Friday, May 28, 2010

Empire State of Mind

Let's hear it for knee-pianos, imaginary microphones, emoting!, eyebrow-dancing when we forget the words, and for Abe Rooney, boy who asks at least every other day to go back to New York City:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tea Party

I wake Abe up from his nap at 5pm. Late, I know. I lay next to him in his bed and he sloooowly wakes up. Lots of stretching and long blinks. I ask him, "Want to have a tea party?" He stares at me blankly for about 5 seconds then says in this soft, sleepy voice, "Yeah, sure."

Pause for another 10 seconds or so.

"Mom? What's a tea party?"

We sit at the table with a fresh pot of Barry's tea, pitcher of milk, sugar bowl, cups, spoons, toast with butter and jam. He is so methodical about doing exactly what I do, putting small spoons of sugar in his tea, then stirring, not wanting me to help him with the little milk pitcher.

His spoon is covered with sugar, which he is licking. I tell him he can put it in the tea, and he cuts his eyes at me and says, "I like licking things."

Ted comes in the room and Abe asks him, "Dad? Would you like to join us?"

He's in the middle of a work project but says he'll come back later.

Abe says, "Mom, I like this tea party. Do you like this tea party? This tea party is great."

We quietly drink our tea. He tells me a long story about something funny that happened in a Little Bear video, ending with, "And then I laughed. That was funny."

More quiet sipping of tea.

He says, "Mom, would you like to talk about sumpin'?"

I say, "Sure, what do you want to talk about?"

He pauses a quick second and says, "Let's talk about life."

No kidding. My son actually says this. I stop myself from cracking up and crying all at once by biting hard on my bottom lip. Oh the love of a two-year-old boy who wants to discuss life.

I ask him what he thinks about life, and he says, "What do you think about life?"

I tell him that I think life is pretty great.

Later, we're reading this book, one of our favorites from the library, and he tells me, "Mom, I want that girl to jump out of the book and be my sister." He's starting to talk a lot about big sister. He regularly tells strangers we meet that he's going to have a sister (on a side note, I'm dying to find Abe some tshirt saying something about being a "little brother in training" or the like but can't seem to find anyone catering to our particular brand of adoption t-shirt needs...let me know if any of you know of something like this).

Last night, we put Abe down for his regular bedtime. Three hours later, he's still awake. He's laying in his bed kicking the wall. I tell him to stop. He stops. I walk across our bedroom right across the hall from his, and the wood floors of our old house creak. He snaps to attention: Hello? Helloo-oo? Dad? Daddy? Hello? ...3 second pause... Doe a deer, a female deer, ray a drop of golden suuuuun... (at the top of his lungs).

No more strong Irish tea at our afternoon parties. Only chamomile or mint for our boy from now on.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Shopping tip

While sitting in his favorite spot on the kitchen counter while I was making popcorn for our Saturday movie night, Abe started to talk about 'poo poo'. It was making me giggle. He was serious about it so I had to hide my giggles. He told me that his friend told him about this word poo poo. I wasn't sure if he knew what it was, so I asked him, "Abe, where do you get your poo poo?"

He looked at me seemingly dumbfounded at the realization of what an idiot his mother is to ask such a question. He answered blankly, "At the poo poo store, Mom."

He then went on to tell me that he flies to Hawaii for his because they have the best poo poo stores anywhere.

Just so you know.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Righting a Wrong

M is among a group of women in our Thursday ESL class who entered marriage as a prepubescent girl and started having babies soon after. She never had the chance to attend school. Not one day. Before coming to this class at the age of about seventy, she had never held a writing utensil. She can now write her name, very wobbly but proudly.

A few of M's friends in the class seem worn out by life. Maybe they're just worn out from being immigrant-refugees, away from anything familiar, trying to adjust to a new life in their sunset years. It would make anyone pretty tired. They often complain of headaches, tapping their shaking heads with forlorn expressions. They don't participate much in class, seemingly embarrassed to answer. They drink coffee, listen, hug Abe, talk to each other.

M is different. She listens to every word the teacher says. She giggles when it's her turn, always leaning towards her friend T to give her the answer if she's not sure. And she's rarely ever sure so there's always a lot of leaning, whispering, turning back to the front and shouting the answer through a huge grin. Her pronunciation sounds often slurred, like she spikes her coffee with whiskey. Everyone laughs when it's her turn, the other women, the stoic men, the teacher and helpers. M is intelligent. M is hilarious. M is magic.

I was watching her a lot this Thursday. When our energetic teacher would jump and raise his fist to illustrate pronunciation, she would shout and raise her fist along with him. She didn't seem to notice that she was the only one doing this. This Thursday, I was seeing her as a school-girl, maybe age nine or ten, sitting in a classroom, practicing her reading or working division problems. She's always at the front. She has two white bows in her hair. Her face glistens from her walk to school in the warm Ethiopian sun. She gets in trouble for talking too much during class. She's the center of every game at recess.

A friend of mine once described Ethiopian children as "lit from within." M is in her seventies, but that light is still strong in her. Her seventy-year-old face is always lit, both on warm spring days and the constant drizzle of winter in Portland. M shines. My eyes welled up with tears watching her exuberance.

After class, the teacher was venting some of his frustration about the unsolicited teaching advice that he gets every week from the fella who also gives me unsolicited parenting advice. He was a teacher in Ethiopia, so he bluntly tells us everything we're doing wrong and how his need for explicit grammar instruction isn't being met. I told the teacher, "He has had his chance to learn. M hasn't. What you are doing in this class is righting a true injustice in her life."

