Thursday, August 29, 2013


The other day I posted this photo on Facebook:

This is how my child walks through the mall. Seriously. I wish I had that kind of check-me-out-because-I-am-pure-awesome attitude. Me, I'm more don't-mind-me-I'll-just-use-as-little-oxygen-as-possible-here. We were back to school shopping and my little fashionista was making a beeline for Gymboree, where she chose the least practical thing in the whole store. These boots:

Now, I don't think you need to be a mom to see that there are several inherent issues with these boots.

1. The color. Waaaaay too light. They are screaming, "Spatter some mud on me! Spill some fruit punch on me! That's right, everything that comes in contact with me will cause a hideous, permanent stain."
2. The fringe.  I don't know exactly what will happen with the fringe, but it won't be good.
3. The toe. See how the sole does not extend out past the toe at all? See how naked the toe is? These will be horribly scuffed and torn after one recess. Sure, I can tell her to change into her tennis shoes for recess, but she won't.

"Mom, pleeaaaaaaase. I have to have these boots! They have fringe!"

I tried like hell to talk her out of them. "How about these nice dark brown ones?" I asked.  My suggestion was met with a frowny face and a pouty lip.

I continued to walk around the store, hoping she'd get over it. But no, she followed behind me, clutching the boots and waxing poetic about the wonders of fringe. I dug around in my purse to confirm that I had a Gymboree coupon. I could get them for 50% off, which was still too much. 99% off still would have seemed like too much money.  I grabbed the boots, sighed, and pulled out my debit card. "Thanks, Mom! You're the best!"

She showed the boots to her dad when we got home. "What?!" he exclaimed. "Those will be ruined the first time you wear them!"  See what I mean? You don't have to be a mom to know that these boots are trouble.

That's my girl, though. Feisty, fashionable, smart, and willing to fight every single battle. That photo of her walking through the mall with her hand on one hip . . . it makes me scared of the teenage years in a way I never was before.

Recently I re-read some of my old blog entries from 2007, when Short Stuff was even shorter. I'm so glad I've continued to write this blog. Not just for both of my readers, but also so that I have a little chronicle of my daughter's childhood. Looking back at those old entries reminded me that the feistiness is nothing new, though. The girl has had spunk from the start.  Who can forget the time she screamed at me to put her booger back in her nose?  Or, how she used to pull Jedi mind tricks after she had pooped her diaper, telling us, "You do NOT smell poop." I also remember how she was so anxious to own everything on the planet ("MINE!") that when she overheard me saying, "Oh, sorry, it was my fault," she screamed, "NO! IT'S MY FAULT!"

What can I say? It's been clear for quite some time that I am most definitely . . . outmatched.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Once we got past the murdered raccoon . . .

. . .  we had a very nice trip.

We had one little bit of excitement, which was that my daughter lost a tooth. This tooth had been dangling for a while. As a matter of fact, the new tooth had come in and had pushed the old one until it was jutting straight out of her head. Finally, I convinced her to let me pull it.  Our friends (who were staying with us at the cabin) have a five-year-old so we knew we needed to do the tooth fairy thing. I guess I would've done it either way, even though A knows the truth, thanks to some brat at Kindercare who killed the Santa fantasy for her.  However, it is tricky to pull off these things when you're far from home. The kid and I were sleeping together on an air mattress (her dad had the couch, which he actually prefers).  That night, after she lost the tooth, I surreptitiously tucked three bucks under the mattress (while she was in the bathroom) and then slid the tooth under her pillow.  It gets kind of chilly at night at the lake so I was trying to decide whether or not to leave a fan on.

"Mom, you can just turn it off in the middle of the night when you get up to give me money for my tooth."

What a smart ass.

For the first two days at the cabin, it was just the three of us. We read, we watched hummingbirds and squirrels at the feeders, and the kid played quietly on the Kindle.  I strolled leisurely through a farmers' market like I had all the time in the world. I didn't even wear make-up! On Sunday night, our friends arrived. They have three boys so you can imagine the chaos. The hummingbirds said, "Fuck this" and disappeared immediately.

The next four days were filled with hiking, swimming, fishing, water balloon fights, soccer, game-playing, and campfires. The adults may or may not have had a few grown-up beverages along the way. I was happy that we had sufficiently warm weather that we could swim in the lake this year. We go up in August of each year but we never know what we're going to get when it comes to weather. It seems like it's either bone-chillingly cold or it's an inferno outside - there's no happy medium. 

