Welcoming 2018

January 8, 2018

Tiny Maya on the beach in Ireland this summer

Like most people, I found 2017 incredibly hard. In August, we welcomed Noah, the second biggest gift we could ever have been given, which thankfully lifted the overall tone of the year, but 2017 certainly wasn’t one of the easiest on record in my 34 years of life.

In the last year I didn’t write very much about the political climate (or anything else, really!), or how heavily it weighed on me in waves, but it did. In fact, I didn’t make it through January of last year before I had to take Facebook and Twitter off my phone because I was so distraught by the then-very-new administration. It helped a little, but not a lot.

In addition to the general state of the world, which is, in so many ways, dire, 2017 was one of the most difficult for us personally. Not the whole year, thankfully, just a few months, but they were incredibly difficult. Michael and I spent a lot of the beginning of 2017 hashing out whether we would switch agencies to adopt again and honestly? That process was messy. It involved a lot of tears, counseling for which I will forever be grateful, and so much emotional energy. That cloud lifted around April, when we made the decision to stay another year in Houston and change agencies and continue to pursue adoption. The summer was busy with travel, and then we got the news at the end of July that Noah was arriving a month later, which turned into only two weeks!

Since Noah arrived in early August, the weeks and months have zoomed past. We were in the hospital with him when he was only seven weeks old because of a 102.3 fever, and then back to the ER a month or so later with another nasty respiratory virus. We traveled to LA for Thanksgiving, and then home to Maine for Christmas.

There were so many highlights throughout the year, like absolutely loving working with my big kids in Michael’s school, and getting to watch Maya run wild and free on the beach in Dublin. We spent many hours sweating at the park and trying to cool off in the pool while explaining to Maya that she can’t, in fact, swim by herself in six foot deep water. We took many walks, visited all the Halloween decorations, and watched Maya thrive in her new preschool. I’ve worked for Romper for nearly the whole year, and have written for the Mail on Sunday in Ireland weekly as well.

2018, I hope, will be a year of settling. The last two and a half years have been a roller coaster of babies and adjusting and traveling. I’m hopeful that 2018 will be a year of settling into routines as a family, intentionally finding ways to build up my kids into kind little humans.

I also hope it will bring back some of the brain space that will allow me to come back here more and write. My broken camera (now replaced!) and failing computer (hopefully soon to be replaced!) have created some technical difficulties that my sleep-deprived state couldn’t really overcome. I hope Noah will soon learn the joys of sleeping through the night. I can’t wait to see how productive I can be on a whole night of sleep!

I want to read more books (I think I read 3 in all of 2017), and spend less time on my phone. I want to finally print photo books (eyeing Chatbooks, but anyone have another recommendation?) and blog more.

I hope 2018 is the year I can begin to figure out how I could positively change the adoption system in Ireland (ambitious much?) and as Noah gets older, I hope to take on more freelance writing again and possibly even an editing role.

2018 will also be the year my first novel (written in collaboration with my dad) is published, which I sometimes forget because it’s been so long in the making. It’s looking like April, but I will keep you posted as it gets closer!

In August, Michael and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (which is hard to believe!) , and we’re already planning how we’ll celebrate that milestone. I’m voting for a week in Portugal while the kids hang out with their grandparents! Michael wants to throw a big party. Maybe we’ll end up doing both!

We’re looking forward to Noah’s adoption finalization on Valentine’s Day that will be celebrated with both sets of grandparents and at least one uncle!

We are welcoming 2018 with open arms. From our family to yours, happy new year, friends!

Exploring Los Angeles / The Getty with Kids

December 6, 2017

Here’s my takeaway from going to the Getty with two kids two and under. It’s lovely and beautiful but don’t bother going inside. Ha! We just spent our whole time wandering around the grounds and it was spectacular and more than enough for an afternoon outing. Our visit just wasn’t full of art. We saw a few sculptures, yes, but I couldn’t tell you much about what was in any of the buildings except the vast array of restrooms in every nook.

