Monday, January 30, 2012

Socks, part two

I have decided that my socks evidently have deep personal grudges against each other and are sworn enemies. That is the only way to explain it.

Let me back up.

Last year I took the time one night to go through all my socks and actually match them up.

I ended up with more without mates than had mates.

After writing that, my dear sweet friend, Margaret, bought me a million pairs of socks, trouser socks, regular socks, black socks, gray socks, brown socks, you name it, I had it. I was the Donald Trump of socks. I came home thrilled beyond belief (it's the little things, right?) and got rid of all the socks that did not have mates.

Tonight I was doing the laundry and trying to match up my socks again. No, not the first time since last year, but since I ran out of matched socks this week, decided to take a little extra time to ensure that everyone had a partner.

I easily have as many that no longer have partners as do. It really does not make sense! I put both socks into the washer, then the dryer together.

So I have decided I know what happens once the lid is shut and the lights go out.

I think it must be like the movie, Fight Club, and the socks square off against their mates and battle it out to the death and only one is allowed to come out the victor.

That is the ONLY plausible explanation.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dangers of electronic calendars

Keeping track of where I need to be, at what time, and with whom is made considerably easier by keeping all work and other appointments on an electronic calendar with my email. I can pull it up on my phone and check out probably the rest of my life, if anything is noted on it.

The only problem with these calendars is they can only be as good as the person who inputs the appointments.

I am notorious for looking at a day that already has more than one major event happening and trying to fit in one more, or a week with so many things going on that it would take at least 3 clones to get it all done which absolutely drives my co-workers nuts. So when I put an appointment on my calendar, I put the time I need to be there, not the time I need to leave to get there, so I don't allow drive time. BIG problem.

Last week I started teaching a class that makes me extremely nervous. When I was trained on teaching the class, I never could seem to quite please the instructors, which is a pretty foreign concept to me, because I love to learn and always try to be the best. Yes, extremely competitive. But no matter how hard I tried, I always felt my efforts in the training just weren't good enough. So now I get very nervous each time before I start teaching this class.

There was another big problem with the class in that the materials I needed, and had been requesting for 2 weeks, still had not been supplied. Checking my email right before I went to bed looking one more time for a miraculous resolution of the needed supplies, instead just caused a lot of fretting and not much sleep. The email I got told me I could just come pick up what I needed, only their time frame for it to be available was a very small window, one in which I knew I had other things planned.

So I start out the day by oversleeping because I had very little sleep, still trying to figure out the most professional way to handle the supplies crisis, and as I jump in the car, remember I had forgotten my teaching materials inside, so I ran back in, but wondered why my shoe was making a weird noise, when I saw a leaf stuck to my shoe as I went back out the door.

Convinced it was just a damp leaf, I dragged my heel across our welcome mat and ran back to the car, jumping in before the realization of why that leaf would stick to my shoe could set in, dog poo.

Now I have always said one of the MANY benefits to adopting older children, rather than babies is there are no diapers to change because the smell of any poop makes me terribly sick, but dog poo especially, which in the confined space of a car makes it especially gross.

But we are late, so I stop the car in front of the neighbor's house, trying to drag the edge of my shoe across the little edge of the door, and begging the girls to find some wipes or napkins.

OK so we are running late, I am desperately searching for anything to use to wipe with and now have it on my hands and since I have never put any wipes in the car, we don't have any. (I really wish there was a genie who would put those kind of things in for you.) So all the girls can manage to come up with is a used kleenex and part of a paper towel. By now everything stinks but because we are running late, it is rainy (oh forgot to mention that part!) so traffic will be bad, and I have a very early appointment for Grace to see an orthodontist and now I have to fit in trying to pick up supplies too all before I can get to the class, I put it in gear and we charge on.

Because my morning drive is at least an hour, I always take my coffee and breakfast to enjoy on the way but when you have the remnants of dog poo on your hands, it is not nearly as appetizing. Thankfully the girls finally did find some hand sanitizer but for once I made every light, so we are almost there before I get to clean my hands.

By the time we drop Annabel off at school we have 10 minutes to get to the orthodontist office, which I realize, I had not mapquested so not sure how to get there.

I throw Grace my phone, tell her where to find the address and once she puts it in, says there is no match on the map, until I remind her we are in Irving, so with the directions, we are back on the road and hoping not to be late.

I've put off trying to find an orthodontist until I had Annabel's surgery from last year paid off, but when I saw my balance there was still $3000 I knew we would just have to tighten our belt a little more or Grace could be graduating from college before we ever get started.

Knowing that an orthodontist will require regular visits I need to find one that is either close to the school or close to our house and will have either early morning or late afternoon appointments.

