Rory

Happy Birthday Rory!

Sunday, September 25th, 2011 | Connecting the Dots | 4 Comments

I am so insanely proud of this perfect cake (see the below post).

Rory’s birthday was Friday, actually. (I think I begin to see why that word showed up in my wordle.) And it was also a little bit Saturday, when we skyped with Grandma Jo and opened HER presents, and then it will be a little bit Monday, when we take treats to class because you cannot take treats to class on muffin day, seriously, people, what are you thinking? It’s muffin day.

And then even more NEXT Saturday, which is her birthday party because her Mommy did not get her act together and rent the bouncy house at the rec center in time, and also because her Daddy has to be somewhere for several hours, and rather luckily, anyway, because her sister barfed Thursday and you know, there’s no telling what could be next. So. One spread out birthday. Our birthdays always seem to have a lot of drift to them. More to celebrate, I guess. Or more to clean up. It depends on how you look at it.

But as for Friday: Rory. Six. You know, when we adopted her at three I never really thought she would actually turn six. Six is pretty old. Six is real kid material. Six is serious.

Rory makes a delightful six. She’s SO DIFFERENt than she was a year ago, let alone two years ago. And yet so much the same. She has so much more to say. So much more ability to say it. She’s this complete mixture of independence and wanting-to-please and love and uncertainty, still. We’re having hugging lessons, because she still stands stock still to receive her hugs. Rory really likes hugging lessons.

Here she is waiting for her presents. Close your eyes! Keep them closed!

Present delivery!

Rory had a pretty decent haul from her loving family. The hula hoop is from Wyatt.

When I was little, these were called "lemon twists." Now it's a jingly ball. I liked the lemon.

The jumping ball is from me. From Sam, not pictured except above, “wrapped” by Sam in the giant Zappos box, is a crayon-melty maker machine. From Daddy, also not pictured, a Wii game. It’s from Daddy only in the sense that when she unwrapped it, we told her it was from Daddy and she bought it. Daddy has been moved, once in a while, to buy a present himself, but this time I was in charge. I did good.

From me and from Lily, a... Guess. If you've got a girl, you know by the box.

And, of course, soccer clothes for the above American Girl doll.

I was a little dubious about the doll. I knew who wanted the doll, and I wasn’t sure it was Rory. But I was wrong. Such is the value Lily places on the dolls that even Wyatt has one (the only boy available, a “Bitty Twin”). And plays with it with her. Rory seemed thrilled. I thought she’d prefer the ball, or the Wii game (and she DID love the Wii game), but the doll, with Lily’s help and without, was a hit. The best moment was probably when she opened it and Wyatt squealed “A look like me doll!” I think Wyatt would like a a Look Like Me doll, but I guess that’s not American Girl’s thing.

It does look like her, especially if you’re willing to concede that Asian eyes are just exactly the same shape as Western ones. Kinda.
I also gave her a Moshi Monsters sticker book and a stuffed Moshi that looks like her Moshi, which will mean nothing to you unless your kids do Moshi Monsters, which, in spite of them having something like a zillion members, no one else’s kids do.

And then, because we do things backwards, we had dinner. And then cake. Was it a good birthday?

It was.

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A Cake for the Cake-Hater

Saturday, September 24th, 2011 | Feeding the Devils | 3 Comments

I’m really, really proud of myself. I made a birthday cake that even my cake-hating Rory, she of the licked-off-frosting on the $3 cupcakes, loved. I’ve noticed lots of kids are like that—they’re either cake kids or frosting kids. (Me, I was and still am a cake kid, so I do sympathize.)

And I’ve noticed that our China-raised kids are often really not cake-eaters. So I’m pretty excited to share this:

Meringue! Ice Cream! Whipped Cream! More Meringue! SUGAR SUGAR SUGAR.

It’s the perfect cake for Rory. It combines three of her favorite things in all the world: meringues, ice cream and whipped cream. Also, candy letters, just for good measure. And it was incredibly easy, if kinda sticky, to make.

