Hello, Little Toddler

Where have I been for over two months?

Mostly, I have been chasing after a very mobile, a very fast and a very mischievous Millie.

That’s right folks…we’ve got a toddler over here.  And toddlerhood is no joke.  This kid is equal parts incredible, perplexing, hysterically funny and maddeningly stubborn.  The things that I love so very much about her are the same things that can drive me to a point of complete inability to function and problem solve.  She is this incredibly independent, fearless kid and I love that. I love it.  I love that she is confident.  I love that she shows no fear.  I love that she is ready to run off and explore the world around her.

And it is also terrifying.

Two clearly focused eyes (at least) must be directly watching this child every time we leave the relative safety of our home or step into any place not designed with a toddler in mind.  And even then, there are risks.  She is not afraid to try anything, and that includes the many things that any reasonable child should be very afraid to try.

And still, it is all so incredible to watch.  I feel like I am getting to witness the very becoming of a person.  I see her likes and her dislikes starting to develop.  I see her personality starting to emerge and I am absolutely smitten with it.  She makes really awful days at work, so much better by just being her and letting me be her mom.  And in the moments when I think I can’t deal with chasing after her for one more second, she turns around and smiles just to make sure I am still watching and I can’t help but laugh.  She just gets at my very heart.

So while the days and minutes have been packed full of adventure, there hasn’t been anything too huge to report.

We haven’t heard from Millie’s birth family in a bit, though we had talked about getting together over the summer and I really hope that we do.  I can’t wait for them to see who Millie is becoming.  I know that they are going to be so proud of the person who she is.  I know that they are going to love getting to see her in this new phase.  And I know that there is so much that she has in common with her birth siblings.  It would be incredible to get to watch her run around with them this summer.  It would be incredible for them to get to see her and for her to see them.  She might not understand it all yet, but I know that she knows they are family.  I know that she knows that her being is connected to all of theirs.

We also haven’t heard from the adoptive family of Millie’s brother.  This has been a bit disappointing and I still know that there is lots of time left for that all to change.  I think of him often and wonder how he is doing.

As Millie gets older, the importance of her getting to know her birth family becomes more and more important to me.  We will keep working to make sure that it happens.  We have a long time ahead of us to get this all figured out.

So for now, I will keep chasing Millie around.  We will keep looking at her and smiling and laughing and shaking our heads and taking deep breaths and holding our breaths and all the many other things that Millie’s actions provoke in us.  This kid.  She is something else.  She is the kid we were meant to have in every single possible way.  There is so much of us already reflected in her and so much of her birth family mixed right in.  All of these people, who love her so fiercely, mixed together in this one tiny being.  It is an incredible thing to witness.

Millie standing in her new playhouse. Built lovingly by her Mama. 
Millie enjoying one of the few warm days we have had in Chicago. 
Millie and her cat. And her stuffed dog.  Both favorites of hers. 
Millie snuggles in with some stuffed friends. 

There is nothing inappropriate about who I am

This week I was engaged in a conversation about books with gay characters.  Was there a grade that it was too young to ask students to read these books? Was it okay to assign a book to a child, essentially forcing them to read a book, if it had a gay character? Let me be clear, I was not talking to someone who thought there was any kind of problem with giving these books to kids.  She was simply relaying to me a conversation that she had.

But it stuck with me.

For days.

Here is the thing.  The school that I work at…it is wonderful.  The teachers are open minded and the parents are beyond accepting.  They are loving.  They are wonderful.  The have thrown me both a wedding shower and a baby shower and they have all been filled with so much love.  I have been coming out to my students for several years now and, to my knowledge, there has never been one complaint.  Carla is a frequent visitor to my school.  My students have met her.  Millie is a celebrated member of our classroom community.  My school is wonderful.  I am filled with gratitude every single day for the open arms that I have found in my school community.

And with all of that being true, we still worry about asking children to read books with gay characters.  Few teachers read picture books to their students that have gay characters in them.  Few teachers feel comfortable discussing any issue related to gay rights or family diversity because they don’t want to offend or they worry the kids won’t understand or they worry the kids are too young.