I wore Noah 95% of the time we were in California because it was way easier than staying inside for his naps 4 times a day. Lillebaby sent me one of their carriers right before we left and it was a lifesaver. He’s just about too heavy to spend the entire day in the Sollybaby wrap, and I have an Ergo 360 but I’ve never loved it. This one is a little bulkier but it has much better back support – like 8 hours carrying an 11 pound baby back support.  Maya loved running around the grounds, which was only mildly terrifying for me and my fear of heights.   Noah seems sort of giant to me normally, given he’s about double the size he was when he was born! But look how tiny he looks in peeking out the side of the carrier! I brought a bunch of “yollies” or dum-dum lollipops for the plane, and Maya kept asking for the pink ones all week. They came in very handy at very exhausting moments throughout our trip! All in all, a very enjoyable afternoon despite missing out on most of the art.

8 Toddler Gift Ideas

December 4, 2017

Little one-year-old Maya playing with her animal magnets

With the holidays coming up, gift ideas are starting to pop up here and there. And by here and there, I mean everywhere I turn. Maya has been gifted a few sweet gifts in the last year so I thought I’d share some in case the ideas are helpful for your toddler shopping.

This year, we’re going with the wear-read-need-want combo that I’ve seen other parents around the internet sticking to in order to curb some of the over-giving that happens around Christmas. I love gift giving, but I also like the idea of having limits.

These are some of the hits we’ve experienced in the toddler toy department in the last year or so, in case there’s a toddler on your gift list this year!

Chunkies – My mom brought these for Maya last time she visited and they’re the consistency of an oil pastel, but they dry like paint very quickly. They’re more satisfying for Maya to play with, since they easily make bright swaths of color, whereas crayons are a little less exciting because she’s not strong enough to press down very hard yet.

Cupcakes – My friend Becky sent these for Maya for her birthday and she’ll play with them for ages, at least by toddler standards. They have pieces that easily slot in together, and the colors aren’t obnoxious.

Play kitchen – For realllllly tiny spaces, like our cosy 800 sq foot apartment, this mini kitchen from Ikea fits in one of our closets!

Forest Magnet Set – This one has been socked away for our plane ride to Maine in a few weeks, another gift from my mom. It’s a little heavy, but it has lots of animals to play with.

Wooden camera – My sister gave Maya a camera for her birthday and she’s just now figured out she can “use it” to take “potos,” through the wrong side. It’s hilarious but also nice to have something that’s fully imaginary. Nothing lights up or make noise, so instead she says, “one, three, kick!” She means click, but we’ll get there.

Animal magnets – Maya carries at least one of these around every day. We gave them to her when she turned one and they live on the fridge. The kitty and elephant get the most play, by far.

Little People farm – You can’t go wrong with Fisher Price Little People, even if they have changed since I was a kid. Maya plays with this set every day.

Dog Charlie – My brother’s name is Charlie, so when our friend Debs gave Maya this pre-named dog for her birthday, we had to differentiate between human Charlie and dog Charlie. Now dog Charlie goes everywhere with Maya, and whenever she’s scared or sad, she cries out for “My Charlie!” He came to LA with us and about eleven million other places.

Good luck with your holiday shopping! I’m still at lest 75% unfinished 😉

A Christmas Project

December 1, 2017

Over the weekend, after we returned from LA, I decided I had to aggressively get into the holiday spirit. There’s something about 70 degree weather that makes it really hard to believe it’s anything other than August all winter long.

When I was in second grade or so, I made a wreath with my hands in school, and I’ve always loved it. My mom has hung it every year since I brought it home from school and I’ve always wanted to make one with my kids. This year, I got to. With both my kids, although I tweaked the original for Noah because he’s so obsessed with chewing on his hands at the moment that hand prints with paint were out of the question! Instead, tiny green foot prints for Noah and hand prints for Maya. Although once Maya saw the foot prints, that’s all she’s talked about since.  Maya went rogue with the red paint at the very end, but otherwise she followed directions really well. Not bad for a two year old!

