Thursday, November 30, 2006

My Heart's the Tiniest Bit Broken

The Friday before Thanksgiving week, when I arrived to drop off Casey at school, neither of his regular teachers was there. I inquired about the dual absence and was told they were attending the funeral of the father of one of the boys in Casey's class. The little boy, like Casey, has a baby sister. His parents are somewhere around our age, I'd gather from meeting the boy's mother briefly at the Halloween party. That means they are in their early 30s.

This news of the death has really shaken me to my core. The wonderful preschool directors sent out a letter to all the families in the school, explaining that when tragedy strikes one member of the school, the whole school community is affected. It invited us to contribute whatever we wanted to the family and explained that the child's father had lost his life in an accident at home.

Why has this shaken me up so much? I suppose that one of the things that changes when you become a parent is that suddenly your mortality becomes important-- not just because you like your life and want to live, but because there are others really counting on you. This is certainly not to say that single people or married people who have no children have less meaningful or valuable lives. What I'm saying is that my mortality became a bigger concern once I had kids. And not just my mortality-- Jason's too.

I think part of why this family's story has broken my heart a little bit is because their world is not so different from mine. We have the same number of children, close to the same ages, who attend the same school. I guess it's a palpable lesson in how fleeting life is. I have so much to be grateful for in my life, and that means I have so much to lose.

I am at a loss for words to really express how I'm feeling-- except that I cannot imagine being in her shoes, losing a husband and being left to raise two small children alone. Their lives have been forever altered from the course on which they'd planned to travel-- and not by choice. And this makes me feel just. incredibly. sad.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Coffee To The People Needs Your VOTE!

Coffee to the People has been nominated to be AOL Cityguide's Best Coffee House 2007, and they need your VOTE!

Please click the link and vote for them now. . .

Oh. You want to know why I think you should give Coffee To The People your vote? Okay, here goes:

Several members of my family opened a coffee house in the San Francisco area a while back. The brain child of my older brother and his wife, Coffee to the People is partly owned by my parents (who help out behind the counter when they are in town and take care of the books), my older brother and his wife, and my sister, who has managed the joint for the past year and a half or so.

Coffee to the People is located just off Haight Street in San Francisco, and it brings organic, fair-trade coffee and free wireless access to the neighborhood. One of their goals is to provide coffee with a conscience because, as their website explains, "you shouldn't have to choose between drinking coffee and doing what's right." They pay their employees well above minimum wage and offer healthcare benefits for employees who work over 20 hours a week (and they don't schedule them to work just 19.75 hours to cheat them out of healthcare, either).

You can read the AOL Cityguide description of the coffeehouse here.

And you can vote for Coffee to the People here.

And if you wouldn't mind, I'd sure appreciate it if you'd pass along my request for votes to all your friends and family. And if you have a blog, feel free to post the request there, too! Oh. And please. Only vote once! THANKS!

Thank Goodness We Don't Live in Alaska

Jason and I are not much for mornings. I say this with some sadness, as you'd think that more than ten years into our professional lives, we'd be accustomed to waking up on time. Especially given that for 6 of them my work day started at 7am. This is not to say our day doesn't start early-- because while we are not morning people, as luck would have it-- our kids are.

But what is this business with it still being dark at 6am? Come on. How am I supposed to wake up when it's still dark out? I've worked hard to train our son that when it's dark, it's night time (and that means he should be in bed, asleep). So when Marcie awoke at 5:50am, why on earth did I go back to bed after feeding her the bottle? Because when it's dark, it's night time.

Ugh. I'm impressed I only got out the door 20 minutes late, given that I'd only left myself 20 minutes to shower, dress, make lunch, feed Casey, feed Marcie, help both kids get dressed, and write a quick note to the speech therapist. The note to the speech therapist was all for naught though, as luck would have it.

Apparently not only was I sleepy this morning, but so was Jason. Because around 9:15am, I received a voicemail message from Casey's speech therapist explaining that Casey's grandmother was there at 9:ooam to pick him up, but Casey had never arrived this morning. WHAT?!? My heart sank. I dialed Jason's cell phone in a panic. No answer. Crap. Where could they be? Were they in a car accident? Did he just forget?

Next, I called the preschool-- and they told me Casey had been there all morning. PHEW! And I guess I wasn't the first one to call the preschool to check (when the speech therapist didn't get me or my husband on our cell phones, she called the preschool, too).

So it's a new routine. We'll figure it out. It'll be fine. But heck if I didn't nearly have a heart attack this morning.

Poopy Blog Contest Winner-- Worth the Read

So I didn't get any real entries. . . But I did get this e-mail from a friend that I think suffices as an entry-- and a winning one at that. Even though it's about poop, it's pretty gentle on the stomach. Here goes:

If you don’t have kids, you’ll feel lucky after reading this. If you do have kids, you’ll fell lucky after reading this.

As most of you know, O has a real fascination… no, obsession… with well, shit. Her own, primarily. Mind you, she’s 3 and a half now, and knows right from wrong in most situations. But when it comes to crap, she just can’t help herself.
It’s like crack, no pun.

We’ve gone through so many phases – maybe you were around for some of them? She used to take off her diaper and poo in her crib when she was an infant and make art projects with it… or I’d find her sitting staring at a pile of it in her bed, like a glowing campfire, with her pacifiers all stuck into it. Then about a year ago, she decided she would be a dog. This lasted for, oh, 9 or 10 months – in full character – barking at strangers and postmen, eating off the floor with her mouth, drinking out of the toilet, putting herself on a lead and whining to be walked, and yes, crapping in the yard whenever we weren’t looking. We still have dead spots in the grass where she peed and pooped so many times it killed the grass. She stopped being a dog a few months ago, though we get an occasional relapse when she feels nervous – she’ll bark at others. Loudly. But what happened yesterday made it all seem like halfway “normal” behavior.

