Friday, June 26, 2009

My brother Richard

I think my brother highly under-estimates my intelligence.

I had been emailing him to inform him of mom's condition so he would be able to understand better her dementia problems. However, he has played the "Bill didn't tell me about his financial problems until long after they had happened... " tune in his emails, and quite frankly - I'm not buying it. It was before Bill had lost his home to foreclosure that Richard was trying to get mom to let Bill, his wife, and her four kids stay at mom's house. How ridiculous! Mom's home has around 950 sq ft - it has three bedrooms (one of which is an office and stores a hutch she used to have in the kitchen), one very small bath, a living room and a small eat-in kitchen. Great for a single person or a retired couple who don't want a large home to take care of... but to have 7 people cramped up in the home? That would be lunacy. So I know Richard knew of Bill's financial and legal troubles all during that time - Richard was trying to get mom to bail Bill out of jail and give him money and/or let Bill's family stay at her house - all before the foreclosure.

I didn't exactly write back and say, "Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!" - but I did let him know that I had been keeping a log of what had transpired for the last 8 years - dates, times, who did what, said what, and the outcomes. With that being said, his last email was basically a nice goodbye-I-won't-be-writing-to-you-again. Running scared?

There was so much Richard said in his emails that I knew wasn't true. In his first couple of emails, I was hoping he had actually done some soul searching and was willing to take some blame for what had torn us apart as a family. But I saw pretty quickly (by the third or fourth email) that he was still Richard... just that he has probably had some coaching on how to approach me and word things - but when he got a chance to latch onto something that he saw as wrong (mom changing her stories as to what happened in certain instances, which was a symptom of her dementia, and not outright lying, as Richard called it) he jumped on it with Richard-style flaming anger.

It felt like a gotcha moment.

The last email I sent, I told him that if there was ever a need to make a major decision about mom's care, I would call him and discuss it with him - because she is OUR mom. I have no clue where Bill is or how to contact him, so I was leaving that up to Richard. I won't exclude the brothers.

I really have to be cautious with all this - on one hand, I think Richard is trying to find something he can latch on to and use to hurt me. I just don't trust him. I don't think I'll ever trust him again.


On a lighter note.... check out Jia stretching for gymnastics. The kid can do the splits already. We're amazed at how flexible she is...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Somebody missed the point...

I got a comment from someone who was researching information on PJ days and things to do. She came across my post and all I can say is Wow! Did she miss the point. Here is Maria's comment left on this post - I have italicized her comment, and have written my responses... funny thing, she has a blogger account, but no blog. I view these people as hit and run bloggers. I actually like to call them Floggers - people who want to beat you down by their comments, but not allow you any access to their account because they don't have an actual blog. There's no way to have dialogue with this person except through my own blog. Don'tcha just love that?

Here goes:

I am a recent college graduate and about to enter the field of teaching, and currently a summer day camp counselor. As I was looking for PJ Day activities for our theme day tomorrow, I came across this blog. Your analogy of PJ Day fun to the "fun" racist people once had hanging African Americans is ludicrous, not to mention misleading and offensive.

The point I was making (which you missed entirely) was that just because something is done over and over again, which, in its repetition, becomes a “tradition”, does not make it right – no matter what excuse is used for “having fun.” Kenzie’s teacher’s explanation that pj day has “always been done” and it was “fun for the kids” is a tenuous argument - she could not provide a logical basis for doing something that was actually outside the original intent of what school is supposed to do – which is to educate our children – not to get them excited about doing something that they don’t do any other day of the year, let alone outside of the home on any consistent basis.

Also, I called what people did to African Americans in the past exactly what it was: terrorizing, torture, and to hang someone from a tree is murder by any definition. You are the one who took this totally out of context.

I came from a racist family. I have always hated and always will stand against racism, honey. I have to – I have two Chinese daughers who will have to deal with racism, and I need to set the example and show them that racism should never be tolerated or accepted in any way – whether directed toward them or others.

I respect your right to choose not to have your children participate in this potentially "dangerous" PJ day. And I don't know what kind of pajamas you dress your daughter in, but I'd be willing to bet that they would not be considered "intimate apparel". Most kids have brightly colored baggy matching comfy t-shirts and trousers.

In the same sentence you say you respect my right to choose, you've make a derisive inference that I'm (stupid/crazy/dumb/an idiot/whatever you want to put here) by calling PJ day "dangerous" as if that is what I posted?

Wow, that's some respect there, Maria.... and quite a leap in your interpretation of my post.

