Thursday, December 14, 2006

Happy Ammon Day!

I met the Stephen, Stephani, Lan and Ammon at the airport this afternoon and here they are in all of their .3 megapixel glory because I left the real camera and the small, but thoughtful, token gift for the kids on the kitchen table this morning and had to resort to the camera phone.*
Edited to read STEFANI, yes, I have met the woman on more than a few prior occasions, but from reading this entry, you might think I went to the airport to ambush strangers with my camera phone, and it's REALLY bad because what's my pet peeve you may ask?, well I'll tell you because with the general tone of discontent running through this blog, you would be right to guess that I have more than one pet peeve, but this time the particular peeve that makes spelling Stefani's name wrong is how upset I get because my name is ALWAYS spelled incorrectly. And congradulations ?!?! please, for the love of Mike people, congradulations?!?!

Stephani said it was okay to post Ammon's picture because she and Stephen were going to crawl into bed and wouldn't be heard from until next week. They are exhausted with a capital Ammon. It's Stephani's story and she will tell it so much better than I can, so until she gathers her strength, these photos of tired Ellison's will have to do. They are well and healthy, just tired. Posted by Picasa

*And a big hand for the middle aged mom who didn't let technology whip her ass. this is the first time I've ever figured out how to get a picture off my phone, I'm hip, oh yeah I'm hip. Just don't text me, I couldn't receive and read a text message if there was gun pointed at my head, sad, sad, but true.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Treasures from the Orient

There was a package on the porch when we came home this evening and I assumed it was from Nanning, but NO! it was from Guilin and Nora's foster family. There was a sweet note, in English, thanking me for taking care of Xiao Ye and FIVE, count'em, FIVE hand knit sweaters, I'm all a flutter. I cannot craft, but I can appreciate hand made items and probably appreciate them more because I could never produce anything wearable or usable with my own two useless appendages. But will you look at these?!?!?!? they're gorgeous. I'm so pleased, these are expertly knitted garments, the stitches are uniform, the seams are incredibly neat and few, I'm just amazed by these sweaters.
When I developed the disposable cameras I sent ahead, I was disappointed on two counts: (a) all the pictures had been all shot in the morning at the Guilin train station and on the train to Nanning with the SWI staff member who escorted her, and (b) from the photos of Nora on the train, I could see that her family had sent her off in many layers including a beautiful lavender, hand knit sweater that the SWI minder had obviously relieved her of before she brought her to me at the Civils Affairs office in the Lottery Hotel in Nanning. I was sad that Nora lost that sweater, it was lovely and it also looked hand made and it would have been a tangible legacy from her foster mother.
Well, thanks to her foster mother's continuing generosity, Nora has another sweater almost just like the one they sent her off with last January and I am pleased for Nora. There were also two photos of Nora's foster sister, she looks to be about two-years-old now, such a sweetheart. I hope some day to hear that she has been placed with a permanent family, that would be welcome news.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Cinderella's Castle

Well, she could live there, if she had a temple recommend (wink wink, inside joke). Took in the lights at Temple Square on Sunday night with dutch uncle Stew after he fed us dinner WITH a dessert, my kids were stunned and all like dessert ?!?!?, dessert ?!?!? what's that? (I don't make dessert any more because they eat their two puny bites and leave the rest of the scrumptious stuff just staring at me and I start to hear the voices, eat me, Eat Me, EAT ME, so yeah, no dessert).
The weather was just right, still warmish, just starting a drizzle that didn't turn into snow fall until we were just pulling into our gararge as we returned home.
We popped into the little visitor center on the south side of the square to warm up a little and because it looked like a choir was getting ready to sing (a small, non-MoTab choir, but they had spammy matching outfits and it looked like it was going to be at least well-rehearsed) and it was a little surprising to the system to have the church's messages of ever-lasting bliss jumping off the walls at me. The last time I went inside a visitor's center in Temple Square was when I was a teen and I barely had the self-awareness to question my high school band leader's philosophies let alone a world religion. I had forgotten the hard sell. These folks really really want you to find happiness and a way to keep your family together forever and eternity. If any of the volunteer missionaries who were working the crowds last night knew my older brother, I think that it would not be hard to convince them that eternal family togetherness would be hellish and a reason to run, run fast, from any religion that would keep you hooked up to that jerk FOOOORRRRREEEEEVVVVVEEEERRRR. Families are Forever is a frightening proposition depending on the personalities of the constituent members. Shiver.

Anatomy of a holiday card

So, I had this idea, matching dresses (at a deep discount, because I just ordinarily wouldn’t go for purple tie-dye), and I’d get them into the kid pic studio, the kind that makes appointments, and they would have hair cuts and clean tights with no holes in the knees and they would be stunning and it would reflect so well on my organizational skills and, well, that flopped. The damn dresses hang like sacks, they didn’t shrink in the vast amounts of yardage necessary to make it look like the girls weren’t wearing tie-dyed cement bags, and no hair cuts because Miss Shanna (who could cut “strong” Asian hair and for whose skills I was willing to drive to her BFE hair salon (manyth East and manyth South, when you grow up in Davis County, anyth South past 33rd is the suburbs of BFE and this salon was in Sandy, two exits past BFE in my universe), she moved back to Wyoming and even though it’s tempting, I won’t take them 7 hours one way for a good hair cut. Conversely, I won't take them 10 minutes away for a bad hair cut either, so, no hair cuts, no fabulous matching dresses, no studio portrait.

So, in a rush to get the cards out because I didn’t generally announce our move to this bigger but not better house 1.5 years ago and I was worried that too many cards that people planned to send us would go to the old house where the forwarding order expired long ago, and if I got our cards in the mail pronto, maybe the wasted postage could be avoided, I slammed some Santa hats on their heads, pushed them up against the fire place and snapped away, growing progressively more threatening as shot after shot came out with crazy eyes.
The last shot that was finally acceptable was taken just before they all started to cry because I was getting so frustrated with them and hissing at them to keep your eyes OPEN, NO ONE BLINKS, NO ONE!!!
Ah, perfection, kind of, almost, good enough, get those bad boys in the mail.

And yes, I HAVE always admired the works of William Faulkner, and I think that the use of periods is greatly over-rated, slows down the mind's eye, takes away from the conversational sounds of reading a great rush of words, dontcha think?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Screwing the pooch, single working mom style

Oh, man, it happened again. In my ethno-centric (or whatever the term is for filtering everything through your individual point of view and that term could be self-centered, me? never) view of the world, I had Nora and Mimi all cleaned up for a birthday party at a local pool on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. Yeah, I had them bathe first because it was the civically responsible thing to do, trust me.

