Bread of Life

On Wednesday, we went to the Santa Monica Farmers Market—I hadn’t been since I was a little girl, and of course Mr. Book and Joey had never been at all. The macadamia nut man is gone, but the stand where my mother would buy us honey sticks is still around. We got fresh dates and dried, red brandywine tomatoes that I swear I could just eat like apples, and these little pixie mandarins that are ugly and hard to peel but sweet and bright and wonderful. I don’t even like pluots (they seem like a dumb fruit), but we picked up a few pounds of them that might just change my mind. I’m hoping it won’t take me twenty years to get back!

We also had dim sum with a friend of my mother’s while we were in town; she and my mom used to go to the SMFM together every week. Joey ate nearly his weight in mushrooms and cheerfully tried everything else; I keep being impressed that even in the middle of teething, he’s an adventurous and loving little sprout. He’s just more fragile, and isn’t sleeping as well. He’s getting up between 4:30 and 5 every morning (as opposed to his usual 6:30 or 7), and I’ve started cooking when I’m up with him some mornings so as not to lie on the floor with him and pray for sleep. Thursdays are my biggest and most elaborate dinners, as I make food for a colleague of my father’s on those days: yesterday it was a potpie made with sausage, onion gravy, and a mashed-potato crust (with tiny, separate vegetarian version’s for me and for the colleague’s sister), baked beans (not as difficult as I expected), roasted broccoli, and a cookie pie. I don’t know why I so want to make them impressive or overwhelming food, knowing as I do that I hope you get a transplant in time and I wish I could do more is hard to communicate via stroganoff. But next Thursday is frushi and vegan Vietnamese food, so I’m not giving up.

Joey doesn’t eat as much food as I keep expecting him to. There are a couple of things that he’ll eat huge helpings of every time he’s given the chance, more or less—beans, yogurt, oatmeal made with breastmilk—but otherwise he is usually content to taste things. It hasn’t escaped me that those favorites are all soft, and I wonder how much teething is affecting his appetite. He’s still nursing frequently, which is fine and great, but he’s so big (twenty-three pounds!) that I can’t help feeling that he’s not completely satiated on a purely liquid diet. I suppose things will get better once he’s not teething all the time . . . but that will be more than a year away, I’m told.

Ruth has a complicated diet these days; she isn’t eating meat, eggs, dairy, soy, wheat, corn, onions (including garlic), peppers (including paprika), tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, tomatillos, or peanuts. I really, really can’t cook for her now. Being driven to cook for the people I care about (as I write this, Mr. Book is snarfing down some banana bread courtesy of today’s early morning wakeup), I’m minded to see it as a symbol of our growing disconnection. There are points of dietary disconnect with everyone I love, of course—Mr. Book hates olives, my father hates eggplant, my mother wishes that I would eat meat—but between my family and Ruth’s there has opened up a great culinary chasm. Shoot, I don’t know that we could even eat out together.

My mother is mildly horrified to see me share bites of food with Joey; I’ll take a bite of a peach, hold it out to him, and then take another bite; I’ll pick mushrooms out of my lunch for him; I’ll finish his toast. I can see my mom staring as Joey sucks on a corner of his dad’s sandwich and then sees that same sandwich eaten by Mr. Book. And while I don’t think it’s necessary to feed your baby like a mama penguin to be close, it is definitely a sign and cement of our bond.

I miss Cricket. I wish I could feed him.

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Overtures

So we’re going up for a birthday visit on Tuesday—the actual birthday, a day I very much wanted to spend alone in bed, feeling sorry for myself. Unfortunately, it’s the only day that Mr. Book has off work, so that’s when it’s gotta be. I have figured out two things that I can make and bring that conform to Cricket’s current dietary “no” list (citrus, strawberries, wheat, spelt, sugar, salt, meat, dairy, nuts, eggs, honey, or other sweeteners)—dolmas, a few of which I will make with no lemon and no salt, and a recipe I haven’t tried before for savory whipped sweet potatoes and collard greens. There will probably be some present opening while we’re there, and Cricket has apparently started to bite hard when frustrated, so perhaps I’ll have a new bruise to show off Wednesday.

Those books I mentioned in yesterday’s entry have showed up, and I decided to show them to Mr. Book, something I ordinarily wouldn’t—my nesting worries him. But I told him that I am allowed to get books because I love books, gave him my plan for what happens to the books if we never have a futurekid, and then asked if I could show him. (For those of you keeping score at home, they were Jenny and the Cat Club, The Happy Lion, and Anatole.) Thus prepped, he was interested and approving. =) There are so many children’s books that I would like to have for futurekid that I have to start now (I tell myself); there’s no way I’ll be able to get all of them otherwise. Of course, as of today I have a better collection of picture books than Ruth and Nora do (they are library addicts, whereas (while I love the library) I am never happier than when surrounded by books that are mine. So if any of you want to recommend titles that you or your kids particularly love, I’m always adding to the list.

