Thursday, May 7, 2009

5 Favorite Things About Being a Mom

There's nothing like being "tagged" to get people out of blogger hibernation. Jessica, or A Parent in Silver Spring, tagged me in her recent post, "5 Favoite Things About Being a Mom." Let me first tell you how I know Jessica. I first met the future parent in Silver Spring during my college days in Berkeley. We shared your typical undergraduate experiences that usually involved loud techno music and too many cups of really bad beer. I had not seen her in years, but thanks to the wonder that is Facebook, we re-connected about a year ago. To my surprise, I found that Jessica is now a mom with a widely read blog in the Washington D.C. area. She not only writes about her personal experience as a mother of two, but her blog is also a wonderful resource for parents who live in and around D.C. Jessica is still the funny and witty girl I remember, but now I can get to know her outside the context of a frat house party. To paraphrase her words, we both have traded our Wonder bras for nursing bras.

So, Jessica, I will take time out of grading student finals to accept your challenge to write my 5 things I love about being a mom. Here they are, in no particular order:

The hugs, the kisses, and all-around lovin': My kiddos are still at the stage where they can't get enough of loving on mommy. I can't tell you how much I love holding their tiny hands as we go for a walk or just lying down and reading a book. Their little kisses, no matter how drooly, are always welcomed on my cheek. And of course, hearing "I love you, Mommy" always puts me in a better mood. Having them express their love so freely makes me less inhibited with my own emotions for my husband, other family and friends. I know there will be time when hugs and kisses for mommy will have to be demaded, but I hope I will remember this wonderful stage in their life and learn from it.

Re-discovering and re-learning what I thought I knew: As someone who studied anthropology, learning about new things and going to new places has been a passion of mine. Now with my two little ones and having a more "grounded" life, I am discovering new things all the time, only I don't have to go halfway around the world to do it. Observing how my kids experience things for the first time is like I'm doing it for the first time all over again. Whether it be going camping, feeling the ocean at your feet, or learning how to read, you learn a lot when you experience these things with children.

Getting to see little personalities evolve: Sometimes it hard not to do it, but I know many parents who, while observing their newborn baby, will say things like "She's so stubborn. She must get it from my side of the family." Like their family has a monopoly on stubborness. For me, because my son is adopted, I don't have to explain everything away with genetics. I have the luxury of watching and learning about my son without having to relate every single characteristic to myself. Because of this experience with my son, I have learned to do this with my (biological) daughter. I look at her not as "mini me" but as a little individual person who has her own personality. Our children will become unique people and we get to watch it happen.

Becoming a family of four: Sometimes when the four of us are together, my daughter will say, "Look! We're a family!" And we are. We are a team that loves each other and works together. And being a part of this team is the most important relationship of my life.

Watching the kids with their father: My husband and I were married for four years before we had children. And we dated for four years before that. We have loved each other through many stages in our lives. Now we love each other as parents of our children. As I watch him with our kids, I still see the boy that I fell in love with, but he is now a man and most importantly, a father. I cannot be the mother that I want to be without his support.

Well, Jessica...I want to thank you for lighting a fire under my butt and getting me to blog again. After the semester is over, I think I'll return more regularly. But you can always find me on Facebook....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Back from hiatus

I honestly didn't mean to take a hiatus. I generally enjoy blogging, even if I'm the only one that reads. I find it funny that as soon as I began to have people read my blog, I stopped blogging. Kind of like my graduate school experience.

I do have a few excuses. After June (my last entry), summer got a little busy at my household. I kept thinking of all the things I could write about, then I would table them because I wanted to wait until the right time to do it. In my fantasy world, the "right time" means no child interruptions, all outside work completed, and no laundry to do. This, of course, never happened.

Another obstacle in my blog writing has been my addiction to Facebook. I never thought a networking tool could be so addicting. It seems that all of my online time is dedicated to updating my profile, commenting on others' statuses, and looking at ridiculous pictures from the early 90's my high school friends have scanned and uploaded. Evil tool. (But if you are on Facebook and want to become my "friend", click on my profile badge on the right.)

Needless to say, I think I'm back. There is much to write about. I now teach two Intro. classes at the University and I finally started reading my diss again. I'm also looking for a full-time gig (non-academic....I'll write about this later). Sassy Girl and Destructo Boy are growing up so fast and challenging me every day. Life is good. Stressful, but good.

Friday, June 13, 2008

This is what I signed my son up for

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

On Wednesday, I stood holding Destructo Boy alongside dozens of other immigrants at the U.S. Citizen Swearing-in Ceremony. I held up my right hand and said the above oath for him. Though he didn't have to, Destructo Boy held up his pudgy hand as well.

