A "good enough" mom muses about alpha moms, adoption, computers, the State Of The World, Internet quirkiness, and the Kosmik All
A fleeting sign of spring to come

Today, as I was leaving the office and walking down the sidewalk/hill to the parking lot, I heard a sound I haven't heard in years.

Honk!  Honk!

No, not car horns, though it is, indeed, very rare to hear car horns here in Small Mountain University Town.  Nicely laid-back, the drivers here are.


I looked up, scanned the skies, and saw them--a pair of geese, necks outstretched and wings spread, soaring southwest.

Lubbock, Texas, has its problems.  But every spring, and every fall, for weeks on end, we would wake up in the pre-dawn darkness to the sound of geese honking.  Hundreds of them.  Thousands of them.  Gearing up to head on to their next stop in their migration; heading northward in the spring, southward in the fall.

During the daylight, the skies were filled with them.  Flock after flock, arrowing in the proper direction, all gathered together in black clouds across the sky.

Lubbock was perfectly positioned in the migratory flyway for this bi-annual display (biennial?).  There were days when we'd just stand in the back yard of our little duplex, surrounded by flowers, OmegaDad's arm around me, our heads tilted back, just watching them soar across in overlapping v-formations.

We loved it.

Today's sound was a sweet flashback to our first year together, rousing nostalgic emotions.

Then, as I continued down the sidewalk, I glanced at the mountains, and saw a layer cake:  grey clouds scudding across the sky, snow-covered mountain peeping out beneath them, and then grey-white clouds, with banners of snow, flitting before the mountain, and a row of pine trees framing the bottom.  I so wished I had a camera; it was breathtaking.

(I also wished I could get that same view without the power lines crossing my visual field...alas, as I moved down the hill, while the power lines moved so that they were no longer criss-crossing the mountain and cloud layers, the angle on the pine trees shifted, the clouds moved in, and the mountain disappeared behind a wall of gray and green.)

So Julie, over at the Ravin' Picture Maven, tagged me with this meme, whereby I'm supposed to give five reasons I blog.

One reason is so that I can write down snippets, snapshots, flashes of life like the one above.  The blog is the modern counterpart of the Victorial journal, with the addition of An Audience (potentially).  And maybe some conversation.  Being able to snatch these fleeting moments, and actually write them out, makes them more permanent.

It's also a way to document the dotter's childhood.  In this manner, it's akin to those "My First Days" books that crowd the shelves in Hallmark stores or Michael's stores.

I could do both of those by hand, of course.  I could keep a journal, just like all those Victorian ladies, in which I carefully wrote down each of these vignettes, with maybe a pressed flower or two.  I could actually buy one of those "My First Days" books, and carefully fill in the scripted blanks on the pages, dutifully decking the scrapbook-style layouts with photos.  But I find typing much quicker and easier and more efficient at capturing my thoughts, with the added touch of not giving me writer's cramp.

I like to write essay-like musings about current events.  I have always had a slight wist after a daily column in the local newspaper, doing exactly that.  Using a blog, I can not only muse about them, but I can link to the original article, or to other peoples' musings on the same subject.  In this way, it becomes a tapestry of thoughts, and it gives me a glimpse into how other people see the same thing.  A kaleidoscope, an electronic version of the tale of the elephant:  we all see the elephant, but we describe it differently.  And, if I miss the trunk, well, someone else out there, in the link trail, will have seen the trunk, and discussed it, and I can go back and re-view the original story or event with an additional facet exposed.

Then there's the conversation.  I started out on email lists, newsgroups, and message boards.  The conversation moves quickly there, with fast give-and-take, but the conversation on a blog moves a bit more slowly (or, at least on this blog!).  There seems to be less of a tendency to blurt out one-liners or let the flames take over (at least on this blog!).  The essay-style seems to prompt respondents to take a little more time, and craft a little bit more of a thought-out response.  I like that.

And then there's the multi-media aspect.  I can link to pictures, without having to cut them out, or arrange them just so, or worry about things like acid-free paper.  I can plop in, if I so desire, a snatch of music.  Or, as I did yesterday, drop in a clip from YouTube, or a video of my own, or a slideshow.  It's very versatile in that manner, though I don't take advantage of it as much as others do.

Now I'm supposed to tag five other bloggers.  Hmmmm...I'll go for:

Singing Bird
Boomerific (hey, check out her recent series on adoption in a "perfect world"--lots of good comments, lots of good thoughts)
Miss Snark (she won't do it--she doesn't even know I exist!  But I thought it might be fun if she ever did catch wind of it.)
Homesick Home

(I would tag Johnny, but he wouldn't do it.  Pout.  I'd really be interested in hearing his answers.  So this is an unofficial tagging, Johnny--if you feel like doing it, go for it!)

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posted by Kate @ 2/28/2007 06:50:00 PM   4 comments


Beau Sia:  Art.  Poetry.  Commentary.  Kewl.  (A wee tad pretentious and MTV-esque, but he hits the spot.) 

I'm waiting for the day the dotter returns home from school in confusion at having kids--maybe even her friends--chant "Ching-chong Chinaman" at her.  Or pull their eyelids up.  Or have someone tell her to "go home" and laugh snidely when she says, "I can't go home until Mommy or Daddy picks me up."

The commentary on the YouTube page runs the gamut.

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posted by Kate @ 2/27/2007 12:10:00 AM   4 comments

When momma ain't happy...

...ain't nobody happy.

There's a lot of stuff going on at work.

There was the Great Illness of 2007.

There's OmegaDad being out in the field A Lot.

There's an unending leakage of money.

There's the fact that Mommy spent an hour yesterday cleaning up the living room and the kitchen and the bedroom while dad and dotter were out of the house, only to have the stuff strewn across the living room and other rooms within half an hour of dad and dotter returning home.

There's OmegaDad taking a bitch of a graduate-level course this semester, which eats at all his free time.

Then there's the arthritis flare-up that went into overdrive this weekend, so that I kept waking up whimpering through the night.  The flare-up that doses of aspirin and ibuprofen (my love!) didn't do much of anything to combat.

So when I arrived back home from the office today and found that the strewage had multiplied, rather than consolidated...the arthritis hadn't cooled down...and OmegaDad had made cake as an activity, rather than taking the dotter out into the Lovely Sunlight to Play, then announced that He Had Had No Chance To Study in a put-upon tone...and Momma went into her bathroom only to discover that strewage had intruded there, as well...

Momma went into a Deep Funk.  Momma sat down on the floor of the bathroom in the dark and cried.  And cried.  And cried.  And wisted for a few nights away from home at a hotel, where there would be no strewage, no kiddie videos playing, no husband feeling put-upon for not being able to study, only to realize that we don't have the funds to allow for such a much-yearned-for retreat.

Then, when OmegaDad knocked on the door forty-five minutes later and asked, "Are you all right?" and Momma sobbed, "Nooooo!" and responded with "I'm miserable!", OmegaDad went away...!

Momma curled up on the floor and cried and cried and cried some more.

OmegaDad returned forty-five minutes later, knocked again, and this time came in, and Momma collapsed in his arms in tears, sobbing out an incoherent account of everything that was going wrong.

(It turns out that OmegaDad hadn't heard my "I'm miserable!" response...so my resentment of and misery at being ignored was misplaced.)

And then the dotter, who was curious, heard Mommy crying, which set the dotter off, too.  Ooba-dooba.  The dotter can't stand it when Mommy or Daddy is really upset.  I mean, she melts into a horrified mewling mess.

Unfortunately, Momma was in no mood for OmegaDad to split his attentions...so report me to DHS.  I'm afraid that OmegaDotter in a sorrowful heap leaking tears, rather than attracting sympathy and assistance from me, only elicited a gut-level, immature, childish, "God damn it!  I just want to be hugged and loved on by OmegaDad for a while--is that too much to ask?!?!"

After which little hissy fit, OmegaDad took the dotter off and Talked With Her, the end result of which was:

She and OmegaDad cleaned the living room.