Again, you missed the point. It is dangerous to allow my children to participate year after year in questionable activities that have no educational value – it sends the wrong message to children. It is not a dangerous activity in and of itself - pj day will not incite the kids to riot or have sex or beat up on each other (or whatever!) just for participating in the one day - but pile that one day of questionable activity upon another and another, year after year, and then the kids get the message - that which is not allowed is fun and should be done. Kids are NOT stupid. That was my point.

Please re-read the entire post when you are of a calm mind, and please don’t just react to key buzzwords that set off those bells in your head. If all you listen to are the bells, they will occupy your mind and prevent you from thinking clearly.

By the way, Webster’s definition of intimate is as follows:

1 a: intrinsic, essential b: belonging to or characterizing one's deepest nature
: marked by very close association, contact, or familiarity <intimate knowledge of the law>
3 a
: marked by a warm friendship developing through long association <intimate friends> b: suggesting informal warmth or privacy <intimate clubs>
: of a very personal or private nature <intimate secrets>

My use of the word intimate for pj’s would be #4 – since we only wear pj’s in the home when we go to bed (or perhaps when we are sick). Can you tell me that you wear your pj’s outside of your home? I’ll bet not. (Make that: I hope not.)

And one final thing on this point – I consider recess, phys-ed, and field trips of educational value. I highly regard play as vital to a child’s development – physical, mental, and emotional.

Have you considered the psychological effect she will encounter by being left out of this fun activity? You need to get a grip and teach your child right and wrong without isolating them from society.

No, I just do things willy-nilly depending on the mood I'm in with no consideration for my daughter's feelings.

Ok - it felt good to make that facetious remark.

I consider very carefully what I am doing. I’m her mother – I am the one responsible for making sure she grows up safely and with a healthy self-esteem – and a lot of that comes from her understanding that she is loved and cared about by her family and that outsiders can’t/don’t have these same concerns for her. (And big surprise! She was not the only one in the school who was kept out by their parents.)

You further miss the point in this - do we (as parents) allow our kids to do everything all the other kids do so they don’t feel left out? Or do we teach our children to recognize a slippery slope and stand up for what is right or proper? I want her to learn to think about things for herself.

I walked her through a series of questions to make her think about what was going on and to help her understand that she needs to stand up for what is right – not to just blindly follow the crowd. It’s called having a backbone… you know, that rigid thing that runs down your back and allows you to stand up? If she doesn’t learn to use it, she’ll fall for anything that comes her way.

I have a grip on right and wrong. And that’s why I care about what she is exposed to by strangers. Keeping my kids out one day can hardly be considered isolating them from society. Um, who's stretching things now?

You completely contradicted yourself by not wanting your child to do something seen as taboo by society.

You fail to explain how. And evidently, other readers fail to have your “recent college graduate” insight on this contradiction. I, too, am a college graduate – magna cum laude, BS in Business Administration - and proud of it. And many of my readers are college graduates – with many more years of experience in life than you. What are we missing? Please enlighten us with your erudite observations.

This kind of thing reminds me of a sign my father used to have in his room. It read something like this:

Teenagers! Tired of being harassed by your stupid parents? Act NOW! Move out, get a job, and start paying your own bills while you still know everything!

My dad had a wonderful sense of humor.

But remember when it was taboo and unacceptable to drink out of the same water fountain as African Americans?

Previous paragraphs, please.

Are you overreacting? Absolutely.

NOT. Overreacting would be suing the school. Overreacting would be running in and screaming at the principal. Overreacting would be walking up and down the street in front of the school with a picket sign.

As a future teacher, unless you work for an ultra liberal school system that has ultra liberal parents’ children attending, you, too, will need to learn how to smile and say (with sincerity) that you respect the parents’ position and look forward to seeing the child the following day. Kenzie had a wonderful kindergarten teacher who was able to do just that. I respect her very much as a teacher. She did her best to get Kenzie in school for that day, however, she was also genuinely gracious and understanding of my stance with my daughter.

I put my thoughts and position on the issue politely in a letter to the principal, and she understands and supports parents' rights to approve whatever extra-curricular activities the parents disagree with... and to be honest - this kind of "program" is truly extra-curricular - not within the school's main focus.

I don’t believe in the “if it feels good, do it” mentality. When year after year there is something questionable being done in the school system under the guise of “it’s fun for the kids” and there’s no logical or reasonable connection to education – it is up to me to protect my children from that type of thinking and mentality.

Why not just take Kenzie out of school so you can shelter her from anything else taboo since you don't want her to "figure it out on her own". How do you think children learn? I can guarantee that it is not by their parents preaching.

Take Kenzie out of public school? Hmmmm.... tempting. Especially when I come across comments like yours from those upcoming teachers who think they know more than the parents about what their kids should be exposed to in school.