But what I cannot understand is this…What does that me for me and my family? Should I not introduce my family to children below a certain age because they might not understand a family with two moms? Should I not talk about my life with children below a certain age because those young children might then turn to their parents to help them understand a family that is different than their own? Should I not have pictures of my family on my desk because a child might ask his or her teacher why I am married to a girl? Should I continue to hide from children who might have questions because it might make the adults around them uncomfortable?

And if the answer to these questions is no (which I fully recognize for some people is not the case, but those are not the people that I am wondering about) then why should I hide books from children under a certain age because there might be a character in those books who is gay?

One of things that I delight in teaching my students is that books allow us to learn about people whose lives are unthinkably different than our own.  This, in turn, allows us to develop empathy for a person who is different than us, which, in turn, will allow us to treat people with more kindness because we are coming from a place of better understanding.  It is this idea that makes reading something that can not just make us better students, but better human beings.

But the thing is, if we hide the books from our children that have characters who are gay in them, then we are denying our children the opportunity to develop empathy and understanding of people who are gay.  We can continue to pretend that gay people don’t exist, but it is not going to do our children any good when they eventually meet someone who is gay or are in a classroom with a child who has gay parents.  For Millie’s sake, I hope that her future classmates are in classrooms where books with gay characters are read and shared and discussed.  And if questions come up, I hope that there are adults who realize it is their job to answer those questions.  For Millie’s sake, I hope that she never, ever has to feel like a book is being deemed inappropriate for no other reason than because there is a family like hers in it.

There is no age that is too young to meet my family.  There is no age that is too young to meet a character, in a book, who is gay or who has gay family members.  Even the youngest of children can understand that families look different and that while he might be used to seeing families with one mom and one dad, there are some families that have two moms or two dads.  There is nothing inappropriate about that.  There is nothing inappropriate about who my family is.  There is nothing inappropriate about who I am.

Adoption Is Never Just One Thing

Well, the first anniversary of us being a family of three, came and went without any mention of it on here. I meant to write.  I really did.  I am not sure why I didn’t.  Except for a few things.

1) I was sick. Gross, awful, but not awful enough to stay home from work, kind of sick.

2) I was exhausted.  Mostly, this was due to item #1.

3) It was just too much.

I don’t think items 1 and 2 on the list need much elaboration, but I have things to say about number 3.

People have asked us many times this past year how we planned to celebrate our “Gotcha Day” (the day we brought Millie home).  And every time someone asked, something inside of me recoiled just a little.  I think it was the word, “Gotcha.” I know that no one has any bad intentions in using that word, and for a lot of people it works as a title to a very important day, but for me, the word seems to indicate that something was stolen.  Something was snatched up.  It makes it sound like someone won some sort of game on that day and it says nothing of the extreme loss that also occurred on the day that we brought Millie home.  Loss for Millie’s birthparents, but also loss for Millie.  The name seems to carry the exact opposite sentiment that I wanted to express on that day and it seems to carry the exact opposite meaning of what occurred for us on that day.

On the day we brought Millie home, our hearts were full.  Full beyond belief.  But what I want to try to explain, and what I want to make sure that Millie knows, is that our hearts were not full of just one thing on that day.  When we walked into our adoption agency, we were full of more emotions that have ever existed inside of my being at one time before.  When I think back on that day, that is the overwhelming feeling that I get, one of being full.  And when I try to dissect it, when I try to analyze it, and when I try to write about it, it is almost too much for me to be able to do.

Of course, obviously, we were filled with absolute joy at what our family was about to become.  That should go without saying, but I will say it anyway to make sure it is clear.  And in addition to that joy, there was a deep sadness, not for what our family would become, but for what was being lost.  Millie was leaving the arms of her birthparents and though we plan for them to be a part of her life forever, there was so much that she was loosing and there was so much that they were loosing.  We could not help but feel that too.  We were supposed to feel that too. And when we tell Millie about that day. That life changing, family changing, monumental day. We want her to know that it was not just one thing.

