Friday, January 29, 2010

Adoption, Rotarians, and Cancer

Today AwesomeCloud and I went mallwalking at 8:00 AM, right after we dropped Daddy off at work. This is not an unusual thing. It's cold and sometimes snowy outside, not good for strollers, and the mall is blissfully quiet at 8:00 AM. There are other mallwalkers, custodians, and Dunkin Donuts. AwesomeCloud can practice his walking without bumping into oblivious teenagers or getting in anyone's way.

He clings to the stroller with one hand and toddles forward happily, his wide eyes roaming all around him in every direction but the one he's headed. Senior citizens pause to dote on him, "Ohh, he's so cuuuute!" and dart off to do their laps. We start in the middle, near Macy's, and turn right until we reach Dunkie's at the very end. We order an egg and cheese on a croissant and one glazed donut. (We usually bring our own drinks.) Then we sit on a bench and eat, and maybe stop awhile at the Ride'em boat (without putting quarters in) before we resume mallwalking.

This week the Rotary Club has a display in the middle of the mall. There's a big tent, and inside the tent is cookware, place settings for 10 people, and a water purifier. The tent kits cost $1,000 each for the Rotary Club to purchase and send to Haiti. They send the kits elsewhere, too, but Haiti has become their favored destination since the earthquake.

Next to the tent is a big yellow funnel for donations. Drop the coin in ad watch it spiral down, down, down into the bucket. A wonderful contraption to fascinate a young, curious soul such as AwesomeCloud.

I made sure and grabbed some coins this morning so we'd have fun watching the funnel. Previously, AwesomeCloud couldn't get enough of watching the coins, but he had trouble with the concept of putting the coins in the slot. He dropped them directly into the funnel, where they rolled straight down and disappeared immediately.

There was a new guy at the Rotary Club display this morning. AwesomeCloud and I strolled up, coins in hand, and he began his spiel:

"Good morning! We're collecting donations to send tent kits like this one to Haiti. Each tent fits ten people and comes with cookware and water purifiers."

I could have told him, "Yup, we know! We come here all the time." But I was a little distracted, because AwesomeCloud was trying to claim a coin for himself instead of waiting patiently for me to drop them all in the correct way.

"I have a coin for you, little boy," the Rotarian said, and handed the kiddo a dime. "Put it right here in the slot."

Before I could explain that AwesomeCloud had trouble understanding the whole coin-in-slot concept, AwesomeCloud dropped it in the slot.

"Where did he come from?" the Rotarian asked.

"From a city near Shanghai," I said. "He's my Shanghai baby!"

The Rotarian and his friend sitting at the table smiled. "Did his parents leave any information about him?" the friend asked. (There was actually a bit of conversation between that - it wasn't a complete nonsequitur. There was stuff about boys from China being unusual, well not so much anymore, and the One-Child Policy which is brutal but getting better, and about how the Chinese really love children and it breaks their hearts to give them up.)

"No," I explained. "The parents were completely anonymous. It's illegal to abandon your child in China, just like it's illegal to keep him. Often what they do is sneak very early in the morning to an area with heavy foot traffic, and then they find a nearby corner and lurk, watching until someone finds the baby. Whoever finds the baby usually brings it to the hospital or police station, because the orphanages are very hidden and most people don't know where they are. Then the baby gets looked over, treated if necessary, and brought to the orphanage. And that is, officially, when the baby's life begins. All his past history before then is gone."

The two men nodded solemnly. Then one said, "I can tell you, as someone who knows, that when you're adopted you don't need that past history. You can get on just fine without it. Your life in the present is all you need."

"I'd like to encourage my son to live in the present," I agreed. "Maybe have a little Zen." Zen is technically Japanese, but it came through China first. A little bit of native culture to inspire him, perhaps.

I brought Ban Lu to the vet today. It was all very sudden - I called up asking for an appointment, and said, "Late afternoon on a weekday, please."

And she said, "How about today at 3:40?"

"Great!" I replied, and hung up the phone and looked at the clock which read 2:45. I got the baby milked, changed, and shod, crammed the cat and all four of his long legs into the carrier, and drove us all to Daddy's place of employment to pick him up.

The vet informed me she'd been looking at Ban Lu's records from the previous vet and didn't find enough compelling evidence to believe the intestinal mass was cancer. "I'm guessing it's irritable bowel syndrome," she said.

