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Archive for December, 2010

Almost Famous

Dudes, we’re, like, published!

Okay, the unnecessary surfer talk is my clumsy effort to mask how very, very pleased I am that Miles and Moms has been published in a real-life newspaper.  A more concise version of the post about the adoption process appears in the Opinion section of the Tucson Weekly. 

Check us out!

Why am I excited?  Well, for starters there’s that unmistakable zing of seeing your own name in print.  (I worked at a legal newspaper for several years, and any time I had an article in print, even if it was a profile of a lawyer who liked to sing jazz standards or collect stamps, I would feel delirious and shocked, as if I had just won Publisher’s Clearinghouse.)  But also, it’s pretty amazingly wonderful that this blog is allowing us to fulfill our mission of gently raising the public profile of two-mom families. 

Alright, folks — Christmas photos will be forthcoming, after we finish flying from Nashville to Miami.  (Don’t ask.  It involves a long and winding tale of a blizzard, a 24-hour locksmith, a hungry cat, and three canceled flights in four days.)

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Cold Play

Last spring, I was chatting with one of my mom friends at the playground.   Back then, the playground was quickly becoming the center of my social and emotional life.  It was a place to “cruise” other moms or to run into the few moms I already knew.  Entering the playground evoked all the heady anticipation and social anxiety of a high school cafeteria — would I have to hang out alone?  If I saw someone I knew, would she acknowledge me?  Would I see someone I didn’t like, and if so, how would I handle it? 

But most important, the playground made Miles happy when he fussed.  If our day were falling apart, I could always pop him in the carrier and take him there.  It was something to do, for goodness sake, and it was free, and it was only two blocks away.  It was a lifeline.

On this particular spring day, our babies were still pre-walking — Miles was snuggled up in the Ergo carrier, Olivier snoozing in his stroller.  However, our conversation kept getting interrupted because Julie’s 3-year-old, Rafael, preferred running to any other form of locomotion.  He was prone to sudden bursts of speed.   In mid-sentence, Julie would dash off to the side to keep Rafael in her sight line, head craning for a glimpse of him.  In Rafael’s madcap wanderings, I caught a glimpse of my future.

Marveling at his energy, I asked, “What do you do with him in the winter?” 

“We go outside,” she said simply.  “We just, you know, bundle them up.  And go.”  Julie is from Montreal.  As she explained to me, everyone in Montreal still goes outside in cold weather.  “Here, we go outside and we are the only ones.  I think it must be a cultural thing.” 

This conversation made a deep impression on me.  As some of you may recall, last winter was a little tough for me.  I’ve worried in advance about this winter because I knew Miles would be a toddler, and I dreaded how we would fill the days.  I decided, right then, that I would just go outside with Miles when winter came.  If it was a cultural thing, I thought, I would adjust my attitude.  I would create a one-woman culture of playground-going.  I could not, regardless of sleet or snow, imagine giving up the playground.  I certainly would not pay $285 for Music Together classes or $293 for gymnastics or go to an indoor play space for $10 a visit.  Who has that kind of money?  Jeez! 

However, big shock here, it turns out that I am not Canadian.  I am, in fact, Californian.  It snowed in my hometown once every five years

The playground?  In the Brooklyn winter?  Sucks.  It is cold, people.  And empty.  Miles and I went a few times even after the temperature dipped into the high 20s.  We huddled there shivering and alone beside the slide.  Miles tried to climb the equipment but couldn’t grasp it with his mittened hands.  Walking in his kajillion layers of clothes, with his hat slipping into his eyes, involved lots of falls — but at least they were extremely padded falls!

When the temperature dipped into the low 20s and teens, we stopped going.  We’ve gotten creative with ways to pass the time.  One long, dull afternoon, I gave Miles a bath in the middle of the day. Because. There was nothing. At all.  To do.  We’ve gone to an indoor play space once (expensive!) and hung out in the kids’ section of Barnes & Noble (crowded!).   Most of the time, we just do random things at home, like play with silverware and empty and refill the sock bin.  And try on too-large pairs of shoes and prance around the house in them.  And open the bin of knitting supplies and throw them all over the bedroom.  And watch our “Signing Time”  DVD over and over and over.  By the end of the winter, I expect Miles to be speaking complete sentences in sign language.

Yeah.  Winter.  I’m not a fan.  All I can say is, Music Together is looking really, really good.  Maybe we can find some commercial sponsors to underwrite the costs.  And I hear the indoor play space has a deal on their 10-visit pass.

Knitting stash.

 

What are we gonna do now?

 

Galoshes are fun.

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Books

Yesterday some friends invited us over for lasagna.  Robin had work to do, so Miles and I went by ourselves, bundling in our jillions of layers and riding the bus to Red Hook, Brooklyn.  When we arrived at our friends’ cheery loft, Miles immediately discovered the brightly colored alphabet magnets on the refrigerator — magnets that had obviously most recently been used by tipsy partygoers to spell out suggestive phrases.  As Miles set about arranging the letters according to his own special logic, my friend Cornelius exulted,  “He’s a reader!” 

