Saturday, May 31, 2014

Blogging Again?

I have let the blog lapse for four years, while children and grandchildren grew, joined our family, left home for Real Life in the real world, married, had their own children, and Ray and I did our stuff and kept on doing our stuff.  Reflections abound. I write for myself, I think. But I will write anyway.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Week's Reflection

Juanjuan has been travelling for a week. Her best friend, Ming, adopted two years ago, and Ming's family invited Juan to go on a road trip with them from S. CA to San Francisco, sightseeing along the way.

Juan calls almost every night to tell me "good night." This is actually a mutually Mom-arranged ritual so that I will know she's OK and still alive. I think it's important to allow her the sense that she really is out from under my thumb on this trip, but I still have that Mommy need to know that all is well.

Reflection 1. I am not worrying as much about her as I would be if she were one of my bio kids. Not that I don't care about her as much, but I know that she is very street savvy and careful, and managed to survive 11 years pretty much on her own in a huge city without my help or superivision. I also know that, due to the language issue, she's not likely to strike up a conversation with unsavory charactors. And that the family she's with is very careful and kid-oriented. And I know that she is really having a lot of fun. This will be the highlight of her summer.

Reflection 2. It is very quiet around here. As we fell back into the pre-Juan routines of summertime...essentially everyone doing what they want and taking responsibility for their own fun...I realized that Juan has brought quite a bit more intensity into our lives. She is not one to sit around and relax. She has to be doing something, and prefers to have that something involve other people. We are pretty boring for her. We read. We draw. We go for walks. We think. Pretty low key.

Reflection 3. Kirsten, who has had the hardest kid adjustment to sharing her life with a new sister is the one who misses the new sister the most. She misses the Juan energy.

Reflection 4. I haven't worried about food at all...didn't realize how really big food has been for the last 12 months. Juan likes Chinese food and about three American dishes and that's all. It has been hard, because nobody else wants to eat Chinese food every day. So we compromise. Sort of. But I also realize that I really am not a cooking person. I like to make a salad, sandwhiches, and maybe fresh fruit and call that dinner. I have enjoyed the vacation from complicated dinners.

Reflection 5. I am looking forward to having Juan back again. I look forward to see the changes I know will have happened in her in just ONE week's time, and I anticipate the fun of continuing to get to know her, and learning to be a good mom for her.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

return of the blogger (maybe)

I haven't blogged since our return home from China, or thereabouts. Nine months along now, we have more or less adjusted to the newness of our new family.

Adopting a child is analogous to having a new baby, in that your world is turned upside down for awhile, you question your sanity, your judgement and your ability to cope, then you do cope and things start to settle down, and you wonder what all the fuss was about. This new kid is GREAT! We should all have five or ten more!

JuanJuan has made a gradual adjustment, and so have we. She had a long honeymoon, guardedly getting to know us and checking out what this new family, country and situation was about before she let loose and grieved, showed her anger and expressed fears. We're not really in the clear, still seeing occasional bouts of all of the above. AND she's a 12 year old girl, so emotions are all over the map. But she's doing great, getting more and more settled, and more and more comfortable with us. And we with her. I can truthfully say I love this child. I think the rest of the family concurs...we all love JuanJuan. And I think she loves us, too.

We're not a perfect family. I am not the neatest, most organized mother in the world. I tend to forget things, misplace things. I do make a tremendous effort to be where I'm supposed to be, do what I need to do, and make sure my kids get the things they need from me, and from the world at large. Juan is learning to trust that I will show up, do the job, and make sure her needs are met.

We are getting past some of the expected older adopted kid behaviors.

She has learned about earning things she wants rather than demanding and expecting everything to be given to her.

She earned an iPod touch by getting straight A's on spelling and math tests for an extended period of time. This was a huge deal for her, in light of the fact that she flipped out and had extensive tantrums at Christmas time because she didn't get all the expensive goodies her friends (adopted and close by) got. Honestly, it wasn't a spartan Christmas...she got some pretty good stuff! But it wasn't EVERYTHING, and it wasn't EVERYTHING that EVERYBODY ELSE got. We had a long term discussion, days and days, about how we get things, what things parents provide, how to get other things we just 'want'. A light went on in her eyes when I suggested earning money by getting good grades. I've never paid for grades before, but it's a win-win. Study habits, learning english and improving math, she feels good about herself, and she finds a legitimate way to get this cool expensive thing she wants. What's not to like?

She is learning about fairness amongst siblings. From standing outside her siblings' doors literally counting the seconds that I spent with them, vs. time spent with her, we've now moved on to her being satisfied with ten minutes at bedtime being sacred 'Juan Only' time, and understanding (I think) that sometimes people just need more time with mom or dad, and that she will have her time when she needs it.

