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random things about Valkyrie

Apr. 17th, 2010 | 11:36 am

*** She has started calling me mommy instead of mama. I don't know if this is a universal developmental stage or something she picked up from the kids at school or what, but I find it weirdly satisfying. It feels more personal, somehow -- like "mama" is the generic placeholder term for whoever is parenting her this month, but Mommy is ME. That interpretation is almost certainly a creation of my own mind; this does not diminish my satisfaction.

*** Baby's first literary allusion: We were riding the carousel on the Mall, and when it started to slow down at the end of the ride, Valkyrie said, "Go around again!" (which is what a blue dog riding a ferris wheel says in Go Dog Go). Just to make sure, I said, "Go around again? Who says that?" And she grinned and said, "Boo dog doh dog doh!" (Why yes, I was an English major, why do you ask?)

*** Yesterday on the Metro we sat next to an ad about traffic safety featuring a woman who's been hit by a car slamming up onto the hood, her shoe flying off, while her child screams as the stroller she was pushing careens away. (Go to http://www.bestreetsmart.net/resources.php and click on rail card to see the PDF in lurid color.)

Naturally Valkyrie noticed this poster: "Baby sad. Baby crying. Mama on car. Get up, mama."

I tried to be honest but ultimately reassuring: "Yeah, I think maybe the car was moving too fast and the mama wasn't careful and got hurt. But someone will call the jing cha*, and they'll come take care of the mama, and the baby's baba will come take care of the baby."

It's ALL we talked about the entire ride home, and she brought it up during dinner, and at bedtime, AND this morning in the car. I told Mark to tell the day care teachers about it, just in case it comes up at school.

I know the whole point of those ads is to make an impact, but I'm not sure traumatizing 2-year-olds is the impact they're looking for. (Though it's entirely possible I'm more traumatized than Valkyrie.)

*When Valkyrie was living with her foster mom, we sent a photo of Mark in his uniform, captioned, "Baba shi jing cha" ("Daddy is a policeman"), and she's still more familiar with that word that with the English term.

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Apr. 6th, 2010 | 09:09 pm

One of the Chinese holidays we're celebrating with Valkyrie is Qing Ming Festival, also known as tomb-sweeping day. This year it fell April 5th, and Easter was the 4th, so we combined those celebrations.

We drove up to the cemetery and put flowers on Grandmama Maryann's grave, and then Mark took Valkyrie for a walk while I put out Easter eggs for her to find (some real ones she and I decorated together and some plastic ones filled with candy; I also bought a chocolate bunny, but sitting in the trunk of the car it melted into a zombie mutant bunny).

The specific patch where Mark's mom is buried doesn't lend itself to egg-hunting, but maybe 50 feet away there was a fancier gravesite -- a large stone marker with a bench, surrounded by a few trees and shrubs. I headed over there and started to put out the eggs, and then I realized the big headstone had the last name WONG and various Chinese inscriptions on it. Part of me thought this was oddly appropriate, and part of me was terrified Mr./Ms. Wong's family would arrive for their Qing Ming observance and find us hunting Easter eggs right on top of his/her grave.

Fortunately, our egg hunt proceeded without incident. I rambled about how tombs play a big part in both Qing Ming and Easter, and Valkyrie opened her plastic eggs and got me to unwrap the little eggs inside ("Ope'dis, Mama") and happily smeared chocolate all over her face.

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Apr. 4th, 2010 | 01:05 pm

Dawn Davenport at Creating a Family had an interesting post responding to a query from an adoptive parent who wasn't sure how she felt about a request for contact from her child's foster family.

Valkyrie had an AWESOME foster family. Seriously, if any child has to spend time in foster care, it ought to be with a family like this one. They truly loved her and cared for her as their own child. We feel fortunate to have an ongoing relationship with them -- they send clothing and snacks from Taiwan, and I send photos and news about Valkyrie from the U.S. I am very, very grateful to have this contact.

But when we were still in Taipei, just a couple days after we met Valkyrie, they called the hotel proposing to meet with us before we left Taipei, and my feelings were VERY different. Mark went down and talked to them in the lobby, and Valkyrie and I stayed (hid, really) in our room.

I *said* it was because she was just starting to relax with us, and I was afraid that if she saw them again, she would start grieving all over again. And that's probably true and reasonable, and in retrospect, I still think it probably was for the best that she didn't see them again so soon after saying goodbye.

But if I'm honest, that was just window dressing -- the real reason I didn't want her to see them again was because my gut was screaming MINE MINE MINE!!!!

