Friday, December 13, 2013

Adoption Day

Friday the 13th, what a perfect date for what we face today.  The date brings a smile & a shiver. Our family has worked and waited many long months for this day; our Adoption Day. Today is the day a perfect stranger, a judge in Florida, will decide if my spouse can legally adopt the girls. It’s a very rare occurrence in our state, there are a small handful of same sex parents in Oklahoma who have pursued and been granted a 2nd Parent Adoption.

2nd Parent Adoption was designed for a step-parent to legally adopt their spouse’s child. It is legal in about ½ of the states, but mostly for heterosexual couples and even then, you have to be a legal resident of that state. It is happening for us because I heard about a county in Florida, where a loophole exists, allowing out of state residents to hire an attorney to act on their behalf to pursue the adoption. It was all very complicated and very expensive, BUT very legal. So far, in 2013, our attorney has successfully handled over 200 such adoptions.  
What this adoption allows us:
-If I died, there would be no question, no worries about where the girls would go. No one could fight to take them. Without this adoption, they would be wards of the state until guardianship could be appointed.
-They can now be on my spouse’s health insurance. She has worked 24 years for the same company, (only using 1 sick day in all those years) yet they’ve denied allowing me or the girls on her health insurance repeatedly.
-She can take them to the hospital, by herself, if needed. She can make decisions for them in medical emergencies and not fear being separated from them (this happens often to same sex parents).
-The girls will be legally linked to all of my spouse’s family as if they were blood relatives. This is especially important regarding inheritance & taxes.
Once the adoption is final, she & I will be equal parents with equal rights and responsibilities like any other set of parents who are listed on their child’s birth certificate. The birth certificate is another round of this fight. Thankfully, the attorney is handling this and she expects we will have a Birth Certificate, for each daughter, re-issued with BOTH our names on it very soon. (Right now, it’s just me, making me look like a single mother.) Our attorney is only aware of one other same sex couple who have managed to get Oklahoma to re-issue a birth certificates listing both parents, lucky for us, she was their attorney also!
Baba holding her "commemorative" birth certificates that the sweet nurses at the hospital created for us.
So why do I feel such a contradiction of emotions today? Today is the culmination of a lot of work, a lot of waiting and worry. It will finally be over. Why am I not thrilled on our Adoption Day? Maybe because this should never have had to happen.  Why does my spouse, whom I legally married before our children were even a dream, have to adopt our children? My spouse who was there through every step of planning and conceiving her daughters, now has to respectfully request a stranger grant her these rights to her own children?
Isn’t this wonderful?! Adoption! It is now legal for us, people “like us” to be equal legal parents of our own children?! The children we conceived together and have cared for since birth, for 13 months. Oh, we are so, so lucky!! Pardon me, if I don’t feel enthusiasm over the situation.
We had to pay someone to come into our home, inspect every room, every cabinet, (checking for the safety and well-being of our children).  We had to present her with years of our financial information to prove we could afford to take care of our children (tax returns, bank statements, titles to vehicles). Give her copies of my college transcripts, letters from friends and family “recommending” us as parents. Write autobiographies, family biographies describing relationships with our parents, siblings etc. Then there was the interview. We answered all her invasive questions; our 6 year old answered all her questions (then we had to answer all his questions about her questions). Pages of answers. It was such a numbing experience, telling a stranger every detail of your life.  Have your life laid out to be examined, so she could then put it all a 40+ page report to the judge.  All to determine if you were “fit” to parent your own children. Oh, and that part of the process alone cost us nearly $1,000. That was a tough check to write.

As you can see by these photos, we definitely needed to be screened and investigated extensively to prove we are "fit" to be the legal parents of our children.
I am proud that we are helping pave the way for other same sex parents in our state. I feel the weight as we’ve pushed these squeaky wheels into motion. I’m excited that this is finally almost over.  I’m also angry about it. In a time when having two loving parents seems to not be the norm, why did we have to fight so hard? I have a spouse who has wanted to be recognized as their legal parent from the beginning. She’s longed to pay those health insurance premiums each month.  Yet, we had to jump through ridiculous hoops to do it.
I guess I’m writing all this to say I’m just such a pissed off, happy mess today! Some families call this date every year their “Familiversary”, the day their family became legal. We just don’t feel right celebrating it that way. We don’t want smiley pictures with the judge beaming at our babies. We will go to an office today, be sworn in and be granted equal legal rights to our children.  There will be no balloons or cake or photo announcements sent. We shouldn’t have had to go through all this. We shouldn’t feel lucky to have rights to our own children. It’s messed up. It’s a relief a HUGE relief and that is it.
*I don’t mean to take away from families who do have big or even little celebrations over their 2nd parent adoption. It’s just not how I feel about the experience with my family. My feelings, my blog. Congrats to those who do celebrate, to each their own.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Last Letter I Wrote by Hand

