On 55 Hours of Freedom, Springily

My 55 hours of freedom began with a dinner party. To add to the slight stress of meeting new people, there was also the panic of the location – an upscale eatery. Confident in my knowledge of which silverware to choose (learned watching Titanic – just work your way in), I selected my favorite sweater dress. It’s navy and red, short and tight enough to be alluring, and high-necked enough to be modest. Plus, you don’t have to worry about a necklace, since you’re covered. That plus tights and boots and a little bit of eyeshadow turned me into a very compelling dinner companion. I remembered to grab my sense of humor on the way out the door, and had a lovely evening. Also, I ate everything. All of the meats. It was spectacular. If all I need to do to go have entertaining conversation and delicious food is put myself together, I will happily do that any day.

When we got home, we decided that we were going to sleep in the igloo we made last week during the epic spring blizzard. (I got sent home due to a power outage at work on Wednesday, and so we spent 6+ hours building this amazing 6’ tall snow fort – the man encapsulated it on Thursday, and thus, we are now in brief possession of an immense front yard igloo.) We hauled out blankets and pillows and snacks and fell asleep in our snow cave. It was not a night of great sleep. I was cold and sore, my hips protesting about the ice below them, my body protesting about the lack of heat and the cold everywhere. At one point, I decided I’d be generous and give the man my hat (bad decision for me), and I think we woke up at least 7 times that night. Lots of pulling and rearranging.

However, on the plus side, I now know that I do not want to pursue snow-camping as a hobby, and I’m glad I didn’t have to drive to the mountains to figure that out. But it was fun. Our friends stopped by very late in the night (after we’d gone to sleep), so it was fun to wake up to a yell of, “They’re in there!” and have a late night igloo meeting.

Saturday brought cat-snuggling. Carlos has been missing me, because I’ve been a terrible cat mother lately, and so I went home Saturday morning to snuggle him. And in theory, to finish cleaning (ha, guess how that turned out?). Then there was a yoga party – we built a two-story tall snowman and had the most delicious sangria before coming home and napping hard. After the nap, we broke for Easter preparations and then made dinner (the leftovers from the steakhouse were amazing).

Easter Sunday – as usual, it was too cold to wear my Easter dress, so I selected a pink lacy shirt and jeans. I’m trying to get into softer, more lady-like colors, but I’m still not convinced. If it’s not black, I don’t know about it. Adulting is proving to be harder than I thought, at least sartorially.

We had first breakfast. I was excited to meet new family, and there were jelly beans involved (which is never a bad thing). Then we had brunch with my dad’s family, and stopped off to see my grandpa at the nursing home before we headed back home to wait for AAA to pick up my brother’s car, which had stopped working. Ha, trying to push an SUV into our busy street was quite the adventure. It got stuck in the hole next to our driveway, and so it had to hang out half in the street and half in the driveway until the tow truck driver could get there.

I brought my 9-year old to my mom’s family’s Easter dinner. She’s my favorite person – a small blonde bundle of energy. She had flowers and a card for my grandma, as well as a chocolate bunny, and she made bunny cake! (Everyone knows how to make bunny cake and I feel like it’s something I’m going to have to learn how to do – I’m into the idea of being able to garnish a cake with all sorts of additional sources of sugar, and when we were at my grandma’s house, I ate all of the Easter-flavored twizzlers off the cake while we were cutting it.) She’s so talkative! (Maybe I was that talkative at that age?) She’s headed off for Spring Break, and she goes to the same elementary school that we all went to, so we had a lot to talk about.

I wanted to show her some acro yoga, because I imagined that she’d enjoy it since she does gymnastics. As it turns out, she loved. Poor boyfriend could not catch a break. She had him going through pose after pose after pose, determined to learn more. At one, she was demanding that we do something really cool. It made me laugh to see how excited she was about it, and how determined. He told her that once she learns how to do a handstand, she can do a lot more. She was super eager, and he was a really good sport about letting her leap all over him. When we dropped her back off at her house, she made him do it all over again to show her parents. It was really sweet.

I was exhausted. 55 hours isn’t quite long enough, is it? I feel like this week is going to bring a lot of necessary errand-completion and tasks to be checked off, so I’m feeling productive and excited to leap into it.

On the Weekend, Always Belatedly

Ah, the weekends. The 9-5 grind is exactly that, a grind, and by the end of the day, I’m generally exhausted. But the weekend provides me with roughly 55 hours of usable free time – 5pm Friday to midnight Sunday – and I try to make it a point to use as much of that time as possible.

Last weekend was no exception.

My mom had asked me if I’d like to bring the guy that I’m seeing to family dinner on Friday night – my favorite meal of the year, corned beef and cabbage – and I’d immediately declined the invitation. But then I thought about it, after telling him that I’d declined his invitation without even asking him. I realized that it probably wouldn’t be too bad if he met my people, so I re-invited him, nervously.

I’m known for bringing guys home to meet the family very early on – maybe it’s the sadist in me that likes to see them sweat, or maybe it’s that I want to see how they can manage themselves. My family is quite lovely, so it’s not like it’s difficult, but I’m a firm believer that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he interacts with your family in that sort of environment. Is he polite? Does he speak up? Is he patient? I’m impatient, usually polite, and always talking, so I need someone who can be patient, polite, and match my level of enthusiasm for the conversation. I love my family, and I want them to know the people I spend my time with, and for those people to know my family. Also, free food. Plus, my grandmothers are pretty fantastic people.

