Thursday, November 27, 2008

Four years ago

Four years ago today, it was Thanksgiving, and I was in a little place called Serov, visiting the baby girl who would hopefully soon become my daughter. How cool is that, that every year at Thanksgiving time, I remember the first trip to Russia to meet my baby? How snow in Russia is so much more beautiful than snow in Maine?

The Thanksgiving visit was the third visit of the trip, and the last one before I had to fly home. Jupiter played with us (my sister was with me) and walked a lot and chewed on her shoes that I had brought her, and pried my mouth open to check out the teeth. I fed her her lunch and carried her back to her group for her nap and then I had to say goodbye til the judge decided I could come back and get her.

That was the moment I dreaded from the moment I chose to go to Russia. I didn't know how I was going to cope with having to leave the child I had bonded with and flying halfway around the world, not knowing when I would be able to go back. And as it turned out, I didn't handle it all that well. I cried in the car on the way back to Ekat from Serov, and I'm sure there are workers at the Greek Restaurant Rest Stop who still remember the crazy American lady who was bawling her eyes out all over the place. All my instincts were telling me to go back and not leave her, and it was the one thing I couldn't do. And I wondered if she would remember me when I came back, or if she would think I had abandoned her. I still wonder that. I'll probably never know if she recognized me the May morning I finally got back to where I had left my heart. And in all honesty, I don't know if it would be better for her to remember me when I got back, having spent all those months in between wondering where I was all that time, or better for her to have forgotten all about me in between.

I looked at the first trip pictures the other night. Jupiter doesn't like to look all that often. She likes to see herself as a baby, but prefers the pictures from after she came home. After the first trip pictures, I put the pictures in the album from the disposable cameras I left at the baby home. We'd been home almost two months when I finally got them developed, and then mostly I saw the expressionless little face in the photos. They were, with a few exceptions, the saddest pictures of a baby I had ever seen. No smiles in the face or in the eyes, especially in the pictures that are obviously posed. I don't share those pictures much. They're part of her story, and so they're included. But how I wish that those five months haden't been taken up by a databank letter.

Thanksgiving now is way different than that day four years ago. Jupiter was at the table with her family and even gave up her customary chicken noodle soup to have some turkey and a roll, wearing a red princess dress that she chose at Sears last week. She antagonized all the dogs that came for Thanksgiving and smiled at me from across the table where she was sitting next to one of her aunts. But probably every Thanksgiving now, I'll remember Thanksgiving in Serov.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More Candy/Pushing Boundaries

Monday I found about 20 Halloween Candy wrappers behind the tv. Behind the TV, underneath a picture frame, and a couple DVD cases. Apparently Jupiter has learned that the behind the rocking chair hiding spot had worn out its usefulness because I now check it daily. Monday night I tried to give her cough syrup before bed. I should know better than to try this. Ever since she had to take Flagyl, she's been resistant to taking liquid medicine. (Have you tried liquid flagyl? I can see her point on this.) 45 minutes of trying to convince her it wasn't the gross medicine, trying to get her brave enough to take it herself, trying to get her to let me give it too her. After the 45 minutes, to change the dynamic to something positive, we got into the car in our pyjamas (Jupiter) and grape dimetapp soaked shirt (me) and drove the half a block to CVS to buy melty strips. God bless the person who invented melty strips. She's not afraid of those. The doctors always think I'm nuts if she needs medicine and I ask if she can possibly have a shot. I think next time I'll bring them the medicine and suggest THEY get her to take it.

Wednesday she poured her lemonade onto the aquadoodle, and tried to convince me it was an accident. Kept boundary pushing all morning. (hid the gum in her room and chewed the whole package after I had told her she couldn't have more gum because she did something she wasn't supposed to with the last wad of gum she had. Then I found my cell phone under her pillow. It took me 15 minutes to figure out that she had turned on the speaker phone and how to turn off the speakerphone.)

