Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Angels and Ass-heads

This morning Delaney, now 7, came into my bathroom and sat on the floor at my feet while I put on my wrinkle-deterring, brown-spot fighting, antioxidant serum(s).

 "Mommy, a boy in my grade stuck out his middle finger at another boy in line yesterday. He got in big trouble for it. Then he lied about it and said he didn't do it."

Middle finger. Here we go. Back to that mysterious F-word that we danced around over Christmas break. The one Ralphie says but doesn't say in A Christmas Story. She hammered me about that word for days.

The laissez-faire, free-styling mom in me considered telling her the word, writing it down for her, telling her what it means and why it's considered, impolite, naughty, and obscene. It's just a word. Take the power out of the word by defining it and you get to be the one to explain it to her, whispered beaded, bed-headed hippie mom angel sitting on my left shoulder, smoking a cigarette and reclining in a beach chair.

Shut up, she's seven, retorted over-involved, anxious, type A mom angel parked on my right. She'll hear that word soon enough and every day, not to mention use it herself in the future with the same gusto that you do. Possibly (probably) even directed at you. Give yourself some time. Protect her innocence a few more days, months, years if you can. Besides you don't want to be the mom of that kid who uses the word "fuck" on the playground and then explains what it means to all the other kids.

Do I?

I waited to see what was expected of me, because I've been known to over-explain the answer to a question and get myself into deeper water than was ever necessary if I'd just kept it simple. But sure enough, Delaney's next statement was a question. "What does it mean when you point your middle finger at someone?"

"It's a very rude sign," I explained. "It's like calling someone a very bad name." But of course it's not enough this time. "What name? What are you calling them with your finger?"

"It's sort of like telling them to go away from you in the meanest way possible and using a very mean name to do it," I told her. "Like telling someone to shut up and get away, but in a really rude way. A really naughty way."  I went back to my mirror, with one eye on her watching the wheels turning.

"Ass?  Does it mean ass?" she asked me, clearly thinking that ass was the very worst thing you could think of to call someone. At this point, right shoulder, type-A helicopter-mom angel patted me comfortingly on the back and I knew I desperately wanted Delaney to stay in this place, this moment, just a fraction longer. I wanted to protect this world, this fairy-propelled, sheltered and and uber-sweet world where the word ass is by far the lowest insult you can give someone, an affront generating the severest of punishments and clearly something only rough boys and anxious, high-strung movie characters would dare say out loud.

"Well, it doesn't quite mean ass," I told her. "It's even worse than ass, but just as rude. Even ruder. And certainly something no one should ever do or say to another person, especially in school." At this point hippie, easy-going mom angel pokes me in the side and says Really? Jesus, just tell her what the word is and what it means and that the finger symbol should never be used, ever. She's not a dummy. She won't want to get in trouble. Now you're just dancing around it. Now she's going to ask and find out from someone else.

I look down now at Delaney and she looks back at me, deep in thought. And then I see the light go on, like an Edison bulb over her head beaming out at me. A knowing, years-older smile creeps over her mouth and she looks at me like we have a little secret, she and I. "I know what it means, Mama. I know what the finger means." and she looks around furtively for her little sister. I realize that Delaney is probably being kicked by her own little angel that lives on her shoulder and advises her on whether she should protect Alice or tell on her, she's got it coming. Making sure the coast is clear, she stage whispers to me "It means Get Out Of Here, You Ass-head, doesn't it?" And she looks up at me confidently, her expression so sure she has solved that grown-up mystery and can be initiated into the club.

"That's pretty much what it means," I told her, leaning into the mirror and focusing so she won't see my choking-laugh-into-smile face. I have to say it out loud, to make sure I'll remember it. "Get Out Of Here You Ass-Head. It's certainly not very nice is it?" "It's not," she agreed. "I would never do that."

I know that sometime, somewhere, someone will flip their finger in Delaney's vicinity and she will proudly proclaim that she knows what that terrible gesture means. And I know that her definition will eventually be challenged and it's possible she will even be made fun of for it. I can only hope that if this happens, that she will loudly and clearly tell that Ass-Head to Get Out Of Here.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


My last post was about being sick. And when I wrote that post I was sick. And it felt like constantly. My nose was a fountain, and if it wasn't running it was stopped up like a clogged sink. I felt achey and "off" but slogged through my workouts and routines with my coughing snotty-nosed daughter in tow, hoping the season would pass soon.

Then I realized, right at the beginning of a really intense yoga class, and by intense I mean hard, difficult, hold-the-pose until sweat is running down your chin and your shoulders are shaking class, that I hadn't gotten my period yet. I began counting back days while I ground through my sun salutations and found I couldn't dig into the class the way I like to. Was I late? When was my last period? I couldn't be pregnant. But what if I were? I have fertility issues. Don't I? Was I torquing a little embryo out of position at this very moment with my extended triangle pose? I bailed out on the class. My head was out of the game.

