Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Throttling Casey (or why my Mother in Law Saved the Day)

Today was one of those days. You know what I'm talking about. One of those days. At one point, as I was heading out the door with Marcie in tow and Casey blocking the exit, I actually said to Casey: "You know. You had me up three times last night. Three. I am not in the mood for your attitude, and I don't have time for you to stall. You owe me. Now move your bottom out that door. Now." I didn't yell. But he got the tone. Thankfully.

It all started around 1:00am this morning. That was the first time Casey came to sleep in our bed. Following Super Nanny's advice, I walked him back to his bedroom (much to his dismay). I told him he was a big boy and could sleep in his own bed. I laid down with him until he fell back to sleep. I headed back to my own bed around 1:15am.

Then, around 2:15am, Casey was back in my bedroom. Too tired to fight it (and against my better judgment-- and more importantly, probably, against Super Nanny's advice), I let him climb in bed with me and Jason. I slept in the middle.

Until around 3:30am. That was when Marcie woke up screaming and calling out "Mama" and "Mommy." I let her screech four times, and then I crawled over the top of Jason, and padded to her bedroom. I spoke to her in soft, soothing voices and patted her on the back. When she stood up in her crib, I picked her up and laid her gently back down. (This, by the way, is not an easy feat for a woman only five feet tall. I can barely reach over the bar and touch Marcie if the bar is all the way up-- I can't actually lay my hand flat on the mattress-- my arms just aren't long enough. And if I lower the side of the crib, then inevitably after she calms herself and is almost back asleep, when I raise the arm again, she wakes up.) I rubbed her back. I sang a little. Eventually she began chewing her lovie blanket. And I tiptoed out of her room and back to my bed. Where Jason and Casey had managed to take up all the space I had once occupied.

It was now some time around 3:35am. Maybe 3:40am. I picked up Casey and carried him back to his room. Covered him up with his blankets, and returned to my own room, where I crawled into the warm spot where he once lay. Casey didn't wake up during the transition.

Just before 5:00am, Casey was back in my room. This time he brought all his sheets and blankets with him. I went to pick him up to return him to his bed and was startled even more awake by how cold and wet he was. Yup. Wet. Great. I explained that we had to go back to his room to change his wet clothes. He begged me to let him just get in my bed. I promised him he could sleep in my bed after he changed, and he finally agreed. We returned to his room, in the dark. We pulled off his nighttime pull up and put on a new one. We picked out his snowman pajamas, and I walked him back to our room, where he crawled into bed.

I proceeded to strip the sheets, say a silent thank you to my mom who gave us rubber bed liners so the mattress wouldn't get destroyed by nighttime urination, place all the damaged linens in the washer and run the wash. Then I gently shoved Casey into the middle of the bed and rolled over to try and sleep. It was 5:15am. I wondered if it was even worth the 45 minutes left before my alarm clock would go off and decided 45 minutes is still 45 minutes.

Of course I didn't get up at 6:00am like I'm supposed to. I woke up at 6:20am instead. And hopped into the shower. Then put on make up. By then Casey and Marcie had awoken. I threw my bathrobe and went to change Marcie. Now it was 6:30am. Marcie insisted on playing with her giant stuffed giraffe pillow, which she called "baby" over and over again. But she smiled and giggled and cooed at me. So that was nice.

I returned to my room with Marcie and asked Casey if he was ready to get dressed. Of course he told me no. I said he could get dressed first or brush his teeth first. He told me he wanted to read. So I told him he needed to go to his room until he was dressed. I followed him in and tried to cajole him into changing out of his pajamas. But to no avail.

I left again to get dressed. Then I heard him in the family room-- flipping the dog's crate over. With the dog inside. I marched (yes, marched) into the family room, grabbed Casey's wrist and walked him back to his room. I told him that flipping the crate was inappropriate behavior. And he told me he was mad at me. Great.

Finally I explained to Jason I needed his help so I could get off to work at some semblance of a normal time. Jason was in Casey's room less than five minutes and Casey was dressed. In a short sleeved shirt and a pair jeans with holes in both knees. I didn't have time to argue. I packed a change of pants, socks, and shoes into Casey's school bucket, buckled the kids in their car seats, and headed off to Jason's mom's house. On Wednesdays I drop of the kids there and she takes Casey to private speech therapy before depositing him at school. After the therapy and before school they usually look at ducks.

But on the way, it started to rain. Gush. Pour. There was a lot of water. And I began preparing Casey for the possibility that it would be too wet and muddy to visit the ducks-- for the first time in a year. When I pulled up, I had a mental plan. There was still a downpour outside, and I just had my one umbrella. Not even the golf umbrella- just a regular one.

But I had barely cut the engine when the garage door opened and out steppe my mother in law-- with an umbrella! She met me and Casey at the car door and walked him back into the garage while I walked to the other side of the car to retrieve Marcie. It was such a relief, that seemingly small act of help.

I have often commented to people that one of my mom's best qualities and Jason's mom's best qualities is their ability to anticipate other people's needs on moments of small crisis and in moments of great exhaustion. When Casey was born, they would appear and laundry would be done and bottles would be washed and food would be prepared. It just happened. I didn't have to ask. I didn't need to cry or pout or beg. They just anticipated.

And that's what Jason's mom did today. And despite my lack of sleep. And my total frustration with Casey's newfound independence. And the cold, wet, cloudy weather-- she was there for me. Like a ray of sunshine in my otherwise gray morning.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Bus-- Now with photos

In continuing with our public transportation theme, Casey selected a ride on the bus for his reward activity this week. We looked up the bus schedules and opted for the Poway loop, which isn't really a loop, but a ride from one point to another, then the bus returns to point A to start over again. I suppose you could ride the whole thing as a loop, but it'd be awfully boring.

We decided we'd pick up the bus at the Target shopping center and take it to the public library, check out some books, and take the bus back to our car. Total cost would be around $5 for the family. Unfortunately, as we were turning the corner toward the bus stop, the bus flew past us. We tried following it to get far enough ahead to park the car and make a run for the stop, but no luck. . .

Instead we just ended up at the public library, where we ran into Emma from Casey's preschool class and some friends of ours here in Poway who we met when we adopted Casey. Emma loves Marcie. And Marcie loves Emma. Marcie even gave Emma a hug and a kiss when we said good bye.

Despite Casey's love of his bedtime stories, he isn't much into the library. He stared at the fish tank for a long time, then went off in search of a stuffed dolphin he remembered being there last summer. Yes, that's the last time we went to the public library. He didn't find the dolphin, but he did find a giant Curious George. And a killer whale. Marcie, likewise, wasn't into the books. Even though the first thing she demands from me in the morning is a book (she calls it a boop -- rhymes with book). She likes to read it while I change her diaper and get her dressed. She, too, just kept demanding we pick her up to see the fish.

At one point, two librarians got out of their seats to tell Casey and William (one was chasing the other-- I'm not sure who was chasing whom) to be quiet. And we decided that was a good time to leave.

Needless to say, we rescheduled the bus trip for the following day-- Sunday. And this time we got to the bus stop in plenty of time before the bus's scheduled arrival (who knew they didn't stop unless people were waiting-- even if they were running ahead of schedule?!?). And we took the bus to the mall. There, the kids played in the mall soft play area, and we enjoyed a very early lunch at Red Robin before catching the bus back home.

