Friday, May 28, 2010

The girly girl toughens up

Natalie is a girly girl. She wears a dress everyday, often with sparkle shoes, and she sings princess songs to herself while twirling around to make her skirt fly out.

I may have contributed to this by painting her toes, buying all those dresses and generally being quite a girly girl myself. Yet I will unhesitatingly grab for a lizard in the backyard. Natalie recoils.

I wasn't always girly. As a child I was short-haired and scabby, got into fights and spent a lot of time outside in my snowfort, or in the tree in front of our second floor duplex, watching my mother watch television inside. One day on the stairs at school, a passing girl asked: "Are you a boy or a girl?"

But a few years later the boobs came, and with them the boys, and that was the end of that.

Because I think Natalie is so girly and because she doesn't get much exercise at school and because I worry she suffers from Nature-Deficit Disorder, I have decided to act.

Last Sunday was the day. We'd join our friend Donna on her trip to a small, backyard farm to buy free-range eggs. The farm also has baby chicks, goats and bunnies. "Less of an ick factor," Donna said, comparing them to lizards. And then, Tony and I would take Natalie on her first hike.

Natalie was excited for the farm, even obediently changing out of her dress into pants for the trip.

As we made our way to the goats, Natalie asked "What smells, Mama?" And to emphasize her disgust, she pinched her nose.

She wasn't interested in petting this cute little kid.

And wouldn't even offer a finger to stroke this two-day-old bunny's head.

"Look at Aiden," I told her. Aiden lives at this farm. But his example didn't mean much to Natalie.

I don't have any pictures of Natalie because she was never in the same frame as the animals, but rather wrapped around my thigh or holding her nose.

But here she is safely back in the comfort of our good-smelling home with the eggs we bought.

After a lunch of curried egg salad sandwiches and a nap, it was time for Phase Two. I had prepared for this with the purchase of new hiking shoes for Natalie. Of course I made sure there was some pink involved. Cute, right? She totally dug them.

We chose Cowles Mountain for our inaugural hike. It's close to home and a mile to the top, where on a clear day you can see for miles. I kept my expectations low: 20 minutes up?

She was timid at first, unsure of her steps, as she clutched Tony's hand and mine.

But slowly, she began to let go.

And enjoy the view.

We climbed about a third of the way up, and took a break for a snack. We'd made it much farther than I had hoped we would.

And then Natalie said, as she often does when she tires of something: "Mama? I go now."

So we brushed off the crumbs from the pretzels, took another swig of water, and then, something magical happened.

Natalie led the way back down.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


On the way to school this morning, after we'd taken turns singing princess songs and moved on to another favorite topic, all of Natalie's babies, I asked:

"Is Mimi Chinese?"

Natalie and Mimi at DisneyWorld, 2008

"Nooooo. Mimi from Norway."

I think she said Norway. Norway?? How would she know about Norway?

"What, honey?"

"Mimi from Norway, same as Baby Miss Ann."

"Oh. I did not know that," I said. "Did you go and get her?"

"Yyyyyep. When she was one. Really, really small."

Hmmm. This story sounds familiar.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Then I grewed up

Yesterday was Natalie's sixth birthday.

The night before was the fifth anniversary of the day when her dad and I first held her.

So at bedtime that night, I told her the story of that moment. How it was so hot and muggy in Nanchang that the windows of the hotel were fogged, how her bus was delayed for hours and how, despite only seeing a months old photo of her, I knew her the second the orphanage director walked through the door.

I told her how I jumped up from my chair and went to her, how her warm little body felt in my hands, and then against my chest. How her head smelled and how she stared up at me. How she clutched the identification card hanging by a yellow string around her neck; it was her only possession.

And then I told her how I held her, and handed her to her Daddy. And how we took pictures and we went back upstairs to our room, where I gave her a bottle, and she fell asleep on our rock hard Chinese bed, still clutching her ID.

And how it was the happiest day of my life.

I pulled the covers up to her chin.

"That's it?" Natalie asked.

"Yes, that's it," I said.

"Then I grewed up. And now I'm too heavy to hold," she said.

"Yes, you've grown up a lot."

I brushed the hair from her face, kissed both her cheeks, her forehead, her nose, her chin and her lips.

