Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Two Years Ago Today...

I huffed and puffed my way up the five flights of stairs at the sweltering hot Hangzhou Civil Affairs office as Doodle raced ahead, anxious to meet her mei mei. Tianyu and the orphanage officials weren't there yet so I had a few minutes to catch my breath and calm my nerves. For the first few minutes I only had glimpses of my new almost 3-year-old daughter as she hid behind and clung to the nanny's skirt, clutching a bag of potato chips. My plan to lure her over to us with food was foiled because she liked the potato chips better. She did come out of hiding to look at the backpack of toys we brought for her but she quickly retreated to her safe spot. I could see that she was incredibly beautiful and that her hair was elaborately done in at least 20 braids, caught up into pig tails. Her Velcro like grip on the nanny would have been comical if it hadn't been so heartbreaking.

One hour later, Tianyu was entranced by the trusty magical Magnadoodle and blowing bubbles (after howling the entire short taxi ride back to the hotel and peeing on me as we approached the hotel). If you asked Tootle to tell the story of our meeting for the first time, she would tell you about the pink sneakers that I bought for her later that day and which she didn't want to take off that night. The days that followed brought an increased understanding of each other, a vomiting incident in yet another taxi, much giggling and some tantrums too, a visit to the orphanage where I was the recipient of the Velcro like grip, and the celebration of a third birthday with pastries from the White Swan bakery (the green tea ones rock).

I had a few jealous moments at the White Swan as I watched how easy everything was for the parents of infants (they didn't have a child who cried hysterically when I removed the wrapper from a slice of cheese), and as I fondly remembered my trip to adopt then 7 month old Doodle in 1998, but I wouldn't trade places with them for anything. Tootle came to me with a much more formed personality but I still have had the chance to experience plenty of firsts: the first band aid (or at least she acted like it was the first one), the first time swimming, the first bike ride, and of course the first kiss and I love you. Now almost five, Tootle—in the 100th percentile for height and weight—has a big personality, a big heart, and a big fan club. She likes to race down the street on her scooter with her sister, ice skate or swim for hours, do 100-piece puzzles and play endless games of Chutes and Ladders, pretend that she is Lava Girl, and play with friends. She is healthy and has endured three surgeries (two for ear tubes and one for her cleft palate) with nary a complaint. The parents of her preschool friends marvel at how much she has learned in two short years. In the fall her world will get even bigger as she starts kindergarten.

Tootle turns 5 in six days, and she is beyond excited about her birthday party with all her preschool and neighborhood friends. She won't talk to me about her first three years in China except to tell me that she is happy in our house and being in our family; her memories appear to start with our arrival. I hope that she remembers her foster family and will talk to me about them someday. Unfortunately we were not allowed to meet them. We are fortunate to have a short video in which the foster mother appears but even that has not prompted Tootle to talk except to say that she remembers her foster mom. Her foster family clearly did an awesome job because she was so ready to be a part of our family.

Tonight we will celebrate by swimming at the pool after a pizza dinner. We've postponed our traditional Chinese dinner until the weekend. Last night we looked at the book I created about our journey to bring her home. It was very hard to get her to sleep because she wanted to hear more about her story, and I couldn't say no. She seemed to enjoy her sister's account of the story best because it emphasized the victimization of me as the repository of pee and vomit.

Today I give thanks to the foster family and the orphanage officials for taking such good care of my little girl for almost three years. I'm so honored to be this awesome girl's mother forever.
Photos: The picture on Rainbowkids that led me to contact CHSFS and begin the journey to Tianyu (Tootle is 2 here); Tootle blows bubbles in the hotel room a few hours after we became a family; sisters (Tootle's bond to Doodle was nearly immediate and made the transition to our family much easier)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dr. Seuss, or Seuss I Am

For Doodle's last book report project of the year, she read a biography of an American who has greatly influenced our country and then gave a presentation as that individual. This week her class invited parents to a "wax museum" where the kids came to life and gave their presentations after you pressed their button. Doodle chose Dr. Seuss and presented her report in rhyme:

My name is Dr. Seuss
For 87 years my imagination was on the loose
I’m a children’s book author and a class clown
Who wrote about the Grinch and Mr. Brown
And Horton and Yertle and the Cat in the Hat
Whose picture is on beginner books and placemats

Born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1904
I was in a family of four
Father, mother
Sister and brother
Father made beer
Which made Temperance people jeer

I loved to sketch
People liked my drawings, and I continued to etch
In high school, I enjoyed popularity
I was known for hilarity
I went to Dartmouth College
Where I improved my knowledge

On a boat trip the ship’s beat
Led me to write And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street
I wrote and illustrated 44 books
They helped kids learn to read, that’s all it took

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Gossiping over the Fence

Doodle and a friend gossip with a classmate over the fence.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Surgery Soundbites

Tootle had her ear tube surgery at 8:45 Friday morning. Here are a few soundbites from our day.

1. We had to leave the house before 6 a.m. Tootle woke up as I dressed her, but I encouraged her to go back to sleep for the drive to the hospital. Her reply: "I can't. It's too morning."

2. The highlight of the day was the elevated moving sidewalks that take you from the parking garage to the hospital's main lobby. Tootle said, "I'd like to have these in our house."

3. The surgery was quick and routine. In recovery, Tootle had a red popsicle. It's a popsicle that I won't soon forget: a stain from it remains on Tootle's car seat cover even though I put it in the washing machine as soon as we got home. Yes, Tootle vomited on the way home. The poor kid's legs were soaked down to her underwear.

4. In spite of the trauma of the trip home, by the middle of the afternoon, Tootle was ready to run around the backyard and reprise Lava Girl.

