Sunday, November 28, 2010

Okay, NOW it's Christmastime

I still firmly believe that Christmas should start after Thanksgiving. I'm old-fashioned that way.

(I also believe that politicians should cut their campaigning times in half. I don't need to be answering phone polls about who's my favorite candidate a year and a half before Inauguration Day. All the primaries should be in June, not a day sooner, and campaign ads should start around March or April.)

I am grateful to my husband for springing into action and getting 2/3 of the gift shopping done already. That's amazing. Now I just need to drag myself to the store and start carrying my end of the burden. It won't be so bad now that I know we've got the holidays under control. If it were all up to me - and this has happened in the past - not all presents would be purchased in time and some relatives wouldn't be opening any gifts from me.

Additionally, the tree went up this weekend, and we have now commenced chasing AwesomeCloud around with the camera trying to get the perfect shot for the photo-card. Fortunately, we already have one photo that's a contender. I meant to post some of the duds to show you, like the picture of Cloud reaching out to Ban Lu just as Ban Lu decided to be skittish and turn into a blur. But I'm too lazy to go downstairs and get the camera.

Okay, here at least is Ban Lu by himself, before getting skittish. Someday I want to get a picture showing off how extraordinarily big he is, with incredibly long legs. He looks like he's half serval.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Wow, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday. I like it because it's not a commercialized carnival like Christmas, Halloween, and even Easter. And Valentine's Day. (What's up with Valentine's Day? Why is that even a thing?)

It's just cooking and eating. And traveling. All other aspects of Thanksgiving are optional.

AwesomeCloud will be spending a delightful day with his cousins, at Auntie and Uncle's house two towns over. Hardly any traveling, yay! I'll be making a green bean casserole and a ricotta pie. Because on the Day of Gluttony, green vegetables should be swimming in gooey crunchy calorie-laden stuff, and having just one pie is unthinkable. There should be five or six pies. Four minimum.

I come from an Italian family, and our family feast keyword is "variety." Also, "quantity." Additionally, "longevity." My family is famous for its day-long holiday celebrations. Brother- and sister-in-law enjoy going all out for festivities, too, so even though the feast won't last six whole hours, I'm sure I won't be disappointed. (Once I participated in a Southern Thanksgiving in NC. We cooked all morning, sat down to eat, and in an hour it was over. And that was including the one lone pumpkin pie. My host was confused - "Aren't you full? One pie fed everyone, right?" - but after a lifetime of partying it up with variety, quantity, longevity, and ridiculous piles of leftovers, I couldn't adjust to the low-key version of what was basically, to me, an ordinary Sunday dinner. And without even any eggplant parmigiana.)

But just for insurance, I gotta bring just that one extra pie.

Besides, ricotta pie is easy peasy. And the kid and cousins should be given the chance to warm up to it, because it's a traditional part of my family's feast, and I'm family to them now too.

(If you're wondering why we don't go to my family's house for Thanksgiving if it's so wonderful, don't worry. My family gets Easter, which is essentially the same but with ham. I'm not into having photos with the Easter Bunny, but I love the fact that my family's feast is a feast for all occasions. Who would want to do Thanksgiving only once a year?)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

AwesomeCloud, cat lover

Last weekend, we all went to the local animal shelter to look at the 80 cats that are up for adoption. We did not get another cat. However, AwesomeCloud got to interact with cats that are not his own, and he watched other children pet the cats too.

Ever since then, he has, more often than not, petted our cats the right way.

These little turning points may seem trivial, but they're important.

Oh! Another one! I was sweeping, and Cloud sat down on the edge of the hearth and said, "Aw dits."

Then he said it again. "Aw dits. Aw dits." I looked over and he was holding a book. "Aw dits," he said, beaming at me.

I swept past him and peered down so I could read the title of the book. It was "Opposites."

OMG. My kid can hardly speak, but he can read. (Or, rather, he can memorize what things say and then recall them out of context with no prompting.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Chinese name

When my husband and I were taking Mandarin I before we went to China last year, I asked Laoshi what my name meant. She said, "Goat."

I thought that was odd, but funny. It's kind of grown on me in the past year.

Last night I was browsing our Chinese-English dictionary, and I looked up my name.

It means "Gold."


(I'd been so sure she'd said "goat.")

So, okay, I'm gold, and I still believe Laoshi's remark that it's a reasonably common name in China. I'd been under the impression that China had a cultural quirk that made it normal for them to name their girls "Goat." "Gold" makes more sense.

Then I tried to figure out my middle name, but I won't tell you the results - they were kind of dirty.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Boldness - it's the Chinese way!

