Friday, May 01, 2009

How sad is this?

That the only extra time in my schedule comes as a result of being stuck in the Honda Dealer service waiting room with my laptop? I just missed the shuttle, I don't have the files I need to be productive, so, what the heck, free internet and I might as well update the blog.

Here's the deal. I'm a bankruptcy attorney. The economy is in the tank. You do the math. But in case you can't, what I'm trying so say is that I'm swamped with work. I know, wah wah wah, when so many people are unemployed or under-employed, but cheese and rice, I'm exhausted. I've worked every day for months and months. My younger brother comes in and meets my kids after school so I can work until 10:00 pm when he needs to leave to go to work. I take the kids in to my office on the weekends where they watch DVDs and Chuck episodes on the computer. I wasn't able to do any work last weekend because I (a) couldn't face it, and (b) needed to clean the pig sty house so I didn't horribly disgrace the family name when guests arrived on Sunday. I'm paying for it this week. Three of the four kids participated in an expressive dance program thing at 2:00 pm at the school and I skidded into the school just as the program started because I cut the travel time to close because I got stuck on a contentious phone call when I needed to leave to get to the school on time. Driving angry is probably more dangerous than driving drunk, I thinkg. I'm trying to calm down and figure it all out as I drive to the school, knowing I still had a couple hours of work to complete and wondering if other parents go through this calculation: soccer practice? or malpractice? soccer practice or malpractice? I chose soccer practice and stuffing Arby's down their throats on the way back to my office where we stayed until 9:00pm on a school night because I had a filing deadline. Oh well, you do what you have to do, right? Okay, shuttle driver is here, back to work.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

How lucky am I?

Very, very lucky. So I'm sitting in the dining room this morning, working from home because, in honor and recognition of house guests who will be arriving Sunday, hey Rebecca, I mean you, I finally made an appointment to have a carpet cleaner come to the house and make the downstairs extra bedrooms habitable for humans after Gladys and Lucy had dueling canine urine wars down there with me so clueless about dog behavior that I didn't get a grip until after Gladys went home (we were dog sitting) and I walked into that room and the smell made me drop to my knees. Damn dogs.

So, anyway, urine is what it is and it had to be cleaned and the nice guy that is here to do the job gave me a "deal" on the kitchen tile, damn kitchen tile, never buy a house with textured ceramic tile on the kitchen floor, it just isn't worth it. Although the price was the same as the last time he was here when there wasn't a deal, I said, yeah sure, I'm to the point of hating that floor so much that I would rather pay someone $100 to clean it because he's here and willing than mop it by myself this week. So he had just brought the hose up the stairs and is starting on the tile and I hear a loud pop. I don't even look up. I figure he hit something and if it he had damaged it, he would stop and then I would look at it and shrug, because what can you do, but he didn't stop. A split second later, he calls from the kitchen, "what was that?" I get up and shrug, look down and hop. A liter of Diet Pepsi (the one and true diet cola) exploded in the wierd pantry room off the kitchen and it is spreading fast. He grabbed his big water sucker upper wand and took care of it in a jiffy. I went behind with a wet rag and got it off the walls and it is as if a full liter bottle of Diet Pepsi never exploded in the pantry.

Can you imagine the horror of walking in on that later this afternoon if I hadn't been home with a professional carpet cleaning technician right at hand when it happened. The horror, the horror.

So, I ask, how lucky am I? Very. Did you know that one time I flew to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, was met by friends, picked up my bag at the luggage carousel, got into the friends' car at the curb and drove away full of excitement for the upcoming festivities and carousing. About 30 minutes away from the airport, I asked who had put my bag in the car? no one? really? let's check. Pull over, my bag is not in the trunk. Head back to New Orleans airport, and it's full on Mardi Gras, hordes of people, and there's my bag on the curb. So, again, how lucky am I? Very.

And then there were these times I went to China and met four beautiful children who didn't have parents and I was able to bring them home and love them. How lucky am I? Very isn't quite the word to describe that level of good fortune, and I'm stuck for a word that could.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Baby Haze