5. Today Tootle happily told me that her ears aren't popping anymore. Yeah!


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Lava Girl

Tootle has a wonderful imagination and loves pretend play. Often moments after waking up, she is engaging her Little Pet Shop characters or stuffed animals in play. If she can't find a stuffed animal or a figurine, anything will do, including dry erase markers. I'm not sure why I bother to buy her toys. Tootle has a low, raspy voice, but when she speaks as one of these characters, her voice is high pitched and squeaky.

Last night when we were playing outside after dinner, Tootle turned into Lava Girl, who climbed to the top of the playhouse and needed to be rescued from the bubbling lava. According to Tootle, everyone else in the yard--Doodle, Doodle's friend, our next-door neighbor and her toddler son, and me--had magic powers and could safely walk on the lava. After carrying my 47-pound daughter to safety one too many times, I convinced her that I could transfer my magic to her by holding her hand. I can't wait for the further adventures of Lava Girl.

Friday, May 11, 2007

More Bedtime Conversation

Tootle graduates from preschool in just a few weeks. Tonight at bedtime I decided to test how she will answer the question that the preschool teachers ask every graduate at the graduation ceremony: what do you want to be when you grow up? Four years ago, Doodle's answer of a drummer in Penn State's marching band was rather unique among the lawyers, doctors, teachers, and mommies, so I wanted to see if the tradition might continue. Tootle did not disappoint.

Tootle: I don't ever want to be an adult.

Me: I know it's a lot of fun to be a kid, and I want you to have tons of fun, but when it's time to be an adult many years from now, you'll be ready.

Tootle: Maybe a doctor. Nah, I'll work in an office like you. What if I can't find my office? Will you show me where it is?

Me: Sure, but I think you'll be able to do things like that by yourself by then. Hey, you just said "what if" instead of "wolfif." You're getting to be such a big girl.

If Tootle's love of the microscope on today's field trip is any indication, maybe she'll be a scientist. Whatever she becomes, I know she'll be successful.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

It Figures...

Just when Tootle decided to embrace change and figure skate without a helmet, her new teacher issued an edict that her students have to wear a helmet until they are seven. So the helmet is back on her head. Nana now takes Tootle to her lesson during the week, freeing up our weekend. This week when Nana picked Tootle up at school, Tootle told her that her jacket was in the backpack. It wasn't, and Tootle shivered her way through her lesson. Last week Tootle peed in her pants 5 minutes before the end of class because she was too shy to tell the teacher that she needed to go to the bathroom (that is a change; usually this child is far from shy). I wonder what will happen next week.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Party Time

Note to self: if I ever dream up another party that involves making a virtual world into reality, remember the many, many hours of work and creativity that it took to pull off the Webkinz party. And try to forget that Doodle's thank you and hug made it all worthwhile. I've thrown some fairly elaborate kids' birthday parties--I've even had parents tell me that I should go in the business--but this one exhausted me. I prepped for weeks, and Saint Nana did much of the shopping for the party--and still it took the entire day on Friday to "stage" the event.

Twelve tweens descended on our house Friday night for what was being billed by other parents as "the party of the year." Unfortunately word leaked out at school about the party, and Doodle was under considerable pressure from a few girls who weren't invited. One girl with whom she has never had a playdate suddenly wanted to schedule one; it didn't happen. Every one of the girls who came to the party has been to our house multiple times; they are Doodle's closest friends, and I expanded my original limit on invitees so that they could all be included. The others simply didn't want to miss out on a hot ticket.

The first guest arrived 30 minutes early; her teenage sister wasn't sure of the start time. Shortly before the magic hour, three more girls came racing to the door. Soon our living room was filled with excited girls selecting a Webkinz to play with and to take home. Next we moved on to the backyard where we had set up about 12 games for the girls to play, many of which were modeled on Webkinz games (Polar Plunge, Wheel of Wow, Webkinz Super Models, Wheel of Yum, etc.) and some of which were not (foosball, volleyball, ring toss, football throw, etc.) The girls earned money for winning the games; they could then use the money to buy items for their pet in the W Shop. I also had a house for each girl's Webkinz; a small pink castle storage box that I found at the dollar store. The girls loaded up their houses with beds (wood slabs with wooden spool legs and covered with a bedspread), dressers (another dollar store find), pools (it took me an entire evening a few weeks ago to paint 12 pools), tables, vases of flowers, balls, Frisbees, and other goodies. When the girls ran out of money, they raced outside to earn more by playing games; I expected them to mutiny and for the items in the store to become free, but it didn't happen. One of my two teenage helpers served as the busy, but highly capable shopkeeper.
After a pizza dinner, the girls put precut walls (card stock paper) and floors (patterned felt) into their home, made art for the walls, and designed their rooms. They also decided on names for their stuffed animals, and the pets visited each others' houses. Cake, ice cream, candles, and then it was time for everyone to leave. I just hope the parents of the few kids who didn't have a Webkinz yet won't hate me for the hours a week that their kids will now be spending on the computer.
Tootle missed some of the party because she was invited to an overlapping birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, one of her favorite places. Nana chauffeured Tootle so I was without her assistance for much of the party, but it worked out fine. Doodle's friends are terrific girls: they all greeted Tootle with great enthusiasm when she arrived, and they proclaimed me "the top Webkinz designer." Tootle's birthday is in a few weeks, but this time I got smart: it will be a gymnastics party outside of the house. Next year she's get the Mommy Special party, and Doodle's will be outside of the house. It's the only way I'll have a chance of maintaining my sanity.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Too Much TV?

Tootle's Pre-K class is studying the rainforest. In a discussion about food that comes from the rainforest, Tootle said, "I know all about pineapples. Sponge Bob lives in one."