Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I can tell you exactly why poor people are more charitable

Yeah, I'm surfing the internet today.

I found this NYT article: The Charitable-Giving Divide. It addresses Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy and how those cuts will expire soon if the Obama administration doesn't renew them.

Obama's opponents, of course, are trying to turn the issue into another reason to oppose Obama. They say these tax cuts are for YOU. Don't let Obama take away YOUR tax cuts!

Me? Really? Tax cuts for households earning $250,000 or more will affect me... how exactly? Ha ha ha. I guess the government's definition of 'wealthy' is a lot higher than mine. I consider my family wealthy, and our income doesn't even begin to approach $250,000. $250,000 laughs in our income's face. And gives it noogies. Then it pushes our income backward into the mud and saunters off.

But we're still wealthy. Why do I believe this? Because we've been poor, and let me tell you, we're not poor anymore.

And the reason poor people are more charitable than wealthy people? It's because all our friends are poor too. When we give give give, we're keeping our friends and neighbors afloat in a palpable way.

And you know, those statistics don't account for all the unofficial acts of charity poor people perform. Paying the rent for your friend the single mom because she can't... bringing groceries over to a neighbor for free... letting a buddy crash on your couch for a week or a month because otherwise he'd be sleeping on the street.... we've done all that. That was everyday life. You prop your friends up, even if they can't reciprocate, because that's what life is like on the poor side of town.

Wealthy people don't do that, because they don't have to. They don't have friends who need rescuing on a regular basis. If a wealthy person's buddy asks to crash on the couch, the wealthy person has a handy litany of reasons to say no. It puts the kids at risk, it's disruptive, the buddy might steal something, it's too much responsibility.

The poor person doesn't go through all that. Steal something? Um... okay... knock yourself out, I guess. And the kids may be enriched by having the chance to hang out with this interesting new person.

(Plus, free babysitting! Wooo!)

When you live your life like that, it's no problem to extend your sense of charity to organizations that assist the kinds of people that include your friends. Plus churches. And animal rescue leagues. Poor people love rescued animals. Coming home to a cat in your apartment to de-stress with after a long day at a miserable job... yeah... some poor people save up for years for that opportunity.

I knew a guy who took in everyone's abandoned cats and filled his apartment with them, and his family was well below the poverty line. Poor people have callings, too.

Also, wealthy people often have the bulk of their money tied up in investments. So when the next fundraiser comes around and they go to write a check, they're not taking their investments into account. Poor people have no such thing. They look at their last paycheck to see what they can spare.

So the numbers - 2.7% of wealthy families' incomes going to charity vs. 4.2% of poor families' - are a little misleading there. I know this because, as wealthy people, we invest money directly out of our paychecks and don't consider it when looking at our available income.

And we haven't been asked to borrow crash space in years. Well, we did have a guy stay awhile last year, but that wasn't an emergency.

We said yes anyway, though, because, in fact, we kinda missed the old lifestyle.

So. Now that we under-$250,000 folks know that the Bush tax cuts won't affect our tax bills either way, I have to wonder whether the over-$250,000 crowd might consider government-mandated charity a good thing. And perhaps willingly part with their own money, like Jon Stewart famously claimed he was willing to do. (I'd link to the clip from the Daily Show where he says it, but I can't access YouTube videos on this computer.)

Does some of that money go to Early Intervention? Because, as wealthy people, we don't benefit from very many state-run programs (aside from the usual ones that maintain the town), but I've been extremely pleased with Early Intervention. I'd pay for resources like that one, if they were for sale. If the other wealthy people stopped paying for it, I'd hire JoJo privately, except that private commissions are not allowed.

And if I knew any poor families who also needed her services, I might contribute for them, too. But I don't anymore.

Dangerous food

E. coli poisoning in ground beef results in at least three hospitalizations.

Some of the affected batch ended up at BJ's Wholesale locations in MA. That's where we bought our hamburger patties for this summer's cookout.

The batch was dated June 11. We bought ours in late June.

At the cookout, I told one of our guests that I wasn't going to allow Cloud to eat the burgers because of the risk of E. coli. She said, "You don't know there's any E. coli in those burgers."