So we went to open gym at Coach Paul's gym to change the dynamic (Jupiter LOVES Coach Paul.) We left late, and when we got there, I told her to take off her sweatpants so she could show off the leopard print leggings she was so proud of it. Then I noticed the big wet spot in the back. "It's okay, Mama. I just spilled water in the car." Hmm. So we go to the bathroom so she can change into her sweatpants, which are also wet on the outside but fortunately doesn't show when you turn the sweatpants inside out. When we get to the bathroom I start to remove the leopard leggings underwear!!! "Why aren't you wearing underwear?" I ask. "I forgot," she answers. I struggle to find underwear she is comfortable in, she's always complaining of wedgies and adjusting her undewear, so it's more likely she just didn't want to wear the underwear. And we left quickly and I forgot to check. Note to self. Check for underwear. On the way home, as I was getting into the correct lane to stop at the grocery store to buy a cake mix, she told me that when she got home, she was going to wash her hands and change into her pj's. "Did you pee in your car seat???" I ask. "I couldn't hold it," she answers. She could hold it from Waltham Mass to Portland two weeks ago, and this time she didn't even MENTION that she might need to pee. So instead of the grocery store, we go home and she has a shower.

We're gearing up for the Christmas behaviorials...I can tell. So far I've been able to see the humor in this weeks behavior...I think I'll write a book and when she has children I'll share it with her. My parents tell me that she acts the same way I did. Okay, so I locked the doors to my fathers truck while we were at the car wash, wouldn't let him back in, and proceeded to dismantle the rearview mirror. And I took apart the clock and my mother had to go buy a new one. And I took apart the air conditioner at a hotel once. And, well, you get the idea.

By the way, when my mother was cleaning for Thanksgiving, she found candy wrappers behind her tv.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Living la vida frugal

Fairiemama posted about cutting costs, and reminded me that I wanted to do that too. Some of my efforts are more successful than others, but we are definitely trying..I'm sitting at the desk wrapped in a blanket because my heat is on 62. I don't even remember a time when my heat was on 72. I have visions occasionally of the scene in Dr. Zhivago, the winter before they go to Varykino, when he's out stealing the wood to put in the stove for heat. I do have wood for my woodstove, so I don't envision having to steal wood. Which didn't stop me from throwing fairly small windblown sticks onto the woodpile. Or hoping that a big tree might blow down so I could cut the tree up. But anyway, heat is a big one.

My other major project is trying to plan ahead for meals so I can make fewer shopping trips. Sometimes this works. Sometimes not so much. I print out outlook calendars and work a month ahead of time. We make pizza on Sunday nights. I make the dough from scratch, use a 35 cent can of hunts tomato sauce with basil, oregano and garlic for sauce, and a package of monzerella cheese for $2 or so. Jupiter eats the leftovers for supper on Monday nights. Mostly at the moment she wants to eat pizza and fried rice. The trick with the fried rice is making the rice ahead of time so it's cold when I need to make the fried rice. We eat out rarely now, and if we do, it's McDonalds. No more trips to the noodle restaurant or the Thai restaurant. I eat plain oatmeal for breakfast instead of regular cereal or instant oatmeal. I'm trying to convert Jupiter over to regular oatmeal that we flavor ourselves, but she's attached to her instant stuff. I'll keep trying though.

Coupons. I'm doing coupons with a vengeance..trying to combine them with the sales to get really good deals. I had $12 in coupons my last big trip to Walmart. I cut them out every Sunday and they're always with me when I shop.

Over the summer, I made jam. I have about 24 jam jars in the freezer now (taking up all the space so I can't fit anything else in there) that I made this summer. So I think the jam situation is good for the year now. don't know if it was truely a cost saver or just stocking up ahead of time. And I gave my garden a true effort instead of just planting some seeds and waiting to see what would happen. And when we carved the jack o lantern pumpkins, I saved ALL the seeds from the pumpkins to roast for snacks. And I saved seeds to plant NEXT year. This is new. I also saved seeds from a butternut squash I bought at the store to try next year. Will it work? I don't know.

Mostly, I cut out unnecessary car trips. It takes all my gas budget to drive to work and back (though I bought gas yesterday and only spent $19!! YAY!!!!!) If I happen to go to Portland, we do ALL the Portland errands instead of breaking them up. I don't drive up to Conway or to NH to go shopping like I used to do. And even a trip to the Mall is much rarer than it used to be. Otherwise, we stay home, or in our town. And I don't cook as many of the ethnic dishes I like to cook. It's back to basics for us, for the most part, unless it's a good sale. Turkey is .47 a pound until Thanksgiving, and I'm going to get an extra and roast it for sandwiches and things. (can't put one in the freezer. It's full of jam still.) Over the summer, we did free things like playgrounds and state parks (I bought the state park pass with my tax refund and it travels with Jupiter, so whoever she is with can take her to the ocean or the lake.). This winter, it will be sledding and the pool at the local college. I bought a punch pass to get a discount..and if the right people are on the desk they only punch it once for both of us. I wonder if I can get them to give me the schedule......

