Monday, January 30, 2006

What's in a Name?

Last weekend, my loving husband and I sat down to discuss names for baby #3. For us, this is one of the fun parts of waiting.

Since trying to conceive (February 2000), we have been talking about baby names. True to our analytical natures, we started by creating 2 lists of agreed-upon, acceptable names - one for boy names, and one for girl names. The lists were around 15 names each (I think that must be a record - most couples we know can barely come up with one name that both parties can accept). Every six months or so, we would individually rank the lists, and compare results to see if we were on the same page. Some names were always at the top of the list, while others never really made it (I guess we're never going to have a "Brennan" or a "Natalie," and poor Mark will never have his little girl "Cori").

When we were "matched" with an expectant mother for the first time (the spring before Abby arrived), we decided that we needed to hunker down and decide on the name of our baby. We ranked the names again, and chose the top 3 boy and girl names based on our ranking. We spoke every name with our last name. We spoke every name with the middle names. I looked up the meanings of the names (which Mark thinks is a dumb reason to choose a name, but I like to have as much information as possible when making a decision). "Ethan" came out as the obvious boy name. The girl name was a bit more difficult. We were debating between #1 name and #2 name; Mark preferred one and I preferred the other [they were derivations of the same root name]. After much discussion, and analyzing all three names again, we both chose the #3 name. So "Abigail" it was! I loved the meaning - "My Father Rejoices" - it sold me.

6 months later, Abby received her name. 9 months after that, we still loved "Ethan," so the decision was easy (and we knew he was a boy from the time we were matched, so we didn't have to come up with a second girl name). Simple!

Almost 2 years later, we are deciding again. Some of the names from before are still there, with a couple new ones. Our lists this time were only 9 names long. And our decision process only took a couple of hours. We lived with the decisions for a day, and still love the choices - and even tried them out with the kids (it's so cute to hear the names mispronounced by two toddlers - priceless.) It looks like Baby #3 has a name!

The middle name of Baby #3 will either be Jennifer or Paul, after his/her Godparents (good friends of ours for the last 5 years or so). Since baby #3 is most likely going to be the "baby" of our family, I will share with you some of the name choices that didn't make it. Maybe you'd like to click on the "comments" link and venture a guess as to the names we chose?

Kathryn (Katie): We both love it, but Katie is very popular. We would like something a little less popular.
Sarah: Love it for its classical simplicity, but just didn't sound right.
Bethany (Beth): Mark really doesn't prefer "Beth", and I have to have my nickname!
Deirdre: This is my middle name, and we love it for that. But it doesn't really "go with" Abby and Ethan.
Paige: We always liked "Paige," but it's too trendy for our more classical tastes.
Elizabeth (Libby): We absolutely LOVE "Libby," but I can't have an "Abby" and a "Libby" in the same house (sounds like twin names)

Gabriel (Gabe): We always liked it, but it didn't make the cut :)
Matthew (Matt): Mark prefers "Matthew," I prefer "Matt" (me likey my nicknames).
Justin: We always liked it, but it didn't make the cut :)
Judah (Jude): I like both forms, but Mark doesn't like Judah at all. Actually, he doesn't like Jude much either. It's obvious I control the list, isn't it?
Micah: I put it on the list because I like it and it's unusual, but Mark pretty much can't stand it. List-master gets shot down again!
Tristan: We both like it a lot, but I thought it might be a little too self-serving to name my son after me.

I hope this satisfies some of your curiosity (that means you, Jennifer Ann!) Up until now, we have never given even a hint of a clue as to our name choices. I guess I'm getting more lenient in my old age :)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Forever A Family

Yesterday, January 21st, we celebrated Ethan's Forever Family Day. This is the anniversary of Ethan's official adoption hearing in court, when he legally became our son forever.

Ethan was our son at birth, in our minds. But we like to celebrate Forever Family Day to remind the kids that "we're sooooo glad you're part of this family!"

We love you to the moon and back, Ethan Daniel.

On a slightly related note, we met with our social worker today to finish up our Home Study document. Of course, the meeting went just fine. We need to turn in the last couple of recommendation letters from "my Jennifers", and then the document will be written and we will be approved to adopt another child. We're almost ready to wait!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Out of the mouths of babes

Ethan: Gas! Gas! Gas!
Me: Ethy, did you have gas?
[Ethan emphatically nods his head, pleased that I have acknowledged his flatulence.]
Ethan: Gas Daddy! Gas Daddy!