"And it's a risk I'm not willing to take," I said. "If I eat food tainted with E. coli, nothing much will happen. If he eats it, he could die. No ground beef until he's at least three."

"Not all strains of E. coli are toxic," she said.

"Right, and just like I don't know if there's any E. coli in the meat at all, I likewise don't know what strain it is," I said. "It's a simple case of risk assessment."

It turns out the risk was in fact very high.

Let this be a lesson: never, never, NEVER tell the parent of a young or otherwise vulnerable child they're being too cautious about the child's diet. If they are being too cautious, it's not your problem anyhow. Laugh and blog about them behind their backs if you want. And if they're wise to be cautious, let's hope they don't get their fears confirmed the hard way.


We had leftover raw burgers, which I refroze and recently thawed again, and I was persuaded to cook one for Cloud in order to use it up. If I'd known about the recall, I'd have thrown the leftovers all out instead. Fortunately, everyone here is healthy and fine, but I wish I hadn't compromised my principles on the off-chance that there was an FDA recall warning on that batch of meat.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fashion toddler

It's amazing when your child does something you hear about other children doing.

Children picking out their own clothes is a big one, apparently. At the parenting workshop, we talked about it frequently. It's a framework for power struggles and for self-sovereignty. It's not just a girl thing - boys do it too. Boys dress as ridiculously as girls do if you leave them to their own choices.

AwesomeCloud's sense of style does not favor stripes, solids, or licensed characters. He prefers cars and generic animals. Lions are good. Anything that roars, or vrooms, gets chosen.

Fortunately he doesn't care which shorts he wears, so I can still dress him to match. Daddy should also try to dress him to match, whenever possible. Two of his pairs of shorts are brown, and I'm sorry about that - but any shirt that's not a primary color looks generally passable with brown shorts.

But anyway.

When he reaches these little trivial milestones, people will sometimes stare blankly at me or pat me on the shoulder and say, "They all do that."

Yes. But. When your child is reasonably intelligent but has universal delays, all milestones come a little bit late, and I feel relieved when he hits them. In this case, I'm glad to learn that he pays attention to small details like the picture on his shirt. Some very intelligent kids never go through this stage, never care what their clothes look like, and that's fine. I'm not worried about them.

I am, however, glad that my child, who has struggled to learn about his world and himself and has lagged developmentally all his life, is taking the time to master these little optional skills.

It's good to be familiar with your wardrobe. It's not terrible to be apathetic to your wardrobe, but if he's showing interest at age 2.5, then it's less likely he'll be mismatching his clothes at age 25.

Whether he ever learns to iron... well... I hate to iron and I avoid it when I can, so that may be a lost cause.

Friday, August 27, 2010

AwesomeCloud at the Irish pub

Today we took AwesomeCloud to an Irish pub. Not to drink Guinness, although the beer bottles interested him and I had to keep leading him away from them. No, we were there to celebrate a major victory for an old son-of-a-friend-of.... okay, he is my husband's mother's friend's son. My husband used to babysit him. I'm pretty sure I met him once, briefly, in passing, when he was much heavier.

His big victory was losing 102 lbs in three months. Pretty amazing.

He looked great, and we're a little sad that my mom-in-law didn't live to celebrate along with us. We're also sad that Mom-in-law never got to meet AwesomeCloud, and I was thinking about that a lot because we were surrounded by the old crew - the celebrant's mom and a few other ladies who'd been around during those difficult last days.

The last Mom-in-law knew, we were still thinking about Vietnam and still assuming we'd adopt a girl.

Anyway, so, we had fun, but there was soooo much waiting. And we had to practice cheering. Cloud had fun for the first three takes, but his stamina soon wore out. Fortunately we were in the back where no one important could see us.

And if you're wondering why a weight-loss hero would be at an Irish pub with all that Irish pub food... well... everyone else was wondering that too. But it turned out they had a great spread of crunchy veggies and healthy wrap sandwiches. We all ate well, and healthy too. And then we went out for donuts. (Yes, we're missing this great opportunity to be inspired toward healthy eating and healthy living. Sorry.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

After a great event comes a great leap

It seems like a pattern. After we take AwesomeCloud to a major event, such as a con, he experiences a developmental leap. He walks better, or climbs, or strings two words together more often. Or he articulates the consonant at the end of words more frequently.

