Sunday, December 30, 2007

On Aging

Nana and her twin sister were born four days after Christmas. Most years we head to Pennsylvania a few days after Christmas so that the twins can celebrate their special day together. This year was no exception. The twins turned 71, and both are in good health, for which we are thankful.

Unfortunately my 87-year-old Aunt Ruth, who had to go into a nursing home this fall because one of my other aunts could no longer care for her, is rapidly deteriorating and likely will die in the next month. She has pulmonary fibrosis and has to use oxygen to breathe. She sometimes sleeps through several days and can become confused when she is awake. We tried to visit her during our trip, but we were unable to wake her (we and the staff tried for about 30 minutes). I regret taking the girls to the nursing home. They both were deeply shocked at how small and frail their aunt looks, and Tootle in particular clung to me and kept asking for reassurance that I won't look that old and frail anytime soon. I took the girls because my aunt has recently talked about them a lot, and I thought a visit from them would cheer her up. I too am haunted by my aunt's condition (last night I lay awake worrying that she will starve to death if she sleeps for increasingly long periods; she asked for no feeding treatments, etc.) and I'm so sorry that I didn't let the girls' last memory of their aunt be one of her sitting in a chair in her home in September. I just pray that she will be pain free and at peace when she dies. My mom and I will probably try to visit again in a week or two, but I'll leave the girls with other relatives.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Rock On

The girls both got learn to play electric guitars for Christmas. The competing sounds can be a bit grating at times, but they're having a blast.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Holiday Quiz

A few years ago I replaced the annual holiday letter with a more light-hearted holiday quiz. Here is the 2007 edition:

1. Doodle loves to have jam sessions where she accompanies a CD on her flute. Her favorite to get down to is:
A. Mozart
B. Twelve Girl Band
C. High School Musical 2
D. Carrie Underwood

2. Tootle broke her right wrist in two places and had a cast for five weeks this fall. Her motto during this time was:
A. Have Sharpie, Please Sign
B. So Glad I’m a Leftie
C. What Do You Mean No Monkey Bars?
D. All of the above

3. Tootle loves kindergarten. Her favorite school activity is:
A. Computer station (even if she can’t log on to Webkinz)
B. Recess (even if she can’t swing on the monkey bars)
C. Reading
D. All of the above

4. Doodle, now a 4th grader, played on a soccer team this fall for the first time since she was 4. The Dynamites were division champions, and Doodle can’t wait to play again in the spring. The teammates try every position and Doodle’s favorite was
A. Goalie (nobody scored against her)
B. Defender (it’s hard to get past her)
C. Midfielder (she assisted in a goal)
D. All of the above

5. Donna played in the end of season parent-Dynamites game even though she had never played soccer before. She played defender and:
A. Had some nice passes to teammates
B. Kicked the ball straight into the stomach of a 6 year old opponent
C. Fell after kicking the ball, but only once
D. All of the above

6. Nana has much more free time now that Tootle is in kindergarten. She fills her time:
A. Reading
B. Shopping
C. Cleaning and cooking and making the family’s life much easier
D. Volunteering at school
E. All of the above

7. Tootle loves soccer and ice skating. Tootle wants to learn how to spin on the ice but right now she is learning
A. Snowplow stops
B. Crossovers
C. Both A & B

8. Doodle had a poem published in a coffeetable book about adoption from China. Her poem is titled:
A. Ode to a Ladybug
B. My Sister
C. Stop Copying Me

Answers: C, D, D, D, D, E, C, B

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Conversations with Tootle: Saturday Edition

Today Tootle said, "Mommy, write this down. I want to be an elf when I grow up."

"An elf? Why do you want to be an elf?" I asked.

"Because I'd get to be with Santa," Tootle replied.

When we went skating this morning, also on the ice was one of Tootle's best friends, who was afraid to let go of her parents' hands so she could learn to skate on her own. Tootle joined in the fun, continually telling her friend to "step, step, glide." Eventually Tootle came over to me and said, "I've been thinking. E. really should take lessons." I advised her to tell her friend because I knew that her parents are trying to convince her to take lessons since everyone else in the family loves to skate. Tootle thought about that for a nanosecond and then said, "No, I can't. She wouldn't want to be my friend anymore." E.'s mom later confirmed Tootle's assessment.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nine Years Ago

Nine years ago today, Doodle and I became a family. In many ways Doodle hasn't changed much in 9 years:
  • In China Doodle would pat the crib bumpers, vigorously shake her head, and tug at her ears to keep from falling asleep. Her techniques have become more sophisticated, but she still doesn't like to sleep and requires less sleep than the average kid her age.
  • Seven month old Doodle kicked her legs in excitement when we went shopping in Guangzhou. She still loves to shop and is a savvy consumer. She only buys sale items.
  • Baby Doodle loved to cuddle and give awesome sloppy wet kisses. Fortunately the kisses are no longer sloppy, but Doodle continues to like to cuddle occasionally. I'm savoring this now because I know it won't last much longer.
  • Baby Doodle loved music and could sing 2-3 word phrases before she could say them. Today she sings in the church choir and plays piano and flute.