Then she gave me a Plan A and a Plan B. Plan A is to feed him three jars of chicken baby food a day. (Dang, I totally flaked at the grocery store tonight and forgot to buy it!) Plan B is to put him on, uh, something that starts with an O. It's a single-dose oral treatment that he might have to take every once in a while if it helps.

What this means is that Ban Lu could live another 15 years instead of 6 months. We'd be treating his ongoing tendency to vomit instead of treating increasing pain and weakness. He may always be skinny and clumsy, but he won't be getting skinnier and clumsier anytime soon.

We're also decreasing Riley's hyperthyroid medication, and hopefully wean her off it. My vet is skeptical about her diagnosis, and her online forum of experts is, too.

I love this vet and I hope hope hope she's right! Especially about Ban Lu. But then, she was the vet who had just ruled out Trixie having a brain tumor when Trixie died suddenly. It wasn't entirely the vet's fault, though. A CAT scan or MRI might have turned up a tumor, but I wasn't about to pay for it. And Trixie was showing signs of responding to the antibiotics the vet gave her. Aside from Trixie's weird blindness, an ear infection really seemed the likely cause.

If Ban Lu's condition worsens and he dies of cancer, we won't get an extra bonus 10-15 years with him, but we won't suffer any worse than our original expectations when we took him. In that respect, we can't really lose. We can only win, or return to the status quo.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I parent like my mom

We went to a parenting workshop this evening, and I realized one very eye-opening thing.

I approach parenting in a very, very similar way to my mother.

I should qualify that by saying I'm similar to how she used to be when I was little. Her parenting philosophies may have changed over the years. That happens, especially when parents become grandparents and they have a whole lifetime's experience to apply to a new generation of little ones. Even my mother's flavor of sarcasm has changed. I definitely emulate her old sarcasm more.

(I'm not Sarcasm Woman every moment. But I can't claim to be sarcasm-free, either. It might be a reaction to stress. You know, some people laugh nervously, some people scoff nervously? I'm working toward a kinder, gentler sarcasm, and my mother wasn't unbearably cruel either.)

Some suggestions were made that I just can't see myself doing, but parenting is not an exact science. A phrase that breaks one child's heart will inspire another child to go on a gleefully destructive rampage.

AwesomeCloud had his first parentless hour of daycare, and he did remarkably well. At the very end he decided he'd had quite enough and dissolved into tears. He needed us! "He has separation anxiety!" I crowed to the poor frazzled teenager who handed him over to us. "That's a very good thing!"


On an unrelated note, I just want to mention that as the mother of a child with developmental delays, I do not find it at all charming when people tell me I should be glad he's not functioning at age level. This comes up frequently about his walking skills. Many, many people, family and strangers alike, warn me in tones of doom that when he starts to walk on his own, ohhhh, then things will be different!

Yeah, they'll be different. He'll be walking as well as kids half his age. I don't want my kid to have developmental delays. He's overcoming them at double speed, which is really neat, but the delays themselves are not a part of his inherent being and he's quite capable of overcoming them all.

Yes, sometimes I express a hint of exasperation that he won't walk by himself. He can, he wants to, and he gets exasperated too, but he just won't take that step. He's taken every step leading up to it, but he still won't quite do it. He's strong enough, experienced enough, and way past old enough. He knows he should do it. I do too.

He's unbearably cute, but his failure to walk by himself, and his other delays, are not the source of that cuteness. He should be encouraged, pushed, and shoved into age-level development. He needs that. He doesn't need to remain a baby.

Conversely, when I tell people that my cat with cerebellar hypoplasia is the best pet I've ever had, and the easiest, people mutter and frown.

So loving a crippled kitten as she is is unacceptable, but I should be hoping my son takes his time learning to walk?

Um.... is.... isn't that backwards? I mean, the cat doesn't jump on the furniture, and I'm happy with that, but that's wrong somehow... my son doesn't walk across the room, and I want him to, and I should be content instead.... backwards.

(I'm telling ya. Backwards.)

(By the way, the crippled cat is a very easy pet. Just sayin'.)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The parents of a sixth grader at the school where my husband teaches runs an orphanage in Haiti. The school is having a donation drive to assist this orphanage. The parents of the child are there now, helping people left and right.