We thought we might die on the trip home. Okay. That's an exaggeration. But after Casey pulled our "next stop" line, the driver didn't seem like he was going to stop. We were proceeding through an intersection, and the bus stop was just past it. And instead of slowing down as we approached our destination, our driver appeared to accelerate. Then he slammed on the brakes and sent us all lurching forward. Good thing we weren't standing up-- we would have landed in the entrance bay, next to the driver, rolled up in tiny balls!

We said our good-byes and disembarked, and as the bus sped away, it kindly spewed dust and dirt and leaves into our faces. Good times.

Anyway, it was a $10 adventure for transportation. The mall is less than a 10 mile drive from our house. So I know it wouldn't use a 1/4 tank of gas-- which means that this wasn't a particularly cost-efficient expedition. That's okay, though. Sometimes you've gotta spend a litte.

Casey will undoubtedly earn his 10 stickers for the week. Our next adventure? The fire station! Keep your fingers crossed that we'll be able to arrange a personal tour!

Here are the photos from our excursion:

Waiting at the bus stop for our ride to the mall.

Casey riding the bus. I wish he'd keeps his eyes open when he smiles for the camera!

We stopped at Starbucks on our way to the play area. Here's Casey drinking his "coffee" (read: chocolate milk in a coffee-style cup).

I know. Surprise, surprise. It's a photo of Marcie eating!

Casey and Marcie in the play area-- Marcie's making an attempt at crawling through it.

Casey learned how to chew gum! He did swallow the first small piece, but when he was done chewing the second, true to his promise, he told me he was done and spit it into the wrapper.

Marcie crashed out on the ride home. That is, until the bus driver lurched to a stop.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Odds & Ends

Chinese New Year

I forgot to write about Chinese New Year. We certainly didn't ignore this holiday around here! Jason's mom had a small dinner party and we took the kids over to eat her amazing meal. Jason commented, "Gee-- it's just like Tuesday night around here," because, of course, he and the kids get her amazing food all the time while I'm away at school. We dressed up Marcie in the outfit she wore for the red couch photo-- which just barely fit her (we bought it big).


We call Marcie our food pirate. She does not seem to have a shut off valve, as far as we can tell. When Casey was a baby -- and even now-- if he wasn't hungry he'd stop eating. Not the case with Marcie. She eats when she's hungry. She eats to be social. She especially wants to eat whatever you have, even if she's already finished her meal. She is also a very independent eater. She likes to feed herself whenever possible. The fact that she's so independent isn't so bad in a controlled environment, like when we put on a bib, sit her in her high chair, and let her go for the yogurt. We can always give her a bath. But when Casey leaves food lying around-- like he did with his cereal bowl yesterday, Marcie has no shame in digging right in! Did I mention Casey eats cocoa krispies for breakfast?!? [And before you think I'm crazy for allowing him to do so, we were actually advised to do so by his doctor because he wouldn't eat any calcium-enriched food after we took away the bottle, and for whatever reason, he'd drink the leftover milk in his cereal bowl and we could crumble tums into the cereal.]


In part because of Casey's sensory issues, and in part because he's a stubborn preschooler, he doesn't much care for getting his hair cut. We like it longer because we think the curls are so darn cute, but it's been definitely getting out of control lately. Yesterday I told Casey if he'd let Jason cut his hair, I'd reward him with two stickers and five MnMs. It still took a little coaxing, but he agreed. Then, after his haircut was finished (he didn't mind modeling for me, that's for sure!), I told him he could have his two stickers and his five MnMs, OR he could come with me to Target to pick out a toy (we had to purchase a gift for a birthday party he's attending today). He chose the toy at Target. Once we were inside Target, Casey insisted we go look at the shoes. Although we think it's a little strange how much Casey loves shoes, there are certainly worse interests a kid can have. But it's worth mentioning here that Casey actually has gathered quite a collection: high quality Stride Rite fire truck shoes, Thomas shoes that are falling apart (purchased weeks after the fire truck ones), Cars Lightning McQueen shoes, Buzz Lightyear shoes-- and now Spiderman shoes. That's a lot of shoes! (Though, to be fair, Marcie also has four pairs of shoes-- pink and white Robeez, black Robeez, gold Crocs, and white Stride Rite walking shoes. So why criticize Casey?) Anyway, after visiting the shoes, we still went and looked at toys, but Casey chose the shoes over a new toy. So I went from promising two stickers and five MnMs to purchasing him a $15 pair of Spiderman shoes. Not a bad trade. Of course, I do have almost 30 years on him-- but still, preschoolers are awfully good negotiators as a general rule. I think it's at least in part because they are shameless.

Mommy & Daddy Time

So, as you know from the Babysitter Blues, Part I and Part II posts, we've been having a bit of trouble getting away for a few hours for some alone or adult time. This is why:

This is what Marcie looked like after I started putting on make-up to go out. I sat with her on the couch for a long time after I was ready and just kept saying over and over again: "Mommy and Daddy are going to go bye-bye for a little while. Marcie is going to say home with Casey and Delinda. Then Mommy and Daddy are going to come back home." Every time I'd say it, she'd sob a little harder and I'd repeat, "Mommy and Daddy are going to come back home."

I asked my friend Delinda, who Marcie has met once or twice, to babysit. We were going to a nice dinner with the two couples we used to hang out with all the time pre-Marcie. Well, pre-Marcie and pre-Kate (one of the couples had a baby in June). Though, to be fair, our lack of going out has really been my unwillingness to get a babysitter, not Kate's parents'.

Anyway, Marcie cried when Delinda arrived. And we went to get her favorite book, Art, which is really Casey's book. But Marcie loves it. And we started out with Delinda reading it while Marcie was on my lap, then finishing with Marcie sitting between us.

By the end of the book, Marcie was calm. She didn't cry when we left. She didn't cry during the 10 renditions of the Lollipop song while Delinda danced with her and Casey. She didn't cry when Delinda gave her the sippy cup of milk. And she didn't even really cry when Delinda put her down to bed. In fact, she didn't wake up and cry when I checked on her at 11:30pm. AND she slept through the night. I don't know if God was just smiling down on us, or if the Motrin we gave her 30 minutes before Delinda's arrival for her teething kept her calm. Or if it's the fact that Delinda is a real miracle-worker (a true possibility here-- as Delinda has some nannying experience). But whatever it was, it was awesome.

And despite that forlorn look of loss on Marcie's face in the photo, this morning, she was happy as a clam. You can watch a video of her on her Bounce & Spin Zebra (her favorite toy). But I have to worn you that I blew it and video-recorded her on my camera sideways (what a dumbass). Still, she's cute. . .

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Big Baby Girl Sale -- My Thoughts

This editorial was recently published on the Opinions page of a newspaper in Tennessee -- the La Follette Press:

BIG BABY GIRL SALE - ONLY $17,000! - Jim Dossett

The Chinese have given us many things; gunpowder, spaghetti, woks, Jackie Chan. Oh yes, they've also been delighted to give us their discarded children. Actually, they're delighted to sell us their kids. And government officials have laid down new ground rules for foreigners who want to adopt children from China's overflowing orphanages.

