Sunday, April 28, 2013

X is for X-ray

Last year at this time I wasn’t feeling so well. I had been coughing for a few weeks and it was getting to where I couldn’t sleep. Allergies, I figured. So I took a cough suppressant. Then the next day I broke out in a rash. Must have been allergic to the cough suppressant, I figured. But eventually the rash got so bad it became a serious concern. So I went to the ER, assuming I needed some Benadryl or something. A few hours later I was admitted to the hospital. With pneumonia. It’s actually kind of a funny story. It’s just not the story I’m telling today. The point here is that I had pneumonia last spring.

There was only one logical, healthy reaction to this: assume Lily had pneumonia every time she coughed.

The biggest problem with this reaction is that she coughs. Like, a lot.

We’ve realized quite recently that her cough really IS allergies. (We are grateful for this discovery, as we- and doctors- thought for a bit that it was asthma. Toddlers with inhalers are sad.)

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back to a few months ago, when we were constantly convinced Lily had pneumonia.

It was another one of those days when she was coughing so hard she was throwing up. We decided enough was enough. So we took her to the ER.  The doctors in the ER insisted it was nothing. We insisted it might be something. They finally agreed to do a chest Xray.

Again, I feel the need for a disclaimer. There are a lot of judgey Moms out there. Shame on you.  But just in case, you still feel like judging, here’s the disclaimer. We do NOT run to the doctor for every little thing. I have a rough-and-tumble kid, and I let her be rough-and-tumble. We insisted on the x-ray because it had been months of coughing. (Literally? Yes.) And I was convinced that I gave her pneumonia. (Which isn’t really how that works. But. Mommy guilt and all.) This was her first x-ray ever, and they will continue to be saved for emergencies. K?

And now, a word about our Lily. She is TOUGH. She loves the doctor. She is brave. So we played up this whole x-ray thing. She was going to go into a room where a robot would take a picture of the INSIDE OF HER BODY!!! So cool!

She was skeptical.

Then she was taken inside the x-ray room to see the robot and put on a special vest. Then she was left in there alone, and the lights went off. Then the robot made terrifying loud noises.

And then I saw it from a 3-year-old’s point of view.

Her parents had just put her-alone- in a room with a robot who could see her insides.

She. Screamed.

It wasn’t just a sad scream, or an angry scream, or an attention-getting scream. It was a terrified scream. She was really, truly scared. And we couldn’t go in to help her. It was awful.

Fortunately for her the technician couldn’t get a clear picture because she couldn’t stay still. That gave Daddy the opportunity to go in, put on a vest and join her. She didn’t love it, but she tolerated it.

That was one, tiny moment. And it made me want to put Lily in a bubble so she would never be sick or hurt or scared again. I can’t imagine how I’ll make it through another moment like this, let alone a lifetime full of them.

But if I had put her in a bubble, I wouldn’t have watched her play her first soccer game yesterday. And I couldn’t watch her swim the entire length of the pool. Or climb to the top of the rope spider web, hang from the top rope, and drop down.

And the magic of those moments is worth the fear.

We interrupt this alphabet...

I have "X" all written. And I'll post it later tonight, I promise.

But I have fun news! In just a few minutes (7 PM EST) I'll be speaking on the Jennfer Keitt Show on FM 104.1 in Atlanta. Tonight's show is "Guess who's coming to dinner," and it deals with trans-racial issues. I'll be speaking on trans-racial adoption. I'll also be tweeting live: ThrlyMdrnMindy with the hashtag #GuessWho

Don't live in the Atlanta area? You can listen online at

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Words

I feel like Lily will never learn to read.

Now, before you decide I'm one of those Moms who goes crazy with the early-reading business. I assure you I am not. I have a Masters Degree in Education. I know what is developmentally appropriate. So it's not that I am impatient. It's simply that I am in awe of how someone could learn to read from the very beginning.

So far, she reads three words.

Lily. Zoo. Ohio.

It used to be that they had to be in a particular font for her to read them. Ohio, for example, needed to be in block green letters. As in Ohio University. (How proud are Mama and Papa that one of her first sight words is their alma mater? Pretty freakin proud.) Lily needed to be handwritten, and just by itself. She didn't identify it in a sentence. Same with zoo.

Now, though, she can find these words anywhere. She brought me my birth certificate the other day. (which was on the counter from the great Car Inspection Debacle.) "Mommy? Does this say Ohio?" Yes. Yes it does.

She can also type these three words on an iphone or computer. Lily. Ohio. Zoo. If you ever get a text from me with a lot of random letters and those words thrown in, you'll know who it's really from.

But despite her having three sight words, it is just beyond my realm of understanding that she'll ever truly be able to read.

It reminds me of the time I thought she'd never truly be able to speak. Like, real thoughts. Which she most certainly does. From the time she wakes up until she is fast asleep. I wrote about her words in January of 2011. She was 20 months old. For the sake of my own nostalgia, and as a mark of how far she's come, I present to you "Out of the Mouths of Babes." If her oral language development is any indication of how her reading and writing will develop, expect her first novel soon.

Out of the Mouths of Babes (January 6, 2011)

My daughter is learning to talk. As a voice teacher and writer, this is about the coolest thing I have ever witnessed in my life. I have outlined her current vocabulary below. To me, this is fascinating. If it’s not fascinating to you, go read something else. is pretty funny. Try that.

Words that you would recognize, that mean what you think they mean:





No (or, N-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-no)



Bye-bye (used as the thing that is said when a person is departing, and the act of the departure itself)

Juice (not just something to drink, but juice, specifically. Always phrased as a question)

Shoe (used for shoes, but also socks and feet, always phrased as a question)



Hot (almost always accompanied by blowing on something imaginary, even if the thing she’s describing as hot is not food)

Yucky (pronounced yuh-KEEEEEEEEE with a giant glottal stop between the syllables)






Exclamations. This could go in the category above, but is fun enough that it gets it’s own category:

Oh no!

Uh-Oh! (these two are interchangeable)


Whoa! (these two are NOT interchangeable. “Wow” is reserved for the impressive or exciting, or when she just feels like saying “wow.” Whoa, on the other hand is only for things like almost falling down but then catching ones’ self. As in, “Whoa, that was a close one.”)

