Sunday, January 30, 2011

Confession

I grow old . . .I grow old . . .
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

-T.S. Eliot

My "old lady" eyes
As much as it pains me to admit this, I need bi-focals.  I don't want them. I refuse to get them quite yet, even though I mostly certainly need them six months ago now. I am not going down without a fight, my friends.

This visual degeneration starts subtly enough.  Threading a needle becomes more challenging. Fine print seems even . . . finer. At restaurants, you start holding the menu just a tiny bit farther away. And then farther still, until you've nearly set it ablaze against the candle on your table. Yesterday I was shopping with my friend Becky and spotted some cute plates for kids.  I peered at the microscopic words on the back of the plate.  I held it closer to my face and then farther away.  I tilted it towards the light.  Finally, dejected, I handed it to Becky. "Can I put this thing in the microwave or not?"  She glanced at the back of the plate and then shook her (non-visually-impaired) head. "No." Damn her anyway for being nearly a decade younger than I am.

To be sure, there have been other signs that I am aging. I'll be 41 in a couple weeks.  There are the random bodily pains that show up unannounced and uninvited. I seldom get carded anymore, and then only by places that card anyone older than a fetus. I watch the news on purpose.

I may be marching unwillingly towards middle age, but let it not be said that I am a sidelines mom. I not only take my daughter to Chuck E. Cheese's, I play all the games, too (I kick ass at some of them). On Thursday I took her to an indoor water park (her dad had to work) and I rode every water slide with her. I take her to the park and swing upside down from the monkey bars. She and I are the first ones in line when a new animated movie comes out.  My mom says I'm a kid at heart. That is probably true. It's just that . . . this kid just doesn't want to admit that even though she can complete the obstacle course at the jumpity-jump place, she can't adequately read the back of a shampoo bottle.

I'll give in, I promise I will.  Just . . . not yet.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"My Strange Addiction"


Have you seen this show? It's like a train wreck - you can't look away. The program depicts everyday people who engage in offbeat behaviors like . . . eating foam couch cushions bit by bit or ingesting powdered laundry detergent (toilet paper, chalk, etc.). Some of the compulsions shown are truly horrifying (and many present some pretty serious health risks, too). The foam eater has consumed several COUCHES in her lifetime. I realize the show is meant to appeal to the sideshow watcher in all of us. Obviously it wouldn't bring in many viewers if it were called "My Mild Case of Generalized Anxiety."

Watching the show made me think about whether or not I have any addictions or compulsions. I do like Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi an awful lot. I have a pretty serious issue with Keebler Fudge Sticks. I cannot be trusted around them and therefore have not purchased a box in years (and even if I did, you wouldn't find them in my pantry because I would have eaten the vast majority in one sitting and then hidden the rest). I'm vaguely obsessed with chap stick/lip gloss/lipstick and like to have goop on my lips at all times. I've never quite broken myself of the childhood habit of jumping into my bed from across the room vs. climbing into it like a normal person.  You see, the monsters have excessively long arms and you don't want your ankles getting too close.

That's about all I can think of offhand, at least as far as quirks go.  It's not such a long list, is it? Of course, I can almost hear some of my friends adding their own observations to the list ("Claudia, how about that thing you do where you hold your breath randomly?") My husband would probably also add: my ongoing refusal to fill the ice cube trays and my habit of leaving soda cans in the refrigerator with only one sip left in each. Oh, and not putting the lid back on the vitamins properly so that when he opens the cabinet to get one, a vitamin waterfall cascades onto the floor.  However, I maintain that these are more or less acts of passive-aggressiveness and nothing more.

For some of the people on the show, I really think their issue (or perceived aberration) falls under the category of "personality quirk" and not an addiction.  For example, the ventriloquist lady is harmless at best and irritating at worst. One chick likes to dress up in a furry costume.  There is a whole segment of our population that does this; she's hardly alone.

