Sunday, April 29, 2007

Nine Things About Doodle

In honor of Doodle's 9th birthday, here are nine things that I love about her (in no particular order):

1. Doodle is a good bargain hunter. She was already an excellent shopper at the age of 7 months; she kicked her legs in excitement as we looked at the goodies on Shaiman Island in Guangzhou. At 3, sales clerks gaped at her in astonishment when she would look at a price tag and say, "Mommy, we can't but this because it's not on sale." That's my girl.
2. I know it sounds trite, but she really is as beautiful inside as she is on the outside. She is loving, caring, and giving. Her inner goodness shines through.
3. Doodle looks out for her friends. Every Wednesday her school has a school store where they sell fancy pencils, erasers, and other goodies. Doodle often uses some of her money so she can get something for twin friends who can't afford to buy anything.
4. She is a patient, kind sister. Sometimes when I am unable to comfort Tootle because I am frustrated with her tantrum-like behavior (fortunately becoming less frequent), Doodle is there to step in and soothe away the tears.
5. She is musical. I regret that I didn't learn how to play an instrument. I get great enjoyment and satisfaction out of listening to her play the piano. She is excited about learning to play the flute in school next year.
6. She loves to be thrilled. She is great fun at an amusement park, and there is nothing better than riding a rollercoaster with her.
7. She loves to write. Doodle often sits down at the computer and pounds out a story or a poem. One of her poems will be in the Love Without Boundaries Love's Journey 2 book.
8. She loves games. Many nights after Tootle goes to bed, we play a game. Doodle is highly competitive but manages to quash the impulse to cheat.
9. Doodle is an excellent teacher. When she instructs her sister on important matters like how to play a Gameboy game, her directions are clear, her tone is encouraging, and her patience is impressive. Her teacher last year, who screamed far too often, could have taken a few tips from her.
I'm proud of the terrific young lady my girl has become.

Battles, Continued

This weekend, Tootle decided to take off her helmet while skating. She likes the feeling of the breeze blowing through her hair so the helmet will be staying home from now on when she practices crossovers. Maybe she's becoming less rigid as she feels more secure that her family will always be there.

What If They Forget the Baby, Continued

In February Tootle worried that friends who had just welcomed their first daughter would leave the hospital without the baby ( This weekend both Tootle and I got to hold the gorgeous, and obviously not forgotten, baby at a birthday party. The baby's adorable outfit is the backup ensemble for her Red Egg party, to be held next month.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Battle of the Bedrail

Like many post-institutionalized kids, Tootle is resistant to change. It sometimes takes me many months to institute a change, and then I'm not always sure what inspired the sudden willingness to go out on a limb. Take for example the battle of the bedrail. I had a bedrail on Tootle's twin bed when she came home about two years ago. After witnessing Tootle sleeping in my crowded bed with me and her sister without falling out, last fall I suggested that she was a big girl and didn't need the bedrail any longer. (It really is a pain to make a bed with a bedrail.) This reasoning did not work, and Tootle refused to budge. Based on her attitude, you would have thought that the bedrail was a beloved stuffed animal or security blanket (and in a way, it was). This discussion went on for months, mostly on Saturday mornings when I changed her sheets and removed the bedrail temporarily to make the job easier. I started telling her that I would remove it when she was 5, then about six months in the future. About a month ago, and still 3 months shy of the deadline, we were having our standard discussion on this topic when Tootle suddenly agreed to the change. I put the bedrail in the garage, just in case there was trauma at bedtime. There was none. End of story.

Our current standoff over change involves the helmet that she wears for ice skating. The other kids at her level don't wear one anymore because they are proficient (Tootle has passed 4 levels of skating classes in just 3 months), but Tootle insists on wearing hers. I gently suggest that she doesn't need it anymore, but she insists, and I don't press because this is not worth a battle.

I am, however, gearing up for more resistance to change when I remove the twin bed from the room the girls share, dismantle Doodle's queen size bunk beds, and give Tootle what is now the top bunk. I've been prepping Tootle for this change, and she hasn't squawked too much, but I won't be able to give her much more time to adjust to the idea because I want to do it before summer. Having a bed overhead makes Doodle's bed uncomfortably hot in the summer, and the ceiling fan is fairly close to the top bunk so it can't be on if anyone is sleeping on top. Who knew that the work that I'm done for my employer on being a change agent would be so valuable at home. In this case, the key strategies are communication (and more communication), trust building, and lots of patience.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sunny Days

Ex Mommy

As I weeded and tried to make our backyard look semi presentable yesterday, Doodle gave Tootle lessons in climbing and jumping off of our faded, nearly 7-year-old Little Tikes 8-in-1 adjustable playground (by next year it likely will have a new home, hopefully with the 18-month old who lives next door). Doodle showed herself to be a patient, encouraging instructor, and Tootle was very respectful of her teacher. At the end of the "lesson," they hugged and decided to play house instead. Doodle became Tootle's mom, which led them to have the following conversation with me:

Doodle: Mommy, I'm Tootle's mom now, and you're ex mom.

