Sunday, November 30, 2008

First Snow

We were planning to leave Minnesota this morning, but snow has kept us here another day. Evie's first snow! As you can see, she was not exactly happy about this:
(For the record, we had socks on her hands until just before we took the pictures, and they were warmer than her cheeks when we brought her back inside.)
Firsts from this trip:
first family "road trip"
first time in Iowa and in Minnesota
first time being changed in a McDonald's bathroom
first time at Grandma and Grandpa's house
first Thanksgiving
first time meeting J's family
first time having cold snowflakes fall on her bare cheeks (not so much fun the first time)
Tomorrow is a big day: no more nablopomo, a 6 hour drive back to Missouri and my birthday!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

More Pictures and Captions

Only two more days of nablopomo...

Meeting her developmental milestone of bringing her hands together:
Evie's not ALWAYS sugar and spice and everything nice:

BIG stretch:

Favorite spot to nap:

Apollo, enjoying Grandma and Grandpa's sunny window seat:

Friday, November 28, 2008

Just Pictures and Captions

I'm the cutest girl in the room, so there! Achoo!

Thanks for bringing my singing star to Grandma and Grandpa's house!

I can't vote at all, actually. And, I don't eat peas yet. Why did Mommy buy this bib?

Grandpa is hilarious!

(more from my students, 8 days old)
Dark circles, bright future

Who let the paparazzi into the house?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Giving thanks today for...
  • God's faithfulness in my life and answers to my prayers

  • J, the best dad and husband I could have asked for

  • Evie Bea, my dream come true

  • J's family, who love Evie and me as much as my blood relatives do. Here are pictures of 5 members of J's family (of the 18 of us that were here today) meeting Evie for the first time:

J's Uncle Craig:
Uncle Doug:

Aunt Michelle:

Great Aunt Opal:

Aunt Jan:
  • My family, spread all around the country today: I miss you all

  • My wonderful friends, online and offline

  • My sweet pups, who were there before Evie to bring a smile to my face on the worst of days. Apollo LOVES grandma and grandpa's house. Cushions!

  • My country (Thanksgiving has always been patriotic in my family) and that for the first time in my adult life I got to choose between two truly worthy candidates for the presidency.

  • Finally, I'm thankful for turkey stuffing, wine and Grandma Evie's recipe for pumpkin chiffon pie

Here is Evie smiling at her grandpa in a new bib, made my one of J's mother's friends:

And here is a close-up of her Thanksgiving outfit; the onesie is a gift from her Uncle Matt and Aunt Christine. It isn't her only organic cotton onesie, but it is the only onesie she has that was handmade in Austin, Texas. Evie says: "I love you Aunt Christine and Uncle Matt! I'm so sad you weren't here today!"

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Thanks to Safire, I have another good excuse to put off finishing my post about adoption profiles. :)

