Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Simple Pleasures

... a warm sweet pear

...a cold popsicle on a hot day (shared with your bear)

... discovering the joy of your first garden

Life doesn't get much better.

Monday, April 27, 2009

April Book Club

Vini, Vendi, Urini
(We came, we conquered, we peed our pants...from laughing!)

I was lucky enough to host this month's book club. As always, a fun night filled with intelligent conversation that descends into copious amount of laughter, preceeded by copious amounts of wine. (Anyone else seeing a connection there?)
It was such beautiful weather, I decided to have us start out the evening in the back yard at the pergola and then move in later on for the book discussion. As dusk approached, I asked if folks wanted to move in or stay where they were. Everyone wanted to stay put. The breeze was just glorious. I brought out candles and we laughed until very late. The running joke of the evening had to do with seating. I was expecting about 10 gals. Fifteen showed up. When we ended up spending the evening outside, we brought out my dining room chairs. Those, in addition to the other chairs and swing outside provided a seat for everyone... but one. I sat on the edge of the deck until my bottom was numb, at which point I brought out one of Isabel's little white chairs... as in... toddler-sized. As soon as the first person left to go to the bathroom, I jumped up and took their chair. This "Musical Chairs" ensued for the rest of the night, leaving many a gal making serious decisions about whether to remain in her current spot (and face a U.T.I.) or go for relief and be stuck with the WHITE chair. That chair never saw so much action in its two years at my house.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fashion Challenge Friday

It's Fashion Challenge Friday.
So... I have been letting Isabel dress herself for a while now. Of course, she can wear the outfits only at home. Some of her latest creations have been...shall we say...INTERESTING?? This morning she wanted to wear tights...thick tights... thick, rainbow-striped tight. (Have I mentioned lately that we live in hot, humid Florida?) The "excitement" continued with the addition of a jean skort over the tights and some hot pink sandels. Rounding up the outfit was a (thankfully at least in the same color family) pink and brown shirt with daisies on it. I felt compelled to put the obligatory bow in her air... just for the heck of it. Of course, when I decided to loosen up and just go with the flow, I hadn't anticipated having to stop at two stores on the way home. Oh well, it's just clothes, right?

In the craziness that is our normal morning routine, I didn't think to get a photo of the outfit today. I do, however, have one of another creation from earlier in the week. [Note the tights... am I seeing a theme here?]

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Wake Up Call

Up until now, life for Isabel and me has been relatively smooth, but I know that very soon she will begin to recognize the differences between us. She will realize that we have different skin color, eye color and eye-shape. She will struggle and wrestle with issues that I can’t begin to understand. She has been asking me to tell her about her foster mom and dad for several months now. She (the animal lover) tells me she’s going “to visit my foster daddy because he has a farm.”

The awareness is beginning to surface and with it, the first steps in the lifetime journey of coming to peace with being a transracial adoptee to a single mother. I know that she will have to work through many difficulties. I know that she will encounter prejudice and racism that I, as a white person, have never had to deal with. I know that I can’t protect her from the world forever. I know that. I just wasn’t prepared to deal with it so soon.

I was at the hair salon on Wednesday. (Isabel was not with me.) I was sitting in the chair and tuned in to the rambling of the young (I later found out) 12-year-old behind me. She was yakking away about her mother getting the color wrong on her hair and that she “looked like a flippin’ China baby.” She repeated twice, each time with even more disdain in her voice.

I felt like someone had kicked me in my gut.

…and then she continued. “You know how THEY get their names??? The mother throws something at the wall and the sound it makes is what they call their kid. Ping. Dong. Wang. Ha ha ha!”

I wish I could describe what I felt but I am still processing it all. I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. I know there was anger…and disgust… and sadness. This was a TWELVE year old!!! Sixth grade!!!! How in the world could she come up with such things? Clearly, it was learned in an atmosphere of ignorance and fear and small-mindedness. It is a world that I have been protected from. It is a world that Isabel will be a part of.

I teach in an inner-city college prep school with a multicultural student body. My students are from Korea, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, China, the Philippines, Mexico and Russia. They are Hispanics, African Americans, White, bi-racial, multi-racial, rich, poor, big, small. Some live in the local neighborhood; others endure a 90-minute bus ride each way. It is a microcosm of the world. Though not perfect, there is a deep sense of respect for people and their culture. I love teaching there. I love that my daughter will have the opportunity to have classmates that look like her. I love that diversity is embraced. It is the world in which I have been living for the last 15 years.

