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A huge thank you – it’s a community thing

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.” ~Herman Melville

I’ve always been a very independent person, capable of juggling and getting things done on my own. Then I had children. When you have children, even if you have a helpful husband and helpful parents like mine, you find that you need others– you need community.

I’ve known this for a while and I’m so blessed that I’m part of one. It’s sometimes difficult for me to ask others for help, and because of my work schedule I can’t always reciprocate and return the favors, I feel guilty, but when something happens and people step up for you without you having to ask, it’s like a huge warm hug.

In a quirky accident at my son’s soccer game this weekend, (my husband was at work so it was just me), my daughter tripped, fell and cut her knee open on the metal edge of a sun umbrella (a large one, not the smaller rain deterrent version).

I did not see her fall, so when she first hobbled over to me, crying and bleeding, my initial reaction was to stop the blood. I grabbed wet wipes, sat her down and applied pressure. Another mom immediately came over and said gently, we have to look and see how deep it is.

I’m not the queasy at the sight of blood sort, nor am I a panic in stressful situation person, but I admit that my instinct was to stop the blood. And that is as far as I got. It didn’t occur to me that it could be dangerously deep or need medical attention that I could not provide.

I’m thankful for the mom I know, who was a step ahead of me, grabbing her first aid kit and reminding me to check out the wound.

As my daughter’s pain and fear rose to higher levels and my arms and words didn’t sooth her, I’m thankful for the other mom I know, who came over and acted as the master of distraction, creatively taking my daughter’s mind off her knee, long enough for a dad I know to come over and help clean and dress the wound.

It turns out that the cut, while not deep, was wide and on the part of her knee that bends, so she did in fact need three stitches.

I’m also eternally grateful for those friends of mine, my community, who offered to go with me to the emergency room, but who understood that I needed to go alone because I needed them to stay at the game and cheer on my son, and watch over him. I’m eternally grateful for all of them banding together, taking my son to dinner and saving two spots at the table for my daughter and I, who, after two hours in the emergency room, really needed food.

And I’m eternally grateful for their concern the next day, for them needing to know if she was ok, if she was in pain, if the bleeding had stopped, as if she was their own child.

After the craziness of the weekend, my sense of community was reinforced this morning, when I had another scheduling issue with two different summer programs (one soccer, one VBS) in two different locations but starting at the same time. I was reluctant to just drop my son off, but a dad who is part of my community, said he’d keep an eye on him for me and another mom gave him a ride back to his school camp when soccer was done. And took him for hamburgers. And sent me a picture. The silly face he is making means he is happy. Which makes me happy.FullSizeRenderI’m thankfulfor these freindships,  that I’m part of a community, and that they are part of mine.

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Happy 5th Birthday, baby big girl

Today she is 5. An age she’s been counting down to be…“Am I 5 tomorrow? Or the next day after the next day after the next day?”

Flynn at 5

Flynn at 5

Five is a milestone, in many ways, for both of us.

For me, I’m that much older and removed from the baby making phase of my life. That ship, long sailed.

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For me, it’s not only watching but letting you do your own thing, like your hair styles. You no longer want me to put your hair in pigtails and forget about bangs. You told me (didn’t ask) you were growing “these things long” when you were barely 3.

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For me, it’s often buying new shoes because you outgrow them faster than you wear them, and missing the times when I not only couldn’t keep socks or shoes on your tiny, tiny feet, but you didn’t need them because I mostly carried you.

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For me, it’s relishing each moment you gain more independence, but wishing for the moments when you needed only me.

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For me, it’s realizing that while you will always be the baby of the family, you are now such a big girl.

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For you, it’s excitement over starting Kindergarten soon, and doing your own homework.

For you, it’s about being “big”, and faster and stronger to keep up with your brother and being “big” like him.

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For you, it’s about being the same age as your best friends from school.

For you, it’s about the birthday crown your teacher made, the cupcakes and pink pancakes I made you for breakfast, the Barbie fashion show dress up singing and dancing birthday party.