Gee, you’re right – parents preaching will tend to have the opposite effect. Looks like your education (whether it was from college or personal experience) has taught you something. However, as stated previously, I walked her through a set of questions to have her come to the conclusion that this is just not appropriate wear for school.

There is plenty of evidence and research that shows kids learn more from their parents in the early years than from any one else. If a parent lays the foundation, the child can build upon that. And when a parent gives a child a safe and loving home, and the child knows they can talk with their parents, and that their parents care about what happens to them, the children are less likely to follow the crowd, especially if they’ve been given the opportunity and taught how to think things out for themselves.

It takes a parent to help them learn this process – they aren't born knowing how to do this from birth. But if a parent doesn’t do their job and figures the kid will just learn stuff from the other kids – then that child will not have any foundation to build on.

Yes, kids can be led astray from the foundations laid by parents. No-brainer there. And that is facilitated - even encouraged - when parents begin to abdicate their responsibility to teach their kids right from wrong and leave it in the hands of the school or other caregivers – or when they just plain don’t care anymore after the child reaches a certain age.

Parenting isn’t just picking the kid up from a daycare or school and feeding it then putting it to bed. (Lest you further misinterpret that statement, I am talking about children as if they are objects to demonstrate how some parents do not treat their children as sentient beings and therefore needing more than just the basics of food and shelter. I have seen many a parent who believes that as long as they feed, clothe and give their kids a bed to sleep in, they have done their job.

It is completely disheartening when I know this is how the child is treated by his/her own parents. When you are teaching, you will learn to recognize the kids who come from families who parent and those who don’t.) I thank GOD that this is the exception to the vast number of parents in the world - most treasure their children beyond measure and would stand between their child and a charging lion (or rhino, or elephant, ect.).

The key is to be involved in a child’s life – talking with our children, taking advantage of those “learning moments” when you and your child see something that is considered bad or inappropriate behavior and discussing with your child about why it is bad, allowing him or her to participate in the conversation – that’s how kids learn – by active involvement. It is keeping the lines of communication open – to allow the child to express themselves and to actually listen to them – not to just give lip service of “uh-huh, uh-huh” as they talk. HEAR them, for real.

You have completely blown this out of proportion. Thank you for preparing me for the controlling and obnoxious parents I will probably encounter when I begin teaching.

Please remember that those “controlling” and “obnoxious” parents you are loathe to deal with in the future are the ones who are also paying your salary… Unless you will be teaching at a private school, you will be paid by state and federal funds, which come from us – the taxpayers – and that includes us “controlling” parents.

However, you are welcome… if this is preparing you for the parents who love their kids and who are more than aware of the pitfalls schools tend to go down and take action to protect their children from idealogy gone amuck… then I’m happy to be of service.

Your protestations make me wonder about your own childhood and relationship with your parents. Perhaps yours was not the happiest of upbringings. We reveal much about ourselves when we write… sometimes inadvertently… I know as a teenager and young adult, I had no respect for my parents and what they would tell me about life and my behaviors. At that time, and in my eyes, they were – in your words – controlling. Today, after living on my own for 18 years, then being married for 10.5 years and then with children in our home for the last 5 – I realize they were amongst the wisest people I have ever known. And that they loved me.

And just for the record, one final note:

I am making an assumption here that you don’t have kids. You don’t mention any, so I am going to make this observation based on the fact that most people who have kids and want to comment mention their children as a basis for their opinions.

I love it when someone who has never raised a child themselves tries to tell me how to raise my kids or that I’m wrong to parent the way I do. It never fails that someone who has no 24/7, full time, hands-on, bonded, attached, connected-heart-mind-and-soul experience with children thinks they know so much more than those of us who are forever our childrens' parents.

It's obvious to me that those who have no child-rearing experience have so much to teach those of us who are actually doing the job of rearing our children.

I know before adopting our daughters, I read tons of books and articles on child-rearing. But with all that knowledge in those books, nothing prepares you for the real thing. Nothing. When you have your own children, please share with us your experiences – you may find that your attitude might change a little in regards to how much you think you know about “controlling” parents and what they really want for their kids.

Good luck in your chosen profession, Maria.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jia grieves for her Chinese mommy

Don't ask me how we got on the subject, but last night, for about the third time since we've had Jia, I told her about how her Chinese mommy left her to be found so she could be taken care of by someone else. In this case, she was taken to an orphanage and cared for until we could come adopt her and be her family.

Jia asked many questions - mostly why did her Chinese mommy not keep her. I told her that no one knows why... her family didn't leave a note stating why they left her...

She got real quiet, and the look on her face said that she was finally processing the information.