Eventually, our friends had to head back home and we had a couple of days with just the three of us again. I took the kid out for ice cream and we did a little shopping. The hummingbirds came back.  I spent quite a bit of time sitting on the dock, reading and listening to the loons. I whipped through 3 1/2 books during the week (which was glorious - I generally don't have much time to read). I read Gone Girl, January First, Wallace, and half of Dark Places. The Gillian Flynn books are somewhat out of character for me - I tend to stick with non-fiction these days. However, she was a guest on NPR recently and everyone was raving about Gone Girl so I thought I would check it out. I have to say it was a hell of a read.

I am always so grateful for the use of the cabin, as the lake is so  . . .  restorative is the best term I can conjure at the moment. It's a view that never grows old. My favorite time of the day is at sunset, when the water settles into a calmness and the trees are reflected perfectly on the surface.  Then once the sun sets, we start noticing the bats overhead, fluttering across the twilight sky. The whole scene just soothes the soul, I tell you. 

Now, I'm back at work, scratching my gazillion mosquito bites and wishing I was back on that dock. Alas, the requirement for being a grown-up remains. Bah!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Vacation - the "before" stuff

I wrote this last week, so I'll just go ahead and post it and then write something more substantial as soon as I plow through the mountain of laundry that awaits me . . .


I'm getting ready to leave for a vacation (yes, again) so I haven't had much time to write. I've been packing for three days. We're doing our annual cabin-by-the-lake trip. I am so fortunate to have a friend who lets us use his cabin every year. We've invited some friends to join us for a few days (the same friends we accompanied to Disney - yes, they are still speaking to us!). It will be cramped with eight people and two dogs in one small cabin but we're hopeful for nice weather that keeps everyone outside a lot.

I've checked out a couple of library books and am looking forward to lots of quiet time next week. Ha ha!  Who am I kidding?  I have an eight-year-old who hasn't stopped talking since she uttered her first words in 2006.

I did take a break from packing and took the kid to the county fair on Wednesday night. I ran into a friend from church whose daughters (one is 13 and the other is 14, I believe) were showing some animals with their 4-H club. Fortunately, the girls were willing to take my kid on the rides, thereby saving me from a lot of nausea. My friend took me on a tour of the animal barns while the kids were off scrambling their brains. She showed me their rabbits, horses, and goats. After every animal I asked her, "Are you going to eat that later?" She looked at me like I was nuts. Hey, I know about those post-fair auctions. I don't think the bidders are bidding on an opportunity to take those pigs on a sweet Caribbean cruise or something. My friend and I like to get into some occasional sparring about the pros and cons of being a carnivore.  It's like a sport for us.


That's as far as I got before I left. I have to get the bad part of my vacation out of the way so that I can write about the better stuff that happened after that. The three of us left for our trip on Friday evening (August 16th). The van was packed to the gills, with the dogs fighting for about 12 square inches in the back.  We had a four-hour drive ahead of us and decided to split the driving roughly in half. P took the first shift, which is sort of uncharacteristic. Normally I drive first. Anyway, about a half-hour later we were heading down the road at a good clip, making good progress. The speed limit was 65. I was fiddling with my phone and talking to the kid, who was seated right behind me. Suddenly, I heard my husband say, "Hey, what's that in the road?" I could see three young raccoons attempting to cross the four-lane highway (two lanes going in each direction) from the right.

It was about 6:30 p.m. so it was still light outside. I can't remember what I said, but I felt an instant panic. I know from experience that many times, when an animal attempts to cross the road, it will at some point realize that the excursion was a bad idea and then double back on itself. We were in the right-hand lane. Sure enough, the raccoons thought better of their plan and doubled back. At the same time, P decided to veer right. "Nononononono!" I screamed in my head. And then I heard the sickening thud of the van's tire hitting and killing one of the animals. I was not sure if the other two made it back to safety or not. I was hoping so with a desperation that I cannot properly articulate to you now.

I sat for a moment and then began to cry. I know it seems silly, and I truly wish I was not so sensitive about these things. When I was six or seven, I overheard someone saying that I was "hyper sensitive." At the time I didn't know what that meant, of course. Now I just curse my tender-hearted self sometimes. I just kept thinking, "But it was a family! And now one of them is dead." All I could think about was crushed bones and that awful sound.

