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Posts Tagged ‘Family’

The other day I was at my son’s preschool to pick him up. Often, we have “big yard” playdates with some of his classmates after school. The big yard is one of the common areas at the school where the kids play on the jungle gym, run around, pretend to be pirates on the big ship and eat leaves from the vegetable garden. On this day there were a lot of kids playing in the big yard, including little girl visiting the big yard with her younger sister. This young girl, who I’ll call Marla, couldn’t have been more than 6.

The Littlest E was playing with his friends as I sat at one of the children’s picnic tables.  Next to me was this beautiful, little girl with long, wavy hair, a round face and doe-like eyes.  The following is a conversation we had. I ask that you read it with the innocence of a 6-year old.

Marla: Is her your son?

Me: Yes, he is.

Marla: He’s really your son?

Me: Yes. Would you like to know how he’s my son?

Marla: Yes.

Me: We adopted him.

Marla: What’s that?

Me: Well, he didn’t grow inside me, but in his birth mom. For whatever reason, she wasn’t able to take care of him and he needed a Mommy and Daddy. My husband and I wanted a family so we adopted him and he became our son.

Marla: He has brown skin.

Me: Yes, he does.

Marla, said with great concern and caring: We have peach skin and there’s no one else here with brown skin. Will he be okay?

Me, smiling: That’s a really good question. He’ll be fine. He has lots of friends and, in his class he has other friends with brown skin.

Marla was quiet for a moment.

Me: It’s a pretty cool thing that there are all kinds of families, isn’t it? There are many ways to become a family.

Marla: Yes.

There’s another quiet moment.

Marla: Do you love him even if he has brown skin?

Me: I love him because he has brown skin, because he’s my son. I couldn’t love him more than if he grew inside me. I love him.

There’s another quiet moment.

Marla then yells to her sister: What are you doing?

Our brief exchange has ended and she left the table to play with her sister.

© 2015 Melanie Elliott

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Is it just me, or does it seem like the last few months of the year go incredibly fast?  We hit October and there’s Halloween.  You blink and it’s Thanksgiving.  You blink again and it’s Christmas/Hanukkah, and one more blink and it’s an entirely New Year!

New Years Eve

As I wrote in a previous post, we celebrate many holidays in our home.  We keep the Christmas decorations up after the New Year until the 12 days of Christmas are over – January 6.  The Littlest E was on break from school for 2-½ weeks and my husband took a staycation for 1 of those weeks.  It was wonderful to have both of them home.  Tom and I didn’t need to set an alarm clock because we knew our lively lad would wake us up around 6:30. I think once or twice during that week, we were blessed with a 7:00 appearance.  The luxury of sleeping in!  Part of me does look forward to the day when The Littlest E is a bit older and actually, truly does sleep in, however, I love the mornings when he wants to come in bed with us and hang out.  It’s awesome family time.  And, of course, our dog, Pepper, has to get in on the action, too.

Holiday time is such a busy time, with vacation, visiting friends, holiday gatherings, all the planning and prep it takes, etc., etc., etc.  Many people take time to reflect at year’s end and come up with resolutions for the approaching year.  I used to pick Angel Cards to see what words would be my focus for the year ahead.  I’ve never really been a New Year’s resolution person though, and, since bringing The Littlest E home with us from Ethiopia 4+ years ago, there doesn’t seem too much time during the holidays for major introspection.

That time happened on January 6.  Tom started back to work on January 5, and The Littlest E went back to school the next day. After I dropped him off, I came home, walked the dog and then proceeded to put away all our holiday decorations.  It was the first time in a couple of weeks I was alone for an extended period.  Pepper was resting and the house was quiet.  The only sounds were cars driving by on a street nearby, the heat coming through the vents wafting warm air my way, and an occasional bird making its voice heard.  It was the perfect opportunity for a bit of contemplation about the year past and the year ahead, and the floodgates of my mind opened with numerous thoughts rushing in.

Meeting Mickey

We had a good year as a family last year.  We traveled a bit to see our families, went to an Ethiopian adoptive heritage camp, went glamping with classmates from preschool, and took The Littlest E to Disneyland for the first time.  The Littlest E began asking more questions about his adoption.  Both Tom and I provided him and will continue to provide him with answers that are appropriate for his age. You’d be surprised at the kinds questions he was asking.  Kids are perceptive and understand more than we think they do.  I won’t go into details because it gets into territory that belongs to our son, since his adoption is his story to tell. I’m just really glad we are here at this point, and he’s asking.  It’s so important for him and for everyone concerned.