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? Ummm, about 10 minutes ago when I read that Jen is thinking of naming her baby girl after me? (no pressure) I'm a very weepy woman; so is my mom, so I come by it honestly.
3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? It's terrible, I hate it. When I was a kid I used to practice making it look like my dad's handwriting and he's a doctor. Enough said.
4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? The meat doesn't matter. The Tr@der Joe's wasabi mayonnaise does. Heaven. If I have to choose, roast beef.
6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? What a strange question. It depends on which other person I was, I brain is hurting with philosophical questions...must stop thinking about this...
7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Yes, and I can also define it and distinguish it from irony and facetiousness, can you?
8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS. Yes, but until recently I thought that I didn't, for some odd reason.
9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? No, but I love the bungee "swing" rides at amusement parks.
12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? I've always been strong. My high school friends joked about me being "good Swedish stock" for my large frame (I have man-sized hands and size 9.5 feet) and J called me "a brute" when I can help him move around furniture, etc.
13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Chocolate Raspberry Truffle
14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE? Their posture and facial expression (I don't judge, my posture is terrible a lot of times, but I'm working on it in yoga).
15. RED OR PINK? I can't choose.
16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? My chronic allergies and sinusitis, tied with my endometriosis.
17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? My parents, now that they are in Texas and have to fly to get here (they've been in St. Louis for a couple of years and could drive, but moved to TX right when Evie was born...out of their control...Air Force).
18. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU? I assume this meme came from e-mail....
21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? I can hear a commercial on CNN in the other room
23. FAVORITE SMELLS? Evie's breath, Evie's hair, J's neck, my dogs' heads (seriously), tangerine, bonfires, sauteeing garlic and onions
25. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? Of course! If I didn't like Safire, would I read her blog? I think not. :)
26. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? I'm embarrassed to admit this because it's so stereotypical: figure skating and gymnastics
27. HAIR COLOR? Dirty blonde getting browner by the year
28. EYE COLOR? Blue
29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? When I bother to order them
30. FAVORITE FOOD? tortilla chips and guacamole, tied with filet mignon
31. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? I like a happy ending as long as it's not a predictable romantic comedy; does anyone else feel like you've been watching the same movie over and over your whole life? When does the madness end?
32. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? Mamma Mia, at the theater with Jen. It was just like the show (which J and I saw last year) but the actors in the show had much better singing and dancing skills than the actors in the movie.
36. FAVORITE DESSERT? something with dark chocolate
37. MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND? Someone else doing nablopomo
38. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND. Anyone prepping the house for Thanksgiving guests
39. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? Baby Blues: "Night of the Living Dad." After Christmas I should be able to find enough free time to read something serious.
40. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? Evie Bea! (Sn@pfish mouse pad)
42. FAVORITE SOUND. Doggie tails thumping against the sofa as I'm arriving home and walking up the stairs from the garage.
45. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? I am a talented organizer :)
46. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Charlottesville, Virginia
47. WHOSE ANSWERS ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO GETTING BACK? How about Melba , Jen and Kelly (no pressure, ladies).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


When Evie was 8 days old, two young journalists from the school I taught at came to our house for a few hours. One of them asked me endless questions, which became a full two-page spread in the student newspaper. The other snapped picture after picture. About 150 pictures in all. Here are some highlights:

Today's firsts: Evie smiled at me when I blew a raspberry on her tummy during a diaper change and put some weight on her legs when I held her under her arms, above my lap. Such a big girl.
We had a busy day, visiting my old school (which is how I got my hands on the CDs of pictures from the article) and a friend with 2-month-old twin girls. ETA: This friend came to visit us in the hospital when Evie was 1 day old and then had her girls a few days later. She went so long (38+ weeks I think) that both were born at or above 7 lbs. and she said "the nurses were ecstatic about such big, healthy twins." Now they are about 9 and 10 lbs. and cuter than ever. They look very different, like Safire's twins, and I got to hold both of them (one at a time, I'm not a pro yet). It is so fun to hold babies that are littler than your own. That and looking at these pictures has reminded me, today, of how much Evie has grown. She's 150% of her birth weight!
Tonight and tomorrow J and I are packing to drive to Minnesota for Thanksgiving, to see his family. None of them except his parents have met Evie yet, so it will be a fun time!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Deck the Halls

Christmas has come to our house. We usually decorate after Thanksgiving, but this year we realized it would take longer. Sure enough, our bins have been down from the attic for almost 2 weeks and I'm only 1/2 done decorating. But, Christmas is here. Now Evie stares at the Christmas tree instead of our tulip lamp. When she's bored, all I have to do to entertain her is carry her over to the tree and start talking to her about all of the ornaments:
One of my baby ornaments:

Because all of J's have his name on them, I'll show off one of his many car ornaments. We need to adopt a boy next, a boy who will appreciate that we have over a dozen car ornaments on our trees (yes, we have 2 trees because they are small and we have lots of ornaments). OK, that was sexist, sorry. I'm sure Evie will get a kick out of the cars in a couple of years:

Here's another of my birth year ornaments. It's hard to see in the picture, but it was broken and glued back together. Probably from one of the times I pulled our tree over on myself when I was a toddler:

And here is one of Evie's baby ornaments. Of course, it's Classic Pooh:

Here's another one. Look familiar? It's what my mom used to create the applique for the center of Evie's quilt:

Here's an ornament from 1998:

And another one that has a place of honor, top and center of one of the trees:

