Saturday, December 30, 2006

Finally the Christmas Trip Photos

Picasa (owned by Google) has a new feature that I think beats Flikr, so I'm going to try it here. Let's see how easy it is to view the photos from our trip to North Carolina, including the captions, by using Picasa's web album. You should be able to see all about our Christmas Eve Eve (December 23rd) by clicking the picture below. If you want to watch the slide show (with the captions embedded in the photos!), just select "slide show" in the upper left corner of the photo page of the Web Album. Enjoy!

And here is Christmas Eve:

And here is Christmas Day:

I didn't take any photos the day after Christmas. I spent pretty much the entire day holding Marcie, who was uncomfortable with a new cold. But here are photos from the 27th and 28th:

And here are the photos from the 29th, our last day with the family in 2006:

Candy Cane Court-- Spectacular Lights

Before our trip to North Carolina, Jason and his dad took the kids over by "Candy Cane Court" (not the street's real name) to view the holiday lights. If you recall, I was too sick to go because I had the flu. We'd read that they keep them up through January 1st, so we decided to head on over tonight. About half the lights were turned off, and there were no crowds. But the remaining lights were still pretty spectacular. Here are some of our photos:

Here's what the kids looked like at the end of it all:

Back Home Again

We're home. Yesterday morning, all of my remaining family (one of my brothers and his family left the day before, my grandparents returned to Florida, and my dad is off working because he is still not senior enough to get a Christmas vacation-- despite the fact that he's been with the company since March of 1978 and will have a forced retirement in less than three years) mosied on over to Bob Evans. If you don't know about Bob Evans, you are probably from west of the Mississippi (unless there are Bob Evans restaurants west of the Mississippi-- I've never looked). Despite the fact that they offer a smoking section (blech), we like going there when we are east of the Mississippi-- the food, breakfast in particular, is relatively good.

Anyway, they seemed a bit annoyed that we weren't willing to sit in smoking, and also that the twelve of us weren't will to cram into two booths designed for four people each (let's see-- 12 people, including 5 kids, crammed into a space for 8-- that's asking for some major mayhem). So we got a table together. The kids were pretty good waiting for their food. Marcie even colored! I couldn't believe it. She colored with crayons by herself. Now, don't get me wrong. It wasn't in the lines or even straight or anything. But since Casey only started coloring in the last 9 months and he is 3 years older than Marcie, I was pretty floored.

Breakfast was delicious, and we returned home for some packing. Marcie napped and the kids ran around outside. They are a bit loud outside-- but isn't that the whole point? I guess not to the golfers on the 7th hole. My parents' house backs up to the tee for the 7th hole, and apparently the noise can be distracting. But hey, it's only once every 3 years for crying out loud! And fortunately not many golfers came through.

My mom, sister, and I also snuck out for a tiny bit of retail therapy over to Birkdale, which is just across the street from my parents' neighborhood. My mom wanted to get me a Christmas gift, which was fine with me. :) And though I call it "therapy," I'm really not much for shopping. But it was nice to get some time with my mom and sister all the same.

We finished packing up our things, and when I went to change Marcie's diaper, I noticed a . . . um . . . reaction down there. The skin looks like it's sluffing off or peeling. So I called our pediatrician in California who indicated it's probably an external yeast infection (who ever heard of that?!?) and to use Monostat cream. Crazy, huh? And off to the airport we headed.

Our flight was full (of course), but we had a whole row together. Casey slept the first half of the flight and watched some videos the second half. Marcie slept the second half of the flight. And Jason and I were able to read quite a bit. There were some bumps along the way, and when we landed, Casey cheered: "Yay Mommy! Yay Daddy!" On our way off the airplane, the pilot even let Casey pop into the cockpit to check out the digs. It was neat because Casey knows one of his grandfathers flies airplanes for a living, so we got to "show him" where Grandpa works.

Jason's parents were waiting for us when we arrived at baggage claim (boy were we all glad to see them!). And then an episode of keystone cops ensued-- because Marcie dropped Grandpa's car keys on the bench seat and we didn't realize it until we got to Grandpa's car. Harbor Police was closed. And when I asked information for them, they asked me to describe them. Uh. Hello? It is a pile of keys. No key chain. Just keys. With a tiny grocery store tag. What kind of car? A truck. A white one. A Ford? I don't know. Probably. Fortunately I seemed honest enough, and they handed them over so we could get home.

The kids went right to bed and slept (gloriously) until 7am this morning. When Casey woke up, he expressed incredible interest in all the toys he'd expressed no interest in while we were in North Carolina, including the camera he got from one of his cousins. It'll be fun to see what pictures he's snapped!

So we're home. Marcie and Casey and I all still have our colds. But we managed to survive the grocery store. And take a nap. And tonight we are headed out to see Christmas lights before they are all pulled down. It's hard to believe the holiday season is almost over. And I still haven't finished sending out our Christmas cards! Aargh!

You can see pictures of our last day in North Carolina by clicking the photo below:

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Poor Baby-- Updated

Literally. Marcie has not been feeling so hot. Other than her constipation experience, I've never seen her so very miserable. She sits in my lap and just whines in pain. We've been alternating Motrin and Tylenol, which has helped keep the fever down, but now we are on day three of a fever-- at 101, so we are off in search of an urgent care facility. Her whole body looks raw, she is so red with heat. And she's pretty listless. Poor baby. At least she was healthy on Christmas day to experience that!

