He will be (legally) mine

To Whom It May Concern:

I have examined the patient, C, and have found her to be in good health. I have no reason to believe that the patient’s health status will in any way compromise her ability to be an adoptive parent.

1972448_10103694651286023_1656771591_nThose are the contents of the letter I obtained today from a local urgent care clinic so that I can submit the step parent adoption process to finally call E my legal son. I am stopping by the courthouse first thing in the morning to drop off the mighty load of paperwork required for the process.

I’ve heard a number of same-sex couples who were legally married last Saturday have already begun filing the paperwork for step parent adoption and are being assigned caseworkers. Step parent adoption, as opposed to second parent adoption, is for legally married couples. Second parent adoption would then be reserved for committed, but not married, couples, but is not currently available because of the stay issued by the Sixth Circuit Court. Truth be told, I don’t love the emphasis on biological vs. non-biological connection to a child conveyed by the title “step parent,” but it seems like a streamlined process that will provide me with the same legal rights to my child, which matters more to me.

After I submit the paperwork and a case worker is assigned, I will have an initial interview with the case worker, pay for fingerprinting, and then schedule and pay for a second assessment, which I think is actually a home study. At that point, it will go to the judge for consideration and, hopefully, finalization.

I was initially quoted $1,500 to go through the process with a knowledgeable family law attorney, and that was what we had planned to do. We spoke with a friend of ours who is also a family law attorney, who encouraged us to submit the paperwork quickly and without the hiring an attorney. The paperwork is really straightforward and is available with instructions on the County’s website.

In about 12 hours, the ball will officially be rolling, folks! We can use your positive energy, prayers, and good thoughts for an ideal and expedited outcome for the sake of our family.

Soon to be one!

While E is still merely on the verge of walking, I think it’s safe for us to classify him as a toddler. He’s certainly showing a lot of toddleresque behaviors. For example, where he used to roll with most of what came his way, he’s extraordinarily expressive of his feelings these days. He has a complete lay-on-the-floor meltdown with pouty lips and huge tears when I ruin his fun by taking away an unsafe obstacle or put on his coat to leave.

He’s also showing a lot of limit-testing behaviors. While K was out on Saturday morning, E and I spent a few hours in each other’s company. During that time, he played mostly independently while I put some laundry away. At one point, he crawled over to an electrical outlet (it’s covered, but I’d still like for him to stay away from it), reached his hand out and looked at me. I know he’s aware that it is a no-touch zone, so I made my “uh oh” sound, said, “Mommy doesn’t want you to touch that. It’s dangerous,” and redirected his behavior toward something he could touch. It happened a few more times and the last time, he had a total meltdown when I limited him.

Beware the silence of toddlers.

Beware the silence of toddlers.

It’s a challenge for me to discipline and this is a whole new set of behaviors around which to increase our parenting confidence. While my brain knows that setting boundaries is healthy and necessary, fear tends to creep in and I worry that it will impact his love for me. That same Saturday morning, it helped immensely to see that the exact opposite played out: just 20 minutes after he had recovered from the limit-setting meltdown, he hurt himself on a toy, cried, and reached out for me. We snuggled for several minutes – also a newer phenomenon – and it melted my heart to see evidence of him needing me and only me for comfort.

E is also looking less and less like a baby these days. I look over and see the child in him, and it makes me both sad and happy at the same time. His milestones are equally exciting and heartbreaking, 1912420_10103643907776423_1068056591_nas I witness behaviors become part of my dear child’s history instead of present. The only thing that truly helps me to feel better is to remind myself to stay present and appreciate what happens as it happens. It’s a tricky proposition for me, though.

He’s been working hard the past couple of weeks to stand for greater lengths on his own, and is cruising a lot. He gets excited when we hold his hands for support while he practices walking and I know that he’ll soon be walking on his own. He’s such a determined little character who spends all day working toward these goals.

Of COURSE we practiced with a cupcake.

Of COURSE we practiced with a cupcake.

We’ve gotten almost all of the details in order for his first birthday party. We ordered and received all decor, food/beverage accessories, and the favors. The musician is booked and we have about 30 people who will be in attendance. We ordered the cake – shaped like an acoustic guitar from my favorite gluten free bakery – and planned the snacks. E has even received his first birthday gift in the mail – a framed share of Facebook stock from K’s Aunt K who hosted our family baby shower. I’m excited about celebrating this milestone with our loved ones!