When we arrived in the pool area, wahoo, double bonus points, there were Nile and Kim who were parked at the edge of the pool deck over-seeing their 5th grader’s birthday party. And as their guests were arriving, I got to see even more old friends and colleagues, so good day for mom. But it got to be 2:15 pm and I don’t see anyone who looks like they should be there for a 6-year-old b-day party. Finally, I get a little concerned and I ask Nora and Mimi for the b-day girl’s last name so we can check at the desk to see how I might have messed up. I’m starting to get that feeling that, once again, this single working mom has screwed the pooch and not in the way you may think (and, no, not literally screwing the pooch, that’s a literary reference, sort of, remember Gus Grissom in Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff?, he “screwed the pooch” and that phrase has always stuck with me, but maybe I better find a different phrase if I feel compelled to explain that one to this extent, hmm?).
Mimi has no idea what the b-day girl’s last name might be (that is typical for Mimi, she still can’t tell me the names of the kids she plays with at school), but Nora, bright as a button comes up with the last name because “Hanson, then Green,” well close, but she did remember that the b-day girl’s name is always called close to her name in alphabetical order at school, she just got the before and after switched. Ellie ran back from the front desk with the information I already suspected to be true: the b-day party was FRIDAY at 2:00 pm.
Crap, I read the invitation and calendared the time/date on the BIG BOARD OF LIFE and in my handheld device, so I didn’t FORGET the party (although I have done that too), but I did ASSUME that it would be on a Saturday because who the hell can get their kids to a b-day party in the middle of the work day on a Friday? So why would I even think that the party would be on any day except Saturday, well, here’s the answer: I wouldn’t think it. And the really pathetic part?, I pulled this before two years ago. Standing on Laurel’s front porch with Ellie one Saturday afternoon, brightly wrapped present in hand, ringing and ringing the doorbell to no response because the damn party was a memory from the day before and Laurel’s whole family was somewhere else, going on with their lives, even though I was stuck living in an alternate working parent universe.

So, I took some time and visited some more with Nile and Kim, let the two littles swim, held YuYu as she silently cried (she didn’t have a swimming suit on and couldn’t get in the water), paid on the way out the door for 30 minutes X 2 of County Rectaculous swimming (didn’t want to miss a “values” moment, even though we got past the desk on the way in for free because we were going to a damn b-day party, I wanted them to know that we still needed to pay to swim) and vowed to never pull this stupid trick again.

Friday b-day parties, sheesh, have you ever?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

You can never have too many mothers

Lord, I've got to keep a tape recorder handy to catch all the good stuff. At dinner tonight:

YuYu: I'm lucky because I have two mothers.
Me: Bud, remember, you have three mothers? The mother you grew in, your Nanning mother and me.
YuYu: (looking pleased) Yeah, that's right I have a mother in China and I'm from England.
Mimi: I only had two mothers. YuYu is from China and I'm from England.
Me: Huh? who is from England?
Nora: Wah, that no fair, I not have England, I only have China.
Me: Ellie, what are they talking about?
Ellie: How should I know, they're strange.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Treasure Treasure

The thing about blogging is that even if it takes me weeks to get around to writing, I feel like I can/should write and my kids will have (a heavily edited) journal to read when they are much much older because sure as hell they won’t ever have any pretty scrapbooks to look at unless they make their own. I get the cold sweats just walking into craft stores, huge anxiety, no crafty bones, very discouraging, especially growing up in the prevailing culture. Crochet? Cross stitch? Knit? Why yes, but only just enough to earn that damn diamond on my bandalo, wonder what happened to that damn bandalo?

So, the point of that pointless paragraph? Well, I just celebrated two years with my darling YuYu on 11/15. And because I blog, I have more of a reason/motivation to try to record my feelings about what it has meant to me that I have had the privilege of spending these past two years with my YuYu Bee, my heart’s delight. Without the blogging, and for these many years, I have not been sufficiently motivated to write down anything much. You’ve just got to love the advice I got from several people when I first became a parent; keep a notebook by your bed, write down all the cute things she does before you go to sleep. Snort, yeah not bloody likely, I just get close to a bed and I’m out in a NY second, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. So there may be snippets of my voice on the camcorder, but there isn’t much that I have created to let my kids know how I was feeling about being a mom, their mom, and there isn’t much about how damn entertaining they have been.* When my mom days are behind me and I’m the grandma or gone, maybe I can leave more than a hard disk full of photos. And no, I’m not sick and not usually morbid, usually, but that’s what I’ve been thinking about the blogging. Some kids get great scrapbooks, my kids will get this blog.

I have been YuYu’s mother for two years and no, it doesn’t feel like a lifetime, and no it doesn’t feel like she’s always been with me, not in the slightest. Her life changed drastically two years ago and she didn’t come as a blank slate. YuYu came to me at 4.5 years old with a history, with a real family, a family who adored her and still does. I feel her history deeply and I’m aware of her loss constantly. I have the big guilt of taking her from their loving arms. My guilt is more for her parents’ pain and not for YuYu’s loss of her foster family. She hasn’t really lost them, she knows where they are and that they love her and that I love her and that she loves us all. I don’t think she yet comprehends why she had to leave China and I know she doesn’t comprehend the birth mother idea yet, that’s way too confusing for her. But I see how she continues to live with her love for her Nanning parents right on top: their photo in a frame by her bed, her Nanning mother’s cooking is the measure of all food that she eats, her memories of her patient father who taught her dozens of Chinese songs and rhymes, her adoration of her big brother who taught her to count in English using playing cards, they are with her every day. I am so utterly grateful that my little love sponge was placed with them for so many years, in a home where her ability to give and accept love was encouraged to grow and where her spirit thrived.

After two years, I am pretty much this child’s love slave, she owns me, and I know her foster parents feel the same way about her. The longer she is with me, the more I empathize with the pain they must have felt when she left them and it must have been almost unbearable. It would simply be a loss that I could not survive, pardon the melodrama, but there it is. YuYu’s name means auspicious treasure and that is no exaggeration. Sometimes she is the spaciest cadet in the academy, and I have to pin notes to her shirt with picture money, field trip permission slips, messages for her teacher because she is not capable of remembering in any way shape or form that she has information to share. But that just makes her more charming, doesn’t it? She calmly waits while I pin on the note, no shame, zips up and skips away. I have clocked two glorious years with the best natured, most gentle, flighty sprite any parent was ever lucky enough to tuck into bed at night. I must have done something good.