She is starting to refuse her naps, playing in her room or closet secretly instead of sleeping. Sometimes she makes her pillows look like she’s in her bed, and she loses herself into the closet and has conversations with her animals. But yesterday she was bored with this prospect, and so turned to her old favorite hobby – crap. I’ll omit most of the disgusting details about quantity and quality – both noteworthy – and just suffice to say that she became a “fecal artist” of sorts. I found her nude, brown up to the elbows. At first her room looked pretty normal, until I caught a glimpse in the corner of my eye of several small brown mice on the floor and crawling up the wall. Oh, if only they were mice… I put 2 and 2 together (being the brilliant mom that I am) and realized a game of projectile poo had occurred here. But the worst was yet to come. I opened her closet door to look for her clothes and the door moved much slower than normal over the cream colored carpet. Once completely open, a glorious 3 foot brown rainbow spanned the entry. The entire bottom of the closet door had become a big paintbrush.

For you dog owners, thanks for the tip – Nature’s Miracle. We need a miracle.

I may be writing to moan, whine and probably gross you out.. but the main point is this. We still find her to be lovely, clever, beautiful, funny, and incredibly entertaining, most of the time. Just goes to show you that God totally monkeys with your brain when you have kids to make sure you love them too much to physically harm them.

Isn't she a great writer? O is a lovely child, by the way. Quite verbal and entertaining to chat with. . . I guess her parents should think about removing all carpeting from their home, eh?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Vegas, Baby

We've been contemplating a brief jaunt to Vegas for a while now. I've been hemming and hawing about the cost, but we finally bit the bullet and decided to go. I sent my friend an e-mail confirming our plans. Here is what I wrote:

Against my better judgment, we are set for Vegas-- airline tickets and all. Even if I'd wanted to cancel after you'd [my friend] purchased the non-refundable tickets to LOVE, I couldn't, because some time last week (or the week before?!) in an apparent moment of sleepless stupor I asked my mother in law if she'd watch the kids while we were in Vegas for a couple nights. And she responded with glee. Glee. How could I take that away from her? So suffer I must.

For not-quite-48 hours away from the kids, imbibing drinks I dare-not try at home, sleeping in, and enjoying a good show will just have to be my burden to bear. The things we do in the name of sacrifice.

I copied my husband on this e-mail (so he'd know I'd finally booked the tickets). His response to my friend? Sometimes she is a little intense.

Lest you think I'm hopping on a plane and leaving my babies-- even for a brief 43 hours-- any time in the very near future, worry not. The trip is still a couple months away. I'll still worry the whole time. When I'm not drunk, that is. (Just kidding, Mom. Of course I never get drunk!)

It's 1:40pm-- Do you know where your children are?

I do. Casey is fast asleep at preschool. Marcie has just finished taking a bath.

I don't know these things because I'm at home. I'm not. I'm at work. But I still like to check in every once in a while.

This morning Marcie slept late (all the way to 6:20am!), and I overslept a bit, too. When I prepared her bottle, I set it on the table so I could adjust myself with Marcie on my lap. In that brief moment, Casey snagged the bottle and refused to give it back. I tried my patient mommy voice. My forceful mommy voice. Even my pleading mommy voice. All to no avail. I had to literally snatch that bottle out of his hands, with him screaming in response. Why oh why didn't I put him in time out? Apparently Firm Mommy disappeared this morning, as she has gone off to work. It felt like all these weeks of training and preparation to be calm but firm went right out the window with my desperation to get out the door on time.

It wasn't all bad. I managed to get Casey breakfast (is it bad that he ate sour cream onion chips and dry cheerios? He refused everything else I offered), get Casey dressed (in a turtleneck under the short-sleeved shirt he picked out), and get Casey's teeth brushed. I also managed to make his lunch, dress Marcie, brush Marcie's teeth, shower and put myself together and get out the door only 15 minutes behind schedule. Pretty impressive, if you ask me. . .

When I dropped off Marcie, she initially smiled-- but clung, with her arm wrapped tightly around mine. My mother in law had to pull Marcie from my arms. Grandma managed to do so in one fell swoop-- removing Marcie and unclenching that death-grip she had on me in mere seconds. Marcie's facial expression was . . . well . . . unsure. She looked like she wanted to cry, but Jason's mom did a great job smiling and keeping Marcie entertained and avoiding tears. They stood at the front window and waved to me from inside as I backed the car out of the driveway and drove off to work. I'm sure Marcie forgot all about me within five minutes. . .

Gosh, I sure do miss her. . .

Sunday, November 26, 2006

1,000 Hits

Today one of you looking at this site will be my thousandth hit since November 1st, 2006. The counter in the bar on the right tells you how many visitors have taken a peek at this blog. But the statistics I get also tell me how many times the page is getting hit. The fact the two numbers are not the same is a good thing because it means some of you are repeat visitors.

So whether you are my 1000th hit or not, thank you for visiting my blog.
It's always so much nicer to blog when you know people are actually reading it!

Ramblings on the Eve of Returning to Work

Technically, it is not yet time to study for final exams. But as a 4L (yep, you read that right-- this is my fourth year because I've been carrying 11 units a semester so I could work full time while going to school-- I don't know who's more insane, me or my husband!), I long-ago discovered the importance of Thanksgiving weekend. If you don't have your outlines up-to-date (that is to say pretty much completed) by the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, you might not sleep at all until final exams. So here I am, prepping for finals. I can't tell if I'm in good shape or not. I alternately feel totally at peace and like a complete wreck, and I don't know if it's because of finals coming or because I go back to work Monday.

Anyway, here are things I will miss when I go back to work (even though it's only for four days, then a week off for final exams, then back to work):