"But you'll never be too heavy for Mama to hold."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The mister is 40

Today is Tony's 40th birthday. So I'm posting this picture, which I know is mostly of me .. but I look happy. Happy with him. And, Tony really likes his fade.

That's the Ocean Beach Pier behind us. We were on the end of it one day when I put my hands on his shoulders, looked him in the eye and told him for the very first time: I love you.

Happy Birthday, honey!

(Photos courtesy of

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mother's Day love

At first when Natalie started kindergarten I thought her teacher Mrs. Solomon was a little intense. There was a syllabus every week, with vocabulary words and a homework assignment and notes to the parents about what was happening in class.

I resisted at first. I didn't believe in homework for kindergarteners. But now my child, who used to hide behind me and refuse to speak or look at anyone, is reading, writing stories, and reading to the class! She is becoming the girl to everyone else that I always knew her to be.

So now I am a Mrs. Solomon devotee. And this week I was delighted to find the following in this week's syllabus.


1. Be a great listener for your mom.
2. Help your mom with chores around the house.
3. Give your mom a hug.
4. Give your mom a back rub.
5. Give your mom more hugs and kisses.

She gets it. Oh does she get it.

Yesterday when I picked up Natalie, she asked for my purse and my keys.

"Why, honey?"

"Because it's almost Mother's Day. I want to help Mama." And she leaned forward under the weight of my purse like a sled dog straining on his line.

This morning, she climbed into bed and rubbed my back.

I read recently that the benefits people get from a vacation are mostly in the months and weeks leading up to trip. It's the planning and thinking about the enjoyment to come that makes people most happy.

I'm feeling the same about Mother's Day, which happens to be my favorite day of the year. All the love and attention and feeling so special without having to think, like I do on my birthday: I'm ^%$#@! 37 and what have I done with my life???

Yes, Mother's Day is grand.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The power of Nie

I'm not Mormon. Or very religious at all.

But I believe in NieNie. She inspires me to be a better mother, a better person, every day when I read her posts on The NieNie Dialogues.

She will inspire you, too. Check out this video posted today by her sister, CJane.

Monday, May 3, 2010

My crowning achievement of motherhood

When we bought the house Natalie's room was painted an awful green for the previous owners' baby boy, and decorated with large, navy blue decal circles which the wife gravely told me would not be part of the sale.

They also painted another bedroom orange. And throughout the house they refused to use tape, preferring to do everything freehand, so there is paint on the ceiling and on the baseboards and the light fixtures. It looks real nice.

They also left us a drawer full of beard trimmings in the master bathroom.

I am not their number one fan.

Anyway, we moved in, my half-Greek husband sprayed everything with bleach and I promised Natalie I would paint her room lavender. Here's an aside, though: Did you know that the color pink can have a calming effect, but after a while it actually intensifies emotions? So little girls' rooms and pink walls should be avoided at all costs. I learned this during a really neat work seminar about group dynamics with a psychologist. My job comes in handy sometimes.

Months later, the room is painted lavender (leaning more toward blue than pink). Natalie was a good little helper.

Now I have finally finished decorating it, the coup de grace being the dresser I planned to assemble myself while Tony was out campaigning for his boss on Saturday. Doing my part to reelect Kevin Faulconer! But then I unpacked everything.

Including this ridiculous bag of screws.

And so we called Angel, our amazing handyman who was going to be here installing the new garbage disposal. Sure, no problem, he said on the phone.

He laughed when he saw it. But he's a great sport. I fed him warm, fresh baked cobbler to ease the irritation. Three hours later, he was finished. It would have taken me two days.

So now the room is finished!

It may be my crowning achievement of motherhood.

After I put the tree on the wall, I stepped back and ... teared up!

I had finally done something perfectly. For once. Which made me feel much better about all my failings as a mother: working full-time, not being a kindergarten room parent, not sewing, skipping pages while reading bedtime stories, all my foot stomping and exasperated, exaggerated sighs.

I'm going to add crown moulding and then it will beyond reproach. I may win Mother of the Year! And I imagine that will buy at least a couple years' worth of stomping my feet and sighing.

Natalie likes her room. She had just one adjustment to make, and that was to the dresser top. Now, it's juuuust right.