So now, a year later, when it came to the one-year anniversary of the day we brought her home, I was left without any words to write.  When I started to think about what to say, I didn’t even know where to begin.  I didn’t know what to call the day.  I didn’t have the words to say what I wanted to say about the day.  And I didn’t know how to explain all that was wrapped up in that one day.

But now there has been some distance.  It is a few weeks past the anniversary.  And as things often do, it all seems clearer from a distance.

Recently, I was looking at some pictures online of a family I connected with during our adoption journey.  They also just celebrated the one year anniversary of bringing home their daughter.  They called it their “Family Day.”  It was perfect.  It is a title that encompasses all that the day is for us and for Millie.  It leaves space for her whole family, her birth family and our family.  It leaves room for more than one emotion and more than just one thing.  Family is defined as we choose to define it.  As Millie chooses to define it.  It is what I have been looking for.

And so, moving forward, I hope that we can celebrate a whole lot of Family Days.  I hope that they can be big celebrations of who we are as a family and I hope that they can leave space for the many emotions that I expect Millie, and us, to feel on that day.

Nothing in my life has been as altering as the day we brought Millie home.  My life is divided by that day.  The person that I am today was shaped most significantly by that day.  It is a big day.  It’s just that I wasn’t able to look at it without it hurting my eyes until today.  But like everything else that has happened since that day, we figure it out as we go along.  We hold on to each other and trust that we will figure it out together.

One of the few pictures I took on the day that marked one year since we brought our Millie home. 

And this one. I know it is blurry, but it is so very Millie.  Few things delight this child more than dragging this ridiculous clucking chicken around our house.  

The One Year Anniversaries Begin

We are approaching the one year anniversary of when we first brought Millie home. There is so much to say about that.  So much to say about that day.  And hopefully, I will have the energy to say it all on the 31st, the day we brought Millie home.  Today, I do not have that energy.

But one year ago TODAY, was the day that we first met Millie’s birth family.  I didn’t write about it then, because I couldn’t, for so many reasons, I couldn’t.  But now, looking back, there are things that I want to say.  There are things that I want to write down before I forget them. There are things that I want to be able to show to Millie one day, when all of this has become a little bit fuzzy with the passing of time.

So, one year ago today…

We had already been selected by Millie’s birth family.  Millie was in the nursery at our adoption agency.  Carla and I had not slept in many many nights at this point.  It felt as if our whole lives were on pause, like they were waiting to begin in many ways.  We had been chosen, but nothing was final yet.  Nothing would be final until it was final.

Carla and I both went to work in the morning.  We were scheduled to meet the birth family later in the afternoon and we both decided that we could not possibly just sit around the house waiting until it was time to go.  So we both went to work and then met back at home before heading off to the restaurant where we would first meet our adoption counselor and then, with our counselor, go and meet the birth family.

I can’t possibly find the words to explain what it felt like that day.  I am not sure that those words exist and if they do, I am not nearly skilled enough to put them together to even begin to hint at what it felt like.  This was potentially the biggest, most potentially life-altering meeting that I have ever had and I had no idea what to expect.  Sure, we had talked to people who had been through it. And yes, we had taken classes on what it would be like.  But this was not something that could be prepared for.  Not for us anyway.

So we met with our adoption counselor first and sat for a while.  When I think back to right before we went over, my mouth gets dry.  That is what I remember feeling most of all.  Dry mouth.  That’s weird, right? Of all the emotions going through me, what comes to mind most strongly is that my mouth was unreasonably dry.  But that is what is most vivid for me about those moments we were waiting to meet them.

And then it was time.  We went over to the restaurant where Millie’s birth parents were already waiting with their adoption counselor.  We walked up to the table and we met them.  I am not exaggerating when I say that the second, I mean the second, we sat down, all of my anxiety went away.  All of a sudden they were not some faceless birth family.  They were them.  They were real and they were as nervous as we were and they were going through things that I would never even pretend to understand.  And they were so so strong.  They are so strong.  Their love for their daughter was so evident.  It was evident with every word that they said, even when those words were about nothing at all.  And so all that anxiety that I was feeling just sort of went away and we spent the next two hours just getting to know them.