So that's how we're cutting back around here...time to go to bed with my heating pad and a book. Oh yeah...I don't buy as many books. (this one is hard. I love books.)


I've been tagged on blog tag by FairieMama

Rules:. Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules.
2. Share seven random or weird facts about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post with their links.
4. Let each person know they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Here are my seven weird things (see if you can guess the theme!)

1. I love maps. Sometimes, in all my Free Time, I'll pull out the atlas (conveniently stashed under my couch. It's too tall for the bookshelf anyway) and check out some states, or provinces, or countries. Sometimes I imagine visiting or living in the places I'm looking at. I like to look on maps (have you seen google maps, by the way? I love google maps. And I can still see them at work. So far.) for the settings of my favorite books. Which brings me to weird thing #2.

2. I have some books I have reread several times. Maybe even more than several. Sometimes something I see or hear will a trigger a line I remember from a book, and I'll want to read it again. Some I read on a seasonal schedule. For example, I read From the Ground Up by Amy Stewart every winter when I'm desperate to go out and start gardening. I read An Embarrassment of Mangoes every Valentines Day or so.

3. When I was a child, I used to read the encyclopedia. I would pick a volume at random and read whatever looked interesting. In fact, I read about anything.

4. I memorize stupid things. Such as almost every line of the movie Hunt for Red October. Seriously. If you put the movie on mute, I can say almost every line. Including most of the Russian ones. My sister would not let me share my Russian Submarine knowledge when our translator Olga asked if we knew any Russian. I can do some other movies, but not as well. And in high school, one summer, an Irish friend who stated with us for the summer and I memorized the Lee Press on Nails commercial. I also know the He-Man theme song. And, currently, a large number of customer service phone numbers for banks and brokerage firms.

5. I think I may have lived in Montreal in a previous life. I couldn't wait in school to get to French class. I didn't get picked for advanced French, and expressed my displeasure by getting a 99 average all through French IV. And I don't get lost in Montreal. Except for one memorable time I forgot to pay attention, drove too far up University St, and got lost around McGill college, only finding my way out by sighting off the Olympic Tower until I found my way back to it. I know I inherited more than my fair share of the French Canadian side of the family, and I try to make a Montreal privelege every year. I planned to raise Jupiter bilingual in French, but she seems to have an affinity for Spanish.

6. I think I may be a bit fey at times. Not enough to pick the winning powerball numbers, unfortunately. Just enough to have an idea that something may happen and then it does. Like the time I was driving to work in a snowstorm, waiting to make a right turn, when I saw a truck a block and a half away, and thought "If he tries to turn here, he's going to hit me." He did turn and he did hit me. Shattered the drivers side window and everything. Honestly a true story.

7. I cause floods. Remember the big Flood of 1993 in the midwest? I was there. Specifically in Iowa, at college. Three years later, I'd moved back to Maine, and we had the Flood of 1996. I am thinking of renting myself out to drought stricken places. I'll just move there and it will rain and rain and rain.

I don't know seven people with blogs, yet, being fairly new to the blogworld, so I will tag the people I know with blogs here....


2. Haleine, my funny sister. Check back for the link because it's on my work computer.

3. Karen, my friend who always says "I need to start my blog again!" Well, now you really have too. You've been tagged.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A night on the Town

Well, a night at the mall, more accurately, but a night not at home, in any case. After I picked up Jupiter today, we went to the Mall (it's Maine. We only have one Mall.) to have supper with Jupiter's friend KK and her family. KK is about three months older than Jupiter, but has a summer bday so she is in Kindergarten this year, and the girls usually only see each other on Sundays at Sunday school. So at the Mall, they were very excited and instead of eating they rearranged chairs in the food court. It's been rainy this week, and full moon, and the kids are all, without exception, wound. In school today Jupiter's teacher says she was very physical, but was physical without hurting other children. Yay!!!

