Wednesday, May 27, 2015

first days of the summer

So! What has everyone been up to lately? For us, last week was the end of the school year, with all its attending busy business. The weather was oddly chilly, and I felt bad that poor Nico and his classmates had their outdoor water fun day on a morning where it never topped 60 degrees. He still came home in his swim trunks and T-shirt, even though I sent him with pants in his backpack, so I guess he didn't get too cold. His school doesn't do a full-on graduation, which I am a-okay with, but they did have an end-of-year program on Thursday. The kids did a little processional and everything, which was ridiculously adorable. Some of them were hamming it up, some were super happy, and some were obviously nervous. Nico saw me watching him from the front and completely forgot he was supposed to be walking slowly and solemnly. The entrance music was "Let Them Be Little," and COME ON. Does there exist any other song so perfectly engineered to make the parents of small children ugly cry in public? (I nearly lost it at "let them sleep in the middle.") I made it through with only a few dignified tears, though it was a near thing. I think it will be much harder when Elliott finishes preschool, because when he's done we'll be leaving entirely and I really love the school and the teachers. Nico has really blossomed there and I have always felt like we lucked into a perfect fit for him. I hope that Elliott has a similarly-great experience, though I have already warned the teachers that they might as well throw out all their notes and start over because child two is a completely different animal.

I made the obligatory first day of school / last day of school pairing to post on facebook:

Then I saw someone else post a first day of preschool / last day of preschool comparison and went to look. My itty bitty dude!

The evening of his program day, Nico and I went to a paper lantern release. I was possibly still feeling sentimental from the morning, but it seemed like a fitting way to start our last summer before he begins all day school and the inevitable journey toward being a big kid.

My dad stayed all last week at a state park an hour and a half away while he volunteered at a nearby event. He didn't have a volunteer shift Friday, so I cashed in a vacation day and took the boys up to meet him. We had such a nice time and I'm so glad that we went. We had a little picnic lunch, looked at things in the tiny visitor center, and went on two hikes. The first trail was overgrown and closed in and the second one was so poorly marked we eventually tried to turn back and then briefly got actually lost, but it all turned out fine. The kids had fun and it was nice hanging out with my dad and having a little adventure together.

Saturday I cleaned a little and went to the grocery and took Nico to his first planetarium show. I worked on the garden in the late afternoon / evening while the boys played in the yard. Elliott let himself out of the gate and went for a walk and I didn't even know he was gone until the neighbors brought him back. They were super nice about it and told me how their kids had done the same thing ages ago, but dude. DUDE. I have since tied all the gates shut with little bungee cords. Mere minutes before the rescuers arrived with Elliott, I had asked Nico and the kid from next door where he was. The neighbor kid straight up lied to me and told me he saw E go into the house with MB. Then about thirty minutes after Elliott's escape and capture, the neighbor kid threw sand all over Nico. And I mean all over. In his hair, his mouth, his clothes. I firmly told the kid it was time to take his things and go home. He was already on my not-quite-trusted list, but now I've totally got my eye on him.

On Sunday we met up with friends to pick strawberries. The kids were only sort of interested, but it was a nice way to spend a sunny morning outdoors. I remember picking strawberries with my mom as a kid, and it's something I've always wanted to do with my own children.

There's no telling what they'll remember about this summer, especially Elliott since he's still so small, but I hope their memories of childhood include sunshine and big skies and dirt and fireflies and somewhere in there, me following behind as they run through the grass on their way to the next adventure and waiting to catch them at the bottom of the slide, but only if they really need me.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

an object in motion

Back in December I wrote a post about being adopted, and about my biological mother, who might (or might not) be looking for me. To sum up: there are posts on several seeking-adopted-child websites from a woman whom we'll call Ellen, hoping to find a daughter born at the hospital where I was born, on my birth date. She lists the name of the child's father - let's call him Edward.

