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Railroad to Wonderland Garden Train Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Winter at the Mitchell Park Domes means the annual train show! Last year’s train theme, The Great Train Robbery, was pretty perfect. I wasn’t sure that an Alice in Wonderland theme would be as neat. But as always, the Domes outdid themselves and put so much effort into every little detail. Highlights include, but are not limited to, a real-life sized tea party and Queen’s Croquet-Ground. You’ll visit the Mad Hatter, White Rabbit, Humpty Dumpty, Queen of Hearts, Cheshire Cat, and more. I really love the aesthetic of this show. Having trains run through Alice in Wonderland is so much fun.

Mirroring Alice in Wonderland, the Domes staff chose plants ranging in size from miniature to large than life. The red and white landscape features pansies, azaleas, petunias, and cyphea as well as two flamingo-shaped topiaries made of hypoestes.

Railroad to Wonderland Garden Train Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Railroad to Wonderland Garden Train Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Railroad to Wonderland Garden Train Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Railroad to Wonderland Garden Train Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Railroad to Wonderland Garden Train Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Railroad to Wonderland Garden Train Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Railroad to Wonderland Garden Train Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Railroad to Wonderland Garden Train Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Railroad to Wonderland Garden Train Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Railroad to Wonderland Garden Train Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Railroad to Wonderland Garden Train Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Railroad to Wonderland Garden Train Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Railroad to Wonderland Garden Train Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Railroad to Wonderland Garden Train Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Railroad to Wonderland Garden Train Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Railroad to Wonderland Garden Train Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Of course, I can’t visit the Domes without taking a few pictures of Tommy. He’s not old enough to get much out of the trains yet, but he still enjoys visiting the Domes.

Tommy at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Tommy at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Finally, after visiting the current Domes show, we always have to wander through the other two domes, the Desert Dome and the Tropical Dome. This is the first time I’d ever seen doves in the Desert Dome. They were extremely friendly, making for some amazing shots.

Doves at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Doves at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

The Railroad to Wonderland Garden Train Show runs from January 20-March 18, 2018. The Mitchell Park Domes are always free on Monday mornings from 9:00 a.m.-noon except major holidays for Milwaukee County residents. Consult the website for more details about current hours, admission, and upcoming special events.

Check out past Mitchell Park Domes special exhibits!
For more local happenings, visit the Milwaukee section of my blog.

The Great Train Robbery Train Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

The Great Train Robbery Train Show

Mitchell Park Domes Flower Power Fall Floral Show | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Fall Harvest Festival Floral Show

For the Birds Spring Floral Show at the Domes | http://www.roseclearfield.com

For the Birds Spring Floral Show

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10 Things No One Tells You About Adoption

10 Things No One Tells You About Adoption | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Credit: Lottie Lillian Photography

A little over two years into the adoption journey and a little over seven months into having an adopted kiddo, I have a bit more perspective on adoption. I’m not worried about all of my emotions coming crashing down at any moment (although that could very easily still happen), and I’m not saying “surreal” to describe my current situation quite so much (even though it still applies). I don’t feel like I went into adoption totally blind. But like any life experience, you can never be fully prepared. Today I’m sharing 10 things no one tells you about adoption. Whether you’re just starting to consider adoption or you have several adopted children, I hope you’ll get something out of this post.

1. People will think you’re saving the world.

Funnily enough, I got more saving the world comments when we were still in the home study and waiting for profile opportunities stages of adoption than I do now with an adopted child. No, people don’t actually use the terminology “saving the world.” But there’s this whole “oh, it’s SO great you’re pursuing adoption” mentality. People are really excited for you, much more excited than they are when you’re trying to get pregnant. Now that I have a kid, there’s more of a “oh, that’s neat he’s adopted” mentality.

Yes, there are people who pursue adoption because they have a bit of a saving the world complex. But most people are just trying to grow their families. Particularly for domestic infant adoption, most adoptive couples have faced infertility or other medical challenges that have prohibited them from getting pregnant and simply want kids.

