Sunday, May 31, 2009

Summer Kick-Off

Even though the boys still have two weeks of school left, we feel like summer has unofficially begun. Our pool is open (as long as the sun is shining and it is half-way warm out, the boys are swimming, swimming, swimming and Meera is right there with them); our sunroom is now the most lived-in room of the house; and our grill is grilling a lot more than the rest of the year. This is, definitely, our favorite time of the year. And it makes us wonder why we don't live in a warmer climate 12 months of the year. Anyway... the real kick off to summer is when we start hanging out with friends on weekend afternoons, sipping margaritas, and husking corn. Our favorite family, the Petsch Crew, came over on Saturday and we did just that. Man, do we love them. And man, oh man, the kids were so dang cute getting the corn ready to cook. With two sets of boy-boy twins (K&O, Christian&Luis), a go-getter girl (Zoe), and a now toddling baby (M), we four "grown ups" have our hands full when we get together. But after a couple of Braydon's true-Mexico-margs, and some of Shelli's bean dip... all is good. Of course, as usual, Lori posted to her blog before I got to ours. ;) See her post here.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Meera's First Birthday

Meera's birthday is right at the height of strawberry season in the mid-Atlantic states. In the days surrounding her first birthday this year we ate quarts upon quarts of strawberries from our local farms. Meera's birthday also coincides with the blooming of pink rose bushes in our yard. MorMor picked perfect pink roses for Meera's birthday.
And Meera Grace wore perfect little pink ballet shoes for her special day.
Everyone she loves most was here to celebrate Meera's first birthday. Her Godmother, Beth, came from Connecticut. She arrived on Wednesday afternoon and played with Meera in the sandbox on her birthday eve (and Beth was absolutely dismayed by Meera's eating of sand!). MorMor and MorFar had already arrived for the festivities on Tuesday afternoon.
Meera's birthday began with her waking up to her first end-of-the-bed present. Kyle and Owen were so excited for Meera's birthday that they were up bright and early at 5:45 ready to get the party started (!). They waited patiently, listening closely to the baby monitor for the cooing and babbling sounds of their baby Little Miss awaking. And then, when they finally heard her, they were super excited to go into her room and greet her in her crib singing 'Happy Birthday to You.'
The end-of-the-bed present was a nice wooden shape-sorting toy.
We all gathered in the playroom bright and early for Meera to open her gifts from MorMor and MorFar and Beth. Lately Little Miss seems especially fond of her MorFar.
From MorMor and MorFar, the perfectly precisely perfect present for Meera right now-- as soon as it was out of the box she was on her way! And she's been cruising along with her "cart!" ever since.
The box the "cart" came in was then used over and over and over as a 'jackS in the box' box... MorFar 'wound it up' and the big brothers 'popped' out... repeatedly. This was, supposedly, for the entertainment of the Birthday Girl... but the Birthday Girl was actually far off in the distance roaming around the house with her cart.
Kyle makes sure that everything is just so for his sister's birthday breakfast. Late the night before I had made strawberry muffins for the morning...
...and of course we sang Happy Birthday to Little Miss at the breakfast table, with one pink candle in her strawberry muffin.
After her morning nap the Birthday Girl, in all her finery, played with her cart and got lots of undivided attention -- a rare treat -- while her brothers were off at school.
I don't think I've ever thought she was cuter than I did on her birthday.
Margie was with us to celebrate Meera's birthday. It would not have felt right for her to not be here -- she is such a huge part of Meera's life. Meera was in her glory surrounded by so much love.
Meera's present from Mommy and Papi.
I had taken Kyle and Owen to a toy store on Sunday so that they could each get a birthday gift for their sister. They both insisted on the same thing: a jack-in-the-box. So, for her first birthday Meera got two jack-in-the-boxes from her two brothers. She wasn't quite sure what to make of them at first (the brothers' enthusiasm for winding them up and jumping/screaming/wildly-laughing-and-hurling-their-bodies-all-about as the 'jacks' pop out of the 'boxes' is a bit much for anyone to take)... but she quickly did warm up to them and the jack in the boxes are growing on her (especially when she gets to play with them by herself while her brothers are nowhere nearby).
All set for the "Birthday Party." Kyle and Owen like to hear the stories of how their first birthday was so similar to Meera's: a sweet, sweet little 'party' lunch for just us, their MorMor and MorFar, and their godparents. Meera's day was so similar, and yet also so perfectly just-for-her too. Meera inspires sweetness and light-- we had lots of pink balloons and a simple day. For Meera's Birthday lunch we had rotisserie chickens we cooked on our grill, a pesto pasta salad loaded with fresh veggies that Margie made in our kitchen that morning, and a big caesar salad. Dessert was vanilla cake layered with custard and fresh strawberries and whipped cream.
It is hard to believe that a year ago Meera Grace came into our lives. It has flown by way too fast. And even though it has only been one year, it is truly hard to imagine life without her. I know everybody says that about their kids, but really, it is true; we feel it. We adore this girl so, so much. And she is such a core part of our family now.
It is even harder to believe that this little perfect person came directly from us, and literally came out of me. As an adoptive mom, this past couple of years (pregnancy, labor, childbirth, nursing, having a 'biological child') has been so full of brand new intensity for me. I look at Meera and I see the resemblance. That is new for me. And I also see Meera Grace, uniquely herself -- which is not new for me. It is all so rich and full and real. I try to savor every single second. I try to hold on to every moment. I am so deeply grateful for the past year of seconds and moments with this awesome sweet and light little soul, Meera Grace. Happy Birthday Sweetness.