I can’t believe I’m about to be the mom of a one-year-old kid. I guess I can’t really call myself a new mom anymore, can I?

Seeking Sanity

Up until this point in my parenting path, I think I’ve had a fairly reasonable approach to the unattainable notion of perfection. Recently, though, as E barrels toward a milestone at which he’ll likely only consume actual food for his nutrients, I’ve experienced mounting pressure to make sure I’m introducing him to a wide variety of nutritious solid foods.

As a working mom with husband who commutes a long distance to work, I don’t have all of the resources I need to be able to successfully pull off nutritious and varied dinners every single week night. I am lucky in that E can often play fairly independently for decent stretches of time, but while I’m trying to throw something together for dinner, E inevitably needs my attention. The time I have between getting home from daycare pickup and getting E to bed feels so short, and we try to squeeze in a bath for E every other night, too.  All of these factors have recently combined in a shitstorm of guilt and feelings of failure.

Last weekend, we didn’t have anything on our calendar, so I made the decision to spend the bulk of the time in the kitchen preparing and freezing meals. We have a chest freezer in the basement, which we purchased before E was born with the intention of having easy meals at our fingertips, and I wanted to fill it with yummy things that I could easily assemble throughout the week.

I prepared by accumulating recipes for the meals I wanted to make. I then listed out the amount of each ingredient I needed for each recipe, most of which was doubled or tripled. Finally, I created a shopping list of the ingredients needed for all recipes so that I would purchase the necessary quantities of the items.

I tried to organize my workload in a logical and efficient way, chopping all veggies for the recipes first, and always looking one or two steps ahead so that I could allow time for items to cool, bake, etc.

Delicious quinoa cakes and red pepper - NOT served on Turkey Day.

Delicious quinoa cakes and red pepper – NOT served on Turkey Day.

Here’s what I made/froze:

  • A gluten free version of Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf (double batch made into smaller sized loaves)
  • Black bean taco soup – K’s favorite so far. I made a double batch and froze into half-size batches)
  • A triple batch of my favorite Quinoa Cakes. I make them with gluten free breadcrumbs and, while I’ve had them with the recommended poached egg, our favorite way of serving them is with goat cheese and sautéed red peppers on top.
  • A quadruple batch of homemade taco seasoning.
  • A double batch of this homemade ranch dressing/seasoning mix.
  • A double batch of muffin-sized broccoli cheddar rice bakes, which uses the ranch seasoning.
  • A double batch of twice-baked potatoes, which loosely uses this recipe. I used 8 large baked Russet potatoes, 1 stick melted salted butter, about 1 c plain Greek yogurt (could use sour cream), 2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese, 1/2 c milk, 1 c. chopped green onions, 1 tsp of sea salt, and 3 tsp of the homemade ranch seasoning. I froze them and can bake from freezing at 350 F for about 55 minutes or thaw and bake for about 15 minutes.
  • A gluten free powdered mix alternative to “cream of” canned soups.
  • A double batch of my friend Dan’s Mexican shredded chicken. 4 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, two 16-oz jars of salsa, and 4 Tbsp of the homemade taco seasoning listed above, cooked on low in my crock pot for about 8 hours. I shredded the chicken in my KitchenAid mixer by using the paddle attachment for about twenty seconds, then mixed the shredded chicken breast back in with the sauce in which it cooked. I froze this in sandwich sized freezer bags to use as taco filling, to top nachos, or in a Mexican-inspired rice bowl.
  • A double batch of my mom’s top-secret white chicken chili, frozen into quart size freezer bags.

Since I had purchased two very large packages of chicken breasts, I had some leftover from the above recipes. I bagged and froze 1.5 lb quantities into freezer bags with marinade so they would marinate as they thawed in the refrigerator.

I completed the bulk of this work on Saturday, then wrapped up by around noon on Sunday, taking breaks to rest and spend time with K and E. It felt like a monumental task, but truly made for much easier meal prep throughout the week. As the week concludes, I am proud to say that we had a delicious, nutrient-dense, homemade meal every single night with very little weeknight effort. I have enough in our freezer to likely last about six weeks, too!