I am happy that everything is over and all parts of the adoption is finally completed. However, as I was saying the words, I felt a little bad for Destructo Boy. He didn't choose to "abjure all allegiance to any foreign prince." He didn't choose to leave Korea. Other people (including me) made that choice for him. How will he feel about this when he is old enough to understand?

For those of you who are US citizens by birth, read the above words. Did you know what you are obligated to?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

No Country for Young Boy

Next week, our family will celebrate our Family Day, commemorating one year since Destructo Boy's adoption became final. As I look back at that day, I remember how happy I felt. Destructo Boy was officially and legally my son and I thought all of the logistical stuff was over. Well, theoretically.

One year later we are still waiting for one more piece of paperwork - Destructo Boy's Certificate of Citizenship. I've already vented about this in a previous entry, but I bring it up now because the issue is still not resolved. Even though the law says my son is a U.S. citizen because of the adoption, I have no way to prove it. Unlike with my daughter, I just can't show up the Social Security Administration with his birth certificate and get him a social security number. I can't get him a U.S. passport. Why not? It says his birthplace is South Korea.

But get this...he's not a Korean citizen either. When I took him out of the country, I sat in the South Korean immigration office and officially took him off their citizen list (standard policy - if he remained on the list he would have to serve in the Korean army). So my son has no county, at least on paper.

10 months after we applied for a Certificate of Citizenship, we finally heard from the Department of Homeland Security. We have to show up in person for an "interview" and we were told to bring his green card and passport to the agency in order to receive his COC. Ummm....why does he need his green card? He is already a citizen because we adopted him. And passport? What passport? He never had a passport because he relinquished his Korean citizenship when we left the country. When I tried explaining this to the agent when I called the so-called "Help Line" at the DHS, I was told I would have to make an appointment to ask this particular question in person. So I try to make an appointment with our local office, but the next available appointment comes AFTER our scheduled interview. My faith in the Federal government shrinks each passing day.

This whole situation has caused me to have some crazy thoughts....if Destructo Boy was deported, where would he be sent to? Would he be forced to wander the terminal at the airport like in that mediocre Tom Hanks movie? Really...all I want is to get my kid a passport and a social security card so he can grow up and become a participating citizen. Why must it be so difficult?

Did I mention a Certificate of Citizenship costs over $400?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Reinventing Mother's Day

My relationship with Mother's Day is one that is hot and cold. When I was little, I remember getting up early and making my mother breakfast in bed. Mom always talks about how proud I was of the burnt toast that was saturated with jelly as I watched her eat every bite. I loved making Mother's Day cards at school because I knew my mom would love and keep every one of them (she's a sentimental pack rat). Perhaps the most memorable Mother's Day was when I was about 14 years old. My father and brother were on some kind of trip (where I don't remember) so it was just me and my mom. We decided to take the train to San Francisco and do some shopping. We didn't buy anything, but we had a wonderful time together.

The funniest Mother's Day story I have is from when I was teaching fourth grade. I decided to have my students decoupage vases and make flowers. So I asked every child to bring a class bottle or jar from home. I should have been more specific in my instructions and asked them to at least rinse out the bottles. A handful of students showed up the next morning with Corona bottles, pints of Mickey's and bottles of Johnny Walker Red Label, some of which still had the contents in them. Even when I had the kids clean out the bottles, my classroom still smelled like a frat party. The vases did turn out really well, though...especially those made with the Mickey's bottles.

After Ebo and I were married and were starting to talk about children, I began to have a different relationship with Mother's Day. One year as they were handing out roses at church, the usher tried to give one to me. "No, thank you," I said, "I'm not a mother." The usher replied, "That's okay. Take one anyway." I began to wonder whether or not I would ever be able to legitimately have a rose. Would I always be the woman who would "take one anyway"?

Four years ago, I celebrated my first Mother's Day as a mom. I was almost at the end of my first trimester with Sassy Girl and people were beginning to notice that I was pregnant. Everyone was contratulating me and encouraging me to stand up during mass when the priest asked for all the moms to stand up. I didn't feel like standing. I didn't feel like a mom. I was happy about our IVF success, but I was scared that it was all going to be taken away from me somehow. Furthermore, because of my experience with infertility, I knew there was probably someone in that congregation that was in pain because she wanted to be a mom, too.

Since then, Ebo and I have tried to be low-key about Mother's Day. I don't expect flowers, brunches, or jewelry. Cards are even optional. On that day, I don't want to do anything but spend time with my family. This past Sunday marked my best Mother's Day as a mom. When I woke up, Ebo and the kids walked me downstairs to a bowl of cereal and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Like my father did with my brother and me many years ago, Ebo had our kids make breakfast. I was told later that Sassy Girl poured the cereal by herself Destructo Boy ate more jelly than went on my toast. It was the best breakfast I have ever eaten.