Writing Prompt this week: The Last Letter I Wrote by Hand…

Each week, on Wednesday, the Hersband & I write letters to each other. She calls them “Love Reports”. They are basically a recap of the week’s events, highlights, lowlights & occasional sweet nothings.

I got the idea from a book I read 3 years ago. It wasn’t a great book, but gave us a great idea, in it an older couple had passed away and their children found boxes of letters their parents had exchanged over decades. We didn’t start our letters so that our children might find them. For us the letters are more an effort at better communication & memory keeping.
The letters have served their purpose so far. It has greatly improved our communication and serves as a timeline of events big & small. Little memories often forgotten are remembered with a quick read and smile. The big memories are always there, but when I re-read one of the letters, it can take my breath away.

October 12, 2011- “We moved all that lumber by the house and found 27 scorpions, 4 frogs, 2 salamanders and a horny toad! You kept squealing and jumping around. Took us forever to move that lumber, but now the yard will look good for our pumpkin party!”

December 14, 2011 – “We got married! You are officially my beautiful, sexy wife. God, I love saying that. Thank you My Love for marrying me. I am a very happy Hersband. Provincetown was unbelievable. I have never been to a place like that. We were able to walk the streets holding hands. It was so freeing.”

February 6, 2012 – “Couple of weeks ago we tried for a baby, no go. So you are taking pills to make your eggs come to life or something…and we also got a shot that I’m supposed to give you after we go to the doctor. I really hope that you can still be happy with me even if we can’t have a baby.”

April 11, 2012 – “We went to the doctor today. We had to wait one hour, but it was worth the wait to see what is growing in your body. Not only is there one healthy baby, but there are TWO! The heartbeats are strong. You couldn’t stop crying, you are so happy! Oh man, this is real…I think a list is in order so hopefully we won’t be overwhelmed. This is something. I love you and I thank you for your love. I’m so glad you are my wife and my babies’ Momma.”

January 9, 2013 – “I know you are tired. I am tired. Being a parent is exhausting. We need to learn to talk better to each other though when we are tired. I think we need a schedule too, for the babies for feeding them and who will get up and all that. This is hard.”

March 13, 2013 – “Your dad died today and I am just so sorry. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what I’d do without my dad. I know ya’ll had a different relationship than me and my dad. It’s not the same. I’m sorry. I’m really glad we took the girls to meet him a few weeks ago.”

September 18, 2013 – “Our first overnight trip away from the babies! Pops & Nana kept the girls and we went to see Wicked and to the State Fair! It was awesome. We spent a lot of money at the fair. It was fun, but maybe we need to look at that budget thing you did again this week. I know you said we are fine. I trust you. We did buy a lot of Christmas presents. We need to do this more often. Not the spending but the overnights!”

Our goal is to write every Wednesday, but I have to admit, this past year has been rather busy and we are lucky to write every other Wednesday. Sometimes it’s a post-it note, or even a scrap of paper, but sometimes a long, beautiful, rambling letter. We state our complaints, compliments, frustrations and fears to each other in those letters.

We keep them in a big wooden box that D made for me one Christmas. The box is almost full already and I feel we’ve only just begun! 3 years of Love Reports down and a lifetime to go. She better get to making more boxes! I’ll remind her in the next letter.

To see what my blogging friends wrote in response to this writing prompt go here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I started making my own laundry detergent when we decided to try cloth diapering the girls. Cloth diapers require "special" (read "expensive"),  detergent. I started seeing where other parents were just making their own. So, I gave it a try and turns out, it's great detergent for ALL our clothes and can be made at a fraction of the price I was paying for name brand detergent (even after coupons)!

