Saturday, June 30, 2012

May I have the manual now, please?

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, my daughter recently wrote a letter to her birthmom and was awaiting a response. I had exchanged a few emails with her birthmom and I knew that she was planning to respond. She has a new baby and I'm sure life has been a little crazy for her. She also struggles with depression and I know that's a challenge for her, too.

The letter arrived yesterday. I knew that J had planned to send a couple of photos and I could tell that they were in the envelope along with the letter. I took my daughter down the hall and into her bedroom and told her I wanted to show her something.

"You got a letter from your birthmom!" I said.  I handed her the letter.  She read it to herself. J answered the questions from the letter she had received (for the record, she has two dogs, six chickens, and used to play two instruments). Oh, and she confirmed that it is definitely hot in Texas.

Next I handed my daughter the two photos. In one photo, J is sitting on a couch with her three sons. The other photo is very similar but also includes her husband. I watched A's face as she looked at them.

"Do you know that it takes two people to make a baby?" I asked.  She nodded but did not ask for specifics.  "Well, you also have a birthfather," I told her.  I explained that I do not know much about him and do not know where he is (technically, I do know where he is but this is not the right time to explain that). She asked me his name and I told her.

I pointed to the boys in the photo. "These handsome boys are your half-brothers," I said.

She looked at the picture and looked at me. "I have brothers?" I attempted to explain what a half-sibling is, not that it makes much of a difference in the scheme of things. I also explained that her birthfather and birthmother broke up before she was born and that was one reason why J chose to make an adoption plan. She did not have a lot of stability in her life at that time.

We sat on her bed and chatted for a bit longer. I told her how great it is to have so many people who love her - both our family and her birth family. She asked me a couple of questions about when she was a baby. She sometimes seems frustrated or disappointed that she does not remember seeing her birthmom and often asks me questions like, "Did I used to have a different name?"  I have assured her that her dad and I have been with her since the day she was born and that her name has always been the same. I told her that I even ran the name past her birthmom before formally choosing it.

I thought she would have more questions after reading the letter and studying the photos. She climbed into my lap as I sat cross-legged on her bed. She clutched her overpriced Hello Kitty from Build-a-Bear against her chest. "Do you have any questions?" I asked.

She shook her head. "Can I play math games on the computer now?"  I nodded.

I am sure she will have more questions later on. I can only hope I am handling these things in the "right" way. I continue to feel that an open adoption is what's best for her, and I appreciate that her birthmom is willing to keep in touch.

Now I guess I'll just hold my breath until Short Stuff lobs the ol' "how are babies made" question at me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The very bad thing I've done

Ella Fitzkitty, my strange but sweet little cat, seems to be dying. I took her to the veterinarian, who ran lots of blood work. Other than a slight case of anemia, her blood work was unremarkable. Ella is 13 (she will be in the 8th grade in the fall), so I suppose she is "getting up there" for a cat. I am hoping she will rebound from her current crisis, though.

Ella came to me when she was just a few weeks old. My middle sister found her and a littermate on a golf course, as I recall. She called a local shelter about bringing in the kittens. They were overly full. Since the kittens were too young to be vaccinated, they faced almost immediate euthanasia. The sad fact is that cats and kittens are almost literally a dime a dozen. They are efficient reproducers and shelters can seldom keep up with the flow.

I had two cats and two dogs at that point (this was June of 1999) and didn't really need another, but agreed to take in this kitten. My sister found a home for the other kitten. She was headed my way for a visit, so she brought Ella with her. The little tabby cat was so tiny that when I first took her to the vet, she did not register on the scale. I still have that first vet receipt showing her weight as 0 pounds.

Because the dogs were upstairs (and are obnoxious and like to chase cats for sport), we set up the basement for our cats. We installed a cat door on the door leading from the basement to the dining room. My other two cats, Bobby Shafto and Franklin, died a few years later. That just left Ella.  By 2000, I was heavily involved in Boxer Rescue and was bringing in foster dogs all the time. Ella mostly stayed downstairs. I did my best to make her environment comfortable for her. I bought one of those multi-level carpeted deals so that she could jump up and get close to a window.  We gave her our old couches so that she could sharpen her claws to her heart's content. I supplied her with toys, catnip, plush cat beds, two litter boxes, and high quality food. I've taken her to the vet every year like clockwork.