I still wouldn't go so far as to call him "verbal" yet, but he's suddenly gotten a bit closer.

I wonder if there's a connection. Maybe it's neuropsychology. The social stimulation encourages more synaptic connections to form in the brain.

Maybe I'm experiencing the same phenomenon when I come home wanting to draw more and make costumes.

Neuropsychology is cool. If AwesomeCloud decides he wants to study it someday, I won't complain at all. He practices it already, after all. We all do. I know I, for one, gain more insight into myself from neuropsychology than from regular psychology.

That's because regular psychologists pull their ideas out of their... er... posteriors, shall we say. The best of them will readily admit it, too.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Why I am in favor of the new Manhattan Islamic Community Center

I've been meaning to post this for a week. My husband found an article with a really nice map, and I wanted to show it to you, and I may as well write my thoughts about it too.

I got that map from this article on cracked.com. (Credit given where credit is due.)

1) Neighborhoods in Manhattan are very small and crammed together. You have to live there to truly appreciate what that means. Many people who live in the boroughs of NYC hardly have to leave a 4-block radius around their house to get the things they need to live, aside from going to work and maybe visiting an occasional museum.

In other parts of the country, demanding that a mosque not be built within one's entire town might seem reasonable. (If there's any Muslim population at all, it's not, but it may seem reasonable to some people.) But in Manhattan, two to four blocks is the EQUIVALENT of an entire town. A much more diverse town than you're used to. Indians, Pakistanis, and even the occasional Orthodox Jew chat at street corners. Normally mortal enemies are friends in this town. It's a beautiful thing.

If you can't grok that, shut up. Seriously.

2) I'm not a big fan of religions, but if I can respect one, I can respect them all. I respect them warts and all. Catholics are responsible for a large number of deaths via oppression. Protestants too. Read a book about European history or the founding of the US before you go telling me it wasn't the same thing. No, it wasn't the same thing - the scale is different. We Christians of European origin... we pwned. (That means we had a tendency to move in, crush the opposition, obliterate populations, claim land and other resources, and then strut around like we owned the place, because by that time we did.)

But that was a long time ago... no, actually, it wasn't. A couple of piddly centuries. Or less. Hey, the US hasn't passed an equal rights amendment yet, and didn't have a bill protecting the rights of Black Americans until 1964. Our human rights record is really bad.

It hurts sometimes, but protecting the rights of fellow Americans who aren't exactly like us will improve the nation as a whole. That includes protecting their quality of life. If you lived in Manhattan, wouldn't you like to have a community center a couple of blocks from your apartment? Wouldn't you want your teenage kids to go there and play basketball under the supervision of responsible community-oriented adults?

Just because two of the most prominent buildings in the neighborhood were destroyed by terrorists does not mean all the survivors moved away. Or converted to your personal favorite religion. They still live there, they're still Americans or (hopefully legal) immigrants, and they work hard and love their kids.

3) The building in question used to be the Burlington Coat Factory. I love Burlington Coat Factory as much as anyone, but it's not sacred. And it's not going to move back in. Wouldn't you rather live next door to a community center than to an abandoned 13-story building? I bet the Manhattanites would.

4) If I speak up for other people's rights now, maybe they'll support me later. If I ever need it.

Being compassionate is an investment. If you're nice to someone today, maybe you've taken them by surprise and they're still mean to you tomorrow, but by next Tuesday they'll reconsider and decide to accept your friendly gesture.

The NYC Indians and Pakistanis did it.

The rest of us can, too.

My son, the consummate con-goer

We just got back from our first weekend-long con as a family of three, and AwesomeCloud did astonishingly well.

It was a very small con, taking up two hallways' worth of convention halls, and a single elevator up to our hotel room. It was a very easy setup for a two-year-old to memorize, and not a lot of opportunity for him to get lost. The consuite (the room filled with endless free snacks) was a straight shot from the dealer room - if we ever lost sight of Cloud, he was likely to be found in that corridor.

He had cheerful, boundless energy all weekend, with, amazingly, no naps. Fortunately, a few of the other congoers found themselves charmed by him and helped us burn off some of his hyper energy. I really thought he was going to overload, but today he seems like his normal self, so I guess he's not as subject to burnout as I am.