After the food court, we went to Dick's Sporting Goods. (Plan A was Open Gym at the gymnastics academy, but they've raised their prices, and it was sure to be crazy busy after three days of nothing but rain. The sports store is a good substitute for open gym. Until they come and take away the hockey sticks.) They have some kind of fake man on display. It's close to the heavy bags for boxing, so I suppose it has something to do with's the top half of a man on a stand. I believe the stand is supposed to be weighted so you can kick or punch or do whatever to Fake Man. Fake Man does not wear a shirt. Both girls went right up to Fake Man and do I say this....checking out Fake Man's chest with their hands. Rather extensively, it seemed at the time. AAAARRRGH!!!!!!! They're not even pre-teens yet!!! And I don't recall seeing anything like that on PBS Sprout. After a minute or so they did start puching Fake Man to death. At least when we went into Macy's Jupiter said to me "Girls are better than boys because they're more stylish." That's right. You keep thinking that until you're 28!

Just before we got back to our house, we drove past a church and the windows were all lit up, which on a Friday night usually means there's a wedding the next day. When I mentioned this to Jupiter, and asked if she was going to get married someday, she said "Yes. I'm going to marry Troy." Of course. Is there anybody else? She asked what I would do if she got married and I told her I would move to North Carolina. They have the ocean in North Carolina, and it's warm at least some of the time. Or I would move to Puerto Rico. Jupiter thought about this, and then she said "I think you should move to San Diego. I can't pronounce the other place you said. But San Diego is okay." I do not know where she heard of San Diego or how much she knows about it. But I've heard there's beautiful weather there too.

We didn't get home until 8pm, and when I finished reading the last story, at 8:30, Jupiter closed her eyes and couldn't open them again. Out like a light.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bonding in Boston

Yesterday Jupiter and I went to Boston.

We almost didn't make it. Jupiter was making some spectacularly bad behavior choices on Monday, at school and at home, and while I came close to taking away our trip to Boston, I invoked a different consequence and we went to Boston. It went really well and I'm glad we did. The Boston Children's Museum has a day in November when the Boston Ballet comes and does various Nutcracker ballet activities for the day. This is right up Jupiter's alley, although she's opted out of taking dance lessons for the moment. She still likes to listen to the music, watch the video, and when she's home, will dance to the music in fanciful costumes she contrives out of the materials in her closet. Last year, when I wanted to take her to this activity, I happened to check the museum's website the day before we left and it was cancelled. This year, it was still on.

We also went by ourselves. Jupiter has made several trips to Boston now, but I've always had a second adult go with us. It comes in handy when I want to do something like have privacy in a little bitty bathroom stall while not saying "Don't touch that! That's icky! Do NOT look under the walls at the other people! They want privacy!" Jupiter was a bit concerned, when we left, that neither Elmo or Totya were coming with us. But I also wanted to prove to myself that this was something we could do and it would be okay. Lots of parents bring their kids to the Children's Museum with only one adult.

And we had a great time! Jupiter was SO well behaved and so patient while standing in the huge line outside of the museum when we arrived, even though we got there right when we opened. She saw a big Obama sticker someone had put up on the fence and yelled "MOM! That's OBAMA! I know because he has short hair!!!" (I'm very proud.) We had to stand in line more to get tickets for one of the performances, but we were successful there too. (Best part of the performance, when the children were tug of warring over the Nutcracker and it broke into two pieces on the stage, and one of the boy spectators shouted "AWESOME!!!!!!" Jupiter got her picture taken with the sugar plum fairy and the prince, and listened to two minutes of the music show but decided it was too loud. Too many brass instruments too close to our ears. And despite the throngs of kids and the noise, she coped like a champ, and played on the boat and in the Arthur room and climbed in the giant three story climbing sculpture. (Kids love the climbing sculpture. Mom's stand at the bottom or at various strategic places on the stairway yelling "Don't go too high!!!!") I even got her to eat a bite of banana as she ran by, while I sat on a bench and watched her play. Just giving her a chance to do her own thing and experience something as long as she wanted too. And oh didn't she look cute in those little orange rubber fisherman pants she wore!!
After the museum, we had lunch at McD's in South Station. It was marginally less expensive than the Au Bon Pain at the museum. Then we rode the red train and the green train back to Newton where the car was. I had planned to take the commuter rail from Newburyport (since Amtrak from Portland was $60,) but we left our house about 14 minutes too late for that. So I park at Riverside station and take the T into the city. Jupiter loves the subway. I could drive her to Boston and just ride her around on the T all day and she would think it was wonderful. She picked up many treasures including a used scratch ticket, a Jehovah's Witness pamphlet written in Spanish, and something about Hell. Didn't get a close enough look at that one to see what it was all about or whose point of view it was. I like that we can go to Boston and she gets to feel comfortable on public transportation and being in the city. Sometimes we go down without a specific destination in mind, but it always ends up being a day of rushing to fit too many activities into too short a day. On the green line back to the car, Jupiter was affectionate and loving, and I was so glad we'd gone on the day trip, and even more glad we had the one on one time.