Anyway, the "My Strange Addiction" series does serve to make me feel downright normal, I guess.  No matter how quirky I may seem, I can always fall back on, "well, sure, but it's not like I eat chalk."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Crabby

I've been feeling a little . . . unappreciated lately.  It's a common refrain heard from moms and wives since Biblical times, I'm sure. Normally I just suck it up and go on with life, but every so often I feel the need to hit the brakes and pout about it a bit.  I've been threatening to "go out for cigarettes and never come back," but this threat has been rendered largely ineffective, mostly by the fact that I do not smoke.  

No one seems to notice that clean underwear automatically appears in their dresser drawer.  Or that clean sheets magically land on their beds twice a month. Or that nutritious meals appear on the table regularly.

Apparently, I am the only member of our household capable of:
  • Emptying a backpack (and dealing with the contents thereof, such as school papers, wet snow gear, and stowaway Zhu Zhu Pets).
  • Cleaning the litterbox.  Cleaning anything, for that matter.
  • Buying groceries.
  • Letting the dogs out. Letting the dogs in. Feeding said dogs.
  • Keeping track of the school schedule, which includes late starts, early dismissals, and "closed just for the hell of it" dates.
  • Driving short people to gymnastics class. 
  • Keeping track of every birthday in our extended family and buying gifts for those occasions. 
  • Packing lunches.
So yeah, there are days when the burden starts to feel a bit heavier than I'd like. Did I mention that I also work full time? My other half doesn't offer to do more; he just tells me that the stuff I do is unnecessary (I maintain that the toilets do, in fact, need to be scrubbed from time to time). Am I a bit of a neatnik?  I suppose so.  I don't like clutter all that much. I guess my fear is that if I don't stay on top of the workload, I'll find myself on an episode of "Hoarders" while the guys from 1-800-GOT-JUNK are pulling 20-year-old newspapers and cat skeletons out of my house.  It's a slippery slope, people!

I know it's really my own choice that I like to keep the house neat.  It would just be nice to hear an occasional, "Hey, thanks."  When I was growing up, it didn't matter if my mom handed my stad a pickle sandwich.  He would say, "Aw, thank you, honey. That was the best pickle sandwich I ever had."

I was feeling a little frustrated the other day when the note below was slid under the bathroom door while I was in the shower.  I have to confess that while it would be nice to be both loved and appreciated, one out of two ain't bad.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Slither Hither


My daughter's sixth birthday is on May 3rd. As you may recall, she has been talking about this birthday since . . . well, May 4th. She gets a party every other year, so she knows she is due for a festive bash this year. While she would be delighted to go to Chuck E Cheese or that sort of kid-magnet joint, I'd really rather not. I can't help but want her birthday to be something special - not just a party in a sea of other parties. A is going to her second bowling party in a row this weekend.  Those are totally fine, but I want to try something different.

I think I may have a plan.  I have a friend who does reptile rescue.  I have a daughter who loves reptiles. Twice this year, she has brought home this book on library day at school (and lingers over the image of a snake with a live frog dangling from its mouth):


My friend also does kid-related gatherings. She brings a few animals, does a craft with the kids, brings coloring books with information about reptiles, takes photos of the kids with the beasts, etc. Educational and fun, right?  I am thinking of renting a conference room somewhere (assuming I can find one that allows live animals) and having this reptile-themed party.  My only hesitation is this: do you think some parents would have heart palpitations over having their kid at an event like this? Needless to say, the kids don't have to interact with the snakes and whatnot if they don't want to.  And obviously my friend would only bring non-venomous, reliable-type creatures along.