There aren't very many Chinese people around here. Whenever I do see one when I'm out with AwesomeCloud, I try to make eye contact and smile, just to make some sort of social connection. I nod and smile at all sorts of other people, too; it's not just people who look Asian. I'm doing my part to make sure Cape Cod is a friendly place for tourists.

But this is about Chinese people we meet. Now, it's not true for everybody, but I've noticed that in general, Chinese strangers we meet are bold about asking questions. They ask questions so boldly, they'd make most of us adoptive parents dash for the door if those questions were asked by white people. Sometimes the phrasings they use are astonishingly blunt.

We adoptive parents like to lament and compare the awful questions we're asked in public. We like to make lists of the top ten worst things people have said to us, or the top ten worst adoption myths. We think up pithy answers to prying questions from strangers or acquaintances who are fascinated by, and often poorly informed of, transracial adoption issues.

I've been to a workshop on fending off those questions. There's a book for children to teach them W.I.S.E., a technique for defending themselves from these questions. We learn how to identify the line between small talk and rude behavior... okay, it's more of a zone, and requires a lot of judgment calls. What should my family's boundaries be, and how can I stand up to someone who crosses them? It's different from person to person, but we all realize that there should be boundaries, and that we should shield our children from rude questions.

It's nobody's business but ours. We're protecting our children and ourselves. The boundaries are necessary.

The placement of those boundaries, though, that's a cultural thing. It appears that American boundaries are way in close to us, and Chinese boundaries are a bit further out.

So how do I proceed when the nosy stranger is Chinese? I have mixed feelings about this. My first feeling is that I want my son to see that Chinese people are friendly and approachable. That they may have accents or speak English nonfluently, but that's perfectly all right and not frightening. That people enjoy talking to Chinese people they meet, and by extension, people will enjoy talking to the Chinese person he sees in the mirror.

I want to give the Chinese person a chance to say something pertinent to my son's heritage. Sometimes they do. My son's heritage will come to him in bits and pieces, however our family can gather them, and I'm willing to gather some cultural crumbs from people I meet who are from China.

I want to give the Chinese person some reassurance. They seem to have a special interest in their children, and by "their children" I mean any child who is also from China. One woman asked me if Cloud was Korean. (No, he's Chinese.) "I am too," she said. "Is he from Taiwan?" (No, I said, and told her the city I always use as a reference point for Cloud's region of origin - it's so much easier because Westerners have never heard of his hometown and native Chinese can't understand me when I mispronounce it.)

"I am from there too!" the woman exclaimed. She seemed pleased with the connection, but also concerned. Maybe she was unaware that her region was involved in international adoption. Anyway, she told me a little bit about her own son, and it ended up not being so bad in spite of the confrontational tone she'd taken at the beginning.

I want... maybe, a little, if I can figure things out for myself first... I want Cloud to become familiar with the Chinese style of conversation. Because that's part of his heritage too.

(I'm not saying he should learn it instead of cautious, American-style conversation with all our walls and boundaries. Maybe he can learn both.)

On the other hand, I find that Chinese people have misconceptions about international adoption too. And I sometimes feel as if I were educating them like I sometimes find myself educating white question-askers. (Which is a lot. Of the W.I.S.E. techniques - walk away, invoke privacy, share your story, or educate your audience - I'm primarily an educator.) But while I know what misconceptions my locally-grown neighbors need to be educated on, I can't tell you what misconceptions people of the Chinese culture may bear.

And I also don't necessarily know what my own misconceptions are. I know what I know, and in some cases I know what I don't know. But some of my knowledge might be fuzzy or obsolete. And generally not very accurate. I try. I know how to fudge my gaps of adoption knowledge with people from my culture, whose own gaps in knowledge all seem to be very similar. The adoption myths around here are all pretty pervasive. I can safely assume I know what Americans are thinking. I'm not so good at guessing the Chinese.

(A note about demographic terms: I know I'm being sloppy with my usages of "white", "American", et al. There are many cases of people fitting into the group or behavior I describe but not into the term I use. I apologize, and I'll try to fix it later if I have time. I am currently out of time.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My son helped me hang a full-length mirror

He really did. Really.

It was pretty cool. He held the ruler in place while I measured the spots for the nail holes, and then my husband came down and held the mirror so I could hang it. By the end, Cloud was beaming. Here was a great bug mirror, twice as tall as he was (actually 5/3 as tall), and he helped hang it!

As is typical of toddlers, he loves to 'help'. He grabs the broom from me and drags it along the ground. He begs to put the dishes away (into cupboards he can't possibly reach - I guess I'm supposed to give him the dish and then pick him up so he can put it in the cupboard). He wants to shut off the light and press 'play' on the CD player at bedtime.

And sometimes, with a little thought and innovation, I can convince him to 'help' in a way that's actually helpful.

