Posts Tagged ‘Family’


Glamor shot.

Evening.  A bedtime scene in a house in middle Tennessee.

“Chickens are sleeping?”

“Yes, Miles,  The chickens are sleeping.  It’s nighttime.”

“I will sleep with them!  They go BOCK-K! BOCK-K!?”

“Yes, they say bock bock.  Go to sleep, Miles.”


Morning.  A child rolls over in bed.

“The chickens are awaaake?!”


Naptime.  Rubbing eyes.

“I want to feed the chickens.”

90 minutes pass with no actual nap taking place.

“Bock-k!  You’re awake! Chickens!!”


Miles and I just went on a trip to visit Nana and Pah. And the chickens.  Were so.  Thrilling.  Miles didn’t nap at all after the first day, and I think his feathered friends were to blame.  How could anyone expect him to sleep when there were live chickens just outside?  Then again, how could he sleep when there were cousins to play with?  A golf cart to drive?  Cows to moo at?  Let’s just say that a good time was had by all.


Evan, Miles, Cash.



Rollin' with Pah.



"I want to feed them!"



Miles and moos.





Where's the stereo on this thing?


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Miles recently discovered tails.  Specifically, that they exist and that they grace the posteriors of some (but not all!) animals.  We were playing in his room, hugging his stuffed animals, when he noticed.  He hugs his animals in a very specific way, crushing the poor creatures to his neck while twisting his torso in a rocking motion and patting with one hand.  Not coincidentally, this is how I hug him when he is hurt or upset.  Then, when plopping a just-hugged dog to the floor, he made his discovery.


“What is this strange, delightful appendage?” he asked me, in his own language of gestures, syllables and eyebrow lifting.

“That’s a tail, Miles.  See, the giraffe has a tail too.”

His astonishment quickly turned to engrossed wonder.  With joyful purpose, he examined each and every animal in the bin, sorting them by tails and not tails.  Dog?  Tail.  Pooh bear? Tail.  Otto the Love Monster?  Not tail.  Chamelon?  Big tail.

Why tails?  Why now?  It baffles me, and I love it.  Sort of.  Over the next day, he started saying  “tail” and invented his own hand sign for tail: pointing at his own bottom.  (Other Miles-invented signs: holding his palms up questioningly for “where?”, holding his hand to his ear for “phone,” and patting his head for “hat.”)  Within two days, the tail thing was getting out of control.  A little scientist, he insisted on personally investigating the tail phenomenon.  He had checked the animals on his wooden farm puzzle for tails and repeatedly confirmed the existence and location of Luna’s tail (a procedure she does not appreciate).  On the changing table, when Robin was putting him in a new diaper, they discussed the tail of a teddy bear he was holding.  Curious, he reached down to his bare bottom and checked himself for a tail.  Robin had to assure him several times that he did not have one.  He seemed disappointed.

Just the other day, Miles was in the bathtub and I crawled away from him to grab the baby shampoo. He patted my bottom inquisitively, not for the first time that day.  “Tail?”

“Miles, Mommy does not have a tail!”  I said.  “I promise!” 

My little scientist smiled.  I knew he would not take my word for it.

Baby doll: not tail.

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Family and friends.

I’m finally Miles’ mom. A judge has declared it so. And while yesterday was cause for celebration, the emotional sentiment of which Melissa captured quite nicely in this post, I can’t help but notice that not a single thing has changed in our day-to-day lives.

It would have been nice if I could have picked a few items to change as a real, legal, totally offical parent. Perhaps the family court system can look into adding a few of these “perks” to their procedures in order to properly welcome us newcomers to parenthood:

–Poopy diapers shall be less smelly.

–Colds, viruses, infections, bumps and bruises shall take a hiatus of no fewer than 18 years.

–Sleep shall last until at least 8 a.m. each morning.

–Mealtimes will never be accompanied by pickiness, and children shall eat any kind of food placed in front of them.

–Blocks, legos, stuffed animals, books, balls and other items of entertainment shall always return to their proper place when no longer in use.

–Tantrums shall cease to exist.

–Hair washing shall never involve crying or resistance of any kind.

–And spontaneous hugs and kisses from your little one shall extend well into the adolescent years.

