“china adoption”

Explanations, Nouns and Stages

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011 | Adopting Devils | 2 Comments

Did someone say all growth is painful? Rory is gaining nouns and verbs in leaps and bounds. She’s still hard to understand, but she can say so many more things and she wants to say so many more things. Her favorite teacher told me she was a little disturbed, because she’s actually having more trouble understanding Rory lately–but I’ve already figured that out. For a long time, I think Rory would have some complex thought (for a four- or five-year-old) and just think, hell, I’m not even going to bother–they are NEVER going to get this. So she’s say, you know, one of her usual things just to make sure we still knew she was in the room (“Member, Mommy? Member you come get me China?”) and I would know she was processing something, or maybe I wouldn’t think about it at all.

Now she tries. If she wants to explain in detail how she scored a goal in hockey, and then someone came up behind her and she fell but the puck still went in, she goes for it–tenses, complex verbs, unknown nouns and all. And sometimes we get it, and sometimes we don’t. If we’re ready to listen, she’ll keep going until we get it. If we’re not, she’ll keep repeating it until we are. But if we assume we know what she’s trying to say, and either try to complete it for her or feed it back to her wrong–well, that makes her mad. And, hey, I can understand that. I try really hard to take the time to let her get it out.

And this works pretty well, although she’s been known to try to manipulate me with it (as in, she’s yelling incoherently and having a hissy fit over some slight or another, and I refuse to listen, and then she turns on the waterworks–”But I just tryin’ to tell you somethin! And you not listen! I no like when you not listen!” And I say, no, you’re not trying to tell me something, you’re trying to cry over something that happened weeks ago because you think it will make me listen to you and not Wyatt right now, and it won’t.

(Remind me to post on “but I just” sometime. I can remember MY parents telling me they didn’t want to hear any sentence with the word “just” again, every. Apparently lawyers breed lawyers whether we actually spawn them or not.)

But what’s painful about this for me (me! me! me!) is that Rory just wants to know a whole lot of things right now. Like what road we’re driving on, and why we’re driving on it, and why we are going so fast or so slow or turning right here or not turning right there or stopping now or going now or….how great is it that she’s so curious about all these things? How great?

After a long, long day of hauling kids from one place to another, not really so great at all.

A better mother would just welcome and celebrate all this growth, even in the middle of a really interesting piece on All Things Considered, wouldn’t she?

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Rory, Still a Little Dubious

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 2 Comments

My bad tonight–letting all four kids take ice cream in the car. Not cones, cups, and in Lily and Sam’s case, more like milkshakes (FriendZs, to be exact). I don’t usually even let them EAT in the car. But circs prevailed in a not particularly interesting way, and the ice cream was successfully eaten, until (you knew there was an until, right?)…

Rory announced that she was done. At this point we were at the hockey rink picking up Sam, so I told her to carry it up to me and I would take it in and throw it away, and she started to. But as she reached the front seat, something went wrong. I THINK she turned it over to show how it was empty, but she may have just been distracted. It wasn’t empty, not nearly.

There was a freaked out silence in the car (they ALL want the no food in the car rule relaxed, so these little disasters when it is relaxed worry them greatly) as I uttered her name in that long, drawn out shrieky sigh familiar to all mothers: Rooorrryy!

And napkins were produced and the solids scooped up and the liquids wipes as best as we could by me and my Sam, who was somewhat under the spill, while Rory stood there, frozen.

Shouldn’t you say something? I prompted, and she managed a “sorry,” and that was pretty much the end of it–except that I know that frozen gig of hers. She was truly at a loss. She didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know what would happen. After all, no one’s ever eaten ice cream in the car before, let alone spilled it. And when Rory doesn’t know what to do, she has two default modes: frozen and banshee. Banshee is the running through the house giggling mode. It can be endearing, but it’s really a sign that she can’t settle to anything—she’s not certain what the right thing to do at that moment is, there’s no obvious game or activity afoot, and she hasn’t got her crayons out, so wild running is the only answer.

Frozen is the “I don’t know how this will play out” pose, when it’s possible that I (or someone else) might be very very very angry. I might have been, of course, but I wasn’t. What’s worrisome about frozen is that while Sam, Lily and Wyatt might similarly suspect that I might be very very very angry, they don’t freeze up like that. In Rory I can SEE the defense mechanism. I can SEE that she’s ready to cry, or fight back, or panic, or just stay rigid, and that she has no faith in her own ability to ride the situation, or in mine to treat her in some sort of fair or predictable way. There have absolutely been times when I was neither fair nor predictable, but in a rare turn of events, I don’t think this is about me.

I think Rory, in some great sense, has had the rug pulled out from under her. To her, if things aren’t proceeding in the normal and expected way, literally anything might happen. I liken it to autism, in the sense that an autistic person with a particular form of the disability can’t read social cues–so, similarly, anything could happen, and anything could be an appropriate response, and I try to treat it that way, with coaching. Instead of yelling at banshee Rory to quiet down and find something to do, I help her find it. And instead of scolding frozen Rory for the lack of an immediate apology, I ask for it. I see this as a place where she just needs more cues and help than she would have if she could count on her own instincts. What I don’t know is if it ever goes away.

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Markers.

Monday, October 4th, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 3 Comments

I can’t tell you how many, many, many times I have told Rory not to write on anything with markers other than paper. Not furniture. Not the car. Not her face. Not her brother. Not Sam’s toys. Not her own toys, although I’m a little more tolerant of that. NOT ANYTHING.

I have even hauled her around the house pointing at things. Don’t write on the. Don’t write on that. Is this something you write on? No. There has been yelling, there has been sobbing. And yes, I have taken the markers away–but I’m sorry, her older brother and sister need markers sometimes. I need markers sometimes. And she’s five. I should not need to gather and lock up every marker in the house. And yes, they’re washable markers–but some things still don’t wash.

But two days ago it was her sheets. And today it was two barstools. I’m not actually sure when she did either of those last two, and I’m certain–well, reasonably certain–that she didn’t do the barstools today.

I didn’t lose my temper. I’ve made a new vow, one that’s hard to stick to, not to really hold anything the kids do after 7 pm against them–or, more accurately, not to let myself react after 7 pm. Because I’m tired, and tired of them, and ready for bed for all of us, and I have no sense of proportion at that point.