However, it is not the world that a lot of people either live in…or want to live in. I needed to be reminded of that… not so much for my sake, but for my daughter’s.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pool Party

Inflatable canoe. Tree fort. Grilled burgers. Watermelon.
Great Fun. Great Company. Great Kids. Great Day.
It doesn't get much better than this.
Thanks, Amy and Joshua!

Saturday, April 18, 2009


This is how I feel most days... trying to keep my balance, without crashing to the ground. Single parenting is both the best and most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. Most days I feel like I am just hanging on.

I stopped beating myself up a few months ago when I realized that I am doing the best I can. If that's not good enough for some, that's okay. They are not living my life.

I gave up trying to keep my yard in its pre-Isabel condition. Same goes with the house. I'll have plenty of time for that later. For now, I'll continue with the balancing act... and look to my daughter for the inspiration to do so with a smile on my face.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tuition, Tea and Time

I licked the envelope, turned it over and put the stamp on it… a simple enough gesture. I picked up my pen to write the address and was surprised to find myself overcome with emotion. I teared up as I wrote Florida Prepaid Tuition on the envelope. In that moment I felt like I stepped out of the confines of time and watched as the next fifteen years flew by: as my sweet baby stood there among the students walking to the stage for her diploma, as she hugged me that last summer together and left for college. The whole thing lasted about 2 seconds and then I was back at the table with a checkbook before me. The writing of a simple check made the abstract became concrete.

I am reminded daily, by both behavior and words, that my baby is a baby no more. And yet (despite my out-of-time experience) she is not yet a young lady… though at times, I catch glimpses of who that person will be. For today, I get to relish the time between… the now.

Before I know it, she won’t be following me like a shadow. She won’t implore me to “Hold You!” She won’t be underfoot in the kitchen wanting to help. She won’t call from her bed for me to “Come snuggle.” The very thing I long for relief from right now, I will ache for then.

I need to remember that and try not to forget that this time is fleeting.
I need to try to live in the present.

It was with this mindset that I came to a lovely Teddy Bear Tea at Isabel’s school this afternoon. I felt my eyes fill with tears (yet again) when I arrived. The children were all dressed in fancy clothes and seated at tables covered in linen tablecloths. In front of them was all the china necessary for a lovely tea party. Napkins were in their laps and classical music played softly in the background. I watched Isabel pour herself a cup of raspberry tea and swirled in emotion. Sadness at the reality that my baby is truly gone, and wonder at the amazing little girl that has replaced her.

The party lasted about 30 minutes and ended with a dad reading Corduroy surrounded by children holding their own teddy bears. Simply beautiful.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Morning

"Is it daytime yet, Mom?"

So began this beautiful day. I had been up until 2 am, filling and hiding eggs around the house. I purposely made myself see everything from Isabel's height, and had a blast hiding eggs in room corners, in plants, under beds and end tables, etc. It was quite an eye opener. I never really stopped to think of how she views the world. She was almost shaking with delight at discovering eggs everywhere. We didn't do the eggs last year, and the first year home, she was only 16 months old. So this, for all purposes, was her initiation. She followed the trail of the eggs from room to room and ended up in her little kitchen, at her Hello Kitty basket. So much fun.

A little later on, we headed to church for a second Easter egg hunt. We saw friends and afterward, made our way down to Saint Augustine for a wonderful day filled with people, food, laughter and the general chaos that I feel so at home with. And of course... the third Egg Hunt. This one led to a newly constructed Pirate Ship tree house. It is amazing! The kids (and some adults) played back there for hours. Just as the sun was setting, we headed down for a walk on the beach. Isabel proceeded to whip off her dress (it got wet from a wave) and ran/danced around the beach in her sparkly shoes, pink bow and Disney princess panties. Yup.. never a dull minute.

A wonderful day filled with wonderful people celebrating wonderful news.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dyeing for Fun

So, I decided the best place to decorate the eggs would be outside. It was a beautiful day. I brought out the (previously hard-boiled) eggs, the egg dyeing package and some water. Isabel was just about beside herself with excitement. It was at this point that I realized I needed some vinegar. I ran in the house, only to find that the only kind I have is balsamic vinegar. (Sort of defeats the whole decorate-the-egg thing, if you are starting off with a dark brown vinegar, huh?) Fortunately, a neighbor helped us out and we were able to get to work.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Perfect Moment

Five years ago next month, I drove by a house that had a For Sale By Owner sign on the front lawn. I peeked in the windows of the empty house and saw plenty of sunlight, hardwood floors and a fireplace. I loved it. I knew in my heart that this would be the house that Isabel would spend her childhood.