Mr. Book asked me last night what he should do with himself, and I said that I thought he should think of something he could do for Cricket—find a really great kid’s baseball glove to give him when he’s five, or write journals for him, or something—because he needs to do good dad things to wipe out the “bad dad” that he hears in his head. Me, I got a tattoo, I collect children’s books, and I make mix cds for Cricket—only one of those impacts him really, although when he’s older he may understand the tattoo and appreciate the excellent library at our place when he visits. Mr. Book agrees, and we’ll probably talk more later about what he can do to help himself feel better about being Cricket’s birthdad. We talked about needing to love him unreservedly, and about needing not to shut down emotionally for visits. When we visit, Cricket gives Mr. Book these long, searching looks—I said, “He is already looking to you for something, and you need to be able to give it to him.” And he agrees.

In my email to Ruth, I asked whether it would be okay for me to talk about the harder parts of the adoption: “But it’s been incredibly hard for me—many things in the adoption have been—and I guess if you are okay with it I would like to be more open about that. But I want your permission, which I hope isn’t manipulative.” So…we’ll see how that goes. =/

The Internal Optimist

I have this adoption daydream—it’s a bit embarrassing, but I’m going to go ahead and write it out here. In it, Cricket is a teenager: sixteen or seventeen. He comes to see us without letting us or his parents know—maybe he skips school, which his birthdad did a fair amount of in high school—or maybe he just drives down after class. Maybe he brings a friend. But he shows up at our place without giving us any notice, and I welcome him in, and I call Ruth to let her know what’s up and ask her what she wants me to do. She tells me that I may as well let him stay to dinner if I like, and that she’ll talk to him when he gets home. He has kind of a bad attitude; it seems clear that he’s doing this to test all four of the adults, waiting to see whether his moms will scream at him or I’ll turn him away. But as the evening wears on, he relaxes, warms up a bit. Whatever I’ve made—this varies, depending on what I have planned for any given week—is delicious, and he ends up enjoying the visit in an uncomplicated kind of way. By the time he leaves to go home, it’s almost as though he hadn’t started the visit as a prank.

Weird, huh? But this is the best thing that I can imagine. When I try to break it down, here are the things that I like: Cricket comes to see me on his own; while he has some anger at me, it seems resolvable; I get a chance to confirm Ruth in her role as the real mom; I get to feed Cricket; and at the end of the day, while Cricket belongs with his moms, he feels some connection to me. Does it sound any less weird when I explain it that way? 😛

In response to a request from Mr. Book, I made gumbo for the first time this week. It took me awhile to find a vegetarian gumbo recipe—in the end, I ended up using a Lenten recipe for “green gumbo.” It was good, I think, but not entirely my kind of thing. Still upcoming: my first foray into Korean food, and some maple shortbread to take to therapy. Oh, and I’ve got some sundried tomato pesto leftover, and will probably use it to make pizza this weekend. I’ve been working on my pizza crust, trying to make a really fantastic one, but while I’ve got the texture just right…the taste still isn’t quite what I hope for. I think I need to give up on olive oil for pizza dough. Any of you who bake, what do you use: Vegetable oil? Butter? Fat-free dough?

Which Contains a List

On Monday, I used my madeleine pan for the first time. During the visit, while I was warming up food, my neighbor brought over a cat toy that her cat distained—she wanted to know whether Aztec might like it. I wasn’t rude, I don’t think, but I didn’t invite her in or chat for very long because of my guests: so Monday I decided to bake her chocolate madeleines. They were delicious, and I think that I will make honey orange ones for group therapy next week; I have raw blackberry honey and orange oil and a good feeling.

I’ve been emailing back and forth with one of the group members a bit, which is more exciting than it probably should be—I just worry that I don’t belong there, so having someone be friendly is very reassuring. Too, since I don’t have any friends, it’s nice to talk to somebody. Yes, I know how pathetic that sounds. But what can you do? I work at home and don’t go to school, so I only meet cashiers—and they’re busy.

Alyssa left me a super helpful comment in yesterday’s post:

Have you considered talking to Ruth about how you’re hoping for this relationship to be a relationship between equals?

It might be a good thing to have on the table. There are obvious power differentials in your relationship, obviously, but they go both ways I think. And if they realize what your vision is for the future of the relationship between your families it might give Ruth and Nora something to aim for as they develop their expectations for visits and so forth.

