Thursday, September 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday (Subtitle: Kids Don't Think Things Through)

This is probably the most famous photo in the history of my family. My parents continue to tease me about it, 40+ years after the fact.

It started like this. We were living in an apartment in Maryland. I think I was three or four (I believe this was before my middle sister was born but I could be wrong - if she was around, she was an infant). A snowstorm had hit the area pretty hard and my parents and I played out in the snow for a bit.  Then we came inside.

I spotted our Instamatic camera sitting on an end table. This was back when you had to buy flash bulbs and attach the little cube to the top of the camera. Between buying film, buying flash bulbs, and then taking the film out to be developed (and waiting days for the photos) . . . I feel like it's a wonder anyone ever bothered.  Of course, this was the 70s and we had no internet, so maybe we had nothing better to do but wait around for stuff.

My parents were in another room and saw the flash from the bulb. My mom came out right away.

"Claudia, did you use the camera? Did you take a picture?"

Me: "No."

They pressed me and I held firm. Nope, no photos, not me. I think they could have waterboarded me and I would've stuck with the story.  I guess I forgot about the whole film development thing, though. A week or two later, they picked up the pictures from the grocery store or People's Drug or whatever. And there it was: the evidence. Son of a biscuit!  I don't remember if I actually confessed at that time, but probably not. In fact, I'm still not entirely willing to admit that I leaned over that end table, looked down, and shot a photo of my own mug.

This little story reminds me of a similar one involving my niece. She was three or so at the time, and she and my sister came to visit us. We went to my friend's cabin by the lake.  One day, my sister put my niece down for a nap in another room. An hour or two later, we opened the bedroom door and discovered that instead of napping, the little blonde lass had eaten a whole slew of Dum-Dum suckers. There were wrappers and empty white sticks strewn all over.

My sister attempted to bust her. "Did you eat these Dum-Dums?" My niece shook her head.  Now, I need to mention that this was before my nephews were born and also before my daughter was born. In other words, my niece was the only kid at that cabin. In fact, she was probably the only kid for miles around.

An interrogation followed, but she wouldn't give it up. "I didn't eat them," she kept saying. Later that afternoon, we decided to drive into town and get some supplies.  The biggest store in town is a
Wal-mart.

"You know what?" my sister said as we got closer.  "There is a DNA lab in the Wal-mart and we're going to test this Dum-Dum stick to see who ate the candy."

I was driving. I nodded and tried to be very serious. "Sounds good. Let's head straight to the DNA lab at Wal-mart."

My niece sat in the back seat and I mean to tell you her expression did not change one iota. She was all, Go right ahead. Test it. Be. My. Guest.  Even when we got inside the store and my sister pretended to head to the DNA lab (which was the portrait studio, I think), the kid would not admit it.

Kids: not thinking things through since . . . well, forever.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Question I've Been Dreading

I couldn't decide if I should write about this or not. I know that A's birthmom has read my blog from time to time in the past, and the last thing I would ever want to do is to make her feel sad or uncomfortable. But, it's been almost a week since my daughter dropped the big question on me and since I'm still upset about it now, I thought some cathartic writing might help.

Last Wednesday, we were on our way home from swim class at the Y.  She was pretty excited because she skipped a fish group (guppy) and is now a minnow. As we sat at a stoplight, I heard this from the back seat:

"Mom, I don't want you to think I don't want to be with you, but why did I have to go?"  The emphasis was on the I.  For a second, I wasn't sure what she meant or why she was asking the question in that way. And then I knew: she was asking why her birthmom had kept her brothers and not her. I could almost feel my heart breaking, just to know that my baby thought - even for a brief second - that she was pushed out or cast aside.  It wasn't like that at all.

I can understand why she'd ask the question. She knows that her birthmom has three sons - one is older than A and the other two are younger. We've talked many times about the circumstances surrounding her birth but I knew I'd better try again.

"Sweetie, your birthmom loves you very much. It's just that when you were born, she didn't have a good job and she wasn't with your birthfather anymore. She knew she couldn't take good care of you at that time so she made an adoption plan for you. I know that it's the hardest thing she ever did and that she thinks about you every single day."

She nodded.  I added:  "You're lucky because you have SO many people who love you."

She knew the story but maybe it just helped to hear it again. A couple years after A was born, her birthmom married a nice guy and they have two children together. Her oldest son was the result of a relationship when she was just out of high school, I believe. I think her road was a bit rocky when she was younger but it's a lot more stable now. That's just how life is sometimes, you know? Sometimes young women just pick the wrong guys. I know I dated some real winners - it's just that in my case, there's no physical evidence of my bad decisions. I never had to face what my daughter's birthmom had to face. One thing I never forget: J had a few options when she got pregnant with a beautiful baby girl. Make no mistake about this: she chose the hardest possible one. Without her, I would not be a mom.