He is such an only child. And I am the very image of an older parent with an only child.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mixing paperchasing and pleasure

Cloud and I went to a new storytime today. We loved it. It was a bit of a trek, but worth the travel when we have time. And it had some brown-skinned children. No Asians, though.

I just put him to bed less than an hour ago, and now I have to get him up again so we can go pick Daddy up from work and do more paperchasing related to the accident. Meh. I've barely had a moment to rest, myself.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

AwesomeCloud's adventures in the Chevy Malibu

Our Prius is in the shop indefinitely. When I called the car rental agency to reserve a car, the agent helpfully dumped doom and gloom on me about how horribly, terribly long it takes for the auto body shop to fix a collided-with car. His portentous warnings may be right, though. Our car has not been touched yet. I already asked twice.

So now we have a Chevy Malibu. My first car was a Chevy Malibu. It was a massive 8-cylinder hunk of steel, sky blue, circa 1981. My great-aunt gave it to me when I was just starting college. I could fit 6 of my college girlfriends in it, and frequently did, because I was the only one in our group who owned a car. (Freshmen were not allowed to keep cars on campus, and I was the only commuter in a clique of dorm residents.)

This Malibu is also a hunk of steel. It amazes me that a car a few inches shorter than my beloved Prius has doors so heavy that I can cramp a shoulder slamming them shut. It's also really, really tiny inside. How tiny? When I push the passenger seat so far forward that my husband is eating his knees, my son can still plant footprints in the upholstery on the back of the seat.

I also really, really miss my GPS. And my reverse camera. And my 6-CD player. (The Malibu plays one CD, and in fact already has a CD in it. Unfortunately, the CD has bad language right in the beginning of the first song, so I haven't been listening to it.)

I miss my light doors that close easily with a nudge. I miss keyless entry. I miss 45.3 miles per gallon. And i miss the shiny bright distinctive blue coloring that made it easy to discern from every other car in the parking lot except for all the identical blue Priuses. (There are a LOT of blue Priuses on the Cape.) The Malibu is dark navy blue, a color that doesn't make it any easier to remember which car is mine.

Why is it that people scoff at Priuses in favor of American-made cars? Scoff all you want, owners of cars with conventional engines. My car may fold up like a cardboard box when hit, but in all other ways, it is a far superior level of awesome.

Also, it is astonishingly easy to fix in spite of its shockingly crumpled-up appearance. The doors and crumple zones may be close to insubstantial, but the frame is where the steel's at. My auto body shop may love me more, because of all the extra work I give them. But I can shut my car's door with my toe while holding three bags of groceries and an antsy toddler and it will shut all the way.

Not to mention: 45.3 miles per gallon. Yo.

Yesterday when I left the gas station, i was practically in tears. How do you non-Prius-owners survive gassing up every week?

Ah, but this post was supposed to be about AwesomeCloud's adventures in the Chevy Malibu, not mine.

Well, he enjoys kicking the back of the passenger seat, which is moved forward as far as it will go and is still kickable.

He has also learned to recognize the car in a parking lot. I'm amazed. And grateful. A parent I was talking to at the library said she thinks her son has OCD because of his attention to detail. Forget that! I'm GLAD my son pays attention to detail! If he develops a lifelong obsession with cars, more power to him! And putting used wrappers in the trash and plates in the sink... great! A toddler wanting order is not a disorder. It's a wonderful thing.

I mean, it's not like he's obsessing about picking up his own blocks. Obviously his attention to detail is selective. I suspect his idea of paradise is a house strewn from stem to stern with blocks and cars and balls, but not a dirty spoon in sight. And i'm kind of similar. I pick up the unsightly blocks and cars and balls, but then i leave my unfinished granny squares and issues of National Geographic lying around.

Boy, I'm just full of tangents tonight.

There's really nothing else to talk about. Our post-accident adventures have mostly been paperchasing and errand running, with occasional stops at BJ's so we can feast on food samples.

He can say 'ham." Which is a big deal because he has not been forthcoming with the M sound so far. And then tonight he said 'poem."

Monday, November 8, 2010

National adoption month

I guess November is National Adoption Month. That's what some of the other bloggers are saying.

So let's take a moment to think of AwesomeCloud's original family. Nobody knows who they might be or why they made the decision to allow their stunningly beautiful boy, healthy in all ways but one, to enter the social welfare system. But I can take an educated guess. And no matter if my guess is right or wrong, no matter what the true story was - no matter if his parents were teenagers or migrant workers or members of the up-and-coming Chinese middle class - it's a story of heartbreak and tragedy.

I wish they'd had more access to health care. I wish they'd had more support. Yes, i'm saying what you think I'm saying - I wish my son's original parents had been able to keep him and raise him themselves. I don't think anything would have been wrong with his life if they had. With a little bit of medical treatment, he would have been strong and healthy, just like he is now. He would have been smart and joyful, just like he is now. He would have loved Chinese food and happily said, "Xie xie," and "Hen hao," just like he does now.

