Thursday, August 28, 2014

On the mend

I have written before about the Victories That Count, those seemingly mundane, trivial, pedestrian events in a family's life that are actually pretty colossal (at least, to Mama and Baba!).  We had one such victory this morning when Caroline ate her oatmeal and drank her milk with her usual hearty appetite.  Indeed, after she finished her serving she tried to stick her spoon in my bowl, and I was very happy to share. 
I was thrilled.  "My little girl's eating oatmeal. [wipes away a tear] I've never been so HAPPY!"

Further evidence that she's on the mend came when she went with me to get my car serviced: she was her usual inquisitive, outgoing self.  She even seemed to be angling for a job as she went behind the service counter at one point (OJT?) and was handing out sales brochures for cars to other customers at another!  Not sure where she learned to be so charming and outgoing, but I was so happy to see her playful and smiling instead of crabby.

The only fly in my ointment was that she seems to have a taste for the... um... finer things in life.  The service desk was right adjacent to the Jaguar showroom (no, I do NOT drive a Jag!), and she was fascinated by the cars.  Oh, well, I just need to look on the bright side: I can get her the F-type convertible she likes, and it will just about be paid off by the time she's ready to learn to drive!

A future Danica Patrick?

"Ah!  A car that's ALMOST as cool as I am."
(I don't know what it was about this display: she kept standing against it.  A broad hint to me?)

"Pay no attention to that nasty ol' sticker price.  You WANT to buy it for me, don't you?  Seriously: how can you resist me?"

Upon reflection, it's perhaps no surprise that she's fascinated with cars (she even led me around the lot) as her foster father was a cabbie: as you might say, she was weaned on the sweet smell of burnt gasoline and hot asphalt; the melodious sound of car horns was her lullabye; her cradle was a car seat, rocked by running over potholes.

Just... can't she pick something a LITTLE less expensive???

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Going home

After four days (very hard on my wife, who I don't think has left Caroline's hospital room without her for more than a total of an hour), our daughter is finally going home.  Her lack of eating and drinking continues to trouble and frustrate us, but the hope is that, once she's back in the familiar environment of our house and eating more familiar food, she'll do better.

I don't know if it "takes a village" to raise a child, but I DO know that we owe quite a lot to many people: the surgeon and her team; the nurses and support staff; my coworkers for pitching in to cover for me on short notice when I had to take extra time off; and, of course, all the family and friends who stopped by to help, bring some food or toys or comforts, or simply be there.  I know that some people object to the term "Forever Family", but it was on display in spades over the past few days, and I don't know what we would have done without them.  Grandparents, aunt and uncle, cousin, godfather, and a host of friends were constantly visiting (if not staying overnight) to help out.

Above all, there is my wife who, through sleepless nights and the days of worry and frustration, stayed right with our little girl.

Here's hoping for a quick recovery at home.

Caroline's favorite sleeping position over the past few days
This huge music box is part of the hospital's rooftop playground

Friday, August 22, 2014


When we adopted our daughter, we knew that she'd have to have some surgery when she came home.  It was easy enough, THEN, to say, "Oh, she'll have to have surgery", almost like saying that she'll have to trim her nails or get a haircut.  Now that it's happened, I see just how rough it is for all concerned.  I'm not squeamish, but seeing my daughter come out of the OR, dopey, frightened and looking like she'd been in a major traffic accident, was not at all easy.  I can only imagine how she felt.

No.  On second thought, I can't imagine that.

Happily, Caroline is in a good hospital with excellent nurses and a first-rate surgeon.  More importantly, she's almost constantly surrounded by family and friends (the pastor of my wife's home church came all the way from her hometown for the surgery, and I was VERY glad of it).  Most importantly, she has Mama and Laolao.  She's damned lucky that I'm not in charge of her recovery, as I take a very utilitarian, rough-and-ready approach to this sort of thing, which is not at all what a little girl needs.

She needs the affection and gentleness that only a mother and grandmother can provide, and she's getting plenty of it.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A visit to Social Security

Having received our daughter's "official" US citizenship (she became a citizen the instant the wheels of our plane from China hit the ground, but now we have a nice official form stating it), we took the next step and applied for her Social Security number*.

I must say that the people at the local SSA office were very friendly and helpful; it wasn't quite the "DMV experience" I was expecting.  Nevertheless, I was dismayed by a couple of things:
1. There was an armed guard in the lobby of the building
2. Meeting with the case worker (if that's the right term) was very like a visiting hours scene from a prison movie: one is buzzed through a locked door and proceeds to a small cubicle; the case worker sits on the other side of a glass window and documents are passed back and forth under it.  I remarked that I felt as though I should be muttering over a telephone to him about bringing a cake with a hacksaw blade in it.  He laughed and said that, regrettably, the workers need this sort of... isolation... from the people they deal with.  Likewise, they also need the armed guard.  I guess some people get really testy when they don't get their checks on time
I weep that this is the world that we live in and, worse, the world that my daughter will live in.