Of course I nodded.  I know, logically, that it’s way too early to know how Miles will take to reading.  He may love it, or he may find it difficult or boring.  But you see, Cornelius and I are both reading teachers.  We were newbie teachers together in the New York City Teaching Fellows, and then we taught at the same school for several years.  It’s a reflex for us to see signs of “readerhood” in just about everything kids do and to wildly encourage signs of reading whenever we encounter then.  We kind of can’t help ourselves.

I was a serious reader in childhood.  I read everywhere, all the time, whatever I could.  (Like, in math class. Which explains why Robin is in charge of balancing the checkbook.)  My parents used to have to forbid me to read until my chores were done. And yeah, I harbor a fantasy that Miles will love reading as much as I do.  At the same time, I don’t want to put pressure on reading.  I just buy him lots of books and get really, really happy when he shows an interest.

Like this.

Turning pages.

Reading.

Kitten.

 

Touch and Feel and...Taste?

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About a boy.

He trips heading into the kitchen and knocks his forehead against the doorway.  He topples while squatting to examine the grain of the hardwood floor.  He tumbles headlong from the couch while practicing, for the 38th time, his dismount.  All completely normal toddler mishaps.  Yet as I watch the latest knot form on his forehead, a matching knot forms in my stomach. 

“No falling until Saturday,” I’ve been telling Miles, trailing fretfully after him.  “Remember, we currently have a no-falling policy.  So try taking fewer risks this week, please.”

I’m not normally so hovery and intense.  Falling is part of walking, after all.  But tomorrow, a woman from the court — a probation officer, actually — is coming for a home visit.  This is a routine part of the process of Robin adopting Miles.

 Robin, what?!?  Adopting, huh?!  It seems weird, I know, because she is indisputably his mom, but Robin has to formally adopt Miles in order to be his parent in the eyes of the state of New York.  We’ve known this for a long time, and we’ve mostly just gritted our teeth and accepted it.  We want to have as many legal protections as a family as we can.  In addition to being domestic partners in the city of New York (the state does not offer a domestic partnership),  we have gone through all sorts of legal hoopla to have power of attorney, medical proxy, wills, and whatever else we could think of to approximate the many financial, property and inheritance rights of marriage. 

Adoption is the final step in Robin’s legal relationship with Miles.  And this home visit is the final step in the adoption.  In a way, coming this far is a victory about which I should be happy and relieved.  For most of the process, I’ve managed to stay matter-of-fact.  Okay, yeah, it bugged me that we both had to submit personal letters of reference to the court.  (Yes, both of us.  Although I am biologically Miles’ mother, I had to ask three friends of mine to write letters stating that I am responsible, lovely and good with children.)  And yeah, it was a pain that we both had to be examined by doctors to show that we are in good health.  And get fingerprinted at a police station.  And have Miles certified healthy.  And submit copies of our driver’s licenses, multiple official copies of our birth certificates, copies of our social security cards, check stubs, tax information, letters of employment, and so on ad nauseum.  It bothered me.  I complained a little.   

But this home visit is messing with my mind.  All I know is that a probation officer is coming to our house tomorrow and that she will check for certain safety measures (window guards, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and a fire extinguisher) and ask us for more paperwork.  And that she has the power to say that we do or do not have a suitable home.  That’s all I know. 

Will she be charming, reassuring and perfunctory?  Like, “Oh gosh, I can tell you guys are nice folks, enjoy your baby.”  Or will she be rigid and businesslike?  Like, “I see here that your smoke detector has a flashing red light rather than a steady red light.  Adoption denied.”  Or will she be suspicious and nosy?  Like, “Where did he get those bruises on his forehead? And by the way, can I see the inside of your microwave?”

All this week, my imagination has run wild with unlikely scenarios.  I’ve pictured her weighing him and looking in our cupboards to see what we feed him.  (“He’s a bit slim,” she might say, pursing her lips.)  Watching us diaper him to make sure we’re doing it right.  (“Do you always use only two wipes?  Interesting.”) Or examining him all over for bruises or marks. Quizzing us on his sleep habits.  Finding fault with our drafty windows.  Telling us our that, dear God, our Christmas tree is a hazard and why didn’t we know that?  What are we, idiots?  Why did they let us have this baby anyway??

I know I’m insane.  But it’s hard, not knowing exactly what she’ll be checking for.  It’s like trying to prepare for a test that could possibly be about all of Russian history — or might focus minutely on 18th century Russian hats.  And if you fail the test, you get to keep being Not A Real Family.  So I’m rushing around cleaning, yanking Miles down from high places, begging the landlady to please please install window guards on the two windows that don’t have them, and casting a suspicious eye at our carbon monoxide detector.  Is it adequate?  Is it correctly placed?  Should we install five more?