I don’t remember much of what we talked about.  I remember liking them right away.  I remember that my respect and admiration for them grew by the second.  By the time we left, I knew that things just felt right.  I didn’t know what that meant, and I knew that nothing was final or certain, but I knew that things felt right. It felt like this was supposed to happen.  If nothing else, we were supposed to meet them.  They were supposed to be the first birth family that we met with face to face.

And then we went home.  The next day, they gave us permission to go and meet Millie.  That was something else entirely. Perhaps I will save that for another day.  And then the day after that, we found out we were going to bring Millie home the next day.  And that was the start of all of this.

But one year ago today.  That was when we began this relationship.  For those who have not experienced a relationship like this one, there is no real way to describe it.  And for those who have, you know that there is still no possible way to describe the incredible intricacies that exist within each birth family and adoptive family relationship.  It is complicated.  Perhaps the most complicated thing that has ever existed in my world.

In the past few days this relationship has increased in its complexities.  It has gotten a bit trickier to navigate and yet it is something that will always be there, always be a part of our lives and, more importantly, always be a part of Millie’s life.  She deserves this relationship, with all of its struggles and confusions, she deserves all the good that it will bring her.  And so, each day, we figure out a little bit more what this relationship looks like.  Like any other relationship, it will grow and change and we will adapt and grow with it.  If there is anything in my life that has been worth working for, this is it.  And so, I might not always understand all of it, and I might not always know the best way to deal with it, but I will keep trying and working and I know that everyone involved will do the same.  Because in the end, we all just want to do what is best for this little being we all love.

You think you have it all figured out, and then…

Today was an intense day.  A completely unexpectedly intense day.  I am left feeling drained.

There is too much to go into and most of it shouldn’t be shared in such a public way, but I need somewhere to put some of this stuff.  So here it goes.

Today we received a call from our adoption counselor.  Millie’s birthparents gave birth last night to a baby boy.  We did not know about the baby until today.  Until our counselor called Carla at work to ask her if we wanted to be presented to the family, Millie’s birth family, as potential adoptive parents to this newborn baby.

Right.  This is where it gets intense.  Let me skip ahead and end the suspense.  We said no.

Here is how we got there.

Around lunchtime, Carla texted me at work and asked me to call her.  The kids were inside for recess and I was watching them, but assumed the call was about Millie having to get picked up at daycare (she has been having some awful, awful teething reactions and has been inconsolable as of late).  So needless to say, with a room full of kids who badly needed to let out a whole lot of energy, I called Carla and she told me what had happened.  I honestly and truly did not know what to say.

For a long, long time we have known that we have wanted to be a family of three.  Financially, we had planned on one child, our home is built for one child, our lives have the perfect amount of space for one child.  And we were just starting to figure out life as a family of three.  We never planned on adopting another child.  We never planned on adding another child to our family.  Our adoption agency knew that, we closed all of the paperwork we had with them.  We were open and honest with Millie’s birth family from the beginning that our plans were to be a family of three. And yet, here we were, not one whole year since we brought Millie home, thinking about if we wanted to possible add another child to our family.

And the thing is, it wasn’t just any child.  This is Millie’s brother.  My heart feels heavier even typing those words.  This is Millie’s brother.  And so, of course, there is conflict in our hearts.  We know what is right for our family. For Millie.  For this new born boy, who deserves everything and more in this world.  And yet, our hearts want to say yes, because this would mean that, potentially, Millie would grow up with one of her biological brothers as a member of our family.

To be honest, at no point did I really think we would say yes.  I maybe wished we could say yes. In fact, I am sure that is what I felt.  I wished that our answer was yes, for so many reasons, I wished that it was yes.  And yet, it just wasn’t.  And that hurt my heart.  It hurt Carla’s heart.  It hurt our family’s collective heart.

