Adopting Devils

I Didn’t Know I Did It Until I Didn’t

Monday, January 24th, 2011 | Connecting the Dots | 1 Comment

Sunday was a screw-up day. Long story short, we made an hour-and a-half drive there and back to go to an event that had been moved to Saturday, only I didn’t notice it in the emails. They also changed the time, which I DID notice.

No one was very happy with me, least of all me.

On the way home, we pulled in at Blanche and Bill’s Pancake House (near Killington). I’ve always wanted to stop there, so it seemed like a silver lining. It’s a tiny place, maybe 12 tables, and, as they make a point of emphasizing, all the food is made to order! so it may be slow! but it will be good!

It was, on all counts (but not too slow). Ours were the only kids in there at that moment, and they behaved decently, once Lily decided to get past the mistake I’d made and enjoy her meal. Someone brought crayons. The waitress repeatedly checked in to make sure we were all good, that we were ok with what our kids ordered (Sam: 4 chocolate chip pancakes. Rory and Lily: waffles with ice cream and hot chocolate with whipped cream.) They were lovely. Everyone was lovely.

As we left, I thought, wow, they’re just really nice to kids in there!

And kind of idly went back over it all in the car, wondering if there had been any special reason for them to be nice to us and…oh, yeah.

This may be wrong of me, but generally, when we’re out, if people stare a little longer than usual, or compliment us on our lovely family or whatnot, I put it down to the desire to show support for being an adoptive family, even if they don’t directly say so. Lots of times these things come with a little comment (she’s so adorable! etc.). It doesn’t bother me at all, in fact, if you want to just go right ahead and assume the best about my family before they’ve proven you wrong, you do it! Maybe the whole adoption halo will encourage people to give us the benefit of the doubt when we are not quite so lovely.

But today I just forgot all about it. I wasn’t thinking about adoption, wasn’t thinking about anything along those lines at all, just thought oh, they were really unusually nice for a family with a pack of kids in a small restaurant in a tourist-y spot. And they were. And I don’t know if that had anything to do with Rory, or adoption, or if they were just really lovely. And I don’t care.

I’m just glad to note that there I was, just not thinking about it at all, and sadly, I think that’s been kind of rare. I think I think about adoption a lot. Or I think I think that I did. And now, I think maybe that I do not, so much. Except of course that now it will be like trying not to think about elephants for a day or two.

And then it will pass, and I just won’t think about it. Really. I can see it coming. A day when someone will be super-nice to us and not only will I not think about it at the time, but I won’t think about it after, either. I just won’t notice. And that will be a good day, even though I obviously won’t be able to note it at the time.

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Doin’ the Math

Friday, December 10th, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 2 Comments

I recognize that this is a very corny, wholesome yet pushy activity for a parent to do with her kids, but sometimes—especially when the battling in the car gets to be too much for me to take—we do in car math drills. I call out the questions, taking turns for each kid. Wyatt loves this. He’s definitely a math guy, and I take pride in (and am mildly freaked by) his abilities.

But Rory has struggled with this activity, so we’ve done it less of late. This morning, though, I really needed to distract Wy from his incessant singing of the months song, more because it was causing Rory to sob and shriek “I don’ wan HEAR that,” than because I really cared myself, and we still had a long way to go. So I rolled out some problems for him only, and after about five questions, Rory demanded to be included.

So after a one for Wyatt (13+5), I asked Rory, carefully and slowly, “If you had THREE cookies and I gave you ONE MORE cookie, how many would you have?”

“Um, six!” She likes to try to shout at the answer even faster than Wy shouted out his, of course. It actually took her about six months of this to figure out that we weren’t just randomly yelling numbers at each other, but she gets it now. Kind of.

“Well, no.” And I embarked on all of my usual explanations of the question, suggestions that she use her fingers, giving her another chance (“Seven! Two! Fourteen!”), etc. We’ve been doing that, at this same level and with this exact problem, for about a year–simple addition, never adding up to more than five. And we go through this every time. I don’t get it, I think, and I worry, as I always do. This is crazy! Why doesn’t she remember? Plus, if you gave her two actual cookies, and then one more, she’d know exactly how many she had. Hell, if she had seven candies and you took away three, she’d know how many you’d taken the minute she looked in the bag. This is nowhere close to beyond her. Why do I have to explain it like this EVERY TIME?

If you’ve already guessed, brownies to you.

This morning the whole thing felt particularly unfair to Wyatt, who’d also just really solidly mastered any two- or three- numbers plus or minus any single number (103+5—oh, that’s too easy! 108!). I wanted to get him thinking about two number addition problems, like 12+15.)

So the next time I asked and she got it wrong, I just said “nope! keep thinking,” and went on to give Wyatt a problem. She kept hollering out guesses, and I said, no, not your turn. Wy got his, and I came back to her, and the same thing happened. She got it wrong, I moved quickly back to Wyatt, and then came back to her. “What if you have THREE cookies and I give you ONE MORE cookie?”