To my surprise, he said yes in the very best way. A long text message string of rap lyrics. I laughed out loud when I read it, and then immediately sent a few panicky emails to my grandmother, mom, and aunt, so that there’d be another place at the table and to make sure there was enough food. (I promised to eat less, if need be.)

And so that happened. I picked him up, ten minutes late (surprise, surprise), and we made our way the four blocks to my grandmother’s house (convenient). The evening was wonderful. He talked – he may have talked more than I did! (Ehhh, probably not.) He deftly handled the faux-argument we have over the men’s side of the table (they always mess up the passing order to make sure that their buddies get the best food first – and the women always tease them about it), falling in line with the “rules” of the passing and the back-passing. He definitely got in on the good end of the back-passing – he had meat, potatoes, and cabbage before I’d even gotten the bread.

We lingered for four hours. He got to see the reenactment of the guys and my mom dropping me off at college – my uncle’s impression of me sobbing and begging them to take me back to Denver includes, “I’ll go to DU, I swear!” and is fantastically hilarious – as well as my mom’s excellent impression of the “purse carrier,” which is exactly what I’m not allowed to marry. It was a really wonderful dinner, and I felt so happy to be surrounded by such lovely people, and to come from such a loving and kind family.

On Saturday, I went to see an old co-worker, who’s now my mentor/friend. She has the most adorable two-year old son, so I was happy to play with him while we caught up. It’s so easy to lose touch with people once you don’t see them every day, so I’ve been trying to make an effort to stay in contact and not lose people just because they’ve slid out of the periphery. Also, she’s very good about getting in touch with me, so that definitely helps. I always laugh and thank her for being a part of my village (village people, I think that’s what I’m going to call my wonderful network of humans), because I’ve been to her kid’s birthday parties, her family events, and I was the first person to ever babysit for her son.

Babies are the sweetest things. He’s talking up a storm now, and he has the biggest eyes and the happiest smile. I chased him and tickled him, and his peals of laughter brought me so much joy. I love how determined they get, or how frustrated, or how giggly. There is so much pure energy and pure emotion, and as I left, he stood by the door and waved to me, over-ready for his nap. My friend texted me after I left and told me that he was out 60 seconds after she put him down.

For some reason, I was in cleaning mode on Saturday. I have been struggling to get my house under control for a while now (again, no surprise here), and I wanted to go home and do some good work. And so I did. I got my room rearranged, opened up the box that contained my new mattress and got it unfurled, foam puffing up immediately. I got more things folded and hung up and stuffed into drawers (I mean, folded, definitely neatly). I threw away trash and cleaned out the fridge. I scrubbed the sink and unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher. It was nice progress, and it felt good. My friend Gina will help me with the rest of it tonight.

Saturday night, we went to my old favorite Thai place. I’ve only ever ordered one thing there (five years is a long time to not stray on a menu, and I intend to keep up the streak) – pineapple curry, medium. Sometimes with shrimp, sometimes just extra pineapple, sometimes veggies. Always delicious. That is the food I crave on Sundays (when they’re closed), when I’m sad, or sick, or happy, or ….any time.

After that, we stopped into the PS Lounge – if you haven’t done that, you need to. Your life will get so much better. We had a few drinks there, and sat talking, oblivious to the bar around us. (Not entirely, but it makes it sound so much more romantic if I put it that way, doesn’t it?) Regardless, the conversations are so fantastic. I really like that I’ve met someone who knows stuff about stuff I don’t know. And who’s willing to tolerate the things that I love. He told me the other night that he loves that I always have something to add – actually add, a different perspective or input – to conversations. I laughed, what else am I going to do? We haven’t really disagreed about anything yet, and I keep trying to find something where we have drastically differing viewpoints…thus far, no luck.

My friend Jacob was playing at a bar down the road, so tipsy adventure me decided that we needed to at least pop in. So we did, briefly. I danced a little less than I would have liked, nervous energy coursing through my body. Bringing someone into your comfort zone is so hard. I like people. But it’s funny, because as much as I am uneasy in new places or doing new things, I’m equally uncomfortable when I’m bringing someone into my spaces, my people, my things.

Sunday morning, we woke up and went for a bike ride. He was so sweet a few weeks ago and put my bike back together for me (to be fair, he’s the one who took it apart in the first place….but I had a tangled chain somehow?), so I’ve been able to ride around with him. I’m terrified of city biking – too many people in Chicago get smashed by buses on bikes – but I’m getting better! We did 20 miles on Sunday, looping through the park on our way downtown, made a pit stop for ice cream, and then to REI (obviously), and then back around to the water treatment plant, and then back. By the end, I’d lost all of my energy, and the last few miles were me playing the mental fortitude game in my head. But I made it! There’s an uphill part right at the end, which is miserable. It’s the last big push before relaxation, and when I made it, I was overjoyed and that feeling of accomplishment (or at least, not failure) washed over me.  And on the way I ran into a couple of friends who I hadn’t seen in over a year, which was wonderful!

Ha, to make things way sexier, I wore bike shorts. And since I left my car at the Thai restaurant the night before, I had no shoes to wear other than my cheap little black flats. So between the bright orange bike shirt and short combo and the completely not bike shoes, I made a very official-looking exerciser. You know, I make fun of the bike shorts/shirt people (and will continue to do so…), but, there’s something to it. My sit bones were not even sore as a result of the padding in the shorts.

