Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas celebrations

We had a fun, low-key Christmas week (how low key? well for Christmas dinner we realized all the forks were in the dishwasher, so we ate our nice meal with some red plastic ones I had stashed away). We enjoyed my mom being here, enjoyed the lovely weather, enjoyed making cookies and gingerbread, enjoying singing silly songs -- and enjoyed just being together.

Kisae was the perfect age for Christmas this year, just so full of joy and excitement. In fact, that's just what she kept saying, "I so 'cited!"

Both kids got gifts they wanted but didn't expect and, in Ben's case, hadn't even asked for (Swiss Army knife, Plasma Car), so watching their surprise/delight that morning was quite fun for us grownups.

Kisae gave us many musical performances, showcasing all the songs she'd learned for her preschool's Christmas show. It made us all very merry.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Season of Joy (and stress)

Okay, I'll be honest. The last month has mostly been one of stress here, with the financial health of our company getting a little more shaky (as if the past 18 months, with two those rounds of layoffs, weren't enough) and with Ben developing some issues that have us worried (we're working on things, and I'm sure everything will be ok, but it still has me a bit unnerved).

I am trying not to be too stressed (ha) and trying to enjoy the holiday season by focusing on the little, fun things we've been doing (making treats, cutting down our tree, decorating). The kids love that stuff, and it gives me joy to seem them delighted. They're both really looking forward to Grandma's arrival next week. Me, too.

Mr. Tacky, our big, inflatable snowman that Jim purchased two years ago for the kids (and, perhaps, because he knew it would drive me nuts) presides over our front patio in all his nylon glory. Kisae loves to watch him inflate and is sorely depressed when he is not up (like first thing in the morning).

And in fashion news, Kisae actually picked out and wore a skirt to her preschool's holiday show. I was stunned. She looked adorable.

But fitting with her keen fashion sense, she insisted that she wear overalls to the Christmas tree farm. I was worried she'd be cold (her only overalls are shorts), but it warmed up, so overalls it was.

So there have been fun times, despite the worries. I must just keep reminding myself of them.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Birthday celebrated

Oh, so little time to blog these days.
But Kisae did turn 4, and she was quite thrilled with it all. "I 4! I a big kid now!" was what we heard all day.
We mostly celebrated at home, though at night we went to see Ice! - the fake winter set up at the Gaylord Palms hotel. Very cool, but also (duh) very cold. They keep it at 9 degrees (which, I'd sort of forgotten, is really very cold), so by the end both kids were freezing and ready to go.
Kisae's favorite gift was her new scooter, though she loved her art stuff and her cool tie-dyed shirt from grandma, too.
I cannot believe she is 4, though she is at such a great stage, full of fun and questions and funny observations. Like when Ben announced he was going to let his hot chocolate cool (mostly because he wanted to watch the Magic game and chocolate isn't allowed on the couch). Kisae pondered this for a moment and then said, "They call it hot chocolate because it's hot, Ben!"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Birthdays and Chicken Day

Kisae's birthday is Friday. This is a long way off, in her almost-4-year-old view.

"My birthday taking too long," she has told me several times in the last few weeks. She said it again today. "My birthday taking too long!"

She doesn't quite have her birth date memorized but when someone asks her when her birthday is, she says, "day after Chicken Day."

She doesn't quite see the difference between a turkey and chicken, obviously. We keep telling her turkey but she keeps up the Chicken Day. Which makes us laugh. Which is probably why she keeps saying it.

Hang in there, honey. Chicken Day and your birthday are coming. Soon. Promise.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Busy with her book

I was cooking dinner when Chakisae found herself a book and settled into the most comfortable chair in the house. I stopped her "reading" to ask if she wanted me to help her put a CD in the player. She was happy for the music but a bit annoyed that she was kept from her literary pursuits.

"Now can I get back to my reading?" she said.

This was followed a few minutes later with, "Can you tell Dad I busy and I reading, and he can't talk to me?"

Quite a display of concentration for someone who can't actually read. But not out of character for a kid who sometimes takes along a tattered copy of Harry Potter when I suggest she grab a book (I think she figures if Ben reads it, she can, too).