For some reason, after an entire life of not being curious at all, I was suddenly besieged by intense curiosity once I published the post. A few weeks before I posted, a local friend shared one of those photos that go around facebook periodically, of a girl holding a posterboard asking for help finding her biological mother. My friend posted again mere days later and reported that the adoptee (a friend of hers) had turned to a facebook group that specializes in tracking down adopted folks or their biological families and had found her birth mother. I still can't explain why, but after posting here, I joined the group myself and asked, basically, How does this work if I'm the adoptee and I don't want you to look for info based on me as the starting point, but rather to see if you can start with the person who is searching? Can you take her info and see if you trace it back to me without any of my info to give you a head start? Does that make sense? Like, if they started with her and got to me, I'd find it more plausible. Plus the group has over 6000 members and no way no how were they getting my personal identifying info.

A bunch of them missed the point and asked me to post all of my personal information so they could start looking, one recommended finding an intermediary who would contact Ellen and get all the info they could from her, so that we wouldn't have to directly talk. One of them messaged me privately and said, hey, I wouldn't throw your personal info on that site, but if you want me to run a background check on this Ellen person, I can do it. Probably I'm an idiot to trust some fb random, but I had her do it. She found some property records and some other stuff that led her to a guy on facebook that she thought might be Ellen & Edward's son. I was relieved to find that he didn't look exactly like my kids, I have to tell you. But then I noticed that he had gone to my high school during the time i was there - I graduated in 1999 and he graduated in 2001. I seriously felt like I was going to throw up for about half an hour after that. I didn't know him at all - can't even recall ever hearing his name. There were about 900 kids at the school, so it's possible we never even saw each other. Then I noticed we had a mutual facebook friend, Brittany.

I probably should've left it alone, but I messaged Brittany and said, hey, are you close friends with this Joe guy, or just like facebook acquaintance "friends"? She said they were pretty good friends, used to be much closer, but assured me he's a really nice guy. I asked her, did he ever mention having a sister that was given up for adoption? He hadn't, of course, because what high school / college dude is going to bring that up to a girl he hangs out with at work? I finally just had her ask him outright what his mom's name was, and it wasn't Ellen. Then I asked her to ask him, did he know an Ellen. Turns out Ellen and his father, Edward, were together before he was born, but she's not his mother. After a bunch of back and forth, Brittany managed to find the adoptee finder website posts and showed them to Joe, who said absolutely, the person who posted them is the Ellen he knows. That poor dude was basically DYING of curiosity because Brittany kept her promise to me and didn't tell him my name. He was way cooler about the whole situation than I'd expect anyone to be, and I suspect he felt not unlike I felt as it was happening - immensely curious but also completely perplexed. And now, of course, it's been almost six months since that conversation and I never pursued any of it - so I feel a little bad that I just left him hanging. I wonder if he forgot about the whole thing, or if it's been bugging him ever since.

I don't know what I think or how I feel - I didn't then and I still don't. After my initial burst of rabid need-to-know, I cooled way off and mostly forgot about all of it until this week, when it randomly bubbled to the surface of my mind. It's pretty insane that I might have gone to high school with my half brother and not even known. Of course, OF COURSE, I still don't know anything for sure and this could all be a giant flukey coincidence. Or maybe it is my half-brother and he does know my biological parents and I still decide at the end of this story that I don't want a whole new family. Is that awful? Maybe.

