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Monday, May 19, 2014

No One Talked There

My two girls are so different when it comes to how they think and feel about adoption, and yes, that's taking into account their rather large age difference (over six years apart).  You see, Squirt - at nearly four years of age - just doesn't want to talk about adoption or even China all that much - yet, before the age of two, the Tongginator was all about China and already feeling her losses quite heavily.

It's been a learning curve for me, navigating parenting a child who avoids the topic rather than nearly obsessing over it.

We don't talk about things with Squirt in the same way that we did with the Tongginator, mostly because Squirt never brings it up.  I am sure to work in "I'm so glad we adopted you" as a regular part of our conversation, and Squirt will tell others "I was born in China."  The only grief she's shared at this point in time is the sadness and anger she feels that I didn't "come get her sooner."  But - really - that's about the extent of it.  She's heading to pre-k in August, and kindergarten the following year, so I knew I needed to start broaching the topic with her more often while still following her lead.  I don't want her to first hear that she has "a real mother" or "another mommy" from some kid at school.

Mother's Day was a great opportunity.

I pulled out a few adoption-specific books alongside other popular "mom books" like Mothers Are Like That; Llama Llama, Red Pajama; and I Love You the Purplest.  We read several in the days leading up to and following Mother's Day.  I reshelved most of them a few days ago, but I kept three favorites from the bunch in her book basket.  One of them happens to be You're Not My Real Mother.  Squirt loves this book for some reason.

I've known for a bit that I need to make sure Squirt knows that I'm not her biological mother before she heads off to school, even though she's very uncomfortable every time I try to broach the subject.  I mean, she knows she's "adopted," but I wasn't sure if she really understood what that word meant.  After reading You're Not My Real Mother yet again on Friday, I talked to her about it.  I mentioned her friend's mom, who is expecting her third child in September.  We talked about the baby growing in "a special place inside her tummy."  And I told her that she didn't grow inside me.

TONGGU MOMMA: I'm your real mommy, just like in the book, but you also have a real mommy and a real daddy who live in China. We don't know who they are, but we know that for some reason they couldn't take care of you.  You needed a mommy and daddy who could take care of you, and that's why Daddy and I were able to adopt you.

Squirt was quiet for a minute.

SQUIRT: Mommy... I didn't like the orphanage.

TONGGU MOMMA: I know, honey.   

Although I didn't really believe she remembered not liking it.  She was not even a year old when we adopted her.  And we don't talk about it a whole lot because it stresses her out.  I've never said anything harsh about her orphanage in front of her.  And the Tongginator lived in foster care and has never visited an orphanage, so it's unlikely she's talked about it with Squirt, although maybe she has.  Squirt has seen video of the day we met many times, but not any video and few photos of her orphanage.  And then she floored me...

SQUIRT: I didn't like it.  No one talked there.

No one talked there.

The thing is, she's right.  No one DID talk there.  The short video the Husband and I have seen (but don't actually have in our possession since we didn't film it) of her orphanage room - secretly shot the day after we adopted her - was nearly silent.  Almost 20 babies/ toddlers sat in cribs in that room, just staring into space and/or quietly playing with their hands.  The video footage we saw lasted nearly 10 minutes, and none of the children spoke.  None of the children babbled.

None of the children cried.

None of them even cried.

Squirt was eleven-and-a-half months old at the time of adoption.  I can't positively state that she has true memories of her time in the orphanage.  I feel silly even mentioning the possibility at all.  But that statement came from somewhere, and it wasn't from me or the husband.

No one talked in her orphanage.

And she hated it.

I gave her a hug, and told her, "you never have to live there again, Squirt.  You are going to live with Mommy and Daddy and the Tongginator.  We are a family forever and ever."  She looked at me for a few seconds and then matter-of-factly stated, "okay.  Next book."

And that was the end of it.  So far.
Friday, April 11, 2014

I Have a Cold, Cold Heart

This is a not-so-short PSA announcing that I just may shoot myself if I have to hear even one more off-key, beltingly loud version of Frozen's "Let It Go."  I know you mommas of girls know what I'm talking about.  I think every North American girl between the ages of three and 11 knows nearly every line of that movie and the entire! stinkin'! soundtrack!

And even some of the boys.

