Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Eve Eve

Abe was so disappointed when he found out that the Santa costume we found on clearance was for a dog, not a small boy.

"Mom? How do you make poo-poo soup?"

"Mom? I've been wondering about you."

He told me about a dream he had, about a bee locked in a cage saying, "I'm gonna get you, Abe Rooney." That's scary right? Later in the day, he got his nature magazine in the mail, and he went right to the photo of a bee, saying, "That's just like the bee in my dream."

No wonder he woke me up at 5 a.m. saying he couldn't sleep.

We all slept late thanks to the interrupted slumber last night. He went in to work with me. He laid on the floor eating dried apricots and looking at books, directly under a floor to ceiling map of Africa that is in the boss's office. He did this for thirty minutes straight.

We get home, and I start cooking, preparing for our annual New Year's Day book swap party. I'm on the phone with a friend and suddenly the house gets really quiet. He's gone upstairs, snuggled into bed and fallen asleep. I couldn't believe it. Maybe the first time he's ever done this.

Damn those evil stinging bees who haunt dreams.

Tonight, Ted makes a fire. With the kindling we have, it roars so violently that I'm afraid it's going to burn our house down. It settles. I continue cooking, black-eyed peas now. Abe, in a burst of excitement about the fire, says, "Mom! I'm going to read my book while I sit by the fire!"

He does. He sits quietly and looks at his book. Our boy is nowhere close to being perfect. He can be obnoxious. He can be disobedient. He gets this glimmer in his eye and demands to lick us. It drives Ted crazy. He sometimes makes this animalistic "gwa-gwa" sound when he's in the throes of being obnoxious that drives me crazy. Our son is not an angel.

Except sometimes he is. And then I want to murder all stinging bumble bees.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Week in Photos

Bell ringing and winking downtown.

Christmas afternoon bike ride to test the new cape.

My birthday present.

On the right, a thrift store find. On the left, a hand-me-down from the very well-dressed daughter of a friend of my neighbor's sister-in-law (got that?). One thing for sure: Princess B will not be cold.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bell Ringer

I wrapped everything up quickly at work today. I parked and jumped on a train going downtown. By the time I sat down on the train, I had twenty minutes to get there. We crossed the river, and I admired the sun breaking through the ever-present Pacific Northwest clouds. We really do live in a beautiful city.

Old Town Chinatown stop. Skidmore fountain stop. Heading into the heart of downtown now. I see the Portland Rescue Mission. I see the Saturday Market, now open all week for last-minute shoppers. I feel my heart beating as we approach Pioneer Courthouse Square. I step off the train, a little unsure about where to go. I'd been given directions but questioned them a little as a I stand there and look for Macy's.

I walk back one block, just like I was instructed, and then I see Macy's. I cross the street. It's busy here, with all kinds of people walking around three days before Christmas. I hear the bells ringing. That was my first sign that I was going the right way. The bells get louder and louder as I make my way among the crowd.

I hear someone say to a child, "Did you meet Santa in there?"

Then, like the sun breaking through those clouds over the river, I get my Christmas present. I see the bell ringers in front of Macy's. The smallest one, dressed in jeans, green cowboy boots, and a "I am a bell ringer" apron, is yelling and running in my direction, bell swinging wildly. This is the cutest thing I have ever seen in my life, and my heart swells in joy.

"Mom! Mom! It's Mom!"

Through crowds of people, my "celebrity bellringer*" makes his way to me, running full steam ahead and grabs my legs so tight I can hardly pick him up. People around us stop to look. They are smiling. I'm hearing the Charlie Brown Christmas song in my head as I hug the bellringer.

Christmas time is here,
happiness and cheer,
fun for all
that children call
their favorite time of year.

I feel like the luckiest person in Portland, to be the one this little boy gets so excited about seeing, the one whose face he sees in a crowd and calls "Mom!" so loudly that people stop to look. Then they smile. Because they know I'm lucky. They know.

This moment was all I needed for Christmas.