Then I went to Verizon and got a new phone. I’ve had my mom’s old iPhone for over a year now, and she had it for two years before that, and the thing was just starting to lose everything. No battery life, no storage, the whole deal. It was time. Verizon can definitely thank Lil’ Wayne for pushing me over the edge; I’d been vacillating between the iPhone 6s (or trying to wait until the 7 came out?) and an Android, and Samsung came out with the Galaxy S7, which is water-resistant (seriously, you could put it in a fish tank and it would still work – I’m so curious but not $700 worth of curious, so I’ll leave that to the professionals and try to keep my phone on dry land), and that’s what did it. I’m a bath-taker and also incredibly accident-prone, so this seems like the right choice. Also, I had an S4 once, and I loved it. Apparently, the S6 was a miserable piece of equipment, and they’ve corrected that (righted their wrongs and put things back) in the newest version, so I’m in.

We shall see. It’s been a funny adjustment, because I had forgotten everything. But alas, it’s like riding a bike. Your fingers and brain relearn the moves, and it’s been not even 48 hours and I’m back in the groove.

Then I had dinner with my mom. First dinner, to be more accurate. We ate salad and caught up for an hour or so. It was so nice. I really love my mom. Then I had second dinner with my friend Emily. Man, I really love sushi and sake. I also love having friends that you’ve known forever. It’s so wonderful to love someone who really knows you. Emily has known me since high school, and I am really happy that we haven’t let our friendship slip. She’s beautiful, smart, funny, and all of the things I love. We had a nice time, except for the fact that my dark circles threatened to swallow me whole. I had that blank, empty stare of exhaustion by the time we were done.

Finally, finally, came the sleep. My exhausted body was so pleased to find bed and pillows and blankets, and I was gone, weekend concluded. Not too bad for 55 hours, right? Errands, accomplishments, exercise, family, friends, dancing, date night, alcohol, ice cream, adventure, new technology, and babies! All of the best things. Nailed it.

On Adoption Camp, Nervously

We’re about to start Domestic Adoption Camp. This year is a big year for me – I’m co-coordinator of the Elementary Programming, which means that every single activity that the Pre-K through 5th graders are doing was crafted by myself and my co-coordinator. This is a huge deal. The success of the camps requires the dedication of the volunteers, and I’m hoping that every single child enjoys every single minute of camp.

Domestic Adoption Camp is the smallest camp run by the Heritage Camps for Adoptive Families. It’s also the newest – only in its fourth year. This will be second year being involved with Domestic Adoption Camp, even though it’s my third with HCAF.

I’m hoping that we’ve come up with a programming schedule that is flexible but also enjoyable, and something that will be memorable for the kids. More than that, I’m excited to have been given such a huge responsibility. I know that sounds silly, but I like to think that I take to leaderships positions pretty naturally and I hope that I can handle any unforeseen conflicts with grace.

The best part of camp for me was the Adult Adoptee Panel. My brother and I got to sit down with several other adult adoptees and speak to the parents about our experiences. It was lighthearted at times, but also heavy. These parents are so dedicated to their children, and it shows in how involved they are, not only in their children’s lives, but also in the various communities that they belong to, namely, the adoption community.

This year, I suggested that perhaps we’d bring in a parent or two to talk about their experiences raising adopted children. The camp organizers loved the idea, and they asked my mom if she’d be willing to come and speak. (I said yes before I even asked her.)

I’m excited that she’s coming. I didn’t realize how excited I was until I kept bringing it up to anyone that I talked to about camp. I can’t wait to get up there with my brother and my mom and talk about adoption. She’s great. I’m biased, of course, but I really do believe that she did the parenting thing correctly — a little bit of strict guidance mixed with a lot of understanding.

We did all of the setup today. We’ve got tie dye on the agenda, which will be one of the best (and worst) parts. It’s messy and hectic, but I think the kids will really enjoy having something to take home with them.

I stole an idea from a creative writing teacher at my high school, too. In class, he had us write letters to our future selves. I think I’m due to receive mine this year, and I can’t wait to see what seventeen year old me had to say about stuff. I wonder if I’m where she thought I’d be. (I’m guessing not, but we’ll see.) I’m going to have all of the kids write letters to their future selves, talking about what it is that they think they’ll be doing, what they love now, and encouraging them to write a bit about what being adopted means to them.

One of the things that I love about these camps is that while the focus is on adoption, it’s not entirely about adoption (at least for the kids). Since I primarily work with the elementary kids, I don’t force the topic of adoption. If they want to talk about it, they will. And some of them are bursting with pride about it while others don’t want to talk about it at all. My brother usually works with the middle or high school kids, and I know that they spend a lot more time focusing on adoption and what it means to them. The camps don’t force the kids into anything – they let them handle it all at their own pace in an environment full of adopted kids and adoptive families. It’s beautiful to see what happens.

I love how curious the parents are. During our panel last year, they asked so many questions. We honestly could have sat there and talked all day. Mike and I talked about our differing relationships with our birth families and how they affect us — last year, I had just come back from my birth mom’s wedding, and I was still reeling from all of the love that surrounded me (and her) during that time. I remember thinking it’d be weird that my mom wanted to go with me, but it ended up working out perfectly.

This year should be interesting. I know my mom is nervous, but I also know that she’s going to do great. The parents are going to love her sense of humor (it’s sharp), and her knowledge about children in general (she’s a Special Education Teacher with 30 + years of experience). She knows a lot more about parenting than she thinks she does, and I hope that Mike and I are proof of that. I told her to talk about our teenage years specifically, because I know that a lot of the parents are terrified of that. I laugh, because last year, I told them that my mom’s motto during that time was “This too shall pass,” and I think they appreciate that kind of honesty and humility. I know that they all worry about doing the right thing, and I think it’s important to go into it with a flexible attitude while knowing that some things are going to go well and others aren’t — and you just have to adjust and move forward.