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care...making these felt applique stockings must have been a hot craft in the 1970's because J's mom made him the one on the left in 1973 and my mom made mine in 1977 (OK, maybe they didn't actually make them the years we were born, it could have been a bit later, now that I think of it...). I get all kinds of warm fuzzies about my stocking because it's one of those things that takes me back. I remember how lumpy is was on Christmas morning, stuffed with presents, and I can still remember how it felt to reach my whole arm into it, digging my fingers into the soft toe, to find the gift that always went in first: gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins. Yum. Anyhow, isn't it interesting that J and I have matching stockings from our childhoods? It's just one of the many serendipities in our relationship. But that's another story. So, I was excited to hear that my mom found an old-fashioned felt applique stocking kit that she's using to make Evie's stocking! It's not done yet, but I'll post a picture of it at Christmas.
Finally, a bit of memorabilia from J's childhood. These elves were handmade by J's grandma, Evie's namesake. I love how they look mischievous/evil when you get up close to them. Of course, they are supposed to spell out "Noel" but J and his younger brother spent December impishly rearranging the elves when adults weren't looking. J still does this. I put these up just today, but by the end of the week they will say "Leon" or some such:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bear Hug

If you missed yesterday's post about joining in, please go back and read it; I'm looking for a few more pats on the back to help me decide which post to use for The Creme de la Creme.
I'm still not done with my post about profiles, so we interrupt the regularly scheduled blog posts to bring you cute pictures of Evie naked with a bear. A "nap bear" we got for only $18 from Costco a few weeks back; it is like a teddy bear rug/blanket because the head is stuffed but the body is flat. I think it's a little scary, because he has vinyl claws on his paws, but we think Evie will love to cuddle with him, eventually.

She's decided to name him "bear."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Join In!

So, do you have spare time? Nope, neither do I. In fact, I'm wondering why I thought it was a good idea to do nablopomo when I...
1. have a 2-month-old
2. have a messy house
3. need to decorate for Christmas and buy/wrap/mail gifts
4. have scrapbooking things littered all over the dining room for Evie's baby book, lifebook and my family scrapbook and
5. attend not one, not two, but three mommy/baby exercise classes each week (2 aerobics and 1 yoga)
6. have a nativity quilt that I've been working on since last October and desperately want to display sometime in December this year. OK, just kidding, I know that quilt is just not going to happen. Next year, I promise.

Nevertheless, I happily joined up with an online site called YouData after reading this. It's a company that will pay your PayPal account for clicking on their ads and being linked to the advertisers' sites. And no, Lori is not paying me for all of the linking to her I've been doing. :) YouData isn't yet as great for me as it was for her, I only earned $2.23 my first day, but it was pretty quick and easy and I was surprised at what great websites it sent me to. I actually printed off a coupon that I know I'll use and found a website with beautiful fair trade gift items that will be perfect for certain beloved relatives who read this blog, so I'm not going to say any more. On their site they say one of their target demographics is women and "mommy bloggers" so head over and earn some cash. Unfortunately I spent my $2.23 a few times over on cool stuff, but hey, I needed Christmas presents anyhow, right? ;^) (Just to clarify, I chose to spend money on the sites, it is not a part of the YouData program. You don't have to spend a single penny.)

More joining...if your blog qualifies as an infertility/loss/adoption blog, and many of us do, you are not only invited but encouraged to head over to Stirrup Queens and sign up for the Creme de la Creme 2008.


The Best of the Adoption/Infertility/Loss Blogs of 2008

The logo says I'm on it, but I'm not yet. I will be. Go over to the site to read about it, it would take too long to explain here. The hardest part of getting on the list is choosing a "best post." Here's the way I feel about my blog: 1. I have some good stuff on here, but none of the good stuff is so concentrated into one post that it makes it stand out as the best and 2. I am such a perfectionist that when I go back and reread my posts to try to pick one I just end up wanting to click the little pencil icon and go back and fix my run-on sentences and wordiness. When I started the blog I promised myself that I would write from the heart and proofread for typos and spelling, but that I wouldn't obsess about word choice and grammar. That might sound strange, but if I tried to write "my English teacher best" on every post, I would spend 2 or 3 times as long writing and Evie wouldn't approve of that. I know my posts are long, but I am a super-fast typist and prefer to spend my time thinking about content, not sentence fluency. Sorry. Anyhow, my point is that I need help. It sounds self-seeking to ask you all to tell me what my best post is, but I'm honestly stumped here. Please help by leaving a comment and telling me what your favorite post has been. It can be anything, since I started the blog in 2008. Otherwise, if I'd started in a previous year, only 2008 posts would qualify. Please, please, help. Thanks. And if you fit the criteria (loss/adoption/infertility) get started choosing your own best 2008 post and go join up. Good luck deciding!

