Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Seven Years a Mother

Seven years ago today, I became a mother. Not in the usual way, and the title of mother to my children does not belong only to me. I am and always will be the second mother, and I am okay with that. I'll just be frank here and say that if you're not okay with being the second mother, then adoption is not a good way for you to become a parent. You need to be firm in putting yourself dead last in the hierarchy, because that is where you belong. The child comes first, and after that the first family, and dead last: you. This is not what I set out to write today, but it suddenly feels very important to mention it.

I have had the pleasure of loving my Z in person for seven whole years. I'm still in awe of the fact that she allowed me to love her, and even more bowled over by her love for me. If she had run screaming from me when I asked to hold her, that would have been understandable. I was a stranger to her, as was J. But she took a chance on us, and we are so very lucky that she did.

Z is kind and thoughtful and generous. She is the very best big sister. She is clever and creative. She has worked hard on so many things that matter in her life. I have done my best to labor alongside her and help her in any way I can, but in truth it is her remarkable spirit which has made all the difference. I don't think I could be prouder of all that she has accomplished in these seven years. When I say I am the luckiest mother, you'd better believe that I mean it.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

On Having Houseguests (and Liking It)

My parents have been with us for this past week, and this morning we rode the Tube out to Heathrow to see them off. It was a good visit, and their stay here in our house was made easier than ever by the fact that our living room - which doubles as our guest room - has a door. Plus, we have that second loo. It's night and day different from having houseguests in our old house. It is more comfortable for everyone.

As an introvert, it can be hard to have people stay with us, but what I'm now finding is that I can truly enjoy the process. I like the part when we prepare for our guests - it's always good to have a reason to tidy up and make the house look its best - and the part when we see people we love and get to spend time with them. The anticipation of having a short time that is different than our day to day also appeals. I like going places that we might not take the time to go and having more people around my table. (In this new house, I also have a bigger table.)

And then there is the part when they head home. As much as I love each and every one of the people who have come to stay with us, and I am happy to have had them here, there's something truly special about the hush that falls over our house when guests have gone. It's not that it's quieter than any other time, of course. It's the magic of comparison. It is quieter than it's been when we have had extra people in the house. And after putting off laundry and dishes and such to be with guests and take them out and about, I find I am happy to get back to the usual housekeeping business. Returning the house to its usual arrangement is soothing. It feels peaceful.

We've got this afternoon to attend to this task, and tomorrow also. If possible, I try to bookend visits with a day or two of nothing-in-particular. Before arrival, the air is charged with anticipation. I've long given up on the idea of having everything perfectly clean and organized before guests arrive, but we do want to make things our own version of "just right" to make sure our guests are comfortable. After departure, that charge is gone, and it is like the return to normal breathing after a good run. The process is not quite over, but the hardest work is done.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Ten Years Married

Three days ago, J and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. Well, maybe celebrated is a bit of a generous word for it. We had tomato soup and grilled cheese, which is pretty standard Friday night fare at our house, and we had it with our children, like normal. He brought me flowers, and I'd ordered a small cake, and we both posted wedding photos on Instagram. Done. This is how we mark a decade of married life.

I am not disappointed with our celebration, or lack thereof. One thing that is really lovely about ten years together is how we've settled into our life together as a couple and now as a family, since we started adding kids three years in. I was thinking of the anniversaries that came before this, and we didn't do anything spectacular for those either. Because it's just not who we are, or what we want or need.

What I've discovered over ten years of marriage is that the most important thing for marriage satisfaction is to shed the expectations that don't fit, both the ones that I held personally due to my own preferences and personality, and the ones I was taught to have. Ten years in, it's still a work in progress, but I look over at the man I married and see that we are steady, despite the lack of date nights and emphasis on other things which my American evangelical Christian upbringing taught me were important.

Would it be nice to go out alone with my husband? Of course it would. Would that take more effort than both of us are currently willing to make? Yes. If it didn't, then we'd be doing it a lot more often. And yet, here we are, with our tomato soup and grilled cheese and small chocolate cake, planning where to put the flowers so the cat won't eat them while our children are, once again, being unbearably loud. And happy enough with it, too.

I think a lot of lies get told about relationships, both inadvertently and because people honestly believe these things to be true. We're told how to show that we value our relationships, but those displays of value don't necessarily fit. We've had to learn what shows value to us. It doesn't matter how it looks to others, if they shake their heads at the choices we've made and think that surely we are doing it wrong and thus setting ourselves up for a fall. Because here we are. Ten years in, and still happy together. We've learned how quickly the time goes. Whatever is trying in the moment will surely pass. If it's important enough, we'll talk about it. We are both adults, capable of stating our wants and needs, capable of allowing things that aren't our favorite in pursuit of the greater good.

At ten years in, our life is peaceful, steady, good. I married a man who is peaceful, steady, and good, and we have weathered some storms together and come out on the other side. Knowing this is a comfort. If we've walked through hard things together already, we can do it again. But for now, there is peace, steadiness, goodness. There is a new home and another three years permission to stay in the country we've made our home. I am grateful for the ten years we've lived as husband and wife, and I look forward to the next ten.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

In the Course of Seven Months

Seven months gone - where have they gone?

To normal life and to extraordinary life events, the most notable of which was a trip to a whole other continent where some things went terribly wrong and other things went delightfully right, and I ended up with severe heartburn for five months. And then at the end of that, we moved. Just across the street and down a bit, but still. My Z went to camp (in a tent!) for two weeks while we moved, and I felt incredibly proud of her. We've begun a new school year, and it feels sweet and easy because after five years, I am confident in my abilities and my kids' abilities. Which is not to say that it's not work, but it's joyful work.

As is the work in our new house. The new is place bigger, just a bit, but the bit matters. We have a third bedroom which is used as an office, and J finally has his own desk. We put the children in the biggest bedroom and gave them a trundle bed, and there is space for most of their toys as well as plenty of floor space for setting up Lego and Playmobil towns, cities, what-have-you. Just tuck that trundle back under the bed for the daytime, and a whole world opens up.

There is also a dishwasher.

And a second toilet.

And room for a big fridge.

My life has been transformed!

And for the first time in three years, we are living in a house with all of our own furniture. I did my best to truly be grateful for a home in which we didn't have to purchase all the furniture straight away, but the pieces that didn't suit us had begun to grate on my nerves in a way that felt inescapable.

And then there was the problem with the hot water.

It was time to move, and this new place feels like a gift.

So here we are, in a house that feels to us like a mansion, filling it with things that make it our own home. So many choices to be made! So much furniture to assemble! But we are nearing the end of the hard work, just in time for houseguests. And after that, a proper holiday, just the four of us in one of our favorite places.

Life is good.

More writing to come. Now that I have a dishwasher, I've got the time.