Tuesday, August 24, 2010

“So mommy. Are you going to adopt another kid, or what?” Liana asked me earlier this summer.

I’d certainly thought about it. I thought about adopting two before Liana was even home. But life gets busy and routines get comfortable and I am getting older and the world of international adoption changes, and it had fallen to the back burner.

But Liana’s words gave me the push that I needed.

Most of you know this already. But it is official. I am paperchasing for adoption number two. I would like to adopt a little girl, one or two years younger than Liana, from Ethiopia.

Liana is BEYOND excited.

I have explained to her that it is going to take a very very very long time for her little sister to come home. I am sort of thinking Fall/Winter 2011.

Liana nods stoically, and says “Ok mommy. I tell you what. I’ll go to school on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and you bring my baby sister home on Thursday. Ok?”

That is a very very very long time indeed. But it will actually take even a little longer than that.

Liana is a social kid, and she is happiest when she is with a group. In a clan. In the middle of something busy and noisy. I know that sisterhood will ultimately be great for her. But there will be difficulties too. She promises she will share her things generously. We have talked about the fact that she will get less individual attention. That if both she and the little one are crying, I’ll pick up the little one first.

She nods, stoically.

I asked her what she would do if her little sister broke her favorite toy. Without missing a beat, she proclaimed “I’ll put her in time out.”

Ummm. Liana has been in time out about 3 times in the past year. And certainly never for breaking something. I suddenly felt very insecure about my own parenting, as my daughter’s words seemed to contradict my basic philosophies.

We reviewed the fact that time out is only used when mommy asks Liana to do something once, twice, and then three times, and Liana still doesn’t do it. We also established that mom, not Liana, will be responsible for enforcing household rules with the little one.

Liana agreed.

So I asked her again. “What would you do if your little sister broke your favorite toy?”

She thought about it, and then said:

“At first I’ll be angry. And then I’ll be sad. And then I’ll forgive her. Because that is just what little sisters do.”

And I hugged my beautiful, bright, amazing little girl, and regained my parenting confidence again.

On with the paper chase.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I love Liana's preschool. I love the philosphy, and the way in which community input is incorporated into practice. The teachers are exceptional. And I love the camera in the classroom that lets me peek in and see how Liana is spending her days.

But most of all, I love the friendships that Liana has developed. Her peers have become so central to her being. She tells stories of things that they do. She speculates about how they might respond to challenging situations. She misses them when they are sick or on vacation. She craves their input, and weighs the pros and cons of their suggestions. But mostly, she enjoys their company.


Liana proclaimed she wanted a snack. I made the usual snack suggestions. A granola bar? A banana? Trisket crackers with peanut butter? Some blueberries? We've avoiding yogurt and cheese because of a nagging cold or allergy. Almonds? Raisins? Each of my suggestions was met with disdain.

So Liana announced that she was going to decide herself. She went into the kitchen and started opening cabinets. She was delighted to find rice cakes on a low shelf, and took them out and stated with absolute certainty, that she was having rice cakes as a snack. She held the package, and thought about it. She then said she wanted peanut butter on the rice cakes. Thought about it some more, and went on to state that she wanted blueberries on top of the peanut butter on top of the rice cake.

It seemed odd at first. But not in a bad way. And the more I thought about it, the more I decided that it was sort of like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But even healthier.


We had a bad weekend. Liana had a fever on Saturday morning. We went to the doctor, spent an hour and a half in the waiting room, by which point the fever was gone and she was starving, so we went out to eat at Jahn's on the way home. Then we both took a tumble crossing 37th Ave. I skinned my knees. She banged her chin. On the same place that she banged her chin last month getting out of the tub. My sweet little girl, with yet another boo boo on her beautiful face.

Sunday I decided to have a calm, neighborhood day, just to make sure she was really ok. She woke up in the morning, and took her new safety scissors, and starting cutting up some scraps of paper. She announced that she was going to make a flower, and that we would have to go to the store to get glue. Seemed reasonable. So we did. We got home, and she took two popsicle sticks, (which she had hidden after eating popsicles the day before), and some pine needles she had collected, and glued the cut paper and pine needles onto the popsicle sticks.

I was impressed.

She went on to take an empty paper towel holder (I am so NOT artsy! I swear this was ALL her doing) and wrapped the paper towel holder with paper towels from another roll, and then announced we needed to visit Antonia to get tape. (Note my lack of basic art supplies.) So we took the flower and the paper towel holder to Antonia's, and she taped the flower to her paper towel holder vase.

Antonia and I enthusiastically praised her creation.

And she announced that when she grows up, she is going to be an artist. And that she is going to paint pictures and cut bushes in to the shape of chickens and giraffes, and make sculptures out of ice too.


This morning Liana announced that she wanted to wear one pick sock, and one white sock. In order to keep her feet "really warm."

I almost said yes. I like the odd combinations that she is making in so many aspects of her life. Sometimes I fear that she has a real conformist streak, and I've been delighted with this creative risk taking. But I decided that if I sent my kid with the bandage on her chin to school with mismatched socks, my parenting skills might seriously come into question.

So after some debate, we settled on pink.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My daughter, the New Yorker

I was getting really tired of the snow, and the boots and the snowsuit and whatnot. So one day last week I announced that we were walking to school in our sneakers, rather than our boots. Liana was dubious, but she agreed.

So once we got out on the sidewalk, Liana exclaimed:

"There's no snow on the sidewalk! If there was snow on the sidewalk, we would have to wear our boots."