* For instance, Ellie, last night, riding in the back of the van, holding Lucy the froo froo dog;
Ellie: Oh No!
Me: What? What? Did she pee on you?
Ellie: Mom, do dogs sweat?
Me: um, no.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Like shooting fish in a barrel

Girls! it's sunny outside, quick get your suits on, we can go swimming if you hurry really fast. Took them forever to figure out that I was teasing them, it's almost not fair because they are so gullible, but like that's going to stop me. But, hey, for many years I believed that burnt hot dogs, burnt to the point that there is only a 1/4" pink stripe on the inside, were good eating because charcoal is good for you. What Mom was really saying? "You have to eat these burnt hot dogs because we got to the campground late, it's dark and there's nothing else I can put together until morning." But at least I didn't believe that you could get a whole can of milk from only one jackalope.

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Crap Attack!!!

And a bonus picture of Mimi, but in the name of all that's holy, why does my neighbor think that it is okay to pawn her crap off on the kids when they are out walking the dog? or on me when I'm out doing yard work, or, hell she sometimes rings on the bell with hands full of CRAP, things of no value and questionable value even when they were new. Two weeks ago, I was raking leaves and saw her heading up the street and dearly wanted to pretend that I didn't see her but my mother raised me right, on two counts: (a) I greeted her politely even though in my mind I was screaming, oh sweet mother of GOD, what does she have in her hands today, and (b) when presented with three partially used rolls of truly unattractive x-mas wrap, I just as politely refused with a clever reference to Sally Foster (that she, a childless woman much my own age (different people, different choices, I’m certainly not judging her for that, I just want to make that clear, but as a single person, she is not intimately familiar with public school fund raising schemes, such as, Sally Foster, where you get all the unattractive wrapping paper you could ever want plus the privilege of paying for it)). So after more than a year of being her neighbor (and OH!, don’t get me going on the free advice about child rearing and dog training (neither of which I am opposed to, I so obviously need it on both counts, but it would have a lot more credibility and weight if she had any first hand knowledge in EITHER subject) I am adapting, I am learning to read the signs, and I’m not about to take any more crap off her hands without a fight.
But she is adjusting her tactics, always one step ahead of me, she has a clever evil mind, I bet she could have predicted the sectarian violence in Iraq.

I looked up from the never ending piles of laundry to see Ellie coming back in the house from walking the dog this afternoon with her small, non-judgmental, even-crap-is-treasure-to-a-9-year-old hands full of these treasures. What is it about the cut of my jib that makes this woman think that these items will be welcome in my home? What have I done to make her think that I am the Goodwill Eastside branch? I am baffled by it all, I just do not understand the motivation if it comes from a good heart and I’m just plain angry if she’s just saving herself a trip to Goodwill at my expense.

So, I just had to share these photos and the positive effect these treasures actually produced: they are now stuffed in a bag for Goodwill that has been on the floor of my bedroom for weeks. With the addition of these treasures, I deemed it sufficiently full to move to the back of the van where I will chauffeur it around for a few more weeks before the Goodwill does with it what it will and whatever it will is so much better than having that crap anywhere near my house. These crap attacks make me value what I lost when I moved last year. Jean, Jean, why did you desert me? Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m the one who moved, but you could have warned me that you were the gold standard of neighbors and that I should have put more thought into what I was sacrificing for closer proximity to the schools. You should have known, you are so wise, why didn’t you warn me?
And isn’t Mimi cute with the headphones listening to the soundtrack from High School Musical and looking/feeling quite grown up? Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 13, 2006


Here are Nora and Mimi with their 5th grade buddies starting the big, but not wicked or violent in any way, parade at school. To her credit, when Nora realized that I was not going to let her wear the Belle costume without a t-shirt, she caught herself before she completely lost it although all the signs pointed to a big fat flip out with mucho pouting for a topper. But she didn't, she pulled it together, paraded about and even held the hand of her buddy after some firm encouragment from her not so favorite person of the moment, the woman who would purposefully and intentionally mar her beauty with an evil white t-shirt, the mom.
The incomparable YuYu, my joy bucket. Posted by Picasa

And here is the best kid in all the world and her first grade buddy who is not a tall first grader, Ellie is a short fourth grader, very short, but like she says, "someone has to be the shortest." She will go far on her stumpy legs and great attitude.

Happy Burtday Mimi Jean the Booger Machine

Back filling a little from my death spiral before, during and for way too long after my own birthday last month. I’d like to think that I’m not that cliché and predictable. But in addition to the work related stress and the Nora related self-flagellation, I got older and I’m continuing to get wider and I’m sure that was a big component of my puddling and uselessness for lo these many weeks. And it’s not like birthdays are surprising, they do turn up on an annual basis, thank god, consider the alternative, so next year, someone slap me and remind me to snap out of it before I cave in so easily. So, in addition to my own isn’t middle age grand love fest last month, my pretty Mimi turned SIX years old. She is growing so beautiful; she makes my eyes leak a little if I look at her too long. As you can see from the picture, Mimi was enjoying her big day, but there was one little girl who distinctly was not. Can you spot her? And again, Nora’s feet are big, but not monstrous as pictured above.

And yes, this is the incomparable Miss Judy, Kindergarten teacher extraordinaire. Here we see her birthday monkey wishing my Mimi a happy day. It is always just fascinating to me that these little kids talk to the monkey like it is having a conversation with them independent of Miss Judy. Sometimes when I see Miss Judy in action and all those kids are ping-ponging every which way (and Nora is bad, but she’s not the worst in the class, makes me shudder), and I think that watching those trusting little faces believe the magic must be the only thing that keeps Kindergarten teachers from running screaming into the hills. I could not do what she does for more than 20 minutes. I am very certain that I would not even last an hour unless I could make everyone put their heads on their desks for the last 40 minutes. And who is the child NOT enjoying the sock monkey’s attention for Mimi? Can you spot her? Talk about cliché. And again, I know that jealousy on a sibling’s birthday is part of being a kid, but no Hanson girl adopted prior to January 2006 has EVER acted up because a sibling celebrated a birthday. So Nora’s behavior surprised me although I know it shouldn’t. I’ve been living in a bubble.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