It’s almost embarrassing—no, I guess it is a little embarrassing—that it hadn’t occurred to me to do this. The birthparent/adoptive parent relationship models I’ve seen so far are:

  • Additional Daughter. The firstmom gets emotional and often financial support from the adoptive parents, and the adoptive mom seems to feel both maternal and often somewhat frustrated.
  • Supplicant. The firstmom waits quietly in the wings for whatever the adoptive parents are willing to offer, asking for pictures or a visit when she dares…and then agonizing over whether she has crossed a line.
  • Hot Mess. The firstmom, either grieving hard, continuing past behaviors, or both, makes some splashy bad decisions. She makes the adoptive parents nervous, which strains the relationship, which sometimes causes her to act out even more.
  • Trooper. The firstmom decides that if she’s necessarily along for the ride, she might as well be a good sport about things, and tries to be as emotionally uninvested as possible. Sometimes this means that she seems more interested in friendship with the adoptive parents than in the child—this may worry or upset the adoptive parents, which is especially tragic when it’s a pose designed to keep from upsetting the adoptive parents with her love and grief for the child.
  • Specter. The firstmom decides that she can’t handle or isn’t interested in a relationship and vanishes.

The firstdads seem mostly to fall into the Specter category. I don’t particularly fancy any of these for myself; what’s a girl to do?

Part of the reason that I haven’t thought to talk to Ruth about my hope is that I worry that it’s born out of my (unhealthy?) desire to have a relationship that does not revolve entirely around Cricket. Of course we are tied together by the fact that all four of us love him, but I daydream about other ties—ties of shared experience and support, of being witness to the triumphs and trials of each other’s lives—I guess I’m describing adult friendship. Then, of course, I hear the voice of Junior High: “And why would we want to be friends with you?” That may be another reason why I haven’t broached the subject.

Mixed Bag

When I checked the mail today, I found a helpful mailer from a local medical center, addressed to me, telling me how to identify flu symptoms in my child and how to determine an appropriate dose of children’s Tylenol or Motrin. I am unreasonably upset.

I do get parent things in the mail every so often; I don’t always get upset, but I guess this is a bad time. Catalogs bother me the least, for whatever reason—I feel like people want to sell whatever they can to anyone who will buy it, so it doesn’t feel personal (I know that none of it is personal, but that’s hard to keep in mind), and besides…I do still buy kid stuff. Really, it’s the non-profit stuff that bothers me the most: pamphlets about making sure that my kid has health insurance, or an announcement about children’s events at local parks. I don’t have a child. There should be some kind of USPS website you can go on and check one of these boxes: I had a miscarriage; My husband is dead; She’s in prison for cruelty to animals. You get the idea. Then the awful, unexpectedly inappropriate mail would never come.

I don’t think that I find that many things triggering in everyday life because I don’t get triggered when I’m already on my guard. When I went to Planned Parenthood, I saw brochures for adoption—but I expected that, so it was no big deal. Heck, I picked up a brochure for Ruth and Nora’s agency to see what it said. No problem! It’s when I’m just checking to see whether we have a movie or maybe a letter, and then.

I think I’m finally, really done shopping for The Visit. I was explaining to Mr. Book last night that I was raised with certain ideas about hospitality—ideas that Ruth and Nora don’t share, so I’m having to figure out which of them are a good idea in this instance. One of the most basic is this; when people come over, you get them something to drink and you have something out that they can snack on. It is important to have the things they like to drink: when my baby sister comes to visit I have Sprite, and when Mr. Book and I were long distance, I always bought Dr. Pepper for his visits. Neither of these are things I would ever drink myself or normally have around. So for The Visit, I have bought two weird stevia sodas that I know Ruth likes, in addition to juice, sparkling water, and chai, since I’ve seen her drink these things at her home and out. For Nora, diet Coke. I drink Coke Zero, but she finds it too sweet—so now we have two small bottles of diet Coke in the fridge. They like tea, but I already have tea. I’ve been fussing about the idea of feeding Cricket for awhile—I want so much to make him animal crackers or something, but feel that this would be overstepping—and finally just asked Ruth whether it would be helpful if I could mash up a sweet potato with some almond butter or something. She told me today that while there are a few things he still isn’t eating, Cricket likes to eat what everyone else is, so assuming that not everything I make is inappropriate…. I am so excited. Here’s the final menu:

  • Cranberry Bean Stew
  • Artichoke and Fava Bean Stew
  • Kalamata Olives Stewed with Potatoes and Tomatoes
  • Tabbouli made with Quinoa
  • Marinated Olives over Feta
  • Pita made by me

Aside from the chunk of feta and the pita bread, everything conforms perfectly to Ruth’s dietary preferences, and it’s delicious vegan Greek. The sitting-out snack food will be mixed nuts, chocolate-covered almonds, and some honeycrisp apples. I got more small good news from Ruth, but I’ll save it for tomorrow.