  • Being able to sleep in until 6:30am some days (and 7:00am on Wednesdays if the kids sleep that long).
  • Walking the kids to school (Casey there and Marcie home) or just walking (with Marcie while Casey is in speech therapy).
  • Watching Casey run up to the signs at Webb Lake and "read" the sign: DO NOT FEED THE DUCKS.
  • Amusement of Casey's antics. Case in point: Yesterday, after being placed in time out three times for wrestling moves on Marcie, he looked me square in the eye and shouted at me, "I DON'T LIKE YOU VERY MUCH RIGHT NOW, MOMMY. ONE. TWO.THREE. TIMEOUT. GO TO CASEY'S ROOM." I didn't laugh out loud, but I sure wanted to.
  • Running interference between Casey and poor Pugasus. (Casey is quickly learning the expression: You are not in charge of the dog.)
  • Naps. Need I say more here?
  • Being able to do laundry any day of the week, all day long, if I want.
  • Holding Marcie and feeding her the bottle.
  • Running errands.
  • Grocery shopping in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week.
  • Watching Marcie as she gains confidence walking. This morning, for instance, she was regularly letting go of the bed, the couch, the table, etc. and taking two steps toward me.
  • Being in charge of what Marcie wears.
  • Eating at random times throughout the day, whenever I'm hungry. And actually cooking lunch if I want.
  • Meeting Jason for lunch.
  • Not showering until after lunch.
  • Getting to know Casey's teachers and therapists and talking to them regularly.
  • Seeing Casey in action at school.
  • Singing silly songs and dancing like a crazy lady to music.
  • Watching Marcie nap.
  • Watching Casey nap.
  • Participating in Casey's speech therapy.
  • Marcie pulling down my pants accidentally while she pulls herself up on me.
  • Taking crazy photos (like the one yesterday of the cheerios on Casey's table after he dumped half the box out to snack).
  • Getting to watch kind of a lot of TV.
  • Hugging and kissing Marcie and Casey as much as I want (or as they want).
  • Hearing Marcie and Casey's laughter as they play together.
  • Baby babbling.
  • My speedy computer (the one at work is slow as molassess).

Things I will NOT miss when I go back to work:

  • Running interference between Casey and Marcie.
  • Disciplining Casey for demonstrating wrestling moves on his sister.
  • Repeatedly chiding Casey for (trying to put on) wearing Marcie's socks, shoes, etc.
  • Not having time to shower until after lunch.
  • Vacuuming all the time.
  • Feeling obligated to do laundry any given day of the week.
  • Cleaning up lots and and lots of poop.
  • Not getting paid.
  • Not needing to ingest much caffeine.
  • The anxiety of having my next door neighbor call the police because the dogs are barking when really it's not our dog but the two big dogs who belong to the house directly behind ours.

Things I am looking forward to about going back to work:

  • Getting paid.
  • Having time to myself in the bathroom.
  • Wearing "work clothes."
  • Talking to adults all day long.
  • Surfing the Internet (it's a job requirement!).
  • Morning meetings with the PDOP team.
  • My coworkers' sense of humor.
  • Access to e-mail all day long.
  • Having an excuse to eat lunch out (I have a friend who is recently at-home who insists she doesn't like to eat lunch now because it just doesn't taste as good when you make it at home-- yes, you know who you are, and I'm outing your working mom instincts!)
  • IM

In other news, Marcie is really taking steps now-- it's like a game. She hangs onto the couch or the bed or the table (or whatever) for dear life, turns toward me, lets go, takes a couple steps, and either I catch her or she face-plants onto the carpet. Then I pick her up and she laughs. And I laugh, and I cheer. And we repeat the process all over again. It's pretty cool.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Marcie's First Thanksgiving

As promised, here are some photos from our Thanksgiving meal at Jason's parents' house:

First, a sequence of Marcie dancing to the music from the Old MacDonald toy:

Aunt Tiffany and Casey

Daddy and Casey

Marcie's Thanksgiving Meal #1

Marcie's Thanksgiving Meal #2 (check out the mashed potatoes on her hands!)

Bath time after a messy meal!
P.S. Did I mention Marcie took her first real steps on Thanksgiving? She took two actual steps between me and Jason. Not the I-have-to-step-so-I-don't-fall-down kid-- real ones!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Things I Learned About Thanksgiving This Year
I am taking a Law & Religion class this year. And one of the things I learned is that Thanksgiving is actually a religious holiday. How is it that I am thirty-something and I never knew this? I am not sure. I mean, I suppose when you are thankful for something (or someone), you are thankful to someone-- like a higher power. But I just never thought of it that way. I just thought Thanksgiving was a time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. A time to give thanks. But apparently there is a long history of a presidential prayer on Thanksgiving (though one past President, at least, refused to participate in this ritual, citing a separation between church and state).

Though I am not a big fan o' Bush (or "Dub" as some like to call him), he did in fact fulfill his presidential duties and offer up a prayer for our nation in Thanksgiving. You can read the full text of this prayer here. Here is an excerpt of the prayer part:

Tomorrow is our day of Thanksgiving. It's a national observance first proclaimed by George Washington. In our journey across the centuries from a few tiny settlements to a prosperous and powerful nation, Americans have always been a grateful people, and we are this year as well. We're grateful for our beautiful land. We're grateful for a harvest big enough to feed us all, plus much of the world. We're grateful for our freedom. We're grateful for our families. And we're grateful for life itself.

So on Thanksgiving Day, we gather with loved ones and we lift our hearts toward heaven in humility and gratitude. As we count our blessings, Americans also share our blessings. We're a generous country. We're filled with caring citizens who reach out to others, people who've heard the universal call to love a neighbor as we want to be loved ourselves. On Thanksgiving and every day of the year, Americans live out of a spirit of compassion and care, and I thank you for that. It's the spirit that moves men and women to be mentors to the young, to be scout leaders, to be helpers of the elderly, to be comforters of the lonely and those who are left out.

We love our country, and the greatest example of that devotion is the citizen who steps forward to defend our nation from harm. Members of our military have set aside their own comfort and convenience and safety to protect the rest of us. Their courage keeps us free. Their sacrifice makes us grateful, and their character makes us proud. Especially during the holidays our whole nation keeps them and their families in our thoughts and prayers.

It's interesting to me how narcissistic we are-- I mean, check out that middle paragraph. It's not about how thankful we should feel for our many blessings; it reads more like how great America is. Now don't get me wrong-- I'm not necessarily saying Bush was wrong. I just think the tone is interesting. . .

Things I Am Thankful For
In honor of Thanksgiving, though, I thought I'd jot down a few things I'm personally thankful for. I'm not saying my list of things is better than the President's. I'm speaking only on behalf of myself-- not for an entire nation of people, after all.

