Friday, December 30, 2005

The Chinese Hospital Story

Traveling to China for the sole purpose of becoming first time parents proved for us, to be the single most awe inspiring event of our lives.  We visited three Chinese cities in 15 days on our quest to meet our first daughter Ava, born in Yueyang, Hunan.  As you read this story enjoy the comforts of your local Minute Clinic, an American $15 co-pay and instant health gratification when faced with a minor health ailment.

Settting the Scene

It is September 2002, Changsha, Hunan China.  The Main Muffin Man (my comfort loving and sometimes intense husband) and I have very recently become the proud albeit scared to death parents of one high maintenance little girl. She is the end result in a long and arduous journey to parenthood.  I'd eat caterpillar fungus to please her. It is exactly one day after meeting my new 8 month old and I am only requiring an occasional Tylenol PM and Eastern style deep breathing techniques to survive the first few days of parenthood and a wicked case of jet lag.

I settle in to our Five Star Hong Hong style hotel room listening to my new baby scream bloody murder  because she does not want to lie down and go to sleep. The Muffin Man valiantly paces with her on his shoulder in an attempt to lull her to sleep until the carpet in our room is almost threadbare.

All Is Not Well In The Land of Nod

Two am arrives. I wake. Baby is sleeping, Muffin Man is snoring. I'm having a dream that I am at the beach and there is sand in my eyes. Wait, there really is sand in my eyes. They are sticky. Really sticky. I slowly make my way to the bathroom, careful to tiptoe as not to wake anyone. I flip the light switch and EEEKK, I see red eyes. It looks like a flaming case of pink eye, it is it is not. I am not sick in China and I will not get pink eye because it is the ONE medicine that I did not bring in the 87 lb. suitcase. I go back to bed and will myself though psychic powers to be completely healthy by seven am.

It is seven am.  The Main Muffin Man skips the am kiss and looks me in the eye and says, "Wow, you look horrible." Is that????? "Yes dear, it appears that I have contracted a vigilant and painful case of conjunctivitis from these 5 star hotel sheets. Take the baby to breakfast and I will quickly visit the hotel doctor."

Chinese Medicine Light

My dear but brash talking husband advises me to skip the doc in the box and head to the hospital. "For pink eye?"I ask.  Please...drama boy.  I am the one who has been reading incessantly for 19 months about China. Everyone knows you don't go to a Chinese hospital unless...well you absolutely have to.

I head to the hotel clinic. The Dr. looks at me and only flinches only a little.  She grabs her Purell bottle and quickly prescribes an eyedrop. It looks a little like the bottle I've had in the States, but the writing is Mandarin so who can be sure? Cost $.50. I obsessively squirt the drops in my eyes as directed and go about our day.

Drama Boy Was Right

Unfortunately, sometimes you get what you pay for in this world. My conjunctivitis begins to worsen.  Despite being uber careful, my husband wakes up with it the next morning. He is shall we say, less than pleased. We are scared to death we will give it to the baby.  A panicked call to my nurse practitioner sister in law back in Arizona ensues. She gives me the reality check about giving it to Ava. Perrin, she says, "This child has been living in a Chinese orphanage for 8 months, imagine what she's been exposed to.") What about our travel mates, I ask? We figure there is no quicker way to lose a new friend than sharing a communicable disease. The Muffin Man begs me to call the guide and ask to go to the hospital for better drugs. I refuse. "Buck up and borrow my meds." I tell him. Americans don't go to Chinese hospitals unless they need a leg amputated.

The next morning I sheepishly call our guide. My eyes are starting to swell shut. I am worried that the welt over my cheek will do something gross, like burst. Our guide Tina, says uuhhh, "You really want to go to the hospital?" I tell her,  "No Tina, not my first choice, really the univeristy tour sounds more interesting but my face is swelling and my dear husband is feeling snarkier than normal."

My head starts to feel funny as I visit our bathroom. I now have huge welts that are threatening to swell and close my left eye. My forehead is squishy with water retention. I think a lymph node that is supposed to be in my neck had floated to ear level. The Muffin Man has a scared look on his face, he begs me call a cab headed for the hospital, guide or no guide.

Changsha City Hospital, Chinese Medicine Heavy

I concede, and this begins our trip to a Chinese hospital. It turns out our guide is secretly pregnant and has been instructed...Don't Visit A Chinese Hospital.

Pregnant guide sends Novice guide to complete the task. She seems pensive in the hotel lobby but nonetheless willing. I have Ava in my arms. She looks at me and says, "Baby must stay here, no go."  "I've had this kid about 30 hours and you want me to leave her with someone I met at O'Hare airport five days ago?" I ask.

Novice Guide: Yes.
Me: Ok. (I quickly call a travel mate, who is most accomodating.)

We hop in a cab. Because we are riding at about 90 miles an hour though HEAVY city traffic I begin to wonder if I will die in the cab. I wonder if the internet last will and testament we wrote will hold up in court back in America. Will my mother really raise a Chinese baby that I only knew for 30 hours?

The cab dumps us off at a large dirty white building, we have to cross 4 lanes of traffic to get to the building. I am now one-eyed...but I've been good at Frogger since 1984.

Novice guide ushers us into the building which is semi-open aired. I think that this is so strange, what do they do when it rains? Do patients have to wait in the rain to be treated at the hospital? We hop on a stainless steel huge elevator. She pushes the number 9, it is written in English. There is urine in the corner and someone has upchucked recently. I start to cry. Muffin Man softens and touches my shoulder.

Ding, floor nine. Novice guide says, "This is the Op-TO-Mow-Oh-Jee wing. Lots of people but good Doctor. Grab my shirt and follow me. " She says.  What?, I look at my husband.  Muffin Man says she means ophthomolgy. Oh, right. We circulate among children and adults in what looks like a long wait in a big sterile waiting room. Novice guide turns to me and says, "You brought lots of cash money right?" Ugh huh. Yeah, as I wonder what "lots" means. My mind spins. I know my parents in Detroit will wire us a few thousand if necessary. The Muffin Man has distant relatives that have some money, so in a pinch...

Novice guide grabs a ticket of some sort from a lady behind a counter. She pushes and shoves us to the front of a long line. I yell at her, "No, this is not right, we will wait like the others." She gives me the EYE. Follow me or no help! I back down, as now my ear starts to throb with pain. We wait only 10 minutes and I know we were pushed to the front because we were American.  We wait behind a man with small infant who appears to be only 3-4 months old. She has a lazy eye, and looks so much like Ava, I openly gasp. He whistles and she pees on a rag through her Chinese split pants. I offer him a Western diaper out of my bag, but he refuses not willing to look me in the eye.

The doctor looks at us for about 10 seconds and says "Bad Case" in English. He hands the guide a slip of paper. We literally run off the floor into the pee stained elevator. Novice guide says, "You sick, 4 medicines each. We fill prescriptions on first floor, that is where you pay up." I am expecting the call to Detroit here, 2nd mortgage on my parents home? We get off the elevator and step up to another window. Again, we don't wait as the locals do. Novice guide shouts and spits a bit. I wait trying not to think of Ava scared, being passed off to yet another set of new parents.

Novice guide turns to me and explains how to use the 4 medicines each. Then she says, $34.30 US Dollars right now! Muffin man starts to laugh, big guttural guffaws.  I am completely speechless and make her repeat herself. Really, that's all? She explains that communist countries have subsidized medical.  I simply nod, as if this makes all kinds of sense.  (At this moment I choose not to go into the whole "Ok, why the scary you bring money speech?")  I chalk it up to cultural differences.

I breathe in---breathe out----breathe in----breathe out. The Novice guide again tells me I will have to pay for the cab ride....No problem, I say in a Zen like happy moment.  I fork over $2.25 for the cab ride and thank her profusely for her trouble getting us medical attention. She sits up proudly, "Chinese medicine good, helps you." Yes, I humbly bow with my hands together in gratitude. Xie Xie, Xie Xie.

Back At The Ranch

The Muffin man and I feel tired and sore. But we rush to the hotel breakfast bar. It appears we have been gone less than 2 hours.  Ava is a happy camper strapped into her new stroller looking at her other baby friends. The Changsha University tour is on despite the rumors of a "very sick" family.  The Muffin Man professes that he needs to rest and heads for the refuge of the room.

Sporting a second wind, Ava and I head for the tour bus as scheduled. We sit at the back I am still contagious but, happy. I am tired, clearly beyond what I have ever known tired to be but I have my baby in my arms and nothing else matters. It has been an amazing journey that has brought me to a foreign country to meet the most beautiful child I have ever seen.  Ava brings the surreal moment back to the grittiness of reality as she sits on my lap and starts to giggle staring at my swollen heinous face.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

7 Things

Hey, I got tagged to do the 7 things thing. Here's the deal. I have broken practically every chain thing ever sent to me. You'd think I'd be a walking black cloud of bad luck by now. Hey, I even broke my dear friend's 4 year old daughter's sticker collection chain letter deal. (Yeah yeah, you were supposed to copy some letter and send 10 sheets of stickers and receive 100. My kid would have liked that.) Is 7 things the cyber equivalent of chain letters? Perhaps I am totally missing the boat. Nothing new.

But alas, Main Muffin Man is entertaining Miss Ava Jing because even HE suspects that the Backyardagains Marathon on Nick Jr. is too many hours of tv for an almost 4 year old. So, that leaves momma with a glass o' chard, a leaking ear (ear infection) and my beloved computer.

What the hell....I'm a player.

