Monday, July 27, 2009


Casey has had Thomas trains on his walls since he was two. I've thought about removing them (they're those fantastic peel and stick wall stickers), but I was never sure what to replace them with because his interests, since trains, has changed often and quickly. With Marcie, going with the Hello Kitty motif was a pretty easy decision (the other option was Dora- who I have no problem with but, like I said, Hello Kitty was a pretty easy choice). But with Casey-- well, it's just hard to keep up with all the super heroes and action starts. And whatever else he's into. One week it's Mario Brothers. The next it's Bakugons. And then Indiana Jones. You get the point.

So here's what we (finally) came up with:

The entry to the room

Above the dresser

In the corner

over the bed (you can see a little Thomas on the valance). Further down the same wall is Spider Man and Transformers.

I mentioned in the last post that I thought the walls were too busy. The Transformers freak me out a little. But he loves it. He loves his super-hero, action-packed walls. And they aren't permanent, so it's easy to remove (and replace) them.

Please ignore all the clutter in the photos. It's embarrassing, but, well, who am I kidding? I'm a pile-maker, a packrat-- a clutter bug. It's not good. I'm working on it. And hoping it's a habit my kids don't pick up.
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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Marcie's New Look

Today I'm trying something new.
I'm going to see if I can upload photos and text to the blog from my gmail account.
Last week, Casey redecorated his room (more coming on this soon).  He didn't want to share any of his wall stickers, but he had too many for his own room (IMHO; he'd disagree I'm sure), so eventually he relented and agreed to share.  As long as he could help her decorate.
Their efforts turned the pretty, serene Hello Kitty motif that's been occupying Marcie's walls for a few months into something--- well, less pretty and serene (IMHO; they'd disagree I'm sure).
Hopefully the pictures show up and you'll see what I'm talking about.
The third photo is one of my favorite pieces of art. We really should get it framed (and heck, maybe I will with the Michael's 60% off sale next week).  It's a finger-painting she did last year in preschool.  When the teacher asked her what Marcie painted, Marcie answered truthfully.  And, to her credit, the teacher wrote down exactly what Marcie said:  "I painted nothing."  Cracks me up every time I see it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


This summer, instead of soccer or baseball or basketball or gymnastics or whatever-else-the-kids-might-be-interested-in, we made an executive decision. This summer they would learn to swim.

We both grew up in homes with swimming pools. I've been a pretty strong swimmer since the summer I was five. That summer, we had moved into a new home in San Diego and joined the local pool. (Don't be too impressed- it wasn't like a country club pool or anything. No restaurant or beverage service. It was just a pool you could join for the season.) My older brother, who was 8, dared me to walk all the way to the number 3 painted on the side of the pool, while in the water. I didn't know it meant 3 feet. I didn't know I wasn't 3 feet tall yet. Or if I was, I barely was-- because to "walk" that deep meant to go under the water. Which I did.

And then I panicked.

And then the lifeguard jumped in an pulled me out.

I remember sitting on a lounge chair, with a towel covering my head and face afterward. My mom had her arm around me. I was embarrassed. I couldn't believe I'd just had a lifeguard pull me out of the pool. Even at 5 I knew that was embarrassing. So I made my mom promise to get me swim lessons. Which, of course, she did. And before the end of the summer, I was swimming.

So I just assumed that's how it worked with all kids.

Well, we all know that assuming isn't wise.

Casey has been in swim lessons since he was 6 or 7 months old. I'm not exaggerating. Not even a little. But he still wasn't swimming. AND he was terrified of the pool that went deeper than 3 feet. AND he was terrified of swim lessons. Last year, he worked himself into a fever any time he knew he had lessons. Literally. We went to the doctor because we couldn't figure out why or how he spiked a fever only on Tuesdays and Thursdays after nap at school.

So we decided to go somewhere new this time. And indoor pool. 90 degree water. Near our house. Lessons without parents. Twice a week. Kids in groups of three. When we signed up, they asked where we'd had lessons. We listed all the places: city pool, local Y, local gym, fancy pants swim school where everyone else's kids learn to swim very young. So the list went. They instructor's eyes grew (just a tiny bit) wide. He wanted to know what went wrong.

