Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Onolicious Wahines Talk Story

Heard around the dinner table:

Ellie: The tallest goes Mom, me, YuYu, Nora then Mimi.

Mimi: Awoh.

Ellie: The oldest goes Mom, me, YuYu, Mimi then Nora.

Nora: Awoh.

Ellie: The first adopted goes me, Mimi, YuYu then Nora.

Mimi: You forgot Mom.

Me: No bud, I grew in Grandma’s tummy, I wasn’t adopted.

Mimi: No, Grandma had to go pick you up in Hawaii.

I wish. And given my birth weight (I was a VERY healthy baby born with (BSG (big strapping gal) Syndrome, still have it), I bet Grandma wishes she could have skipped child birth for a nice Hawaiian vacay too.

Friday, January 19, 2007

PITA redeemed

Wednesday evening, Nora decided to tantrum, for a long time, a long, ear-splitting, nerve-shredding time, over picking her clothes off the ground. It had been a very stressful work day and I was simply out of emotional resources. I really lit into her. I was a monumental Yelling Mom. Shall we say that I definitely made her regret and rethink her decision to dump her clothes/shoes in a heap in the TV room and then to refuse to pick them up. Or to be more precise, my display of anger apparently scared the shit out of her.

So last night, I put Nora and YuYu in the tub before dinner and got their little brown selves all cleaned up and smelling like soap, yum, delicious pretty girls. After dinner, I ran the tub and dunked Mimi in for her much needed sudsing. She asked to play for a minute, so I retreated to my newspaper for awhile. Then, next thing I know, Mimi is standing next to me, wrapped in a towel, with her hair all wet and dripping. I started to get a little put out, because I could hear the water running out of the tub, but I know that Mimi can't handle her own hair ball head yet and needs help getting the shampoo sudsed in and rinsed out and I was going to need to run another tub. I started to lead her back to the bathroom, asking why she had forgotten to wash her hair. She told me, no, her hair was clean.

Me: How? how can your hair be clean?
Mimi: Nora helped me.

You could have pushed me over with a bottle of no more tears. I went into the bathroom and there was Nora, all business like, picking the toys out of the water and grabbing the great ghastly wads of Mimi's hair before it could go down the drain. I lifted her up, hugged her close and thanked and praised her for several minutes.

Me: Nora, thank you so much, I really really appreciate your help. I love you so much.
Nora: Yor welcome, I want you like me.

Agggh, knife wound.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Excited about Veronica

Many years ago, in a parallel universe that seems to be lifetime ago, I had the great good fortune to share the misery of being a "summer associate" after my first year of law school with the lovely Ms. Valerie Mangine, nee Brown. It was such a relief to share that first stab at law practice with someone with whom I could also share my insecurities and the "omg I can't do this I'm going to get fired before I ever get hired" fears. Not to mention our memorable trip through the desert outside of Vegas on Labor Day weekend with the heater ON in my miserable old Subaru. I did the complaining for both of us, she was so gracious about it.

Now the divine Ms. Val and her equally fabulous husband Buddy (who, although I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting, must be fabulous or Val wouldn't have chosen him and since when they travel, their adult to kid ratio will be so much better than mine, I should think I'll get to meet him on my turf, yes?), is days away from winging her way to China to adopt the prettiest little petal who they will name Veronica Quinn. They've started a blog, Val's blog , and I can hardly WAIT to hear about and see the big day.

Their excitement, love and joy for this small beauty are wonderful to share.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Pain in the Ass (PITA) Factor

The kids are with grandma for MLK day, and yes, all you single working parents who read this blog, I do know how lucky I am to have my mother, who is mostly still in control of her faculties, close enough to cover for me on school holidays, at least when she doesn’t have other plans, which she is perfectly entitled to have, don’t get me wrong, but I’m so grateful when she’s available to be the relief hitter.

And speaking of no heat, my office is located in a circa 1898 school building that was turned into office space in the 1980s. So its all exposed brick, original maple floors, very appealing visually, BUT with global HVAC problems (last winter was ridiculous and we were without heat for days and days) and localized HVAC problems for this suite only (something something, damper motor, something) and it’s damn cold in here, my gadget clock says 61 degrees and I’m practically sitting on my space heater, but still, my hands just want to quit typing and curl up inside my coat sleeves. It’s been bad for three weeks, on again, off again, and I’m kind of at wit’s end, but I digress.