We haven't donated a thing yet. We haven't gotten around to navigating all the charities and researching their reputations. But this one goes direct. I can't imagine a charity more direct than a physical orphanage.

I'm guessing the family is a member of a wealthy, church-affiliated philanthropist/missionary group who are dedicated to their mission there.

If anyone wants the info to donate, I'll post it when I get it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Just a typical day, la la la

The cats are resolving territory disputes downstairs, and I am upstairs hiding from the baby, who is supposed to be napping. I hope he hurries. The Early Intervention lady will be here in less than half an hour, and if he hears me washing dishes, we can just forget about naptime. And dishes.

AwesomeCloud has had a few more firsts. Today he had his first time getting his fingers jammed. He's starting to let his fingers go wandering while he's in the shopping cart. Last week I found a flashlight among my purchases. He loves flashlights - when they're on! How did he know it was an amazing glowy flashlight when it was still in the packaging? (He probably didn't. He probably just grabbed a random object and I'm inventing a motive.)

He used to say "Daiie" for Daddy and "Da da" as a general catch-all term. However, it seems that enough people have responded to "Da da" with "Dada's not here!" or "There's Dada!" Now "Da da" means Daddy AND everything else.

He's started to throw his hands up after finishing a snack and announcing, "Da da!" This is good. His use of language is becoming more complex. He can now use 'words' to describe situations as well as objects.

He's learning how to pet the cats properly. He's still just a beginner, but it's important that he masters the skill early. When you grow up rescuing animals, not only should your first word be "cat" (or "dog" or "bunny") but touching the animals gently should be among your first motor skills.

He's not walking by himself yet. Alas. But he can walk around and around in a circle with me holding one hand.

Gotta go wash dishes. It's now or never.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Thank you, Dr. King

Thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King, for all you've done in this nation toward equal rights.

Thank you for allowing my son to call white people, black people, and people of every color in between his peers. Thank you for allowing him to come to America and instantly become an ordinary, everyday American.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to have African-American friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. I have sung with them, drummed with them, laughed with them, exchanged stories with them, and learned from them, and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

Thank you for helping to create a society in which my cousin can get a job at a store almost completely staffed by African-Americans, and not be obligated to boss them around or demean them, and be genuinely accepted rather than secretly despised by them. And where, if they are demeaned by anyone, they may complain and their boss will take them seriously.

Thank you for helping to create a society in which black teachers can get jobs at a prestigious private school with mostly white students in a mostly white area, and given the respect due all teachers without their race being a factor. My son may have a few of those teachers someday.

Thank you for helping to create a society where a black candidate is run-of-the-mill, a black governor is not extraordinary, and a black president is... well, president. And where if nonblack citizens complain about the race of their black politicians, they are shamed and scolded by their peers.

These comments may sound trite, but imagine how trite they'd sound if they were not true. America's journey to black equality has been long and hard, and we're still not quite done yet, but imagine how much worse it would have been if luminaries such as Dr. King didn't speak out. Imagine how our progress would stall if we don't speak out today, if we forget it all happened. There's still a lot of work to do if we want our kids to grow up in a world where they don't secretly wish to be white.

I started reading The Civil War by esteemed documentarist Ken Burns today. I hadn't even thought about the fortuity of reading a Civil War book on MLK Day. But I did think while reading the introduction, and its overview of why the Civil War was fought, "You know, every American should read and remember a little history every now and then. It's so easy to forget this all happened."

I'm glad I'm an American, and I'm going to make a little more effort to remind myself why.

(Fortunately for me, there are thousands of books about American history, and I like to read.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Welcome to the family, Ban Lu

Today, after a very moving family event, we stopped by the Animal Rescue League of Southern Rhode Island to get Ban Lu, our hospice cat.

What a sweetie he is. He's tall and very, very skinny, with a lovely marble pattern on his back and a meaningful expression on his face. He has a quiet meow and sometimes his voice cracks.

He's on special food to control his vomiting. "Not just regular vomiting - projectile vomiting!" exclaimed the shelter lady. She assured us that he does no projectile vomiting while he's on the special diet. He loves food, so we'll have to start putting Melody's regular old cat food up when Ban Lu starts wandering around the house. Right now, he's in kitty confinement so he can have time to settle in.

