Tootle loves swinging on the monkey bars. She must spend most of recess on the monkey bars and she has been obsessed with mastering the tougher bars on the new playground equipment (check, accomplished last week). Her obsession has now come with a price: calluses. She spent the weekend debating whether the bothersome calluses are worth it or whether she should give up the beloved bars. The decision appears to have been made for her, at least temporarily: several of the calluses have opened up and it is now too painful to grip the bars, at least for a few days. I feel bad for her so she may get an extra treat as a sort of workers' comp for the playground set.
Ever since school started, more than a month ago already, Tootle has consistently wanted the same breakfast: french toast. Her love affair with french toast began less than a week before school started; before then she always turned up her nose at it. While french toast takes a bit more effort than I want to spend on breakfast on a weekday, I'm happy that she is eating well (she always cleans her plate), especially since she finds it a challenge to finish her lunch in the time allowed.
Tootle's penchant for french toast may be beginning to fade a bit. This week she requested soup one morning and hard boiled eggs another day; today it was back to french toast. On the day that she had hard boiled eggs, Tootle's kindergarten teacher surveyed the class about what they had for breakfast (they are doing a social studies unit on grocery stores). Tootle was the only one who had eggs. The most popular choices were cereal, followed by waffles, Tootle reported. One girl had oatmeal, which led Tootle to ask to have it someday soon. Perhaps oatmeal will become the next breakfast obsession.
I'm glad Doodle hasn't been surveyed. She is an unconventional breakfast eater. This week she has had pizza, ramen noodles, chicken nuggets, fries, and today cereal. She doesn't love breakfast foods so she frequently has dinner for breakfast.
The following is something that I wrote for Love without Boundaries' Love's Journey 2: The Red Thread book, scheduled to release in November. I can't wait to hold the book in my hands, mainly because the publication also includes a poem Doodle wrote last year, as well as at least one photo of both girls, and hundreds of other photos, essays, and poems about the Chinese adoption experience. To learn more about the book or to preorder a copy (or three, like me), go here. Here is my piece, which is likely a bit shorter in the book:
Seeing Inner Beauty I stood on my next-door neighbor’s back porch, chatting with an older Chinese couple while watching my then four-year-old daughter play in the backyard. After exchanging pleasantries about how we knew the hosts, the woman turned to me and said, “Your daughter is as beautiful inside as she is outside. She is so joyful, and you can tell that all the other kids want to play with her.” I’ve automatically thanked hundreds, if not thousands, of people for their comments on my daughter’s beauty, but this time my gratitude was genuine, and I beamed. This woman got it. She understood that it’s inner beauty that matters. This conversation occurred four years ago, and I can still replay the scene in my head.
I worry that the thousands of meaningless comments weighed against the rare true compliments will lead my girls to put too much value on outer beauty. I always thank the person giving the meaningless compliment, and usually whisper in the recipient’s ear, “And you’re smart too” or “And you’re musical” or “And you’re athletic.” I may have gone overboard with my younger daughter, adopted a year ago and now four. When her gymnastics teacher recently told her she was beautiful, she laughed and retorted “I not bootiful.” Daughter No. 2, however, has a healthy ego, and will happily tell you that she’s good at soccer or counting or sharing. My older daughter, now 8, accepts her outer beauty as a fact but doesn’t dwell on it or try to use it to her advantage—yet. She knows that her value lies in the joy that comes from how she treats others, her music, and her academics. She may spend too much time brushing her hair in the morning, but she spends far more time thinking about teaching her little sister things and exploring her growing curiosity about the world.
As a parent who has been bombarded with these meaningless comments, I now closely observe the children that I encounter, and ensure that my compliments have meaning. I know that most people who see you in passing are only going to comment on the superficial, but I still wish that more people would take the time to look beneath the surface.
Doodle's team won again today in a very lopsided game: 7-1. She assisted in the scoring of one of those goals. I'm proud of how hard she is playing, and of the whole team for how well they play together. Near the end of the game, Doodle came out for a rest, looking exhausted. In less than one minute, she told the coach she was ready to go back in, and she did.
Doodle has had a bad week. Yesterday she had four adult teeth extracted by the oral surgeon in preparation for getting her full set of braces later this month (another day I'm not looking forward to). Doodle's teeth are far too large for her petite mouth. Her overcrowding is so severe that expanders wouldn't have worked, so we had to go the old fashioned route. Phase I has resulted in straight, uncrowded front teeth, but now the rest of the teeth need to corrected. Doodle won't have as many teeth as most people, but they will be beautiful.
The extraction itself went smoothly, but the aftermath did not. The gaping holes in Doodle's mouth did not stop bleeding for four hours. She wasn't willing to eat or drink until the bleeding stopped so that meant that she went from 10 p.m. the night before to 2 p.m. the next day without any food or drink. By the time clamping down on a sponge for an hour finally got the wounds to clot, she was feeling rather weak and a bit dizzy. In the meantime, Tootle kept complaining that it wasn't a fun day even though Nana took her to the playground twice and we played multiple games. I guess she equates a day when Mommy stays home as a fun day, and I didn't deliver the goods. (Both girls had a day off school for RoshHashana.)
To top it all off, Doodle had a nosebleed at 1 a.m. Pink eye, teeth extractions, and a nosebleed in one week. We have gone through a lot of tissues this week. TGIF.