(These are in no particular order by the way)
  1. My husband, Jason. I can't believe how quickly our time together has breezed by. I could write a whole book about what a lucky woman I am. . .
  2. My son, Casey. He makes me laugh and worries me and challenges me to care about the future and where the world is headed; I hope to leave it a little better for his sake and the sake of his generation.
  3. My daughter, Marcie. She also makes me laugh and worry, for much the same reason. I can hardly believe she's been in our lives for such a short period of time.
  4. My parents. They are really amazing role models for the kind of parent I hope to become. My parents are reasonable. They have always shown unconditional love for each other and for my and my siblings. And what is most impressive to me is their ability to let go and encourage us each to live our own lives-- they really taught us to be independent and to know when to ask for help. I am such a control freak that I hope one day I will be able to give my children the freedom they deserve-- and trust them to make the decisions that are best for them.
  5. My in-laws. They are really a safety-net for us, and I am so grateful to have their help and support. They are fiercely loyal and big-time cheerleaders. I didn't get to grow up living near my grandparents, so I'm hoping my kids will gain a greater perspective of the world from spending so much time with theirs. I'm so lucky to have them in our lives.
  6. My siblings and my husband's siblings (and their kids). What would I do without their sense of humor? Who could I play random board games with? I love hearing how their choices have differed from mine, and I'm so lucky to get to spend time with our extended families fairly regularly.
  7. School. I am grateful that I get to be intellectually stimulated and challenged on a regular basis. I feel especially lucky to be taking international business transactions, my least favorite class this semester-- the professor is actually quite good, but boy has it taught me that I really don't want to practice transactional law (and watch, I've probably just jinxed myself into a job doing just that after graduation!).
  8. Family leave. I am so lucky to be able to take time off of work to spend it with my kids. I've loved being home with Marcie and trucking Casey off to his therapy.
  9. Casey's birthfamily. We really consider them extended family, and I feel so blessed that his birthmother was so strong and loved him so much that she chose this life for him. I also feel very fortunate that his birthfamily considers us family (just like we consider them family).
  10. Marcie's birthfamily. Although we will never get to know them or the reasons for their decisions, we know they must have loved Marcie a lot to give her to an orphanage where she could be placed with a family. Casey really needed a little sister. . . and our family wouldn't be complete with out her.
  11. Enough money. Not to say we couldn't use more. :) But we are really, really lucky to make enough money to put a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, and food in our mouths. We are so fortunate to have been able to afford two adoptions and to have a little cash to do the extra stuff with our kids. Life is full of choices and there are lots of other things we could be spending money one, but they are so very worth it.
  12. Friends. I'm so lucky to have people all over the country (and maybe the world!) who care about me and my family, to pray for our well-being, to laugh with me, to hold me when I cry, to question me when I'm out of line, and to push me to study when I don't feel like it. Oh, and to listen to me complain. :)
  13. Faith. In God. In humanity. Enough said.
  14. Blogging. Don't laugh. I really like this. . .

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

She Cried Today . . .

When I dropped her off with Grandma this morning, my mother in law actually had to pry her from my arm (which she was pinching hard). Marcie cried. I felt awful. I needed to leave Marcie today so I could race Casey over to speech, return him to school, drive to Del Mar to meet friends for lunch, then zoom off to school. Plus, I am trying to transition myself away from Marcie.

I know all moms have massive anxiety when they return to work. I really thought I'd be crawling up the walls being home for so long. But I'm not. I'm okay with going back to work. I like working. I like the people with whom I work. And I'm really fortunate to have Grandma to watch Marcie-- she loves Marcie, and I know Marcie is well cared-for while we are away. I should be grateful. I am grateful. But it's still hard. . .

It's likely I won't be the one to watch Marcie walk for the first time. Not a step here or there, but really walk. I won't get to read stories to Casey's class, or check out his little friends to see how cute Kaitlyn is or if Jacob really does push him. I won't be the one to drop Casey off and pick him up from speech-- certain to get a weekly update on his progress. I won't be the one who rocks Marcie to sleep at naptime, or who shuffles whatever I'm eating for lunch into her mouth.

I don't know what's worse-- that stomach-knotting-guilt feeling that accompanies watching your child cry when you hand her over and leave the room (even though the person you are leaving her with is her grandmother or her father or someone else equally well equipped to meet her needs), or the stomach-knotting-low-life feeling that accompanies watching your child squeal with joy when you hand her over (to someone who she loves and who loves her back) and leave the room.

Perhaps it is terrible to admit. But in the first instance, though it's mainly painful, there is a part of me that thinks, Yeah. She still wants ME. She still loves me BEST. I'M the one she turns to for comfort. In the second instance, though it's mainly comforting, there is a small part of me that thinks, Hey-- I'M your mother. I'M the one you should turn to for comfort and joy. Is that selfish of me? Probably. But I think every mom (and dad) feels that way. I still remember when Casey went through that phase where the only person he wanted was Daddy.

I know that once I left this morning and walked out the door, Marcie was fine. I have no question in my mind that she's having a terrific time with her grandmother. I don't know why I'm making this about me. But I doubt that I'm the only mother who does.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bouncing Off the Walls

Today was one of those days. By 8am, Casey was bouncing off the walls. He did let me sleep in until 6:30am, which was nice (except that I'd been up from 5:30-5:45am with Marcie). But by 6:45am, he was a Mr. Bossy. It started with him letting Pugasus out of his crate and then chasing him all over the family room, ordering him outside, then inside, then back outside. Telling him, "Get down," or "Sit," or "Be quiet" (not that Pugasus was making any noise). Then we heard Marcie calling to us at around 7:00am, so we went to her room to retrieve her. Casey immediately began instructing me to feed Marcie. We keep telling Casey that he is not in charge of Pugasus and Marcie, but our statements seem to be falling on deaf ears.

By 8am, Casey needed to get out of the house. So I bundled up the kids, threw on my running shoes, and we did my 3 mile loop through the neighborhood. The one I used to run in 30 minutes. It took us an hour and fifteen minutes to complete. Now, in my defense, I encouraged Casey to walk a healthy chunk of the flat part. And also in my defense, pushing a stroller with over 50 pounds up hill after walking for an hour in the heat is no picnic, either. But I needed the exercise-- and more importantly, so did Casey.