And so Carla called our adoption counselor back and let her know.

It tore her apart.  Absolutely tore her apart.  There were just so many emotions to feel and we both felt them so intensely.  Carla ended up having to leave work and went to pick up Millie.  At the end of the school day, I headed home to be with them.  We decided to go out to dinner.  Millie decided that was a terrible idea.  We ended up getting the food packed up to go and we just came home.

Things around this house tonight are heavy.  Neither of us really knows what to say.  Maybe there is nothing left to say right now.  We both know we made the right decision for our family.  And it was still so incredibly hard.

On top of all of that are the thoughts of where we were just one year ago.  How badly we wanted to find the child that was meant to be a part of our lives and our family.  We would have done anything.  I know how many people will see this and think it unfair that we were presented with a child that we could not say yes to, when there are so many families waiting for their child still to arrive.  It seems unfair and wrong.

There are many things that we are left thinking about.  Some of them can’t be written here.  But the ones that are most present are the thoughts of what the future holds in store for this newborn baby and what our relationship with him and his adoptive family might look like and what his relationship with Millie might look like and what this will mean for our relationship with Millie’s birth family.  These thoughts are swirling around pretty rapidly and I fear that a long and somewhat sleepless night is ahead for us both.

I guess what I keep coming back to, the thing I know for sure, is that our love for and commitment to Millie are immeasurable.  We would do anything for her.  And that includes doing whatever we can do to maintain strong connections to every member of her birth family.  That means that this, too, will become a part of the story that we tell her.  We will be open with her and honest with her. And she will know, always, that we have made every decision, since the day we met her, with her best interest in mind.  And tonight, for now, that brings some peace.

To my dearest Millie, on your first birthday…

Millie,

Exactly one year ago today, you entered into this world and the world became a better place.  Exactly one year ago today, our minds didn’t even know that you existed, though our hearts had already found you and wrapped you up inside of them.  Exactly one year ago today, your birth belonged to your birthparents.  They brought you safely into this world and their hearts wrapped you up right away with so much love.  I love that this day belongs to you and them alone.  I love that you had hours with just them.  That you started your life with them.  That we were still quietly waiting for you.  This makes sense to me and when we tell you the story of your life, that is where it will begin and it will always begin with them. And with you.  
One year ago today, I had no idea what was about to happen.  Even if I tried to imagine the most perfect daughter for our family, I could never have imagined you up.  You are beyond every expectation that I ever possibly could have had.  You.  You are the single most amazing person that I have ever known.  You are funny and smart and wildly curious.  You love books like me and you love animals like your Mama.  You find your way into every single person’s heart who you meet.  You bring people joy.  Such joy.  On even the saddest of days and in the saddest of moments, your presence makes people smile.  You have this inner light that shines so brightly and people are drawn to you.  I could sit and just watch you for hours.  The smallest things make you so happy and you only want to share that happiness with the people around you.  You have so much love to give.  You give it to me and to your Mama and to the cats and the dog.  You love us all so much.  You love your teachers and your friends and you express this love without even knowing how to talk yet.  All of it. All of what you are is so incredibly amazing.  
And yes, you get cranky.  If you are tired or you are hungry, you let us know loud and clear.  You hate having your face cleaned and you absolutely will not tolerate getting your nose wiped. You would rather throw your sippy cup than drink from it.  Your lack of fear puts you in constant dangerous situations.  You hit your head on something at least twice a day and you can be extremely dramatic when you do not like what is in front of you.  And I love all of that about you.  Now let me be clear, it is not that I enjoy these moments, but they make you who you are and I will always love you for all of that.  I will always love you for exactly who you are and I will try my very very hardest to always let you be who you are and love you for exactly that.  
This first year of your life has taught me so much.  I have learned so much about you, about myself, about your Mama, about being a mother, about the world that we live in, and about what love can really feel like.  This first year of your life has proven how strong you are.  How strong your love is.  How strong the love around you is.  How many people in this world celebrate your very existence on this earth.  You are so very loved, Millie.  People that you don’t even know, that I don’t even know, have been touched by your story.  You have made people believe in the power of adoption, you have made people believe in possibilities, you have made people believe that dreams can really come true.  
All of this is to say that you are one very special girl and your birthday is one very important day.  I can’t even begin to imagine what this next year of your life will bring to you and to all of us.  I can’t even begin to imagine how much better you are still going to get.  I can’t even begin to imagine all that I will have to say by the time we reach your second birthday.  All I know is that there is much goodness in store for you and I also know that there will be difficult things ahead and from what I have already seen, you are going to manage those difficult things by drawing on all the love that surrounds you.  And you will be fine.  You will be more than fine.  Your life is going to be more than anyone could ever imagine.  
Millie, I wish you the happiest of first birthdays.  I wish you so many good things in the year ahead.  I wish you strength for the tough things.  I wish you so much love from all of us who surround you.  I cannot believe how you much you have changed this family, how much you have changed me, in your first year alive.  I am thankful for you.  For everything that you are.  I love you.  Happy Birthday.  
Love, 
Mommy