Boo! (It is important to note an expectation here. “Boo” is always terrifying, and the listener must exclaim how terrifying Lily is for having said it.)


Whassat? (What’s that?)

Whaaaaaaat? (always accompanied by hands held out, palms up.)
Note concerning these questions: they are generally completely out of context and do not refer to anything in particular. She just think it’s funny.

Words that are pretty close, and you’d get it if you really thought about it. Or if we were there to translate:

Nah-nah (night-night, or bedtime)

Bah (bath)

Daw (dog)

Da (dance)

Elwo (Elmo)

Dah (down. Yes, dog, dance, and down sound an awful lot alike. Context clues, people)

Peace (please)

Hep (help)

Buh (book)

Kee-kee or Kih-ee (kitty)

Bee-butt (belly button)

Num-num (food, or the way she feels about the food)

Words that sound sort of like one thing, and mean something else entirely:
Mooooooohhhhh? (more. This is her most common word for food, regardless of whether she has had any yet. Origin, I think: “Lily, do you want some more?” This word is starting to mean she just wants something. And it’s up to the listener to discover what that thing is. Always phrased as a question. Always.)

Bah (back. This is her word for containers. Origin, I think: “Lily, put that back.” Often she is explaining she wants not the thing, but the container that holds the thing. Or both.)

You’d never have any idea what she was saying, but it’s cute and she’s using it consistently and correctly so give her a break:
Kee-kew (Thank You)

Uh, *random syllable*, *LOUDER RANDOM SYLLABLE!!!!!* (One, two, three. That’s right, my kid can count. Uh, sort of.)




Baaaaaaaaaah (complete with vibrato)


Beep- beep

Vvvvvvvvv (the sound an engine makes)

Shhhhhhhh (which means be quiet but is also the sound of running water)

Zzzzzzzzz (the sound of zippers and bees)

And our favorite Lily-ism:
Deedle-eedle-eedle-eedle-eedle! (Which doesn’t mean anything except that she’s really happy.)

I would suggest printing this guide and keeping it handy, but a translator will be provided when you visit if you are not yet fluent in Lily.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Veterinarian

Lily has decided she wants to be a veterinarian.

Of course what she really wants to be is an animal rescuer, like Diego.

But since that's not a thing, she will settle for veterinarian.

She told me of her plans the other day on the way to the Bronx Zoo. She couldn't remember what you call a person who helps animals when they're sick. So I told her they were called veterinarians. And then she told me she wanted to be one.

I think this is a brilliant idea. She loves animals, has a heart of gold, and an interest in education. My instinct- I'm not kidding- was to find a vet who would let her job shadow for a day.

As a reminder, Lily is not quite 4.

I like plans. I like knowing what is going to happen. I like being on a path. And truthfully, my career training started at 6 with piano lessons. But I don't think we knew then that it would be career training.

I wish I could look into a crystal ball and see what she's supposed to be. Then I could make sure she has all the right opportunities and experiences.

But I guess it's also pretty cool watching a kid change and grow. Odds are pretty high she'll become a professional Something-That-Doesn't-Exist-Yet. So while we wait, I do the only thing I can, given my lack of crystal ball. Every night I pray with her that we help her become just who she's supposed to be.

That's better than a crystal ball anyway.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Unimpressed

Lily makes amazing faces. And she poses for the camera. When she feels like it.

Last summer we stumbled upon an event downtown. We asked Lily if she wanted us to take her picture. This was the result.

She has never seen the McKayla's Unimpressed meme. This is just what she was feeling.

We have a serious diva on our hands.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for Things You Can Never Ever Say to Someone Struggling With Infertility

...Even though you really want to.

Like, Ever.

This week, April 22-29, is Infertility Awareness Week.

To recognize this, (Not celebrate. Just recognize.  Infertility is never celebrated.) I've decided to bring back an oldie, but a goodie. Or at least, a relevantie. I've updated it for our purposes here.

Much love to all of you going through this <3 i="">

In May of 2010, right around my daughter's first birthday, I posted a brief history of her adoption. Minutes later, I panicked. What kind of Pandora's box had I just opened???? I braced myself for the unsolicited advice.

Then I realized I didn't have to accept it. (The advice. Sadly, the infertility is out of my control.) I had a forum. I'd just rebut the comments before they came in. Here's what I had to say:

- Maybe it was your thyroid, that can often lead to infertility. (My reaction- it was not. That is only true if your levels are off. Mine are not, they are regulated quite well with medication. It's been checked. Lots of times. By lots of doctors. But thanks.)

- Maybe all of the trying and worrying was the problem. (My reaction- it was not. There is actually NO scientific evidence to support this. None. I guarantee I have done more research about this than you. But thanks.)

- My friend... (fill in the blank with a thousand possible scenarios)... You should try that. (My reaction, most likely, is "I have." But thanks.)

- Everything happens for a reason, also known as It's all in God's Time. (My reaction: I know. No, seriously. I know. Doesn't make it hurt any less now. But thanks.)

- Now that you've adopted, you'll probably get pregnant. (You don't want my unedited reaction to this one. Seriously. But I can tell you that what I hear is "Now that you've stopped all that trying and worrying, you can have the baby you really want." Don't want me to have this reaction? Then don't say it. Thanks.)

So. Two sections. Why We Don't Want Your Advice, and What You Can Do Instead.

Why We Don't Want Your Advice

We know you don't mean it, but when you give unsolicited advice to someone dealing with infertility, it comes with the following implications:

1. You have thought of something she hasn't thought of. This is seriously so very unlikely.

2. Her difficulties in getting pregnant are somehow linked to her actions. Not only is this probably not true, but it only adds to the guilt and shame she is already feeling. I'm sorry to tell you, but this is especially true of the "Just relax/ don't worry/ stop tryin so hard" variety of advice. I'm begging you. Don't say it. Ever.