*The Salvation Army issued Ted his first "welcome to the small pond" invitation to be a "celebrity bellringer" for them downtown. He rang the bell along with a few Portland "celebrities," including Catherine Grimme, the young Bella Swan in the Twilight movie and Amy Roloff from Little People, Big World.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice

I hear kids playing outside. It's 8:55 pm on the shortest day of the year. It's really cold out. I've stolen away early from our neighbor's winter solstice party where there was fondue and sausages and hershey kisses dipped in peanut sauce and apple cider and wine and spiced cranberry juice that made our son burp and burp and burp in between bouts of play in the upstairs bedroom of the 10-year-old girl who lives there.

I spent ten minutes putting the Guess Who? game back together while a mother sat near me and breastfed her baby.

Our holiday cards arrived in the mail. I hand delivered them to neighbors to save on postage before we went to the party. The wind was howling. It still is. It gets to do that on the longest night of the year. The wind is living it up tonight.

I bring out the latest photo of little Miss Sassafrass Bee to take some photos of more neighbors holding her photo. I'm putting together a photo book of people she will see once she gets home. I take a few. The kids want to see her, Abe's sister. I scroll back through the photos I've taken and am verklempt. I love our neighbors. Seeing photos of them holding her sassafrass photo made me all kinds of weepy.

One of our neighbors at the party arrives late. She tells me about her difficult day. She had to put together a flower arrangement for a 12-year-old girl whose "make-a-wish" before dying was to visit the pope. She was sent to Hawaii instead. Her funeral is tomorrow, three days before Christmas. Watching my neighbor describe what it was like to put together an arrangement like this made me cry just as she was crying as she told me about it. She poured her wine. We said, "to life" and toasted, through tears. Then we tearfully smiled at each other and hugged again, for the third time.

The bowl of tiny dill pickles was my undoing at the fondue winter solstice party.

Abe played all day with friends. With neighbors down the street while Ted and I worked. At work, I printed a news article about the earthquake in Ethiopia yesterday. Everyone wanted a copy. Everyone was concerned.

Our dining room is now full of cards taped up on the dining room built-ins, from perfectly staged families in matching sweater photos to one from some friends whose greeting declares that this year they "defeat the Krampus: The Krampus is a creature who works alongside Saint Nicholas. While Santa Claus brings toys and candy to good boys and girls, the Krampus warns and punishes naughty children, often putting them in chains and taking them away to his fiery abode." This card has a photo of our friends slaying the Krampus. This is maybe my favorite holiday card, especially because I know its special meaning.

I woke up this morning from a dream I'd been having about hearing the news about a close relative of mine dying. In my dream, a friend I've made in the adoption community was the one who broke the news to me and who put an arm around me as I sobbed. We were on a tour of my elementary school when I heard the news. Of course we were. This is how dreams work, right? A photo of the consoling family is hanging in our dining room right next to the defeaters of the Krampus.

This makes sense to me. The longest night of the year. From here on out, it just gets lighter.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Before Christmas

Saturday night church service. I cried when a regular member of the congregation read aloud something she'd written about God's faithfulness in her life. Those 5 minutes were "church" for me, and I just got sleepy after 20 minutes of a sermon. Why do preachers preach for so long? Please be quiet, preachers, and let regular folks talk more often.

Sunday morning slow wake-up. Abe wakes up too early and as he sits on the pot to pee, tells me nonstop talk talk talk about a dream he'd been having. We both fall back to sleep. Breakfast of egg scramble that looks unintentionally Christmasy with red peppers and spinach. Winco bagels, the best in the city.

We wear our pajamas until well after noon. I'm cleaning. I'm making room for what's under the tree, putting old toys in boxes into the attic. Hair is the proverbial "rat's nest" as I sweep and dust and change sheets on beds and switch the laundry.

I shower. I put on sweats. I go to the store for a few ingredients for "cracker candy" and gumbo. I buy the 99 cent gallon of milk that's on sale but worry about it not being 'rsbt free'. I figure one gallon won't hurt us too bad. Except I bought two.

A friend comes over for tea. At 3:30 in the afternoon, we have PGTips, and she turns down my offer of a Moonstruck Chocolates mint chocolate we had, a surprise gift from someone who "elved" us this weekend by leaving treats on our front porch, hopefully not laced with poison.

We walk down the street to take a bottle of wine to friends who just moved in, a "welcome to the neighborhood" gift. We are happy and lucky to have them here. The four kids jump crazily around the house singing while I'm given a tour of the new digs. We walk with another neighbor to buy her Christmas tree. She'd brought along her wagon.