Me (sounding incredulous): Ex mom? You're firing me?

The twosome huddled and then Doodle said, I'm mom and you're mommy.

Later the neighbors got a good chuckle as Tootle kept calling to "Mom" while scootering, and Doodle responded: "Stop calling me mom. I'm not your mom anymore."

Over the years, I've been Mama, Mom, Mommy, Mommy-o, and even Mrs. O'Mommy (Doodle's first preschool teacher had an O' name, which prompted her to rename me for a short time), but never before have I been called Ex Mom. I'm glad we're not getting a divorce.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Surgery Scheduled

After keeping us waiting 40 minutes past our appointed time on Monday, the ENT took 1 minute to confirm what I already knew: Tootle's left ear tube is out and needs to be replaced. She agreed to put in the tube that lasts for 3-4 years but wouldn't commit to replacing the right one at the same time unless she sees a problem when she looks at it during surgery. To her credit, she did appear to feel slightly regretful that she didn't replace them both back in November. Surgery is scheduled for the middle of next month so I'll only have to listen to Tootle tell me that her ear is popping about 1,000 times between now and then.

One good thing did come out of the long wait in the doctor's office: Tootle was able to read an easy counting book by herself, which has sparked an interest in learning to read. She has the building blocks; she knows her letters and sounds. Now she's starting to put it all together.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Senseless Tragedies

My friend's son is an engineering student at Virginia Tech. Thankfully, he is fine, but it scares me to think of everything this young man, who grew up in Northern Virginia, and others from our region have had to endure in their formative teenage years: 9-11, the anthrax scare, the sniper attacks, the seesawing alert levels, and now this massacre. Doodle was only three and paid very little attention to television news when 9-11 happened. She seems to process horrible news well, but I fear that the stress of growing up in today's world will take its toll no matter how hard I work to provide a secure, low stress, protective environment.

In nine short years, Doodle goes off to college. I hope I am sending her out into a better world than the one we live in today. Last week, in a bedtime conversation, Doodle said that she doesn't want to go away to college. I told her that she will always have a home with me; she can go to a local college and live at home if that is what she wants. That satisfied her, and she fell asleep. I hope the next nine years bring no more senseless tragedies. Enough already.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Club 97.3

I recently bought a temporal (forehead) thermometer because I didn't think I was getting accurate readings in Tootle's ears. Both girls love the new thermometer and like to test their skill at using it, whether they feel sick or well. As they got ready for school one day, both Doodle and Tootle took their temperature, and they were thrilled that they both had the same temperature: 97.3. (They both routinely have temperatures in the 97s; I am always 98.6.)

They quickly decided to form the 97.3 Club and got busy thinking up club activities. That night the girls bickered and disbanded the club, but it was back in full force this weekend. The club now has an official hat (made from extra wrapping paper from a birthday gift) and an official card game. I wonder how long it will be before it disbands again.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Foto Challenge: A Girl and Her Cat

I adopted sibling cats, Opal and Pearl, about a year before Doodle came home. Before Doodle entered our home, Opal was skittish when people came to visit. After Doodle joined the family, Opal assumed the role of protector. If someone came to visit, she would stay glued by Doodle's side. When I rushed to comfort a crying baby Doodle in the middle of the night, Opal was always in the hallway outside Doodle's room, ready to give me the "what took you so long" look. She let Doodle pull her ears and tail. Nowadays, she loves to listen to Doodle play the piano and to cuddle with Doodle at bedtime. Doodle, quite simply, is Opal's person.

Doodle feels just as strongly about Opal. When she was 9 months old, Doodle's first word was "ke ca" for "kitty cat." Her second word was "mama." Sometimes I think I'm still in 2nd place behind the cat. Another one of Doodle's early words was "gentle" because I spent so much time modeling gentle petting behavior. Once when Doodle was about 4, Opal somehow got outside and didn't come back for hours. Doodle was beside herself with worry.

Pearl and Tootle do not have a similar relationship. Pearl is the kind of cat who only loves you because you provide the food. Opal is also Tootle's protector, but to a far lesser extent. This doesn't bother Tootle; she really doesn't pay much attention to the cats. However, her behavior around cats has improved 100 percent from what I witnessed when we were in Guangzhou before coming home. Tootle, who had just turned 3, kicked a store cat in one of the shops; it's the most aggressively I have ever seen her behave. I apologized profusely and then started to fret about how she would treat our cats. Fortunately, she has never abused either of them and does occasionally pet them.