Here is the recipe I found & love on How Does She:
  • 1 (4 lb 12 oz) Box of Borax- Found in the detergent aisle
  • 1 (3 lb 7 oz) Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda- Found in the detergent aisle
  • 1 (3 lb) Container of OxyClean- Found in the detergent aisle
  • 2 (14.1 oz) Bars of Zote Soap- Found in the detergent aisle (You can also use Fels Naptha)
  • 1 (4 lb) Box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda- Found in the cooking aisle

    Some people add:
  • 4 Bottles of Scentsy Washer Whiffs- found online or through a Scentsy Representative

  • OR
  • 2 Bottles of Purex Crystals Fabric Enhancer- Found in the detergent aisle

    *I do NOT add these. My preference is to have zero fragrances in our detergent. Fragrance = Chemicals in my opinion. We are not totally chemical free in our household, but I figure where the babies are concerned, the less, the better!
    1. Open all  powders and pour into a large tub. You can see my tub in the background. Alternating layers of the powders is the easiest way to mix. Then stir with a big wooden spoon.
    2. Use a cheese grater or food processor to grate the bars of laundry soap. Once grated set outside in the sun for a day to let it dry out. This helps it to not clump once mixed in with the powders. It also helps with dissolving in the washer.
    This is a huge mixing bowl although it doesn't seem like it in the picture! I have used Fels Naptha in the past and like it, but it was not in stock this week, so I'm giving Zote a try. Not sure the Hersband is going to appreciate the pink, but I think it's pretty!
    So this is how much you have once all mixed. I keep1/3 without the grated soap because cloth diapers can't be washed with soap. (long, boring does end in stripping...but not the kind you were wishing for!)
    We use 2-3 tablespoons per load in our front loading HE washer. I marked a spot on the scoop to help. I throw the clothes in, then toss the detergent right on top of the clothes and whaa-laa! Cheap, great, homemade laundry detergent cleaned clothes!
    So you are probably wondering:
    How cheap? About $20-$25 (depending on coupons)
    How many loads will this amount wash? Not sure on the exact number of loads but our last batch lasted us right at 10 months for our family of 5. Remember, you are only using about 2 tablespoons.
    How clean? Well, it cleans all our clothes, everyday, nice work & play clothes just as well as it cleans the girls' poopy diapers & Hersband's work clothes with rubber/carbon black on them from her manufacturing job.  

    Thursday, October 10, 2013

    Back to the Future

    Writing prompt for this week: There's a DeLorian in your driveway and you can use it to travel through time. Where do you go and why?

    This was an easy answer for me. I've already considered this idea too many times in the past 6 years. It’s not a matter of which point in time to travel, it’s the task that is the focus. I would go back to the early 1990’s, it would be a day in December when we were out of school for holiday break. These two weeks out of each year were a time when my mother had focus on nothing else but family. She was always a good listener, but she was the best listener during this time.

    In the middle of this nostalgic time, when I had her best, most focused attention I would tell her that I knew what her future held. I would first establish credibility by telling her of events to come, a timeline of tragedies and notable moments. I would give specific dates & details so that she could not question the validity of what I was about to tell her. April, 19 1995 the OKC bombing, August 31, 1997 Princess Diana dies, May 3, 1999 one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in history hits central Oklahoma, September 11, 2001….you get the picture. I would write these events on a note, in my own writing, so she later couldn’t question that she had written them in a dream.

    After establishing credibility, I would tell her of her future, her future if she didn’t stop smoking. How her first grandchild would be a girl, a girl she would adore, but wouldn’t get to see grow past Kindergarten. How my sister would give her a second grandchild, a boy who she barely knew past his 1st birthday. I would tell her that if she didn’t stop smoking, she would be diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer while I was 6 months pregnant with my first child and she would only know him 17 short weeks before she would pass from this world. I would add that I go on to have twin girls in 2012, and one carries her middle name, the other her smile. 

    Nana & Pumpkin 2 weeks before she passed.
    She told me once that she believed her purpose in life was to be a great teacher and a grandmother.  I will tell her that, I will tell her she did not fulfill her purpose. I will make her sad, make her cry, make her understand what is at stake, what she threw away with both hands while fumbling in the wind & cold outside so many times to smoke that cigarette. The task, not the time would be my laser focus for the trip in the DeLorian. I will make her see & feel her future and want so much more than she had, because it was always here for the taking.