What You Can Do Instead

Aside from avoiding unsolicited advice at all costs? Here are some general ideas:

1. Don't ask about it. We know you're curious, we know you're thinking about us. But a) it's kinda none of your business, and even worse b) you may have caught us in a rare moment when we were not thinking about it.

2. Understand why we might not come to your baby shower. I promise you that we feel worse about it than you do.

3. If we want to talk about it, let us. But just listen unless we specifically ask about something. (which we probably will not.)

I know it sounds like a lot to ask. It's difficult. Not nearly as difficult for you as it is for us, but difficult. Just remember to support us as people first, and try to remind yourself that it's not your problem to fix

S is for Smitty

This is Smitty:

Smitty is a monkey from Build-A-Bear. So he's a Build-A-Monkey.

We got Smitty to commemorate a very important day. The day we went to court and legally became a family.

We became a family the minute we got the phone call that Lily was coming to us. But this was the day it became final. We had the same run of emotions that most adoptive families have. Worrying that something will go wrong. That some unknown blood relative will appear. This is a myth, by the way. And a harmful one, if it scares people away from adopting. First, a blood relative would actually have to 1. Know about the proceedings and 2. Show up. Then, that person would have to prove that they are a BETTER fit than the adopting family. Not. Likely. (Primarily because, uh, where ya been til now?)

So we had all these worries. And additional silly ones with no legal basis. Like, the judge deciding we didn't make enough money. Or her bedroom was too small. Or that we shouldn't have given her peas without cutting them. (a real question asked in our home study, btw.)

But this was all unfounded, of course. So we were relieved as we realized how easy this was going to be. Then overwhelmed when the judge said she found that we were the best family for Lily, and that we now had all of the same legal responsibilities as a birth family.

It's a common story. Because frankly, that's how adoption works. Nia Vardalos tells a very similar story in her book "Instant Mom." But it's special when it's your own family going through it. Five minutes in court that change your lives forever.

We needed to celebrate. So we headed to Build-A-Bear. Lily had very little idea of what was going on. I'm not really sure who picked the monkey. She may have pointed to him. But she was fascinated by the stuffing process. The picture above is when she put in his heart. She kissed it LOTS of times, and we said a prayer over it and promised to love each other as a family forever. And that was it.

For a long time Smitty was just a monkey. But we always told her he was special. That we got him the day a judge said we were a family forever. And after a while, she could repeat it by rote. "We got Smitty when we went to the judge!" And we looked at pictures from that day. And she would repeat more and more as her language developed. Always by rote.

Then the other day something new happened.

"Can we look at pictures of the day you got me? And when we got Smitty and you adopted me?"

She's starting to understand. Not just repeat, but understand.

So far our adoption discussions have all been beautiful. I know this will not always be the case. I know that the more she understands, the more she will question. And I know that she'll have moments of anger and rebellion- just like every teen.

But for now, Smitty's story is one of my favorites.

R is for Routine

There are a lot of people who benefit from routines in their lives. Among those people are those with mental illness, and preschoolers. Since our family has both, naturally we have routines that cover our whole day, week, and month.

OK, Mom, I hear you laughing all the way from Ohio.

I said we had routines. I didn't say we followed them.

I've been a flybaby with Flylady for seven or eight years. Her routines have changed my life. Or at least the way I look at things. But I still strongly resist sticking to it. Why do I avoid something that is so helpful?

I think a lot of it has to do with my perfectionism. If I can't do the entire routine perfectly, I don't do any of it. Holy Not-The-Point, Batman.

But some of it is because- newsflash- I try to do too much. I over-schedule myself and over-commit myself. And the best routine on earth couldn't account for all of that activity.

I have been trying very very hard lately to learn Nancy Reagan's Just Say No philosophy on life. I may not have peers offering me drugs, but I have things offered that are just as toxic. Even fun things that seem like they'd be helpful are hurting me when they make my life so full of activity that there's no time to do laundry.

Since my Lent commitment to finish "Hope Springs" by Easter (which I totally did! Yay for me!) I've been starting my mornings with a cup of coffee and my laptop. Writing first thing in the morning seems to set me up for the rest of the day. Aha! A clue!

So. I hear-by commit, publicly, to stick to the routine. To write first thing in the morning. To Just Say No. (There is no slick way of saying that last part without splitting the infinitive.)

We'll see how this goes.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Q is for Quiet

...which I don't get very often.
I don't even have a lot to say about this one. But I need quiet. And I don't get it very often.

I am a music teacher and the Mom of a preschooler. There is almost always noise in my life. I can block it out to some extent (a skill developed during my career) but then I find myself slightly removed from the world. "Did you hear that?" (song, siren, person screaming...) a friend will ask.

"Huh?" I answer.

So I usually tough it out and let the noise in.

But if you ever want to give me a gift, it would be a few hours of total quiet.

P is for "Progress, not Perfection"

I am a perfectionist.

In fact, I sat for a moment thinking through the title of this blog. Because it said P is for Progress, not Perfection.

But P is for both Progress AND Perfection. Which is not what I was trying to say.

I'm irritated that I'm a few days behind. I almost wanted to chuck the whole idea of blogging through the alphabet.

I'm irritated that my apartment is such a mess.

I'm irritated that my nails have polish that's left over from a manicure three weeks ago.

This has been a life-long problem. And when I say problem, I mean paralyzing one. (Problem and paralyzing both start with P, which I didn't do on Purpose. But it makes me happy.)

When I was in high school and we got an assignment for any sort of long term-project, once of two things would happen. I would be struck with genius immediately as the teacher was talking, work on it deligentlty, and turn in something the teacher would use for years as an example (much to the annoyance of my little sister.) OR- I wouldn't have any ideas immediately, I'd put it off until the last second, half-ass something, and squeak by with a C. A+ or C. Those were my grades.

I almost missed a few football games as a cheerleader in high school because I couldn't get my pony tail perfectly straight.

If I can't clean the entire apartment and have it be spotless, I'm likely to do nothing.

I don't do mediocre. Because I can't. Like, can't. At least, I couldn't...

This is not a humble brag. This is a description of my illness.

Ten years ago this week I was sitting at home crying. Yes, the whole week.

