Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

Still at the hospital

We're still here. We won't be discharged today, although AwesomeCloud is eating soft foods now. Hopefully tomorrow.

I was hoping my free time over the weekend would rejuvenate me. I guess it did a little bit. I was soooooo tired by Friday evening. Bad case of burnout. Today I'm getting by, sort of drifting through the day. Of course, the fact that AwesomeCloud is doing better helps me. He recovers quickly. Thank goodness for that.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Good surgery news

Yay! Flying colors! AwesomeCloud's surgery went well and his recovery is right on track. He gave us a little scare last night when he wouldn't pee, and the nurses were threatening having to insert a catheter while they busily tried all the alternatives first. They gave him an extra bag of saline solution and that finally did the trick. This morning I asked the surgical team if his peeing problems had any significance, and they said, "Nope! He looks great and he's exactly where he needs to be."

I, however, was not exactly where he needed me to be. I spent the whole morning in my bed-chair with him sprawled on my lap, and I had to wrench myself away to have an internet/lunch break. If he cries the whole time I'm gone, I won't be surprised. The nurse said she'd sit with him, but he doesn't care about that. Mama is the only one who matters.

We're watching cartoons on PBS, including Sesame Street. A bit of a weird experience for us. I can't say I'm eager to get the DVD player working again anytime soon. But while we're in the hospital, TV is an acceptable indulgence.

I was such a TV junkie when I was younger. How things have changed! Haha!

Thank you to everyone who left me prayers and well-wishes. Your wish for good news has come true so far. There's a list of things I need to watch for - infection, etc. - but I'm not going to fret unless a symptom actually appears.

Time for lunch. After that, I guess I'll plant myself under the kid again and stay there until dinner. Maybe tomorrow we'll try a stroller.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mid-op

Hi! I'm blogging from Children's Hospital. There are a lot of interesting little stories I could share, like how AwesomeCloud practiced going up and down stairs for 2 hours - after being on a clear liquids diet for 36 hours! - while the hospital staff failed to inform us that our room was ready. I had eaten very little, myself, trying to avoid stuffing my face in front of poor Cloud, and I was about ready to collapse by the time we got to the room. Cloud, however, was a sprightly lil guy right up until the moment it dawned on him that he was in the HOSPITAL (eeeek!)

Poor kid. The buildup to surgery was almost worse than the surgery.

Awesome kid, though. In between crying fits, he is consistently able to pull himself together and concentrate on a distracting game. For instance, this morning a doctor woke him up at 5:30 AM while checking on him, so I spent the next 2 hours distracting him with a flashlight, and he awesomely giggled and played along in spite of the fact that he was lying in a terrifying hospital crib with tubes coming out of him every which way.

Also, he soaked my jeans, which is not his fault at all, but it means I'm wandering around in pajama bottoms and a baggy sweatshirt all day, awaiting my husband and my other pair of jeans tonight. Eh, I don't care. People don't stare much here.

He's in the OR as I type this, and as soon as I get offline I'm going back up to the surgery waiting room for another update. I was going to walk around in the sunshine, but time is flying this morning - oddly enough - and he may actually be done by the time i get back up there.

I'm sleep deprived and still recovering from this awful cold, and I can't say I'm thrilled to be going through this adventure alone, but all in all I'm feeling pretty good about it all. My kid's a champion at recovering and bouncing back. I'm taking inspiration from him. And we expect family and friends to drop by every night.... in addition to Daddy. :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Clear liquids diet, yay

Tomorrow is the Big Day. Actually, Thursday is, but tomorrow we go in for a day of pre-op.

Today we're on a clear liquids diet. I say 'we' because I'm doing my best to avoid eating solid food or drinking anything resembling milk in front of AwesomeCloud. We had Jello for lunch, and then I had ravioli and spinach at naptime, and that was the first solid food I ate all day. I'm still hoping to get a bowl of cereal in before getting him out of the crib. He's awake, but I'm not ready yet.

I'm stressed out - I admit it. How could I not be? I'm also physically exhausted from this everlasting, horrific cold. Even lying down is too much work, because I still have to breathe. I'm looking forward to effortless breathing again.

I'm stressed out. And I'm mentally stuck on the fact that I'm stressed out.

And I'm a little worried about the cats. I made some efforts to have an emergency cat-feeding plan, but I have a feeling the cats will slip through the cracks.