But as another friend and I agreed as it was all unfolding that day back in December, in a city of 100,000 people, what are the odds that there were multiple baby girls born on that same day at that same hospital to a mom in the right age range who were given up for adoption? My mom (my actual mom) seems to think the number is large enough to blow this off as just chance. But many kids are given up for adoption per day in a city this size? I would be surprised if it was one per day, I really would. Especially straight out of the hospital infant adoptions. I still have no idea where I stand. I clearly needed time to process. A twitter friend with several adopted folks in her family sent me some advice from her and her family's perspective. Some of what she had to say was extremely grounded and smart, and I hope she doesn't mind me sharing it. She told me, If you want advice, think about what you want. Do you want to see if this person is related to you? Why? If she is, are you willing to adapt to having a new family in your life, a bunch of people (or even one person!) who think they know you because you share genetic material? Do you want to expose anyone else in your Family to these people? What's the worst case scenario, and can you live with it? Best case, and would it make you happy? Another twitter friend who is herself adopted and was contacted out of the blue by her biological mother as an adult, advised that she was glad they'd made contact, that having another person in her life who loves her and her kids has been positive, but did warn that one of the reasons she felt comfortable opening the door to the relationship was the fact that her biological mother lives two states away. My potential biological family lives in the same city as I do. It's a decently-sized city, but not huge enough to hide from someone who really wants to find you and be involved in your life despite your wishes if things don't go well. (Is that a horribly pessimistic thing to say?)

I think I initially overwhelmed myself with my burst of activity. Then it all felt too large to handle, so I let it ride and in doing so let it completely fade from my attention. My mom told me she'd seen something in the paper about a bill going before the state legislature that would open all adoption records created between 1941 and 1993. I thought, well, if this passes, I'll be able to go and look at my own original birth certificate without needing to co-petition for it alongside one of my possible biological parents. This would remove the entire uncomfortable angle of having to make contact with the biological family just to find out if they are, in fact, the biological family. Unfortunately the bill stalled in the state senate and is probably tabled. I do suspect Joe might be willing to participate in a DNA test to find out if the two of us share any genes, but that would put him in a bit of an awkward position, too, as I'd basically be asking him to keep a huge secret from his dad and from Ellen.

Most people who commented on the situation back in December were coming from a non-adoption-related angle, and for a lot of folks it maybe seems like a fun mystery, something that would be so cool to solve. They don't have to think about what this all REALLY means for me, for my family, for Ellen, for Ellen's family. I truly don't have any neat little bow to tie on the end of this story. I don't know what happens next, if anything. I don't know why this has been on my mind off and on for a week after months of radio silence. I still haven't taken care of all those morbid and creepifying adult documents like a will and a trust for my kids in the event of my untimely demise. But writing about it before felt right and made me feel better (even though it also apparently made me temporarily a little nuts), so maybe writing about it again will bring about some clarity.

Friday, May 08, 2015

And then I fell down a science nerd internet rabbit hole.

Forget flying cars and hoverboards, what I want from my life here in the future is a better option than umbrellas. Specifically, I respectfully submit that it's bullshit to struggle with an umbrella through the rain only to get totally soaked in the process of getting into the car with it. You have to fold it up before you can get in, so you get rained on, then there's no good way to get the wet umbrella over to the passenger floorboard without it dripping all over your lap. I want a device I can wear on a wristband or necklace that, when activated, produces a water-repellent forcefield. One that keeps water completely away and allows you to get into the car and then de-activate it, safely dry with no umbrella shedding water all over your clothes. Can we kickstarter this?

Maybe we could also modify it to work as an insect repellent field, since actual spray-on insect repellent seems to do fuck-all to actually repel mosquitoes. That's really a sloppy statement from a scientific standpoint, I suppose, since insect repellent isn't designed to repel insects - it's designed to block or disrupt the insects' ability to locate and identify you as food. The whole thing fascinates me in a grudging way, admittedly. For instance, I've heard (or maybe read somewhere) that women and children seem to attract more mosquitoes than men. This makes sense, since mosquitoes detect us via the carbon dioxide that we exhale and smaller people breathe faster than larger ones. (Incidentally, this line of thinking always reminds me of a click-baity type article I saw once discussing the fact that more men than women are struck by lightning each year. I wanted to cross-examine the author. Did you take into account the percentage of men that golf compared to women? Or the percentage of men versus women working outdoors in jobs that would put one at a higher risk for lightning strikes? CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION, CLICK-BAITY ARTICLE WRITER.)

