Our Family of Three

August 8, 2017

Last week, I took Maya on her first Dart journey into the city to meet my friend Julie. You remember Julie, right? She used to shoot all my Styled in Ireland posts and she was the brains behind Delightful Dublin. She’s one of my dearest (and most creatively talented) friends and when Maya was born, she knit (!) her the sweetest little hat, booties and bunny. You guys, she knit her a bunny. And then she came up from Cork to visit with us last time we were home and then again this time, with her camera.

Anyway, we were headed to meet up with Julie for coffee and a stroll around Stephen’s Green.  We had loosely talked about taking some shots for a post about what to do with kids in Dublin but honestly, it turned into just an epic walk while Maya slept in the stroller and then we let her have a wiggle and look at the flowers. Julie took these shots and they are some of my favorites. I love all the green and how well she captured Maya’s glee and my adoration for my little girl. I will cherish these for a long, long time.

Maya’s currently obsessed with bugs and ants and flies and bees. She doesn’t really like them, but she obsessively watches them when she sees one. She was watching the bees on these flowers in Stephen’s Green and exclaiming, “Bee! Buzz! Go-way!”

Michael showed up after a while to take Maya home so Julie and I could go have a fancy lunch and drink wine! It was a really fun day in the city with the perfect mix of toddler, besty and wine. Ha! 

While I may not have done much with my kid in Dublin, I can tell you Stephen’s Green makes for a lovely low-key backdrop for family photos in the city! Especially with a talented photographer who manages to make it seem like we were the only ones there!

Sharing Our Most Special Dublin Spots

August 1, 2017

Tomorrow we’re filming with a producer friend of mine for her series (I think it’s in its 7th season on TV3 in Ireland!) called Adoption StoriesShe asked a few weeks ago if there was a spot we could film with Maya that was significant to us and I requested this cliff path (not the dangerous part) because it is one of our most special spots from our pre-Maya time. I mentioned to her that it was somewhere we plan on sharing with Maya as she grows older. That cliff walk is actually probably my most favorite place on the planet, but this beach on the other side of Howth comes a close second.

Before we became parents, in the easy times and the hard, Michael and I would walk this beach and it would often change our whole mood for the day. The air was never not brisk (and sometimes downright frigid) and we never returned back to the car without invigorated smiles on our faces.

It’s easy to forget and gloss over the fact that for several years before Maya joined our family, we had quite a hard time waiting and wondering if we would ever become parents. Those beach walks were vital to our friendship and our relationship when our hearts were quite sore. Now that Maya is here with us, we’re really enjoying exploring some of those special spots that meant so much to us before we became a family of three.

Today we took a walk with Michael’s brother and his family who just flew in from the States for the wedding next week. Maya and I hung back as everyone walked ahead (longer legs!) and I just couldn’t get over how thrilled I was that she was so happy to be walking that beach.

When I mentioned to Sharon, my producer friend, about introducing Maya to one of our special spots, she said, “Oh, isn’t it lovely to be able to say that?” It is absolutely lovely to be able to say it and I never want to forget how wonderful it feels to introduce our daughter to our favorite spots – here and around the world. My gratitude for Maya in our lives is renewed daily, and I was happy for Sharon’s reminder of this special sliver.  “Nothin’ like a Dublin sunshine,” ain’t that the truth?! And nothing like my own personal Dublin sunshine, this sweet girl who just radiates happiness when faced with sand and rocks and seaweed. 

A New Interiors Column in The Irish Mail on Sunday

July 31, 2017

 A few months ago, a long-time blog friend bequeathed her interiors column in the Irish Mail on Sunday to me. It’s so refreshing to be back writing about interiors for an Irish paper! I had stopped writing for the Irish Independent about a year ago, so this is a nice entree back into that world. Unfortunately, for now at least, the columns are only in the print version, which you can only pick up in Ireland. I’ll try to share bits and pieces here when I have them.

This weekend was the first time I got to see the column in person – and it was an extra special one! I interviewed two of my former colleagues from Confetti Magazine and House and Home magazine to get their insight on choosing great wedding gifts for your friends or family members who love interiors. They had some really thoughtful suggestions, which is what I always shoot for with wedding gifts.  If you’re in Ireland, it’s in the magazine section of the Sunday paper.

Missing Home(s)

July 27, 2017

One of our colleagues from school took us to the airport a few weeks ago and we were chatting about all the travel we have this summer. She was a little incredulous that we’d be gone so long – over 6 weeks in total! And she asked, “Don’t you get homesick?”

My first thought was, “Which one?” China Village or Dublin or Houston? It’s hard to explain but I am at the same time not homesick at all and always homesick for all of those places all at once. But one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned came from moving to Dublin – sometimes it’s about choosing to be happy exactly where you are and putting the rest of it out of your mind to enjoy where you are. Having Michael and Maya by my side does make that easier, for sure.