The lot owners give the kids free peppermint sticks. I'm standing under cover with the new neighbor talking about schools when it starts to snow. The kids are running in and out of the trees. The flakes get bigger. We're given coupons for free hot chocolates at a treat-shop across the street. It's close to dinner-time but also it's the holidays so what the heck? We get our free hot chocolate.

The walk home is misery. Cold, wet, snowy misery. My face hurts from huge flakes of wet snow landing on my forehead and melting there. My neighbor with the new Christmas tree she's pulling in a red flyer wagon says we look like a Norman Rockwell painting. Except more grumpy.

Inside, in warmth. Suddenly very tired. The boys eat leftover lentil soup for dinner as I mop, my last big cleaning chore. Ted leaves to watch a movie with some friends, and I bathe Abe, being sure to warm the bottle of lotion in the bath before getting him out, truly a pretty nifty trick when I remember to do it.

He's shivering, so I put a sweater on him over his pajamas, and we start watching Elf, one of my top five favorite Christmas movies. I cry every time Christmas cheer gets Santa's sleigh off the ground in Central Park and laugh like a ten-year-old boy when Buddy burps at dinner. While the movie is playing on my computer, I make a big batch of cracker-candy followed by a pot of gumbo, recipes handed down from my sister (candy) and neighbor (gumbo).

I get the roux just right. It's dark enough but not burnt. I forget the okra but add it later.

I make a small batch of popcorn on the stove, with nutritional yeast, just the way we like it, and finish the movie sitting down with Abe. Whew. Then downstairs to fold the last load of laundry, load up the basket and take it upstairs. By this point, I'm tired. Officially.

We pee and brush teeth and sit in Abe's newly sparse room (to be refilled with really cool stuff in a few days) to read and sing our favorite songs with all the key words substituted with the word "sock," which Abe sleeps with every night.

"Jingle Sock, Jingle Sock, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to sock in a one-horse open sock..."

I cradle our son in my arms, his thumb in his mouth, looking up into my eyes, and smiling at the songs I'm making up. I feel the tiredness in my bones. I love this boy. I am excited about Christmas. I wish preachers would stop talking after 20 minutes. I want for Santa to bring me an increase of faith this year, to truly believe that God won't rest until all his sheep are home. I hope everyone like the cracker candy and my family likes the gumbo. I pray our dear friend from Cambridge, England makes it here before Christmas, currently late because Heathrow airport it shut down due to bad weather. I pray for a few hours to go watch The King's Speech. I pray for a good night's sleep and that Princess Bee is here soon.

This was our Sunday.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Three Year Referral Anniversary

December 18, 2007, we saw this face for the first time.

December 18, 2010.

We are so lucky and thankful.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


A few excellent things about today:

1. Abe's morning wake-up faces. One eye bugged out, the other squeezed shut, puffy lips pursed.

2. Drop off at preschool, about five kids yell "Hey! It's Abe! Hi, Abe!"

3. At work, there was a raffle for 20 snuggies. Three of my clients won. As they tried to figure out how to wear them, the entire room was cracking up, including the Russian and Ukrainian elders across the room who we see every week but never talk to.

4. One of my clients who won a snuggie gave it to his friend who lives alone and needed it more than he did.

5. African elders+brand new library cards=Absolute Magic. After getting their cards, I walked several of them through the check-out process with Multnomah County Library's fancy do-it-yourself machines. The look on their faces when they realized they get to keep their books for three whole weeks for free just may have made me cry.

6. I have the best job ever.

7. One of our volunteers was having a melancholy morning but was immediately smiling when one of our ladies kept hugging and literally squeezing her.

8. Abe was picked up from school by our neighbor and then got to nap in her son, "Captain Hook's," bed. This was big stuff.

9. The second book of Christmas book unwrapping.

10. "Look Mom! I made you a present!": our first hand-made Christmas ornament from our son.

11. The floors are dirty, but our house smells like chocolate chip banana bread so it doesn't matter so much.

12. A "Mom's Night Out" event this evening where I have my own personal designated driver.

13. As I write this, my wedding ring is being retrieved by the men of the house from the vent where I dropped it this morning.