I was thinking that I would include a note on the invitations to say "live reptiles will be present" or something. I know some kids may choose to come and then not interact with the animals (which is fine - we'll have other activities and of course cake). I guess I'm more worried about parents thinking the whole thing is a bad idea.  What say ye, parent-type readers?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rants and Raves

Have you ever visited the "Rants and Raves" section of your local Craigslist site?  If not, it's probably for the best.  If you want to know where every racist, homophobe, and misogynist from your town congregates, you'll find them right there, spewing their misspelled venom. Anyway, I titled this blog entry thusly because I am anticipating some randomness here.
  1. First, an update on my girth. I have completed two full weeks on the new program at Weight Watchers.  I weighed in on Saturday.  I lost 1.5 pounds in the second week. I know this is considered good progress, but I'd hoped for a little more.  I mean, I was focused (like a laser, people!) the whole week and did not stray from the program. Such is the way with weight loss, I guess.
  2. I witnessed a near-brawl at Subway on Friday.  I popped in over my lunch hour.  I was sitting at a booth, eating my veggie patty on wheat and thumbing through a magazine, when I noticed a woman berating the Subway staff.  She said something like, "I said, put it in the microwave to make it soft and then put it on my sandwich."  I could only hear parts of it but I could pick up enough to know that she was rude and that her demands were clearly over the top.  When I go through the line at Subway, I make it my goal to be as unobtrusive as possible.  I apologize just for asking for spinach instead of lettuce. Not this lady, though.  She went on and on and finally the dude behind her in line lost it.  He called her out on her rudeness. "Something something white trash!" she yelled at him.  "I'm not white, who you calling white?"  (he was indeed not Caucasian). "You're a piece of shit!" she called over her shoulder as she made her exit.  I was just glad I did not have my daughter with me. I will never look at Subway with the same eyes again.
  3. P and I had a date Saturday night. We went out to dinner at a Japanese cook-it-at-your-table steakhouse place.  They have a very nice vegetarian dish so of course I always get that.  There was a football game on so the place was all but deserted.  Each table seats eight, but it was just us and one vaguely creepy guy. After that, we went bowling. Please note: I won the first game. This has never happened as far as I can recall, which is why I'm requiring you to make note of it.  I am very inconsistent bowler, which might explain why I've never been invited to join a league.  I'll throw a strike and immediately follow it up with a gutter ball.  When P and I were dating, he helpfully advised me that when my arm comes down with the ball, it (my forearm) sometimes hits my hip just before I release the ball.  You know, because my hips are so wide.  Yes, he seriously told me that and yes, I still married him. Anyway, it was a good date night - we're fortunate to have such a wonderful babysitter (the teens from my church are so mature - they rock).
  4. I took my foster dog, Ace, to his new home today.  I only had him for a couple weeks - his foster dad is in the USMC Reserve and was doing the two-weeks-a-year thing. Less than an hour after I got home (four-hour drive round trip), my former foster dog, Kaiser, was returned.  I don't even know how to articulate my feelings about this. I'm not angry - just disappointed, I guess.  For whatever reason, Kaiser is fine in my house but tends to test people when he gets into someone else's home (peeing on the floor and so forth). He is also the type of dog who fares best in an environment with firm rules and a schedule. I'm bossy and I like schedules, so it works.  You might be thinking, "Well, why don't you just adopt him?"  Well, I can't.  There is a two-dog limit in our city.  Also, I don't feel that he was meant to be my dog. I just can't figure out why others can't give him what he needs.  For example, I told the people who adopted him that Kaiser is not the type of dog who can handle having couch privileges.  He needs to be kept off the couch (otherwise, he gets confused about the pack order in the home).  The very first photo they sent me showed Kaiser sitting on their couch. I am not saying that I'm some sort of doggie expert, but I've been fostering for 11 years, have a shelf full of dog-related books, and have spent many a weekend in canine behavior seminars.  I've done enough training to have put obedience and agility titles on a dog. It could be that sometimes, just sometimes, I know what the flip I am talking about. 
  5. I went to a moms' night out with a friend from the rescue on Friday.  She brought me a gift that made my whole week.  It's a necklace that features a disk (copper or brass, I think?) with my daughter's name engraved in it.  It is accompanied by two small charms - a white heart and an emerald-colored stone, which represents my daughter's May birthstone.  I'd show you a picture of it, but it does bear my kid's name and of course you, dear reader, could be a homicidal nutjob. But thanks for reading my blog - you know I heart you! 
  6. My right ankle is swollen and I don't know why.  It only hurts when I poke it.  I have resolved not to poke it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bittersweet

"Mama, I want my hair short. Like Lilly's." My daughter was sitting in the back of my coolmobile, chatting with me as I drove. I've seen her classmate Lilly - she's a cute girl with a chin-length bob.