The dealer room was very quiet most of the time, and Cloud was able to run and spin and play in the mostly-empty middle of the room. He won't be able to do that in more crowded shows, so in the future, we'll have to make more effort to lead him away from the table and find fun things for him to do at the con.

Most amazingly, he didn't damage ANY of the merchandise! (He did manhandle a cat minicomic with damp hands, but the book managed to survive unscathed. And I think we sold it later.)

The genre of the day was steampunk. For those of you who are not familiar with steampunk it is Victorian-era fantasy tech - what people dreamed the future would be like 100-odd years ago. There were top hats and goggles, an antique phonograph and a pair of pseudo-hydraulic, copper-springed stilt-boots. There were hoop dresses and Ren-faire dresses with bodices, and even a couple of steampunk bodices - it's fun to mix genres! Wear what you've got! The woman in the Dahlek dress got applause wherever she went.

Pi-con attracts a lot of women. I was thinking about BlogHer a little, and all the preening that I've heard goes on there, and all the preening that went on at Pi-Con too. The woman in the green satin hoop skirt dress must have preened quite a lot, although she told me the dress was designed to get into and out of very easily. (It's not so authentic that way.)

Now I'm all into the idea of costuming again. What did little boys wear in the Victorian age? And I'm wondering about getting a leather aviator cap, with the flaps. I'm such a dreamer! Always wanting to start the next novel project, and I haven't even finished the giant squid yet. Of course, costuming always makes me want to get in shape, even though I was slimmer than 75% of the other people there, so now I'm thinking of starting the Prodigy workout again. (The Prodigy workout is me dancing to the music of The Prodigy. It's like clubbing, but without the alcohol, people, DJ, funky lights, or admission fee.)

I should start networking, writing to all the wonderful people I talked to, but I can't remember their names. Eh. Guess I'll do laundry instead. And draw something.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Minions #3

The book is here. Wow. See this book, I've been working on it for four years. Very slowly, obviously - a single 31-page comic book does not take four years to complete if you're working diligently.

I had some down periods and one rather major disruption.

But it's done. And this weekend we debut it at 5Pi-Con, a local con that's mostly about writing but they branch out a bit to include comics, webcomics, costuming, music, and that sort of thing.

It should be good. I remember it as a nice little show, and Tom Smith is the musical guest this year. He's very funny.

Getting the books has made me start to wax philosophical about accomplishment as a general concept. Do you ever stop and say to yourself, "I want to accomplish something small but nifty!"? Do you think of something to do or make, and then roll up your sleeves and get to work with hardly a plan in mind? Do you end up with a bunch of unfinished little projects packed into boxes in the basement? Do you care?

I have the unfinished projects in boxes, but I don't care. I may finish some someday, or not. I've made peace with my urge to start things, my momentary desire to accomplish something that's not strong enough to see the accomplishment through.

I've finished a few. The trip to Arizona was that type of project. There are some craft items bumping around that fit the bill, too. So I don't peg myself as "a person who never finishes anything."

I just don't finish everything. And sometimes I finish it years later, after letting it sit in a box or a sketchbook for a long, long time.

It's kind of like houseplants. I've killed more houseplants than most people own in their lifetimes. But I have a very green thumb. How do I come to this conclusion? Sheer volume. The volume of houseplants I'm working with results in a large number of individual deaths. In fact, sometimes I kill them on purpose if the volume gets too high and I can't give them away fast enough. I can't kill a jade; the jade just grows and grows and covers my bay windowsill. So I kill the delicate orchid that's on its last legs anyway and hasn't flowered in two years.

I don't care. I can get another orchid anytime. I'm running a jade farm, apparently, not an orchid farm.

Same thing with just-because projects. The more I start, the more I finish, because of volume.

I picked up the crochet needle again after sending the book to the printer, and started something new. That must be why. I'm feeling the itch to accomplish something again. It'll be just a little thing, though, and I'm using this time to ponder my next big project, which I've already started years ago but I need some time to embrace it again with my mind.

It's a graphic novel. I've penciled up to page 36 already but altogether it'll have about 80 pages. So. Taking a crochet break, spending the weekend pitching Minions For Hire, and then it'll be time to hunker down and really work. Really really.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cloud's second con... and a new book!