I picked up Delaney from the child care center at the Y and zoomed across the street to the Publix where I picked up stir-fry veggies for dinner and a pregnancy test. At home, I plopped Delaney in front of her alphabet puzzle and in a state of anxiety, went to pee on the stick. Didn't even have to wait the requisite two minutes. That plus sign lit up like a Christmas tree and confirmed my little embryo in there hanging on throughout my yoga class.

So miraculously, incredibly, unbelievably, I am pregnant again at the ripe old age of 41, to turn 42 later this month. Now that I have been to the doctor and gone through all of the tests and am assured that I am fine and the baby is fine, I feel comfortable writing about it. I'm nicknaming this one Gravy, because that's what it is. Unexpected, unnecessary even, in that I feel/felt so complete with Delaney and Justin. But oh so welcome, oh so sweet, and the perfect ingredient to spice things up, now that I am feeling comfortable, and confident physically, financially, and emotionally. I love a well-timed a curve ball. Well-played, little Gravy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

In Sickness and in Health

It's no secret that children are mobile germ recruiting centers, I was very fortunate (or sheltered?) in the first year of Delaney's life to experience very few illnesses with her. She seemed resilient and superhuman while around me babies were sniffling and hacking, spiking high fevers and emptying out their stomachs on whatever was closest.

The second year however, has seen a dramatic shift in the health pattern. More hours spent at the Y day care while mommy works out? The start of preschool? Nature's way of catching up? Who can say. But for a while I began to feel like a dry area under her nose was the exception rather than the rule. They can't blow their nose at this age, no matter how many times I make like a circus clown and blow a pretend trumpet blast out of my own nose into a tissue to demonstrate. Delaney will gamely hold the tissue to her nose and blow out of her mouth in an Ffff sound, like she does for her soup. Often asking "Mommy, hot?" about the tissue I've given her.

I have a friend who is her child's own personal Neti pot. She lays her daughter on her back while blowing hard into one nostril, forcing the congestion out of the other. It's impressive, but not my scene, man. It feels a little too National Geographic for me. I usually end up pulling out the bulb syringe sent home with me from the hospital when she was an infant. Or as I have named it, after witnessing it's beauty in action - The Snotsucker. Delaney doesn't really like the Snotsucker, but she doesn't hate it either. Sometimes she'll actually lean into it to help me drag out the green noodles that are clogging her breathing. I like to think we're a team when she's like this, battling the illnesses that seem to hit kids weekly at certain times of the year. The Snotsucker makes her cough and sputter, but she does breathe better after it's used and I believe her little two year-old brain reluctantly admits that the thing works. Plus she's seen her buddy undergo the National Geographic method and that she has lesser of two evils by her own calculations.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mark Twain!

Summer is almost over and my little Bean approaches the two year mark. Makes me wanna shout "Mark Twain!" just for the sake of where we live and where she is. We have been to France and Florida and will probably head to Philadelphia before the year is out. A very alliterative travel year. As she grows and develops, I get to watch her personality unfold more and more each day. I still marvel every day that I made a person. I still look at pregnant women with awe and respect -"Oh, you're making one too." The day to day process of just keeping her alive, which is how I looked at her infancy through the first year, is over and now I have to take a harder look and figure out how to make her into a whole being, well-balanced, compassionate, intelligent and of course, fun.

Because at her age, with her personality flexing and growing like a tomato vine in June, she is the most fun thing I've ever been around. She laughs at anything and like most children, it's a highly contagious sound. Music, water, champagne - all the metaphors are accurate and you want to hear it again and again. I'm hoping that in addition to a few lessons about danger when she gets too near knives and high places, right now we can just concentrate on having fun, learning how to share and draw with crayons and run fast and wash our hands and get dirty. Everything she touches, views, and experiences is for her a new way to have fun and it's written all over her face as it's happening, as she's experiencing it. There is no hopeful tomorrow, or sorrowed past. It's all right here, right now and let's have the most fun doing it. In fact, let's sing while we're doing it. Loudly.

So what I'm saying in an obvious, connect the dots kinda way, is the lesson is mine too. As usual, I am learning more from this child, than I feel like I am teaching her. How to be present, how to have fun doing nothing and everything, and how to forget about the past and not worry about the future. My own little pint-sized Eckhart Tolle with diapers and an attitude extolling the power of now before she can form a complete sentence.

