Friday, September 30, 2011

I am descended from Confucius

Yes, me. No, this is not a pun, a metaphor, or a figurative truism. It is the truth. At least, according to this man's description of population genetics plus statistics, it is.

In other videos, he explains how race is not a genetic trait. I've come across this point in several other sources, too. Genetic traits are inherited individually, and race is a sweeping social construct that comprises a package deal of physical traits. It's easy to say that people with similar characteristics from a certain place constitute a race, but if you mix those people in with other populations, race is the first thing to disappear from their descendants.

That's why people invent things like the "drop of blood" rule - if there's any African ancestry in you at all, then you have a drop of African blood, and the privileged light-skinned people may oppress you with impunity.

Except, well, we're all Africans. We're all Asians and we're all descended from Caesar.

I already knew I was descended from Caesar, actually, but I'm glad to learn that my son is, too, and that I am descended from Confucius. Now, Caesar probably appears in my family tree a bazillion times, and Confucius most certainly appears in Cloud's tree a bazillion times. That's what being Han Chinese, in his case, or Italian in my case, is all about. And of course I knew that his tree and mine converge somewhere, that we had a Most Recent Common Ancestor a long time ago.

It wasn't that long ago, though, apparently. 550-1000 BCE... that was like yesterday in biological time! I'd been thinking something like 30,000 BCE.

But actually, the way humans move around so much, that now seems unlikely. 32,000 years is something like 1200 generations. Which would still make us fairly closely related... but that would only make sense if humans only moved outward and never moved back. They absolutely do move back. And forth and back and up and down and all around.

I've been pondering how to explain race to my son ever since adoption first came up as a possibility. If my explanation evolves... if it's more scientifically current and accurate than the one recommended to us by the experts... then, yay. I'm for that.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2 years today!

Happy Adoption Day, AwesomeCloud!


Today we had a playdate with two wonderful, brilliant local kids (and their mom). She invited another mom, and someone else they knew was there too, so I got lots of social time.

The playdate was at a playground, and the playground had no restroom, and consequences ensued.

Amusingly, though, ever since we got home, he's been insisting on using the potty by himself without help every 20 minutes. I've been letting him. He announces, "Be right back, okay? Be right back! Okay?" And then he keeps saying it while he's doing his thing by himself in the room - just to hear the sound of my voice, I suppose.

In other news, he's hit a contrarian phase. If I say "don't" he does. If I say "do" he doesn't. He's always done that to some degree, but this time it's intentional more often - I can't blame the language barrier or the two-year-old mentality anymore - and his giggling is a dead giveaway.

I try not to sweat the small stuff. But sometimes I end up yelling anyway. Oh well.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Child trafficking in China

This article in the NYT is pretty unnerving.

AwesomeCloud is highly unlikely to have been abducted or otherwise trafficked. There's no sense in child traffickers choosing special needs children. But I'm alarmed just the same. We're told that China handles its adoptions ethically. But just because the government oversees all adoptions doesn't mean everything is ethical. I mean, ponder that idea for a while and see how ridiculous it is. Still, we have to believe in something, so we put aside any reason for suspicion and go forward with our adoptions, assuring ourselves that our agencies are trustworthy and keeping our minds on the children that will soon be ours.

Anyway, it's not as if China is the only adoption scandal surprise. What about Spain? That trafficking scheme went from the 1950's to the 1980's and was perpetrated by Catholic clergy.

Same story for the child trafficking scandal in Australia.

Don't think it's just Guatemala and Vietnam. (Those were surprises, too, as I recall.)

What's the root of the problem here? People wanting to make money off of other people's suffering? Authority figures making women's life decisions for them and against their will?

Yes, yes, and more. However, as much as it pains me to say it, the biggest root of the problem is demand. There are too many families willing to pay large amounts of money for a healthy infant. We adoptive parents create the market. Without the market, it would be difficult to illegally traffic any child.

We view it too much as a women's rights issue, I think. If women have the right to decide whether and when to have children, and how many children to have, then surely women who have trouble giving birth themselves should be extended the same rights. Right? Affluent families deserve every possible opportunity to strategically form a family to fit their wants and needs. (With adoption, you can even - ethically - choose the child's gender. How cool is that?)

I don't really believe that, though. Maybe that makes me a misfit in affluent society. It will certainly make me unpopular with the adoptive parents. But I believe that my parental rights as an adoptive parent should only be addressed after the rights of the original parents are completely taken care of. I believe I should be outraged when I hear that they are not. I think I should take these scandals seriously and be sickened by them. I believe that I should take measures to not be part of the problem.