I love my family and honestly, couldn’t ask for anything more, well, maybe a bigger house, but that will happen in due time.  Our nightly gratitudes we say at dinner make me feel, well, grateful.  I hear the things my son is grateful for and it puts a smile on my face. Pepper, joined the family this past September and she’s love personified.  She fit right in with minimal adjustment.  Our new routine of daily walks including one in the morning with my son, allows me special one-on-one time with him, and a bit of exercise to boot.  I love just being with him.  We’re all good.  Tom and I could always use more date nights, but I think we have a balance that works.  I want to continue to love and support my hubby in all his endeavors.

Lightsaber!

The explosion of growth that has gone on with The Littlest E this year, not just height, but brain power, imagination, energy, and appetite.  You name it.  He’s sight-reading some words, and they’re learning to write in class.  Watching him figure things out is one of the neatest things I’ve seen or when he’s focused on building something with his Magna Tiles or figuring out answers to questions from his Sylvan learning books, it’s the best.  His imagination is on fire. The first part of last year was all about the Ninja Turtles.  Then the last six months and currently, it’s everything Star Wars. Everything is a lightsaber or sword.  He’s watched a Star Wars movie with lightsaber in hand ready to do battle along the other Jedi, literally. We have rules of play in the house that he observes (most of the time).  He can fight with Darth Wingback or Darth Couch, but can’t fight with Mom and Dad, if neither of us cares to join in.  And he loves stories, too. Right now Tom is reading to him a lot of Greek myths.  The Littlest E LOVES them and regularly asks on the way to school, “Tell me a story, Mommy.” Star Wars, Disney movies, Eurydice, anything made up, often make the ask list. Being a Mom is the coolest thing.

Myths

A headspace occupier for us this past year has been the quest for a kindergarten.  When I was a child, schools were vastly different. So it’s been a blog-worthy journey trying to figure out the best option for our son.  We’re not sure how things will unfold.  We’ll know in the next few months.  We just hope we do right by our son, and are excited about where he’s headed for his next phase of life and education.

Aside from a bit of skin cancer, I had a pretty good year.  Now that The Littlest E is older and heading off to kindergarten in the fall, I’m ready to get back to work and start contributing financially to our house.  In serving on the board of Connect-A-Kid and working on my project, I discovered that I’m pretty adept in reaching out to strangers, making cold calls, and networking, particularly when I truly believe in something.  I’ve got my project and I’m also partnering with a girlfriend to help her event company thrive.  I’m excited about both opportunities and have faith that it’s all going to fall into place one way or another. Somehow the Universe has always provided, when I do the footwork.  The biggest challenge from last year, as I think with any parent or person for that matter, is balance, when to say yes, when to say no, and when to take action or take it easy.  Balance will be key this year, too.

So, no resolutions, though more exercise should be on the list as well as cutting back on watching so much television, just ideas and thoughts about 2015, and reflections on 2014.  With life there are ups and downs. Hopefully, the year ahead will have more ups than downs. Hopefully, all the grandparents will stay healthy.  Hopefully, the year will be filled with wonderful adventures, good times with family and friends, and personal, professional, spiritual and emotional growth for the three of us.  We’ll see how the year unfolds!

Images: Cindy Kilpatrick, Melanie Elliott

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It seems like it’s been quite awhile since I posted something.  I’ve had the honor and privilege of writing for the website Mothering In the Middle, a website for midlife parents.  That, plus the adventures in daily living – mothering The Littlest E, running our household, the quest to find our son a great kindergarten for next year, serving on the board of directors of Connect-A-Kid (an adoption mentorship program), and preparing for the upcoming holidays has made writing posts difficult.  My hope is to shift that in the New Year.  I do have another post which I hope to put up soon called Turning The Big 5 0.  In the meantime, please enjoy my latest post at Mothering In The Middle:

Lights

For some reason, being the eldest daughter in a Jewish family, I always thought I should marry a Jewish man. Well, I fell in love with the most wonderful man in the world who happens to be the son of a retired-Episcopal minister.

I grew up celebrating Easter and Passover, Christmas and Hanukkah, even though I’m Jewish. I knew my folks would be fine with me marrying Tom; they knew we loved each other very much and they knew we both had good heads on our shoulders.  Our families welcomed our togetherness.  To culminate our union, we had a beautifully blended dual ceremony with an Episcopal minister and a Jewish friend (ordained minister) performing our service.  [To read more, please click on this link.]