Santa Barbara With Friends

November 30, 2017

In the middle of our trip to LA last week, we took a few days to drive up to Santa Barbara to visit friends. One is a friend from college and her husband and little boy, and the other is my friend Ashley whom I’ve known for years from when we were both ex-pats. I was in Dublin when she was in Berlin and we used to travel to blogging conferences and with our friend Anne. She drove down from San Luis Obispo and spent the afternoon with us at the loveliest, most kid-friendly beachside restaurant/sand box while Maya played and Noah mostly slept.  It was so fun to have a reunion on another continent!

Then we met up with our friends, Randine, Travis and little Carver, who is about the sweetest little dude ever. Maya was in heaven with room to run and a little playmate. We spent a few nights with them on their friend’s avocado ranch high above the Pacific Ocean, with 200 acres of avocado trees, citrus trees, a horse and chickens. Maya was absolutely obsessed with the “donkey-horse” and making sure it had food, and with feeding the chickens even though she was totally terrified of them.  Happy, happy girl.  There was also a perfectly positioned pool. And warm enough weather to spend some time at least in the hot tub portion of it.  Even Noah got in on the lounging.  There was an outrageous amount of cuteness with the two tiny ones. Can you even?  One night, we all went out for pizza in downtown Santa Barbara, and I still crack up over this photo of Michael and Randine wrangling their respective toddlers. How things have changed in 11 years since we were all in college!    The light at sunset was incredible up on the mountain. And some gratuitous photos of the avocados (or as Maya calls them, adocado-cados) and citrus trees because that is the dream, isn’t it? Picking limes from the front yard for margaritas by the pool. Yikes, what a wonderful visit!  Earlier today I described our trip to LA as exhaustingly refreshing, and it was. It was more work with two kids away from home, but it was also very restorative during the days, to be with friends and family without work obligations or real life chores.

Our First Trip As a Family of Four!

November 28, 2017

We spent last week in Southern California on our first trip as a family of four and it was delightful. It was so, so fun to be out in the humidity-free sunshine, visiting with family and friends for the whole week. Don’t get me wrong, it was also exhausting to have two little ones sleeping in odd places for a week, but they were generally troopers and we only had a few sleepless nights.

Right before we left, I picked up a new camera! Mine was declared dead and not worth repairing, so I gave myself an early birthday present and am very glad I had it to play with and re-learn while we were away. And then I took eleventy million photos. Here’s just a fraction. We also went to the Getty Museum and spent a few days in Santa Barbara, so I’ll share those separately.  When Michael booked our Thanksgiving and Christmas travel (to LA and then we’ll go to Maine in a few weeks), he realized that it would be significantly cheaper for me to bring the kids a few days earlier than he is able to leave because of school holidays. So that meant flying with a 3 month old and a 2 year old on my own. Twice. We survived the first from Houston to LA and half the time I was cursing Michael for convincing me this was a good (or even doable) idea, and the other half I was trying to remind myself that it could be worse. Honestly, Noah was a dream (although only slept 20 minutes of the 3 hour flight because every time he fell asleep I had to bump him around because Maya needed something). Maya, on the other hand, just had trouble with the idea that she had to sit in such a big seat with a seatbelt she could easily wiggle out of. We could travel with her car seat, but I really can’t figure out how I could carry that in addition to Noah and wrangling Maya. Anyway, we survived and will do it again in another few weeks and hopefully survive again!  We were staying in Santa Monica, on 5th Street, where my aunt has an apartment she uses for an office. It couldn’t have been a better location and the kids and I enjoyed wandering around for the entire first day while we waited for Michael to get there. The weather was divine, bright and sunny the whole time we were there.  At one point, Maya finally fell asleep in the stroller and Noah needed a bottle, so we stopped at the edge of Pacific Palisades park overlooking the water and camped out for a little while. Maya made piles of the date palm droppings and Noah hung out on the grass after spitting up all over himself (standard, what a pukey guy he is!).  We had spent the morning at Christine Emerson Reed Park (2 blocks from where we were staying and loads of fun for Maya for several hours), so in the afternoon we decided to check out the public library to rest for a little while. Maya took her shoes off and rearranged books, and Noah sat on the couch and looked adorable. Great kids section and it was super quiet. We had the place to ourselves, thankfully!  Michael arrived in the middle of the night that night, and the next morning we grabbed coffee and took him back to the park. And we repeated that sequence just about every day for our whole vacation. Win-win for parents and kids!  In the afternoon, we met up with my uncle and walked down the incline to the beach to dip our toes in the Pacific. It was a beautiful (if chilly) sunset on the beach.  Maya wondering where her pants went 😉  Noah wasn’t so excited about the Pacific yet.  Maya loved it once we got out her cups and spoons for scooping. We had to drag her away with full sandy cups.  And then Michael had to push Maya back up the incline while I wore Noah. I’m not sure who got the bigger workout!