We're not really sure when it happened, but it started slowly on the evening of my birthday. I started to feel incredibly anxious. Then I started to look for the source of my anxiety. Finding none, I tried to make things up. Then, I started to cry.

When I had been crying for two days with no external source of distress, my awesome husband Ryan finally said what we'd both been thinking for years. "Sweetheart, I really think you have depression."

He took me to the Cleveland Clinic that Monday morning. I was dressed adorably. Because that's what I do. I was diagnosed with severe depression. As we chatted, I acknowledged that I showed symptoms as early as seven years old. But because I was smart and strong and came from a loving family, I was able to push through. But it was time for me to stop pushing and get some help.

For the next two months I only worked two or three days a week. I went to therapy twice a week and we found the right medication for me.

Ten years later, it is still the right medication for me. I've been to three different therapists long-term. And I feel better. It turns out, my perfectionism was a very common part of depression. Looking at things as all or nothing.

I am posting this blog today, even though it's several days late. That is progress.

I am taking my daughter to the zoo today, even though we didn't fix her ponytails last night and they are a mess. That is progress.

I am cleaning the apartment in baby steps. The living room still looks terrible. But other areas are getting visibly better, and I can see where it will all be clean eventually. (Thank you, Flylady!) That is progress.

Last Monday I had a really rough day. I was exhausted and Lily wasn't helping the situation. I finally called Ryan in tears, asking him to come home early. He did. And I took an hour or so to rest in the quiet. And then I came back and joined the family. That is progress.

It's been ten years. And I'll never be cured. I'll never be perfect. (It pains me to type that.) But I am much better. And that is progress.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

O is for Older

Yesterday was my birthday. I know, I know, your card must have gotten lost in the mail. It's alright. I had plenty of celebrations- an amazing dinner on Friday night, a sing-along party on Saturday (don't hate.) and another dinner last night. I got a birthday song from Lily and gorgeous prints of some pictures she took and all is right with the world.

But here's the thing about having a birthday. Yes, it means you get lots of posts on your facebook wall. And you get presents and you get to eat cupcakes and not feel bad. But it also means you get older.

Of course we're always getting older. I'm getting older as I write this. And you're getting older as your read. But the number changes.

And I wish I could find some significance to this.

But I can't.

Yesterday I turned 38. And I would love it if this provided any sort of information other than the fact that I have been alive for 38 years. I wish I could find some identity in this number. But there is none.

I am friends with a lot of people in their twenties. A lot of things in our lives are similar.And I'm friends with people in their thirties. And a lot of things in our lives are similar. And I'm friends with people in their forties. And, well, you get the idea.

I'm fairly accomplished for my age. And I look younger than I really am. (Not a humble brag. Or any kind of brag. Just a fact. Good genes.) And I'm teeny tiny, so people perceive me as younger. (Which makes me laugh. Because Estelle Getty was teeny tiny too.) But I've always been sort of an old soul. Last week I was at a dinner party at the Ritz-Carlton. And yesterday I was chatting on the phone about boys with my 22-year-old girlfriend. I'm a Mom. But I'm also a daughter.

So it looks like I'll have to look elsewhere to find my identity. Because the number 38 just doesn't have much to say to me.

Next year, though. I make no promises concerning my healthy approach to my birthday.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for Nia Vardalos

...and what I learned from reading her book!

The other night I saw someone mention a book on facebook- "Instant Mom" by Nia Vardalos. (of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" fame) It's about her experience with adoption. So clearly it caught my attention. I had every intention of reading it. You know. Someday.

The very next morning I had an email from someone at HuffPost Live asking me to participate in a forum about the book where we could chat with Nia and ask her some questions.

Um.... yes please?

Always the good student, I purchased the book and plopped down in Lily's reading corner. About 24 hours later I emerged, laughing and crying and feeling like I had made a new friend.

Here's my review: if you're interested in adoption or infertility or family or friends or comedy, you should read this book. (Also consider the fact that I read a whole book- A WHOLE BOOK! in 24 hours. And I have a preschooler. The "whole book" part isn't unusual for me as a person. Not at all. I'm nerdy and a fast reader. It's unusual for me to make it a priority, though, at this exhausting point in my life.)

I got to be a part of the forum (which you can watch here!) and it was lovely to chat with Nia. I'm pretty sure if we were neighbors we would be friends. 

Instead of a review, (because seriously. Who am I?) I want to share a few lessons I learned from reading this book. In no particular order. But all kinda related.

1. My memoir is probably important. Nia discusses in her book the fact that she hates talking about her infertility. And don't we all? No one wants to remember that time. It's dark and yucky. I mentioned it in my post about infertility. But the fact that Nia and I both admit we don't like to talk about it reminds me. I have to keep talking about it. I don't want it to be The Forgotten Pain. And if all of us close that door once we're through it, there's no one to offer support to people on the other side. I want women currently going through it to know that I understand. That they're not alone. So. Good thoughts for me  that we find an agent, K?

2. Celebrities are people. This is probably obvious enough. But really. They have the same life situations that we have. The same struggles, the same celebrations. Just with a better wardrobe.

3. Be. Aggressive. B.E. Aggressive. But not too aggressive. Nia talks in her book about how she got her first job at Second City. She was aggressive. She reached out to people. And she treated celebrities like people. And HuffPost Host Nancy got in touch with Nia via twitter. If I'm going to make this whole Get Published thing happen, I'm going to have to be aggressive. (Remind me of that when I wuss out or when I'm crying in my martini over the 300th rejection.)

Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?

All I wanted to do was be a Mommy. For years.

Even now, if I had to choose titles, this is the one that would win.


There are times when I cannot hear the word Mommy one more time.

My own Mom used to tell us that she was going to change her name, and she wouldn't answer until we guessed correctly. We thought that was hilarious. But I get it now.

Today was one of those days when I wanted to change my name. I had several things come up that were demanding my attention. Lily was also demanding my attention. And the more stressed out I got, the more she called my name.

Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?

I tried to answer her every time. But I was working on things with a deadline that required thought. And I was getting fatigued.