Image: Shoshana

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Over the summer, my husband and I purchased a new computer. For a couple of years, I have not been able to sync my iPhone with our computer and upload the hundreds of photos I’ve taken in that time. Somehow, on my phone and in iPhoto, there are duplicates and triplicate of the same photos. These last few weeks, I’ve tasked myself with going through each photo/video and deleting any duplicates. Tedious as it is sorting through 2,000+ photos, it’s given me an opportunity to look at our family photos, our memories of a lifetime.

Life did exist before we welcomed The Littlest E into our lives. Tom and I dated for a couple of years before marrying and we spent 6.5 years of our marriage working at starting a family. Though, in that time there were lots of valleys, there were also many peaks. Our honeymoon is Greece, Turkey and Paris was an amazing trip, though I didn’t have my iPhone back then, nor did we own a digital camera so our pictures are all in print. The Alaska cruise with Tom’s family in 2009, our Christmas in Taos and Santa Fe, and the trip to the Grand Canyon. We also took a couple of trips with a support group I’m a part of for women who used Eastern and Western medicine to help in making their families. Those trips were to the Bahamas and Asheville, NC. All of these trips were amazing experiences, adding to our palate as individuals and as a couple. I also have pictures of the home we bought in 2007. Life documented in photos.

Then on April 9, 2010, our lives changed forever when I received the call from the adoption agency telling me they had a baby boy available for referral. Four months later, The Littlest E became our son. Fortunately for us, our agency sent us a number of photos of him along with a 13-minute video, before we even met him. We are grateful to have those images. These photos will eventually become part of his lifebook. Since he’s 5, he’ll help create his lifebook with us, which hopefully will be a good family bonding experience.

I know I’m not the only parent who’s browsed through family photos. Aren’t we all lucky to have them? Moments captured in time. Going through these photos brought back so many memories, our trip to bring The Littlest E home, his first few days/weeks/months with us, and the cementing of our family life. We have photos of all his toddler adventures with friends from the parenting classes Burbank Adult School and Sunnyside Preschool. I’ve looked at photos of holidays, boo boos, our travels to see family, the day our son became a U.S. citizen, and most recently, all of The Littlest E’s adventures in soccer, baseball and basketball. I wasn’t just looking at them, but re-experiencing them. Thankfully, my task isn’t finished yet.

What I glean from this trip down memory lane is we have built a lovely life for us and for our son. Most of the photos are filled with smiles, love and joy with The Littlest E, family members and friends. We are blessed to live the life we do, and I’m eternally grateful The Littlest E is part of it. If you have a minute, or five or fifteen, take time to look at your photos, your memories of a lifetime.

Next up, I’ll be writing about continuing The Littlest E’s Ethiopian culture, and all that entails.

©2014 Melanie Elliott

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I truly can’t believe it’s been 4 years since The Littlest E became our son.  Where did all the time go? I’m sure most parents feel the same way when celebrating their child’s birthday, along with tremendous joy and gratitude.  As an adoptive parent, I get to celebrate the birth of our son, and the birth of our family, our Family Day.  I hope I never forget what life was like before The Littlest E came home with us, so that I don’t lose the gratitude I feel everyday that I get to be his Mom.  Adoption is a gift, one that I cherish with my very soul, for without that gift, my life and my husband’s life would be drastically different.

Our Family - 2010

Our Family – 2010

I remember our first days with The Littlest E, all 19 pounds of him.  He didn’t want to crawl; he just wanted to be held and held and held.  It was a big adjustment getting used to each other, but he knew we were his “go to” people.  We were there for him night and day.  At the foster center where our son stayed in Ethiopia before coming home with us, he attached to one of the caregivers so we knew he’d be able to attach to us, and he did.   After being home for a couple of weeks, Tom, my husband, went back to work, and I was at home with our new son.  Quite a discovery we both had during our hours together.

One day, I took him on a tour of our house (which isn’t very big) so he’d feel more comfortable in his new digs.  I got on my knees and crawled around with him from room to room.  Seeing the house from his vantage point, I could imagine how overwhelming his new environment might be.  Yet we had fun discovering each room.  I would explain the names of the rooms and what happened in each.  From that point on, The Littlest E felt comfortable to crawl around.