I know that all adoptees have to work through some abandonment issues but still, I can't help but wish I could somehow take on the burden myself. I love her, her birthmom loves her, and she was always wanted. I never want her to forget, not even for a second. I don't know how to make sure it sticks.

The very best thing that ever happened to me.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Not only does everyone have jazz shoes . . .

It has been brought to my attention (by the curly-haired girl who lives in my house) that everyone has a phone as well.  (Read this post for the jazz shoes reference.)

I've been informed that "two seven-year-olds at my daycare have phones!"  Followed by: "Real ones, too!"  She added that point of clarification because we've caught her trying to smuggle old, inactive cell phones to school.

My first inclination was to say, "The parents who gave phones to first graders are lunatics."  However, I can totally picture my kid tracking down one of those moms and saying, "Hi, my mom said you are a lunatic."  So instead I said, "Well, I'm not their mom and who knows, maybe those kids are freakishly responsible or something."

I mean, my daughter can't even handle turning off the light after she's done using the bathroom. Flushing happens only sporadically. She can't get up on time because, and I quote, "My eyes just can't open." Let's just say that she is not getting a phone any time soon. Her dad told her, "Maybe for your wedding."

I do see signs that the kid is maturing and becoming somewhat more responsible, but the phone is just a non-issue at this point. She can complain all she wants. I also need to see some evidence that she understands how money works. She keeps leaving her insulated lunch bag at school. I said, 'That thing wasn't cheap, you know."

"Well, how much was it?"

"I don't remember the exact price - I think it was around $13.00."

She rolled her eyes. "$13.00 is not that much money, mom."

It's not a fortune but it's too much to invest in something that ends up in the lost and found every other day.

She and I have taken several trips to the mall in recent weeks for back-to-school clothes.  She drags me into Justice every time. I, in turn, immediately start feeling stabby (and a little nauseous from all the sequins and neon). "We need to go to Kohl's," I tell her. "I have a coupon." Much eye-rolling ensues.  It's like this every time. Yesterday she told me, "You never buy me anything!"  May I point out that she said this while a brand new necklace was swinging from her neck? And that she was wearing skinny jeans that are so new they still have creases on them?  Followed by boots so new that they aren't even scuffed yet? Honestly, it's a miracle that she isn't mistaken for a homeless person every day of her life.

During our most recent shopping excursion, the final insult came when she begged to go to the American Girl store. The store is at an outlet mall so they don't sell the dolls there - just the clothes and accessories. I quickly noted that most of the outfits are in the range of $24 - $30. She asked for an accessory kit for her doll and I told her that she would need to do her chores, get her allowance, and save up the money herself. As you can guess, this was met with some extra-dramatic eye-rolling and a pouty lip. I walked out of the American Girl store while she followed behind me with her sad, leaden feet. Then we went to Oshkosh B'Gosh and I picked up a pair of jeans I thought she might like. She was outraged.  "What?!  You'll spend $30 on jeans but you won't buy me clothes for my doll?"

So there you have it. I'm a horrible mother who hasn't gotten any new jeans for herself in a year while my daughter prances around like something out of Vogue. Meanwhile, her doll only has two outfits. And neither of them has a phone. Oh, the humanity!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

First week of school

The first week of fourth grade is in the books. A's school goes up to fifth grade, so just two more years to go and she's off to junior high. I could swear we just dropped her off for 4K the other day.


She looks so tiny with her big backpack. Now she's a big, bad fourth grader who wears skinny jeans (so skinny, in fact, that she can barely get her foot through the opening) and acts exasperated with her parents much of the time. On the first day of school, she wore a neon shirt, glittery high tops, and a SIDE PONYTAIL.  All she needed was a Scritti Politti cassette in her backpack and she could be transported straight to 1985.

The first week of school, she'd surrendered an item to the lost and found by the second day. She brought home a fundraiser on the third day. Yes, another school year has begun. Another year of filling out emergency contact forms, navigating the intricacies of the school lunch menus, signing homework logs, and yelling at the kid to get dressed every morning. Good times, good times.

I'm used to the routine by now, though. It's all good. What's changed, I think is the kid herself. I notice that our DVR is now full of tweenie shows and movies - stuff like "How to Build a Better Boy." She seems to be on a first name basis with Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato. I can't help but notice that her dad and I seem to be getting dumber and more irritating. The other morning P was humming the "Footloose" theme song.  This seemed to put the kid over the top. Plus, I've noticed that words seem to have extra syllables now. "Da-ad! Sto-op hu-umminnng-ah!"