Seven Things I Want To Do Before I Die
1. Become a mom again.
2. Find my passion.
3. Work in a creative/artistic field, beyond the normal crafty gal stuff
3. Walk the Santiago De Compostela in Northern Spain
4. Travel to India, I feel almost as spiritually drawn there as China
5. Read the bible word for word...just because history interests me, I'm not terribly religious
6. Live in an old home, which I will help to restore back to its grandness
7. Live to see my girls become amazingly happy well adjusted women

Seven Things I Cannot/Will Not Do
1. Love football with the passion my husband does
2. Tell my children that they cannot be something
3. Have a cancer relapse
4. Give up my pedicures in the spring and summer
5. Say no if someone were to offer me domestic help
6. Wear high heel stilettos, a mini skirt and tight shirt with push up bra...I'd look heinous.
7. Say never, it bites me in the ass every time.

Seven Things That Attracted Me To My Husband
1. His self confidence
2. He can be quite funny
3. His big wide chest makes me feel small, and I'm over 6 feet so that's cool
4. He takes care of himself
5. He is super smart
6. He is amazingly gifted with tools...self taught and handy!
7. After 14 1/2 years of marriage I still find him studly.

Seven Things I Say Most Often
1. I love you, Evita (Ava's pet name)
2. Has anyone taken this dog out?
3. Ugh, we gotta take it easy on the checking account Babe.
4. What do you want for dinner? Always followed by the obligatory, Ugh, I don't know What do you want? from him.
5. I'm going to Target...need anything? (Which leads back to #3 in this section.)
6. Will you watch her for an hour? I need some tub time.
7. So, what do you think about Rene Decartes theory of... I think therefore I am? Ha ha, please.

Seven Books I Love
1. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Betty Smith
2. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
3. To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
4. Lolita, Nabokov
5. In Cold Blood, T. Capote
6. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
7. I Know This Much Is True, Wally Lamb

Seven Movies/Series I Watch Over And Over
1. Pride and Prejudice
2. When Harry Met Sally
3. Steel Magnolias
4. The Wizard of Oz
5. Law and Order (Muffin Man thinks I need a 12 step program to quit)
6. Sopranos
7. Citizen Kane

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The First Time I Ever Saw That Face

The other day someone said to me, "We bet you cannot wait until that moment when you meet your new baby for the first time, how precious."

Precious, hmmm. I have been thinking about that moment when we first met Ava and precious is not the first word that comes to my mind.

I am not proud to admit this but the first word that comes to mind is terror. Not hers, MINE. When it actually happened and they handed me the most beautiful child I had ever seen, I was almost paralyzed with terror. I could not speak, I thought that I would drop her for sure and they would take her back. I wanted to run from the crowd that lingered in the conference room and hallway. But there was no where to run. I was begging her silently not to scream for fear that I would be unable to calm her enough to eventually stop. I was not so silently begging my husband to stop the camcorder for fear that it would scare the baby and forever remind me of my inadequacies. The moment in which we had waited over 19 months for was for me filled with fear and panic.

Here is what the inside of the conference room looked like. This is where families stood and waited looking out into a hotel elevator lobby area.

The tension was so thick you could have cut it with a knife. I know, stupid cliche but really it was. See the lady wringing her hands? She did this over and over waiting for her baby. I could not stop myself from fixating on her hands. I had to grab the camera and take pictures just to break the energy. I was sure that if I didn't I might start crying and not be able to stop.

Here is what we were looking at.

It was a hallway of mass confusion. Ten families waiting for babies. Five guides communicating with at least a dozen orphanage employees from two separate orphanages. One from far northern Hunan. One from southern Hunan. The northern group traveled 6 hours by bus. The southern group had also spent several hours on an unairconditioned bus, that had experienced engine trouble. Each bus load had 5 precious little ones who had not eaten or taken naps. It was about 3pm China time and we had been in Changsha no more than 2 hours.

The other group of orphanage babies arrived first. We were able to witness 5 families receiving babies without the stress of thinking we were next at each second. Some babies seemed like they might have been shot with a stun gun, still and haunted their eyes frozen wide open. One baby cried so hard she couldn't catch her breath. Her mother was calm though. Her 7 year old son clutched his game boy, white knuckled. Her husband started to pass around pink candy cigars. They were old pro's, you could tell.

Then it was our turn. Five chubby cheeked dirty but healthy, looking babies were escorted off the elevator. I think we were in the middle when the five families were called. But honestly I am not sure. A tiny orphanage nanny handed Ava to me telling her "mama mama mama". I hesitated, scared that I would upset the baby. Her skin was so tan that I immediately thought she could not have been in an orphanage 23 hours a day, as the paperwork suggested. The nanny thrust the baby into my arms. I heard cries of congratulation from our new travel mate friends. Quickly, I realized that I was physically in the way of the next baby presentation. I whisked Ava to the back of the conference room. The lady I stood next to held a screaming infant. Ava was calm until she saw the new baby named Faith. Her face twisted and she started to shake. She took a deep breath and howled a scream of fear. It was more than I could take. I held her wet sweaty head, and ran for the open doorway. Brian followed filming every blood curdling yell. I snapped at him, "turn that thing off, it will scare her even more." I slowly bounced and paced up and down the hotel hallway. Miraculously she looked up at Brian and stopped screaming. I think that they reached for each other. I had to remember to tell myself to breathe in--and--breathe out so I would not pass out.

(For some odd reason at that moment I remembered a story that my mother told me about passing out in her kitchen with me in her arms as an infant. My father was not home and she was scared that I would be hurt when she fell. She plopped me in the kitchen sink for safety and proceeded to faint. My father arrived shortly after and my mother was revived. I had cold cucumber peels stuck to my legs but was otherwise unharmed.)

A guide started yelling for families to line up for individual photos with the orphanage director. He did not smile. I pulled a guide to translate. I semi-bowed and thanked him for our gift. He looked at his cell phone. I asked him if he knew anything special about Jing Tang, her likes or dislikes. He snorted that nannies care for the children, he had no contact with babies. The guide gave me a nonverbal que to shut up and pose for the photo. We looked over and smiled, someone had our camera.

This was the picture that appeared in my camera. Sort of normal looking, baby is not screaming in fear and I managed to slap on a smile. Main Muffin Man remained remarkably cool and collected. (Could this be the same man who once threw a temper tantrum in an airport because he received the wrong kind of sandwich at Burger King?)

I think that we ran for the egress quickly heading for our hotel room after this picture was taken. We fed Ava and watched in disbelief as she slurped down an entire 8 oz. bottle in under 30 seconds. We plopped her down on the bed to look at her. My God, she was the most beautiful child we had ever seen. Perfect chubby legs, 3 rolls before the knee to be exact. She even had little fat rolls under her chin. Her ears were perfectly symmetrical and would easily squish when touched. Her face was darling, perfect little almond shaped eyes and an almost non existent nose. She had long dexterous fingers. Her eyes were luxuriously brown, although one eye tilted in a bit. I later came to understand this happens when she is overly tired and stressed.

I quickly knew even as a completely neurotic first time mother that someone out there had tended to this child with care. She proceeded to howl again....huge healthy lungs. Letting us know that setting her on the bed to gaze at her was not going to fly. She stopped screaming when we opened the door and started to pace the hotel hallways. She was alert to to point of being unable to relax. And so this was the routine for the next several days. Hotel room, bad. Sightseeing tours filled with people and exotic sights and smells, good. Strap her in the baby bjorn, but only facing outward. Stroller, even better. Rolling through streets of Changsha and Guangzhou finally coaxed her to relax a bit.

As for took a few more weeks to relax. My type A'ness sort of got the better of me those early weeks and months. For the next "precious first time ever I saw your face" moment, I am going to try to roll with it a little more. Not be so freakish. Aahhh, I suppose easier said than done. I am counting on a little experience under my belt to take the edge off.

I'll report back in a few months with "it was precious", or Muffin Man had to pull me down off the ceiling.

Monday, December 26, 2005

It Must Have Been The Reindeer Dust

Christmas Eve we decided that Santa's reindeer might need a snack. By the time they would arrive here at our house they might be a little hungry. How did we know this? We watched the Santa Cam travel from Asia to Europe and then onto the America's of course. Amazing! My brother and I decided that we could hardly believe that we grew up not being able to track Santa's progress on the internet. Oh, the days where we had to go to bed dreaming of sugar plums dancing rather than the bird's eye view of Santa's sleigh as it spanned the doppler 8 radar.

Ava was all for making reindeer food. She carefully measured oats and colored sugar mixed with a dash of that Santa would be dazzled enough to visit us first when he approached our Millbrook neighborhood. She donned her favorite princess outfit for spreading reindeer food throughout the front yard. (Please do not ask me why my child feels the need to dress in old Halloween costumes for all of our Christmas photos. see this.)

Ava also decided to test the reindeer food. You know, to be a good hostess and all. Someone has to teach this child manners. Would Emily Post be proud or horrified?

Notice she has the gold and white full length gown working with the gold
tones faux fur lined jacket. Apparently my girl likes the bling. I am almost
afraid to admit she's also sporting the red glitter shoes. And, she's worried
Santa's reindeer might miss her?

Funny thing about this...just between you and is the same oatmeal that I absolutely cannot get her to eat for breakfast.

The reindeer food must have done the trick. Christmas Day was delightful. All family members opened presents, ate massive amounts of scrambled eggs and then loafed in front of the television watching Heidi re-runs, Miracle on 34th Street, It's a Wonderful Life...etc... Of course everyone had to take the obligatory turn learning how to play a new game listed as 2-4 players and For Ages 5 and Up. It at times got a little dicey as we were trying to explain multiple rules to our 3 year old. God, knows this family loves a productive day.