After more than two years of waiting (from the time we mailed off the application); after more than eight months of waiting (from the time we first saw pictures of her face, her round cheeks and perfect little mouth and wary eyes), I did not want to hand her back, even for a minute, to the people who had loved and cared for her as their own, knowing they would have to say goodbye. I did not want to see her reach for them and cry, to know that I was pulling her from the arms of the only family she remembered.

Today, 17 months later, I can say without a doubt the parent who wrote to Dawn should be happy that her son's foster family cared so much, should welcome their continuing interest and do everything she can to nurture that relationship until her son is old enough to appreciate it.
But I still remember the greedy fear I felt in that Taipei hotel room, and I can't judge her for her urge to find a reason to say no.

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Well, now that you mention it ...

Mar. 10th, 2010 | 08:49 pm

Monday Valkyrie and I were walking to the subway after school, and from somewhere up ahead I heard shouting. At first I just assumed it was one of the panhandlers selling Street Sense. (Her day care is downtown, and we typically pass several panhandlers on our way to the subway; some are regulars with whom we have a friendly acquaintance.)

But as we got closer, I realized it was a man I didn't recognize, standing on a corner by himself, yelling in the general direction of the White House. I overhead one of the security officers at the World Bank joking with a colleague about the shouting man's hat (a huge, furry hood).

Closer still, I realized I wouldn't be able to get the stroller across the street before the light changed. Once everyone else had dashed across, Valkyrie and I were the only ones left on the corner with the shouting man. He was maybe six to 10 feet away, facing in our direction (because we stood between him and the White House).

When we got there, he was shouting something about "Mr. Obama," and I just ignored him; a lifetime in the city has taught me that's the best way to deal with evidently wacky people I encounter on the sidewalk.

But as we stood there, he started yelling about "Mrs. K," and "I hope that's your baby, Mrs. K. I hope you didn't steal that baby, the way those people did in Haiti." And even as I admired his extemporaneous rhyme, I felt a lurch in my stomach, because he was talking about me and my visibly-not-of-my-ethnicity-therefore-potentially-adopted daughter.

I knelt beside the stroller, so that my body was in between him and Valkyrie, and said, "That man is a little scary, isn't he?" and gave her a hug and a kiss (which I freely admit were more for my comfort than hers).

Meanwhile, the next wave of people waiting to cross the street had begun to gather, and I looked up and saw another woman on the curb giving me a sympathetic look. And I heard from behind me that the security officer from the World Bank -- the one who hadn't seemed inclined to intervene earlier -- had come over and was letting the man know he couldn't be scaring people on the sidewalk. So I'm not the only one there who thought he was talking about us.

The thing is, I've had plenty of encounters with panhandlers -- almost all of them positive, a few negative -- so I wasn't thrown because he shouted about me; I was thrown because he reminded me there's always that chance that he's *right*.

Sure, I met a woman who identified herself as Valkyrie's mom. But it's not like I saw a DNA test. (And what if I had? An adoption attorney in Guatemala was arrested a while back for forging DNA results.)

Taiwan has a first-world economy and a mature legal system; the legal measures to protect mothers placing their children for adoption are better there than in most (if not all) American states.

But without actually being physically present (not to mention able to understand Mandarin and Taiwanese) at every single step of the way -- at all the conversations between Valkyrie's mom and her family, at all the conversations between Valkyrie's mom and the various social workers, at all the judicial hearings -- it's simply impossible for me to be 100% positive there was no coercion, no *theft*.

And even if I accept that everything I have been told is true (and I want to be very clear on this point: NOTHING has given me ANY reason to suspect otherwise), still -- I know Valkyrie's mom would have preferred to parent; I know that, through little to no fault of her own, placing her daughter seemed to be her only option; and I know that, through little to no virtue of my own, international adoption was one of several options for me.

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The Longest Day

Mar. 6th, 2010 | 08:09 pm

the saga of our dayCollapse )

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A milestones a day ...

Feb. 26th, 2010 | 08:19 pm

Milestone #1: For a week or so, Valkyrie has been complaining occasionally that her head itches. So it was with resignation rather than surprise that I greeted the news that lice were discovered on the head of one of her classmates. I knew this would happen someday -- I can't even remember how many times I had lice as a child -- but I was hoping I had a couple years yet.

At any rate, last night we carefully spread pesticide through our daughter's hair, something none of us were happy about. I have my fingers crossed that's the end of it (this time around, at any rate).

Milestone #2: I passed another mom and child in the hallway outside Valkyrie's classroom, and the other mom proposed A PLAYDATE!! It took me a minute to react appropriately, it was so unexpected (by me, at any rate; her child has an older sibling, so I'm guessing she's an old hand at this).

