Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Are you still celebrating?

I actually kind of love it when Christmas packages arrive late. It just prolongs the fun, ya know?

The boys now have adorable fleece cheetah pants with tails from my mom and A has the most wonderful cowboy/indian/Peter Pan dress-up set from his birthmom. Thank you, special moms!

And I have a new CD to listen to from my dad. He tells me he listens to this very very loud on his car stereo. I asked him if people stare at stoplights. He said yes. So if you are driving around Salt Lake and you see a very pretty white SUV blasting a boys' choir and organ, look for the friendly bearded man inside and give him a wave for me. Hi, Dad!

Plus, we have now set up some of our original Christmas gifts, like my beautiful fireplace set -- yes, from my beloved Target. Actually I bet you could count on one hand the things in the picture here that are not from Target. Probably there is a special circle of hell for hypocrites like me who loudly decry WalMart while worshipping at the red bullseye at least twice a week.

And the Batmobile! After three days of cooperative work by G and S, it is complete!

Disclaimer: I do not know how or when my boys perfected that satanic tongue-stuck-out expression a la the Rolling Stones. We do not even listen to the Stones much around here. Although I could go for a few tracks about now.

This afternoon we are going to see Night at the Museum. Review later!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

And how I wish I had never told G about the Twisted Sister version of that song I heard on Fresh Air on NPR this week. It was not what I would have chosen to listen to while playing Santa Claus last night. I guess that is a disadvantage of my beloved Rhapsody. You really can find just about anything.

Here we all are in our matching PJs last night. Can you tell it makes me happy to get the whole fam-damnily in matching PJs? I have no idea why moms like stuff like that, but we do. At least I do.

There was a picture of Z here but I took it down so I won't get in trouble. Sorry, slowpokes! If you want to see it shoot me an e-mail and I'll send it, as long as I am reasonably sure you are not a creep.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Encounter in the produce aisle

Guess who I saw today? Baby J! In Food4Less by the oranges! He was in a stroller being pushed by his mom. I asked how old he was and what his name was because I wanted to be sure. It was definitely him. He has grown nicely and is still very, very cute. I did not give any hint that he was at our house for his 27 hours in foster care. But it was nice to see him.

Meanwhile, at home, Z is also thriving. Cuter every day, I swear. The three-week growth spurt has hit; she is eating tons and sleeping deep, but also definitely focusing her eyes better and having more awake, alert time every day.

I bought a Boppy pillow today. I had one for the boys but washed it so often it fell apart. The new ones have slipcovers -- so nice! Already my back feels better.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

After a draining day, another draining day

You know that part in The Horse and His Boy where Shasta rides all night to find Aslan and then Aslan just tells him he has to get back on the horse and ride again?

Or something like that. It has been a while since I read that book -- 3 years or so, and my memory is much shorter than 3 years.

Anyway, I think about that a lot. The reward for a task completed is another task to do.

Monday just about kicked my butt. I was exhausted and sleep deprived. I was trying to work at home. The house was a disaster. G had left for Livermore. And I had to take Z for a visit with her mom (my heart already says birthmom) at the county human services agency. I was so distractible all day. I don't think I accomplished much of anything. I kept trying to sit down and work, and I couldn't stand the mess, so I'd get up to clean. But I couldn't focus on cleaning because I had a baby to gaze at. And I couldn't gaze at the baby for long because I had work to do.

Sal came to see me and brought me a caramel apple cider from Starbucks which was fahbulous. I went to lunch with the ladies from my department at work and had a delicious salad with grilled garlic shrimp and tomatillo dressing. Even that was not enough to focus my poor, freaked-out brain.

Taking Z to the agency was, if possible, even more nerve wracking than the first time. I took in an 8x10 print of our nicest picture of her and a Lenox "Baby's First Christmas" ornament as gifts for meth mommy. I am still mad at her for exposing Z to what she did. But ... but. I am being optimistic, hoping that we will adopt Z and meth mommy will get clean and we will be able to have an open adoption at least to some degree. So I wanted to start off on the right foot. I give nice ornaments to my boys' birthmoms every year and I thought I'd just start the tradition for Z's birthmom in hope and faith. Which means I will probably have to quit calling her meth mommy ... that is probably not very nice.

I dropped Z off at the back door of the agency. I am still not ready to meet meth mommy. (Okay, now I will quit!) From the moment the caseworker took her I felt sick ... nauseated, nervous, sick. It is the weirdest, wrong-est feeling to drive away without her. It is so hard and scary. I so wanted to call someone and whine. I restrained myself. But I got home and got a wonderful package of uber-cute baby stuff from V in Utah ... and cried.