We did that by choosing special needs. Actually, our local agent declared she was limiting herself to special needs adoptions, because the NSN programs were getting out of hand, and we decided we were totally on board with that. Even though we weren't specifically trying to help where the need was greatest, we were certainly open to the idea of adopting a perfectly good child whom, due to circumstances, few people wanted. I have always found that the best way to get through life was to go where the competition was least. The idea that adopting through the special needs program helps me avoid scandals is a great bonus.

A very valuable bonus, in fact. I can't imagine having to live with the guilt of finding out my kid might have been the victim of a child trafficking scandal. No wonder so many parents just close their eyes to the possibility. It's a horrible thing to have been the cause of. It's horrible to think that you and your money and your sheer determination to create a family your way, consequences be damned, inspired someone to commit a crime against the child and his/her original family.

My own defense is that, well, as much as I hate the One-Child Policy and the crappy medical system in China, and the stigma placed on children of imperfect health, those things do exist at this time and therefore my son fell through some very real cracks and was very legitimately in need of some love and stability in his life. There were not a lot of other people clamoring to step up and act like parents to him. If China improves socially, and the adoption market more-or-less dries up, I will be absolutely thrilled. If it had already done so, I'd like to think, we would not have pursued this adoption. Our thought process at the time supports this claim. We were looking for the path of least resistance.

I'd also love it if the US social services cleaned up its act and began to act efficiently and ethically. That would be the best of both worlds.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

All of a sudden, he is not traumatized by preschool!

A lot of things have been happening lately. To tell a coherent story about our life, I really should post every day. (Haha. Sorry, I don't like blogging THAT much. I did when we were stuck waiting and idle, but now that we're living and busy, not so much.)

Yesterday was AwesomeCloud's third day of preschool. It was obvious when we got there that he'd hit a turning point. He wanted to swing on the swings and run laps around the field while we waited for people to show up. (I like being early. I think I'll keep doing it. It's more fun to spend a minute getting coats and shoes on and ten minutes running around the school grounds than vice versa.)

Then when kids and parents started gathering near the door, he came willingly and shuffled around instead of hanging onto me.

And then when the teacher showed up, he said, "Bye!" and didn't even look back for one last panicked, sorrowful look.

He was happy to see me when school was over, but actually I think he was happy to see I put his Beanie Baby cat in my purse with its head hanging out. I did that the first day of school, and he cheered up when he saw it. On the second day, he was disappointed that the cat wasn't in my purse, he opened my purse up and checked every pocket inside, even though I told him I was sorry I had forgotten Cat. Third day, I remembered. Apparently, having Cat peeking out of my purse when I get Cloud is an essential new tradition.

I like this new tradition. It's easy - as long as I can remember it.

Another weird little thing - he compares where I park to pick him up to where I parked to drop him off. At first he asked, "Moved car?" As if he were surprised I'd do such a thing. As if I'd spent 2.5 hours twiddling my thumbs while sitting in the driver's seat. He probably didn't realize 2.5 hours had passed. He probably isn't ready to wonder what I'm doing when I'm not right there with him.

On the third day I parked in the same place twice. So, in effect, maybe I didn't move the car and maybe I did sit in it the whole time he was in school. This time, however, he seemed surprised that I didn't move the car.

Afterwards we went out for lunch to the Chinese restaurant. Wo men pengyou (our friend, the owner of the restaurant) had a friend of hers working there. Or maybe they were sisters, or cousins; who knows. This new woman is a recent arrival and has a child Cloud's age. We immediately started chatting playdate. Pengyou also has a 3-year-old son.

There's also the butterfly garden. Another season is ending. It was fun to watch AwesomeCloud improving his butterfly garden skills again this year. At first he started off interested in the digging and weeding we do in the spring, but as time went on, he grew impatient with that. By July, I started going in the morning once a week by myself, just to keep up with the weeding. But then data collection began, and that involved walking and looking around. At first, Cloud was uninterested or even afraid of the butterflies. I remember his first close-up sighting - I was weeding, and I looked up and saw a Checkerspot on the orange flowers. It was right next to where Cloud was standing.

"Look, a butterfly," I said.

Cloud looked around but didn't see it.

"It's right there," I said. "Right next to you. Near your arm. On the flower right there."

He saw it and recoiled, startled. I assured him it was harmless and we stared and stared and stared.