Prospective adoptive parents must not be obese; no more than 50 years old; must not take antidepressants; must not have severe facial deformities. So the bottom line is, if you take up two seats on a plane, are a member of AARP, take Prozac,
or resemble the Elephant Man - No Chinese kids for you!

Mind you, these edicts are issued by a culture where parents traditionally leave female babies at orphanages or by the roadside because they wanted a son, or because the government allows them only one child. Ninety-five percent of the children available for adoption are girls. I'm amazed that one of the world's oldest civilizations, dating back to more than six millennnia, still doesn't realize that women are the best of us all.

I doubt whether many Campbell Countians would be eligible to adopt a Chinese baby - not because we're fat, old, or grotesquely deformed - but because it costs more to buy a child in China than many of us make in a year.

According to Chinese baby brokers, the estimated total cost of a no- frills adoption, not including travel, is about $12,000. The estimated total cost plus travel for two is $17,120.00 - such a deal.

"End of Year Sale! Get your certified, pre-owned girl child for the amazing price of $17,120! She's a beauty despite a few minor scratches and dents, but comes with a manufacturer's warranty - no surprises under the hood or the diaper!"

Once the bucks are shelled out for the kiddie commodity, who knows where the money ends up. Maybe some of the cash trickles into the new charity created
by the China Center for Adoption Affairs. This burgeoning group of capitalists is hopeful the charity will improve conditions in orphanages and "keep infants and young children alive and well enough to be adopted." It makes you wonder about the fate of toddlers who are not well.

Despite the high costs and stringent rules issued by the baby dealers, childless couples from the U.S. and around the world still flock to China in hopes of bringing baby home. God bless you decent souls. Stick religiously to your pretrip diets of carrot sticks and cottage cheese and look forward to the fat and happy times you'll have raising your baby girl!

Hmm. What to make of this? Parody? Insanity? Stupidity?

Whatever you make of it, the editor of the newspaper published an apology the following day and explained that the paper would look more carefully at the editorials in the future. The editor-in-chief also said they would be doing a story on a local family to show the positive side of adoption-- this editorial was intended to criticize the Chinese government, not adoption.

Well, I have a lot I could say about this. I didn't write a letter to the editor in complaint-- it's an editorial piece, and people are certainly entitled to their (stupid) opinions. After all the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press (as my Con Law professor likes to point out). I would have liked to have learned that the paper would publish some of the letters it received in response to the editorial. And maybe they did-- or will. Who knows.

A few adoptive parents have commented on this editorial, and they've done so much more eloquently than we have. My personal favorite is Journalism Schmournalism, posted by a family whose daughter is, like Marcie, from Chongqing (though from a different orphanage). I think the best point made by this post is that the majority of the money spent on adoptions from China goes to the United States government and U.S. agencies, not to China directly.

But then I started thinking more about it-- I was more offended by the reference to the "baby sale" than to the criticism of China's new standards. I'm not pleased with the new restrictions, but they are entitled to set whatever standards they want, just like agencies do here in the U.S. And just like other countries do. So then I started wondering why the "baby sale" reference bothered me so much. Adoptions are expensive. I wrote about that back when I began blogging (you can read my entry about the cost of adoptions if you're so inclined). And China is one of the less expensive adoptions (unless you fly premium economy in the height of the travel season-- or if you're going to be there during Chinese New Year or the Olympics or something, which means more expensive travel costs). Here in the U.S., adoptions can cost up to $40,000. And birthmothers can receive money throughout their pregnancies-- and for 6 weeks after to help pay for basic necessities. I'm not saying this is wrong, even though a family might pay all these expenses only to have a birthmother change her mind in the end (which she is, of course, entitled to do, despite the broken hearts and empty wallets of the potential adoptive parents).

Why don't I like the notion that this might be "baby selling"? Hmm. I think, for me, it comes down to this-- children are not property. Really, it's that simple. The expenses we've paid for our adoptions-- to certify that we are stable, aware adults capable of creating and maintaining a stable and loving home environment-- those are not to own our children. None of us owns our kids. These expenses we've forked over-- they are for the privilege and honor of raising these precious, trusting children. For the privilege of introducing them to the wonders of the world. For the privilege of teaching them right from wrong. For the privilege of kissing their bruises and patching up their cuts. For the privilege of rocking them to sleep and singing them lullabyes. For the privilege of watching them smash birthday cake into their face at the end of their first year, the privilege of cheering them on through first steps and first sports games and first dances. For the privilege of holding them tightly when they are sad or scared and the privilege of laughing with them when they amuse us with their wild antics and giggles. But we really shouldn't confuse that with ownership. We can never own our children. And while I am incredibly attached to mine-- and would fight to the death to protect them-- I can only hope that as they grow up and become independent and I have to (literally) let them go, they will choose to return to me from time to time, to share some companionship, to seek my advice, to allow me remain a part of their lives. We pay this money not to own our children. We pay it because our lives our richer and fuller for being parents. And I'd be willing to bet that if you asked any parent-- adoptive or not-- how much they'd pay to keep their child, $17,000, or $40,000 or $4 million-- it wouldn't matter. It would be worth it. Because what our children bring to our lives just isn't measurable in dollars. So no one should kid themselves-- the costs we (adoptive parents) pay, they aren't to own our kids. We may be possessive and over-protective sometimes. We may call them "ours." But people are not property.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Making Taking Parental Leave Difficult **UPDATED**

I am hopping mad. And it's probably not worth reading about because it's long and involved and incorporates a lot of details. Feel free to join me in my anger and frustration, though, if you're so inclined.

I work for a school district as a teacher. You'd think that working for an employer whose focus is on what's best for children, there would be some flexibility for parenting. And there is some-- but not much. And I can't say that's my school district's fault-- after all, they can't really help it that schools are structured so that a teacher can't take an hour off in the middle of the day on Tuesday to go to a doctor's appointment or her child's therapy appointment. At least if that appointment is weekly. I can't just have someone cover "second period" for me every week. And my school district is pretty aware of these things-- and accommodating-- they provide for classroom teachers to get hourly-based substitute coverage to attend things like their children's parent-teacher conferences and doctor's appointments and IEP meetings. So in that sense I suppose they are pretty progressive.

But when it comes to parent leave, they are awful. They've gotten better in terms of the amount of time off they offer-- but they are terrible at instituting their policies.

In a school district with literally thousands of employees-- in fact, probably over a thousand teachers, you'd think they'd have they'd have their act together. Particularly given that the majority of the certificated staff (teachers) are women, and parent leave is something that tends to affect women more often or more dramatically than it affects men (given that women are the ones birthing). But no. Let's just take one example. Okay. It's me. I'm the example.

Now I'm a little unusual, I admit, because I didn't give birth to my children. Which makes me more like a man under the system than a woman (in terms of leave and benefits and all of that). My district has what I think is a pretty generous paid-leave policy. I was able to take 20 days at full pay from my sick leave. If I didn't have 20 days of sick leave banked, they would have paid me my full pay minus substitute pay (nevermind the fact that I'm not actually in the classroom teaching right now and therefore don't need a substitute-- that's their policy). I can live with that.

On top of the 20 days at full pay, under FMLA, I'm entitled to take an additional 2 months of leave without pay-- 12 weeks total. And I did just that with Marcie.