I was especially homesick for Dublin after pulling these photos for another article I wrote last week. But the good news is that we’re headed back to Ireland tomorrow! We’re hopping on an evening flight and hoping the forecast will adjust itself while we’re in the air because it’s looking a little wet and chilly!

I can’t wait to put together a few posts about new spots we’re going to try that have opened since we’ve left – and hopefully a post about how to do Dublin with a kiddo in tow.

Until then, here’s a whole lot of Irish green from the archives.

Vacation // Sandboxes and Granddads

July 21, 2017

In April 1985, when I was 18 months old, my granddad built me a sandbox and marked it with a Sharpie (maybe those hadn’t been invented yet, though) on the bottom. To: Emily Boyle, By: Granddad Boyle.

Fast forward 33 years to this afternoon when the new Granddad Boyle set up that old sandbox (still in perfect condition) and filled it with 3 bags of sand for his first granddaughter. A lovely China Village passtime I’m so glad my daughter is getting to experience.  This deliberate and focused little granddaughter couldn’t get enough of her new little nook and the endless scooping she can accomplish for hours on end. With Solo cups, a serving spoon and two of the endless cottage cheese containers that seem to multiply at my parents’ house and crack my siblings and I up on a regular basis.  If you need us, we’ll all be out at the sandbox, scooping sand into Solo cups with a serving spoon. Thanks, granddads!

Vacation // Colorado

July 8, 2017

We’re on vacation! Sort of. Mostly. Michael, Maya and I hopped on a flight on Monday to Denver, to spend time with his family for a week, and then we’ll head to Maine, followed by Dublin, then back to Maine for another little while before returning to Houston. I’m still writing for Romper while I’m on the road, and for the Irish Mail on Sunday as well, but neither of us are tied to an office or students, so we’re taking full advantage of school summer vacation!

We have been very grateful this past year to have had Michael’s sister (for whom Maya is going to get her flower girl on later this summer) babysit for us often in Houston, but she headed back to Dublin in early May and we’ve been short a trusted babysitter! When Maya’s grandparents (interchangeably referred to as “Gimp-Gimp” this week by their tiny granddaughter, in pronunciation only. We’re fairly sure she doesn’t mean it descriptively 😉 offered to take her for the whole day, we couldn’t get in the car fast enough!

We spent today driving through the mountains without having to dole out snacks every ten minutes and without having to crawl in the back after an hour of grumping from the tiny toddler (I swore I’d never be that mom but man does she hate that car seat). It was glorious, as were the totally arid, not-at-all-sweaty weather, the killer view and the stellar company. Michael made all the plans, as usual, and I was grateful just to (mostly) follow the GPS or keep him company.

We started with brunch at the Country Road Cafe in Evergreen, which was well worth a much longer drive, stopped for peaches by the side of the road and ended up with yellow cherries instead, then took a windy drive to Echo Lake and stopped at some random waterfall along the way. We ended our day with a quick stop at Red Rocks (we weren’t dressed to hike, which would have been a little nicer and less overcrowded) and then picked up donuts for our crowd back home on the way.

Here’s a photographic rundown of our lovely day away. Thanks, grandparents and Maya for letting us escape!

My handsome brunch date. There’s something about this latest haircut that reminds me of our college days 10+ years ago.  And almost equally handsome cinnamon roll!  So many crazy cyclists along these winding roads. This guy was going 40 miles an hour! Made me think of my dad, who I’m pretty sure still has Tour de France dreams.  It was fun to see the mountains we skied in January and April still spotted with snow. Michael’s already plotting several return trips next winter.    Michael hopped over the stream to take a photo of me and then took awhile to get himself back. There’s a funny little video of it on my Instagram!  Red Rocks was cool to see for five minutes, but had we been more appropriately dressed for hiking we would have preferred that version. Too many people and guard rails!  Our faces both say it all. We were much happier stuck across the river 😉

But we’re both happier having spent the day together, and grateful for a summer of grandparents who request Maya’s full attention from time to time!

Exploring Texas / Homeward Farm

June 30, 2017

Our first week of summer vacation is nearly over, and I think Maya and I have really made the most of it. We hit the pool on Monday, made pancakes Tuesday, visited with a foster moms group of friends yesterday, and today drove south of the city to see another friend from our church mom’s group. We typically meet on Friday mornings, but if there’s a fifth Friday sometimes we get to go to Judith’s farm! This was our first time, and I figured I’d bring my camera and use the excursion as an opportunity to practice after several months away. We stopped just before we got to Homeward Farm to meet the cows. Maya could not get over the moo-ing!  It was fairly soggy after some rain, but it was so nice to see where my friend Judith spends her time and energy and passion! She and her family sell eggs veggies at local farmer’s markets, and they’re hoping to expand and have some farm-to-table dinners as well as an artisan market on their property. I think we need to invest in some wellies for Maya. She wasn’t keen on the puddle soaking into her jellies!  When Michael saw this photo he was so jealous. He can’t wait to get chickens again and was pretty impressed with their souped up coop. I have to admit, I did enjoy seeing all those little chicken butts in the air.  And then we swung, in a swing hanging on a big old tree branch. It was pretty lovely! And I’m pretty proud I managed to capture Maya’s ringlets in motion!