Right at this moment I'm putting the finishing touches on the art for Zephyr & Reginald: Minions For Hire#3: GIANT SPIDER!!! It's going to debut at 5Pi-Con the weekend after next.

Pi-Con is a charming little con, one of my favorites in fact. It gets the college crowd from Smith, UMass Amherst, and Mount Holyoke. Last time we were there, four (!?) years ago, we did some brisk business. There's some gaming and board games, but the main attraction is the seminars. I love seminars. Seminars are my thing.

AwesomeCloud is coming, of course. This will be his second con, his second dealer table, and his first weekend-long con. As I recall, there weren't a lot of children at our last Pi-Con, but he'll be welcome there. We won't be bringing him to the late late featured show, who this year is Tom Smith, but... hmm... maybe we will. Tom Smith is hilarious. But we WON'T be bringing him to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, if they do it again this year. It's not listed, so I don't know if they will.

It will be harder to juggle a dealer table, seminars, and a kid than it was to juggle a dealer table and seminars. I recall that last time my husband and I had to negotiate some conflicts of interest in the seminar department because somebody had to stay at the table.

But if this con goes well, I'll feel even better about taking Cloud to Origins someday!

The problem with Origins is the 16-hour drive. Okay. Maybe we'll start small, like Arisia.

Lately I've been reading the buzz from the blogger moms coming home from BlogHer. At first BlogHer sounded like a fun little con. Seminars all over the place, yay! But I'm gradually changing my mind. First of all, it sounds like they strongly discourage you from bringing your kids. It sounds like a mommy getaway. Geez. Even Readercon lets you bring kids, I think. Hmm, maybe not. But Boskone does. And every gaming and comic book convention in the world certainly does.

Also, a con that's all women and all about women... not just for women like WisCon is... yeep.

Monday, August 9, 2010

He's my SON

Last week when AwesomeCloud and I were at K-Mart, a woman came up to us and said, "God bless you! God bless you! GOD bless you! He is SUCH a blessing."

There were a couple other toddlers right nearby, but I didn't waste any time wondering why this woman singled us out. (And she was absolutely singling us out, but I won't go into that.) It was because of this thing called the "obvious adoption." People look at AwesomeCloud and me with our different races, and they assume, accurately, that we adopted AwesomeCloud.

I could have played a trick on her and told her that he's not adopted, but she never actually inserted the word 'adopted' into conversation. She just kept God-blessing me over and over again. So the fact of the adoptedness of my son became this big looming elephant in the room.

I did the only thing I find acceptable in that type of situation. I was extremely pleasant and nice to her.

We've heard it all before: "He's so lucky to have you! What a wonderful thing you've done! Blah blah blah!"

Of course we can't help wondering why people say such things. Why they're so bold about it. Why they believe these comments are all right. Not only all right, but welcome.

I think...

...it's because they look at children of other races, and they can't imagine feeling like those children belong.

Like those children are their own flesh and blood. (Metaphorically speaking.)

Like those children are sons and daughters.

Perhaps they've looked into their own children's faces, and felt the deep abiding love, and associated that love with the act of giving birth and the genetic relation they had to their children. Okay, fair enough. Maybe it takes an enormous leap of faith to take that feeling and hypothetically superimpose it onto an Asian face, or an Ethiopian face, or an African-American face.

They can't do it. They can't possibly imagine feeling that parent-child love when gazing into that face.

And the disappointing truth is, you can't make them imagine it.

Nothing you do or say is going make them understand the connection between you and your child. They truly, whole-heartedly believe that an adopted child is DIFFERENT, that a child of another race is DIFFERENT, and I'm not saying it isn't different, but the wall that they imagine is there preventing genuine love and empathy isn't really there for us like it is for them.

Maybe we did have a little bit of a wall at first. Maybe we spent some time, in the beginning, looking at our child's face and not feeling much of a connection. Maybe, in that way, we kinda understand what the unempathetic stranger is imagining. She's stuck in that first moment, the "Oh no, what have I done?" moment when the responsibility of parenthood weighs down on you but there is no real sense of love. When "my child" means a staring, sullen stranger who is almst two and doesn't speak a word and hates the sound of your voice.

We did that. We know how it feels.

