Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Passive Agressive Mom

So, YuYu has a birthday party invitation for Thursday at 3:30, WTF? So, trying very hard to keep the incredulity and disdain out of my voice because I'm calling her from the center of my universe that crams dinner (both preparation and consumption), homework, reading, bathing, errands, lessons and life into the 2.5 hours between after-work pick-up and 8:30 bedtime, I call back to RSVP with regrets because, "I work full-time and cannot transport her to the party." Good thing I got the recorder given my attitude at the very moment I made that call. But what I was hoping for was a call back from the party mom to say, "Oh don't worry, I'll take her with me when I pick up party girl from school,” or, "Hey, mutual friend is also invited and I'm sure her mom wouldn't mind picking YuYu up at school too." But no, I'm too pissy to make those suggestions because I expect someone who chooses a weekday afternoon for a party to have considered the possibility that some of their little guests may have working parents and that they may need to provide those sweet deserving little girls who had the horrible misfortune of getting stuck in a family with working parents an alternative method of transportation. And, yes, I could have called and been more direct and put party mom on notice that I have irrational expectations and want to know how she planned to get my child to her child's party, but then she would know that I'm a jackass.
And here's how even-tempered and accepting my little YuYu can be: When I told her that she couldn't go to V's birthday party because I couldn't leave work to drive her there, she said, "okay."
And if you noticed the ooze sliding off your computer screen and onto your desk, don’t be alarmed, that’s just my single parent guilt dripping out of every corner of this post, I don’t think it’s infectious.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Promise Keeper

In the beginning, there were no electronic transmissions from the Middle Kingdom. It was the rare adoptive family on the vanguard that could stay connected to the mother ship once they set down on the surface in China. Sending an email home proclaiming your joy and amazement from the White Swan business center was a technical super achievement. We could not have dreamed of a day when we would get more than one referral photo, or more remarkable, that we could get a digi-pic of our waiting child sent from a complimentary computer in the Chinese hotel room of a volunteer working at her orphanage or another adoptive family you "met" on your Yahoo orphanage egroup who traveled ahead of you and snapped pictures or your child when they visited the SWI. Making those kinds of predictions in 1996, when I started this process, would have been severe crazy talk, would have set you up for ridicule, would have marked you as a wing-nut: families allowed to visit an orphanage?!? that's crazy talk.

So, when I traveled to adopt Ellie, back in those early days of China adoption, one 2-inch by 2-inch fuzzy photo, of what may or may not be a Chinese infant or just a life-like replica, was all you were going to get before you took the big leap and flew to the other side of the earth to make your family grow and to bring your tiny photo home. And once you were handed your tiny photo, all you received to fill in the gaps of your child's first months or years was a completely and utterly fabricated immunization record (to comply with INS immigrant visa requirements, see, I'm talking way back in the day, it was still the INS). And yet, somehow, in the absence of advanced technology and reliable information, the face in the tiny photo with the fake shot record, turned out to be the right child. The child you longed for, dreamed about, and in whom you invested your whole heart before you met her all on the basis of a fuzzy 2x2 photo. She was the one, and you knew it without hesitation, only immense gratitude to the hands of fate that brought her to you. And it was everything you imagined it would be times a bajillion. And you loved her. You held that baby and had the world by the tail and the confidence that you could do this right, you could make this right, you could be the parent that she needed. You promised her that you could and you had no doubt that you would deliver. You have never in your life felt stronger or more determined; and it shows, it's written all over your face.

Nine years ago today, my own little fuzzy photo was placed in my arms and became love incarnate. I don't always keep the promises I made to her. Sometimes I fail, I'm too tired, distracted, or impatient, but she always shows me the way to do better, she leads by example. She keeps the silent promise she made to me from that fuzzy photo: she is my child. For now, she thinks that I am the best mother in the world, and that's more than I ever asked for.

Monday, February 19, 2007

What's not to love

I wasted a lot of time today, a lot of time, trying to make this video clip magically appear, as if without effort, on the blog. Well, I'm here to tell you that although it did take an embarassing amount of time, and my 16-yo 'phew could have had it up in a NY second, the computer did not, in the end, whip my middle-aged ass. I did it, so take that you piece of electronic evil. I won. Not you. Me. Feel the burn.

So, the point is that Ellie and I will share our ninth anniversary together on Wednesday, and as I was firing up the nostalgia machine in anticipation of that event, searching my files for something that sadly appears to be lost, I stumbled over this clip instead. I coerced my friends Steve and Kristen into helping me "learn" how to edit video one evening and all that I learned is that Steve and Kristen were very generous not to say no to me even though I am sure that they suspected that I was uneducable because I am only just now, six or seven years later, learning how to do anything more with the video tape than just throwing it in a someday shoebox, as in: someday I'll do something with the dozens and dozens and dozens of video tapes in this shoe box.