It wasn't the schools though (except the Y- those guys once commented that they were going to just chuck the kids in the deep end, and that was the end of it for Casey. He didn't understand- or care- that they were kidding). It was the incidents. The first time, Casey fell in the pool at a party. The second time, he was pushed in. Ever since, at pool parties, Casey prefers to hang out in the "little pool." You might know it as the spa.

Anyway, long story short, Casey is swimming. For real.
He's not comfortable doing it without an adult right next to him.
He still "panic" swims by flailing his arms a bit.
He tends to gasp for air instead of breathing.
But, by George, he really is swimming. He can swim in circles. He can jump in and swim. He can swim to the bottom of the 3 foot section and find a ring.

They told us not to expect miracles in this first, 6-week session. But it's only been 4 weeks so far, and he has amazed us all.

Now if we could just get Marcie to stop calling out for me when she should be swimming, we'd be all set.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Congratulations to our dear friends, or What Does It Feel Like to Adopt a Child?

We have very good friends who have been waiting a while for their daughter from China. They turned in their paperwork a little over two years ago, and were delighted to receive a referral in late June (almost exactly 3 years after we learned about Marcie!).

They leave on Friday for China. With their four-year-old son. Our kids are, admittedly, a little jealous. They'll get to go to China, too. Just not this summer.

In the meantime, we've been reveling in the excitement of Lila's referral and pending arrival. Watching my friend Grace go through the experience has reminded me a little of what it was like, and it got me ruminating the other day about how foreign the concept of a sudden "birth" in the family must seem to some people. Here's what I came up with:

I don't know what it feels like, emotionally, to give birth. Do new moms feel an overwhelming love for this child? Or does the love slowly develop over the course of the pregnancy, and you love him before you meet him? Are you stunned and overwhelmed, and you know that you have great things in store together, and so you love him at birth, in anticipation of really getting to know him?

I don't know that you can define the moment you first love your child. Really love him. And I don't you have to give birth to love a child at the moment he is born. Otherwise, we would say that fathers don't love their children from birth. But we know they do- and probably even before that.

And so I think it is with adoption. You don't really have the months of living with becoming a parent. Yes, you wait a long, long time. There is a lot of paperwork. And even after you see the pictures and learn about your child's daily routine, you still must wait to meet her. Some adoptive parents say they love their child the moment they see her. Maybe that's true. But I don't think it has to be that way. And I don't think it's that way for a lot of people. I remember the day after we met our girls in China. I was sitting in the bank waiting to give our orphanage donation. Only two mothers were there (all the rest were dads). The other woman was a single mom, in China alone with her new daughter. I could see the look on her face, the almost-vacant stare of total fear in her eyes. So I started talking to her. (I'm paraphrasing below, of course- it was several years ago, now.)

"There's no right way to do this, you know," I told her. "Love doesn't have to be an immediate, intense, all-consuming feeling. Sometimes it comes slowly."

She looked at me, a little startled. And I knew it wasn't my business, but I couldn't help myself. "When we adopted our son, the adoption counselors told us we might not love him right away, but that we had to go through the motions, that the love would come. It's not that you don't love them right away, though. I think you're just in shock at first."

There was a long silence, and then she finally spoke. "I feel terrible," she admitted. "I have this beautiful daughter, who I've been waiting for for so long. But all I can think about is my cats. It sounds awful. But I miss them."

It's weird how we cope with these sorts of events. I knew Marcie was meant to be mine from the moment I saw her picture. But once I got her and held her in my arms, I immediately missed Casey more than anything in the world. I knew he was safe at home, and in my head I felt like I should be the happiest woman on earth. But a part of me was in shock. With Casey, who was already 3 1/2 by then, I knew what to expect, even if it wasn't always easy to parent him-- and I loved him. But Marcie was an introduction to the total unknown. And as ready as I was, and as happy as I was, I was still a little freaked out.

Love comes in all forms. Sometimes it's immediate and overwhelming. Sometimes it sneaks up on you, suddenly. And sometimes it takes a while to grow. But the important thing is that you're open to it, and that the love endures. And that we acknowledge that whatever kind of love we feel for our children, it's okay.