On our walk, we explored many things-- the fence along a neighbor's yard, the rocks that create a path for the rain in another yard, the leaves that have fallen off tree branches to the ground, and the sewage drain. Seriously. I have this irrational fear of sewer drains. I'm not sure why I have it. I also have a fear of going to bed with the closet door open. At least I know the root of this bizarre fear-- it stems from a horrible nightmare I had when I was in middle school. A nightmare I had the night I left my closet door open. A nightmare I probably had because I'd taken cold medicine before bed. I don't remember the details of the dream, but it sufficiently frightened me that I still won't sleep with the closet doors open. And I won't put a child to bed with his closet doors open either. Anyway, that's not the irrational fear I was writing about. I was telling you about my fear of sewer drains.

You know how sometimes you park the car along the curb, and it happens to be the section of the street where the sewer drain is? I always had this fear as a kid that I'd fall down one. If I had to cross a street, I'd walk the extra steps to avoid stepping over the opening to the sewer drain. I still do-- after all, what would I do if one of my kids slipped and fell, right into the drain's opening? Do you think anyone could even fit down the drain that way? Anyway, I made the mistake of stopping near one of those drains today with the double stroller, to let Casey out so he could walk for a while. Casey is mostly fearless, which has its plusses and minuses. He went right to the edge of the drain (which I didn't think anything of since I'd asked him to get on the sidewalk), then got down on one knee and hollered into the drain to hear his voice echo. He thought it was hilarious. I was terrified. Stupid drain. Of course he didn't fall into it. And neither did I. But I still don't like 'em.

And so my day went. At one point in the day, I went to change Marcie's gag-reflex-inducing diaper. As I had her on the changing table, Casey came barrelling into the room with Pugasus (actually it was the other way around; Casey was chasing the dog). I told Casey to leave the dog alone, and when he ignored me, I stuck out my leg-- which he tripped over. He looked up at me from the ground, with those wounded eyes, and said, "NO PUSHING MOMMY." I told him I didn't push him. He wasn't listening, and he needed to go to his room. He said, "No," as he walked out the door, and the next thing I heard was his wretching. I came around the corner with Marcie and Casey looked up at me: "Casey frewed up, Mommy."

This is Casey's new thing. Fake vomiting. He makes a gagging sound, which grosses us out. Anyway, there on the ground in front of him was food he had chewed up and spit out. I told him to pick it up. He refused. So I picked it up, opened up his hand, placed the mushy food in it, and told him to throw it away. Then I told him to go wash his hands. He became hysterical. He screamed and cried, while washing his hands, "I WANT DADDY. I WANT DADDY." This is improvement. Last time he got mad when I punished hime he wanted Grandma. After about 10 minutes of this, I helped him calm down and we talked about being a good listener and not pretending to throw up.

Then Casey asked me for some water, and I gave him a small bottle. I opened it and left the room to put the cap up somewhere so Marcie couldn't reach it. In the 30 seconds or so that I was out of the room, Marcie spit up curdled milk. Casey told me, "Marcie frewed up." So I turned back around to get some paper towels from the kitchen. In that 30 seconds, Marcie picked up Casey's water bottle and proceeded to try and drink it, instead dumping about 4 ounces of it down the front of herself, all over the couch, the floors, and the area rug, and sending Casey into another wave of tears. I took the bottle from Marcie, cleaned up the water and the spit-up, removed Marcie's wet clothes, and threw away the dirty paper towels. But then Casey wanted his shirt off because Marcie had her shirt off.

And so it went for the next 30 minutes or so. Now, I'm sure all you astute readers can tell from my saga that 1. my patience were wearing awfully thin, and 2. what my kids really needed was a nap. No kidding! And nap they did-- for their Dad, right after he walked in the door from work and I walked out the door to head to school to study.

When I got home tonight, Marcie and Casey and I played for a while. They kids belly-laughed and giggled and hugged and kissed. Marcie now tries to say the word for "cow" ("owc") and she gives high fives, claps, and blows kisses. I look at her face and I can hardly believe it hasn't even been three months yet. I watch her watch Casey and I know we were meant to be a family. Casey needed a sister. Marcie needed a brother. She really helps complete us. And you know, as trying as being a parent can be, not a day goes by that I don't think it's all worth it. And then some.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Too Cute Not To Share

Auntie Jessica Rocks

Can you guess who sent Marcie this shirt for her 1st birthday?!?

My Buckeye Boy

Have I ever mentioned that Casey was born just south of Columbus, Ohio immediately following the Ohio State Buckeye's National Championship win? He was. So today's game is big news around our house-- even if we are in California. I don't even follow football really, but I know what a big deal today's game is.

If Uncle Jason is reading this-- we've had the game on. Woohoo Buckeyes! Now, I may not be much of a sports enthusiast, but I know enough to root for the "home team"!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Photo Essay of Marcie's 1st Birthday & Musings on Her First Year


Good morning, Birthday Girl. Are you enjoying eating that beautiful picture of Emma sent from the other side of the United States? It sure was nice of your friend from China to send you a birthday card! (Thank you Emma and Annette!)

Casey knows it's not Halloween anymore, but he thinks it's fun to dress up in Buzz clothes and tickle his sister. (Secretly, he is just eye-balling her Cheerios.)

Which Marcie can feed to herself, thank you very much!

She's pretty good with eggs, too. . . until she flips the bowl in the air and sends egg pieces all over the floor (though the dog doesn't seem to mind!).

Mmmm. Fruit and yogurt, too? What a delicious morning treat!

Facing forward now. . . off to take Casey to speech therapy.

Play time while Casey visits with Miss Nicole . . .

Uh oh. Really, not even a tear shed-- it just looks bad on camera.

Look who fell asleep while we were walking around Webb Lake, looking at the ducks and turtles!

Sound asleep while we get back in the car to take Casey to school.

Outside the preschool. Everyone's awake now!

Casey gives Marcie a kiss good-bye, after wheeling her around the classroom and showing her to Brooke and Katelyn, of course!
Back in the car again. No jacket this time, because the weather has warmed up a bit.

Marcie's favorite pasttime-- playing with Pugasus.

Though playing with Casey's toys while he is away at school is also pretty enjoyable.
Notice how Marcie ignores her toys so she can eat the Percy tank engine.