I have a feeling that this periodic meal preparation strategy will become part of our family’s organized way to stay sane, save money and feel successful and nourished.

Adoptee Drama

I am an adoptee. At the ripe age of 16, my birth mother was whisked from her family in a veil of secrecy to the other side of Texas to “live with an aunt” for a year. She lived in a home for unwed mothers, where she was able to continue her education and hide her pregnant belly as it grew before releasing me to my family.

I’ve always known I was an adoptee and my family celebrated it as something that made me special. My parents always said that they chose me and we celebrated my adoption day each year. I didn’t think a lot about it as a child, but being an adoptee has shaped a lot of who I am today as an adult. While I never longed for a relationship with my birth mother, I always wanted to one day to connect with her to see if there was someone in the world who was like me. I also wanted to thank her for what must have been a very traumatic experience, because her sacrifice gave me the life that I have today.

Texas has strict privacy laws – some of the most stringent in the nation – as it relates to adoption. In order for adoptees and birth families to connect, they both must separately apply to a registry. If there’s a match, both parties are contacted. When I was a young adult, I added my name to the registry and discovered that my birth mother wasn’t looking for me because she was not on the registry.

A few years later, while surfing the internet when I should have been working, I stumbled upon a website for adoptees and birth families who were looking for one another. I did a quick search to see if any of the few random details I know about my origins were listed anywhere on the site. They were not, so I drafted a quick post about my details before promptly forgetting that I had done so.

A few years later, I received an email from someone who said that they might be my birth mother. While guarding myself against potential disappointment, something inside me said that the email was, indeed, from my birth mother. I instructed the person about how to go about joining the registry and, while we awaited word from the adoption agency, we continued to correspond back and forth.

The adoption agency confirmed that I had been talking with my birth mother, Ruth, and we continued the process of getting to know one another. I flew to the Houston area to meet her and her family twice. I learned the name of my birth father, whose family owns a line of Western boots, and received confirmation of the sordid tale I had always assumed was the truth – that he didn’t believe Ruth was pregnant with his child and other subsequent douchebaggery.

Ruth told me about the pain and shame surrounding the adoption and I did my best to comfort her. In the end, the trauma seemed to have won out, as she stopped communicating with me, despite my many efforts. Still, I occasionally added her to mailing lists associated with major milestones – our wedding announcement, Christmas card with our wedding photo, E’s birth announcement and Christmas card with his photo on it.

As we were planning our wedding, we received a save the date card from my half-sister, and she was planning to wed the same day as K and I. We never received a formal invitation to the wedding, not that we could have attended, but I assumed that Ruth decided that it was too much for her and convinced her daughter not to invite me.

After years of radio silence, I sorted through Tuesday’s mail to find a letter from a random Texas address I had not previously seen and immediately knew that it was from Ruth. In the letter, she apologized for letting so much time slip by without getting in touch, inquired several times about E, and updated me on some of her family’s news. She moved from the address I had when I sent E’s birth announcement, so it’s clear that she never received that, but I’m unsure how she was still able to receive the Christmas card I sent with E’s photo on it. Her daughter’s fiance suddenly broke off their engagements a few months before their wedding, leaving her heartbroken and in a lurch, which explains the lack of a formal invitation to her wedding. My half-sister has since met a nice man and is pregnant with her first child, a little boy due in mid-March. My half brothers are currently living apart from Ruth in the town where my birth mother last lived – one is working and the other is in his final year of high school.

I’m not quite sure how to feel. I’m honestly not allowing myself to feel much of anything. I don’t want to extend my emotions or get my hopes up that this communication is a sign of her desire to reconnect in any meaningful way. I plan on writing her back and providing information about E (“I hope there is a very happy story I need to hear,” she says), as well as some photos, which she requested. Beyond that, I think I need to consider each communication as a singular interaction and not think about them in succession or as perhaps something that could become a trend.