distance = denial

Okay, the last blog entry was written at work Friday morning, which is the time of the week in which I have attained the most space between Nora and myself and I guess that space was making me feel all hopeful and sanguine about things, e.g., the future, my ability to parent this kid, life in general. I can spell denial; I just don’t always know when I’m hip deep in it. So now, it’s 2:30 pm on Sunday afternoon, which is approaching the nadir, no not the zenith, I mean low point (I did the Sunday crossword this morning, can you tell) of our time spent in each other’s presence each week (except for holidays which just about do me in regardless if Nora is in the mix) and I’m no longer hopeful. She was out of control at the after-care field trip to the natural history museum on Friday afternoon. She had a bad behavior write up and from Ellie’s report of her “shenanigans,” the after-care instructors missed seeing the worst of it.
I don’t know where her train went off the tracks on Friday, but she never got it back on. I couldn’t let her behavior go unpunished (I won’t itemize, but she blew it in so many different ways during that field trip that she must have set a school record). So I let the other girls have Friday movie night and I kept Nora with me, upstairs, working on the alphabet or watching me do dishes or something else boring and then I put her to bed early. Saturday started okay, but her train left the tracks in the afternoon when she let fly on Mimi and Candyland hit the floor after hitting Mimi first because Nora wasn’t winning. When I went to the play room to see what was happening, she threw the game board again and yelled at me to “LEAVE ME ‘LONE.” I know this sounds routine for a lot of other parents, but playing fair and square and no back talking are hallmarks of the Hanson household and it stuns me that I have a child that does not respect either concept. She threw a tantrum when I expressed my disapproval of not playing fair and square and I hadn’t even mentioned the yelling at mom crapola. But, we recovered, had Ellie’s friend over for play date, but something else made her snap and at 7:00 pm last night, she threw a small chair at the wall in the play room because she wasn’t getting her way and I removed her and put her to bed early, again, and boy did she wail, and boy, I didn’t care and I know I would have held Mimi or YuYu if they were crying that hard and I didn’t even want to go near Nora.
Earlier today she was sharing a banana with YuYu and they were getting to the end. Nora had taken more bites than YuYu and YuYu asked for the last bite. Nora pushed that last big honking piece of banana into her mouth and giggled maniacally when YuYu looked disappointed. And boy, I sure hate to see that kind of lack of empathy and perverse enjoyment of someone else’s pain in any child of mine, and I didn’t want to be near her and the maniacal giggling bought her another time out. The stupid thing is that I know she has no inkling what she had done wrong and all she knows is that she’s being punished and can’t connect the punishment with the crime. She is napping right now because she lost control again when she didn’t want to play SPY like the other three and started pouting, then tattling, then yelling, then crying, then I suggested that she was too tired to play fair and square and it was time for nap and then she treated us all to another entertaining tantrum and boy did she wail, and boy, I didn’t care, and she finally fell asleep and I’ll pay for it later when she can’t sleep at bedtime.
It is one thing to know and understand that she is a three year old in a big strapping five-year-old body, but it is a wholly different thing to respond in a loving and patient manner when the five-year-old tantrums like a toddler that you don’t like very much. This is hard, she is hard, and she makes life harder than it needs to be. Just like a yoyo, ain’t I?

Friday, November 10, 2006

"Okay ol' lady"

This morning my adoption agency sent an email reminder that my one-year post-placement home study report is coming due in the very near future. That kind of sent a shock through my system: Nora has been with me for almost a year. She bounced into that room in the Civil Affairs rented office space at the Lottery Hotel in Nanning on January 10, 2006, stripped the doll out of my hands and tore its clothes off without exhibiting a moment of curiosity about me or YuYu. In those first few minutes, Nora showed me who she is but yet, here I am, almost a year later, still struggling to accept and love her as she is. Nora can be as bold as brass and completely self-centered and I just have to remind myself, a lot, that, for the most part, those are admirable qualities that I just have to help her moderate and refocus. I know my problem stems from the big gap in my expectations of how a child of mine SHOULD act and how Nora, now a child of mine, DOES act. For example, on Halloween, we were leaving the porch of an elderly couple and Mrs. Nelson said, “Okay girls, you be careful, watch for cars.” As Nora was turning and going down the first step, she replied, in her loudest, most cooperative voice, “Okay ol’ lady.” I cracked up and I apologized, but we were all laughing. Then one of Nora’s not so admirable qualities kicked in and she yelled and sat down on the sidewalk and started crying because she can’t stand to be laughed at, she cannot see the humor in anything that she does. It took a lot of soothing to get her to take the pout off her face and continue trick or treating, but soon she was pushing on and yelling “Happy Halloween” at the next house.

And I have to say, that Nora is trying to get a grip on her impulses and that is another one of her admirable qualities. She is not a giver-upper. Once motivated to complete a task or achieve a goal, she is relentless. Not that she can’t get very, very frustrated, especially at school, and then her lack of impulse control causes trouble. She yells and strikes out and causes a lot of disruption. But I know that Miss Judy and Miss Elaine are helping her learn how to control her outbursts. And at home, I’m getting better at giving her the tools she needs and I can see her trying hard to use words to express her frustration and feelings instead of hitting or yelling. And when she does lose control and hurts a sister or destroys a possession, it appears that she feels remorse. I’m pretty sure the remorse if sincere and not just a show or connected to her anger at getting caught doing something wrong.

So, almost a year and we haven’t yet clicked. I’d love to believe that there were magical benchmarks that we talk about on the adoption boards like the magic 6-month mark that I really did feel with Mimi, but the easy numbers may not work with Nora. Our dance will be life long I think. She is a prickly little personality and I will always be pushing myself to know her and love her just the way she is like it says in the parent-child contract. You just take them as they come and do the best you can. Simple, right? So for right now, if I had to take a bullet for her, I would, certainly, but it would still be a sacrifice out of obligation rather than from love. But I do feel that time is working its magic, but it is gradual magic, no lightening bolts or piercing arrows. And if that’s the way it’s going to be, that’s the way it’s going to be even though I will still get frustrated with her and myself and still wish in my heart that I could feel the same kind of love for her like I have for my other three and that it would hit me like a bolt out of the blue. But it is just not going to work that way and I have to keep doing my best to make her feel like she is loved as deeply as she needs to be loved until the day I look at her and say, oh wow, when did that happen. Most of all, I have to keep telling myself that, given enough time, the oh wow day will come for us, and one day I won’t be pretending, I’ll be loving her, and it will feel like a bolt out of the blue.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Feeling like a schmoo