"Are you sure?" I responded, glancing over my right shoulder to see her expression and gauge her level of commitment to this idea. A has curly hair and I was concerned about whether or not she understood that her hair will never look exactly like her friend's hair.

She nodded. "I want it short."

I let the idea percolate for a week or so and then made an appointment to take her to a kids' salon. Typically, I only have her hair cut twice a year or so. She doesn't have bangs or some particular hairstyle that has to be kept up regularly, so bi-annual trims seems to work fine. I did have some of the length cut off in the spring. This took two visits, because I think the first stylist was too afraid to cut the curls off. I'm assuming that most stylists have dealt with a teary "you cut off my baby's curls?!" parental episode at least once in their career and try to avoid such encounters at all costs. The second one agreed to cut more, but A's hair was still fairly long, which was fine.

Dealing with curly hair is a double-edged sword, for sure. It's beautiful, but it's a lot of work. The whole deal was not a completely foreign concept to me, because my wee baby sister has curly auburn hair. My hair is so straight you could use it as a straight-edge in geometry class. Over the past five years, I've purchased countless products made specifically for curls so that I can figure out the best way to keep her from looking like a big wad of frizz. When I meet someone new who has curly hair, I've been known to hold them at knife-point until they divulge their product line-up.

The biggest obstacle comes each morning, when it comes time to get a comb through her hair. "Owwwww, you're hurting me!"

"But I haven't even picked up the comb yet!"

So, if there was any chance of making my mornings a little less challenging, I decided I was on board with the haircut. There is nothing cuter than a little girl with adorable bouncing curls, but there is no one surlier than a curly-headed lass faced with a comb every morning. The thing about hair is . . . it will grow back. Onward and upward.

At the salon on Monday, I made our request. The stylist's eyes widened a bit. "Are you suuuuure?" she asked. I nodded. Moments later, my daughter was sitting in a pink car watching "Madagascar" while the stylist artfully wielded her scissors. I have to confess I felt a considerable pang when the first curl hit the black mat. ("My baby, ohhhhhhh") Before I knew it, the deed was done. The kid happily accepted the offer to have a bit of glitter added to the top of her head. She skipped to the register and helped herself to a mystery-flavored DumDum.

I followed her out the door and watched my daughter run to the van. She turned back at me and smiled when she reached the door. I realized that this decision she made for herself signaled some little bit of independence for her. She is growing up. I felt a little bit wistful until she gestured to me to open my hand. In it, she placed her DumDum wrapper. "Awesome, you know how I love it when people hand me garbage," I said. She laughed.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hear, hear with your defective ear

Translation: "I have to wake up early"
The note above is mostly unrelated to this post, but it's been on our refrigerator for the past week or so and it makes me smile every time I pass it. We are constantly telling the kid, "It's time for bed - you have to get up early."  Apparently she is under the impression that "wake up" is one word.  Santa brought her an alarm clock for Christmas. Waking our daughter up is such a chore that P and I have been known to play rock-paper-scissors to decide which parent is stuck with it.  Our little buttercup is not a morning person.  Anyway, we thought it was high time she learned to get herself up; hence, the clock.

The first day back at school was January 3rd.  We stood outside her door at 6:15 a.m. and listened.  The clock started beep-beep-beeping at the appointed time. We listened for movement.  Nothing.  Beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep.  Finally, we gave up and roused her from her slumber. The next four mornings were much the same, except that she did hear it one day and turned it off.  And then went back to sleep. Did she not hear it or does she really sleep that soundly?

