Sunday, September 11, 2011

41 1/2 inches

My son is small. His birth parents were 5' and 5'6" so he is genetically destined for shortness, and he isn't the biggest fan of eating which doesn't really help matters. The doctor insures us that he is growing normally despite the fact that he hangs off the bottom of the growth chart by his fingernails. When I first saw the little dots so dangerously close to the bottom I figured it was because the chart was designed for American children who are typically much taller than Asian children. I found an Asian growth chart, and he was near the bottom on that one too. The height thing doesn't seem to bother the boy very much. He enjoys being picked up by his friends and he never lets his size stop him from accomplishing something once he has set out to do it. Take the monkey bars for example. When we were on vacation this summer he decided that he was going to conquer them. Independently. And he did. Then the super proud moment came when he was told by another mom on the playground, "Oh honey, I don't think you are big enough to do that" and he proved her wrong. But there is one place where P is thwarted by his small stature: Amusement park rides. The magical number to ride on most rides at amusement parks and traveling carnivals is 42". Most children reach the height milestone when they are four years old; the boy is almost five and a half and only 41 1/2" tall. Earlier this summer I took him and a friend to a local carnival. His friend had no problem getting on the rides, but the sweaty teenage attendants looked Paul up and down and measured him with that wicked stick that denies my boy the privilege of spinning in endless circles aboard a rickety makeshift motorcycle. It really is quite heartbreaking to see him turned away from the obstacle course, a "ride" that does not appear to have any reason for having a height requirement other than the assumption that a child of 42" would have the agility to climb the rope net (something Paul could do at two years old) and the maturity to not freak out while navigating the giant hanging boulders. Next year buddy, we tell him over and over again. Hopefully next year his friends will not all be eyeing the larger rides and roller coasters, with their 48" requirements. Four feet seems a long way off for my young son.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Kindergarten blues?

Two weeks from tomorrow my boy heads off to Kindergarten. Fellow parents have asked if we are sad about the upcoming occasion, to which my darling husband replied, "No way! Why would we be sad?!?!" I will admit that tears have been shed at least once on my end. Back in May when he was given his preliminary entrance test, I decided to take the day off and spend it with my boy. We had a great day just the two of us, and as we were driving to a local museum he requested the Tarzan soundtrack. The very same soundtrack that I listened to over and over while waiting for him to come home. Something about the gorilla mother/human son adoption story spoke to me, and I love "You Will be in my Heart" by Phil Collins (it was the song my father and I danced to at my wedding). The soundtrack is a popular choice at Paul's daycare and he also loves that song. Something must have spoken to his subconscious because he also loves the drums. So there we were, driving along and listening to the drumbeats, when the tears started to sneak out of my eyes. I looked in my review mirror and saw my boy all grown up and ready to start a new adventure, and it felt as if mere moments had passed since he was in the back seat of the Civic crying his eyes out on that long drive home from the airport. It wasn't so much the whole separating from mom and going off to school thing that got to me - we have been going through that for years now. It was the thought that the next time I glance in that mirror he is going to be a teenager, begging me to let him take a turn at the wheel. Cliche, I know. But I never expected time to speed up the way it has. To quote Phil: "Son of man - a man in time you'll be".

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The big question

What exactly makes someone your sibling? Is sharing a womb required? Shouldn't it be about growing up in the same household? I am often asked (usually by the older generation) if my boys are brothers. I'm sure that what they want to know is if they were born from the same woman. But they never come out and ask that, and the answer to their direct question is yes. They are brothers. They live in the same household, have the same mother and father and torture each other as only brothers can. Yesterday at the grocery store an elderly man started following me around the produce section, waving at my boys who were happily driving the car at the front of our cart. As I was checking out the potatoes he began talking to them, encouraging them to honk their steering wheel horns and asking them how old they were. Then he looked at me and said, "Are they brothers?" "Yes." I replied simply. Because they are. Moments later his wife appeared and asked the very same question. "Oh how nice" was her response. To someone paying attention, my children do not look like each other AT ALL. They have completely different skin tones, facial features and body types. But that is not the point. Why should their biological origin matter to strangers? And if they really want to know, these strangers should just come out and ask. If someone said, "Do they share the same birth parents?" then I would respond with a polite no. But older folks don't talk that way. I know that is what they want to know, but unless the question is made obvious I don't respond with specifics.
This past weekend we were approached by an older couple while at lunch (once again it was the man who came over to the table first & I often wonder in the back of my mind if that is because these men served in Korea - I once had a guy at the library start talking to my son in Korean). The man said that our boys were very cute and observed that they do not look alike. I responded that they were not biologically related. He said, "Oh I know." Which left me a little perplexed. My husband thought perhaps the man meant to point out that our sons do not look like us, but I clearly heard him say, "They do not look alike" not, "They do not look like you". Once again the wife joined in on the cooing and I was left with another thought. Does the general population of parents have strangers regularly approach them, commenting on the cuteness of their children and asking mildly invasive questions? Or is this unique to those with racially diverse families? I always try to be polite and educate those who seek to know more about adoption. Both of my children love attention and will generally put on a show for strangers, but I wonder if it will bother them some day. Knowing Paul, I imagine when people ask him if John is his brother he will respond with a resounding Yes. No, I mean is he your brother? YES! He is the one who steals my toys, divides mom's attention and worships me. He drives me crazy but I love him fiercely. He is my BROTHER.
Enough said.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A love affair with cake