So after just about an hour at urgent care, we have been able to dose up Marcie with an antibiotic for her double ear infection. I asked the doctor if we need to have her checked out before we fly home tomorrow-- or if she can even fly tomorrow at all. He said we brought her in very early; her ears are nowhere near rupture (thank goodness) and after a couple doses of the antibiotic, she should be back to her usual self.

Here's what was interesting (and suspicious): He said we don't need to alternate the Tylenol and Motrin like we have been-- said that's the "old school" way. Said studies now show that Motrin is more effective because it reduces inflamation in addition to be a pain reliever. Now, there is no question that the Motrin has had a better effect on Marcie than the Tylenol. But I was under the impression that we alternate so that she doesn't build up a tolerance to the Motrin. So I'll have to ask our pediatrician when we get home. In the meantime, after just one dose of Motrin and one dose of the antibiotic, Marcie is in much better spirits (though she has a gross and snotty nose).

South Cackalackie

She's here! You can read her blog here. But she drove on up to North Carolina to visit us for an afternoon and a morning with her beautiful and amazingly polite daughter Emma. Emma and Casey got along famously (he kept telling her she has beautiful hair!). We're looking forward to seeing them this morning before they head back home. . .

The Big News

No, I'm not pregnant.

But guess who got engaged Christmas morning?

My sister, Megan. Her fiance, Timour, had our nephew Leo deliver the box. I caught it all on video, but I haven't tried to figure out how to upload it yet, so you'll just have to take my word for it. Megan literally screamed, which startled Casey, who thought she was hurt, and cried out, "Oh no!"

So I will post a photo of the happy couple in a bit. And update Christmas, too. But not right now.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas in North Carolina

Whew, it's been a while since I last posted. I didn't have much to write about until a couple days ago. After the flu, it was all about cleaning and doing laundry for our trip. I can't remember if I've mentioned it, but every three years, my family gets together wherever my parents are to celebrate Christmas. It's every third year so that we have one year with in-laws, one year at home (if in-laws aren't local), and then one year with our side of the family. This year, we have my grandparents, my parents, all three of my siblings, their spouses/significant others, and their kids here. It's pretty crazy, but pretty cool. My mother is a saint for hosting it. Not only must it be insanely expensive (extra electricity, gas, and food to feed all eighteen of us), it's kind of chaotic. Well, organized chaos, I guess.

Before we left for North Carolina, though, we did manage to steal some time to head up to the Wild Animal Park with the kiddos, where they saw Santa. I'll have to scan in the photo, which is of me with both kids-- one is smiling and the other is screaming. Can you guess which is which? Poor Marcie. Hope we didn't traumatize her. It's still a cute photo. I love going to the holiday thingy at the Wild Animal Park. They have snow for the kids to play in, a scavenger hunt, and special animal talks. On the 21st, we saw an owl and a golden eagle. Pretty cool stuff.

We left town on Friday, hit the red eye for a flight to my parents' house in North Carolina. Now if you are wondering why I had time to pack up and head out but not time to send you a Christmas card, no worries-- I just didn't get to all the cards yet and didn't bring them with me. But one will probably be arriving shortly after Christmas. When you're sick and stuff, something's gotta give, and this year it was Christmas cards (that and baking, which is fine because my sister is a way better cook and we knew we'd be headed for her delicious snacks for a week).

Casey was super excited to ride on a great big airplane. The crazy airline gave us split tickets. Casey and I had a window and a middle, with Marcie on my lap. Jason had the other middle seat in the row. This was particularly irritating because I'd confirmed our seats, which were supposed to be a middle, an aisle, and an aisle. Fortunately, this insanely nice man with the aisle seat traded his aisle for Jason's middle seat. I hope he gets some good karma for making the switch! After we'd settled in, a flight attendant came on the loud speaker and said they needed three more volunteers-- they were offering a night in a hotel room, guaranteed seats on the first flight out in the morning, and two round trip tickets for each seat given up. I wanted to totally go for it, but the kids were pretty well settled, so we decided to stick it out. It was pretty bumpy-- bumpy enough that I was actually secretly grateful my whole family was on the flight. I just figured if we were going to crash, we'd all go down together, and that saved me from mentally going through the details of my will during the turbulance (does anyone else do that?!?).

My parents were waiting for us at 6am when we landed-- very impressive considering they'd shuttled my brother's family home around 1am that morning. The boys (all five of them) were so excited to see each other and to play with the trains. They are all pretty close in age-- the oldest just turned 5 in August, Casey turns 4 in January, the next one just turned 4 in June, then one turned 2 in July, one turned 2 last week, and Marcie is 1. This makes them pretty great playmates.

The weather has been pretty temperate. Yesterday we were outside with the boys, playing in the grass and the leaves. And today we took a walk with Casey, Vince, and Marcie over to Birkdale, where they have animatronic singing bears (the one named Blue actually sand Blue Christmas). As we pushed the boys home, we all sang Christmas carols.

This afternoon we ventured off to Christmas Eve Mass, where we started with a rendition of Happy Birthday, Jesus. I've been thinking a lot about how irregularly we attend mass and how we should go more often, especially because Casey should be starting Sunday school in the fall. But then, when we are there-- I totally remember why we never go. Casey can never make it past the homily. Today he started chewing cheerios (which we probably aren't even supposed t have) and spitting them out on the pew. Megan took him to a play area to play in the sand, which he loved of course. Marcie flirted with the people behind us (I should pause here just to note I get a lot more stares here with Marcie than I do in San Diego. I'm not sure if this is because Marcie doesn't look like me -- and this is not so rare in San Diego, where there are lots of mixed race families. But it is just as likely it's because she is so darn beautiful. So I'm going to assume the latter, because it's a much nicer thought). Then she wanted to climb out of our arms and crawl around on the floor. I think I caught about three words the priest was saying during the whole mass. But I'm determined not to skip the big holidays, at least. My dad admitted, as we were leaving, that when my older brother and I were young, my parents took turns going to mass. And when he was out of town, my mom hired a babysitter. That figures.