I think I will have to throw myself on her mercy and confess that I have never done this before (not since my own childhood, I mean).

In other news, we are going to dim sum tomorrow. This will be the third or fourth time we've taken Valkyrie, and the last time was only a couple months ago, but she seems to really get what's going on this time around, possibly because we've been reading Grace Lin's Dim Sum for Everyone.

By happy coincidence, the mama in the book likes pork buns (which Valkyrie *thinks* she likes -- which is to say, she asks for them by name, accepts them with enthusiasm, and then abandons them after a nibble or two), and the jie jie in the book likes turnip cakes (which are a particular favorite of mine), and I always mention that when we read the book.

Anyhow, on the way home tonight, I said, "Where are we going for lunch tomorrow?" and after a pause she said, "Dih suh." And then a second later, she said, "poke buhs!" and I said, "yeah, you like pork buns, don't you? What does Mama like to eat?" And she thought for a second, and then said, "tupp kekk!"

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out of the mouths of babes ...

Feb. 10th, 2010 | 03:25 pm

We've been snowbound for *five* days now. Valkyrie is generally pleased to stay home with mom and dad, and we've tried hard to get out and about a bit each day. (And how happy am I that we are just down the street from a below-ground Metro station? So. Very. Happy.) Still, we're all chafing a bit.

This morning, Valkyrie put on her puffy coat, picked up her "suitcase" (a flat cardboard box with a handle), and started to push her wooden cart down the hall.

"Bye," she called, with a big smile.

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"Beach, mama!" she said.

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it's a small world (with different lyrics)

Feb. 6th, 2010 | 09:59 am

Valkyrie does not watch a lot of TV, per se -- but we do watch a lot (A LOT) of videos on YouTube.

She's a big fan of this version of Wheels on the Bus, but she also enjoys this one and this one, which is how I learned that in the UK, the wheels go 'round all day long (instead of all through the town).

Also, in England, it's not an itsy-bitsy (or eensy-weensy) spider -- it's a spider whose *name* is Incy-Wincy. Also, kids there do the Hokey Cokey.

I also find myself loving the bombastic, knock-it-off-with-the-echo-effect-already intro to Clap Your Hands.

We've also recently started watching Sesame Street clips, which are just AWESOME -- check out India Arie helping Elmo sing his ABCs and Andrea Bocelli singing Elmo to sleep. I also like Norah Jones singing Don't Know Y, but Valkyrie doesn't like it as much.

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not a cute parenting entry

Jan. 21st, 2010 | 10:49 pm

It really, really bugs me when people speak disdainfully of women who have multiple kids with different fathers.

Because the thing is? Most of those people wouldn't talk that way about Susan Sarandon (three kids with two men, neither of whom she married) or Clint Eastwood (seven children by five women, only two of whom he married).

I'm sure there ARE people who judge Clint and Susan for that, but I'm talking about the people who don't.

For those people, it's not really about having lots of kids with lots of fathers -- it's about being *poor* and having lots of kids with lots of fathers.

Something to add to John Scalzi's list: Being poor means people think they're entitled to an opinion about how many children you have and with whom.

I've heard people talk about the costs to "society" (in the form of welfare benefits, etc.), but lots of things cost more and provoke less complaining -- when Willard congratulates someone for turning 100, no one pipes up about all the "extra" Medicare/Social Security benefits that person has consumed.

Nowadays I take this talk personally, because when people say stuff like that, they're talking about my baby's mother. Adoption is a big enough thing for her to have to wrap her brain around, without the added complication of negative messages about women in her mom's situation.

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Feeling like a mom(rat)

Jan. 15th, 2010 | 10:38 pm

For several months after Valkyrie joined our family, I didn't really feel like a mother. It just took a while to sink in.

I told one coworker at the time that sometimes it felt like we had a tiny, demanding houseguest. When people on the Metro asked if she was my daughter, I would say yes and then immediately explain -- to total strangers! on the subway! -- that we'd adopted her a month ago (two months ago, whatever). I felt like a poseur.

At some point that changed. I have no idea when, exactly; I just know that now I feel like a legitimate mom, to the point that I've actually had to resist the urge to offer advice to a new mom of my aquaintance. (I've never parented a newborn, so I don't even know what I would say to her, but the impulse was there, regardless.)

And then just the other day I read about this study that exposing female rats to rat pups *changes their brains*: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6SYT-4X315DY-2&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=a3599f32964806028a8cbd3775bab5cc

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