We hope you all had a Merry Merry One, spent with the ones you love. Peace.

Friday, December 23, 2005

7 bucks and he's a happy christmas camper

I send muffin man to the grocery for last minute holiday stuff....apparently I forgot the extra package of frozen spinach for my friend's famous spinach ball recipe that I am going to make for the family. Last time I made this recipe I completely embarassed myself so I am attempting to redeem. But that is another story.

He comes home with this.

Yes, this is Santa on a Harley. Apparently it was 50% off in case you were wondering.

It gets better...he wiggles and sings.

Boy, it is a good thing he came home with that spinach. And night time TheraFlu, since I seem to have caught the 3rd preschool cold this season.

Ava asked me today why women marry only men and not other women. I swear I don't know where she gets this stuff. I carefully said that not all women choose to marry men, sometimes they don't marry at all and sometimes they choose to marry other women, but our state does not officially recognize that union, even though they should. She looked at me with the "oh, you'll probably tell me the whole truth and this is going to take a while" look. She quickly moved on to why Snow White's shoes don't fit Mikayla barbie.

So, here is my question. If I had married a woman would I now be the proud co-owner of Santa on a Harley that wiggles and sings? I think not.

I am going to go take a hot shower and re-dose myself with day time Thera Flu.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I'm going to stop...ok, now I'm going to stop

Usually I am the voice of reason around here. Main muffin man simply loves to indulge everything that moves in this household. Pooch has way too many toys, he never questions me about spending especially if it is frivolous, and our babe has a wide variety of all things material courtesy of Daddy. My ill fated attempts to discuss the evils of serious materialism and the effects on our American society fall deaf on his ears. It is probably because the plasma tv is turned up too loud.

I admit I'm the one who is usually sort of scroogie, since we are in the season and all. Oh yes, and I have to deal with the little annoyance in life called the bank account, and its lack of girth.

So what is my deal? I can't stop myself from visiting every toy store this side of the Mississippi. Is she getting jammies and socks for Christmas, oh heck no. We walked out of Toys R Us a few weeks ago on our annual Christmas pilgrimage. Main muffin man just shook his head and said, "Impressive show babe." Toys, baby! I need a program or something. I've even been questioning my parent friends to see if I'm going overboard. (Which I already know the answer to, just want to see how overboard.) By the turns out my friends are either enabling me or they have their own issues.

So yesterday Ava says: Mommy, my friend has this Pachyderm game. It shoots butterflies out the nose and if you collect them all you WIN. I sure hope I get Pachyderm from Santa.

Yes, Ava uses the word pachyderm rather than elephant, she says it is much funnier. She is right, say it... pachyderm. It is hilarious, you've got to give her that. Seeing her laugh whenever she uses it is priceless.

So, moral dilemma Thursday has set in. Do I run out and grab just one more toy to add to the already exploding closet of all things that would please an almost 4 year old? Or, do I take the moral high ground stick with the existing loot and hope she forgets about pachyderms?

I must----stop----shopping. I----must.

Thank goodness for safety nets. Her birthday is in a few weeks.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hunan Reminds Me Of A Mother's Ache

After reading this I must admit that I've been in a little bit of a tail spin the last few days. But as always I try my hardest to do a little self talk in situations like this. I try to think clearly with my rational mind and then blend that with my spiritual and intuitive self. Especially when it is an issue where I know that I have absolutely no control. I cannot do anything about the China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA) and how they handle the implications of improper baby trafficking for monetary gain in my daughter's home province of Hunan.

So this is how it has been for the last few days...worry about baby trafficking and children and birthparents who might have been involved...then calm down, it is rumor. Worry that my beloved child might not have been relinquished by parents who chose that avenue...calm down, there is no way to ever know and worrying about it only puts negative energy out there. Rev up again and worry that any scandal will delay or worse our pending second adoption...push the negative aside and choose not to worry because I just can't do anything about it.

It is kind of my own little personal roller coaster ride, filled with drama and strife.

Honestly though it has given me a little light bulb moment. I was in the Gap this morning as I was supposed to be shopping for others and I was debating a little To Me From Me gift, the best kind in my book. Then I ditched the pink sweater and felt pulled to the little girls section. I looked at little hats and mittens in tiny little sizes and felt the same ache that I felt when I was waiting for Ava. It almost made me cry right there in the Gap. I realized how much I want this new baby, not just as a sibling for Ava, not just as a daughter for my husband because he wants another child so much, but because I was a mother aching for her baby, one that is born just not home yet.

When we were waiting for Ava I felt like this all the time. I knew what it felt like to yearn for a child, smell her even though she lived continents away, feel her skin, smooth her spiky black hair with my thumb. But with this new child we are waiting for I sometimes feel guiltily selfish. I know now it won't be all sunshine and roses. I know the exhaustion that motherhood can bring. I question sometimes whether I should tip the delicate balance of us as three. Will I be able to listen to Ava any more when I am pulled in different directions, I know she needs so much listening to.

But, through my worry about the China program and Hunan baby selling and all of the rumors I now feel like I am longing for the baby as much as I ached for Ava. And that is a gift, regardless of what happens in the world that is out of my control.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Quick Techno Update

I amaze myself with my willingness to jump through a hoop for something free. Sorry the ole' blog has been lookin' a little dicey. As in chopped up. It has been sort of freakin' recently, and I've been in well...denial. I sat down with the code and tinkered away. Hopefully things will be looking a little purrtier now.

Cross your >/li< /@>< fingers.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

I Believe In Signs

One of my favorite blogs suggested that hearing about stories of signs about the journey can help with the wait for a baby. I agree. For me, signs are like little knocks on the head that you are not in this situation alone, a higher being...whoever that is in your faith or creed is right along there with you. Signs can be confirmation that your path is the right one for the right time. A little nudge saying, keep trying, don't quit.

Signs led me to my daughter, no doubt.

By the fall of 2000 I was feeling like I had lived far more than the 9 months that the calendar showed on the wall. In that time I had endured a very painful IVF, gotten pregnant and then quickly lost the baby in an unexplained miscarriage. My husband and I were devastated since we were "the perfect candidates" for IVF. We endured years of unexplained infertility, I was only 30 and he was 34, we were both very healthy, or so we thought. I was disillusioned with my corporate job, I felt as if we were on a treadmill that was truly going nowhere.

Just as I was gearing up for another fertility treatment 3 months after the miscarriage a lump was discovered in my breast. It was not nothing as I was told by my doctor. Eight weeks after my 31st birthday I would not be having another go around at pregnancy. I would be deciding which chemotherapy would be best, save the breast or not, radiation now or later.

At this particularily low moment in our lives the 2000 Summer Olympics came to our living room. Every night as I laid on ice bags to soothe the repaired muscle under my right arm we watched the athletes. It was ironic, being obsessed that year with the human athlete's body in its top physical form from a couch nursing my failed ovaries and now gone breast, while contemplating what I'd look like without hair.

Then there was a sign. It was the Chinese women's (although they looked like little girls) gymnastics team. To us, they were no less than completely captivating. We watched them in awe. They were graceful, beautiful, disciplined. My husband looked at me and said, "Don't they have a lot of little girls in China who need homes?" I answered yes, wouldn't it be amazing if they would one day let us adopt a little girl. But then I snapped myself back to reality...cancer, chemo, surgeries, radiation. My husband just said, "Well, you know when all of this is over and you are better...maybe....

That was it. I knew that when I got better we would indeed adopt a baby from China. I knew she was out there we just had to wait out the sickness stuff and then go get her. I would think of her as I laid on a CAT scan table for endless amounts of time. I would think of her as a needle was tapped coming from my chest feeding red liquid into my body to kill cancer cells.

Several months later I was driving down the road listening to the radio. The man announced that there would be a free meeting for anyone interested in international adoption at the church my husband and I sometimes attended. Another sign.

When I told my husband about it he said "Do you want to do that this soon, already?" Oh yeah. I'm ready, let's get on with life and start living!

I pulled on the wig, attended the meeting, signed the application contract and sent in a check all within 24 hours. We were on our way.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Is She Really Going To Let Him Adopt Her Kids?

Let me preface this post by saying I ordinarily couldn't care less about what the stars are doing on a daily basis. Most of them seem so narcissistic and ego driven that it is just a little to "out there" for my midwestern self. Some of my friends think I am just weird in that I don't even like to watch the Emmy's. Back to that narcissistic thing...we do a job and then we need to throw a huge party and give ourselves golden awards several times a year? Hmmm....when will the great teachers in our community get an all night party, what about the nurses...where is their gold statue? How about the people who pick up my yucky trash every week, when do they get a free Armani suit?

But then again, I do admit to scoping out the People magazine when I visit my hair stylist. It is a guilty pleasure, the smell of Aveda shampoo, lots of free hand lotion samples, and gossipy smut from People magazine. Yeah, I'm obviously not that high and mightly...I sneak a peak now and then.

Yesterday I thought I might have to see Nicole Ritchie waste away to 26lbs. or see the ever intelligent Britney shamelessly flaunt her post partum boobies at some Hollywood pool party; while claiming to be the best mother in all of fantasy land.

But no...apparently Angelina is letting Brad adopt her children. And if it is mentioned in People, well then it must be true right? Obviously this is obscenely ridiculous for so many reasons. So I won't bore you by naming them all. But I have to admit this one sort of got me riled up. Got my panties in a twist. What the hell? Why would she do this? Why do I even care?