She cleaned her room all by herself.

Momma feels somewhat better.

The arthritis flare-up is still there.  I'm still bone-tired.  We still don't have a magical infusion of cash (which we shouldn't need).  OmegaDad is still going to be out in the field, and is still enrolled in his bitch of a graduate class.

But at least there's no strewage all over the house.

Small steps.


posted by Kate @ 2/25/2007 07:43:00 PM   9 comments

A dream deferred

Back when OmegaMom was larking around in college for the last time, working like a dawg to finish off her computer science degree, the clarion call that lured her onward was artificial intelligence.

Neural networks.  Complex systems.  Evolutionary algorithms.  Mark Tilden, the inventor of BEAM robotics, robots built from the simplest of circuits that navigate the natural world via simple one or two-step rules--Tilden had a swarm of bug insects in his home that would skitter around, find "food" (electricity), climb over things, all autonomously. 

When I sent in my application for the Science and Engineering Research Semester, I specifically said that artificial intelligence was where I wanted to work...and I got a job with a guy who was playing with neural networks.  I got to go to the Santa Fe Institute for a few seminars.  I actually met Mark Tilden and his cohorts.


At the same time, I met OmegaDad.  A torrent of emotions swept pure intellectual curiosity into the mental dustbin.  A plan to wangle the appointment to SERS into a full-time job at Los Alamos and then go to Stanford or MIT for a graduate degree went *poof*, and my life changed in a drastic fashion.  Just like those old clichés, you find love when you're least looking for it--I had my life planned out, as did soon-to-be-Mr.-OmegaMom (he was planning to use his soil science in mine remediation and restoration), and falling in love just wasn't in those plans.  At all. 

I also was overcome, at various times, by ideas for science fiction novels and stories.  One of these was a splendid creation wherein a team of artificial intelligence researchers would build a robot jam-packed with neural networks, a few simple rules (a la Tilden's approach), attach it to input sensors (cameras, microphones, pressure sensors) and output devices, turn it on, and hand it over to a woman to "bring up baby".  The idea being--stuff it full of input, talk to it the way you talk to a baby, help it "learn" to propel itself, "learn" to distinguish various objects at a distance and recognize them, "learn" to talk, "learn" emotions, yadda, yadda, yadda.

(There was a plot of some sort attached to this idea--I think it revolved around people not part of the research team discovering about the baby 'bot and going ballistic, fears of robot hordes being parlayed into paranoia, and the lady scientist having to go into hiding with her "child" to escape the burners...at this point, however, I don't remember the plot as well as the driving idea.)

Actually, not only was it an idea for an SF novel, but my daydreams included getting a team together to actually do it.

This was long ago and far away.  Rather than being a researcher in AI, living in northern New Mexico, I am a quiet systems analyst at Small Mountain University, dealing with accounting systems rather than with artificial intelligence, wife to OmegaDad, and mom to OmegaDotter rather than a baby research robot.  Quite a different result!

What brings this all up?  This story, about a group of researchers who are doing...just what I describe up above.  They are using neural networks and simple robotics rules to teach robots to recognize human emotions and use those emotions to modify how they behave around humans.

Way cool.

There are times--few and far between; I'm too busy just living life--when those old daydreams rise to the forefront and make me sigh wistfully.  This is one of those times.  I would so want to be part of that research team.  So very, very much.

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posted by Kate @ 2/24/2007 09:24:00 AM   3 comments

Culture clash

One of the big fears in domestic adoption, for potential adoptive parents, is that their child is going to be taken away years later and returned to the birthparents.  This fear is fueled, mostly, by stories that have made it into the press, with images of sobbing children being forcefully removed from the people with whom they have lived for years.

Every PAP out there can imagine the heartache, the tears, the misery such a ruling would cause them.  The reportage generally makes one think that this happens out of the blue, that the adoptive parents are kind, loving folk who were blindsided by the biological parents and the courts.

Of course, years' worth of court filings don't make such wonderfully gut-wrenching TV, and that sort of thing just gets glossed over.

On January 23, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Anne Mae He should be returned to her biological parents, Shaoquiang (Jack) and Qin Luo (Casey) He.

The case is difficult for Americans to comprehend.  When Anna Mae was newly born, Jack and Casey, facing money and legal problems, sought foster care for her.

Here in the States, that's a big red flag.  What?!  Don't those parents love their children?!  Who would just dump their child like that, especially a newborn?!  It's just Not Done.

However, in China, it's quite typical for Chinese parents to foster their young children out for a year or two, typically to a family member.  Young adults, searching for good jobs, move to the city, work long, hard hours.  When they have a child (or children), they send them back to the grandparents, so they can concentrate on their jobs without having to worry how the long hours impact their children.

So we have two different cultures, two different viewpoints.  The facts are, the Hes sought someone to foster their daughter until they pulled out of what they expected to be a temporary situation, and thought they had found someone in the Bakers.  The Bakers, seeing it from the eyes of Americans, thought that the Bakers were wanting to relinquish the child for adoption.

Things got worse from there.  There were accusations that the Hes were unfit parents (but, "unfit" as they were, DHS never tried to take custody of the next two children the Hes had).  There were accusations that Casey He was overemotional and hysterical (what would you do if people to whom you had entrusted your child--temporarily as you thought--called the cops on you and insisted you no longer visit?).  There were sexual harassment charges against Jack He, which he was acquitted of.  And on and on.  At each step, both sets of parents fought long and hard for what they believed in.

There are official chronologies of the case all over the internet.  The Bakers and the Hes have been in court over this situation for years now.  It's not a case of biological parents deciding, years later, that they had made a mistake--it's a case of a long-term court battle.  Just as it was in the case of "Baby Richard", and other well-known cases.

The Tennessee courts are requiring social worker counseling for both families in an attempt to ease the transition.  It will be a difficult transition--Anna has been raised all-American.  For the last few years, she has only seen the Hes as adversaries.  The Bakers have promised to continue the battle.

I have no doubt the Bakers really, truly believed that the Hes were relinquishing Anna for adoption.  I also have no doubt that the Hes really, truly believed it was a temporary situation.  I hope that both sets of parents can let go of any bitterness and work together to make this as smooth as possible for Anna.

And I also hope that, whenever potential adoptive parents bring this case up as one of those horrible cases where an adoptive child is ripped from his or her adoptive parents arms, someone who knows the facts and chronology can speak up and reassure them. 

This situation is one reason why we decided we couldn't adopt domestically--because we simply couldn't figure out when we would stop feeling the biological parents had a right to rescind their relinquishment, and when we would feel fully, ethically able to fight like wildcats for our child.  I can't imagine having OmegaDotter taken from us.  But at the same time, I can't imagine spending years and years dragging it through the courts when it was obvious the biological parents, from the beginning, didn't think it was a "real" adoption.

Wikipedia information is always to be regarded with a somewhat jaundiced eye--people can edit anything they want.  But since I have been following the case for many years, I can say that the Wikipedia article about the Anna Mae He case lays things out pretty clearly the way they happened since I've been keeping track.


posted by Kate @ 2/23/2007 07:32:00 PM   0 comments


Yesterday evening, OmegaDotter came dashing in to ask me, "Is this right?"  She showed me some writing.


It was, of course, "pony".  I was busting a gut, I was so proud!  So, okay, there's a little "o" missing, but, hey.  Steps.

She has taken to going to bed with books.  I read her something, then she snuggles down in her little nest, opens up a book, and "reads" it.  Either she recites as much as she can remember from memory, or she whispers a story she is making up.

We went in for her first dentist's visit this morning.  Yes, yes, I know, wisdom is that three years old is the time for that first visit.  But the dotter has issues about her mouth, and even trying for last year would have been a disaster, and left her with a miserable feeling about dentists in general.  Either due to maturing or due to OT or due to goodness-knows-what, though, she is now at a stage when doctors and dentists can poke around in her mouth and she won't throw a conniption fit.

