Wednesday, January 30, 2008

C-A-S-E-Y

I have a horrendous cold. Too tired to write. Too tired to do anything but sleep and work. Sometimes too tired to eat.

But I'm alive, and it's been too long since I posted. So here's this week's update. Casey can actually write his own name. The "S" is tricky. We have to do a "C" with a tail to the left to get it. But he does. For the first time, he signed all his own birthday thank-you cards with his name. By. Himself.

I will take a photo of his new John Hancock soon. I promise.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Casey

Casey shares his birthday with Martin Luther King, Jr. The actual date-- January 15th. What a great figure to share a birthday with. Not only does Casey get to celebrate his birthday with a day off of school each year, but he also gets an annual reminder of the power of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s message. Hopefully someday Casey will understand the significance of MLK, Jr. day, of the role he had in building a better America, of the dream he's so famous for.

Of course Casey's a little young for that now. But we do try and take advantage of the day off school each year to do something fun. This year we celebrated Casey's birthday on his birthday. I showed up at school to read Casey's class a story and help them sing Happy Birthday to him. I brought muffins, and they were a big hit. I brought my mom with me, and she sat next to him during story time. I read one of his new favorite books (he got it for Christmas): Pirates Don't Change Diapers.

My parents were in town, and we met up with Jason's parents, and some of Casey's aunts and uncles at Casey's favorite restaurant, Red Robin. Here's one of my favorite mini-videos of Casey dancing at his party:

video

Of course his birthday celebration didn't end at Red Robin. After we returned home, he played for a few minutes with his most coveted gift, a remote control James that Jason's parents got him. Then he climbed up on my dad's shoulders while they read books, which Aunt Tiffany and Uncle Bobby got Casey for his birthday (sidebar- I love having sisters in law who are teachers and buy the kids terrific books for holidays!).



And we scheduled his birthday party for today, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s official holiday. We thought it'd give kids without school something to do for the day. We can never count on the weather in January, and I was a little glad today was rainy because it justified an afternoon at Pump it Up, and inflatable play zone, where kids can run around in their socks from bouncy house to bouncy house. Marcie liked the obstacle course and the giant slide. And the kids burned off a whole lotta energy.



I'm always surprised and amazed at the generosity of other kids. I mean, yeah, these pre-planned parties are pricey. We pay a premium for the convenience of letting someone else clean up, print up invitations, and generally run things. It's worth it, if you can afford it of course, because having forty people traipse through your house on a rainy day-- especially when your house is on the smallish size like ours-- is a lot of cleaning. And if you've been reading this blog for any period of time, you know that not only am I not particularly good at cleaning, but I also just don't like it. Anyway, Casey's birthday this year was an example of generosity. People were thoughtful and although we had Casey wait until we got home to open presents (except for those few whose givers really wanted to see Casey's reaction), it was worth the wait for him. We'll probably set aside many, many of the gifts, and slowly bring them out throughout the year. Except for the clothes. Those will go into immediate circulation.



And one last thought-- I am so surprised at how well some of those kids write! I could tell many of them wrote their own names and Casey's name. And I suppose I was writing when I was five, too. But . . . wow. . . now that I'm parenting a five year old, it's just so much more impressive.



And I will leave you all with a final photo. We used money my grandparents sent the kids to buy them a Melissa & Doug easel (which really is wonderful). The kids primarily use it for the white board and chalk board, but this weekend, Casey and I set up the paints my parents gave him as a birthday gift while Marcie was taking a nap. Here's my beautiful, funny, creative five year old son:

Monday, January 14, 2008

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Dear Casey,

Last week when I asked you if you knew how old you'd be on your birthday (which is tomorrow), you sang the numbers: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5. You sang them in near perfect scales, and as you did so, you showed me each finger on your left hand. I felt proud.

This morning after I helped you put your helmet on so you could go out back to ride your bike, you turned to Marcie and said, "Do you need some help, too, Sweetie?" You had such a soft expression on your face, and I could see your intense desire to really help her. And I felt proud.

This evening after dinner when we were working on your speech homework, I asked you to put the car on the bed and the shirt on dresser because that's what the assignment sheet instructed me to ask you to do. You told me that isn't where the car and the shirt go, and you put the car on the floor and the shirt in the closet. I felt proud.

This past weekend, you pieced together a giant train track. There was an inner circle and an outer circle. You added an elevated section and a bridge. You used your battery-operated trains to push the freight cars, and you giggled in delight as you let them run into each other. Earlier in the day when I was trying to put together a track of my own, I asked you if we should a bumper on the end of one piece of track. You told me, "That's a great idea, Mom." I smiled and thanked you. And I felt proud.