After church, while we were getting dinner ready, my dad played the accordian for the kids, and we sang and danced. I love that he plays the accordian. I tried to convince him to play it during the cocktail hour at our wedding, but to no avail. Anyway, then we sat the kids down to eat pasta and meatballs. Marcie gobbled hers right up. Casey insisted on chicken nuggets for dinner, and we obliged. Then we had Christmas poke cake (which is white cake with green and red swirly layers from the jello poured into the cake). We sang happy birthday with a lotus candle for fun-- and it was pretty cool. Sal (the oldest cousin) even commented, "That's just like fireworks." And indeed it was. Hours and hours later it was still playing happy birthday -- until Jason finally dismantled the battery. We grown ups ate dinner while the kids watched The Polar Express. Marcie sat with us and ate some lasagna.

Dinner was followed by a tiny bit more of play, then setting out cookies and milk for Santa, then off to bed. We set out soy milk this year because Tram (my younger brother's wife, whose name is pronounced Chum) suggested that perhaps Santa is a bit lactose intolerant. Jason pointed out that he probably takes Lactaid if that's the case, but since we have the soy, we used it. Karin (my older brother's wife) recited a (memorized!) version of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas before we tucked in the boys for the night.

And so here I am. I have pictures to go with all of this, of course-- including some excellent photos of stockings hung by the chimney with care. I'll even have some great shots of the FULL stockings tomorrow. There are eighteen of us here, celebrating Christmas together. And the stockings are hanging via 3M removable clips. So I'll be impressed if the mantle and the stockings are still hanging in the morning, after Santa has filled them all up. Tomorrow or the next day, I'll download and post them. I doubt anyone will be reading this on Christmas anyway, so by the time you read this post, photos will probably be up. If you are reading this on Christmas day, Merry Christmas!

Please check back soon!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Road Rules

So we drive two regular 5-passenger sedans. I balked at any SUV or SUV-crossover because I'm barely five feet tall, and while riding up high is nice, I'll be darned if I have to hike up the side of my car (even with a step bar or whatever they are called) in heels to haul my kids into their car seats. So sedans we drive for now. We have them arranged with Marcie's Britax car seat on one side in the back seat and Casey's Britax booster seat next to the opposing door. The middle seat is empty (well, unless you count empty chip bags, baggies that held cheerios, juice boxes, and random toys and extra clothing). Though we can actually fit the seats side-by-side, it just makes it easier to buckle them if we have them separated like this.

Anyway, in a booster seat, the shoulder-belt has been essentially re-adjusted to align appropriately with Casey's shoulder so that it doesn't cut into his neck. But he almost immediately figured out how to remove the shoulder part, tucking it under his arm, to increase his mobility. The first time he did this was before Marcie arrived. I threatened to pull the car over. He could tell I was not kidding. He put it back. And that was the end of the issue.

Until Sunday. On Sunday evening, after picking up the kids from Grandma's and buckling them into their respective child restraints, I headed home. About seven minutes down the road, Marcie started crying. Now Marcie isn't the kind of child who just cries at random, for no reason. So when I came to the light, I turned and looked-- and lo and behold, there was Casey, leaned across the back seat, smacking Marcie's arm repeatedly. I don't think Marcie was hurt so much as she was irritated. I barked at Casey to put on his seat belt and he told me no. I threatened him with no television for the rest of the day if I had to pull over the car, but he was not going to budge. So I pulled over, gave him a good talking to (during which he laughed in my face, literally), and fixed the seat belt. Displeased with his attitude, I kept the television off that night.

Then yesterday Casey and I went to pick up Marcie from Grandma's house. I should have reminded Casey on the ride over that "hands are not for hitting" and that the seatbelt needs to stay in place. But my mind was not on the incident from the previous day, so the time passed with me neglecting to "prepare" Casey for the situation. Once again, about seven minutes into our drive, the same thing occurred. This time when I raised my voice, Casey laughed. Hard. So I stopped yelling. I got very quiet. I pulled over the car to fix the belt. I told Casey was was not happy with him and that he would have no TV because of this behavior. I tugged the belt snug, and home we went. Where Casey passed yet another evening with no television.

We have such willful children. On the one hand, this is very trying. On the other hand, it means they are independently-minded, and I think that will be a good thing in the long run. I'm just glad we decided to start trying for kids right away. If I'm tired now, I can hardly imagine how I'd be feeling with such stubborn kiddos in another 10 years!

Yummy Yucky

I don't know how many of you out there are familiar with the book Yummy Yucky, but Casey loves it. In fact, he's memorized it and he will "read" it to you if you ask. Of course, while he reads it, he alters some of the grammar-- like instead of saying "Mommy's cookies are yummy," he says, "Mommy's cookies is yummy!" (And every time he reads this line of the book, my husband and I chuckle at the wording.) And some of the words have been changed, too-- like the line in the book that says, "Burgers are yummy." When Casey reads the page with the picture of the burger, he calls it "bao" (the word in Cantonese for bread). The next page-- the one after the burger-- is what brings me to the point of this post. The page after burgers says, and "Boogers are yucky." And when he reads the page with the picture of the little boy with his finger up his nose, he recognizes that boogers are involved somehow. I'm not sure he really understands the gravity, though.

