Category Archives: Baby Girl

Related to Josie

All Alone

We’d hoped to see our friends at the lake, and when she realized they weren’t there she cried. I was feeling guilty and thinking I needed to find more kids for her to play with. Then I looked out at her there on the dock and realized that this was exactly what she needed.

Sunscreen and Such Things

It’s the time of year when the Environmental Working Group (love those people) publishes their annual sunscreen report, rating the toxicity and efficacy of sunscreens. And I have some good news this year! I’ve made a few important discoveries.

First, here are a few products that I like (gawd, it would be awesome if someone was paying me for this placement but they aren’t).

For daily moisturizer and sunscreen I use this Cetaphil.

I’ve even found a sunscreen that EWG tolerates and that I like. It’s not all gooey and sticky. It’s the Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sun block Lotion SPF 30. Be careful to make sure you get the right Neutrogena product because when you get above SPF 30 the ratings start turning red.

Now, this is the really big news… I’ve found a kids sun block that I like. It doesn’t even turn them blue and ghostly. It’s All Terrain KidSport Phineas and Ferb Sunscreen Spray, SPF 30.

Skin Deep beyond the sunscreen: there are now a bajillion +/- products in the database and it can be challenging to find and choose a new product. But, I’ve discovered that I can go to a category, like toothpaste, and start at the green end of the list and keep looking in the low toxicity scores until I find a brand name that I know I can get in my local store. Ta-da! Then I have what I need.

Do you all have any lotion or sunscreen products you really love? What are they and how do they rate?

SNL’s Version of Downton Abbey and Four Other Things I Love


  1. African American women with natural hair.
  2. Campbell’s Soup’s promise to make their cans BPA free.
  3. Christina Rosalie’s A Field Guide to Now is available for pre-order. Yes, please!
  4. Pam Houston’s ability to articulate the difference and similarity between fiction and non-fiction in writing “So rather than say my intent is to blur the lines, I would say that those lines are not useful to me as an artist. They don’t help me to get the story written.”
  5. Fancy Entourage – What’s better than Downton Abbey? The Saturday Night Live version of Downton Abbey. I can only find the video there. I can’t embed it but you can scroll down to the second image to watch. It’s worth it. TRUST ME!

What five things do you love right now?

Making Sense

Two of my favorite breast cancer-related bloggers, Why Mommy and Cancer Culture Chronicles died on Monday. Susan Niebur was an astrophysicist and mother of two boys. Rachel Moro “believed ‘it’s time to move beyond pink ribbons’ and messages of ‘breast cancer awareness’ and start agitating for ‘real and meaningful action in the fight to eradicate this disease for good’” and blew me away with posts like this one about Komen’s allocation of funds.

Monday night, after the kids were in bed, I did the dishes without music or news so I could think. I thought about how strange it was that Rachel died just as Komen was coming under such fierce scrutiny. Was she coherent enough to see and understand what happened when they pulled funding from Planned Parenthood? If she was, did her interest and passion ever wane? Did she still care even though it was too late for her cure?

And I thought about how strange it was they both died on the same day. What were the chances? What did it all mean?

All this thinking and dish scrubbing brought me back to my friend Emily’s last few days. Josie is approaching the age Emily’s daughter, D, was when Emily died. Josie does exactly what little D did when her mom was sick. She is always moving and dancing, she makes up songs and sings them to imaginary friends, and she’s all smiles one minute and all scowls and crossed arms the next. She’s exactly as a four year old should be.

I remember when we were matched with Josie and I realized her birthday was the same as my good friend’s child and that gave me such comfort. As a new adoptive parent, I was subconsciously looking for signs, confirmation that the process had worked, that this was our child. Afterward, I saw it all around me, people finding reassurance in these found commonalities.

Death, especially when premature, always sends me out looking for signs, symbols, patterns. I seem to think that maybe if I can find the pattern I’ll find some cause and effect, and if I find some cause and effect I’ll see some explanation, and if I find some explanation then maybe I’ll come up with some justification that will make their deaths alright. I can’t keep myself from trying to make sense of the senseless.

As the evening wears on, I know that all I can do is keep scrubbing the dishes clean, keep scrubbing, keep thinking until my brain decides to let it rest. Eventually it will and then, since I am one of the lucky ones, in the morning there will be new dances to create, there will be songs to be sung to imaginary friends, and there will be sticky kid cheeks to kiss. And I plan to kiss those cheeks over and over again in the hope that maybe if I kiss them often enough and long enough I will leave a mark, a symbol, or a pattern that may someday help them to make sense of the senseless.

Are You Enjoying Yourself?

Last week I was house-bound with two sick kids while Paul was out of town. Both kids had nasty colds, and for Josie that means asthma. The inhalers stopped working and for six days she was on steroids. Go ahead and form a mental picture of Josie on steroids.

One afternoon, I think it was Thursday, I spent 90 minutes in a very small doctor’s office with both kids. K is 18 months old, into everything including the doctor’s cabinets and drawers that were not locked or baby proofed, and he was completely uninterested in the television shows I had on my i-phone for this exact situation.