While you're over at Stirrup Queens, add yourself to her "Stirrup Queen's Completely Anal List of Blogs That Proves That She Really Missed Her Calling as a Personal Organizer" by e-mailing her the address of your blog. You can find out more here. I've found some great blogs on her list and I've had wonderful people find me through the list.

And if you're not writing a loss/adoption/infertility blog, congratulations :) and I have something for you, too (as long as you're a woman, I don't think they "take" men): The Secret is in the Sauce. I found this blog after a SITS blogger commented on my blog and I went to check out hers and saw the link in her sidebar. I've been wanting to become a SITSer ever since but at first I didn't have the energy to commit to it (ahem, newborn) and now I'm doing I'm planning to join SITS in December. Come join with me, it'll be fun.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Me, me, me

I'm going to work on the profile post today, but I'm deciding not to stress myself about it and instead of rushing to post it today I'm going to do a meme post that I saw on a couple of other blogs, like Safire and Miss X. Nablopomoers love the meme! This is only the second one I've done on this blog. The first was about class privilege. This one is a bit more light-hearted.

100 Things
(the ones I've done are in bold)
and of course I can't help but comment on them

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars on the polo practice field at UVa. We were woken up by the horses. Scary.
3. Played in a band TA-WVFCI/OP(?)MPB&CSRU!!!, The Award-Winning Virginia Fighting Cavalier Indoor/Outdoor Precision (?) Marching Pep Band & Chowder Society Review Unlimited!!!, through which I met J
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity this one is nebulous to me, what is more than I can afford? But we love to give to charity.
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo for Evie, any day
11. Bungee jumped do the bungee "swings" at amusement parks count? I love those.
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea while trying to see flamingos in Mexico
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch I pretty much taught myself scrapbooking, but that's a craft, not an art
15. Adopted a child I heart Evie Bea
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train New Orleans to D.C. for my 8th grade trip
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked does it count that a random woman gave me a lift home from the grocery store one time when I was a first year in college?
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill it's called a mental health day
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping boy, do I ever have great stories for this one
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice how about at the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas? :)
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise from England to Sweden and back, but I guess that counts
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person as a baby
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors I've been to Sweden, Norway, England and Germany, but not to Ireland yet.
35. Seen an Amish community in Ohio
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied Dave Ramsey rocks
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain I have no clue
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie A local film about Yosemite when I was young (around 7) and we lived in CA; we were visiting the park and they filmed me running around in a field of wildflowers.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma I'm no longer allowed to donate after new rules were put in place banning people who lived in England in the 1980's (mad cow disease)
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job I was fired from a telemarketing job when I was 18 (summer job); I didn't even survive through the second day of training. They sent me home before lunch! They trained us by putting us on fake calls and then yelling at us to see if we could remain poised. I couldn't.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car never have, never will (Dave Ramsey again)
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible I've tried a few times...
86. Visited the White House outside only
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating lobster
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous * Reggie Jackson when I was young (6 or 7?) and attending a medical convention with my family (my dad's a doc, remember?). Jackson was there in a booth signing autographs as a giveaway. My little brother and I were running around the place getting all of the free stuff we could and came back with his autograph as one of our pieces of loot. My Dad freaked out and we had to try to lead him back to where we'd seen Jackson. Imagine being an adult and wanting to see a famous sports hero and having to find him based on directions from a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old! * Pierce Brosnan when I was 19; I was in London for a summer abroad term (for my English major) and I met him during intermission at a play titled Shopping and F***ing; he was standing right next to me at the bar and we were both ordering wine. When I saw him I immediately thought "Crap! It's James Bond!" * Wallace Shawn ("Inconceivable!" guy, Vizzini, from The Princess Bride) at a poetry reading at U.Va. when I was 20
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake I saw it, though, when I was a kid
97. Been involved in a law suit do class action suits count?
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Totally copied a post from someone else's blog to your own

56 out of 100 by age 30 ain't bad...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Two Months!