Now he can spot the sulphurs before I do and he can even tell an orange from a clouded sulphur. It'll be a while before he learns the challenging species, like pearl crescent or American copper, but I think he's learning to ID the cabbage leaf, and he knows a monarch, even if he mangles its name.

The end-of-season party is in two weeks, and I'd love to show off his skills to the other volunteers if he'll cooperate. But he probably won't. He may be a type A personality, but he gets performance-shy just like most kids his age.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Second day of school

First, a funny conversation in which Cloud picks up on my mannerisms:

Cloud: "Snack?"
Me: "No, you can't have another snack."
Cloud: "Lunch?"
Me: "Not until lunchtime. Why are you asking for food? You're not hungry. You just ate a giant cookie. Your tummy is full."
Cloud: "I wish."

That was yesterday on the way to... something or other. Audubon? Library? What did we do yesterday morning? Yesterday afternoon he started kung fu again. I really like the group of kids he's with this time. There is one boy with limb differences who, if he can't follow all the instructions to the letter, is a really sharp listener and understands what the instructions are. There's one boy whose attention span isn't great but he's not wildly bouncing off the walls either. And one girl who is very timid and cries a lot and who needs her daddy to come rescue her a lot. When she finds her kung fu comfort zone, she is probably going to achieve all new levels of personal growth. I hope she sticks with it long enough for that to happen.

And then there's Cloud, who thinks everything is funny, still has trouble understanding what's going on, and has to follow every instruction ever given at all times. (Actually, he's gotten better. He lets the other kids take their turns now.)

The Chinese motifs around the kuan make me more than ever wish that there were some Chinese being spoken there. He's so ready to hear Chinese now. I will have to pursue my other resources. One is the lady who owns the local Chinese take-out restaurant. She has taken an interest in Cloud. I plan to take Cloud out for lunch there at least once a week, if I can afford it, just so we can practice our words on her and learn new words. Last Friday she taught us "lu se" (green) and "hong se" (red). I told her I already knew "lan se" (blue). I also know "bai se" (white) and I looked up "huang se" (yellow). We are ready to learn colors!

Also, Cloud and I invented a game called "Qu, lai." I tell him, "Qu! Qu! Qu qu qu!" and he runs away. Then I shout, "Lai lai lai lai!" and he comes back. That's two verbs learned right there! Maybe we can add more verbs to the game later.

Anyway, today was his second day of preschool. He seems to have adjusted right away. I made him do exercises before we left home, and then we got there early so he could swing on the swings for a few minutes. When the crowds came and the teachers came out to get the kids, he got that wide-eyed look again. He seems unnerved by being asked to stand against the wall and leave me standing several feet away from him. But this time, he said, "Bye!" He still looked scared, but he was resolutely going to go through with the painful task of entering the school building.

Then his classmate began to cry, and the boy's mother hastened away with a pained look on her face, and for a moment I thought Cloud was going to bolt. But he didn't, and he went in and I left. I was going to take a nap when I got home - I have a horrible head cold and I didn't sleep at all last night. But I couldn't lie down and anyway my boss called me needing a document.

Speaking of, I'm going to finish this later because my vision is blurry and even though I still can't lie down, I need to at least sit and close my eyes.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Black, white, whatever

This slam poet is awesome.

Is my son a 'whatever'?

In other parts of the world, I'd be a freak and he'd be the status quo. Does it sound appealing to go to those places, just to see what it feels like? Just to have that experience? Even if you didn't have to?

How about if someone took you and brought you there? Would you do all right as a 'whatever'?

Friday, September 9, 2011

I'm home alone (Wheee!)

AwesomeCloud is at preschool. Without me. For the very first time. I came home right away and here I am.

He was cheerful and playful until he realized that the teacher holding his hand was going to drag him into the school. Then he made a grab for me. So I picked him up, hugged him hard, reminded him that school was fun with lots of toys and a snack, and put him down again. The teacher grabbed his hand and pulled him forcefully into the school.

The administrator I really like came up to me and asked me how I was doing, assuring me that it was hard to let go and I could call the school in a while and ask how he's doing. Now I feel like I ought to call the school and ask how he's doing. I'm pretty sure how he's doing involves crying. Do I want any more information than that? How early is too early to call? How late is too late?

My boss hit me with a document I need to revise and email to him immediately. It's 10:00 already. 2.5 hours isn't a lot of time.

I'm refusing to stress-eat. I did have a peach.