The Spirit of My Mother is in This Place

First things first: I made gelée candies yesterday, and they are delicious: beautiful, bright squares of mango and raspberry. Some of them will be casually out at The Visit on Saturday. I have emailed Ruth asking casually when they think they’ll get here, and really hope to hear back by Wednesday. Everything has to be perfect. Me still being asleep when they get here=far short of perfect.

As I’ve been feeling extra depressed, I was toying with the idea of skipping post-adoption group therapy on Thursday, but then I got an email from the therapist: “Who’s coming? I know Susie and Lucinda are…” Bleh. I know that I need to have to go, but bleeech. On the other hand, while I was quietly being terrified about money, a whole bunch came in the mail and I got a new job that won’t start this week, so that is all excellent news. My big, exciting event today was running to the bank for quarters and getting more cat food for Aztec. I know, crazy times! I will also clean the kitchen thoroughly.

I secretly want Ruth to cancel the visit on Saturday—they’ve been really busy recently, and maybe they just won’t be able to make the time. I know that it’s good for them to come here and for us to see them, but whenever I think about it I get really nervous and upset. Can I tell you one visit-related stealth reason that I’m really glad I got paid? When we visit the Emerald City, Ruth and Nora take us out to lunch: “You had to drive, and buy gas!” This is true—we end up needing to fill up twice, and the cost is a burden at our income level. But I told Mr. Book quite some time ago that when they come here, I want us to treat them to lunch; as much as possible, I want us to build a relationship of equals. On some level, I know this sounds silly—we had to hope that I’d get some freelance income in a timely manner, whereas they have I’m sure extra entertainment money in the bank all the time. But I’m looking ahead to a few years from now when we’re all just friends and parents, and the adoption isn’t invisible—but it isn’t the only thing tying us together.

Obviously we’re deep cleaning the apartment, but we’re also getting ready in invisible ways. They like to have background music; we are not background music people. So I’ve made a playlist of background music for them, but not the kind of music that they listen to on their own. They tend to listen to oldies or funk, both of which categories I tend to hate—this list is popular music from the ’20s–’40s. I think that’s the stuff I listen to that they’ll like the most; I just really can’t imagine them enjoying Hole or Bikini Kill or the Decemberists. If anyone out there in Radioland has ideas about things I could do to make them feel welcome—what happens when your kid’s adoptive parents visit, or when you visit your kid’s birthparents? I want to get flowers, but I worry that that would be too much—or worse, that they wouldn’t notice them until Cricket knocked over the vase.

Trinkets

I am surprised that even a blog with essentially no audience, like mine, still gets spam.

You would not believe what a time I had trying to find a real buttercream recipe. Real buttercream, for those of you who aren’t crazed bakers, does not involve powdered sugar; it begins with egg yolks, and only gets crazier from there. But the pumpkin sandwich cookies turned out great–the cookies are cakey and not too sweet, a perfect complement to cinnamon buttercream. I went to the farmer’s market this morning and got cranberry beans and heirloom tomatoes and honeycrisp apples and cider and some corn; I love corn, and it looked so good. I will use it to make corn chowder, which Mr. Book has never had. Then a little old lady at the bus stop gave me a head of lettuce–they were $1.50 each or 3 for $3, so she had an extra head. =) The cranberry beans and one of the tomatoes are getting stewed; the rest of the tomatoes will be made into salsa. Mr. Book and I, wherever we’ve gone, have had a divey Mexican restaurant as our special place, but we haven’t been able to find one here–one of our earliest tries led us to joint that puts ketchup on the nachos. =o I’ve heard a rumor that there just isn’t any good Mexican in this state, so I’ve given up and started just making it at home. Mine is very California Mexican: salsa fresca, lots of fresh veggies, some jack cheese.

When I relinquished, I really wanted to get a piece of birthmom jewelery; it took on a weird importance in my head. I don’t think I was being mercenary–the PAPs weren’t paying me rent or giving me food money or anything nutty like that–but I read about adoptive moms giving those necklaces to birth moms (usually with bmom’s birthstone and baby’s birthstone) and I thought about how much I would like to have and wear one of those. I never mentioned it to the PAPs, although I think I did, once, to the future Mr. Book. Anyway, I didn’t get one. Ruth and Nora gave us a home ornament to match one that they have, which is definitely not to my tastes but so thoughtful that I really do need to just buy a nail and put it up (certainly before they come!!). But now I look at online catalogues of that jewelry sadly, and I still want to get one, but it seems too complicated and weird to get it myself (not to mention a bit expensive–I don’t need gold or anything, but money is p. tight here), and equally weird to get it as a gift from Mr. Book. So I’m not sure what I’d like to do instead–maybe a photo keychain from Shutterfly? I know just the picture  I’d use, too. I’ll post it in a separate entry with password protection because of creepazoids, but I’ll give it to you if you ask.