By about mid-day I was beyond fatigued. I could hardly keep my eyes open. I couldn't think straight. I could hardly keep it together. I cancelled our plans to go to the zoo. Not as punishment- she hadn't done anything to warrant that. But because I didn't have it in me. I couldn't pay any more attention to anything or anyone.

I came out of the bathroom in yoga pants and a tshirt.

"Mommy? We're not going to the zoo?"

I explained that we were not. That I was very, very sorry. But I just didn't feel well.

"Can I watch my new doggie movie?"

I couldn't believe my big girl was taking it so well. I told her that of course we would watch her new doggie movie. (Lady and the Tramp, in case you were wondering.)

"Mommy? I've been thinking about it. And.... maybe I want to go to the zoo."

I couldn't even answer her. I just looked at her blankly. I knew I had to be the grown-up. But I didn't have another "Mommy?" in me.

Then she laughed. "Oops. I said I wrong word! That's OK. I meant maybe I want to go to the mall. When Daddy gets home."

And I laughed too.

Today was not a good Mommy day for me. (More on that tomorrow) Which is probably why this post is so disjointed. Even now, Lily is demanding my attention. And I am having trouble finding the patience. I don't know why the doggie is eating breakfast. Because it's morning and he's hungry?

But I'm focusing on the fact that my little girl has a sense of humor about herself. She can realize she used a wrong word. That the wrong word will make Mommy and crazy, and she better change it to what she meant to say.

And even though I want to scream "STOP SAYING MOMMY! STOP ASKING ME QUESTIONS!" I'm focusing on the fact that Mommy is the best title I've ever had.

L is for, well.... L

Lily is learning to read.

OK, I don't mean she's sitting down with Dr. Seuss and reading a brand new book aloud. (Sight reading? What's it called for words? Man. How far into music education am I that I only know what it's called when it's notes.)

But she's learning the words and letters mean something.

And it. Is. So. Cool.

Today we were at Target and she saw a book that said "zoo." We had a mini party in the aisle at this recognition.

She thinks every word that starts with "L" says Lily. Unless it really says Lily. Then she KNOWS it says Lily.

But it's also exhausting. She wants to know what every sign means. Every. Sign.

I love reading. I love writing. I love words. And 95% of the time I love sharing reading and writing words with Lily. I love taking the time when we're reading to explain words and letters and sounding things out. But sometimes I feel too tired. That's what it says because that's what it says.

At least, that's what I say in my head.

But in reality, I tell her what it says. I do my best to explain. Because teaching a child to read (well, introducing her to it, anyway.) is something I waited a very long time to do. And I intend to make the most of every opportunity.

K is for Kiss

Lily gives the best kisses.

I know, I know. Everyone thinks their kid gives the best kisses.

But for me, hers are the best.

They can brighten my day and make me feel loved and calm me when I'm anxious and make a sweet moment even sweeter.

Since they are so precious to me, and since I am Mommy after all, I sometimes feel entitled to these kisses.

But sometimes, she does not want to give me a kiss. Nor does she want me to give her a kiss.

And then I have to decide.

Do I kiss her anyway, because really it's no big deal, I'm Mommy, and her cheeks are just so squishy?

Or do I tell her- out loud- that she is in charge of her kisses.

The answer is always the latter. Always.

It makes me sad that this is a lesson I have to teach.

And yet.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for Jump

Lily is a busy kid.

I don't mean she's over-scheduled. I've worked hard to avoid that.

I mean she's busy.

She never. Stops. Moving.

Until she's asleep. Then she's OUT.

In fact, Lily is still sleeping right now. I need to take her to school at some point. But she's not exactly a morning girl. That's OK. Neither is Mommy.

We're both busy girls. She keeps me on my toes. She runs and twirls and kicks. And jumps.

Lily will likely be an athlete. At not-quite-four she can swim the length of the pool. She swims in a class of 5 and 6 year olds. She's working on her technique. Maybe she'll be a swimmer. Maybe it will be something else. But she will likely be an athlete.

A few days ago she told me she wanted to be a cheerleader for Go Ohio (Ohio U. Not Ohio State. Just so we're clear) and the Angry Birds. (She thinks the Cardinal for the local high school looks like the famous video game. She's kind of right.) As a former cheerleader myself, I would love that.

But I mostly want to be a cheerleader for her. I'll be the Mom with the printed sweatshirts and crazy bows in my hair. No shame. That's my kid. And she jumps.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for Infertility

I know. Just the title makes you uncomfortable. I get it. It makes me kinda uncomfortable too.

And I don't even have a really clear vision for this blog entry. But I know it's important to discuss it.

Actually, that's the vision, I think. The fact that we need to discuss it.

I have a friend who refers to infertility as The Forgotten Pain. People struggle with infertility. And then they get pregnant. (More often than not.) And then they kinda sorta forget what it felt like to live with the pain.

Or they adopt. And they forget.

I would prefer to forget. I really REALLY would like to forget. But there are a few reasons why it lingers with me.

First, I wrote a book about it. (Wanna read it? Think happy thoughts for me. I'll start trying to find an agent soon.) So it's tough to close the door on that chapter of my life. Well, ten chapters really. I continue to revisit and revise our first year of trying to get pregnant. And with each new draft it gets a little easier. And I know it will help a lot of women. But it makes it impossible to forget.

Second, I was "diagnosed" with unexplained infertility. Awesome. Helpful.

In layman's terms (because I know that was some serious medical jargon) the doctors (several doctors) told me "you've never gotten pregnant, and we have no idea why," So technically.... it could still happen. We're not actively "trying" any more (temping, charts, tests, etc.) But it's possible. Although that becomes less likely with each birthday.

Third, our daughter is at an age where she is asking about siblings. Tonight at dinner she actually asked for a sister. She would be a fantastic big sister. But we don't have the money to adopt another child. (We're still working on the money for the first one.) And it's bigger than that, too. Because please. If you are thinking of adopting, there are ways to come up with the money. But frankly, we don't feel called to adopt another child right now. We just don't. At least not yet.

I wish I had something helpful to say to anyone who may be visiting this blog for the first time. I wish I could tell you that you will get pregnant, or that you will be a Mom someday, or that it will all be OK. I wish I could tell you it eventually hurts less.