(Trust me:  this child has had a mouth issue since she arrived.  Getting her to open her mouth so you can look take a quick look, or--god forbid--brush her teeth has been an ordeal for years.)

Unfortunately, that extra year may be the reason she now has a big honking cavity on top of one of her molars.  The x-ray implies, and the dentist says, that her adult tooth in that area won't come in for five to seven years.

When the dentist showed me, my first thought was, "How did I miss that?!"  My second thought was, "Kate, you didn't miss that.  But every time you saw it was right after she ate chocolate or oreos, and you just figured it was food."  I am now officially V-8 bopping my head.

Soooo.  My poor darling girl is going to have to have a crown.

Yes, a crown.  Sigh.

The good news is that she has only two other cavities, and they're in her front teeth, which the dentist says are very likely to fall out within the year, so we're not going to do anything about them except keep an eye on them.

The other bad news is that dotter's lovely teeth--they really are!--are too close together, and she has a small jaw/mouth (we knew that one), and she will very definitely need orthodontics at about mid-point in getting her adult teeth.

Sigh.  We knew that, but it's no fun to actually hear it.

Our little Chinese New Year celebration was a success, though I think the lady who owns the restaurant never wants to see us again as a group.

posted by Kate @ 2/22/2007 06:43:00 PM   2 comments

M-m-m-m-money (and memory)

When OmegaDad and I met at Los Alamos, I was familiar with the old-fashioned internet.  UseNet was my hangout, Lynx was my "browser" of choice.  While doing my computer programming homework, waiting for programs to compile, I would switch over to another (wow!) window and read alt.callahans, which I was addicted to.

One day, while not-yet-Mr.-OmegaMom and I were hanging out in the teeny little studio I shared with a sweet young thing from rural Utah, a bunch of folk showed up on our doorstep.  SYT was going to go out with the crowd, not-yet-Mr.-OmegaMom and I were going to go exploring.  Up the greenway swept Alec, his eyes blazing with enthusiasm.

"I have seen the future!" he proclaimed.  (He really did!)  And then he went on an excited rant about something (a program) called Mosaic, and graphics, and documents, and oooh, oooh, oooh!  We all halfway listened and sort of wrote him off--he was known for sudden enthusiasms--and went on our merry ways.

Mosaic was, of course, the precursor to Netscape.  A year later, and I was no longer using Lynx, but surfing joyously on my oh-so-fast 12KB dialup connection in the front office of our duplex in Lubbock.

A few years later, there were all these dot-com schemes popping up, one called "AllAdvantage".  The idea was you'd sign up, you'd get a specially configured browser which would display ads, and you'd get paid to use that as your browser, based on how long you surfed and how many ads you "saw".  I signed up, but found the browser too resource-intensive on our slow connection (now up to--woohoo!--52KB!), and stuck to my regular Netscape.  (At one point, when we were very poor, I signed up for Juno email so I could get my email infertility support group fix.)

Then the dot-com boom busted, and AllAdvantage went down in flames, owing far too much money and taking in far too little to cover it.

Today, I was browsing some new blogs and came across something that caught my eye.  "AGLOCO--Get paid to surf the net!" it trumpeted.  Hunh.  That rang a bell, so I followed the link.  Lo & behold, it's the folks from AllAdvantage rising again, phoenix-like, from the ashes.  They've tightened some things up--the pay rate is going to be variable, based on the income, as opposed to AllAdvantage, which had a set pay scale, and they've got a time limit of five paid hours per month.  They've got a toolbar instead of a dedicated browser.  And they've got this cute scheme whereby you sign up, do your browsing and get paid to view ads (and search Google/Yahoo/what-have-you, via corporate affiliations) and you get others to sign up and get a percentage based on the time they spend on surfing, etc.  You get small ads on the toolbar targeted to you based on your surfing habits, and they've got Grand Plans and Schemes for affiliations and special offers and what-not.

They claim that the toolbar and its associated programming is easy to uninstall, so you're not trapped forever in a maze of spyware.  (Of course, since one has to agree to it, and download it, and run it deliberately, it can't be called "spyware".)

So, yeah.

I signed up.

They're not ready for primetime yet--their "viewbar" is still in beta, slated for release in March.

I figure I can handle a toolbar with targeted ads for five hours a month.  I don't mind being part of summary data for advertisers--the "discount cards" we use at Albertson's and Safeway and PetSmart are essentially the same things.  So long as it's open and aboveboard, I don't have a problem.

So.  Ahem.  (Eep!)  If you're at all interested, go to the link above and check them out.  Read all their privacy policies and "how it works" stuff, etc.  Then, if you think you'd like to give it a whirl, be a good fella and come back here, and use this link to sign up, so I get a "referral" for your sign-up.  Some folks using AllAdvantage got nice checks each month...we could, too!

(I feel cheesy doing this.  But, hey, I'm not twisting anyone's arm.  I thought it seemed interesting, and if it brings in $5 to $25 a month, that's $5 to $25 a month that I can put to, say, ballet lessons or horse-riding lessons for the dotter.  [Watch OmegaMom pluck those heartstrings!])

It's interesting how much things have changed in the past 12 years.  What was once an almost incomprehensible babble from Alec has turned into a daily resource.   I regularly shop on the internet, looking for the best prices, and have a ball with places like eBay and Amazon wishlists.  I book my air travel and hotels and rental cars there.  I locate local merchants and check out local event calendars using the internet.  And, as a programmer and web worker, I find the resources for code help invaluable, starting with the computing newsgroups, then on to DejaNews, and now Google News. 

And, of course, there are the support groups.  First, misc.kids.pregnancy, back when I was eager and naive and we were ready to "get pregnant".  Then alt.infertility.  Then the ONNA mailing list.  Then adoption support groups.  Then APC and its associated lists...and now adoptive parent groups and blogs.

To me--and many others, I suspect--the internet has become a "utility", similar to having running water, and it was one of the first things I set up for us when we moved into Hippy Dippy Enclave in the Woods.

I can easily spend five hours per month with an itty-bitty toolbar at the bottom of my browser.  And, so long as I don't get ads for infertility treatment or targeted at expectant moms considering adoption, I'll be happy.

We'll see.  I'm skeptical, but it's interesting, at the very least.

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posted by Kate @ 2/21/2007 08:51:00 PM   4 comments

