Saturday, April 25, 2009


I heard about Madeline Spohr on my friend Danielle's blog. It was hard to read about Madeline. She had just passed away. And she was a toddler. A baby, really.

She was born premature. And I found her blog just about the same time my close friend Ann was placed on bed rest. At 30-ish weeks. With her first child. The bed rest was at home at first. And it was sort of coincidental that I learned of her plight as it happened because we were supposed to have lunch together that day. And then the bed rest happened, so lunch was canceled. Then, at 32 weeks they sent Ann to the hospital. Where she was to stay until the arrival of her child. The life within her kicking and wiggling. Growing. But then the baby couldn't wait. He had to retreat from the safety of her womb into this big, cold world. His arrival was welcomed by Ann's large, extended family-- many of whom waited around in the hospital, hoping for a glimpse of this new life as he was wheeled through hospital hallways into the ICU. He was born breathing on his own. He is gaining weight. He is doing well. And so is she. And I'm glad. Especially after reading about Madeline.

I read about Madeline before Cole's arrival. That is his name -- Ann's baby's name. And just before he took his first breath, Madeline took her last one. And it broke her mother's heart. It touched the hearts of many. Made us stop breathing. At least momentarily. And still her mother blogs. If you have the heart for it, you can follow the story here:

Today, as I read Heather's words, the tears fell from my eyes.
It was a reminder of how precious life is.
How delicate a balance we try to live.
It was a reminder of what really matters.
A reminder of how lucky I am.
Each day I am lucky. Casey and Marcie make it so.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The S.S. Multicultural

So I initially intended to post about how irritating I find "multicultural faires" to be.
In my (admittedly) limited experience, multicultural "events" are usually planned and organized by non-"multicultural" people (read: Whiteys, like me).

I'm all for exposing kids to other countries around the world. To their foods, their music, their art and history, their language-- the whole shebang. Really, what harm can come from teaching others about the world around us? And, as we interact more and more with people who were born and raised in cultures different from our own, it helps to understand-- at least academically-- what their beliefs, attitudes, approaches are, generally speaking.

But a "multicultural faire" just sounds so contrived to me. Because it's usually a bunch of white people who have book-studied whatever country they are teaching about. The intentions are good. But how meaningful can the experience really be?

So that's what I was going to write about. But tonight we went to the one at Casey's school. Because Casey asked to go. Because the kindergartners were performing. And I have to admit, it was really well-coordinated and well-run. There was food and activities, artwork and photos. There was music and dance. And although Casey's school's minority population really is, well, in the minority (by far!), it was clear from this evening that many of the "booths" and areas were run by people who really probably do know something about the "culture" they were presenting. So the Afghanistan area had been organized and was being hosted by an Afghan family. Same with the booth about the Philippines. And the booth from Mexico. I don't really know about many of the European booths-- I suspect they were sponsored by families with origins from those countries. But that's better than me hosting, say, a booth on Ethiopia (and there was one- I'm not sure if the family was Ethiopian or not).

So I thought it was cute. And if my only real gripe is that it's called "multicultural" night instead of "Countries of the World" night (or some other equally generic term), I must be looking for something to complain about, right?

Oh-- and the singing (and signing) of "It's a Small World" was pretty cute.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Marcie Moo and the Parent-Teacher Conference

It is the curse of the second child.
You know all about it if you were a second child. Or a third or fourth kid.
And you swear you won't be like that when you're a parent.
But it's inevitable.

Everyone oooohs and aaaaahs over the first born.
You could probably fill an entire closet with shoe boxes filled with photos of your first child.
Every appointment is an event.

The next child is lucky if you remember to snap photos of her on her birthday and holidays. Now shoe boxes. And forget about a baby book-- who has time? (Though, to my credit, Marcie's book is actually more complete than Casey's.)

When Casey was in the three-year-old class, Jason and I both carefully scheduled the parent-teacher conference into our calendars. Even last year, when Marcie was 2, it was a big production getting there on time. This morning, though, it was just me. I flew through the door at the stroke of 10:00am and met with Mrs. Castillo (who we actually graduated from high school with!).