Ban Lu is said to be great with kids, other cats, and all dogs. In fact, we learned, he was the shelter's official dog-testing cat! And he was good at it! He endured dogs lunging at him, cowering from him, and bouncing around him. He even had a few opportunities to steal their doggie snacks (although the shelter staff watched him carefully to make sure he never ingested any - that would ruin his special diet).

When we arrived home, I fed him a small amount of food, which he picked at, and then I sat on the floor with him. He came right over and draped himself across my lap, looking up at me with that meaningful look and purring softly.

He seems sad, like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Or maybe that's just my imagination. I know he has terminal cancer. But does he? There's no way to know.

We have already discussed the hope that his cancer is a fluke, or a misdiagnosis, or benign, or something, and that he'll surprise us all and live a long, healthy life. I doubt it. He's only three years old and he's already an old, scrawny thing. He looks eight lives gone, poor guy. He doesn't appear to be able to jump, not even onto the lap of a person seated on a chair. I think this cancer thing is for real. But he doesn't seem to need pain management yet, and he eats, cleans himself, and enjoys being touched.

We'll have good times together, however briefly, and we take heart in knowing that his last months will be spent in comfort in a real home full of love.

I learned from the shelter's website that they are a "limited admission" shelter, colloquially referred to as a "no-kill shelter." I'm intrigued by the former, more official designation; it certainly is descriptive of the downside of a shelter that doesn't euthanize its unwanted pets. However, this means that they can't accept new animals until a cage is vacated, and some animals may stay for months or even years. Riley had been there since June, and Ban Lu since May.

If people like the idea of no-kill shelters, supporting those shelters is crucial. Otherwise, the bulk of the rescuing efforts will fall to the "open admission" shelters anyway.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

We rescue things

"Maybe three cats are better than two," I mused.

"That sounds like the beginnings of crazy cat lady thinking," my husband joked.

I know it was a joke because we'd just received an email from the animal shelter. Originally, when we adopted Riley, we'd hoped to adopt another cat too. But the second cat was going to be the topic of the shelter's next board of trustees meeting, so he was unavailable. We got Riley, who is settling in very well. Now we were being notified that the shelter would not give the second cat any further medical treatment, and were we still interested?

We dashed off a "yes" reply, and soon we had an appointment to pick the new cat up.

Later that evening... well... it didn't exactly dawn on us what we were doing. We already knew what we were doing. But we were thinking about it, going over some of the small changes we'd need to make.

Who knows, maybe three cats are better than two. "Maybe Melody will get over herself..." I started.

"...when she realizes that the new family members are just going to keep coming," my husband finished. "She may as well give up being grouchy, because she's never going to win. Hey, as long as we stick to our original rule - more rooms than cats - I'm happy."

Some people rescue things. Maybe it's an instinct, a compulsion, or a calling. Maybe it's hard to understand the need, unless you are one of those people. My grandfather was one of those people. He rescued everything and everyone in sight. The family struggled to understand what motivated him. He could be "generous to a fault" - literally! He often forgot to consider the needs of his loved ones when he offered to help a stranger. Sometimes his acts of generosity caused resentment.

I never resented him, though. I was in awe of him. He never left me in the lurch, but he gave and gave, and he gave me one particular thing that I value above all other gifts. It was a gift he never saw me use while he was alive. I didn't answer my altruistic instincts back then; I was afraid to. I'm not afraid anymore.

Rescuing things is not always easy. It is not always socially acceptable. It is not always normal. And it is not always an obviously good choice.

That's why people sometimes get held back by fear. "What if I'm overwhelmed?" "What if I can't afford it?" "Will the neighbors think I'm weird?" "Could I get hurt?" These are legitimate questions, and worth considering before you give in to the urge to rescue something.

Except for "Will the neighbors think I'm weird?" If they think you're weird, they think about you too much, and you should feel free to tell them so.

There are lots of things in the world to rescue. Pets, wild animals, crime victims, historical sites, ecosystems, cultural traditions, children's educations, medical research, nations in trouble, obscure art forms, the poor and underprivileged. Most people specialize. My grandfather specialized in animals and people. We specialize in animals and the natural environment, with my husband doing his part toward education.

We do it because we do it, because it's what we do. Some people do it, and we are some of those people.