But I can tell you this. You do learn to cope.

There are a lot of us out there. And if we keep talking to each other, at least we don't have to feel alone.

H is for Hair

I have really good hair. It grows freakishly fast and it's straight when I straighten it and it's curly when I curl it. I can wear it down or pull it into short pigtails. (They're short because I donated a bunch recently) I get expensive haircuts and I haven't dyed it in 8 years. I'm really picky about my hair. It's one of my best features.

Lily's race is a mix of Black, Latina, and White. (In descending order by percentage.) I knew when we decided to adopt outside of our race that hair would likely be an issue. I knew I'd have some learning to do, and I was ready to accept the challenge.

What didn't occur to me was how my hair and my feelings towards it would affect Lily. Nor how my feelings towards her hair would affect me.

When we got Lily she was twelve days old. Her hair was slick and curly. Throughout her first year the curls got tighter, starting in the back and working their way towards the front. By her first birthday she had the cutest afro you've ever seen. So we let it grow out that way. Or... we tried to.

For the next two years we managed her afro the best that we could. I would trim it at home, and a few times we took her to a kids' salon where she could sit in a car and watch a movie. It looked cute most days. But we knew it was tangled- badly tangled- at the roots. And on days when it didn't look so great, we felt judged. Sometimes strangers would even stop us. Did we need help with her hair?

Now, my feelings towards these strangers and whether this is appropriate is a whole other blog. Or series of blogs. (I don't stop strangers who put their kids in dorky outfits and ask if they need help with fashion. And I don't stop strangers whose kids don't sing on key and ask if they need music lessons. I understand it's not a perfect comparison as there are major culture ties with Black women and hair. But still. Keep your opinions to yourself, total strangers.) But the point is that something needed to be done, and we knew it.

Her tangles weren't for lack of trying or caring. But Lily is tender-headed. How could we possibly work through those tangles to pull it back into any other style? We couldn't imagine getting her to sit without writhing and screaming.

Enter our good friends from church, who explained that we wouldn't do it without writhing and screaming.

They came over one Sunday afternoon, armed with cupcakes and more hair products than I have ever seen. And the four of us got to work. We worked for four or five hours. We worked until we were all exhausted. We worked until Lily started screaming for help. "Grandma! Grandpa! JESUS!"

And we made it to about the front of her ears.

That was nearly a year ago. Since that day, Ryan and I have looked at the whole... hair thing... in a new light. We learned that we have to hold her down. We learned that she will scream. We also learned that eventually we won't have to hold her down, and she'll stop screaming. (Last Sunday she sat for four hours. We would have bought her a pony had she asked.)

And four days ago we finally got all the tangles out.

There have been some crazy hair styles along the way. Pony tails in just the front with tangles in the back. Twists on just one side of her head. Hair sticking out in all directions. And it's not that we thought these styles were OK. Or that we didn't care. We were trying.And she lost a good hunk in the back that just couldn't be saved. Not that she has bald spots or anything. It's just much shorter there. Fortunately we can cover the spots with pony tails, and we can keep it detangled as it grows back.

So we're learning about her hair and how to take care of it. We're getting much, much better. And she's learning that it's a lot of work to keep her hair pretty. And she's learning to be patient. And she's learning to sit still. And she's learning that she'll probably get a lot of treats if she just stays calm.

But what we haven't learned yet is how to deal with the emotional issues that come with having different hair. Both hers, and mine.

For her, it has come up twice. About a year ago she was playing with my hair. And then she looked sad. And she said "princesses don't have Lily hair. Princesses have Mommy hair." Fortunately I was able to find "The Princess and the Frog" in a hurry and pop it into the DVD player. I showed her how Tianna (as a little girl, anyway) has hair just like hers. And she was immediately placated.

And then yesterday, I was wearing pigtails. Not because it's age-appropriate, but because I was running around and needed it out of my face. She asked if we were going to put her hair in pigtails, too. We told her we would. And we did. And she cried.

"NOOOOOOOOO! I want them like YOURS!"

I didn't know how to explain that her pigtails couldn't be hanging from the back of her head in two sleek curls like mine. All I could tell her was that we had different hair, that I loved her hair, that she was beautiful. I reminded her that everywhere we go people comment on her awesome hair. (Which is unique in our uber-white town.) She eventually settled down. But it broke my heart.

And then there are my own issues with her hair. I don't want to feel judged everywhere I go. I don't want to have to worry if we can run to the mall because we didn't get very far in the detangling process the night before and her hair looks crazy today. I don't want to wish I could explain myself to strangers who look at me with judgement. I don't want to try to convince Lily to wear a hat, because I don't ever want her to pick up my discomfort and make it her own.

There are tons of blogs out there about taking care of Black hair. There are even blogs written specifically by White women who adopted Black children who are learning to take care of their hair. And they're really helpful

But what we don't talk about much is how we deal with the learning curve. I may need to discuss it more here, in fact. Because I'm learning. But I make a lot of mistakes. And I need support in that.

Monday, April 8, 2013

G is for Greenwich

Ten years ago we moved from a small town in Ohio to NYC to become artists. We lived in Bushwick (bad idea) and on Wall Street (expensive idea) and Forest Hills (comfortable but not very convenient idea). I loved living in New York. It was part of my identity.

Then just a few months after we got Lily, Ryan got a new job in Greenwich, CT. He spent the next year doing what is commonly known as a "reverse commute." It's a nice way of people saying "Why would you live there and work there?" I was home alone with a baby in Queens with no car. He felt so far away. It would take him hours to drive home. We finally decided to move to Greenwich.

The night before we moved I could not stop crying.

We arrived in Greenwich, and I stopped crying after about an hour.

Here's the thing about Greenwich. It's really easy to bash. Yes, it's the preppy capital of the world. Yes, there is so much money that if viewed through a certain lens it can make you sick to your stomach. Yes, a lot of the people here are a little out of touch with reality. Yes, there can be a lot of pressure.

And I see all of those things.

And I ignore them.

And I kinda love it in Greenwich.