This post is just about me stressing and otherwise not very informative, so I'm going to stop here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

In which I get indoctrinated into modern preschool mommy culture

This morning, AwesomeCloud had his first day of preschool. Actually it was an hour-long orientation and meet-the-teachers event. His actual first day will be Friday.

This is the season for blog posts about our kids' first days of school. My post is not going to be any more witty or brilliant than the average back-to-school post. However, the experience was interesting to me because I am new at this. It is strange to me. And my ideas about preschool and the parenthood of preschoolers are a little bit... uh... outdated.

First of all, I wasn't even certain he was going to be in preschool. For most of the summer, the uncertainty hung over me. His speech therapist last year was going to make an effort to snag him a spot, but then she and the entire administration left on summer vacation, and when they returned they got busy sending me paperwork and robocalls but were not often there to answer the phone and answer my question directly:

"Is my son enrolled in preschool?"

I left messages on several voice mails, and then I got a call from one of the people in charge, a very friendly woman whom I like very much. She told me that Cloud was in, and that he was scheduled for two mornings per week.... but she didn't know which mornings.

So, for about a week, we were left hanging on which two calendar columns to fill up with little 'school' notations. That dragged into two weeks, as Hurricane Irene delayed the opening of the entire public school system by a week.

Today, less than an hour before orientation was to start, Cloud's old speech therapist called me back. She informed me that he would be attending on Tuesdays and Fridays. She assured me that he would see her. (He'd been asking for her. Or rather, every time I tried to get him to say the name of his new teacher, he'd say her name instead.) I told her I was coming to the orientation and she told me she'd see us there.

Once there, I found Cloud's classroom and we entered. There were five other children present, and two of them were nonwhite. No other Asians, unfortunately. There was an African-American girl and a medium-brown-skinned girl of unclear ethnicity. I hope Cloud enjoys the diversity of preschool, because it will probably get worse as he goes into the higher grades. I'm pleasantly amazed at the significant scattering of nonwhite children at that school. It's a little pocket of diversity in a region where it's hard to find places with races all mixed together. Cloud may not spend much time looking at faces that resemble his, but he can look at various other types of faces.

(On that note, I'm glad I didn't end up paying to send him to a private preschool. I'll take free diversity over expensive homogeneity!)

I introduced Cloud to his teachers, who were conveniently labeled with name tags, and they took him to the craft table to play with Play-Doh. He was eager to get playing. However, when I told him I was going to pop into orientation and then come back and play with him, he bolted out of his seat and announced, "I come too." He took my hand and started toward the door. The teachers looked on in amusement.

"Um," I said. "This is grownup stuff. I'm just going to listen to them tell me something. Then I'll come back, I promise."

The head teacher jumped up. "Sometimes we let the kids see the room, just so they'll know where Mommy is."

So we did that, walking together to the room. I opened the door, and when Cloud saw the boring rows of chairs with dull grownups sitting in them, he hesitated.

"Let's go play with Play-Doh," the teacher told Cloud, and he moved away from the door... and then the administrator I really like came up behind me and gave me a push. "Just go," she whispered. "Quickly before he has time to think."

So I went in and sat down and began initiation rites.

Actually, much of it made sense to me. The oddest bits of orientation mostly seemed like little clashes between the school's needs and parental behavior. For instance:

"Park on the street across from the school and you won't have any problems," the speaker said. She then launched into a long, complicated description of moms and buses jockeying for position in the same strip of drop-off curb, and how leaving your vehicle to walk your child to the teacher was both necessary and a matter of crucial timing, and how parents in a hurry do crazy stupid things and endanger everyone (so don't be that parent!), and throughout it all I kept thinking, "Sheesh, I'm just going to park on the street."

It's not a busy street and it's not that long a walk. Sure, Cloud and I got rained on when we parked on the street this morning, but rain happens. We're not afraid of rain. I'm more afraid of blocking a school bus and getting admonished for it.

(Later, as Cloud and I were walking back to the car, I overheard one mom say to another mom, "That's the dropoff curb." The other mom nodded appreciatively. What? Didn't they hear the advice to park across the street? Hey, if they want to jostle with school buses, more power to them.)

