Ed and I have been married 13 years today. I have a few wedding photos to share. I’ve never really shared any online, other than a bad iPhone photo of a photo, because we got married in 2001. That was pretty much the dark ages as far as photography is concerned. All of our photos are old school – nothing digital, nothing Photoshopped.

And then on top of that, I think we made the worst choice possible for a photographer. But I’ll just leave it at that.

(Also, the matte makeup? I mean, really?! I wanted to do my own makeup and was very committed to the cause. Once I saw how that translated into wedding photos, I had my makeup professionally done for every wedding I was a bridesmaid in after that.)

I was 20 and Ed was 27. For 20-year-old me, an ideal wedding entailed Ed, a princess dress, a huge cake, lots of flowers, lavender bridesmaid dresses and a tiara, of course. For Ed, it entailed what made me happy. This was very nice of him. Or convenient for him. Maybe both.

Our wedding was perfect. Not because I wore a giant princess dress or because we had a huge cake with lots of layers and flowers or because I found the tiara of my 20-year-old dreams.

Actually, for being so OCD and a horribly afflicted Type A perfectionist who had not yet even acknowledged my issues, let alone begun to address them, I was laid back. It worked out great in many ways, not so much in others (see above about the photographer, who was actually quite pricey, but one of the few options left by the time I got around to finding one for our wedding that took place the weekend before Valentine’s Day).

Our wedding wasn’t even perfect because we had a rockin’ full open bar and skilled bartenders and a margarita machine from Mr. Margarita, all important, of course.

It was perfect because it was fun and memorable for all the right reasons and we enjoyed ourselves and didn’t worry about anything. It was perfect because our friends and family were there to celebrate the day. Weddings aren’t exactly the best use of money, but I’m really grateful to my parents for hosting one that created amazing memories for us.

So first, I present you with a photo of us kissing in front of the cake (don’t worry: no tongue; I’m not a fan of PDA), which cake was huge and fantastic and offered guests many options – each layer was a different flavor – and was covered with some of my favorite flowers. All things that mattered to 20-year-old me.

This one made the wedding album and in fact is probably one of our better photos. Again, see note above about our choice of photographer.

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And then of course there was a full back shot of my puffy princess dress.

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I didn’t  flinch when my wedding coordinator stepped on my giant train a tore a hole in it right as I started to walk down the aisle. Nor did I  care when I ripped both straps off dancing and having fun. Thanks to our friend Heather, who sewed the dress back together with me in it, the wardrobe malfunctions weren’t even note-worthy. I mean, really, I have the full poorly-framed back shot. What more did I need?

Really, the picture that I always remember and think of is this one. It’s the one perfectly-timed moment the photographer caught. It’s too dark and it’s almost grainy and Ed’s legs are cut off, but it’s that split-second look Ed had on his face when he first saw me.

It’s a picture of the foundation upon which our marriage rests: how he felt about me (and how I felt about him, but there’s not picture of that).

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Marriage isn’t always rainbows and hearts and leprechauns, easily balancing on the backs of fluffy white unicorns, while holding pots of gold and entertaining colorful butterflies that are happily fluttering about.

Sometimes it’s hard work. Sometimes it’s easy and fun. Sometimes it’s just coasting along to get through whatever thing you’re going through.

Kids and life changes and stress and moves and jobs and travel and health issues, they all take their toll.

Love and happiness and fun and kids and memories and trust and support, they all make it work.

I wrote this last year. It applies every year.

Parts of life and therefore marriage are occasionally rocked, often at the worst times. But when the foundation is strong, there’s reason to believe it will weather the storms.

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“Be careful, Mommy. Don’t hurt me,” Mattix said, his cute little 6-year-old mouth open wide. He had laid down on the couch, absolutely at ease, ready for me to make the “ouchie” stop.

I shined the flashlight in with one hand and used the other to perform the sort of oral surgery only a parent can do so expertly. Using floss, a dental pic and tweezers, I began the process of removing the piece of popcorn kernel skin that had  lodged deeply under his gums, likely a few days ago. He thought he’d had a toothache, but I discovered otherwise tonight. It’s amazing how someone with poor fine motor skills can suddenly become MacGyver when her child requires such precision.