I started with the meringues. 6 egg whites, a pinch of cream of tartar and one of salt, a little vanilla (1 tsp maybe) and 1 1/2 cups sugar. (Standard recipe courtesy of King Arthur Flour.) Egg whites and cream of tartar whipped to stiff peaks ( a good educational moment; every child should know what that means). Sugar, poured slowly into the still-whipping mixer bowl. (Ok, the bowl is not whipping. I’m not sure how to phrase that, but surely it’s clear.) Salt and vanilla go in last.

Stiff peaks! Ok, don't be crude.

The idea is to make three circles. You could do that with a spoon, but I decided to pipe them. Onto Parchment paper. That’s important, at least, I think it is. I have never made meringues without it.

I think it would maybe be better to spoon them, because the egg white was a little melty and sticky in the openings.

I still had lots of meringue left over, so I got creative.

Those are clouds. Meringue makes perfect clouds.

Bake at 200 degrees for 2 hours, then turn the oven off and leave over night.

Ready to bake.

Now, you need two little pints or whatever it is of vanilla ice cream. Leave them in your car over pick-up and while chatting with the new parent about winter life in NH and it will be nice and soft for spreading. Maybe too soft. Then comes the layering. Put the bottom disk on your cake plate and spread the ice cream right over it. We had a really, really humid day and the meringue was sticky, but it worked. The bottom layer stuck a bit to the parchment, but once it was covered in ice cream, you’d never know it.

Melty!

Back in the freezer it goes. Be sure to clear ample space in the freezer for your creation. How long will it take the ice cream to refreeze? I don’t really know. I left it for five hours, and then it was too hard, and the next layer wouldn’t really squish onto it until I let it melt again. I’d advice putting the next layer on now, and then put it back in the freezer.

This is the disk that DIDN'T stick.

Next, whip up a pint of whipping cream (I use the serious local farm stuff that practically whips if you shake the bottle) with some confectioner’s sugar. Or not. Trust me, you don’t really need more sugar at this point, but what the hell?

Spread the whipping cream on, and then top with the next layer of meringue. Then, a final layer of whipped cream and the meringue decorations. My “Happy Birthday” letters stuck–well, the “happy” did, so I improvised with the Wilton ones. I always keep a bunch around. Given that birthdays are predictable things, it’s surprising how often I find myself unprepared to make a birthday cake. The letters make anything look good. If you’re six.

Which Rory now is!

This is not the birthday post, though. This is the birthday CAKE post.

So: the only trouble with this cake is that it obviously has to be in the freezer, and the whipped cream is better if it doesn’t freeze (although it’s ok if it does), so last minute assembly is the way to go.

Here is the glorious result, sliced and ready. It really was surprisingly delicious, even from the adult perspective. The whipped cream cuts the meringue sweetness and there’s a yummy crunch to it all. And you can probably find someone else to eat the candy. (I like the candy. Don’t tell anyone.)

Yum. Seriously, yum.

Was it a hit?

It was.

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What to Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

Sunday, January 30th, 2011 | Connecting the Dots | 1 Comment

This afternoon Sam had a hockey game. The three littler ones declared a preference for staying home, which seemed reasonable. They’ve watched a lot of hockey this year. For once, I could stay home. I run the clock for home games, but this was “away” even though it was our home rink.

At the last possible minute Wyatt shouted “No, wait, I want to go too!” and raced out the door. Rory barely had time to contemplate his departure….and he was gone.

Lily was deeply engrossed in a Playmobil world. I was reading and had no inclination for cookie making or puzzles. And there Rory was! No Wyatt to chase, no plan, no obvious thing to do…

She:
Sucked her thumb and sat with the dog for a while.
Built a Lego tower “for Sam” and carried it in to show me, which ended in the need to rebuild it several times.
Drew me a picture.
Sat outside the shower and tried to have a conversation with me through the locked door. (sorry…I deserve a locked door once in a while.)
Drew me another picture.
Made me a card.
And another card. (All of these require that I acknowledge them, ideally with lots of praise (which I’m chary of), and possible spell things or read things or ‘member things that are featured in the drawing. None took more than seven seconds to create, and I was definitely beginning to feel some sympathy for the Tiger Mother style of art appreciation.)
Hid in my bed yelling “find me! Find me!”