Doodle has pink eye, and we were both awake for much of the night, dealing with her discomfort. This morning in the rush to make a doctor's appointment for Doodle and get Tootle ready for school, I didn't have time to reflect on the 9-11 anniversary. I was reminded when I went to drop something off at Doodle's school and read the whiteboard that is used to post announcements and daily inspirational quotes. The board read: "In remembrance of 9-11-01." It made me wonder how much the kids in Doodle's school, which goes through 6th grade, remember about 9-11. Doodle was 3 at the time. She didn't have much interest in television and I also tried to shield her from the news, so she doesn't have much recollection of the horrific images of that day. Tootle wasn't even born yet. If I mentioned 9-11 to her, she would say, "You forgot 10, silly."
I first learned about the terrorist attacks in Doodle's preschool classroom where we were attending an open house on the day before the start of school. It was surreal and somewhat incomprehensible to hear such terrible news while surrounded by joyful children at play. I was still in shock as we drove home: trying to remain cheerful for Doodle's sake, chatting about her bright classroom, her teacher, and her classmates. I'll never forget how blue the sky was that day or what a huge relief it was to be home with my family rather than in my downtown office. The office closed early that day, and the office and the preschool were both closed the next day. I worried about friends who worked at the Pentagon and their children who were in day care there. I have seldom been in the office on 9-11 in the past six years: I've worked from home for various reasons such as the first day of preschool or today's unexpected doctor's appointment to cure Doodle's oozing eye. If and when the next attack occurs, I hope that I am once again surrounded by my loved ones, and I worry a bit that we will be scattered at work and at school. But we go on with our daily lives because to alter our plans would mean that the terrorists have won.
Doodle played in her first soccer game in five years today. Doodle last played on a team when she was 4 years old, mainly because her preschool buddies were playing and they asked her to join in. She hated the chaotic pack mentality of preschool soccer and refused to play after that season, explaining that it was "too crowded." Last year she began to play at recess, and this summer she asked to join a team. The team, which is recreational rather than super competitive, is coached by the dad of one of her best friends. Today, Doodle, AKA No. 9, played defender, and her team won, 4-3. This team only won one game last season, so perhaps they will have more wins this year. Whether they win or lose, it's a great group of kids, and Doodle is having fun.
Tootle also loves soccer and showed quite a bit of promise in the soccer clinic/class that she participated in last fall. She's doing a similar program this fall. I'm holding off on putting her on a team until next year, so that she too doesn't get scared off by the pack/crowding. She did a terrific job of cheering for Doodle's team today, and she followed the action well. At one point, I lost track of the score because I was deep in conversation, but Tootle knew. One of the other moms described the games as mommy playdates because they are an opportunity for moms to talk. I enjoyed my playdate, even if it was 90 degrees and humid. I guess this means that I can be labeled as an official soccer mom in this presidential election cycle.
There are no photos of the game because I remembered the camera, but left the memory card in the computer. Next time.
Tonight for practically the first time in her life, my 87 year old Aunt Ruth, my mom's oldest sister, is sleeping in a home without a family member present. The oldest of 10 children, she graduated from high school and promptly went to work in a shoe factory to help support the family. She worked at the factory and played a big role in her small town church until she retired, remaining in the family home to help care for my aging grandparents as each of her siblings left to get married. Once both my grandparents were gone, she moved in with another sister, who had become a widow the year before. While they sometimes appeared to be an odd couple (the bickering could be unbearable), the sisters lived together in relative peace for 21 years, until today when Aunt Ruth moved to a nursing home because her 82 year old sister was no longer strong enough to care for her.
Aunt Ruth recently fell a few times and has convinced herself that she can no longer walk, and her sister simply can't get her up and moving. While Aunt Ruth's body is failing her, her mind is still sharp. When we visited her over the weekend to help prepare for the move to the nursing home, she accurately told us where things were. A nursing home doctor tested her mental abilities by asking her who the president of the United States is. Her reply, "That jackass!" shows that she's still lovably feisty. As I hugged her goodbye, Aunt Ruth told me that she's going to have to learn to like living in the nursing home. I hope that her attitude stays positive and that the nursing homes doctors are able to get her on her feet again. While Aunt Ruth wears a hearing aid and talks loudly, often scaring young children, Tootle has always loved being with her. She wants to make and send her cards, and so we will. Doodle appears to be more worried about the 82 year old sister, who will be living along for the first time in 21 years, so she too will get special cards. (I too am a bit worried about my 82 year old aunt: she looks so tired and stressed out.)
The weekend visit has always resulted in a project for me. I borrowed a book filled with my grandma's recipes that I'm going to make into a book for family members. I had a grand time perusing it last night. Next spring I just may have to make some dandelion wine (I know my grandpa made this, but I never got to try it), and I'm thrilled to have the recipe for Faye's sugar cookies and other goodies.
My spam filter may be set a bit too high. This morning I got an e-mail from a friend who has a daughter in Doodle's class. The message started "P.S" and then asked me not to discuss the contents of her earlier message with Doodle. I didn't have an earlier message so I went to my spam and found the original message. I'm glad I did because this family is having more than its share of troubles, and I want to be supportive. The title of the original message mentions Back to School Night so the only thing that I can figure is that the e-mail was labeled spam because back to school in a message usually refers to sales.