Foster Care and Adoption Awareness Month

November 9, 2017

Today is World Adoption Day, and this month is foster care and adoption awareness month, at least in the United States. Although I write about foster care and adoption often enough, it seemed like a good time to squeeze in a few more posts about the topic.

Today, I thought I’d share a few articles I’ve written for Romper about foster care and adoption, in an effort to educate people about an otherwise sort of under-the-radar topic.

Things Foster Care Taught Me About Parenting

Things You Don’t Think About Until You Become An Adoptive Mom

Words Only a Foster Parent Would Know

Misconceptions About Foster Care

Questions Adoptive Moms Wish You Would Ask

Questions Adoptive Moms Do Want You To Ask 

And finally, Reasons You Would Be A Great Foster Parent

I also wanted to ask if you have any questions about foster care or adoption you’d like me to answer? I know I wrote an enormous post about foster care and adoption in Ireland last weekend, but in case that sparked any questions about either country, I’d love to chat more with you. You’re welcome to email me (emily@fromchinavillage.com) and I really do love to talk about both topics. I’ll likely answer you with a novel, so watch out!

You’re also welcome to just comment here and I’ll do my best to answer.

I know I haven’t exactly been posting regularly, but I’m working my way back. For those of you who have stuck with me, I appreciate your patience! It’s been busy season after busy season, but I’m finally getting my blogging energy back.

A Halloween Road Trip to Dallas!

November 6, 2017

One of my best Texas friends moved to Dallas last year and it’s left a pretty big hole in our life! Halloween is her favorite holiday, so we decided to road trip to Dallas to spend the holiday and a few days after with her and her family. The catch, of course, was that Michael had to stay in Houston to work. So, a 2-year-old and a 3-month-old in a car for a 3.5 hour drive with just me. I was relatively confident we’d make it at least halfway peacefully, but I had no idea what would happen after they both woke up from naps. Neither Noah nor Maya really like the car very much, so I was a little nervous.

But apparently I needn’t have been worried! At least on the way there. Noah slept for almost the entire 3.5 hour drive, only waking up for a few minutes of crying every hour or so. Maya napped and then played in her seat and ate snacks for the whole ride, only getting restless in the last half hour. I couldn’t believe it!

(Just a note, one of the things that’s been keeping me from blogging lately is that my camera is on the fritz. So these are unedited iphone photos, because the other thing keeping me from blogging is time 😉 I’m aiming for less perfection and more frequency!)  Maya was a strawberry for Halloween and Noah was a pumpkin. Both costumes were lacking in the creativity department, but they were easy and cute, which are the biggest requirements in this season.

When we left Houston it was 83, and when we got out of the car in Dallas it was 52! We ate gumbo and Halloween candy and the kids ran around the yard taking 3 licks of dum-dums and then digging in the bowl for another.