That's what becoming an adoptive parent means. It's probably what being a parent means, generally, too. There's just, ironically, less time to emotionally prepare for this child who is yours already and soon joining your family. Less time to grow into it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I have a lot to say lately. Just haven't felt like getting online to say it.
But today I. Am. Furious.

Last night my local television news station (which I pretty much never watch and probably never again will) reported on the deal reached in the ongoing California budget talks. The reporters explained that a deal had been reached. That no taxes had been raised.

I quietly thought about what that really means. I thought about the tax this budget crisis is charging my kids. Their future. Our future.

Then the reporter went on. There would be borrowing from local governments. There would be cuts in social services. But education would be spared. I was surprised. Pleasantly so. I called my sister-in-law this morning and told her what I'd heard. She's one of the pink-slipped teachers, waiting to learn if she'll be re-hired for the fall. This was good news for her. I thought.

Then I saw this on NPR:

Although the cuts will prove painful, Schwarzenegger tried to put the best face
on the cuts, saying the money taken from education "will get fully refunded" and
that the budget would prove "more efficient" as a result of the tightening.

Huh? Money. taken. from. education.
Again? (You see, I have a long memory when it comes to stealing money from kids-- this isn't the Governor's first time "borrowing" from education.)

And then the truth (also from NPR):
The agreement
calls for no new taxes and $15 billion in cuts, with the remainder of the
shortfall to be closed by borrowing from local governments and one-time
accounting measures. Education took the biggest hit, with $6 billion in cuts to
K-12 schools — money state officials have promised to reimburse when the state's
fiscal health recovers. Another $2.8 billion will be cut from state colleges and

Call it what you will. We have put our kids at risk. Again. In the name of not raising taxes. But it's all semantics. You say a $6 billion cut to public schools is a spending cut. I call it a tax on education. I call it increased class sizes. I call it fewer classroom days. I call it less money for special education and general education. I call it less opportunity for growth and enrichment. I call it a tax on children.

See Dick. See Jane.

I had this t-shirt in high school. It read:

See Dick drink.
See Dick drive.
See Jane die.
Don't be a Dick.

I was reminded of it the last night. Tuesdays are bike day at school. The kids at Casey's summer program can bring their bikes and ride them around. There is, as you might imagine, a whole saga around getting Casey the right bike so he could share this experience (which resulted in us buying Casey a new bike because the one he got for Christmas is just too much bike and also resulted in us buying Marcie a new bike to be fair). He was thrilled to bring it to school last week. Thrilled.

We'd gone to the park and practiced. And even though it still has training wheels, Casey had been apprehensive. So we just figured one step at a time. I'd been scoping it out. Lots of kids still had training wheels at school.

Then, this week, the night before bike-riding day, Casey announced that he just didn't want to bring his bike. I told him I'd bring it and leave it, just in case he changed his mind. "No, thanks, Mom," he said. "C_____ said, 'Your bike has four wheels last week and laughed at me.'"

"Well, your bike does have four wheels, Casey," I said. "But that's okay, you know. What do you think you could say to C____ if he tries to make fun of you tomorrow?" (This strategy does not work so well with a 6-year old lamenting the teasing of a fellow-six or seven year old. I know. But I think it's good to go through the motions of attempting to use these problem-solving skills so that when he can negotiate these situations on his own, he has the tools to.) Casey came up with nothing.

Jason, sitting at the table with us, says, "I know what to tell him, Casey. Tell him he's being a Dick. Tell him: 'Don't be a dick, C____." I almost choked with laughter when he said it. But I wasn't quite sure he was kidding.

So I said, "Nah. Just tell him four wheels is better than four eyes." Gosh, I crack myself up. I don't even know if C____ wears glasses. And since Jason and I both have had laser eye surgery, we're not really ones to talk.

Of course, we didn't mean it. Of course, we told Casey he can't call anyone at school a dick. (And he doesn't even know what it means, thankfully.) Of course we told Casey that the word was not a nice word and that he would get in trouble if he used it at school. Of course we told Casey that he should tell C_____ to mind his own business-- and we pumped up Casey by telling him:
  1. race cars have four wheels
  2. monster trucks have four wheels
  3. when he's ready to ride his bike on two wheels, we will be there to help him

He was in good spirits when he left for school this morning, with his bike. He put on his helmet and rode it onto campus. I can't wait to hear how his day went. . .