I actually loved the movie the first time I saw it.  And the second.  And even possibly the tenth.  But now?  Now I basically want to shoot myself in the eye every time I hear the opening strains of Christophe Beck's score.  My poor husband, who must daily "play princesses" with the Tongginator and Squirt for at least ten minutes, is ready to create an eternal winter at Tonggu House just to avoid the reprimands.  No, y'all, it's not me correcting the poor guy... it's the girls.  They express their frustrations with him daily.  Why, you may ask?  Well, he dares to remain clueless of the movie's dialog.  He knows the general plot, of course, so less obnoxious discriminating children would probably give his paraphrasing a pass, but my girls expect him to deliver his lines word for word.

Word for stinking word, y'all.

When he makes a mistake, their long-suffering sighs and impatient corrections chase their dad away faster than you can say "Oaken's trading post."  Typically the girls assign him the role of Kristoff, but sometimes he must also fill in for Hans or Sven.  The Tongginator is always Elsa, whereas Squirt waffles between Anna and Olaf.  (Did I tell y'all Squirt chose to be a snowman for Halloween?  Because she did.  And that was even before Olaf came on the scene.  For some strange reason, that girl LOVES snowmen.)  When their high standards chase their dad away, the girls then revert to belting out various songs from the soundtrack.

I must confess, I can no longer tolerate "Let it Go."

Or even "Love is an Open Door."

Although even my frozen heart must concede that Squirt's version of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" IS priceless.

And then there is Squirt's gloves saga.  She found elbow-length gloves in our dress-up bin about two weeks ago.  Since then she's refused to do pretty much anything unless she's wearing her "Elsa gloves."  I draw the line at bathroom trips and mealtimes, but the playground?  School?  Church?  Trips to Target?  Whatever - it's not worth the battle.  The gloves wouldn't be so bad, except whenever she's wearing them, she holds her fingers at these funny angles, one can only assume mimicking Elsa as she shoots out imaginary ice and snow.






Squirt loves to run with her fingers splayed in front of her, arms stretched straight forward, with a blue tiara perched atop her head.  Wherever she is.  WHEREVER she is, y'all... through the mall, at the playground, down the aisles of our church sanctuary.  WHEREVER.  The Tongginator, on the other hand, only "plays Frozen" when ensured complete privacy (excluding immediate family members, of course).  She tends to don a "cape" she created out of an over-sized scarf and run around the house, stomping her foot.  I'm guessing she's imitating Elsa creating the frozen river/ocean/whatever body of water that is.

Please tell me I'm not the only one dealing with Frozen drama at my house.  I know I can't be, if the  barren store shelves that should be stocked with Frozen merchandise mean anything. I can't be alone in this.  And if y'all don't hear from me again, it's probably because I'm recovering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

I'm just saying.
Friday, February 14, 2014

Awkward Conversation #327

I don't know about y'all, but I try very hard to stay out of my childrens' social lives, especially the Tongginator's now that she is approaching ten.  Every once in awhile, I might make a comment to the Tongginator about an incident with a friend, or we might role-play how a future interaction might go better, but I rarely talk with other parents about girl drama.

I believe in the "work it out yourselves" school of thought.

On Valentine's Day the Tongginator came home from a playdate. Now that I think about it, at what age do you stop calling these things playdates and start calling them "hanging out" at a friend's house?  Anyways, the playdate.  She's not my favorite friend of the Tongginator's for a myriad of reasons, but I've never said anything to the Tongginator about her except once to say I didn't exactly approve of how A. treats her mom.  Usually I have to drag the Tongginator kicking and screaming from this friend's house, mostly because A. likes to run and hide when it's time to end.  Today, however, the Tongginator and her friend were waiting at the door when I pulled up.

First clue.

The Tongginator was exceptionally quiet on the drive home.

Second clue.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sickness, Day Eleven

We are heading into Day 11 of Sickness at Tonggu House and I'm feeling a bit twitchy.  The Tongginator is back at school after a week lying on the couch, watching The Food Network and House Hunters and listening to me nag her about drinking enough.  I swear this child is like a camel: she can go for days without drinking anything.  Which is quite useful during long car trips, but not so much when she's trying to recover from a nasty cold.

Today Squirt entered Day Three of her pajama fashion show.  And by this I mean I've carted her everywhere - the grocery store, the pharmacy, the Tongginator's school - wearing oh-so-stylish pjs. For example, this morning during our car ride to school she wore her jolly snowman pajamas topped with her Amber princess dress  and a pair of dinosaur slippers.  Thankfully we avoided drama this morning... and by drama I mean the type from momma... I guess all of those years parenting the "Princess-Butterfly-Rainbow-Girl Tongginator" taught me a few lessons.