If there are any other areas of planning I totally forgot, I guess they'll be neglected too.

The giant squid is behind schedule; in fact it would need to be done today in order to be donated tomorrow. Not likely. Oh well, at this point I may as well finish it. I have another plan for it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sick for surgery

AwesomeCloud is not sick, thankfully. If he were, we'd have to postpone surgery. The nurse practitioner said she'd listen to his chest for signs of congestion when we show up at pre-op, because they can't anesthetize him if he has traces of congestion.

I, however, am sick. I have had a hacking chest cold for eleven days straight. I think the worst is gone... I think. However, at my current rate of healing, I'll be well again sometime in early August.

I called the nurse practitioner to ask if this would be a problem. She wasn't there. I left a message. I also mentioned that if it were a problem, I'd totally understand.

Not being by my child's side because I can't kick a horrible suffocating chest cold... awesome.

However, there are some very, very, VERY ill children at Children's Hospital. Just because AwesomeCloud is expected to come out healthier and more complete than he's going in doesn't mean every child is so lucky. This cold could kill some of those children. Easily.

In other news, as of March 25, AwesomeCloud will officially no longer be a special needs child. He'll be completely normal in every way, aside from being far happier than most kids and being generally above-average awesome. And there's some healing to do after the surgery. Otherwise, he may as well have come from the non-special needs program, because there won't be a thing wrong with him.

He has even gained superb entertaining-himself skills these past 11 days. AwesomeCloud for the win!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Poor little mocha and the boxer rebellion

Yesterday, around noontime, AwesomeCloud and I got home from the library and wandered out into the driveway for a bit of sun before lunch.

Across the street was our elderly neighbor walking his sweet little dog, Mocha. Cloud isn't sure he likes Mocha very much, but he'll warm up to her. She yaps excitedly but she's a sweet little dog.

Also across the street was an athletic young woman with a massive boxer. The woman obviously knew how to control her dog, but the dog was large and muscular... and he had his eye on Mocha. This was, as my husband might say, a dog who eats small dogs. And his owner was struggling to keep him under control.

So here we have little Mocha.....


















...up against this:


The woman got the boxer to sit down, mainly by kneeling on his hindquarters, and then shouted to my neighbor, "You go ahead! I'll stay right here!"

My neighbor and his dog looked at this big barking monstrosity and frowned. They froze. They hesitated. They shuffled their feet.

So I called out across the street, "Hey [neighbor]! Come over to this side of the street! Come in my yard!"

(I don't have sidewalk on my side, so dog walkers don't generally come to my side.)

"What?!" he shouted back, over the roar of traffic and the additional roar of dog-eating dog.

I gestured widely. "Come on over!"

He leapt to life and darted across the street with his little dog close at his feet. I forgot to glance at the woman and her boxer again to see how she reacted to this sudden third-person solution, because Mocha was happy to see us, and Awesomecloud was cautiously interested in her, and my neighbor and I were already catching up with the mundanities of neighborly small talk.

The boxer's owner may have been relieved that she didn't have to do more to control her dog. She's going to have to do more in the future, though. She may have meant well, but sometimes aggressive problems require aggressive solutions.

I should have mentioned to my neighbor that he can cross into my yard anytime.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Still sick

Day six of being sick!

This past week, the kid learned the all-important skill of entertaining himself while Mama collapsed helplessly in a chair and watched. He also learned, unfortunately, that if you cry and scream and punch Mama's knees with too much persistence, an invisible line will eventually be crossed and you will end up alone in a crib even though it is not naptime.

(I only did that once, and it turned into naptime because he quickly fell asleep.)

It rained entirely too much. If the weather had been beautiful, I would have collapsed on the front stoop and let him play with twigs in the driveway. (Oh no! He'll put his eye out! Horrible mother!) Alas, we couldn't do that, because it only stopped raining today, and today is not warm enough.

Tomorrow will be warm. Tomorrow I hope to breathe again. If I can breathe, we may take an actual walk around the neighborhood.

Last night, my lungs decided to play a game I call "cough till you barf." They deemed the game a success and played it again and again, until even the kid was staring at me in horror. Normally he can ignore a coughing fit as if it were the most normal thing on earth, and he seems to think that I can pick him up and spin him around even while I'm hacking my life away.