My husband did not kill the raccoon on purpose, of course. Intellectually, I know that. But, I couldn't help but feel he could have tried a little harder, that he could have pulled over to the shoulder and stopped before hitting the animal. I'm not sure. I cried for a while and consoled my daughter as best as I could. It was a sucky start to our trip, that was for certain. I didn't say anything for quite a while. I could tell that P felt terrible; he tried to take my hand but I just couldn't - not right then.

It took me a few days to stop thinking about the raccoon quite so much.

In happier news, when we got to the cabin I set out some bird seed. This little squirrel showed up and then proceeded to binge on sunflower seeds for the rest of the week. Seriously, we could walk right up to the little bugger and I'm sure he was thinking, "I should really run away but this buffet is insane!"

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

So, this is 8

I took my daughter to the doctor yesterday for a wellness exam.  She turned eight a few months ago so I should have taken her in then. However, her old doctor didn't recommend annual visits so I guess I had it my head that we didn't need to go this year. The new doctor does want to see kids annually, so I booked an appointment. Also, I have enrolled the kid in a new daycare for the fall and needed to have a medical form signed for that.

Her exam went well. Breaking news: she's short! Previously she was in the 10th percentile for height; she is now in the 5th. The doctor said he'd only be alarmed if I told him that both birthparents are extremely tall, which they're not. As long as she keeps growing, there is no cause for concern. She is 47 1/4 inches. As long as she hits 48 and can ride roller coasters at some point, I think she'll be happy. 

As we were leaving the doctor's office,  the nurse gave me summary document that lists normal development for an eight-year-old.

Physical Development:
  • Accident prone. Check!
  • Has a casual attitude toward clothing and appearance. Nope! This girl wants to be as stylish as possible every day.  Tears have been shed over the need to have clothes from Justice.
  • Seems to have boundless energy. Check!
Emotional Development:
  • Starts to realize that others also feel angry, afraid, or sad. Not really, but here's hoping.
  • Is easily embarrassed.  Totally!  The other day we were in a different city and needed to stop at Target. I kind of knew where it was but not exactly. When I found it, I said, "Oh, there you are, Target!"  My daughter looked very alarmed and asked me why I was talking to Target. Once I realized that there was some embarrassment going on, I said, "Because I always talk to Target. Isn't that right, Target?" I kept it up as we walked across the parking lot and at one point she refused to walk any farther until I agreed to stop talking to Target.  
Social Development:
  • Can be argumentative and bossy. Yep. "Mo-om, you are driving the wrong way." Also, I have been accused of not wearing a bra, forgetting to give her a fork with dinner, etc. And yes, every argument is an argument worth having in her book. The other day she refused to get her act together so I went to church without her. Everything is a battle. I've been thinking of having a custom tee shirt made for her that says: "I make everything harder than it has to be."
  • Can be generous and responsive. Sometimes. Last night I made dinner and then decided to eat mine out on the deck. A few moments later, the kid asked if she could join me. "Thank you SO much for dinner, Mama. It's so good. I love you so much!" Then, a few seconds later: "Mom, can I call a friend to come over?" Ah, ulterior motive discovered.
  • Shows some hostility toward the opposite sex.  She had a crush on a little boy in her class for the longest time. However, one day at lunch, the object of her affection took a piece of brownie, rolled it into a little ball, and then shoved it up his nose. My daughter was so horrified by the brownie booger incident that she can't even say the boy's name anymore.  "He. Is. Disgusting!"
  • May question duty to help with household chores. I think we've gone from "questioning" to "outright refusal." 
  • Resists adult guidance at times. No kidding. Her dad and I are getting dumber by the minute. We couldn't possibly know what we are talking about, ever.
A new development (not on the list): lying. She spent much of the summer in a day camp program, where she spends time with some older girls. They taught her some hand-clap games and they braid her hair sometimes. But, there have been less rosy moments, too. One kid told my daughter that her hair looks like an afro (and it was not meant as a compliment). A keeps trying to smuggle stuff to camp . . . stuff she thinks will impress the older girls. The other day she smuggled some money (to buy snacks) and then lied about what she had in her bag. So far it's just little stuff but I have to say I am not a fan of the lying. 

I should add that there are some very definite benefits to having an eight-year-old.  She's very smart and "gets" jokes. I can basically carry on a conversation with her the same as I could with an adult. At restaurants, she can find and walk to the bathroom by herself.  She can help out with errands. She helps me to remember stuff (such as, "We're parked on level 3-B - remember that!").

