Red Ivy

Personal

Friday, May 17, 2013

 

BOO YOW!

In the year that I've had  Socrates with me as my daughter (no, I'm not counting the excruciating period of time that she was ours but still in foster care in Taiwan) I have had the deep pleasure of getting to know her. Sure, there is so much that I can't even imagine about her that is yet to be revealed, but one of the things I admire about her most is her strong spirit.

That first afternoon playing with Socks in a pool in Kaoshiung, I thought of her as my little lion. In the pool she'd gotten splashed by her sister Ducky and had puffed up her chest and roared, "Wo shuo bu yao!" Which basically means, "I said I don't like that!" And she'd made her point perfectly clear to not only her sister, but every single person within earshot of the serene pool in which we paddled. Even the seemingly deaf old man dozing on the chaise lounge over by the solarium windows.

Well good for her. Socks' infancy and early childhood is murky to me. She isn't very forthcoming and doesn't seem to think about her experience one way or the other. However, if she had to speak up, it was a lesson she's learned well.

Socks is a very social little 10-year-old in a 6 year-old's body. All the more surprising to hear her stand up for herself verbally. She begins most interactions with an invitation, "Would you like to ...?" and if she can't figure out what activity is preferred, she is happy to fall back on "What would you like to do?" Then she does what you want to do.

A nicely well-rounded couple of personality traits: Amenable but no push-over.

I think about my suburban upbringing and have no idea who is to blame for the fact that I wasn't taught to stand up for myself. I had wished I could be more like the black girls my age who had no problem raising their voices and telling you exactly how they expected to be treated, or specifically how they were displeased by your actions or remarks.

Well, as the little lion's mother, I can tell you that you'll know if you're pissing her off because even though she speaks English now, she's liable to drop a "bu yao" on your ass.

Ivy

All Red Ivy compositions, posts and blog content Copyright protected.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

 

YOU CAN TAKE THE GIRL OUT OF KAOHSIUNG

(written for Cowbird Daily)

The process to adopt our daughters, two sisters from Taiwan, went smoothly.  Their situation in Taiwan was far from optimal, and they were separated frequently for long periods of time before we reunited them. Upon meeting our girls, their differences were stark: Socrates was a pocket-sized dynamo of energy, strength and opinions. Ducky was frail, listless and sullen. If displeased, the younger child would make herself heard, while the older girl would silently tear up.

They have been home with us in LA for 9 months now. And while Socrates, our 9-year-old is eating up her new country with a great appetite; 11-year-old Ducks is less hungry for America. We are a global-minded household without any ‘US vs. Them’ politics, so no “You must love America the best!” messages are being considered, let alone voiced to our girls.

In the wake of her adoption, it is natural that Ducks would feel many things. And while she voices her relief to have her sister with her forever, and to have cool things like her very own iPad, as her mother, I see her deeper longing clearly. To others it’s so subtle.

Ask Ducky if she likes what she’s eating, and she will generally nod. But if given the opportunity, she will tell you that food in Taiwan is superior. While she loves music and we listen to the radio all the time, she will only cut loose and sing songs by herself in Mandarin. You’d think that may be a comfort level with English, but her English is great and she has all of the top 40 songs memorized. I believe she feels it would be cheating on her birth country if she sang American songs.

In preparation for last Thanksgiving we discussed what the holiday commemorates to Americans. Then throughout the day, she corrected people who wished her a happy 1st Thanksgiving. She stated that in Taiwan, they had a Day of Thanks so this was not a 1st for her. In fact, Thanksgiving was just about at Ducky’s limit with everyone commenting on her American-ness that by 8:30 p.m., when a neighbor appeared at our front door with two little apple pies that she’d made for the sisters, I was a bit tense watching the exchange. Her hearty, “Now that you’re AMERICAN here are two apple pies on your first AMERICAN Thanksgiving. Do you know how lucky you are? You are so lucky!”  Duck smiled wanly and replied as she reached for her pie, “We have Apple pie in Kaohsiung and Days of Thanks.” She glanced at me knowing that I completely understood her. “Can I eat this now?”

