Friday, October 29, 2010

Toy trains, and thinking too far ahead

My son has been fascinated with a giant hobby train in the window of the mall Toys'R'Us.

He's way too young for me to be wondering whether he'll become a toy train hobbyist. But I wonder anyway. Because that's what moms do. We let our minds wander around the world of possible futures. (At least, I do. I've gotten some funny looks from other moms sometimes when I speculate aloud. What do those women think about? Isn't a mind devoid of speculation a pretty dull place?)

So let's say Cloud continues to love trains, and becomes passionate about building train tables with little model houses and fuzzy trees. Would I encourage him? How much? I mean, of course I'm going to encourage him, but how much of the lead am I going to let him take, and how much nudging will I do?

Train hobbyists have convention circuits, you know.

And it also occurs to me that it's not a very big leap from model trains to wargames.


WWII miniatures reenactments with real, working electric trains.

That would be so awesome.

(Yes, I know Cloud is still two years old. I'm just thinking ahead a bit.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Seasonal/political blues

I haven't felt like blogging lately. In fact I haven't felt like doing anything lately.

But I'll tell you a story. I got a political call at lunchtime today. The guy said, "Hi my name is Bob I'm calling on behalf of Jeff Perry I was hoping he could count on your support."

"...." I said.

"Hello?" he said.

"Sorry," I said. "That was a lot at once."

"Oh. Well, I just called to ask you to support Jeff Perry for Congress."

"No," I said.

"No? ....why not?"

"I am not pleased with the Republicans in general right now. They're far too combative."

"Combative?!?" he said. "We're not.. huff huff... sputter sputter..."

"Have you watched TV lately?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. "The system is broken and it can't continue on the way it's going. Don't you want the government to be fixed?"

"Of course I do," I said. "But I'm not sure why you seem so surprised that I used the word 'combative' to describe Republicans." (I mean, geez, mister, you're being it right now. Caught up in the hype - any hype will do.)

"Have you seen what the Democrats are doing?" he sputtered. "Now THAT'S combative!"

"That's true here," I said. "But in general, in the wider view, Republicans' behavior fails to impress me. I would prefer to replace something bad with something better."

(The dirty Democratic politics Bob was referring to was Bill Keating's unpalatable smear campaign, which, yeah, is uncalled-for and off-putting, but not quite what I'd meant by 'combative'.)

"I'm looking hard at Maryanne Lewis," I continued. "I agree with hardly any of her opinions - I agree with two, I think, at most - but at least she's clean."

"Sputter sputter," Bob replied. "Humina humina!"

"Anyway, good luck in your campaigning," I said. "Bye!"

Hey, I'm too polite to EVER end a phone call with anything other than 'bye'. I have an example to set for my son. However I want him to speak to people, that's how I need to try to speak to people. I hope he grows more social skills than I have, though. I seem to have reached the glass ceiling for social skills. I'm as good as I'm ever going to get.

But right now socializing has been stressful and sometimes difficult. Well, it's mixed. When I talk to Karen, a lovely older lady, at mallwalking, it goes well enough. (Except she keeps bringing up astrology, and I'm sorry, I'm much more interested in astronomy.)

But then other times, I come away feeling rotten. Like the time I asked the storytime lady if she'd throw in a few more multicultural books. She apparently thought I meant specific multicultural books, and when I told her I meant multicultural books in general, she told me to search the shelves for some.

So I did.

And there was crap for choices there. Like, really almost nothing. Which is sad and strange, because I'm sure there are tons of multicultural children's books in publication. The children's librarian opined that she was sure the library had plenty of them, but my eyes told me otherwise.

I wonder if the Hyannis library has a storytime. And more multicultural storybooks. And maybe even a multiracial audience.

If it has all three, I'm totally defecting.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Thoughts on pumpkins

I could make some novel jack-o-lanterns this year. If I were to favor a Halloween tradition for my family, that would be one. I'd carve the pumpkins up, industriously make pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie with the insides, roast the seeds, and carve an interesting face into the shell. Then I'd insert a candle and show it off on the front porch.

Last year I carved a bear. Or was it two years ago? Before that... I don't remember. I carved something.

I don't know if it's going to happen this year. I'm behind on household projects - there's a pot of Ban Lu food in the fridge waiting to go into the food processor, and the list of unfinished chores just goes on and on. I spent the morning cleaning up toys and strewn laundry, but the results are disappointing.