The only catch is that he first had to enter the records of CCAA and then be sent to America in order to do that.

It's heartbreaking and tragic that China can provide a child with lifesaving surgery once the child is in the government's possession and earmarked for international adoption. But it can't provide the child's parents with the means for that lifesaving surgery so that the parents may keep the child.

Don't think it's just China, though. The US has its own dirty little adoption industry habits too. Like those church-run charities who promise troubled mothers-to-be all sorts of resources, and then push the adoption option and scare them away from all other options. These organizations provide a service to prospective adoptive families, and everything else is just business.

It's hard navigating the adoption industry and finding an option that is morally clean and honest. Additionally, some of the most upfront options can seem overwhelming just on account of their requirements and regulations. We found that pretty much every system needs reform.

China, at least, is in the midst of a massive nationwide reform. What China does badly, it's attempting to do better. I can't fix the way they handle health care access. I can't criticize them for not providing for AwesomeCloud better. There's only one thing we can do: Once AwesomeCloud had slipped through the cracks of China's flawed but improving system, we were here to catch him. Now that he's here, in safe loving hands, the three of us will all do our best to move forward and be each other's family. Whether he's ours more than theirs or theirs more than ours, I don't worry about. AwesomeCloud is his own person. His life story goes how it goes. The rest of us - parents, more parents, orphanage caregivers, adoption agents, and everyone else - are just supporting characters in the AwesomeCloud Saga.

To my fellow supporting characters, the original parents, I just wish to say this: I know you're there, somewhere. Cloud does too, in a way, and if he doesn't know now, he will someday. I'm sure you're wondering how the AwesomeCloud Saga is going. (It's going well.) I'm sure you hope his Saga is long, meandering, and ultimately happy. We do too. So far, so good.

I'd also like to tell you: your son helped me sew today! With a real needle and thread! I was repairing a tear in his daddy's pocket, and I'd insert the needle and then let him pull it through. He was very good at it and had a blast.

He also does yardwork. He shovels little clods of dirt with his little trowel and sends them flying through the air. Then he laughs. It's very cute.

I wish you could meet him. He's awesome.

I'd promise to find you and introduce you to him someday, but... well... I don't think that would be possible. Thanks to all those government regulations and shortcomings, you know.

We have government regulations and shortcomings over here too. It's not just you.

Anyway, I hope you're doing well.

Happy Adoption Month.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


So. We've been more than 24 hours without a car.

Unfortunately, the car still manages to occupy my mind more than anything except my son. And that's because he starts climbing all over me and/or whining if I let my thoughts drift back to the car for too long. I guess this is the consequence of falling in love with a vehicle that is designed to crumple like a cardboard box if it's hit by a truck.

Hey, at least the lady didn't plow into one of those middle-aged men driving Mazda Miatas. Her truck would've run right over one of those cute little cars and stopped on the opposite side.

The body shop guys don't plan to even look at my car until the adjustor stops by on Monday. So we're left hanging - is it salvageable or a total loss? I wouldn't be surprised if they slap some new doors on it and declare it good as new. But it's possible the opposite will happen.

I was going 20 MPH. The other lady was rapidly accelerating from a dead stop. It would be nice to think that in such a situation, the damage wouldn't be all that terrible. But there is a big difference between a Lincoln Monster Truck SUV and a 45.3 MPG petite Toyota Prius Hybrid.

Would we replace our Prius with another Prius? Absolutely. Like I said, I've fallen in love with the Prius. A Prius owner's love is sublime and hard to shake off. All the jokes out there about Prius owners are true. It's comparable to the love Miata owners feel for their cars. I don't know about SUV owners. I get the impression that many of them love their dogs.

Speaking of which, our neighbor stopped to help us, and drove us home after the police reports were done and the tow truck guy had come, and she had her dog in her SUV. Duchess the elderly black lab. Duchess was a good dog, after some barking and licking.

Anyway, so, we're carless. We could have gotten a rental last night; the insurance agency assured us they'd reimburse us. But we didn't. We're going to stick it out for the weekend and then deal with it on Monday morning, when people are around so I can ask questions.

Oh, did I also mention that our garage door opening mechanism snapped clean in half? Completely unrelated! And the garage door installer just called and said he was coming... Monday morning. Sweet. Let's everything happen at once please.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Car accident

Kiddo and I were in a car accident. No one was injured except the car. A woman slammed into us from the side while pulling out into the street we were driving down. There's a lot more to it than that. But I just took a hot relaxing shower and I'm going to relax now. Hope all of you had less adrenaline and less time spent on the phone today than I did!