Weight Bearing

I actually started this post a few weeks ago, after an incident at daycare between Carla and one of the assistant teachers.  I am just getting back to it now…

So today some thoughts came to me.

What led to them is less important than what they are and not nearly as important as my need to get them down some place.

So here is the thing, I don’t often get upset about the negative perceptions that I know some people still have about same-sex parents or about lesbians in general.  Most of the time, I am too busy being thankful for the people in my immediate world and for how open and loving and liberal (at least in regards to social issues) they all are.  The gratitude for that fact seems more genuine than the anger that can sometimes creep in about how unfair this world still can be.

But then there are moments, when I just get tired of it all.  When I want to be able to stop wondering if people are treating us a certain way because they don’t agree with who we are or because they are just jerks.  I want to stop worrying about finding a way to let people know that we are a family with two moms.  I want to put down the worries that invade over whether or not people are going to give Millie a hard time as she begins school and talks about her family that doesn’t look like everyone else. I want to be able to take comfort in knowing that we have wonderful families that surround us and surround Millie and not have to worry about making sure that she is also surrounded by enough families that have two moms or two dads so that she will feel like her family is normal.  And sometimes, every so often, I don’t want to carry the weight of giving people a good impression of what a family with lesbian parents is really like.

I know that these are things that I choose to worry about.  That I could just let everyone think what they want and not worry about it.  And the truth is that most of the time, that is exactly what I do.  Most of the time, I am so proud of who we are, as a family, and who I am as a person, that it doesn’t matter what anyone else things.  But I am also human.  And I also care about how other people see me.  And I also worry, as a mom, for what Millie might encounter as she gets older.  And that weight…that can get really heavy.  And I will happily bear that weight, so that Millie doesn’t have to.  I will pick up extra weight in order to protect Millie from it.  I do that happily. I guess that I just wish that I didn’t have to.

And I like to think that the world is getting better.  I know that it is.  I know that laws are changing and that eventually hearts and minds will follow.  I know that already things are easier than they were when Carla and I first met.  And I also know that there will always be people that disapprove and I will just have to deal with that and most days I will choose to deal with it by not dealing with it at all.  And there will also be some days that I will get sick and tired of dealing with it all and wish it all away.

Post-Holiday Contemplating

Today, a kind kind friend said that she trusted that our Christmas was magical.  It was THE perfect word to describe all of the holidays this season.  Holidays have never really felt magical for me before.  But this year…there was magic.  Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas were all filled with family and friends and good good spirits.  And now, in this post-holiday calm, I can start to truly be thankful for the season and its joy and its magic.