We went upstairs (they’re upstairs at a play counter, old furniture we moved upstairs from our last house) and tried to clean it off together (in the future I am thinking magic sponge). No dice. I told her this had to stop. I said that if I found one more thing she’d written on with a marker that wasn’t paper, I would “take away all her starchips.” She agreed. Not only that, but she admitted she’d done this (there was no doubt–she wrote her name: “Royr”). She said she was sorry.

And then we got on with it. I’m not sure who was more relieved that there didn’t have to be a scene.

But why, why, why does she DO THIS? She’s not my only kid to write on things with markers. Wyatt, memorably, wrote on the back of the sofa. Lily and Sam have “markered” too. But Rory is the only one who has consistently, repeatedly disregarded this rule, and I just don’t get it. It’s all of a piece with the other stuff that seems obvious to me that she just can’t remember: Don’t stand on the drawer handles, don’t climb up the bookcase, no eating anywhere except at the table or the counter. Not once not ever. There’s been no inconsistency with those rules (unlike, say, the one about lying on the coffee table, which makes Rob crazy but doesn’t really bother me–it’s not like we put coffee table books or tchotchkes on it, so who cares?) And what we notice is that they’re all about things–she can’t remember rules that have to do with keeping stuff nice. (We’re not fanatics about this-honestly, if you stand on the drawer handles they break off, taking a chunk of drawer with them.) Hell, not nice, just–clean. Stable. Safe. It’s like she thinks she lives in a big, washable preschool. Which, I suspect, may have been pretty much true.

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I Did the Right Thing

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 3 Comments

A few posts ago, I talked about how I’d decided not to write a letter to Rory’s new teacher singling her out in any way. I felt confident–and underneath it, I felt certain that said new teacher, and new assistant teacher, would already have a pretty full scoop. After all, our last year had been unusual. And it had ended with what I saw as a pretty negative assessment of Rory from one teacher in particular, who said she couldn’t understand Rory and felt like Rory resisted participating in class or with other kids. Surely, I thought, that teacher took it on herself to fill new teacher in.

Nope. Today new teacher took me aside. Why, she asked, does Rory not stay a full day like many four-year-olds and all the 5-year-olds? Well, because I don’t think she’s ready. But she’s hungry to learn the stuff we do in the afternoon, says the teacher. The letters, the reading basics. I don’t have much time to do that with her during the day, and she really wants it.
Well, I say, I don’t think her brother is ready, and we have issues. I can’t pick up one and not the other. The teacher looks disapproving. And last year, I say, no one thought she was ready for this. She’s come a long way in three months. We’re letting her grow at her own pace.
More disapproving.
After all, I say, she’s only been here a little over a year…
Teacher did not know that.
Part of me is a little shocked–there are, after all, a total of six other teachers at the school who did–and part of me is pleased.
Without even trying, we gave Rory a chance to just be Rory. I am sure that teacher just assumed she was just another adopted Chinese baby girl, mostly raised by us, with whatever trauma or atttachment or yadda yadda well in the past. She was just another almost-five year old, with a teacher figuring she ought to be doing kindergarten stuff. I’m thrilled the teacher had that impression, and I don’t think what I said changed a thing–the teacher has an idea of her now, and it will stay.

And I feel like she passed. In both senses of the word. This teacher is a tough cookie, and instead of her thinking, oh, this child is behind, she’s incomprehensible, she’s not a full participant in the class, she’s lagging or taking up too much time or not understanding what’s going on–she thought Rory was ready for a full day there. And I feel a little like Rory fooled her–”passed,” as it were, as a normal kid. That doesn’t sound right–but I’m hyper aware of all of my kids’ issues, and I think the past year fell a little short of the “normal” front for any of them. Hell, for all of us. I guess I feel so far from “normal” myself that I get pretty excited when one of the kids manages to bring it off. If Rory manages to come across as normal, maybe she finally feels normal–settled, comfortable. Maybe we’ve revealed all the crap behind the curtains, and it’s all just–whatever it is–from here on in.

What does normal mean? I think, here, it just means, not needing any special treatment or concessions. I’ve had that feeling about them more and more lately–like maybe I’m the one who’s behind the times in worrying about how we’re adjusted or coming along. THere are these perpetual questions of adoption” “Do you love her yet?” (yes) “Do you love her the same as your other kids?” (I’d say love doesn’t lend itself to “same”-ness) “Is it adoption or is it just an ordinary phase” and some variation on “Are we there yet?”

Are we there yet? Are we adjusted, are we attached, are we all done with the beginning and on to the whatever comes next? Probably not. But hey, at least in one context, apparently we look like we are. I will so take that.

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When Things Refuse to Stay the Same

Sunday, September 19th, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 2 Comments

Last week, Rory’s beloved babysitter, who is pregnant with her third, was put on bed rest. From Rory’s point of view, she disappeared with no warning–I was traveling, and it was all we could do to get all the kids and their needs covered, let alone get Rory over to see her Heather. We explained, of course we did, but Rory was bit suspicious and very clearly thrown off course. She liked all the activities that filled in for Heather, like a trip to the indoor pool and dinner out with Daddy–but it was not what she expected.

And Rory still does not deal well with that which is not what she expected. Rory likes things to stay the same. The result was a kid off balance, extra whining, extra needs, extra picking at her brother and sister. And a LOT of questions.

Which we dealt with as best we could. On Saturday, I promised, I would take Rory to see Heather, and on Saturday we got ready: made cookies, gathered some things a person stuck in bed for weeks might need, picked her some tomatoes and made a little veggie dip. At the last minute we were a little delayed by the need to pick Lily up at a playdate, and then we were off to the hospital.

We knew what room she was in, and we headed blithely there. We were literally at the door when someone stopped us. She’d had the baby, only a few minutes ago.

It was very early. That part of things is Heather’s story and not mine to tell, although I will say that the baby (Ollie) is doing really well. But at that moment they knew very little, the baby was in the NICU, Heather hadn’t even seen him…and she still insisted I bring Rory in. She knew how thrown off Rory was. She knew how hard it would be for Rory not to see her. And she insisted.

We went in, we gave love, we left. But that meant so much…Rory feels a million times better. And Heather knew she would.

You know that bringing a preschooler into our world wasn’t easy, and you know that being torn from her own world was anything but easy on Rory. Heather has been solidly there for every minute. She never made things complicated, never worried about attachment or trauma or anything. She just showed up, took care of Rory, learned to love her, and loved her in this totally ordinary way, and that has meant more to Rory than Heather probably knows. When Rory and I were struggling, Heather was the same. When Rory was battling to see if I really meant anything I said, there was Heather. When I was wrestling with what it meant to “love” someone I’d known a matter of months, and how to handle it when that someone bit my baby, Heather was there. Without her, I would surely be either institutionalized or bar tending in Kokomo by now.

