Archive for August 2010

Toys

August 22, 2010

I was – am – a doll person.  Not baby dolls so much but dolls.  The first one I have memories of is a blonde, blue eyed Patty Play Pal doll.   I got her for Christmas when I was five.  She was as big as I was and could wear my clothes.  There were others.  Chatty Cathy.  Tressy.  A Shirley Temple doll whose curls were matted beyond relief and so I cut them off.  She looked cuter with that shorter, more manageable bob….I thought.  I still get occasional flak for  ‘Little Miss No Name.’

She had huge brown eyes and lanky blonde hair.  She wore a burlap dress, no shoes and had a plastic tear that could be removed from her cheek.  She came in VERY handy when I would play ‘lost in the Siberian wilderness.’  Okay…so I was a history nut and a very weird child.  And the doll’s flat, out stretched palm made her a perfect complement to our neighborhood ‘spook houses’ in the garage.  A Barbie doll head and a puddle of ketchup on that palm was totally gross out material.

While I still have a trunk full of hand made porcelain dolls and a couple of AG dolls I have had for years, I have not been able to transfer the doll love to my daughter.  Dolls freak her out because they stare at her.  Always have.  Heh.

We DID get into the doll house thing for a while though.  Her big gift for her first Christmas with us was a Fisher Price Loving Family doll house.  We had it wrapped up and under the tree for about two weeks before Christmas.  Her favorite part of our days at home alone were dragging that box out, opening the gift, setting up the doll house and playing with it, wrapping it up again and putting it back under the tree before Daddy got home.  Shhh.  He still doesn’t understand how she understood where all of the pieces went when she opened it on Christmas morning. : )

My niece was – is – a doll lover.  She is in college now and has grown up several states away so our times together were pretty infrequent.  There was a shopping trip once when she was about three.  I remember a little bitty Libby standing up in the cart as we searched through a toy department killing time while her parents shopped.  We were looking through the ‘new’ Cabbage Patch doll collection and picked up one with the name ‘Libby Kitty’  on it’s adoption certificate  My husband and I looked at one another and then just grinned.  How could we resist?  We slipped the box on the shelf under the cart – secretly we thought – and went on with our shopping.  My sister walked up, saw the box and asked ‘Whose Cabbage Patch is that?”  Without missing a beat, little bitty Libby looked up from the shopping cart and said, ‘It’s mine!’  And it was…..her constant companion for a great many years after. LOL

Prince was into Brio trains, Playmobile communities and…..Star Wars.  He was 2 and a half when he wrapped his fingers around his first Luke Skywalker action figure and he never let go of it.  Never.  He also loved stuffed animals.  When he turned three, ‘Tickle Me Elmo’ was all the rage.  With a February birthdate we were able to by pass the scarcity of it at Christmas and give it to him then.  Someone had told me to save my mylar balloons and use them for spectacular shiny wrapping paper and I did.  When he woke up on his birthday, Prince had a small pile of silvery presents in the middle of the livingroom floor.  He was so excited that he accidentally stepped on one.  To his absolute delight, the package starting cackling and then skittered across the carpeting as ‘Tickle Me Elmo’ vibrated inside.  We had so much fun with that that he almost didn’t want to unwrap it!

My sister did not grow up a doll lover.  She was more into Hot Wheels and Tonka trucks.  She did own a pair of twin baby dolls that I was jealous of – Karen and Kenny.  They came with their very own – very cool – double stroller and matching outfits.  I had her SO convinced that I could look at a doll and ‘know’ their name.  She hated the names ‘Karen and Kenny’ but she could never call them anything else.  Made her furious!    She also had the entire set of Johnny West dolls.  She had Johnny, Jane, Jay, Josie, Jamie, Janice, Geronimo, a couple of horses and all of their gear.  They were her most prized possessions. Until junior high.  In a spate of ‘maturity’ she gave the entire box to the little sister of a friend and has regretted it ever since. 

My sister had another toy that she held very dear to her heart. 

Thimble City.