Official doctor's visit report:

  • Evie weighs 11 lbs., 13 oz., which puts her in the 75th percentile, which is where she was at 1 month. Yay for consistency!

  • She is 22.5 inches long, which puts her in the 50th percentile, which is also consistent with how she's measured in the past.

  • Her head circumference is in the 95th percentile (don't remember the number, just the percentile). The only thing I have to say about this is that she fits right into our partly Norwegian family because a large Norwegian head has been passed down from my great-grandfather to my grandpa to my mother. I don't have an overly large head, but the trait is skipping a generation and being passed on through adoption. Cool! I have no idea why they measure her head size. I can see where a small head would be worrisome because I've heard that linked to syndromes, but is there any other significance to head size? I just don't know.

  • She received the rotavirus oral vaccination and the Pediarix combo vaccine (DTaP, hep B and polio). Our pediatrician convinced me this was better than just getting the DTaP today. She was especially eager to give Evie the hep B, I think because she's adopted? I have no idea how that would impact her exposure to hep B at this point in her life. She convinced me with the "it's only one shot today..." and I thought I remembered reading about this combo shot not being reactive like the MMR so I said yes. Then I came home and reread parts of Dr. Sears (why didn't I take the book to the appt.?) and realized that the shot he'd recommended (just DTap) would have had less aluminum than Pediarix. Well, what's done is done. I'll bring the book along next time to defend myself. We'll go back in a month for HIB and Pc. And yes, eventually we will be doing the M, M and R separately.

  • Evie loved the rotavirus oral vaccine and looked at the nurse like "can I have some more, please?" but screamed from the shot, of course. I knew she would, after yesterday accidentally pinching a bit of skin on her back as I was snapping up an outfit. She screamed as if I'd stabbed her with a knife...little drama queen :) It is so sad after one of her screaming fits how she keeps producing those little shuddering sobs every few seconds....sad and yet adorable. Seeing her eyelashes wet with tears breaks my heart, but it darkens her lashes and makes them stand out against her pink skin...beautiful.

  • The pediatrician praised her up and down for meeting and exceeding her milestones. She asked me how much tummy time we're doing and I said, "well, she doesn't like it much, but we try to do it on our chests and on her changing table..." and she said "keep it up! Her head shape is perfect and she's exceeding her milestones!" So that made me feel great. I have to say though, she was showing off like crazy for her doctor. I don't think I've ever seen her head get that close to 90 degrees before...she was saving the good stuff for an audience. She even did a push-up with her forearms supporting her and her entire chest off the examining table and our pediatrician kept cooing at her, "you're so strong for your age!" Where did that push-up come from, I ask you? I don't think I've ever seen her do that! She also demonstrated her full 180 degree head rotation and cooing, and brought her hands together before sucking on them. It was like I'd coached her or something. She was in a great mood, though, since she'd eaten just an hour before, and was happy staring around at all of the new scenery and faces.

  • The pediatrician examined her rash and wasn't concerned (it is less now than it was). She said to just keep bathing her every other day and changing her bib when it gets damp at the neck. She also examined her birth mark and says that it is growing at a normal rate and should be the type that disappears eventually (i.e. it will almost certainly be gone by the time she's old enough to wear a 2-piece bathing suit or a midriff-baring shirt.

  • The doctor was also interested in Evie's cloth diaper (for those who care, she was in a caramel serged OBV Goodmama and an aqua Thirsties cover). She asked me to show her how it snaps up and was interested in how many of them we have and how I wash them.
Remember Evie's newborn photo shoot at 2 weeks old? Here is one of the shots I haven't shared yet: Just had to give you a chuckle. Here she is in the same cloth diaper at 1 month old (not much change in 2 weeks):

And here are a few shots of her in the same diaper at 2 months old (whoa, baby!):

Shiny Happy Baby:

"What's that thing attached to my leg? Can I grab it and put it in my mouth?"