Millie’s first Christmas was simply wonderful.  In many ways, it was my first real Christmas as well, since Carla and I have never really done much celebrating, outside of what we do with her family.  But this year, we went all out.  There was a tree, there were holiday cards hung up in the house, there were stockings, there was a simply delightful Christmas Eve celebration at Carla’s brother’s house and when I woke up on Christmas morning, there was evidence of a visit from Santa.  I couldn’t help but get excited, even though I knew that Carla had a hand in the morning magic.  We watched Millie open her presents (it is amazing how good she has gotten at it) and we saw her delight in playing with all of her new stuff.  We then all had the luxurious opportunity to take a bit of a family nap before we headed out to Carla’s mom’s house for the day.  We spent the day with more family and more presents and a visit from Santa (who looked suspiciously like Carla’s younger brother, Dave) and it was wonderful.  Millie got to play with her cousins and with her aunts and uncles and do all the things that kids should do on Christmas day.  We left feeling exhausted and so very full of holiday spirit.

And while many of this season’s holidays are now behind us, we have some big ones coming up.  We have New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, which happens to double as Millie’s birthday.  And at the end of January, we have the day that marks one full year since we brought Millie home.  There is a lot to be said about these upcoming days and I hope to say them as they get closer.  I have been thinking so much of where we were a year ago and where we are now and I have so much to share about all of that as my thoughts have been consumed lately with thoughts of Millie’s birthday, the fact that we did not meet her until a month later, the day we brought Millie home and her very precious, very thought-of birth family.  Hopefully, I will find time in the next few weeks to put some of thoughts down on virtual paper.

I haven’t written much these past few months.  I am starting to think that maybe it is time to wrap things up over here at the blog after the passing of these next few milestones.  It isn’t that there isn’t anything left to write about. I think of things to write about multiple times during the course of a day.  It’s just that our lives are mostly consumed by the mundane these days.  It is delightfully mundane.  And normal. And regular.  And I am just not sure that  there is much to share that would be of any interest to anyone.  I love that life seems so normal.  Here we are.  A lesbian headed family with an adopted daughter and I am pretty sure that our lives are much the same as any other family out there. So we shall see what this coming year brings for this blog.  I love having this space and I absolutely love the connections that it has given me to other families just like ours and I love the story that is being written of our family that will be here way after I forget all the details of these first months together as a family of three and maybe this space has already filled its purpose.  Who knows.

Traditions

This time of year.  It can be the absolute worst one year and then the next year.  Well, the next year, it is pretty incredible.  I just went back and read my blog post from last year around this time.  It’s funny, I wrote about settling into a quiet waiting around this time last year.  I wrote about finding a faith that things were going to work out.  And just around that time, perhaps a few weeks after that faith settled in, our Millie was born.  We didn’t even know her yet, but there she was, waiting to come on out and find us.  Incredible.

Anyway, this year, I find myself settled deep into the holiday spirit.  Carla and I hosted our families at our house for Thanksgiving and as we went around the table and shared the things we were thankful for, my heart was so so full of thanks and so full of real, true gratitude.  There is so much to be thankful for this year.  For Millie.  For Carla.  For our families.  For work that is meaningful.  For friends that are kind.  For a world that seems to be getting a little bit better and more tolerant.  There is a lot.  
Our Thanksgiving meal was incredible.  Carla cooked the whole thing (with some delicious additions from my mom).  I wish that I could say that I was helpful in the cooking process, but mostly I wandered around the kitchen and tried to clean stuff when I could.  It was a wonderful day. There was so much love in our home.  It was enough to overwhelm me several times throughout the day.  And as family trickled out, we were left with just the three of us.  We felt the love of our families all day and our home stayed so full of all things good. 
After a short rest, something really great happened.  We put up our Christmas tree.  This is my first ever Christmas tree and I am in absolute love with it.  As I write this right now, I have the tree lit up and the blinds open so that the lights will be showing to all those who walk by.  Growing up Jewish, I always wanted a Christmas tree.  They are just so darn pretty.  And to have one, with my family, is exciting in a way that is hard for me to describe.  
In typical Jess and Carla (and now Millie) fashion, there is not just a Christmas tree up, but there are also two menorahs set out on our dining room table.  Each night the light of the Hanukkah candles mixes with the lights of the Christmas tree and our home is filled with so much tradition.  It’s funny, neither Carla nor I are particularly religious. I know this sounds funny considering my father is a rabbi, but religion just doesn’t mean a whole lot to us.  But, and I have never understood this until now, there is something about celebrating holidays that I just love.  And I now understand that for me, it is all about the traditions.