Muddying the waters
Spring sprang for a short while this weekend, and I decided to haul the dotter out to wander in the woods. There are certain signs that spring is thinking of edging our way: The mountain bluebirds suddenly reappear in the forests, swooping with vivid blue flashes from tree branch to tree stump and across the meadows, flirting their wings and singing their songs. Sunlight suddenly lasts longer; in the past few weeks, we've gone from sunset-at-5:30 to sunset-at-6:30. The angle of the light changes. Oh, probably it was changing all along, but suddenly it becomes noticeable. And the wind begins. Spring in Small Mountain University Town is a time of wind, blowing from the west. It's not quite as extreme as it was when we lived in Lubbock, when you had winds that gathered speed and momentum from falling down the sides of mountain ranges then traversing hundreds of miles of flat plains. But it's there. I love the wind--it makes me want to run and dance and twirl around, heart pounding, as if the sap were rising in my body. So, anyway, there it was: quite springlike. After a day spent cozening my swollen chipmunk chin, and a night in bed with hot compresses (bleah), I had to get out. So the dotter and I loaded ourselves into the Little Green Car and headed to the back side of Hippy Dippy Enclave in the Woods. My first thought was to hang a right at the road-going-over-the-ridge, stop by the fence in Whatever-its-name-is Wash, and hike along the bottom of the decaying limestone bluffs. We reached the intersection with RGOTR, and saw that it was a solid mass of water and slurgy clayey mud. Peering up the road, I could see that it was slurgy clayey mud and slushy snow, with gigantic ruts in the road, all the way up. Hmmm. Bad idea. I motored on to the next option, the intersection with OmegaDad's-favorite-cross-country-skiing-road. There, too, was a large mass of water and mud, on both sides of the cattle guard, but eyeballing the road further up, it looked okay. So I gunned the Little Green Car through the open gateway, across the cattle guard, through the water and mud, and slewed to a stop by the side of the road in an area where the car didn't look like it would sink. Too deep. When I came around the car and opened her door, OmegaDotter peered out of the open door at the mud and uttered the sound of disgust of preschoolers around the world: "Ewwwwww! It's muddy! Yuck!" Little did she know. Bwahaha! I directed her to stand on the tufts of grass and duff, and walk from one to the other like stepping stones, over to the road. "Ewwwww!" "Mud!" "Yuck!" Ahem. We had heard this song and dance already. She insisted on holding my hand, which made navigating the drier spots a bit more difficult--as they needed to be wider. Finally, I persuaded her to let go of my hand, and we headed on up the hill. I listened to birdsong and felt the wind lifting my hair, and coached the dotter on avoiding the slurgy mud spots, and soon...soon, she was running across the crusty old snow alongside the drowned spots in the road, and dipping her sneaker-clad toes into the water delicately, then with less delicacy. Quickly, she learned to tell the difference between the slurgy mud--where your shoes sink in, and any attempt to walk a straight line results in your feet slipping and sliding and making great big "Ssspppllllrrrch!" sounds as the sneaker emerges from the mud--and the wet-but-hard sandy mud spots. We reached an area where there was a small stream of water steadily running down the road, and I stopped to peer at it, urging the dotter to take notice of how fast the water was running. We had actually climbed up fairly high, but it was a gentle slope uphill, so we didn't realize it until we saw the water, and looked back whence we had come. It was time to build dams. We built a dam of little rocks on the tiny roadway stream. The dotter quickly got into the spirit of things, digging out little and big rocks and bringing them over. We watched as the water collected behind the rocks, then found pathways between the bigger rocks and over the smaller rocks and around the entire dam, and the collected water quickly swirled downstream again. A little further on, we built a dam of "stuff"--pinecones and sticks and mud. This one didn't work as well. A little further on, we found a spot where the little stream had carved a canyon about a foot deep in the road, and this time we made a dam of rocks and sticks and pinecones and lots of mud (by caving in the sides of the canyon. This one worked beautifully, filling up to three or four inches deep, drying out the tiny streambed below, and then, when the water reached a certain depth, suddenly breaking through in a flurry of small waterfalls. Then it was time to turn around and head back to the car. OmegaDotter ran in front of the gusty breeze, dancing and laughing and waving her arms. She splashed in and out of varying kinds of muds. She grabbed sticks and drew in the dirt. Not an "Ewwwwww!" was uttered until we were back to the car, and she took a look at her shoes, socks, and the cuffs of her jeans. All went well until I tried driving back out. Um. It's a lot easier to drive through muck and mud when starting from a nice dry dirt road. The car surged and bucked, wheels spun, mud splattered through the air...the car aimed squarely at the solid fence post that delineated the edge of the gateway, and it was only by some really fancy wheel spinning and brake-work that I managed to get the car through the opening, instead of stuck in the mud or smashed into the fence post. Once we arrived back in our driveway, the dotter ooohed and ahhhed over the mud covering the Little Green Car, took off her blackened shoes and socks on the porch, and darted into the house to insist that OmegaDad come out and see ("No, no, no, don't tell!"--she waved demanding hands at me as she commanded this). A few hours later, she was daintily dressed up in her fancy black and red party dress, white tights and black patent leather shoes, her hair smoothed back into mom's favorite ponytail creation, ready for our little FCC Chinese New Year party.
posted by Kate @ 2/19/2007 01:40:00 PM   6 comments

Scrotum. Scrotum. Scrotum.

Two weeks ago, an Atlantic Beach theatre company received a complaint about their marquee.  Seems they were playing "The Vagina Monologues", and some mom drove by with her ten-year-old, who asked, "Mom, what's a 'vagina'?"  The mom, righteously indignant, called and complained.

The theatre company, in a fit of sardonic amusement, immediately changed the marquee to read "The Hoohaa Monologues".

(They did change it back a few days later, having made their point.)

Segue into the most recent news.  The American Library Association's listserv has been plunged into ripe controversy.  A discussion of the "10 most banned books"?  Complaints about parental interference?  Gossip about what happened at the Library Association meeting?

No.  Librarians taking a stand.  A strong, uncompromising stand.  Against a book.

We can't have a child's book that mentions "scrotum" on the first page!

O, the horror!

OmegaDotter, cover your shell-like eyeballs, for fear that you will be corrupted by the eeeevul influences of the wuuurld!

Kozmik All forbid that your innocent child should be subjected to the word "vagina" while driving down the road.  Or "scrotum" when opening the latest Newberry Award winning book.

Is "uterus" okay?  I've been telling OD that babies grow in mommies' uteruses (uteri?).  We do use play words--"dangly bits" are for boys, for instance.  But we've slipped a "penis" in here and there.  I'm afraid she's ruined for life now.

One of the things that bothers me most about this is that some librarians--those keepers of the gates against censorship--are refusing to buy this book (when librarians typically automatically order two copies of any Newberry book) for fear of complaints from parents.  Because of one word.  The story itself doesn't seem to be about anything too terribly controversial--a young girl is growing up and figuring out how to face the world.  But these staunch preservers of liberty of the written word are flinching from hordes of imaginary angry parents before they even manifest themselves.

This is sad.

Are they worn down, tired of fighting?  Are they just afraid?  Will they refuse to answer a kid who comes up to the reference desk and asks about the word "scrotum"?  What about "breast"? 

And those angry parents--who, I am sure, will appear--Does having a knowledge of certain words act like gateway drugs?  Knowing the word "scrotum" is going to lead, inevitably, to horrendous things like (gasp!) teh sex?  Is there a magic age at which it's okay to know the word "scrotum"?

The funny thing is that, in context, I know exactly what this author is talking about: 

“Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much,” the book continues. “It sounded medical and secret, but also important.”

It does sound medical...and secret...and important.  It's not a sound that you encounter in the English language very often, which makes it even more interesting.  It's just a neat word, plain and simple.

But, obviously, it's terribly, terribly dangerous in the hands of 10-year-olds.

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posted by Kate @ 2/18/2007 10:47:00 AM   4 comments

Gangin' a-gley

We had Plans for this weekend.

We were going to motor down to OmegaGranny's en famille on Friday, spend the night, and then go down to the Valley of Death for the authentic Chinese New Year Festival.  We were all excited.  Lion dance!  Dim sum!  Meeting up with X.L., a volunteer that OmegaDad has worked with!  Fan dancing ladies!  A visit to Ranch 99 to stock up on intriguing noodles and frozen buns!

I had even been organized enough to call the petsitter.

So, first, we decided we didn't really need Nancy to petsit on Friday--we'd go home, pack, and head down the hill after work.  So, a call to Nancy to cancel Friday evening's visit.

Then, toward late Friday afternoon, OmegaDad calls me and announces in a croaky voice that he's feeling rotten and doesn't want to expose OmegaGranny to anything that might make her sick.

So, another call to Nancy to cancel the Saturday visit.

In the meantime, yours truly had, on Thursday night, a pea-sized hard swelling under the jaw.  I thought it might be from a tooth, though no tooth hurt.

By Friday afternoon, it was marble-sized, and painful.  If OmegaDad hadn't wussed out, I was ready to stay home myself.

But OmegaDotter really wanted to do CNY...So she and I drove down the hill to granny's house.

By this morning, the swelling was golf-ball sized.  And more painful.  Think "chipmunk chin".  I had had to dope myself with ibuprofen and aspirin in the middle of the night.  The thought of dealing with crowds and excited child and driving hither and yon for hundreds of miles while dealing with this ever-growing wen just didn't float my boat.

It was my turn to wuss out.  We drove back up the hill, I dumped the dotter with the dad (who was feeling much better), and headed over to the Doc-in-the-Box.