Before I left for China, I wrote a letter to the school district and explained that I was adopting a child and would be leaving for China before the school year began. Even before I wrote the formal letter, I called the benefits specialists and my HR technician frequently. I'm pretty sure that despite the fact that there are thousands of employees, they know me by name. And that's not a good thing.

Anyway, after I returned from China, I made an appointment to go in and talk to the benefits specialists. At this meeting, I explained that I was taking unpaid leave because I'd just adopted a child (who I had with me in tow). I explained that I wanted to continue paying into my flex spending account even though it would be after taxes, and she told me they would look into it. I completed the necessary paperwork to add our daughter to our benefits, they calculated how much I'd have to write a check for during my leave, and I set off on my merry way.

In the parking lot, I just happened to run into the Director of Human Resources-- a man I very much like and admire. And we started chatting, and I mentioned the amount of money I'd be paying, mentioned the phrase "FMLA" and was met with a strange expression. It turned out that the amount they were going to charge me was a COBRA payment-- the same payment I'd make if I were going on unpaid leave, as in a personal leave of absence. But under FMLA, the district would continue covering my medical benefits, and we'd only have to pay the family portion. This was a pretty substantial difference in sum-- several hundred dollars. Maybe $600. So I was glad to have bumped into him and have the conversation.

At the end of my paid leave, I got a bill in the mail for benefits. It was for the correct amount. I did not get a bill in the mail for my flex accounts, and I figured there must have been some reason for that-- like I wasn't allowed to put after-tax money into the account, and then I thought no more of it.

Near the end of my unpaid leave, I received a letter in the mail explaining that I might qualify for unemployment benefits. This utterly confused me-- how could I accept unemployment when I wasn't terminated? I was just on FMLA leave. That didn't make sense. I figured it was a mistake and didn't follow up.

I returned to work after my 12 week absence in mid-November. But at the end of November, I didn't get any pay direct deposited into my account. I thought that was odd, but perhaps the direct depositing stopped during the 8 weeks I hadn't received any pay, so I called my Payroll Technician. She looked me up in the system and then informed me she forgot to file my payroll paperwork. Forgot. Uh. Hello? Isn't that what you DO for a living? File payroll? Either you don't have that many people who you have to restart a filing for and therefore should not forget-- or you have to restart for multiple people, in which case there really isn't an excuse for letting me slip through the crack. Either way, not what I would call competent.

She told me not to worry, though, because I'd get the amount past due in my December paycheck. Yup. Seriously. DECEMBER. Fortunately the December paycheck actually comes in mid-December, so I only had to wait an additional two weeks-- but after receiving no income for 8 weeks, I have to admit that extra two weeks hurt.

Ok. So in December, no direct deposit. I call up my payroll technician again. This time she explains that because my paychecks were stopped, I have to start the process all over again-- resubmit for direct deposit. I ask if that means they also stopped my contributions to my retirement fund. Yup. They did.

So why didn't I get some documentation explaining to me that just prior to returning from FAMILY leave I should:
  1. call them and remind them to submit my payroll once I returned to work (which I'm not sure would have helped-- the irony here is that they called me to verify that I had returned to work on time, which means they have a record of when I returned to work!)
  2. go in and refill out my direct deposit requests
  3. go in and refill out my retirement requests
You would think that with the number of employees they have on leave, they'd have a simple form letter they could send women and men planning to return from work after a short period of unpaid leave! And if they aren't going to have a form, why, why, why wouldn't they share this information with an employee?

So that doesn't end the saga. Because my November money was not included in my December paycheck either. Of course I couldn't ask anyone about it because the offices were closed for the second half of December. So in January, when I returned to work, I called and inquired as to missing money. Interested in the explanation? Here goes-- instead of taking the 14 days I worked in November (or whatever it was) and multiplying them by my daily rate, then adding them to my December paycheck, they took the total number of days I would be working for the remainder of the school year and divided them by the total number of remaining paychecks. In other words, I won't actually get paid for some of the work I did in November until June. It means they are earning interest off my earned income.

And of course the saga doesn't end there.

When I met with our benefits coordinator while out on the paid portion of my family leave, I explained that I wanted to continue my flexible spending account payments, even with after-tax dollars, because I wanted to resume the account upon return to school. (We've calculated that money to help pay Casey's speech therapy, and so we've been more or less counting on it.)

So yesterday I submitted my reimbursement request for our flexible spending for the year. Before leave I only paid a portion of the total requested amount. And they didn't end up collecting any money while I was on leave. Nor did they give me the option of resuming payment upon return-- and everything was so convoluted when I returned to work. Remember it wasn't until December that I even knew they had stopped my retirement benefits and flex spending, and by then the school year was over. So I thought I had until March 15th to submit my claims.

But lo and behold, today I received a denial in the mail because, as the letter explains:

Per the contractual agreement with __________ School District, we were only able to accept expenses for 30 days following your termination from the Plan. This Grace Period to submit expenses ended 10-31-06; your request was faxed 2-20-07.

Huh? What contractual agreement? I didn't sign any contractual agreement. I certainly didn't "terminate from the plan." So I assume this is the agreement between the flexible spending people and my school district. But why did I receive no documentation-- nothing in writing or in e-mail, not even a phone call-- explaining when my grace period was going to end. Come to think of it, if I had received that might even know that I was terminated in the first place!

So being the law student that I am, I looked it up, of course. And I discovered that under Prop. Treas. Reg. § 1.125-3 (that's a treasury regulation), my employer was required to provide me the option to suspend the flexible spending during my FMLA leave and permit me to resume it upon my return. Did they do that? No. Even if they'd actually offered an option to suspend (which they didn't, because I would have declined it, actually), I certainly never received an offer to resume it after my return. HECK, they didn't even offer to PAY me after I returned-- how could I expect them to resume my flex.

And that brings me to another question, actually. The letter stated that my grace period ended in October. But I didn't actually begin the unpaid portion of my FMLA until September 26th. They imply that they are being nice by "extending" it to the end of October, but I wasn't a terminated employee-- I was on FMLA. How can they "terminate" me when I'm on federally-protected leave?

Do you sense my mounting frustration? And now, armed with this knowledge, what can I possible do about it? The money is with the flex people-- and they claim they have a contract with my school district so they don't have to reimburse me. It's the school district that messed up, but they don't hold on to the money. So who's responsible to reimburse me? And is violation of such a regulation grounds for the opportunity to receive reimbursement? It is, after all, my freaking money, not theirs. They shouldn't have counted on it in the first place-- I'm not in the habit of just giving away money. Geesh. Am I likely to have this flex money issue resolved in a way that gives me any financial relief? Sadly, no. It's just not likely. I'm a lowly, single employee screwed by the bureaucracy and incompetence of a pretty big system. And even though I'm fairly confident my flex money frustration is grounded in legal justification, it just doesn't matter.

That's so sad.

Oh. One more thing. My district is also archaic in that teachers are only paid 10 months of the year. If we want to receive payments for 12 months, we have to opt into that system (which is fine since technically we're calendared to work only 10 months). But the kicker is that during the two summer months, we have to pick up our paychecks because they claim they can't do direct deposit. I find that hard to believe, but whatever. Well, apparently because I went on an 8-week unpaid leave (the FMLA), they automatically switched me to 10-pay. They claim they have to do that. It's still not clear to me why (they gave me an explanation, but I find it wholly unpersuasive-- it's sheer laziness on their part. But heck, given the size of the organization and the fact that it's not all done automatically by computer, I guess I understand them not wanting a zillion different arrangements). Anyway, that would have been a nice piece of information to have. So I was supposed to put aside money to live on this summer from my last two paychecks. Oops.