On Periods and Parenting, Lightheartedly

We’re dog-sitting this week. Instead of the boxer-lab mix, it’s a tiny thing. Like a shiatsu or something. Her name is Lucy and she’s my mom’s old neighbor’s dog. Turns out, having multiple dogs is really hard. Having a small dog is even harder.

The cat, Carlos (Carl), hates dogs. He tolerates Acorn because Acorn isn’t curious anymore, and lately, I’ve been catching them touch noses in greeting. It makes me all fluttery inside in the best way. It’s like we’re inching closer to my dream of walking in one day to see them snuggling in a furry nap pile. Lucy, the small dog, is curious about Carlos.

Carlos is playing this cool. I’ve spent the last hour surfing the internet (job hunting, reading news, you know), and watching Carlos mess with Lucy. Carlos is sitting on a kitchen chair in the middle of the kitchen. Lucy is sitting on the floor, wagging her tail, intent on inching close enough to check him out. I assume in the animal kingdom this is some sort of mammalian verification program that can only be achieved through an extensive smell-valuation.

Every time she gets close enough, Carlos doesn’t seem to notice her. But I’m not stupid and neither is my cat. He lets her get close, then he rears up into Halloween-silhouette pose and emits a terrifying growl. She starts barking; he flexes his claws; she wiggles; he strikes. She does a calculated retreat back to my legs, just far enough out of his reach that he calms down and close enough to me that he’s aggravated. He’s currently glaring at her through the bars of his chair, eyes narrowed into greenish-yellow slits.

My money’s on Carlos. He’s savvy, suave, and supremely territorial. She’s way out of her league here, but doesn’t know it yet.

***

Of course I saw this on Facebook last week, forgot to click on it because I don’t watch videos in public, and finally got around to it today. Thank you for being seven days late on the news cycle, NPR! (That wasn’t a dig. That was a genuine thank you.)

It’s a 2:19 commercial for a pre-period prep kit for girls. It’s hilarious. It’s about a girl who doesn’t have her period yet and fakes it. Her mom, knowing that her daughter lied, throws her an insane “First Moon Party” complete with “vagician,” “uterus pinata,” and more. At the end, the daughter admits she lied and the mom admits that the party was her punishment and then presents her with the pre-period prep kit.

The commentary by the author misses the mark. It’s about how the ad is a refreshing change of pace from normally awkward and offensive vagina product marketing. (True.) But then she decides to talk about the ways in which the ad is offensive because it pits the mother and daughter against each other, portraying the mother as scheming to embarrass her daughter and the daughter as a spoiled tween. I didn’t get that at all. The video made me laugh out loud. I watched it twice.

I remember when everyone else was getting their periods, and of course, my late bloomer self just wasn’t there yet. I remember pleading with the heavens for a period before I started high school. “Come on, God, please, just don’t let it start when I’m a freshman.” I think that was a pretty reasonable request. Everyone else had it. And they concealed it poorly, carrying unnecessary purses to the bathroom with them, or making a show of putting something in their pocket, while I seethed with pre-pubescent jealousy and got back to coloring and praying for blood. (Game of Thrones really doesn’t have a whole lot on the horrors of middle school.)

When it finally came (right before high school, thanks for making good on that one God), I refused my mother’s offers of assistance and settled down to figure it out all by myself. Much like the first go at leg shaving (again, “I can do it myself, Mom” said more from embarrassment and the terror of coming adulthood than real attitude at her assistance), I failed pretty miserably for a while. The leg shaving was rough because I didn’t know how to just rinse the razor and so instead of slicing my legs like a normal kid, I cut the shit out of my fingers trying to wipe off the blade.

My parents were divorced, and my dad, being completely overwhelmed by parenting a girl child, mishandled the period situation terribly. He’d have female friends bring me pads and try to have some sort of talk, but at that point, I was well-informed about the situation at hand and didn’t want or need assistance. At least he tried, although I could have done without it. It’s not terribly complicated and later, I would discover a vagina community online and the safety of anonymous reading would lead me to a wealth of knowledge without the embarrassment of actual face-to-face communication.

Part of the struggle is going through it on your own, making realizations, and then adjusting behavior patterns as a result. It’s very much like the scientific method, except it applies to your life. Parents are sometimes necessarily the adversary just because they’ve been tasked with ushering their children into adulthood. The unwanted presence of help is often viewed as antagonistic, and whether or not the mom should have punished her daughter for lying to her, the whole thing is an adorable farce about a very thrilling time in a woman’s life.

I’m pretty sure my mom cried. It’s bittersweet. Your kid is growing up — something they so desperately want — and parents are learning how to nurture independence and let go — something they so desperately want to get right. I’m pretty sure it’s terrifying all around. Let’s inject some humor into it, because we can. And we should. Periods suck. Might as well have a laugh.

On the French Toast Attempt, Painfully

I almost named my cat “Murphy” because in many ways, I am the living embodiment of Murphy’s law. If something is weird, it will most likely happen to me. I’m that guy.

That said, I’m also a huge proponent of a life without shoes (or socks or protective footwear whatsoever).

Since I never spent too much time in the kitchen until recently, my ability to attract danger (danger is clearly the wrong word here) and my lack of shoes never became much of an issue, other than the occasional stubbed toe or tripping over something.

Last Friday morning, I was attempting challah French toast. I had been to the store, procured the necessary ingredients (boyfriend told me that if I bought one more carton of eggs, he’d murder me, since I seem to keep buying eggs that no one will ever eat), and returned to begin my breakfast endeavor.