It did make me smile to watch be so focused on the pages -- even if she had no idea what they said.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Some views on race and the election (from the younger set)

Ben's elementary school (like schools' across Fl. and the country) took part in a mock presidential election today. They also voted for a new state bird (out with the mocking bird, it seems). He voted for Brown Pelican. For bird, not president.

He said it seemed the school was split fairly evenly between Obama and McCain supporters, though he noticed clear differences based on skin color.

The white students, he said, seemed divided between the two candidates, with perhaps more of them leaning toward McCain. The black students were overwhelmingly (and enthusiastically) for Obama.

And how did my little self-proclaimed exit poller know this? Well he just asked lots of people, he said.

Hearing this discussion, Chakisae chimed in that she looked like Barack Obama. "Him the same color."

I'm still amazed that my black, African-born child will soon say of the President of the U.S.A.: "Him look like me."

Monday, November 3, 2008

I a winner

I voted on Friday (early voting here in Florida). On Saturday, Chakisae discovered the "I voted" sticker I'd gotten. She smacked it on her forehead -- and declined all requests to remove it.

She wore it to a birthday party, proudly. Of course, all my efforts to take it off, to say, you don't need to wear it, were rebuffed. "I have to, Mommy. I a winner. I present (president)." Oh.

So she wore it all day Saturday. At bedtime, Jim made her take it off, figuring the cheap adhesive might start to irritate her skin. So she went to bed holding the "I voted" sticker.

On Sunday morning when I woke up, Chakisae was sitting on the couch. She pulled up her pajama top to show me that she had slapped the "I voted" sticker on her chest. "I a winner," she said.

She wore it all day Sunday. Finally, at bath time, I said it had to go. It disintegrated when I took it off and that distressed her a bit but by then it seemed to have lost most of its allure. Once she was happily playing in the water, I tossed it in the trash, and she hasn't asked for it since.

Jim will vote tomorrow. I'm telling him to keep this sticker to himself.

The Halloween photos

Chakisae had a two-costume Halloween. She was a dinosaur for her school Halloween parade and Batman for trick-or-treating. Both costumes came from Ben's collection, so we were fine with the dual outfits. More importantly, she was thrilled with both her looks (you'll have to ignore her fake-serious look in the photos). Have I mentioned she is not a girlie girl?

Ben was a gangster. So were four of his friends. They were quite the cute gang (though don't tell them that. Nine-year-old boys don't want to be cute). And that is a fake cigarette -- and a fake gun (hence the bright orange). I started out as the parent who banned gun toys. Somewhere along the way, I guess I kind of gave up that fight.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Beautiful. Yes. But.

I went to the park last week with my friend D., my kids, her kids (well her oldest was at ballet, and Ben was technically there but trying to to be as far away from me as possible without actually violating my don't-leave-the-park rule. But I digress).

It was lovely afternoon. At one point, we had Chakisae and J. in the swings and both girls were just having a ball, laughing the way kids do when pushed high. H. was nearby but not on the swings. A woman walked by. Not by the swings, mind you, but outside the playground area, along the paved path. She was walking her dog. I noticed her but paid her no attention.

And then she yelled, "They're so beautiful!"

I'm sure she meant well, but it was actually kind of startling. She was not particularly close to us, she was not engaged with the kids in anyway, and you just knew she would not have yelled anything, if we'd been pushing white kids on the swings. D. said she's a bit de-sensitized to such remarks, maybe because she's six years ahead of me in the adoptive parenting thing.

Maybe the women was trying to show support or approval but why do people think it needs to be expressed that way? Or that parents would want strangers shouting things at them -- even compliments? And that's the other thing, is it really a compliment if it's so over-the-top? And when will the girls start to realize that it isn't that they are the most beautiful things on earth (although they are quite the cute bunch) but that they are different looking, especially when with their white parents.

Jim says I can't criticize people for thinking Chakisae is beautiful when while we were waiting for a referral we would often looking at photos of other people's Ethiopian-born children and say, wow, what beautiful kids. But it's not quite the same thinking it as shouting it across the park, is it?

I mean I tell people all the time that their kids are cute -- when I'm talking to the parents and the kids are right there, chatting or playing with me. But I don't yell it to people who otherwise aren't paying any attention to me.