The cheeks are much thinner now and the curls are gone, but Doodle remains an exceptionally beautiful girl, both inside and out. This is the message that I posted on the CCAI yahoo list in celebration of our one year anniversary in 1999 (gotta love the archives):

One year ago today, Long Fuzhong came into my life, 12 hours after arriving in Guangzhou with 38 other expectant CCAI families. We all had a single goal—to bring our daughters home for Christmas. Within several hours of arriving in China, we were on the ground at the new Fuzhou airport, where we were met by our guides. As word spread that the airport had Western toilets, we all headed off for a visit to the restroom before collecting our luggage and starting on our 45 minute trip to the Lakeside Hotel. While in the bathroom, someone breathlessly reported that we would get the babies that night. The excitement level in the small space rose tremendously and the story was confirmed by Mr. Gu while we waited for the luggage.

Around dinnertime, the crib arrived and my impatience level grew by the minute as I paced my room, unpacked, and arranged the baby supplies. A short while later I poked my head out of my door when I heard noise. The babies from Changting had arrived and they were being introduced to their new families outside of Mr. Gu's room, only a few doors down from my room. I watched with awe and a bit of impatience as the babies were placed in their parents' arms. I remember Brynne wailing as she met Debbie (and how quickly they later bonded), which led to tears from each subsequent baby. The families with babies from Changting received bean curd as a gift from the orphanage and I recall thinking, “Am I really going to have to carry bean curd around in my suitcase?” After the last child was introduced to her parents, I went back to my room to wait some more. About an hour later, mostly spent waiting in my doorway, I was rewarded with the sight I had been waiting for—the group of nine children from Longyan parading down the hall, four on foot (two rather unsteady) and the other five being carried by nannies. I quickly spotted my curly haired, chubby cheeked daughter and began to follow the parade. Mr. Gu sent me, and the other anxious parents away, but only for a moment. When I returned, the children were being photographed together in Mr. Gu’s room. As they began to line up in the room to be presented to us, Doodle was at the front of the line, red faced and sobbing uncontrollably (and immortalized on videotape). It took all of my willpower to stop myself from grabbing her at that moment to comfort her.Fortunately, by the time we met about five to ten minutes later, she was composed and simply stared into my face as I first held her. Mr. Gu presented me with formula and cereal from CCAI and a precious gift from the nannies of photos of Longyan and the orphanage. It was over too quickly and I didn’t have enough hands to carry it all as well as Doodle. I was instructed to go directly back to my room with no care and feeding instructions. Questions would be answered the next day. Doodle and I then spent an hour getting to know each other and removing her six shirts. The shirt removal process was painfully slow since she cried every time I removed a piece of clothing and I then had to spend time comforting her before moving on to the next layer. Once Doodle was finally in her blanket sleeper, she drank about half a bottle and then conked out. I wanted to rouse her so we could continue to get acquainted, but I let her sleep and prepared for bed myself.

Tonight 19 month old Doodle laughed and chattered as I pulled her shirt over her head. As I put on her pajamas, she began to sing the part of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” she learned today: “Up above the da da da.” The curls are gone (sniff) and the cheeks are much slimmer, and my baby is becoming a little girl. When she says “happy” or “mama home,” my heart bursts with joy. I am truly blessed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Family Recipes

I'm getting little sleep in recent days as I try to finish a Shutterfly book of my grandmother's recipes to give to my mom and her twin sister as Christmas gifts. Their birthday is four days after Christmas, so if I miss one deadline, I should hit the other one. The book includes many family favorites, but I'm most pleased with the inclusion of a recipe that I've never made (although I remember that my grandfather made it when I was young). The special recipe: Dandelion Wine.

According to the recipe, you soak 6 quarts dandelion flowers in 4 quarts of cold water for 3 days and 3 nights.Strain through cloth and add to the liquid 4 pounds of white sugar, 2 slices of lemon, and 2 tablespoons of yeast. Let stand for 4 days and 4 nights. Strain again, then bottle for use.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