She said, "That's so sad."

I told her I agreed.

She said, "I wish my Chinese mommy could keep me."

I told her I understood how she felt. I told her that even though she didn't have her Chinese mommy - she has a new family that loves her dearly and want to give her all the things her Chinese family would probably have wanted for her as well... a good education, fun activities like dance lessons and gymnastics and swim lessons, and lots of hugs and kisses, and a sister to enjoy life with.

She was holding back - and acted like she didn't want to cry. I reached out to her more than once to hold her, but she made no move to come to me. I finally said, "Please, honey, let me hold you. Let me love you."

She then began to cry and came to me. I held her and rocked her as she held tightly to me and sobbed and cried for her Chinese mommy. Over and over again, she would say, "I wish my Chinese mommy kept me." All I could do was kiss her and stroke her hair and tell her "I know".
Kenzie and daddy came up to see what all the commotion was. I told them that Jia was grieving for her Chinese mommy, and I think it surprised Roy. Kenzie's comment was, "Why?"

Then Kenzie got up on the bed and started goofing off - which made Jia smile. She stated again (to Kenzie) that she wished her Chinese mommy had kept her. Kenzie just kept on goofing. Then Jia said to Kenzie, "You have a Chinese mommy, too, Kenzie."

Kenzie's reply? "Yeah... So?" Then more goofing. It doesn't seem to affect Kenzie yet that there was a mother who had given birth to her but didn't keep her. She just doesn't care at this point.

Later, as Jia was in bed and I was trying to get her to sleep, she said she missed her Chinese mommy. But then she was very loving and wanted lots of hugs and kisses - then told me to leave - she didn't need me. I have a feeling she is going to take some time to process this, and there will be more questions.

There's no easy way through this and there's no way to soften the blow. It will just run its course.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

My Beach Babes

Yes, I said beach babes. The girls are getting big enough not to be called babies - although that is how I'll always look at them, even when they are in their 30's (if I am blessed to live that long).

You know what my problem is? I think every picture I take is a freaking work of art. I took the girls to a local beach at a nearby lake (got a little turned around but finally found it) and began to take picture after picture... and when I got home to look at them all, I was really pleased with the outcome.

I said 'oooh I like this one' and 'aaaah that one is really nice' and 'this one is great!' or 'this one is even better' (like I would know a really good photograph from a polariod.) It has nothing to do with my ability as a photographer. Calling me a photographer is a joke. It's just I have these two adorable girls that rock my world every single day. I know that, but I can lie to myself a little, can't I?

Believe it or not - I had to doctor this one with photo editing software to get a woman's butt and legs out fo the pic - she was sitting in a folding chair and it just took something away from the photo.

Can you tell I doctored this one to get Kenzie's butt and leg out of it? I love the photo editing software I use - it's super simple, and made this a better pic. I know photographers do this all the time to create a better picture. Why not me?

The day was a blast, but the kids got home with sand in their crotch - can we say ouch???? - and a shower was next on the list. Water, water everywhere.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Little Lost Jia Jia

I would just like to address how easy it is to lose a child.

I consider Roy and I to be fairly careful individuals when it comes to our children. We are constantly watching the kids and double checking where they are. We make them hold our hands, or they have to walk beside us, depending on where we are. But even the best of parents can end up losing a kid.

At the zoo, we had been watching the baboons (highly entertaining when they are fighting). Anyway, Roy, his mother, Kenzie and Jia started to walk away. I called out to Roy that I would catch up with them later.

So I continued to shoot some pictures… then walked on to the elephant area. When I caught up with Roy, I saw Grandma Geri and Kenzie, but no Jia. Roy looked at me and asked “Where’s Jia?”

I told him "Isn't she with you? She was walking behind you when you walked away."

That's when the realization set in that something had gone horribly wrong.

Panic…. Where the hell is she?

I yelled out her name, and someone came up to me and said, “She’s back there…” pointing to where the baboon area was.

Roy immediately walked back to find her sobbing for her mama. Evidently, she must have changed her mind about going with daddy and wanted to stay at the baboon area – but she didn’t tell mommy or daddy. And she wasn't even near me when I had begun walking away, or I would have seen her at that point. Both Roy and I made the assumption she was with the other because we didn't see her.

It made my heart sink to think that something bad could have happened to her. Even worse, I would blame myself if it had – I would have beaten myself up over it and wondered what was wrong with me that I didn’t watch her more carefully – assumptions or no assumptions. It would have been too easy for someone to step in and talk her into leaving with them… And it felt so good to hold her in my arms, to know she was safe. I can say that for the rest of the day – she was right by our sides and didn’t wander off anywhere.