Monday, January 27, 2014

All or Nothing: We Deal with Both at This House

Just when you (mistakenly) think you've got everything figured out, life throws you another curve ball.  I've spent the past nine years walking through the minefield of "adoption and race stuff" with the Tongginator, trying my best to hear and support her voice.  After years of wandering around, blindly trying to lead and follow at the same time, we've come to a good place, she and I.  I have made and do make mistakes, of course, but I feel confident that we have a level of trust between us that allows her to express her opinions without fear of hurting my feelings, making me feel angry, or whatever.  I hope I don't screw that up as she ages.

But I'm not just parenting the Tongginator anymore.

Because now I have Squirt, too.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

50 Books About Being Different

I've been on a bit of a book kick this past year, probably because I got all riled up at our county library this past summer.  It seems our library's "Summer Reading Program" isn't actually as advertized, and is instead a "Summer Activities Program."  My Tongginator read all of the books on the rising fourth grader list, but was told by an oh-so-friendly librarian that she would not in fact receive the prize advertized for the READING program because she failed to attend an afternoon ACTIVITY sponsored by the library the previous week, a magic show oh-so-helpfully geared for preschoolers.

*banging head against wall*

Whatever.  But now I'm on a bit of a book kick.  I think it's extremely important to expose our children to books that depict a wide range of races, faiths, cultures, abilities and interests. One aspect of privilege is assuming that most of the people you or your children study in history classes and books will be of the same race, culture, gender or faith as you are. Exposing our children to fictional characters and historical figures that don't reflect their experience helps give our children a broader view of the world. It also encourages empathy.  So here goes my list of fifty books about being different.

I hope your local library carries many of these titles.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Yes, We are Alive. Who knew?!!?

Tap, tap.  Tap, tap.

Hello? Is this thing on?

(Corny, I know. Forgive me, y'all - I'm totally out of practice.)

Where do I even begin?  I guess I should start by confessing that I have absolutely No Valid Reason for dropping off the face of the blog world.  Except that Squirt gave up her nap before her second birthday. And I guess I'm just not as good at time management as many of y'all. No nap = little blogging time for Momma.  And then there was the fact that - for more than a year - the Tongginator nixed any and all stories about her, as is her right. Plus the Husband wasn't too happy with the amount of time I sat in front of the computer each evening, probably because it had grown to astronomical proportions. To be honest, I - and everyone else in my family - grew exhausted just thinking about the blog, so I put it to the side for awhile.

And then life just kinda kept chugging along.

Until suddenly over two years had passed.

But one day last winter, I posted something on my real life Facebook account.  It was something funny Squirt had said; and my friend and neighbor Mrs. O commented, "sounds like it's time to start up the blog again."  Which got me thinking.  And thinking.  Especially since I received a few emails the following week from some sweethearts who shared bits of their personal stories with me, hard roads they are walking with attachment.  And then several months ago quime posted on the Rumor Queen forum, asking if anyone had heard from me.

No one answered... not even me.

And it's been eating at me ever since.

We are all doing really well. The Tongginator somehow managed to become nearly-ten-years-old while I wasn't looking. She's still very much the Tongginator some days, but most of the time she's a strange mix of Tongginator/ tween/ proper young lady/ needy youngster. I don't know how she manages to pull that look off with just a pair of jeans, a sparkly t-shirt and boots, but it works for her.  Fourth grade has been wonderful so far - for the first time ever, we didn't hear any "social concerns" during the fall parent/teacher conference. One real concern is perfectionism, which continues to plague her, causing her to have Meltdowns Of Epic Proportions should she fail to receive a "good grade," whatever that means. But she's enjoying school for the most part, especially chorus, writing class and violin. She learned to swim and ride a two-wheel bike last year, which made my momma's heart swell with pride. (It was a long time coming, y'all. She worked so, so hard.) She's learning to ride a horse.  And the child who once couldn't get enough Mei Mei and Jade told me last summer that she's had it with Chinese School. She wants O-U-T out.

(How in the world did that happen?)

Parenting?  There is definitely a learning curve, y'all.  And once you feel you've mastered one child and/or developmental stage, another curve ball comes racing at you.