You've grown up so much this year, Casey. Sometimes I think back to the snowy day five years ago when I held you in my arms for the first time. You seemed so tiny and fragile to me then, squawking for food, your face a deep plum red. And I felt so grateful at the opportunity to finally be a mom-- your mom. And five years later, I still do.

It's only been five years. And already, I've learned so much from you. You've taught me patience and reminded me how fun it is to be silly. This year, you've brought me along with you to chase ducks and to ride a scooter. You've shown me amusement parks through fresh eyes. You've reminded me that there's no such thing as too many kisses, that the tickle monster is a child's favorite "fear," and that bubble gum can be dessert and breakfast, too.

And this year you've learned a lot, too. Not only can you count to fifty, and do you know all the letters of the alphabet, but you know their sounds and you recognize whole words, too. You can write the letters A, E, and L (though sometimes you write them backwards), and you can draw smiley faces. You memorized the Pledge of Allegiance, you say grace each night before dinner, and you can sing more songs than I can count. You have something of a shoe fetish-- almost as many pairs as I have! This year you learned how to swim and you played soccer and baseball. You can talk on the phone to your birth family and to Grandma. And you quip about how much you love each of your friends at school. Some nights you ask to eat broccoli with your dinner, and you've begun eating other new foods, too-- macaroni and cheese, croutons, carrot sticks, and chicken noodle soup to name a few.

I love you, Casey. I love your silly faces and your happy songs. I love that you ask me why until I can't think of a reason any more. I love when you dress yourself in striped shirts and patterned pants, and I love that you wear your costumes-- Spiderman, Superman, and Buzz Lightyear wherever we go. I love your zest for life. And I love being your mother.

Happy, happy birthday, Casey. I love you.

Love,
Mommy

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Drunk Drivers

Have you ever seen a drunk driver on the road? Before last night, I don't think I had.

We were on our way to Souplantation for dinner, which never came to fruition because the line backed up out the door into the parking lot. We were following a green sedan, and it began drifting into the right lane. At first, I just thought the driver was changing lanes without signaling. But just as soon as she drifted into the right lane, she'd drift back in front of us.

Then, she began slowing down. We were in a 45 zone, and at one point she came nearly to a stop. Then, when she began driving again, she began drifting again. Jason commented that she was a drunk driver, and I decided to call the police. But who do you call? I mean, on the freeways, there are signs that say to call 9-1-1 to report a drunk driver, and I'd always wondered how you'd know the driver was drunk. But I was on surface streets.

When we came to a stop to turn the corner, we pulled up next to the driver. And it turned out it was an elderly lady. I commented that it was just an old driver, not a drunk one. And Jason pointed out that the elderly get drunk, too.

In the end, the CHP 9-1-1 (which is who you get connected to automatically when you call 9-1-1 from your cell phone) connected me to San Diego's 9-1-1, and I reported the driver. I gave a great description of the vehicle, including the license plate, the direction the driver was headed, and what I could see about the driver herself.

Who knows if the police got to her. Who knows if she made it to her destination safely. I just hope no one got hurt. It made me nervous just watching her drive. And it's certainly possible she wasn't drunk and was just a bad driver. But that doesn't really make me feel any better.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Just a Glimpse

I know at least my mom is wondering how Disneyland went in the rain. It didn't start raining until around 4pm. Here's a quick peek:




















For those of you who stumbled on this blog after searching Disneyland and rain, here's some information. First, unless you are on vacation and have no other day you can go, reschedule. We got lucky that it didn't rain until around 4pm. It wasn't a hard rain when it did start raining, but it was steady. And it wasn't much fun navigating the park with toddlers in ponchos, trying to keep the stroller and the kids and myself dry. If I had teenagers, I'd still go-- the park is empty, and there's plenty to do. And teens don't get as needy and aren't as hard to wrangle in the rain. But for those of you with little ones, stay home. Say Disneyland has closed (even though it never does for the rain). Take a rain check-- that's what they're for.