But here's what I didn't give her: a good life.  Although Ella is not a social cat (I am the only person she tolerates and she hisses at me pretty regularly), she is sweet in her own way. She has always, always used her litter boxes. She has never really caused me any trouble at all. Up until six months ago, she maintained a rather Rubenesque figure. So, when she started eating less a few months ago, I didn't rush her to the vet immediately.  I mean, what would I say? "Excuse me, but my cat is somewhat less fat than before!" But eventually she plummeted past "ideal weight" and headed straight to "downright skinny."

I know from living with cats all my life that the last thing they do, before the end finally comes, is to become very thin. So, that seems to be where we are now. The veterinarian prescribed a vitamin called Pet-Tinic, so I've been giving Ella two doses a day. She is too weak even to fight me off at this point, although she still manages a respectable hiss when she sees me with the dropper. Sometimes I go downstairs and sit on the ruined couch with her. Sometimes she even agrees to sit in my lap. "Do you want to get stoned?" I ask her, sprinkling some cat nip in front of her. She is no longer interested. In anything.

I am hoping the vitamins will help but realistically, I doubt they will do much. She is eating less and less and I fear I will need to make a tough decision very soon. I am engulfed in guilt. Sure, I have helped a lot of dogs over the past 12 years, but I feel like I sacrificed my cat on the altar of rescue. She has spent years in a quiet basement (it is a finished basement but still, it's a basement) without a lot of companionship. I tell myself that re-homing her was never an option because, well, people don't exactly line up around the block for a chance to adopt a fat tabby who hisses at them. Plus, she was and is my responsibility. I have taken good care of her, in the literal sense, but I have not done right by her. It's hard to reconcile.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I completed 108 sun salutations this morning.  Well, if you want to be all technical about it, I missed half of one salutation because I had to blow my nose. When you are inverted over and over like that . . . well, let's just say that I think I cleared out mucous for colds I haven't even caught yet. I rocked the other 107 1/2, though!

This was a special "summer solstice yoga" hosted by the studio where I take classes. It started at 5:30 a.m. I attended solstice yoga last year and really enjoyed it. This year, they changed it up a little with the repetition of the sun salutations. There were also some drummers and other musicians in attendance, which was very cool. It's nice to hear the steady drum beat and to pair it with your breath. 

In case you are wondering what a salutation is, basically we repeated this (below) series of steps 108 times.  There are different series of sun salutations (A, B, and C . . . I'm still pretty new to yoga so there may be others I just haven't seen yet), but this is the one we did:
  1. Tadasana (mountain pose, standing)
  2. Forward fold
  3. Halfway lift (flat back)
  4. Forward fold
  5. Plank
  6. Chaturanga (lower yourself from plank)
  7. Upward -facing dog (or cobra)
  8. Downward-facing dog
  9. Return to front of mat
  10. Forward fold
  11. Halfway lift
  12. Forward fold
  13. Rise on the inhale and return to tadasana
So, that is one complete salutation. You can see how doing that 108 times is fairly challenging!  The instructors split them into four sets of 27, with a few minutes to rest in between each one. After the second set, I was feeling pretty fatigued. I ate a handful of nuts and drank some water, and resolved to finish the whole thing, come hell or high water or excessive mucous. When I first entered the studio, I looked around and a voice in my head told me that everyone there was fitter, thinner, less clumsy, and more focused than I am. At the risk of sounding a little bit corny, I overrode that voice and replaced it with one that said, "You can do this." No kidding - I literally repeated that under my breath.

When it was all over, I was super sweaty and my legs felt shaky, but I felt proud of myself. I felt strong.

The owner of the studio drew names for some door prizes and I won a five-class punch card (five free classes, in other words). So now I know that I am strong and lucky.  Yay me!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A daddy's girl indeed

They read comics and play video games together. They wrestle and rough-house (well, until she starts to cry because he forgets that he's four times her size). They talk about super heroes. They both think bodily functions are funny.