So… communication and taking nothing for granted are the watchwords for both of us. And perhaps, Jia will appreciate more what it means to stay with one of us, rather than going off on her own without telling us. I want her to understand that we may be strict sometimes on what she can or cannot do, but it's because we love her.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The kids take pictures at the zoo

I have two Kodak Easyshare C813 cameras that I bought last year. One specifically for Kenzie for her 6th birthday, and one for Jia. I had no idea if Jia would be able to handle a camera or not when I bought it, but I thought I might as well go ahead and get it to be prepared for when I would be able to give her one. When we met Jia, it was (painfully) obvious it would be awhile before she could be handed over a piece of equipment, let alone some of the toys she would be given.

Even more unfortunate for her, she has this incredibly strong sense of what is fair and right and even - she believes whatever Kenzie has, she should have.
It has taken the last 7 months (the 10th will actually make 7 months since we took her into our lives) for her to calm down and she has really taken to listening to us and what we say. She used to have this horrible problem with touching things she shouldn't or was told not to, such as, slamming her hand down on a cash register at a mall kiosk, or touching computer keys when she was told not to, or touching food on a buffet that she didn't intend to take and eat. So much of what we take for granted in our every day lives meant nothing to her - she had no point of reference or understanding about what was acceptable and what was not.

But she has shown a lot of growth - and fortunately for us, she can internalize the pain of a time out and it has helped her know that for her actions, there will be consequences...

So when we were all going to go to the zoo this weekend, Kenzie wanted to take her camera. Jia was begging "Please mommy? I want a camera, too. I promise I won't drop it." (Another of her behaviors that was hard to get over and is starting to sink in... some of it is accidental - but she also does it on purpose- such as accidentally knocking a utensil off of the dining room table, and then she puts that one in the sink, gets another, and then immediately knocks that one off, too, looking at us as though we should just bust out laughing at her. Um... I don't think so.)
I made a deal with Jia. I would allow her to take a camera, BUT... she had to follow the rules. The rules were 1) you don't take out the camera without mommy to supervise; 2) you have to hold it exactly the way mommy tells you to, and 3) you do everything mommy tells you to do with the camera until I'm comfortable that you can handle it. It is NOT a toy. This is a real camera and you must not mistreat it.

Her eyes lit up - you could almost see the fireworks going off inside her brain as she understood she was going to get to take pictures with a REAL camera.

Here are her very best ones. I only supervised, but she took the pics and I loved her results. The only thing I've done is resize the pics and slightly sharpen them due to the blurriness that occurs with resizing. I would have to say, not bad for a little kid just learning about photography.

Kenzie's behind - butts are always a fascinating subject to 5 year olds.

If you can't quite make it out - it's a walrus.

This sky shot is intentional. I watched as she framed the pic all by herself.

Great pic of a polar bear.

Good pic of Kenzie

I have no idea who this goofy looking woman is. Pay her no attention.

Daddy. Always a kid favorite!

Now, here are Kenzie's pictures. I think she keeps getting better and better as time goes by. Some interesting perspective shots, too..

Daddy & Grandma Geri

This "little" walrus was attracted to anyone who had facial hair. Um... it's a little male walrus. Wonder what that says about the animal world....

Kenzie climbed up on some seats facing the water where the walruses were and took this pic. I really liked it - and thought it an interesting perspective.

There's that annoying woman in green again.

A closeup of a couple sea lions.

Great pic of Grandma Geri.

And now for mommy's pics she took with Kenzie's camera (mine ran out of battery pretty quickly).These were at the water park in the zoo. Jia was scared to death to get under any of the water until I tricked her - and then she got so we couldn't get her out of it.

Wow... what a day!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Summer vacation starts

Summer vacation started officially last Friday - May 30. That meant no more school for both our daughters. Kenzie and Jia are missing their school a LOT - and I'm going to be hard pressed to keep them occupied and happy.

We walked to a local park, but there were wasps and a very large bumblebee around all the equipment. So we walked further to a small stream near the park. The kids had a great time looking for pretty rocks. Even I enjoyed looking for rocks (was a rabid rock hound as a kid). However, that may not continue - I found out from our next door neighbor that there's a snapping turtle that lives in/near the creek. YIKES! My worst nightmare...

But here are pics from the creek.

We were also introduced to a new, small park. It's stretched out with tennis courts, a small child's playground, and a basketball court - in a quiet neighborhood with woods around the entire place. It's quiet and very nice for the kids. I think we'll probably go there a few times - it's not as crowded as some of the other well-known parks around town.

I'm hoping that we can find some other nice places for them to play and discover.