That said, if there's some reason you have to go (like we had reservations at Club 33 and were going to pay whether or not we went), here's how we prepared for the rain:

  • We purchased cheap rain boots for the kids from Target, and I even got some pretty darn ugly ones for myself. The kids wore them all day. I kept mine in a locker in case I needed them if my feet got wet. We tucked the kids' pants into their socks, so their feet would stay dry and tucked in.
  • We purchased cheap rain ponchos and carried them with us. They sell them at Disneyland, of course, but for a premium price. We were able to try ours on early, and cut the bottoms on the kids' so they wouldn't trip. Unfortunately, Jason and his dad's tore straight open. Of course a rain coat will keep you dry, too-- just not as much of you. Some people had rain suits on; that's an option.
  • We brought umbrellas and used them. It's hard to see what's going on with a hood up. Plus our golf umbrella was huge, so we left it covering the stroller any time we went on a ride, to keep things dry in our absence.
  • We lined the bottom of our backpack with a trash bag, and we packed everything in one and two gallon zip lock bags inside the backpack. This way we didn't have to worry about diapers getting soaked accidentally. It also allowed us to carry a couple changes of clothes for the kids with us, just in case.
  • We brought extra trash bags with us in case we needed them as emergency ponchos or stroller covers, but we didn't need them.
  • We brought a fitted stroller cover for the double stroller. It worked well, but the kids felt pretty claustrophobic in it. If you don't have one, try to get a clear poncho to put on the stroller.
  • We had contingency rain plans. That is, we'd scoped out exactly what rides we'd go to in the rain so that we could keep moving and stay indoors as much as possible. Many, many rides are indoors-- like Star Tours and Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. The train is covered, Buzz Lightyear is indoors. So is Space Mountain and Indiana Jones. You get the idea. Just knowing a route to take relieved me of some stress.
  • We talked with the kids about the potential for rain and what it would mean in advance, just so they'd understand if we had to leave early or anything.

So those are some things to do in the rain at the Disneyland Park. We had contingencies for California Adventure, too, but we just never made it over there. Maybe next time. Hopefully not in the rain.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Good-bye 2007, Hello 2008

It's hard to believe another year has passed already. It's true, sometimes time seems to crawl-- like when you're waiting for an adoption referral you were told would take about 6 months and it's already been 2 full years (those poor families waiting for children from China!). But more often then not, time flies by. The older I grow, the faster it flies. My marriage seemed to speed up time. And then came Casey. Now I have a hard time shifting out of fifth gear long enough to enjoy the company.

2007, like the year before it, brought a lot of change, and it also helped us settle into some new routines. For me, 2007 was all about finishing law school. Of course, there were other big events in 2007, besides law school graduation. Like sitting for the bar exam. Passing the bar. Saying good bye to my work family, where I'd found myself comfortably cozied into my cubicle for about 5 1/2 years. Starting a new job. Traveling to Ohio to visit with extended family and to observe one my closest friend's weddings. Traveling to North Carolina to visit with another dear, dear friend and to visit with my parents. Testing out pretty much all the public transportation San Diego has to offer. Playing at Disneyland. Celebrating my eighth wedding anniversary, joining friends in trips to Las Vegas, and making cakes for my kids' 4th and 2nd birthdays. And who could forget the Fire Storm, which sent us packing-- literally, albeit temporarily.

2007 was a reprieve from the catastrophic-type illnesses that had seemed to plague our extended family during the preceding three years. It was a year of final chapters and of new beginnings. In 2007 Marcie left Grandma S.'s exceptional care for the world of preschool. We said good bye to our faithful Honda Accord in exchange for a 2007 Odyssey. Casey switched sports from soccer to baseball and swimming, at least for a while.

In 2007, we welcomed a new nephew, a new brother-in-law-to-be, and learned we'll be adding a seventh nephew (or niece-- we don't have any of those yet) to our family.

So we have much to look forward to in 2008. Though we're in for a long wait to China for B.S. #3, we've tentatively decided to pursue an adoption in the interim, probably from Ethiopia. We plan to begin that process in 2008. Casey will start kindergarten this fall (!), and my sister Megan, my sister in law Tiffany, and my best friend Ann are all getting married in 2008. In 2008 we will finish landscaping our back yard. We will visit Disneyland (again). We'll celebrate our ninth wedding anniversary, the 35th year of our lives, and we'll dance a happy dance as our children turn 5 and 3.

In 2008 we will become experts at Rock Band, we'll teach Casey to ride his bike without training wheels, and we'll squeal in delight as Marcie become officially toilet-trained. In 2008, we will laugh and love and sing and dance. We will appreciate all that we have, and all that we are. We will try to, as Emily put it in Thornton Wilder's Our Town, appreciate "every, every minute" while we live it.