She looks vaguely like Buddha here, doesn't she? It's the chubby lotus pose.

"Mom, I still can't seem to control my arms!"

See J's hand a the top right, about to prop her back up? She doesn't seem to mind. I love the fat rolls on her tummy in this one:

  • This month, Evie transitioned from drinking 4 oz. of formula at a time to 5 oz. at a time. She let us know she was ready by giving us hunger cues and fussing on our shoulders during after-feeding burps. The pediatrician thinks it's too much to give her and suggested cutting back down to 4, but I know my baby and I am not giving in. Evie wants 5, she gets 5.
  • Tragically, in the past couple of weeks we've caught Evie looking at the TV and at the computer screen. She's still a little Luddite who protests whenever J and I try to enjoy these things, but the hypnotic glow of electronic media has worked its magic on her to some extent, if she's in a good mood. This means that we now have to be careful about how much we use the TV and computer when she's awake because my goal is to keep her away from TV and computers until she's two (i.e. no Baby Einstein; it doesn't actually make babies smarter, said an article in the NYT I read awhile back).
  • Happily, it seems that Evie sleeping through the night (between 7.5 and 9 hours) is now something we can count on, temporarily at least. Because she is sleeping in her miracle blanket, with her arms tucked securely at her sides, the first thing she does each morning after she's been unwrapped is fling both arms high and straight over her head in a big stretch (just like the first picture above). She scrunches up her face (just like above) and doesn't open her eyes until she's on the changing table. Then she opens them up and flashes a smile at us. She might just turn me into a morning person yet, with those offerings.
  • I really, truly thought I was a demand feeding mom. Turns out I'm not! Something about the combination of feeding formula (so we know how much she's getting) and our logical personalities just fits better with scheduling. We don't schedule as strictly as some baby "training" books recommend, but we know our baby and we know that if she eats more often than every three hours, she will have a major spewage event on our shirts. If she sleeps at the beginning of the cycle and is awake at the end of the cycle, she gets cranky about 30-45 minutes before the 3 hours is up. It would be tempting to go ahead and just feed her, but wiping up formula from the floor, cleaning it from between the couch cushions, suctioning it out of her nose, wiping it out of her ears and washing three bibs and four burp cloths for one gets old. So we hold her off for a few minutes and then only have to clean 1-2 bibs and 1-2 burp cloths per feeding. Maybe we could even reduce the spitting up further by feeding her 4 oz. or by stretching her schedule a few minutes longer, but at a certain point the crying jags negate the laundry savings. We have found equilibrium, Evie is thriving, we are happy. We don't schedule anything else about her day (like naps, play time, changes) and we definitely never wake her up to feed her, but we do schedule bedtime. Around dinner time we discuss when her bedtime feeding will be (between 8 and 11 depending on the timing of her feedings that day, since she wakes up at different times in the morning) and before that feeding we put her in a super-absorbent nighttime diaper and her miracle blanket. In the blanket it's usually a cinch to rock her to sleep for the night after she's eaten.
  • Cloth diapering is going great, but we do have a huge box of Costco brand disposables sitting in her closet, for traveling to grandparents' houses over Thanksgiving and Christmas. I freely admit that I am going to enjoy the laundry holidays. They are like extra birthday and Christmas presents (my birthday is right after Thanksgiving: Dec 1). I know I will also be glad to get back home and put her in cloth again.
  • What I'm looking forward to in her third month: laughing! Bring it on, I can't wait to hear the giggles.
  • A question for the upcoming holiday season: should we call up R and G and invite them to a get-together? I'm conflicted because the season is hard on many people who don't have intact families, for whatever reason, and I don't want to add to their sadness by asking them to see Evie during that time. I predict that if I issued an invitation, they might feel conflicted for the same reason. It might be similar to the way I used to feel about baby showers; I was happy for the couple and excited to buy a present and eat cake, but the whole premise of the event made me generally sad for a few days before and afterward. Any advice for me on this? It's a tough one, I think.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Writing the "Dear Birthmother" or "Dear Special People" Letter

Today Evie is 2 months old! I'm going to wait and write about it tomorrow, however, after we get back from her 2 month doctor visit. We're doing Dr. Sears' alternative vaccination schedule, so she'll only be getting the DTaP and Rotavirus vaccines tomorrow and we'll go back at 3 months for the Pc and HIB vaccines.