She is learning that, lame and flaky as I am sometimes, I do come through. She does not need to control everything. She is safe with me.

Today is her birthday. She is 12. She wanted cupcakes for her class today. This is the middle school norm, and I was expecting to provide the traditional treat.

Last night, she had a breakdown/meltdown because I had not yet baked the cupcakes. I explained, in our family Chinese/English patois, that I would be bringing cupcakes at lunchtime, as teachers usually want them served in the afternoon, just before last recess or before school is out. This was NOT OK. She wanted them to go with her to school in the morning... they needed to be baked that night. And she doubted my ability to bake decent birthday cupcakes at all...I should buy them at the store instead.

This led to a lot more discussion about some 'not fair' things she was upset about. The bottom line is trust. Will I do what I say I will? Will it be good enough? We talked about anger, about expectations, about demanding vs. asking, etc. And we talked about the very pragmatic issue of whether it was productive to be really mad and mean to someone if you want them to do something nice for you.

She was still mad when she got to school this morning. And the cupcakes were delivered at lunchtime. I'm interested to see what she has to say after school. Were the cupcakes cool enough? Were they the right flavor? Will she be rude or nice about it?

Tonight: ooohh, the birthday party! We have plans. She has made a list of demands :) and we'll see if she can make herself happy with the nice birthday we will provide. I really do want her to be happy and enjoy her day, but I am not going to cater to her insecurity to the extent that I am going to give her everything she asks for. So...we'll see. She will get some of the things she wanted. And some things she didn't ask for. There are some surprises in store that she isn't expecting.

It's all very interesting. I feel like I am getting to be pretty good at this, which is a sure sign than I'm in for a rude awakening.

Good stuff: she is a very good girl. She cares about other people. She is smart. She is thoughtful. She is funny, she is talented.

Bad stuff: none. Or...the bad stuff is the stuff we have to deal with that still hasn't come up. Abandonment. Loss. ...all that stuff that's probably on the list for adolescence.

Challenging stuff: Oh, what about a 12 year old isn't challenging from time to time? I'm glad she's my seventh and not my first. I am not making the mistakes I made with my oldest (sorry, Sarah). But she's turned out exceedingly well in spite of my shortcomings.

Upshot: We are blessed to have another daughter, one so ready to learn and try and make such a tremendous effort to adjust. Can you imagine yourself at 11, carried off by strangers to a strange land? She has done phenomenally well. We are so lucky!

Strangers, always Chinese nationals, when they know why she's with us will say "She is a lucky girl"
Strangers, always Anglo/Amerians, when they know why she's with us will say "You must be wonderful/amazing people!" both make me cringe a bit. She's our daughter. We're lucky. She's amazing.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

race post mortem

]The fun run is over, yay. I think it went well. As I was standing around, waiting for the first runners to come in, wearing my BRIGHT YELLOW "Race Crew" T shirt, I was looking around at all of the commotion....Hooper Stadium at our high school, with official race timers standing at the finish line, flags marking the start and finish, popups and tables all over the place with food, water, people getting ready to record times, people standing by to start cheering the runners in, people selling t shirts, LOUD race/running appropriate music blaring over the PA and people dancing to it and I thought "Hey, I started this. This was my idea. And it's happening! And it's good! "

And when the runners starting coming in, I was jumping up and down and cheering and crying (yeah, I'm a weird person), cause it's so cool to see people who have worked very hard to accomplish something very hard. I was full of admiration. Particularly for the 70 plus year old ladies out there, all brown and leathery and running hard.

A year ago, I wanted to find a fundraiser for the choir to replace fireworks sales. There was so much antipathy about fireworks in our town, and every year was a battle...find a place to sell, finding someone willing to store the fireworks truck at night, find people still willing to sell, getting permits, going through the annual fight with the city council (public meeting with angry public) and then doing the nasty job of setting up and tearing down everything every day (thousands of pounds of explosives loaded into and out of a big UHaul truck twice a day. And then having people yell at us and write letters to the editor about how ignorant and evil we are to sell fireworks. And hope and pray all night on the fourth that nobody would start a fire.

Realistically, I still think our piddly little safe and sane legal fireworks set off in controlled areas one night a year are safer than illegal fireworks set off in the boonies to avoid detection one night a year. But my goal was not to educate the public about fireworks safety. I was supposed to be making money. So I got the choir boosters to agree not to even try to sell fireworks this year. (good thing...the city banned them forever this spring) I wanted to do a FUN RUN. And lo, a lady with major running connections is in choir boosters....

So our Running Expert Ellie Lightfoot did all the work to get it going, and I did what she told me to do. I can only claim to be a good follower.