Eventually Lily lost interest in the Playmobil, and Rory was able to return to one of her favorite activities: “doing just enough of what Lily wants me to do that she will keep playing with me but not enough to make her happy.”

But she had a pretty tough time coping with that initial hour!

Historically, Rory actually CAN self-entertain, but only when she wants to, and ideally when someone else wants her to do something else. The loss of the activity she expected to be doing hits her hard every time. I suspect her life in her foster home was very structured, and of course we know she wouldn’t have been alone often, if ever.

But the ability to spend time just being by yourself and doing your own thing is so key. I was an only child, so for me it was paramount, and the ability to be very easily alone (not to mention the desire to be alone…oh, to be alone!) stays with me. In a house where everyone shares a room, most activities are communal and almost every activity will be immediately observed and joined, I think that’s something I need to make sure they all have a chance at.

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The Parenting on Track Car Playout

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011 | Connecting the Dots | Comments Off

Last week, I described the plot my friend Mimi and I laid to get my three littles to STOP MAKING ME CRAZY in the car.  How did it play out?

So far, so damn good.

I’m always a little embarrassed when these very simple things–courtesy of Parenting on Track–work over all the far more complicated strategies I’ve tried, and for the car, I’ve had more than a few. Let’s see, there were the stars that I took away for fighting or screaming. The countless times I’ve pulled over. The kids sent to their room when we got home. The times I’ve actually left the car until they stopped. None worked in the long run.

Granted, we’re not to the long run now, but I’m optimistic. Even a return to the removal of the privilege is EASY compared to all that stuff.

In truth, they got off easy–because after imposing “five days” on Tuesday–we were saying I would release them Monday, Tuesday for Lilly and Rory who blew it–on Saturday I forgot, and sent Wyatt home from skiing (around here that’s the equivalent of sending him home from the park) in the car of the very same friend I plotted with in the first place, to play at her house. (Some “friend!”) Rory wasn’t there when he left, but when the rest of us went in to lunch, eventually (after a rather embarrassingly long time) some kid or another noticed he wasn’t there, and said, “Where’s Wyatt?” “Oh, he went home with Trevor (Mimi’s son).”

Rory slapped her chicken finger down. “But you said we not ride in anybody else’s car until MONDAY!”

Oops. I’m very impressed by how quickly she caught me, though, and how that proves how well this was working. I have no doubt now that she totally got this. Lily chimed in, and I apologized, and released them both, too–with the caveat that if they don’t act in my car like they would in a friend’s car, it’s another five days.

And so far, as I said, so very very good.

I’ve been thinking about why this works. I’ve always said I couldn’t possibly parent without bribes and threats: wouldn’t even want to try. What this is, it strikes me, is bribes and threats inverted. I’m requiring that they bribe me. I’ve had good luck with threats, actually, but only because I’ve been very willing to carry them out–and that’s like this, only with a whole ‘nother painful step. Picture this: Wyatt slugs Rory in the car. I tell Wyatt, “do that again, and you can’t ride in anyone else’s car for five days. Same goes for all of you.” Now, I have to remember this and enforce, which I’m usually good at–but say Rory is the next transgressor. She’s punished. No one else is. That feels much more unfair. Plus, say the behavior wasn’t a hit, but a scream, or Lily’s patented I-won’t-let-you-get-into-the-car move. That wasn’t in the threat! But it’s just as bad. Maybe worse, from a problem-for-me point of view (and it’s all about me, right?). Eventually, it would work, or they would all grow out of it. Something.