“Four!”

Bingo.

I would not say Rory turned into a mathematical genius in a single car ride, but she didn’t miss any more easy ones like that, and her guesses on the harder ones–which for her is 6+1, or 3+5, stopped being completely devoid of any thought. This wasn’t about math, or understanding, or anything of the sort. This was about keeping the precious Mommy spotlight on Rory. I’m highly amused. And relieved.

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‘Member? ‘Member, Mommy?

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 1 Comment

Rory is bothered by conversation.

She’s largely a native English speaker, since she grew up understanding and speaking more English than Chinese (she was raised in a large foster home with American parental figures and Chinese nannies), but the ebb and flow of conversation still goes over her head, and she’s hampered by a natural 5-year-old inability to tell the difference between a suitable topic for conversation and a random non-sequitur. But she wants to be a part of any conversation that’s going on, especially if it feels exclusive. Rob and I, trading notes on our day; Sam, describing a key moment in his last hockey game, Lily, planning a playdate, Wyatt, offering observations on fascinating mathematical subjects–if I engage in any of these with Rory around, especially in the car, the little voice will interrupt almost immediately.

“‘Member? ‘Member, Mommy?”

“Remember what?”

There is now a pause, as Rory never plans what she’s going to ‘member before she ‘members it.

“Member you hit your head on the airplane?” That’s a favorite, along with “‘member you drove away at school” (referring to a time when I started to leave the carpool line at Sam and Lily’s school while the teacher who’d opened the car door was still shutting it), and also “‘member I have lice” (oh, yes, I remember that one), and “‘member I throw up my bed?”

These are mostly memorable for having been emotional moments–I hit my head on the airplane during turbulence, and Rory was pretty frightened, although I don’t think that was her first plane ride with us–it happened another time. The lice were traumatic for everyone, and Rory took the brunt of it, getting the worst case first and having to deal with my barely compressed fury at the general unfairness of life full on. The throwing up was mostly memorable because she really, really did not want to admit to having done it, as though perhaps someone else had snuck into her bed, barfed, and then returned to sleep in their own, but once she did admit it, she was painfully pleased and shocked that I was not angry at all. (The car thing she just found really, really, really funny.) But it doesn’t seem to be the emotion of the moments that’s pushing her, since she invariably engages me not because of something she’s thinking about, but because I am engaged with someone else, and oh, that’s hard.

It used to be harder. Seeing me occupied with another used to prompt tantrums, sudden imaginary injuries, and, until I realized what was going on, the mournful announcement that she wanted to “go back China.” Now it’s just this passionate urge to be a part of things, and while it can be a little annoying–she interrupts indiscriminately; she’s five–it’s mostly endearing just because it is such classic adoptee stuff. It reads like something out of some adoption manual: “your child may be jealous and want your attention constantly. Be sure to respond in a way that shows you understand her needs.” And yet, in a classic Rory way, she preempts my response. Not only has she drawn my attention, but she’s drawn, with her “memberies,” the link between us. All I have to do is grunt out a yes, and her attachment to me is affirmed, and she can go on her merry way. It’s really very efficient. it rarely even gets her scolded for the interruption, since often all I have to do is nod. This kid knows what she needs, AND she knows how to get it.

Think I’m impressed? You’re right.

Cross-published at No Hands But Ours.

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A New Friend (and first official iPad Post)

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 2 Comments

We had one of those classic adoption encounters this weekend, really of the kind you only dream about. Ran into our old neighbor from across the street, who we consider a friend, at the grocery store. I’ve seen her probably a dozen times over the last year, but the only lengthy conversation we’ve had was about evil sports parents. Still, I think of her as someone I see fairly often.

She greeted us, chatted–I see you’re one short today–yep, Wyatt is at a friend’s–and you have a little friend along for the ride, too! (she talks that way, don’t hold it against her.)

Rory was in the cart, so at first I thought she just meant, oh, your little one is riding then it clicked. Oh, this isn’t a friend. This is my daughter, Rory. Rory, can you say hi?

Rory managed a credible hi, which is mire than my friend did.

She was flabbergasted. She boggled. Her jaw dropped. She fulfilled every cliche of amazement in thirty seconds or less.

It was very entertaining.

She said all the right things, and then appeared, regularly, at intervals, to say more things, some right, some wrong…her visits on various aisles punctuated the entire grocery store trip. I have to rethink my whole idea of you now, she declared. But if anyone can do it….

I assured her that I in fact did not always do it well, and she left again, reappearing in the dairy section. I just can’t believe I didn’t know! I can–she’s the least likely person to gossip I know, and someone who sticks close to family and a few friends. It’s one of the things I like about her.