Here's why. I just had this sick "adoption is a circus" feeling while looking at the magazine. And it is not. It is absolutely normal...and good. There are people who hurt in the process, there are people who's wildest dreams come true in this process. It is human, and real with all of its greatness and flaws. It is not trivial Hollywood fare! It has nothing to do with who is wearing who's red dress, and which ingenue alledgedly slept with Paris' ex-boyfriend.

Fine, Angelina adopts children. I'm thrilled for her. I'm not even convinced she's a Mommy Dearest or anything, she might even be a pretty good person. I know this is terribly judgemental but allowing the glad rags to photograph her and her boyfriend du jour and her children while openly discussing how he gets to adopt these kids leaves me with the heebie jeebies.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Being Outnumbered

I am truly thinking about this outnumbered know the one where there are two little people versus one large person on a 17hr a day regular schedule. Obviously I had the pleasure of being outnumbered today, thus my "holy crap what am I in for" thoughts. Ava's best bud spent the day with us. Here is why I am stressing.

Little friend is 4 years old and could be considered somewhat laid back compared to my darling, and yet I am beyond tired. I am having "I chase a 16 month old for a living" flashbacks, its that level of tired.

Little friend keeps Ava busy by occupying her with the Hampster Dance, climbing everything, and nose picking. Which Ava finds absolutely hilarious. I responded with over 1000 gentle reprimands.

Little friend, although 2 months into age 4 must be watched viligantly for pee pee accidents. We visited no less than 5 women's restrooms in a 5 hour time span. Granted, we were on the move with tap dancing recital and children's museum visit. But golly, I was seriously wanting to beg a strange lady in the restroom for one of her extra diapers and call it "Auntie Perrin's little secret." Can you spare a square?

We had two, yes two, come to Jesus meetings. The first one took place in the car 1/2 hour after the gals met in the morning.

Me: Ladies, this is not how our day is going to play out. There are two of you and one of me. It is my job to bring you both home alive. (Your mother will kill me if you are damaged in any way, I say to little friend.) Here are a list of rules:

1. No biting, no hitting, no pushing, no shoving. (Ok, that is an oldie but a goodie for my babe. It is outdated but I can't start the Come to Jesus meeting without it and she knows it.)

2. No, loud fighting. Ava's mommy is driving in the sleet and refer back to #1 and the whole keeping you alive goal.

3. All little people must be able to see me at all times. No straying- you both have black hair and I have blond streaky hair so strangers don't automatically put us together. (Little friend is Chinese too, adopted on the same fateful day in Changsha in 2002.)

4. Parking lots mean you must be holding my hand. No exceptions, no skipping, no hampster dancing.

5. You all may have fun as long as long as you are not freaking out and disobeying rules #1-4.

ok. breathe. rumour has it that some parents have even more than two on a daily basis. three, four, five???? shit, old lady in the shoe next door regularly deals with her six and no one has died...yet. Think Zen, think Muhatma Gandhi, think non-violence....

Come to Jesus # 2 meeting. (5 hours after meeting #1)

Me: Here is the deal. Look at me, both of you! You two are freaking out running willy nilly around this place. There will be no lunch until THE RULES are reviewed and followed.

Them and Hungry: Ok, we want pizza.

So, the rest of our day was c'est la vie. Maybe they found their groove. Maybe I took a proverbial pill. (I assure you I did not take a literal pill, again refer back to the bring them home alive rule.)

However, I am now chillin' with the glass o' chard. While Main Muffin Man takes a turn with Ava. Little friend left at 5:30pm. Mommy to little friend showed up at door with chocolates, bonus.

Ahhh, how many more months until referral?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


I've had two dreams in the last few months that our new baby is in Fujian Province. The first time I had a dream I woke up thinking, How do you spell that? It's not a province that I have heard mentioned many times for Chinese adoptions. I've seen Hunan, Guangzhou, Jiangxi, Yunnan, Jiangsu, Anhui, Hubei, Guangxi and Chongqing mentioned most for the people using our agency.

Honestly, I was sort of haunted by the thought and went to the internet to see if there was a province called Fujian. There is, it is located between Jiangxi and the island of Taiwan on the far eastern shore. The capitol is Fuzhou and indeed there are families who have received referrals from Fujian. Ok, weird but ok.

Then Ava and I were in the car this week and I could swear she said Fujian. I don't even remember what it was in reference to. I stopped and asked her what she said and she just laughed and would not repeat what she said. I'd officially call that an un-official Fujian family siting. It could have been a discussion forming around food for all I know. FUjian -- FOOd??

Mother's premonition or silly guessing game? I guess we will have to wait, and wait, and wait, and wait some more. I absolutely hate it when my mind starts to obsess about stuff like this and I can't "shake" it. It's like that song that just won't leave your head. Except it is Chinese provinces.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Chinese School

At the beginning of this school semester I enrolled Ava in Chinese school. We are fortunate enough in my town to have a school that teaches Mandarin to children and adults on Sunday afternoons. In the past it has been a school taught by the Chinese community for the Chinese community. All of the parents speak either Mandarin, Canton, or other Chinese dialect in the home. Until this semester. Some English speaking (mostly adoptive parents) were invited to participate in a pilot program where in essence we could take "Chinese Light".

What is "Chinese Light?" Well, it is not an immersion program, like the other classes in the school. Our teacher, Ying speakes mostly English while trying to teach 3-6 year olds. It is also "light" because the style of teaching. I have learned recently that traditional Chinese classrooms are shall we say...very traditional. Children as young at 3 are required to sit still in a chair with their hands behind their backs and repeat phrases and look at flash cards with characters and tones. There is no singing or dancing, or play time as we might expect to see in a preschool environment here. The class length is 2 hours.

"Chinese Light" has songs and the kids can move around the room a bit. However, my 3 year old was required to memorize a song in Chinese and perform it alone in front of the class. She is supposed to do homework everyday, we are sort of lax about this. She is expected to write Chinese characters over and over in little grid boxes. She is also asked to read flash cards and know the letters with Mandarin pronounciation. She's three folks, and up until about 4 weeks ago could not read letters in English...never mind pinyin pronounciation.

So, it is all about perception really. Their Chinese Light can at times feel like the Sino Pressure Pit to us. And yet, I am still completely and whole heartedly committed to this Chinese school venture. Why you might ask if it has some "issues"and cultural differences that make us have to stretch a little. Well here is why...

1. Ava loves it. She likes to go and since I don't pressure her to practice she happily skips into class.

2. When the school bell rings and all the little kids come running out of their rooms into the is a sea of silky black heads and asian faces. Yes, she is different from most of the kids at the school because her mom towers over mostly everyone there and has blond highlights but while she is there...she is majority! She is not the different one.

3. She sees a smart, eloquent, and capable mentor in her teacher each week. Ava is respectful of her and thinks that she is brilliant.

4. We are slowly building personal relationships with some of the Chinese families. It is slow, since most of the kids in her class are adopted and we already knew them. But before and after classes she seems to find a few kids to run around with in the hallways who are from the other classes, she is learning their names. Perhaps if we hang around long enough we will feel comfortable enough to penetrate the social bubble, incorporating some of their culture into ours. We are willing to be in this pilot group, breaking down cultural and racial barriers.

This week I had the opportunity to speak with a father of a little boy in the class. He is third generation Japanese who is married to a Taiwanese woman. He grew up here as one of two families of color in the whole public school high school. His wife has been here 15 years but was raised in Singapore after her family escaped Mao and eventually settled in Singapore. They send their children to this school because one, they want the kids learn Mandarin and two, he feels this is a place where they can "fit in". He told me he grew up happy in most ways but hating the Asian part of himself. It was not until college, moving to a huge city that he found his Asian"ness" and was able to feel comfortable with it.

He said he does not want his children to have to wait until college to love their Asian"ness".

Ooh, light bulb moment. This is why I am doubly committed to hanging out at Chinese school on Sunday afternoons.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Reading Code and Shoveling

Hmmm...I've practically had no time today to sit down and compose my thoughts as I have been sorting through eblogger code to fix my ummm....aesthetic blogger problem. I have also spent a decent amount of time and physical energy shoveling out of massive amounts of snow.

First, my eblogger problem. I guessed and figured it out, ok, it took me over an hour, and I'm being generous. Amazing for a state university communications and policical science major. My first thought was I would just convert to typepad and fix the problemo but then I downloaded the 83 page manual explaining how to move your existing worthless thoughts to the new and more expensive format. Hm...then again this girl is always up for a challenge. (I used to hang with some great quality assurance personnel.) I'm up for any task that does not include difusing a three year old temper tantrum right now. This ex-big blue employee needs a mind challenge. Thank you John for the help.

Second, the physical challenge of my day. Apparently the weather man/woman in my state who is ALWAYS wrong was infact right this time. My state's unofficial motto is "don't like the weather, just stay for 30 minutes". They were duly warning me on the news and I poo poo'd them. Surely we won't really get gobs of white stuff. No need to panic. I can get peanut butter and hotdogs at any time of the day I like....Don't threaten me. Well, they were right and I was wrong. I had to pay the piper and feed my kid the last hot dog this morning for breakfast. Please don't call child protective services.

Sorry, back to the physical part. Main muffin man has been out of town all week selling stuff to evil management at Walmart in Arkansas. I felt sort of bad that he might have to come home to 8 inches of snow on the suburban driveway at 11pm. So, in a moment of weakness and feminist power I decided "I can do this shoveling thing." Let's just say I my right hand is still sort of shaky and my lumbar #c4 is not happy. But we have a plowed driveway. Main Muffin Man is supremely happy and a little physical labor reminds me that I live a pretty cushy life...overall....