I checked out the fenced backyard. It was in pretty bad shape. (A lawn guy told me that I would definitely have to sod it.) I don't know whether it was stubbornness or frugality, but I was determined to prove that man wrong and to transform that yard into a place of wonderful memories for my daughter. I just knew I could make it into a beautiful place; I could see it in my mind’s eye.

Working on the yard turned out to be therapeutic. As the time until referral tripled from the original estimate, I spent more and more time working out back. I planted crepe myrtle, Satsuma, and ligustrum trees. I put in day lilies, daisies and hibiscus bushes. I bought a wooden arbor and planted confederate jasmine beside it, already picturing the cascading leaves in years to come. I had a gifted woman carpenter build an amazing deck and pergola in the spot where an old garage had been. By the time I finally received Isabel's referral, it had been almost three years. The yard was everything I had envisioned.

That was almost 2.5 years ago.

The yard now... well, let's just say that the time spent working in a yard has been replaced by being a mom. I find myself overwhelmed with all that has to be tended to out there. I have come to grips with the fact that it will never (or at least not for a while) look like it did pre-Isabel. That is what made this evening so special; it was so unexpected

I had the day off today and mowed the lawn. I was planning on doing the edging after picking Isabel up. When we got home, we headed out to the back yard. The edger was there… waiting just where I had left it. I knew what I should do, but instead … I chose to stop and let myself be in the moment. While I was having my epiphany, Isabel realized that the bird feeders were empty. We went in to get the birdseed and I grabbed a blanket... and the camera.

We put the feeders on the blanket and Isabel filled them… very precisely. Sitting there, in the middle of a freshly mown lawn, I saw everything differently. In front of me, the arbor I put in four years ago is so covered in jasmine that it looks like a green tunnel. The flowers are just about the burst open (most likely tomorrow) and the heady fragrance will fill the house. Behind me, my Satsuma has its first orange blossoms in four years. The perfume transports me back to Seville. To my right, a rose bush is blooming amidst a backdrop of honeysuckle lining the fence.

As dusk turned the sky darker, I lie on my back and looked at the silhouettes of the pecan branches just started to bud. Time stood still. I felt complete peace ... at which point Isabel ran over and insisted that I give her an airplane ride up in the air on my feet. She squealed with delight at being up high. I laughed (and grabbed my camera.)The light didn't last long, but it was long enough. It was better than anything I could ever have imagined.

It was a perfect moment.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Who Knew???

Disney World last week.
Disney on Ice last night.
and yet.. my three-year-old can have more fun by
dressing herself, playing with plastic containers and, of course,
recycling the beloved Slinky…yet again.
Who knew?
[Note to self: Save money… buy Rubbermaid]

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Slinky Jewelry (A.K.A. Faux Elizabethan)

One minute...a slinky,
the next... a belt, bracelet and necklace.

PS This morning's outfit selection (including pink sparkly shoes) brought to you by Isabel... and the colors blue, pink and purple.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Flying Cats and Heavenly Visitations

The setting is inevitably the same..church, Publix or our morning commute.
I am continually both moved and entertained by Isabel's view of life.
During this morning's drive to school she started listing things that fly.
I was half-tuning her out (such a bad mother!) as I heard the following...

Isabel: Blue jays fly. Ducks fly. Cardinals fly. Airplanes fly. "Gooses" fly.
(She just can't get that irregular plural form down yet.)

And then I hear, "Angels fly", followed by, "Cats fly."
At this point I decide to give her my 100% focus...
(well, as close to 100% as is possible during a rush-hour morning commute)
and tell her cats don't fly; they don't have wings.

There is about a three-second pause and then I hear
"Well, Bart Bart has wings. He's in heaven."

It took me a few seconds to process what she said... and then tears came to my eyes, not only because of the childlike simplicity of her theology, but because it has been over a year and a half since my little Bart Bart died. Isabel was only 20 months old and had been home only 6 months. Since Lulu arrived 4 months later and has been a part of her life for a much longer period, I was pretty surprised that she even remembered Bart. For Isabel, it was just natural to include her little kitty in a list of things that fly.

For me, it was a gift.. of memory, of love and of grace.

Isabel and Bart Bart at 18 months

Isabel and Bart Bart at 20 months

Isabel and Lulu (her Happy Second Birthday present)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

It really shouldn't have been a surprise. After all, the signs were there (as were the warnings from more than one friend) of its impending arrival. So, it's not like I had no idea... I KNEW it was coming. I just hadn't planned on it being a week before school pictures and 10 days before Easter. Yup... you guessed it. That wonderful three-year-old rite of passage...the ole hack off your hair with scissors.

Hair on Monday

Hair This Evening
(After an Emergency Visit to the Hair Stylist)