I think I'm mixing Lil' Abner metaphors, it's been a life time since that strip was in our Sunday comics, but wasn't there a sad sack character that had a dark cloud following him around, it was either Joe somebody or the schmoos? I think I’m feeling like Joe somebody or a schmoo, very evocative imagery huh?
So, anyway, I've been in a funk for over a month, unusual for me, and I know it will lift, but I don't like that I can't shake it and my kids are paying the price and of course, I exact an even higher price from poor little Nora because she bugs the hell out of me and then last night, just as we got home, my mom called. I could tell immediately by her voice that she was upset. My 39-year-old cousin stepped in front of a train yesterday. She leaves behind what has apparently been a short history of untreated mental illness that, since the birth of her last child, became evident and even more severe. The treatment she was finally forced to get just failed her and her husband and four children, the youngest one the long-awaited for daughter, who just turned one year old. And most tragically, I think, she leaves her father and mother, my funny, outspoken Aunt Fay, who has now buried all three of her children. I can't think about the depth of her grief or I become undone. I need to call her, but I can’t hold it together, at all, I’ve dialed, but I can’t push the talk button.
By comparison, my worries are small and I should be and I am grateful for my health and relative mental stability. Getting that kind of news should have been one of those hold your children close moments, but it had the opposite effect on me: I just withdrew from them last night. That kind of news sometimes just makes you very tired. I was barely holding it together as Nora ran in from the front yard and peed her way into the bathroom because she waited too long and I discovered that YuYu once again failed to turn in last week’s homework and has no idea where this week’s homework is located. I couldn't sit with them at dinner and I even paid Ellie to finish washing Nora and Mimi's hair because I was just toast.
I’ll try harder tonight. I’ll also try to think of some way to move this dark cloud along so it can go hang over some other unlucky schmoo because the funk is getting old.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The answer is 18

But how did she get there? No one knows. Every week Ellie, my fourth grader, brings home her Friday folder. It contains the self-directed, student corrected worksheets her class completes during the week. I get to sign off whether I'm satisfied or if I have concerns. It's not hard stuff and it seems like the only thing she is actually tested on each week is spelling. This week there was one particular word problem with one answer crossed out and the number 18 written in its place without any work showing. When it took me more than a minute to check her answer, it occurred to me that she didn’t know how to reach the answer on her own and she must have copied it from a friend. My heart sank. It was déjà vu all over again. I hated math too and by the time I had my last math class in 10th grade, I was just completely faking it and cheating off Wesley Silotti during the tests. I was so immature I didn’t even recognize the ethical issues I was facing and creating. All I knew is that I had to get through that year, not torpedo my grade point average and no way did I even come close to understanding the amount of work that was really necessary for me to understand trigonometry because everything else non-scientific and non-numerical came so easily to me. But I was such a good student, right? I could justify whatever it was going to take to get me past the last math barrier with my GPA in tact even though I so cavalierly sacrificed my ethics because at 15 years old I had no concept of ethics to sacrifice. But I do now and I want to let my kids in on it before they make some stupid choices that they don’t even see as choices.

When I confronted her with my suspicion, she knew she was had. She was so ashamed and she cried and cried. So it happened as I suspected; Ellie copied from Katie because she had no idea how to solve the problem herself but didn’t want to feel like the only one who couldn’t figure it out. Even after I worked through the problem with her several times, she still did not understand why the answer was 18. I completely understand her frustration. Word problems made me cry on a regular basis. We talked and talked about the importance of asking for help, not guessing, not copying from her friends. I tried to stress the importance of not pretending to understand just because everyone else seemed to understand. I hope she believes me that leaving a blank is so much better than making up an answer or cadging one from a friend. How do you set the moral compass? How do you make them believe that you would really, really rather see the blank and know what they don’t know? How do you make them not grow up to cheat off Wesley Silotti? I truly do understand what motivated her to copy from Katie. Some day I’ll tell her about 10th grade trigonometry and my spineless justification regarding the integrity of my “permanent record.” I probably overworked the incident, but I just want her to comprehend the difference between right and wrong and if she decides to cheat, at least she will know that she picked wrong and it was her choice to make.

Parenting: a lot like 10th grade trigonometry. Where is Wesley Silotti when you need him?

Monday, October 16, 2006

a short break

I HAVE to finish this motion, it MUST be filed tomorrow, but I have to clear/process a little something. So, at least I have the divine luxury of parents who still possess enough of their faculties to care for my children, all many of them, for over night and I get a break and anyone who read the prior self-pity-athon and were thinking that I should get some real problems, yes, I know how lucky I am. My dad is unlikely to ever read this blog, but I also can't do all his faults justice in all the blogs in all the world, but he always kept a roof over our heads and he's probably operating at the utmost extent of his emotional IQ, so I'l give the guy a break tonight, but he's generally a clod and there just isn't much I admire about him, and when I go postal or do something irrational or unworthy, I always double up on the shame by thinking, oh that was so Ed Hanson like.
So I drove out to pick up the kids after their long weekend in Idaho with G'ma and G'pa and in the course of a few rolled eyes, disgusted looks, and mean comments, it became clear to me that my father actively dislikes Nora, a lot. He shows much more patience and affection with my other three than my other nieces and nephews and for that I am grateful, but I just kind of assumed that he would at least try to like Nora. But he's not even trying and can bearly tolerate her. I mentioned my observation to my mother and she said, yeah, I just keep them apart. And in my whole history of condemning my dad for all that I think is deficient in his personality, here, again, I get to double shame myself for letting the Ed Hanson out in me regarding Nora. She pushes his buttons, I share his buttons, she pushes all of the same buttons in me, and I just cannot make myself love her yet and I'm letting myself do a Ed Hanson, and it's lazy and self-centered and emotionally stunted and I'm ashamed. My dad did this to one of my brothers: never learned to like him and never learned not to show his dislike/disdain, although I don't doubt that he loves him in the stingy way my dad thinks he can get away with because he thought he had permission from the world to let my mother do the emotional heavy lifting in our family. Well I don't have a spouse, I don't have an excuse, I don't approve of excuses, I can't short-change Nora, she needs the safety and support I'm capable of giving to her if I can scrub the Ed Hanson out of my genes.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot dot

or it could be dash dash dash dot dot dot dash dash dash, either way, the way I make a living blows and I wish the trees in my yard grew money instead of leaves and I could rake it up and put it in the big orange leaf bags the city used to provide for free (where did they go Rocky? where did they go?) and stay home and be calm. But, sadly, no this is not likely to happen.

Imagine this as last ditch message to the world found carved onto the walls of my office:

Help, so tired now, strength ebbing, many days no contact with real world -- only other lawyers, very discouraging, batteries running low, work sucking soul dry, no blogging, creative juices low, exhausted, must write only legal things, sucks bad, very bad . . . send help, sinking, sinking . . . .

I'm taking this ten minute break from the pile of shit on my desk and I can say shit because this is my blog dammit and that's how I talk when I have no impressionable ears nearby (the exception to the no shit rule around kids is whenever I pull things out of a cupboard or the fridge causing (a) fridge light bulbs to burst, (b) wine glasses to explode dramatically on the tiled floor, and/or (c) whole bottles of salsa or salad dressing to crash to the floor and BURST on contact spewing their contents over every farking (yeah, I'm too big of a sissy to actually type out he F word although you can be sure it is an active constituent of my cursing vocab) surface within five feet of the blast, as I sit here on a Saturday with the kids farmed out to my increasingly old parents (we just had the annual two day school holiday for UEA and once AGAIN, I had hearings/crap/what not and could not take time from the grind to be with them). They are all at the old folks' cabin in Bear Lake County that I have only seen once in the the five years I've been self-employed even though it is only 2.5 hours away. Sucks.