We spent most of the afternoon at a nearby state park. We got dirty, played in the river, and layed out in the sun. I couldn't have asked for anything more perfect. Yet amidst all of my joy I felt a little guilty. Because I have been part of the infertility community, I know how hard this holiday is for some. Mother's Day used to be a reminder of what I possibly would never have. A part of me will always feel that pain.

This year, though, my kids reminded me of the happier moments of past Mother's Days. Celebrating with my own mother was just as important for me as it was for her. The memory of the pride my fourth grade students had in their decoupaged booze bottles will always make me smile. I hope that as a mother, I can make happy Mother's Day memories for Sassy Girl and Destructo Boy.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

You Know You're an Adoptive Parent When...

I find a lot of these things on the various message boards I lurk on. I haven't felt/experienced all on the this list, but I can definitely relate. My favorites are #2 and #14; #12 and #13 make me smile.

You Know You're An Adoptive Parent When . . .
1. The fact that there are 143 million children without a parent to kiss them goodnight has made you lose sleep.
2. You realize DNA has nothing to do with love and family.
3. You can't watch Adoption Stories on TLC without sobbing.
4. The fact that, if 7% of Christians adopted 1 child there would be no orphans in the world, is convicting to you.
5. You spend free time surfing blogs about families who have experienced the blessing of adoption.
6. It drives you crazy when people ask you about adopted child's 'real' parents.
7. You have ever been 'pregnant' with your adoptive child longer than it takes an elephant to give birth (2 years!).
8. You had no idea how you would afford to adopt but stepped out in faith anyway, knowing where God calls you He will provide.
9. You have ever taken an airplane ride half-way around the world with a child you just met.
10. You believe God's heart is for adoption.
11. You realize that welcoming a child into your heart and family is one of the most important legacies you could ever leave on this earth.
12. You know what the word 'Dossier' means, and you can actually pronounce it!
13. You have welcomed a social worker into the most private parts of your life.
14. You shudder when people say your child is so lucky that you adopted them, knowing full well you are the blessed one to have him or her in your life.
-Author unknown

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Small beginnings

I received an email from the hospital where Sassy Girl was born. They are updating their NICU "graduate wall" where they post "then and now" pictures of babies who have stayed there. They asked if I would want Sassy Girl to be part of this wall.

After Sassy Girl was born, she spent three weeks growing in the NICU. Granted, three weeks is a very short time compared with the months some parents of micro preemies have to endure. Still, at the time it felt like forever. Furthermore, everything was unknown - not only did we not know when she would be able to come home, but we didn't know if problems would develop because of her prematurity. Sure, everything looked great and she had few problems at the time, but there was always that chance. Babies weren't meant to be born that small or that early.

As I walked to long hall to NICU every day, the graduate wall was like a beacon of hope for Ebo and me. We would compare the birthweights and gestational ages of the kids' to that of Sassy Girl's. It was especially helpful to see pictures of older kids doing "normal" kid stuff like riding bikes, running, or reading books.
I still visit the NICU about once every couple of months. Ebo and I are part of a group of volunteer parents who support families who currently have babies in the hospital. We mostly bring goodies on holidays, but I have also occasionally shared our story with the parent support group. Even though it's been almost four years since Sassy Girl began her life in that hospital, I am still hit with surge of emotions when I turn that corner to the long NICU hallway. Then I stop and start looking at each picture of each graduate, reading the information that I have long since memorized. I am comforted once again by pictures of Michelle, Caitlyn, Nicole, Sarah, Winston (Ebo's favorite), and all of the children who were faced with tough challenges early in life. I hope that Sassy Girl can provide the same hope for parents.

Now that Destructo Boy has joined our family, it feels just a little bit different when I visit the hospital. I don't know much about Destructo Boy's NICU stay. All I have is a translated hospital report. When I would visit Sassy Girl each day, I would notice that there were some babies that seemed to never have visitors. Because of work and circumstance, their parents were not able to come and care for them. The nurses did a phenomenal job caring for each baby, but they couldn't pump milk or give them kangaroo care. Now I'm wondering who cared for Destructo Boy for the first three months of his life. I wish I was able to do for him what I was able to do for Sassy Girl.

Though their struggles are minimal, both my kiddos still deal with being preemie - Sassy Girl with her size and Destructo Boy with his speech delay. But they have proven to me that they are up for all of life's challenges. One of my favorite songs from the musical, Les Miserables, is called "Little People" - I think it should be every preemie's mantra:
They laugh at me, these fellows, just because I am small.
They laugh at me because I'm not a hundred feet tall.
I tell 'em there's a lot to learn down here on the ground.
The world is big but lil' people turn it around.

Newly born Sassy Girl - all 2 1/2 pounds of her

Sassy Girl at three - takin' on the world