The end result:  something called sialadenitis, an infection of the salivary gland.  Think an infected pimple producing a great big honking huge painful sty--except bigger and more honking huge and more painful.  Apparently, you can get a blocked salivary gland outlet...and when that happens, all the leetle bacteria floating around your mouth just set up shop inside the gland, with all the backed up saliva, start doing the cha-cha-cha and breeding like bunnies.  The antibiotic I was on for the bronchitis doesn't touch this stuff, so now I'm on Augmentin.  Hot compresses, massaging the damned thing (OW!!), and lots of fluids.

The doc knew what it was right away--says she sees about three cases of it per year.

Nothing major compared to the rest of the world's ills, just a bloody pain and nuisance.  But at least I'm not dealing with the misery by shaving my head and getting a tattoo.  (That poor kid.  Seriously.  She needs a break.)

We have one last chance for a CNY-ish do, with the FCC gang her in Small Mountain University Town.  The way things have been going, it seems doomed already, but I still hold out hope...


posted by Kate @ 2/17/2007 04:25:00 PM   2 comments

All shook up

When I get really, really angry, I cry.

It's very embarrassing when it happens at work.

My mom (OmegaGranny) does, too.

I always figured it was a weakness, a failing, one of those weird things that was a personal quirk.

So when I glimpsed "When is it all right to cry?" as the header for a post at Cognitive Daily, I clicked through, read the post, and read the other posts that led to it--a bunch of female scientists and grad students discussing the times they cry in a professional situation, and how they, too, find that they cry when they get angry and frustrated, and they, too, feel that it leaves them at a disadvantage.

After all, crying is a sign of weakness.  An attempt to manipulate.  It's "inappropriate" to cry in a professional situation.

Or so we are socialized to believe.

I also cry at schmaltzy commercials and movies, too--but it's "appropriate" to cry at those times.  (Well, sorta.)  And at weddings.  And funerals.  And probably on the day OmegaDotter graduates from high school.

There are a lot of interesting comments to those posts--men admitting that they, too, cry--but in private.  Men saying that they've had co-workers cry around them, and they feel at a loss as to what to do.  Some discussion about the socialization process.  Some discussion about inherent differences between men and women.  Go check them out.

In the "Neener, neener, I'm so much better than you!" department, there's this study on differences between adoptive and biological parents.  Sociologists studied data from 13,000 households with first-graders, 161 of whom were adoptive families.  The study concluded that the adoptive parents spent more money, more time, read together more, ate together more, and talked to their children about their problems more than biological parents.

The researchers concluded that adoptive parents were more invested in becoming parents, and more likely to be trying to compensate for a society that regards adoption as "second best", and then compared these results to an expectation of what type of parents gays and lesbians might be.


Now, while I'm all down with the idea of being seen as "better", I've got to say that spending more money doesn't mean diddley in the world of parenting.  I've known plenty of parents who threw money at their kids in an effort to prove affection, in an effort to solve problems, in some weird way thinking that money equals love.

In addition, as Dawn points out in her discussion of the study, adoptive parents could be seen as "helicopter parents", and the publicity about the study seems to focus more on adoptive parents than the fact that gays and lesbians can do quite a nice job on their own, thankyewverramuch.

In the end, the whole write-up leaves me squeamish.  It's akin to the whole "adoptive parents are saints" mythology, the "Oh, you're doing such a Good Thing!" gushing that one gets from new acquaintances.  That sort of thing makes me feel like they're implying, in a weird sort of way, that it takes a mighty special person to even want my darling dotter.  Harrumph.  To me...well, she's my daughter, and I love her, and I find it hard to wrap my mind around the concept of it being difficult to love someone who isn't "your own".

I'm sure that the journalists have mangled the results of the study in some way, picking some point to emphasize that really wasn't the point the researchers were wanting to get across.  I'd be interested to know if the study controlled for income, social status, number of children in the family, etc.  Perhaps the correlation that is trumpeted here is more one of monetary influence:  parents who can afford to adopt might have more discretionary income to spend on their kids; they might have a higher socioeconomic level that promotes focus on reading and family time--goodness only knows.

And I find it simply appalling that the article says "The researchers said their findings call into question the long-standing argument that children are best off with their biological parents."  Oh, goodness, what a can of worms that opens up--what a splendid validation for all those adoption agencies who subtly (or not-so-subtly) coerce young unwed moms into placing for adoption because "the child will be so much better off in a two-parent family!"

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posted by Kate @ 2/14/2007 07:06:00 PM   5 comments

Valenstienstine Day Cards

Emerging from the House of Illness, the dotter and I discovered that tomorrow is Valentine's Day.

No problem-o, just haul butt over to the local Target and buy a bunch of kiddie cards, right?

Well...there were the hundreds of emails to go through...the voice mails to reply to...the FMLA forms to fill out by me...OmegaDad's prescriptions to pick up...the FMLA forms to take to the pediatrician to fill out...the website updates...the space planning database query that needed to be done today...the project status database entry that needed fixing so it didn't show up twice on the monthly report...the test facilities maintenance database to load...the two-inches-an-hour bout of snow that required very slow driving on the highway...

The end result was that we arrived home without cards.

So, being internets-savvy, I started searching the web.  There were Nintendo valentine's cards, some cute, most risqué.  There were artsy cards (very pretty!).  There were more erotic cards.  This set of cards that was recommended by one of my regular blog-stops.  And then I found these calico cards.

Aw!  So cute!

So I whipped out some sayings in Word, printed pages out, and the dotter and I sat down with scissors and tape and glue sticks, and started having fun.

The dotter, of course, got tired after making about six, so I completed the task.

We have heart mice (two versions!), heart puppies, heart birds, and something that the dotter declared was a bear.  Of course, the first one made was for the dotter's One And Only True Love, C., and I included the insides of that card for funsies:

Tomorrow a.m., I will have to sit down with the dotter and have her sign her name to the remaining cards.  Have I mentioned that there are 17 kids in her preschool class?!  Gads.

Happy Valentine's Day!


posted by Kate @ 2/13/2007 11:51:00 PM   3 comments

We don't need no education - reprise

(I know I've done something with this title before...)

At one point during her peripatetic wanderings, OmegaMom had a job teaching at a "business college" for a year.  They hired me after a one-hour interview, right on the spot.  Told me I'd start teaching that night.  !!  There was no curriculum.  No teaching materials except for a text.  No nuttin'--just "Have at it!"

I taught word processing, databases, spreadsheets, typing, and business English.

The students were motivated and sincere.  They had been told they could get financial aid, that they'd get a job and a computer immediately after "graduating".  They wanted to better themselves, get good office jobs, work their way up through the world.

A nearby sewing factory had closed up shop, and the "college" got a sweet deal with the county economic security department--re-educate all the sewing factory workers so they could get new jobs. 

I liked working there.  I liked the students.  I tried to teach them something...but some of them simply weren't "office worker" material.  I became convinced that the "college" was a sham, just a method of milking government programs for profit, and to the devil with the students.

That said, there are students who will do well with a little bit of help and structure, no matter what the motivation of those who provide the education.  Which leads me to this, an article about the University of Phoenix, the largest for-profit online education university in the U.S.

UOP has been growing by leaps and bounds.  They cater to a particular audience:  employed people who want to get a degree, but either can't get to a university nearby or who want it fast or find the online coursework more convenient.  There's a boatload of people out there who recognize the value of a degree but who find the traditional college/university environment unwelcoming.

Most colleges and universities don't really consider the working person.  Courses are offered during business hours, with a few being offered at night.  But usually, core courses aren't amongst those night time courses, or you have to wait many semesters for one to be available.  So online courses fit the bill for many working folks.  UOP recognized this early on, jumped on the boat (and online) and started growing.

A number of "regular" colleges/universities have recognized this trend by now and are offering coursework and even full degree programs online.  Online courses can be quite rigorous and difficult--I worked with a woman who was teaching educational courses online, and hers definitely sounded hard, and it was obvious she was putting a lot of work into them.  They can also be throwaways.  If I were an online student, I would be "milking" my fellow students for all the information about different instructors that I could (realizing, all the time, that what I would consider a "good" instructor might be anethema to someone else), and trying to get the instructors who made a course "meaty".