    See what my other blogging friends wrote in response to this week’s prompt here.


    Friday, September 27, 2013

    10 Things I Know to be True About My (older) Self

    1. I am a former champion multi-tasker – the primary word here being “former”. I still try to be the champ I once was, but I have to admit, Pregnancy Brain morphed into Sleep Deprived Brain, finally settling into Multiple Mom Brain. There is no cure for Multiple Mom Brain, therefore, I relinquish my champion title and humbly accept the status of “former”. Sigh.
    2. I am a terrible housekeeper – I fully admit this. I have been a stacker, knick-knack collector, clutterbug my entire life. I can jump into Operation Organize lickity-split if we are expecting company, but don’t expect the house to be clean if you just drop by. Also, just know I won’t be cleaning until the day before you are expected to arrive (see #3). I was raised to make my bed, clean my room etc., so it’s not the nurture part that’s to blame. Who knows why I’m this way, but at this age, I don’t see it changing drastically - much to the dismay of my hersband.
    3. I procrastinate- now this is an area where I still hold the Champion status! I excel at procrastination. Planning things is not the problem, I plan things well in advance. It’s the preparation I put off. This is another area where I turned out opposite from the way I was raised. I have to admit though, I always pull it off. If you came to my house for an “occasion” of some sort, you’d think I had been preparing for weeks!
    4. I can be impatient with others – I have gotten better since becoming a parent, but I still have a way to go. If you know you are writing a check for your groceries Granny, get your checkbook out while your items are being scanned, please for the love of all that’s holy, get.your.checkbook.out. Also, if you use the drive thru at the bank, have your stuff ready. Checks signed. ATM card out. Drive thru fast food? No need to study the menu, we all know what is served with that side of grease, order already! Come on! The drive thru is for those of us in a hurry! Ok, maybe I haven’t gotten any better.
    5. I am not a terrible driver…..but my driving skills could be improved – I have just recently come to this realization. I should have known before now. I’ve had my share of fender-benders (3 in my own driveway). A few speeding tickets over the years. A little brother who at 18 started refusing to ride with me. D says I use the brake too often and make her nauseated. Yes, I’ve definitely had some clues. So while everyone else took note; what finally made ME realize my poor driving skills? Yesterday while in town for only 2 hours, I was honked at 3 times. 3. So, I started thinking, what is the common denominater here? Oh, it’s lil o me in my big ol van. oopsies.
    6. I am blunt and should use more tact sometimes when speaking to others – I’ve known this my whole life and actually improved quite a bit. Not enough though. It is the only thing I was docked on for my employee performance review this year. (only ½ point but still) If you say something asinine in front of me, you are probably going to be made aware of it. You’re welcome. I probably just saved you from getting your face smashed by someone else. I seem to lack a filter of some sort. A snarky thought pops into my head and I’ve “matured” enough to deliver that thought with a little more pleasantry than in my younger days. I’ve evolved from, “You are an idiot if you think that!” to “Wow. Well, that’s one way to look at it I suppose, if you’re not educated on the issue.” See, better, but still needs some tweaking.
    7. I am not a morning person, nor a night owl, just a person apparently – my mother always described me as a “bear” upon waking. I don’t think I’m quite that bad now, but I’ll fully admit, you are putting your feelings in danger if you try to have a conversation with me before my first cup of coffee. Also not a night owl, in college I put myself to bed with a good book around 9pm (even on most weekends) and it was lights out by 10. I don’t do mornings & I don’t do nights. I do sleep.
    8. I tend to overload my family with commitments/plans – I have all these great ideas, make all these plans and totally overload my spouse and the kids. Next weekend is jam packed and I’m already sure there will be tears and we will be late for at least one thing. The challenge is, doing the things we want to do, doing the things we feel obligated to do and doing the things we need to do. It all adds up to a lot. (maybe this ties into #1?)
    9. I am getting better at admitting when I’m wrong – Oh boy, I was really bad about this in my younger years (under 30ish). I had a hard time admitting to myself when I was wrong, much less others. I have found in recent years though that when you admit a mistake, it’s a powerful thing to yourself and the person you are admitting it to; especially if it’s a child. The shock and admiration in my son’s eyes when I admitted to him that I delivered the wrong punishment was something I’ll never forget. He hadn’t realized that adults make mistakes too. Adults can be wrong. It is ok to not trust an adult when you see them doing or saying something you think is wrong. That’s the lesson my son learned from me being wrong and admitting it. Much more powerful than him seeing me be right all the time.
    10. I am much less likely to pass judgment on others now – that was my New Year’s Resolution about 3 years ago. I’m much more aware that there are always many sides to a person’s story. Several friends have told me I should write a book about my life, it is sitcom worthy for certain. I figure if my life is this complicatedly beautiful, others have some serious shit going on in theirs too. I think I was so judgmental because if I took note of their screwed up ways, it made mine seem better. Like, whoa, at least I don’t ___________. So, you notice I said much LESS likely. That’s because I’m not perfect. I still judge sometimes. (yes, you giggly young moms from my son’s kindergarten class who didn’t realize until I mentioned it to you just before holiday break that your kid does in fact have math homework weekly…and has since school started months ago. Yes, I judged you and I still do. Here’s a thought: put down your cell phone, look in the backpack, check in with your kid and the teacher every so often. What the hell kind of parent are you anyway, doesn't realize your kindergartener is getting zeros for weeks?! Ya damn idiot.) I obviously need to work on this & #6 a bit more. Oh well, I’ve got time.