So here she is, my darling daughter Ellie, circa May 1999. She is 2.5 years old, eating a popsicle and dancing to Disney's Friends Forever CD in her bedroom. She is on the verge of being potty trained by the tried and true M&M bribery method, hence the repeated requests for "my canny." She is delectable.

Did I mention that I fell hard for this child, harder than two tons of honey covered bricks, but is there any doubt as to why one might fall in love so easily with this joyful, beautiful child? What's not to love.

Post script:

Maniacal embarassed laughter, if you clicked in this morning, you would have seen SIX YouTube screens as six separate posts. So much for feeling like the alpha dog. I kept telling YouTube to upload the clip to my blog, but when it didn't happen immediately, I interpreted that as an absolute refusal and gave up and copied and pasted the clip's URL in a post. So, as is turns out, it wasn't a refusal so much as a digestive issue: YouTube needed to mull over my multiple requests and then, seeing that I was very serious about uploading this clip, acquiesced and did it six times for me. Oh, damn, I'm so digitally inept, makes me chuckle.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Let's all go to the snack bar

A very happy new year for YuYu, a box chock FULL of Chinese snacks with labels we can't read from her foster parents arrived yesterday. Thank You so much Xiao Zhen. I just love these people. I figured the shipping alone was $47 (365 yuan stamped on the customs form) and it couldn’t have been cheap to fill the package with delectables like fruit food, diseased root vegetable sticks, wrinkled brown nuggets, low sugar dates (extolled as leisure and comfortable food on the package), little cakes that are really just little cubes of compressed sweetened flour, longan and osmanthus scented, that disintegrate into a crumbly pile with the slightest touch. YuYu is in snack food heaven. We can add this pile of treasure to the super huge bag of dried squid strips and rock salt plums she’s been working on this week. I am so glad that YuYu has retained her tastes for the food she grew up eating. I hope that doesn’t change.

The picture below is just SOME of the snacks Xiao Zhen loaded me down with when we met them at the orphanage in Nanning before leaving for Guangzhou back in November 2004 when, I want to say “brought YuYu home,” but at the time, felt like “stole YuYu from her.” Obviously, she was worried that I was going to starve our little YuYu pixie stick. Not to worry Xiao Zhen, with all these wonderfully odd snacks, dried squid strips and a freezer full of frozen dumplings, we’re good, she only just looks starved, ooh my that girl is thin, and oh boy is she loved around the world.

Winnah, Winnah, Winnah

No Way!
And, no one shed blood and/or contracted tetanus, bonus!
Ellie and the winners from the other two fourth grade classes will advance to the district level. You can cut the tension with a knife! Well, my tension anyway, Ellie is surprisingly non-plussed.

Edited to read:

I'm feeling guilt for Ellie's victory and need to add this explanation in our defense so I don't lose my slacker-mom certification: she poked every kernel with a push pin, operated all the machinery (air popper), measured the results, took the pictures, and wrote it all up, fourth grade style. But we've had such a bad/scary mommy-daughter big take-home project history with me yelling and gentle Ellie crying, that I didn't want our fun project to turn into tears this time. So when it looked like it was circling the drain, and I started to lose my patience with her, I broke out the piles of unused scrap book paper, Print Shop and my advanced English language skills and helped her with the layout. And she was so pleased with the result, she was beaming. So, compared to the other tri-folds on display, I'd say my involvment was about medium. Some were waaaaaaaaaay over the top and some were pure and good and touched only by student hands. Yes, I do feel badly that the butterfly project created by S and S, two of Ellie's best friends, was not chosen because it was clearly all their own work (and I KNOW it must have been hard for their very smart and accomplished parents to stand back). On the other hand, I feel great that Ellie and I completed a project together with no yelling and that she is proud of the outcome. I'll try to stand back a little farther next year.

Friday, February 16, 2007

news flash

I interrupt nothing to bring you the late breaking news from the fourth grade science fair:

I won, I won, ahem, I mean, she won, sort of. Ellie's project was one of the five best in her class and eligible to compete in the school fair. I left her this morning setting up her board in the lunch room and waiting for the judges to come talk to her about her experiments for eligibility to compete in the district fair. She's not nervous, she rehearsed her speech, but I don't think it will go very much farther from here. Our little project, while visually appealing, is not the class of the competition. It would be unfair if her project was selected to move up to the district level because those other parents did a much better job than I did.