A was hit with another ear infection over New Year's.  We've been battling ear infections since she was a baby.  They always hit her in the right ear.  The infections occur frequently enough to be vexing, but not frequently enough to warrant tubes.  At least not until now.  As I mentioned in a couple of previous blog entries, A has failed the hearing test at school a couple of times.  I wasn't sure if the problem was that she didn't listen to the instructions or that she truly could not hear well.  I took her to her pediatrician and she passed the test administered there.

However, we continued to scratch our heads over the situation for the past couple of years. A says, "Huh?" a lot.  We joke that we live with Grandma Moses but we also wonder . . . can she honestly not hear us or is she just being five? In the mean time, the ear infections continue to come and go (treated with antibiotics that bring their own kind of fun - raging diarrhea). Last week, I took my daughter to see an audiologist.  I wanted to get some real answers, not just the pediatrician's vague predictions that everything is fine. The audiologist performed several tests (on a more formal level than what was done at the pediatrician's office). Verdict: left ear fine, right ear not fine.  The right ear is full of fluid.  The audiologist said that it would be the equivalent of trying to hear underwater.

So, I have to take her back to the medical center on the 31st to see an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist. From there, it looks like we will schedule a procedure to implant a tube in the right ear.  In theory, the tube will allow the fluid to drain and in turn, restore full hearing to that ear.  It's a bit scary in as much as it does involve anesthesia.  However, I know countless parents who've been down this road and have never heard of any real complications.  A's hearing will be re-tested sometime after the procedure to see if the procedure worked.

I guess we'll see if the alarm clock has an easier time doing its job, too.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A weight lifted

A happy occurrence this week: I heard from A's birthmom.

After Short Stuff was born, we had fairly regular contact with her birthmom, J. We spoke on the phone and had visits every month or so. Our last visit occurred when A was fifteen months old.  Toward the end of 2006, the contact stopped.  I called a couple of times and left messages, but after a while I came to realize that I was probably making a nuisance of myself.  A few years ago, I sent her a letter telling her that I understood that she no longer wanted contact, but if she decided to resume contact in the future, we would certainly be open to that. 

For the past few years, I've mostly just wondered.  Wondered how she was doing.  Wondered if she was happy (I knew that she'd married a nice guy and had a son - she now has two sons).  And, perhaps more selfishly . . . wondered if I'd done something wrong.  You see, there is no handbook for navigating the relationship between an adoptive parent and a birthparent. It's hard to know what to say and do.  In the beginning, P and I were a little unsure of how much contact we'd want in the future. We knew that J needed to mourn and work through her post-birth emotions, and if having a lot of contact was the best way to help her through that, we were more than game. We felt that we'd always be open to contact, but were unsure about having contact at the same frequency we'd had in the beginning.  Later, when there was no contact, I felt like I'd shot myself in the foot - I never meant to imply that we wanted NO contact. That was never the case. Besides, we genuinely liked J (and still do, of course). She's smart, funny, friendly - she's all kinds of likable.

When contact ended, I immediately began to conduct a mental review of all of our interactions.  Had I been too insensitive?  Had I said something stupid? Did she regret choosing us to parent the baby? I didn't know, but I just couldn't shake the feeling of having disappointed her in some way (and when someone entrusts you with a piece of themselves, quite literally in this case, you don't want to let them down). I visited adoption message boards and studied the posts from birthmoms, trying to gain some insight.  Some seemed to feel that they had been misled, duped in some way by the entire process.  Some were at peace and felt happy knowing that the child they had birthed was being raised in an environment that they, at least at that time, could not provide.  Some wanted contact, some did not. A few felt that the adoptive parents were ungrateful, which left me with mixed emotions. 

The challenge for an adoptive parent is that there simply aren't words to convey the range and depth of emotions that come with parenthood through adoption. I mean, what do you say?  "Thanks for the baby! Talk at ya later!" Or, on the other end of the spectrum: "Here, I bought you a house. With walk-in closets." I opted to send a sincere letter after the birth, attempting to express myself in some small way. Without J, I would not be a mom.  I'm sure of it. Whether we have contact or not, she is never far from my thoughts and remains in my heart.

