Adopting our own children

If you don’t like (or more specifically, avoid) politics, this is not your post. As queer women, as a family headed by queer women, I believe and experience that our lives are intrinsically political. We don’t get an opt-out unless we’re willing to take things at the status quo. I’m not.

As I said recently, we completed our second parent adoptions (or step-parent, or whatever they’ve decided to call these damned things now) on Friday (for Darwin) and Tuesday (for Linnea). I’ve got a whole host of feelings attending this event, some of them floating around being grateful that they were completed before the Orange Menace takes office in a week and the rest centering squarely on disgust that the system makes this necessary in a situation where our children were planned by us for more than a decade, we have the legal paperwork from our donor releasing any rights or responsibilities, and we have been parenting our children for over two years, and over six months, respectively. Here’s how it all happened.

In November, a pressing need to adopt our own children resulted from the loss of any semblance of safety when we (or Russia? who’s counting?) elected the Orange Menace. Why? Because we don’t know what is going to happen, but all signs point to a white-hot ball of shrieking rage taking center stage. We don’t know exactly what is going to happen, because the Orange Menace is a gas lighter who will say anything that comes into his mind at 3 in the morning in a Twitter rant. His bizarre, abusive behavior will simply be a smokescreen for his staff to duck behind as they carry out the defunding of health insurance that millions now rely on rather than revamping a system that is in its infancy (public option anyone?). I bring these up because they are indicative of our situation. We just don’t know what the next four years are going to bring, but it’s clear that the “us” vs. “them” is merely intensifying. So we self-protect.

 We contacted a friend who is a lawyer and to whom we’ve brought this up with in passing before. We heard from other friends that they had people in their lives who wanted to help, to fundraise the cost of their adoptions, and they wanted to include us if we wanted and needed. That overwhelming gesture of solidarity still brings tears to my eyes and a while lot of ‘it’s going to be okay’ even when clearly it’s not, because, as another friend once said, ‘it’s not going to be ok, but it’s going to be ok.’ This, people who do these massive, generous things, make me believe. 

We found out quickly that, since there is only one person at DHS in the state who all these adoptions go through, it could take as long as six months to complete. Not ideal with January 20th looming. So we got on it as quickly as we could get together the first $500. Shockingly, while we were still in the Midwest for the holidays, we heard that our lawyer was ready to send the judgements to be signed, about a month after we started the whole process. 

On Friday the 6th we got word that our judgement for Darwin had been signed. We found out on Monday that the judge was requesting a waiver for medical information that is required for traditional adoptions. What the heck? Well our lawyer wrote an awesome letter in which she basically told the judge that requiring this information for a queer couple was placing an undue burden on queer families that was not required of straight families in a similar circumstance and to knock it off. Politely. Firmly. And Linnea’s was signed immediately. 

So. We have now legally adopted our own children. I’m grateful for the support from our community. I’m relieved that it was completed before the 20th. I’m bitter that it is necessary. I’m furious that this is only one very small fallout from a tragic election result. I’m thrilled that we can get the girls their passports without question and be recognized legally as the parents we have always been. 

Magic Shoes

I’ve told this story in person a million times because it’s just so darn cute, and I just realized I should share it here too. Darwin has magic shoes.

We have fought off and on with Darwin about putting on shoes (like most kids, I think). She has gone through several pair that she’ll like just fine every once in a while, but I was so tired of the regular morning begging for her to put her shoes on. Often, I would carry her to the car without shoes at all due to time constraints. So one day, we went down to a local shoe store. I wasn’t going to order pair after pair online only to have them sit, rejected in the closet. The saleswoman in the store greeted us and asked if we could help. I was a little flustered since I didn’t know how this would go with Darwin, and said something along the lines of “I need some shoes that she’ll wear. That she will just put on without an argument.” I paused, reflecting on how ridiculous that sounded and clarified, “Basically, I need Magic Shoes.” And I laughed, self-deprecatingly.

I looked at their rack of kid shoes and pointed to one that looked vaguely promising. “How about we try those in an 8?” The woman smiled and took the shoe to the back while Darwin kept looking from one shoe display to another. She loves the idea of shoes, but the execution of wearing them not so much. The saleswoman returned with three boxes. “Okay,” she said, “we have these in an 8 and a 9, just in case. And we also have another style you might try.”

I took the size 8’s in the style I’d sent her for, and Darwin was willing to try them out. She seemed mildly enthused and wore them happily on a circle around the store. Then I looked at the other box. The shoes were high tops, with shiny, sparkly stuff on them, but they weren’t a horrid pepto bismol pink, so I figured why not? Darwin’s eyes lit up when she saw them. Lit up like a solstice tree. I asked if she wanted to try them on and she nodded. The first words out of her mouth when they were on her feet were “THESE ARE GOOD!” After which she proceeded to hop and run around the store gleefully. The other patrons were charmed, thankfully.

And these shoes have lived up to their magic. I can count on one hand the number of times Darwin has refused them in the past two months. They are sturdy, barely showing any wear in that time too, in spite of essentially being the only shoes she wears. This experience has made me decree (to Leah’s complete agreement) that from here on out, our kids don’t use hand-me-down shoes. They each get a nice pair and a play pair, plus slippers and boots, and they’re all their own.

20161128_081018.jpg

The best photo of the Magic Shoes. They’re Keen Encanto Scouts, for anyone who needs their own Magic Shoes.

 

A new year

Well, personally, 2017 has started out just fine. The girls are both healthy and (mostly) happy. The adults are feeling the strain of caring for two small children, a PhD program, full time work, a house, four cats, and a dog, but really, overall we’re doing just fine. Politically, I can’t decide if I want to scream, vomit, or burn it all down (figuratively, not with real, burning fire). Our second parent adoptions went through on Friday and Tuesday (the fact that they went through on different days will be the subject of another post), which is a relief and also an infuriating reminder of how much power the government has over our family.