2. You’ll deal with a lot of misconceptions about adoption, especially open adoption.

We live in an age where open adoption is encouraged, and it’s the norm to start talking to your adopted children about adoption from birth. Through most of the history of adoption, it was very different. There is still so much sigma about adoption and what it means for your family. Most people also don’t understand what open adoption means. I’m not sure if TV and movies have done a poor job representing adoption and/or if there’s just this natural unease about birth family-adoptive family relationships. But pretty much the only people I talk to who truly understand what open adoption means have adopted kids themselves.

So let me put it out there for you: An open adoption is one in which both families agree to open contact with one another. In most cases, for infant domestic adoption, the families will meet, get to know each other a bit, and exchange contact information prior to or immediately following the birth. The adoptive family will receive medical information about both birth parents and get a copy of the birth paperwork from the hospital.

Open adoption doesn’t change the parental rights. Once the birth parents have terminated their rights, there is no turning back. If they were to try to take the child, it would be considered a kidnapping. I’m sure there are instances where this does happen, but it’s extremely rare.

Adoption agencies encourage open adoption because it makes it much easier for adopted children to get to know their birth families. They also receive a lot of information about their birth parents, even if they never meet them. If you don’t think this is a big deal, talk to someone who is adopted who knows nothing about their birth family.

3. There are ways to find comfort among a lot of uncertainty, and it’s important to embrace them.

Adoption is a long haul with a lot of emotional baggage, even when the process goes smoothly. You have very little control over the timeline and may spend a long time waiting for a child. There is no magic fix to the waiting and uncertainty. But there may be things you can do that will help. It will vary from one person to the next, so listen to your gut. Here are my best pieces of advice.

First, fully enjoy your time without kids. Spoiler alert: marriage without kids is great. You can set a schedule that works best for you without worrying about anyone else, go out to dinner regularly, and plan activities for any time of the day or night on very little notice. Travel doesn’t involve car seats, pack ‘n plays, and a million toys. As much as you may want kids, don’t deny yourself these life experiences.

Second, think about getting a nursery ready. I know that this is difficult and at times, will seem downright crazy. I spent a lot of time and a decent bit of money on the decor for Tommy’s nursery without ever knowing for sure that there would be a kid using that bedroom. But it gave me something to do. And it also helped us have a lot of our ducks in the row when Tommy did arrive, which happened very quickly. Not scrambling to get the major pieces of a nursery ready as a child is on the way will allow you to focus on other elements of the process.

Three, once we closed the door on fertility treatments and started down the adoption path, we started going to support groups with our adoption agency. If this is an option for you, I highly recommend it. You’ll gain a lot of insight about adoption before you even start looking at profiles, and you’ll get hours for your home study without spending any money, which is always a plus.

4. You’ll have to share more information with your social worker than you ever thought imaginable.

I am not exaggerating when I say that our social worker knows more about us than any other single individual, including our closest friends and family. She knows more about our finances than our financial advisor or tax accountant, down to how much money we owe on our properties and student loans, what we pay in monthly bills, the current market value of our vehicles (not joking), and the full details of my last car loan. Going through the initial home study process wasn’t so bad. But it was tough re-hashing a lot of it and going through the same steps again when we renewed our home study for another year earlier this winter.

5. Some of the profile opportunities that you don’t take or that don’t work out will stick with you.

When you want children really badly, it’s hard to imagine that you’ll ever turn down profile opportunities. But sometimes you do because you know in your heart that they aren’t a good fit for your family. Also, sometimes profile opportunities don’t work out because the birth mom chooses a different family or decides to parent. In some cases, you’ll still be thinking about these people long after you’ve moved on from the profiles.

6. No one gives you a guidebook to fostering relationships with birth families, and every adoptive-birth family relationship is different.

In an age where open adoption is encouraged, many social workers and adoption agencies do provide support. You can find a lot of resources about birth family relationships online as well. But is tough because every adoption scenario is different. There is no single piece of advice that is applicable for everyone. There’s also a lot of support and advice around the initial matching meeting, time in the hospital, and first few post-hospital visits. Then you have a whole lifetime to figure out what happens next.