But this? They all earned the privilege at the same time. (I kind of planned that–they were so bad so often it was easy enough to nail them all at the same time, which I guess might have worked with the threat too–but then there’s so often a single WORSE transgressor, and delivering the same punishment is not good. I just planned to have them all ask for the privilege on the same day, one way or another, and be denied it.) Now, they can lose it separately–but that will feel much more fair. And it’s not a punishment. It’s a loss. It’s not grounding, not a “consequence” but something just that little bit different. And it clearly makes sense to them. Of course they can’t hit their friends in their friends’ cars, or prevent their friends’ younger siblings from getting in the car. I mean, who would do that? It’s so obvious! And, “click,” they get it.

My life is so much better now. Thanks, Vicki (who I know swings by here occasionally, although I haven’t yet emailed her to say howdy. I will, I will!)

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Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar…

Monday, November 23rd, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 1 Comment

I came in from clearing out the garden for winter a few days ago and found Rory–who’d been outside a few minutes before–sobbing at the top of the stairs. Wailing. I ran up–I thought she was hurt–and she took one look at me and ran away, shouting no! No!

Well, that’s never happened before. So I followed her. No! No! I don’t want you!

This is dreadful. Did she come in and feel like she couldn’t find us? Did something happen? I’ve been outside for a while, did she need be and I wasn’t there and now she feels just utterly betrayed?

Meanwhile, Rory is hiding behind a chair. Still screaming.

When I can make myself heard, I try to talk, sitting close. Is she sad? Could she not find me? Did she know I was outside? Does she miss Mama Deena and Baba Mike? NO NO NO NO NOOOOOOO!

What do I do? Get her out from behind the chair and hold her whether she wants it or not? SIt companionably?

About this time I notice she’s eying me a little–I don’t know–appraisingly. And I hear Rob come in. Do you know what’s wrong with Rory?

Oh, yes. What’s wrong with Rory is that she wouldn’t clean the playroom, so she got sent to her room, and then she came down, and then something somehow offended her sense of justice and fair play, and so she went back up and started screaming for Rob.

What’s wrong with Rory is just ordinary, boring, 4-year-old stuff, a little complicated by the incomprehensible, convoluted rules Rory has created within herself for when she will emerge from being sent to her room. What’s going on here is just…nothing.

Rory listens intently as Rob explains, adding that he’s asked her several times to come back down, and that she knows she’s not in trouble. I get up, and Rory throws herself at me. NOW she wants to be held. NOW she wants rocking. Is it that she wanted Rob? I think so–because he was the one who’d offended her, and having me couldn’t fill in that space without him. Or maybe she was playing me. Or maybe both. But what really mattered was that it was just about her, and Rob, and us, and that’s kind of the way it’s been for a while. For the moment, all the cigars are just cigars.

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Being means WAY more than acting.

Monday, October 26th, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | Comments Off

There’s been a shift again. Emotion is nothing if not seismic in this family, but this has been a nice, gradual drifting of continents.

Rory likes to perform, but sometimes I have felt that she was putting on a father frantic show for us–a show of happiness, a show of belonging, as if her performing it would convince us all. Sometimes she’d be just sitting there, kind of expressionless, and I’d look at her, and I’d get this frantic grin—not a grin of happiness, more one of desperation.

That”s ebbing away. Today she went upstairs on her own for a while, sat with Daddy in the office, and then went off to poke around, and appeared a few minutes later in a black velvet leotard of Lily’s (a handy down from another friend, actually). She checked to see that I was in the kitchen, then disappeared for a moment, then leaped in. Trick or Treat! Then she did a most elegant little dance (she hasn’t learned to expect candy from those Trick or Treats yet). And then did it again. And again. With plenty of “you got WATCH me, Mommy!” and lots more dancing.

I know that at some point, very early on, I was just begging–when will she act like a normal kid? And then she started to ACT like a normal kid, and that certainly didn’t feel right, either. Today–not all day, but at least for some–she just WAS a normal kid, and that felt great.

As for me, I was rounding them up for bed tonight, and no one was making that key first move towards the stairs (once you get one to go, they all do, and it doesn’t matter which one). It was unusually late, and Rory was resisting passively–rolling into the sofa as if to sleep there, popping in a thumb, eying me, and a little bubble of anger arose–I DO hate being defied, and it doesn’t matter by whom–and then I shrugged and held out my arms. I’ll carry you up, I said, and you will be the very first, and off we happily want.

