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.