Thursday, December 08, 2005

'Tis The Season To Get All Crafty

Want to see what we've been working on? My girl is turning out to be quite the little crafty queen, think Martha Stewart but without the rap sheet and learning to be a little nicer to her people.

Courtesy of the local parks and recreation department Ava had a delightful time making a "real" gingerbread house. That is until she fell off the stool washing her hands at the end. The helpful employee got quite the earful when he tried to help her recover...yikes she has wicked lungs. Among the practical preschool set these days gingerbread has been replaced with graham crackers and the house is built around a little milk carton for stability...cheating or experienced realism, you can be the judge.

See the off scale marshmallow chimney? Her idea. See the fruit loop smoke coming out of the top? My idea. We did better with the gumdrop/pretzel lightpost. We copied that from someone else at the table. I wanted to try to make a chubby little elf out of left over M&M's but my idea was nix'd.

Now here is what I've been up to.

I am hoping preschool teachers will be happy with homemade book/tote bags. It's all about the fringe. The pink one is a tap dancing bag for one of Ava's friends who has a birthday this month. Like the Asian flair material? Me too, except it is a chore to work with. Give me the corduroy and chenilles any day.

So who is going to clean up all this decorating and my sewing room after Christmas is what I want to know?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Let's Pretend

My baby and I were snuggled up on the couch the other night to settle in for an evening of Christmas time tv. You know..Grinch, Santa's Comin' to Town, Charlie Brown etc... It seems like with the ridiculous number of cable channels we receive we can watch something cartoony and Chirstmasy each night in the month of December if we wanted.

I guess that is why our little conversation that followed sort of surprised me. I was expecting mindless jingle bell tunes followed by brush the teeth and off to bed.

She was snuggled in beside me and started to pat my stomach. "Hey Mommy, I know I did not come from there (pointing to my stomach) but can I just pretend that I did?" Wow, gulp. "Sure, you can pretend that if you'd like.", I say. She went on to say, "I know I have a birthmother but I just want to pretend that I came from you instead."

Oh, stab to my heart of hearts.

"Do you think you will ever have a baby that comes from there (again pointing to my stomach)?" "Well, I am pretty sure that I won't. All my babies come from China.", I say.
"Oh.", she says sort of softly. "You know I love you more than anything right babe, and it is ok that you came through your birthmother right?", I say to her. "Yeah, I know.", she says.

So, was she simply trying to tell me in a special way that she loves me? Was she trying to be close to me? Is she starting to emotionally process her adoption story and her loss? Was she trying to verbalize an unsettledness about being adopted? Up until now most of her adoption understanding has seemed methodical and more cognitive. She is just so darned sure of herself and strong most of the time. Her sentimental side can throw me off kilter.

I suppose I am lucky if this is the first of these little conversations. Its got to be more healthy if she comes to us with these thoughts rather than stuffing them inside for the next 18 or so years. Oh, the joys of the big therapy bill. I guess we will just have to see what the future brings.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

No Toast

Actual conversation in the family truckster this afternoon:

Ava(To her friend Alyssa): So, I can have little bottles of chocolate milk as long as there is no toast in there.

Alyssa: Oh, yeah I hate toast too. I like Rice Crispy cereal, but my mom gives me white milk.

Ava: I can't have any white milk, it doesn't have toast.

Me: Ava, milk has no has Lactose. We buy you the kind without Lactose so your belly won't hurt.

Ava: Ok, so when can I have Rice Crispy cereal?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Dressing the Tree

So what would the most self respecting almost 4 year old wear to the annual family tree trimming event?

Why, last year's Halloween kitty costume of course. Bet you didn't see that one coming.

Friday, December 02, 2005

It's done.

I set that puppy to "no email".

And then I hopped on over to my agency email yahoo group and turned it back on to "daily digest".

I just can't help myself......

I am coming back as a laid back hermit in my next life.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Would I Dare?

How bold would I be to change my national June China Adoption DTC yahoo group setting to "No Mail"? Oh, let's be honest I wouldn't dream of silently withdrawing or God Forbid...making a public announcement saying something like...

"Gosh you people are rumour mongers and I know you are nice people and all but, just a little stressed about getting your babies. Gosh, I woke up at 3am last night worrying that the CCAA would only process 2 weeks at a time for the next 150 months and that will make my referral SHIT...April of 2047 and I just can't take it anymore."

So, I've thought about it off and on all day. Honestly I've had a really nice day where I took my cutie pie to a fabulous lunch downtown, saw Santa where she could ask for this for the 100th time, and rode the darling Winter Express Train. I know, I know...pathethic. Go "no, email" or not? Trust my agency to simply call me when out child has been matched with us? I am comtemplating it! Notice I am not even willing to consider taking myself off the list...why then how could I be ultimately in control of knowing EVERYTHING about where our dossier is at all times? So, I had this great day and I am thinking about the stupid email lists. Double pathethic.

In my defense, at our lunch I did have to field no less than 3 well wisher questions "Oh, I was driving down today thinking you might have your referral in a few weeks." "Oh, don't worry it's in God's hands." and "You know if you got your referral today it might not be the RIGHT child." Phelh. Plelh. (She does in her best yiddish accent..and I was raised sort of Catholic, but that is another story, and do I get points for a college education with lots of Jewish city kids?)

So, I am still thinking about going "no email" on my national connection to the China adoption daily rumour mill. Haven't decided. It would take a true act of surrender.

Can she follow Buddha and surrender, think about what Ghandi had to release? Remember I was raised sort of Catholic...with a New Age twist. Stay tuned. I promise to be honest.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Inhale At Your Own Risk

If there is anyone out there reading in blogland who does not currently have children I want you to stop. Only for a minute. I want you to get up from your computer and go immediately to your car, for one big inhale. Just one, it won't take long. Go ahead, I'll wait....

Did you go? I will bet you five bucks it was heaven compared to my odiferous fun wagon. These are the good old days for anyone who has yet to "tote the toddler" on a full time basis.

Someday I am going to invent something that allows us to capture good smells. Maybe like a smelly scrapbook of sorts. An olfactory album, it is a million dollar idea. I could whip out my olfactory album just when I need to remember I once had a life that did not include 4 day old milky sippy cups and barf before morning coffee. I fantasize about my car smelling like expensive leather attache bags and a pricey detail job. At this point I would settle for one of those tacky little Yankee Candle thingies you hang from the rear view mirror. It's that bad.

Back to my offensive smelling kid taxi. A few days ago my poor little kidlet up-chucked the entire contents of her breakfast and maybe some of the previous night's dinner while in route to the mall. I thought I was diligent and cleaned it all up. Three days later I entered the car...we'd been driving main muffin man's nicely cleaned rig around all weekend. He pretty much refuses to come within 6 feet of my car these days.

Upon opening the door I was sure that some animal had up and died in the backseat. Then I was unhappily reminded...barf incident. Oooh yeah.

Ooh my, colorful flashback. University of Pittsburgh, 1987 freshman dorm elevator. Some ridiculously low IQ'd walk-on football player and his band of brothers had used the elevator for their personal porcelain goddess one Saturday night. It was weeks before the air started to clear, and believe me I lived on the 15th floor and was held completely captive...I remember.

So, I spent an hour with clorox wipes, the car seat manual to tell me how to get the damn upholstery off without using scissors. Since I just bought a new carseat I would like to use it for more than 6 weeks. Yes, and I got intimate with a big bottle of febreeze too. I made wasn't perfect but hey the car is 5 years old and I've been toting Miss Smelly Pants around for 3. Let's be realistic.

As I was struggling to put the car seat upholstery back together I remembered my father suggesting an engineering degree like his. Grrr. Why did I never listen to my parents? Ten minutes pass, I started to curse myself for not trying harder in physics or math or whatever might make this easier. Another 5 minutes, and I start to curse the idiotic engineers who work for the car seat company. Come on people it's a car seat. Do we all really need master's degrees to be able to re-assemble the thing?

Later that afternoon Ava and I are back in the car. She has fallen asleep and I don't have the heart to wake her. So I roll the windows down, pull into the garage and leave the inside door open so I can hear when she wakes. Half an hour later I hear, "Mommy, Mommy come get me."

She looks up at me in horror. "Mommy I pee'd the car seat when I was asleep."

Fabulous. Calgon...where are the Calgon people? And will they babysit, a little light car cleaning perhaps?

Oh well, I am now going to call the Graco people and offer my consulting services for $50 an hour to help people learn to take apart and re-assemble their carseats for cleaning purposes. I will also throw in a lesson on:

1. the best way to nurse a bruise on your head after hitting against the wall in frustration
2. new ways to curse under your breath so small children do not learn 4 letter words and finally;
3. creating Zen moments in your life with a 3 year old

Anyone with a currently great smelling car want to sign up for consulting services?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The "Not So-Secret" Stash

"Hi babe, whatcha doing?", I say.

"Nothing, Mommy I am a beautiful princess.", she says.

"You sure are. Do princesses eat candy?", I ask.

"Yes, but I'm not eating candy now.", she says bold faced and smelling like a tootsie roll.

"Really, are you telling me the truth?", I say right before I start a giggle that will erupt into hysterics momentarily.

"Nooo.", she says sheepishly. Then hoping her pugnacious grin will win me over, she quickly moves her hand to cover the "secret" hiding place of stashed candy wrappers.

"Babe", I say. "You've seriously got to become a little more crafty and inventive when it comes to pulling one over on your old mom."

"Yeah, can I watch Mary Poppins now?", she says.