And lest you think I'm a totally idiot (I mean, how could you not recognize that much extra money in your paycheck), 1. remember that all my paychecks have been totally different as they've prorated my work schedule, 2. because I moved to year 11 on the payscale, my pay was supposed to jump substantially this year, and 3. I though my December paycheck was big because they were paying me back for November, not because they were no longer paying me over 12 months! I know. Excuses, excuses.

Ok. So here ends my tirade. But I'm not letting this go. If you have suggestions for how I can calmly approach the situation to get my several hundred dollars, I'd love to hear them. . .

And I'm thinking of writing a big long letter explaining what a horrible system they have set up-- my personal feelings aside, they really should offer better service to their employees, and it'd be SO FREAKING simple to do so (okay that's the second time I've used the word "freaking." Sorry 'bout that). Think it's worth it? Should I wait until after the school year is over (I'll be taking an extended, 2-year leave after this year and I'm not sure I'll return after it.).

So I decided that instead of being all huffy about this issue, I would do some information gathering first. I called the flexible spending company, and they explained that were I reported as on Family Medical Leave (under FMLA) instead of terminated, I would be able to access the money I contributed prior to my leave for services provided prior to my leave.

Of course, this means I need my school district to contact the Flex company and actually admit they made an error and incorrectly reported me as terminated instead of on FML.

I've left e-mails with all possible relevant parties and e-mailed them, as well as their direct supervisor to see if we can't avert catastrophe and resolve the problem. Of course we're working against a deadline now-- they have to fix the error before the March 30th deadline for me to still have access to the funds? Think it will work?

I'm feeling a little optimistic about it. I mean it just takes a phone call or an e-mail to clarify the mistake, right?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Near Misses

Our neighbors probably think we are the worst parents ever and wonder how it is that we received recommendations from the State of California-- twice-- to adopt children.

To start with, you need to know that Casey is quite an escape artist. He figured out how to open doors very early. Sliding doors, the front door, bedroom doors-- all of them. We mostly were able to keep him inside with gates, by keeping the front door locked. But then Casey discovered how to unlock the front door. So one day, while I was in the shower, he did just that. I didn't know he'd done that, of course, until I got out of the shower and found the house empty and the front door ajar. And as you might imagine, my heart began racing, and I went into panic mode. I ran into the bedroom, pulled on clothes as quickly as I could, and was hopping on one foot, heading out the front door just as Casey came up the walkway with-- of all people, my cranky neighbor's mother (who was in town watching the kids, I assume).

[Side note here, I originally wrote all about what causes me to call this neighbor cranky in this post about a Neighborhood Party-- at least some of what causes me to call her cranky. I decided against posting the whole story because it's not really relevant to this story. Suffice to say that our next door neighbor really doesn't like us. And that's putting it nicely. Though they are quiet and civil, so I really shouldn't complain.]

Of course I was terribly embarrassed. And profusely apologetic. I explained that I was just on my way to hunt for him, and that we obviously needed to put a new lock on the front door, and I was so grateful she'd discovered him. She commented that a boy his age should know his name and his address (and because she works with preschoolers, she knew what was age appropriate-- and that at least he could lead her to our home. I thanked her. I told her I was so grateful. And I thanked her for the advice.

Honestly, though, I was kind of miffed at her comments. I mean what parent wouldn't be horrified that their child had taken off? And whether or not he can communicate as he should-- why is that any of her business? I don't owe a stranger-- even one who rescued my child-- an explanation about his speech and language delays. [And I know my irritation with her is mostly because of our strained relationship with her daughter.]

No, I didn't say anything to her. I was too embarrassed by his behavior. Too embarrassed that Casey was running around outside with no socks or shoes on his his pajamas to say anything but thank you. There was no good reason or me to get defensive. But, really-- what are the odds? That of all people in the neighborhood who could find Casey it would be those neighbors? Of course, my gratitude outweighed all my other feelings (except my exasperation with Casey), so I kept my mouth shut (in a rare instance of tongue-biting on my part).

The next week Jason installed a hotel-room-like top lock. The kind that works a little like a chain lock. And Casey hasn't escaped since.

Well, he hadn't escaped since until yesterday.

Yesterday I was in the study working on school work. Marcie was with me. Casey was in the house playing with Pugasus. Jason was cleaning up. Jason had come into the study, and then left-- and I heard the door to the garage open, so I assumed he was stepping outside to dump a bag of trash.

But then I looked up and Marcie had disappeared from the room. And the house was eerily quiet. The kind of quiet that tells you something is very wrong. I lunged out of the study and into the laundry room. Marcie was in the doorway between the laundry room and the garage, trying to figure how to take the step down into the garage. I called out for Jason and Casey but go no answer.

Then I looked up-- across the street. We'd left the garage door open to help us with our cleaning. And I saw Casey running up the driveway of the neighbor across the street. Just to the left of their minivan. And I saw Pugasus running up the driveway of the neighbor across the street-- just to the right of their minivan. And then I saw the rear brake lights and the reverse-white lights on the minivan flash. The car was on and he had already begun to back up.

I'm not sure why I didn't go screaming like a banshee across the street. Part of it, I suppose, was that I had Marcie dangling from the grasp of my left arm, balancing on my hip. Part of it, I think, was that the rear bake lights were on-- so I could tell the vehicle wasn't actually moving.

In any event, I yelled at Casey, who came running with abandon back across the street toward me (I was now at the edge of the sidewalk). I was so angry and so relieved all at the same time, a mixture of emotions I'm sure most parents feel at least once in their lifetime of parenting. Once Casey was safely in my grasp, the neighbor proceeded to complete backing up from his driveway, then he rolled down his window to say something.

Honestly, I don't remember what he said. I was so upset with Casey-- and so mad at myself for leaving the garage door open and not preventing Casey from exposing himself to such danger. But whatever he said, I probably deserved it.

Casey was appropriately admonished. There was some voluminous . . . uh . . . conversation. Mostly on our part. We used the word dangerous and street so many times that I think it finally sunk in. Casey spent probably 30 minutes alone in his room contemplating his behavior and why it upset, angered, and worried us. Of course, I don't trust that this means Casey will control his impulses and stay on our side of the street in the future. But I do trust that I'll remember to keep the garage door shut from now on. . .

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Coaster Train

As part of our reward system, we let Casey pick something fun he'd like to do when he earns enough stickers (we're working in intervals of 10 stickers for each reward for the time being). After seeing the blue train while riding the red trolley two weekends ago, Casey wanted to ride the big blue train. I think he meant the Amtrak train, but that train costs like $36 per person for the same distance as our commuter train-- the Coaster. And since both trains are blue-ish, we decided to spend the day riding the Coaster.

Jason gave up his jiu jitsu training for the day so he could go. You see, the Coaster doesn't run right in the middle of the day because it's a commuter train. And it doesn't run on Sundays, either-- at least not from the stop we wanted to take.