14. New photo of Little Bee that is probably my favorite thus far. One friend described it as "sassafrass." She is just beyond. Super-model beauty.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Abe and I are getting ready to mix together some sugar cookie batter. One of his jobs is to open the butter, taking off the wrapping and putting the sticks in the bowl. He takes off the paper of one stick. I turn my back for one second and, quick as lightening, he takes a huge bite of the butter, leaving a deep trail of tiny teeth marks in it.

I yell, "Abe Rooney! That's disgusting! Don't do that!"

I make him spit it out. I turn around towards the sink and smile. Then I crack up.

"Mom? What are you laughing at?"

Joyful, sneaky, butter-loving boy, I love you so.

Grouchy Rainy Cheer

Friday night. Long week is over. Abe asked me to pull down the green mail truck, which I keep out of his reach most of the time. It's got some delicate parts that little fingers could easily break. He pulls out all the little cotton-filled sacks of mail from the back and puts them in the canoe with Lewis, Clark, and Sacajawea. He also pulls out all the old stamps my friend's father had cut out from magazines and asks who each person is: Walt Whitman, Samuel L. Clemens, and Washington Irving, the writers. Then another group: Douglas MacArthur and another with a group of U.S. navy men who Abe called, "the bloody red barons." Another stamp with the White House, where Obama lives. Another stamp is Lewis and Clark worth 3 cents. The last is Stephen Foster, so we sing "Camptown Races." We used to sing that when he was little, but he'd forgotten.

Lewis and Clark deliver the mail. A group of playmobil plastic people squeeze into the back of the mail truck while one solitary brunette plastic lady drives them around. Ted sings this song, the explanation for Abe's fixation on the "bloody red baron." Abe listens to this song over and over, never ever getting tired of it, the exact same way Ted did as a boy. This was Friday night.

Saturday it's pouring down rain. It drizzles a lot this time of year but yesterday was all day pouri
ng. Determined not to sit inside all day, we go out. By the time we arrive to the historic fire station, we're drenched. Abe makes a friend in the line, and after half an hour, we arrive to the front. One firefighter leans down and says, "What is your name?" Completely deadpan and confident, Abe says, "Charlie Brown." I didn't interject.

Charlie Brown wants me to go with him to see Firefighter Santa.

"What do you want for Christmas, Charlie Brown?"

"Just a yo-yo."

"Do you want a pony or an elephant?"

"No, just a yo-yo." Charlie Brown over and out.

More rain. We look for a biscuit from this place but it's packed to overflowing with hipsters in chunky black glasses and knit caps. We walk on the long way to the car. Why not? We're soaked already.

We end up eating peppermint shakes and fries at the table next to a Woody Allen look-a-like and his young girlfriend. They are snuggling and talking in hushed tones. Abe is that obnoxious kid who keeps saying, "Hey guys! What are you talking about?"

We try to get back in the car in the pouring rain in an awkward and cramped parking lot. Abe moves from the spot I told him to stand and falls in mud when I open the door. I snap at him, one of those loving, motherly "I told you so!"s. We drive on. I apologize for being impatient. He decides to be Schroeder and wants me to be Lucy.

"Hey Lucy! Why do you call Charlie Brown a blockhead?! Is he a blockhead?"

As long as I call him 'Schroeder', Abe is 100% compliant with anything I ask him to do. He gets a chocolate coin on our way out of the store, and I ask him to stop dropping the wrapping on the ground. It's still pouring rain. He keeps littering, so I take the candy from him. He cries. Schroeder is unhappy with having his chocolate gone, so he's just Abe.

We lug our things in the house, completely drenched, really grouchy. I say, "Hey Abe, strip to your underwear." We get in the hot tub. He's Abe. I'm Mom. It's still pouring. He looks over at me and says, "Hey, you're my favorite. Did you know you're my favorite?"

"You're my favorite too."

We dry off and put on our pajamas even though it's only 4:00 in the afternoon. It's just that sort of day. He watches The Point. I lay on the couch and read this book, which is surprisingly sad. I hear "Wherever we go, everyone knows, it's me and my arrow" from the next room. I grew up listening to this record and am so happy that our boy likes it.