I don’t know how or when she will separate from her current fervent attachment from everything she knew in Taiwan and come to see her memories as simply the foundation of her childhood. Right now she feels that by loving her new country she is disloyal to her old one.

Taking her to a doctor’s appointment and shopping in Beverly Hills she commented, “In Kaohsiung we have better doctors and shopping and food.” I barked out a laugh and squeezed her hand, “Yes Honey. Taiwan has some of the best heath care in the world; even President Obama is reviewing Taiwan’s heath care system. And we don’t have anything in Beverly Hills like you did in Kaohsiung for shopping and food.” Pleased to have my agreement she grinned, “This food is good, but they really should have a night market.” And walking hand in hand with my beautiful daughter who is getting stronger and more mature by the day we talked about the wonders of Taiwan’s night markets as we strolled past Fendi. She gushed, “They have best rice and soup in Kaohsiung night markets! And milk tea and softer boba!” and I giggled, “The live snakes freak me out though!”

I see her longing so clearly but I can’t erase it. As her mother, I can only witness and honor it. Then fill in all of the little spaces with love.




All Red Ivy compositions, posts and blog content Copyright protected.

Monday, January 14, 2013

 

THE BIG 11 and 10


Yesterday we celebrated Ducks' 11th birthday. And we celebrated her 10th. Last year in foster care they didn't celebrate birthdays so we sang to her twice and had 2 small cakes. She got 2 cards from lots of people and while not overdoing it, she got the feeling that even though we couldn't make up for her disappointment last year -- we acknowledged that last birthday.

As for me, I haven't planned many parties in my life -- what with my underdeveloped social aspirations and all -- so jumping right in with an 11th birthday party was daunting. Kids can be tough. And after attending only 1 birthday party as a mother, for Ducky's school chum as reconnoissance, I can tell you -- 11-year-olds are awkward socially.  So I completely 'got them'.

At that party, consisted of a long night at Chuck E. Cheese entailed lone girls running from game to game, clutching sweaty fistfuls of tokens only to wander off bored moments later with one or two prize tickets and chase the birthday girl around half-heartedly in a I want to have fun, but no longer feel like running like a hellion because I want to look cool, but I've had too much Pepsi and cake... sort of way. Then the birthday girl's divorced parents sat at separate tables each swaddled in sad tension and the birthday girl got to choose who she wanted to talk to at a given moment while the other girls just sat around picking at their Chuck E. Cheese pizza. The evening culminating in the tickets being cashed in for keychain sized too-dads for each girl who was still wandering around the establishment an hour after the party should have ended.

My first baby steps toward Martha Stewarting Ducky's party was to decide the venue. I consulted Hudson who declared, "Our house of course!" Whew! That was easy. Next I asked Ducky who she wanted to invite. She wanted 1 friend from school and the 5 little girls of close family friends. Whew! OK, 6 kids. Totally doable. Ducky also wanted to have a tea party with the milk tea she loved in Taiwan. She also had seen a piñata and wanted one. Check! Totally cool since, hey, we live in LA and right down on Pico Blvd is Pinata's R Us.

After finding and testing a milk tea recipe from the web, I was left with the conundrum of providing an atmosphere of fun. We have a terra cotta tiled back yard so anything bouncy was off limits. I had visions of a child bouncing exuberantly out of the protective netting onto their head and the party music being drown out by the Cedar-Sainai ambulance's wail.

I hit upon the idea of games that the kids could play, but that adults could jump in if the kids were acting all, well, young girlish and shy or too cool to play. Luckily for us, our friends consist of alumni from New York's original High School of Performing Arts (that's Hudson), Julliard (That's Staci), Saturday Night Live, Second City and various and sundry TV shows, plays, movies so they could all be counted on for FUN.