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For you, it’s not just instinctively knowing what you want; be it to wear, accessorize, eat, listen to, read, learn, but being able to express those wants clearly and be understood.flynn5

Five is a milestone, in many ways, but for both of us, no matter how old, wise, big, smart, sassy, or far away you are, you will always be my baby, my little shadow.

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So today you are 5. And we celebrate you.

Happy birthday to my favorite girl in all the land. I love you, love you, love you, baby doll.

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Never Alone

Driving home from church, singing along to Fix My Eyes, her favorite For King and Country song, all seemed happy and right in the world, but as her song ended, she quietly asked

                         When you and daddy are gone, will I still have brother?

I looked in my rear view mirror and saw her looking back at me, with eyes wide. I said, I hope so honey, why are you asking?

                         Because I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to sing my song alone.

I didn’t know how to answer her, she’s not quite five and doesn’t need to bear the burden of our mortality before she can fully comprehend it.

But her question made my heart ache and I wanted to answer it right.

I thought about telling her that of course we’d always be here, and of course she’d never be alone. But she’s not quite five, and we won’t always be here.

I reached back and took her hand in mine and said

We don’t know when our time here will end but you have me and daddy and brother, and nana and grandpa and uncle and grandma and friends and God. You won’t ever really be alone. Always know that if one of us is gone, we will always be in your heart, singing with you.

She was quiet, her eyes still wide, but my words seemed to pacify her. A few seconds later her brother said something to make her laugh and the moment passed.

Because, you know, she’s not quite five.

photo by coreen

photo by coreen

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Just Five More

You know how people say “X more sleeps before….” Well, I only have 5 more drives before both of my children are attending the same school in the same city.

We started at our preschool in July, 2007 when my son was six months old. He advanced through all the classrooms, eventually “graduating” from TK (transitional Kindergarten) in August, 2012. At that point, my daughter had been going there for almost two years; she started when she was four months, in October, 2010.

Her first day of school, 2010

Her first day of school, 2010

The preschool is exactly 11.23 miles from my house and 6.8 miles from my work, putting it right in the middle of the two places I spend the majority of my time. It’s an amazing school and because of my firefighter hubby’s schedule, having my kids in a preschool closer to my work made sense. That is, until my son started Kindergarten at the school that’s only .82 miles from my house. I timed it once; it takes 2 minutes and 14 seconds to get from the school to my house.

With getting the kids in and out of the car when we drop off/pick him up, California traffic and having to take side street and hitting all those red lights, it takes me an hour from the time I leave my house to the time I get to work. AN HOUR. Then I get to do it all again on the trip home.

I’m not going to lie. It’s exhausting. Not that I don’t love the talk time she and I share in the car together but a two hour commute every day just kicks my butt. And don’t get me started on the one day a week I work from home…having to drive her to another city, then come back home then go back to her school then come back home…Oh My God.

Needless to say, when she became age eligible for the full day pre-K program at her brother’s school, I jumped at the chance to enroll her. And when I found out that I could start her in June for the full day summer program, and the dates coincided with her current school year ending, before she transitioned to the next age classroom, I was maniacally enthusiastic. Sure, it gave me pause (for a split second) that changing schools with no transition time would be hard on her but rip off the band-aid I shouted! This change will save this mama 40-45 minutes each way!

But with this afternoon’s pick-up marking 5 drives away from this reality, I feel like I might burst into tears. My daughter has only ever known this school. She has many friends, some she’s been friends with since she started at 4 months old. She adores her teachers to the point of wanting to invite them to her birthday party. She knows the routines, every corner of the playgrounds, all the classroom pets, the songs, and chapel experience.

When I first told her she was going to start at her brother’s school, she dug her heels in and adamantly said no, no I’m not. But as we continued to bring it up and discuss it, she’s started to come around and now seems genuinely excited to begin a new adventure. So my trepidation is my own. I’m realizing that this preschool is all I’ve known. I know all the routines, every corner of the playground, all the teachers and parents. This preschool has become part of our family. When my son started Kindergarten, everything was new but it wasn’t preschool. The reality of switching preschools, leaving the one we’ve been attending for seven years and starting anew, is hitting me.