And now, she put Rory ahead of her own needs at a really, really tough moment. And made things better for her, just like she’s been doing all along. A number of people have asked me this past week how I would manage without Heather. They meant, immediately–how would I meet deadlines, how would I stay sane. I didn’t have any plans to do anything other than wait for Heather to come back, because Heather is irreplaceable. I might fill in with an after school activity here and there, or see if one of the students who does occasional evenings has any afternoons, but we aren’t going to work anyone else into our complicated lives. It’s not just about me working, but about the delicate and loving balance we’ve got going in our lives right now. I can slow down a little for a few weeks or months; Rob can do some more driving and shuttling, we can teeter and totter on until Heather comes back a little at a time, with plenty of time for whatever she and the baby need.

Heather was always coming back, and we always knew something like this could happen, pregnancy being the unpredictable thing that it is. If things had gone as planned, I might have brought in a kid with a car and filled in for a few weeks while she was off. But when you have kids that have seen a lot of upheaval, I think it makes sense to minimize its result. People she loves have been suddenly replaced in Rory’s world, and even for the other three, things that appeared to be permanent have proven to be more in flux than they expected. We love Heather, and her family, and when things happen to them, we rally and gather and come closer. We don’t rush off to try to keep the superficialities of life exactly the same. We take time to figure out how it feels when things are different, and we go from there.

As a blogging friend, Shirlee, said when her daughter met her grandparents for the first time, family in China was family, but it was permeable. “Aunts” and “Uncles” came and went. This family our girls have now is permanent, and people we love can’t be popped in and out of the picture like so many puzzle pieces. Heather was gone, and Heather will come back, and in the meantime we won’t pretend to be anything but lost without her. Because Heather’s love is forever, too.

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Truly Friends Forever

Friday, September 17th, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 1 Comment

Most of us had friends as kids that we promised, with mixed results, to love forever—but what must a friend from your orphanage, from your foster home, from your past mean to a kid? We adopted Rory at nearly four, and from the first, she’s been asking for “Bethany.” As often as she cried for her foster mother and father, and maybe even more often, she cries over Bethany. She wants to see her. She lingers over the pictures we have of them together, talks about they way they played, tells us stories about the birthdays they spent together. As recently as last week, Rory told me (after being scolded for a fight with Wyatt) that she wanted to go “back China.” I asked her why (it’s still not an unusual thing to say, and I try not to put a whole ton of weight on it) and she said, sadly, that Mama Deena (her foster mother) “never send me my room if I hit.” I was a little surprised by that–Mama Deena being a known, and excellent, keeper of order who I imagine was even more vigilant than I am about hitting, and said “Mama Deena didn’t get mad if you hit someone?”

“No,” she said indignantly, “I not hit! I not hit in China! I not need hit Bethany!”

I was relieved that it wasn’t that Mama Deena was vastly preferable mommy than me (although that’s often true), but that Rory herself felt herself to have been a nicer person in China (who wouldn’t have been, before her whole world got yanked out from under her) and that Bethany, of course, was much nicer than Wyatt.

We’re in touch with Rory’s foster family, an American couple who runs a foster home in China, and so—very occasionally—we’ve seen Bethany on Skype, or had some news of her. Up until last night, I thought Bethany was going to stay in China, and it worried me. Any American’s position in China is always precarious, and I feared that Bethany might get caught up, somehow, in crazy bureaucracy. I feared for a lot of things, and I wanted this kid that Rory loves so much to have the kind of future Rory will have, here in the U.S., instead of fighting her way into some adult life in China.

Last night, I found out that Bethany will be adopted by a family in Ohio.

I haven’t told Rory yet, but I’m overjoyed—and a tiny bit worried. I don’t know a thing about what her new family knows about Bethany (and I won’t use her Chinese name here, or offer any identifying details or use a picture). I don’t know if they know her foster family yet, or that she will speak English. I don’t know if they have other kids, if they’ve adopted before, or where they’re coming from—and most importantly, I don’t know if they’ll want to help Bethany keep a place for Rory in her life.

It would mean so much to Rory to see Bethany again. I’m already imagining this wonderful future for them together, of visits and letters and cards (the number of cards and pictures Rory’s drawn for Bethany over the past year, and that I’ve saved, would fill a USPS priority mail box) and Skype without a 12 hour time difference. I imagine, for me, too, another parent of an older adopted girl with my own girl’s slightly weird past, her almost-English, her half-family, half-foster status, and the connection we feel with the adoptive family and the home in China, still staffed by Americans, where we hope to visit, help and work someday.

But what if they don’t want any of that? What if China, as it always wants to, manages to keep Bethany’s foster family information from her adoptive family? Or what if they don’t want her to keep her links with her past? Or what if they just don’t like us—if I’m too outspoken, if our faiths and convictions, which lack the organized affiliations of so many of our fellow adoptive parents, aren’t enough for them? I see this as a future for Bethany, but at the same time, I’m afraid that she’ll somehow disappear entirely from Rory’s life. And as much as Rory has lost, I have a sense that to lose Bethany—who has never abandoned her, or given her to another family, or turned her attention away, or, even to hear Rory tell it, snatched away a toy or hit her or called her “poopyhead,” would be huge.

I guess the silver lining would be that Bethany, if she’s never again a physical part of Rory’s life, might hold onto her iconic status even better than the real Bethany will. Maybe my dream of somehow giving Rory back this little piece of her past is would actually mess with Rory’s dream. Maybe the real Bethany, a year older, a year changed, won’t be Rory’s Bethany at all.

It’s out of my hands, of course. But if anyone knows a couple in Ohio about to adopt a 5-year-old girl from Fuzhou, Fujian, please: send them our way.

Cross-posted at No Hands But Ours.

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It’s the First Day of School for the Adopted Kid!

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 3 Comments




First Day of School #2!

Today was Rory’s second “First Day of School.”

There’s a new head teacher in Rory’s classroom this year; one who appears to have certain fairly defined expectations for how things will go. Last week, she invited each student to come in to meet her, bringing something to show her—a book, she suggested, or something important—and to see the changes in the classroom. We adopted 4-year-old Rory last summer, and she brought, as she will always bring if asked for “something important” her “pictures.” This is a photo album she brought with her from her foster home in China, and it includes pictures of her foster parents and the other children fostered there in a large group home as well as pictures of her family here, and she loves to share it.