Meanwhile, under the panic is a growing fury.  All this because we can’t get married.  I understand that the rigmarole surrounding adoptions is meant to ensure that children are going to good, safe homes.  Through most of this madness, I have kept my mind on that.  But this week, I’m grappling with the reality of a mysterious authority figure coming into our home and judging us.  It’s making me very, very angry. 

Why are we going through this and spending tons of money on, frankly, a pretty crappy lawyer?  Why has Miles spent the first year-plus of his life with only one legal parent despite the fact that he lives with two parents?  Why was Robin unable to sign any of the consent forms when Miles had minor surgery a few months ago?  Why?  Because we can’t get married.  And why can’t we get married?  Because people are bigoted, afraid, judgmental, traditional, grossed out and narrow-minded. 

But you can get married! , I can hear some people thinking.  You can get married in Connecticut!  Or Canada!  Isn’t that lovely?  Yes, it’s very sweet and cute that we can get married in five states; Washington, D.C.; and ten countries.  Each time another state or country legalizes gay marriage, I cheer.  Maybe if we hadn’t already had TWO weddings (long story), we would have enjoyed the sweetness and cuteness of another.  And if getting legally married somewhere would make Robin’s parenthood clearly legally defined in all places, we’d do that for sure.

But in fact, getting married in Canada or Spain or Iowa would not help us avoid the need to adopt because it would not necessarily make Robin Miles’ legal parent in New York.  (State agencies would recognize our marriage, but private companies would not have to.  So, for example, Robin’s health insurer through work might not have to recognize Miles as her child.) And of course, perhaps even more important, it would not result in legal recognition of our family unit from the federal government. 

The legal issues are like a bizarre word problem in math class.**  If two American lesbians who are residents of New York City get married in Sweden and one of them has a  baby and then they move to California, what are their rights?  Are they married or unmarried, and whose baby is it anyway? Absurdly, if we got legally married, we would be in the odd position of being married (and Robin a parent) in some places but not in others.  Robin’s motherhood might be recognized in New Hampshire but debated in Arizona.  On a cross-country drive, we could be married and unmarried half a dozen times!  

Is it absurd that Robin has to apply to be a parent to her own child?  Yes.  Is it invasive that someone is going to scrutinize our home and our lives?  Of course.  Yet we want Miles to have the security of having a legal tie to both of us.  So tomorrow I will grit my teeth, answer the door and smile.  I will hand over my tax information for 2009 and a photocopy of my driver’s license ever so cheerfully.  Until then I reserve the right to be annoyed, anxious and slightly bitter. 

I think we need a party when this is over.

A family of three.

 

** Keep in mind that I am not a lawyer.  Don’t rely on what I say here!

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Heh heh.  Heh heh.  Heh.

Couch potato.

 

He’s watching an educational video.  Honest.  See, doesn’t he look intellectually stimulated? 

Duhhhh...

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Adventures in Allentown

“Do you think you’ll ever stop referring to Georgia as ‘home’?” Melissa asked after I said something to that effect while packing for our Thanksgiving trip.

It’s true, I’ve lived outside Allentown, Georgia, almost as many years as I lived there. And my other locales — Stanford, Los Angeles, Brooklyn — couldn’t be more different from my tiny town back home. But my parents still live in the house I grew up in, and my old bedroom remains largely unchanged. Plus, there’s just something in the air, the water, the dirt that makes Allentown home.

As my Uncle J.T. said when we brought Miles over for a visit, “Gotta bring that boy down here and get some of this Allentown dirt on him every once in a while.” Makes perfect sense to me.

Gettin' dirty.

On our first visit to Georgia, Miles was five months old and not doing very much. So I was excited to show him the ropes on this visit. Must-do items for trips home include: lunch from the chicken place, Aunt Martha Ann’s cooking, sitting in the swing, chocolate cake, swimming (in warm weather) and playing with the nieces. Here are some of the things Miles enjoyed:

Which button turns this thing on?

Cruisin'

Fire trucks!

So much fun

 

Good eats.

Play time with cousins

Aunt Skye and Payton

Uncle Skip

Payton

Jordan

 

But one of the best parts for me had to be watching Miles be a curious, happy little toddler in the same place I was — practicing his steps up and down between the kitchen and living room, eating in my old high chair, baths in my tub, etc. etc. Mom even recorded his height on the door where the rest of us marked off our growth through the years.

Thankfully, Miles’ ever-obliging Mommy was more than happy to document the whole thing:

If it worked for Uncle Skip when he was my age...

Bath time!

Momma's rocker is just the right size.

Vintage look.

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Cousins

Pogo stick.

 

Swing.

 

This is how you do it.

 

Payton.

 

Say cheese.

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