We don't know yet if AwesomeCloud has the instinct. He might. Maybe it's more common than we think, and it's just stifled frequently by that aforementioned fear. Maybe that's why there are so many wealthy philanthropists. Once you have enough money, and your reputation is secure, the sky's the limit! Go nuts! Rescue everything!

There's another point worth noting, however. I've mentioned it before, but it bears reiterating. Our son is not a rescue. He is being raised in a family of rescuers, and he may continue if he likes or find a different path. But he, himself, is not an object of rescue.

It may be a counterintuitive point for some people. We're so used to hearing people say, "All those poor children who need homes!" Or "He's so lucky to have you as his parents!" Those sentiments are part of our culture. It feels natural to think and speak them.

But I don't feel it. I've never felt it. We wanted children for all the normal, mundane reasons. We chose adoption because, of all the parenthood options available to us, it was the most appealing. I didn't reject IVF because I was trying to save the poor children - I rejected it because medical treatments squick me out, and they never seem to go right with me. It was a risk I was unwilling to take. But I had to take SOME risk if I wanted offspring! No risk would equal no children.

We adopted because we didn't want to be a childless couple. We like children and we wanted some.

We rescue things because we rescue things.

AwesomeCloud will rescue things because we rescue things. Someday, I hope, he'll rescue things because he wants to rescue things. But if he doesn't, maybe, at least, he'll understand why we do. He'll roll his eyes and say, "Ohh, my parents, always rescuing disabled cats and obsessing over invasive species." But he'll be proud inside. I hope.

On Sunday we'll welcome Ban Lu into our household. His name means "companion" in Chinese, and he has terminal cancer. We're providing hospice for him. Why? Because we can. Because we are. Because instinctively, or compulsively, we care.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

As tall as the Cloud

AwesomeCloud grew two inches. In a month.


(I convinced my pediatrician to give me a copy of his growth chart. I was tired of hearing height/weight numbers thrown at me without proper context. Whoa. The kid ate some magic beans!)

(His daddy says if he keeps growing like that, he'll be as tall as Yao Ming. How tall is Yao Ming? I want to calculate how long it would take him, at two inches a month.)

(Okay, Yao Ming is 7'5" tall. At his current rate of growth, AwesomeCloud will reach Yao Ming's height in February, 2012, one month shy of his fourth birthday.)

(That means that, by human growth standards, two inches in a month is... freakish.)


Correction: It actually took him 5.5 weeks to grow 2 inches. That means he'll be as tall as Yao Ming before he is six. Still pretty freakish.

Monday, January 11, 2010

AwesomeCloud and the thumpin' pumpin' techno music

Last week, the Early Intervention lady came while we were eating lunch. That was okay. She had some high chair exercises for AwesomeCloud.

She showed him something musical, and was impressed by how happily he responded to it. AwesomeCloud is very, very musical.

"Do you want to hear his favorite song?" I asked her.

"Sure!" she said.

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"Oh, yes, yes!" she said. "I would love to hear his favorite song."

"We'd better take him out of the high chair first," I warned. I scooped him up and carried him over to the Bose stereo. His eyes lit up and he gave a little wiggle. I pressed play.

The stereo said, "Right about now, the funk soul brother."

AwesomeCloud said, "Eeeeeeeeh!"

The EI lady's mouth made a little round O.

The stereo said, "Check it out now, the funk soul brother."

AwesomeCloud bounced. I stepped into the middle of the living room and showed the EI lady what the kiddo and I could do to a thumpin', pumpin' beat.

"Wow," she said when we were done. "That's some workout!"

"Well," I explained as I put the kid on the floor, "I worked up to it. I used to dance to techno all the time by myself. You can't just pick a toddler up and start swinging; somebody will get hurt."


Last night we were watching YouTube videos, and AwesomeCloud noticed someone playing the djembe. It was, in fact, this gentleman right here: the noted physicist Dr. Richard Feynman. AwesomeCloud's hands started waving in the air in a convincing imitation of playing the djembe.

"Do you want to see a real djembe?" I asked him.

"Ahh! Ahh!" he replied. I think that was close enough to a yes.

"There's one in the closet," I told him. "Someday I will take it out and show it to you."