K thinks that she was driven to write the letter to find out more about E. It’s clear that it was of interest to her, given her several references to him in the letter. K also theorizes that she likely wonders about whether or not they share a biological connection, which I hadn’t even considered. I’m not really letting myself go to the place of analysis, especially as it relates to E, because I’ve long since stopped wondering why Ruth does what she does. She has a right to her emotions and has a responsibility to steward her past trauma in a way that makes sense for her. I’ve always hoped that she’d be able to get to a place of peace, mostly because she’s a nice person who deserves to feel released of that shame and guilt, but I know that there isn’t anything I can do to control whether or not that happens for her. Besides, my energy needs to stay focused on my own family.

Whew. What a can of worms.

Looking forward

One of the bonuses of being really, really sick to the point of depleting my vacation time (because of course my sick time is hovering at the zero hour mark), if I have to find one, is that I actually had some time to focus on planning E’s first birthday party.

For months, I have refused to even think about the notion of this event, mostly because of my reluctance to admit that our child is careening toward this milestone, but also because we have a teeny, tiny house that couldn’t contain our immediate family, let alone close friends. The latter concern, now that I’ve solved it, is laughable, given that I am a skilled, professional event planner, but the challenge truly threw me for a loop.

While digesting episode upon episode of the Law & Order franchise, I researched budget-friendly local venues, potential entertainers, and themes. I discovered that a local community center rents rooms of all sizes for very reasonable rates and called their scheduler to inquire about availability. I determined that the musician that E loved when she performed at his daycare Halloween party regularly plays for children’s parties, so I asked about her rates and availability, as well. Within a matter of mere days, I had hired the musician, who will play a half an hour set and bring a craft and an instrument for each child, reserved the room at the community center, paid deposits on both, decided upon a generic music theme, researched decor and sent out preliminary e-vites to close friends and family members.

I guess that settles it. We have a little kid who is turning one year old and we’re celebrating it with a party. Commence freak out.

A River (of Vomit) Runs Through It

Sorry for the revolting title, but it truly felt apropos, given the weekend we’ve had.

On Thursday, after a few days in denial over the clear bronchial symptoms I was experiencing, I broke down and left work early to go to an urgent care clinic. The doctor confirmed my suspicions: my bronchitis had unfortunately returned. He prescribed an inhaler and nightly cough syrup with codeine.

E was still fussy from his ear surgery and teething, so he was sleeping between us that night when he vomited in our bed. In a sleeping med induced haze, I changed our sheets while K got poor E all cleaned up. When we attempted to settle back in, E barfed again. K spent the next several hours with E on the couch, and was blessed by yet another massive tidal wave of vomit all over both of them. Between my bronchial hacking and sleeping meds, I was in and out of consciousness for the remainder of the night.

Early the next morning, we received an email from E’s daycare, alerting us that several children had gotten sick from a stomach virus, and requesting that we keep little ones home if they’re experiencing any of those symptoms. It was clear that E had gotten the virus. K stayed home with both of us, since I was way too sick to care for E alone.

By Saturday, we were feeling well enough to go to lunch with K’s cousins and their husbands, who hasn’t yet met E. It was an enjoyable couple of hours as we caught up with them and E, of course, dazzled them.

A few hours after returning home, K started feeling nauseous. He spent the entire night between the couch and the bathroom in total intestinal misery. I meanwhile did my best to care for E in our bed while I continued to hack away with my bronchitis symptoms.

K was feeling slightly better by Sunday morning when I succumbed to the stomach virus from hell. Even though he was still somewhat weak, he spent the majority of the day caring for E while I was doubly ill.

I stayed home from work again today, though I was finally feeling well enough to eat and drink. K took E to daycare and drove himself to and from work so he could pick E up. I spent the day resting and regaining my strength, and when I had small bursts of energy, I doused the entire house in Lysol, changed our germ-infested sheets, and washed some laundry that had accumulated from our weekend of doom.

What a helluva way to start the week. Is it Friday yet?

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Picture Perfect

One of my least favorite things in the entire world is being photographed. I take a lot of pictures of the people I love, mostly with my iPhone and, to this end, K bought me a Photo Jojo macro and wide-angle lens for my iPhone and an online phone-ography class. But I mostly avoid being the subject of others’ photos, much to K’s frequent disappointment.

I knew that he’d been wanting a family photo for a long time and, while I did too, being in said photos felt akin to having a tooth drilled. Since gifts aren’t really supposed to be about the gift giver and I wanted to show that I valued his wishes, I purchased a family photo shoot for K for Christmas.