Snack time! (No, this is not how she usually takes her bottle. Yes, we do know she is supposed to go cold turkey on the bottle now that she is one. At least she's off the formula and on to whole milk, starting today!)

Look at me, Mommy!

Off to lunch at Pick Up Stix to meet Daddy. Here are the two birthday girls-- Mommy and Marcie! (Isn't Mommy brave posting a picture with no make up on?)

Hello, Daddy!

After a lunch of house chicken, cream cheese wontons, and white rice, a girl needs to take a bit of a rest!

Just up from nap time!

Eating the phone.

A bit more play time.

Back in the car again-- on our way to Grandma's so Mommy can go to school.

Yay Grandma!

Musings on my daughter's first birthday (this is long . . .)

I don't have much documentation of Marcie's first year of life. In fact, pretty much everything is posted right here on this blog. Although Marcie was born November 15, 2005, we didn't learn about her until June 26, 2006. And we didn't meet her until August 21, 2006. That's not to say we didn't think about her before June. We did. Quite a lot. In fact, I wrote Marcie a few letters after our wait began-- the first one dated in June of 2005, before Marcie was even born (though after she was conceived). At the time we were calling her Alexandra, with a nickname of Lexie. But, as time paraded on, our idea of Marcie -- and her name-- evolved. And so Marcie it is.

When I saw her picture for the first time, I could hardly contain my excitement. I immediately printed it out, and walked it all through the law firm office where I spent my summer working. They must have thought I was a nut-- here I was in place where I hadn't even been working a month yet. And I was a gushing mom. Not really the stoic, lawyerly impression one might want to make-- but I didn't care. Because it was my daughter. My second-born child. She looked so serious in the picture. And I knew she was ours immediately.

The wait to travel dragged. As impatient as I'd been during our wait for her referral, the wait to travel was worse. I had convinced myself (before hearing all about Marcie) that the longer the wait to travel, the better-- after all, I wanted to finish my summer job. But once I saw her precious face, I didn't want to wait even another day. . .

When the nannies first brought all the babies into the room, I recognized Marcie immediately. Jason had commented many times over the preceding weeks, "How will we know if they give us the right baby?" But there was no question when they brought her in the room. I don't remember if any of the other babies, in their matching pink and white outfits with little green creatures on them, cried. But I know Marcie did. She sat in the back corner of the big, black conference room chair. A nanny on the edge of the chair, with another baby in her lap. Marcie looked around the room, kind of drinking us in-- and her face scrunched up and she started to cry. The nanny scooped her up immediately, and Marcie stopped crying.

The rest of our first meeting was mainly a blur. I remember picking her up-- and feeling her weight against me-- for the first time. She sure was heavy! And I remember her just staring intensely at us when we returned to our seats, as if to say, "Who are you people?" Of course, she reached out and grabbed for my nose, too. And she smiled for Jason-- ever so briefly.

The orphanage director sat with all of us in a big circle, and the guide, Marie, let us fire off question after question. Alexandra's parents wanted to know how her name was chosen. Ava's parents wanted to know if she was at the beginning or end of her cold. We asked about Marcie's cough (which, it appears, has finally resolved itself just this past week-- nearly three months after we first noticed it).

When we left the conference room to head upstairs for bath and bed, we passed by two nannies in the hallway. They reached out for Marcie, and Marcie reached back. "Good bye, Xiao Ji Mei," they softly called. My throat clamped up a bit, and I swallowed hard, thinking how difficult it must be for those nannies who had cared for Marcie for nine months to say good bye now. And how scary it must be for Marcie to be taken away from them. . . my heart was breaking in the tiniest way. Of course we knew we would be "the best nannies she ever had," as Marie pointed out. But we were still taking her away from her home and the love of her nannies.

Marcie was hard to bathe. She kept slipping around in the bathtub, and we were worried she'd dunk under. She smelled like the tap water of China, and Jason commented that he wondered how many baths in Baby Soap she'd need before she smelled like us. We swaddled her in her towel, changed her into pajamas, and went to play in the bedroom. I don't remember if it was that day or the next when Jason discovered how to make her laugh-- by dropping a small cloth on her head or face. But the sound of her giggles were pure joy. That first night, she fell asleep in my arms, and I laid her gently in the crib, watching her back rise and fall as she slept. She woke up at midnight ever-so-briefly for a small bottle, and then slept in until 7am.

As soon as we had Marcie, I immediately missed Casey-- with a fierceness that took me by surprise. There were a few other families that had arrived with other children, and I felt somehow incomplete knowing that only part of my family was together. I'm so grateful for those initial days alone with Marcie. After all, Casey got a ton of attention, and Marcie deserved it too. But it would be dishonest to say I didn't miss him-- I ached for him, actually. . .

Since we've been back, Marcie has certainly endeared herself to those around us. I can't write about her whole first year, because I'm only a small part of that first year. But I can memorialize her first day with us, and the images that stick out from the past three months. Marcie is mobile. And fast. We have to keep the bathroom doors closed and the toilet seats down, or she will play in what she must think is a porcelain bucket of water. Marcie is smart-- she already has picked up several key words and signs. She can high five and show she is "all done" in sign language. She can shake her head no. She tells us when she wants to eat ("mom-mom" is the word in Cantonese), when she wants to be held ("up"), and when she wants some attention (by dropping something on the floor and saying "uh oh"). She'll even imitate the word "ouch."

Marcie is also very social. She doesn't smile much for the camera or even for strangers. But she bounces her body and wiggles her feet when she sees someone she knows. She is not shy, either. She will crawl right up and tug on your pant legs to pull herself up to standing. In the double stroller, she'll hit Casey to irritate him. And she'll eat his toys to occasionally taunt him. She also has become great friends with our dog, Pugasus. Just today, I caught her pulling on his tongue (which permanently sticks out of his mouth), exploring this "toy" she found. She is has a million little nuanced facial expressions, and she likes to bounce to music. She loves giving kisses and reacts with a smile and a look of great personal accomplishment when we cheer for her. Yesterday she even took her first step (though it was rather accidental). So she is coming along quite well.