It's a self-indulgent post this one - well, aren't they all? But there's a line in the movie The Natural where Robert Redford, says to his old lover, "God, I love baseball." It's after so many rotten things have happened to him and he's almost to old to be a player anymore. But he says it so convincingly, so simply, so beautifully, that you see how all the bad things can fall away and you have just this pure, unpolluted love of the game. That's how I feel about motherhood two years down the line. I don't think about the infertility or the adoption or the wacky pregnancy diagnoses anymore. I just love being a mother. Mark Twain!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Salad Bowl

No matter how I cut it, it always looks like the classic bowl style. Now I understand why so many kids sported this do. I've wrestled with barrettes, pins, elastics and headbands. They either get pulled out or slide out on their own, only to disappear forever. The funny part is, Delaney has a natural little lift in her hair that really makes it look like more bowl-ish than other children. Like my own straight and stringy, I've decided not to fight it. Here she is giving away the secret anyway.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mother's Little Helper

I used to love wine. I loved to shop for it, weigh my options, discuss the different qualities of a particular vineyard or country with my friends, my husband, the wine merchant. In New York, Justin and I hosted fabulous (if I do say so myself) wine tastings where we hid labels and compared grapes and regions and ate wine-loving food to compliment the whole experience. I own large, heavy books about wine and I even have a certificate from the French Culinary Institute where I took a seminar on wine. Well, that's not completely true. I volunteered to empty the spit buckets and pour the wine out for the people who paid to take the class. But in exchange, I got to attend the class, taste the wine and get the same certificate the spit or swallowers did. For free! What price the love of wine?

I still like wine a lot, but we have a different relationship now. I need wine now. I'm not saying I have a problem or anything. I just really, REALLY look forward to my glass(es) of wine every night after I put Delaney to bed. And when I say look forward, I mean I am watching the clock, wondering if I can sip on a glass while I watch her take a bath. I could lie and say I use plastic, but I'm not that depraved yet.

And now, because she goes to the grocery store with me, there's no perusing the labels, pondering the varietals, talking shop with the suppliers. I've got Little Miss Grabby Hands in the buggy, reaching out at the teetering towers of Tempranillo as we roll past, a fraction away from creating a world class catastrophe in the wine aisle. I've got to grab my stash and run. The upside is I've come home with some lovelies I never would have chosen had I not been on a mad dash to escape disaster. Stuff I just threw on top of the broccoli and oatmeal and hoped for the best. And of course the opposite is true as I've come home with some real stinkers, that I gamely swallow down because I can't just pour it down the drain. That would mean I'd have to brave the wine aisle with her again that much sooner. And brave it I will to restock my supply.

What can I say? I don't smoke pot or take valium or practice yoga for that matter. I may not Love it as much as I used to, but with a toddler, I sure do appreciate it more and isn't that the groundwork for all good relationships?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Double Down

I am fortunate in many ways, but sometimes the pattern of my life is downright karmically charged. Serendipitous if you will.

With Delaney's arrival, Justin and I had to eventually make a choice whether to keep our name in the hat so to speak for our original China adoption ( see 2007 archives) or call it a day and officially pull out (pun intended!) of the process. We received another bill from our adoption agency recently for $1800 dollars which would allow us to stay in the program and I presume enable them to keep paying their staff to send us letters about how it is still taking a long time to adopt from China. This last bill came at a particularly tight time for us and after a lengthy discussion, we decided to let it go. Let it go. I like the phrase because in my mind I picture a balloon on a string. It's so easy just to open your hand and let it go, almost a relief because the balloon is straining so hard against the string and your hand is sore from holding onto it for so long. But once it's gone that's it. You can't reclaim your released balloon and you can't jump back into the adoption process. You have to start again from the top. By sending my agency more money I was buying myself some time before a final decision had to be made, essentially letting the ballon out on longer and longer string, dragging out the decision interminably.

To let this process go was very easy to verbalize and then do nothing, especially not sending in the check for $1800 dollars. But inside, I suffered. I have two accordion folders, red for Russia and blue for China. China's began in 2005 and Russia's in 2006. Both are packed full with paperwork, documentation, copies of documentation, receipts, instructions, years and years of work and dreams. It was hard to let go and a year and a half after Delaney's birth and our decision not to adopt, I can't quite bring myself to throw them away. One day.

All of which bring me to the topic of serendipity and fortune that I started this entry with. Because my close friend Jennifer completed her adoption thesis after three years of hard labor and was rewarded with a beautiful Korean baby girl flown into my very own Hartsfield-Jackson airport fresh from Seoul via Chicago, via San Francisco. I got to watch the completion of an adoption in a front row seat, close enough to touch. And it was so very cathartic for me to see the baby, so frightened, so confused, and so beautiful, coming down the airport hallway and into the lives of her waiting family. I had pictured this scene for myself many times and in many different ways. I got to wonder about her birth mother with Jennifer and what she must have gone through to reach this decision. And then sympathize with Jen about Scarlett's foster mother who had loved this little one for 11 months and then let her go into a better life. Listen and speculate about the plans and fears and joys that go with parenting an adopted child that was really going to come home.

And then poof, the three years are gone and there she is in the airport, in your arms, in your LIFE. I am doing a rotten job of describing it. But it's just extraordinary to come from a place so far away, a place filled with paper and interviews and money of course and waiting and wondering and nerves and frustration. Then it's over and there is a baby. Your baby. And in watching this union from the sidelines, I could let go of my balloon completely. It was exhilerating and cathartic and I felt like the luckiest woman in the world. Twice.