I guess I like Halloween well enough, as holidays go. I think two sets of parents ruin it - the Type A overachievers who turned it into an elaborate mega-party-fest, and the paranoid moms and dads who obsess over safety to the detriment of everything else. Seriously, nobody has ever been confirmed to hand out toxic treats to strangers' kids. There's not one confirmed case of that. But the stories persist, and the people who tell these stories expect me to care, and I don't.

What can really be dangerous is when the kids get older and take Halloween as an opportunity to do something stupid. But I'm not there yet.

I'm also dismayed to see the proliferation of costume shops and candy displays. Who buys all this crap? In my opinion, people buy too much. Halloween is the perfect time for recycling and reusing, as kids and parents get all innovative with old clothes and cheap materials. Admittedly, the stores are selling much nicer costumes than they ever did when I was a kid. But I can't see that as a good thing. I will not encourage this trend by actually buying any costumes. Ever. Hey, I can sew. I can innovate. I can make costumes with some durability, to be reused for years. Like my mad scientist costume, which I've worn (or not worn) every year since we released Zephyr & Reginald: Minions For Hire and am wearing (or not wearing) again this year.

And I'm quite proud of my husband's costume. He got it all from thrift stores. I only have to add some finishing touches made of felt, and then I will show it to you.

Kiddo's costume... well. We have two hand-me-down costumes that are quite nice, but which one we choose, and how, remains to be seen. You see, the tiger costume is apparently too fluffy. Fluffy is apparently an issue. Okay. I can respect that. He's gonna wear something; whether it be tiger or no.

My real "rampant consumerism" rant is about Christmas, though. For Halloween, the trend toward greater spending adds nothing to the pleasure of the event, but it doesn't quite ruin it either. Thing is, I like chocolate.

I can enjoy myself and keep it quiet and not do any more grumbling until it's closer to Christmas. And even then, I have my favorite holiday to lighten things up a bit - Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. It's all food, nothing else. Nobody has added any crazy extra stuff - pseudo-history and football are easy enough to ignore - and they hopefully never will.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Some days, it's not about the kid

Some days, the one responsible for you being at the end of your rope is you.

I finished the tarp and rolled it up. I reassembled the blender and put it downstairs. I took care of the yucky chicken bones. I dealt with an astonishingly gross diaper. And we went to the mall and bought nothing.

That's not a lot of stuff for one morning, but it was still too much for low-energy me. And when Cloud begged for lunch and then spooned his soup all over his side of the kitchen table... he was just being a kid. Soup isn't the worst thing ever to be turned into a toy. But I looked at the soup-covered tabletop, and thought ehhhh, and into the crib he went for an early nap.

Sorry, kid.

I'm napping too... just... upstairs.

(I'll do better next week.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The boy who loved his Prius

See this blue Prius?

My son can not only recognize our car, but he can distinguish any Prius. And lately, he has been. One of his new hobbies is obsessing over other people's Priuses. He hasn't said the word "Prius" yet, but he's been trying. Right now, he points and shrieks whenever he sees one, or has to run over and touch it.

Today we parked next to a dark blue Prius (ours is light blue) and he went over to the other Prius and jokingly asked to be let in. He was laughing and everything.

Yeah, Prius snob indeed. Some people say that anyone who owns a Prius becomes a Prius snob. That may yet be true.

Other than that, today has been kind of a drag.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Me and the intern, hangin' out

So we had our first adoption playgroup this morning. I showed up. AwesomeCloud showed up. The adoption agency's intern showed up - she was very friendly and we had a great two hours chatting while Cloud enjoyed himself on the playground and stuffed his face with brownies.

I had a friend who was going to come, but she woke up sick. She tried to convince her husband to bring the kids instead, but he didn't want to be the only daddy in a big group of mommies.

I wish.

He would have evened out the gender balance anyway, if you count the genders of the kids, because they have one boy and one girl (not counting the older children). But alas, he didn't; oh well; that's how it goes.

I'm reminding myself not to say, "Typical." It's not like people are trying to avoid me. They don't even know me. To them, I'm just a generic adoptive mom running a perfectly respectable-sounding playgroup that they can come to or not. Everyone chose the "or not" option today. Maybe they'll choose the "come" option next month.

How many months in a row of empty playgroups would you tolerate before you give up? Just hypothetically? I don't really think that's going to happen. I'm just wondering.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Unhaunted hayride

Today Cloud had his first hayride. It was Tobey Farms' Not-So-Scary Hayride. The hay wagon drove around the regular, Scary Hayride path in the middle of the day, when the kids could see that the skeletons had strings and the ghosts were made out of cloth and the witches were inflatable. AwesomeCloud was the youngest hayrider, but not by much - there were some 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds too. I think the presence of the other children eased his trepidation even further.