This one was close to the school and after I filled out the volumes of paperwork, we were escorted in for the examination. One of the questions was asking what kind of problems the patient has. Not to trivialize, but Grace really only has one crooked tooth.

He did not make the best impression on me when he laughingly told her I thought she only had one crooked tooth. Then she opened her mouth, he looked in, and said, Hmmm, she does have only one crooked tooth!

I don't know if it was hot in there or just felt that way, but when he finally got down to how much it was going to cost, I realized my shoe fell off my foot and the original smell from earlier that morning permeated the air. My share would be $4000, which they would gladly finance over the next year.

I think the rest of the day was a blur rushing from one appointment to the next, thanks to my handy dandy electronic calendar, but all had the original lovely aroma in it!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Laws of nature

When you are in school you learn about various "laws" of science, usually named after the scientist who discovered them, such as Newton's law of gravity, ok, can't remember any more.

Recently though, I have discovered several laws of science that have as yet remained unnamed and unpublished, but I want to share them here with you first.

The first is:.

"A clean sink is a magnet for dishes."

There are actually 2 parts to this law.

The 2nd part is:

"A double sink that has dishes in one side will increase its magnetic ability to force any new dishes to be deposited into the clean side."

If you personally have not experienced these phenomena you might be doubtful but let me assure you that I have seen this law happen again and again in my very own kitchen.

There is a website that helps people get the task of cleaning their house under control and broken into very manageable steps. One of the most basic lessons is to clean your sink each night, and it assures you the next day will start much better. While I have forgotten the name of the website and any of the other lessons, that one has stuck with me and I began to try to always make sure my kitchen sink was empty and clean at night.

What happens next can only be described as a force of nature because the very second it is clean and you walk away, immediately a dish will appear in your sink, especially if you have just started your dishwasher!

The second part, about the one clean sink in a double sink setting, I have personally witnessed innumerable times. A child is standing there, looking down into the sink that is piled with dirty dishes, sees the clean, shiny side, and is magnetically drawn to put their dirty dish into the clean side. I am sure there is no other explanation for them to do this! It must be a law of science!

There are others that mothers over the years have learned, such as a telephone to your ear transforms you into a magnet for your child who has a very important question to ask, but will forget it just as quickly when you interrupt your call to listen to them.

A trip to the bathroom can also turn you into a magnet. There can be no other possible explanation for the behavior that requires an immediate answer to things like "mom, someone's at the door" or " mom, I think the dog is eating your headphones" or "did you mean for dinner to be burned because it sure is stinking". You see, you know your children and love them and you know they would only interrupt if this law of science was forcing them.

There is one other that I believe requires further research but feel too old to carry out on my own so hoping one of the younger moms might continue for me. It is well known to all mothers that no matter how dead tired you are and soundly you might be sleeping, when a child even whispers "mom" in the middle of the night, you are able to wake up immediately to see what is wrong. Maybe I should change my alarm to just whisper "mom". Maybe that would get me wider awake faster!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Learning our lessons, all of us!

I've said before that I guess I missed it when they passed out the book on everything a parent should know and continue to have to learn things the hard way.

Because of some things that happened this week, I have to tell my parents how grateful and how sorry I am. They had 4 kids with the issues that I faced with only 2! How did they do it?

I remember asking my dad one time about the Stock Market Crash of 1929, since he was born in 1929, I was sure he could give a personal insight. OK, even writing that now makes me know he had to roll his eyes and laugh that I did not think about the fact that he was a baby that was only about a month old when it happened and therefore could not provide that personal insight.

My girls have been reading, "To Kill a Mockingbird" and writing a paper about the Jim Crow laws.

So two things have happened for me. While discussing the Jim Crow laws, I had to remind them that most of what they were reading about happened either before I was born or I was a very young child and did not know those were laws, they were just daily life. I truly do not remember things being separate, but now realize they must have been, but I was a small child and again, that was just our life. At this point, I realized the first things, I am being paid back for some of the many thousands of questions I have asked dad.

But the second thing that happened was realizing how very much the world has changed in my lifetime and it made me really feel my age. It was kind of like seeing a movie where they have flashbacks and scenes from black and white movies show the character's memories, as I tried to recall specific things that would help them understand, and I realized just how many reels of movies there are in my life.

When they got to the part about Brown v. Topeka, I tried to explain that for us in Dallas it took a ruling from Barefoot Sanders to force the changes that provided the first desegregation policy within Dallas ISD, while I was in school and it made me feel really dated. Their school has 52 different nations represented. Ours could prohibit African Americans from attending it! I am so thankful things are different now.