And this whole project helped me remember my own fifth grade science fair experience where my mom's project, er, my project, went to the state level (UofU Olpin Union Building, I still get a huge nostalgic rush everytime I walk in there). I was a big winner, but measured by today's safety standards, oh good hell, a complete biohazard. Mom went to the local hospital and asked a lab technician for the outdated bottles of the stuff they used to type and test blood and, I kid you not, I used darning needles (straight from a little dish of rubbing alcohol, sterile, sure, but by the time I went to the district fair, the damn things were rusty) to poke people in the finger so I could squeeze out some blood on a glass slide and type it. I kid you not, people let me poke their fingers with rusty darning needles. Can you even imagine? And the sad thing, I cannot for the life of me ever remember my own blood type, B something, not the one that is rare, the common one. My dabble in the dark arts stuck with me great huh?

Stay tuned for more news from the fourth grade science fair exclusively on this blog station.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

game over

Well, talk about taking the wind out of your sails. I thought the game was still on. I thought I still had a chance at the crown. What a cruel way to discover that you've been knocking your brains out but the winner had already been decided. Now what? second place mom? I don't think so.

Edited to add:
Well, so much for my attempt at humor, you have to click on the photo to enlarge it enough to get the joke, pretty feeble.

Friends with talent

By this point in my life, it is pretty much widely known that I was born without the "craft" gene or, as it is also known, the "art" gene. I admit that it was hard to grow up with this invisible special need, always carrying the shame of my artlessness and inadequacy, waiting to be found out, and living with the fear of discovery. I remember begging Susan Hurd, the class artist, to illustrate my fourth grade report on Utah's natural resources with a lump of coal. I stared at it for hours; I loved that picture of that piece of coal. I pretended that I drew it; it made me happy to have that illustration on my report, uncommonly happy, pathetically happy.

But, somehow, I managed to complete my education and hide my embarrassing lack of skill from the world for many, many years. I was fortunate in that there isn't much call for illustrations on legal memoranda, very fortunate. Then I became a mother, and I was challenged to create pretty, feminine rooms for my princesses and I punted and resorted to paint with a lot of pigment. It wasn't the same as clouds on the ceiling and a scenes from Grimm’s' fairy tales painted on the walls, but it was the best I could do and the occupants weren't complaining. But, recently, the fear and shame I had managed to repress for so many years came snapping back at me when scrapbook mania seized a world full of people who were longing for a "creative outlet" and creating mountains of guilt for the rest of us who neither had the time nor talent to create acid-free and lignin-free treasures for our loved ones. Talk about feelings of inadequacy, the shame, the shame.

I simply do not comprehend the need for a "creative outlet." I know how it feels to have a need, a desire, a longing to sleep in late or to eat a lot of cheese, these urges I understand and embrace. But I have never felt the need, the desire, the longing, to make things with my own hammy hands. I know that sets me apart from most of the world and I truly wish I could join the happy hordes as they make their way to knitting circle or scrapping parties or painting class. I still really wanted it to be my hand that drew the lump of coal.

So when my friend Suzanne DeCuir emailed a few days ago and mentioned that her talent and skill had been recognized for special distinction and that Artist's Magazine had awarded her first place for oils and will feature this painting in the summer edition, I wanted to share my excitement for her accomplishment, because to me, it is huge, just huge. Suzanne and her husband Patrick and I became first time parents together in February 1998 in a seedy hotel in Changsha, Hunan Province. They were the best of travel mates and I highly value their friendship. I am so amazed at what Suzanne has been able to accomplish with her painting while being a full-time mom to three little girls all because she had a need for a creative outlet. Look what she can pull out of her fingers. How would it be? One of those beautiful paintings is winging its way to me even as I type, my own personal lump of coal to treasure forever, I'm sure I will stare at it admiringly for hours.

Congratulations Suzanne, my friend with talent.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Why Does Popcorn Pop?

So we could finish the damn science fair project, that's why. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I laid down, I rolled over, I threw in the towel, and any other way you want to say I gave up and pretty much just did it for her. I mean, really, how was she supposed to do it herself? The heck, she's only in fourth grade and can't even do long division yet, so who really thinks this assignment was child centered? Fourth grade science fair my ass. Mom, Print Shop and Google centered science fair is more like it. She's happy with the way it turned out, we finished it TWO WEEKS AHEAD of the deadline, and she's going to keep a bowl filled with popcorn to attract lots of people over to read her board, so that spells success to me. Now if she just doesn't blink between now and the 19th or else she'll forget everything I tried to help her learn about the wonders of popped corn.

But I did learn something I wasn't expecting to learn while trying to desicate popcorn kernels in a quick oven so we could get the experiment completed. We learned that popcorn is a great source of fuel for a cozy kitchen fire. Nothing smells more like lovin' in the oven than popcorn popping wildly in a too hot oven and bursting into flames on the heating element. Yum, yum, yum.