After the doctor’s office, we went to the pharmacy to get more steroids. The prescription did not have the proper dosage so after much back-and-forth and fussing and delay, we finally got the prescription filled and left 45 minutes after we arrived. By then the kids were tired and hungry and sick. Did I mention they were sick? Sure, sure I did.

I went right to a kid-friendly restaurant to get them fed as quickly as possible. Of course, Josie insisted on filling her own glass at the water fountain and filled it right to the top. Back at the table, she dumped it all down the front of her shirt. As I reached into the diaper bag to get her spare shirt I remembered that I didn’t have a spare for her because I had used that shirt to clean up the vomit she projected all over the inside of my car that morning while I was sprinting to the store in a desperate attempt to acquire more supplies. We didn’t make it to the store that morning and I hadn’t replaced the shirt. So, right there, in the middle of the restaurant, I changed Josie into an old pair of her leggings and her brother’s too-small shirt. Fine. Good enough. Moving on.

We made it home a half-hour after bedtime. I took K right into his room to put him to bed as Josie stood outside his door and sobbed. I’d given K his bottle and was bouncing all 35 lbs of him to sleep when he cough-burped and vomited all over my back and the floor. Did all that really just happen?

The next day when I was talking to my mom, she was expressing her sympathy and said how awful that sounded and by then I was like, yeah, it was really no big deal. I was putting one foot in front of the other, making it happen.

This week we are house-bound again this time due to the snow. Paul is working from the basement office while I sled, build snowmen, shovel the driveway, make kale rice, roasted parsnips and steak for dinner and do the laundry. It’s satisfying and exhausting. I am at my maximum parenting speed. I can do no more and no better. By the end of the day, my parenting skills are completely used up. And, I know these are days I will remember fondly and miss when they are grown and gone. But, I have to say that I have not exactly enjoyed every moment of the last two weeks and I feel guilty about that. I do.

When I read “Don’t Carpe Diem” this last night, the timing was perfect. This is my favorite part:

I think parenting young children (and old ones, I’ve heard) is a little like climbing Mount Everest. Brave, adventurous souls try it because they’ve heard there’s magic in the climb. They try because they believe that finishing, or even attempting the climb are impressive accomplishments. They try because during the climb, if they allow themselves to pause and lift their eyes and minds from the pain and drudgery, the views are breathtaking. They try because even though it hurts and it’s hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard. These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. Even though any climber will tell you that most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.

And so I think that if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers — “ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU’LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN’T!” TRUST US!! IT’LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!” — those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain.

Now, if you’re one of those well-meaning cheerleaders feeling guilty for trying to be friendly, don’t. This isn’t about you. I know someday I will be thinking the same thing and the next time my 90 year old grandmother comes over and says exactly what is written in all caps above, I will grit my teeth and smile and say that I do, that I am enjoying every minute. This is about giving myself a break and not feeling guilty that some days, okay, most days, I’m dreaming fondly of a time when K will watch television, telling the teenage neighbor that I will pay her ANY amount she requires if she will come and play with my kids, and counting the minutes until bedtime.

Protein in Every Pocket

Ski trip #1 – I pick Josie up from school. We stop twice to use the bathroom. We’re about 20 minutes from the summit and she starts screaming that her mouth hurts. I pull off the highway and identify it is, in fact, her ears that hurt. At first I think, she must have an ear infection. Then I realize it’s the altitude and pressure on her ears. We’ve never had a problem with her ears releasing before and after much yawning and water drinking, I realize that she must have fluid in her ears from her cold and this isn’t going to work. We turn around and head for home – J screaming her head off in disappointment – and we hit Seattle at exactly 5:00 pm. All together we spend 3 hours in the car and don’t even see snow. Super!

Ski trip #2 – We make it to the mountain. The first few runs are tough. I use the word “runs” loosely. There’s a very gradual slope that frequently requires pushing or scooting and is really only about 40 feet long. Nonetheless, she’s a pile of arms and legs pointing in different directions, skis crossed, screaming that she just can’t do it. There is much crying and frustration. There is some talking about how hard it is to learn something new — that it takes time and patience and practice.

I tell her we can go in at any time but that only makes her scream more. She does not want to go in.

Finally at the top of the run I tell her we will wait until she is ready to try again. She needs to think that she can do this. I tell her to take as much time as she needs. Then I bring out the bag of almonds.

Now, I come from a long line of hypoglycemics and J’s different biological history has not altered the family line in that respect. When my sister first started dating her husband they went to Paris. I didn’t know Steve well at the time but I wanted to call him and tell him that he needed to carry a block of cheese in his pocket and force her to eat some every hour. Oh, here we are at the Eiffel Tower, would you like some cheese? Notre Dame! Cheese? Louve! Cheese! This is what we must do and I was applying the same principle to J that day. We ate rice cheese in the car on the way up. We ate ham in the lodge before started and we ate almonds on the slope.