Maybe I’ll have to file an amended petition with the court to see what they can do about these requests. Until then, I’ll keep the smelly diapers, 6 a.m. wake-up time, incessant cries of “Mama!” followed by whatever he wants at that moment, and all the other things that come with being one of Miles’ moms.


*For the record, Miles, I have been your mother since before you were born, helping provide you with a loving, nourishing environment. I made your mother pancakes late at night to satisfy a craving, readily swapped plates with her at restaurants when she declared “baby doesn’t like this” while shoving one of her favorite dishes across the table in my direction, carried the heavy things, and generally did as much as I could to help her take care of you. It was nothing extraordinary or special — just the stuff any non-birthing parent should do.



Waiting for our turn before the judge.



Almost done.



Finally, we're legit!



A celebratory "cheers!" with his pal Grey.


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Dear Miles,

Today is adoption day.  In a few hours, the three of us will appear in court.  A judge will look at some paperwork, perhaps say a few words, and declare us a family.  But I think you know that we have been a family all along.  Momma becomes your legal, official mother today — and that is cause for celebration.  But she has always been yours.

She was with you from the beginning. 

She cradled you in the early days at home.

She held you in her hands.

She soothed you into sleep.


She is yours, from the inside out.  For your whole life.

Happy adoption day, Miles.  Happy family.  Happy love.

Love, Mommy


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In our recent travels to California, love once again vanquished fear.  In this case, it was Miles who feared a giant, gentle dog named Duke.  His desire to be near Duke proved stronger than his terror, and within a day Miles could be heard wandering around the house asking, “Duke?  Duke?”  He badgered us until the nearest willing adult led him out to wherever Duke happened to be napping at the time.

The big guy himself.

 Miles certainly preferred napping Duke to walking-around-licking-faces Duke.  A too-close encounter with his new friend sometimes led Miles to scurry away, head down, shoulders hunched up and fists clenched near his chest.  But he always came back for more, and he loved watching Duke eat, drink water, go for a walk, sleep, or … well, that’s about all Duke does. 


 By the end of the trip, he was even petting Duke.



No, we are not getting a dog  — I don’t want to clean up any more poop, thank you very much.  Yet it’s amazing how much joy a dog can bring to a child. 


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This evening Miles played in the bath, tossing toys against the wall and observing their falling patterns, avidly noting the splash each produced.  Toss, whack, plunk, splash.  I sat beside the tub, trailing my arm in the water, brimful of well-being.  Thinking, we have everything we need.What produced that magical and rare feeling?  Where does it come from?  It’s more than just the sense that bills will be paid on time, food will appear in the cupboards, and our roof will keep out the weather for another day — although those are wonderful things not to be taken for granted.  This feeling I had was more: it was utter life satiety, the sense that all is as it should be.  Of course, being fickle and human, I started thinking about how the happiness would pass and that I’d better capture it, figure it out, understand it.  I wanted to pinpoint where the feeling had come from so that I could replicate it and would NEVER EVER HAVE TO NOT FEEL THAT WAY AGAIN, for goodness sake! 

Our day had been a series of simple and mostly unplanned delights.  A risky waffle recipe that turned out beautifully.  An unexpected visit with the downstairs neighbors.  An effortless levity between Robin and me, in which each of us understood the other’s meaning without the need for explanations.  Miles taking licks of his Easter bunny’s ear and saying with great enthusiasm between bites, “Mmmm!”  The pleasant sourness of the vinegar in the Easter egg dye reminding me of childhood.  A spontaneous play date on the sidewalk with two sets of neighbors and their kids, toddlers running and jostling while the adults relaxed and bounced babies and made plans.  Let’s all get together again soon!  Let’s swap child care!  No one wearing coats, all of us thrumming with the optimism of Spring.  Miles so completely covered in sidewalk chalk he seemed to be a very short, cherubic rainbow.  After dinner, reading Miles books and burying my nose in the sweaty scent of his hair.  The three of us tickling and wrestling on the bedroom rug —  hugs, love, slobber, raspberries, laughter. 

Nothing major happened.  Yet there I was at the end of the day, sitting beside the bath, wonderstruck. 

This kind of happiness, I think, can’t be forced or summoned.  Sometimes the ingredients of ordinary life get jumbled together in just the right way, and I’m wildly grateful.

Sourdough whole grain waffles.
The sweet life.

Vinegar smell.


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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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