The next day, it was hot again, so we took advantage and played outside. Maya had never scooted before, but Olivia taught her the ways. Now I think we know what her Christmas gift will be! We also stayed in our jammies until noon and then spent the afternoon at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden running around the pumpkin display. It was crazy! Apparently there are 90,000 pumpkins of all shapes and heirloom varieties. Maya and Olivia literally didn’t stop running from house to house, pumpkin pile to pumpkin pile the entire time. There was a Wizard of Oz theme, which you may see glimpses of in these photos.  On the way home, we sort of missed the prime nap time window and stopped at the slowest gas pump known to man, through which both kids screamed relentlessly before we got on the highway and knocking out. But they were troopers and we made it to Huntsville before Noah was letting us know that he was really very hungry. I took the opportunity to let Maya stretch her legs, and while I struck out trying to find a playground, we found a field full of horses and a helicopter. Double win in Maya’s book!  All in all, a total success, despite the fact that Maya ate about 6 dum-dums on the way home and I needed about half a bottle of wine by the time they were put to bed that night. But still, it wasn’t so bad for wrangling two little ones on my own – and well worth it for a visit with dear friends!

Why We Came to Houston – And What Happens Next

November 4, 2017

A few weeks ago, one of my dearest friends, who is now the editor of a paper in Limerick, Ireland, asked me to write a piece about fertility treatment and adoption in Ireland. My friend Rachael knows the ins and outs of why we moved to Houston – she and her husband even visited us this time last year, when had baby J (number 2). We met when we both thought we were food bloggers – many years ago now – and now that we’ve both realized we’re actually writers (and in her case, an editor!) we’ve remained close friends despite 4,000 miles between us.

So Rachael emailed because she had a feeling the article would be up my alley, and of course it was. It was the entirety of why we moved to Houston, in 1800 words. It was particularly timely because the Irish government had just announced plans to cover fertility treatment for couples (along with outlawing commercial surrogacy and regulating the heck out of embryo and sperm donation) starting in 2019. It gave me an opportunity to talk about a subject that isn’t just near and dear to me, it shaped the entire trajectory of my life.

A few years ago, actually the night before we got the call that Maya was going to be joining our family, I shared why we were still lingering in Houston. It was a hard announcement for Michael and I to make because our lives were really and truly built in Dublin after almost 8 years of living there. I think it was even a little hard for us to accept ourselves, until I wrote the words on my blog. Not 24 hours later, Maya was in our arms.

We moved to Houston because we weren’t interested at the time in undergoing expensive fertility treatment and we had always wanted to adopt. Adoption was and still is functionally impossible in Ireland. Domestic adoption in Ireland is all but nonexistent – even through foster care (24 children were adopted from foster care in 2015, and there were 7 domestic straight adoptions in the same year). When I initially explained why we moved to Houston, I linked to an article in the Irish Times about the state of adoption in Ireland, but I didn’t go into much detail about the state of adoption in Ireland. Well, have a look at this more recent Irish Times article and know that very little, if anything, has changed in the last seven years. If the headline, “Changes to adoption law have shattered my hopes of becoming a parent,” doesn’t break your heart, I don’t know what would.

The lack of domestic adoption opportunities seems, on the surface, like a good problem to have. Babies aren’t given up for adoption, that must be positive, right? Everyone has a happy home! Yay! Well, I think it’s more complicated than that. Because of the Irish constitution, parental rights are rarely terminated in Ireland. Instead, children can spend their entire lives in foster care if their parents aren’t in a position to parent them. We have friends who foster in Ireland and while they expected to have their foster daughter in their home for a few months, she has been there for over a year and they don’t expect she is likely to ever be reunited with her biological parents. Yet it is more likely that she stays in foster care for many years than be adopted. I feel strongly that extended foster care is not a better option than adoption for a child, especially because the likelihood that a family could foster a child indefinitely isn’t that high; basic everyday parenting decisions pertaining to medical treatment, vaccination, travel, school registration and the like require state intervention and approval. And even if foster parents could foster forever, it deprives foster children of the security and stability of a formal adoption. 