Actually there are three djembes in the closet. And one is very small. (I'm sure you can guess where this is going.)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Retroactive food guilt

The adoption specialist's written evaluation arrived in the mail yesterday. AwesomeCloud's height and weight are going up (his head circumference was already quite large, and it's remaining stable). But they are still in the low end of normal - the 5th percentile, both. This is good. He was below the 'normal' range entirely for both height and weight when we got him.

(That puzzles me. If the Wuxi orphanage is all that, and the kid eats like a horse, why was he so tiny? But I digress.)

The adoption specialist praised me and said I must be feeding him well, and then speculated that he might have even more growing to do. She encouraged me to keep loading on the fat and calories.

Okay. I'm doing things right. Cloud is doing things right when he eats all those fats and calories. He's growing bigger, stronger, and smarter. We win.

However, his low weight and height make me think back to our first week with him, in Nanjing. Food was a challenge, even for us. To feed ourselves, we had to navigate menus full of strange ingredients, sometimes in restaurants with no English-speaking employees. Our few Chinese words weren't always adequate, and there were hand-gestures, guessing, and once I sketched out my entire order in pictures on the ordering pad.

Then, suddenly, we had to feed AwesomeCloud too. And to some degree, we failed. I gave him far too little food. Seriously - one jar of baby food does not sate an 18-month old when he's barely eaten another thing all day. I'm probably one of the reasons for his low weight when we got home.

What was I thinking? Starving my own kid! No wonder he cried so much!

But wait. That wasn't the entire story. It's easy for me to look at the past through guilt-colored glasses. But I should give myself some credit.

He refused to eat the rice and chicken we bought him that first night - but we'd been told that he enjoyed rice and chicken. He wouldn't drink the $6 (30 yuan) glass of milk I bought from the hotel restaurant. I'd asked for warm milk, and they gave me hot boiled milk, and maybe Cloud wasn't used to foods that warm. Anyway, by the time it hit room temperature, it was already several hours old, so I didn't try a second time.

Then I gave him a bottle of juice, but the hole in the nipple had closed up. When I discovered this, I used a needle to prick another hole in it. By the next day, that hole had closed too. WTH? I got so frustrated, I tore a huge hole in the nipple. AwesomeCloud got his orange juice.

Then we bought formula, which I made in the hotel bathroom by boiling water in the coffee pot for 10 minutes and... you can see where this is going, right? Cloud loved the formula, so I spent all day and half the night making bottle after bottle of formula.

It gave him terrible diarrhea.

(Is there any other kind? Hehe.)

So we were instructed to give him solid foods, soft starches, to inhibit the formula-diarrhea process. We tried. But when Cloud only ate 4 spoonfuls of congee each morning for breakfast, and none for the rest of the day, it was due to his own refusal.

We didn't starve him; he starved himself.

I only bought 4 jars of baby food, which wasn't nearly enough. And, remember, I bought them when Cloud was refusing to eat anything at all, not even congee. So I didn't know whether Cloud would eat them.

When did he decide to eat them? When we got to the airport. I only had time to feed him one, which wasn't nearly enough to sate him. It was just enough to make him realize he was hungry.

I have nothing to feel guilty about. Yes, I underfed my son, but it was due to a combination of circumstances and his willful refusal. And, you know, a week of eating too little doesn't put your height and weight scores below the charts. He was tiny to begin with.

He made up for it later. In Guangzhou, we got a glimpse of the bottomless stomach hiding inside our tiny guy.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A few more small baby milestones

AwesomeCloud walked his first more-or-less independent steps, bouncing from his uncle to his aunt and then later bouncing from me to the EI lady. He actually comes close to walking independently many times a day. He could do it if he had confidence and if he paid more attention to his balance. What brings him down is that he does not try to keep his balance often enough.

AwesomeCloud called me "Baba." It was the only time he has specifically attempted to call me anything. Usually when he wants me, he says, "Ahhhhhhh!"

His imitating skills are going up, up, up! Once, we were at the mall, hanging out by the little boat that bucks when you put two quarters in. He likes to spin the steering wheel, but I don't give it any quarters. There's a TV monitor on the mall ceiling near the Ride'em cars and boats and things, and every now and then, it plays an ad in which a woman squeals.

"Squeal!" went the woman while we sat on our immobile boat.

"Squeal!" imitated AwesomeCloud.

Later he meowed just like Riley. That was pretty cool.