You see, after reading my friend's Grosser Than Gross post over at South Cackalackin (if you haven't yet checked out that blog, your really should. I was so bummed when Elizabeth decided to shut down Macy Day, but I love South Cackalackin-- she is a great writer, just like Elizabeth!), I thought I'd add my two cents here. Of course no one can really top the grossness of that post, but Casey has recently learned the expression, "Ew! Gross!" And I've been trying to put it to good use.

I discovered Casey understood the term the other day when Marcie leaned in to kiss him (she is really lovey-dovey that way-- it took Casey years to learn to kiss us, but Marcie came kiss-ready), and Casey, after leaning forward to accept the kiss, leaned back and exclaimed, "Ew! Gross!" Of course I said it wasn't gross and that Marcie was showing how much she loved him and on and on and on.

But this morning when Casey picked his nose and ate it while I watched, I couldn't help exclaiming "Gross!" myself. Of course it had the opposite of the desired effect. Casey thought it was absolutely hilarious and screeched with laughter when I said it-- like it would be a fun game to play. I can hardly wait to see what grossness he'll come up with next just to get a reaction out of me. . . do I ignore it? My "stern" tone doesn't really work in these situations-- so if you have any suggestions, I'm certainly open to them!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

New Teeth

In all my self-pitying, I forgot to post the biggest news of the week. Marcie has two new teeth. Her eye teeth, actually. So cool!

Foiled by the Flu Again

So this weekend was supposed to be an action-packed, fun-filled winter-wonderland weekend. We had discussed taking the kids to our community's Candyland celebration, viewing the lights of Candy Cane Lane, and perhaps even taking in the lights at the Wild Animal Park. There was going to be carolling, and snow, and Santa, and lots and lots of bright lights.

I was going to spend some of Friday evening working on a paper (I've been working on for a week or so to revise), then wrap it up on Saturday. No problem!

Well, life had other plans. On Friday, I woke up at around 4:15am to shower and dress and hit the rode to Long Beach. Fortunately for me, my mom is three hours ahead and she was willing to chat with me for about 45 minutes of my drive. I'm not a very good "distance" driver because I get sleepy so easily, so talking on the phone, ironically I suppose, helps me stay alert. Anyway, I arrived at my destination a bit early, and I set off to find a bagel, but I found McDonald's instead. So I indulged in a egg mcmuffin with no meat. Following my business in Long Beach, I hit the road again, and headed back to San Diego.

I stopped to fill out some paperwork at my school district, to grab some scrapbooking stuff, and then I headed in to the office (stopping along the way to apply for Marcie's social security card). As a side note, I needed everything to apply for that social security number-- her original birth certificate, our adoption registration, her passport, my passport, her proof of citizenship, and her medical card! I sure am glad I brought it all with me!

Anyway, I did some work in the office, felt a little queasy, but forced half a frozen mac n cheese down my throat, and then left the office to head over to scrapbook. Not 30 minutes in to what was going to be a nice evening treat, I really started feeling sick. The kind of sick where I wasn't sure I'd make it home. So I packed up and left, again relying on my mom to keep me focused while driving.

I fell into bed and woke up to Jason coming home with the kids. Let's just say he was a little ticked off. He thinks I over-extended myself and that was why I was feeling sick. Until he felt my head and we realized I had a fever of over 102! (Well, for the record, he still thinks I got sick because I don't take good enough care of myself.) Anyway, I spent most of Friday night moaning and groaning from the aches and pains until I finally vomitted up everything I'd had for the previous 24 hours around 4am. I still felt awful yesterday, but I dragged myself out of bed long enough to get a package in the mail to my parents' house.

Of course, after waiting in line for an hour and a half to mail the darn thing, I learned that the post office would be open on Sunday! I wish I'd known that before waiting in line. But at least it gave me the opportunity to wrap the presents we'd purchased last week for Jason's sister and her husband to mail to them in Seattle today. And what a difference a day makes. They had the same number of employees staffing the post office, but there was no line!

And so here I am blogging when I should be working on that paper-- which is exactly what I'm going to do as soon as I finish this post. I'm feeling better today, though definitely not fully healthy. Last night Jason and his dad took the kids to see the beautiful lights at Candy Cane Lane, but instead of walking, they drove because it was pouring down rain. Nothing compared to waht they are experiencing in Seattle, mind you.

So a friend of mine who I met while in China and I have been comparing the number of illnesses we've experienced since meeting our girls. For me this makes 5 colds (it might be 6), 1 urinary tract infection, and the flu since August 21st, 2006. That's insane. It's probably a record-- and not the good kind to hold.

At least Casey and Marcie are relatively health . . . for now.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Mother of the Year

Now there's an award I won't be winning any time soon. Mother of the Year. Yup. Not even in contention on that one. The most recent reason for why is Casey's Holdiday Program at school. Somehow everyone else in the class got the message that they were supposed to pick up their children early yesterday and change them into appropriate, dressy attire for the program. Not us. I'm thinking the note went out on Friday, when pick-up wasn't in the classroom, so we didn't get the papers from Casey's file. Boy did I feel stupid. Take a look:

I blurred the photo to try and cover the other kids' faces, so hopefully they aren't recognizable bu tyou can still see what they are wearing. Notice Casey in the middle, in his sweatshirt and jeans. And notice all the other kids around him-- the girls in fancy dresses and the boy in a suit and tie. Yup. I blew it.