And it was GREAT. Even though we didn't make money. That's to be expected with a first year event. But I think it will grow. This year our goal was to make everything appeal to the serious runners who do these events all year, so we can attract more next year. Plus...have fun.

We did our market research well (I even polled runners at other 5Ks about their T shirt preferences) and we came up with a great product. The serious runners LOVED it. We did everything right. And the kids had fun.

Our be a part of the Gold Country Grand Prix series next year.

And to add a 10K to the race. We wanted to do a great 5K before we attempted a 10K.

My goal: to get the choir to fork up $400 to get our course certified. Nobody else in the grand prix is certified, and that's a big draw for Real Runners who are trying to get a qualifying time for major races. So we can pull in lots of people from out of the area.

Our long term goal: to make enough money to compensate for losing fireworks. But I think we can do better than that. I'm excited.

Maybe next year I'll run! Or maybe I will just become an expert in staging Fun Runs. Like I had to become an expert in selling fireworks and putting on Madrigal Dinner. Am I a diletante or a renaissance woman with obscure skills?

And what should I be doing now instead of typing? I should be folding clothes. So I will.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Blogger Hiatus

That sounds like a disease. And I may have misspelled it. I stopped writing in October because life got too fast and adoption got too slow. Rather than sit around and angst about it in the blog, I just did the stuff I needed to do for the adoption, stayed extremely busy with the rest of life, and waited for the adoption process to unfold.

So now, after many, many months of working toward the goal of achieving adoption, Ray and I will soon be travelling to China to meet our daugther, Lou Juan. And then the real thing...raising an 11 year old girl....begins. It is good to be past most of the waiting and paperwork, and moving on to the real work of parenting. It is also just a tad scary.

And the busy-ness of the business of life, school, community, church, family events, etc, does not slow down. Things continue to continue.

So, last week: last days of school, choir auditions and finals for Laura, 8th grade graduation for Kirsten (I was in charge of cake for 250 and floral arrangments), 1000 mile road trip to a family event four states away (32 hours in the car/fifteen hours out of the car bewteen 7:30 pmFriday evening and 12:30 am Monday morning).

This week, getting ready to travel, getting bedrooms set for the new sleeping arrangements when Lou Juan arrives (moving two girls into their own rooms, painting one bedroom, buying new bedding etc), getting ready for our high school choir fundraiser, a fun run on Saturday. I'm in charge of awards, T shirts and something else, can't remember what. Plus the usual stuff, you know. Music lessons, transportation, cooking, cleaning.

Next week, TRAVEL TO CHINA!! Think I can make it? I have to. The plane will leave for China, and I will be on it. Oh, and I have to buy clothes for Lou Juan, and pick up my daughter and granddaughter (the teenager sitters) at the airport. And other stuff. And clean my room, which, for some reason has become the respository for all the clothing in the house: clean, dirty, mine, not mine. I don't get it. The closets and drawers must all be empty.

I will go create some garden calls.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Life is always entertaining

So people read my blog. Other people. Like, people I don't know. I guess I knew that. But now I KNOW that. Maybe I should make an effort to be more articulate and spell correctly. Check for typos... :)

Adoption. For those of you who haven't travelled this road, or been down it lately, and to China in particular, there is a bundle of Mystery Paper Work known as an I-800 A correct homestudy, that we are trying to create. We already have a homestudy, but it accidentally fell into a beaurocratic void when the US and China became Hague treaty nations and suddenly new, undefined requirements were necessary for homestudies, and nobody knew exactly what they were. Our homestudy was sent off to the USCIS like...a week....before everybody got the word on what was required for the I-800 A. And it wasn't what was in our homestudy. That was back in June.

It took three months for us to get the word we knew was coming, that our homestudy had to be amended to meet Hague standards. And now we're frantically trying to get it up to par, as the new improved version has to be back with the USCIS within 45 days or we start over. (we have about 20 days to go...)

Emails and phone calls are going back and forth between me, our homestudy social worker, a Hague accredited social worker, and the USCIS adjudicator who has our case file, to tweak the homestudy into the magically correct format with exactly absolutely perfect wording so that we will pass inspection and move on to step two, sending documents to China. I know that this is all happening to protect the child we are adopting, and I keep thinking of her over there in China, waiting. She waits in foster care, we wait in the beaurocratic loop.

She is getting dancing lessons. She asked for chocolate and other sweets. She likes getting email from her sisters here in CA. We are lucky we are able to communicate with her like is extremely rare to have any contact with a child being adopted from China. But we also hear the plea to come get her soon. She has been waiting so long. She wants parents. She wants a family.

We will be patient, but urgently so if that is possible. We have to get this stuff done, and get that little girl home.