Heavenly Father so watches out for me through the eyes of my girlfriends. The timing of that package was seriously amazing.

Also, we found out we cannot get the court order to take Z to Arizona with us. So we have decided to stay home. How to you spell relief? H-O-M-E. So glad it worked out that way. I would have loved to spend time with G's parents but the whole travel thing for Christmas was freaking me out a lot.

Back to Monday. After a busy evening I finally decided I was going to just have to leave the mess and get my ADD self to bed. Sleep helped a lot.

Yesterday and today have been better. I have sent packages and attended a couple of work meetings and a couple of elementary class Christmas programs. I have done a load of dishes and 2 loads of laundry. I have spent a lot of time feeding and cuddling a darling little girl. I have gotten two nights' sleep with only moderate baby-related interruptions.

I am still tired. G is still not home until tomorrow. I am still not ready for Christmas. But I don't have to think about another visit (along with what it might mean for our future with Z that meth mommy is being so consistent with visits) until Dec. 28. Compared with that stress, a Christmas for which I am not entirely prepared is NOTHING!

My friend B (sometimes known on this blog as crazy B with all her good Mormon craziness) gave me a book called "Remembering Wholeness" that is full of all kinds of crazy stuff. The basic assertion therein is that we create our own reality by what we believe and envision for our lives. I think it's not entirely true ... but not entirely false. Somtimes things really are just beyond our control and sometimes we are meant to have adversity no matter what. We wouldn't hear so much from living prophets about adversity if there were such a simple way for everyone to avoid it entirely.

BUT ... there is real value to persistent and determined optimism, to a positive faith that can drive out fear, to asking God, in real confidence that we will receive, for what we want the most. That is what we're striving for with Z.

That's what's keeping me on the horse these days.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Plymouth Rock would land on them

Yes, my friends, times have changed.

I used to have an organized address list and be so excited to send out Christmas cards that I'd have the letter written in early November and everything stamped and mailed the first week in December.

My life just isn't like that anymore.

I am doing Christmas letters this afternoon. If you want one, please email your address to me. All you cousins who move around the country doing grad school and having babies and stuff, this means you. Also blog friends, if you want in on the fun, jump in.

Sal, I actually have your entire address. Zip code and everything. I think this is my first time mailing something to you without having to call and ask you for part of the address. So you're excused.

Feliz Navidad everybody; my baby is super ultra cute and it's frankly a miracle I am tearing myself away from gazing at her chubby cheeks for long enough to write this. Let alone mail Christmas letters. You might get them by New Year's this year. We'll see.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Baby brother bully buster

When I dropped the kids off at school just now, I happened to notice a big kid -- maybe fourth grade -- with a little kid -- maybe first grade -- in some kind of upside-down head lock, shouting, "Drop it now!" Who knows what he wanted the kid to drop, but I was pretty sure this was not a regulation move.

I rolled down my window and yelled, "HEY!" All three froze and then looked up at the sleepy-looking mom in a hat driving the white minivan. You know, the crusader-for-justice stereotype.

The big kid's friend thought he'd explain the situation. "It's his brother," he said.

"You don't treat anyone like that, no matter who it is," I said.

They split. I felt like Spider-Man. Total hero.

I also felt good in another way, a little more twisted way, because although my boys fight, it's just not like that -- such an uneven distribution of power. My boys fight like friends.

That's weird, that I am proud of the way my kids fight.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Can shopping count as an expression of faith?

I just bought a bunch of pink summer clothes in size 6-12 months.

Monday, December 11, 2006

What are you singing this Christmas?

I often remember Christmases by what I sang that year. For example, there was the year I sang "Cool Yule" and "A La Nanita Nana" at the ward party ... a capella, because I was too lazy to call someone to accompany me. And there was the year I sang "O Holy Night" at the ward party ... a capella, beacuse I was too lazy to call someone to accompany me.

That wasn't a typo, just an emerging pattern. Fortunately I can hold my own a capella. That's an important skill for a lazy singer with a phone phobia.

There was also the first year in Merced when it was so rainy and I sang "White Christmas" to myself over and over and over, then got a chance to do it (and other songs, too) at a company party for a member of our ward. They paid me a sorely needed $50. That was three years ago.

Two years ago I was fascinated with "I Wonder As I Wander." I sang it at the community's World AIDS Day vigil.

