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.