Do you see what I am dealing with, here?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Being A Pilgrim

Word Reference. com defines the word PILGRIM

pilgrim, a noun: someone who journeys in foreign lands

In 2002 a little girl made a very long journey to a foreign land. It was foreign in its sights, smells, and sounds. It held two parents who loved her before they knew her. But even though it held wonderful opportunities, the journey required giving up a land of birth, a heritage. One that is rich in tradition and local color.

I wonder if most people would conjure this picture in their minds when they read the definition of pilgrim?

When this picture was taken my little girl was 10 months old and had been home from a long journey only about 6 weeks. It was taken on Thanksgiving Day 2002.

During our long wait (13 1/2 months for referral) for this amazing child I was often plagued by a song written by Roma Ryan and recorded by Enya. I say plagued and I mean it. I would drive in my car and be compelled to hear the song on cd. I could not stop myself from playing it over and over. And over and over. I knew it was sort of a compulsive weird thing...but could not stop. I called it my "pilgrim fix". When the cd would play I would stop at #7 Pilgrim and hit repeat until I got to my destination. It is as if I was pulled to these words.


Pilgrim, how you journey
on the road you chose
to find out where the winds die
and where the stories go.
All days come from one day
that must you must know,
you cannot change what's over
but only where you go.

One way leads to diamonds,
one way leads to gold,
another leads you only
to everything you're told.
In your heart you wonder
which of these is true:
the road that leads to nowhere,
the road that leads to you.

Will you find the answer
in all you say and do?
Will you find the answer
in you?

Each heart is a pilgrim,
each one wants to know
the reason why the winds die
and where the stories go.
Pilgrim, in your journey
you may travel far,
for pilgrim it's a long way
to find out who you are...

Pilgrim it's a long way
to find out who you are.....

I haven't thought about this song for a long time. It has been three years since my little pilgrim came home. Earlier this week though, I was jolted back to the place where I revered pilgrims. I attended a Thanksgiving preschool sing along where the children were dressed as pilgrims and indians. Of course, the preschool probably had the English pilgrims of 1620 mixing it up with the Native American Indians in mind. But I was emotionally delivered back to to safety of my car and Enya's haunting voice singing about "one way leads to diamonds, one way leads to gold, another leads you only to everything your told. In your heart you wonder, which of these is true: the road that lead to nowhere, the road that leads to you."

I watched the kids sing about giving thanks for "the things I need, and the sun and the rain and the appleseed, Amen."

Even though we are American/Chinese American as a family, I know there are many types of pilgrims.

Of course I am mindful again about the next pilgrim. Traveling to foreign lands. What will she have to give? Will she find the answers? Will she find the road that leads to "You"?
I hope so.
Thank you Ava, and your little pilgrim and indian buddies for reminding me about the true meaning of Giving Thanks and all that entails being a PILGRIM.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Turkey Fest

Ok, I did it. Citrus stuffed turkey, chorizo stuffing, garlic and sour cream mashed potatoes and almond green beans. Oh yeah, and a pumpkin pie that I cheated on...I bought it at Costco.
Nice champagne too. Oohh.

Hey, it was yummy. Thank goodness it only comes round once per year. Mama is pooped out.

Guess who else had a little too much fun? Poor little Ava is now sick. My official diagnosis is chest cold. Sick and whiny this morning but better after a little Mortrin and Robutussin. Oh yes, marathon Noggin cartoons is helping a lot too.

This means no Christmas tree lighting ceremony downtown tonight. Super bummer. Perhaps we will have to pick a movie and ride the couch a little longer.

Aahh, let the holiday festivities begin.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Mars and Venus Go To The Grocery

Kidlet is out whooping it up at Gymboree and what do her parents do? Why go grocery shopping together of course. Yeah, I know doing a little whooping it up by ourselves at home sounds like a better option, but we needed a turkey. Priorities, sigh....

So I hop in the car with my 4 sheets of double sided chicken scratched paper with all things needed to make turkey fest 2005 a success. We arrive, enter the store and I give him a stern look, we are here for business, no goofing around. "Are you with me?", I ask. He answers, "Yes..I don't know what you are talking about".

We travel successfully through produce. He even helps me find tomatoes and lemons. Good start. Then I feel him straying. He says, "Hey, we haven't had romaine in a while, I'll get some for dinner." Ok, I say attempting to keep peace, although we are here on the turkey fest mission. I am not in the mood for, "Oh these exotic mushrooms look interesting."

I finish selecting fresh herbs for the turkey. I turn to ask him to get some green beans. He's gone...grrr. Where is he? I get the beans myself. I then have to wander looking for him for 5 minutes only to find him playing with the live lobsters. He says,"24.99 a lb. for chilean sea bass, I could buy a car for that." I say, "focus dear, we have a long way to go."

We enter Meats...he is a major carnivore. I attempt to engage his obsession with meat and channel it into 1 1/2 lbs. of ground turkey, a real turkey, and 1 lb. chorizo sausage all IN THE CART. I am not successful...I turn my head for one minute and he is weighing his options with ham. We then need to have a 4 minute family meeting about why we are not having cheap salty ham for thanksgiving. Go pick a turkey...damn'it.

Once again, I direct the conversation to turkey selection. He has a definite opinion, but it is not the one on sale. We compromise. But, then he feels the need to closely examine the display of oysters...definitely not on the list. Then he informs me that we need tuna cans filled with oysters for a snack tonight. I say NO, that is disgusting. I have to tell him why restaurant quality Oysters Rockefeller is not the same thing as grocery store canned oysters. Unbelievable. I win this round, good thing because the little disgusting cans are $6.59 each. He had 4 cans in his hand before I talked him down.

We head off towards stuffing. I decide he can exercise his culinary muscle here and choose a flavor for the bread crumbs. He completely sees through me and does a by pass move heading for the salad dressings. I say we already have 4 types of salad dressing at home. He reminds me that we don't have garlic cesear with parmesean bits. I glare at him "my head is going to spin and pop off" if you don't stay WITH ME.

He retaliates with "You are going to make potatoes for dinner tonight right?" I now know he is enjoying this little torture session. I say no, unless you go get more potatoes. He mentions that we have potatoes in the cart. HELLO, those are for Thanksgiving, the whole reason we are here. He volunteers to go get another bag of potatoes...good thinking I say with a sneer. I pass the children's drop off room and silently wonder if you can drop off your 40 year old husband.

We rally in the check out line. He grumbles about having to wait because there is one whole person in front of us. This person has decided to pay with a check. Apparently my husband did not even know that you could still pay for something with a personal check. I silently wonder if he should run for public office, he is so out of touch with some things. I mention that Britney Spears is going to leave her husband, or that is what the Star says anyway. He says, "Britney who?".

In the car he says, "Wow, how long has it been since we've been to the grocery store just you and I?" Probably about 3 years, since Ava came home. "Ok, that was fun", he says.

I am seriously worried we will become even more pathetic in our old age, when the kids are grown and gone. He will still want to accompany me to the grocery, just for blood sport.

And that is why Mars and Venus can only go grocery shopping together once every three years.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A Little Help Now From The Workshop...

This will be our first Christmas where Ava "gets" it. No doubt about it..she completely understands the whole bit where Santa will visit and leave presents. And she has quickly made it her mission to embrace the fact that she might have some control over what to ask for this year. Gone are the days of more interest in the box than the toy. Oh no, she's got a list and has checked it twice. She is hoarding the Toys R Us Big Book and has placed the Target toy book in the bathroom magazine rack. She sees something that catches her fancy and asks for "The List" to be pulled down from the refridgerator to be immediately updated. (I need to teach her MS Excel soon.)

It is not even Thanksgiving for heaven's sake.

I'm finding myself nostalgic for that stressful Christmas morning where she did not understand that certain gifts were for certain people. So she proceeded to just rip into everything and if a family member thought that gift might be for them, well it was up to him or her to quickly speak up. Aahh, those were the days.

She wants this. Ridiculous, I say. And I am pretty sure that the Lets' Annoy Mommy (LAM) factor might be sort of close to a pitiful 10 so I am reluctant. Plus, the Furby box says it is for ages 6 and up. Not for my almost 4 year old, right?
(Oh gosh, Ava just snuck up behind me and asked why Furby was on my computer. Aack...don't want to sanction Furby sightings.)

She also has interest in this. Now this is an interesting one. Although it is part of the dreaded Barbie collection. (As sort of a new age feminist type, Barbie is not my fav. )

Main Muffin Man almost had a kitten when he found out I broke down and bought a Barbie for Ava this fall, he laughed so hard I thought I saw a tear. But I find it a little less objectionable since it could theoritically promote fantasy play. It would be low on the (LAM) scale since it does not talk.
Pegasus might be in our future.

So wow, this is a whole new level of parental stress. Finding gifts that SHE wants, fit in the budget, and won't annoy the heck out of us adults.

Does anyone have Santa's cell phone number? I might need a personal consultation.

Note: I insisted that Ava's Barbie purchase be Brunette Barbie and African American Barbie. I know, I know I'm nuts. Especially since she sort of asked for the blond one.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Help, We're Squished

I am the family adoption file.
I've been sitting here in denial.
To see our little squished self, you'd really have to stare.
Help...move us to the matching room, we need some air!

Perhaps I am collecting dust.
Ignore me if you must.
Just pick me up, move me along.
Move me two inches, or I'll need a bong.

These families have kept me company long enough.
My file backing is weak, not tough.
Pick me up, move me to the top.
No more delay, dallying, or talk of stop.