My mom bought us new knives for Christmas and they’re fantastic. (If you click on the link, you can see the orange bread knife…..) I was using the bread knife to slice my challah, and had moved on to preparing the liquid. I had honey in the microwave to soften, and when I went to open the door, I pushed the bread knife off the counter and onto the floor.

Except it didn’t hit the floor.

I felt it hit my foot and didn’t think anything of it, but my friend Shelby turned around and gasped. I looked down. Blood, blood. Everywhere, blood. I grabbed my foot. More of it. Calmly, I examined the wound. More blood. I grabbed some paper towel to put on it. That failed. “I think I need to go to the ER,” I said, as Shelby grabbed me a bath towel.

Boyfriend was downstairs, and he couldn’t hear my cries for help. (I thought he was ignoring me.) When Shelby went to get him, he came running up. At this point, I was hopping around trying to gather my wallet and keys and stuff. He swept me into his arms and carried me to the car, then drove me the six or so blocks to the nearest hospital.

The ER parking lot was full, as was the parking garage. The paper towels were rubber-banded around my foot, and I had it held as high as I could. “Don’t get blood on the dashboard,” he cautioned. I glared at him. Pssh, I wasn’t about to bleed on the dash.

We found parking two blocks from the ER entrance – in hindsight, he could have pulled into the ambulance driveway or something, but you know what they say about hindsight – and then he swept me back into his arms and hauled me the two blocks to the ER. The police/security guy guarding the desk saw us coming and brought out a wheelchair for me.

“We’ve got another one!” the front desk guy yelled. (Another ER visitor or another bread knife accident victim, I will never know.)

They wheeled me to the back, Shelby and boyfriend sat with me. Boyfriend cracked jokes. I stared at my foot, feeling silly. “You did this to avoid cooking French toast, didn’t you?” he asked. I was not amused, mostly because I had been so set on creating a fantastic breakfast based on a top-rated internet recipe. (Ha, those. The refuge of desperate beginner cooks like myself.)

He held my hand when they numbed it. I cried. I’m pretty tough, but I cried. And then laughed because I was so embarrassed about crying. He later told me he hadn’t expected me to have such a strong grip. I told him he was lucky he still had a hand.

I was concerned about tendon problems, as I couldn’t bend my toes. I wiggled them for the doctor and was rewarded with pain I can’t even explain. Luckily, there was no tendon damage. We could see them! That was pretty cool.

Three stitches later, I was all set to go home. Boyfriend went and got the car, then lifted me into the seat. When we got home, he threw me over his shoulder like a caveman (much to his amusement) and brought me back inside.

I finished the French toast. It wasn’t half bad. Needed powdered sugar.

Four days later, I’m still in pain. The wound is healing nicely, but I still can’t bend my foot or lift my big toe (“the front toe” as I kept trying to explain to the doctor — what the hell is a front toe? And why was I so set on calling it that?). Walking is painful. Moving is painful. I’ve been removed from any work involving standing until at least Friday, so that’s good.

But I’m on the mend and feeling silly. My brother stabbed himself accidentally in November, so it’s now a big joke that we’re not allowed to have any knives in the house. Boyfriend teased that we’ll have to check them out from him now, and that they’ll only be able to be used with direct supervision. My mom suggested plastic cutlery.

Moral of the story: shoes in the kitchen from now on!

 

 

On Boyfriend and Baseball, Happily

The boyfriend and I have very different love languages. I’m all about expression and adorable things. He would never be caught dead using the phrase “love language” since it involves both emotions and communication, neither of which do much for him. 

Last weekend, I had to take the twins that I babysit to a birthday party. (They’re my absolute favorite family to sit for — the kids are amazing.) I asked boyfriend if I could borrow his car because it’s cleaner than mine, but also because it’s a bit bigger and I feel safer hauling children around in it. To my surprise, he came with me to pick up the kids. I’ve known him for over a year, but I’ve never had the chance to see him interact with children. I think that you can tell a lot about a guy based on how he handles children. 

He stayed in the car at first, hesitant. These kids aren’t shy at all, so upon realizing that my car wasn’t there, they got curious and wanted to head out immediately. They put their booster seats in his car, and I introduced them to the boyfriend. The questions began immediately. 

“Do you live together?” “Are you married?” “What’s your name?” “Do you have a dog?” “Can we open that thing?” (The sunroof.) “How old are you?” 

We had time to kill before the party started, so I decided I wanted to run to Costco to grab a hot dog before I dropped them off. (I had forgotten what Costco is like on a Sunday afternoon, so naturally, we did not have time to actually complete the mission.)

We were in the parking lot and I called for everyone to hold hands as we walked in. The little boy, who’s six, grabbed boyfriend’s hand. It was the sweetest thing. Boyfriend didn’t even flinch. 

We got inside, and immediately, they saw some Batman toys. We stood and looked at those for a bit before trying to get in line for food. I checked the time and realized that we didn’t have time for the line and to get to the birthday party on time, so I herded everyone back to the car, after much discussion about what they wanted to eat. 

On the way back to the car, the hand-holding resumed. The little boy was holding my hand, but he decided that he wanted to hold boyfriend’s hand, so he switched. I gave boyfriend a look that said, “What am I, chopped liver?” The little girl was not as impressed with boyfriend as her brother was, so she was quite content to hold my hand. 

The chatter was constant and hilarious. There were a few times when I had to avoid boyfriend’s eyes so I wouldn’t laugh. 