This morning we went to a library playgroup, and AwesomeCloud kind of shared some balls. Sort of. It was close enough to sharing that we all said, "Awwww! How cute!"

At the end of lunchtime, he took his empty bowl and dragged it across his highchair tray with a slight dancing motion, while singing something close to "Dum de dum de dum." I laughed. He laughed. Then he started over and did it again.

I've been laughing very easily at things these days, thanks to him. He's just a jovial person. Not a jovial baby, but a jovial person. I'm convinced that he's an eternal optimist, who finds humor and beauty in the little things in life, who would so much rather be happy than scared, angry, or sad that he goes ahead and becomes happy.

Now I laugh when some little thing goes wrong, or if something is kinda cute and not all that significantly bad. Things that don't necessarily have to do with AwesomeCloud, like Riley dunking the tip of her tail into my tea. Or Riley pushing the basement door open when she's supposed to be confined down there.

Okay, I did not laugh this morning when I picked up AwesomeCloud and started to step over the wooden bench with him, and Riley jumped onto the bench and caused me to fall against the edge, banging up my shins very badly, after which I had to do an awkward turn to drop the baby while in terrible pain.

Actually, no, I laughed a little. I groaned a lot, but I was able to see the absurdity of the situation. And AwesomeCloud was unhurt.

On the bright side, we now have a baby gate! One that does not require screws, so I can put it in the doorway with bricks on one side! (Thank you, Mary!) Now all I have to do is replace the bench with the gate, and that particular accident will never happen again.

Anyway, we grow, and we learn, and we laugh. We laugh a little bit very frequently at very small things.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


AwesomeCloud is now saying his second consistent word. "Puh!" Which means "Up!"

Trust me. It does.

Good thing, too, because he lost his first word. "Det!" for "cat" has somehow turned into "Ahhhhhh?" I think he's trying to meow, but I could be wrong.

(I was thinking of renaming Riley "Det" but I won't rename her "Ahhhhhh?" That would just be silly.)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Mama has New Year Resolutions

I thought long and hard about my New Year resolutions this year. They will follow my New Year philosophy for 2010: What benefits Mama, benefits the family.

If I am happy, fulfilled, successful, and not too tired, everyone else will be better off. I dream of a happy household, and I am one of the keys to that happy household. My husband is another key. AwesomeCloud was born to be happy, so I'm sure he'll do his part. But he's very sensitive to my moods.

I am going to keep drawing and creating comic books. My art is a very tangible form of accomplishment. It is too easy to say, "Eh, I have a toddler now; drawing is too much work." None of that. I will draw AND be a parent.

I am going to keep reading nonfiction. Books enrich my mind, and remind me that I have soooo much to teach AwesomeCloud about the world. The big, complex, beautiful world.

I am going to keep volunteering. I could easily justify taking a few years off, but I won't! If I do good, I will do well. And the spirit of doing good will permeate our household. Besides, if my husband rescues stranded sea mammals and I do nothing, I will become insanely envious. Envious Mama is not happy Mama.

I am going to exercise every day. I'm going back on the Prodigy regimen (dancing to techno - now I can add Fatboy Slim to my playlist). I will also pretend the stroller is a jogging stroller, and AwesomeCloud and I will take power walks around the 'hood. Um. As soon as the snow melts.

I am going to rest when I'm tired. I am. I swear. AwesomeCloud will learn that a Mama resting in the middle of the day is a normal thing. Mama will learn that, too.

I am going to learn more Chinese. I'll refresh what I forgot and learn some new words too.

I am going to spend money to do things right around the house. I jury-rig far too many things. Joining the 21st century will help prevent me from getting too tired. Maybe we can't afford a dishwasher this year, but there's no reason for me to have a $5 annual budget for the garden. I'll grow better veggies if I invest in some loam. I need to use real baby gates, buy real plant pots, get some high-quality hard-for-toddlers-to-open plastic containers, and this is the year I get a real wood bin. A rain-proof one.

Aside from all that, though, I'm going to sit back, relax, and pay close attention to the little things. AwesomeCloud's developing speech skills, the wild blueberries across the street, hummingbirds, cats. I will stop and smell the clovers.

(We don't have any roses, but we have lots of clover, and I hope it spreads this year. It's a much better ground cover than grass.)