So the next assignment they had to do was comparing an LP with an MP3 file and did I know what an LP was?

OK this was like trying to explain fire to the first caveman or snow to a person who lives at the equator.

No matter how hard I tried to explain it, it just sounded crazier to them. They had to do a comparison of the two types of music storage in several categories.

Were they portable? Well sure, you took your albums to your friend's house and listened to them.

Could they be damaged? Oh yeah, easily, you had to make sure they did not get too hot or cold or scratched or heaven forbid, broken!

How did you play them? So this led to the very long story about how mom was in the hospital having my little sister and dad was trying to figure out what to do with an 8, 6, and 3 year old, so he loaded us up in the big old Oldsmobile and we went to Wynnewood to Montgomery Wards and bought a Magnavox stereo that was just a little smaller than our dining room table. PLUS we got to have a number of free albums which included Alvin and the Chipmunks, as well as Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas! Along with other great classics as Rosemary Clooney, Frankie Laine, Doris Day, George Jones, and Buck Owens! You could see their eyes glaze over as I relived listening to some of those records thousands of times.

Then the worst thing happened. Grace pulled up a picture of a gramophone and asked how it worked! I quickly let her know I was not THAT old!

Yes, yes, it has been a week of learning for all of us!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A mother's worry

When you adopt a child, you go through a very lengthy process, but one of the most critical phases is the home study.

When I adopted Grace, I was convinced I knew all there was to know about children, yet did not sleep for a week leading up to it the much feared, home study.

The social worker comes to view your home and ensure that you do have a home and you are who you say you are and to then interview you with very important questions.

One question is, "Do you know other families in the neighborhood with children?"

Well by that point my nieces and nephew were grown and I worked solely with older adults so I gave the best answer I could, thinking it was brilliant at the time, and explained no, not really, but I think it is kind of like having a dog. You know you don't know anyone with a dog until you have one, then when you are out walking the dog, you meet other dog owners.

The social worker looked at me aghast and for that reason, among other such brilliant answers, I did not sleep for the week after the home study.

Thank the good Lord, I was approved, in spite of myself, and I adopted Grace.

When I went to adopt Annabel, I was blessed with a very kind and understanding social worker, who understood you could have a good heart and love children, yet be stupid when interviewed and after our second meeting or maybe the third, I felt I could open up and be myself, for all the weaknesses I have as a mom but that she would never take away my children, because she saw I loved them and would do anything for them in spite of how stupid I was as a mother.

I tell all of this to explain that recently I have been dealing with some worries that have left me perplexed, not a word I use often, but feels fitting to my current feelings.

In the world of adoption there are many sources of information. Some of these sources had caused me great alarm as they are adult adoptees who want to help the adoptive parent with their insights of being an adopted child, but instead had caused me a great fear and plenty of concern, as their own experiences had not been the unicorns and rainbow life that their biological mothers had probably expected it to be.

I worried.

What if adopting a child scarred them for life and there could be no happy endings?

I have to admit, I have fretted about this for months. I look at my daughters and wonder, do they wish they were still in China? Can they ever know how very important they are to me and I don't see adoption, I only see them as daughters? Can they ever accept me as their mother, not the woman who took them away from the only life they knew? Not to get overly dramatic, but a true concern based on some of those resources.

I finally mustered up the courage to contact my social worker.

All I can do now is wonder why I did not do this sooner?

She explained to me, that she is also adopted, which if I ever knew, I forgot, as she does not preface her communications with the fact she is adopted.

She kindly explained to me that all adoptions are different yet all include loss. That there appears to be some difference in how the adoptees feel if the parents had a choice or if, due to extenuating circumstances, the choice was taken from them, such as war, poverty, government policies, etc. That some adoptees feel the need to search out their birth families, while others do not. That no matter what type of home they are raised in, these differences still exist, that adopted siblings handle adoption and the search for birth families differently and the very fact that they are adopted.

I am so thankful for her words of wisdom and the many kindnesses she has shown me, much less her personal insight into so delicate a subject.

I know my daughters are different and I call them my yin and yang. Their circumstances and backgrounds were different, how could they possibly feel the same way about adoption when they don't even feel the same way about anything else.

We have talked a lot about their foster families. They played critical roles and there is a huge loss from being separated from them.

We have not talked as much about birth families, but now that door has been opened. Our goal is to return to China the summer they are 16. Whether we seek out birth families then will probably change a thousand millions times before then. If we do, I'm not sure what we would learn. Would there be a happy reunion or would there be heartache?

In the meantime, I am blessed with two daughters and I thank God every day for them and ask for his help and your prayers to be the best mother I can be.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Two disturbing messages

I'm trying to figure out two people tonight.