Today I seem to be keeping my lunch; in fact, I even ate a real lunch. So it's theoretically possible that tomorrow I may breathe.

If toddlers had better long-term memories, AwesomeCloud would probably recall this week as a week of hardship... until he remembered that next week, he's going into the hospital.

Week of hardship, here we come! Week of coughing and choking, good riddance!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sick

AwesomeCloud is much better at sickpersonhood than I am.

I make a lousy rotten sick person.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

More on racism (and appropriation?!)

I've found a bunch of anti-racism blogs and have been reading up on racism issues. My conclusion? I don't get it. I don't get it like some 8th graders don't get algebra. I know why it's important (because the teacher says so), and I know some of the cultural context (I'm familiar with numbers 0-9 and the letter x), but I'm missing some basic methodology of thought, or something. And I don't think I can get any of the answers right.

I considered leaving a comment or two, but I demurred. I'm halfway confident that I'd be laughed right off the blog for not understanding what I'm talking about.

Learning about racism is important, though. Someday AwesomeCloud is going to face racism, and I'll need to know what to say to him about it. I have some ideas, but none of them are very good:

"You're not weird. Most people in the world look like you! If anyone's funny-looking, it's them."

"They just envy you because Asian-Americans are doubly cool. First, Asians are the coolest people on the planet. Second, Americans are the coolest culture. You win twice - they wish they could be you."

"Chinese people can't do what? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Who decides what Chinese people can do - Chinese people or some stupid white middle schoolers?"

"Okay, statistically Asians are not inherently smarter than everyone else, but go ahead and perpetuate the stereotype."

"We're all just glorified apes. All these cultural divisions are false constructs and there are no good reasons to believe they actually exist."

"The idea that all colored people are on welfare is horribly racist and unfair, and anyway it doesn't apply to you."

"You slugged him back, right? Those kung fu lessons aren't cheap - don't let them go to waste."

"Who cares? You know you're awesome. I know you're awesome. That's why I named you AwesomeCloud. Okay, I didn't name you AwesomeCloud, but whoever did, I approve."

See? I can make a good point in the short run, but my lack of nuanced understanding shows through.

I don't want him to wish he were blue-eyed and pale-skinned, and I don't want him to roll his eyes at me and secretly wish he were white in spite of my best attempts. But I really don't know what to say.

I guess nobody does, really. Another thing I've learned about racism is that there are an awful lot of people accusing other people of having it. I've even read statements such as "All people are racist." There's a ton of hyperbole out there, but that hyperbole drowns out the nuances that would lead to true understanding. Also, there is a lot of opportunity for perceived racial injury because... because...

I guess it's because our society is in a state of flux. We're scrambling to get out of a time in which racism was ingrained in every aspect of the culture, but with this many millions of people participating all at once, egos are going to get stepped on left and right. We know what direction to head in - the direction that allows people of any race or mixed races to have the same amount of respect and opportunity in life - but we're not all moving at the same pace. The people at the back of the privilege line are pushing the people in front to get a move on and get to the equality part already. The people at the front may be in no hurry to share and may feel like they're being rushed.

Maybe they are being rushed.

I'd want to rush them too, if they were standing in my way... which... they are. I'm a woman. I've been condescended to countless times.

My response has been to block people out, stop wondering what they think of me, and stop pursuing life's opportunities that would pose a challenge due to my gender.

That's not what I want for my kid. I don't want him to box himself in and avoid confrontation due to other people's prejudice. I want him to push back, and say, "Yes, I can do it, and I'm about to. Nyeah!"

(Maybe he can leave out the 'nyeah' when he gets to college.)

He can knock the Establishment's socks off, but only if he's not too intimidated by them to try. THAT'S why I have to wrap my mind around this whole racism thing. I can hope he'll figure it all out for himself and go full steam ahead without my help. But if he needs me to build up his fragile young self-esteem first, I gotta.

***

In other news, I registered for ACONE's adoption conference this May. I'm going by myself this year - they don't allow children to attend, ironically, and Husband'o'Mine volunteered to be the one who stays with the kid. (I suppose we could get a babysitter. But I'm not ready for that yet.)

I signed up for one seminar about culture and the internationally adopted child. The description said something about warning parents not to appropriate the child's culture.

Huh?

I won't comment about that until I learn what it means at the seminar. At the moment, though, it sounds a little, um, odd.