    I linked up with my blogger friends this week where we all posted our Top 10 things we know to be true about (fill in the blank) lists. Check others out here.

    Thursday, September 12, 2013

    The F Word & Others

    Today’s writing prompt with my awesome group of blogging friends is, words that are off-limits in your house.

    I can only remember 1 word being officially off limits in my household as a kid. It was the F word. Our family’s F word was not THE F word. I had never even heard THAT F word before (and wouldn’t until I was a teen).  Our F Word was “Fart”.  I have no idea why my mother banned that word, but we never dared speak it. Instead, we had to call it a “Froggie”. Again, no idea why. Made no sense to me as a kid and none to me now.  
    I still don’t use the F word. We call it a toot in our house. Even typing it feels wrong. Thanks mom. Whenever I hear someone say fart, or a kid talk about a cute little froggie, I feel a quick rise in temp and heart rate.

    So, as a kid, my list was short & weird. The current list of words off-limits for our household seems to grow weekly. A first grader brings home a lot of words. A spouse that works in a manufacturing plant brings home a lot more words.

    For each word off-limits, we’ve discussed why it’s inappropriate and what alternative words we might use instead. (Name calling is off limits and there is no alternative word choice).

    Our current list:
    Shut-up = Please stop or be quiet
    Loser = Falls under the no name calling rule
    Retard/Retarded = Usually, the word silly or goofy fits here.
    Stupid = Falls under the no name calling rule or use “not thinking”
    Fat = Unhealthy
    Hate = Dislike
    Jerk = Not nice
    Fart Head = (gasp!) Falls under the no name calling rule
    Idiot = Uneducated
    Jesus Christ! = Holy Cow! or Oh my!

    Whenever a word from the list is used by any member of the family, we all call them on it. There is no jar of penalty pennies etc. In our house, a stern look and mild blast of guilt works just fine.

    You may have noticed our official list doesn’t include cuss words, we haven’t had to deal with that yet. I’m sure it’s just around the corner though. Holy Cow, it will probably happen when some not nice, not thinking, uneducated, person doesn’t know when to be quiet around our kids. That type of person would probably froggie in front of them too! Oh my.

    I’m hosting the link today where my blogger friends have written on the same topic. Please check out their thoughts on the off-limits words in their households. Maybe there are a few we should all add?

    Photo Credit: Greg Johnson

    Tuesday, September 10, 2013

    Play Kitchen-To Go

    I saw this on Pinterest and thought it would be perfect for Pop's & Nana's house. Here is the kitchen I pinned as inspiration.
    A play kitchen that can be put neatly away when the grand kids aren't around. 
    I bought a Rubbermaid Tote at Target for $7.99. 
    Cooking Utensils, towel, oven mitts & baking pans at Dollar Tree for $1 each.
    Black duct tape for $2.99 & used my scrapbook tools to cut the circles for the "stove" top. 
    Play food courtesy of big brother's toy box.
    30 minutes & $30 later...ta-da!!!

    The girls are loving their new little kitchen!