I am the adoption file sitting here in the CCAA patch.
I've been here long enough, make us a match.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Swimming In Letters

One of the greatest things about watching a kid grow is to see how knowledge changes their world. All of the sudden Ava is facinated with reading letters. We have magnetic letters stuck to the refridgerator, two sets in fact. We needed more vowels.

She is obsessed. We now play the Spell It game. Which consists of her naming a word, me spelling it to her slowly, and she finds the letters on the fridge. She then arranges them in the correct order...making the word. She thinks this is an absolute hoot.

Recently Ava found the foam letters that have been sitting on a basket by the tub for a year. Now she wants to play the Spell It game in the tub. She gets very frustrated with me when the bubbles make seeing the letters difficult as she searches for her perfect letter. Last night she proudly yelled "I'm swimming in letters!"

Yes, baby you are.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Heat Goes On

Normally turning the heat on in our little corner cul-de-sac of the world would be just about the most boring thing EVER. Keep reading it still might be.

But it is November 16th and my official hold out had ended. I flipped the switch and cranked the thermostat up to 65 today. The heat was so rusty I could smell it turning on in Ava's closet. I'm not exactly sure why but I have been adamant this year about not using the heat. Honestly, I am not usually this much of a Puritan. So why the change this year?

1. I have Scottish blood. My mother loves to say it is our Scottish blood that sometimes makes us a little ridiculously frugal at times. Of course, her people were eating only potatoes at every meal when they coined this one.

2. My non-Scottish father used to play this game when I was a kid too. He would crank down the thermostat and we would complain. He would tell us to get our down vests on and quit complaining. We would tell him that normal people did not need a wool hat to watch tv. He would ask, "Where is your scarf?" In retaliation my mother bought a pair of gloves without fingers that she would sometimes don while making dinner if she was particularily pissed at him. (I find other couple's passive agressive gestures funny, not mine of course. Those are not funny.)

3. I have been suffiently scared by the gas company billboards and commericals urging all customers to get on the budget plan. (Which I know is a secret ploy to get us all to pay more throughout the course of the year. It is a large big brother scheme I've decided.)

4. I have paid $3.20 for a gallon of gas. Ok, today I paid $2.03 but whatever.

5. My friends look at me like I am slightly odd when Main Muffin Man tells them we have no heat. I like that. It makes me feel less suburban, more quirky.

6. Competition...Main Muffin Man keeps threatening to turn on the heat everytime I leave the house. He asks me questions like this out of the blue. "So honey, how much do you think we saved this fall...a whole $8.00?" Then he said this to me when I was away for the weekend 2 weeks ago. "I'm going to turn on the tv, watch 85 football games, and turn on the heat." Wow, some men only aspire to have an affair when the wife takes the kid to Grandma's for the weekend. Keep dreaming big, dear. (As luck would have it it was 65 degrees that weekend.)

So, today we celebrate the end of abstinence and chilly feet. Oh yeah, and the 5 month mark since our adoption papers have "logged in" in Beijing. That's another milestone for us today.

Do you want to hear about how I only paid $34.10 this month for the gas bill? Sorry, I know you don't.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Bribe

This weeked was adoption overload. Even for me. I attended a meeting put on by my agency. It was titled Post Adoption Blues. Uplifting, hmmm. Then Sat. night the Jean McLeod chat. You know the one that sort of made me feel like a heinous mom over the sleep issues. And yet another event on Sun, the over the top Fall Festival. (Sat. and Sun were FCC related and happen only once per year.) Thank God, although I expect these events to be a little more tolerable when I am not the volunteering goob in one more year.

So after the festival of of 10,000 maniacal children running amok I sat down to think. Main Muffin Man and I are so lucky. This little kid we know and love is pretty damn healthy and happy, some could argue well adjusted too. After hearing about serious post adoption blues, and developmental delays, and sensory integration, and bonding and every adoption should be thought of as possible special needs. Aaack, this girl's head was a spinnin'.

So, I have decided not to stress anymore about our little sleep issue, or lack there of. Last week in total desperation I resorted to bribery. No, it wasn't a "rewards system" or postitive reinforcement. It was an old fashioned and truly un-PC bribe. I am not exactly proud of myself or anything. But I'll be damed if it didn't work!

Here's how it went down:

Me: We are all very tired today because you were up a lot last night.

Ava: Yeah.

Me: Do you know why?

Ava: Well, I wanted you to arrange my covers, and then get me water from downstairs and you won't do what I want you to do so I throw a fit.

Me: I know babe, but you have water next to the bed and you are very good at covering yourself up. And you know you can always come tell Daddy and I hello in the middle of the night but then you have to put yourself back to bed.

Ava: Ok. (Insert..this is the 800th conversation like this in the last year.)

Me: Want to try something new?

Ava: Sure.

Me: Is there a new toy you'd love? (Sleep deprivation will cause acts of desperation, it is sort of like the decision drink ocean water if you are stranded.)

Ava: Hmmm... A yoyo.

Me: Excellent. How many nights do you think you should have to stay in your bed and not throw a fit in the middle of the night to earn a yoyo?

Ava: Five.

Me: Wow, that's a lot. How about three?

Ava: Sure.

So that was it. I told her every night if she got scared she could come and get us but then she had to put herself back down. No more temper tantrums.

You know what happened? It worked, I know I am more schocked than you. The fourth day we all marched off to Target as a family for the yoyo. She then decided that a yoyo was no good. We compromised on a Little Pony.

She hasn't asked for any more toys and we are 3 nights plus 3 more! I will not say the kid's a sleeping champ...for then the sleepy bribery gods will strike us down. And I know I deserve it.

So, take that parenting experts...I'm officially lowering all standards.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Things Only Your Mother Would Do For You

This is slightly at your own risk.

I was in my downstairs bathroom the other day minding my own business. I hear Ava start to screech and quickly she appears trying to open my door. She says, "I have to go now!" I tell her hurry up and run upstairs to go, Mommy is not done with the downstairs potty. She starts to whine saying she couldn't possibly run upstairs she has to go NOW.

I yell for Main Muffin Man to intervene and help with this little situation. Nothing.

I quickly finish my business and let her in. I help get her situated.

Twenty seconds later she says, "Oh gross it stinks and I want to go upstairs to go potty!" I tell her no go, she is already here, Go.

She ignores me, hops off and runs upstairs. Twenty seconds later I hear, "Hey Mommy, I need help. Hurry."

Who's zoomin' Mommy?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

My Brush With Fame...Maybe She's Related To Kevin Bacon

Tonight I met Jean McLeod at an FCC function. Jean is an author and reknowned speaker here in adoption land. She spoke about adoption parenting and homeland trips at our little soiree. Very interesting.

I must say she is a wonderful speaker if you are thinking helping to bring her to your town. But, as with most adoption talks I attend I end up feeling like the horrible adoptive parent at some point or another in the the lecture. Jean touched on sleep and the internationally adopted child. She apparently has a new book coming out in early 2006. She said that the first 45 pages deal with sleep in internationally adopted children. Whoooppeee I am not the only poor sucker dealing with sleep issues. Is our answer there? I will have to wait until Feb. 2006 to find out.

I tried to sneak an answer at the meeting. She casually suggested an adoption therapist. Oh God, where do you find an adoption therapist to help with the primal adoptive wound in my mid-western city? That is a task for tomorrow. Tonight I am alternating between taking in adoptive issues and dealing with my night waker. Which I learned that I should no longer be mad at....I should be meeting her need. Ok, until 3am...then I am done.

Friday, November 11, 2005

5 Years After A Tough Fall

I was driving in my neighborhood today, it is a beautiful fall day here. I had the car window down smelling the last bits of peak fall season. Maybe it is the way the trees looked or the wind was blowing. Maybe my unconscious mind is pre-programmed to remember the five year milestone.

I don't think of cancer much anymore. But it was on my mind in November 2000. I was in the middle of recovering from 2 surgeries and had completed a second round of chemotherapy to kill all cancer cells located in my right breast. Of course the chemo was killer enough to kill a few good cells too... thus the bald factor, dehydration, extreme fatigue and the very raw upper and lower Gastro Intestines. Oh joy.

I think it has been about 5 years ago this month that I had a little breakdown and dramatically told Main Muffin Man he must get on board with adoption or I didn't know what I would do. (I know it might sound a little weird that I wasn't even in remission and I was already making the adoption plan.) Having a baby the old fashioned way was not working very well for us before this little doom and gloom pickle. I needed light at the end of the tunnel...a promise of a bright future. He easily agreed...telling me "Just get better, we'll do anything you want after you get better."

I went to our first adoption meeting sporting a wig about 5 months after our family meeting/emotional brow beating session. How many parents can claim that one? (I never was one to do things exactly like others, but I admit this was a little over the top.) These days I worry more about my oncologist giving me the stern lecture if I gain a pound or two from visit to visit than some horrible news.

It is the sights, smells and sounds of fall each year that remind me about what a lucky duck I really am. I know that things could have turned out differently. But they didn't and I get fall each year as a reminder.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Am I addicted?

This morning my monitor died. Thank goodness it was only the monitor and not the guts of my little home office. I won't bore you with the details or anything but 12 hours later I am $250 poorer and the owner of a new monitor. Sad.

Let me just tell you during my panic filled day I realized I might be addicted to my computer. When it was down I started to panic. How will I pay bills? It honestly did not dawn on me until about 3 hours later that my local bank could probably help me with that situation if push came to shove. I will I edit my photos? Can't crop and sepia color without my computer!