Semi-Nature with Maya

June 26, 2017

Last week, some teeny tiny thing in my blog broke so that I couldn’t write posts. It was really annoying and fixing it took the help of more people than I can count. But now, it’s back!

Friday night, we packed up and drove 40 minutes north to stay with friends in the deepest of Texas suburbs. We went out to dinner last night after Maya (finally) went down, and then Saturday morning, the dudes got up early and drove even further north (past the suburbs) to play basketball in prison as part of a ministry program. While they were sweating and hooping, Maya and I took advantage of the uncharacteristically cool morning to wander around the little lake in their development and check out a new playground. (We also had 8 million snacks, went to the mall with our friends, took an accidental car nap, and played with mugs in the pool. We got a workout of our own!)

I’ve barely picked up my camera lately, so it was fun to fiddle around with it while Maya explored the sandy path and ogled the little lake on the way to the playground. Every body of water is a “pool” to her, and every playground is a “slide”. And every new thing brings utter joy to her face.

She’s rocking a band-aid over a bug bite she just won’t quit scratching, and a romper that fit Baby J this time last summer – when she was only six months old. Ha!  Push me already! I hope you all had a nice weekend as well, with a sliver as much glee!

Meeting Our Birth Mom

June 16, 2017

I hesitate to share this story, because the older Maya gets the more I want to protect her story since she isn’t even old enough to hear it herself yet. Many of the most precious details of meeting Maya’s birth mom for the first time, we will save for her when she is older. But I think some of the details of her story are important to tell, especially in order to dispel some fears about adoption that we didn’t even realize we had.

Adoption has been an enormous learning curve for us, despite the fact that we went all in from the start. But we’ve learned that just because we love adoption and have no fear about loving a baby we didn’t grow or give birth to ourselves doesn’t mean that there aren’t ongoing fears and wonders and worries associated with the process. Maya became our daughter the moment we laid eyes on her, but I don’t think either of us realized half of the emotions or thoughts we’d have as time goes on, and that they would involve more people than just one baby. I have been so surprised that there are parts of the process that just come like waves out of nowhere, triggered by holidays or comments from strangers.

I was talking to my mom the other day about all the thoughts and wonders and worries I have about Maya’s hair, of all things, which is, as you may know if you follow me on Instagram, curly as all get out. I was attempting to explain that none of what I think about Maya’s hair is in any way bad. It’s just surprising. I’m surprised I think about her hair so much. When we decided to adopt I thought only about loving a baby with all my heart. I just didn’t think about the fact that I’d have no idea what to do with her hair – or that we might not even know what ethnicity our child was and where she even got all that curly hair.

That leads me to the latest adventure on this adoption journey that Michael and I embarked upon last weekend: we looked for and found Maya’s birth mom for the first time. When we met Maya in the hospital when she was three days old, her birth mom had already relinquished her rights and left the hospital. For 20 months, I have been wondering about her and praying for her – what she looks like, where she’s from, whether Maya has her nose or her eyes, praying for her safety and for her heart to heal from the enormous loss of not knowing our sweet Maya and from whatever wounds that made placing her daughter for adoption her best option at that time.

On Mother’s Day this year, I felt really strongly for the first time that we needed to look for her. Oddly, I spent more of Mother’s Day and the days leading up to it thinking not about myself as a mother but about Maya’s birth mother. Honestly, I struggled with the idea that anyone could ever reject my sweet girl, or that we couldn’t protect her from something that happened before we arrived on the scene. It broke my heart for both of them and I started to think about what it would mean to find her – both for Michael and I now, and for Maya ten or fiftteen years from now.

Michael and I realized a month or so ago that no matter how amazing we are and continue to be as her parents, and how wonderful we can make Maya’s life, she will still have questions about where she came from or what her birth parents were like. And those questions will be a natural result of the situation of adoption, and of her adoption in particular.
We do not have an open adoption where we have regular contact with her birth mother, nor do we have a closed adoption, with zero information at all or a request from her birth mom not to be found. We had minimal information – a name and an address – and the most minimal information about the night Maya was born.

But overall, we had a hole. And over time we realized that future Maya’s future questions mean nothing about how we will have raised her; they shouldn’t be insulting or scary. They are a natural reaction to being grown by one woman and being loved and raised by two different people. They mean that she is going to need to fill that hole, that identity gap, somehow. And because we love her millions and trillions, as I tell her every night before bed, we wanted to help her fill that hole while we had the best chance of doing so.

