy for backup - she'll help for 3 of those days, and I'll use our standing date night to run errands and relax with a coffee, so I won't be totally alone.  I imagine, without a helper to keep the Nugget out of the kitchen, he will either get a an extra video each day or we'll be eating a lot of frozen meals!  (I know that normal moms cook with their toddlers otherwise occupied in the kitchen, but I have a holy horror of the Nugget grabbing a knife by the blade, opening the hot oven, or reaching for the pretty blue gas flame, and the kid is FAST!)

Sometimes I feel inadequate when other moms claim that dad is more of a hindrance than a help, that they do it all themselves, that they can't trust dad to take care of the kids on his own.  I am so thankful and rely so much on my Hubby.  I might be the primary caregiver, but I am only one half of the team.  I'll miss you, dear teammate.  Be safe and hurry home!