I myself attended (let me count...) four different colleges/universities, with a variety of different intended majors.  I started off at Fancy Episcopalian Private University, straight out of high school.  The plan was to study history and language, and become a freakin' well-paid historical romance writer.  But I went from being an intellectual Big Fish in a Small Pond to being just one of many at FEPU (at New Student Orientation Day, I sat next to a PSAT scholarship winner; I had only been a semi-finalist and didn't know that you actually had to do something further to be considered for the full scholarships).  What came as easy as breathing to me in high school suddenly required this odd thing called studying, which was foreign to me.  So, after a year floundering around, I dropped out.  A few years later, I started taking night classes at Fancy Catholic Private University, with a plan to do pre-law and go to law school (a stint at jury duty with a horrendously cute prosecutor prompted this; thus the shallowness of an early-20s OmegaMom).  Then, with a push from family issues, I moved out to the Southwest to be around mom and dad...and, ever the student (it's like heroin to me), I signed up for some music courses at the local community college.  Amazingly enough, it was the most rigorous and difficult coursework I had encountered yet--Music Theory kicks butt.  And then, chased out of the region by lack of jobs, I moved out to bee-yoo-tiful San Francisco, and finished up a degree in computer science at CalState.

Each of these institutes of higher learning had their pluses and minuses.  But what I took from them had a lot to do with what I put into them.  The conclusion, after all this bloviation:  It doesn't really matter what institute of higher learning you attend (so long as you avoid "business colleges").  Any college student can get a worthwhile degree from almost any college out there, so long as the student puts in the work needed to locate the good courses and the good instructors, and puts his/her heart into the schoolwork.

If OmegaDotter would rather attend a local public university, rather than some fancy-schmancy Ivy League School, bully for her.  Because if she puts her all into it, no matter where she gets a degree, it will be worth it.  And, conversely, if she doesn't want to go to college at all, but wants some type of vocational training (horses play into this thought...), that's all well and good, too--so long as she believes in it and works hard.

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posted by Kate @ 2/12/2007 08:36:00 AM   7 comments

Back home

As advertised, the dotter was sprung from the hospital yesterday afternoon.  We now have an oxygen machine for her for nighttime usage, which the Demented Cat thinks is a toy for him.  We have a puffer (albuterol inhaler) which, if she's feeling happy, she does without a complaint, but if she's feeling tired/grumpy, she squalls like a cat and does the all-four-legs-outstretched cat dance.

I'm sick with bronchitis and on antibiotics.

OmegaDad is sick and going to the doc tomorrow.

OmegaDotter has an appointment tomorrow, and hopefully will be given the go-ahead to go back to school on Tuesday.  (Fingers crossed!)

It's snaining--rain mixed with snow.

I've been noticing lots of birds singing lately.  Spring is coming?!  Yay!

posted by Kate @ 2/11/2007 09:25:00 PM   3 comments

Calling in the pros

When the fever is running high, but the hands and feet are icy cold, you know what the doc is going to say.  And, sure enough, he cocked an eyebrow at me and said, "You know what we're going to do, right?"

Unfortunately, it wasn't as easy as all that.  While the idea was to toss the dotter into the hospital right then and there, there was no room at the inn.  This is THE season.  The "sick waiting room" at the doc's office was filled with listless children coughing their heads off, and so, too, was the pediatric ward; the doc tried wangling, he offered to release one or two of his kids who were doing better (but there was this horde of pediatricians waiting to swoop down on any empty beds), he tried negotiating with the Emergency Department to have her stashed in their "observation room" while we waited for an open bed, but...Alas, the ER has A Procedure.  The Procedure requires that you check in, go through the normal ER routine, and wait there for a bed.

We got into the ER at 11 in the morning.  At 8:15 p.m., we were moved into a room in the pediatric unit.  In the meantime, the dotter was hooked up to everything in sight, given antibiotics via IV, fluids via IV, oxygen via the tubes, and by the time we were moved into the bed, she was doing pretty good.  She will probably be sprung this evening.

Calling in the pros makes a weary mom feel oh-so-much better.  Fifty kazillion nurses and respiratory techs asking the dotter to lean forward so they could listen to her lungs and take her temp and feed her (yet more) antibiotics, while mom and dad just slumped in the chairs and let them Do Their Thing.  It's very reassuring to have professionals. 

Let me sing the praises of the modern health care industry:  they know their stuff.  They've got it down to a routine (and have been practicing that routine like crazy lately--like I said, the whole ped ward is filled with kids in similar circumstances).

More praises:  I heart ibuprofen.  I think acetominophin is okay, but I heart ibuprofen with a passion.  While all this was going on, I kept thinking of what this whole scene would be like a hundred years ago, without the fever meds, and didn't like that thought.  Imagine having to constantly bathe the child in tepid water, and cope with cool washcloths on the skin of a child who shrieks (shreiks?) at your touch!

The whole high-fever-plus-icy-hands-and-feet gave me the willies, and having the dotter with glazed eyes and languid, limp body was heartbreaking.  Normally, she's so vivid and vivacious that having her so listless and miserable was a startling contrast.

But, she's on the mend, very much so.  Yay!  OmegaDad is at the hospital with her, and I'm getting a break.  Time to go check my blogroll and the news and weather--see what's going on in the Wide World.  Thanks again for all the pats on the head, reassurances, and good thoughts!

posted by Kate @ 2/10/2007 01:07:00 PM   10 comments


The dotter was better yesterday.  The fever, at its highest in the morning, was around 101.5.  She was bouncy and chipper and happy, and I was gladly imaginging returning to the office today. 

Then 4 p.m. hit.

And her temp spiked up to 106F again.

And we spent yet another night dosing her up with ibuprofen (the tylenol substitute is worthless.  Worthless.).

And there was this gargly cough.

So we trekked off to the pediatrician again today, and sure enough, she has pneumonia.  The doc toyed with the idea of tossing her in the hospital, but decided she was "too happy" to be hospitalized.  (I knew what he meant, but he should have seen her an hour previously, before the ibuprofen started kicking in.)

So we have zithromax--carefully flavored with orange creamsicle, not orange oil.  Unfortunately, it doesn't matter, dotter thinks it's gross.

I have an irrational fear of pneumonia.  My maternal grandfather died of it relatively early, and every time my mom comes down with it, I panic internally.  The dotter had pneumonia and was thrown in the hospital when she was home only a month, and we were all miserable.

No heading down to the Valley of Death for the FCC Chinese New Year this weekend, after all.  But we will be going next weekend for the official Chinese Cultural Center celebration...

Just a quick thank-you to everyone for the good thoughts on the illness, and the great commentary on my various posts.  I'd do my usual portmanteau comment response, but...right now, my mind is kind of blank and I'm feeling worn down.  Just...thanks.  Y'all are a good bunch.

posted by Kate @ 2/08/2007 05:57:00 PM   10 comments

On the futon

OmegaDad snuck this picture last night.  The dotter snuggled up on me on the futon and promptly fell fast asleep...then I fell asleep.  And there we stayed, with a break at 11 and at 3 for medicine.

posted by Kate @ 2/07/2007 09:34:00 AM   5 comments

The bug, and something bugging me

So the dotter has what, for all intents and purposes, is the flu.  Oh, the pediatrician waved his hands at the fact that she had had the flu shot, but the sudden onset, the high high fever, the headaches--all said "flu".

Not something easy to take care of, like strep throat.  Bah.  You can give a shot to a kid with strep throat and haul her off to preschool the next day.  But with a virus...sigh...you wait it out.  You alternate the ibuprofen and the Tylenol.  You sneak as many fluids in as possible.  You snuggle on the futon.

(You banish from your mind the reality that neither you nor your hubby have had flu shots.  You decide they wouldn't have done any good anyway, because it looks like the dotter has it, and she did have the flu shot, and so it must be a different strain of flu.)