I promised myself that I could get back online with my insanity re: Nora only after I catch up with the huge amounts of imminent malpractice piling up at work like the trash around a storm drain after a big rain. I miss it, the writing keeps me saner, helps me reflect, surprises me that I like to write because the LAW had taken that away from me for so long. So the next time there is anything of substance on this blog, you will know that I am back on top of the hamster wheel, still running, never a break dammit, but at least I won't be clawing my way back of the under side of the wheel until it all piles up and happens again because it always does.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


and there is a good reason for that and yes I'm YELLING because I'm so frustrated with myself. I know that frustration and aggravation are not uncommon feelings when it comes to your kids' homework. Studies show that 99.9% of parents get frustrated when they have to help their children with homework (and you know that's a bogus number, but who WOULDN'T get frustrated? really who?), but what the hell is wrong with me that I can't make it through one work sheet before I go all Donald Trump and want to start firing everyone for sub-standard performances? Nora is SO proud that she has homework and is SO eager to get to work on it, she really really thinks that having real homework is the best thing about school so far, homework just like Ellie and YuYu and I went and stomped all over that tonight and I feel like shit and this is my blog so yeah, I can say shit.

I made it through the "tally" sheet, e.g., drawing tally marks to help them learn to count in fives because I could see that she had ABSOLUTELY NO COMPREHENSION as to what the hell we were trying to prove with the hash marks, did not compute, not even close, so I just kind of did it and showed her how to do it and helped her draw the tally marks, but it was not sinking in. Then we got to the beginning sound worksheet and she really knows all the sounds for the letters with this neat little action = letter sound system (thumb down = d, itch like a monkey = i), but cannot, CANNOT associate the letter sound with the printed letter making the sound. So I'm thinking, wait a minute, she immediately says the sound associated with the gesture, but CANNOT relate it to a letter, huh, why? this is not new, she has been here 9 months, including several months at Montessori and many many hours at home with the letter books, puzzles, and reading time, and I lost my patience, just a little, but then she teared up and started to leak and instead of easing up, that made me more insistent, until I had to time myself out and fold up the homework tonight and she went away feeling bad and I feel bad and I've scared her about her homework and taken away some of her joy and I really am a genuine all leather heel.

To all the teachers and parents who have the patience to work through problem after problem with a child who is not learning, or slowly learning, and keep their cool and make the child feel good about their progress or lack thereof, I stand in awe. I need to paint a big sign that says "It's about positive reinforcement, stupid" and look at it often during the nightly homeworkathons at Casa de Hanson. The homework is brutal, who knew? and this is still grade school, oh lord help me, says the secular humanist.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

"I a good family"

Picture it: Movie night, Japan's finest animation, whimsical yet carrying a strong message about being loyal to yourself, yes, none other than Kiki's Delivery Service, rent it, it's great. All the kids and big ol' mom piled on couch with essential snack items, e.g. huge bowls of microwave popcorn and Hawaii's Own orange guava drink in one HUGE c-store mug, w/ lid (I'm up to here with the spilling), five color-coded straws, I've trained myself not to think about the very real swishback possibilities. Ellie the popcorn hound scarfs down all the Orville Reddenbacher's in her bowl and starts wheedling her sisters for some of their popcorn rations. Nora pipes right up, "Eldie, you have my pahcorn," and hands over her precious portion. "Wow, Nora, you are so kind, that was generous, you really know how much Ellie loves her popcorn," says big ol' mom, sitting with her big ol' arm locked in Nora's small little arm. "That okay, I a good family," she says humbly. Big ol' mom dabs at hormonally induced eye leakage and basks in unexpected surge of maternal pride. She really is a wonderful child and I really have to get some industrial strength emotional duct tape to frap* down my big ol' buttons so Nora's spot-on button pushing won't get any bounce.

*Check it, it's a real word and one of my favorites ever since my own girl scouting days. I was sent into fits of giggles when a pretty ordinary looking teen-aged Eagle Scout (who, because he was all alone in a fire circle full of girls (at that great boy scout camp at the North end of Immigration Canyon, the Idaho end right before Ovid, can anyone remember the name? Camp ?????, shoot I hate aging) took on a much more desirable aura) was trying to teach us knot-tying and used frap as an instructional word. I thought he had made it up to impress the ladies and I just got so tickled by that I could not stop laughing. I think I've matured since then, but not by that much.

Friday, September 15, 2006

When bad moms happen to good kids

Oh, the shame, the shame. Can you read this? Can you see that it says "Dear Tooth Fairy: MY TOOTH!" Did you know that it is possible for the tooth fairy to forget the recently desiduoused tooth of a fabulous 9yo (who is just in it for the money at this point, but still) for three nights in a row until it gets to the point that the bad mom goes to her room to get ready for bed and the good but impatient kid has had to leave a NOTE for the hack fairy to remember about HER TOOTH! Did you know that guilt ridden tooth fairies are especially generous? Did you know that the good kid is only $6 away from having enough money to buy the ORGANIZER of her dreams, the one she has had her eye on at OfficeMax for over two months? Don't you think that an organizer is kind of a strange thing for a good kid to be lusting after? So many questions, so few good answers when bad moms happen to good kids in the heart of the lonely city. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Three rounds and one square

Tomorrow the service comes to cover the pool and put it away for the winter. It was an unseasonably hot day today and when we got home, Mimi suggested one last swim. However, I had not left the pool heater on in anticipation of one last swim, so the water temperature was not unseasonably warm, it was pretty darn nippy. They only lasted in the pool a few minutes. I always make them take their wet swimsuits off so they can warm up in the towel faster. So Mimi and YuYu dried off and went inside (Ellie was at soccer practice) and I sat and watched Nora swing, naked, in the sun for a long time. She had her eyes closed against the setting sun and I could tell she was trying to sing one of Miss Judy's Classic Kindergarten Tunes but was just making up 90% of the words. So I sat there, watching this gorgeous child swinging and singing and I was scouring my interior for even a hint of affection. I know I can always get a rise out of myself when I let my mind go to the birthmother angle. Here I am with the opportunity to love and nurture this child largely because of a failed political and economic system (one can assume, who knows she may have been love child of a forbidden romance between a man trapped in an unhappy marriage and his one true love he had to forsake to marry a woman he did not love in order to honor a family obligation, who knows, it could have happened that way) in a vast and crowded country. So my interior motivational speaker was giving myself this rousing pep talk about honor and privilege and duty and my interior wise ass was flipping her off. I just was not feeling it.