My best advice is to always be yourself, be respectful, and trust your gut. I feel like there’s actually enough on this topic for a separate post, so I’ll keep this short for now.

  • Your birth parents didn’t pick you because they think you’re perfect. They don’t expect you to always have a flawless, magazine-worthy home and beautiful, well-behaved children. Everyone will be more at ease when you keep it real.
  • Adoption is tough for both birth and adoptive families. There may be months or even years, that birth family can’t handle looking at pictures, much less meeting with birth children. That’s okay.
  • Adoption does push you out of your comfort zone in ways you can’t imagine, but you have to know your limits, too. If you aren’t comfortable inviting a birth family into your home, don’t. Choose a neutral location, such as a park or restaurant.

7. You won’t ever know everything about how you’ll handle every adoption scenario in the future, and that’s okay.

This element of adoption is no different than any parenting topic. Do you feel confident about every aspect of raising your kids when they become teenagers? You’ll be hard-pressed to find parents who feels confident about any element of raising teenagers, biological or adopted. I don’t have every element of potential adoption scenarios worked out in my head. I also can’t predict the future. There are things that will happen that I can’t possibly begin to predict. There’s a lot of speculation about things like how kids will handle meeting birth family and what you as a parent are doing to prepare for that. I’m doing my best to cultivate my own relationships with birth family, which I believe will make it easier for my kids in the future. But the truth is no one really knows what that scenario will look like when we get there.

8. There is a great community of adoptive families.

One of the single best aspects of adoption of how many great adoptive families I’ve met through our adoption agency and local Facebook adoption groups. For me, fertility treatments were lonely and isolating. The clinic we used provided zero support for their families. This could be a whole other post in and of itself. But those of you who have undergo fertility treatments know what I mean because it’s a widespread issue. Adoption has been a complete 180. From day 1, before we even had an active home study, we’ve received so much support. Since we did adopt, I’ve been able to keep meeting more and more people and participating in more adoption-related events.

9. It’s important to find other people who get it.

The social workers at our adoption agency actually do talk to adoptive families about the importance of finding “your people,” which is great. Unfortunately, not everyone does receive this advice. Even with the best of intentions, many of the people closest to you and your kids won’t get it. There will be a lot of aspects of adoption that you just can’t discuss with them for a variety of reasons.

I have an ongoing group text message with a small group of local adoptive moms. We can discuss a wide range of adoption-related topics freely with no judgement. I’m also fortunate to be part of an adoption agency with regular active support groups that are a judgement-free zone, too, and lots of families feel comfortable discussing just about any and every adoption topic imaginable.

10. Sometimes you don’t feel like talking about adoption/explaining that your child is adopted, and that’s okay.

First, your child’s identity should never revolve entirely around adoption. Adoption is just one aspect of his/her life. Second, there will be times people make weird or inappropriate comments or ask nosy questions, and you don’t feel like bringing up adoption. For example, there is the cliche remark about a kid getting all of his/her good looks from one parent. Usually, I just say “yeah, okay,” and move on because it’s not even worth mentioning in that context. Other times, I’ll just say “he’s adopted” and move on without telling my child’s entire back story when the situation doesn’t really call for it.

With that being said, there are other times when it’s nice to let people know. Again, you don’t have to go into great detail. For example, Tommy’s doctor is aware of our situation. Down the line, I plan to always say something to his teachers. I would never want them to get caught off guard if he or one of his friends mentions something about adoption.

I know the post is called 10 things no one tells you about adoption, but I’m adding one more.

Adoption is a double-edged sword.

Many of the happiest days in your life will be some of the hardest days for a birth family. Waiting for a baby is like waiting for a kidney. At best, hoping for a profile opportunity to come your way feels strange. At worst, it feels downright awful. The day you bring your baby home from the hospital is the day someone else goes home from the hospital after giving birth without a baby. I guarantee you there is not a single Mother’s Day or birthday that passes without the birth mom thinking about the child she gave up for adoption. There certainly won’t be a Mother’s Day or kiddo’s birthday that passes without me thinking about the birth families, too.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about things no one tells you about adoption!