At least once a month, I run with a much younger crowd. I'm like the token old lady: I'm not quite the oldest, but I have the most kids, so that makes me look like the oldest for sure. I'm grateful for this link to the young and vibrant who put the plans together so that the girls and I just have to show up and commence the fun having. Three of the moms in the group have had domestic placements this year: one two months ago and two this week, and oh good hell, this is exciting (and one other Mom just passed the 3 year mark on her wait for the CCAA to gets its act together and make the placement already). So it makes my heart high to know that single parent adoption is still a viable option in this world: the birth moms chose these single mom placements. The kids are gorgeous; two baby girls (one will make her debut tomorrow but I'm all the way confident that she will be muy delicioso also) and one just eat him with pie little baby boy. So my family is part of the lump in the cultural snake consisting of families created through single parent adoption from China. But it has been so good to learn, first hand, that single parent families by choice are still getting created every day. Children are still finding good homes even if not "good" in the "traditional" sense, and I use quotes because I have no idea why my home is not a good home other than the obvious when I'm crashing around with my Dyson and wondering out loud, very loudly, why I'm the only one concerned about hygiene in this house, then my kids might not think they landed in such a "good" home. But I know that there are those out there that would disqualify me from the opportunity of parenting based on my marital status (like I had any control over that). I think those are the same folks who don't think my gay friends (like they have any control over that) deserve equal protection under the law, just guessing. But is still hurts my heart that not all the children still waiting in China will find homes because the Chinese government doesn't think single parent homes are good enough anymore. And that still hurts although I'm past the point of adding to my own family, the Chinese policy to exclude single parents just still hurts. If I were Queen, this bitter rule would not last for long. But my crown has been misplaced because surely, a Queen wouldn't have love handles the size of small dogs. So don't be looking to me for help with this issue even though you know I would cut loose on the CCAA's single parent ban and my love handles in a hot second. You know I would, the only difficulty would be deciding which to do first.

So to Tiffany, Yvette and L, congratulations on your new additions, I just couldn't be more excited for you and your beautiful little families. You make my heart high.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Loving her differently

I’ve been running around the edges of this blog post for over a month. January 10th was the third year anniversary of becoming Nora’s mother. I go back and forth, back and forth trying to get my feelings right about what that has meant to me for the last three years. On every other adoption related blog in the known universe, it seems like the gotcha day remembrances are heart-felt tributes to the power of the universe to bring together just the right parents with just the right child. Of course, I have difficulties with the whole red-thread premise. I take exception to the belief that god with a big G ripped our children away from their birth families on purpose so we could know the joy of parenthood. That can’t be right, right? Gods don’t do that kind of thing to innocent children and grieving birth parents, right? But I can agree that the tragic fall-out of a failed political and economic system made by men, not big G gods, brought four beautiful humans to me to parent as wisely as I can. However, one of those little humans is giving me a run for my money and makes it all a lot harder to parent wisely than it was before she arrived on the scene.

Nora has made me stretch emotionally, and I have to admit, I have absolutely resented her for that. I’m not so good at expressing complex feelings, not good at all. I am not a member of the emotionally mature club. My application is still at probationary caveman status and approval does not appear imminent. But I keep this blog going if for no other reason than having it makes me keep thinking about being Nora’s parent and how that makes me feel and how I need to keep making an effort to put labels on how I feel about this beautiful girl and not just grunt and whine in exasperation.

It’s hard to be emotionally evolved when you lack the introspection gene. You know those people who can listen to a problem or observe a situation and see past the externals and really try to understand the ulterior motivation for the result? I truly admire those people but I am not one of those people. Not even close. I don’t live in the same country. I can’t even figure out why I react to things the way I do not to mention trying to figure out someone else’s reason for their behavior. Sometimes I feel like I need one of those emotion boards therapists use for non-communicative kids so I can point to the mad or sad face to even get close to labeling my own feelings.

And labeling my feelings about Nora is so much more complicated than the mad/sad faces on the kiddie feelings chart. Without the half-composed blog posts constantly running through my head, I think I would still be sitting here with my finger on the mad face. I wouldn’t be doing any constructive thinking, I’d just be knee-jerk reacting and letting her push my buttons like a .10 ocarina from the Chuckie Cheese prize counter that ends up costing you $20 in game tickets. Writing about Nora in my brain (even though I seldom get those kinds of posts written down and can think of a bazillion reasons not to make them public) makes me page through my mental thesaurus to try to find a more nuanced vocabulary words and ways to describe my feelings. My relationship with Nora does not represent the simple, straightforward and beribboned basket of slobbering love that I hold in my hands for my other three daughters. My relationship with Nora can make me brittle with frustration and despair that she will live with me forever because she will never learn to navigate by herself in the big world. But then I can go for long calm stretches where I can just begin to enjoy who she is and what she brings to the family.