Now if they'd just team up and do their own laundry, life would be grand! 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Shock value?

"Kids . . . they'll put all of your business on the street." - quote from my mom

My daughter has a new hobby - telling random strangers that she was adopted. I'm not sure if it's just a phase or if she's planning to stick with it for the long haul. Now, I should state for the record that we have never hidden the fact that our daughter was adopted. I try to remember to say "was" adopted because, in my mind, it was a one-time legal proceeding and not a perpetual state of being. She is my child and it just so happens that she came to me through adoption (my child, not my adopted child). I try to emphasize with her that she's a kid who was adopted but that isn't the most important detail about her. I'm not sure if that's the right approach or not. I'm honestly not sure how to handle it. It's really up to her, as she grows older, to decide what she wants to share with others so perhaps I should just let her say whatever she wants to say, even if it does make some people a little uncomfortable. I certainly don't mean for her to sweep this fact about herself under the rug. When she asks questions related to her adoption, I always do my best to answer them. We have an open adoption and we talk about her birthmom quite a bit.

I think my daughter has been more focused on her adoption recently because it's something that makes her different. I know kids need to feel their way through the world and figure out how they are alike/different from their peers. She also talks a lot about her height, bemoaning the fact that "everyone thinks I'm only five!"

Yesterday I took her to the mall to buy her dad a new cell phone for Father's Day. She chatted up the sales person pretty heavily. She shared with him the following:
  • My name
  • Her name
  • Her dad's name
  • Her dad's MIDDLE name
  • The fact that we just went to Disney World
  • The fact that we were going to get a pretzel and an ICEE after we were done.
  • The fact that she can do "the wheel" in yoga and offered to do it right there on the floor
I'm sure there were other tidbits that I can't remember now. I just kept saying things like, "Can you just go sit down for a second? I'm almost done here."

She wasn't done, though. She stood on her tiptoes and peered over the top of the counter at the sales guy. "I'm an adopted child!" she said. He nodded and smiled. An awkward silence followed.

"She, um, likes to share a lot of information with people," I said.

Before we left the mall, we stopped at Kohl's. She decided to share all of our personal information with the cashier there, too. I should add that I bought sunglasses and paid cash for them. There was really no need to exchange any information at all.  But, I guess it was important for this cashier to know our names, the fact that we have three dogs and a cat, and oh by the way, "I'm an adopted child!" Again, lots of smiling and nodding from the random stranger.

"Okay, let's go!" I said to my daughter, tugging her toward the door.

"But Mom!" she protested. "I didn't get a chance to give her our phone number!"


Thursday, June 14, 2012

My kid is sick and I keep losing things

I got the "your kid is sick" call on Tuesday, about 45 minutes before I was scheduled to leave the office. I dropped everything and headed over to the daycare. I have to say that I do prefer the "your kid is sick" call to the "your kid has head lice" call I got a few weeks ago (it's been three weeks since the last nit sighting, I'm happy to report). When I got there, my daughter was in the administrator's office, sweaty but shivering. One benefit to her petite stature is that I was able to scoop her up and carry her to the car, a feat not easily done with all second graders. She was out of it all the way home and had me really worried. Her temperature was 104. I gave her some acetaminophen and put her to bed. And then wondered what to do with myself.

P and I scratched our heads over the sudden onset of this illness. Our daughter had attended a field trip that day and had been super excited about it. She fell ill on the way home - I mean, this thing truly hit her like a ton of bricks. We compared notes about how the morning had gone and couldn't specifically recall any sign of illness.  And then we remembered - she had not given us hell that morning. She was actually sort of compliant - got dressed voluntarily, apparently forgot to throw a tantrum, etc. That was our sign and we had missed it.

Now, two days later, she is still under the weather. Her fever goes up and down and she's not eating much. P and I ate a quiet dinner last night. It was weird not having someone ask me for something every 30 seconds while also letting me know that the food I had prepared was (at best) disgusting and (at worst) not fit for human consumption. P stayed home with her yesterday and I stayed home with her today. From what I've been hearing from other parents, there is some nasty bug going around.