But the new teacher did not want Rory to share it, or at least not right away. She wanted Rory to walk quietly around the classroom, and Rory, in some confusion, complied, touring the room, listening, and participating in a demonstration of one of the activities. Eventually the teacher did allow Rory to show her a few pages, in which she showed a politely distant interest.

Which was fine. Rory was adopted, and it is a fact of her life, but just one fact of her life. Maybe her new teacher didn’t want to make too much of it. Maybe she was nervous about being shown a picture of Rory’s foster mother while Rory’s real mother looked on; what seems ordinary to us could reasonably have seemed more than a little weird to her. We don’t think anyone should make too much of Rory’s adoption, or cut her too much slack on the grounds of the kind of vague, psychobabble theories people who know a little, but not too much about adoption and transition are likely to hold, like allowing her to cling to a teacher on the ground that she must perforce be less secure about her place in the world than other children, or forgiving her tendency to push other children aside because she may have once needed to be aggressive to get what she needed. Some of that’s valid, but enough of it isn’t that so far, we think it’s better for the teachers not to consider Rory in need of special treatment.

But.

This teacher seemed to have such very clear expectations about how the children would behave. She seemed tense. Why didn’t she look at the book? Why wasn’t she more comfortable with Rory? I worried. Should I write her a note explaining the ways in which Rory’s story is a little different from her peers? Should I describe how Rory’s natural desire to be the focus of an adult’s attention leads her to interrupt, and to seek out another teacher if the first doesn’t immediately respond to her, even when told to wait? And while I was at it, should I brief her on the ways Rory likes to talk about China, and the way we like to handle it? Maybe the laissez-faire approach was a mistake, this time around. Maybe I should jump in.

In the days after the first meeting with the teacher, I started to write that letter many times. I considered how to phrase it, so that it didn’t seem like I was either flagging some bad behavior, and marking Rory as the difficult kid, or hovering over to ensure some ideal classroom experience. I told myself I would just put a little something in at the end of a note, just a few tips on Rory, and really I would write the note just so her teachers would know the names of the people Rory talks about, which can sometimes be hard to understand. I told myself it would just be what any parent would do.

I was right, in one sense. This month’s Adoptive Families magazine has an entire section on ways to “ensure that adoption is treated accurately and sensitively at school.” Most of it is an off-putting litany that I can’t imagine doing–going to the school, making a presentation to the children about how Rory’s birth parents brought her into the world, but couldn’t do the other things that parents do, so we are Rory’s parents now, or read the entire class an adoption story. I wouldn’t do those things, not because we don’t talk about China and adoption regularly, but because the other children’s parents don’t come in to explain, say, why Timmy’s mommy and daddy don’t live together. Because those are home things, not school things. Because being adopted is different, but not defining. Because every child has a different family, one way or another.

But it’s clear that the urge to alert the teacher to your child’s particular needs is a universal one, at least for adoptive parents (in fact, “write a letter to the teacher” is number one on that list). It may be common among all parents–but not in our case. Because for my 4-year-old son, returning to the classroom across from Rory’s, I had no such urge. Of course, he didn’t have a new teacher, but my 6-year-old daughter has both a new teacher and a new school this year, and I never once thought about starting a letter to put in her backpack.

Rory was adopted into our family. We went through a lot to get to where we are today. But we are here, over a year later, hitting all the annual milestones for a second time, going, in the most matter-of-fact way, back to school. We still have our struggles. But I look around at Rory’s classmates, and I see that they have struggles, too. Some of them do things a teacher may not appreciate. Some of them have behavioral patterns that, shall we say, don’t work well in the classroom. Maybe their parents went in and explained. Maybe they didn’t. It’s none of my business.

But the things I might tell Rory’s teacher about Rory might be about adoption. Or they might be about Rory. And they might not even show up in the classroom. But if they do, they do, and it won’t really matter where they come from. I’ve just finished Scott Simon’s Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other (In Praise of Adoption) and in it, he has a line about a friend’s daughter who was adopted from the Philippines in the 1980′s. There was, he says “nothing to distract [her] from fitting into her family’s life with a minimum of analysis and evaluation.” That’s it, I realized. I may want to protect Rory–to make this school year turn out perfectly for her–but I don’t want to distract her from fitting into her school life with a minimum of analysis and evaluation. There may come a time when we need more, when Rory herself needs her teachers to know more about where she’s coming from in every possible way. That’s not where we are. Right now, we’re just another preschooler, heading back to school.

Originally uploaded by kjda

KJ Dell’Antonia

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One Year

Saturday, September 4th, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 4 Comments

One year.

Actually, one year and 2 months.

I didn’t think a year meant that much, once we hit that year. I’m just not feeling the milestone, I said. This is still hard, it still doesn’t feel worthy of some sort of “this-is-how-we-were-meant-to-be” record. I suspect that maybe isn’t my style, anyway…that this is how we are will always be what’s important to me… But thatsnnot my point. We’ve hit our stride, I feel–as I said a few days ago, everything feels more established and more settled now than ever before. And I realized, yesterday at Rory’s annual physical, that “one year” is a big part of why.

“One year” isn’t really just some arbitrary anniversary. It’s how we, culturally, seasonally, naturally, divvy up our own lives. Every year the snow will fall, every year the days will get longer, every year the raspberries will ripen and the apples will fill the trees and the pumpkins will be ready to pick. School will start, doctor’s visits will happen, birthdays, annual festivals…we structure a million and one things around an annual calendar, and for Rory and the rest of us together, all of those things will now have happened before. Wemhave entered the great and wonderful stage where nearly everything is “just like last time.”

I don’t think you can underestimate the value of that for someone who, once, when things took a turn for the seriously different from everything that had ever before happened, found herself with a new life, family, hiiom, language and nearly every thing you can think of. Rory is a lesson who naturally leaps into new adventures, and for her to have been so overwhelmed by one really took a toll on her personality. Now, new adventures are easier to welcome because they come in the context of things that have happened before. New people may come visit, but then they will leave, and next weekend we will go to the same party we went to for Labor Day last year. There may be a new teacher, but the classroom and most of the kids and the routine will be the same. She can wear new shoes with an old pair of shorts.