Michael and I also realized that most likely, when Maya is old enough to start asking real questions about her birth mom and to start wanting to look for her, we’ll be living in Ireland. And because Maya’s mom was and is homeless, I knew that the odds of finding her were exponentially higher now than they will be a decade from now. Honestly, I really did not think we would be able to find her now, simply because a lot can happen in 20 months when your life is unstable.

We started our search with the only information we had about her whereabouts, an address for an abandoned lot in a neighborhood only fifteen minutes from our sweet little Houston apartment. I couldn’t believe it was so close, when, in my head for the better part of two years, it had been a million miles away and wholly unattainable.

We knocked on a neighbor’s door and asked for her by name, and were totally shocked to learn that she still lived in the same place, ten yards from where we were standing. It took several laps around the neighborhood and asking just about everyone we met if they knew her or where she was, but we eventually found her.

I’m not sure I have words for the feeling of seeing Maya’s birth mother walk through the gate. I honestly hadn’t prepared myself to meet her; I thought perhaps we’d meet a neighbor whom we knew was kind to her throughout her pregnancy, and we hoped to learn just a few simple facts about her. I just didn’t expect to be learning those facts from her. I had no idea what to say, so I babbled and pulled my phone out to show her photos and videos. She asked what we had named her, and I just couldn’t believe she didn’t know her name. But of course she didn’t know her name.

Michael stood stoically and protectively behind me while I struggled to find the words to express my gratitude for making me a mother, to the person who made me a mother. She and I were both overcome with the emotion of the enormity of the meeting, at one point crying and hugging. She loved the name Maya, and she remarked how beautiful and tiny our girl is.

She is tiny herself, with brown hair and smooth skin. She was gracious and kind, thanking us for taking such good care of her baby girl. She explained that she was born in Houston but her people were from Mexico, she gave us a piece of cultural identity that we can now definitively encourage in Maya as she grows.

Over the last several months, as I’ve explained to first Michael then my family and friends my desire to find Maya’s birth mother, I’ve said that my goal has simply been to find a sliver of information about her that I could pass along to Maya one day. I simply wanted to try to fill the identity gap that will naturally form in the absence of any details at all about the woman who knew her for nine months before we did. “You know, like does Maya have her eyes, or something like that,” I’d say.

Well, wouldn’t you know, Maya has her eyes. And one day, we can’t wait to share that with our sweet girl. Along with all the other slivers we picked up on that gift of a day.

A Baby Skin Solution

June 13, 2017

Less than a month old Maya, with the most perfect skin, which we have thankfully returned to now.

A few months ago, right around Christmas, Maya developed eczema basically all over, for the first time ever. She had it in her crelbow (the crease in her elbow), behind her knee, behind her neck and then a different kind of eczema alllll over her entire back with tiny little bumps. She itched at the smaller spots but the entire back bothered us more. She went from having such smooth skin to neither of us really wanting to touch it. How sad is that? Here’s how we fixed it, in case anyone else has a baby or toddler with similar eczema symptoms and hasn’t tried these ideas yet.

Our pediatrician basically said all kids in Houston get eczema, which wasn’t terribly helpful. But, what was helpful was his recommendation for two products – Basis soap at the end of the bath and Vanicream lotion straight after, all over.

So we coupled that with a bunch of what I figured out from googling and the first one was super important and I think the key to actually curing her eczema so that it’s completely gone: we took her off almond milk. We’d put her on almond milk around Christmastime because I was testing the theory that she had a dairy allergy that was causing her to overproduce mucus every time she had a cough. She didn’t drink tons of the almond milk until she started going to daycare and they really push the whole “milk” thing so she was actually drinking two full cups or more just while she was there.

At one point I clicked on something online about eczema being caused by food allergies, namely dairy, nuts and eggs. Whoops. So then we took her off almond milk (now she drinks coconut milk instead and doesn’t mind at all), she was already off cow’s milk and tried to limit the rest of her dairy and eggs. We lathered on the lotion and I replaced our laundry detergent with a fragrance free version.

That was probably in March, and within a month her eczema was 75% gone. Now it’s 100% gone.

This is definitely a totally boring post for most of you, but when I was trying to figure out how to get rid of the eczema at the height of it, I was terrified she was stuck with it forever. I’d heard a lot of horror stories (the son of a woman in my moms’ group scratches his eczema until it bleeds which sounds horrific) and I’d heard a lot of people say their kids also had regular bouts of eczema and it was something to be more managed rather than cured. Well, let this be one story of a cure. Check those allergy categories in case that could help, and try that soap and lotion. I’m sure that’s not the reason for all eczema in all kids but I know many people who have their kids on almond milk for dairy intolerances and maybe that’s playing a role.

Back to less boring stories tomorrow, I hope!