So, the week hasn't gone exactly as planned. I made it a little bit worse by losing stuff - stuff I need. Now, once upon a time, I was an organized soul. I knew where things were. I stuck to a schedule. And then a couple of things happened. One, I became a mom and someone else's very survival was solely my responsibility. (Yesterday I asked her father to give her some Tylenol and he was totally baffled as to how much to give her. "Read the package," I said. "WHAT DOES SHE WEIGH?" he bellowed, abject fear in his eyes.) Two . . . well, I guess I don't know what two is - my advanced age, I suppose?

It's scary because my job requires me to be organized. I'm a project manager, so I need to remember and keep track of shit. There are signs that I am losing my mind, though. This week I lost my debit card. This is not the first time. Or even the second. Possibly not even the third. I had to call the bank and cancel it, and am now awaiting a replacement. The nice lady who took my call in India assured me it will be here in a week or so. I also lost my Weight Watchers tracker. This is a small paper booklet that we fat people use to track our food. Everything I ate this week was written in there. I am praying that I accidentally threw it away because the thought of someone finding it makes me feel woozy. The finder would think it belonged to a serial killer. Seriously, the way I scrawled "banana" and "broccoli" in there . . . it looks like I wrote it with my foot. I also lost an earring this week. I have a small bin of single, worried earrings in my bedroom, all just hoping that their mates will turn up somewhere. Oh, and I also lost one of my daughter's headbands when we were at the dog expo last weekend.

At least the weekend is right around the corner. You may see me out and about, trying to pay for stuff with my good looks.

She's been wearing the same nightgown for two days.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Best Salesperson Ever

Last weekend my daughter and I volunteered at a pet expo. As we do every year, we made a weekend of it and stayed overnight in a hotel. She was just five weeks old the first time I took her. She slept through the pet expo that year, as I recall. Now she is seven years plus five weeks. We usually put her to work handing out flyers (about our September fundraiser) to passersby. This year, she took on an additional responsibility: running a kids' game.

The expo was held outdoors, and it was unbelievably HOT this year.  I was sitting behind the merchandise table, being my usual socially awkward self. Honestly, I am much too prissy to be outside in that kind of heat. I fanned myself and watched in awe as my daughter worked the crowd. She looked so cute in her yellow tee shirt with the word VOLUNTEER on the back (and the rescue's logo on the front). I was wearing one, too, but let me just say that yellow is not my color. I don't know what my color is, but I have confirmed that it is not yellow.

Anyway, she stood towards the front of our tent, next to the table with the game on it. The game is pretty simple. We have a stand (shaped like a Boxer) with lollipops stuck through it. Each player pays a buck, grabs a sucker, and then checks the color on the bottom of the stick. Depending on the color, they get to dig around in a prize bin and walk away with a fine item, like a miniature beach ball or a strand of mardi gras beads.

My daughter started out by simply handing a flyer to an unsuspecting passerby. When he/she paused for a moment to see what they had been given, she went in for the kill. She gestured at the lollipop game and explained how they could play for JUST ONE DOLLAR and that a prize was guaranteed. People who had no intention or interest in the game (or in Boxers, or possibly in dogs at all) found themselves handing my child a buck and plucking a lollipop out of the stand. One lady was digging around in the prize bin and I heard my daughter urging her to "pick the whoopie cushion!" Another lady looked at me and said, "You sure have a good salesperson here!" I smiled, feeling every bit like a proud mama.

I know I have a certain bias as her mom, but people really do find her irresistible. One woman chose the pina colada flavored lollipop and started singing "The Pina Colada Song" to my daughter (who does not know what a pina colada is). When I set up the game initially, I felt certain that we had enough lollipops to last the whole day. However, within an hour my daughter had sold at least 20 and I had to refill them pretty quickly. Honestly, I was in awe. I don't think I could manage to sell water to a man dying of thirst, so I was duly impressed with her skills. Every few seconds, she had another buck for the cash box.

After a couple of hours, we took a break and visited the other booths, where she played lots of games and won lots of crap. By 1:00 or so, we were half melted, so we headed out and drove home. Despite the oppressive heat, she continued to talk to every soul she encountered until we got to the car. Once again, I find myself marveling at Miss Social Butterfly.  It makes me feel kind of guilty about the times I have asked her to, just for a moment, stop talking.