It does give one a chance to actually read some books, though.

Let's talk judgmentalism.  Specifically, taking info from someone's China adoption blog, deciding they're Doing Something Bad, and going to the agency about it.

Oh, yeah, it's been done.

Apparently there's someone who calls herself a "minister" who makes a habit of tattling to adoption agencies whenever someone blogs about something that she decides is Bad.

A specific example is a China adoptive-mom-to-be who became publicly sober via Alcoholics Anonymous on her blog; this "minister" decided to get more specific information from the blogger under the guise of "helping her" and "reaching out to her", then promptly marched off to her agency with the information and got her drummed out of the adoption corps.

Apparently this woman has done something similar to a number of people.  I knew about the example above many months ago (was appalled then and am appalled now)...then this past week, the China adoption blogs were full of it; somehow the "minister" got outed.

Any way you look at it, it's a cautionary tale.  The words "be careful out there" spring to mind.

Others have clearly and eloquently discussed the fact that what you see on a person's blog is a snapshot, not the whole person, so I won't really address that. 

I think the "minister" claimed that this person lied in her homestudy, and maybe even believed it.  The problem is that alcoholics (or depressives or people with psychological problems or addiction problems or a vague worry that turns out to be cancer) quite often don't see it themselves.  So they happily go through the homestudy, the social worker signs off on it, and then, months down the line (or years) they realize they have A Problem.

Is this lying?  Not in my mind.  People with problems like this are very good at disguising it from themselves.  People who live with people with problems like this are very good at not recognizing the problems, hiding from them.  Twenty-twenty hindsight allows everyone involved to say, "Oh, yeah.  Oh, man, this has been a problem for a long time.  Why didn't I see it?!"  But at the time...it's invisible.

Has the person become a worse person, less a "good parent", than he or she was prior to becoming sober (or medicated for depression, or counseling for the psychological problems or what-have-you)?  I don't think so.

I have discussed, off and on here on the blog, the sturm und drang in the OmegaFamily's lives a few years ago.  I'm never specific about it because of rumors of people like this "minister", and for reasons of privacy.  It is, however, something that knocks us out of the China adoption program.  The thing is, it was a problem before we adopted OmegaDotter (unrecognized and unaddressed, simmering in the background).  Now it is recognized, addressed, and things are (in my opinion) much better off.  But if we had glossed it over, ignored it, let it simmer more, or just flat-out lied--well, we'd be parents of two kids by now, or real close to it.

Now, China has every right to structure their program whatever way they want.  But it's damned frustrating that there are plenty of people who are adopting kids from China with the very same problem as, say, the original blogger mentioned in this post--but they don't realize it.  One could argue that a person who has actually taken steps to resolve big life problems--like alcoholism, depression, cancer, etc.--is a much better bet.

We all make judgments.  Some are harsher than others.  Some are more clear-cut than others.  It's easy enough when you see, say, someone beating on a dog with a two-by-four in the middle of a highway.  But someone calls the cops, the cops figure out the crime scene, and the judging and sentencing gets left up to a jury.  Of course, even juries can screw it up royally (see my post below), but at least you've got impartial folks separated from the original "crime".  There's a process which is humanity's frail attempt to ensure justice.

Taking it upon yourself to be judge, jury, and executioner is...well, it's a bit of hubris to me.

Hmm.  I don't know where I'm going with this post; it's kind of a mish-mash.  But I'm going to hit publish anyway.

posted by Kate @ 2/06/2007 06:31:00 PM   7 comments

Just another brick in The Wall

I spent the day today with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  The Dotter is sick (again!  Oh, how I yearn for warmer weather, when the preschool has open windows, and the kids are outside a lot, and there's less germ-sharing going on!).  When the fever medication kicked in, she was all charm and dancing and laughing and playing dress-up and enjoying a long, leisurely lunch with mommy where we held "races" eating our food, one bite at a time.  When the fever medication wore off, she was all, "Don't TOUCH me!!  NOOOOOO!!!  Ow, ow, OW!!!", weeping, alternating between shivering and being way too hot, and--in her instances of less misery--telling me I mustn't touch her because "You don't want to be this sick, Mommy!"

A throw-away line or two at the end of the birthday party post read:  "...she's hitting that subconscious wall related to her birth and abandonment.  (Yeah, yeah, scoff all you want, but she goes into a tailspin right around now for a few weeks every year.)"

There was no scoffing.  SBird, however, asked me to discuss my impressions of The Wall, so here goes.

There's a lady named Nancy Verrier, author of The Primal Wound.  Her thesis is that any child who is adopted has a gaping psychological hole left by being abandoned by or ripped untimely from the birthmother.  I've never read the book, myself, but have read many recaps, summaries, references, etc.  Her premise seems to mire the adopted person in this psychological swamp that s/he can never escape (remember, though, I've never read the book).

There are people who have taken this idea and run with it, claiming that adoption is a horrible thing and should be outlawed.  Just google "anti-adoption", and you'll find them.

I don't agree with the implications--that everything "wrong" with an adopted child is the result of that original separation from the birthmother.


However.  There's plenty of evidence that those nine months in the womb produce some very strong bonds.  Infants recognize their mother's voices, smells, heart rhythms within hours after birth.

Imagine you are in the womb, warm and comfy and cozy.  Then, in a sudden flurry of pain and pressure and strangeness, you are thrust out of that warm coccoon into blinding light, piercing sounds, smells you've never smelled before.  But there is one thing out there (hopefully) that is familiar:  the body that you spent those nine months growing and developing in.  So you turn to the familiar, you cling to it as a foundation for exploring this strange new world.  You turn to it for food, for caressing sensations, for warmth, for that familiar sound, that familiar heartbeat.  It's a touchstone that you learn very quickly to rely on as your senses are bombarded and your neurons struggle to organize everything.

Now imagine that, one week after that traumatic experience (which everyone experiences), you wake from a sound sleep.  Your touchstone has disappeared.  The sounds, scents, touches that have been your whole world for the past week--your entire life outside the womb--are gone, replaced by...?  You search for it, you cry for it, but it's not there, and never comes back.

How can this not be traumatizing?

You don't have conscious memories of this--it's also well-established that the network of neurons making up conscious memory don't really firm up until about six months of life outside the womb.  But there's a helluva lot more going on in the human brain than conscious memories.  All of us have had moments where a momentary scent, sliding down the breeze, unlocks a complete snapshot of memory--emotions, pictures, "been-here-before" feelings.  Light can do this, too, at least for me--I can suddenly be transfixed by a particular angle of light, and know that the light was just this way at a certain time, and the emotions of that time wash through me. 

There are environmental cues to all the seasons, cues that we consciously learn, but that we also unconsciously pick up on.  So it's not an arbitrary manmade calendar that brings things up--it's a whole-body memory, linked deep in that primitive emotional center of our brain.

I was dubious reading about parents who adopted from China saying that their children always had emotional upsets around the time of their birth and/or abandonment.  "Oh, yeah.  Un-hunh.  We'll see."

But every year, right around the end of January/beginning of February, our dotter has...tantrums...night terrors..."issues".

She always talks in her sleep, but usually it's the typical pre-schooler type angst.  "Mine!" and "No, you can't have it!" show up from time to time (har!).  But the sleep-talking she does right around now, and the tantrums she has right around now, center more on things like "Dadddddyyyy!  No!  Don't go!" and "Mommy, mommy, don't leave me!"

They pass.  I'd say two weeks?  She's not crippled.  She's her normal self, with some stuff busting through.  And it's not something that will send her into a tailspin as an adult, unable to navigate her way through normal human relationships (like some people claim).  But I wouldn't be surprised if she has problems around this time of year for a long, long time.

Perhaps I was primed to think this.  Perhaps I subconsciously passed this priming onto OmegaDad.  Perhaps, for all I know, I influence OmegaDotter to behave this way, because I expect her to.  But he notices it, too.