I asked basic questions-- does she clean up after herself? Is she polite? Does she follow directions?

Then I turned to my concerns-- Marcie doesn't know her letters. "Did you know that?" I inquired. And then she laughed.
"Marcie is working you," she confided.

So it turns out Marcie does know her letters. She can point to them on the wall, out of order. If she wants to. She won't do it if she doesn't feel like it. And she won't do it for substitute teachers.

And that's not all. She manipulates other situations, too. For instance, she and another student in the class race to pull the names off the "class helper wall" and organize them for the teacher. But it turns out that she was just helping so she could make sure her name was near the top of the stack so she could be selected first to pick what helper job she wants. She likes helping with the calendar or telling about the weather.

She's too smart for her own good.

And she's grown up so much. In October when I went to the class party, she screamed and cried and carried on when I left. Today, I popped in for 5 minutes and she gave me a hug and a kiss good-bye before she climbed up on her teacher's lap for story time.

Of course, some of it is just that she loves her school and her friends and her teachers.
In fact, they even have a nickname for her at school-- Marcie Moo.

I thought this was really cute at first. At home, we call her Mimi. So why not Marcie Moo?
But then I started to think about it more-- maybe over-think it.
Marcie. Moo.
Why not Marcie Mouse? Why Marcie Moo?
I like the alliteration and all, but "moo?" Really? Does it have to be a cow noise?
She doesn't seem bothered by it. And it's preschool. So I haven't said anything about it. But it's not just a couple people-- it's pretty much every adult at the school. And some of the kids.

Better to have an endearing nick name, even if it is a large bovine farm animal than to be ignored I suppose.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Still here . . .

See? It hasn't even been two weeks, and I'm blogging already.
Not that I have very much to tell.

I think my sister's comment to me this weekend sums it all up:
Boy, I sure don't want to be around when she is a teenager.

Case in point-- Saturday.
Saturday afternoon my sister and brother-in-law and my dad, who were all in town, headed up to Temecula for a wedding. Jason headed to a friend's house to watch UFC. Casey, who was a weepy, whiny mess, fell asleep around 6:30 p.m. And that left me and Marcie. I was working, and she was playing on the floor by me. She dumped out a box of Uno cards and spread them all around. I had ordered in pizza, and when it arrived, Marcie wanted to eat (no surprise there). Until I told her she had to pick up the cards first. She complained that it was too hard and she couldn't do it. And I told her that she wouldn't get anything else to eat until she cleaned up the cards.

At first, I left the room-- but I could hear her calling out to me:
I hate you.
You're a mean person.
You're a bad mommy.
I don't love you. I just love Dad.

And then I told her time was up and she could go to bed if she wanted, and I set a timer.
After ten minutes, she still hadn't cleaned up the cards. So I walked her to her bedroom, where I told her she could stay. She said she just didn't want dinner. And so I explained that she didn't have to eat-- but she wouldn't get any breakfast until she had picked up the cards.

She spent the next 58 minutes in her bedroom. Crying. Screaming. Carrying on.
Then she finally came back out to the family room and announced she was ready to clean up.
And she did.

Talk about stubborn.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Live Blogging- Adopt-a-family & other pet peeves

So I'm watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition right now. It's the family from Tallahassee, Florida, which adopted 6 children from China using CCAI, our agency. During the home tour, they even zoomed in on the CCAI bumper stickers Made in China, Loved in the USA.

I'm taking this moment, while watching TV, to share one of my adoption-parenting pet peeves. Okay, three of them.

First, I have to say that I love our agency. I would not use another China agency because I think CCAI is that fantastic. They are forthcoming. They are ethical. They do not try to rob you blind in crazy-insane adoption-related fees. They will hold your hand if you need hand-holding. The owners understand adoption first-hand. They have many programs to work with kids post-adoption-- both because coming to terms with being adopted is sometimes difficult for people and because being Chinese matters, and the agency gets it. Generally, I think CCAI just gets it.