This year, there is something so incredible about starting traditions with our little family.  There is something amazing about passing things on.  About starting something that is going to live longer than perhaps even we will.  And I just can’t get enough of it.  So there is a tree, there are menorahs, there are decorations, there are holiday cards, there is as much tradition as we can jam into this tiny, love-filled house of ours.  And it doesn’t matter to us what religion we say we are, what matters is that we have these family traditions that are so very us.  To us, that is what is most important.

So as the holiday season descends upon us, I find myself more invested in it than I ever have been before.  And I am thankful, so unbelievably thankful, to have the family that I have to celebrate this season with.

A few pictures of our holiday fun so far…

First came Hanukkah. Some of our festive decorations. 

First night of Hanukkah. 

And then as we were trying to cook for Thanksgiving, Millie got into the dishwasher. Pretty typical. 

Our delicious Thanksgiving lunch, thanks to the hard work of my wife. 

Millie loved everything about her first Thanksgiving meal. 

Millie and Carla before the tree became a Christmas tree. 

Hanging the very first ornament on my very first Christmas tree. 
The finished product!!
The cats quickly found their place under the tree.
Not at all holiday related, but one of my new favorite pictures. 
Family. 

Thank You, Illinois

On the NBC news this morning, there was a report about how Target was going to begin selling chocolate covered Lay’s potato chips.  This was definitely a sign that today was going to be a good day.   By the end of the day, it had gotten so. much. better.

As I left work this afternoon and sat in awful, awful traffic, I received a text from HRC that the Illinois Same-Sex Marriage bill had passed.  I was overjoyed.  I instantly became emotional.  I called Carla and she was emotional as well.  Sometimes, I find it hard to explain why these moments feel so monumental. And why they feel so emotional.  It is hard to explain, to those who have never been denied rights that other people receive, why it matters so much.  It is hard to explain, to those who have never been made to feel as if they are less than those around them, why today was such a big deal.  It is hard to explain, to those who have never had people carry around signs that tell you and your family that you are going to hell, what it means to have the government of your own state finally recognize you and your family as equals.  All of this is to say that I am kind of at a loss for words.

By the time I made it to Millie’s daycare, I had finished crying and was in a state of simple and pure joy.  I picked our little one up and I told her that today, her mommies got to be married in our own state.  I hugged her and told her that things were going to be different and that they were going to keep getting better.  As I carried her to the car, however, I couldn’t help but think about all the states that have yet to feel the joy that I was feeling.  I couldn’t help but think of all the kids growing up in states that still send the message that they are not as good as everybody else or that their family is not as real as everybody else’s.  I couldn’t help but think about how much farther we have to go.  And that is what happens each time a new milestone in equality is reached.  I celebrate the successes while still leaving room for the sadness that these successes are even needed in the first place.  I leave room for the sadness that there is still so much fight left to fight.  And I leave room to remember all of the people who still have to struggle to feel comfortable enough to simply be who they are.  I try to leave room for all of that so that we don’t become complacent.

So at the end of the day, I look back and recognize that today was a really good day.  By the start of the next school year, I won’t have more money taken out of my paycheck than other people.  By the time we file our taxes, we can file jointly on both our state and our federal taxes.  When I am asked to identify my title, I will no longer have to debate between Ms. and Mrs.  And when I tell people that I am married, I won’t ever again have to explain that while we are married according to the laws of Vermont, we are not married according to the laws of our own home state.  These are all really good things.  These matter.  These make me feel more equal.  These things give me hope that more good things are on the way.  These things give me peace that goodness and fairness and justice really are going to win in the end.  That, and the chocolate covered potato chips now on sale at Target, make this world a better place to live in.