If you are new to my blog, and this is the first post you have read, please go read this first before continuing to read this post. Thanks.

So, today I'm going to tackle a very stressful topic (at least it was for us): writing the "Dear Birthmother" letter. I'm only calling it that in my title in order to catch some Google hits, because many people call it that, but our social worker advised us right away to address the letter "Dear Special People." She counseled us that it is not just the birth mother who reads the letter; often the birth father reads it, birth grandparents read it and friends or extended family members read it. Addressing "Dear Special People" sounds corny when you first hear it/write it, but it effectively includes every member of the birth family who may be reading the letter because they love the baby and care about his or her adoption plan. In the same vein, make sure that the entire letter is addressed to the "special people" and that you are not addressing just the birth mother by saying things like "your pregnancy."

Here are some other general tips about writing the letter, garnered from conversations with our SW, our reading and our own experiences:

  • Keep the letter to no more than two pages long, shorter if possible. Often birth families read this letter as a part of looking at your profile; in our case, the letter was on pages 2 and 3 of our profile book. If you've done a good job at creating a fantastic profile (more on that in another post), the family will be eager to look at it and will be impatient with reading too much text. This task was very challenging for me because I have always been verbose in my writing!

  • Going along with this first point, put the most important information (vital stats about you) in the first 1/3 of the letter, so that if the birth parents skim the letter they will be more likely to read what you want them to see most.

  • Try not to gush (this is hard for me) because in a letter like this you risk appearing insincere or like you are exaggerating. Use precise, clear prose so that you leave an impression of openness and honesty. Avoid exaggeration, absolutes ("always," "never") and intensifiers ("very," "extremely").

  • Going along with the previous point, resist the temptation to "pad" your letter as you might a resume by exaggerating positive things about your life. You might think you know what birth parents want to hear, but you could be wrong. Birth parents often choose adoptive parents with whom they have something in common; if you exaggerate an aspect of yourself and a birth parent identifies with that part of your letter, you will have an awkward situation on your hands when you are at your match meeting and they try to strike up an in-depth conversation about whatever it is! If you are pursuing an open adoption, remember that this letter is addressed to people whom you will get to know well over the years; best to begin the relationship as honestly as possible.

  • Despite the previous point, don't reveal "too much" in the letter. For example, one of J's hobbies is home wine-making. We don't keep this a secret, but we also decided that it is the kind of thing that is better discussed in person, not written in a letter. If a birth parent were a recovering alcoholic, J's hobby might alarm the birth parent and cause them to stop considering us. On the other hand, once they have met us and seen that we are normal people, it is less likely that J's hobby would be an issue. In our letter, we chose to emphasize J playing the drums for our church band and his cooking skills, instead. At our match meeting we casually brought up his hobby by describing the European style dessert wine he was making that year and naming "Clio," (vintage 2008 of course). He chose this dessert wine because it should age well enough to be served at Evie's wedding some day.

  • Show, don't tell; paint a picture of what your life is like by using concrete examples and vivid imagery that describes the sounds, sights, smells, tastes and touches of your world. This helps birth parents imagine what the child's life will be like, in your home. For example, instead of saying "we are sports fans," say "Each Saturday in the fall, we gather with close friends in our cozy living room to watch U of ______ football, eat chips and salsa and unwind. We already have a tiny U of ______ jersey hanging in the closet of the nursery and we look forward to cuddling a baby as we cheer on the team." OK, so my replacement sentences were long, but you get the idea. This not only shows the birth parents who you are, it also demonstrates how you plan to smoothly add a baby to your life.