It's important to note here that we do NOT have a lot of money. Like, really not. Our situation has slowly improved over the past three years. (Probably because we live in an area that can afford our services- piano lessons and interior design.) But we will never be able to keep up with the Jones'. In fact, the Jones' have no idea who we are. We're much more likely to hang out with the Jones' nanny.

I just don't let it bother me. As simple as that. (Well, as simple as that after ten years of therapy.)

I let people compliment me on my clothes. And then I tell them proudly that I got them at Second Time Around. I am ecstatic to send my daughter to public school in (gasp!) about 18 months. She's zoned for a language magnet school for goodness sake. We're active at the YMCA, and she goes to an amazing preschool that also happens to be the most cost efficient. I am confident she'll learn her ABC's. In fact, she already has, and now she's working on the sign language for each letter. (Something the children of my friends know nothing about, despite going to the most expensive schools available.)

Greenwich has resources I've never seen in any other town. The beach is ridiculous. The library is ridiculous. The parks are ridiculous. The hospital is ridiculous. The schools are ridiculous. And all of those things are available to us as citizens of Greenwich. So thanks, people with money.

And when it comes to the Greenwich attitudes surrounding money, I know there are people who are concerned with how it will effect their children. And I get that. But you know what? I decide what my daughter's outlook on money will be. Not my neighbors.

We're going to the Bronx Zoo today. Because New York City is right down the road. So come visit us soon. Bring a bathing suit and a strong sense of self.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

F is for Flylady

...who would want me to stop worrying about these blog posts being perfect.
I have trouble keeping our apartment clean.

No. Really.

It's bad. Especially with a preschooler. Holy cow can she tear up a room in a hurry.

But it's always been a problem for me. Even before I was a Mom. So several years ago I was looking for help on the internet. (The number one modern way to solve any problem.) And I found flylady.

Warning. This post is little more than a place for me to sing her praises. And if you need the kind of help that I do, it might change your life.

Finding the flylady website helped me realize that my housekeeping troubles were a symptom of my depression. So if it was ever going to get better, I would need to treat it just like any other habit that needed to change. I realized that I wasn't any idiot. I wasn't lazy. I wasn't a slob.

And I also realized that depression wasn't an excuse for a messy home.

Most of all, I realized I could do it. I could approach things with baby steps, I could develop small habits, and I could make a change.

For the past seven or eight years, I've been tinkering with a flylady plan that works for me. And sometimes it needs to change. And sometimes it works better than others. But the plan is always there. And just knowing that helps me get through the day sometimes.

If you think flylady might help you, check out the link to her page.  A few notes:

1. I'm not selling you anything right now. This is a free service. I promise you. I'm just passing on something I found to be useful.

2. Some of my friends have found the home page to be intimidating. It's just a lot of information. So I'm linking you directly to the "getting started" page. It's a step-by-step way to change your life. Baby steps, my friends!

3. Wanna talk about it? Comment below :)

E is for Emissions Test

Readers who know me in real life probably assume I mean the emissions test for my own real car. (A Volvo station wagon. Because I like to take the suburban Mom thing as far as I can.) A few weeks ago I was pulled over for an expired registration. Lily was confused. Why was the policeman helping us? That's what policemen do, right? Help people? We didn't need help....

I told Lily that Mommy had the wrong sticker on her car. They aren't stickers any more. But that's not important to a three-year-old. I told her Mommy had to take her car to get "fixed"and get the right sticker. And then I didn't drive my car for a week. And then I made several trips to the DMV. And now, it's taken care of.

So people who know me in person may assume that's the emissions test I mean. But hey. I live-tweeted that situation already. (Think I'm kidding? Look me up. @ThrlyMdrnMindy) So I'm not gonna tell that story.

Instead, I'm going to tell the story of the emissions test for Lily's Barbie Jeep.

Friday was gorgeous. After months indoors, we were able to play outside for hour. So Lily asked if she could drive her Barbie Jeep (a fancy Power Wheels that Santa found on Craigslist).

And she does like to drive it. She's better at the pedal than she is the steering. So there's a lot of crashing. But she likes to drive it.

More importantly, though, she uses it as the coolest prop ever in her game of Let's Pretend We're Grown-Ups.

On Friday afternoon, Lily picked me up in her Jeep. (fortunately I'm a teeny tiny Mommy and I can kinda sorta fit if I sit on top of the seat back.) She drove until she crashed, then announced that we would get out to play the piano. We wandered around until she announced that we were finished, drove until we crashed, and stopped again. She needed to get gas. The gas process was detailed and accurate- from taking off the gas cap to waving at me from the back to paying with a card at the invisible pump.

A moment later we crashed again. I was instructed to stay in the car. (Notice: at no point in Lily's 4 years has she been left in the car alone. Just for the record.) She told me she was meeting some friends. She met them last night. At a grown-up party. Where they drank beer and ate spicy things. They're really nice.

Unfortunately her friends didn't show. Probably off someone drinking beer and eating spicy things, I suppose. So we drove away. And we stopped. We didn't crash. We just stopped.

She got out of her car, put her hands on her hips, and opened the hood. She shook her head. "It's not working." She said. She then instructed me to be "that guy who fixes the cars." She needed it fixed so she could get the right sticker.

Fortunately for Lily I have an imaginary certificate in imaginary car repair and emissions testing. So I gave her the imaginary sticker and we drove away.

And the whole game was both delightful and terrifying.

Playing with Lily is fun. The other day I was sitting in a lecture with a group of Moms. We were learning about ways to connect and play with our children. This has never been an issue for me. (Cleaning, on the other hand. Well... see tomorrow's post.) It's great for parents to have some things to initiate. But for the most part I've found that if I follow her lead, she can come up with more fun than I ever could. And I get to work on my improv acting chops.

But it was also terrifying. Lily drove herself through a day in the life of Mommy with more accuracy than my husband could. She's learning about life and how it works by watching and copying Mommy and Daddy.

No pressure.

D is for Dance Class

...which we no longer attend.

All Lily talked about was being a ballerina. She would prance around the apartment on her toes and twirl around. But dance is ridiculously expensive in our area. So we decided to get her dance class for Christmas last year. It was still a financial stretch. But we made some cuts to make it work.