And Mark's new nickname is born.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Feeling Raw

We're nearing the end of our home study for baby #3. There's always so much crap paperwork that we have to fill out, even if we've filled it out 2 times before (I know, I know, things change over time... but probably not TOO much in 2 1/2 years). We LOVE our agency, don't get me wrong. It's the necessary hoop-jumping required by this process that makes me weary.

Last night, we filled out our Waiting Family questionnaire. This is a comprehensive document meant to sort out our own feelings and let the agency know what situations we would be comfortable with. It covers such fun and exciting topics as:
  • drug or alcohol exposure during pregnancy
  • smoking during pregnancy
  • level of prenatal care
  • race of the child (this has a LOT of breakdowns)
  • sex of the child
  • age of the child
  • level of post-placement contact with birthfamily
  • genetic challenges that child may be predisposed to - mental, emotional, physical
  • genetic challenges that child has - mental, emotional, physical
  • level of risk of the adoption itself
...and the list goes on.

This part of the process makes us feel badly. I would love to say that we're open to whatever God provides for us. That we're such a loving and caring couple that we could handle any situation with grace, and step up to any challenge. That we have a willing spirit and the patience to move mountains.

Frankly, we're not the poster family for every adoption. I can give a hundred excuses about why not, but they will be just that - excuses. It makes me feel TERRIBLE that we're not up for anything. Are we missing God's call by shutting off a possibility? Why can't we be the perfect couple who have open hearts for every child?

It all points to the reasons we have decided to adopt children. Althought it would sound good, we did not adopt in order to "save children" or to get birthmothers out of a jam. Initially, we wanted to adopt because we have always felt called to be parents. Adoption is a mostly selfish act on our parts, albeit a *beautiful* way to have a family. Does that mean I view the children as our property in the process, or somehow owed to us? ABSOLUTELY 100% NOT. Please do not misunderstand my view on birthfamilies or adoption itself. It's not about babies being born by "unworthy" people and being given to "worthy" people. That is a sickening viewpoint (I personally know some people that see things this way - yuck). But I digress.

Mark said it best last night. He said, "the thing that bothers me about filling out this form is that I feel GUILTY about wanting what we would be likely to have if we had a biological child - a healthy baby that would be similar to us." The exercise brings up all the feelings that it's "not fair" that we are experiencing infertility. Even writing that makes me feel selfish and bad. I have done my share of grieving my infertility, and have honestly moved on. But there are still shadows of pain that creep out every once in a while, like yesterday.

We did complete the form. And there are quite a few NO boxes checked. I just wish I didn't feel so badly about it.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Call to Healthy Competition Amongst my Readership

In his wisdom, my husband has implied that we should have a little pool to see who can guess the date that Abby and Ethan will be potty trained (diaper-free during day-time only). [See entry from 1/11/2005]

I say, a little healthy competition among adults is OK, too!

To be fair, I should provide all the details.
Ethan is 19.5 months old. He has pooped in the potty a few times since 3 months ago, but the last time he did he was afraid of his poop and ran away. He readily SITS on the potty, but pees successfully 2 or 3 times a day right now. Abby is 28.5 months old. She pees 4 or 5 times a day on the potty (soiling her daytime diaper 2 times or so). She just started pooping in the potty this last week, but has done so twice and is REALLY excited about it. Super High Fives!

So, click here or go to the link at the bottom of this entry that says 1 Comments (the "1" might be a different number). Type your comment in the box, including the date that you think BOTH Abby and Ethan will be diaper-free all DAY long (it's hard to predict how long the nighttime diapers will last). Click on an identity (if you are not a registered user, just click"other" and put in a name that I can recognize you by - NO LAST NAMES PLEASE). Finally, type the wavy letters you see into the Word Verification Box, and click Publish Your Comment.

This should be fun. Unlike my last call for people to comment, I hope this will be more successful (it will also let me see how many people actually read my blog!) I will give a prize to the best guesser, so really think hard about this :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Why there's P in "competition"!