As an adoptive parent, what elements of adoption caught you by surprise?

I share a little bit more of our adoption story in the adoption section of the blog!

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Seven Months of Tommy

Tommy 7 Months | http://www.roseclearfield.com

This past week our little Tommy turned seven months old. We didn’t have to go the doctor’s this month. The home weight/height measurements came in at 17 lbs 5 oz and 27 1/4 inches long. I don’t have percentiles. The next scheduled doctor’s visit is at the nine-month mark.

This past month, Tommy has completely taken off with his sitting skills. Once he decided he was ready to start sitting on his own, he went from sitting unsteadily for seconds at a time to sitting confidently for minutes at a time in just a week or so. The more he keeps sitting, the more he keeps building his muscles. He loves sitting at his kick ‘n play piano, in his new Pottery Barn chair, on the floor, and on the bed. He also works on his sitting skills all the time when he’s sitting in his bouncy chairs. Building his core muscles while sitting has made Tommy much more confident in his jumper and Baby Einstein as well.

Tommy 7 Months | http://www.roseclearfield.com

The more Tommy builds his core muscles, the better he does with tummy time, too. At his four-month doctor’s appointment, he flipped out about doing tummy time with the doctor more than getting his shots. At his six-month appointment, he rocked tummy time with no issues. Encouragement and distractions (watching the kitties, seeing the TV, etc.) almost always help Tommy go longer with tummy time. He is able to roll over during tummy time pretty consistently now but still doesn’t have a lot of interest in it.

When Tommy’s sitting on the floor, he’ll reach for anything and everything. He loves to play with his favorite toys while sitting, including his rattles, small stuffed animals, and “baby paper” (non-destructible crinkly paper). Of course, he also loves to play with non-baby toys, mainly items the cats love, such as small empty boxes and pieces of Styrofoam. He’ll also reach for anything we have from books to food to phones.

Tommy 7 Months | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Tommy talks all the time with lots of animation, continuing to make new noises every month. Lately he’s started blowing, like he’s trying to whistle. He most talks to us around the house or to himself while he’s playing. When he’s in the right mood, he’ll talk to pretty much anyone who will listen (which, of course, is basically everyone). Tommy also laughs frequently. He laughs along with us and laughs completely on his own. Sometimes we know why he’s laughing, and sometimes we really don’t. It’s pretty great either way.

Tommy continues to be a happy baby. He is content to go with the flow most of time, both at home and when we’re out and about. We don’t take Tommy out to eat with us too often, at most once or twice a month. But he does so well when we do take him. He’s been with us now to several St. Rita’s dinner club dinners with fellow members of our parish, which everyone enjoys. Tommy also enjoys socialization with other mamas and kiddos at play/prayer groups once a week or so.

Tommy 7 Months | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Tommy’s sleeping and eating routines remain largely unchanged from last month. Sometimes he wakes up once or twice during the night and just needs his pacifier to go back to sleep. He takes at least one 1-2 hour nap in his crib per day and at least one shorter nap, sometimes in his crib. Generally, he’s taking one morning and one afternoon nap. The timing isn’t very consistent.

The past week or so, Tommy has pushed to a consistent 7 ounces for his bottles, eating 3-4 hours for a total of 4-5 bottles daily. He will take his bottle sitting up sometimes but still prefers to lay down while eating. We do small stints in the high chair, which he enjoys more for playing with his toys and watching everyone else than eating. We offer rice cereal, baby puffs, and small tastes of soft foods a few times a week, mostly to keep getting him comfortable trying food. Tasting anything besides formula remains pretty overwhelming. Tommy’s still getting the vast majority of his nutrition from formula.

Tommy 7 Months | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Except for a few pairs of three-month pants and a handful of 3-6 month clothes, Tommy has fully transitioned to six-month and 6-9 month clothing. He’s still rocking size 2 diapers. You see Tommy wearing his footed pants in many of the photos from the past couple of months because they are the easiest way to keep his feet covered when we’re out in the cold. At home, he often wears regular pants with no socks and isn’t cold.