As time passed, he went from crawling, to waddling, to walking, to running.  Now, he often starts in our kitchen, sprints, and does a running leap onto our couch that is frequently used for tackle wrestling.  Yes, he’s home and we’re home and we’re a family.  Love really does make a family.  Blood doesn’t matter so much.  Families come in many different ways these days.  Thank God for that.  Here’s a poem I posted several years ago when I was writing for an online parenting magazine that I found on a friend’s blog:

The Gift of Life

I didn’t give you the gift of life,

But in my heart I know.

The love I feel is deep and real,

. . . As if it had been so.

For us to have each other

Is like a dream come true!

No, I didn’t give you

The gift of life,

Life gave me the gift of you.

– – – Author Unknown

Our Family - 2014

Our Family – 2014

There’s nothing like waking up every morning knowing our son is down the hall in his room sleeping.  He greets most days with a smile and a snuggle, then it’s time to continue our morning routine.  He’s 5 now and still as active and energetic as ever.  In the evenings when Tom is home, we have family time, usually around the dinner table.  We say our daily gratitudes, takes turns saying a blessing, eat and talk about the day.  It’s a lovely routine.  After that, I do the dishes and Tom gets some good, quality time with his son.  Who could ask for anything more?

I can’t wait to continue to experience life with The Littlest E and our family we’ve created through adoption.  We are blessed to have what we have, live where we live and do what we do.  To those of you who are waiting to be parents, your time will come.  You’ll hold your child in your arms, however that child comes to you, and life will take on new meaning.  Hoping that your wait is short and that your child is with you soon.

This blog can also be found at Mothering In the Middle, an amazing website for midlife parents, where I am a contributor.

©2014 Melanie Elliott

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We are very fortunate that one of The Littlest E’s preschool teachers this year is an adoptive mom. Her 9-year old daughter is originally from China. We’ve had many conversations about our children and adoption. It’s been comforting for both my husband and me to have that added connection. The other day at school the teacher’s daughter was in class and some of the children noticed she looked different from her mom. It’s interesting because most of the kids in class see me with The Littlest E, I’m white and he’s black, and they’re all used to that, but when the teacher’s daughter visited, some of the children noticed.

Great Wall

Great Wall

There have been a couple of questions with our family here and there as to why The Littlest E’s skin color is different from my husband’s and mine. I explained to one of our son’s friends in an age-appropriate way that The Littlest E’s skin is different because he was born in Ethiopia. I said, “You know how you came from inside your Mommy? We’ll The Littlest E didn’t come from inside me. He was born in Ethiopia and we brought him home with us to be our son.” Our son’s friend seemed to understand.

That day at school a couple of children we talking about adoption so the teacher thought it would be a good topic to discuss the next day during circle time. She mentioned to me what she was going to do and I thought it a terrific idea. The following day she brought in Todd Parr’s We Belong Together: A Book About Adoption and Families. It’s a wonderful book for any adoptive family and it makes a great present if you know someone who’s adopting. Every time I read it, it touches my heart. It’s written especially for kids, whether adopted or not, so they understand what adoption is and how it creates families of all kinds.

We Belong Together

At pick up time, the teacher told me how circle time went. After she read the book to the class, she said The Littlest E raised his hand and said, “I’m adopted. I was born in Ethiopia and my Mommy and Daddy came over there to pick me up.” The teacher also shared with the class her daughter’s life book. The children loved seeing the pictures of the teacher’s daughter in China. My son proudly chimed in saying he had pictures of Ethiopia when he was a baby, too.

I was somewhat surprised he was so engaged in the conversation and proud that he responded like he did. One of our goals as parents is for him to be comfortable with who he is as a person and who he is becoming. Adoption is part of his story and part of him and I’m so glad he’s embracing that. Now, as he gets older that could all change, but for that day, he was engaged, excited and proud.

The teacher told me overall the children liked the book and the discussion. I’m grateful these kids don’t see children of color as “other.” They may be starting to notice differences, yet there’s an acceptance at this age that’s wonderful. They’re discovering adoption, discovering color and it’s okay.

 

© Melanie Elliott 2014

Images: Dennis Jarvis, Melanie Elliott

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This post was written on March 27, 2014.