Built around the Mad Hatter's Tea Party (read Taiwanese Milk Tea and hey it's pretty mad stuff), we ran a relay race that included swinging each other around and chortling "Well hello there!" before you could continue, spooning sugar into bowl, balancing tea bags, and doing a crazy vaudeville move with your knees. Next they all got a chance to be a blindfolded princess and kiss a big frog on the lips which Hudson really got into so he could pay special attention to our niece who was not playing and blindfolded while wearing a crown he pretended to mistake her for a frog and kiss the dickens out of her as she squirmed on his sister's lap.

we played The Frog Detective and smacked a big Angry Bird pinata and it was a success. The 2 small cakes choked us all up and Ducky was happy that she got both a chocolate one and a strawberry one.

Best part of all of this is that Hudson talked me off the ledge every time I wanted to plan a little more. Frequently I was seized by  an irresistible urge to do everything. Both he and our therapist declared, "If you do too much, you'll be miserable and it will backfire." Boy were they right. I was reeled in, and we all enjoyed a truly blessed day.

Hudson asked that our friends give gifts of their time so that they could help shape Ducky into the woman she will be come. For the next year, happily, she will be redeeming everything from dinner downtown with uncle Rob, to weekly LACMA jaunts with auntie Julia, to designing her own website with auntie Liz.

Hudson showed his sweet appreciation for me by hiring a masseuse to come to our home and give me a soothing massage while he took Ducky and Socrates out for Pho dinner. Now I just might be ready to start planning Socrates' 10th birthday party this Spring.

Wish me luck.

Ivy

All Red Ivy compositions, posts and blog content Copyright protected.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

 

LIBRARY BUMS WE HAVE

After school on Mondays and Wednesdays Ducks, Socs and I head straight for the Chinatown Branch of the LA Public Library. We quickly wrestle their English, Math and Mandarin homework and pin it to the proverbial education mat. Next we cruise the grade-school aisles for reading enjoyment, and then log-on to the computers to play games before rushing across the street to their Shaolin Jin Wu Kung Fu classes.

I don't think I'll ever tire of seizing every opportunity to learn about my daughters. And a trip to the library is fertile ground for Ducks and Socs revelations. At other library branches we've literally had to step over men who've passed out drunk across the sidewalk. Last week Ducks was getting out of the car as a man stopped walking, just even with her on the sidewalk and lost his liquid lunch in a stream onto his shoes.

Today, this is the patron we sat next to in the children's reading section of the library. He was about 6 feet 5  and this image was snapped with my iPhone laying on my thigh at our study table. Behind me - or to his immediate left is a full children's read-along in progress.

My girls studiously completed math expressions and copied vocabulary words. Our tall sleepy neighbor reached up a hand with impressively long talons, sharpened to ominous points and tugged his hood further down and then hid his hands.

His movement caught our eyes.

Me: That man is very sleepy.
Socs: Me too. Sleepy I am.
Ducky: UuUHmuhhuh

Ducky has recently taken to confusing the affirmative expression "Uh-huh" with the also affirmative "mm-hmm"and combining them into a rising and falling sound of positive agreement.

Me: What do you think about that man?
Socs: Sleepy he is and big too.
Ducky: UuUHmuhhuh Taiwan too we have these man.

Every little bit that I can learn about the girls is a piece in the puzzle of their experience before their lives with Hudson and I. And apart from learning that they're not scared of bums collapsed in and around public buildings - they also have arrived at the Yoda-speak period of their conversational English.

Ivy am I


All Red Ivy compositions, posts and blog content Copyright protected.

Friday, September 21, 2012

 

WHEN DO WE GRADUATE TO SOPHOMORIC HUMOR?

Every kid finds anything related to the potty hilarious. That's a universal child fact. Ask any parent, they'll tell you. It's vaguely off-putting to be having a pleasantly mature conversation with your child (OK, for me it's a mature mishmash of Chinglish) and be speaking to them as an adult when all of a sudden Ducky blurts "Wait! I poo poo!" and jumps up to fart away from me. Giggling she gleefully sprint-dances to her chosen spot and loudly passes gas. Then she practically has to hold herself up against the nearest wall as she manages to say, "Excuse me" around her giggles.