I know we will be fine, both of us. I know she’ll make new friends. I know having my children at the same school will restore and preserve my sanity. And there is the added bonus of the price decrease. And while all of that makes me feel giddy with glee, it is also a little daunting. Change always is.

So I’ll take a lesson from my brave girl, and be brave myself. She and I will look forward to this new adventure together.

It’s only 5 more drives away, after all.

Flynn_2014

gingerbreadmama

Family Resemblance

Last month I auditioned for Listen To Your Mother – OC. My piece was not chosen for the show but I’m happy I auditioned for two reasons. First, I am not comfortable with public speaking and this took me way out of my comfort zone and the challenge felt good. Second, the topic I chose to write about, the story I chose to share…is my beginning. Something I’ve talked about but never actually written about. It’s so personal and so emotional and every time I’ve started to write about it, I stop. But not this time. What I also learned is that this is a two-part story. The circumstances of my beginning are not without their share of drama and so much has transpired since then, and that also deserves to be shared. So I’m working on part two but for now, a piece of me that is close to my heart….

Me, age 2

Me, age 2

Growing up, my parents used to tell me I made them so happy that’s how they got pregnant with my brother. We’re only 13 months apart and are not just close in age, but are also close as siblings.

As the oldest child, I attempted to rule the roost – and you’d think having the knowledge that the happiness I bestowed made me solely responsible for my brother’s birth would have gone to my head but it didn’t. My parents, after struggling to have a child, were honestly so happy to finally have me, that they had stopped trying to get pregnant and voila…baby brother.

Here’s the thing: he’s their biological child, but I’m not.

While my parents adopted me before I was born, I was never addressed as Dennis and Sandra’s adopted daughter Coreen. That label never entered our vocabulary and not because they tried to hide anything from me. Quite the contrary: as far back as I can remember I’ve always known I was adopted.

Physically, it was clear: I looked different from the rest of my family.

And I’d see family resemblances in others all the time. It’s hard not to, when people love to classify things like looks, throwing out “Oh! she has your smile or he really has his daddy’s eyes!” when meeting new children. This meant to me, especially as a child, that a family resemblance was something purely physical.

When my son was born in 2007, I finally had my own family resemblance. Mattias is the perfect blend of me and my husband. Upon first glance, he is his father’s mini-me but look closer and you’ll see that the shape of his eyes, his fair complexion, his body type, his long fingers, are so very much from his mama.

That’s when the fact that I’m adopted hit home: seeing my physical self in the embodiment of my child kicked my where did I come from curiosity into hyper-drive.

So I began to search. Being born in the era of closed adoptions means California law permits me to know very little about my birth mother. And when I say very little, I mean I’m allowed to know she enjoyed “spectator sports and macramé” (it was the 70s). Knowing her hobbies wasn’t much to go on, and I’m no Veronica Mars, but a good challenge never fazed me.

And this would-be detective had a partner, someone who was there every step of the way, from the beginning. My mom and I had a long talk about my desire to find my birth mother, and bless her heart, she had saved every scrap of paper and committed to memory every detail of the phone conversation she had with my birth mother before the adoption was finalized. She knew, in that blessed heart, the day would come when her daughter said the words all adoptive parents wait to hear: “I want to find my birth mother.”

So in addition to knowing my birth mother liked macramé, I also knew what high school she had attended and probably the most important piece…her maiden name.

Armed with this knowledge, I was relentless in my quest. I road-tripped to the public library near her high school and found pictures of her in old yearbooks; I exhausted the people search on ancestor.com. I scoured numerous State birth and death indexes and eventually met a really nice lady who helps pre-1980s adoptees like me, and together we tracked down her married name.

And one day, in May of 2008, Google came through. I knew where she worked and oh my God I had an e-mail address. My husband doesn’t call me Information Super-highway for nothing.

I didn’t contact her immediately. Instead, I freaked out. I began to question why I wanted to find her and wondered if she would even want to meet me.