She loved it. She got dressed in her tutu and leaped around with the other two-and-three-year-old girls. I started having visions of being a Dance Mom. Without the crazy.

Then, a few months ago, she started fighting me to get dressed. I thought maybe her class was too early. She is not a morning girl. So we switched to a later time. She would go, but only if I promised her we could get Starbucks after.

A few weeks later not even the Starbucks was enough. She was asking for her friend who had been in her class the previous year. It turns out that girl had switched days. So we switched days. Lily was thrilled to see her. For about five minutes. Then she went back to being bored.

Eventually she progressed from lack of participation and trying to escape to rolling around in the middle of the floor. The nannies tried to comfort me. Maybe it’s a phase. I watched the teachers try to conduct class around her writhing body. As a performing arts teacher, all I could do was shake my head.

Finally, a few weeks ago, we had a heart-to-heart. And she told me she just doesn’t like dance class any more. Heartbroken, I let go of my dreams of raising a professional dancer, and called to tell the school she wouldn’t be returning.

Then, I remember that she’s three.

She may not become a professional dancer. In fact, it’s likely she will not become a professional dancer. She’s great. Don’t get me wrong. But the odds are against it.

And she loves to dance. She really does. But not ballet. Not right now. And not under someone else’s direction.

Lily’s birthmother really wanted us to expose Lily to dance. And we have. And we will again. And it’s hard not to be disappointed that I won’t see her in a little tutu at the family day “recital.”

But it’s time to admit that she’s a person with opinions and interests. And because she is three, those interests change quickly. I’m so excited to see who she’ll become. Which things will really stick. 

But I guess for now, it’s OK to let her change her mind.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

C is for Cinderella

...and Belle... and Tianna... and Rapunzel... and Snow White....

Don't tell Child Services. But I allow my daughter to watch princess movies. And I buy her princess things. And I allow her to dress up like a princess. And I paint her nails pink with sparkles.

I know, I know. She's probably going to end up totally dependent on a man for support- both financially and emotionally. But it's just so cute.

I get that the movies portray women as sex symbols. (Like Snow White and Rapunzel) Or that they blindly follow what's best for their man, as he insists. (Like Tianna...)

And I understand that she'll be one more girl who is heartbroken when, at 17, her guidance counselor tells her that "royalty" is not a major at most universities.

But since I'm a weak, naive, uninformed parent, I can't fight it. It makes her happy. So I give in to the power of the princess.

I only hope she doesn't gain too much weight from eating lasagna. She's been watching a lot of "Garfield" lately.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B is for Bedtime, Budgets and Beets

... but mostly bedtime.
Today, I went to a meeting an hour late. I didn't think I was late. I just got the time wrong.

I was offered a job out of the blue that will double our income for the month of July.

I had to go to the DMV.

I had to leave the DMV before getting my car registered.

I heated up dinner. Easter leftovers. And I did all the dishes.

I did a load of laundry. Mostly. But I didn't get to fold it.

I exchanged the wrong lightbulb I bought for the right one.

I spilled beet juice on my shirt.

I worked on our budget through June. It isn't desperate.

And now, I'm going to bed.

I want to fold the laundry and do the budget for July and soak the shirt and put away the toys and fill out the paperwork for the job.

But I am exhausted. And I have to return to the DMV in the morning.

It's tough, as a Mom, to make decisions based on my own well-being.

But today was a good day. It's over. And I'm going to bed.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A is for Animals

Lily loves animals.

The other day I picked her up from the sitter who told me she was on the tire swing with "friends." She thought they were maybe babies. I told her they were more likely animals.

She's having a cat-themed birthday party.

Her favorite neighbors are the dog next door, and the one at the end of the hallway.

Her dolls do not have names. All of her stuffed animals, however, have carefully-selected ones. The bunny she got for Easter is named Huffy. On St. Patrick's Day she got a stuffed dog from a street vendor. She named him Ali Hello Kitty Barack Obama.

Her imaginary friends are animals with rich back-stories. A family of alligators. A pregnant pink rabbit.

Her two favorite places in the world are the Bronx Zoo and the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium.

Here's why this is interesting to me as a mother. I am not particularly interested in animals. My husband is not particularly interested in animals. But to Lily, animals are at least as important as people.

We spent today at the aquarium, which has a touch tank. One of her favorite things to do is touch the sting rays. I had never done it before today. But it was a special Mommy/ Lily Day. So I summoned my courage. My sweet not-even-four-year-old held my hand in the water and helped me reach out. (She is a teacher. She gets that from me.) When I touched the sting ray I literally squealed. As she fell asleep this evening, she told me that when I was afraid of the sting ray, I looked ridiculous.

There is a lot of debate about nature vs nurture with adopted children. I have no idea whether her birth parents were into animals. I do know that birthmom loved to dance, and that Lily loves to dance. But she's being raised by a performing arts teacher, so that could come from anywhere.

Lily's love for animals- or teaching, or dance- may come from her nature or from the way she is being raised. But I know that my little girl is not me. She is her own person. And getting to know her each day is the most exciting journey I've ever been on.

I may not touch the sting rays again, though.

A to Z Blog Challenge

First, an announcement.

I've finished my book! I sent the most recent draft to my unofficial editor and homegirl the other day. And her response was that I just need to fix the typos.


I know, right? I'll be working on that this week, and then we try to find an agent. Unreal.

Finishing "Hope Springs" has been my focus for the past few months, so there hasn't been a lot of blogging going on. But now that I'm finished, (and in the habit of writing daily!) I felt like it was time to return.

Then. Yesterday. My friend Becky posted on facebook that she was participating in the A to Z blog challenge. It starts... today. Talk about perfect timing!

So. Every day in April (except Sundays) I'll be blogging my way through the alphabet.

For my fellow A-to-Z'ers: welcome, and thanks for checking out my blog! I blog about all kinds of things. But I'm a Mommy first. And that's what I'll be talking about this month. Parenting, adoption, infertility, and ridiculous things that happen to the Mommy of an almost-four-year-old.

Here we go!