I am, in the meantime, gutting and putting a bathroom back together. The chain of events that let to that was typical for our family.

We live in the woods. There are wood rats. They, when they can, make homes under our house. I periodically have to go out and block entrances, and remove rats (not pleasant for either rat or human). As I was inspecting the area under the house for rats a few weeks ago, someone flushed the toilet upstairs. And Lo, large amounts of water came cascading down, two feet from my head. Upstairs, in the bathroom in question, there was no sign of a leak. Upon pulling the toilet, we found that all leaking was going UNDER THE FLOOR TILE and had ruined the subflooring. ARGH. So pulled out all the tile and subflooring. Pulled out the beautiful wainscoting, and had to scrap that as it got damaged during removal. Put new stuff in. Retiled. Bought a new vanity, too, but that's another story. And am now wallpapering the bathroom. So...from woodrats to wallpapering. I am busy. And...after three weeks of under house silence, I am hearing woodrats again, so will make another journey under the house to figure out how they're getting in, and what I have to do to get rid of them this time.

This is fall break time for our school kids. But the 15 year old is doing driver ed this week, so not much of a vacation for her. I'm supposed to be fitting costumes for a huge renaissance era musical production/dinner, but have been trying get the bathroom operable before having people in my house for fitting. I was supposed to take a CLEP test today, but NO TIME, so maybe next week.

The sun is shining. I planted some nice perennials in my garden yesterday and did some weeding. I'm going to take a walk this afternoon and enjoy the fall weather. And life is pretty good!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Animals I Have Known

That was the title of a book I read when I was a kid. I don't remember what it was about. Animals, I presume. The title stuck with me longer than the content, probably because it was a little odd.

There are animal lovers, and there are animal likers. I'm an animal liker.

I don't need to have them sitting in my lap. But I really, really like watching them. Animal interactions, animal behavior in the wild, animal behavior when wild ones encounter ME...that's all very entertaining and interesting.

And I talk to animals. Which is probably kind of strange. If I see a dog sitting in the back of somebody's pickup truck in a parking lot, I will say "Hi." Yesterday when I went out in my front yard, there was a deer standing about twenty feet from the front door. The deer looked up, and didn't move. I said "You'd better run. You can see I have predator eyes!" And the deer ran.

This human/deer conversation was based on the fact that herbivores/prey have eyes located on the sides of their heads (the better to catch a glimpse of who's hunting you while you're quietly eating) and carnivores/predators have eyes in the front of their heads (the better to keep your prey in sight while you're chasing it). So that deer knew what was good for her. Even though she was eating my flowers, I wouldn't have hunted her down. But I have been known to throw things at deer when they're caught eating a particularly prized plant. I once hit a deer square in the forehead with a bottle of shampoo. It was all I had at hand. I was as suprised as she was. I'm usually not a very good shot, and it was a long throw.

I don't like hunting. I suppose if we were starving I could learn to shoot things and eat them. I can kill a rattlesnake, but it has taken quite a long time to do it without a lot of squeamishness. And I'll only do it if it's where it could hurt my kids or my dogs. I usually find out about them when the dogs have them cornered and they're already all riled up. I still feel badly when I have to do it. I have looked into getting one of those snake sticks, with a loop at the end of a pole...but once you catch it you have to let it go again....where? And where do you keep it while you're taking it where you want to let it go? A snake carrier? There's a rattlesnake removal service in a neighboring county...they'll come and rescue the snake and/or the homeowner. I think their clients are mostly terrified flatlanders who've just moved up into the hills. final thoughts. There was a recent editorial in the paper from a resident of a gated community nearby. Fairly wealthy people from the San Francisco Bay Area frequently relocate in our rural, wilderness-y county. Some of them can't quite bring themselves to let go of their love of surburbia, and so they live in communities like Lake Wildwood or Lake of the Pines, where they can continue in their tight little neighborhoods with lots of rules about fences and vehicles and what color they can paint their houses. And they have a hard time with the notion that Just Over the Fence...there is wildness. Deer and wild turkeys congregate in their front yards and sample the goodies. And, of course, raccoons and opppossums raid the garbage. But, occasionally, scary animals like bears and mountain lions will put in an appearance, and then everyone falls apart. The animals are always there. The live and hunt right in there among the nice neighborhoods with their beautiful homes. But they're pretty good at staying hidden (they have predator eyes, after all) so we don't get to see them very often. The poor lady who wrote her newspaper article was upset that a bear has been seen in Lake Wildwood. She wants to be able to walk her dog at night without fear. She is calling a meeting of the Lake Wildwood-ites to Do Something about the scary animals. Like....what? Worry about something real, like the scary people.