A Little Bit from the Blog: Meera's First 12 Months~~

On Meera's first birthday

My little baby is one. Not 11 months, not 12 months; one. Really, she's just a day older than she was yesterday, but some how one is different.  She's gone from being our baby, to becoming our little girl.

I was driving into New York on Wednesday before her birthday on business.  Cruising along with the thousands of other cars, the road was quiet and each of us sped quickly to our destinations - maybe the city, maybe somewhere in New Jersey, maybe beyond.  All commuting in and probably back again.  And I sensed myself becoming the person I would need to be when I went in for my meeting, and I suspect that each person I passed did almost the same thing. I could see it in their faces, a little alone time before they had to be what they do everyday.  A little glimpse of who they are when they are not someone else. 

There are glimpses that I catch from time to time of her as an infant, and snapshots of who I think she will be as a young lady, and each can be even sweeter than the moment in which I notice. I see her wonderful mother in her more and more, and I see her beautiful self emerging everyday. I pick her up, cuddle her and hear a squeal of delight. She is precious.

I distinctly and acutely sense theses passages: of time of self, of who we are and need to be. And feel that we are all slipping through through the water without realizing it, letting our selves be washed over by where we need to be and who we need to become. It's both difficult and joyous. Losing time is part of life, and not really a bad thing, but it's bitter sweet.  Being able to look back and see where we are is a true gift, even if, when you are watching your baby grow, it often makes you long for time to stop.  

But, being able to relish in the tiny moments of connecting to another person and seeing them for who they really are is a treasure.  And when we can take a moment to wash off the world, be given the privilege of dipping our toe into another's personal pool and revel in their aliveness, it's something beyond important, it's what makes us all human.

So, when I see my little Meera turn one, with her hands mashed in the cake, with pushing her little cart around with her kitty and balloon, or when I watch her screaming in joy as she plays with her brothers, I am seeing who she is now.  When I see her sleeping when we check on her every night, I see her at 8 days, at 3 months, 9 months. I see her on the warming table in the hospital, still a little bloody, her umbilical clipped and when I put my hand gently on her chest, she stops crying for just a moment.

And when I pick up all 25 pounds of her to my shoulder and her legs kick-kicky-kick and arms wavy, and she smiles big, and I tilt her back, look her in the face and she giggles with joy and bubbles, I see her at 5, at 10, at 30. 

And right there, that's it. It's that instant. It's who she is, who she has been and who she will be. It's that moment that I am in her pool with her. 