Then there was the whole thing about classroom birthday parties. The general message was, "Sigh... if you must... we're going to make it really hard for you and limit your options."More literally, it was, "Warn the teacher ahead of time, don't bring any food, and make it relevant to the curriculum." That's not a birthday party - that's classroom volunteering. With extra stickers. Not that I'm opposed to classroom birthday parties - there can only be a maximum of 15 birthdays a year, and that's if Cloud's classroom ultimately fills out to its maximum 15 kids, and none of them were born in summer. But when I was in preschool, all we did was have our name put at the top of the felt board and then the class sang "Happy Birthday" and that was it. I think that was kinda nice. We all felt important enough, just being sung to. And anyway, I don't want to throw my son a classroom birthday party. He already gets like 5 parties per birthday with just his extended family members.

It's a peanut-free school, which sounds a little extreme until you learn that there is actually at least one student who is deathly allergic to peanuts. It's not hypothetical. I'm in favor of letting that kid get through the school year alive. That's what sunflower seed butter is for, anyway. But in preschool it's not an issue because the teachers provide all the snacks themselves. Fruit or crackers or cheese, they said. Fine with me. If Cloud learns to like fruit at preschool, I will be happy.

When I reentered the classroom, Cloud wasn't crying. The teachers praised him to me. However, as soon as he saw me, he demanded, "Go home, eat lunch." Over and over again, repeatedly, until we walked out the door. (At that point, he suggested, "Restaurant?") It was only 11:00 AM. Oh my goodness.

Supposedly there was a list of supplies for me to buy hidden somewhere in my packet of paperwork, but I didn't see it. I just remember something about travel tissues (got those already), a bottle of soap, sanitary wipes, and a backpack. The backpack is for Cloud, obviously. The other three items are for the teacher, and if there's more on the list, I don't know what it is.

Anyway, while Cloud and I were out shopping for another item, I got it in my head to find some backpacks and let him pick one out. It had to be cheap, and small, and I was hoping to find something tasteful and boyish but unique. First we went to Marshall's, where I discovered that small backpacks are really, really hard to find. There was a good selection of backpacks. There were plain black backpacks, backpacks with sports logos on them, Dora and Thomas the Tank Engine backpacks... and they were all HUGE.

"Who would buy this?" I pondered out loud as I held up a Thomas the Tank Engine backpack that was almost as tall as my son. A passer-by overheard me and grinningly agreed with me. Seriously, anyone under ten would struggle to drag that monstrosity across the school grounds.

Cloud was disappointed. He was in love with the idea of picking his own backpack, and Thomas is at the top of his list of favorite motifs. But Mama was on a grand search for a small backpack, and he was helpless to change that.

We went to Ocean State Job Lot next. I figured that OSJL has a lot of odd things, and apparently, small backpacks are odd things. No luck. But right next to OSJL is TJ Maxx, so I figured, what the heck, it's just like Marshall's but we're already right here. So we went in.

The selection was decent, and with a whole lot of searching, Cloud and I found kid-themed backpacks in the back. The smallest one had Dora the Explorer on it, and Cloud was happy to consider getting that one, but I nixed that idea without telling him why. We then found a tiny black one with a basketball player logo protruding out of it. "We can buy a patch with any picture you want," I told Cloud, "and sew it on." After I pried that gawdawful logo off of it, of course. "We can go to the railroad gift store and get a patch with a train on it, or..."

"Train!" agreed Cloud.

"...Or a boat..."

"Train!" Cloud insisted.

At the register, we saw more backpacks, and as if by magic, there was an even tinier black backpack with a nonprotruding, embroidered logo on it. I made him try it, and then I made him trade his other one for it, and then he reminded me that he wanted a train patch for it. "Yeah," I agreed, "It will be even easier to sew a train patch onto THIS backpack." Cloud was sold.

The cashier fawned over him, telling him fifty-plus times that he was sooooo cute with his tiny backpack. He put it next to his seat in the car, occasionally bringing up the promised train patch, and proudly showed it off to Daddy when we got home.

Oh my god. I hope I can find a train patch. Imagine if the railroad gift store doesn't sell patches?! I can try the hobby store, too... gah, I hope patches aren't so totally out of style that no one sells them anymore. I will paint a train with acrylic paints onto that thing if I have to. But I kinda like the idea of using tourist mementos to personalize one's possessions. It'd be so... so Cape Cod of us.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Words keep a-comin' all day long

I have a talking kid.

I also have a potty-trained kid, at least mostly, but I'm not going to discuss his private doings all over the internet.

So, I have a talking kid.

This is a hugely welcome development. My husband and I are both extremely verbal communicators, and it's not easy having a nonverbal person in the household. Especially when we are in charge of meeting that person's every need. It's like having another cat - but worse, because cats lick themselves and use their own litter boxes (ideally) and you can rest assured they're not intelligent enough to be dwelling on their experiences of pain and trauma.