As I carefully dug, poked, and scraped, removing remnants of dinner in my effort to get to the real problem and just sticking them on the back of my hand – the way a seasoned mom does without thinking about how gross it actually is – I looked into his sweet eyes, staring up at me with complete trust.

I’m not sure that I had visions of what motherhood would be like. I probably thought of it like many women who want to be moms, but aren’t sure what to expect. It has turned out to be far more amazing, rewarding, challenging and full of pure, unconditional love than I ever could have imagined.

Last week, we celebrated the sixth anniversary of Mattix, Ed and I meeting each other and becoming a family. In mid-November, I  mentioned to Mattix that the occasion was coming up and I asked whether he’d like to do anything to recognize the day. We’ve always done something as a family, but it’s not a decision for us, his parents, to make any longer.

“Oh! Yes!” he said, his eyes dancing with excitement. “We can get a jumpy and decorate our house and get an ice cream cake and invite everyone from my class over for a huge party!”

His enthusiasm and excitement filled my heart, not just because of this particular occasion, but because his enthusiasm for life in general is that big.

I said that sounded lovely, but suggested we save such a large celebration for his upcoming birthday and maybe keep our “Family Day” smaller and more personal.

“Okay, sure!” he said, equally excited. “We can go out for pho and have ice cream with our family and Grammy and Papa!”

The older he gets, the more important it becomes to give him control of the way we recognize these adoption “milestones.” The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve struggled to reconcile my feelings of absolute gratitude and joy over getting to raise him with the deep and lifelong loss he  experienced that led to his adoption.

I felt no remorse walking out of that orphanage with Mattix. I can’t imagine feeling anything other than utter confusion and heartbreak and maybe anger when one pieces together a situation that shouldn’t exist. But I felt – and continue to feel – the sadness of taking him away from his country, his culture, his language. Decisions that he had no control over have altered his entire life.

Recently, I’ve realized that no matter how much I try, I won’t ever be able to reconcile those two very different feelings. And I’m okay with that. I’ll always be so incredibly grateful that I’m the mom raising him. And I’ll always feel sadness for what he has lost. Above all, and as I’ve always felt, I’ll give him the space to have and process his own feelings, independent of mine.

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If he decides against celebrating his Family Day at any point, we’ll stop. I can quietly reflect on the experience of meeting him for the first time, holding him, feeling that pure joy of meeting the amazing human being who made me a mom. I can feel those things without having to make sense of them, juxtaposed against the loss that adoption brings.

At his Family Day dinner, he was so happy and proud he could have burst. “I love you, Mommy,” he said, mouth full of pho. “I love you, Sissy!” he exclaimed as he and Molley watched the giant fish in the tank. “I love you, Daddy!” he shouted across the table. “I love you, Grammy,” he said, his little hand in hers, as we walked out of the restaurant. “I love my family!” he said more times than I could count.

The privilege of parenting is a big one. The privilege of parenting someone so special and full of life and love and light who wasn’t even supposed to mine to raise, well, that’s more than I could have ever asked for.

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(My five-year adoption anniversary post)

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The best news often comes at the least opportune times

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Even when we know better and try hard, we sometimes fill in the holes in others’ stories. We make assumptions & maybe judgments. We should stop that.

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I could feel my eyes burning, welling up with tears as we sat in the eye doctor’s office. “Legally, he’s blind,” the doctor said about my 2-year-old. I feebly tried to argue, as if my words would undo the diagnosis. “I know he can see small things,” I said. Mattix wasn’t very verbal yet, but […]

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Happy Mother’s Day!

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Marriage: The highs, the lows and the space between

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“Oh, the places you’ll go…”

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Dr. Seuss, he was a smart man. I could paper my walls with Dr. Seuss quotes. “Oh, the places you’ll go” is one that applies to so many situations in life. Just that part, standing alone. Before I had kids, I never could have imagined the places my mind and heart would go. I’m not […]

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