It's right then I hope all along the way, that I will  remember this moment. That I can lock it away in my minds eye forever. That when I send her to school for the first time, or she has her first heartbreak or when she graduates, that I will hold  this moment and recall all those little glimpses of her life.  And while I know I can't; not really, and although I am excited for every glimpse I get as she continues to become, I still try.

Because right now, when she is one plus a day, the beautiful birthday party Heather did is done, and the cake is gone, all the kids are asleep and we are at our computers, Meera is fast becoming our little girl. And as each moment washes away into the past, I look forward being in the next one.

Happy first birthday Meera Grace!

Meera's First Birthday Cake

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mexico 2009

We spent 10 days in beautiful, sunny Mexico. It was a great trip! Our longest vacation ever. Oh, so, so nice to be gone for that long! After going back and forth about it, we decided to not worry about the 'swine flu' and just go for it-- the trip had been planned for months and we weren't easily going to give it up. And boy were we glad we went. It was awesome. The travel was great, and much to our delight we can officially say that Little Miss Meera is shaping up to be quite a little traveler just like her brothers. She was just as easy-going of a travel baby as they always were. And, just like K & O as babies, she sleeps great on airplanes! :)
We split the trip into two parts. We flew into Cancun, rented a car, and got on the road for a 5 hour drive across the Yucatan. We knew it was going to be a crazy trip and we were not wrong. Not wrong at all. It was crazy. This was not travel for the weak-of-heart. The drive was on a stretch of road cut straight through the land... with nothing... and I mean, NOTHING, there. Not a thing. Nothing. For five hours. It was pretty wild. At one point we actually drove straight through a forest fire. No kidding. We stopped on the road when we realized the smoke was so thick we couldn't see more than a few feet ahead of us. But there were only two options: go straight through it, or turn around (there were no side roads). Braydon gunned it and we sped through it with our three bambinos in their carseats. CRAZY. C-R-A-Z-Y. Here is a nice clear stretch of the highway:
Here are our great travelers livin' it up in the back of the rental car:
The first six nights we were way off the beaten trail, in the real Mexico, deep deep deep in the real Mexico, on the gulf coast side of the Yucatan in a tiny little place (I can't even legitimately call it a "town" because there was no town there, just a strip of land along the ocean) called Uaymitun. We rented a house on the beach--- the vacation home of a wealthy Mexican family. Nobody was there. NOBODY anywhere nearby. We had acres and acres and acres and miles and miles and miles of sandy shore all to ourselves. It was surreal, to say the least. The views from the house were truly spectacular.
And the house itself was SPECTACULAR.
And the beach at the house was SPECTACULAR!
Our favorite pastime was long walks on the beach. We would see no other human for miles. We would stop to watch pelicans diving for fish. We would stop for the boys to chase crabs. We would stop for swims in the ocean. Otherwise, we'd just walk and walk and walk (and Meera would sit in the backpack on Braydon's back chewing on shells). It was glorious and almost unimaginable.
Really, just unimaginably glorious.
And the sunrises were the best. Every morning.
About 15 minutes (driving) down the coast from the house was the town of Progresso. This is a port and fishing village. It was the real deal. This was our first trip to a non-English speaking country with the boys. It was very cool to see them have to learn to speak some Spanish (absolutely nobody there spoke any English). And they picked up quite a bit while we were there. It was also very interesting to be -- all of us -- in the minority. No white people. No black people. Just brown-skinned Mayan/Mexican people. And we were quite the sight to them. Anywhere we went a crowd formed (literally) and followed us around just staring. It was interesting-- to say the least-- to be there. And the whole experience really got the juices flowing... feeding us lots and lots of food for thought.
And this was also our first immersion in a place of deep poverty with the boys. The last time Braydon and I were in a place of such desperation was our trip to get the boys in Haiti. Mexico is nothing like Haiti, obviously, and nothing (in our minds) can compare to the experience of Haiti... but... still.... it raised a lot of questions for all of us. As it should. And as we hoped it would.