We drove over to our stop-- where there was another family of four doing the same exact thing! Here is a picture of me with the kids waiting to get on the train:

It is a beautiful day here in San Diego. It's got to be in the high '70s near the coast! Anyway, we boarded the train and climbed up to the second level. Casey enjoyed watching all the surfers in the ocean as we traveled up the coast:

While Casey watched the surfers, Marcie played her "Up-Down" game. That's where she tells us she wants up-- then we pick her up. Then she wants down, so we put her down. Up and down, up and down. And so it goes. It drives me nuts. She doesn't sit still unless she has to. If I've learned nothing else from our train rides, it's that we will need to buy Marcie her own seat when we fly east this summer so we can buckler her in to the carseat. It's safer. And it's saner.

We had originally planned to ride the coaster all the way to Carlsbad Village to stop for lunch. But that would have only given us about 20 minutes before the next rain south arrived, or we would have had to wait more than 3 hours. So instead we stopped off at Encinitas. We disemarked to a street market, walked through it, then found a nice set of benches to sit at and eat lunch. Casey and Marcie were both really well behaved (in a compelte 360 from last weekend), and they were pleasant as can be. Another interesting thing is that because the Coaster goes through some pretty affluent areas (at least this is what we assume), the stations are all really well-kept and clean. When we rode the trolley two weeks ago, we had to hold our breath in the elevator because someone had clearly been using it as a urinal of sorts. No such trouble with the Coaster-- even the public restrooms at the Encinitas station were clean!

One nice thing about rewarding Casey with these events is that it's something we can do together as a family. And it's not that expensive. Riding the trolley cost us like $6.00 round trip, plus the cost of the carousel. And the Coaster was only around $20. The kids don't care that we pack a lunch-- so we save some money that way. Not only are we teaching Casey about trains and other forms of public transportation, but we're spending less money than admission to the science museum or the zoo would cost us. We're encouraging Casey to select a bus as our next adventure. The local express buses to downtown or the mall are easy to access and very clean-- and we can maybe go to his favorite restaurant for lunch as part of the treat!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Happy Valentines Day!

Dear Grandma H,

Thank you for the yummy Valentine's treats. Casey and I tore open our cards on Valentine's Eve to see who the package was from. I carried mine around the house until bedtime. I tried to take Casey's card, too-- because I love the color red. But he wouldn't let me have it. I tried screaming at him to make him give it to me, but he just screamed right back.

On Valentine's morning, I chewed on my card all the way to Grandma S's house. Mommy let me carry the packaged cookie in the car, too. But she didn't let me eat it until after dinner on Valentine's night.

Casey got to eat some of his chocolate race cars that you sent-- but he wouldn't share them with me. Mommy said he didn't have to because they were a special gift from you and Grandpa. But she also told me I didn't have to share my cookie with him either, so that was okay. Plus Mommy and Daddy bought us both MnMs, so I got my chocolate fill just fine.

It sure was a yummy cookie. Mommy took some pictures of me eating it. Why is Mommy always taking funny pictures of me eating?

Anyway, we miss you Grandma. When are you going to come visit us again? I hope it's soon!



P.S. The shirt in the first picture really does say "Marcie" in Chinese characters. I got it as a present from my friend Amelia for Casey's birthday. Mommy thought it might say something crazy like "Happy Restaurant" because most Americans can't read Chinese characters anyway. But Grandma S told her it really does say "Marcie." I guess the characters make the sound Marcie because Marcie isn't a real word in Chinese. It's still pretty neat, don't you think?

The Beach

On Saturday we were able to catch some of Brad and Gene's show at Cathedral Catholic High School (Brad is Ava's dad, and we met Gene in China because he traveled with Brad and Joia on the adventure). Then we headed to Torrey Pines Beach for a picnic lunch. I chose Torrey Pines just because it's the closest beach. It was still overcast, but not insanely cold or anything, so that was good at least.

Of course, going to a sandy place with four children around the age of 1, a 5 year old, and a 4 year old with impulse control issues who likes to chase seagulls was a bit much for me. You can see each child enjoyed him or herself in their own way:

This one is Caedmon, Ava's younger brother. For some reason, I don't have any pictures of her older brother, Jack. Jack kept Casey company chasing the birds-- except Jack knows to return to "home base" when called-- a task that seemed to escape Casey's abilities (or his willingness)

This one is of Ava. You can see she is exploring the sand here, as well. . .

Here is Marcie holding her hat on her head. A little after this, she dug into the dirt for some exploring of her own . . .

For some reason, I don't have any solo shots of Cassidy, but Larry did snap this one of me with Marcie and Kyndra with Cassidy.

And this photo sort of epitomizes the weekend with Casey-- at least where I stood in relation to him. After I tracked him down from the forage north chasing birds (which, as you can see, have all flown away at this point), I sat him down on the blankets to eat lunch. He got through half his sandwich when some birds returned. Then he proceeded to throw shoes and socks and rocks at the birds, much to my dismay. Not even his own shoes and socks-- Kyndra's! At that point, I realized I really couldn't control his behavior, so I packed him up, grabbed Marcie, and with Larry's help dragged them both to the car, leaving our guests behind. Yeah, I was embarrassed to be ditching them-- but what could I do? I can't have him throwing things at birds!

Casey got the last word, though. I didn't even take time to dust off his sandy feet because I was so mad and so embarrassed. I just buckled him in the car and took off for home. On the ride, though, he grabbed Marcie's jacket and used it as a blanket. Check it out:

Sea World

Rather than go back to the post about our visitors from this past weekend, I thought I'd post a whole series of photos from the experience. So this is the first of those posts. To remind you of what I'm talking about, two of Marcie's "first sisters"-- girls she lived in Yunyang Chenxiang Social Welfare Institute with-- came to visit from Colorado this past weekend (with their families, of course). They arrived on a Thursday and on Friday we headed out to Sea World, in an effort to beat the rain that was forecast for the weekend.

Joia, Ava's mom, brought a cool gift for the girls! You can see her treat in this photo:

Now, for those of you who don't know, girls from the Municipality of Chongqing are known for having firecracker personalities and beautiful, fair skin. Marcie is certainly no exception to either of these stereotypes (just last night when I told her to "come here," she smiled, said "no" and ran the other way!-- I can tell the "terrible twos" are going to be a lot of fun when they hit!). Anyway, Joia had these cute shirts made that say Spicy Girl, so we dressed the girls in them and hit the town. This is the best photo I could get of all three of them in the shirts (actually, Larry took the photo-- that's Cassidy's mom). In the picture, I'm to the far left with Marcie, Kyndra is in the middle with her daughter Cassidy, and Joia is on the right with Ava.

For the most part, everyone was very well behaved. Everyone, that is, except Casey. He just couldn't help himself, I guess. When you are accustomed to always having your way, it's gotta be hard to suddenly have to take someone else's desires and schedule into consideration. And Casey just isn't used to that yet. Despite his less-than-stellar behavior (which resulted in my snapping him into the stroller at one point in a time out while he screamed and cried and carried on like he was losing his left foot on one occassion and resulted in Larry booking after him as he took off chasing birds on another occassion), I think he had fun. He got to see the dolphin show and the Shamu show, and we got to see these beautiful dolphins (which look like miniature killer whales, but of course are not). He also got to touch sea stars and view the sharks, which he really wanted to do.