But those bumper stickers-- they irritate me. I think the whole "Made in China" thing is cute. Casey and Marcie often dance around and tell us that Marcie came from China and Casey came from Ohio. But the extra phrase-- "loved in the U.S."-- implies that the kid was not also loved in China. I can't believe our agency really thinks that. In my view, adoption from China is not a product of the lovelessness of the Chinese people frequently forced to leave their children with strangers. I believe that Marcie birthfamily, wherever they are, worry about her. Wonder what ended up happening. Pray and hope that she found happiness wherever she landed. I also know that Marcie was loved in the orphanage. I have no doubt that those nannies really did care about her and love her. I'm not suggesting it can supplant a parent's love. But it's really important to me that both my kids know how wanted and loved they were before they found their ways into our lives and our arms. That's the thing about adoption.

And this brings me to the second pet peeve. What is up with that attitude that "these people have done a wonderful thing by adopting. . ."? I mean, of course I think adoption is wonderful. And the mom on the show really did try to put off Ty and the other designers, who kind of suggested the kids should be grateful to find a family here in the U.S., by saying something like "Oh no-- they don't owe us anything!" Well that's definitely how I feel. I have written about this before. I did not adopt my children to "save" them, to give them a "better" life, or because I wanted to do something good for the world. My choice to adopt was totally and completely selfish. I chose adoption because I wanted children. And this was how we could build our family. To suggest adoption is some sort of noble action is to suggest that kids who are adopted are somehow lesser--or less-deserving of family. We don't say, "Oh, your kids are so lucky you gave birth to them. If you didn't, they wouldn't exist. I sure hope they let you know how grateful they are to be alive and to have you take care of them." Of course we don't-- because we expect parents to take care of their children. Why isn't it the same with adoption?

And finally, my third pet peeve. Yes, yes. I'm probably ridiculously overly sensitive about these things. Blah Blah. It doesn't mean I'm wrong. I listened on the show when the builder was talking about how impressed they were by the family for "all they've given" (because they chose to adopt-- see above on how I feel about this). But then he said something else that irks me. He said something like, "And that's why we've decided to adopt this family for the week."

Um. Yeah. That's not what adoption is. The whole point of adoption is that it is permanent. You do not adopt a child for a week. Or a month. Or a year-- or even five years. And when we have "adopt a family" programs at Christmas, or "adopt a family" on Extreme Makeover, it kind of misses the point of what adoption means. And I think it waters it down. When we talk about temporary "adoptions," we are not making a long term, permanent commitment. It's like-- Hey, it will be fun to take care of these people and help them out, and then when we run out of money or get tired of it, we can just move on. But that's the opposite of what adoption is-- or should be. Adoption is the notion that no matter what, this is a permanent family. If the money runs out, if luck changes, if health begins to fail-- no matter what-- you will be there. Because that's what family means.

Don't get me wrong-- I love the idea of lending a hand, in whatever way you can, to people who need help. I just don't think we should call it an adoption. WORDS. MATTER.

Phew. And that concludes my rant for today.

I finished watching the show. Despite my aforementioned irritations, I thought the show generally handled adoption responsibly, highlighting the families adoption has touched, and treating it-- as it should have been-- as just a piece of the much larger puzzle that makes up the variety of ways people choose to build their families.

Happy Easter!

Who are these masked super heroes?

We'll never tell!

But we will reveal a bit about our Easter. . .

Our morning began with a visit to the toy room, where the Easter Bunny has snacked on carrots and milk left out the night before-- and filled Easter baskets with costumes, pajamas, t-shirts and one package of Skittles and MnMs each. The kids squealed with delight and quickly changed into their super identities while I made some banana muffins, which they scoffed down hurriedly when I pulled them out of the oven.

After changing in to special Sunday clothes, we raced off to church, where we slid in just in time to grab a few of the last seats in the parish hall. The music was amazing. People were smiley and friendly (Marcie kept pointing out that we were surrounded by strangers and she is not supposed to talk to strangers).