Squirt is three-and-a-half-years-old, which absolutely boggles my mind.  She's very, very different from the Tongginator in personality, but man, oh man she still keeps me on my toes.  This child loves to learn.  And I don't mean pick up a few facts here and there, I mean she devours information like a t-rex devours a stegosaurus.  And if that reference seems completely out of left field, it's because it is... for ME.  But not for our science geek Squirt: she loves dinosaurs, and outer space, and Doc McStuffins and - Lord help me - insects.

Oh, and she also loves fairy tales and nursery rhymes, especially those centered on princesses.  Because she likes to be consistent like that.  And because she likes to drive her Womens' Studies Minor in College Momma Cray-Zee. I tell y'all, if I have to read Little Golden Book's "The Princess and the Pea" one! more! time!, the author may end up as black-and-blue as that princess.  I never thought I'd say this, but I much prefer the Tongginator's butterfly stage to Squirt's Cinderella obsession. And no, she's never seen the movie.  She loves James Marshall's version of the book.

(I'm wondering if she thinks she has too many chores for a three-year-old.)

The Husband and I are doing well, although we had to deal with another hospitalization this past spring, this time for the husband.  He had another bout of pericarditis - same heart thing as last time, except this time his enzyme levels never rose above two, whereas last time they approached thirty. Basically that means this time he didn't Almost! Die!, it was just a major inconvenience for a couple of weeks as we dealt with a short hospital stay and home recovery time.

The good news is that Squirt has not been hospitalized for almost two years now.  She narrowly avoided a hospital stay this past November for pneumonia, but several kids in our area came down with pneumonia this past autumn, so it wasn't too terribly concerning.  Overall, Squirt's health is great... as long as she's completely gluten-free.  We've had one accidental exposure and it was... not fun.  She ended up having seizures and dealing with a severe infection that required a fifteen-day round of Leviquin.  All from two measly little pretzels.

So we are careful.

And I cook a lot.

Like, a lot a lot.

Which means I won't ever blog like I once did, but I may pop in occasionally to check in with y'all.  And because I absolutely love to write.  I hope y'all are well.  I hope y'all forgive me for killing my blog and then resurrecting it years later.  I hope y'all are loving well, and looking forward.

I hope...
Saturday, September 29, 2012

月圓, 人圓

月圓, 人
 Yuè yuán, rén yuán.


When the moon is round, families unite.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, y'all.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Not Mrs. Moe!

A couple of weeks ago, little Squirt and I ran into a woman I know from church.  I've chatted with her a few times and like her as a person, but we are no more than acquaintances.  I'm hoping to grow the relationship into a friendship of some sorts, mostly because I like her, but also because her daughter and Squirt will end up in the same grade at school eventually, and - if I'm honest with myself - maybe even a tiny bit because she is Asian-American.

Anyways, back to the day two weeks ago that we ran into her.

Squirt took one look at her and shouted, "Not Mrs. Moe!"

Mrs. Moe is a friend of mine who lived abroad this past year but returned to our neck of the woods over the summer.  She is Chinese-American and has three children (Eeny, Meeny and Miney), the youngest of whom was adopted from China.  Squirt and Miney belong to a playgroup of four girls, dubbed the Fearsome Four, all adopted from China and with just 13 months separating the oldest (Miney) from the youngest (Squirt).  Our four families live within 20 minutes drive of one another, each also have a third grader (three girls, one boy), and all feel pretty darn blessed to have these connections, both for ourselves and our children.

Anyways, back to the day two weeks ago that Squirt took one look at my acquaintance from church and shouted, "Not Mrs. Moe!"  Like, five times.  Five! times! she shouted it while I quietly sank through the floor.  I finally had to come clean and just say it... "I'm sorry.  My friend Mrs. Moe is Chinese-American and we saw her last Friday.  I think Squirt is realizing that you are both Asian-American, and that you are different people."

My acquaintance from church took it in stride.

At least, I think she did.

(I was too busy sinking through the floor to notice.)

Later I couldn't help but acknowledge that this would not have happened if Squirt had more daily contact with the Asian-American community.  I've tried to make conscious decisions about diversity, choosing Asian-American professionals often (such as our dentist, hair stylist, etc.), and seeking out different activities and events that lend themselves to a more diverse crowd.  And I know I'm in a better place than I was six years ago - that's for sure - but this incident with Squirt has me questioning if it's enough.

I don't know the answer.