So, yes, the PITA factor. Just called to check on the girls and mom says, yes, they’re fine, but Nora is just a pain in the ass. I say, yes, yes, I know. She says what can you do about it? I say, just keep my cool and hope she grows out of it. And really, what else can I do? She is either (a) complaining about something that seems to me to be insignificant, but to her is grossly unfair (victim mentality, oh my, so unattractive on a child), followed up with a harrumph, a stamp off in a huff and a pout with arms folded across chest for extra emphasis, or (b) indulging her hair-trigger negative reaction to everything regardless if the trigger is a good or bad thing (e.g. Nora, flush the toilet after yourself, neutral request, yes? No. That is very negative comment in her book and must be accompanied flopping and whining and moaning). She is “very reactive” as Miss Judy says, and oh my, it wears one down, or(c) giggling maniacally in any new situation or circumstance or when she alone finds something amusing (she has a pretty warped sense of humor) to the point you just want to crawl under the cone of silence until she quits.

When Suzanne, the social worker who has written all of my adoption home study reports, came to finish our last home study interview for Nora’s one year post placement report, Nora treated her to twenty minutes of the inappropriate giggling and/or back talk or sassiness in response to every question Suzanne asked of her. When we moved to a different room, away from the kids, to complete the interview, Suzanne noted that, yes, indeed, Nora is a PITA and it must wear me out to constructively redirect her every three minutes and was I concerned about her ability to ever make any friends because who would put up with that crap? And no, Nora has not made any friends at school and she has no idea how lucky she is that her sisters are tolerant of her crap. Even Ellie has run out of patience with her and that’s hard to do, that’s just very hard to do.

However, Nora does have flashes of cooperative behavior and I praise praise praise her for any positive impulse that she comes up with. She loves the attention for good behavior, but doesn’t seem to mind the negative attention for bad behavior. She plays so well with Lan Ellison who is one year younger than Nora. It is truly amazing how well they get along together. But Nora cannot maintain her composure when she plays with kids her own age and something ends up getting tossed or I have to end up separating Nora from the other kids so they can play in peace.

Mimi and Nora are in the same class and I’ve said no to a few invitations for Mimi to go on play dates when it did not include Nora, but most of the mom’s will extend the invitation to Nora when I mention that they are sisters. Last week Sarah’s mom called to invite Mimi to Jungle Jim’s after school on Friday and I did not want Mimi to miss out just because Nora wasn’t invited. When I called back to confirm the invitation, I mentioned that Nora and Mimi were sisters, and yes, I was trying to be ever so slightly manipulative, but hey, can you blame me, but this mom was very direct and didn’t let me manipulate her. The invitation was for Mimi only because she did not feel like she could handle 4 hours of Nora. I agreed, and reiterated that I wasn’t asking for her to take Nora too, just making sure the she would be prepared for Nora’s water works when she picked up Sarah and Mimi at school. Needless to say, this was a crushing blow to Nora, and to her credit, she did not fall completely apart, just one or two jags. I think we’re going to run into this more and more as Mimi and Nora get older. Nora is having a very difficult time learning to read and if she doesn’t start picking up on social cues and learn to get along with kids better, I will have to make the decision to hold her back. I don’t think Miss Judy wants her for another year, but I don’t want Nora to constantly be fighting to keep up academically and socially for her entire elementary school experience. Parent teacher conferences are next month. When I mentioned my concerns about Nora last time, Miss Judy thought she had plenty of time during the rest of the year to catch up. I’ll talk to Miss Judy again, see where she thinks Nora is heading, but holding her back sounds more and more appealing to me as each week that passes finds her unable to connect that letters are sounds and words are a series of sounds, she just can’t see it yet.

So here I am, one year later, with a few more insights into Nora’s personality, and the knowledge that yes, she’s a royal PITA and not easy to love. What I’m still finding difficult to overcome is that, even with these insights, I still let her push my buttons and play me like an ocarina. I have precious little more insight into why I can’t find the level of affection for her that I hold for my other girls. We will always be oil and water, okay, that’s a given, now how do I snap out of it and just learn to love the little PITA even though she is a little PITA? And I do love her, please don’t worry that I’m cold and remote or withholding, I’m too sappy and sentimental for that. But I still do not love her the same and I feel sorry for her and me because I haven’t found the code that will let her gain entry all the way into my heart where the other three not perfect either but so much easier to love children are latched on like burrs.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

adoption day anniversary: one year with Nora


Overheard on Nora’s adoption day last Wednesday.