I tease her about her ugly shoes and her skinny jeans, but I love that she has her own sense of style. She can rock a hat like nobody's business. Sames goes for scarves, though they usually end up in the lost and found. She's growing up . . . sort of.

Now, who wants to take bets on how long it takes this year's teacher to move her desk? Every year, it's fun to watch the new teacher shove my daughter's desk into every conceivable location in a foolish attempt to stop her from talking to her neighbor.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

New Doctor

I went to see a new doctor yesterday. As you may recall, I've been collecting OB/GYNs like my husband collects comic books - only I don't seal the doctors in plastic bags and store them in my basement, tempting though that might be. After seeing my former doctor last year and having him suggest that a) my husband might be unfaithful and give me an STD and b) I might be too dim-witted to understand how human reproduction works, I finally threw in the towel. I faxed him a letter (advising that I was leaving) and the office administrator saw it. She called me and told me that a different doctor from the practice would be happy to see me. So, I waited a year and made an appointment. I can't say that my hopes were terribly high but I figured the new doctor couldn't possibly be as bad as the old one.

I went for a couple of reasons. One is that I was due for the annual stuff. Two is that I wanted to talk about some issues I've been having. They are a little bit TMI so I'll spare you. The visit started out fine.  The nurse was super nice and didn't ask me any dumb questions. (In the past, with the old doctor and nurse, the fact that I had four miscarriages and zero deliveries but still have a daughter seemed to cause a "does not compute" moment.)  After the nurse left, I sat in the exam room and waited for Dr. C. I could hear two people talking right outside the door. I didn't know if one of them was the doctor because I had not met her and didn't know her voice. They seemed to be talking about patients (in a general sense) and options that can be offered for birth control and such.  I heard one of them say, "Well, you know I'm all about profit!"  Then two seconds later, that voice walked into the exam room. Or at least I am about 99% sure it was my doctor who'd just been speaking. Honestly, what are people thinking?  I wasn't in some sort of sensory deprivation chamber - I was on the other side of a bleeping door. Whatevs, I guess.

Dr. C was pretty nice. She told me about some blood tests she wanted to run. I mentioned that my weight has spiked a bit in recent months even though nothing has really changed with my eating and activity level.  I guess I was wondering about hormonal changes since I'm getting to be an old lady. She said I am too young for "the change," which is good news, I guess.  I had two physicals over the summer - one that was required by insurance and one that was required for my foot surgery.  My bloodwork and such was fine in both cases. However, I don't think they were really looking for hormone-related issues in those exams so that's why I wanted to ask about that. I guess we'll see what the bloodwork shows.

At the end of the visit, I asked again about my weight and she said, "Well, since you're working out three times a week, maybe you should just increase it to five. And then maybe you should just cut your diet down to the absolute minimum."  Yeah, and maybe I should just open a vein and call it a day.  There are weeks when I do work out five times, but not always.  And yeah, I have a sweet tooth that gets the better of me sometimes, but I don't think it could account for the spike.  Anyway, I guess there's really no hope of finding a doctor who will truly look at my health history, listen to what I am saying, and give me some sort of direction.  For now, I guess I'll just settle for having found a doctor who didn't make me cry and who didn't imply that my husband is a slut. I wish I could make an appointment with Doc Baker in Walnut Grove. He seemed like he would be a good listener. Of course, his medical arsenal was pretty much limited to "Here's some morphine for ya," but still.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Stuff I put in my mouth

Dominion does not mean domination. We hold dominion over animals only because of our powerful and ubiquitous intellect. Not because we are morally superior. Not because we have a "right" to exploit those who cannot defend themselves. Let us use our brain to move toward compassion and away from cruelty, to feel empathy rather than cold indifference, to feel animals' pain in our hearts.
                      ― Marc Bekoff,

In case you wondered - yes, I am still doing the vegan thing. I've been at it since June 13th. I have learned a LOT. For the first few weeks, grocery shopping was a bear because I had to read every label in its entirety. I had to learn all the different terms for milk, for example. It's gotten a bit easier with each passing week.

One great thing about this time of year, though, is the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. I bought so much stuff at the farmers' market on Saturday that I could hardly carry it. I need one of those wheeled cart thingies. I'm also fortunate to have a huge grocery store nearby that carries a lot of vegan products, such as Gardein. Amy's Kitchen makes a lot of good vegan products as well. I've even been eating a fair amount of soup even though, historically speaking, I've not been a huge fan of soup.

I've had some hits and misses, for sure. I attempted to make brownies using egg replacer and what I ended up with was a pan of chocolately glop. I made vegan s'mores when we were on vacation a couple weeks ago. Vegan marshmallows are expensive but are actually really good (or at least the ones I bought were good - Dandie's brand, vanilla flavored). I also found some graham crackers that didn't contain honey and some dark chocolate with no milk fat. Dark chocolate doesn't melt as easily as milk chocolate so I can't say that my s'mores were a smashing success, but they were edible  They were just for me, anyway - I bought the "regular" stuff for my family.