Yes, we've explained that poo poo is different than farting, but neither of our girls is interested in changing their use of the words poo poo.

Oh, they don't miss an opportunity to tell on each other for passing gas or stinking up the bathroom before the other one has to take a bath. "Fah-dah! Jieh Jieh go poo poo (giggle) when I bend down for my brush on the floor and poo poo on my head! Fah-dah!"

Honestly, in this tough economy, it would be a gold mine to be a clown at kids parties. All you have to do is bring a prop toilet. Seriously, all the other birthday clowns on the kids backyard circuit would be sent packing as your bookings soared. Just turn on a recording of a toilet flushing and you'd have all the little partygoer's attention. Then open a curtain to reveal you sitting on a toilet and that would be good for like 3+ minutes of roll on the floor hysteria. Then tell a knock knock joke to the birthday boy and then ask for volunteers to sit on your toilet and you've got a classic routine until the little ones have to go home.

So after school today, while working on two sets of homework with Socs and Ducky I hear them continually using the Mandarin words for taking a dump (not really used by adults) and I finally quirk up an eyebrow, "Way shenma niman shuo da bien zintien?" They slap the table soundly and kick their legs and cackle, "Ma ma, you say da bien! Say again!" I refuse and they hand me their class assignment for next week: Excretory System review.

Ugh. I seriously can't get a break. Makes a girl miss Rodney Dangerfield.

Ivy

All Red Ivy compositions, posts and blog content Copyright protected.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

 
I'M SCARRED FROM MY MORNING DRIVE
Hmmm I'm sensing a disturbing trend on morning radio. Yesterday while driving my daughters to school a DJ was interviewing the writer of the book SHITTY MOM. The author and callers bantered back and forth about all of the ways that most of us are bad mothers.

I casually glanced in the rear-view mirror at Ducky and Socrates, and felt relatively comfortable with the content because, hey, their English is coming along, but their comprehension isn't 'witty banter' quick yet so it's cool for me to stay tuned in.

As I drove I eagerly awaited the author's voice to come over the airwaves into my car and give me crucial knowledge of behavior that I must avoid lest I be judged a shitty mom. Listening intently I made mental notes: Don't yell, lose my temper, ridicule or physically abuse my kids. Check. Gotcha.  I'm happy to say that I'm not a yeller, I don't hit the girls and I'm a firm believer in building up their dignity, not tearing it down.

Driving home yesterday I felt all shiny and virtuous in my mothering practices* -- however, that was not the case this morning. After dropping the girls off at school the DJ tosses out the topic of what witnessing your parents having sex can do to a kid. Then callers flood the lines with some pretty fucked up experiences of walking in on their folks inflagrante dilecto.

OMG! I'm a shitty mom! I realized that when Hudson and I have sex, I am mentally not a mom so I've not given the possibility of being caught by the kids much thought. When they're in bed for the night and we're feeling frisky, we just use discretion.

What the hey people?! I don't want to think about parents having, sex. I certainly don't want to think of us as being parents and being sexual. I don't want to be thinking about intimacy and our parental responsibility to not scar our 9 and 10-year-old with the accidental viewing of us "loving each other very very much". Uck!

What have I learned about being a mother from the radio? First , I should lock the door to wherever I am when having sex -- like forever because some of the radio callers were older when they saw their parents. Second, lesson learned is that local LA morning radio seriously needs to get some interesting content. And finally I learned that Slash (the guitarist for Guns and Roses) walked in on his mom having sex with David Bowie when he was younger. Actually they both were younger cuz it was like back in the late 70s. I think if I was in Slash's shoes, I could have overlooked the fact that I'd walked in on my mom when she was having one off with David Bowie and maybe just have the image of a naked David Bowie burned into my memory. That is if my brain works the way I think it does. I mean there isn't much higher on the cool scale than Bowie.