One is someone I casually know and the other, I guess, is a stranger.

It seems like most people view the new year as a beginning, a time when the slate is wiped clean and they can start anew in any number of efforts. Maybe it is diet and exercise, which I guess are the most popular, but others see it as a time to start a year with more kindness, civility, an attempt to try to get along.

If the two people I had dealings with today had resolved to be a better person, I have to report they have already broken their resolutions.

The first came as a message sent to me, reminding me one more time that I had caused this person, evidently such a huge disappointment, that a year later, they still feel the need to send a snide message.

This person is not a child and I am sure that in almost every arena of their life they have bested me, so I guess I am stumped as to why they feel the need to remind me regularly of how I failed them. They have never accepted that no matter how rude they have been that it did not change the decision made that and accept that it was out of my hands. I really am at a loss.

The second came as a hand written note on my windshield as we left the movie. I won't repeat it here, as the only words that are not R rated are "you" and maybe the word "jack". This one blew me away. Of course it was not signed and gave no indication what dreadful deed I had done to deserve a note like this. I have replayed our entire drive, that actually was driven at the speed limit with no stunt driving. I did not cut anyone off and there were plenty of choices of parking spaces so I really cannot imagine what caused that person to leave such a note.

Both were done, I am guessing, to hurt my feelings. Well, they really have not accomplished their goal, I'm afraid. Instead I feel like I have only been worried that there are people who choose that as a goal, the need to hurt someone else.

The only part of this that has been difficult is knowing that I was being watched by four very interested eyes. No, not the writers of either messages, but my daughters to see how I reacted. I did not mention the first message and on the second, I simply put it in my pocket. I will hope your day is better tomorrow and the need to hurt someone goes away.

Hugo, the movie

A movie seemed like a good way to end Christmas break. We don't go often, so it really is a treat but I was sure which one to see. There are several good ones out right now so last night I posted on Facebook and asked whether to see We bought a Zoo or Hugo. Friends responded immediately and most suggested We bought a zoo.

I have read both books and knew that the movie, We Bought a Zoo appears to be nothing like the book. The book is set in France and England and really focuses around the author's life as a husband to a wife who has a terminal illness. It was a very touching book and the loss of his wife was very poignant and central to the story. The movie is set in California, I believe, and I'm not sure the wife plays as much a part as the Scarlett Johanssen character does, who in the book, really was not a central character. BUT if the girls had chosen Zoo, I was all for it, as the reviews are great.

The other choice was a movie based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret. If you have not read this book, you really should check it out if not for the story but the incredible illustrations. It is a fairly massive book for a young reader at 533 pages, but the majority of the pages are dedicated to these pencil/graphite looking drawings that allow you to see what the main character Hugo is seeing. You can easily read it in an afternoon.

After I read it, Grace read it, and we eventually convinced Annabel to try it. Both loved the book. Out of all the things we did last year, that is probably the only thing we all three agreed on, so when Annabel chose to see the movie, Hugo, I was all for it.

Now there is one drawback to the movie for me personally, and that is that the 3D is supposed to be the more impressive version. The drawback is that I only see out of one eye, so 3D is completely lost on me. Older 3D movies were painful for me to watch with the red and blue shadows and the glasses that just made it worse. Today's 3D movies come with something more like Men in Black shades and while I see a shadow around the picture without the glasses, with them on, it is erased. But I never get the full effect of the others in the audience. It is all flat to me.

That being said, this movie was delicious. It was the perfect cup of coffee with the most wonderful dessert to a great Christmas break. The settings were exquisitive. You truly felt that you were in a train station in Paris soon after the Great War. You felt you could get swept away with the crowds, just as easily as you could spy on the flirtations between the cafe owner and the newstand owner. You felt the steam, the snarl of the Doberman, you could smell the flowers from the flower stand, you could taste the steaming hot croissants.

But I always worry when a movie focuses on the fact that a character is an orphan. In this one, it was especially grizzly to be an orphan as that was an offense that would send you to the orphanage and it showed one boy being treated like a criminal and hauled away, just for that reason. I do worry what sort of impact it might have on my girls and really don't want something that is supposed to be entertaining to instead cause painful memories or worries.Neither mentioned any concerns they felt and instead talked about how much they enjoyed it. They remembered the book better than I did and pointed out several of the changes in the movie from the book.

I loved the movie and truly felt like I had had the perfect cup of coffee with the perfect dessert, the coffee just hot and strong enough, yet creamy enough to make it sublime, while the dessert was just rich and dense enough to let you know you have indulged, yet not so much that you feel guilty.