Last year I finally forced myself to learn "Gesu Bambino," something I've wanted to sing for a long time.

This year:

"Some Children See Him" for the Relief Society Party last Wednesday and again for sacrament meeting this coming Sunday ... perfect for me this year with the increasingly rainbowish family

"What Child is This" (Sally DeFord's lovely arrangment) for the ward party last Friday

That insanely high Mack Wilberg arrangement of "Joy to the World" with the ward choir this Sunday ... it is gorgeous but makes me dizzy!

"Still the Holiest Night," also with the ward choir this Sunday

The ward choir is doing a lot more but I am going to be in Tucson on Christmas Eve, so I have not attended choir practice much. Maybe that's why I'm feeling the void of Christmas music this season and blogging about it, probably to excess.

Christmas is music, yes it is!

Next year I want to learn "In the Bleak Mid-Winter." Anybody know a nice arrangement for a soprano soloist?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

What's playing at your house this Christmas?

We have our old favorites:

And some more recent discoveries(for us -- they're not all new releases):

And of course the quintessential:

Plus lots and lots of fun stuff I find on Rhapsody.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Feliz Navidad, have some carnitas

We had Sally Lou and fam over this afternoon and evening for games and dinner. Sally re-taught us Phase 10 (we forget games easily) and taught us Spite. Way fun.

We had these carnitas and woo, they rocked! Better than candy! We were going to go get a pie for dessert but no dessert was needed.

I heart you Sal. I'm sorry you weren't feeling well and had to go home early. I wish you could have stayed all evening.

Notice me not telling about your wicked caffeine addiction and your hyper-competitive-bordering-on-evil gameplaying style?

Oh. Well, I still love you.

Wasn't it cool how the kids hardly fought at all? Times have changed. For the better.

Is it too much to ask

That people with gory evil reproduction stories just keep them to themselves?

Honestly, I understand that people with bio kids sometimes have a hard time getting them, too. But they don't have to tell me exactly how long it took them to conceive (almost infallibly shorter than the 5 years we spent on that train), what they did that worked (TMI, people, TMI), how their doctor told them they should never have that sixth (!!) child, their near-miscarriages, actual miscarriages, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, hospital stays, two weeks of pushing, whatever.

You don't have to justify your fertility to me. I am happy that you have children born into your family. However, I'm a little less happy, generally speaking, when you insist on dwelling on the parts of our experience that are different rather than the parts that are the same and reminding me that there is a subsection of the Woman Club that I will never be able to join.

-end rant-

Thursday, December 07, 2006

First thing

The first thing anybody notices about baby Z is her eyelashes. That was the first thing the nurses at the hospital even said to me when I went to pick her up -- "Wait until you see her eyelashes!" They really are incredibly long and pretty! (I figure it is safe to show you just eyelashes, don't you think?)

As I think back, this was actually true for my boys, as well. S had these curly, black eyelashes that just arrested people. Well, that, and his ears. For some reason people noticed his ears. Little old ladies would always say, "Look how his ears lie so nice and flat to his head!"

A has girly eyelashes to this day. Just absolutely luxurious fringe around his deep, dark eyes.

Good to know Z could hold her own in an eyelash-batting contest around here, if it came to that. She's far more likely to have to compete in a belching contest, but as it happens, she is pretty darn good at that, too.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Because I have been given

So much to be thankful for today!
  • This sweet baby! Oh, my gosh, she is perfect. In the back of my mind I know it could be temporary. In my heart she is already mine. But right this moment my heart is right, she is mine for now and I get to enjoy every minute.
  • A wonderful husband! I am so grateful right now for a man who was brave enough to open up his heart to the possibility of a little child, even when it wasn't his idea. And a man whose arms I can come home to and be sure of even on scary days like yesterday when I had to leave Z with meth mommy for a whole hour and then when I came back to get her they couldn't find her for about 10 minutes, and then I got her back smelling like cigarettes. Yep, scary.
  • Big gangly long-legged boys who still like to give hugs and are great helpers, each in his own way.
  • A flexible and supportive workplace! Guess what, I am working FROM HOME until after Christmas, except on Tuesday and Thursday mornings when G will take care of Z and on Wednesday mornings when my friend C in the ward will watch her while I attend staff meeting. Wahoo!!! I feel so blessed, so lucky!
  • Inexplicable blessings! After visiting another baby daycare today and feeling so discouraged ... I have found a childcare situation for after Christmas that seems almost too good to be true. A family who is also preparing for foster-adopt. They have a two year old son and that's it. Located in a great neighborhood where two of our friends with little kids already live. Makes me wanna move there! I'm visiting this family tomorrow but so far it seems SO great, and I just have a really good feeling about it!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Big day - little update

The court hearing was not the bypass services hearing like I thought. It was a detention hearing. The court did confirm that the county was correct to detain Z. They will do the bypass services hearing on Jan. 16. So we have 6 more weeks to pray.