You may have seen one or something like it.  It was a cardboard ‘city’ mounted on short legs.  It had tiny cars and people that could be moved around with long sticks that had magnets on them.  You maneuvered items by sliding the magnet sticks under the ‘streets’ of the city.

Gosh…she loved that thing.  She would play with it for hours.

It was kept in its box under our trundle bed in our bedroom.  We thought it was a safe place.  The box was big and bulky.  Sometimes it didn’t quite make it completely under the bed.  A corner would stick out.  And one night when I was about 10 and she was six, I sat up in bed and lost my cookies.

Seriously.

All over the bed.  All over the floor and….unfortunately….inside the sticking out corner of the open box of her Thimble City.

I still remember being in a flu fugue and seeing my mother holding my panicking little sister in her lap,  trying to divert her attention, as my dad carried the sloppy, stinky box from under our bed to the trash can.

It was a very sad day.  For all of us.

But especially me.

Because ever since that day, whenever we’d get into a fight or an argument in which disappointments were bantered back and forth, the argument would always….ALWAYS….end with….

“And you puked on my Thimble City.”

A Big Freaking Deal

August 16, 2010

     This is my deeply Sleeping Beauty at about 11:15 this morning.  She is cuddled with a box of pastries from our favorite big city bakery, plugged into her i-pod and snoozing away.  He had dragged her out of bed at 5:30 in order to shower and dress so we could leave at 6:30 for the big city.  He tried to drag me out of bed even earlier and wasn’t so successful.  We had an 8:30 appointment and had given ourselves some time for traffic tangles.  He was frantically trying to stay on ‘schedule.’ .  But we were in the car by 6:45 and on the road by 6:55 am.  We got there on time.  In fact, we were even a bit early.

We were at the office of the United States Naturalization, Citizenship and Immigration Service.    We had an appointment for the Princess’ citizenship interview.

We had been here before.  Well, not at this particular office…..which is new and shiny and kind of intimidating. 

Thirteen years ago we stood in the office of the same immigration service – except at a satellite office several hours drive away – for the same reason with a three year old Prince.  He was cute and cuddly in a special red, white and blue sweater his Non had made for the occasion.  His appointment was all about ME answering questions and signing pictures and holding my hand up and pledging.  He  had no clue what was happening.  He was just busy checking things out and successfully charming every single person he met.

I have pictures to prove it.

I also have a very small  collection of letters for him.  One night – months before the big day – I put together a note explaining that he was three and that he was going to be a new citizen and that I wanted him to have something that would help him understand why that was such a big deal.  I sent it to every possible celebrity that I could think of.  Spielberg, Lucas, Oprah, Rosie, Albom and Clinton to name just a few.  There were  lots from every walk of life.

And his ‘collection’ consists of an autographed picture from former president Jimmy Carter, a beautifully written letter (and Crystal Cathedral tracts) from Robert Schuller, and note from actor Jimmy Stewart’s secretary saying that she was sure he would have wanted to write something but he was very ill at that time ( he died shortly after) and an exquisite letter from Eric Smith.  Smith is a local newscaster who was happily familiar to Prince because HE is the one who announced all the school snow days for our area.  Snow Days were exciting even then.   It meant staying home from daycare with Mom.

I am not sure what the citizenship thing really means to him.  I think – like many of us – he tends to take our freedoms and our rights and our responsibilities for granted.  And so does she.

Teenagers.

They learned all about the Bill of Rights and a smidgen of American history in school.  They stand at attention and know the Pledge of Allegiance by heart.  I am not so sure about The Star Spangled Banner.  They obey the traffic laws and the safety rules and respect everything about the officers in the cars with the flashing lights on top.  They even know about courtrooms and judges (okay…so I dragged them along on a ‘field trip’ when I had to appear in court for a traffic ticket) and where to go to pay a parking fine.  The interview was very serious and very intimidating.  And we have to go back in a month for a Citizenship swearing in ceremony.  A serious oath to be spoken and flags to be waved.

But Citizenship and the freedoms we enjoy are so much more than all of that.  I need to figure out a way to explain it to her.  To make it real.