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posted by Kate @ 2/05/2007 06:22:00 PM   5 comments

Pop-up hell

All of us on Windoze machines have encountered it:  you spy an interesting ad on some website, hit the link, and suddenly pop-ups are blossoming like a million flowers on your screen.  You click and click and click, and, like a hydra, one window dispatched launches two new ones, until your screen is littered.

If you're lucky, you'll have hit a gambling pop-up link.  If you're unlucky, you'll hit a p0rn pop-up loop.  Your screen will fill with leetle images of leetle women with their legs asprawl, close-ups of men's dangly bits, tongues licking lips and other things.  Even an old lady like myself can be...um...shocked and awed by the array.

I've had it happen once or twice myself; I'm a tech-savvy person who growls, hits Ctl-Alt-Del, and kills whichever browser it is that has spawned the window hell.  (These days, of course, I've got pop-up killers running, so that if I want to see any pop-ups, I have to explicitly say so.)

I've also worked on a computer help desk for a medium-sized university.  There are people all across campus who are whizzes with Word, but when told to change their password haven't got the vaguest idea of how to do it.  There are people who can take electronic equipment apart in their sleep, but who, when faced with a computer, freak out. 

There's a whole herd of folks out in the world who, when confronted with pop-up hell, freeze.

Imagine you're someone who is a professional in the world, but who still needs help from your significant other to access your email and your favorite websites.  Imagine you're at your workplace.  Imagine you click an innocent-looking link to something like hairstyles.com.  Imagine your horror when it spawns fifty kazillion p0rnographic images.

Now imagine you're a substitute teacher, you're using the regular teacher's login, you've been told not to turn the computer off or log off, you were checking your email on your classroom computer, and there's a whole herd of 7th graders who are sitting on the other side of the computer from you.  You don't know what to do.  You dash off to the teacher's lounge to get help.  No-one will help you.

Then imagine that two days later, you're fired.

Then imagine that the police show up at your doorstep to arrest you for showing p0rnography to your students.

Then imagine you're tried.  Your forensics expert's testimony is severely curtailed due to a legal technicality.  You're convicted.  Imagine that you face up to 40 years in prison for this fiasco, and you've lost your license to teach.

Sounds crazy?  Sounds like the script for a satire?


Talk to Julie Amero.

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posted by Kate @ 2/05/2007 08:27:00 AM   2 comments

Survived and thrived

So, aside from the fact that I had "help" cleaning and setting up, which meant things took longer than expected, so that the dotter was still in the bathtub when the first guests arrived (!!), all went well, no-one sneered at my house and housekeeping, and the kids had enough fun so that one of them melted into tears at the thought of leaving.

Everything was horsie--the signage taped to various stop signs and street poles to help people navigate through Hippy Dippy Enclave in the Woods, the decor, the goodie boxes, the goodies inside the goodie boxes, the cake, and the Dotter scored a whole herd of plastic horsies as gifts, including a second Tawny.

I have yet to figure out baking up here.  Even with pre-heating, setting the oven temperature higher, and adding extra flour, whatever I bake requires an inordinately long time to cook.  But the recipe I used turned out nicely.  The original plan was to produce this, but we had neither the time nor the extra frosting to do the mane, so we had a bald horse head as the cake. 

I cleaned the house.  The dotter and I talked and talked and talked about how she needed to have the house clean and her room clean for her friends to play in.  So first she schlepped all her living room detritus into her bedroom.  Then I got a look at it...everything was in a heap in the doorway.  So, with great zen-like patience, I coached her into cleaning things up.

It was clean.  Honestly.  It was clean--really clean--before the guests showed up.  However, within fifteen minutes, the horrendous scene to the left is what remained of our herculean task.  The various kiddos arrived, there was thundering through the house, interspersed with screams of glee and dramatic fallings down.  Our bedroom, which was supposed to be off-limits, was breached within minutes, on a quest for The Cat.  The Cat was then carted around the house by various children, in various carry poses.  Quite soon, The Cat disappeared.  Smart animal.

A game of pin-the-tail-on-the-horse was followed by cake and ice cream.

Then, of course, it was time for presents.

Five-year-olds at a party with presents are an interesting group.  The presents seem to become a communal item to open and enjoy.

However, there was, of course, OmegaDotter's One And Only True Love at the party, and he had outdone himself.  This young man and OmegaDotter have been joined at the hip since they were, oh, two-and-a-half.  There was, of course, a horse.  There was a horse calendar.  There was a bag of potpourri (yes, really!).  But the piece de resistance was...

Flowers.  Oh, not real flowers, but a lovely group of silk flowers from Michael's.

OAOTL is well on his way to being a suave smoothy with the ladies.  Take a look at her expression.  (Kindly do not take this gift as some weird commentary on C's masculinity--he is all boy, trust me.)

She, of course, immediately started running around, saying, "C!  C!  We can get married now!"

When asked to pose with C and his gifts, she swooned against his side.  Just look at that expression.

OmegaDad and I, and C's mom, are all rather befuddled by this long-term romance.

All the kids played with all the horses, with OmegaDotter's "carmonica" (which everyone says she actually plays rather well), and then ended up on the futon watching Wallace & Gromit in A Grand Day Out.  Since it ended up looking eerily reminiscent of the clichéd Red Couch photos that everyone who adopts from China has to have, this last pic is for all my buds who have adopted from China:


All in all, it went well.  I survived.  OmegaDad, beset by a horrid sinus infection and feeling like shit, ran away to his office, fearing to contaminate seven little kids.  The Dawg stayed shut up in the office, barked his head off once in a while, and generally behaved himself.

I'm tired.  OmegaDad is tired.  The Dotter is tired.  Too much excitement for her, I think, and also she's hitting that subconscious wall related to her birth and abandonment.  (Yeah, yeah, scoff all you want, but she goes into a tailspin right around now for a few weeks every year.)

posted by Kate @ 2/03/2007 09:02:00 PM   11 comments

Less angst...

More frantic-ness.


I'm wigging out.

But, we now have, confirmed, the curly haired moppets A and B, the One and Only True Love, one of the K's, S, and Miss R., her former teacher.  We may or may not get M.  I'm actually quite pleased that I've heard from all these folks.

Perhaps a post after the whole shebang is over and done with.

posted by Kate @ 2/02/2007 09:09:00 PM   2 comments

Birthday angst
I haven't been posting because I am wrapped up in: 1. Figuring out if any of the (few) kids invited to the dotter's first birthday party will show up. (One has called to say they're coming.) 2. Worrying that the dotter will be in A Mood, won't share, will be grabby and me-me-me, and the other kids won't have fun and the other mothers will think I'm raising her to be a barbarian. 3. Worrying about the horsie cake. 4. Worrying about having STRANGERS!!! In the HOUSE!!! People who probably have clean houses. People who will walk in the door and immediately notice all the spots on the (oh-what-a-bad-idea) cream-colored carpet and the dawg and cat hair all over the place and the greasespots on the kitchen cabinets and and and...and chalk me up as one of those women--the lousy housekeepers. And, by extension, lousy wives, mothers, and members of society. 5. Worrying that the Dawg will go insane with all those kids, bite someone, and it will be a horrible scene. Ahem. This party is keying into every single one of my angsts about hosting things, the state of the house (I don't want to talk about it), my social skills, my husband's social skills, my dotter's social skills. I don't host things. We host family and long long term friends. We've never had a party. Never. Picture me quaking in my boots. I promise I'll post about Molly Ivins; Momtinis, the Today Show, and the Mommy Wars; the wedding hair wigout video; and other important (and not-so-important) things after this entire ordeal is over with. ::whimper::
posted by Kate @ 2/01/2007 08:39:00 AM   4 comments

About Me
Name: OmegaMom
Home: Southwest
About Me: Middle-aged mom of a 4-year-old adopted from China. Love science, debate, good SF and fantasy, hiking, music of almost every style. Lousy housekeeper. "Good enough" mom.
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