If you’ve followed my blog since its start, you might remember those early days with The Littlest E when we first brought him home with us from Ethiopia back in the fall of 2010.  Our agency was kind enough to give us his schedule, including meals, but they forgot to tell me how to make his food.  Those early days were very intense being a new mom, adjusting to our little bundle of joy, trying to decipher his culinary needs, etc.  Add to that, within our first few days, we went to the pediatrician who weighed The Littlest E and told us he was in the 3rd percentile for weight.  I misunderstood and thought 1/3 percentile, meaning 33-1/3%.  When I discovered my mistake, the pressure to feed well our newest family member increased substantially.

Artichokes

Artichokes

It was all quite a discovery and I’m happy to say that, by the end of his first year home with us, The Littlest E was in the late 90th percentile for weight. Something was working!  I even wrote a blog about toddlers and green vegetables co-existing.  I didn’t realize back then that it was going to be a short-lived relationship.  The Littlest E ate peas for a spell, but then didn’t like them at all, and to this day, still doesn’t like them.  Not sure where I got the importance of green vegetables.  The other colored veggies are pretty important too.  It may have been growing up that my mom regularly provided us with vegetables of the green variety.  Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lettuces, asparagus and artichokes were probably a staple in our household.  Plus, when I was in my thirties I had digestive issues and roughage became an essential part of my diet.

Flash forward to being a mom, homemaker and cooker of meals in our household.  That green veggie thing stuck with me all these years.  On this culinary journey with our son, we found green vegetables The Littlest E enjoys eating, salad with Trader Giotto’s Balsamic Vinaigrette salad dressing, and he’ll drink the yummy smoothies we make some mornings that contain a variety of fruits, orange juice, yogurt and kale.

Green Curly Kale

Green Curly Kale

All in all, my son has a pretty diverse palate for someone his age.  He briefly enjoyed spinach, but again, that relationship was short-lived.  Every so often I’ll try another veggie just to see if he’s changed his viewpoint.  Mind you, I’m pretty okay with what he eats, and I’ll admit it’s fun to see him stretch himself and try new things.  He always responded “No” with spinach though, at least in the steamed form.

At his preschool one afternoon after class, I noticed him standing near the vegetable garden the school has in the big yard.  Without hesitation he ate what looked like raw kale or spinach.  An “Aha” moment came to me. If he eats it here, why not at our house, I thought.  That very night I disguised some spinach in his regular Romaine lettuce salad, and he ate it.  Deceptive, yes, yet it worked.  He commented how it tasted like something he ate in the big yard, but I replied, “Oh, that’s interesting.”

I kept this little deception going until last night.  That evening I made for Tom, my husband, and me, baked chicken with spinach and goat cheese.  It’s one of my favorite combinations.  I told our son what we were having for dinner and said, “I know you don’t like that so I’ll make you mac & cheese, but I’d like you to try the chicken, too.”  I made the mac & cheese he loves along with the disguised spinach salad.  At dinner, his mac & cheese was too hot so I suggested he try a bit of my chicken.  Much to my surprise, he wanted more and more and more!  I know it wasn’t necessarily the spinach he was going for, but the goat cheese.  Didn’t matter though.  What mattered was he liked it as is! He then proceeded to eat his mac & cheese while Tom and I dined on our chicken.  Then The Littlest E began to eat his salad.  He commented, “This salad tastes like spinach.”  Do I tell him the truth or continue the deception, I asked myself.

Spinach

Spinach

Truth won.  I replied with a smile, “That’s because it is spinach!  And you like it.”  He smiled, too and continued eating.  I proceeded to tell him the story of when I was a little girl; my brother, sister and I didn’t like spinach at all.  Then one night my mom made this really delicious salad with bits of egg and bacon in it.  We all ate it up and loved it.  I told him, only later did we find out that it was a spinach salad!  He laughed in between bites.

So the deception is over; the secret is out.  Does this mean he’ll continue to eat spinach?  Maybe, maybe not.  Will he eat the chicken with spinach and goat cheese again?  Your guess is as good as mine.  My hope is yes, but we shall see.  As he gets older, his palate is ever-increasing.  We tell him if it’s a new food, he has to at least try it, and usually he does.  I must thank his preschool for introducing him to raw green vegetables.  Their vegetable garden made the spinach deception unnecessary.

P.S. While my husband was driving our son and his friend to gymnastics camp this morning, The Littlest E said to his friend, “I like spinach now!” Maybe this new-found like will last…

© 2014 Melanie Elliott

Images: Market Manager La Grande Farmers’ Market, Nick Saltmarsh, Rae Allen

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