I'm not naive to think 2008 will be without its disappointments and pitfalls. But it's only January 2nd. So let's start off this year with the "glass half full" mentality, shall we? No resolutions, except to try to appreciate life and all that it offers . . .

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I'm Featured!

Check me out! I was interviewed at Connecting Moms about adoption. You can read my interview here. I was surprised by the invitation. After all, I'm nothing special. But it's still awfully flattering to read my interview their site!

Ringing in the New Year- Sort Of

This year we decided to host an east coast New Year's Eve party. Well, party might be a bit strong of a word. And host probably isn't exactly accurate. But the east coast part is dead-on.

We attempted to make New Year's Eve plans over a month ago, but faltered in our efforts, completely lost track of time, and then just gave up. I'm sure Jason's parents would have been happy to have the kids sleep over to give us the freedom to do whatever we wanted, but I just didn't feel like being without the kids. I like having them at home asleep. In the rooms next to me, of course.

So on the day before Christmas, when we went to meet my brother Bryan, his wife Tram, and their kids Joey and Ethan for a Red Robin meal, I mentioned that we both had to work, but we'd love to have them over to do New Year's Eve-- east coast style, that is. And luckily they were free, too. (I sense a pattern here-- parents with young children without plans out for New Year's Eve. . . )

I wanted to order in Chinese food, but we couldn't think of any good take-out Chinese in the area. So Bryan and I headed off for take-out Vietnamese food nearby. Unfortunately, there was some sort of language barrier or miscommunication (that's what we get for sending the two Whiteys to get the food instead of the woman who actually speaks Vietnamese!). Instead of three meals, we ended up with two (presumably the gentleman who took our order shook his head in wonder about why the two of us would want four meals). And we didn't realize it until we were packaged back in the car, with Marcie buckled in the back seat (she insisted on joining us). So we stopped at Wendy's on the way home for burgers and fries for me and Bryan.


It was good company, though. The kids ate while Bryan and I were picking up food. A decadent meal of fish sticks, chicken nuggets, shrimp wantons, and pizza rolls. Oh, and the force-fed vegetables and fruits, of course. Casey and Joey played while we ate, and Ethan rocked in his portable swing and eyeballed us the whole time (those portable swings are super-cool!).


After dinner, we commenced with the evening's entertainment and dessert. For the kids, that meant hot chocolate with marshmallows (yum!). (Side note-- if you have a lactose-intolerant child, just heat up half a cup or so of soy milk for 45 seconds in the microwave, add a couple squirts of reduced sugar Hershey's syrup, toss in a hand full of miniature marshmallows and stir-- and voila!-- hot chocolate!) For the grown-ups, that meant chocolate chip muffins (which actually came around 9pm) and several rounds of Rock Band, in which Jason consistently scores 100% in the singing. He got it for Christmas, and we've had a blast rocking out around here since. (Notice Ethan in the swing in the background-- no matter how loud the rock group got or the screaming preschoolers running in circles around Bryan and Tram were, Ethan just slept away. Those portable swings totally rock!)


The picture that stole the evening was of the three older ones hanging out in the Dora Hideaway, clinging for dear life in fear that the Tickle Monster (that would be me) would roar right in after them:




And, at about 6 minutes until 9pm, we shut down the live band, channel surfed our way to CNBC, which was showing Carson Daly's New Year's Eve, grabbed glasses of champagne and sparkling wine compliments of Bryan and Tram, and prepared to count down as the ball dropped. The kids prepared with their half-filled plastic cups of water, as they walked around the family room, clinking cups and shouting, "CHEERS!" And we taste-tested the two beverage options as we waited for the last 10 seconds of 2007 in New York to arrive.

Then, as the ball dropped, we all counted down from 10 together, hooted out a Happy New Year, heartily "cheersed" each other, and drank down our respective drinks, hugging and kissing each other along the way. And I know we weren't the only ones celebrating the east coast's new year at 9pm because we could hear the clanging of pots and pans in the neighborhood nearby.

Exhausted, our kids gave final farewells to their cousins and their aunt and uncle before falling into bed. And Marcie, enamored of Ethan the entire evening was delighted to finally get a chance to hug and hold him. We, too, were exhausted. But we still rocked a little to Jason's Christmas gift Rock Band before we fell into bed ourselves. I think I may have been technically still awake at midnight here in California, but it was much more fun to celebrate the start of a New Year as an entire family. And who knows, maybe next year I'll actually plan a real event. But probably not. Impromptu gatherings with loved ones always make for the best memories.