She eats just about anything-- and especially whatever you're eating at the moment. She hasn't figured out the sippy cup yet, but she'll need to soon, because we're going cold turkey in the bottle after December 7th (picked because it's the day of my last final and if I'm going to be up multiple times in the middle of the night, I think it should be after final exams). She even likes ice cream-- sure, she makes a face and then smiles and grunts for more.

Marcie is not big on sleep. Occasionally she will nap for a couple hours straight, but just as often it's 50 minutes here or there and then to bed at 8pm and up around 6:30am. I'm wondering why it is that she doesn't really sleep through the night yet-- she gets up any time between 3 and 5am, famished. She drinks the bottle, goes back to sleep, and then when I lay her in her crib, she wakes up screaming, which she does for about 5 minutes until she puts herself to sleep. Maybe I have trained her to do this-- I don't know. If she'd been living with us longer, I might just let her cry and not giver her a middle-of-the night feeding. But she's still learning to trust us and rely on us, so I'm trying to give it time. She's only been in her own bedroom for about a month now, as it is.

In any event, that is the year in review. But the fun part is the photo essay-- the part where you can follow Marcie through her first day as a one-year old. Happy Birthday, Marcie!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Special Guest Teacher

Yesterday, I returned to the classroom . . . sort of.

I volunteered to "guest teach" in Casey's preschool classroom. I arrived around 10:30am, with my bag of "stuff." It included the book The Wide-Mouthed Frog, a bunch of small green paper bags, googly eyes, pre-cut and curled red strips of paper to look like tongues, and fuzzy green balls. This was for making frog puppets. The kids were just finishing up their snack (tortilla chips and refried beans or bean dip of some kind-- blech!). Casey is certainly his mother's son when it comes to snacks. He won't eat for the sake of eating. I watched as he carefully carried his loaded plate and half-full cup to the trash can and dumped them out. And apparently he hasn't been finishing his lunch at school lately. I personally think it's because he is holding out until Jason picks him up so they can eat the food together on the way to pick up Marcie.

When I arrived, Casey asked me where Marcie was-- he looked so concerned. I explained she was with Grandma so we could have some special time together at school. I think he was disappointed. He likes showing off Marcie to his classmates, especially Brooke (who loves all babies) and Katelyn (whose name Casey pronounces as Kaywin).

Anyway, yesterday was rainy, so the kids had an abbreviated play time-- during which they ran three laps around the playground while screaming. It sounds potentially irritating, but it wasn't. It was cute.

After playtime, they all came in and sat on the multi-colored mat for circle time. One of the boys offered Casey his red bumpy circle, but Casey didn't want it. I reminded him to say, "No thank you," and he did. I read the Wide-Mouthed Frog book three or four times to the kids. It's a pop up book that I first heard as a joke in college about a wide mouthed frog who hops around, meeting other animals and offering up that he is a wide-mouthed frogs who eats flies. Then he asks what the other animal eats. At the end of the story, he hops up to an alligator and the alligator tells him he eats wide-mouthed frogs. The frog makes his mouth really small and says "Oh, pleased to meet you," or something like that-- and hops away. I think it's hilarious. But the humor is kind of lost on 3 and 4-year-olds.

After we read the story, we sang the Little Green Frog song. I love this song. It begins with opening and closing hands and the noise "MM-- AT!" And when you say the "at" part, you have to open your mouth and stick out your tongue. It looks very silly, and every time I made the sound, Tuan and Casey burst into laughter at me. They couldn't even really sing the song, they were laughing so hard. Glad I could entertain them.

Last, the kids worked on the frog puppets, which are now hanging from the classroom ceiling. Three year olds don't really get the whole "copy the sample" thing. Most of them put the tongues across the frong of the bag. But I guess what can you expect from toddlers, eh?

It was a lot of fun. I'm really glad I got to spend the time in Casey's classrooms. One of the best parts about being home with Casey and Marcie these past three months has been getting to know his regular routine-- learning about his friends and feeling a part of what goes on in his life. It's not that I was unaware before, but I was mainly the calendar-keeper, and my role primarily consisted of shuttling him from therapy appointments to doctors appointments and so on. This has been a great opportunity to actually experience some of the fun of parenthood with him. To be even sillier than usual. To discover that he hates it when his shoes get wet or his pants get a drop of water on them and he insists on putting on a replacement. He really is quite a character, and he amazes me every day.

In other news, I will be posting a photo-essay later documenting Marcie's first birthday-- which was today. She got several e-cards from her friends from the orphanage where she used to live (how cool is that?!?). Today is also my birthday-- and it was so cool to share it with her today. I know it's only been about three months since we met, but I already can't remember life before her. It's amazing what depth children bring to our lives. . .

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Marcie's First Day Without Mommy or Daddy

I officially started back to work on Monday the 13th, though I don't actually return to the office until the 27th because I have some more vacation time banked that I'm using. In these next two weeks before I return to the office full time, I'm "transitioning." I say that I'm transitioning, because isn't that always true? I remember my first day back in the office when Casey was 11 weeks old. All day long, people kept asking, "So, how are you doing?" And it took every ounce of strength not to burst into tears and sobs. I know Casey was fine- he wasn't even three months old-- as long as he got his bottle and someone held him close, he was happy. And Grandma was certainly meeting his needs.

Well, Marcie is a little older. Since we've returned to the U.S., I've been with Marcie every day for a chunk of the day. True, I drop her off at Grandma's around 4pm so I can hustle off to school Monday through Thursday. And she spends almost all day on Sundays with her Dad while I study. But for a healthy chunk of each day, I'm her primary care giver. I have loved this much more than I thought I would. I still don't want to be a full time, stay-at-home mom (though kudos to you who have the personality that makes that job enjoyable). Don't get me wrong. I think stay-at-home moms are incredible. I am so grateful I had one growing up. And our goal is still for my husband to quit his job in the next 3 years so he can be a full-time stay-at-home dad. Anyway, I digress.

I'm transitioning by having Marcie spend more time with her grandmother while I ramp up for final exams. This was a little accidental. I had planned for today to be her first full day with Grandma (full day starting around 9:30am, that is-- which means I'm still up with her for 3 1/2 hours before she's off to Grandma's house). But I did not manage my time well last weekend, got only an hour and a half of sleep Sunday night, and needed to work on a paper yesterday that was due yesterday. So off to Grandma's she went.