And Kyndra took Casey to see the polar bears. Marcie and I had to stay behind with Larry and Cassidy because the girls were sleeping and they don't allow strollers anymore (they did the last time I was at Sea World, so I'm not sure why the change, but whatever. I was actually quite impressed that Cassidy and Marcie slept so well. Marcie isn't a great napper-- and it turns out neither are Cassidy and Ava! I guess all the information we got from the orphanage about the three naps a day just meant they put the girls in the cribs three times a day-- doesn't necessarily mean they slept!

In the meantime, Ava was wide awake with her brother Caedmon, but she sure was quiet in her stroller. Ava is three months older than her younger brother.

After the polar bears, we headed home. It was almost 5pm, and even if the girls weren't tired, their parents were exhausted. Even Casey slept on the way home-- though he wasn't willing to let go of that popcorn!

On the way home from Sea World, we picked up Gene to join us for dinner. All I can say is that I'm so very grateful Gene was with me for the drive home. Despite the peaceful sleepy look of Casey in the photo, Marcie screamed the entire ride home. I'm not sure how Casey slept through it. It was a total repeat of the Automobile Meltdown post from a while ago, only this time we had company in the car. Of course I apologized every 3 minutes or so for her screaming, but I knew the only thing that would calm her would be me holding her-- and we needed to get home to do that. So a special thank you to Gene for (literally) talking me through the situation and helping me hold on to my sanity during the 30 minute ride home!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sleep Training

Have you ever thought about this? The notion that we actually train to put ourselves to sleep? That most infants and toddlers actually wake up multiple times during the night and simply put themselves back to sleep?

I haven't given this too much thought. Whatever your opinions are on how to sleep train children, I am a softy. I'm just not the kind of person who can let my child cry and cry and cry and cry. Jason Ferberized Casey once I started law school. Casey was around 9 months old. But that just doesn't seem appropriate with Marcie. . .

So here's my dilemma. Marcie goes to bed just fine. She has her sippy cup of milk, rocks a bit with Jason, and then he puts her to bed in her crib-- awake-- with her silky blanket (which she chews on). And she puts herself to sleep. No fuss. No trouble.

When Jason and I are home with Marcie, we put her down for a nap around 1pm. Sometimes she cries for a few minutes-- like 5-- and then she falls to sleep, usually for a couple hours (though sometimes only for 1 hour). I am not sure what happens on the days when we aren't home (which would be Monday through Friday). I suspect she is rocked to sleep or in a family-bed-style situation (this is what was done with Casey). I don't necessarily take issue with this-- as long as it doesn't mean that she expects to sleep with us.

Marcie has been waking up around 4am. For a long time, I thought she was hungry. But then one night I just held her and rocked her and then laid her back down in her crib and she went to sleep. Since then I haven't been feeding her. I figured this 4am waking was just a phase-- and noted that she is adopted and that she may just want to be held for comfort.

Then we went to Vegas. And after we were gone for two nights, Casey decided he needed to start sleeping with us. He also puts himself to sleep without a hitch. But then some time in the middle of the night, he crawls into our bed between us. He even brings his own pillow. This has been going on nightly for about a month now. We've brought him back to his own bed, offered him rewards for staying in his own bed, and sometimes we've just let him sleep with us. Nothing has seemed to help us get him back into his own bed permanently. So we'll have to get tougher and walk him back to bed as many times as he comes into our room-- at least this is what I'm anticipating.

Now comes the part where you all think I'm a terribly selfish person. I need my sleep. I don't get many hours of it-- maybe 6 a night total most nights. Much of this is my own doing. I chose to go to law school, and studying at night means I can see my kids on the weekends. Studying at night also means I don't get to bed before midnight many nights. So if I'm falling into bed around 11:30 or midnight, then awoken again around 2am when Casey comes in, than again around 4am (sometimes not until 5am) when Marcie wants to get held I'm not getting much sleep. And two hours at a time does not sustain me. Even 4 hours at a time wouldn't really sustain me. And that means a weaker immune system. And that means catching a cold (like the one I have now).

Plus, I just can't sleep with my kids on a regular basis. And I mean that literally. When they are in my bed, I'm not really getting any rest. They wiggle. They squirm. They kick-- and not the occasional kick in the shin, but consistent, repetitive little kicks in the gut. They turn sideways and use my stomach as a pillow so I can't move. They knead their little toes and fingers into my body. They are both just active sleepers-- at least while they are putting themselves back to sleep. Which they do several times in a night. Now perhaps if we had a bigger bed, this wouldn't be an issue. But we don't. And I don't want a king size bed. So this is where we are.

So that's my problem. How do I get my kids to sleep-- in their own beds-- so that I can sleep? And not be sick and exhausted all the time.

And here's the kicker. I can't tell anymore what's most important here. Is Marcie waking up because she's teething? Because she is ready to dive into the day? Or is it related to the adoption?

Now this is where things get tricky. I think often times adoption becomes a scapegoat for bad behavior-- an excuse of sorts. Feel free to disagree with me, but I've given this quite a bit of thought. All children experience separation anxiety. All teenagers challenge their parents. Rebellion and testing boundaries-- these are a normal part of developing into independent thinkers. But sometimes parents of children who are adopted use the adoption as an excuse: Well, he is just challenging me because he never felt secure-- there was that subconscious abandonment. . . And there may be some truth to that. Certainly I believe attachment and bonding are very important. I am in no way suggesting attachment disorders are made up-- they aren't. Children need to feel safe and comforted and loved and wanted. But all children need these things. And I cannot tell how much of what is going on is Marcie's need for these things because she is adopted and how much of it is typical toddler angst. And might I handle these two causes differently? Perhaps in theory.

But in real-life-- if I'm honest, probably not. In this particular case, the reasoning for the middle-of-the-night-wake-up-calls might not make a difference to how we handle it. But maybe it should? Would I accept this behavior from a child who wasn't adopted at 9 months old? (Apparently yes since I can't get my 4 year old out of our bed!)

So that's how I'm feeling. Run down. Exhausted.

Yes, I knew having another child would be hard.
Yes, I am willing to make whatever sacrifices I need to make to make sure Marcie is happy and healthy.
I'm just asking what those sacrifices really need to be.

And so if you have some positive sleep experiences-- with a child you've adopted or not-- I'd love to hear them. And in particular if you've used the "pick up put down" method, I'd love to hear about that.

And now, I'm off to take a nap while the kids are at Grandma's and school and I can steal away an hour or so to rest . . .

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Gross Things Infants and Toddlers Do

I recently received this e-mail from a friend:
Nothing like looking over and seeing that your daughter has spit up on the tile and is now licking/sucking it up. Gross.

Here's my reply:

Yeah. That's gross. Here are some more activities you can look
forward to:
  1. Your daughter wandering up to you with a half-eaten hard piece of penne pasta that she clearly picked up the kitchen floor the morning after it was part of her dinner. The half-eaten part has soft ends, so you know the bites are recent.
  2. Your daughter down on all fours, licking the carpet where there are pieces of popcorn left over from her afternoon snack. Nevermind that the carpet hasn't been vacuumed in a couple days and the dog has been traipsing all over it.
  3. Your daughter drooling because her mouth is so full-- with the hard, small bites dog food your son fed her that day.
  4. Your son picking up the dog water dish and tipping it into his mouth, just like you taught him to do with the leftover milk in the breakfast cereal bowl.
  5. Your child leaned over into the toilet (yes, you read the right), lapping up the water (at least it was post-flushing).
  6. Your child licking up the dirty, bubble-bathy water as it drains out of the tub.