To see more pet photos, go to

Thursday, April 12, 2007

An Average Straight A Student

Doodle attends a school where more than two thirds of the kids work above grade level. Doodle is not one of them. While she brought home a perfect report card this week with all As in the core subjects and Os in the special enrichment activities, she is at grade level in both math and reading, the two areas where grade level is assessed. Like the kids in Lake Wobegon, most of Doodle's gaggle of friends are above average (and are upper middle class with parents who are lawyers, engineers, doctors, scientists, or journalists). I've been told that working at grade level in our school district would mean being above grade level elsewhere, so these above average kids are pretty exceptional. It sometimes bothers Doodle that the vast majority of her friends are in an advanced math class, leading her to think that she isn't smart, which of course isn't true. She is at the top of her game in the grade level class but would likely struggle with the above grade level group. When her confidence level dips, the worrywart side of her comes out, her brain freezes, and I spend a lot of time building her up. This happened last year when she moved to the advanced level math class for a marking period. If only Doodle had the self confidence of a superhero (the picture is from our trip to Disney World last August).

Doodle is a hard worker and a focused student, so I know she will always succeed as long as her confidence level doesn't dip. I'm toying with the idea of some math tutoring over the summer so that Doodle can join her friends in the advanced class in the fall, but I'm not sure if I should mess with what is working for her.

And does she need to be good at everything? Her self esteem is boosted by her musicality and her writing abilities. Her teacher often tells her what a talented writer she is, and she enjoys spending free time writing stories and poetry. One of her poems will be in the new Love Without Boundaries book, which will release later this year. Hey, maybe she needs her own blog instead of math tutoring.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Pop Goes the Ear

When Tootle had cleft palate surgery late last year, the ENT surgeon replaced the ear tube that had popped out of her right ear but decided during surgery not to replace the left one. When the surgeon told me about her decision post surgery, I knew it wasn't a good thing, and now I'm even more convinced of it. Tootle has been complaining for the past month or so that her left ear is popping, and a recent hearing test at school showed some reduced hearing in that ear. A trip to the pediatrician revealed that there is a lot of fluid and wax, and that the tube is out. There appears to be nothing I can do to help except to continue giving her Claritin and Nasonex for her spring allergies and telling her how sorry I am that her ear is popping when she tells me about it multiple times a day. I hate feeling so helpless. We have an ENT appointment on Monday (an improvement over the original date of mid May), and I expect that another PE tube surgery will follow, hopefully in short order. The original right tube lasted about 12 months and the left one 17 months or so. Tootle will need tubes until she is a teenager (fluid builds up in her shorter than average Eustachian tubes, resulting in hearing loss) so I see years of surgeries staggered just months apart unless I'm able to convince the ENT to stop the nonsense and just replace both at the same time. I also need to talk to her about the longer lasting t-shaped tubes. Wish me luck.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Easter Dresses

Tootle seldom agrees to wear a dress so today was a special day indeed. It must be upside down, mixed up, backwards day because she also begged for a mini photo shoot this morning before church.

Behold the purple egg--and the dress. Doodle looks very grown up and sophisticated in her black and white dress.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Jam Packed Saturday

We started off our day with a Easter egg hunt, held indoors because of the dusting of snow that we woke up to this morning. Tootle had fun playing pin the tail on the bunny and doing crafts, while Doodle helped hide eggs and assisted the younger kids with the hunt. From there, we went ice skating for two hours. Tootle is very proud of her latest trick: she can skate on one foot (and for longer than I would expect her to be able to do it: the kid has incredible athleticism and balance too). We had a late lunch at the mall, where we stopped to find a sweater that Doodle could wear with her Easter dress. Who knew that we would be hit with winter in April. Next we rushed home and colored eggs. The girls are pretty proud of the results. After dinner, we made chocolate chip mini muffins for Easter brunch at church. After Tootle went to bed, Doodle, who no longer believes in the Easter Bunny (or Santa or the Tooth Fairy), helped me fill eggs with goodies for our traditional Easter egg hunt. Doodle finally went to bed, giving me a chance to load up their Easter baskets. Whew, this bunny is pretty tired, and this may be the first time I've sat in a chair today.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Nix the Medical Career

As Tootle watched the lab technician take blood from me this morning for a cholesterol test, she looked a bit faint. Tootle later told me that she felt "mixed up" as she watched with a combination of fascination and fear. After seeing her squeamishness today, I don't think Tootle has a future in the medical professions even if she did do an ace job of applying the bandage.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007