Last weekend she and I attended an event for the rescue and decided to get a hotel room and stay overnight. We had a lot of fun. We went to a farmers' market and a children's museum. The hotel room had a king-sized bed.  So, naturally, she slid allllll the way across the mattress so that she could kick me in her sleep.  Miss 5th percentile seems to get bigger at night or something. I'll leave you with a few photos from our weekend.

p.s. I love you, Target!

Miss Thang may be grown up in some ways, but she still cannot resist a carousel ride.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Visit

I'm sure you're dying to know how our visit with A's birthmom went. Well, I'm here to tell you that it went quite well.

My daughter was a bit nervous beforehand. I assured her that I was nervous, too.  After all, it had been seven years since the last visit (and, needless to say, she doesn't remember that one). During those early months after my daughter was born, I really didn't know how to navigate a relationship with her birthmom. I knew that I wanted to maintain contact with her (after all, this is someone I would have enjoyed spending time with even if she didn't just happen to be the woman who, you know, gave me a baby to raise), but I wasn't sure exactly what was expected or what she wanted/needed or what was best for all concerned. In the beginning, there were lots of phone calls and visits and I was worried that I might feel differently about the level of contact in the future. It was a weird time - she was emotional from being recently pregnant and then following through with the adoption plan she had made, and I was still learning how to be a mom (and also dealing with a surge of emotions).

I think we are both on firmer ground now. She's married and is raising three great boys. I still don't know what I'm doing as a mom, but I have learned to trust in the relationship I have with my daughter. I read a quote somewhere . . . "If a parent can love more than one child, it only stands to reason that a child can love more than one parent." Before my daughter was born, I didn't feel overly protective and/or possessive of her, but once she existed on this side of the womb, everything changed. I felt like I was suddenly capable of lifting mountains and emptying oceans and doing anything else that might be needed in order to make sure she was safe and happy. I still have a deep, visceral need to protect her, but I learned along the way that I don't need to squirrel her away and keep her all to myself.  My husband will tell you that I'm not good at sharing, but really, that just applies to food I've ordered. If he wanted fries, he really should have ordered some.

Anyway, back to the visit. We made arrangements to meet at a park yesterday.  A and I got there first and waited for J and her boys to arrive.  They pulled up a few minutes later and we walked to the playground together. If there was any awkwardness, it didn't last long. She and I have kept in touch via email for the past 2 1/2 years, so it felt like there had been an ongoing conversation and not some great chasm of disconnected strangeness.  The kids took a few minutes to warm up to each other but were soon playing together . . . well, except for the toddler - he spent most of his time finding various ways he might be able to injure himself on the fully padded playground. At one point my daughter fell but has forbidden me to speak of it, so I shan't.  I'll just say that she injured herself in an unusual way and leave it at that.

Eventually we left the park and headed to Applebee's for dinner. I am not a huge fan of Applebee's (I find the lack of vegetarian dishes irritating), but I had a $25 gift card to use. And I was definitely planning to pick up the tab for our table of six because when someone gives you a baby, you buy her dinner. For the rest of her life. If I could buy her a tropical island or an airplane and give it to her, I would.

Dinner was good.  The kids were pretty wound up. A sat between the five-year-old and the twelve-year-old.  She seemed to enjoy hanging out with both. Later she told me that she thinks the twelve-year-old is cute, so I let her know that it's actually against the law to marry him. I was hoping to head off that little crush before it gains traction. And of course he's cute - he looks just like her!  After dinner, I paid the tab and . . . my credit card was declined.  Greaaaaat. This was a first for me and it was just a wee bit embarrassing. This was actually my debit card and I knew there were sufficient funds in the checking account (believe me, I know my account balance down to the dollar), so I have no idea why it was declined. I decided not to raise a stink and gave her a different card instead. C'est la vie.  I checked the checking account when I got home and sure enough, it was fine. Who knows. At least I got through the dinner without spilling anything on myself or impaling myself on my fork or anything. Plus, with four kids at the table, it's hard to stick out as the loud/messy/uncouth one. Don't get me wrong - the kids were all well-behaved.  Just verrrry energetic.