This past weekend, I repeated the "how diverse is your world?" exercise the Husband and I took five years ago at a transracial adoption parenting seminar.  The results were much more diverse this second time, but I have to admit that most of my close friends are Caucasian; only three of my close friends are non-white.  Then again, I'm pretty introverted, so it's not like my friends list is all that long anyways.  But still...

Squirt shouting "Not Mrs. Moe!" showed me that I still have a long way to go.

How about y'all?
Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Cannot Believe I...

I cannot believe I forgot to blog all summer.  I had good intentions, of course, but I didn't realize I failed to blog even once.  Umm... sorry, y'all?

We are fine.  And I've really, truly appreciated the emails and comments some of y'all sent my way, checking in to make sure that Squirt was medically fine and the Tongginator still large and in charge.  Everything's been great, well, great *for us* anyways.  I think I just got out of the habit of writing and completely... forgot.

(Do y'all think I'm experiencing early-onset menopause?)

(Because I'm thinking maybe.)

To catch y'all up on our lives, I thought I'd compile a list of all of things I never thought I'd do that I've done since June.

1. I read a book to Squirt while sitting on the... you know.  Yes, I seriously did.  She was whining, and I really had to pee, and she brought me the book, so I just... well.. I read the darn thing.  It could have waited another 30 seconds, but it just seemed easier at the time to give in.

2. I signed up for TWO "mommy and Squirt" classes this fall: one music, and one music and movement, with an emphasis on movement.  My introverted, tone-deaf, non-athletic self still can't believe I did that.  But I did.  I'm hoping maybe I'll drop a pound or two before the holidays because of all that "gallop like a pony" and "hope like a frog" ridiculousness.  Only I'm using these classes as an excuse to up the chocolate intake, so maybe not.  One can wish, however.  Even if said wish is completely futile.

3. I watched the Tongginator swim the length of an Olympic-sized swimming pool with NO flotation device.  Oh, I nearly cried, y'all.  It took almost a dozen private lessons with a swim instructor who specializes in children with needs such as ADHD, autism and sensory processing disorder, but it finally happened!  The Tongginator learned to swim!  (I am so proud of her.)

4. Several weeks ago, two-year-old Squirt, in response to some (ahem) maternal correction, told me, "Squirt obey SQUIRT!"  With all of the language delays we experienced our first ten months home, I sometimes doubted I'd ever hear her say a complete sentence, much less one as sassy as all that.

5. Squirt and I were fired from early intervention services the second week of July.  Of course our therapists prefer to use the term "graduated," but what they really mean is "fired."  And I'm totally cool with that.  Squirt still has some slight gross and fine motor delays, but time and a little bit of effort on my part should resolve them within the next year or two.

6.  I attended a celiac parenting support group all! by! myself! this summer and made several new friends.  Two of the seven women I met are adoptive parents, and one is an adult adoptee.  They made me feel welcome and I don't think I embarrassed myself too badly.  Although maybe I did.  But as long as I remain clueless about it, I'm totally cool with it.

7.  Since the first week of June, I watched Squirt fight off three illnesses, without any need for antibiotics.  Which means she is finally developing an effective immune system, y'all.  Be still my heart.  Seriously.  BE STILL MY HEART, y'all.

8. I told the husband it was okay to purchase a new car.  Even though I would prefer that he not.  How in the world did my tight-fisted, financially cautious self get here?  I do not know.

9. I managed to make a half-way decent gluten-free pizza crust.  Of course my bread loaves still leave a lot to be desired, but the pizza crust (which is - ahem - flat) tasted pretty darn good.

I'd write a #10, but I can't think of anything.  Forgive me for being a bit rusty in the blogging department.  And I'd love to know how y'all are doing.  I confess I haven't read blogs either this past summer, so I need y'all to fill me in... what's up in your lives?

20 words or less.

Go.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Teaching Shapes Through Songs

So I promised to share with y'all my Shapes Songs as long as you don't make fun of my voice.  Because, well, I'm not known for my singing ability.  I mean, it's not horrific or anything, but that's because I did, like, seven takes of this little video until it was as good as it was gonna get.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In Which I Shameless Brag About Squirt's Smarts

Squirt is exploding developmentally, and I don't simply mean catching up.  She! is! exploding!  It's kinda freaky, actually, how fast her little brain is going, but it's wonderful to watch at the same time.  (I continue to feel stunned by the changes brought about from a simple dietary switch.)

So what can she do now?