Jake and Tommy at the Milwaukee Art Museum January 2018 | http://www.roseclearfield.com

The biggest milestone of the past month was Tommy’s adoption finalization. I have a full finalization post coming later this month. January outings have included Tommy’s first visit to the Milwaukee Art Museum, so we could catch the tail end of the Degas to Picasso exhibit, and the Domes for the annual train exhibit. I have a train post coming later this month, too.

The last few months with Tommy have been so much fun. We have gotten into such a good routine and love watching his personality grow. I’m really looking forward to the next few months.

 

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Tommy Valentine's Day 2018 | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Valentine's Day Baby Photo Idea | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Tommy Valentine's Day 2018 | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Tommy Valentine's Day 2018 | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Tommy Valentine's Day 2018 | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Valentine's Day Baby Photo Idea | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Tommy Valentine's Day 2018 | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Happy Valentine’s Day from me and my favorite little guy! XO

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January: What I Read

January: What I Read | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Welcome to my first what I read post for 2018! I had so much fun writing what I read posts in 2017 that I’m keeping it going for another year. I’m excited to share my January reads with you today.

In January, I listened to:

  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson. A solid, interesting read. I’ll be honest: I’m not a science person at all. I would have to listen to this book several more times and probably have someone explain whole chunks of it to me to feel like I really got it all. But I still thought it was really interesting and learned a lot from it.
  • When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris. I really enjoyed When You’re Engulfed in Flames, as much as I enjoyed Me Talk Pretty One Day. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve read Sedaris’s Theft by Finding diaries now and know so much more about his background or if the writing is simply stellar. Probably both. Either way, it’s definitely one of Sedaris’s strongest collections.
  • David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell. Another stellar Malcolm Gladwell book. I know several people who regularly reference his full court press basketball story from this book and am glad that I’ve read it in its entirety now (as well as the rest of the book, of course).
  • Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher. I absolutely loved The Princess Diarist, way more than I expected to like it. I might like Wishful Drinking even more. Fisher’s writing is raw, honest, and candid, and her dry, sarcastic sense of humor kills me. I can’t write any of my favorite Wishful Drinking lines here because I try to keep things PG on the blog. But her one-liners are just priceless, truly laugh out loud by yourself funny.

In January, I read:

  • Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks. So, Tom Hanks is a fantastic writer. If you’ve seen That Thing You Do, it should come as no surprise that his first collection of short stories is on that level. (If you haven’t, please go watch it ASAP.) He has a great variety of characters, settings, time periods, etc. And I love the tie-in of the typewriter theme throughout the book.
  • Natural Disaster by Ginger Zee. I read Ginger Zee’s book because we went to the same undergrad. She also has relatives in my home town. So while I don’t know her, we know a lot of people in common, and I’ve been hearing Ginger Zee stories through the grapevine for years. For the right person, Natural Disaster is a powerful, must-read book. I’m not that person. I’m sure I sound like a broken record, but the chapter order was confusing, which always bugs me in memoirs. Her writing is okay but leaves a lot to be desired.

In January, I re-read:

  • Harry Potter and the Sourcer’s Stone. You may or may not remember that in my 2018 goals post, I shared that there are a number of books I want to re-read this year. First up on the re-read list is the entire Harry Potter series. I have only re-read the first three books and not since college. I wasn’t sure what it would be like re-reading books I really loved a long time ago. Are they still that good and all that. Yeah, the Harry Potter books are still really really good. The writing is top notch. The characters and themes are timeless. If you have only watched the movies, you are missing out. I think that the movies are well done, but the books are so much better. Now I just want to stay up until 1 a.m. every night re-reading Harry Potter.

What have you been reading lately?

I’m always looking for new recommendations!

More reading posts:

2017 Reading List + Tips for Reading More Books | http://www.roseclearfield.com

My 2017 Reading List + Tips for Reading More Books

June: What I Read | http://www.roseclearfield.com

June: What I Read

May 2017 Reads | http://www.roseclearfield.com

May: What I Read

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