That seems to make everything much better, and suddenly, really truly suddenly, everything isn’t just striding, it’s going rather smoothly. You fight less with your siblings when you have that year base to fall back on. You’re more able to come up with simpler ways to deal with moments when you can see that you will not possibly get your way. Sure, your friend has to leave, but instead of crying or getting yourself into a temper tantrum worth of trouble over it, maybe you could just insist on holding the dog so she doesn’t chase your friend’s car.

From my point of view, we’ve left the realm of “what will she do next.” At last year’s physical, our pediatrician tactfully told me a story about an adoptive parent she knew who felt like she was too hard on her child. “she really had to be, sometimes,” the doctor said, “because if a child she’d known all its life gave another child a push inbfrustration, she knew how far the kid would go next, but with the newer child, she just didn’t know, so she had to be much more responsive and careful abo ut everything.”

That turned out to be very true, and very comforting. But now, for the most part, I do know. Which in many cases doesn’t mean I can be less vigilant, but in many cases it does. I do know Rory, now. I know where she’s going and what she’s likely to do next and whether I need to head her off at the pass. It’s a good, and much easier, feeling.

Without wishing our lives away, I can see the next milestone–the moment when she’s lived longer with us than anywhere else–coming, and again, I can see why it’s not just some arbitrary marker, but a moment with real and deep resonance. These anniversaries mean something more that cakes and candles. They speak to something deeper inside us, the movement of time and seasons that binds us together.

So, in short, one year: now I get it.

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Stride.

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 3 Comments

We have hit our stride.
Rory has been home for almost 14 months, and it’s time to call it good. And oh, it is such a relief.

The past year been like hitting my head against a wall, in that it’s so much better now that it’s stopped. I’ve never, ever been so glad that a year was over, and I would repeat sixth grade before I’d live through the first six months again. Of course, we had our beautiful moments. Of course, it’s always tough to see calendar pages flip, and I’m always telling myself not to “wish my life away.” But it has been a tough year, and that’s putting it mildly. And suddenly, with little fanfare, it seems to be over. Last month I posted to No Hands But Ours about how I wasn’t ready to do the squishy lovey one year post. If this month were our one year marker, I’d be more inclined, although I still resist putting a rosy haze over the changes any of us went through last year. I can’t imagine our lives without Rory now, although sometimes I still do. (I also sometimes contemplate what life would be like with Sam as only child, or with Sam and Lily as a tanned and tow-headed pair of co-conspirators, a role they took on tonight when Wyatt and Rory went off to do some twin thing in the playroom. It’s not personal. It’s just one of those things.)

Things that felt impossible six months ago, like taking all of the kids to the swimming pool without another adult, or the three youngest to a bead store for a little craft action, today manage to seem like good ideas. (Although there are some situations, like kid concerts, that I still avoid like the plague. I can’t see any possible way that would be fun.) The house is cleaner, our lives slightly more organized. We buy milk in glass returnable bottles, and the process of returning the empties no longer strikes me as the straw that might break the camel’s back. In fact, I broke two full ones the other day (it was bound to happen) and dealt with the result with far more equanimity than I would ever have expected of myself. We make plans. We look ahead. We sit at home, and I periodically actually sit down on the couch with a magazine without anyone on my lap.

On the Rory herself front, too, we’ve made one of those startling leaps. Her language suddenly shot up to a level where she feels she can talk to other people, outside people, even people she has never met (whom she really likes to tell that she is from China, and rarely fails to ask if they know Baba Mike, her foster dad). She chats with us about all sorts of things, about how she feels and what she thinks and what she did and will do today (all of which she avoided before). Lest you think it’s perfection, very few people can actually understand her, and she’s still got a weird sort of noun fatigue, with little gaps of common words simply not finding a place in her head (like sausage and soup, which she forgot yesterday). She handles the gaps so much better, though. “I don’ know what that is,” she’ll say. Tonight she turned to me from the kitchen counter and declared that she wanted to make “a nakkin.” You can have a napkin, I said, and reached for one. “NO! I wan’ make a nakkin!” Well, I said, you can make a nakkin, here’s the paper towels. “No! NO! A NAKKIN! A NAKKIN TO GO ROUND MY NECK!” I was still obtuse (she often makes these sort of napkin bibs for herself or for dolls) and she was near tears. “It’s ok,” I said. “Stop. Breathe. We’ll figure it out.” And she actually did stop, and hold back the howls of frustration I could see right on the edge, and I looked at her, and what she had, and what she was doing, and I said “oh! a necklace! You want to make a necklace with your beads!”

Which was what she wanted to do, and then sat and did, very calmly and very well, too, considering that she made the beads at art class and I never, ever thought she would get the tiny thread through the tiny holes. Of course. A nakkin. We had another, similar near breakdown a few nights ago, when we had guests (which is always tough on Rory). She wanted a tub, she kept repeating it, getting angrier and angrier and more and more determined. It was 9:30, there would be no tub and I was getting frustrated, how could i make her see that there could be no tub and not have her loose it so badly that we might as well have just had the tub, because it would take less time? And just as I was getting my stubborn reared up and ready to go, (and pretty much matching her and forcing us both into a standoff) she stopped, thought, and said, “then I have tub tomorrow?”

Well, yeah, sure. You have tub tomorrow. Situation defused by Rory, who might, at that moment, have been more mature than I was (but note how she found a way to control it, too. I think that’s ok). She’s come far, and all of a sudden, it shows. We both have. I know it was gradual, but it has a way of feeling sudden, as if someone quite quickly uprighted our household snow globe, and things were settling gently into place.

Cross-posted to No Hands But Ours, click picture at left.

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And We Thought Our Trip to China was Bad

Sunday, August 9th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 1 Comment

Imagine if we’d had to leave without Rory. It just happened, to this family. Here, in a nutshell, is the United States’ new plan for China adoptions:
1. Complete masses of paperwork. Travel to China. Adopt and become responsible for child.
2. Have child tested for TB.
3. If child tests positive for TB, stay in China for 2-6 months, as child will not be allowed to travel to the US, but is no longer the responsibility of anyone in China. Can’t stay–what, you have a job or family or responsibilities? Silly you. But that’s your problem. Maybe you can find some nice Chinese family to take her in–because it’s not like she hasn’t been through enough already.

Infuriating? Why, yes. Especially when you note that people all over the world are getting visas to visit the US without any kind of TB testing at all–including people from China–and that the biological child of two US parents, even with known TB, would be allowed to travel home from China without comment.

Look, nobody wants more TB in the US. But just as clearly, no one thought this law–which went into effect July 1–through. What, exactly, is this family supposed to do?