The sad thing is, I could have picked up Casey and taken him home to get all dressed up yesterday. I had the beginnings of a migraine headache, though, so when I left work early and found myself passing the preschool at 5pm, instead of picking up Casey and taking him home to change, I went home and laid down for 20 minutes, then went to get Marcie. Our original plan was not to pick up Casey early anyhow (because we didn't realize we should change him). Even more sad is that I could have easily brought him a change of clothes to wear-- I mean, I made cookies over the weekend and I took them to work with me so I'd have them. It wouldn't have been more work to bring his adorable snowman Christmas sweater with the matching courdoroy pants his grandmother picked out. She even hemmed the pants and took in the waist so the outfit would fit him correctly. Again, I blame myself for not knowing I was supposed to dress him up . . .

Though, my guess is that everyone who knows Casey just figured, "Oh, he refused to dress up so they just brought him in what he wanted to wear. That's SO Casey." That's what I'm hoping anyway. . .

Another reason I won't be winning mother of the year? I forgot to put the media card in the digital camera before I grabbed it. I remembered to charge it up, but I didn't check to make sure there was memory! What an idiot! Fortunately, I was able to take four photos, and I did bring the video camera, so we have the whole show on video.

Speaking of the video, this brings me to the final reason (in this episode) for why I won't be winning Mother of the Year any time soon. In the video, you can see (and hear) all the children in Casey's class singing the words to the song beautifully. Now, there's no question that Casey knows all the words to the songs. He and I sang them before bed together on Sunday night. We've been practicing for a couple weeks. But did Casey sing them for an audience? Of course not. Instead, he stood in the very center of all the children half-singing, half-shouting, "WHO WHO WHO, WHO WHO WHO!" Jason was laughing so hard at this, I think the video camera might have been shaking. And those of you who know Casey probably think this is totally amusing, and very Casey-like behavior.

So why would Casey do this when he knows all the words? Well, first because it got him quite a lot of attention. But also because I didn't feed him dinner before the show. I didn't even give him a snack. Casey always gets a snack on his way home from school before dinner because it helps keep him focused. But not last night because his lunch bag was in the classroom, behind some tables. And I forgot to go locate it to feed the poor kid. Now he still had dinner before 7pm, so it's not like it was the end of the world. But I am confident that if I were a better mother and had picked him up early, gotten him dressed appropriately, and fed him a snack, I would have saved the teachers a boatload of anxiety during the show. Not to mention eliminating my own embarrassment.

Someone commented to me, when I explained how mortified I felt, "Well, you can't do it all-- give yourself a break-- you are in school and working, too." Even if this is true, it is just not good enough. That's just no excuse for dropping the ball (particularly because I took my last final last week and haven't really worked on my paper since then-- but even if I were still in the middle of finals, it wouldn't be good enough). I chose to be a mother. I knew it would be hard to balance with school and work, but it's what I wanted more than anything in the world. To shirk these small responsibilities is totally unfair to Casey. . . Thankfully he won't likely remember this Holiday program and my sub-par parenting skills. And I am pretty sure it will never happen again. Of course, we do have it on video now, for all time. . . what a whacky period of our lives. . .


So we'd planned a trip to Disneyland for Sunday. We thought it'd be fun to take Casey to see the parades and the Christmas decorations and Mickey Mouse.

Wanna see our photos of the day? Here goes:

This is Casey hanging out on the couch. After he "frewed up" Friday night and Saturday, he wasn't in the mood to meet Mickey Mouse on Sunday, so we had to cancel our Disney plans.

Marcie wouldn't have understood what the heck Disneyland was anyway, so I don't think she minded. Besides, she was happy as could be playing with Casey's unopened Gatorade bottle. . .

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Lady at the Vet

So today when the kids and I were leaving with Pugasus from the vet's office, a nice woman came in with her cat. Casey crawled up next to the cat and meowed at it from outside the kitty carrier. Pugasus wanted to sniff the crate, and the woman commented that they were in the process of adopting a rescue pug. I told her all our pugs had been rescue pugs over the years and asked which rescue organization she was using. When we adopted our first dog-- Mr. Bojangles-- we used Pugs n' Pals. After he passed away, we moved a little closer to home by using Little Angels Pug Rescue for Chuffy and Pugasus. And now San Diego has a pretty active Pug Rescue group, Pug Rescue of San Diego (yeah, real original name-- but that's so people can find them easily, I'm sure!).

In any event, with each of the pet adoptions, we had to complete a pretty lengthy questionnaire about why we wanted a pug, why a rescue dog, how much made, how much we thought we'd spend, and so on. And they sent someone to our home to check out the yard and make sure it was dog-safe. And they asked us to sign a contract promising to neuter the dog (they all were when we got them) and promising that we would not give them away and if something happened making it impossible for us to keep the pugs, we'd return them to the pug rescue group. The whole process took something like a week or two each time. Then we went and picked up the dog or dogs and we brought 'em home to given 'em love.

So back to the story. I don't actually remember which rescue group the woman said she was using because her next comment threw me for a loop-- even though I know she meant it as a joke. She said that she couldn't believe how much work it was to adopt the pug. She said that she thought it was probably harder to adopt a dog than it was to adopt a child-- and explained that the application was lengthy and the organization interviewed her and everything. Even though I knew she was being rather tongue-in-cheek, I just couldn't help myself. I said, "Well, all our dogs have been rescue dogs, and both my kids are adopted. And I can assure that the pet adoption process pales in comparison."