Abby and Ethan are at such an *interesting* stage together... the "mine" stage. The time in life when they look for ways to hoard everything that they can, while simultaneously taking their sibling's precious items away. Ahhh... such peace and harmony [not]. Mark and I want to scream when we hear shouts of "mine!" or "my [insert any object here that you don't want your sibling to have]". Despite having two kids with the "minesies", this stage definitely CAN have it's advantages. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade, right??

For instance, if you have two toddlers who want exactly what the other wants at all times, might they be prone to healthy competition? And might they take the competition for really exciting stuff like toys to a new level and compete over potty time?

Yes, it's true. Abby and Ethan are in a heated competition to see who can get the most stickers for successful potty behavior. The past few days has brought LOTS of stickers. We have two potty chairs set up in the downstairs bathroom, and each child has claimed one. When one of the kids wants to "go", the other has to take off their pants and go too. Wow - they are sure making this easy on us! And their potty chairs have a total of 35 stickers from the last few months (most of them from the last week).

We are now regimented to once an hour asking about the potty. And today, Abby got to wear training underwear for the first time - she was very proud of her panties. Cross your fingers that we're on our way to a diaper-less house (hopefully temporary until baby 3)!

See, there are some definite benefits to the kids being a mere nine months apart. :)

Abby decided that dolly needed to go peepee.
After potty success, Abby always shouts "yay!" and "high five!" Then comes the sticker, flushing the waste down the toilet, washing hands and putting clothes back on.

"Alright, Ethan. On your mark, get set, GO!" {heehee}

What a little lady in her panties!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Birthfamilies and Blogging

I have been educating myself in the past few months on adoption, specifically focusing on birthparents. You may wonder, what education do you need, already being an adoptive parent? As with anything in life, you need to keep yourself sharp. And with any relationship in life, you need to constantly tend to it in order for it to thrive. My relationships with my childrens' birthparents require tending, and my feelings and understanding of adoption needs to grow in order to be healthy.

I have been reading a lot of blogs regularly. I read 10 blogs that are adoption related. One from a potential adoptive mother, 3 from existing adoptive moms, and the rest from birthmoms. Although I can relate to the adoptive moms, I am most interested in the birthmom blogs. Each one's adoptive placement story is unique, and the feelings shared are unique. But I have learned so much from all six.

It humbles me most to read a birthmom's true feelings about the adoptive parents in their placement. Sometimes, the birthmom feels excluded from the child's life. Sometimes, the adoptive mom is not meeting her end of the bargain (the level of openness is not what was agreed-upon at placement). Sometimes, the relationship between birthmom and adoptive mom is strained. Sometimes, the adoptive mom acts as if she's doing the birthmom a favor by maintaining contact. Sometimes, the birthmom feels powerless in the relationship with the adoptive family.

It is very hard *emotionally* for me to read things like this. Could I be those adoptive moms? Am I treating my kids' birthmoms like the carriers of my child? I once dated someone who's mom actually referred to his dad as the "sperm-donor" because of his lack of involvement in their lives. Could I be acting just as callously with the people who gave my children life? Do I respect my childrens' birthfamilies, and respect their roles in our lives? Do I share enough with them about the kids, or am I excluding them? Do I make enough effort for them to know how important they are to my family?

I have grown more in my feelings about adoption in the last few months than any time prior. I have changed. I have become more sensitive about the relationships I am fostering with my children's birthfamilies. For the first time since my children have been born, I have initiated our Christmas visits. I invited each birthfamily to our home to celebrate Christmas this year.* Mark and I opened our hearts and house to our extended family, hopefully for them to realize how important they are in the lives of our children and of us. I am trying to grow.

The relationships in adoption are fluid, not static. I am consciously working on improving my relationships with the birthfamilies of my kids. So as of right now, these statements capture most of what I feel about birthparents and birthfamilies.
  • I don't fear them.
  • I don't see them as intrusive.
  • I don't view them as indebted to me for raising their children.
  • I don't judge their decision to place their children.
  • I don't view them as inadequate parent material.
  • I am not afraid that they will try to "take their children back" if they know where I live.
  • I recognize that they are an important part of my childrens' lives, whether we have contact or not.
  • I don't feel threatened that my children will know their birthparents, will love their birthparents, will like their birthparents, will aspire to be like their birthparents, will find comfort in looking like their birthparents, will be excited if they have similar mannerisms to their birthparents.
  • I don't pretend to understand the birthparents' feelings.
  • I don't think there can ever be too many people to love my kids.
  • I admire the birthparents' strength in keeping an open adoption.
  • I admire their courage in placing their children with another family.
  • I admire them for having face-to-face contact with their birthchildren, even though it may be bittersweet.
  • I sincerely love them as my own family.