Anyway, the topic came up at work the other day because we are plagued with mosquitoes right now - and because we're a bunch of science nerds without dissertations to focus on - and we pondered, if mosquito repellent blocks their CO2 receptors, how can they still find us when we have applied repellent? Turns out they are also somewhat attracted to skin odors, and that our deliciousness does vary person to person. BUT ANYWAY, this could all be fixed when we invent the force-field bubble of insect and rain repelling. Get on that, humanity.

Playing:   Led Zeppelin mostly. And sometimes this song on repeat.

Reading:   Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Tuesday, May 05, 2015


I mentioned last week that I lost my keys somewhere during the car-cleaning / shed-cleaning process. I looked everywhere I could think of and finally gave up and borrowed MB's spare key to drive to a work program Monday night. Tuesday morning I dropped the kids off at my parents' house and then took the 50 mph stop-and-go expressway to the wetlands on the other side of town for work. At the end of the morning program, I was standing in the parking lot chatting with the newly-hired guy and looked over to find that my keys had somehow been riding around on the top of my car through three drives. WHAT THE WHAT. I have no idea how they stayed up there.

Work has been crazy for about a month now, maybe longer. I have clocked overtime at least three weeks, which is significant considering I'm only supposed to work 32 hours. We're so busy (which is good) and so short-staffed (which is less-good) that even working extra hours, I'm still behind on my own work. I've been spending my time covering programs because there's no one else to do it. I have permission now to hire a few part-timers for summer help, but I'm not sure when I'll have time to interview anyone. We'll make it work somehow, I imagine.

Two moms from Nico's class have asked me if he's planning to attend any of the day camps at my work, thinking it would be fun to sign their kids up for camp with him if he is. This is a nice contrast to last summer, when I sent "let's meet up for a playdate!" notes home with every single kid in his class and didn't get one email or phone call over the summer. I tried not to take it personally because people are busy, but that was a bummer. Nico is signed up for half-day Big Truck Camp at the Y plus half-day dinosaur camp at the children's museum, and then he'll probably do two weeks of half-day camp with me at work. One of his playdate friends wants to do a week of all-day camp and I think I'll let Nico try. I'd never send him to all-day camp on his own right now, but maybe with her to hang out with he'll do okay? If not, it won't cost me anything to yank him out and send him to my parents for the week instead. Oh, and both kids will do Kindermusik one afternoon a week for five weeks. I feel like such a stereotype even writing that, but they love it so I will get over it.

I was off today because of all the working recently. Nico had preschool in the morning and Elliott had his last Kindermusik session of the semester, since I worked yesterday morning and we missed it. After that and a much-needed nap for Elliott, Nico was begging to go to the playground down the street. I decided I'd rather gamble on the park farther down our street, about half a mile in the opposite direction of the really close playground. It was totally worth it. The park is shaded by a dozen big old trees, there's a nice play structure with a sand pit, and there's benches for the parents. The kids played happily for almost two hours while I sat in the shade and read a book. The other parents we encountered were my favorite kind - present but hands-off, letting the kids just do their thing. Not one person told a kid to not get dirty or to stop running (though I did have to ask Nico not to kick quite so much sand into his shoes). Nico spontaneously played in the sand with two other little boys. My kids came home covered in sweat and dirt and went right into the shower. After shoveling down his dinner, asking for more, and then shoveling that down, Elliott hollered, "Playground! Please, playground!" Alas, we did not return, but we definitely will go back this summer.

Pushing Elliott to the donut shop on Sunday morning. I have no complaints about this new wanting-to-push-brother thing. Also, how ginormous is this toddler? We went to a birthday party for a three-year-old on Saturday evening, and Elliott was the same size as the birthday child.

Reading:  Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Playing:  Elliott won me over for the thousandth time today by repeatedly requesting "more black doggie" in the car. It's not my favorite Zeppelin song by any measure, but he is definitely my favorite little blond boy.