However, after DHS reviews the paperwork, she will get her number.  After that, we can do other things for her, like get a passport (which I hope very much she will need in the not-so-distant future for another trip to China) and set up a college savings account.

Filed under: Parenting Tasks I Never Really Thought About Before.

A REFLECTION: I was mildly surprised that DHS has to review her SSN application, but it makes sense because she is, in fact, an immigrant and immigration and naturalization falls under DHS's purview.  Now, I don't think I've ever been a nativist, having learnt early in school and through Schoolhouse Rock's "The Melting Pot" that we are a nation of immigrants, but I must say that having to apply for my daughter's citizenship and SSN draws this issue into rather sharper focus for me.

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, 1883


(*) As a totally unrelated aside, SSA has a rather neat page on their website that allows one to research the popularity of baby names over the years.  It's interesting to see how some names fall in and out of fashion, or see just WHY it seems that every other girl I knew in high school was called Jennifer.  We gave this page some little attention while we were choosing possible names for our own daughter because we really didn't want her to have the same name as half the other girls in her class at school.  It seems that Caroline is becoming more popular (it was #63 in 2013, up from #79 in 2012), but it is not so popular that entire regiments of little girls will come running if we call it out on the playground.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Chocolate and colors

We knew already that Caroline has a (shall we say?) weakness for chocolate. 


A few days ago, we went to one of the local frozen yoghurt bars for dessert.  As I didn't happen to get any chocolate on mine, I was able to eat it in peace.  Not so my wife, who (foolishly) got chocolate fudge on her sundae and (more foolishly) allowed Caroline to see it.  Let's just say that Chrystal got very little dessert!

I wasn't sure what you were about when you went to those machines in the wall, but there's chocolate, and it tastes GOOD!

I've had to... confiscate... Mama's spoon.

Why did Baba point at my mouth, laugh, and then part my hair like this?  Oh, well, who cares?  I've still got CHOCOLATE!

Last night, the dessert I made had chocolate icing, and she tracked the dish like a fire control radar.  How great was her happiness when a bowl was put before her!  How black her despair when it was empty!  How furious her disappointment when the prospect of seconds was snatched from her as the dish went back to the refrigerator!

I hope Caroline has a high metabolism, else she's going to have the same depressing battle with her waist as ol' Baba.

Caroline has also started learning her colors.  At least, she's looking at the little book that a friend of ours got for her... and she thinks that it's hilarious.  I never knew the word "yellow" was such a hoot.  I hope that this doesn't go on in years to come when she's learning about the visible spectrum in science class.

They keep shoving all these "book" things at me.  Hmm... Let's have a look at this one.

Man, this is funny!

OMG!  This word "yellow" is the funniest thing I've ever heard in my life!  I'll have to get Baba to read this one again!

Yes, we know: she was still wearing her bib from supper.  Forgetfulness on our part, or a broad hint that she was ready for more dessert on her part?  You be the judge.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A girl's best friend...

... is her dog.  At table, anyway.

Mallory (our bigger, younger, far more stupid dog) has loved Caroline from practically the day they first met.

As if she needed another reason to love her "puppy", Mallory also discovered early on that Caroline is a ready source of food.  It's not that Caroline is trying, as children from time immemorial have done, to get rid of food that she doesn't like.  Her appetite is generally quite good.  Rather, she simply likes feeding Mallory... who is happy to uphold HER part of that bargain!  She has a very soft mouth and gentle manner, and both girl and dog enjoy this mealtime ritual.


Notice The Shetland Sheepdog also lurking in hopes of a free bite.  Sheepdog's attitude towards Caroline is generally much more reserved, as in, "Oh, fabulous.  Juuuuust fabulous.  Here comes the small human again.  Sigh... So much for peace and quiet.  I think I'll go in the other room and hope she doesn't follow." O' course, when there's food to be had, reserve goes by the board.

Unfortunately for Sheepdog, she is much shorter than Mallory and so doesn't usually have as much luck in sampling the contents of Caroline's plate (this is actually a good thing as Sheepdog tends to snap at food).  Mallory has no such problem.

No, no problem at all.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


We're not sure where she learned it, but Caroline is apparently quite the budding shopaholic.  Oh, she just LOVES looking at clothes! 

Upon reflection, we had some warning of this: when we were in China, we had to buy her some shoes (the ones she had were far too large for her little feet), and she REFUSED to look at any but red shoes.  She's definitely a girl who knows her own mind and has an eye for fashion.  Sigh... It starts early!

Hey!  What do you think of this?  Purple's in my palette, right?

Hmmm.... Not bad.  May have to try this one on.

Oh, yeah: I really like this.  Do they have it in a 2T?

Ah, the sale rack: you never know what deals you'll find!

I think I just found my St. Valentine's Day outfit.

I know it's still summer, but cool weather will be here before you know it.