*None of the families decided to make the trip to us this year, but we still had nice visits with two out of three families.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Cousin Lovin' (part 3)

Yes, the kids have had the opportunity to see another set of cousins recently! Just after Christmas, my sister Bonnie and her partner Nancy came to visit us with their two kids, Sammy and Phoebe. They live in the sunny south, and made the trip north during December for the primary purpose of seeing SNOW. You know, the thrill of snowmen and snow angels, sledding, snowball fights, catching snowflakes on your tongue. Their kids had never seen snow before (had never been to our state in the winter since they were born), and this was to be the magical trip for them. Unfortunately, although we saw lots of snow in November and early December, it started to melt just before Christmas and a few slushy piles of dirty snow were all that was left when they got here. How disappointing for them not to see the white stuff! Fortunately, the visit was great and my family had a good time getting together, despite the lack of snow. We love to spend time with their family - we miss them a lot!

Abby's cracking up at Aunt Bonnie dropping her onto the couch.

Aunt Nancy gives Ethan good cuddles.

Me and my big sister :)

Uncle Mark tickles Phoebe... what a giggly girl!

Grampa got in on the action with all four kids... no wonder he's trying to shush them!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Merry Christmas Chaos :)

Happy holidays, a little late! Team MEAT has had our most family-filled holiday week in our history. It's great to be living so close to a lot of our family this year! Here are some updates on our activities.

Christmas with Abby's Birth Family: We traveled the day after Christmas to see Abby's birthmom M. and her family. It was a great visit. We learn new things about each other the more we see each other face-to-face. It was a very relaxed time, just spent enjoying each other and marveling over Abby (who had changed quite a bit since this summer when we saw them last). Abby has a lot of M.'s personality. M. is very independent, and doesn't want the help or input of anyone. Who does that sound like? I noticed that M. is particular about the way things look (she was constantly straightening items around the house). Similarly, Abby used to stack blocks with the colored side facing up, and would actually take a tower down to fix it if a block was mis-laid. And M. has told us that if she is physically hurt, she has always avoided people (even her Mom), not wanting anyone to touch her or come near her. Abby does this exact same thing. I think it is so great to see similarities! M. is a wonderful person, with an incredibly tender heart toward kids and animals. So far, it looks like Abby has similar gifts. Cutest Moments: Abby was absolutely infatuated with M.'s cat. And the cat was the most mellow, gentle cat you could have. Abby spent a lot of the afternoon holding the cat in her lap or carrying it around (so precious!)

Christmas with Trista's Fam: We celebrated Christmas Eve with my parents, and the day before with my sister Becky's family. We also spent Christmas Day afternoon at Becky's house, which included her husband Eric's parents. Our family gatherings are always fun, with lots of activity and games when my sister Becky's family is there. We can get loud and crazy! When we celebrate with my parents, we share a more quiet evening, but equally special. Funniest Moment: Grampa set out to read a Christmas book to Abby and Ethan (a tradition now into its second year). Ethan reluctantly sat on Grampa's lap, but Abby wasn't having any part of it. Soon, Ethan wouldn't sit there without Mommy. Then, Ethan left and Grampa read to me. I had to leave to chase kids and Grampa read to no one. Finally, Mark felt sorry for poor old Grampa and listened to the story himself. In this picture, Mark with a goofy inside-out ball on his head (one of his gifts from my parents). What a goofball!

Christmas with Mark's Fam: We weren't able to get together with Mark's siblings at Christmas this year, so we had celebrated in November with everyone. We were able to share Christmas morning with Mark's parents (after our own Christmas celebration). It was great fun, such a relaxed morning, playing with toys and eating brunch. Most Priceless Moment: Grandpa and Grandma playing ring-around-the-rosy with two toddlers. All fall down!Just after Christmas, my sister Bonnie's family came from out of state. I will post on that awesome visit later!