I have wondered before if some of the compliments I get about Chakisae's appearance are really a comment on difference -- or maybe just an effort to be positive but in a way that, while well meaning, starts to sound hollow. I've read that older internationally adopted kids sometimes tire of such comments because they realize they are not the most beautiful around.

Maybe I'm off base here. It probably sounds funny to complain (and that's not quite what I mean to be doing) that someone called your child beautiful. But I just keep coming back to this thought: If Chakisae and J. were white, or if their mothers were brown, there would have been no shout across the park.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ah, Florida

This weekend (finally) the high was only 80, so the mornings and evenings were cool. It was sunny and lovely. We turned the a.c. off.

The kids spent most of the day outside, riding bikes, jumping on the trampoline and Ben even went swimming at a friend's house. I didn't mind weeding the front yard, as it was so darn nice out.

This is the time of year when one can be happy to live here, this is when you start to forget the steamy, sticky weather we've had for, oh, the last six months.

A fashion statement from the almost 4-year-old

Chakisae is really not into girlie stuff.

Consider: I showed her a new shirt I'd purchased (a Halloween one, orange, her favorite color). She started to tap her shoulders and then said, "I not like princess shoulders!"

By this we decided she meant puffy or gathered sleeves. Well, okay. But this pumpkin t-shirt was pretty much just a t-shirt. She said that was okay.

Every day, she tells me that at school she played with C. and J. (twin brothers) and C. (another boy). They play "bad guys and save the day and super heroes."

Tonight she explained that she did not really like to play with the girls at school because "They play dress up and babies. They not like to play bad guys."

Of course, she really does like to play with some girls. She spent most of Ben's baseball practice this evening playing with two other girls (whose brothers are on the same team). She played with D.'s girls on Saturday and had a lot of fun.

And in some ways she plays like a stereotypical girl -- she loves to color, to listen to music, to read books. And she'll do those activities, by herself, for long stretches of time. She'll play with her dolls and her animals. She'll pretend to cook and set up a tea party.

It's just that she's not coming to a party in a dress and certainly not, heaven forbid, in anything with big, puffy Princess shoulders (which is just fine with me, as I think I had "princess shoulder" jackets back in the 80s. Ick).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Reading (fun even when you can't, well, really read)

Crazy week=Empty fridge

I realized this morning that we were out of both milk and bread. Clearly, a sign of a long week.
I made eggs for breakfast (since I could not offer the usual cereal and milk). Ben's lunch was a bit of an adventure (since I could not make the usual sandwich) but we settled on tubes of yogurt, string cheese, pineapple, a mini onion bagel, a small pack of cookies. He said later it was delicious -- and that he'd traded the cookies for nuts.
Go figure.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This little light of mine

Sometimes I look at this kid, and I cannot believe the measure of good fortune that has made her my daughter.

Three years ago this month we sent in an application to our adoption agency, with the plan to adopt a little girl. Of course, back then we were so new to the process, so unsure what it would all mean. Still we were convinced, finally, that we needed another child in our family, that adoption made more sense than trying to get pregnant again, that maybe somewhere out there in the world a child might need us.

And the bureaucratic gears turned and eventually Chakisae -- whose name means light -- was matched with us. It all seemed so random.

And yet now it is all so perfect. She is ours, and we are hers, and she is a light in our lives. And she likes to sing "This little light of mine," which is on one of her kid CD's (though it's not her favorite song. That would be "If I had a $1 million" by Bare Naked Ladies).

She wanted to go for a walk tonight after dinner, while Jim and Ben went to the batting cage. For a moment I thought about saying no, because there was the table to clear and the dinner stuff to put away, but I'm glad I said yes.

She stopped to pet the neighbor's cat but shooed me away. "You 'lergic, Mommy." She oohed the spooky Halloween decorations we saw along the way. She picked up a stick. She ran. She said a house we'd walked by many times was a "cool house" but said our house was good too, especially the hallway, which was "beautiful." She said we had to cross at the corner because that was the rule.

She held my hand. She made my day.

She does that all the time.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Kisae talks

Chakisae is at the wonderful age when she is full of questions and funny phrases, where almost every conversation makes me smile or even laugh.