We were originally supposed to have our photos taken on December 26th, but with both of my guys sick, no one really felt up to the task. Plus, there’s not a frame in the world that’s beautiful enough to overcome the sheer amount of mucous that would be present in the resulting photos.

I rescheduled the shoot for New Year’s Day. Earlier that morning, despite the frigid temperatures and heaping cover of snow on the ground, I trudged outside to install E’s new convertible car seat, a Diono Radian RXT, which K’s parents got for us as a Christmas gift. It was trickier to install than our infant seat, but not too bad.

I knew that with the terrible winter weather and the steep learning curve of putting E into his new car seat, we would need to leave early for our photography shoot. Unfortunately, upon placing him in his new seat, E had the biggest meltdown I have seen to date. It required me to sit in the backseat with him, placing a paci in his mouth and trying to comfort him while K bravely traversed the slippery roads to get us to our destination. There’s nothing quite like three grumpy people headed toward an activity that pretty much demands sincere, lovely smiles.

E rings in the New Year by nomming on some steak

E rings in the New Year by enjoying some of his Daddy’s steak fajitas.

When we arrived, we gave E a bottle and we were relieved that his mood immediately brightened. He was a total charmer during the session and, much to my surprise, a lot of the resulting photos satisfied me. The present I got for K came with a disc of three of the photos, plus two printed sheets, and allowed the option of ordering additional sheets for a discounted price. I liked so many of the photos that it was difficult to decide and we ended up ordering a few extra sheets.

The disc and prints will arrive in two weeks and I plan on posting E’s solo photo that we chose as his 9 month commemorative shot as a part of the package. Since we plan on maintaining our anonymity as best we can, though, I won’t be posting the family photos we selected. You can all just take my word that we looked great. Haha!

Happy 2014, all!

Your First Christmas

E, you thoroughly enjoyed your first Christmas.

A few weeks beforehand, we visited my parents – your grandparents – who live up North to celebrate an early Christmas. It was the first time you experienced a great quantity of snow. We put you into the new snow suit your grandparents gave you for Christmas and took you outside for the obligatory photo shoot.

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Your grandma and grandpa spoiled you a lot more than I thought they would. Toys and clothing were plentiful under the tree. Your favorite was a train toy that had different types of toys with each component. I was surprised that you didn’t try to get at your grandparents’ three Christmas trees. You spent the majority of the time working on your standing skills. Your mama is very proud of your diligence.

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It was sad to say goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa, who are leaving soon to visit Florida for a few months. Grandma cried when you left. We promised to try a few Skype dates with them while they’re away.

We spent Christmas Eve with your aunt and Daddy’s parents, your grandparents who live closer to us. As I suspected, they spoiled you beyond belief. Grandma had a large basket that looked like a train engine, which she staged with other baskets behind it to look like a train, and she placed all of your presents inside the train. Grandma and Grandpa got Mommy and Daddy what they asked for – a really nice convertible car seat that will keep you safe and allow you to stay rear facing in the car for several years.

On the way to visit your grandparents, we stopped at a mall to visit Santa for the first time. You were so patient and cheerful, and thankfully, the line wasn’t too long.

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Dinner was slightly delayed because we waited for your aunt to get home from her new job as a dietician at a local hospital. Your grandparents thought that a Japanese steakhouse would be a fun dinner, but when the hibachi cook made large flame bombs on the grill and you cried in fear, I was annoyed with them for not considering how this spectacle would impact you.

We opened presents when we got back, but you were overtired and overstimulated after opening only a couple of gifts. Daddy took a long time trying to get you to fall asleep in a pack and play in your grandparents’ den. The rest of us slowly opened gifts and the prolonged experienced made your Mommy and Daddy feel pretty stressed about you. We ate pumpkin cheesecake that your Mama spent the morning making, quickly packed up, and drove home.

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You had a really tough time sleeping that night and didn’t seem like yourself on Christmas Day. We opened gifts in Daddy and Mama’s bed and had a nice morning, but as the day wore on, it was clear that your ear infection had returned with a vengeance. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to make it to the Christmas evening celebrations and we considered taking you to the pediatric urgent care clinic. We gave you alternating doses of Tylenol and Ibuprofen, which seems to keep your ear pain mostly at bay and allowed us to go to Daddy’s Aunt and Uncle’s house for Christmas night for a couple of hours.