I have tried at least three brands of vegan sausage and don't adore any of them. Cheese is another challenge. I'm finding that it may be easier just to live without cheese than to adapt to vegan cheese. Vegan cheese is really pricey so you definitely don't want to keep buying random packages of it until you find one you can stand. I dig the vegan mayo (vegenaise) and vegan butter (Earth Balance). I tried some vegan sour cream that was pretty good, but vegan cream cheese?  Blech.

So, I've had a lot to learn. I keep a little notebook with lists of recipes, products, etc. I know several vegans (including my wee baby sister) and they've been very helpful. For a while I kept taking photos of stuff at Costco, sending them out via text, and asking, "Is this stuff vegan?" Fortunately my vegan peeps are also very patient. My friend Jennifer gave me a list of what she eats at local restaurants, which was super helpful. Restaurants can be pretty scary. A while back, P and I ate at The Chicago Diner (located in Chicago, in case you weren't clear on that) and it was the best meal I had all summer, I think. Everything they serve there is vegetarian, with just about every meal also available in a vegan version. Even P raved about it.  I wish such a place existed in my neck of the woods. When I do have to go out to eat, I can usually figure out how to alter a dish to make it vegan, but it can be challenging.

I've also learned that when it comes to food choices, I have to draw the line somewhere. I'm not going to sit down and eat an egg or drink a glass of cow's milk, but if something I eat has some tricky sub-ingredient that contains a milk product (and I didn't know about it), I'm not going to worry about it. It's not about being strict with my eating. It's about trying to live more compassionately.

I had hoped that going vegan would have one good side effect: weight loss. However, I can't say that it's happened. P and I are currently doing a health challenge. The rules are pretty basic: work out at least three times a week, limit sweets, and limit alcohol (maximum of four drinks a week). He barely drinks so the last one is easy for him. Last week, I went to the gym three times and to yoga once. He went to the gym once and mowed the lawn. So, naturally, he lost three pounds last week and I only lost two. There is no justice in the world, I tell you.

Whether or not I stick with veganhood for the duration (as in, the rest of my time on the planet) . . . well, at this point I can't say for sure. I feel like I'm doing okay so far. I've been able to figure out plenty of stuff to eat. Many temptations are automatically eliminated, which is probably a good thing. My daughter wants me to take her to Coldstone Creamery later. Knowing that I can't eat anything there keeps me from thinking about it too much.

I might not be too skilled at eating a vegan diet, and maybe recipes with more than ten ingredients make my eyes glaze over, but my conscience rests a little easier at the end of each day. And that, I think, is worth it.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The fifty dollar pillowcase


I took my daughter to another sewing class at Jo-Ann Fabrics. Since I don't sew, I have to rely on strangers to teach her. The goal of this class was to create a pillowcase with contrasting trim. I took her to the store ahead of time last week to buy the fabric and related supplies. Not surprisingly, she chose a tiger (zebra?) print for the main part of the pillowcase and hot pink for the trim. Then we looked at the pattern books so that she could pick out a Halloween costume for Meemaw to make for her. I had some serious flashbacks while we were there. My mom is a crazy-good sewer and as a kid I remember sitting in fabric stores while she thumbed through patterns and fondled various bolts of fabric. I remember being bored out of my gourd and thinking that time seemed to stand still. But now I'm a grown-up so I was able to leave as soon as we were done. I guess the sewing bug just never bit me, but I'm hopeful that my daughter will really get into it. She and I have been watching Project Runway together. I don't sew, but I love to watch the creative process in action. I figure someone has to grow up and be on that show - why not my little fashion plate?

The class was yesterday from 1-4 p.m. I left for a bit in the middle (bought her some school shoes at Kohl's) because I thought she might listen to the instructor better if I wasn't there.  There were quite a few kids in the class (including one boy - yay!) so the poor instructor had her work cut out for her. I did weep inwardly every time I heard her tell a kid that they were "doing good," I must admit.

I sat in the back of the classroom and read a couple of magazines while the kids cut their fabric, sewed it, etc. At one point my kid was running her sewing machine while she was supposed to be pinning her fabric. The instructor busted her and said, "We're not using our machines right now." What was the kid doing? She made herself a sash and then wore it. No kidding. Leave it to my daughter to go rogue at the fabric store. 

Anyway, I feel compelled to show you what a fifty-dollar pillowcase looks like. It was $35 for the class and $15 for the supplies. I feel like we should preserve the thing under glass or something.