When I'm giggling with my son in the aisles of K-Mart, pointing out to him which direction to go next, you can be sure that moment is OVER. That moment happened a looooong time ago. On a continent far, far away. It was hard, yeah, but other things in life are hard. Childbirth is hard. If there were a way to have children that did not involve the pains of adoption or childbirth, everyone would be doing it. We all like to avoid pain. We often dive right into pain anyway, if it gets us what we want. Like this adorable, laughing child.

But if a person lacks empathy, she will never understand that this happy Chinese face belongs to MY SON. He's my son just as much as her son is her son. But it does take an awful lot of empathy to make that leap. I'm sure she doesn't lack empathy; she just doesn't quite have enough. And as long as she doesn't have quite enough, she'll never know what's wrong with saying, "God bless you! He's so lucky! What a wonderful thing you've done!"

I don't have any way to prove my "lack of empathy" hypothesis, however. Even someone experiencing it would never, ever admit it.

Except once.

In fact, I've been thinking about that incident a lot lately, since the woman who came out and practically admitted a lack of empathy has been around again lately. She didn't use the words "lack of empathy." Instead, she gifted me with a diatribe about how giving birth to your child was special, so special, and if you don't go through that, your bond with your child will forever be Missing Something. In that same speech, she also gave me the old canard, "As soon as you adopt, you'll get pregnant. You'll see." I can't remember if that was before or after the "childbirth is so special" bit.

I don't understand how in the nine hells that was supposed to make me feel anything but awful. Maybe I lack some empathy too.

I try not to.

I do try to meet these people halfway.

After all, if they're so convinced that an adopted child of a different race is hard to love, they probably won't be adopting one.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Cloud said "WHEELBARROW."

Clear as day.


He also had that quintessential experience of all country kids - a ride in a wheelbarrow. Three, actually. We were at the butterfly garden, you see, putting wood chips around the blueberry bushes in Plot 3. The garden is looking lovelier than ever, and is finally full of butterflies (mostly monarchs).

And we got to bring home some wood chips for our own yard. I trimmed the areas around the hydrangeas with it. Our yard is looking lovelier, too. The addition of fresh piney wood chips almost makes up for our burnt, drought-ridden grass.

Aw, who needs grass anyway? I want a lawn full of nothing but clover. That would be much cooler. Grass lawns are overrated.

I think Cloud has leveled up in stamina. No nap today, and he still managed to wear me out, then wear his daddy out, then wear me out again.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hi, I'm somebody!

Great development news! My son has started to call me... something!

He calls me "Baba," which is his rendition of "Mama" but also Chinese for "Daddy."

I love that he's trying, though. Because as of one week ago, he had attempted to address me a total of three times in 11 months, plus two or three times when he was with Daddy and I wasn't around to hear him.

I have tried in the past to lament the fact that he wouldn't address me by any name or word. He tended, instead, to call me, "Eh!" But people never seem to want to hear about it. They give me platitudes instead. Ah haha, those funny people!

Really, hearing your kid calling you something after waiting 11 months is a huge relief, and... well, I'm not exactly in a celebratory mood. He started addressing his Daddy back in January. So, relief it is.

I'm somebody. I'm worth naming. Yay.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What's good for AwesomeCloud isn't universal

I think this is a hard lesson to learn: what works for Sally doesn't necessarily work for Sam.

You'd think that a parent with a special needs child would understand this more easily, even if the special needs in question are nothing special. One parenting style doesn't fit all. In fact, sometimes you can observe how the child dictates the parenting style.

We had a big cookout last weekend, and among the people we invited were some old friends of my husband's and their two kids, ages 4 years and 3 months. My first thought, upon observing them interacting with the 4-year-old boy, was, "OMG! They're so strict with that poor kid! He must be so unhappy!"

What my first thought should have been was, "OMG! If I were that strict with AwesomeCloud, he'd be so unhappy!"

This other little boy, however, has some special needs. I don't know what they are exactly, but maybe his parents have to keep a tight rein on him as a result. Maybe what looks to me like excessive control is really much-needed structure. He's not a very happy, giggly child, but maybe it's not his parents' strictness that causes him to be like that.