I was much better at writing down Ben's fun statements, maybe because he was the only kid for so long. But here are a few samples of funny/cute Kisae that I have managed to record:

When we drove by the house of a neighbor who owns a parrot that is often perched on the fence but was not at the moment: "Hey, where is that guy? Where is that fancy bird?"

When Ben was not listening to her: "Benny, your sister talking to you!"

What she calls dessert: "Slerrt."

What she calls oatmeal: "Hot potato food."

On why she rejected a bathing suit I'd bought her that had a flower on the front: "I like mean guys. Mean guys don't like flowers."

On her brother: "Him a smart boy."

On me: "Mommy, you're the best mommy on earth. Do we live on earth?"

On her dad: "Daddy, you're the best daddy ever I see."

Monday, October 6, 2008

Remedial cornrows

Cornrows are not my favorite hairstyle, but I still feel I should master them. I feel like they should be a staple in my hairstyle arsenal because they are pretty and, when done well, long lasting.

But they are not because I haven't been able to do them. For a long time, I basically gave up. But it still gnawed at me...I still wanted to learn.

So I figured I needed to start small, just do a few rows in front or something. So that is what I did yesterday, just six rows in the front. My parts are not that straight, my rows not that tight. But they are cornrows, and as I was braiding, I sort of felt like I was getting it. Sort of. Kind of pathetic at this point that I can do no better.

Still the end result was...well kind of pretty but I left a lot of hair free. And that's just not going to last the now what to do?? Yeah, not sure, but no time to deal until at least Wednesday.

Kisae likes her free hair and her little rows. "I look like a lion," she said. Is that good?

Definitely remedial rows.

Wiped out

These are the things I forgot today -- to get out of bed when the alarm went off, to brush Chakisae's teeth, that it was our anniversary.

Jim called (from the road, he's out of town, again) to say Happy Anniversary. He'd forgotten, too, but his sister texted him to wish him a happy day. We need someone else to remind us of our anniversary?

It's funny but I've been thinking this week that fall always reminds me of Jim. I thought this was because the temps had finally dropped (only high of 80), and we'd turned off the A.C., and it felt (sort of) like fall and it reminded me of our early days in Virginia. It never occurred to me that it might mean it was our ANNIVERSARY.

I take this as a sign that I am exhausted and wiped out.

This may be because I spent the entire weekend rushing and doing. Take Saturday.
Get up, start cleaning, get kids breakfast.
Run to Publix to get snacks and drinks for Ben's baseball team.
Get haircut, taking Chakise to salon because Jim needs to take Ben to the batting cage and then the baseball field. (Chakisae, by the way, was so amazing in said salon).
Go to Publix again because (after I got back from first run) Jim remembers that we are suppose to pay the umpire and neither of us have cash. So get cash at Publix, plus a cookie for Chakisae. (It will turn out that we did not need to pay the umpire at this game. This is the second time we have remembered -- though just barely -- to get money for umpire, only to be told, no this was not the right day. I promise that whenever is the right day we will not remember -- and, of course, not have cash).
Go to Ben's ball game.
Go home, make kids lunch.
Take Ben to a friend's house (Jim putting Kisae down for a nap).
Go to the office, do some 40 minutes of work.
Go to the library, get books for kids.
Pick up Ben at this friend's house.
Stop at Blockbuster.
Go home.
Go pick up take-out Asian food because despite two trips to Publix no food in house.
Come home and feed kids (Jim mows the lawn, then runs to IKEA to pick up second storage thing for Ben's room).
Get kids to shower, bathe put on P.J.s.
Read to Chakisae, get both kids to bed.
Jim comes home. Call D. and say, yes I can walk.
Say to Jim, "I'm too tired to walk." He says, "Go. It's a beautiful night."
Walk with D.
Come home and fold two baskets of rumpled laundry.
Collapse in bed.
Sunday - much the same.
Is it any wonder that Monday I was a wreck?

Added to my foggy brain feeling this morning was the fact that I woke up with either a cold or allergies or something. In any case, I kept sneezing and sneezing. I have the ability to out sneeze most anyone. So I finally took some Benadryl, which made the fuzzy/sleepy feeling more acute.

