When You Add Yet Another November Birthday

November is and will always be a busy month for our family.

Now, when the Hubs and I were in baby talks back in 2013, we genuinely believed November was a good time to bring small children into the world. I mean, none of our family members have birthdays in November. The kids couldn’t have pool-centered birthday parties (unless we lived in Florida), but that’s just something they’d learn to deal with.

Therefore, baby George was born on Thanksgiving day. I was less-than-pleased by his week-early arrival, as it meant I missed my favorite mashed potatoes and banana pudding. (Don’t worry, both were in Tupperware in my fridge when we got home from the hospital.)

OK, so we had one November baby. Our “little turkey.” Cool.

George turns one. We ignore the baby train for awhile, knowing we’ll catch a ride once we feel a little more stable as newbie parents.

Our little turkey at his first birthday. He barely touched the fluorescent-blue smash cake his mother painstakingly frosted.

George cruises toward two. OK, we should probably buy that baby-train ticket.

And right before his second birthday, Olivia joins the family.

It was a strange night in 2016. I was exhausted in a hospital bed, my baby girl sleeping next to me and my husband on the couch. I would wake up, refresh Google, then doze off again. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, my bleary eyes registered that Donald Trump had won the election. Huh. What a surreal night.

So now, in case you haven’t been keeping count, we’re up to two November birthdays. And if you aren’t aware, kids’ birthdays are a BIG DEAL. This year, my darling daughter started in August with oh-so-many different party theme ideas and gift suggestions. We went from cupcakes to unicorns, then from rainbows to Lego. I made an executive decision and settled on cupcakes at a tea party. Olivia is barely four, so she was unaware that she could protest my executive decision.

The princess was spoiled by all grandparents…and cupcakes.

This past January, we added yet another November birthday to our family. If you’ve followed my sporadic blogging this year, you’ve be-bopped along our adoption journey. Since about March, we’ve been waiting to fly to China to meet our youngest son. (You can catch up here, here, and here.)

You know? There was a time–not long ago–when I laughed at the idea of not meeting our son before he turned three. I mean, I’d always mourn how we didn’t know him during those teeny newborn months or the golden era (six months to two years). But at least we’d get him while he was still very small. There was even a time when I thought we’d have to reschedule a May vacation weekend because we’d be in China.

But now, we’re waiting on travel approval. Adoptive families aren’t able to travel to China right now because of Covid-19. It’s not that surprising, and it’s completely out of our control.

And it’s hard. Some days–or moments–are harder than others.

This week? We’re missing his birthday.

Due to this broken world, we already missed the smash cake and the toddling two-year-old who just loves balloons and bubbles (and most especially icing). But now we’ve lost another year.

We sent a cake and a winter coat for him. His foster home requested an electric toothbrush, so we sent that as well. It’s such a direct contrast to the Barbie cars and princess Legos my daughter received for her birthday.

George’s birthday is coming up. I love that his birthday is around Thanksgiving, because we’re always surrounded by part of our extended family. I’m hoping next year our new son will be surrounded by family on his fourth birthday.

Happy birthday, sweet boy. We’re coming for you.

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Currently Reading:
So, Janssen, the lovely bookish mama over at Everyday Reading, recommended The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt many years ago. I checked it out at one point but never got around to reading it. I dunno. I wasn’t in the right mood. Middle-grade novels aren’t really my jam.

A few days ago, I got my periodic newsletter from Modern Mrs. Darcy about Shakespeare-inspired books for all ages. And The Wednesday Wars appeared again! So, with two of my trusted literary sources recommending this book, I decided to give it a shot. Thankfully, my library had the audiobook, which, as I’ve discovered, is the best way for me to read books about which I feel a smidge reluctant.

Are Boys or Girls Harder to Raise?

I’ve always been a little dubious of moms complaining about pushy/overly interested strangers giving advice or opinions. I mean, I’ve been through two pregnancies and really never ran into those “well-meaning” older ladies in the grocery store. If anything, the general public was exceedingly kind to my full-bellied self, and I loved showing off my bump. I mean, no one even tried to touch my belly! (not that I’m complaining, mind you…)

The closest I came was when I was pregnant with Olivia. I’d have George in tow at, say, the mall, and random employees/shoppers would comment about “My first was an angel, but my second was such a handful!” I remember frowning at them like, “Well, you can obviously see I’m pregnant with my second, so there’s really no going back…”

But other than that, my obnoxious-stranger stories are pretty tame.

I have the feeling this will change once we adopt our sweet son from China, so I’ll share those bizarre stories at that time.

Last week, though, I ran into a stranger with an odd question, and I keep mulling it over.

Since George was on fall break, I bribed him with Zaxby’s to accompany me to Belk, where I wanted to find a fancy dress for Olivia’s upcoming birthday party. When we got to the counter with a cupcake-themed dress, the cashier, a young, 19ish-year-old gal, studied the little girl clothes on the counter, then glanced at George.

“Do you have a daughter?” she asked.
“Uh, yes. I’m not buying these for my son here,” I laugh.
“Do you think boys or girls are harder to raise?” she tossed out.

Hmmm. This felt dicey.

I mean, first, my almost-6-year-old son is bouncing around next to me. And while he can sometimes appear to be pondering Legos or Pokemon, he actually takes in more than I expect. So, I needed to be cautious in answering.