John loves cake. I mean he REALLY loves cake. Loves to shove it into his mouth so fast that he often wears most of the frosting on his face. Which makes for quality entertainment when we go to birthday parties. In May we attended a superhero party for a friend's son and John made quick work of the frosting laden cupcake. My friend took oodles of pics while nearby family members had a hearty chuckle. At another party in June, after devouring the cupcake, John gave his best "cheeeeeeese" face to an amused audience complete with blue frosting goatee. There is no denying that I feed into (no pun intended) John's love of cake. For his birthday I designed a choo-choo train cake complete with blue frosting and a wide range of candies (which the party goers devoured in seconds). It thrilled my youngest who is, as most two year old boys, obsessed with Thomas. (The cake is actually a replica of Edward as he is the #2 engine.) Not only did it earn points for coolness, it also tasted pretty darn good. John approved. And devoured every last bite.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Update on the van clan

Deep apologies to the handful of faithful followers... it has been two months since my last confession, I mean blog post. A few significant updates:

  • John turned two. His choo-choo train cake was... wait for it... LEGENDARY. The party was fun and he enjoyed being the center of attention. He continues to talk up a storm and there is rarely silence in the van. "Big truck. Mommy, big truck! Big truck going? Paul, big truck. See? Big truck. Paul!! Mommy!! Big Truck!!! See? See?" You get the idea. I felt bad for the poor man sitting next to us on a recent bus trip out of NYC. John narrated the entire event. "Bus ride. Tunnel. Bus tunnel. Mommy? Bus go? Bus go tunnel? Big tunnel." etcetera..

  • My six month maternity position came to an end and June was wrought with worry and stress. Thankfully another teacher is due in August, and after an intense interview on the second to last day of school I was able to secure employment for a few more months. I will be teaching English this time around and am very excited to try something new and to be able to stay in the same building. Hopefully things will begin to slope upwards in education and I can secure something permanent in 2012. For now I am happy to continue doing what I love in somewhat continuous spurts.

  • The van family of four took our first vacation. Nothing major - a trip to the Jersey Shore and NYC. It was a lot of fun, but a bit too screaming hot for my taste. Paul chose the venue in part after learning about the huge toy stores in the City. After spending time on/near the beach for a few days we ventured up to the City to spend an entire day in giant toy stores and decided we were not coming back to the City until the boys were completely over the whole stroller thing. Poor hubby had to push 70+ pounds around in 95 degree heat. (I tried to help but kept getting stuck on the curbs and lacked the enthusiasm to bust through large crowds of people and roll over their toes if they refused to make a path for us.) The one advantage was our "rock star" arrival at Hard Rock Cafe: We were escorted down the elevator, bypassed all the other people waiting in line and got a spot at the bar right away. Sweet.

  • Paul has been on the mad race to grow up way too fast. He is now nearly able to ride a bike without training wheels (still needs help getting started) and will soon be swimming unassisted. He starts Kindergarten in the fall and appears very ready to fly the nest. More on all of that in later posts.

  • No major projects on the house recently - hubby is waiting for me to take the kids somewhere for a few days so he can tackle our bathroom. In the meantime he has been fixing up things here and there and we have been trying to continue the outdoor beautification. The garden is struggling but I refuse to stray off the organic path no matter how many hours I need to invest pulling out weeds.