We dropped the kids off and ran errands, including a stop at my mom’s house to help her with her computer, and then we went back to grab the kids. The little boy had gotten a toy owl at the party, and when I asked him what he was going to name the owl, he said, “What’s the name of the guy in the car?” and when I told him boyfriend’s name, he said that’s what he was going to name the owl, although I think that half an hour later, the owl had a new name. 

I think I fell in love with him after we got the kids back to their house, and were playing with them in the backyard. The little boy wanted to play baseball. He’s obsessed with baseball, and even though I’m not the best at the game, I did play t-ball and coach pitch, so I feel like our skills are about equal. I was pitching and the little boy was hitting, and then he declared that it was boyfriend’s turn. 

Turns out, boyfriend is horrible at baseball. Horrible. I’ve always been under the impression that he’s great at all things sport, so finding out that he can’t hit a ball made me ridiculously happy. (Not that we compete at all…)

At one point, the little boy strode over to the boyfriend, who was at bat but had struck out several times in a row, and very seriously explained that he shouldn’t swing if the ball was too high or too far out because that was a ball. Boyfriend gave me a bewildered look, and I had to turn around because I was laughing at the little boy’s air diagram of the strike zone. The little boy trotted back to first base and boyfriend hit a home run. 

I know that it was just an afternoon, but it meant so much to me that he spent his only day off running errands with me, hauling six-year olds around, and hanging out with my mom. He was such a good sport about it, and I really appreciated how sweet he was with the kids. He did do quite a bit of gloating about being the favorite, but I was too happy to even argue. 

On Adoption Camp, Happily

This past weekend, I volunteered at Domestic Adoption Camp, which is exactly what it sounds like: a camp for families who have adopted children inside the United States.

I was one of three counselors helping with the pre-kindergarten/kindergarten group. We had five little girls in our group, which was fantastic. The smaller group size allowed us to do a lot more one-on-one activities, which is important with kids that small.

As domestic adoptees and (arguably) adults, my brother Mike and I were invited to speak on an adult adoptee panel in front of adopted parents. I was nervous and excited. Adoption is a non-issue for me; it’s always been a part of my life and I’ve never really thought of it as being a huge deal. It’s not anything that sets me apart; it’s just a fact.

As I get older, I find that adoption is more important to me. It’s something I’m proud of. It’s something I respect and for which I am eternally grateful. It’s something that does set me apart, to a certain extent. It is a curious thing, the way that I now have so many different mothers: I have my birth mom, my mom, my brother’s birth mom, my dad’s girlfriend. I love each and every one of them.

The panel focused on issues related to adoption and how we as adoptees handled certain things like self-esteem, open adoptions, searching for parents, and transparency. I explained that Mike and I have very different relationships with our birth mothers; I told them how envious I was when Mike got to meet his birth father (Mike jumped in to say that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be); I told them that even though I’ll never get to meet mine, the curiosity about what he looks like only grows stronger.

It’s a magical thing, to be surrounded by families like these. I’ve learned a lot about family over the years, as one tends to do when confronted with the inescapable reality that family is non-negotiable and therefore something you’ll have to adapt to. I’ve learned that family is what you make it. I have friends who are family. I have family who is family. I have family that I don’t consider family.

I have been fortunate enough to find so many different relationships, and when I went to my birth mom’s wedding in South Dakota, my family got a little bit bigger. (I’ve been playing a word game on the phone with my biological aunt. It’s been fantastic – she’s a seriously worthy adversary.)

I have been incredibly blessed to build the kind of strong support system that everyone should have. Through my participation in these adoption camps, I have been able to see the strength of family. The powerful and overwhelming amount of love there is something that gives me chills, in the best way.

Speaking on the panel, I told the adults that transparency was important. And unconditional love. I told them that when I started therapy, I told my mom that I might be angry with her sometimes, and in her graceful way, she told me that she knew that and that she supported me. I told them that if I were to be arrested tomorrow, the first phone call would be to my mother. I told them even though she doesn’t always like what I’m saying, she’s always there to listen. And for me, that’s huge.

When I told her my birth mom was getting married, she wanted to go. I was a little nervous, but I think she was more excited. I was grateful that she was there so that we could all share the experience, both of my moms and me. My family.

I watched a documentary called “Closure” about one woman’s search for her family. She had been adopted by a family in Washington when she was an infant, and as she grew older, she struggled with the not-knowing. (It’s a serious pull.) She began the search and was ultimately successful. It was a moving story, but a poignant reminder that family is forever.

In the documentary, they showed a clip of an old home video in which a stranger was questioning the dad about the kids (eight of them, I believe, all different colors and kinds). “How’d you get so many kids?” the man asks. The dad responds, “They stick to us like magnets. Better question: how do you get rid of them?” Laughter.

My favorite part is the laughter. At the last camp, I remember a girl telling the story of how her parents came to find her. They were in Africa, she was in an orphanage. She beamed as she recounted how they picked her up for the first time, and she smiled at each one of them, and they knew that she was their daughter. She radiated joy as she told the story, and my heart ached with happiness. I could tell that the parents had told her that story over and over, and I could feel the pride she felt.

My mom, Mike, and I have our things. We call each other the “worst guy” and we regularly quote The Sandlot. You’re the worst guy if you are doing something annoying, like when my mom senses that the stop light ahead might – just might – change, so she slows down while it’s still green. You can hear the chorus of groans and “Ugh, you’re the worst guy!” coming from both of us. My mom and I dissolve into a fit of laughter-induced tears when we tell the story of Mike falling off the treadmill. (No one, including Mike, thinks it’s funny.)

Family may be what you make it, but for some of us, we’re lucky enough to have more opportunities for family than most people.