“I mean, I think it depends on the kid. My son isn’t really the sprint-into-the-pool-head-first type of boy, so I think I’ve gotten off pretty easy.”
Ms. Cashier considers this as she scans tags. “I’m one of eight kids, and my mom always says boys are harder.”

Again, what am I supposed to do with this?

“Actually, it’s funny you say that. We’re adopting a boy from China right now, and there’s a longer waiting list for little girls. We were warned it would take longer to bring a little girl home.”

We then discussed how surprised she was that there are little boys available to adopt from China, as she was vaguely familiar with China’s (now-antiquated) one-child policy.

“Yes, there are little boys to adopt now, though many of them have special needs. And, for some reason, people have this idea that boys are harder to raise. Honestly, I was hoping for a boy.”

And with that, we paid and walked away. Then I accidentally closed the front door on George’s arm, which I still feel bad about. Oops.

For some reason, this exchange has stuck with me. Obviously, the boy/girl comparison is completely dependent upon your child and his/her personality and how you/your spouse handle his/her personality. It’s such an odd question. I mean, what’s the right answer?

“It depends on the day—no, on the moment. Or maybe the phase of the moon? Or maybe how my hormones decide on acting that day? Or if he managed to lose his favorite toy? Or if some kid sat on her on the playground?”

Yes, boys and girls generally have their different quirks. Is my son a little more rough? Sometimes, but my daughter can be pretty scrappy. Is my daughter a bit more dramatic? Sometimes, but my son can shed a few tears as well.

They’re both goobers. All the time. One just tends to wear more pink.

Plus, I think it’s such a negative question. It’s asking me to share my children’s harder moments … in front of my child … with a stranger. And I always feel a little offended on behalf of boys everywhere.

How would you answer this question?

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Currently Reading:
I’m kind of torn in a lot of literary directions at the moment. I just started listening to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It’s a hefty beast at 800 pages, so I doubt I would’ve read the paper version. We’ll see if I can chug through the audio one. Thankfully, I tend to appreciate a good British accent, which this narrator possesses. I’m also reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck for book club. My to-be-read library pile is also massive, though I most recently loved Well Played by Jen DeLuca.

I Have a Major Problem with Book Clubs

As you can probably tell by this blog, my aspiration to be a novelist, and even my wardrobe, I love books. I love diving into stories and being surprised by characters.

Fantasy, romance, and historical fiction are my favorite genres (well, and also clever picture books), but I also dabble in science fiction and contemporaries. Mysteries always stump me, so I generally avoid them because I like feeling intelligent. Psychological thrillers/suspense can completely freak me out (looking at you, Gone Girl), so I tend to avoid those as well. Non-fiction had better read as well as fiction or I’ll abandon it after the first three chapters.

I want to read books that make me feel happy. I don’t mind using my brain, but I don’t want to have to work too hard. I read for the love of story and adventure and, of course, a sprinkling of romance.

See? Even my clothing supports my bookish choices.

However, it’s taken three different book clubs (two of which I helped start!) for me to realize…

I’m a terrible book clubber.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to love book clubs. I picture myself sitting with warm beverages and warmer discussions, everyone debating the highs and lows of wonderful stories. I love other book people too. There’s kind of an underlying camaraderie amongst bookish people. I also love eating the junk food that accompanies these kinds of get-togethers.

However.

I struuuuuggle to read books when I’m supposed to read them.

Can I get an amen? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Regardless, even if it’s a book I’ve been anticipating, the moment it’s assigned as “February’s book club pick!” I want to avoid it like the plague.

Additionally, my TBR (to-be read) pile is always towering. And the library due dates are closing in on books I actually want to read. It’s a sacrifice, I tell ya!

Do you think this is throwback guilt from childhood book-report days? It feels exactly the same. Well, not even childhood. I was an English major, for pity’s sake! I spent four years with this black cloud of literary responsibility hanging over my head. This year is my 10th college reunion, so has enough time passed for me to admit I rarely…if ever…finished one of those hefty, assigned novels? I still feel bad about that. But I got the degree, so I suppose it’s time to let it go.

Anyway, even though I struggle to read book-club books, I can’t seem to resist the siren call. Therefore, I’ve now joined yet another book club. I think my husband has just taken to grinning and bearing it as a I whine about “having” to read a certain book.

John Steinbeck’s author photo. I can only hope to look this cool someday. Well, sans mustache, receding hairline, and cigarette…

This one is different, though! My son’s school has an amazing community of families. Since we’re new, I want to get involved. The moms get together once a month to discuss “great literature,” which (unfortunately) means a classic taken from the school’s reading list and not a NYT bestseller from this decade. So, I’m hip-deep in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, a book I never read in high school/college, and, frankly, never planned to ever ever ever read.

But I’m excited to meet some fellow school moms. And I only have to read the first 15 chapters before Monday night. I’m on chapter eight…

…and writing a blog post instead of reading.

Yes, it seems to be going well. Sigh.

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Currently Reading
As previously mentioned, I’m attempting to tear through Steinbeck’s East of Eden so I can move onto other, lighter options. I’m also listening to Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea. She also wrote The Night Circus, which I adored (audiobook read by the incomparable Jim Dale!). This one, though…meh. I don’t know how you create characters the reader absolutely loves and cares about, but it hasn’t happened for me in this very lengthy romp. The audiobook narrators, though (there are numerous), and some of those voices are like hooooney.

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