So fast-forward an hour and I snap when she snaps and it’s fast and mindless and sudden. What is it that makes me snap so quickly when Nora expresses her unhappiness about her lot in life with her particular flair for the the whiny, floppy, surly, sulky, sullen mode of delivery? Apparently I have a zero tolerance level for crabbiness that sets wheels in motion over which I have no control, apparently. Nora was not happy being the child at the end of the couch when Ellie wanted to read Disney princess stories out loud. As I walked in to see what was going on, she chose to slide to the floor with arms flailing as if every nerve had suddenly gone dead while moaning in a loud and complaining voice and I didn't even give her a chance to redeem herself and stop it. I took her by the flail arm and led her quickly to her bedroom and at 7:45 pm I was done with her. She screamed herself to sleep within minutes, before I could even go in to explain my decision to remove her from the little couch reading vignette.

Meanwhile my three round pegs sat together contentedly on the couch reading about Ariel and Belle. I went back in to watch my three round pegs and my heart simultaneously swelled with enormous love and pride for these three and overwhelming discouragement about my feelings for Nora. I still see Nora as a square peg who is making a pig's breakfast out of that one remaining round hole I had saved for my last child. Adjusting to her is painful and slow and after my hair-trigger reaction to her loss of composure tonight, I wonder just how long I'm going to make myself suffer with this adjustment before I crack the code. Because even though I just artfully used myself as the subject of the prior sentence, like I am the one doing all the adjusting and I'm such a hero, what I really really want is for her to get on board with the pleasant family interaction agenda and completely re-adjust herself to us, not the other way around. But seriously, how much adjusting can I expect an emotionally immature five-year-old to do? Oh great, now that I've come to the conclusion that we're both emotionally immature five-year-olds, or at least that's how I feel when I let my whole body turn into one HUGE button that reads "PUSH ME" on top. But it really is my job to make the changes, because, good hell, she's only just turned five. But ooh ooh ooh, some of her behaviors just set me off like a Saturn rocket and compassion, understanding and any affection I've been building for her get burned up in the launch.
I need to do some serious readjusting of my expectations regarding her emotional abilities or I'm just going to make myself nuts and Nora very unhappy. Shoot, every day in every way is work with her, shoot.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Just thinking out loud loud here, but

Nora plays SO well with Lan Lan (4) when the Ellisons come up to visit the cultural capital (TWO Asian food stores within eight blocks, it doesn't get much more cosmopolitan than that) of the Intermountain West, that it does make me think about the possibility of maybe, some day, adding another, heck, it couldn't hurt, Nora's emotionally immature, a younger soulmate sister would be so good for her, we have room for another, never say never, it could happen and maybe . . .

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HAH, had you going, that will NEVER happen, tick tock the game's locked and NOBODY else can play, no more Hanson sur-named female type children will be sashaying around these parts until they look up and call me Grandma. HAH, adopt another child? preposterous, absurd, and I do mean NEVER! I'm saying NEVER and I pretty much mean NEVER.

So this Kindergarten thing, hope it works

Mimi and Nora started Kindergarten last week. There are more parents who want their K-graders in the one all-day classroom than can fit in the classroom (even in Utah, land of HUGE class sizes). I asked for both girls to be included in the all-day program and ver, ver, ver thankfully, both of my darlings were placed in the same class with The Divine Mis Judy, the most incredible, fabulous, organized, loving, experienced, energetic best K-grader teacher in the known world and her wonderful aide Miss Elaine.

But, I still have big fears about Nora and whether she will be able to progress to first grade next year. My thinking was, shoot, I can pay grundles of money to keep her in Montessori K-grade this winter and start her in public school next fall as the oldest in her class -OR - I could save a grundle of $$$ that I simply don't have after two adoptions in 18 months what WAS I thinking and let Miss Judy take a crack at her. I just figured, hey, if she can't cut it, I'll make the decision to hold her back in K-grade next year in public school. Now I have the big guilty doubts about that strategy. If she can't advance with her peers, she will be crushed, crushed and humiliated. If she can't advance with her peers, me thinks I'll be paying grundles next fall to send her to another year of private K so at least she has a year of separation from her former peers before she has to start first grade the same time they (including her sister) are starting second.

It may just be that I end up paying later rather than sooner, but I'm going to cling to the hope that one of the BEST educators ever to sing good morning in circle time can crack her code and help her learn.

I actually had no fears about Mimi and Nora in the same class together. They play very independently of each other anyway, there isn't any strange dependence vibe happening between them. That was how they co-existed in the same class at Montessori, so I had no qualms about them spending this one year in school together in the same class.

Yeah, and when did I turn into the mean kind of mom who makes her children wear shoes to school instead of kicky fun sandals you may wonder? From always, just ask Ellie who suffers so in her sneakers when all around her are in flip flops (until it gets too cold). So, yeah, Nora looks clod-hopperish in her cute swishy skirt and HUGE shoes, but she won't be coming home with all the skin scraped off the ends of her toes and slivers from the playground wood chips embedded in the soles of her feet either. And good hell, she doesn't know how bad it looks, let me have a few more years of picking out their footwear.

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Monday, September 04, 2006


I don’t know, and those who know me well know that I spend less than any time worrying about it either, but I’m using the template to guide my reactions to Nora’s behavior. But instead of pondering the imponderable, I ask myself this: “how would you be reacting to this if you loved her?” and who knows, that’s kind of on the imponderable spectrum too, isn’t it. I have to stop and do this because I’m not fair to her. To those I’m about to offend, forgive me, but forget astrology, it has to be bunk because the chart next to the comics in the Tribune says that I’m a Libra, but how can I be a Libra because I’m not fair, I play favorites like a demon: the scales they need adjusting.

I was embarrassed a few weeks ago because I started to go off on Nora because she had taken one of those slick little single serve Crystal Light tubes that turn your little bottle of store-bought water into a soft drink in a jiffy into the bathroom and from appearances, kind of didn’t get much of the contents of the spammy little tube into the smallish neck of the little bottle and there was too much cleaning up of raspberry delight going on for my lazy-would-rather-not-be-cleaning-the-bathroom-again-this-month sensibilities. I was reading her the riot act about asking permission, food is NOT prepared in the bathroom, ewwww, germs, ewww (and for those that know me, that’s a little bit hypocritical, what’s the opposite of germophobe? Oh yeah, slob), don’t do it again, ever. I took away one of her three wrist bands (ponytail holders) which meant she did not earn back her Barbie battery-operated toothbrush and her heart heaved itself into two pieces and she was bereft, bereft, and I left her to cry/think/feel bad for a minute. During Nora’s “quiet contemplation time,” I went downstairs and noticed that the light was on in the downstairs bathroom where I discovered that YuYu had done the same thing to that bathroom except that she had chosen the lemonade palette, umm, pretty. It looked like I had sons instead of daughters, if you know what I mean.