Cloud is very, very different. He's free and happy by nature, and that kind of structure would be oppressive to him. He's not out of control at all. He doesn't dart into the road the moment you let go of his hand. He doesn't trash the living room in 5 seconds flat. He spills water all over the floor and tucks teabags into his toys, but when it comes to matters of consequence - life, death, or bodily harm - he spoils me by being so good.

And giggly. To take away his giggle would be a tragedy. In fact, my parenting style has become all about the laughter. Me! Imagine! I've never been known for my ability to party hearty and yukk it up, but here I am, filling my son's days with laughter! Why? Well, he started it. I just followed his example.

I'd always pictured myself as the cranky mama sprawled out on the couch with a cup of tea and a book, or a laptop, largely ignoring the kids and occasionally scolding them over my shoulder. Maybe I can still do that when Cloud is older, and maybe without so much scolding. He already lets me talk on the phone, sometimes, so maybe someday he'll let me read a book.

This other little boy did go around begging for some positive attention. I'm afraid people thought I was putting him off because he was annoying me. That wasn't it. I'm just bad at positive attention. I'm bad at understanding kids who ask for it, and I'm bad at giving it when asked. I can't read this kid's signals at all. Maybe his special needs are to blame, but he's an alien to me, so I didn't give him a compliment even when he begged me for it. I feel bad now. His parents scolded him, telling him to stop annoying everyone. That makes me feel bad, too.

It's a family trait. My inability to respond to a kid wanting a compliment... I learned that from my family. I feel bad, but it's a very hard trait to overcome.

AwesomeCloud just laughs, and everyone laughs too and loves him. I feel so lucky, but I feel so bad.

And then there were the friends who had their daughter well trained to ask Mom and Dad before she did, touched, or ate anything. That's an admirable accomplishment, but not something that will ever happen in our household. Can you imagine AwesomeCloud hanging on my arm, asking, "Mom, can I have juice? Mom, can I go to the bathroom? Mom, can I play?" I grow queasy just thinking about it.

"I don't care!" I'd eventually say. "Make up your own mind and just do it!"

Just as long as you never stop laughing.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The great sippy cup fiasco

AwesomeCloud hasn't liked sippy cups very long. He still preferred a bottle when we adopted him 11 months ago, and last spring he decided he'd rather have pretty much any other drinking receptacle over the sippy cup. We still make him use it; it's the only thing that doesn't spill. (He still manages to dribble milk all over the house and dampen the front of his shirt, but at least the sippy cup doesn't leave huge puddle traps on the kitchen floor like an open cup does.)

His new thing? Travel mugs.

So this morning I packed him a travel mug full of water and we headed to the playground across the street. The whole way, he'd walk five steps, demand his coffee mug. Drink, give it back. Walk five steps, demand his mug. Cry when I tried to coax him to keep walking.

"The playground is right over there!" I said. "I'll give you your water when we get to the playground. Do you really want to cry over water? Really?"

He stopped crying and started walking again, but less than a minute later it happened all over again.

At the playgound, he hugged his mug obsessively and toddled over to the bench with me.

"Go play," I said. "I'll sit here and keep your water safe."

He sat on the bench grouchily and clutched his mug. Another woman remarked that he was the very picture of a grownup who hadn't had his coffee yet, except that he was two.

(Mine didn't contain coffee either. I'm a tea drinker. I've gone down the coffee addiction road before and I do not like it there.)
He did play eventually, and then we went home. As soon as we got home, some friends of ours, John and his daughter Zoe, dropped by with this monstrosity:

And another monstrosity which is a wading pool shaped like a boat, but which Google won't give me a picture for. No matter; it's in the yard right now.

John thought it would be fun to check out the playground across the street, so I refilled Cloud's water mug and packed Zoe a sippy cup, and back we went.

Zoe liked her sippy cup just fine. Cloud, however, the consummate sippy cup snob... rejected the travel mug. Nope, he wanted the sippy cup. He really, really wanted the sippy cup. I was starting to worry, because even in this heat, he'd rather drink nothing than be stuck with that hateful ol' travel mug.

I bet if I offer the sippy cup to him when he wakes up from his nap, he'll reject it again. He'll probably demand the travel mug.

Which is now. Gotta go rescue a cranky just-woken-up kiddo. Have a nice day!