Was that mean of me? I just felt weird that she was comparing the process of adopting a child to that of adopting a dog. I'm not saying pets are inferior to people. Wait. Yes I am. I am saying just that. I love our dog. But when push comes to shove, my kids will always come first. I would never mis-treat our dog. I would never let anyone else mis-treat our dog. But seriously, adopting a dog and a child-- not even in the same league. I think I really embarrassed her. And for that I'm sorry. Was I being oversensitive? Probably. I didn't get much sleep the night before. But really. No. comparison.

Vomit Galore

There's a scene in a movie (the name of the movie escapes me) where there is a pie-eating contest. As the contestants stuff their faces, they start looking a little green. Then one pukes. Then another, and another, and another-- a total chain reaction. I call this chain-puking, and I am a self-professed chain puker. I've never actually vomitted upon observing someone else throw up, but I certainly have gagged. Like last night.

Casey was so excited about us putting up our Christmas tree, that he went down a little late-- maybe around 9pm. Jason and I stayed up to watch a bit of TV, and around 10pm, Casey called out to us. Jason went to check on him and told me I should "come see this." (Now after 7 1/2 years of marriage, you'd think he'd do everything in his power to help me avoid seeing that scene!) Casey had, in fact, puked all over himself, then rolled over in the vomit-covered sheets and gone back to sleep.

I was a bit miffed Jason needed me, but to his credit, he did all the throw-up cleaning up. And shame on me for not putting the plastic pad over the mattress pad the last time I changed Casey's sheets! It would've prevented the nightmare of getting the vomit out of the mattress. Anyway, I threw Casey in the shower (I actually got in with him). He threw up again in the shower. Then I helped him get on some clean pajamas and invited him to come lay down on the couch next to me. He did that for an hour or so, and then asked to sleep in my bed. I got him all set up in my bed, which lasted for about another hour before he threw up again. (And yes, I did leave him a bowl to throw up in, but the kid's not quite four yet, and this is his first real vomitous experience, so who can really blame him?) Fortunately, it didn't soak through the sheet, which we then pulled off the bed.

Jason suggested we sleep on the couch. Not the pull out queen sleeper, but the regular old leather couch. This worked for me for about another hour or so. By the end of that time, my head and my feet were supported, but Casey had shoved the rest of me into the empty space of the L-shape of the couch, and I wasn't sleeping at all. So I got up, made up our bed again, and transferred Casey back into it, I got into it, and Jason followed suit. Then I started the dry coughing (because of the cold I'm getting over).

It felt like I'd just fallen asleep again around 2:30am, when Casey woke up and wanted water. We padded to the kitchen together, me carrying his throw-up bowl, and he had a couple glasses of water. Half of which he gagged back up into the bowl. I begged him to take some pepto bismal, but he was not having it (though he did offer to take some fish oil-- how crazy is that?). I dissolved as much as I could and spoon fed him water. Then back to bed.

I slept restlessly until 5:00am, when Casey woke me up again, thirsty. This time he insisted it was morning. I know he was technically right, but it was still dark-- and I was not having it. He drank some more water, then went back to sleep.

At 6:00am, Marcie woke up hungry. I gave her a bottle, then she went back to sleep (miraculously). I crawled back in bed around 6:15am, and then Casey was up again at 6:30am, pointing out this time that it was light out. So we offered to let him watch TV in bed in our room. Which he did until 7am, at which time he wanted to watch something we don't have TIVO'd on our TV. So up I got. Which was fine, really, because I needed to get Marcie up and fed and dressed for her Little Gym class.

After Little Gym, Marcie and I headed to Costco to purchase new tires for the Camry. The cork was showing on one of them, which is very bad. Jason and Casey picked us up, we dropped off Jason at work, and then we ran home to pick up Pugasus for our vet appointment. From the vet, we went to the Toy Depot, which has an amazing (and way over-priced) selection of Thomas the Tank Engine toys because Jason promised Casey last weekend that we'd go there this weekend. And then both kids fell asleep in the car on the way home. I put Casey right to bed, but I had to wake up Marcie to feed her.

Jason returned home (with the Camry sporting new tires) right around the same time Casey woke up from his nap. Burning up. I took his temperature, and what do you know-- 102.6. Yikes! So be forced Tylenol down his throat, and watched his fever drop to normal over the next hour. And then Casey threw up again. He hadn't eaten anything, really, though-- so it was just liquid. All over the hallway flooring, the carpet, and the wall. Lovely. Lucky Jason got to clean it up. But Casey must have been feeling a bit better because then he asked for popcorn. And actually ate it. Nothing else, but popcorn is better than nothing.

He sat with us through dinner, though he didn't eat anything (despite the fact that we'd actually prepared him all his favorites-- pizza, white rice, and apple sauce-- and offered him others-- peanut butter on a spoon or chips--). At bedtime, he asked to sleep in his own bed, which I made up with the plastic protector this time. And that was almost three hours ago now. Keep your fingers crossed for us . . .

Friday, December 08, 2006

News from Marcie's Orphanage: Chongqing Yunyang Chengxiang SWI

When our group was in China, we all chipped in to buy a digital camera for Marcie's orphanage. The digital camera is for taking photos of the orphanage, and more importantly for taking photos of the children so that families waiting for travel authorization can get updated information during the wait.

Today we got a thank you message from the orphanage forwarded by our agency. Here is what it said:

Our orphanage had received the donation of 2630 RMB. We had spent the money 1780 to buy a digital camera and babyoutfits of 850 RMB to help our orphanage abandoned and orphans. Your love brought them the hope and helped keep their life moments. (photos attached).

On behalf of our orphanage, we would like to extend our sincere thanks to you.