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Our extended family members were also incredibly generous in their gifts to you and you spent our limited time there dazzling everyone with your personality. Mommy and Daddy had planned to make everyone homemade food gifts, like they do each year, but didn’t have time and they felt really guilty about it.

You had a really rough time on the car ride home, so Mama rode in the back seat with you. In the morning, we visited the pediatrician, who said that your ears were infected again and filled with fluid. She prescribed what she called “the end of the road” antibiotic and said that if it didn’t get rid of the fluid, we would need to take you to a pediatric ENT specialist with the very strong possibility of tubes.

It was an eventful Christmas, both good and bad, but we spent it together as a family and that’s the best present your parents received this year.

Letting go

We recently had a mandatory staff meditation retreat. Is anything less relaxing than being required to relax at a given time and in a specific way, all during the busiest season at work? Despite my reluctance (and that’s putting it mildly), I challenged myself to take in the messages and tips presented that day, and I’m really glad that I did. I learned quite a bit about managing stress and keeping myself from assigning weight to stressors that are truly a lot tamer than how I allow them to impact me.

crawling into bathroomAs it relates to my job, I need to keep in mind that, while I do work that contributes to the greater good, what I do each day is not a life or death sort of situation. Sure, my work funds some actual life-saving programs, but I need to remember that getting upset about a last-minute request for a report or mailing only zaps me of energy that could be spent where I’d prefer to focus it – on my son, husband, and adorable companion animals. I need to exert the relevant amount of energy to the task-at-hand.

turkey nomsAs it relates to my personal life, especially with the holiday season upon us, I need to let go of some of the messages people in our lives are giving to E, even if they are not aligned with some of our parenting approaches. (Obviously, there are some non-negotiables like blatant disrespect.) Do I really have to spin my wheels being irritated about someone pretending that E has injured them when I’m actively working to teach him pain-related boundaries? The time E spends with me and the messages he gets from me are so much more prevalent and I know he’ll one day understand that pulling my hair hurts his mommy. Again, seething about this – something that should be a minor annoyance – only serves to distract and drain me.

I am working to let go, breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth…

Sicky

I’m SO GLAD it’s Friday. It’s been a doozy of a week! E has been having a lot of difficulties sleeping – namely, waking up screaming at around 2 or 3 a.m. He was inconsolable and would only calm down slightly if we brought him in bed with us. That allowed K to get some sleep, but E spent the majority of Monday night swinging his head back and forth like a wrecking ball into me. I had assumed that he was having difficulties because he’s teething, but when he did the head maneuver, I immediately decided it was time to go back to the doctor for an ear recheck.

Lo and behold, little dude has his THIRD ear infection in seven months. That’s so much! And, again this time, it’s a double ear infection. The pediatrician wanted to try him on a different antibiotic this time because she doesn’t want the bacteria to become resistant to the type he has tried the other times, plus she really wants to try to knock this out of him and keep the ear ickies at bay.

When prescribing the medicine, the doctor informed me that I should warn all of his caregivers that the medicine he’s been prescribed commonly turns babies’ stools red, which is often interpreted as blood. I’m SO glad she told us because I nearly passed out, even WITH that information, upon spraying his first poopy diaper after he started the meds. WHOA. Joseph’s Technicolor Dream Poop. I was tempted to photograph it to share here, but I value our readers too much.

Between the new round of antibiotics and pain meds at night, E is thankfully starting to sleep and feel much better. We are concerned about the number of ear infections he’s had so far, so we’re preparing to ask a lot of questions at his ear recheck next Friday.

In more uplifting news, my parents are popping into town on Saturday for a quick visit. I’m excited to see them and I know they’re thrilled about seeing E. He’s changed a lot in the two months since our last visit. I know that upsets my mom and she cries each time she sees him again. E adores her and, while it’s my mom’s fear that he’ll forget her, I know in my heart that could never happen. We really need to set up some Skype dates with them to put my mom’s mind at ease.

Edited to add: I can’t believe it took me over 7 months to add the tag of “poop.” My friends can attest that I speak of it rather freely.