I knew in my heart and from my own experience that being pregnant, carrying your child, giving birth, is something you do not forget. And I imagined that coupled with making the decision to place a baby up for adoption, and writing the words my birth mother put to paper in the letter my mom saved for me would make it even more impossible to forget. But I couldn’t bring myself to reach out, even though I wanted to say to her, “Thank you for giving me the wonderful life I have.”

It took me over three months to work up the courage before I finally sent her an e-mail. An e-mail that probably made me sound like a lunatic:

“I’m sorry to do this through e-mail, but I don’t have any other way to reach you except show up at your work and that seemed like an even bigger invasion. I’ve thought about this for a long time but have never been able to come up with a non-shocking way to say this, so here it is: I think you are my birth mother.”

She responded the very next day. And I met her for the first time that weekend. Because, as it turned out, we live 33 miles apart.

The moment we first saw each other was overwhelming yet familiar all at the same time. And Just. Like. That. I had another family resemblance… in the color of my eyes, my fair complexion, my body type, my long fingers.

But it was more than just a physical resemblance. I learned we share a dislike for tomatoes, but like peanut butter and chocolate ice cream. We embrace a love of the written word and our chosen professions reflect that. She was faculty adviser for her school newspaper; I wrote for both my high school and college papers. And we both have a penchant for the mystery/suspense/thriller genre in books (probably why my detective work panned out so well).

I also learned that not only did she want to meet me; she really wanted to get to know me.

There were more reunions to be had: my birth father, grandmother, two brothers, three sisters, three nieces, aunt, uncle and cousins.

Meeting my birth family has given me a better sense of who I am because I now know that a family resemblance is more than just physical, more than having your mother’s smile or your daddy’s eyes.

It’s a blend of nurture and nature, shared experiences, people who touch your life. It’s about having a sense of belonging, being comfortable in your own skin and recognizing the unique traits that make you special, something I hope I am teaching to my own children.

2014 marks five years since we’ve been reunited and my heart is filled with gratitude for my birth mother and her selfless choice to give me up for adoption, giving me this wonderful life.

For my husband, without him I would not be mother to our two beautiful children, who I see myself in every day.

And gratitude for my dad and mom, for picking me to be their daughter, always believing in me and supporting me in my search to learn more about what makes me, me.

Family is what you make it, whether you are born into it or not.

gingerbreadmama

It’s A Blonde Thing?

My husband had to work yesterday so my dad picked Fussypants up from school and took him to baseball practice (it takes a village, remember) and I ended up arriving at home with Little Miss before they did. In her typical I’m 3 and most days think clothing should be optional unless it’s an accessory fashion sense way, she began to undress as she walked through the door. One shoe there, another…way…over….there…socks, skirt…all discarded haphazardly in her wake.

I saw the socks first. We have a Golden Retriever who thinks all socks should be his. Thus tiny, casually discarded footwear always hits my radar. So I asked her to pick them up. It went something like this…

Me: Honey, dirty socks don’t belong on the dining room floor. Put them in the laundry please.
Little Miss: I can’t find the other one.
Me: You’d better. I don’t want Crusher to eat it.

Thinking she obliged, I went about my business of preparing dinner. Then I noticed she was still hunting around the dining room.

Me: Did you find it?
Little Miss: Nope.

As my dad and son walked in the house, I realized that she hadn’t found it…because she was still wearing it.

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I don’t know what’s worse. Me not noticing, or her!

 

 

 

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Wanted

“Oh but you were made, by a God who knows your name , He doesn’t make mistakes. For you, you are wanted, you, you are wanted” – Dara MacClean

Little Miss, out of the blue, started asking questions about her birth last night. It went something like this…

LM: Did you buy me from the store?

Me: No, I made you. I grew you inside me and kept you safe until you were born.

LM: God made me.

Me: Yes, He helped. But you were inside me, growing big and strong, until you were ready to come out.

LM: I didn’t like being in there (putting her hand on my tummy).