So, I called YuYu down, helped her clean up, did not rant, did not take away a privilege, made her promise not to make drinks in the bathroom and it was over. It did not even occur to me at the time how embarrassingly different I had treated them for the same crime discovered within 15 minutes and even worse, YuYu was aware that I was coming down on Nora for the spilling and the spreading about of much color and she did not say anything, didn’t even try to go cover her tracks. She was clueless at best and deceitful at worst and with YuYu, you can always go with clueless as the safe bet (the girl who brought home an open cup of chili in her backpack because she was saving it for later).

So as I was dropping off to sleep that night, it finally registered what I had done to Nora and how unfair I had been to her, what a schmuck I can be at times. And I don’t think it’s because I wore out my anger by the time I found YuYu’s mess, it’s just because I love YuYu, I have patience and forgiveness for YuYu and I don’t have those baseline feelings for Nora yet.

Now I am trying to make myself sloooooow down before I tee off on Nora when she pushes my buttons. The other three are not angels all day all the time, they need correction too, and it’s just that their misbehaviors don’t send me into orbit the way Nora’s can. Like today, when Ellie noticed on the calendar that she starts Girl Scouts on Wednesday afternoon, and Nora started the stamping and complaining that “I want go girl scout too,” even though she has no earthly idea what that means, she just knows that it is something she is not going to get to do, my first reaction was to tell her to “please Nora, please stop complaining all the time.” And truth be told, yeah, that’s what I did say, at first. But then I stopped, thought better, engaged her in a little conversation about why Ellie was a big girl and could scout and Nora will too someday, and I know it feels bad when Ellie can do more things because she is older and I gave her the attention that she needed/wanted and stopped grossly over-generalizing, because, yes, she does complain, but not “all the time” and her complaint this time was valid. But, sheesh, can I tell you, this gets tiring and tiresome to put this much thought into so much of my interaction with this child. I want it to be a cinch, it’s not. Come on cupid or cupid equivalent because I’m not looking for romantic love here, just good old mother love, please, please, sting me. My girl needs me to love her before I really cause some damage here. In the meantime, I step back several times a day and try to visualize how I would react if I were coming from love and hope for the day I don’t need to take any additional steps.

P.S. that's the sulking face that sets me off so badly, almost, a partial sulk, not fully developed, she was unhappy about the size of the box she was given to play with, so in between having fun, she was being petulant, so the sulk look didn't get the full lip thrust that day.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Why the hit clicker?

in the side bar under the picture flicker you may ask? Well, because it has a map and I'm hoping that a dot will appear in the vicinity of Nanning (probably not, I learned first hand last January that blogspot is filtered in Guangxi) or Guangzhou. If the dot appears in Guangzhou, it may mean the YuYu's foster brother has access to a computer and can click in to see updated photos of YuYu once in awhile and that would be nice to know. That's all, I'm not counting visits, although it is interesting to see dots in Europe and Tasmania?, I just want to know if Huang Wei can see YuYu, it broke his heart to lose her and I want to let him know she continues to thrive and still loves him very much.

Project Me Bag

My Ellie is . . .. and I've started with the superlative adjectives and back-spaced so many times I've worn out this screen which tells me that I do not have sufficient vocabulary to adequately describe this amazing little human. She does not judge, she embodies the word "inclusive," she is calm and centered, silly and gullible, not too adventurous or observant, but always willing to help without a word of complaint. She is short in stature among her peers by a long way; her tall friend Laurel had to lift her up to write her name on the white board in her new classroom on the first day of fourth grade last week. But where some children would be mortified, Ellie just giggled hysterically. Ellie is the shortest student in fourth grade but she just shrugs and says, "Someone has to be the shortest." Sanguine is the word that always comes to mind to describe this treasure I was entrusted to raise. My first goal in parenting Ellie is to just not ruin her with my own special brand of nuttiness. All I need to do for Ellie is provide praise, love and safety and make room for her own natural instincts, her predisposition to be kind, fair and accepting, to flourish and grow.

I adopted Ellie in 1998 when she was 14 months old and she is now 9.5 years old. The moment she was placed in my arms is seared into my memory: I was never so happy or grateful just to be me. She traveled to China with me in 2001 and 2004 on our trips to adopt Mimi and YuYu. She was not troubled on either trip with regard to feelings of yearning or loss as described by parents of other adopted children who take them back to their home countries. For right now, she does not question how she came to be a Chinese-American girl raised by a single mother in the heart of the Wasatch. She knows that she has birth parents and that she will never know the who or the how or the why of her beginning in life. She seems to be satisfied with the answer that there is no answer and she may never know anymore about her start in China than she does right now.

As an adoptive parent, I try, try so hard to be sensitive to the knowledge of everything my children have lost, both emotionally and culturally. That even though they are ethnically Chinese, they will never be more than tourists in their birth country. That alone is a huge loss, never mind the issues of abandonment and separation they will need to deal with as they grow to adulthood. I'm also aware that Ellie, even though she is almost ten, does not yet have the emotional language to talk about those feelings and has not processed any of the contradictions in her life. She made me a mom, and my great happiness is the result of another mother's great pain. All she knows is that she is loved, here and now, and she returns the feelings with equal intensity.

So, her first homework assignment in fourth grade is to decorate a brown paper bag, a Me Bag, with illustrations about her interests and to fill the bag with 5-7 items, including a few pictures that represent the important things in her life. She will share the Me Bag with her classmates as they get to know each other this week. She filled the bag with a sodoku puzzle book, a tiny stuffed dog, a soccer participation medal, hamma bead doodads, a sketch book and a photo of her grandmother and her sisters. I am standing there watching her load the bag and ask, I think helpfully, "don't you want to add something from China?" Ellie's response "no." The "no" wasn't presented with either positive or negative inflection, just "no." So there you have it. My totally assimilated little American girl. Despite my efforts to incorporate Chinese culture in our home, she has not escaped the collective. She has become one with the Disney Channel Stars, Saturday mornings on the soccer field, dvd watching in the mini-van and microwave popcorn. What can you do?