This is the kid that learned to count with the flags we saw flying everywhere after 9/11 after all.  She was in Kindergarten at the time and there were 177  flags along the route from our house to her school.

‘What’s the big, freaking deal?’ she muttered on the way home this morning before snuggling down in the back seat with the pastry box and the i-pod….and her sweet, sweet dreams of  being well fed, safe…..and free.

I am not sure what to tell her.

What IS the big, freaking deal?

Open or Closed?

August 12, 2010

Adoption is beginning to rear its bright, beautiful  little head in our family again.  Not that it hasn’t in the past.  WE have mulled it over on rare occasions of parental happiness and so has my youngest step-daughter.  But it is the oldest that is taking steps….actually taking STEPS….baby steps…..to add to her family with an adoption.

I remember being at this point.  You think the biggest decision is MAKING the decision to adopt.  Everything after that should be a piece of cake, right?  You want a baby/child so you know there are lots of  parent-less children available and you fill out paperwork and voila!  Instant family member.

It should be so easy.

But there are lots of decisions that come at the beginning of this journey.  International or domestic?  Which agency to use? What kind of funding resources  are available?   What kind of an adoption are you comfortable with?  How long can you wait?

HRH and I were able to make most of those decisions in unison at the very start of our journey.  (We now allude that most of these ‘decisions’ were completely out of our hands.)  The press in our area had been following the Baby Jessica case quite rabidly in those days so an international adoption was much more appealing than a presumably precarious domestic one.  We attended an adoption forum and were able to consider six local agencies at once before settling on the one we decided to use.  We began setting money aside in a special savings account and the right amount always seemed to be there when we needed it. Or the resources opened up.  We asked for a little girl from India and were matched with an infant boy from South Korea.

We know now – that God was totally in charge of our adoption – from the start.  The same was very true of our second adoption.  We were never really faced with the kinds of decisions that my step and her husband are mulling.

The biggest one is whether they would prefer an Open or a Closed adoption.

If you are aware of adoption issues at all, then you know that an Open Adoption is one that allows the birth parents to maintain contact with the child and the adoptive family in some way.  A Closed Adoption is one in which the adoption records are sealed and neither party is aware of the other’s whereabouts….unless there is an agreement to open them at some point and make that information available.

Reality television has given us so many ‘pictures’ of both situations.  We see families that have been split up and adopted by different families and suddenly finding each other on the news.  One reality show – ‘Pregnant at 16′ – has followed several teens as they carried through their pregnancies and made plans for their unborn children and subsequent lives.  One of them chose adoption for her daughter.    ’60 Minutes’, ’20/20′ and ‘Dateline’  have all done exposes on the adoption process from every possible angle.  We have seen tiny little children refer to young women next to them as their ‘birth Mommy.’   We have seen college students studying pictures received from the adoptive family of the babies they never can see.  We have seen the anguish of an adult facing a birth parent wanting answers for their feeling of abandonment.  We have seen adoptive parents thanking birth parents for allowing them to raise a baby.  (My favorite of that was an Oprah segment in which an adoptive mom told a birth mom that the adult daughter they shared had a dimple where she had been kissed immediately after birth.  Aww.)  And then there are the celebrities..both adopted and adoptive.  (Bet there aren’t many that remember the actress – who went on to captain the Enterprise later in her career – that very quietly gave her child up for adoption for real while starring in an afternoon drama.)

Open or Closed.

Our adoptions are decidedly closed.  Internationally closed.  It seemed like a good thing at the time.  We liked our privacy.  We like the finality of it all.  But now with my daughter’s questions about her birth parents and wanting to see their pictures and wondering what they are like or what happened to them, I sometimes wonder if  ‘closed’  is such a good thing.  These are questions we will never have answers for.  Would being able to share pictures and stories and medical facts with her be such a bad thing?

Fear is what guides us in this decisions sometimes.  I think.  Fear that a birth parent is going to come swooping in to reclaim the child or its affections.  Fear that there is someone out there MORE invested in your child and its well being.