You are now up to speed with our happy little lives. Provided I can keep the children occupied with cereal and television, I promise to post more exciting adventures and witty opinions in the near future.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Land of No

My youngest is about to turn two and we are headed full steam ahead into the land of No. It is one of John’s favorite things to say, second only to “I want more” a phrase he says on endless repeat until the desire he is seeking is filled. But he takes much more pleasure in uttering the word no, exercising his defiance like only a two year old can. Sometimes it is funny, like when I asked for a bite of his cannoli on Easter and he quickly pulled it away from me with a firm, “No!” Generally open to sharing, the boy is secure in his passion for sweets and will rarely allow anyone else to partake. Sometimes he tries too hard to be funny, saying no simply for the reaction it gets. Sometimes he contradicts himself and will say no to two opposing choices. Desperate to be like his older brother, he will respond in the affirmative when asked if he wants to wear underwear but loudly announce his refusal to use the potty. Even when I try to eliminate the opportunity for choice, he still responds with the favored word. “John, hold my hand when we go into the parking lot.” “No!” Cold hard stare given by mommy. Not too cold or too hard however, or he launches into hysterics. Somehow I don’t remember this with Paul. He exercised his right to an opinion, there is no doubt about that (he was doing so the minute he came out of the womb), but we did not endure the level of tantrum that John has displayed. The giant tears. The flinging of oneself onto the floor. Ah, two. On the plus side, his language has exploded over the past several months. God was definitely thinking of parents when he accompanied the pain of tantrums with the thrill of hearing your child uncover the complexities of language. John repeats everything and has starting to string words together. This morning on the way to school he was pointing out all of the buses we passed. “Bus! More bus! Here come bus!” It is sweet to hear him repeat words, often with complete clarity but sometimes in a mumble of sounds only he understands. Part of me wants to freeze this time in his life; the innocence of his discoveries will never be matched. But then I remember the NO ringing in my ears and I know why we pass through each stage so quickly. When it gets to the point when you can’t take another minute, they move on to something else. Ah, childhood.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The new and improved basement

I love my handy husband. He has recently transformed our large, junk filled basement into a glorious playroom/workout room with oodles of storage. Here are some early project pictures. He converted the front part of the basement into two rooms on either side of the stairs. To the left would become the boys new play area. As you can see, Paul was anxious to have some space away from his brother and we allowed him to play with Legos and other small toys in the back corner. Please excuse the pile of food - the pantry was in progress when I snapped this photo. To the right of the stairs would be a workout space and would close off CJ's wood shop in the back corner. Under the stairs he planned to incorporate storage - yipee! At the bottom of the stairs he built a giant pantry. Behind the playroom he put in a cedar closet and extra shelves for storing the kids' clothes. (I didn't include an after picture because I am still working on the organization as we switch over to summer wear.) On the other side of the cedar is the cat box - no more stinky smell in the basement!! Here are some shots of the final product. Paul now spends hours down there building elaborate battle scenes and John enjoys the extra space to use his ride on toys while we wait for the weather to improve.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Our days in court

Paul: At 18 months old he became an official member of our family and entertained the courtroom with his, as daddy calls them, parlor tricks. We taught him to say "YES!" while pulling his arm down (you know the move I am talking about) when asked if he wanted to join our family forever. He did it right on cue. Everyone laughed. He high-fived the bailiff. It was classic Paul.John: At 22 months old he behaved much differently in court. He nervously chewed his cheek while waiting. He was completely mute in front of the judge, despite being taught "AWESOME" and practicing many times. When she tried to high-five him, he buried his face in my shirt. John is an incredibly friendly little boy once he trusts someone, but until then he is very wary. Not Paul. He is not afraid of anything. I'll never forget the time he offered some of his granola bites to a random man sitting on a park bench. It amazes me every day how different my boys are. And how perfectly they fit into our family.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cake: Version 5.0

For anyone who has been waiting on pins and needles to see pictures of this year's cake, I sincerely apologize. Here is the story, with slightly less drama than last year. After being told by my husband that I care more about impressing friends and family than making my son happy, I tried to reel it in a bit. Fortunately this year we did not hit 85 degrees the day of the party and I was able to comfortably bake the cakes required to make dueling light sabers. And because I actually listened to my mother's advice this year and used waxed paper at the bottom of the pan, the cakes came out beautifully. They were so pretty that I had to take a picture. Sadly the icing was not as pretty. I didn't measure as exactly as I should have (okay, I didn't measure AT ALL) and just went by feel. A strategy that works well when cooking - not so much when baking. The icing was lumpy and runny and did not look as fabulous as last year's batch. I kept having to scrape it off the tray and reapply. And then there was the licorice. Our local grocery store ran out of the skinny black licorice that I used in last year's drum set, and I had to settle for giant Twizlers. The problem with the bigger licorice is that it does not conform as nicely and kept popping out of the sides of the cake. CJ tried to fix the problem by shoving them into the sides but just ended up creating giant holes. Overall though, I think this year's cake was a success. Judge for yourself. The boy was pleased. In the end, that is what truly matters; although I do enjoy the accolades.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The obsession continues