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A New Take on the Temper Tantrum

Friday, October 23rd, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 4 Comments

Last night was windy–and where we live, that means it sounds like a freight train is coming over the hill. We lay in bed, listening, and began to hear, periodically, another sound: BANG BANG BANG. Or sometimes BANG. Or BANG BANG.

It was not rhythmic, or constant, as you would expect of something the wind was blowing. And it not eventually result in the reappearance of a child, as you would expect from a kid-created noise. It just kept periodically coming. Eventually, and under some pressure (I was reading The Case for God and planning to comment on it for today’s DoubleX) I agreed to investigate.

I found Rory, in her bed, having what can only be called a temper tantrum in her sleep. She was writhing. She was shouting. She was kicking. She was one peeved, sleeping noodle. Because despite all the noise and fuss, Rory was pretty clearly asleep.

I put my arms around her, and eventually she quieted down, woke a little, snuggled a little, and eventually popped her thumb back in her mouth (hallelujah for that habit) and went back to sleep, but it was truly the craziest thing. It was not a nightmare–or if it was, it was the ever-determined, resolute and resilient Rory version of it, because she was NOT acting frightened. She was NOT shrieking in terror. Nope, that kid was pissed. I don’t know what she was dreaming about, but I hope it wasn’t me!

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A Solid Guess on Travel Dates

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 | Adopting Devils | Comments Off

Here’s what I think:
I think we’ll head out around 6/11. Here’s the tentative schedule I’ve planned for us:
Day 1: leave
Day 2: Arrive Beijing
Days 3-4: Sightsee in Beijing. Lily tries to throw Wyatt off Great Wall. International incident narrowly averted.
Day 5: Fly to Fuzhou City
Days 6-9 Get used to Rory, one way or another.
Day 10 Fly to Guangzhou
Days 11-13 Various appointments
Day 14 Fly home. I may have the whole date line mixed up, but I think we arrive home pretty much at the exact same time we left.

I’ve been told to be flexible. I think we can handle that, since flexible tends to be pretty much the definition of our travel plans. We’re looking for a little luxury and good tours for those days in Beijing, and planning on letting whatever happens in Fuzhou City happen. (‘Cause what happens in Fuzhou City stays in Fuzhou City. I’m pretty sure that’s their slogan.)

We had plenty of conflicting advice about her name. I popped it up as a question on a board, and the thinking was divided equally into “she’ll adjust and be happy that you gave her a family name” and “you’re a racist, overly-Westernized white devil to even think about changing her name, and btw you used the phrase ‘going off the reservation’ in another post and that’s grossly insensitive too.”

Let’s just say not everyone on the “boards” is fully literate. (For those of you just joining us, our daughter’s name, as given to her in China, not by us, when she was 2 months old, is…Rebecca.)

And the irony of all of this was only highlighted by a piece in today’s Slate: What’s Up with Chinese People Having English Names? An american writer with a chinese name is mocked by his chinese peers for being so out of it as to still be using his original moniker.

In the United States, people tend to view names and identities as absolute things—which explains why I agonized over deciding on an English name—but in China, identities are more amorphous. My friend Sophie flits amongst her Chinese name, English name, MSN screen name, nicknames she uses with her friends, and diminutives that her parents call her. “They’re all me,” she says. “A name is just a dai hao.” Dai hao, or code name, can also refer to a stock’s ticker symbol.

Our decision–well, our partial decision? We’re calling her Rory. As for her formal name, we’re still working that out. I’m a big fan of nicknames, but Rob thinks her official first name ought to be: Rory. So: Rory Claire adjusted-and-yet-not-quite-finalized-chinese-name, or Lorelei Rebecca chinese-name, or possibly Rebecca Rose chinese-name or Rebecca Claire chinese-name who is just called Rory. Or maybe something else. But called Rory. It’s already on her shoe cubby.

Now we just have to get Lily some speech therapy before Wowy comes home.

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