Getting a French kiss at the French Bulldog booth

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dear Greeting Card Writers,

When it comes to Father's Day cards, when do you write the verses found inside these cards? At 4:55 on Friday night, just before you head out for Happy Hour? Year after year I find myself standing in the Father's Day section at Target/Hallmark/Wherever in early June, optimistically looking at the greeting card selection for this particular occasion. And then I remember: "Oh yeah, they all suck. And always have." Every year, I select the "least bad" card and glumly head to the check-out.

I have two dads.

This one (biological dad):

And this one (my stad - pictured here with my beautiful niece):

The Father's Day cards seem to make a lot of assumptions about fatherhood, none of which seem to apply in my case.  Please allow me to advise you of the following:
  1. Neither one likes golf. Neither one owns golf clubs or has even thought about golfing.
  2. Barbecues are not as meaningful to them as the card selection would seem to reflect. 
  3. One of them does actually like to fish, but not so much that any of the fishing jokes are actually funny. 
  4. Both of my dads will do yard work if absolutely required, but it is not a voluntary, joyful sort of thing. 
  5. Both will watch sports, but not obsessively (as the greeting cards would seem to imply).
Other jokes that aren't funny:
  1. "Are we there yet?" jokes, or road trip jokes of any kind.
  2. Diaper jokes. 
  3. "Mom's really the boss" jokes. 
  4. Remote control jokes.
So, when I am looking at the card selection, and I have filtered out all of the ones that mention sports, fishing, diapers, remote controls, barbecues, and golf, that leaves me with about five. Then I have to filter out the ones that feature Garfield and Snoopy (because everyone knows that shit ain't funny) . . . well, then I am down to about three. 

Don't even get me started on the cards that have sound.  That's a whole separate complaint.


Disgruntled Daughter Who Thinks You Can Do Better

Friday, June 8, 2012

Your Parents' Record Collection

NPR launched an interesting project recently. They've asked people to contact them and share stories about what their listeners found in their parents' record collection. The music we hear in those formative years shapes us in so many ways. Even if we grow to hate some of the music we heard, our memories are still tied to those songs. So, I started thinking about my parents and what they listened to, and how their musical tastes have affected my own.

I should start by saying that I come from a family of music lovers. I should also state that none of us can sing. Well, maybe I shouldn't paint the fam with such a broad stroke. My daughter seems to have a pretty decent singing voice. She's lucky she wasn't subjected to our DNA. I think my eldest niece is the only one who can read music - she plays the cello. In any case, we are not a musical people but we do love music, if that makes any sense.

My parents split up when I was around 8. I don't think of my father as being a big fan of music, but I recall that he liked the Beatles. He drove me to the airport a couple months ago when I was visiting, and I think he mostly listens to "oldies" from the 50s and 60s now.

My mother was more interested in music than my father was. I remember her listening to the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Beach Boys, and Rod Stewart when I was a kid. As a matter of fact, when my sisters and I bought her an iPod for Christmas a couple years ago, my youngest sister said, "Watch, Mom will probably download 'Hot Legs' right away." I called my mom and tattled on my sister, telling her what the baby of the family had said about her.

"Oh, ha ha. You girls are soooo funny!" our mother said, as she was, no doubt, clicking the "buy" button next to "Hot Legs" on iTunes.

My mom remarried when I was 11. My stad was into lots of different musicians and I think he and my mom had a lot in common, musically speaking. I remember hearing a lot of Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band coming out of the stereo downstairs. Today, I have songs from both bands on my iPod. I cannot hear the song "Shattered" without thinking about my parents. Shadoobie!

They listened to some weirder stuff, too.  The album "Gravest Hits" by The Cramps comes immediately to mind. We used to dance around to "Human Fly." I have that on my iPod, too. I'm trying to think of some of the other offbeat stuff. NRBQ would be another one. Frank Zappa.