Children, however, start dwelling on pain and trauma at some point in their lives, and even though I don't expect my son to be an open book all the time, it bothers me to think that he can't express ANY thought that he has. Not even "I want milk."

For a long time, the 'language explosions' were tiny. As far as I was concerned, five new words in a single day was a language explosion. Ten words in a week was, too. I didn't know what people were talking about when they said children's language acquisition was amazing. It's not amazing! It's excruciating.

Until now. Now we are in a bona fide language explosion. Pronouns! Still used incorrectly some of the time, but there are more of them.

Here's a funny development: when Cloud momentarily forgets which of us is 'I" and which is 'you" he asks for "own." As in, "Own muffin... please!" when he doesn't want to share my muffin. "Own spoon" when he wants to use his baby spoon instead of a regular teaspoon. It gets the point across in an innovative way, and i don't correct his pronoun usage as much.

Verbs! He now has the phrase "I want" and uses it copiously. He can 'walk' 'ride' 'dim' (swim) and 'deep' (sleep). He likes to go 'dogging' (jogging).

He answers questions. And not just randomly - he actually listens to and understands the questions and then answers them with actual intent. This is huge.

He has learned the skill of diversion - changing the subject if he doesn't want to go along with what I'm telling him, or asking for something else if I tell him he can't have one thing.

He has learned to nag and whine. Someday I will count how many times in a row he can ask for a snack. It's a lot. He also barely pauses for breath in between inquiries. (He and Riley the cat have that trait in common.)

(In fact, I have accidentally called him Riley a few times now.)

I have begun, occasionally, to tell him to shut up and/or stop whining. I try not to say those things very often. How often is not very often? 20% of the time? 5%? 5% still has me shushing him at least once a day.

He has begun repeating phrases after hearing them only once. He's especially good at this if the phrase contains words he already knows. For instance, I doubt he'll say 'brachiosaurus' again without prodding, but he could say "going to flea market" again soon.

I guess this means it's prime time to start him on Mandarin.

(I've been a little complacent about the whole Mandarin thing. I've been working at it a little... a very very little... but I have some ideas I could pursue.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Our day with Irene

Howdy all! We have internet again! Hurricane Irene knocked our power out for 9 hours, or phone for 3 days, and our internet finally came on late last night.

On Saturday night, it rained, but by Sunday when the winds picked up the rain was already gone. We live on high ground (Compared to the waterfront, that is) so we didn't see any tidal surge. (If we had, half the Cape would've been washed to sea!) So, for us, it wasn't the water - it was the wind.

At around 10:30 AM, the lights flickered, so I put on a pot of rice pilaf. The power went out for good soon after the water boiled. At noon, we ate the rice pilaf, which was still warm, and that was the last hot food we had for the next nine hours. We also had grapes and crackers, and for supper I made peanut butter and honey sandwiches out of hot dog rolls. The fridge and freezer were taped shut so that little fingers or forgetful minds wouldn't accidentally open them.

We took out two board games - Candyland for the Kiddo, and Empire Builder for the grownups. Empire Builder is an epic railroad game. Cloud loves to look at the pictures of trains. He picked the game out for Daddy last Christmas, most likely because he liked the pictures of trains. We like to play it, but it's difficult to play it with guests because it's just too epic.

With the lights out, and no rain outside, and aside from 30-40 mph gusts it being a beautiful day, inevitably we all went outside. We started patrolling our street to look for fallen branches, and we found lots of them. It became part of our routine - play a round of Candyland, take a few turns of Empire Builder, catch the news every half hour on the radio, and then go outside to clear the road of any fallen branches.

After we cleared one intersection of fallen locust branches, two men came along with a camera. They pointed the camera at our new pile of branches by the side of the road.

"You missed it," I said. "These were all on the street. We already cleaned it up."

"Wow, all these were on the street?!" they said.

Well, most of them. Those trees are really brittle.

When dusk arrived, we took out two flashlights and attempted to keep playing our game. Cloud invented his own new game - hog the flashlights. We had candles, too, and eventually we just let him have the flashlights because at least it kept him away from the candles.

The power came on just before bedtime. In the morning Cloud and I went grocery shopping and got enough food to make a nice big hot baked chicken meal, half of which I brought over to our elderly neighbor. It turned out he'd been at his daughter's house and not stranded without power in our neighborhood, but he took the chicken anyway.

Hey, it was good chicken.