Me: That’s true. You wanted out early on, that’s why I was on bed rest for eight weeks and then you arrived two weeks early.

LM: Yeah, I remember.

At this point, Fussypants jumped into the conversation to tell his sister (erroneously) that I pooped her out my bum and that’s how she was born. Thankfully, she laughed and isn’t traumatized for life.

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Tot Talk: three year old gems

So this guy is posting videos of conversations with his two year old, as reenacted by himself and another grown man. They are very funny, especially the cookie convo in episode #3. I’ve had that conversation, or a version of it, on several occasions with both my kids.

So it got me thinking about conversations with my own children and I thought I’d share two gems that occurred just this morning, in the span of 3o minutes, with my three year old daughter.

Little Miss, at a young age, took a vested interest in her clothing, to the point where we started having arguments over what character she wanted to wear on her underwear when she was barely two. For the record, I do not give a hoot what she chooses, I just want her to choose…and therein lies the issue most mornings. The upside is that she has now started to thank me for washing her favorite undies.

 Today’s clothing drama had to do with shoes. The conversation went something like this.

 Me: Do you guys have your socks and shoes on? We need to leave.

Little Miss: No. I want to wear flip-flops.

Me: You can’t wear flip-flops. No open toed shoes at school because you play outside.

LM: (pouting): I want to wear flip-flops like you.

Me: I’m wearing sandals. And I don’t get to play outside.

LM: You don’t get to play outside? (Accompanied by the saddest face ever so now I’m feeling bad I have to go sit in an office).

Me: No, but you do, so let’s get shoes on.

LM: I want to wear Cinderella shoes. With socks.

Me: Fine (and we get her in shoes).

 As I’m locking the door, she turns to me and says, “These hurt, I want my fast shoes (that’s what she calls her sneakers).

And I wonder why I’m never on time.

The second conversation gem took place in the car.

LM: I want Minnie Mouse.

Me: Where is Minnie Mouse?

LM: There.

Me: Honey, I’m driving the car, I can’t see her.

LM: She’s right there.

Me (straining to see where she is pointing in the rearview mirror): On the floor?

LM: There!

Me: Sweets, I’m driving on the freeway,  I can’t reach her right now. You’ll have to wait.

LM: You are not driving the freeway, you are driving the car.

Me: Right, I’m driving the car on the freeway.

LM (a little quieter): You are driving the car, not the freeway.

 She always has to have the last word.

By the way, the second conversation took place after she ate it in the parking lot when dropping her brother off. She was walking on the curb, slipped and scrapped her knee, then freaked out when it started to bleed. I tried to console her with kisses but she only wanted a Band-Aid, which, thankfully, I found in the glove compartment shoved between sunglasses and my car’s user manual.

Note to self, restock the car with Band-Aids.

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Baby Big Girl

 

How my daughter is turning three tomorrow, I have no idea. It seems like just yesterday she was a newborn. In this short period of time, she’s blossomed into a very sweet, sassy, smart, funny, stubborn, silly little girl. She holds her own with her big brother and surprises me every day with something new she’s learned, be it a song, a ballerina dance she’s made up or counting higher than the day before. She “reads” her brother books, feeds the dog water from a spoon and tells me she loves me often, and says thank you when I tell her I love her. She’s my little shadow, wanting to be around only me if I’m in the vicinity and loves to hold my hand “because it fits”, even in the house.

 

When Fussypants was turning three, I was pregnant with Little Miss and I was so ready for him to be self-sufficient. I didn’t miss him needing me to help him go potty, get a snack or put on his shoes. I was on bed rest, but still working, I was ill and exhausted and ready for him to grow up. But knowing that she’s my last baby, makes having her grow up more difficult. I guess I have a bit of the baby blues. I look at my son, about to graduate Kindergarten and my daughter, about to turn 3 and I can’t help but think of them as babies and wonder where the time went. But we are done, our family is what it is, so don’t get any ideas.