I believe it. The chances of M attaining a level of English language proficiency leading to linguistic independence are slim. Who knows what level of fluency she will or won't reach? At least she knows that every Thursday morning, she gets to be ten-years-old again, attending school like every little girl should be able to do. That spark she has? Magic.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


The girls on the block are busy making a nursery for the toy lizard. Abe is tired of the bickering. He finds the pink bike on the sidewalk and climbs on. He sits there. Feet on pedals. Not moving. I give him a little push from the back. He says to me, "Don't push me, Mom." So I don't. I just tell him to push his feet on the pedals, which he does, but gets blocked by a ridge in the sidewalk. So I break my promise and give him a little nudge forward.

I go back to talking to the other grown-ups.
A few minutes later, Abe is slowly slowly slowly creeping down the sidewalk. He's not pushing with his feet on the ground. He's pushing the pedals, propelling himself forward. I try not to draw attention to what he's doing but am finding it hard to resist the urge to cheer loudly, "Look at what my son is doing! Go, Abe, go!" So I go to him and quietly tell him to push harder. And I nudge again the back of the bike.

He picks up speed. At the point, I'm shouting, "Go, Abe! Go, Abe!" Within half an hour, he has gone from inching himself forward to flying so quickly down the street that I have to yell for him t
o slow down. His face is concentrated: eyebrows lifted high, cheeks sucked in just the tiniest bit into a fish-face. His back is perfectly straight, both arms straight out to the side, elbows at 90 degree angles. Such concentration, just a little nerdy. He gets speed and discovers the fun in taking his feet off the pedals and flying flying flying. Sometimes he sticks his tongue out. Then he notices me watching him, and he lets slip a crooked, shy smile. He is proud. I am proud.

I can't bear it. Every time I see that little sucked-in cheeks fish-face, oh my heart. It's breaking from the love of this boy. This spin on our neighbor's pink bike with training wheels is a first. I got to see it. I got to see it. One of the best moments of my life.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mother's Day 2010

This year on Mother's Day, my third one, I didn't get a single photo of myself with the child who made me a mother. I was too busy eating the husband-made breakfast, buying a pair of tevas, tinkering with the couple hundred photos I recently took, running all by myself, and talking with two friends at a happy hour which turned into four very happy hours.

At the end of the day, after telling Abe goodnight and starting a movie, I suddenly felt sad about not getting a photo with him. I felt like my day had been too indulgent. I felt spoiled. When I went into Abe's room for my nightly check of him before I go to bed, I noticed he was really hot. I picked him up, took his temperature, found that it was 102. I gave him something to bring the fever down and put him beside me in the bed. He just whimpered. I asked if he wanted me to hold him. He did. So I put him on my chest, and he quickly fell asleep. I'm sad he was sick, but as a mother, is there any feeling more delicious than the weight of a feverish child on your chest?

Abe eventually woke back up and wanted his bed. Like his mother, he sleeps best in his own little nest. He wanted me to stay with him though. So I curled up beside him in his short toddler bed and tried to sleep. It didn't happen. I'd hear the rhythm of his breathing slowing down, and thinking sleep had come, I'd try to sneak away back to my own bed. But his little face would whip around to find me, to make sure I was there. He put his hand on my shoulder, and in that darkness of his warm room, laying next to a small boy with a fever in the middle of the night, curled in a fetal position on a small toddler bed, knowing that tomorrow would mean fatigue from the lack of sleep, I simply settled back in, led by that small hand on my shoulder willing me to stay. In that warm darkness, it felt almost like a womb. And I felt thankful. And connected. This memory is my photograph of Mother's Day 2010.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Found--Things Stuck in Books

Inside a Goodwill copy of French Women Don't Get Fat, four not-fat women.

Inside our paperback copy of Searching For God Knows What, from a trip to Pittsburgh to visit Ted's sister in 2006.

Inside a library book, Best Women's Travel Writing 2009. Author of this list of healthy foods unknown.

Ever found anything interesting stuck in a book?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pimento Cheese and Sneakin' Out

Event 1:
Last weekend, a gaggle of the kids on our block had convened on the front porch of our neighbors from the South. One of them is from the same town my dad grew up in: Natchez, Mississippi. We started talking about pimento cheese. She makes her own. I couldn't get pimento cheese out of my brain, so a few days later, I sent her a message on facebook telling her about my craving. Fourteen minutes later, she shows up on my front porch with this:
I laughed and told her that I didn't mean for her to bring me any but that I just wanted her recipe. She looked baffled and asked what I was talking about. I said, "You didn't bring this over because you'd seen my posting on facebook?" She hadn't. At the exact moment I was writing her about my craving for pimento cheese, she was in her kitchen making a batch of it. Because she's a mind-reader and a generous one at that, she immediately brought me some. I love my neighbors.

Event 2:
Merlefest is this weekend. We are not there. My family is. I'm at peace with this, knowing that our "sacrifice" of this yearly trip is for a good reason (needing to save lots of bucks for a huge trip or two later this year). But when my nieces post updates on facebook about the great time they're having, yeah, I feel a little sad that I'm not with them. Merlefest is probably the highlight of my dad's year, and I've loved the tradition we've made of being there with him. Sigh. Merefest postings: One, Two, and Three.
Listening to fun music this Saturday morning.

So this morning we biked to a farmer's market in town and discovered a fun band that would have fit right in at Merlefest. We got to sit and listen for a while. Merlefest is only once a year, but we get to bike to listen to good music every Saturday if we want to. That counts for something right?

Aren't they fun? Merlefest next year. I'll bring the pimento cheese sandwiches.