Mail truck. Snoopy and the red baron flying over Germany. Lewis and Clark. Peppermint shakes. Firefighter Santa and Charlie Brown. Hot tub. Chocolate coin still on the dashboard of my car. Torrents of rain. Harry Nilsson. Our weekend thus far.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Book Report 2

If I'm going to be honest, it doesn't take much really to make me cry but this book certainly did the job quicker than most anything else lately. I was already weepy last night before going to bed thanks to the Christmas episode of Glee, which led to my reminiscing about the winters I spent in Slovakia meandering through the Christmas market on the main street with friends as we drank medovina and ate sausages and this wonderful thing called trdelnik.

I got into bed and read this little book and then pretty much cried myself to sleep. It's a lovely story. I recommend it heartily: Star Mother's Youngest Child by Louise Moeri.

We call this photo "7th Grade Dance." All the other kids were jumping around like crazy (which Abe did eventually too), but this partly how our budding romantic spent his preschool winter festival this week. This girl's grandmother was crying during the dance and told me that her granddaughter's first question when she heard about the party was, "Will Abe be there?" Sweet, sweet, sweet.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Rude Old Lady

Abe's new favorite show is Shaun the Sheep, which is a "watch instant" selection on Netflix. Every night for the last week, this is what he's chosen to watch after his bath. A few minutes ago, he walked in to my office and said that he didn't want to watch it anymore.

"Why, Abe?"

"Cause that old lady hits the guy with her purse."

"And you don't like that part?"

While nibbling on his cereal, he shakes his head seriously and says, "No. Cause that's rude."

I went with him into the room where he was watching and clicked ahead to the next episode. He wanted me to stay. He was worried that the rude old lady would come back. I told him I didn't think she was in this episode.

He watched for a few seconds and said, "Oh, it's okay Mom. It's just the aliens in this one."

Abe is not scared in the least of aliens (albeit claymation aliens) but is a little freaked out by how rude a little old lady with a purse can be.

Last night at dinner, he also told us that the green beans he was eating were lovely. He actually used the word "lovely." To be clear, we have never used this word to describe food or probably anything else really. Back when we were getting updates via email about our baby Abe, one that stuck out to me was the description of him as being "polite," even as a baby. Granted, he is learning the joy of loud burping as every 3-year-old should, but in general, his spirit is so gentle, so kind, so lovely. We love him so.


Thank you for all the suggestions on what a 5-year-old girl would find useful and comforting. Thank you. I read them all and will really mull over all the suggestions.

On the subject of princesses, I found today three books for little girls that I like a lot.

The first is Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple. This is a library find.

The next is Girls Hold Up This World by Jada Pinkett Smith. I found this at Goodwill and will add it to the growing collection of Princess Bee things.

The last is probably my favorite. It's called The Red Wolf by Margaret Shannon and is based on a Czech folk tale. With my connection to Slovakia, this may be why I was so drawn to it when I first found it a year or so ago at our library. Even then, Abe would sit and listen to it, and this time, I think he understood why the princess in this story wanted to escape the tower. I love this book. This was also a library find.

5-year-old Survival Kit

Yesterday we got an update from Gladney about our Little B (can I just call her here Little Bee from now on? Is that cheesy? Probably, and I probably will change it eventually, but she is Little Bee to me for now). Part of the update mentioned that she was watching Cinderella with her friends at the care center, which got me wondering about what sorts of things she likes. I wasn't expecting Cinderella, but I can go with that.

Right after we got the call about Little Bee, this lady recommended a "survival kit" for a 5-year-old girl, the first two items being earplugs* for the tantrums and a princess dress. She, like me, resists all the "princess" stuff out there, but it seems most little girls go through a phase where they want to be frilly pink and lace tiara and wand princesses.

What are some of the things you all might put in a 5-year-old survival kit? I know that Karyn Purvis in The Connected Child recommends keeping it simple when you first get home with an internationally adopted child in this age range so as to avoid over-stimulation, so we're definitely planning on doing that. We'll have earplugs and a princess dress on hand (hopefully we'll be able to track down a Cinderella dress), but what else should we have? Those of you who have been there already or know someone who has, I'd love to hear from you.

*The earplugs suggestion was a joke, just to be clear :)