We also went to the doctor with Z and she had a visit with her birthmom. Both went okay. Z is back up at 8 lbs 14 oz, so almost at her birthweight and that is great. The birthmom visit was nervewracking but fine.

More details to come. I have to get dinner on the table and get ready for Mutual.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Q&A on foster adopt

Today we took baby Z to church. I was not sure if it was doing the right thing. She is only 4 days old and it is cold, flu and RSV season. But we had responsibilities and for heaven's sake, she's 9 pounds. Not exactly fragile.

Plus I figured since I got a plastic Christmas tree I might as well go ahead and betray all my principles and get myself a baby bucket. So she just spent the whole time in the baby bucket. And I spend the whole time answering people's questions. I thought you, loyal readers (ha) might like the same information.

Any baby who is born testing positive for drugs or alcohol is immediately detained by the county child welfare agency and placed in foster care upon discharge from the hospital. And thank you, blog readers, for not asking THAT question which is the ONE I am most sick of. There is no good way to answer it without either violating Z's privacy or lying. I have taken to saying, "They don't take these babies away for no reason," an answer with which I am still unsatisfied. I can't stand the labels that come from that -- drug baby, crack baby, meth baby.

Within three working days there must be a court hearing to determine whether the county will bypass services for the birthmom. Well, really just the mom since she is still legally the mother. If they bypass services that pretty much means the mom has lost her chance. This happens most frequently when the birthmom has already lost custody of another child or children or has had other babies born "pos tox." Z's mom has lost four older children, to their father (not the same father as Z's). It is horrible, actually. Meth is Satan, I think.

If they offer services to the mom then she will usually have between 3 and 6 months to clean up her act. Technically. Which, sadly enough, is pretty hard to do if you are already so addicted that you are doing meth within days before giving birth. I am fully aware that there is a sick mother here who is losing children because of a behavior that has become an illness she cannot control. I don't know if I believe she deserves to lose them. But I certainly do not believe Z deserves a meth mommy, and I am skeptical about her ability to get clean now if she couldn't do it when she was pregnant.

Where it gets complicated is if there is an extended family member or a father who comes forward and wants to take the child. So far they do not know of anybody but that doesn't mean they aren't out there. The putative father is incarcerated so at least we know he's not taking custody of any babies anytime soon.

Next most common question: "What nationality is she?" Uh, American. But if you were asking about ethnicity, Z is half white, half Hispanic, we think. It is a little funny, because we have always said we are just sticking with white and black, we aren't trying to become a rainbow family, but you know, never say never I guess.

Another question: what am I doing about work? I have a maternity leave plan in place. Currently I am off until after Tuesday's court hearing. At that point I will arrange childcare if the court decides to work toward reunification with the mom, or take 6 weeks off if it looks like it is moving toward adoption.

But, we have to remember, we may not have answers for a long time. Our friends Steve and Susie started this process about three years ago, and they just finally finalized their adoption of their little boy before they moved to Utah last spring. There was a lot of heartbreaking back and forth during that time with an aunt who was trying to gain custody. But there was a happy ending in a sealing room of the Fresno temple, and we got to be there. I'm keeping that day in my mind.

In spite of the daylong Q&A, I am glad we took Z to church. We now have an entire ward in love with her and praying for the outcome we want in Tuesday's court hearing where they will decide whether to bypass services for Z's mom. If any of my blog friends would like to join us with prayers and positive thoughts, I would appreciate it a lot.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Dear Baby Z

It is a darn good thing you are gorgeous, because you have no talent for sleeping. Also, is this a girl thing, this insistence on having a clean diaper before you eat? And also, how is it possible for one tiny person to soak through three nightgowns in one night?

Not that you are really that tiny. At 8 lbs 15 oz I think you may just be equipped to take on the wild things, aka your foster brothers. I am sorry about G calling you Queen Kong. It's not your fault we just watched that overblown silliness they called a movie. Don't listen to him. You are gorgeous, I mean it.

Now I am going to join your morning nap.