I have lived with that fear.  I sometimes wonder when we are embroiled in some teenage angsty moment if my children are thinking that there is a birth parent out there that would be less demanding, happier with their minimal efforts on school projects or more accepting of their needs….and wants.  I wonder if when they are not listening to a raving, ranting me , if they are wishing for that mystical birth parent who would SURELY love them more.   

Its an emotionally scary, scarring thing to have in the back of your mind.

And I came kind of close to facing those fears one early fall day several years ago.  Our adoption agency has a picnic every year and we received a letter stating that the foster mother that had taken care of our son in Seoul was going to be present.  My ultra quiet and shy son was – surprisingly – excited about seeing her.  We put together a little photo album and a quilted pillow with pictures he picked out on it.  I will never forget the way her eyes lit up when this squat Korean woman was reintroduced to the child she had once cared for.  Nor will I ever forget the look on my child’s face when she hugged him, whipped off the carefully selected tee shirt he was wearing and replaced it with a light blue shirt she had brought with her from Korea.  With a collar…..and buttons.  He wore it for the next three hours.

Without complaining.  How did she DO that?

Someone invested in my child’s well being.  It was a little….. exciting….and touching…. and surreal….. and a little threatening.  Sort of. 

I was musing about the whole birth parent/adoptive parent thing for the entire day.  Worried about it, in fact.

But the truth is that YOU are the one they come to with a problem, the one they expect to cuddle away night fears and to make that outrageously embarrassing appearance at some high school event.  You are the one that nixes an oufit, rants about sun screen/ toothpaste/general hygiene and library book fines.  You are the one that sees that they have all of the ‘right’ school supplies and tennis shoes.  You are the one that sees that they are on time for the bus and the practices and the games.  You are the one that knows their favorite restaurant, the spot on their feet that draws the most giggles and the right thing to say when their heart is breaking. 

 Would I like an Open Adoption as opposed to the Closed Adoptions that we have?? 

I would like to have pictures to show my children….and I would like to have someone else that is invested in their well being to share THEIR pictures with.  I would like medical information to share with them.  I would like a little history to share with them.  But I am still mulling over the rest.

Ask me when they are older.

And actually LIKE me again.

There are just some things……

August 8, 2010

When you adopt a child who is a foundling, there are just some things  you can’t give them.  You can give them a loving home, consistent  discipline and unflagging support.  You can give them clothes and toys and cell phones and new soccer shoes and…a computer.  You can take them on trips and build memories as a family.  You can sit in the stands and cheer them to goals….or baskets….or home runs.   You can argue about curfews and friends and choices in clothing.  You can giggle through jokes and share stories of the day and listen to apprehensions and fears.  You can do most everything.

But you can’t give them a birth date.  And sometimes that breaks my heart.

When my daughter was found by police at a bus stop in Russia, she was examined by doctors and others for the developmental milestones of a young child.  They asked her what her name was and she told them.  Ah….verbal communication.  I imagine they had her walking and playing with items to check her dexterity and mobility.  They decided that she was approximately 21 months of age and assigned her a birthdate in early August.

When we were going over court papers before finalizing her adoption there was a discrepancy in the birth date we had been given.  Some of the paper work gave August 5th as her birth date and some said August 8th.   I asked our interpreter which one it was and she looked at me kind of funny.

“Which one do you want?”

So, in a sense, we gave our daughter her birthdate just as other parents do. 

But is it the ‘real one’?? 

That is something we will never know.  And it breaks my heart.

We have, however,  given her other memorable dates in her life. 

Her ‘Gotcha Day.’

Her adoption date.

The date she first stepped foot on American soil.

The date she started Kindergarten….and finished middle school.

The future holds even more.  There will be her first day of high school, her graduation, the date she first drives a car on her own and the date she starts her first official job.  No doubt she will remember her first kiss….her first break up…..her engagement and her wedding.   She says that she is not going to have kids.  That she is going to get them from Russia.  So there may be other adoption days in her future. 

The United States immigration office has given her August 16th.  That is the day she takes  her Oath of Citizenship and receives her ‘official’ American paperwork.