After dinner, we said our good-byes in the parking lot and snapped a few photos. A wanted to go back to the park but we really needed to get home. She was quiet on the half-hour drive back to our house. I wasn't sure if she was tired or just full of thoughts about her brothers. I'm glad she got to meet them. I'm sure there will be other visits in the future (they live several states away, though).

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I didn't get a chance to ask all of the goofy questions on my list. J has great teeth and emphatically stated that she is not the culprit when it comes to the kid's dental woes. She did admit that A's singing/dancing/admiring herself in the mirror habit might have come from her. She refused to confirm or deny whether her toilet paper usage would be deemed excessive.

She gave me the okay to share a couple of photos (I failed to get a good one of the wee brother, though).

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Birthmom visit coming up

My daughter and I are having a visit with her birthmom on Thursday.  We're going to meet at a park and then grab some dinner. A's birthmom is also bringing her three sons.  My daughter is excited to see her birthmom, but she is particularly curious and enthusiastic about meeting her half-brothers.  Two are younger than she is and one is older. 

Our last visit was almost exactly seven years ago. At some point after that, J severed contact. It would take a few years before I understood why. When we reconnected about 2 1/2 years ago, she explained her mixed emotions to me.  She felt that it was simply too hard to have visits and then to say good-bye over and over. It was like ripping a scab off a wound that never quite healed. Now that so much time has passed, she seems ready for a visit. She lives out of state and married a great guy about six years ago.  She is in town for her sister's wedding, so we arranged a visit. I know it will be emotionally challenging for her, but I hope she will find more happiness than sorrow in Thursday's visit. It is hard to be around the curly girlie and not be happy.  A is truly one of those "lights up a room" kind of people.

I recently saw this quote: "A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me."  (Jody Landers)  It's a poignant quote; my joy in motherhood is forever tangled up with another person's pain. I can only hope that my daughter's birthmom has some measure of peace in her heart, that she knows I have not taken motherhood for granted.  Not for one second, ever.

On a lighter note, I feel like maybe I should ask J some questions in an effort to determine which of my daughter's finer traits might be genetic.
  1. As a child, did you lose about three headbands per day?  To the extent that your mom started threatening to staple them to your skull?
  2. Did you (or do you now) use about eight thousand squares of toilet paper every time you pee?
  3. Do you wander into the bathroom to brush your teeth, but instead spend 15 minutes in front of the mirror . . . singing, dancing, and admiring yourself? 
  4. Do you pronounce the word trolley like troly (rhymes with holy) and mustache like moostache?
  5. Do you ask for breakfast and then act offended by whatever you are served, even if it is the thing you specifically asked for?
  6. Are you a night owl? Do you react to mornings like you are some kind of vampire who must retreat from the sun? 
  7. Exactly how much did you cost your parents in orthodontia?  We are getting nervous about the things that are happening in our daughter's pie hole.
  8. Do you hate potatoes in any form except french fries? 
  9. Do you believe in getting maximum mileage out of the "Guess what? Chicken butt!" joke?
  10. Do you find it easier to stay naked for hours on end because getting dressed is just so. much. trouble? 
Inquiring minds want to know! 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The world traveler goes to the state fair

We got our kid back yesterday!  Her flight from DC was delayed.  As I stood around the concourse for an hour, I kept wondering if perhaps she was chatting up the pilot, resulting in the delay. She denied it when the flight finally showed up, though. We went from the airport straight to the state fair. The three of us had a good time, though the fair was verrrrry crowded. P and I spent about two solid hours watching our kid on rides. I guess that's the glamorous part of this whole parenting gig. We left the fair with the kid in tears because we refused to buy her a bubble gun. Maybe she missed the part where we spent $35 on a wristband so that she could spin her brains out on those rides.

I'm busy unpacking and catching up on a few things (we stayed overnight before driving back home), so I'll just bore you with a few photos in the meantime. Oh, and I should add that we didn't eat anything too crazy. We shared an order of deep-fried Oreos and that was about as wacky as we got. We only eat them once a year but oh my, they do make one's dreams come true.

Do you see how she's got a row of teeth coming in behind her original teeth?  We think she might be a shark. Seriously, this girl is gonna cost us a fortune in orthodontia.
See, I don't usually find her dad this amusing, but what do I know?

An advantage to being petite. Even at the age of 8, you can still con your dad into doing this.

We walked through the animal barns and noticed that the sheep were all dressed as ghosts. Or Klansmen? Either way, it was a little disturbing.