Which is probably why I forgot about teeth and that 12 years ago, on a sunny, beautiful fall afternoon, we got married.

I think I need a day of rest.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

It's official

Chakisae loves to draw and lately loves to write letters (as in the ABC's, not actual dear-so-and-so letters). Yesterday, she and Ben were both sitting at the counter coloring, Kisae doing some letters, Ben drawing his classic Godzilla.

Ben looked over at how his sister had written some random letters and then her name (I'd written CHAKISAE for her on another piece of paper, so she could copy it).

"Well it's official," he said. "Her handwriting is better than mine."

Sadly (for him), this is probably true. Have I mentioned that he has the worst handwriting ever?

Sadly (for us), the worst-handwriting ever is the source of not infrequent, schoolwork-related battles. When will he come to understand that he won't get credit for things no one can read, that he can't make P's look like e's or 9's look like 4's? Sigh.

In the meantime, Kisae does her letters with great care and style. "I'm an artist. You so proud of me?"

Oh, yeah.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The best thing

Doesn't get much better than this:

Just before bedtime, Kisae wanted me to pick her up. When I did, she wrapped her arms around my neck and said, "I love you, Mommy. You the best Mommy ever I see."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Silly Kid

At Ben's baseball practice Thursday, Kisae had lots of fun kicking a soccer ball around with another younger kid (whose older brother is on Ben's team).

So as we headed to Ben's game Saturday, she wanted to bring along her soccer ball, so she could be sure to play again.

And since Ben and Jim were already at the field, she thought it would be oh-so-funny if the ball rode in Ben's seat. And, of course, I had to buckle it in.

Random fashion note: That t-shirt (a present from grandma) is Kisae's favorite these days. I think this is because it has orange (her favorite color) on it, it looks like a boy's shirt (it is a boy's shirt, I think) and it has a crab on it (which she seems to think makes it cool).

Much silliness all around.

A boy's baseball dream

Ben's baseball team handed out uniforms at Thursday's practice, in anticipation of Saturday's game. On the drive home from practice Ben said, "I'm going to try on the whole outfit from head to toe tonight." And he did.

Even sweaty and grimy, there are few things sweeter than a 9-year-old boy walking around in his baseball uniform.

Except maybe discovering later (when the boy is clean and in bed reading) that he has laid out his uniform on his bedroom floor, so that everything is ready for the big game....a full day and a half away.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Kisae's new favorite game is memory, you know that card game where you try to find matches by remembering where the other half of the pair is.

She's quite good at this. She beat Jim handily the other night. At first, he wasn't really trying but then he noticed that she was turning over one card and then getting up and walking with great confidence to the far end of the game (her Care Bear memory game has many, many pairs) and turning over another card. And making a match. So he started trying -- but she still beat him.

She is the one who set up the cards, so I thought maybe she remembered some of the pairs from her set-up efforts. But even that seems impressive for a kid not-yet 4. Then again, maybe we're impressed because we're old and tired and some of us can barely remember where we put the keys the night before when we came home.

Also, what is with the Care Bears? I don't get them. They all are sickly sweet. And Grumpy Bear doesn't look the least bit grumpy. He should be called Not-Grumpy Bear.

Oh, and those are Kisae's "fancy pajamas."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

This is fun

Like many second kids (at least ones quite a bit younger than their siblings), Kisae often spends her weekends doing things that are really mostly about her brother.

Consider Saturday: Jim had to work. Ben had baseball practice, so we went to that. I'd promised Ben I'd take him to Barnes & Noble on Saturday to get Brisingr, the next book in the Inheritance Cycle (yeah, I really don't know what it is, either, but the book came out to much hoopla on Saturday), so we went there after lunch. After nap time, Ben's friend came over.

Now, yes, Chakisae got to play on the playground while Ben practiced, got a book, too, and had fun hanging with both boys. But I still felt bad the day was so Ben focused.

So Sunday afternoon I carved out a little time for just the two of us, and asked her what she wanted to do.

We went to Lake Eola, at her request. It was hot (still) but we had fun. And when we started to wilt on the playground, we took a little walk, discovering a small outdoor market with a live singer -- and a gelatto stand. She snuggled on my lap while we listened to the music, dribbled chocolate ice everywhere, and as we headed to the car said, "This is fun!"