I am riding the emotional roller coaster with this child. I find it difficult to hold onto my emotional sanity with my hands tightly gripping the crash bar. Whatever slobbery love basket I had for her flew out on the first big hill and once in awhile I catch it again and throw my hands up to enjoy the ride, but just as soon, I’m gripping the bar again, basket loose in the wind. Like last week, Nora’s teacher sent two exasperated emails (this from a woman with a pretty high tolerance level for exasperation) about some abominable new behavior Nora was engaging in at school and I felt so angry and embarrassed that I wanted to punish her until she was 21. Three days later, Nora’s teacher sent an email to let me know that Nora got her first 100 for the year on a test and it brought me to tears. I know how hard Nora has to work to understand the class work and to keep up in school and how doggedly determined she is about completing her homework and how it hurts her to be the cellar-dweller in her class. We made a huge, HUGE, freaking deal about the 100%. But see, the other girls bring home their occasional 100% papers (all four of my daughters are hell-bent on defeating the Asian academic stereotype, apparently), I don’t have to make a big deal, no extra effort is expected on my behalf, they know they are just meeting my basic expectations, they get a high five and life goes on. But with Nora, everything seems to take extra from me, whether dealing with her bad behavior choices or filling her big black emotional hole of need to help keep her on the right track. I have struggled and flogged myself and I did so desperately wanted to disrupt during that first year but never ever acted on that feeling because what in the world would that say to my older three? I had to get over my self-pity and myself. I had to let go of the happy family fantasy that I had created and recognize that NONE of the things that Nora does is aberrant or unusual or intentional or the product of some clinical condition. She is a pretty normal little kid who is academically challenged and emotionally immature. That’s all, nothing personal, that’s just how she came pre-loaded at birth and after 4.5 years in an institution.

She was born in the year of the Snake and I was born in the year of the Pig and we are mortal enemies according to Chinese zodiac lore. But just as I don’t buy the red-thread story line, I really don’t buy the idea that the course of our lives is prescribed by a zodiac prediction either, Chinese or otherwise. I have to constantly remind myself (and it is a good thing when the parent rooms at Shriners Children’s Hospital are full and the wise Mrs. Ellison is forced to bunk with us and reminds me in person, thanks Stefani), that being a parent is not about our children meeting our needs, it is about how we meet the needs of our children. Compared to my other three children, Nora has big needs. I have to remind myself to hitch up my big girl panties and give this child what she needs even when I’m staring at the last end of my last wit as it fades in the rear-view mirror. She does make things harder and I give myself that. Everything about parenting has been harder since Nora walked into that conference room in the Lottery Hotel in Nanning and stripped the Groovy Girl out of my hands and proceeded to rip the clothes off the doll and scatter them on the floor.

For not being very introspective, I did come with good instincts, and my instinct that morning was to grab up YuYu and run, run fast and far from the challenge that pounced into the room with tons of attitude and fake curly pigtails attached to her head. I instantly knew that she was the kind of kid I don’t usually like to be around. The kind of kid I smile at patiently and benignly when I take my kids on school field trips but can’t wait to give back to the teacher or parent responsible for the little miscreant at the end of the day. Nora is that kind of kid for me. She might be someone else’s cup of tea, but she wears me out. So that morning in January 2006, I stood up for her out of obligation but I am learning to continue to stand up for her out of love. I will continue to fill in my own emotional deficits in order to become her best parent because Nora, my perfect and innocent child, is NOT the one with the problem.

So if you thought that big lead in was going to result in a beautifully written and inspirational thesis statement about raising a challenging child, you would be wrong. After three years of living with Nora, I have reached this conclusion: Loving Ellie, YuYu and Mimi is easy, loving Nora is hard. I love them all differently and that isn’t bad.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Angel Eyes

She is THRILLED. She kept nagging and nagging, "Has Costco called yet?" "Are my glasses ready yet?" We ran down to the Costco after dinner on Tuesday and she hasn't stopped beaming since she put them on her face. She can't stop looking in the mirror and she's going to starve because she would rather look at her reflection in the kitchen window than eat dinner. These are her sturdy glasses and I'll need to get a picture of her hip and kicky frames. I never knew anyone could get so worked up over wearing glasses, but YuYu can. My myopic angel.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I stand chastened

The same school district staff member who insulted me so deeply with the implied criticism that I righteously griped about in the last post also sent a vision screening report home about YuYu and it said that YuYu also flunked her eye test.
So, being the heads up parent that I imagine myself to be, I hustled her skinny butt into the optical shop and sure as shooting, my babe has become near-sighted since her last school district vision screening test. She needs glasses on her sweet face which I thought would be more of a challenge to choose. YuYu's face is practically bridgeless, just a blank spot where the bridge of her nose should be, but totally yummy and gorgeous, just not much to hang her specs on. But we picked a tough frame for everyday and a fun frame for the back up pair. She just beamed when she put on the fun pair. I'm sure she thought she looked like a hip teen-ager. Thank the fates that Costco was having a $25 off the second set of glasses sale this week because the moths are flying out of my pocket book what with YuYu's rotten teeth and my own adventures in oral health. I learned a new vocabulary word this month, trismus. It's getting better, but who knew that wasn't supposed to happen after a root canal?