Then home again for some rib-eye roast. I whipped up a delicious macaroni and cheese, and just as we finished getting it all ready, Bryan and Tram and cousins Joey and Ethan arrived. We hid some eggs (some with Starburst, some with Skittles, some with dark chocolate MnMs and some with money!). We snapped a few photos of the hunt. Then we sat around, snacking on chips and dips and cheese and crackers and then ate in shifts. Shift one for the kids. Shift two for the grown-ups. As we were finishing, Tiffany and Bobby arrived, followed shortly thereafter by Grandma and Grandpa.

Though the weather report said the high today would be 69 and the sun wouldn't be able to peek through the clouds, we had mid-70s weather with lots of sunshine. So we sat on the back patio while the kids played in the grass, and we all played Uno Attack-- prison style. We named it this because of the ridiculously punitive rules we decided to enforce. The game went on for more than an hour! We stopped a few times along the way for snacks or drinks, or a slice of the traditional bunny cake. And then it was time for our family to go. . .

It was a beautiful day outside-- and we felt very lucky to share this important day with our family.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Quick Review

Too much time has passed here.

I'm not sure why I've felt so unmotivated to blog this year. It's not like I spend more time on the computer than I used to. It's not like the kids don't say funny things and inspire us all the time. I guess I've just settled in.

I've been out of law school for almost two years (!) now. My life as a student feels forever ago-- a distant memory. For the kids, too. I don't think they really remember that I wasn't around much. And I think that's probably a good thing.

Our routines have settled in, too. I still do mornings with the kids. And Jason does the evenings. But now I have more regular contact with the things that matter to them. I know all their teachers. I know who their "best friends" are. I know the other parents in their classes. Maybe it's not all that different than before-- but I definitely feel less disconnected, less frazzled, and at least a little less guilty.

I used to feel like I needed to be at every show, at every program, at every field trip, at every event. Jason never seemed to feel that way and I didn't get it. But now that I don't feel that way, I think I understand. I was compensating for feeling like I was never around. I still do it a little bit. But I missed the spring parade at Marcie's school for the first time in three years and I didn't blink an eye.

The kids are growing leaps and bounds. Literally. I just noticed yesterday that some of Casey's pants-- purchased in September and October-- now seem a little highwaterish. Kohl's is having a great sale this weekend, so I snatched up some clothes in the next size up. Marcie, too, is growing fast-- she is the size of an average 4 1/2 year old (even though she's not quite 3 1/2). I have to remind myself all the time that she is only 3-- because she is so verbal and can follow multi-step directions so well.

And even though my schedule is unquestionably more sane than it used to be, my sickliness doesn't seem to have changed at all. Here we are, in the middle of April, and I've already survived five colds. Kindergarten has been hard on me.

But we are looking forward to warmer weather around these parts. We've planned a camping trip, a trip to Ohio to visit Casey's birthfamily (we're really looking forward to this!), time to visit with our family's newest arrival (coming on May 5th- a new cousin for the kids!), time with our parents and our siblings, and just getting out into the sunshine. So we should have adventures to share.

In the mean time, here's what we've been up to.

Casey was selected VIP of his class in late February (it may have been early March). This meant he got to bring Snuggles, the class teddy bear, home for the weekend. We had to track how we spent our weekend with Snuggles (this bear sure has traveled far and wide-- we got to read all his old adventures, too). Here's a collage:

Clockwise from the top left: Casey and Snuggles cozied up asleep; Casey, Marcie, and Snuggles having a picnic on the backyard (turns out Snuggles likes sammies from Quiznos, just like Casey and Marcie do!); Casey and Snuggles playing Indiana Jones on the wii; Casey and Snuggles looking at the giraffes at the Wild Animal Park on the Journey into Africa bus tour; Casey and Snuggles playing Chutes and Ladders (with me); Casey, Snuggles, and Marcie (and her baby doll) in the backseat of my car as we ran errands.

The kids have discovered fort-building. They mainly do this when they pretend to play "cats." (This is basically playing "house," except the family is all different cats and instead of talking they "Meow" at each other.)

Even Ethan, their cousin, crawled into the fort and got in on the action. Oh-- and as you can see, they are very much into play superheroes, too.

And in February we got to see their cousin Tyler, who was visiting from Seattle for the weekend. Yes, his eyes are always that wide. What a cutie.