Best Regards,
Chongqing Yunyang Chenxiang Social Welfare Institute
October 30, 2006

Even though the note specifies the money spent on the camera, Marie (our guide) actually purchased the camera and showed it to us before delivering it to the orphanage. In any event, here were the photos they sent with the note (I've left them full size in case someone who wants pictures of the orphanage for their child can use the images):

This is a photo of the entrance to the Yunyang Chengxiange Social Welfare Institute (where Marcie lived from age one week to age 9 months)

This is a photo of the one of the rooms where the babies sleep. You can see in this photo that the children are a little older because they are sleeping with one child in each crib. In some of the photos we got back from our disposable camera, there were shots of two or three girls in a crib, but they were standing up, and that leads me to wonder if they were placed there just for the photos. . .

This is a photo of some of the blankets and clothing our meager donation provided.

Marcie's Attachment

Sorry for the delay in posting-- I have been slammed this week, between studying for finals and napping (because I have a bad head cold), I just haven't had the time or energy (or anything interesting to write about-- unless you want to know something about filing for injunctions or declaratory relief or you're curious about how to structure project financing in an international business transaction). Anyway, I'm out of final exams, and now I just have a paper due on the 19th (which I've already written and am just revising). And I'm back at work.

So, here's an update on how Marcie is doing during her transition to Grandma's care. She is pretty clingy lately. This is not surprising on oh-so-many levels. I don't know if I should attribute her sudden anxiety around others when I'm out of eye-shot to her age (Casey did this right around the same age), or if it's an attachment thing (like, hey-- you just got me used to being with you and now you're gone!), or if it's something else. I'm sure she's fine with Grandma once I'm gone, but there have been some glitches. On Saturday she freaked out when she couldn't see me because I'd gone into the kitchen to clean her spoon. She was inconsolable until she fell asleep. Then, yesterday when I dropped of Casey at school, she had another mini-meltdown.

On the way to school, Casey spilled his bottle of water down the front of his shirt and onto his pants, so when we got to school, he had to change. I had Marcie in her stroller parked sort of near the door of the classroom, but facing the room so that she had a clear view of me no matter where I went. Then I stepped into the bathroom with Casey to help him change his pants. All of a sudden, Casey and I heard wailing (now, to be fair, there was a little girl who was crying when we entered the bathroom, so it took us a couple minutes to hear the second set of wails). Casey and I both recognized the crying as Marcie, and I immediately rushed out the bathroom door to get her. Her eyes were pouring out tears, and I took her out of her stroller. After getting Casey settled, I carrried Marcie back out to the car, where we sat while I rocked her for a good 5-10 minutes. I couldn't stay in the parking lot all day, though, so I strapped her into her carseat, and she started crying again. Fortunately, I was able to calm her by singing on the way to Grandma's.

I handed Marcie off rather abruptly (kind of like tearing off the band-aid quickly rather than peeling it back little by little), thinking it would make things easier for her. This was around 9:45am. But I didn't mention to my mother in law that she was experiencing extra separation anxiety, and my mother in law took her to the gym for a 10:30am class. Now, knowing Marcie as I do, and having been with her twice in the last month when she's had these miniature melt-downs, I know that the rest of the day following one is pretty much shot-- not only can you not go anywhere where there are strangers, but you really can't put her down because she is inconsolable unless she's being held. Anyway, apparently Marcie bawled the entire time she was at the gym, and they had to go get my mother-in-law out of her yoga class to take her home. She fell asleep in the car ride home (exhaustion from all the tears, in my opinion-- given that she'd already napped for 40 minutes in the morning), and she was fine for the rest of the day.

So I don't know what to make of all this. If she weren't adopted at age 9 months, ripped away from the only home she'd really known, I'd think, Well, she just needs to tough it out. But the thing is that she is from an orphanage, and she has only been with us for a little over 3 months. And even though she is clearly attached to me, that's not all that attachment is about. Attachment is also about feeling comfortable and safe and secure. Knowing that your mom and dad (and grandmother) will always come back. And for a child who has twice had her caretaker not come back, who knows what is going on in her little head. Now I'm not suggesting my mother in law skip the gym by any means. And I don't think the solution is for me to hold Marcie non-stop and to quit my job and drop out of school, either. But I know that I need to be cognizant of the fact that three and a half months just isn't that long to adjust to a new place, new sounds, new smells, and new people. This child, who slept like a log in China, wakes up two or three times a night now (and pretty much always puts herself back to sleep). This child-- my Marcie-- who is full of kisses and smiles and people-pleasing strategies must, on some subconscious level, still worry that maybe one of these times when we drop her off with someone we won't come back. And part of our job is to show her that we always come back. So I don't really know what to do about her new super-glue attitude. On the one hand, we can't just stop living our lives. On the other hand, the most important thing in the world is for Marcie to feel safe and secure. And the balance there is a bit tricky.

I have no solutions to this dilemma-- I'm not even sure it is a dilemma. So although I feel conflicted about the whole thing, that's where I have to leave it for now-- in this state of mild turmoil. Because it is what it is. I guess I just have to trust my gut-- look forward to the week of Christmas when we'll be together as a family full-time, and know that because Marcie is so loved and so well-cared-for while I'm away, I really couldn't hope for a better situation. I mean, there are only so many things we have control over in life, and we are just lucky she's with family. . .