 

But back to my baby girl turning three. I know that if she had been a boy, I would have been happy and our family would have been perfect but I’m not going to lie. I love having a daughter. Every woman should have one, it’s such a humbling experience. She can bring me to my knees in a way Fussypants just doesn’t. But he can make me laugh (especially if I am angry) in a way she never has. He is so easy-peasy compared to her. Maybe it’s his personality or maybe with boys what you see is what you get, but we’ve never argued over what underwear he’s wearing that day and Little Miss and I have had daily meltdown spats over the choice of Disney character on her chonies and she’s not yet three. And don’t get me started about trying to brush her hair. We never had terrible twos with him, but the terrible twos started with her when she was 1.5. 90% of the time, she’s sweet and funny but when that 10% hits…watch out. My mom calls it “going dark”. Her whole face changes, clouding over and she stops talking. She’ll screech like a baby pterodactyl, which is unpleasant, and where we could easily use the redirection method with her brother, she’s focused on whatever it is she isn’t getting and pouts. I’m really hoping that she’s outgrown it and that we won’t have a year of the terrible threes.

 

For her birthday, she wanted a bounce house and Cinderella. So we accommodated. A friend of mine from college warned not to peak on the parties at such a young age, but having Cinderella come to the house was amazing. Little Miss was so excited, it was just the most heart-warming thing to watch. She is still talking about her visit, days later. She actually slept in her Princess dress the night of her party. My hunky fireman husband, who had worked three in a  row and was exhausted, even stopped at the Disney store on his way home to buy her a Cinderella crown (so swoon-worthy, he’s such a good daddy) and she wore it all day long.

 

On her actual birthday, my mom and I are taking her to Disneyland and she has an appointment at the Bibbiddy Bobbiddy Boutique to get a Cinderella up do by a Godmother-in-training. Over the top? Maybe. But I have a daughter and can do girlie things like that if I want to.

 

So happy 3rd birthday to my baby big girl. I love you so much, you and your brother fill my heart with sunshine, and I hope you have a wonderful day.

cake candles cinderella. family FPK_Cinderella FPK_hat FPK_princess joy Jumphouse story8

gingerbreadmama

Little Miss…Manners

Please, thank you, excuse me….all very easy words to say. It’s important to me that my children are polite. Polite children make for polite adults. There is nothing cute or endearing about a demanding child and a demanding adult is even worse.

Fussypants was polite from the womb. I had a relatively easy pregnancy, and aside from him being eight days early, a fairly easy delivery. He nursed right away, he crawled early, he walked early, he talked early and even before his vocabulary was developed, he’d sign the word for please.

Then, when he did speak, he said please and thank you before and after everything…including no, please when he didn’t want to do something. So sweet and so polite. Now, as an almost six year old, he sometimes forgets to say please but 95% of the time, he remembers.

His sister is an entirely different story. She’s been bossy since the womb. Eight weeks of bedrest because of contractions, then she arrived two weeks early. The girl wants what she wants and she wants it on her schedule.

She prefers to demand instead of ask politely. And if you don’t move quickly enough to her liking, she’s been known to push you in the direction of what she wants. She also makes this horrid EH sound, like a buzzer on a game show if she doesn’t like something. And the drama…she makes a show of what she will do if you don’t do as she wants. She took her diaper off yesterday, and demanded I peepee, CHANGE ME. My response, In a minute, I’m busy. And what do you say when you want something? She gave me the toddler stare, smiled a smile that meant she was up to no good and replied, Mama change me or I peepee on flooooorrr! Awesome. (And yes, we are working on potty training but that’s a post on its own).

So we’ve been patiently and consistently working with her to add please, thank you and excuse me to her vocabulary. 60% of the time she forgets, we remind her. 30% of the time she doubles up the good stuff…Thank you please and 10% of the time she asks so nicely, I could cry. Overall, she is a very sweet (albeit demanding) little girl and will figure out that she’ll get her way more often when she adds the please, thank you and excuse mes to her repertoire. And she’d better, because it’s important to me that my children are polite.

Until then, some days, the Princess rules the roost.

gingerbreadmama