But the broader question is this: what are we going to do with this fresh new year? I don’t make resolutions, but I do step back and take stock. Think about what worked and what didn’t. What is it that I want to do moving forward as a parent, as a spouse, as a human and a citizen?

PARENTHOOD

That’s a darn big concept. Overall, I think we’re kind of killing it at parenting. Except at bedtime. And keeping my cool when one of the kids does something that physically hurts me. And meal time. And putting down the damn phones. Okay, so there’s some room to think about changes there.

Sleeeeeeeeep…..

Bedtime has been an off-and-on again epic battle with Darwin since she was about 7-8 months old. I have not had consistent evenings since then, meaning, often she goes to sleep around 10 pm, the same time I would like to, but often this would force me to stay up working until 12 or even 1 am. We have no choice but to be out of the house by 7:20 three days a week now, so a 10 pm sleep-time is a super no-go. So wind-down is extending. I’ve started reading books for 30-40 minutes before bedtime the last two nights (last night was a late start due to pizza night out after the adoptions came through, but I’m nipping that in the bud now). Darwin was asleep before 9 the first try, and I think close to 9 the second, although I fell asleep too (beer and pizza = sleep). I won’t do any kind of cry it out method with her. I’ve let her fuss and yell and cry in her pack’n’play when I have absolutely no choice about getting work done, but she just doesn’t settle under those circumstances (not blaming her on this one, neither would I…). So, a tighter routine and to sleep every night in her “big girl” bed on the floor next to our bed. Even if it means mama gets into the little bed with her sometimes.

Chilling out

This one is hard because, let’s face it, most of us parents of young children aren’t getting enough sleep, don’t get enough “down time” when we are awake unless it’s eating up our sleep, and are drinking way too much caffein. All these issues lead to me being on edge more than I’m used to, which leads to me snapping more easily. And nothing makes me snap like getting hurt by someone else, even my two year old who just dropped another book on my foot. I’m better (I think) than I used to be about my temper. This is starting to be somewhat toddler-regulated. My reason for recognizing the need to chill out was a little voice saying “mama, please don’t yell.” Yeah. That ripped my heart out. So I’m working on counting to ten; patiently explaining to Darwin that my exclamation of “FUCK!” was because something hurt, but that I’m okay and that it’s okay that it upset her but that I wasn’t angry at her; and trying to suppress the initial rage at being hurt in the first place.

Meal time

No more fighting for each bite of food. I’m working on the “parent’s job is to provide food, kid’s job is to eat it.” Always offer something we know she likes (that isn’t cheese or bread…), and something new. Hopefully we’ll be able to write a new page there.

Phones

I hate smartphones. I love smartphones. I avoided them for years because I knew they would be a weakness. Currently researching ways to drop the smartphone. Or at least use it drastically less.

PARTNERSHIP

Before we had kids, we talked about how we had a lot of relationship equity banked. Well, that’s pretty much gone now. My focus is toddler + work + house + as much support as I have left for the littlest little. Notice that the only way “spouse” falls in there is through “support with the littlest little.” We’re in this place right now where all the kind things we do for each other involve taking over with the kids to give the other partner some quiet time/time to work. I’m not sure how to change this, or if it can change right now. We have the gift of a date from my parents to look forward to. Depending on how it goes, we may try to extend that to a once-a-month night together.

It’s hard though, being away from the kids for so much of the weekday, then being away again when we don’t technically have to be away. Recognizing the importance of filling up the cup though, it may be time to make the time.

HUMAN-NESS AND CITIZENSHIP

Even though sometimes I (we all?) feel like all we are is parents, we are our own people too. There are things I need and want to do to interact more with the world I’m in beyond my work and my daily to-do list.

In the earth

This year, I’m focusing on the garden and land that we own (our little .15 acres of paradise). We have garden beds that need to be fenced from the deer in the front and the dog in the back who eats tomatoes and strawberries like they’re going out of style. I want to do starts this year, as I’ve missed out the last two years. Darwin will enjoy this as much as I do, I think! So. I’ve ordered seed catalogues and my next step is to do our taxes so I can find out if we can afford fencing materials this spring, or if I’m pounding stakes and putting up fishing line again (surprisingly effective, a total PAIN in the butt). Sometimes I look at where our money went at this point in the year and feel mildly bitter towards my past self for not saving for a fence. I shake my fist at you past self.

In the community

We live in a small city (town really) built by logging and still dependent on it for a significant part of our tax base. We have a mill in town (two, though as the supply of cedar drops, one will cease to function), a sort yard behind our house, and a timber company that maintains their base of operations in town limits. I love our town, but have separated myself in many ways, because of 1) life and 2) fear of stereotypes about small towns. Another blogger once wrote about saying “yes” to their kids. This year I’m saying it to my town. I’ve looked at our city meeting schedule and am planning to start going to city council meetings that happen on the second Monday evening of the month. I may bring Darwin. I have yet to decide. If my wife reads this post before I mention it to her, I will absolutely bring Darwin…

We use the library and the city parks already. The other big events, as in most small, rural-ish towns, are the high school sports games. Well, our football team screwed up this year and I think they may not have even had games. But perhaps I’ll look at the basketball schedule for the rest of the season. And there’s always baseball in the spring. Time to show up a little bit more.

THE END FOR NOW

Like I said, I don’t make resolutions. If I can manage to follow through on two or three of these plans and hopes, I’ll be pleased. Perhaps a mindset change will mean I’m capable of more. At least this year I wrote it down and thought about it, and have concrete ideas that will help me move forward when I get glued down.