As the girls grow older, some of our holiday traditions may be ending in the next year or two. I don't know how much longer Doodle will sit on Santa's lap; she does it for her sister's sake. Another tradition that likely will end in the next year or two is our annual outing to a walk through holiday lights display with our China Moms group. Saturday night's outing included 9 kids, ranging in age from 10 to 5. Several of our regulars couldn't make it this year. The 10 year old (who is almost as tall as I am) and an 8 year old repeatedly declared that they were bored. Oddly, the three 9 year olds seemed to have a fabulous time, perhaps because they were spending more time chatting than looking at the lights. Tootle, the youngest in the group, didn't want to leave McDonald's, where we all grabbed dinner after seeing the lights, because she had just made a "new best friend." Our China Moms group formed 10 years ago, when some of us were waiting for our referrals. We've had fairly regular playdates ever since. When Doodle was young, these girls were her best friends (one stayed with us while her mom was in China for her second daughter, and several have vacationed with us). The girls all go to different schools and have diffrent interests, so they don't consider these friends to be their very best friends anymore (Tootle's overstatement notwithstanding), but the bonds are still strong. We moms agreed on Saturday that we'll have to come up with some activities that will keep the older kids amused. We've made tentative plans to go ice skating on Disco Night. Whatever we end up doing, I'm committed to staying connected with these friends as Doodle, and later Tootle, make their way through the tween and teen years. These friends understand what it's like to be adopted by/live with a single parent and be removed from your birth culture. I always tell the girls that they can tell me anything, but if they ever feel that they can't because it would hurt me, I hope that they will have these friends who understand them and can listen.

On Poetry and Book Reports

The 3rd and 4th graders at Doodle's school give monthly oral presentations, alternating between giving book reports and reciting memorized poetry. The teachers are kind enough to make this chaotic/short month a poetry one, so next week Doodle will be presenting "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost. Last night we went on You Tube and found an audio recording of Robert Frost reading the poem. This simple but haunting poem has always been one of my favorites.

Doodle literally "rocked" her book report presentation last month, earning an A+ (one of only two in her class) for her nonfiction report on rocks and gems. January's book report is an autobiography. At last report, Doodle is planning to start reading Jane Goodall's My Life with the Chimpanzees over the holiday break. I'm glad Doodle's school puts emphasis on oral presentations at an early age. She'll be thankful for all the practice when she's out in the business world.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Proud Mommy Moment

Tootle's marvelous kindergarten class welcomed a new student a few weeks ago, one who has introduced chaos to the classroom. The new boy is autistic and has been placed in Tootle's class full time without his individualized education plan being worked out. For the first few weeks, until parents starting calling the principal and the district administration, the classroom teacher had no additional assistance, even though A would dart out of the classroom, stick his hands in paint, etc. Now there is a full-time paraeducator for A, so there are far fewer classroom disruptions. Most of the kids in the class have reacted by complaining about, laughing at, or ignoring A. Tootle, however, has truly welcomed him and encourages him to participate. Both the teacher and volunteering parents have reported that Tootle is by far the most accepting child of A. Tootle had a mildly autistic boy in her pre-K class, which may have paved the way for her ability to be encouraging and helpful. I hope the school provides A with the resources that he needs and that A thrives in his new school. I think all the kids can learn some valuable lessons from having him in their class; Tootle appears to be well on her way to absorbing some important life lessons.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


I should be getting some items checked off my holiday "to do" list, but instead I'm amusing myself by elfing the girls:

Friday, December 7, 2007

Dashing Through the Parking Lot

A horse-driven carriage ride, hot cider, cookies, goodie bags with candy and rubber duckies, balloons, and caroling, all courtesy of a shopping center. The setting for the carriage ride, a parking lot, was less than scenic, but it was still a lot of fun.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Black and White World

Last night Doodle and I spent some time looking through her Junior Girl Scouts badge book, planning which badges she will work on over the next few months. I mentioned that some of the badges are the same ones that I earned at her age and that I still have my sash/badges packed away in a box somewhere. Doodle then asked, "Are your badges black and white?" No, sweetie, some of the earliest pictures of your mom may be in black and white, but we did have color in our world. Too funny.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

First Snow of the Season

We had just enough snow to make a petite snowman and sled down the hill up the street. We packed a lot of fun into the short period between my arrival home from work and dinnertime.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Fa la la la la

Tis the season. My shopping is nearly done, but we've done very little decorating. On Saturday morning I scrambled to locate our two advent calendars, our advent wreath, our advent candle, and of course the advent chocolate. Advent is the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the Christmas season, but this year it simply seems to be showing how very unprepared I am. I may have an advent wreath but there are no candles for it, so week 1 of advent went by without lighting the first candle. One nativity is in place, but I haven't displayed the bigger one yet, and I'm not sure where the Playmobil one is. Tootle was thrilled that I found this Playmobil house, and she has been playing with it daily. I'm stressing out that our cards haven't arrived yet; I want to get them in the mail soon. At least the girls are excited about the countdown to Christmas. They often consume their chocolate before breakfast each day! Perhaps I need to take a deep breath and start to see the season through their eyes. I think the view is a lot better from there.

Monday, December 3, 2007


We went to a local high school musical production on Sunday. As the actors sang their final lines, Tootle leaned over and whispered, "Is this the end, mommy? Is this the happily ever after?"

As we watched the show (which was really impressive for a high school production), I realized that Doodle will be a student at this school in just five years. She informed me afterwards that she'll be in the orchestra pit instead of on stage.