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Re-entry: Not Pretty

Friday, July 10th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 9 Comments

Some of my publishable thoughts on arriving home: Whoa. We got in at 11:00 night before last and the kids were up until 3. We hauled them through yesterday, even taking Sam and Lily to a tennis lesson and getting the boys a haircut–and put them to bed at a relatively normal time (when Rob and I were nearly asleep standing) but at 1:30 the first of them–Rory–appeared.

And this is where the fact that they all sleep in the same room bites us in the ass, because although I get her to go back to bed, Wyatt wakes up soon after and awakens everyone with his screaming, and it all goes downhill from there in a big way. Only Sam, who came down and slept on the sofa, got anything like a normal night’s sleep.

At 4:30 we let them get up and trash the house while we went to sleep. I woke up at 7:30 feeling like it was non. All night I dreamt of China, chaotic airports, crazed shopping, chasing kids through hotels. I woke up and inhaled a panful of brownies one of our friends baked us last night. So I’m doing fab.

Rory fell asleep midafternoon and had to be woken up using the kind of cruel behavior (turning them upside-down, standing them up even though they are asleep) that forms a parent’s only revenge for sleepless night, but because we were in public, I couldn’t really appreciate it. Which reminds me of the glorious moment in the airport where she whacked Wyatt full in the face for nothing–as in, he walked up to her and she hauled off and belted him–and she had to be removed, screaming, to a corner until she became willing to apologize, which took about 20 solid minutes of screaming. (We do cut her plenty of slack, but there are a couple of non-negotiables, don’t you think?) Anyway, the stares were impressive. At least she was screaming in English, which gave us some credibility…

We’ve also had a couple of episodes where she’s been with Rob, howling for “mama”–and although that’s fine, we don’t let her get away with it if she’s hitting him and refusing his help for something because she wants me–and when she finally gets me, it’s clear that I am NOT the mama she had in mind. This is hard for all of us…but mostly she’s doing remarkably well.

I am doing slightly less well. I am not a patient person at the best of times, and I become particularly unpleasant with lack of sleep. I’m also not very playful anymore, I find. I do not want to play Wii with Wyatt, or play with blocks or the remote control train with Rory, which makes me feel like all I do is dress them, feed them and say “no” to them…and I am not sure I really truly considered the ramifications of one more voice crying mommy mommy mommy in our particular wilderness.

I’ve resented every new child in turn for taking me away from the old ones. There are elements of that here–Wyatt, in particular,needs me badly every time Rory does, and saying no to him is heartbreaking. And there is just the added drudgery. Look, more toys on the floor! Look, more sippy cups! Look, more laundry! Oh, boy, somebody else who needs me to wipe their ass! I’m intensely aware that some of the people who are reading this “told me so”, and that others will be worried that I can’t meet Rory’s needs or learn to love her. I think it will all loosen up in a matter of months or even weeks. I think it will be fine, even great, fairly soon. But I don’t want to minimize or hide the growing pains. Wyatt screamed hysterically last night because he wanted me to remove this baby doll from his bed–a doll with Asian features, that we bought partly in order just not to have a whole house full of blue-eyed blondes. And when she’s the one causing the bedtime and wake up issues. I boil over. Lily gets frustrated because Rory’s not exactly what she pictured–which, as it amounted to a fully cooperative live doll, isn’t too surprising. Only Sam seems fine, and we all know that Sam has a lot of himself invested in always seeming fine.

We’ll get through it. But probably not today.

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The Red Couch

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 7 Comments


What is wrong with that child, you ask? What are you people doing to her?

Well, it’s like this. If Rory has one single, stand-out, non-endearing trait, it is (and this is SO PETTY) that she pretty much has to go potty every single solitary second of every day. Is she nervous? Unable to complete, shall we say, with relative strangers? Does she have a UTI? Dunno. Doesn’t, in the context of getting out of China, matter. But there it is, and 80-100 times a day we experience the wonder and glory that is the Chinese public toilet. And if there is one particular activity that really, truly makes Rory have to go potty, it is eating, which is of necessity done in restaurants. (And if there is one thing that really really makes Rory have to go potty, it is the arrival of any form of hot food in a restaurant, in particular hot food that her Mama had planned on say, eating. This particular thing makes Rory have to go potty two or three times, all in a row, until the food has congealed and become particularly unpleasant. I had thought the quarantine diet particularly effective, but quarantine had nothing on Rory. But I digress, and I should stop, because there is really nothing I could say on this subject that would make you like me any better, because to be honest I really really feel quite petty and resentful about it, because I am often hungry at mealtimes. I will note that Lily did the same thing for several months, and I didn’t kill her, so there is that.)

Anyway. We had 20 minutes to eat lunch before our all-important, cannot be late consulate appointment. We had arrived at the deli. We had acquired our bizarre bread items–a pizza-like thing, and puffy bread containing things like a hot dog, or red bean paste, or hame and cheese. I had opened and strawed and fussed and napkined and generally got everyone settled and was just about to take an actual bite of my actual lunch when…

Well, Rob took her, since he’d eaten what he wanted of his weird bread-y thing while I did the whole opening and strawing and etc. thing. But they had to go back into the hotel, and we were nearly out of time, and Rory couldn’t come back to finish her lunch. And she was mad. And about to fall asleep, which she did, and slept right up until the consulate appt, where she woke up quite cheerful and pretty ready to enjoy everything–except that she had to go potty.

(Some of my resentment of this isn’t Rory’s fault. A) if she has to go, inevitably Lily or Wyatt, or both, will too–often not at the same time, but instead just after, prolonging the whole experience and B) there are some nasty, nasty bathrooms here, and the circumstances of their use frequently result in one or the other of the children peeing on my shoes.)

Ok, so all is rosy other than that, right? Pretty much not to bad mostly. I will tell you, first, of the things that are making life difficult. There’s Rory’s habit of knocking over pregnant mothers, toddlers and the elderly in her mad rush to be the one to push the elevator button–and I am not kidding or exaggerating. Picture a drunk on a steamroller plowing through the crowd and you’ll get the general idea. It’s maddening, because respectable public behavior has always been something we’ve tried to insist on–I know, I know, petty again. There’s the screaming like she’s been shot when Wyatt pokes her with a finger. (The poking isn’t really endearing poor Wyatt to me, either.) There’s the slapping of my mother’s hands and the scream of “no i can DO it” when my mom tries to open her orange drink (and no, Rory can’t do it. At least she couldn’t yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that–and I don’t mind her trying, I mind her hitting my mom.)