P's birthday is a mere four wakeups away. And somehow I am not completely freaking out about his cake. A little background for any readers new to the blog: When I started documenting my family's life on the world wide web, I began with a photo of my first ever fully realized totally awesome birthday cake. I was told it couldn't be done. Which is not something anyone should ever say to me. When Paul turned two, he was obsessed with Elmo. So he got an Elmo cake. It was pretty darn cool. Fueled by my success, I went completely three dimensional with his three year old cake: the bulldozer (did you catch the pun???) Paul was very excited to eat all of the candy accessories as everything but the driver was edible. Last year was my biggest challenge, especially when we had a freak heat wave the day before and of his party. But the drum set came out beautifully and I was even able to share the many yards of leftover licorice with a friend making a ladybug cake. So what is in store for this year you ask? Anyone who has spent any amount of time with my oldest in the last six months knows it can only be one thing. STAR WARS. I have decided to make dueling light sabers, which should be remarkably more simple than the last two designs. I am not worried, but perhaps I should be. I want them to look authentic. You see, after spending the last six months listening to a four year old relate every minute detail from every Star Wars book he can get his hands on I have learned A LOT. It is hard not to get swept up in the obsession. The whole family sings the theme song on a daily basis, often making up new words to fit a given situation (okay that's just me). My husband administers regular quizzes to see if I can identify all of the Jedi in P's collection. And P can tell you who someone is based solely on their light saber. His cake has got to be good. Stay tuned.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The meal

Whenever we go out to eat my boys are pretty well behaved, but they are definitely not perfect angels. I have had my fair share of public humiliation, moments when I want to crawl under the table with my veggie lo mein or casually walk away explaining that I must have accidentally sat down with the wrong family. I learned several key lessons early on, things like: 1. Never leave home without a stock pile of snacks, coloring books, crayons and various other distractions. 2. Carry bendy straws because the straight ones are just a recipe for flooding. 3. Don't wear anything that I don't want covered in food. Despite my many precautions, we have endured some pretty difficult moments and I developed a keen sense of empathy for other parents experiencing dinner drama. Last night may have been an exception.
We arrived at one of our favorite Thai places with hungry bellies and were happy to see that there would not be a wait. (Everyone was out getting fish as it was the first Friday of Lent) However we were quickly informed that there were no available high chairs as two other families had already laid claim. No biggie, John is much better about sitting in a booster seat than Paul was at his age and we happily wedged him against the table between myself and CJ. I noticed that one of the families was sitting at the next table. Their little boy was a few months younger than John, and he was unhappily perched on his father's lap, leaving the high chair available. Apparently the mom mentioned that they should give us the chair since their child was refusing to sit in it, but the dad grumbled something about not caring if we were pissed off about it. Which we weren't. As they waited for food to arrive, the little boy cried and carried on, and I could feel the tension rising from the table. I felt bad, knowing how difficult it is to get a hungry toddler to sit still and be calm. Thankfully my children were being sweet and patient as I pulled out all the distractions from my bag of tricks and let them occasionally get up and look at a nearby fish tank. Then John did something naughty - I can't remember what it was exactly - and CJ spoke to him about it. A little background: John does not like discipline. What child does, right? But most children can handle the hard stare, the firm angry voice, a 2 minute time-out. Not John. The second your voice hits the discipline range he bursts into hysterics. Which he did at that moment. And the mom across from us whipped her head around so quickly I could feel a breeze. Ah, so they aren't perfect! I could hear her thinking. That is when my attitude shifted. I had been sitting there, feeling bad for these parents who were trying to console an angry toddler and occupy a whiny preschooler, and they had been sitting there, waiting for my kids to screw up. Like it was some sort of endurance competition. Parenting is hard. Why do we need to make it harder by pitting ourselves against others who are trying to succeed at the same thing?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Final thought on snow... now it can all melt. Please.