Among my complaints about the Catholic church in Ireland, the treatment of unwed mothers that has greatly influenced this current state of foster-care-forever is high on the list. In the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, the children who were born to unwed mothers living in Magdalene Laundries were often sent (without the consent of the mother, obviously) to the United States to be adopted. Many of them never knew where they ended up, a lifetime later. My friend Sharon, the producer of Adoption Stories in Ireland, helps some of them reunite with their long lost children, but that is only a drop in the bucket. If there were 800 babies in the mass grave at the mother and baby home in Tuam, there are thousands who were wrongfully taken from their mothers and shipped away.

Giving your child up for adoption isn’t exactly glorified in the United States, but I think it’s more accepted and more understood. In Ireland, it’s more shameful to give up your child than to have your parents raise it and have it end up in a group home as a teenager because he or she is too difficult for an elderly person to take care of. The pendulum has truly swung against domestic adoption in Ireland, to the point where it’s essentially nonexistent.

Meanwhile, international adoption is a process that involves a 3+ year vetting by the Irish government before you can even start the international adoption process. During that time they will pore over five years of your medical records (you must have a BMI of under 30), visit your house, your friends and your family, review your household expenditure (down to the money you spend on gas), interview you on the finer, personal details of your private life with your partner and take you through weeks of pre-adoption courses. You have to have stopped fertility treatment for a certain period of time before applying (and have to agree to have your fertility records available to the adoption authority) and none of your children can be younger than nine months when you’re approved to begin the process. Your youngest child has to be two by the time you actually have a child placed in your home – and the kicker is that it will most likely be a child, not an infant.

Despite how excruciating that sounds, every year, hundreds of couples in Ireland present themselves as prospective parents, engaging in a costly, time-consuming and emotionally draining ordeal to prove themselves capable, safe and suitable to care for these children. And yet, the annual number of international adoptions can be counted in double digits. There are actually 80% less international adoptions in Ireland now than a decade ago.  

Ten of the 11 countries from which you can adopt into Ireland, placing countries as they’re called, only place toddlers or children, nearly all of whom have been in orphanages for years. They all have additional needs, whether they be medical or psychological. The only program that regularly places kids as young as toddlers is China, which places typically medically affected toddlers no younger than 18 months. There are toddlers in other programmes, but very few, compared to many older, sicker children. The only ‘sending country’ that allows infants to be adopted to Ireland is the United States. Typically, Irish couples who pursue this route will pay between €80 – 90,000 for the process and have to move to America for 12 weeks while the paperwork is completed. 

I believe in parenting children from hard places; both of our children came to us with medical risks we were willing to take on and an enormous lack of information that we may wonder about twenty years from now. But I also believe that not everyone who faces infertility can possibly be suited to giving what a child who has lived in an orphanage for years will need. And that’s assuming the child is healthy physically; many of the children placed in international adoption have medical challenges that range from cleft palates and lips to albinism to congenital heart disease, on top of the trauma of living in an orphanage. With the adoption program in China, you have 72 hours to decide whether the child who has been chosen for you has medical needs you think you can handle, knowing full well that the child you meet months down the road will likely have more serious medical needs than you were even informed.

I’ve never once questioned our decision to move to Houston, but delving deeper into the Irish adoption system has certainly made me more confident it was the right decision for our family. It has not been an easy journey, despite the fact that Maya came quickly and both she and Noah are an absolute dream. It has been difficult financially and it has been hard not to have family nearby to give us a break every so often. But while it has been hard to move to a different country to start and build our family, I’ve never questioned our decision, and I’ve always been grateful that we had the option and the opportunity. 

Sometimes I question our decision to return to Ireland next summer, but I have a building feeling that I am returning for a specific purpose. What if my role is to shape or shift the adoption and fostering process in Ireland such that it allows for another avenue for family-building? What if being a pushy (or at least thoughtfully outspoken) American might be an asset? I suppose only time can tell whether that is an asset at all! 