There's a backlash against the idea of parents paying lots of attention to their children's ethnicity, isn't there? I read that article by the Korean adoptee that was published in Time or Newsweek or somesuch. Since then, I've heard other people mention ethnicity in a cautious way - being self-conscious about having cultural artifacts in their houses, for instance, or being cynical about culture camps. Several times, people have said to me, "Don't do too much."

How much is too much? Can a non-Chinese white American such as me even begin to approach too much? I'm learning to speak Mandarin at an average of one word every two weeks - this whole "too much" concept feels very far away.

How small does your world have to be if "too much of your child's foreign culture" is a foremost concern of yours?

By the way, I was a wiz at algebra. My 7th grade teacher uttered the words, "X stands for the number you're trying to find." Something immediately clicked, and I was off and running. I really never struggled with math again until trig.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A million dollars and some human suffering

I was all set to rant about being slighted at parenting workshop last night. But I'm reading a book called "Falling Leaves - The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter" and my gripes are starting to look a little bit less consequential.

Allowing some wider perspective into our insular little lives... well, I won't go so far as to say it cheers me up, because this book breaks my heart. Knowing of other people's great pain breaks my heart. But it takes some of the pressure off of myself if I remind myself that I'm not the center of the universe.

In case you're curious, this was the slight. I was griping that my attempts at baby sign language weren't working, and I can't seem to remember any of the signs long enough to teach them to AwesomeCloud - and even worse, everyone keeps telling me I need to do sign language, need to need to NEEEEED TO.

The instructor is apparently of the opinion that I NEEEEEEED TO use baby sign language too. She said to me, "If I told you I'd give you a million dollars for learning 15 signs, you would do it."

I fumed silently for the rest of the night and into today. My fuming was truly kept internal - I cheerfully participated for the rest of the workshop. I have lots of practice keeping the hurt from stinging remarks to myself. But it did sting. I kept thinking, A million Dollars?! I don't even want a million dollars! She wasn't listening to me!

What was bothering me so much?

I realize it now. Her remark implied 1) I don't care enough about communicating with my child to try hard, and 2) if I don't care about communicating with my son, I'd sure as heck care about a million dollars.

AwesomeCloud is very young, but many families adopt older children who are already quite conversant in Mandarin. And yet these families don't prepare for the adoption by becoming fluent in Mandarin themselves. They complain that it's difficult to communicate with their child, and the casual observer may wonder, "Well, why don't you just learn a little Chinese?"

BECAUSE IT'S HARD.

Mandarin, and all the other Chinese dialects for that matter, have the tonal element that is completely alien to English-only speakers. Not only must we learn a new vocabulary, but a whole new approach to pronunciation. It's a very, very specialized skill. Additionally, new languages are by nature extremely difficult to pick up when there's nobody around to practice on. You can take a course at the language institute, listen to Rosetta Stone, put vocabulary magnets on your fridge, make flash cards, but no matter how hard you try, the language doesn't stick and you get frustrated.

IT'S HARD.

I tried hard to learn Mandarin, and yet the few words I did learn were almost incomprehensible when I spoke them. For instance, our housekeeper at the White Swan Hotel asked me my baby's name.

"Yun Gui," I proudly told her.

She frowned. "I don't know what that means," she said.

And that was the word I'd practiced twice as much as any other word I knew!

Besides, the promise of a million dollars implies that there are no other influencing factors, like the fact that AwesomeCloud and I are learning small new ways to communicate every day. If I make up a sign for "drink" he stares at me blankly. But if I find a twig on the ground and give it to him, he marches around with it, saying, "Stick stick stick!"

I think it's fascinating, and wonderful, that baby sign language is a generally useful tool that allows pre-verbal children to communicate a little. But it's not mandatory. It's not a mark distinguishing a caring parent from an uncaring one. And it is its own skill set; a skill set that some people may find difficult to adapt to.

People love to give new parents criticism. The experts, especially, take it upon themselves to tell us how many ways we're doing it wrong. If they don't understand the nuances of a situation, for instance the peculiar communication issues in any international adoption, they will still tell us we're wrong.

We knew it would be like that when we started the adoption. All in all it hasn't been super frequent, although we're not super-social people all the time. We're a little bit insular in some ways.

But there are worse experiences in life. There are always worse experiences. A lot of them are recorded in books.