So, yay, you go school district vision screeners, you rock. Unless, of course, I think you are being critical of my parental care-taking skills, then not so much rocking.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lost in Translation

I know that I do go on about how charming I find YuYu, my DD#3 in acronymland, to be. I find everything about her to be, objectively speaking, adorable. I don’t get aggravated when I ask her to go see if we have any more milk in the downstairs refrigerator (necessitated by the 1950’s size fridge nook in the upstairs kitchen) and she comes back up, hands empty, and says “yes.” I don’t get too upset when I go through her assignment folder and find finished homework packets that should have been turned in weeks ago but she “forgot to remember.” I have vast patience for her new developmental phase where she has to ask me to choose between two impossible and/or unlikely events: “Mom, would you rather step in goat’s milk or vinegar? Which would you rather lose an arm or a leg? If you were a dog, which would you prefer, Booda bones or jerky treats?” etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum. All cute, all good, all adorable, classic YuYu, I'm so excited to know the adult she will become, she is really something. Objectively speaking, of course.

So one of the things I like best about YuYu is her “good ear.” Most people wouldn’t consider a good ear (and I just don’t have a better shorthand way to describe that she can carry a tune, so good ear it is) to be particularly remarkable, but I do, I really do. I come from a family with a deep genetic legacy for ears of the tin variety. We, my parents and all my brothers, lack the ability to carry a tune in a bucket, or as the French would say, we sing like casseroles. And even though the genetic link is missing, my other three DDs will sadly carry this family trait forward into future generations, but not YuYu. YuYu of the lilting voice will sing for us all, or not, because she’s so shy about it. Don’t’ misunderstand, YuYu is not shy socially, but no way no how is she going to sing in front of people by herself, not on her life, isn’t going to happen, mores’ the pity.

But I give you this background only to illustrate her current use of her talent. Her good ear gives YuYu the ability to memorize and repeat movie dialogue verbatim and with the right accents. And don’t you know, her knack for listening and regurgitating is a cool parlor trick and can be hugely entertaining on long road trips. However, her newest source of material has made me more aware that I have to start being a lot more careful about what she ingests and spews back out. She is starting to use this talent to entertain friends and non-family members and certain words of which she has no understanding of the meaning are creeping into her vocabulary and it might not reflect well on my parenting.

And by certain words, I mean “bollocks.” The first couple of times she used it, and appropriately I might add, I just hooted. Hearing my 8-year-old American kid saying bollocks, a British curse word, it was funny, I just thought it was funny. She watched “Mama Mia” a zillion times during the Christmas holiday and memorized all the words to all the ABBA tunes and flits around the house singing “money money money, it’s a rich man’s world.” She also picked up the word bollocks from the Colin Firth (yummm, Colin Firth) character who exclaims “Bollocks!” in fine BBC English when he misses the ferry to the island. I should be happy because the Pierce Brosnan character exclaims a word that is universally renounced as a bad potty word and she didn’t pick that one up, thank the fates.

But here in the Western United States, at least as far as I know, we don’t so much know from bollocks, so I have just let her use it for my own perverse pleasure because I think it is cute and not too many other people know what the word means. Can it be a curse word if no one knows the meaning? I say no. But this morning, we were hustling around, cleaning up and getting ready for Ellie’s sleepover friend to leave with her mom and YuYu dropped her box of many toy horses, the pieces scattered and YuYu exclaimed “Bollocks.” The word did not seem to resonate with the mom who was here to pick up the sleepover friend, or at least she showed no reaction which could have just been gracious good manners, which would have been different from me if I heard someone’s kid say bollocks, but it made me think.

I fired up the computer, went straight to the definitive source (she typed facetiously in reference to folks (okay, my mother) that don’t understand that Wikipedia isn’t a reliable and irrefutable source of information) and found out that the “relative severity of the various profanities, as perceived by the British public, was studied on behalf of the Broadcasting Standards Commission, Independent Television Commission, BBC and Advertising Standards Authority. The results of this jointly commissioned research were published in December 2000 in a paper called "Delete Expletives?". This placed "bollocks" in eighth position in terms of its perceived severity, between "prick" (seventh place) and "arsehole" (ninth place). By comparison, the word "balls" (which has a similar literal meaning) was down in 22nd place. Of the people surveyed, only 11% thought that "bollocks" could acceptably be broadcast at times before the notional 9pm "watershed” on television (radio does not have a watershed).”

Oh, well, now that I am educated about the relative severity of profanity (I love that phrase) and since I wouldn’t let my kids say either of the other swear words that bookend bollocks on the BBC list of bad words, it looks like I better weed bollocks out of YuYu’s vocabulary before her potty mouth spreads and she starts sounding like a British sailor, assuming that British sailors still curse as badly and richly as the stereotype would lead us to believe. Now I just have to figure out if I was bird, would I rather land on a branch or a telephone wire and if I missed either perch and crashed into a wall, would I say bollocks or balls?

(I had to add this photo of YuYube, the bruise on her chin? otherwise preoccupied, she walked into a wall, the blood blister on the inside of her lip was huge, HUGE, that's my girl)