But today is the 8th and we are celebrating her birthday….the one people who studied her developmental milestones assigned to her.  The one we  gave her. 

Some things we can give her…..and some things we can’t.

Something as basic as knowing the exact day that she was born…is impossible.

And that breaks my heart.

Happy 15th birthday, Kiddo!

Love, Mom and Dad

She’s Back!

August 1, 2010

My husband doesn’t understand it.  My children just roll their eyes.  Sorry people, but I have to gush…just a bit.  Just have to swell with just a little bit of excitement.

My favorite actress is back!

Not that she was really gone.  Her character left ER in the episode written just for her – ‘The Book of Abby’ – in October of 2008.  Abby and Luka moved to Boston.  She returned for a small cameo seventeen episodes later giving Paraminder Nagra’s ‘Neela’  a reassuring nudge to leave Chicago.  Then she was gone….from television. 

Talk about quitting cold turkey.  Not her.  Me.

I was used to getting spoiler alerts, google alerts, tweets and bits and pieces about ‘ER’ in general…..but Maura Tierney specifically.  I had been a fan of hers since….well….forever.   I even tripped totally out of my comfort zone and took my two personal business days in SEPTEMBER (I am a Teacher, remember?) to fly to New York to see her perform in an off Broadway play.  Even got to meet her while I was there….twice!  And now, there was nothing.

While she was off relaxing, recouping and living her ‘regular’ life, there were a legion of fans (and I know this is true as I am privy to several web groups of fans) watching….and waiting …..for her next project.

There was a flurry of excitement with the news that she would be part of the cast of ‘Parenthood’ – NBC’s newest series in development.  The cast was phenominal with Maura at it’s center playing ‘Sarah Braverman’, single mom of 2 teens who moves back into the family fold.  A dysfunctional family fold.  I was so excited at the prospect of a regular dose of her talent again….and even more intrigued at the thought of seeing her ply acting chops with Mae Whitman – another favorite – who was cast as her daughter.

A pilot was shot, publicity rounds started and things began to leak out about the show.  Most of the critics gave the pilot a so-so rating but all of them said that Maura’s performance was a highlight….giving the show promise.  All was well in my little world and I was looking forward to the all season.

Then devastating news that Maura would be leaving the show because of a health issue.  A health issue that required surgery and subsequent treatment.  Maura Tierney had breast cancer.

You can imagine the frustration of the production team.  What to do now?  Their show was set.  Scripts written.  And one of their stars was going AWOL.  Unofficial word from someone who worked on the set via someone on one of the web boards was that the production team was willing to wait out the surgery and support the treatment plan.  Word was they were attempting to force her to honor her contract.  But she held her ground (not wanting that particular period in her life to be filmed in HD…who can blame her?) and in the end, they let her go.  They recast the part and the show continued.  It was one of the hits of midseason….and definitely a ‘different’ kind of show than it would have been had she stayed.  My sister loves it.  

Sigh.

And once again I – we – were reduced to waiting for bits and pieces of news.  And there was nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Until December.

That is when Joe Tierney, former Boston Councilman and Maura Tierney’s father, died of cancer.  A surprise to the general public, I think.  Followed shortly by the news that Maura Tierney would be joining the cast of  ‘North Atlantic’ by theater’s eccentric Wooster Group.   Even before the production went into rehearsal there were bits and pieces…and once rehearsals started – pictures!  Grainy, clandestine pictures.  When the show started there were ‘reviews’ and updates and pictures from web friends.  One particularly special internet buddy was able to see the show in Los Angeles (where she goes to school) AND New York (where she was participating in a school sponsored program)….twice!  The gods were with her and the timing worked out.  Lucky.

But  now, Lady Luck has struck again – for all of us.  Maura Tierney will be returning to weekly television in September…this time with ABC’s ‘The Whole Truth.’  She will be trading her emergency room scrubs for stylish suits as an officer of the court.  Somehow, I think her dad would approve.  And being the lover of legal eagle television that I am, I will be watching.

And that is….’The Whole Truth.’

Welcome back, Maura.  You have been missed.

Maura Tierney as ‘Kathryn Peale’