I’m at the kitchen sink and the three youngest were brushing their teeth around the corner in the bathroom.

YuYu: Nora, I’m glad you came to be our sister.
Nora: [tittering] Why?
YuYu: Because you are cute and funny and smart and brave.
Nora: [over the top tittering that’s her way of saying “I’m uncomfortable” and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to act]
Mimi: But when you giggle too much, that’s very ‘noying. I wish you could stop.
Nora: [more uncontrolled and uncontrollable tittering]

The room where my home computer is located was probably supposed to be a root cellar or some such because there’s no ductwork and I'm feeling a little rutabagish down here in the cold. It’s 15 degrees outside and doesn’t feel that much warmer in this terrible little room. I’m thinking a lot about my progress with Nora and want to get my thoughts on paper, but I just can’t work under these conditions. I’m thinking the blog might be a little weak until the spring thaw, yeowch.

But I think YuYu and Mimi distilled my feelings pretty succinctly: yes, I agree, Nora is beautiful and smart and funny, but damn, she’s “in your face annoying” a lot of the time and I wish she could stop.
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Sunday, January 07, 2007

My Cook

Nora’s one-year anniversary is coming up in three days. I’m dancing around the hard stuff. I try to express my feelings for her and can’t get the words or the tone right. I am not despairing, far from it, but it’s been a year and the number 365 has not had the magical effect I was hoping it might have. As I work through my scattered feelings about my little Guilin beauty, here’s a photo from today and a story about my 6-year-old Mimi from Chongqing.
Mimi came up the stairs with her hair stuffed in this knit cap that YuYu's foster grandma gave her last year, announced that she was hungry and started scarfing down my lean cuisine (you know, at least I'm trying, but results do vary). I grabbed the camera to capture her silliness and she piped up: "Can you do these to my fah . . . ....., my cook? The one that loved me.” She had started to say foster family, like Nora and YuYu. Seems I always have a package half started for their foster families and I try to include a lot of photos. Mimi is very aware that Nora and Mimi have something “more” than she has with regard to her beginnings.
Mimi came to me directly from the Fuling SWI in Chongqing. She was 11 months old. We had the tremendous good fortune to drive out and visit the SWI after we received our children in Chongqing. It was a two hour bus ride capped off by maybe an hour and a half, tops, of walking through the old facility (since replaced with a new building to house the children, check the link to Fuling Kids International on the side bar) with me clutching Mimi and trying to figure out how to smuggle as many babies as possible out the gate without getting caught. But that’s a different story.
While we were at the Fuling SWI, a nice looking man with a crew cut courteously showed interest in our Mimi. I asked about him and his connection to Mimi and was told, I think, it was hectic what with my open weeping over the conditions and what not, that he was the cook for the orphanage/old folks home combo and that Mimi was a favorite of his. It certainly appeared that he thought she was special and although she did not reach for him, she was comfortable in his arms. Since I’m a beauty school drop out with regard to scrapbook creating, we haven’t spent a lot of time looking at photos from her adoption trip together. And, really, saying not a lot is even misleading because that would imply any. We just don’t look at the photos, but on the few occasions that we have gone through them together, I have mentioned this man and let Mimi know that he had singled her out as a special baby. But I have not created a myth or dwelled on the story, just kind of mentioned it in passing. But she seems to need this story. She needs to know that she was loved from the beginning.

None of my kids are sophisticated enough in their emotional understanding of abandonment and adoption and what that says about their start in life to ask questions or show any concern, yet. In other families, these issues jump out early and need to be addressed and salved and lovingly handled and placed into perspective much earlier and often than we have experienced. Adoptive parents try to prepare themselves and provide their children with the tools to explore and embrace the early loss, but how each child reacts to their difference is impossible to predict. I know that when Mimi’s time comes to examine her life and how she came to live it, I just know that I will be grateful for two things: this cook who loved her and the opportunity to visit the orphanage to get picture proof that it was so.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

He likes me, he likes me, he really likes me

Last year, "Santa not know where I am." This year, he got the address right, smart man.

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Mom, can we borrow your camera?

Uh, sure, don't drop it.
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