As we eat our almonds, she is uncharacteristically quiet. It’s strange. I want to video tape her to show Paul because I didn’t think he’ll believe me but it’s pretty uninteresting to watch a video tape of a quiet child. At one point I ask her what she’s thinking about. She says nothing.

Then she says: I like your braids, Mama.

Me: Thank you.

J: I like them so much I want to cut them off and eat them.

Me: Oh. That’s nice, dear, I say, wondering if hair contains any protein.

J: OK, I’m ready.

I help her up, we put on her skis. I give her a push and she is perfect.


Josie has reached the magic age of four – the age of drop-off activities. I’ve dreamed about this day since she became a constantly running and climbing two-year-old, and I so desperately wanted a few quiet minutes to sit and read a magazine.

A few weeks ago we were prioritizing her activities/interests – do you want gymnastics or swimming? Ballet or soccer? – when she said, but mom, I want to do something with you.

Oh. Suddenly drop-off activities weren’t so appealing. Isn’t that just the way parenting works?

So that got me thinking about what activities we could do together. She’s too young for sailing and I’m not much of a ballerina. Can you picture me in a tutu? Eventually I landed on skiing. She went a few times last year and loved it. I love it. We could love skiing together! What could be more perfect?

I talked to Josie about skiing and she was enthusiastic. We watched a few videos of kids snowplowing, and after much thought and discussion I decided to go for it. Since I’m not one to do things part way, I bought us both season passes. Now we’re committed.

We’ve been talking a lot about skiing, mostly about how to make a piece of pizza with her skis to stop. Stop is not a word my child understands very well so it warrants extra conversation. I have a harness for her and helmets for both of us and warm gloves and everything I can imagine she’ll need.

Then, last weekend, Josie and I went to the park. She was well dressed but chose not to wear her boots or bring her hat. Fine. I dragged the wagon full of two kids for what seemed like miles, over hundreds of curbs without wheelchair ramps. It was tedious. We finally got there and Josie played for 5 minutes. Then… the crying. A complete melt-down. I gave her a snack. She told me that her hands were cold. I gave her my gloves. I held her on my lap. She was wrecked. She wanted to go home.

Paul thinks skiing with her will be an exercise in torture. I’m not sure he is wrong.

To be continued…

Morning Warfare

I’m not a morning person. It takes me a little while to wake up. My husband and ex-roommates can verify that, before kids, I had a guideline. No, it was more of a rule that it was safest not talk to me before I left for work in the morning. You could call me the minute I was out the door; that was best.

Josie is a morning person. She is 100%, in your face, loud, starting at about 6:00 am every day.

Sometimes we struggle. Some mornings there is sobbing, sibling slap fighting and resulting time out(s). On these mornings there is usually some maternal yelling and I spend the rest of the day being mad at myself and trying for forgive myself for losing my business.

As a result, I do my best to streamline our morning routine, to put out her clothes the night before, to make sure she puts socks on before she leaves her room so we don’t have to go back for them. I plan a menu of breakfast options so she has multiple sources of protein, but not so many that I have to make every breakfast food in existence.

As Josie gets older, we can talk more about mommy’s dislike of loud noises in the morning and the appropriate and inappropriate times for loudness. Paul and I try to make mornings fun by talking like pirates, challenging each other to races, and giving lots of rewards. Sometimes these tactics work. Sometimes they don’t.

The other day we had a super-great morning. Josie and I were both so chipper. I think she skipped to the car and actually got in right away and then I thanked her. There was no yelling, no crying, no children slap-fighting. If a neighbor had heard us, I don’t think they would have even thought about calling CPS. Not once.

Later that day, I found myself thinking about what we did right – a mental de-brief of the morning. What made this morning different? Then I remembered the email. Before I went into the kitchen I checked the email on my phone and discovered that The Huffington Post would be publishing my essay the next day. Interesting. Perhaps I need to work less on Josie and more on myself. Perhaps I need to be less of a pirate and more of an empathetic mother. Or, perhaps I just need to make sure I get an email that is just that happy, every morning.

The Huffington Post Adoption Essay

(c) La Luz Photography

Too Many Real Moms

A few months ago I heard an interview on NPR with Nancy L Segal, the author of “Someone Else’s twin: The True Story of Babies Switched at Birth.” The book told the tale of three babies and what happened when one singleton newborn was accidently switched with an identical twin. The “twins” were raised as fraternal and no one knew about the mix-up until they were adults.

It’s a complicated story and in the interview there was a lot of discussion of the various parents of these three girls and how they felt. The interviewer, I presume in an effort to simplify things, used the term “real” mother or “real” parents on several occasions to indicate the biological parent of the child.

If the biological parent is the “real” parent then what is the term for the parent who raised the child? The parent-in-practice? Parent-in-life? Bed-sheet-changer? At some point, it seems like 18+ years of lunch-packing should earn a parent the title of “real,” no?

Click here to read the rest of the essay in The Huffington Post.