But really–minor. SO minor. It doesn’t always feel minor, and I assure you that the level of frustration the bathroom thing is causing for me is really not pretty, but so minor. She figured out how to swim today, to Rob, from the steps. She and Wy played happily in the tub for an hour, very much together. She loves Sam and draws him pictures again and again. She has this bright-eyed way of saying look what I did–want to see me do it? Do you want to? Which is so hopeful and so reminds me of the family she’s lost. It’s clear that there was always someone who wanted to see her “do it”–whether it was drawing a circle or swimming. She proudly described her whole day to my dad on skype. She tried to put herself to bed, because if Sam was going to sleep, she was too, but not without Lily!

This is harder and easier and wholly just a new thing. Tomorrow: a 14 hour plane ride. Hey, at least there’s a potty.

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Shamian Island: The Home Stretch

Saturday, July 4th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 4 Comments


Shamian Island is best described as the place the British took over, back when tea and opium were in constant traffic across the sea, and although I am sure there was razing and looting involved in its creation, the result is extraordinarily pleasant. Shady verandas. Palm trees. Wide park-like walkways. Few cars. We are staying at the White Swan. It used to be right next to the consulate, so everyone stayed here. Now it’s right next to an entire cottage industry surrounding adoption, so even though the consulate has moved, everyone…stays here anyway. There are about 4000 adoptions from China every year. Figure, then, on about 40 a week. Probably more than half in this hotel. It’s a little…weird.

But good, because no one stares, and people in general speak some English, and everyone wants to help, especially if you might buy something. Instead, we got someone to take us out into the city for our shopping.

It was CRAZY. Everything you have ever considered buying, anywhere, especially Walmart, wholesale. all piled together, everywhere. Every toy, every hairclip, every bag, every clock…everywhere you looked, more stuff. On the one hand, we wanted to scoop up everything. On the other, the sheer magnitude was overwhelming. Some things I already wish I’d bought more of–hello kitty, on the other hand, I wish we’d bought rather less. We enjoyed it, though, except for Rory, who thought we were going for ice cream.

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A Day in Fuzhou

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 1 Comment


So we’ve agreed: Fuzhou, not set up for tourists. On the other hand, we are seeing a real China city, and not just one like Beijing that’s sort of set up to show itself off in the same way that Manhattan is–there are clearly tons of Chinese tourists–although once we let the guide start taking us places, we saw Western tourists too.
I can tell you that Fuzhou-ers, rightly, do NOT go out between noon and three. I don’t know what Chinese is for “siesta”, but they do it. We, on the other hand, spent those hours paddling pedal boats around a lake. Rory napped, though, so at least one of us has some sense.
I can also tell you that there’s a big nightlife here. Restaurants are packed. The park and city center that we can see from the hotel windows? Jammed every night with roller bladers, line dancers (seriously, same songs you might hear at home, although probably not in New Hampshire!) card players and general revelers. Parents with kids buying the kind of junky light up toys you find at amusement parks and on the 4th of July (which we will miss….). It looks fun. It looks festive. It looks very sociable, and you can tell people dress for it and get out there. You can just sense the hook-up scene, too…people look happy and prosperous. We get a glimpse of other things, too–people asleep on benches and such–but not much.

I really wish we could see rural China. I know Rory’s foster home is rural, but we can’t go, and it does make sense to us. We’ll have to wait for another visit.

There’s crazy lightening and rain tonight. Sam’s loving watching-we’re on the 18th floor. No one’s phased. Rory’s getting easier with us. It’s funny, yesterday wasn’t so bad…so I sort of thought, well, this is just what it will be like for a while. And then today, she’s relaxing, she’s listening better, she’s trying harder to talk to her brothers and sister. And I realize I’m doing the same thing I’ve done with all of them–assuming that anything, especially hard things, will last forever. There’s lots ahead, and none of it will last forever.

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So. Tired.

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 7 Comments

The real trouble with the whole quarantine thing is that it sucked a lot of the adventure right out of us. We’re tired. We’ve eaten a lot of things we might not otherwise have eaten. We’ve hung out together. We’ve talked to people. We’ve been stared at. And now we are ready to resume our normally scheduled programming, but we still have a week of travel to go.

Rory is adjusting well. She kind of collapsed today and took an exhausted nap, and I’m not so sure she was super glad to see us when she woke up, but she seems determined to make the best of it. We also discovered that she likes to ride in a stroller (we brought two old umbrellas) which is helping on the running thing–we just worry about traffic, and at night in the park–about which more later–there are crowds.

I’ve done a lot of mental mocking about people who say they ate Western food in China, or that certain cities were boring. But we are eating Western food–and Korean food, and other food–because anything gets a little old after a while. And while bored’s not the right word, we’re ready to leave Fuzhou. It’s just not set up to amuse tourists…Beijing was better, and I’m already wishing I’d done more shopping.

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Monday, June 29th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 10 Comments


We are one sleepy family–what a day. Rory came to the hotel with three women she’d never met before today, and no one from her foster home. When we came in she was wailing–in English–I want to go home! I knelt down and started whispering in her ear–I knew her foster mother had told her that this was ok, that she could go with us and we would take good care of her, and she let me pick her up, still shaking. Our orig. three were quite chastened…then they needed to do a passport photo. Oh not, not in the dress she was wearing. A dark dress. Fortunately she had a dress we had sent her in her bag, and we talked her into letting us put in on over her head. Then she had to stand–no, not there, here, can’t she look us? Tilt her head, take out her hairclip,s show her ears…
She got through it. Then a family photo–no, her arms have to be showing…
Ok then. Then we were sent off for a few hours of getting to know her. For the first 20 minutes she ate candy. Her foster family knew her well–they’d put about 5 packs of gummies in her backpack and she went through four of them and two lollipops. But then she was on the floor, rifling through her and the kids’ things. She would come back for a hit of candy or a look at her picture book–that was super important. We knew we were in when she offered to share her candy.
She prefers me but accepts Rob. She calls him Daddy, and sometimes Baba. The person she did NOT want was the adoption coordinator, who I think had thought she had seen everything until she saw Rory roll through Wal-mart in a cart like a princess, confidently asking for things in English. She has us down. When she played in the tub and Lily asked for her goggles, Rory–who was going under water and popping up with no problem, laughing–took one look at the pink glasses and said “where me, Mama?” She was right–of course I had a pair for her, just the same.
She wants to do everything herself until she can’t, and then she asks. Can you help me, mama? I can’t do this. But woe to anyone who tries to help before she asks. Spitfire. Lily all over again. But after you help? Thank you, Mama.
We did have to go back up to the room where we met, to fill out some forms. I was worried–I thought she might think she was going back–so I got down and reminded her that she came with us, and she would leave with us, even if the people from this morning were there. Which they were. She looked at them carefully. And then she got up and started dancing on the coffee table.
Apparently that’s our girl.