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Automobile Meltdown

Yesterday after Marcie's Little Gym class and Casey's soccer experience (which was followed up by the usual "copcorn" he likes to eat now), Jason headed off to work and I packed up the kids to trek a mere 30 minutes away to a friend's house. In my head, I'd planned to leave our house at 10:30, arrive at my point of destination at 11:00, depart my friend's house at 11:30 and be home at noon, in time to feed the kids before Jason had returned home.

(If you are wondering why I'd travel an hour round-trip to spend only 30 minutes at my friend's house, I can't tell you. I mean, she'd be worth the distance anyway, but the purpose of the trip was for Mother's Day gifts for my mom and mother-in-law. As much as I'd like to tell you all about the super-cool things I got, I cannot because my mom occassionally checks in on my by reading this blog. So you'll have to check back in May to see what it was all about. Suffice it to say this was a one-time opportunity, so I lept at it.)

So I got out the door relatively on-time. I had thought to stop and pack up lunch for both the kids (though I did manage to forget a bib for Marcie), which was wise on my part. I arrive around 11:15. And waited. And waited. And waited. Now this was not the fault of my friend. And truth be told, Casey didn't mind at all. In fact, he was having a ball. Literally-- there were some other boys his age there-- and of course their puppy golden retriever, so Casey had free reign to run all around the back yard playing fetch. When he tired of that, he discovered the stairs. On the landing was a pile of tiny, fluffy toy mice (or "mouses" as Casey insisted on referring to them). He rolled them down the stairs. He tossed them off the landing. He piled them up on the coffee table and slid them one-by-one off the edge. He carried them over to the cats' climbing toy and dropped them off the ledge, making an "Aaaah!" sound. He was in heaven.

Marcie on the other hand was not as pleasant. I mean, she is a pleasant child, to be sure. As long as I'm holding her. Despite her newly found walking abilities, she was not going to let go of me. I don't know if she was just overwhelmed by the shear number of people there (a distinct possibility), or uncomfortable with the number of strangers there (another possibility) or just tired (certainly could be the case), or if she was reacting to me having been away from her all week at work (I'm hoping this was not the case). In fact, I was thinking back to every other semester of final exams-- and very consistently, Casey has become more clingy just when finals rolled around. It's like a sixth-sense these guys have: Mom has a very important test coming up that requires oodles of studying, so I'm going to become as whiny and needy as I possibly can, making it seem as if no one but Mommy will do-- even though I've been ignoring her for weeks. . .

Anyway, once we finished up with the reason for our visit, it was almost noon. Casey plopped down to eat his lunch, and I set up Marcie in my friend's daughter's high chair. She was not pleased to be out of my arms, but she is just too heavy to hold while feeding-- and there were too many people to sit on the floor. She gobbled down her food, but when I turned my back to wash the spoon, she burst into hysterical tears-- and it didn't really stop from there.

Actually, that's not true-- it did stop momentarily. For about the first five minutes after I'd packed the two kids back in the car to head home. But then it started. She was wailing. And when Marcie cries, her eyes get all puffy and swollen, and the tears streaming down her pudgy little cheeks, leaving burn-like marks. So when I got to a place where I could pull over and stop, I did-- thinking I might be able to console her (and calm down my pounding headache). Bad idea.

Once I stopped the car to get out and check on her, her crying became worse. She looked at me as if to say: How can you leave me strapped in this carseat when I'm so obviously upset? I told her I was sorry she had to stay buckled in, but we would be home soon.

Well, once I stopped the car for Marcie, Casey wasn't going to sit back and let his sister get all the glory. And he started wailing. WAILING, I tell you, not wimpering. Real alligator tears and all. I told him I was sorry, too. I begged him to stop crying. I asked him to breath with me, and tried to help him. All to no avail. Finally, I took a deep breath, resolved myself to just make it home (thinking they'd probably fall asleep on the way anyway since it was just about nap time by now), and got back in the driver's seat and set off.

Well, my patience were thin. My head was throbbing. My stomach hurt because I felt awful that they felt awful. And I was irritated that Casey was fake-crying. I couldn't even hear the radio over their wails. Not that it was great music-- it was just Bear in the Big Blue House, after all. Finally, after I shouted out to Casey to PLEASE stop crying, I could take it no more. So I turned up the volume until I could barely hear the noise in the back seat. And it suddenly. got. very. quiet. Then, just as I turned the radio nob back down, Casey said in a clear, cry-free voice, "Mommy, it's so loud. Why so loud?"

I almost wanted to laugh. Marcie resumed crying almost immediately, but Casey remained quiet the rest of the way home. . . Marcie fell asleep as we turned the final corner onto our street, and then (of course) immediately startled awake as soon as I removed her from her carseat. And then, she was inconsolable again. Every time I tried putting her to sleep, she just stood at the edge of her crib screaming and crying and carrying on. So I did what any mother of a child she'd known for only three months or so would do . . . I held her. And held her. . . and held her.

She skipped her nap yesterday and barely stayed awake through dinner before she crashed for the evening. I'm still not sure what tripped her off in the first place. The last time she got this upset was when she got her five shots at her one-year well-baby visit. I guess that was only last week-- it seems a lot longer ago already . . .

I sure hope the Mother's Day gifts end up being worth it!

Friday, December 01, 2006

She's Taking Real Steps . . .

Not just one or two as she's falling down, but deliberative steps to get to whomever she's trying to get to-- six or seven of them (before falling down). Her grandfather caught a photo tonight while we were at their house-- it took several tries because she was moving so fast! When we got home, I put her down at the plastic table and walked to the other side of the room to turn on a light. When I looked over at her, she was trekking toward me at an insane pace. It was awesome. She's not very stable yet, but she's lookin' good!