Most kids eventually reject everything their parents like, but I don't think I ever really did that. For starters, my parents aren't that much older than I am. My mom is 18 years older and my stad is 13 years older. I remember going to a Fine Young Cannibals concert with them when I was in high school. I did start developing my own musical tastes (different from theirs), of course. The first album I ever bought was "Glass Houses" by Billy Joel when I was ten (I later had a chance to meet him, too, thanks to my stad). Like most teenaged girls growing up in the 80s, I adored Duran Duran. My mom pointed out that their lyrics made no sense and of course I rolled my eyes because, you know, their lyrics were VERY deep. It took me a few years to realize she was right. Look up the lyrics to "New Moon on Monday" sometime. Eventually I mostly rejected Top 40 radio and branched out into stuff that was a little darker. I loved The Smiths (still do!), Echo and the Bunnymen, and New Order. I fell hard for The Pixies and still listen to their music all the time. Oh, and Erasure. I could go on all day!

Although I believe I have stellar taste in music (or at least that is what I tell everyone), I have to be honest and say that I'm not sure that a lot of "my" music really stands the test of time. My parents probably fare better in that department. The Rolling Stones are still around (for better or worse) but a lot of the bands I loved in my youth are long gone, more like a footnote now. Well, there are places where they live on, I suppose.  Check out Slicing Up Eyeballs. Oh, and if you know what song the lyric "slicing up eyeballs" is from - you might just be my best friend.

I wonder what my daughter will think of my music collection ten years from now.  Right now, she likes a lot of the music I play when we are driving around. She asked me to re-play a Gossip song the other day and I almost shed a tear. I took her to a Bluegrass concert last year.  I'm hoping to expose her to lots of types of music. Otherwise, her brain will be filled with nothing but Justin Bieber and One Direction. She heard a remake of "Material Girl" on one of the shows she watches and was singing it around the house. I told her, "Oh, Madonna did that song first. I'll dig up the video on YouTube and show it to you." Well, she was just astounded. She's still not fully convinced that the world existed prior to May 3, 3005. I had a little flashback to my mom telling me that "Hazy Shade of Winter" by the Bangles was a remake of a Simon and Garfunkel song. And I'm sure I rolled my eyes because, you know, she couldn't possibly know what she was talking about.

So, what did you learn from your parents' record collection?

And now, in honor of my parental units, Human Fly by The Cramps:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Noteworthy Sort of Day

20 years ago today, I was stood up for a date (the nerve, right?) and went out with a friend of mine instead. We went to a club in Washington DC called The Dome. And there I met a cute Marine who was stationed at Quantico. I asked him to dance, thereby boosting his ego and giving him the opportunity to tell all of his jarhead buddies: "Yeah, she wanted me pretty bad." 20 years is a really long time to hang out with the same person voluntarily, so props to us, eh?

Also, my first grader is now a second grader. Today is the last day of school. There was an awards ceremony on Monday and my daughter received a certificate of recognition for having "the best sense of humor and being a great reader."  I am not sure if this is akin to a "participation ribbon" in sports, but I'm oddly proud of the sense of humor part. She gets it from me, you know.

So, here she is on her last day as a first grader. As usual, she is just a big bowl of sunshine and rainbows this morning. (So far she has screamed at us because she can't find her socks and because one of the dogs looked at her.)

Sunday, June 3, 2012


All winter long, I listened to the song "June Hymn" by The Decemberists and daydreamed about summertime. I couldn't wait for all of the festivals, weekends out of town, long walks with my dogs, and gardening with a spade in one hand and a Mike's Hard Cranberry in the other. And now, 'tis here! We spent another eventful weekend doing fun stuff - from a garden fair to a teddy bear hunt to a trip to a farm. One bad thing happened to me this weekend, though. I bought a package of cookies from a bake sale (yes, I am on Weight Watchers, but I had to go to the bake sale because it was a benefit for a German Shepherd rescue, which is run by a friend of mine. You understand). Anyway, I got the cookies home and ate part of one, only to find out that it had coconut in it. SON OF A BISCUIT! Honest to God, there ought to be a law.

Anyway, here is the song I've been humming. There is a line that says, "Once upon it, the yellow bonnets, garland all the lawn."  One day my daughter asked me, "Mom, why do you like that song about the yellow vomit so much?"  Kids, they just have a way of ruining every damn thing, don't they?