Anyway, back to this week.  For a while now, I've been tempted to email J through Facebook and ask her a simple question.  I didn't know if she'd be willing to answer or not, but it didn't seem to matter anyway because I kept losing the nerve every time I sat down at the computer.  A few days, as I was digging through some files, I happened upon a card that J sent us after A's baptism. She had included a really nice note to thank us for inviting her.  Suddenly, I felt like I would just take the chance.  My question was this: I wanted to know if she was on the petite side growing up.  You see, my daughter frets over the fact that she is so petite.  I thought maybe if I could tell her (if not now, at some point in the future) that her birthmom was petite, too, but she turned out to be a normal height (5'4"). Maybe she would find that reassuring in some way.  I sent off the email rather quickly and didn't really expect a response.  I got one the next day.

J told me that the reason she'd stopped contact with us was because it was simply too painful. To see the child to whom she had given birth and then to have to say good-bye over and over . . . it was just too hard. She assured me that it was nothing that I'd said or done (now I feel a little silly and self-absorbed to have guessed that the issue was with me, but I'm most relieved nonetheless). She remains confident that she picked the right parents for A.  J also noted that she reads my blog periodically.  I felt a bit embarrassed at that revelation, in as much as I do bust out some salty language from time to time.

Oh, and she did confirm that she was always kinda short.

My step was certainly a bit lighter after I read that email. J, if you're reading this, thank you for giving me the opportunity to know moments like this:


Moments like this:
 And also moments like this:

It's all good.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Me and my calculator

So, you might be thinking to yourself, "Self, did Claudia follow through with her promise to get back to Weight Watchers or was she just talking out of her ass like she sometimes does?"  (Because I'm sure you have nothing better to do than to worry about what I put in my mouth.)  I am happy to report that I did indeed get my act together.  My fabulous WW leader, Holly, posted on Facebook that there was an open house on Sunday from 12-3.  I wasn't sure if I could work it in, because I had to take the kid to a birthday party and I also had to take my foster pup to his new home.  I definitely didn't want to reschedule the adoption, because I had seriously reached Maximum Puppy.  What people see in puppies, I have no idea. He's lucky I came to a complete stop when I dropped him off at his new home.  A friend of mine asked me if I'd told the new owners how naughty Dean is.  I replied, "Not in so many words. I think I just told them that he makes really bad decisions."  He was cute and all, but he's a lot cuter in someone else's house.

Anyway, I finished the adoption and was able to make it back into town in time to attend the open house.  I know this Saturday's meeting is going to be packed beyond all belief (there was no meeting last Saturday because of the holiday).  So, I wanted to beat the rush and get the new materials sooner than later.  The program is a little different than before, in that all fruits and most vegetables are now 0 points.  This makes total sense to me. I eat a lot of fruits and it always bugged me to have to log so many points for them (seeing as how they're good for me and all). The calculation for points has gotten more complex.  Instead of just counting fat and calories, it's now necessary to calculate Fiber, Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat. To that end, WW sells a little calculator (I know, it sounds like a racket, but it was only a few bucks).  I get 29 points per day, and an additional 49 per week (which I can use all at once on a special occasion, use a few a day, or not use at all). 

I am now officially obsessed with the calculator.  It took me nearly two hours to complete my grocery shopping on Monday night, because I calculated the points value of every other item in the store.  I can't believe I haven't worn out the battery yet. If it's edible* and doesn't involve the carcass of a dead animal, I've calculated it. 

Anyway, I've got my first weigh-in on Saturday, so we'll see how I'm doing. I'm headed to a moms' night out on Friday and may or may not behave.  I'm planning to drink my extra points vs eating them, though.  It's all about balance, ya'll.

Me, and the reason I try so hard to be a better me
 *Blue cheese and coconut also fall into the category of inedible.