Oh, how my boys are different. I love looking back at pictures of Paul when he was John's age, not only because I enjoy seeing how cute he was before he learned to negotiate and correct (more on that later) but also to compare personalities through photographs. Take their first winter for example. Technically Paul's first winter was when he was not quite one, but he didn't appreciate being dumped into a large pile of snow when he could barely walk. For this example, I am referring to winter as a one year old. The first time a child realizes the joy of snow. Paul loved it. He wanted to help shovel and would gladly tromp around until he froze. Sadly the boots he had that year were a bit big and I can remember him constantly losing them in the snow drifts. But he was certainly never afraid. John, on the other hand, enjoys the idea of snow but hasn't quite got the enthusiasm of his older brother. He seems to prefer to catch it on his tongue and touch it with his fingers rather than jumping feet first into a giant drift. As with all things, it appears I have a full speed ahead go-getter and a sensitive tactile learner. Which is good. Because as much as I love my oldest, two of him would wear me out.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Valentine greetings

John recently learned to say, "I love you." It is so darn heartwarming. And I love how he repeats Paul in the second video. Sorry, just have to brag. My boys are the best.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Strangers

I have always been pretty open to talking with people about my sons' adoptions, as long as the person making the inquiry at least attempts to be sensitive (and does not say things like, "I can't believe someone would give their baby away"). I tend to assume that people are simply curious about something they do not fully understand, and it makes me feel good to spread the word about a wonderful experience. But lately I have been wondering about how this affects my oldest son. He is starting to talk a little bit more about adoption and is often around when people start asking questions. Yesterday we went to a new yoga studio to try out their kid's class, and one of the teachers at the studio approached me after class and asked if my son was adopted. When I said yes, she looked at him and said, "I was adopted too" and we talked briefly about where they were each born in Korea. Then she said to me, "My husband and I have one of our own. We want to adopt too, but the first baby was such a good experience that we plan to have two of our own and then adopt." I'll admit that I had to pick my chin up off the floor after that. When I told my husband the story he chuckled. We have been well versed in adoption rhetoric and he knows that particular phrase gets under my skin. My students often ask if I plan to have "kids of my own" and I generally reply, "I already have two, see?" while showing off their pics. I worry that this woman heard the phrase once too often during her childhood and is now using it to describe her biological children in some sort of twisted hierarchy. My son heard her use it and witnessed his mother saying nothing to correct her. Witnessed his mother making no effort to protect his story or identity in the family. At what point does casual conversation with strangers become something potentially hurtful to my children? He has already started having to answer questions that really aren't anyone else's business. Perhaps I need to teach him how to say things like, "That is a personal question that I am not comfortable answering." Somehow I don't see that coming out of his mouth. He generally shares oodles of personal information with strangers and seems to have no qualms about airing our family story. I did notice yesterday that when he was asked if he was adopted, he immediately began talking about his brother. Witnessing the process with John seems to have helped him understand what it means to be adopted (although for a while he believed that every baby arrived on a plane from South Korea), and instead of speaking about his own experiences he relates everything to his brother. Perhaps his own story is too abstract, the details too fuzzy. I wish I could crawl into his head and figure out what he thought of all of this.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Same old resolution

I am just going to come right out and say it: I desperately need to get more organized. There seems to be this tremendous dichotomy between my work life and home life. At work I have no trouble multi-tasking, meeting deadlines and keeping everything in its place. My desk is always clean and my email box gets a regular purging. If someone needs a piece of information, I can put my finger on it in minutes. At home, well, it's a different story. I regularly find myself searching for something for hours on end, tearing apart the house and cursing under my breath. The horizontal surfaces (namely the kitchen counter and shelves in the den) are never neat for more than 24 hours, and when company comes over I often just shove everything into the nearest drawer. Now it isn't the entire house. My clothes closet is in perfect order and the playroom has bins for every category. I have the skills to be an organized person. What is my problem?
I had this theory on the drive home today. My desk at school wasn't always spotless. It wasn't until I started subbing for other people that I began to develop a system of organization. I was motivated to keep their area as neat as they had left it (the Girl Scout in me), but also saw it as a perfect opportunity to borrow ideas for myself. Each new job brought new ideas, and I am now able to keep up the appearance of a well organized person while on the job. My thought then is this: do I need to start living in other people's homes for a few weeks at a time to learn how they stay organized? Why is it that I can't transfer what I have learned at work to my humble abode? I certainly can't use the children as an excuse. The times when CJ was out to sea and I had no one to blame but myself (and often only a part time job), the house was still a disorganized mess. It's truly embarrassing. And I am desperate to not pass this onto my sons. Perhaps that is why I force them to keep their playroom and bedrooms organized. Don't look in the kitchen, children. Please ignore mommy when she is running around the house screaming about a lost book or important piece of paper that should have been dealt with weeks ago. Someday she will figure out how to get everything where it needs to be. Someday.