In any case, it’s a subject I’m passionate about and am hoping to work on when we return next summer. No system is perfect, but it seems like there’s at least a little room for streamlining processes in Ireland that would make a big difference to a lot of families and potential families. I’ll be sure to keep you posted along the way. 

Maya Turns Two

October 30, 2017

Almost a month ago, Maya turned two. It’s hard to believe that time has gone so quickly since she joined our family, but it’s also totally believable that she’s two because she so clever and opinionated and hilarious. I was less emotional about this birthday than I was about Maya’s first birthday, and just overwhelmingly proud of the little human she’s becoming.

I could go on about how sweet and perfect she is (and she is), but I mostly just want to remember her utter enthusiasm and excitement for the world – and often for what we think are the smallest things.

Lately, she has insisted that every night before bed we walk next door before bed to say good night and pray for the spider decorations hanging in the trees. When she spots the moon, either at night or during the day, she shouts “moon!” over and over, every time she spies it. Because of a spate of October birthdays, she’s learned how to sing “Hap-bir-day…..to-you!” Or “Hap-bir-day…cake!”

Maya’s favorite way to try to get us to give her a treat when we’re not so inclined is to say, “Tiny? One?” and hold up one finger and raise her eyebrows. I know it’s Michael’s favorite thing that she does, neither of us can bear to say no and neither of us can keep from cracking up.

At the end of the summer, I wondered when she would start putting more than single words together, but shortly thereafter she started jumping in with multiple syllable words and then full sentences. We hear “No like it” or “Maya do it” many times a day now, and it still floors me when I hear her come out with descriptive words or when she tries hilariously long words like jack-o-lantern or skeleton. She struggles with the r and l sound, rolling the l around in her mouth whenever she tries it. The c sound is often replaced with a t, so at bedtime when she doesn’t want to go to bed, she asks for “Mommy, ‘nuggle, towch,” which translates to Mommy snuggle me on the couch. She’ll give you a tiss instead of a kiss and ask for more tookies instead of cookies. It’s downright adorable and I find myself trying to capture on video all of the unique ways she’s learning to speak because I know they are fleeting.

When Maya was just a few months old, we had a foster placement that our agency thought would likely go to adoption. We had 7-month-old baby X in our home for no more than an hour when we both knew that he wasn’t ours and that Maya was meant to be our oldest child. It was a difficult call to make, to say no to a child who was so perfect in every other way, but we knew in our hearts. And seeing Maya as a big sister is so sweet after a little bit of a wait and uncertainty before Noah came along. She is already fiercely protective of him and runs to his side if he’s crying or fussing. He doesn’t like the car seat very much at the moment, so we’ll often hear Maya shushing him in the back seat or find her giving him pats to calm him down or giving him his paci.

I’m asked frequently how Maya is adjusting to being a big sister and honestly, she couldn’t be adjusting better so long as she isn’t tired or not feeling well. In those cases, she gets jealous and requests “Mommy carry you” over and over or climbs into my lap while I’m trying to feed Noah – or gives me fairly aggressive pats while I pat Noah to get him to burp. Noah was two months old before Maya showed any interest in holding him, but when she did it was hilarious. Noah is already almost half her weight and looked giant in her arms as she tried to feed him a bottle and lift him up.

Maya is never happier than when she’s outside, spotting squirrels or “‘rations” (decorations), asking me to zoom the stroller or just generally shouting, “Ooh! Zat!” as in, “What’s that?” She lives for “‘cool buses” and dump trucks and back hoes (although she uses that as a blanket label for all construction vehicles and also jeeps mostly because I don’t know any other words for construction vehicles). Helicopters are pure gold.

Every night, after we finally get Maya to bed (which is often a mini marathon involving more books and more snuggles and more snacks and more teeth brushing), we say to each other some version of “But isn’t she just amazing?” And she is. Even in her wildest and wackiest moments, she is just amazing. We are the luckiest.  Happy birthday, Maya girl. We love you millions and billions.