Navigating childhood fears is an interesting and complex topic. And it's one you hardly hear a thing about. Mommy blogs and child development experts wax long and hard about practically every parenting topic on the face of the earth. Yet I've hardly heard a word about addressing childhood fears, and now that I'm doing it myself, I have no guidance.

I bet it's one of the factors that turn parents into helicopter parents. You start out by rescuing your baby from every perceived scary experience, no matter how harmless, because you figure you can loosen up later when the kid is older. But the kid gets older, and older, and somehow that loosening up thing never quite gets off the ground.

I dunno. I'm just making this up.

At the end, there was a lollipop, which healed any residual anxiety that might have occurred. He seemed a little anxious, but not terribly so.

And he was clingy before the hayride, too. He cut his lip this morning, and it must have been bothering him.

"I can't walk, Mama. My lip hurts. Carry me."

He might've said that if he could. And I would probably have still carried him.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Very good!

This morning, my son said, "Hěn hǎo." That means "Very good" in Mandarin. I'm so proud of him. Admittedly, he was just imitating me. Over the past year, I've gradually lost my Mandarin and really only use "Hěn hǎo" and "Lái lái lái" (Come come come, or come here) on a regular basis anymore.

But he's so good at tones. Probably better than me. I worked hard to learn tones, but he imitates my tones perfectly.

I'm starting to feel a little pang of regret that he's not getting the opportunity to learn Mandarin at this time in his life. He'd be so good at it. I can't guess whether he'd have more success at learning Mandarin than English. I wonder. But there's no way to know.

Now I want to resolve, again, to teach myself Mandarin. Or at least to try harder to keep the Mandarin I know. Unfortunately, resolving and doing are two different things.

Today will be busy. First we're going to the Fall Festival at our friend's Baptist Church. Then we go into Boston for a comic artists' meeting. Then we visit Great-Grandma and Auntie, because they live so close to where the meeting will be.

Then I will drop from exhaustion. Oh well. At least I washed all the dishes, cleaned the fishtank, and got assorted other housework done already. A moderately neat-ish house makes me moderately happy-ish.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Feelin' better

I found exactly the right person to talk to, and I'm feeling better now. Sometimes talking helps.

Not to perpetuate gender stereotypes, but sometimes I am sooo very much a woman. :)

Meanwhile, everyone is excited about AwesomeCloud's strides in language. He's been blurting out new words, sometimes two-syllable words, sometimes two-word phrases, sometimes in appropriate circumstances. For instance, this morning I was crouched down on the floor with my dustpan and brush, and he said, "Excuse me," as he pushed past me.

Actually it sounded more like "Hoo hee." But I'll take it. His affinity for consonants is lagging behind his known vocabulary.

He also says "Thank you." He says it when he gets something he wants. Awesome.

I'm trying to reinforce that one by replying "thank you" instead of "you're welcome." I'm afraid that saying "you're welcome" will just confuse him, since he doesn't know anything about complex verbal exchanges like that one. And because, normally in other situations, if he says something and I'm pleased that he says it, I repeat his phrase back at him to reinforce it. So I should repeat "thank you" back at him too.

But it's so hard. I have to override a lifetime of automatic response conditioning.

There are some new challenges arising with him, too, but I don't feel like discussing them. I just wanted to share the "excuse me" and "thank you."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In absentia

Sorry I haven't been blogging much lately. I have several excuses.

1) Naptime recently got a little shorter. I guess I should be grateful Cloud still takes naps at all.

2) When I'm on the computer, I frequently have to be working. My husband had the whole summer off, which was great for my ability to find time to do my work. But now he's at work again, and tired in the evenings.

3) When I do get computer playtime, I'd rather be playing Spore. I have my heart set on winning Spore. I feel like winning Spore is a goal within my reach. Right now I really crave having a goal within my reach. Real life isn't offering very many. I want to do something that isn't doomed to fail, and isn't just endlessly treading water. In Spore, I just need to fill my coffers and upgrade my weapons, and I totally have a chance of winning. In real life, not so much.

4) Something happened that's bothering me. It's personal, so I won't blog about it. It comes in two parts - an infuriating part and a worrisome part. I've been focusing very heavily on being angry, to the point where I haven't had any energy left to be worried. My subconscious is probably doing this on purpose. If so, nothing I say about the issue is entirely accurate, and you'd need an emotion interpreter to figure out what I really mean. (Good luck with that.) And anyway, the whole issue is rendered moot by the fact that there's no solution, and no real change in our everyday lives, and therefore I'm not quite justified in calling it a problem. I'm basically pissy over nothing. But it's an infuriating nothing.