At the checkout lane she finally out her foot solidly in her mouth. I knew all along that she would…because that, too, is one of the things I like about her. She has a knack for saying, completely without ever knowing it, the most tactless thing possible and walking away happily, never, as far as I know, realizing she’s done it (as in, so and so has llost a lot of weight, hasn’t he? And it’s so great, because he really needed to!)

You’re dying to hear what she said, aren’t you? With that build up…

She reappeared at the checkout and surveyed us all, so happily–she was delighted by the whole thing–and declared “And it took us six months to decide we’d get a dog!”

I am still laughing.

On an entirely different note, I am a known gadget girl and joined at the hip with my new iPad. I am trying to see if I can get it to function in lieu of a laptop for travel. Blogging–here and for Slate and Babble–has been a barrier. I finally triumphed over the Slate software today, I think (and that one mattered least, because I could have asked an editor to cut and paste for me). WordPress had me stumped, but for no reason….yes, there’s an app for that. If I can get Babble to ok the use of the app, i’ll be good to go.

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No Spoiled Youngest Here, I Guess

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 3 Comments

Wyatt’s my baby. My buddy, my beloved littlest one and the only one who looks like me. When I got to our sitter’s today I heard him sobbing through the window, and I rushed in–pausing to give Rory a hug on the way–calling what’s wrong, Wy?

He didn’t want to come home, that’s what’s wrong.

Now, I know Heather’s house is a haven of legos and turtles and popsicles (and it’s SUPPOSED to be, I love that they love it there)…but ouch.

So of course, i jumped to the adoption. He doesn’t want to come home because he doesn’t get any attention there anymore! Because he’s been displaced! Because I never do anything with him because anything I do with him Rory joins it on too and I’m not mentally strong enough to make Rice Krispie Treats with more than one child at a time, and he still begs me–can we make Rice Krispie Treats?

It’s one thing, I think, to have twins. I don’t know from twins. But these two–so close in age, so stuck together–need some more me. But not necessarily together. I’m going to have to come up with something–it will be hard at first, I think–that they don’t EXPECT to do together. If I cook with Wy, say, and just always say no to Rory–no, this is Wyatt’s thing–and then do something with her that’s her thing–honestly, there’s not much more I like doing with a three-year-old than cooking. I like puzzles, and I’ll read out loud but that’s a tough one to do with just one kid, and Rory’s not really into puzzles–too much sitting. Maybe we could draw pictures. Maybe she could learn to write letters–his hand coordination’s not up to that yet. That might be good.

Ok, so a little bit of solution. And really, I think it’s ok that I don’t play with them much, that they’re expected to entertain themselves and each other. But I would like to do a little more, and in particular, I don’t want to lose my bond with Wyatt. I do have this plan–once school’s started, I am going to take turns sneaking the two youngest out for breakfast–do two drop offs, once things are rolling smoothly and there’s no trouble at drop off.

Things with Rory are normalizing–for both of us. This weekend I was explaining a pot luck to her–all the friends will bring treats, and we will all share them–and she said “oh! well, that goin’ be fun!” and it was such an ordinary and cute thing to say, and something new for her. And she has this Maisy doll she’s adopted, kind of like a cloth paper doll with velcro clothes–and she’s started to move it around and talk to it, and make it talk, and this is play I can relate to. You know, we were pretending she was being normal–that all of those tantrums and craziness was just her, and I know she HAd tantrums–and does, and will–but there’s clearly some ordinary day-to-day Rory we haven’t seem yet, and of course, there’s the part where she changes. Oh, and the part where i change.

I had Sam out for a golf lesson today (Rob has Tiger Woods dreams) and a snack beforehand. He’s getting more and more privileges as the oldest that won’t happen for the others, who’ll get old enough to do everything in a pack–but then, he doesn’t get to be part of the pack exactly. Silver linings, advantages, disadvantages–I just chew on those all day.

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Travel Approval, New Job, Great Day

Thursday, May 28th, 2009 | Adopting Devils, Travel to China! | 1 Comment

We just got our travel approval from China–and I just became the kids’ media reviewer for Double X (part of Slate). A double good news whammy.

FAQS:
When do you travel?
We won’t know until Monday, because of the Dragon Boat festival. I would be more resentful, but I happen to love dragon boats! I’d guess we’ll be gone the second half of June.

What’s this job thing?
I’ll be doing all the kids’ media reviews for doubleX. It’s a spinoff of Slate that just launched two weeks ago, from their double X blog, and I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s good stuff–look for it to someday dominate when you’re getting all your news on your iPaper.

Did you bring me any chocolate from Theo in Seatlle?
Probably! It took two bags to carry away our haul. Of course I ate a fair amount yesterday…

What happened to the NHPR gig?
Oh, I still do that. I just don’t always get the link up. I’m working on it.

