Sunday, October 31, 2010


We had a nice Halloween this year, beginning with a rainy trip to the pumpkin patch and carving these two beauties, which we named Pumpkinseed and Steve.

Sadly, Pumpkinseed and Steve only lasted a few days before their teeth curled in and they started to stink up the house.

Natalie, shocking everyone, veered from tradition and eschewed her Cinderella dress (worn the last two years), opting instead for Tinker Bell. Here she is dressed for the parade at school.

On Saturday night, Tony and I dressed as our favorite TV couple from our favorite TV show, "Friday Night Lights." Coach and Tami Taylor set a much better marital example than our choice last year: the totally dysfunctional, but extremely stylish, Don and Betty Draper from "Mad Men."

Here's Coach in his East Dillon Lions gear. He even got Croakies for his shades. Authentic!

And here's Tami. Wish my hair was longer, but I think I captured her Texas spirit. That silver and turqoise belt belonged to my grandmother. The boots were an impulse purchase that I justified by telling myself I would have them for life and they were the same brand worn by Teddy Roosevelt.

After we snapped this photo, we went next door to our neighbors' house. Dwayne and Manya and their friends spent the entire day dressing up the house with spiders and centipedes and cobwebs. It was the best Halloween house I'd ever seen. Oh! And someone brought a cake in a kitty litter box, with a scooper for serving and Tootsie Rolls on top. Gross, but tasty!

I think we might keep up the TV couple theme for next year. I was thinking Archie and Edith Bunker, but Tony had a better idea: Lucy and Ricky Ricardo! I'm going to start looking now for a red wig...

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My littie gril

A favorite time of day for me is pulling Natalie's folder from her backpack to see what Mrs. Evins has sent home from Room 1.

The other day, it was a picture with a story below. Natalie wouldn't let me read it until she'd grabbed her crayons and finished the drawing at the dining room table.

Then she read it to me. And when she was done, she looked up at me, over her glasses like an adult would pausing from the newspaper.

"My name is Natalie. I am six yrers old. I am a littie gril. I like to go to the zoo because it is fun. I like to do my best."

Natalie and me on the grass; the sign says pink "because me and Mama like pink"

Of course I told her I loved it.

"You do like to do your best, don't you?" I asked.

She nodded.

The day before I started my new job I told Natalie I was nervous. She considered this, and then gave me a piece of advice I have followed every day of the last two weeks - during which much of the time I've had no idea what people were talking about and felt like I'd parachuted into a foreign country.

"I was scared for first grade. But I'm not scared anymore," Natalie said.

"Just do Mama's best and work hard."

So every day I'm doing Mama's best. I'm so proud of my littie gril.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Curly hair

The new thing around here is braiding Natalie's hair at night, when it's wet. In the morning, when we take out the braids, her hair is "curly" for school.

Actually, it's crimpy. Very retro '80s. I told Natalie that when I was a little girl, I slept with rollers in my hair. (Really, it was just two for the bangs, the rest of my hair left straight. Great look.) I shouldn't have told her about rollers because now she wants them.

I usually manage about six or seven braids and then call it quits. There's no way I'm doing rollers.
Last night Natalie was so excited about the braids and her curly hair, she imagined what her little school friend might think.

"Maybe my hair be so curly, Calista not know I'm me!"

Friday, October 1, 2010

Milestones and hope

It took me awhile before I could drive past Rady Children's Hospital and not think of the night I stood at the pay phone in the ER waiting room and cried into the receiver, telling my mother in Wisconsin that my new baby daughter had suffered two violent seizures and a CT scan of her brain showed that it was atrophied.

Not only would she be paralyzed, as we had been told the day of her adoption just a week earlier in China. She might never be a normal child or functioning adult.

I can still see the parents in the waiting room. I thought them so lucky; their children had fevers or a broken leg. They looked away as I sobbed into the phone. The next morning I drove home to find dinner on the table as we'd left it, plastic wrapping from the paramedics' instruments on the floor, and the phone on the coffee table, where I'd dropped it after calmly telling a 911 dispatcher that my year-old daughter was unresponsive.

But later that morning, I returned to the hospital to find a kindly neurologist, and then an animated neurosurgeon who reminded me of Guy Smiley. And within a few hours the diagnoses from the night before and China were dismissed. They were replaced with theories about the mysterious scar at the base of Natalie's spine and why her brain's ventricles were so large - along with the physicians' guarded hope for a normal development. There would be more visits to the ER, but we had begun the ascent.

My mom and Natalie

There were many visits to Rady Children's over the next several years. And as Natalie sat up, and then learned to crawl and walk on the padded mats of the physical therapy department, those terrible memories of that night, when I thought everything was lost, started to fade. When I'd approach the hospital on the freeway, I didn't feel sick anymore. I felt happy. This was the place that was fixing my daughter, and fixing me, too.

It had become a place of comfort, compassion, camaraderie - and most importantly: milestones and hope.

On Monday I start my new job there. I can't think of another place I'd rather be.