We got home at 6:15 and she was in bed and asleep by 7pm. The other great thing about going to Boston is all the walking. And stair climbing, if we go to Government Center. It totally mellows her out so the next day she's often more relaxed than usual. I was in bed by 8pm, too. Bonus!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Funny things she says

Jupiter is funny. She doesn't always know it, and she's not always trying to be. But she's so completely outspoken at times that things she says are often hilarious. Her teachers actually report that she's always got them smiling with the things she says (a total switch from last year, btw. I never heard that last year.) For example, Saturday we're leaving a Christmas Craft fair, and she says "Mom? I love you." Pause. "Wait! I didn't mean to say that." Anybody have a guess what the proper answer to that one is???

Sunday night she was playing with a Spider Man action figure (Spider Man being the obsession immediately preceeding HSM) and in her Spidey voice said "I'm going to shoot you FingerMan and send you to Heaven."

The next one she didn't actually say, but it made me laugh so I'm posting it anyway. We're in Sunday School (she won't stay in Sunday school by herself. I'm not sure why, although I suspect that something in the basement Sunday school room environment with the painted walls reminds her subconsciously of the orphanage environment. In any case, she won't let me out of her sight, so I go to class with her.) and the teacher begins class by greeting the kids. "The Lord be with you." K answers "and also with you." Good job K! I pipes up "I'll go with you!" and then J adds "I'll go with you too!"

I know there have been more lately, but of course I don't have them written down here, so I will have to do a seperate post. And any time now will be the greatest day of the year. Thanksgiving? No. Christmas. Almost. The FIRST SNOWSTORM!!! (yay. I love snow.) When the first accumulating snow hits, I get a phone call at work that goes something like this:
"MOM!!!!!!!!!!! IT"S SNOWING!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT'S SNOWING!! I'M GOING TO GO PLAY IN IT ALL DAY!!!!!" Actually, I hope it happens at school this year, her teachers will smile for a week. As long as they let her call me. It's the best.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rocking to Sleep

Tonight, I rocked Jupiter to sleep.

I'm sure many people do not think this is an amzing statement. In fact, I'm sure many people would think it should read something like "Tonight Jupiter went to sleep all by herself." It seems like that is the parental goal; to have their kids go to sleep all on their own.

When Jupiter was a baby, nobody rocked her to sleep. She laid in her crib, and rocked her head or her entire body back and forth until she rocked herself to sleep. Rocking herself to sleep is her default setting. It's what she does. Even still, she rocks herself in her bed to fall asleep. Now she does it to music, and sings or makes up songs, and gives herself terrible bedhead, which is a pain to deal with because she also hates having her hair combed.

I always want to rock her to sleep. It's something I always imagined doing. But it's something she fights. Sometimes the more she fights it, the more she needs it. Lots of times I settle for a compromise, and we rock for five or ten minutes before she goes to bed. Sometimes two minutes, if that's all she'll tolerate. Sometimes, she's more receptive to being rocked in the morning, when I get her up.

But tonight, she didn't really fight it. She ended up being held in the rocking chair for screaming "I hate you!" at me. For something I don't even remember now. She whined about it, and begged to go back in her bed, but didn't fight too much about it. By which I mean she didn't try to bite me or scratch my face off. She whined a bit more, then snuggled down and lo and behold, went to sleep. So I rock her for 15 or 20 minutes, which is all I can manage before I fall asleep myself, and I'm very quiet, but inside I'm doing the victory dance. She let me rock her to sleep!!! Yipee!!!

I also spoon feed her oatmeal in the morning. Yes, she just turned five years old. Yes, she's prefectly capable of feeding herself oatmeal in the morning. But she lets me do it. She even wants me to do it. And as I told the social worker at the last post placement report, she won't want me to do it when she's 13. So I spoon feed her oatmeal. Happily, I might add. I hope that someday she'll want me to rock her to sleep too.

We went to vote today. Jupiter was very sad when I told her that I could not vote for Troy for president. Then she wanted me to explain how people get their names on the ballot so she could vote for him. The election results are starting to come in, and there's no way I can stay up to watch the whole thing. Sometimes, getting up so early is inconvenient. Sometimes, I would like to be able to stay up as late as grown ups.