How can I get everything I was hoping would happen one day and didn’t to go right ahead and happen the next?
Go do something nice for somebody else. I put some time in yesterday to Project Caleb–and while I won’t say it helped, it definitely made me feel better. Not that you could probably tell from my grumpy blog–but the third issue yesterday–which is now all fixed–was that the blog was broken, and I could only post by phone. Which no doubt saved us all from a whiny, self-pitying pile of babbling crap, into which I would hopefully have injected a reminder that 1) my problems don’t amount to a hill of dung in this crazy world and 2) the only thing I can control is what I do, so I might as well make it count.

What’s Project Caleb?
You’ll find out! We’re going to do something good, and I’m going to need lots of help.

BTW, comments are fixed. Plugin issue. 99% of wordpress problems come down to just that!

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When it is hot, be hot.

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 | Adopting Devils | 1 Comment

To decide to have a child is to decide to allow your heart to go walking around outside your body.

Wyatt’s TMO teachers presented us with that sentiment on Mother’s day, as their idea of a festive mother’s day apparently involves making one cry (they also offer handprints, and that poem about how the handprint won’t be this small for long—oh, and checkbook covers, which I quite appreciate.)

Let me just say that the decision to adopt a child—now that, that is popping a chunk of your heart out and sending it tossing around in the Pacific in a Pepsi bottle.

I posted a few days ago about control, and not having it, and oh, that’s ok, I’m all right with that, I said, merrily. It’s fine.

Right. Just dandy. I am perfectly ok with not being in control, which is probably why I dream, alternatively, about the two most obvious things that are out of my control, at the moment—a job I’ve applied for, and going to China. Or about leaving kids somewhere, or failing to meet a deadline…everything short of naked arrival in math class the day of the final, really. Apparently I am anxious.

There are many, many things in life I cannot control. Other drivers. Airplane pilots. Acts of nature. Whether or not, say, Julia Glass has also applied for the writing gig I want. (My favorite friend said today, in response to that, that I am much funnier than Julia Glass, to which I say, why, thank you, my ego swelleth, but the job still goes to the Pulitzer winner) China. Interest rates, the price of eggs, virus mutations.

Buddhist principles suggest that the problem with those things is neither the things, nor my inability to control the things—it’s my attachment to the things, or their outcomes. If I can release that attachment to outcomes, I will also release my anxiety. Christian philosophy places the “things one cannot change” in the hands of God, politely capitalized. Jews, I believe, put things one cannot change in the category of things one does not yet understand, with the idea that one should have faith that in time, all things will become clear. It strikes me now, as it has before, that these are mostly matters of semantics, of applying different words and possibly different mental techniques to what is essentially the same question: How can I not feel so bad when I am afraid?

There is a reason, I think, that we say that we “practice” religion. We also “practice” meditation, and yoga. I propose that one thing these things have in common is that we will never get them right. If you aspire to behave like a historical figure who’s acquired the status of myth for his legendary kindness—oh, plus miracles—it’s not like one day you’ll be able to say oh, well, ok then, now I can move on to mastering chess. We never achieve enlightenment, and all things never become clear. We just….practice.

I would like to say that today I could use less practice. Which is just another way of saying that we may or may not be able to go get Rory in June, or July, or August…

And so I turn to my garden, which I note is another common suggestion in many religious practices. Cultivate your garden. The idea being, I suppose, that here you can impose some measure of control, just to lighten up after all that practice. The Parent Association at Sam’s school (apparently NOT the Parent-Teacher Association, now that I come to think of it) has a deal with the farm where we get our plants anyway—the ones you can’t grow from seed here, like tomatoes and peppers—and one must fill out the form, to request one’s plants, which one then goes and chooses—just as I would have chosen them last year, only with, I suppose, the addition of the form. A level of bureaucracy has been imposed on the process to permit the transference of some of the funds to Sam’s school. An advantage, for me, is the introduction of a requirement that I actually consider how many plants I want, as opposed to last year’s plan, which featured a wagon and three children who really, really like tomatoes. I think that, provided I also subtract the children from this part of the process, this will be a good thing and result in fewer tomatoes at the end of the season, which will mean I will not feel obligated to dry them, and then not use them, because I cannot figure out 1)whether I dried them safely or 2) how to use them. They are still in my cabinet, though, do I get points for that?

Tomorrow I plan to lay the mulch, add the compost and get ready. Sam and Lily—and maybe even Wyatt—can put in at least some seeds this weekend. It’s a little early, but I’m feeling good about frost.

That’s a piece of Buddhist advice, btw. A koan, even, because in its entirety, it’s a mysterious response to a question about dealing with discomfort, but one of those things I think we understand better the less we think about it. Hmmm…The less we think about it. I think I’m onto something, there.

Anyway–I’m ready to take that particular advice. When it is hot, I will be hot.

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