There. Aren't you glad I shared that with you?

In slightly better news, I'm starting an adoptive family playgroup. We'll meet once a month. I'm running it.

Yes, me. Really.

I didn't bust my butt to organize this thing, so don't start thinking I've been replaced by an alien clone. It practically organized myself. Even better, I invited one personal friend to bring her two little ones, so I'm hoping she'll come. Aaaaand, this morning at the super awesome playground, I met two adoptive moms and their kids, invited them on the spot, and they sounded very interested.

See? It's a playgroup that organizes itself!

I'll bring some snacks and some toys and the checklist of maintenance tasks I have to perform before we leave the community center. And that's it! Sweet and simple.

Okay, I have an hour left before naptime is over. I have to go play Spore. Bye.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

No, I am the mother. He is my son.

I spoke that line to a woman in BJ's today. She was 'entertaining' Cloud by activating a scary, singing, dancing Mickey Mouse on the shelf. Cloud watched from a safe distance in morbid fascination. The woman kept pushing Mickey's On button, and at one point I warned her not to take it down and try to get Cloud to touch it, because he prefers those creepy moving toys at a distance.

She said to me, "You're not his mother, are you? You're the babysitter?"

I was extremely polite and controlled. I figure that correcting her mistake was embarrassing enough for the old lady. She didn't mean any harm, and she'd been caught by a stranger in the act of prejudging.

I later learned that she'd once kidnapped her own children illegally, and she really wanted to talk about it. But social convention didn't allow her to. (And I'm not THAT much of a street psychologist. No thank you.) So she said something vague about it, I made a vague but supportive reply, and we parted ways.

As my son becomes braver in public, and not so joined to me at the hip, I suppose I will increasingly resemble a babysitter to some people. He was, at the time, eating a BJ's food sample and dragging his feet while he followed me around the store. But so far I've only been asked about my status as possibly not his mother twice.

Much more frequently, strangers assume he's adopted and they want to gush over adoption in general or over the adoptions that occurred in their families.

I guess it's a good thing for the majority of people that they assume correctly. I mean, I could be the babysitter, and he could be third-generation Asian-American with parents just as Asian as him. You never know until you ask.

What question is so open-ended, though, that it doesn't include any assumptions? "So, what's your story?" Hmm. No. That has a certain subtle rudeness to it that even "Is he adopted?", also a somewhat rude question, doesn't have. "Is he adopted?" is rude just because it's presumptuous. "So, what's your story?" is outright prying.

Okay, it's all prying.

It's so hard to deal with all the prying and still stay polite. But I like being polite. Rudeness burns bridges, and I don't have that many bridges.

Fortunately, strangers in general aren't as prying as they were a year or six months ago. I think it has something to do with Cloud's age. People still dote on him left and right, but more and more often, they just say, "He's so CUTE!!!" And made other casual, generalized observations. He's so tall, he's so friendly, etc.

(He's not tall. He's just skinny - or, as I put it to be politically correct, wiry.)

I don't have any stunning revelations about awkward social interactions to give you. Unfortunately, this experience is par for the course in an obvious adoption. I guess it says something about people's awareness of adoption. People, especially older people, know something about interracial adoption and they're interested in learning more about it. They wish to make contact with adoptive families. They want to interact with the darling Asian children.

(I can't do a comparison of races from personal experience; the only reason I single out Asian children here is because Cloud is one.)

It's about them, really. Not about us. And if the person's point of reference is very, very different, as was the case with the old woman we met today, the results can be... odd.

Maybe even disturbing, if one lets oneself be disturbed. However, that is not their intention. Their intention is simply outreach. Contact. And I bet that Cloud's age is a MUCH bigger factor than his ethnicity or familial status. Old people love children.

Maybe their children are my age and their grandchildren hardly ever come to visit.

Maybe they have holes in their hearts because something went wrong in their families.

Maybe people my age would be coming up and doting on Cloud, too, but they're too shy. Social convention doesn't allow for that very much. In China, it does, but not here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

My 24-Hour comic

I did it. On Saturday I drew a 24-page comic book in 24 hours.

I also oversaw a firewood delivery, did two loads of laundry, cleaned the aquarium, and slept for 6 hours.

It's autobiographical, covering the last year, and primarily this spring and summer, in my adventures parenting.

Here's a sample page, page 16, the only one so far that I've scanned. I haven't gone through and erased all the pencil marks yet, so the book is still largely illegible, but this page has hardly any text.

Since then, my left hand has been in recovery mode, so I haven't felt like typing anything. I've been reading my blog list, though. I'm still here. I'll type something more substantial later.