She loves being at Grandma's. And my mother-in-law is amazing with her-- she really has a knack for babies. Marcie loves playing at Grandma's house (and so does Casey, for that matter). So I know she is in good hands. Yesterday I barely noticed Marcie was gone. Sure, I paused every hour or so and thought about what Marcie must be doing right then. But I was under such time pressure to get the paper finished, and I was so exhausted that I just didn't think much about it. "Yesterday wasn't so bad," I thought when I drove to drop off Marcie this morning.

But today was weird. I mean, I haven't been home alone since we returned from China. It definitely helps that she's with family and well taken care of. But it was weird. It just didn't feel right. . .

So I thought I should document it. Although I'm documenting this for Marcie, really, I guess it's more of a milestone for me.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Marcie's First Birthday Party

Because we just had a huge shindig for Marcie, we opted to keep her first birthday party very small this year-- just our immediate families. I wasn't home on Jason's birthday, so the plan was to make lasagna for dinner (for the grown ups) and Dino-bite Chicken Nuggets for the boys.

The night before Marcie's birthday party, Casey went into the kitchen and located a nipple, which he put on Marcie's head like a party hat. She sat like that for a long time while he sang Happy Birthday to her. You can see Marcie and Casey both modeling the nipple-hat in these photos. Cracked us up.

The next day Marcie had Little Gym class and Casey had soccer. Then Marcie and I went grocery shopping-- on a hunt for mint chip no-sugar-added icecream (which we found). While the kids napped, I made lasagna. The thing about lasagna is that it's always so much better the second day-- when it sets really well. So I made the lasagna early in the day, hoping it would cool off and I could re-heat it for dinner. The lasagna was out of the oven around 2:30pm and we sat down to eat at 6pm. It worked pretty well.

Before everyone arrived, Jason rearranged the furniture in the area of our house which most people use as the living room-dining room combo. We have never had the money for a dining room set, so we've used that part of the area as a play area for Casey. But then when he got a cool train set from his birth family, we put that on the beat-up Ikea coffee table in the living room. He has a nice train table at his grandparents' house. The Ikea table seems okay for this purpose at our house. Anyway, once his trains were in the living room part of the space, there was no turning back. Now the area is a giant play room with scattered adult furniture throughout. . . Casey has a giant tub filled with beans and rice and macaroni that we let him climb in whenever he asks. It's a sensory tub, and those beans, etc. give Casey's body extra feedback. He is a bit of a sensory-seeking child, so this helps calm him down. He asked to climb in the tub just before Marcie's birthday party, which was to start at 5:30pm. So we let him. The photos are of Casey in his tub and of Marcie watching him play. (As a side note, one thing that makes me nervous about this tub-o-stuff is that it is small stuff that Marcie can choke on. Even though Casey knows not to throw it all over the place, some always ends up on the floor.)

After everyone arrived, we sat down to eat. I had already started feeding Marcie her baby food so that she could finger-feed herself during dinner. I gave her a sippy cup, too-- because we are supposed to give up the bottle after Wednesday (!). She mostly chewed on the cup's bottom. This is not going to be a fun transition . . . Anyway, here are some photos of our decorations for the party:This was the kitchen table all set up for the party. There is a center piece that says 1 Birthday Girl, and a candle that says "It's fun to be one." and the table cloth matched the centerpiece.

These are the decorations we put up while the kids were napping. You'll notice a couple of Thomas balloons mixed in there-- that's because our only child-guests were Joey and Casey and we thought they'd like those balloons.

This was the cake we actually ate. I picked a ladybug because in the Chinese adoption world, ladybugs are a symbol of good luck. Interestingly, this is an American phenomenon-- the Chinese do not consider ladybugs particularly lucky creatures or anything. But the cake is cute, regardless. We had a chocolate cake with bavarian cream filling. It wasn't as good as the Costco cake we had for Marcie's baptism, but it met our needs. And we didn't end up with so much left over that we will be eating cake from now until Christmas.

This was Marcie's cake. Our grocery store will make a first birthday cake for free when you purchase a regular cake. This is the cake we let Marcie smash up and eat. When Casey turned one, the store thought Casey was a girl's name, and they originally decorated it pretty much identical to this one. We had them change it to blue frosting, which was extremely difficult to clean out of clothing and off the high chair tray. Fortunately, pink is much easier to clean.

Here are some other photos of the evening:

Marcie wearing-- and removing-- her birthday hat, which says "Princess."

We sang happy birthday twice-- once outside with the Lotus candle-- this candle that is a lotus flower that opens and lets off a HUGE flame (so big that they warned we might have trouble getting too many of them through customs because they are considered fireworks!). The other one was a regular candle, and we did that inside because the video camera was accidentally on pause when we did the Lotus candle. Somehow I managed not to get photos of either rendition, so I'll have to borrow those from some of our other resident photographers. In any event, the photo above is Marcie eating her cake after the second song. The photo to the right is a Lotus candle-- I borrowed it from Cassidy Tao's birthday photos. I'm sure her parents won't mind. We traveled with them to China-- Cassidy and Jason share the same day for their birthdays!

Then, we opened presents. There were presents for everyone at the party! Marcie had gotten her aunts and grandparents one-year-old portraits and put them in frames. And she got Casey and Joey a Thomas set each with Terrence and a few other characters. Because Jason's birthday was on Monday and mine is on Wednesday, people brought us gifts, too.

My parents got Marcie the bounce and somethingorother Zebra. They did research to make sure Casey wouldn't break it. It's a good thing, too, because even though we got photos of Marcie riding it, Casey and Joey took turns for the rest of the evening:

After everyone left and we were trying to calm Marcie down for bed, Casey asked for a crayon. He grabbed an envelope, and then stood in front of the T.V., facing me and Jason. He kept calling out names-- "Daddy Soocoo. Here." Then he'd write on his envelope. "Mommy Soocoo. Here." Then he'd scribble again. "Joey Soocoo. Not here. At home." It took us about five minutes to figure out he was taking attendance and the "Soocoo" was his attempt at saying our last name. It was so funny.