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The Pringle Fairy

Friday, June 26th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 3 Comments

If asked, I can state with confidence that the maximum number of days one family should spend pretty much cooped up a room together is…6. Not seven. Seven seems to be just that much too much.

But we are getting there. They just took our temperature for the last time. We just had our temperatures taken for the last time. We ate our last lunch. We filled out a form that even had a box for “comments about our stay”.

And Sam was the Pringle Fairy. After lunch, we walked the halls, choosing rooms with more than one lunch tray outside and where we thought we could hear kids’ voices. Then we chose a hiding place, and Sam ran up, left a can of Pringles, knocked hard, and booked.

I imagine there are some pretty mystified quarantinees out there right now.

Rob is back at the Grand Hyatt. We leave at 6:30 tomorrow morning. Tomorrow, we’ll celebrate Sam’s birthday. Sunday, we’ll see the Great Wall and fly to Fuzhou. Monday we meet Rory. Knock on wood, we’re back on track.

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And…We’re Off.

Monday, June 15th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 3 Comments

We are ready. Ready, as in, weighed suitcases sitting in the hallway. My mom asleep already. Me, popping one last movie onto my iPhone and gathering a few last cords and ends. Three excited kids asleep in their room (miraculously, no reappearances!) knowing that the next time they sleep in there, there will be four.

(Gulp.)

I do plan to blog while we travel–there should be plenty of pictures and lots to tell. We’ll be in Beijing until Sunday 6/21. We THINK we meet Rory 6/22 in Fuzhou. (Details, details.) We leave for Guangzhou 6/27 and come home 7/2.

We are well provisioned with iGadgets and Nintendo diddlywops. We have many, many heavy gifts for our hosts. (Coffee! Sweet tarts! Maple syrup…remember, they’re American.) We have several sets of matching shirts for four. We have swimsuits, comfy shoes and tums. I think we’re set.

Think I can learn Mandarin on the plane? I hear my seat comes with Berlitz.

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Paper Dolls in Action

Friday, June 12th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | Comments Off

RIght now Rory, Lily, Wyatt and Sam are jumping off the Great Wall on their way to tennis lessons. Or something. It’s a little unclear…

No, Rory didn’t make a surprise appearance. She’s represented by a cardboard paper doll wearing magnetic clothing and played by Lily’s friend Kate.

We’ve gone through a lot of ramifications with China travel lately. Wyatt took a bad fall off a swing and came up sobbing “I don’t want to go to China, I want to stay with Grandpa…” appropo of nothing. Lily had a similar moment when she discovered she’d be missing her last gymnastics class, although at least that one made more sense. Only Sam remains steadfast… And Wyatt responded to a question from a friend yesterday: Yes, we are going to China to get my sister. “And then is she coming to live with you?” “No.”

Umm…

I think this has just taken too long. Mostly, they’re enthusiastic. Mostly, they’re thrilled. But we’ve talked about this, and planned it, and done things for it, and bought things for it, for so long now that to them it must seem like it’s already happened twelve times over. I’m looking forward to the trip. Now, as it gets closer, I too and beginning to be able to look forward to coming back.

Do you know the moment, when you’re pregnant, when something reminds you that pretty soon, life will go on–only with a baby? I had that, last week. We were biking in Fairlee, eating at the Whippy Dip and then going back for ice cream–something we only do during the summer, which has just barely started–and I realized: we’ll be back. We’ll be biking in Fairlee and eating at the Whippy Dip. And Rory (finally officially named: Lorelei Rebecca Ying-Bao Seelig) will be here.

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49 Drops of Poop, and Progress

Friday, May 29th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | Comments Off

This afternoon and evening I:
Cleaned, badly and frantically, 49 drops plus one pile of dog poop in the ten minute interval between when I discovered the poop, and when I had to leave the house with the kids in order to deliver Sam and Lily to their ballet recital rehearsal. (Expect pics tomorrow!) Just fyi, in case you were thinking of getting a dog (and ours are house trained, this is unusual, but still) each and every drop had to be cleaned individually. Off the carpet. With a paper towel. And then Rob had to do it again when he got home, because my effort was necessarily cursory.

Had a fight with Rob. (As usual, this consisted of him saying something to piss me off, then me yelling briefly, then slamming things around while he sulked, the yelling some more while he sulked, then finally making peace while he sulked. Our fights are a lot of work for me.)

Finally emptied 7 boxes of stuff I’d ordered and had sent to us in, um, March, that had been sitting in the hallway, two of which were large enough to put all four children in, and still have room for what I’d actually ordered, minus the packaging. (Those two were three fans and a comforter.) Were the boxes the subject of the fight?

Kinda. The subject was me saying I thought I wanted to build some cabinets in the same hallway, but wasn’t going to because I didn’t like the carpenter I’d talked to (among other things, he was a heavy smoker and reeked, and I could just see him smoking in the driveway. Apparently I will vote for a smoker for President but won’t allow one to build me shelves. Incidentally that was a major compromise for me, because the thing is, although I like the occasional cigarette–as in, every two years or so–as a habit it’s just dumb. No gettin’ around it. Poor judgment. But I digress…)

Rob: Let us not build any cabinets until we finish all the other stuff we have started around here. (For we you can read “you”, meaning, of course, me.)

What stuff, you’re totally wrong, I know the house isn’t finished but how will it ever get finished, blah blah blah blah ok there are some things like that but I am still pissed at you and the door to the closet where i want to build cabinets is broken and I can’t get to the recycling and blah blah.

Rob: I can fix that.

Me: No, it is broken, it will never be fixed, nothing will ever look finished, you are right, it doesn’t look right, even when I’m done it doesn’t look right, it will never, ever look like Tanya’s house, never.

Sulking on both sides. Banging on mine. I begin to clean. Rob begins to fix the closet door in the hallway with the boxes. I open the boxes. I empty them all. Most of them are things for Rory or for the trip to China.

Gee, what unfinished project do you think is bothering us?

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