Licking up spit up is gross, but at least it's not full-blown vomit, right?

I must admit, though, I've had four years to collect these stories. So it's not as bad as the list may make it look!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Chaos? Exhaustion? Just a whole lotta fun?

Sorry I've been out of blogging commission for the weekend. I can hardly believe how much the girls have grown! I'll upload photos and write more later, but here are the highlights:

I arrived home Thursday evening to a house full-- boisterous activity. Lasagna. Some short conversations. Marcie was sleeping with us, and she wasn't happy about being put down in a pack n play in our bedroom, but she eventually fell asleep (with me patting her on the back, my arm stretched over the edge of the pack n play while this occurred).

Marcie wasn't the only one who had trouble falling asleep. Cassidy circled the crib. Literally. Apparently she woke up several times during the night, stared at her parents (in the bed next to the crib) and fell over, back to sleep.

Ava wins the weekend award for best sleeper. That girl can sleep! She goes to bed between 8:00pm and 8:30pm and sleeps like 11 hours! Lest you feel any jealousy for Ava's mom, though, don't. Ava's brother Caedmon (three months younger) keeps poor Joia up all hours of the night-- I think the night he was up only twice was a new record in fewest number of times. At least recently.

I will note, with great joy, that despite the first night's difficulty in putting Marcie to bed, she slept all the way through the night all three nights. No 4am feeding! I'm keeping my fingers crossed this sticks. My next goal is to get Casey out of my bed! He actually told me at one point (I was in the middle of our queen sized bed, between him in Jason): Mommy, move over. You're squishing me! I'm squishing him?!? That's a laugh!

Friday we headed over to Sea World. We caught the dolphin show, saw Shamu, explored the shark tank and saw sea turtles and manatees. Joia and her 5-year-old Jack experienced the very wet Atlantis ride (covered in water-proof ponchos) twice. Casey certainly gave me a run for my money. Thank goodness I had the double stroller to strap him into. His poor impulse control got the better of me, and he took off chasing birds twice. Thankfully Brad and Larry helped me wrangle him in.

Friday night Gene (who we met in China) arrived in town, and he joined us for dinner. Chicken, broccoli and rice. That was nice.

Saturday we went to watch Brad and Gene of Apex Ministries perform their show at a Catholic Youth Conference. Casey-- our child who ran around Sea World uncontrollably Friday, sat mesmerized by Brad's juggling. Unfortunately, his stillness did not accompany us to the beach, where we set off to picnic for lunch. Instead, we had to leave our friends behind because Casey couldn't keep from throwing things at the birds (shoes, socks, rocks-- whatever was lying around). And it was probably just as well-- Marcie was just about to eat a hand full of sand anyway.

Sunday it rained. We went to the Reuben H. Fleet Space Museum-- apparently with the rest of San Diego! The kids played a bit in the Kids Play exhibit. And we got to see grossology. Oh, and we ate at Waters, which is yummy. But there was that moment of panic when Casey disappeared. In his defense, he headed to the bathroom because he really had to go. But he should have said something first.

So there are more things to share, but I didn't want to lose track of the basics. I must say my personal favorites of the weekend were (in no particular order):
  1. Having someone make a Starbucks run every morning to bring us delicious coffee treats.
  2. Comparing what our pediatricians have told us and seeing how much the girls have grown.
  3. Sharing stories/remembering the trip to China-- if nothing else, I hope we repeat this in front of the girls so that they "relive" the experience with us again and again
  4. Seeing Brad and Gene perform live
  5. Getting to know Brad and Joia and Larry and Kyndra a little better
  6. Having Larry and Kyndra all over the dishes (I didn't do very much dish-washing this weekend!)
I don't know how they all felt staying at our house-- any time you bring together 6 adults and 8 children in a 4-bedroom, one-story, 1700 square foot home, you're bound for a little bit of chaos, perhaps some exhaustion, and a whole lotta fun. And that's just what we got! And I sure am glad!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Pumpkin Marcie

I've devoted a lot of time recently discussing Casey. You shouldn't take this to mean a lack of interest in or focus on Marcie. Quite the contrary. So if you're wondering, here's what she's up to:

She broke two more teeth (bottom molars!)
She has added quite a lot of words to her vocabulary:
  • woof
  • dog
  • bird
  • ball
  • bubbles

And she's still calling Casey "big brother" in Mandarin.

She also brushes her hair, carries a bag like a purse, hugs stuffed animals to her chest, and lets Casey know when she's mad at him by crouching directly in front of him and screeching into his face.

Oh. And she is a food pirate. If you're eating, she'll drop what she has to grab for it.

Marcie is also incredibly skilled at wiggling out of laps, holding something in her hand and waving her arm around in just the right way so that you can't get it out of her hand, and riding her car ride-on toy. It is rare to see her sitting still-- in fact, I was amazed at her demands that Casey's godmother Ann read her the book Art this weekend. She insisted on turning the pages herself, and even after Ann left, Marcie wanted to read the book again and again.

My favorite thing, though, was this morning-- when Casey was laying in my bed and Marcie entered the room. He called out, "Maaaaar-ciiiiiiie! Come here, Punkin!" And she did. And they hugged. And kissed each other. Now where is the video camera when you really need it?!?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Riding the Red Trolley

Casey finally earned enough stickers to get a ride on the San Diego trolley, so this morning we gathered up the kids and took the trolley to Seaport Village to ride the carousel. Here are some photos:

This is them-- all loaded up and ready to head for the trolley station!

This is Casey waiting for the "red train" at Fashion Valley. He was surprisingly good about staying seated until the trolley came to a complete stop for us to get on it!

We climbed aboard one of the newer cars on our way downtown. The seats were super nice and comfortable.

Once we got to American Plaza, we stopped off at Starbucks for some snacks. Marcie and Casey shared a banana nut loaf, and Casey and Jason got coffee. (Actually, Casey's coffee is really chocolate milk in one of those children's sized hot chocolate cups-- but whatever.)

When we got to Seaport Village, we decided to ride the carousel. Casey's not a big fan, it turns out. Though he's smiling for this picture, I had to hope of my horse with Marcie to stand next to him right after this. Marcie, on the other hand, loved the "up" and "down" of the horse, and continued patting the horse on the head and calling it a "doggie."

Marcie sure does look surprised by the camera here-- It finally dawned on me to sit her WITH Casey so that he would feel more comfortable and she'd be able to ride the horse up and down!

On our way back to our car, we ate lunch at Santa Fe Station while we waited for the trolley. While we were waiting for the red trolley, Casey notice the blue train (the coaster) and asked to ride that. So now we have a new goal to work toward-- lunch in Carlsbad!

Even though this is the same Starbucks bag from before, Marcie is actually eating broken up pieces of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich here.
And I did manage to capture some video on my camera while we were out and about. For the bemused acceptance video click here. For the Say hi to the camera video click here.