True, true.

Oh, and when we got home she drew me a picture with hearts on it.

Definitely a fun afternoon.

The points of reading, or why I'm probably really unpopular with my kid's teacher

Ben remains a reading champ, plowing through books at a sometimes astonishing rate. He reads before breakfast and at breakfast and, if there's time, before we take him to school. He reads at school whenever he finishes his work -- and sometimes, I fear, rushes to finish his work so he can get back to his book. He'll read at dinner if I let him and after dinner, as soon as he is free from homework. In short, he reads a lot, and that's all mostly good. I love to read, and it gives me great pleasure to see my kid lost in a book.

His school uses the Accelerated Reader program, which assigns books points based on difficulty and length and has kids earn the points by taking computer-based tests. Kids have to set "AR goals" and are suppose to earn a certain number of points per marking period. This year, the school is even issuing certificates to celebrate kids who have 10 points or 50 points or 100, etc.

The whole AR thing does not thrill me. First, it has turned reading into a competition, and frankly Ben can turn pretty much anything into a competition anyway, but I'm not sure this is a trait I really want to encourage. Second, it means non-AR books are not read. Now most books that I might suggest for my fourth grader do seem to be part of the program but not all -- or they are not at the right "level."

Which brings me to today's problem or why I am no probably on his teacher's list of Most Annoying Parents. The teacher told Ben he had read several books below his level. Ben told me this but said he didn't know his level -- or, therefore, which books were too low. I emailed her. She got back to me, explaining she had told all kids their level -- and had them write it down -- at the beginning of the year. Not surprisingly, Ben just tuned that out. She also said that she'd deleted three of the books Ben had read from his record -- making him lose points -- because they were too easy. One of the books was The Cricket In Times Square. According to her note, it was a 4.3. Ben needs to read books at least at a 4.6 level.

Really? A .3 difference and we're saying this book is no good? I recommended the book because I remembered reading it as a kid and loving it. It is a classic, listed as appropriate for kids ages 9 to 12. And now Ben, because he's too good a reader, can't read it? Isn't this a bit nuts? Okay, it was kinda easy for him, but he really enjoyed it. Doesn't that count? I mean it wasn't like it was a Magic Tree House book (man, I hated those).

So then I was looking through the list of AR books and saw that, wait a minute, Cricket was actually a 4.9. Then I wasn't sure what to do, but I finally emailed the teacher back saying, oh, I could be wrong, but I think this book was okay, wasn't it? I'm sure she thinks I'm totally over the top, but it just galled me that according to this crazy reading program he wasn't "allowed" to read this classic, well-loved book.

I haven't heard back from her yet, but whatever her response, I'm dropping the issue. Ben, frankly, is way past his goal anyway and leading his class in points, and if he loses the Cricket ones, well, oh well. And, I realize, this program isn't her doing.

Besides, Ben has, hands down, the worst handwriting in the entire fourth grade (okay, maybe, maybe some of the vision-impaired kids have worse, but I wouldn't concede that without seeing writing samples), and that's what I probably need to focus on right now.

Slow and careful, kiddo, and stop making P's that look like e's. Please.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The short-lived interest in mermaids, dresses, skirts, princesses and other girlie stuff

Well Kisae isn't going to be a Mermaid for Halloween. The interest in the pink mermaid costume proved to be fleeting.

She is now going to be Spiderman or Batman -- "I save the day!" -- or a dinosaur, all of which are in the costume box (Ben hand-me-downs). They are frugal options, at least.

She did briefly say the other night, while looking at a brochure for a local children's theatre production, that she wanted to be a princess. But that lasted just a few minutes.

It is much the same with dresses and skirts. She put on a skirt a few times this week but took it off almost as soon as she got it on.

She wore a dress out to dinner last weekend (it was Orange, her favorite color) at the Ethiopian restaurant, but that was only because when she changed her mind, we said, Oh it's time to go. And we left the house.

She didn't seem to mind the dress, really. And it's not like we really cared if she wore it, but I bought it (because she said she liked the orange), so I wanted to get at least a little use out of it.

And she did look cute, though it's hard to tell in the photos because I only got an assortment of odd faces and poses.