Ivy

*Of course except for almost killing little Socrates on Revolution at Magic Mountain.

All Red Ivy compositions, posts and blog content Copyright protected.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

 
2 NON BLONDES



Ah, Los Angeles the white hot pavement of Hollywood! Well, today it was 105 and the whole family headed to the mall to beat the heat and buy Ducky some new sneakers. Dang! This growth spurt is nothing short of miraculous and she's outgrown 2 pairs since we've started buying shoes for her 4 months ago. Anyhoo, it's not very fun shopping for tennies when there are crazed Halloween costumes everywhere you look right now -- which leads us to the photo above.

Both Socrates and Ducks have a fondness for Rapunzel and ask for every published iteration to be read to them at bedtime. Usually it's Hudson's pleasure to read to them, but once I read it and was intrigued to learn that Rapunzel is taken from her parents by a witch. Ah... I don't know if Ducks registers any literal identification with this literary damsel, but now that I'm a mother, I'm no longer surprised by how simple and Freudian life really is. You were an orphan, so you identify with Rapunzel's story. Make's sense.

Ducky has asked repeatedly for a wig with long blonde hair and recently over dinner, Socs voiced that she wanted one too. Today they each took $11 out of their allowances and bought their very own Disney princess hair. Socs chose Aurora hair and Ducks got Rapunzel.

Well, now the Converse tennies are tucked into the closet and after a hot, sweaty couple of hours of giggling, combing, and swirling their hands through their long hair while walking purposefully the way princesses are supposed to I guess, here's what's happening.

Ducky has retired her wig after having some fun with the hairnet that it is stored in -- she was wearing it like a hat, a veil and ended up having some imagination time when she thought I wasn't watching in which she looked like a drunken lunch lady whose FDA-sanctioned hair cover had slumped forward over her eyes.

Now, as I clean the kitchen after a dang hot dinner, Socrates is still wearing her reddish Aurora hair and doing a slow, bored horse gallop around the house with her hands holding imaginary reigns and singing "My Little Pony, My Little Pony, aahhh ahhhh ah ahhhhh" as if it's her body's last hurrah before she collapses into a sweaty sleepy heap.

I'm so happy with my life I must sign off right now and pinch myself.

Ivy

All Red Ivy compositions, posts and blog content Copyright protected.

Archives

09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003   10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003   11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003   12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004   01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004   02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004   03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004   04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004   05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004   06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004   07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004   08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004   09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004   10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004   11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004   12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005   01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005   02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005   03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005   04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005   05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005   06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005   07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005   08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005   09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005   10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005   11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005   12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006   01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006   02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006   05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006   06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006   01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007   02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007   03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007   04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007   05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007   08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007   09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007   10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007   11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007   12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008   01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008   02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008   03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008   04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008   05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008   06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008   07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008   09/01/2008 - 10/01/2008   10/01/2008 - 11/01/2008   12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009   01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009   03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009   04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009   05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009   06/01/2009 - 07/01/2009   08/01/2009 - 09/01/2009   09/01/2009 - 10/01/2009   10/01/2009 - 11/01/2009   11/01/2009 - 12/01/2009   12/01/2009 - 01/01/2010   01/01/2010 - 02/01/2010   02/01/2010 - 03/01/2010   03/01/2010 - 04/01/2010   04/01/2010 - 05/01/2010   05/01/2010 - 06/01/2010   06/01/2010 - 07/01/2010   07/01/2010 - 08/01/2010   08/01/2010 - 09/01/2010   09/01/2010 - 10/01/2010   10/01/2010 - 11/01/2010   11/01/2010 - 12/01/2010   03/01/2011 - 04/01/2011   05/01/2011 - 06/01/2011   07/01/2012 - 08/01/2012   09/01/2012 - 10/01/2012   10/01/2012 - 11/01/2012   01/01/2013 - 02/01/2013   05/01/2013 - 06/01/2013  

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]