Then I thought, I will pay, I will pay to get this issue resolved. I have to read my blogs. I have to read my blogs. Sending the damn thing to a black hole in Memphis for a monitor fix is NOT an option. Unfortunately in today's disposable society it turned out not to be an option for me anyway. The thing was ca-put. Done, finito, BROKEN.

So what is my point here? I don't know, but thank God the new one works fine.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

One More Thing

I forgot to notate that my brilliant, ladybug loving and mystical little girl stuck a Disney Princess Doll shoe up her nose today. It had to be "surgically" removed by my fingernail in the Joann Fabrics parking lot. After a big sneeze it popped out in front of several onlookers who quickly looked away.

You'd think she'd learn....nope. Then 20 minutes later in Joann's she stuck a leaf down her pants only to discover, that can be downright uncomfortable. It crumbled. I looked for craft paint. I turned around to see that she had "dropped trou" in the middle of the aisle. Picking brown leavy pieces from her underwear. More onlookers quickly looked away.

Do You Believe In Lady Bugs?

Here is a good one for any adoptive family who does not believe in lady bugs, the somewhat sappy unofficial symbol of our daughters adopted from China. I am not lady bug nuts or anything but this incident made me smile.

Ava and I were coming out of the building where she attends Chinese language school. I was speaking with another parent as she played with another child (also Chinese adopted). The kids were facinated with all of the lady bugs that were right there where they were playing. Lady bugs kept landing on Ava's shirt and she was interested in seeing if they would stay with her as she played. When we got into the car she asked if she could keep one that was one her finger. She had that bug for about 15 minutes. She begged me to keep it. I said that if she were very gentle with her she could keep her until we got home. Hey, if the little bug is truly begging to be with Ava, I can't tell her otherwise.

Well, we didn't go home right then. I had a few errands to do. We drove around and Ava gave me the play by play from the back seat as the lady bug stayed right with her. She promised me that she was being gentle and would be a good friend to the lady bug.

Another 20 minutes passed and I had to run into my local Old Navy. I told Ava that the bug would probably fly away in the parking lot. It didn't. It stayed with her even in the store. We walked all over that store. Ava and I stopped at a tee shirt table and were minding our own lady bug business when a woman walked around the same table 2 or 3 times staring at Ava staring at the lady bug. Just when I was about to get very weirded out the lady apologized and said that she couldn't stop looking at us because she is a few months away from getting her baby's referral from China. She just couldn't believe seeing a Chinese little girl with a little lady bug. (I know I know, the cliche is just almost too much to handle. But this is a true story folks.)

She was a nice lady who did not mean any harm. She politely introduced herself. In fact, we are using the same agency. She asked how long the lady bug had been with Ava. I looked at my watch and was surprised that it had been with her for almost 1 hour. The lady laughed and thanked us for making her day.

She turned to continue her shopping and not 30 seconds later...the lady bug flew off Ava's finger. She flew high up into store rafters, gone.

For as attached as Ava was to that little bug she did not even fuss when it left her. She just said that the bug would probably go home home to be with her buggy friends.

Now, my fellow adoptive parents, do you believe?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Who Gets To Go To China?

Someone asked my opinion on the issue of taking first child to China for adoption of second child. Let me just say that I haven't struggled with a parenting issue as hard as this one for a long time. It might be the one that has personally rocked me with self doubt like no other that I have encountered yet in my limited parenting experience. (Looking back, the whole operation baby sleeps alone was tough too though.) Most of the time main muffin man and I discuss issues that affect parenting, make a decision, and then rest with it comfortably. Let's just say I am still waffling on whether it is the right thing to do to take Ava with us or leave her in the capable and willing hands of Grandma and Grandpa when the time comes.

When I read the request to blog about this my first reaction was...ooh no, too personal, too hard. Then like any difficult issue for me I re-thought about the possibilty of writing as therapy. Certainly cheaper than a certified counselor!

Ok, I admit if Ava reads this in 20 years and is super pissed off at us for leaving her behind when she was 4 years old for 2 weeks to meet her sister at least she will know we did not come to the decision lightly.

The Pro's
  • This is her family and she deserves to be there when we experience this wonder of a new child, her sister.
  • She might experience her story on a new level with more understanding if she goes to China.
  • The baby might really appreciate being with another child on the trip.
  • Ava might infact help entertain baby while they play.
  • She would probably get as much peanut butter as she wanted for good behavior bribery, her pro not mine.

The Con's

  • This is not an easy trip. Flights are long, waits are long, you walk long distances, sometimes you don't get to do exactly what you want when you want, sometimes you don't get to eat what you want when you want. When FTIA (our agency) says be in the lobby at 7am for gov't office visit, you get your little buns down there. Grumpy children are not an excuse to skip out.
  • Dealing with sibling rivalry for the first time in a hotel room in China doesn't sound appealing.
  • A child who does not entertain herself for long periods of time here in America probably won't in China either.
  • A child that usually does not sleep all through the night here in America probably won't in China either, especially when jet lagged.
  • A somewhat severe Mama's girl will probably want Mama's complete attention in times of stress or uncertainty.
  • The baby might have slight medical needs, requiring lots of care and attention. Does this leave Ava out, rendering us unable to meet her needs?
  • Can Main Muffin Man and I do it all? A bizillion miles away from home.

Ok, these mounting con's are why we are leaning towards sending Ava to "pleasantville" for 2 weeks. It is not noble or sweet or glamorous, in a lot of ways it is selfish. I ache at the thought of her crying for mommy and daddy should she become temporarily disillusioned with her short term stay. I know it is an imposition for my parents. Decisions for each family facing this must own up to the reality that decisions have consequences. Some good, some hard.

Just like when we were working out the finer points of what a time out looks like in our house, we will work this one out too. She says with banal confidence....

Monday, November 07, 2005

Over The River And Through The Woods...

Yes, we've been at Grandma and Grandpa's house. In attempts to prepare for the large scale Operation Separation 2006, we are going to China for two weeks remember, I took Ava to spend some quality time with the Grands. My theory is that if she is very used to 5 star camping at the Grands she won't miss us a bit when we go to pick up Liv. This summer she spent a few days there while I vaca'd in Vegas with my college cronies. She did fine. Mommy? Mommy who? The Grands have super fabulous toys, the never closing buffet to die for, and even better...all the tv and personalized attention a 3 year old could possibly stomach. And she can take a lot, believe me.

I left the Grand's after after her personal bath complete with Swedish massage. (Yes, my mother actually gives her massages after each bath.) She laughs and whoops it up so hard I usually leave wondering hey, where is my gift certificate to Pat's Pleasing Palace of Magnificent Massage?

I packed up camp and hopped on over to Uncle Greggle's, 10 miles down the way. My dear sweet Bro' even gave me his bed to sleep in while he toughed it out on the couch. Two, yes count them 2, whole days and nights sans PBS Kids, PB & J, constant begging for chik'n nuggets, and just general leg tugging hip riding fun.

My God, Bro's house is QUIET. Not, oh the tv's on low quiet. I mean silent. Sort of freaked me out to be honest. He had beer and water in his fridge, giggle, is that the best cliche or what for a bachelor? I ate about 6 Almond Joy's before we went to breakfast....out....each morning. Now that is what I call heaven. I saw a movie, that did not have cartoon characters. Yes, I would recommend Charlize Theron and Frances Mc Dormand in the class action law suit for heinous sexual discrimination flik.

Then, by Sunday I was ready to see my little peanut to see how her weekend was going. (I also had to make sure she wasn't ready to fill out the paperwork establishing herself as a Michigan resident.) We have to save that for when she's ready to qualify for in-state tuition at U of M. You did not read that.

All was well, except for the fact the my mom was a little errr...tired. Ava was happy as a clam, running the adults into the ground. Ahhh well, nothing that 2 days of sleep on a couch watching Law and Order reruns won't cure. Ugh.

In addition to good times with Bro' I got piece of mind that she will be deliriously happy and well cared for when we travel to China. Maybe I need to send my poor mother a gift certificate for a massage of her own though.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Night With Shel Silverstein

This is Shel Silverstein. He wrote a book called The Giving Tree. It makes me cry. I read it for the first time when we were waiting for Ava's referral. I saw the symbolism in it but was saddened by the boy's continuous need to take and take from the tree. At the time I knew I did not understand the soul rocking pull that a relationship with a child can bring.

Last night Ava found the book in her bookshelf and brought it to me to read to her. I saw it and said, "Oooh, how about Angelina Ballerina?" "No, I like the way this man looks", she said turning to book over to the back cover. (Well, heck I like the way he looks too babe. But that's another conversation.) You have to admit he is sort of a stud.

We read the book and I tried my hardest not to cry. I felt compelled to tell her that the book is not really about a boy and a tree. Did she see that? It's about unconditional love and a parent's compulsion to give and give to the child she loves more than life itself. The tree is unapologetically selfless. Makes you think.

So, just as I was about ready to lose the grip on my waterworks show. Ava says, "I love that book, is that Johnny Appleseed on the back?" Huh? "You know Mommy, I think that is Johnny Appleseed." I answer, "No sweetie that is Shel Silverstein and his picture is on the book because he wrote the book." Let me insert here that I believe Johnny Appleseed has been in the preschool curriculum this month. She was insistent, I was wrong and that picture showed Johnny Appleseed. In my infinite wisdom, and the fact that it was an hour past her bedtime I chose not to argue.

This morning she greeted me with The Giving Tree in hand. Begging me to read it to her. She smiled that silly grin and with a twinkle in her eye said, "Please read me Johnny Appleseed's book that's not about the boy and the tree."

And now I have a happy memory when I see The Giving Tree. Makes you wonder about who's giving.