On Parenthood, Bittersweetly

When I was younger, I assumed I wanted children. It was a given. I was going to grow up, get a job, get married, have babies. Simple plan, right?

But suddenly, I’m just not so sure. (About any of it, really, not just the babies part.)

I love babies. Babies love me. I’ll never forget the way my heart melted when one of the little kids I babysit learned how to say “babysit.” “Bye Mommy, bye daddy,” she said, waving her little hands. “Kay-ee bayee-sit.” In that moment, I was absolute mush.

The other night, I was babysitting for one of my favorite families.  I played baseball with the little boy in the backyard — I’ve decided that we may need to bring in an umpire because his perception of what constitutes the strike zone is nowhere near mine. The little girl showed me the things that she’d collected and artfully arranged on a tray next to a bear wearing pearls and a wedding dress. We played “amusement park” in the basement. One of the games involves putting stuffed animals on a person (me). It ended with the cutest snuggle pile ever. 

As I was reading them stories before bed (from a Star Wars encyclopedia), I thought about how much I’ve treasured all of these growing-up moments. I thought about the families I sat for in Chicago, how the three boys told me that I reminded them of the beach, and so instead of getting ice cream my last night with them, we went to the beach to put our toes in the water one last time. That night, they asked me why I was crying while I read their stories. 

The other night, as usual, the kids asked me if I would snuggle them after we finished reading about droids, Sith lords, and Jedi masters. As I listened to their stories about their old cat Fred, I realized that they’re not going to be babies forever. And then I imagined what parenthood must be like. 

Parenthood must be the most bittersweet job one could possibly have. They are so dependent on you; without you, there is nothing. But then they grow. They grow into inquisitive, wonderful human beings. They throw tantrums and wear strange clothes and develop habits you don’t approve of. And at some point, you’re not necessary to their survival. You have to let them out into the world. 

Does your heart break into a million pieces every time you let them go a little further? The first day of school? Their first dance? High school graduation? College? (I always used to roll my eyes at my mom because when I would drive from Denver to Chicago, she’d call me every hour, on the hour. I totally get it now.)

Parenthood is frustrating. I feel like after a while, the cute to frustrating ratio tips dangerously into the “Always Frustrating!” zone and the cuteness just dries up. Am I cute now? No. I’m grumpy, and tired, and constantly burdened by things that will someday seem trivial. (This may accurately describe everyone age 10 and over.) 

Is it worth it? 

Everyone says yes, but maybe that’s because they’re hoping enough yeses will lead to grandchildren. And then you can start the cute to frustrating ratio time-lapse all over again. When the cute baby grandchildren smile and do the baby laugh, you totally forget what it must have been like to have teenagers. 

(I think this is a real thing because a while ago, my mom texted us to thank us for not being sullen teenagers. I laughed and texted back something along the lines of, “Do you not remember the three years I spent as a moody, semi-Goth teen?” Her reply was something about how she must have forgotten. I think we can all be grateful for that.) 

On the Wedding Weekend, Happily

The road trip was a success. We left a little bit later than I had anticipated on Friday morning, but the drive went smoothly.

We stopped somewhere in Wyoming:

Rapid City is only about 7 hours from Denver – maybe I’ll have to start making the trip more often!

We grabbed some barbecue for dinner and then headed back to the hotel, where I promptly fell asleep. I was exhausted.

This is the view from the Rapid City airport, where we rented a car. (Mom’s car is too old for road trips and Simon has a pending transmission issue, so we took my grandma’s car. It’s thirteen years old but only has 38,000 miles. I don’t think it had ever gone over 100 mph.) We needed to rent a car because the road up to the wedding was very rocky and nearly impassable by regular car.

This is a lovely picture but it doesn’t do the road justice. It was rocky. It was rough. I’d never really done off-roading before, so I threw the car into low gear and proceeded cautiously. I managed just fine.

The site of the wedding was about an hour and a half outside of Rapid City. Rural South Dakota is beautiful; it’s a lot like Colorado. After leaving the highway for a dirt road, we came up on the rocky road (just after I’d declared that we hadn’t needed to rent a car after all). Following the rocky road for probably the better part of a mile led us to another dirt road, which was the driveway.

We parked. We were the first ones there. They were still setting up for the traditional sweat, so we hung out for a while. It was hot! The couple on whose property the ceremony was held had an adorable granddaughter who was eager to help out.

The sweat was really cool. I was a little nervous going in because I’ve never participated in a sweat lodge before, but it was awesome. (This one was an abbreviated version, so that helped too.) We crawled in to the inipi (a dome-like structure) and then hot stones that had been cooking for several hours were added before the inipi was sealed and we were left in the pitch black.

As soon as the inipi was sealed, it got hot. I started sweating immediately. (The good kind of sweat, like two back-to-back hot yoga sessions.) They pour water on the stones, which are set into the earthen floor. That’s when it really gets steamy. We went around in a circle and said prayers for the bride and groom, and then we sat there for a little bit. Then it was over and it was the men’s turn!

I was bright red after the steamy sweat session, but i felt amazing. After changing clothes and putting on a much cooler dress, I waited for the men to be done with their sweat so we could have the ceremony.

The ceremony itself was beautiful – I’ve never seen a Lakota wedding before. The man who officiated was hilarious. He was half-German, half-Italian, but he had at some point come over here and become a Lakota. (His wife was the one who held our sweat session.) He told us all about what a Lakota wedding ceremony entails (flesh offerings!), and reminded us that this is a forever marriage. There is no option to divorce.