  • At some point in the letter, usually in the first or last paragraph, you make an "appeal" to the birth parents. The best way to do this is to 1. express your intentions to love their child unconditionally and forever, 2. empathize with how they must be feeling as they make an adoption plan, 3. describe the type of adoption you are looking for (level of openness, etc.) and 4. provide them with contact information (agency phone # or e-mail, usually) to learn more about you or meet you.

  • At some point in the letter, usually toward the beginning, you should briefly describe what life circumstances led to your decision to adopt a baby. Our SW said "they want to know specifically why you can't have biological children, but they don't want a blow-by-blow of each IUI." :)

  • Be sure to use emotion words (again, without gushing) because the birth parents are usually quite emotional as they are reading these letters and if they see emotion in your letter they are more likely to identify with you. But again, be honest about your emotions, don't exaggerate.

  • Describe your support system; clearly express how excited your parents are to be grandparents and that your friends have offered to help babysit, for example. The birth parents aren't just looking for a couple, they are looking for an extended family and a network of friends who will embrace your child.

  • If you already have children, it will come naturally to write about them in a loving way that will show the birth parents you are sensitive, caring parents. It is harder if you are childless, so think about the children in your life (nieces and nephews, younger cousins, friends' children) and add a cute or touching story about your relationship with a child. It will help paint a picture of what type of parent you will be. You can also use stories about your pets! :)

  • Paint a picture, with words of course, of your home and your neighborhood. Be sure to emphasize the school district if it is a good one. If you state the name of your town/city/neighborhood in the letter, it sends a clear message of openness to the birth family. Birth families are often very curious about adoptive families' homes and "a nice home" shows up on most top 10 lists of the things birth families care about in choosing an adoptive family. For J and I, this posed a challenge. We live in a 1960's era split-level that doesn't have a heck of a lot of curb appeal:
  • So, in our letter we overcame our lack of a "picture perfect" curb shot by describing our home and neighborhood: excellent schools, mature trees, quiet street (not a thoroughfare), large park nearby, mural in the nursery, hard wood floors in the house, large screened porch and deck...
  • Keep your paragraphs fairly short, as this will help the readers "flow" through the letter more smoothly and encourage them to keep reading. Nothing stops a reader and causes them to start skimming like a really long paragraph (I should offer cash prizes to people who read to the bottom of a lot of my posts!) Do as I say, not as I do.

  • Organize your content clearly into paragraphs so that you don't accidentally repeat yourself. An example outline is: 1. introduction, vital stats (age, length of marriage...), 2. description of infertility, 3. excitement about adoption/story about a relationship with a child, 4. description of pets, 5. description of job(s) and hobbies, 6. appeal

  • Proofread, proofread, proofread. Even though I am/was an English teacher, J and I sent our letter to about six different people (friends and family) to read and give us feedback about tone, content and conventions (spelling, grammar, etc.) Most of them gave us at least one truly helpful suggestion or correction.

  • Resist the urge to print the letter in a fancy font that is hard to read! Fonts with serifs (the little marks that stick out from the points/edges of letters) are easier to read. Use serifs, like this, not "sans serif" like this. Sans serif is easier to read on a computer screen, while fonts with serifs are easier to read on paper.
  • Finally, don't be afraid to use a template. If you find a "Dear Special People" letter that you really like, it is not plagiarism to take style and organization tips from it, as long as you change the content to describe yourselves. We English teachers know that writing a good letter doesn't require "re-inventing the wheel," so to speak.

In conclusion, a few offers of help:

  • If anyone would like to read the letter that J and I wrote, e-mail me and if I recognize you as a "regular" reader I'll probably be happy to forward it to you.
  • If you ask me nicely and bribe me with cookies, I might even be willing to read your letter and offer my "English teachery" feedback; it's true, some of us get a kind of perverse pleasure from critiquing writing.
  • Or, if you want professional feedback from a birth mom and an adoptive mom, Lori just posted this today (we must be on the same wavelength!)

ETA on 12-2-08: here's a recent post that builds on this one.

Tomorrow: Evie's 2 month post, with cute pictures!
Friday: more adoption info--I will try to tackle creating a profile. J has Friday off, so maybe I'll even get it done before midnight. Nablopomo is starting to feel like college: staying up late, writing frantically, to meet a deadline!

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