And Braydon and I discovered that immersing in a place like that is quite different when you're bringing with you your three young children --- two of whom were born into circumstances that raise a lot of questions for them that are tough (tough!) to grapple with in a place like the depths of rural Mexico. We talked a lot, a lot, a lot. And Braydon and I decided that it will be quite a while before we bring the boys back to their birthplace of Haiti. They aren't nearly ready yet, we discovered, and that is o.k. We can wait. And we can keep talking and talking and talking.
But we spent most of our time at our little oasis of a house on the beach. And in our backyard local guys would sometimes play soccer in the evenings.
And Meera was LOVING vacation!
Another major pastime: boogie boarding! Kyle's favorite new sport.
And coconut collecting!
And shell collecting!
And, of course, eating!!! Amazing, AUTHENTIC (and I mean, really authentic), true-blue Mexican Yucatan eating. Ceviche. Octopus. Shrimp. Fish. Guacamole. Grilled Tacos. Beans. Salted Pineapple. Cactus Salad. Lime Soup. Plantains. Mango Mousse. and the creme de la creme...
Chiles en Nogada!
And, of course, quesadillas, quesadillas, tortillas, tortillas, tortillas!
We did something that we've never done before-- we hired a local woman to cook for us a couple of nights. We specifically requested that she make fresh, local, the real-deal food. And she did. She came to the house, bearing market-fresh groceries, and Chef Sandra went all out for us. And to top it off, she taught Braydon how to make the perfect margarita. The Perfect Margarita. Life will never be the same again!
But the highlight was, for sure, the beach. The deserted, beautiful, natural beach. Just us. For six sleeps...
and rejuvinating with some R & R, some sand & sun, some true downtime (there was nothing to do but lay low and take it all in).
But there were some "lows" to the Gulf-Coast-Side of our trip. The local people burned their trash, as all people in their situations do (i.e., little infrastructure, lack of trash processing, no garbage trucks [imagine K & O's surprise at that!-- no garbage trucks?!!!]). They'd burn the trash at sunrise. We had one air-conditioned room that we all slept in (four in the bed, and M in her port-a-crib). And when we woke up and opened that bedroom door, we were blasted with thick smokey air. It stuck around until the wind picked up off the ocean around noon. And then... boy did the wind pick up. Another "low" was that after about 3:00 pm we couldn't be on the beach because of whipping sand. And by 5:00 we had to be inside because of howling wind. And then there was the total isolation. We got out and about a bit, and we got a lot out of it, but we have never spent so much time alone. And four out of the five of us, it turns out, are true extroverts (getting our energy from social interaction). Guess which 4?-- all of us except Braydon. And Braydon's not really happy unless the rest of us are happy. Six night was enough. So, we were all o.k. with packing up and heading off to the next part of the trip... driving the five hours back across the Yucatan... the Caribbean side. Meera's first look at the Caribbean-- her brothers' sea roots.
But this was nothing like any Caribbean trip we've taken before. This was a mega-all-inclusive-RESORT. Resort with a capital 'R'. The Barcelo Maya Colonial Beach on the Riviera Maya. Waterslides, swim-up-bars, all-you-can-eat Buffets, and all.
And, the best part: the mega pools.
A bunch of years ago, before the boys came home, Braydon and I had sort of vowed to quit all-inclusives. But now we have a new found appreciation for them. It was a true vacation for our young family. It made everything so easy breezy. And it allowed us to really focus on simply having a ton of fun together. Which is what we did. Three nights and four days of nothing but fun. Snorkeling, pool-swimming, Caribbean beach loving, cerveza drinking, ice cream eating, laughing and loving-life fun in the sun. Seriously, it was great. It was not the "real Mexico." But it was absolutely great for what it was. And so, at the end of the 10 day get-away, we had had two trips in one: a true Mexican immersion experience, and a Caribbean resort vacation. And we got so much out of each, and soo soooooooooo much out of both.
By the end of the trip we were ready to head back to our reality, and get set to celebrate the 1st birthday of our little love bug, travel bug, happy-happy, ocean-and-pool-loving, smiley-bundle-of "que linda! que contenta! que gordita!" Little Miss.