“What are you going to tell the Creator?” he asked us. “That you left your partner because it got hard?” He explained that in Lakota tradition, you go with your spouse to the Milky Way after you both die. He also reminded us that all that you can really own is your body. None of your possessions are really yours, because you can’t take them with you. Of course, your body doesn’t go with you, but it is your vessel for the time that you are here on Earth.

My birth mom, Lise, and her husband after the ceremony:

There is so much love between them and I’m absolutely thrilled for them to begin their lives together. (Well, continue their lives together.) He’s such a calming presence and they make a really wonderful couple. I’m thrilled to have just added more people to my family.

Speaking of family, I got to meet some of my blood relatives! My birth mom is one of twelve kids (so many!) and this weekend, I met four of my aunts and one uncle. They were very cool about it, and it was a no-pressure situation. It was awesome.

My birth mom gave me a ring that belonged to her mother! It’s an opal ring that her brother had made for their mother when he was in college. It’s so unique and absolutely beautiful. I am so overwhelmed with love and gratitude.

We made the trip back on Sunday after a somewhat disappointing trip to the Cosmos – it was exactly like Casa Bonita: go as an adult and it’s not the same at all. I kept expecting it to be longer, but it was so short! I hope that everyone who was with me had a good time – I’m worried that I wasted an hour of everyone’s time, but alas, it was great to get to hang out with everyone for a little bit longer.

I was tired and ready to be home – I cut about an hour off of the drive back home by taking advantage of the quiet back highways. We got home late on Sunday and I went home and immediately crawled into bed (I’m never in bed before ten, but I was wiped out). A very grumpy Carlos was there to greet me – apparently he’s not a fan of me taking road trips and leaving him home alone. He’s been very loud ever since, reminding me that I do indeed have a cat son and that he demands attention and love. I’m not leaving any time soon, the yowling is super cute but gets annoying very quickly.

On Wedding Weekend, Spiritedly

I forgot how much I love to travel.

Love. The other morning, I had the urge to just throw things into the back of my car (including the cat – who doesn’t hate the car as much as you’d think), and run far away. I wanted to drive until there was no more road, until I’d come upon the glorious nirvana that is endless waterfalls and starry nights that never get too cold.

I love grabbing my “mountain backpack” (that’s what I call it, I bet it has a proper mountain term) from the closet and filling it to the brim with whatever I’m going to need for the next three to five days. I love the travel-sized toiletries. I love the bits of brightly colored fabric straps that have been tied to the zipper pulls for the past four years. I love the way I feel when I wear it.

I love shouldering the always too-full pack (always. I’m going to be the worst backpacker ever) and heading into the airport. In those moments, before the back aches set in and my feet start to hurt, I am filled with the possibility of adventure, with excitement, with a tingling in my fingertips as I hand over my boarding pass to the TSA agent.

I always try to make the exact awkward face I’m making in my driver’s license or even worse (better?), the face from my passport. I don’t know if they find that as hilarious as I do, but it’s worth it.

Chicago, gold coast, streelights,

The view from my friend’s apartment downtown. Oh Chicago, your cold spring winds caught me off-guard and were terrible. But the magic of the city is palpable. Its energy flows around you. It’s sublime.

This is where Katie and Eric got married. Between those two trees. I started tearing up when I saw her start walking down the aisle. I teared up again when her dad gave a speech, but it was her mom’s that put me over the edge. It was beautiful.

White wine. Photo booth. I kept calling it a “king hat.” It’s very obviously a crown. I’ve always been good with synonyms. Dancing. It was so wonderful to see my friends. I have missed them.

On Sunday, my friend Anne drove out to the burbs to pick me up and then we went back to her place and watched new episodes of Arrested Development and got frozen yogurt. I went with her to a birthday party before heading back to Denver.

I’ve been telling Evan that I want to go camping with him (athleticism and adventurous spirits are so sexy, but I’m nervous that I don’t have enough of that – maybe enthusiasm can make up for it?). My goal is to go to Conundrum Hot Springs, which is a very lovely 8.5 mile hike each way. While I was in Chicago, with my “mountain backpack,” I took the stairs as much as possible at the train stations to practice hiking. (Obviously this is a very flawed approach, but you have to work with what you’ve got.)

Sunday was great – I woke up early and went to REI with Evan. I’m really not having great luck with not losing Nalgene water bottles (I left yet another one in Spokane), so I thought I’d try yet again.  (80th time’s the charm, right?) We’re two days in and I’ve not lost them yet.

[Hah, I just have to insert a thought here that has nothing to do with anything, except losing stuff. My freshman year of college, while being young and dumb, I lost my camera at a bar. Shortly after, my mom sent me a care package with a package of cards with a note attached that said, “Maybe these will entertain you on those Friday nights when you don’t want to go out and lose something.” I love my mom.]

After REI, we went to brunch and then, faced with the prospect of an entire day off, I went to see Jacob. There was coffee, cleaning (I owed him – he’s helped me clean so many times), and then we met up with my brother and his friends for some grilling in the park.

Delicious.

Evan was at work, so I brought him dinner – tucked into an empty 6-pack was a cornucopia (ha, mostly) of delicious picnic foods: a brat with grilled onions and German mustard, chips, grapes, and cookies.  He loved it. (Relief. I was a bit nervous that it was going to be the worst thing.)

Summer is coming and I’m in full adventure mode. I want nothing more than to take road trips and to see things I’ve never seen before. Also, I’d love to actually get around to planting my garden (too late, but whatever), and doing yard work, and relaxing in my hammock. I’m filled with the same excited anticipation that I get waiting to get on the plane. It’s endless possibility and experience and it’s all in front of me. This is going to be the best thing.