Ummm. While I was delighted with the complexity of the sentence, I was a little surprised to hear the NY syntax. You KNOW I don't say "if there was." So, it is clear. My role as primary influence in her life is fading already. And she talks like a New Yorker.

And just to prove that she is a real NY'er, here she is taking the train to see Elmo Live at Madison Square Garden.
A marvelous time was had by all.

Oh. And they were just pretending to be asleep on the subway.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Liana loves rhymes.

Well, she doesn’t quite get the concept of rhymes. But she knows she loves them. We’ve done the “Jack and Jill went up a hill. Look! Jill and hill rhyme” stuff. Fox and box rhyme. Pat and sat rhyme. She loves it, and is currently searching for examples of rhyming words all around her.

But she also seems to think that any words that contain the same sounds rhyme. For the past couple of weeks, she has pointed out, for example, various words starting with the SH sound, and exclaiming that they rhyme. I nod, and point out that the beginning of the words sounds the same, and that we call that alliteration. “Can you say alliteration?” I go on to explain that rhyming is when the end of the words sounds the same. She rolls her eyes, or sometimes even stamps her foot in frustration, and proclaims “Well I think they rhyme!”

Another day:

“Mommy! Person and purple! They rhyme!”

Wow Liana! Person and purple both start with the “per” sound, and they both start with the letter P. Want to find other words that start with the letter P?

“But they RHYME!”

Earlier this week, rhymes took on a new life of their own.

“Mommy! Mouse and cheese! They rhyme!”

“Liana, mouse and cheese go together, because a mouse likes to eat cheese. But they don’t sound the same, so we don’t call that a rhyme. Mouse rhymes with house. Cheese rhymes with please.”

My explanations have been met with frustration on her part. Which of course, is the last thing I want to do. She is finding connections. Thinking. Reasoning. I want to encourage this thoughtful exploration of the world around her.

But when I say that a pair of words don’t rhyme, she folds her arms, stamps a foot, turns away from me in frustration and says “Well I think they rhyme!”

I think I missed the memo on how to deal with this aspect of parenting….

Sleep and bedtime continue to be high drama at home. So the other night when she got out of bed and came barreling into the living room to announce in a loud, animated voice:

“Mommy! Pato and shoe! They rhyme!”

I responded with a cold and cranky instruction to return to bed.

But she was very excited. She kept repeating it. “Pato” waving her left arm with palm facing up, “shoe!” waving her right arm with palm facing up. “See? They rhyme.”

“Liana. It is time to go to bed. I want to see your head on that pillow.”

“Pato! Shoe! See?”

“Liana. Pato and shoe don’t rhyme. And you need to be in bed so that you get enough sleep so that you don’t get sick and so you have lots of energy at school tomorrow, right?”

As I am escorting her back to the bedroom, she tries one more time. “But if I say saaaa pato they do rhyme! They do!”

And then I realized. Saaaa pato. Zapato. Zapato is shoe in Spanish.

When she was a baby, and spoke more Spanish than English, she called her shoes “patos.” In the past year or so, she has rejected Spanish almost completely. But clearly a lot of it is still there.

What amazing things are going on in this little girl’s brain.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

So we bid farewell to the 00’s. The decade in which I became a mom. The decade in which I became an orphan.

The momentous events of the decade will always be classified in my mind into three categories. Before my dad died. Before my mom died. After I adopted Liana. There was a painfully blurry time in the middle of my adoption process in which I was dealing with my mom’s sudden, unexpected death, and unexpected bureaucratic delays in my ability to complete my adoption. But that time will forever remain an uncategorizable blur in my mind.

I rang in the year 2000 on a suburban driveway in Cabo Rojo Puerto Rico, in what seems like another lifetime. The pre-teen boys who were setting off firecrackers in that driveway had never heard of ipods or blogs or youtube or social networking. And neither had I. No one, other than my father, talked about global warming. He was also obsessed with the dangers of religious fundamentalism. My sweet gentle father lived long enough to see some of his bizarre and quirky fears become part of the mainstream consciousness.

September 11 will be the defining moment of the decade for most. Then there was the blackout. The president who was not elected by the majority of voters. The wars here and there. Both of my parents died during the Bush years. I mourn that they did not live to see the election that was to follow. My daughter may be a tween the last year of the Obama administration. Maybe not. But maybe.

The ouster of Aristide in Haiti went almost unnoticed by the mainstream. As did the comically failed ouster of Chavez in Venezuela. Weapons of mass destruction failed to materialize. Genocide on Darfur got some attention.

On a personal note, the decade started as my beloved Adult Education Program (affectionately know my thousands as “The English School”) was deemed to fall outside of my agency’s strategic plan. But I fought hard for the program’s survival. My mom was begging me to send off resumes. My staff kept asking me if they should be sending off their resumes, and I kept answering honestly “I’m not sending off mine.” We did more than survive. A decade later, we are thriving. We serve 650-700 adult immigrants per day, as a proud program of the Queens Community House.

I lost two peers. Alexandra and Abby. Amazing women who died ridiculously young.

I lived in Guatemala for two months. Liana and I spent our days in the company of humming birds under the shadow of volcanoes spewing ash and smoke, speaking Spanish together while those around us often spoke in Mayan languages that may not survive a generation or two. Then we came home together to live in the nation’s most diverse zip code, surrounded by more languages than even I can name.

I became a mom. Later in life than most. Baby bottles replaced pool cues. Late nights in bars were replaced by early morning trips to museums and zoos. Kim Stanley Robinson was replaced by nostalgic Dr. Seuss and colorful board books with soft and bumpy things to touch. Early morning phone chats with mom were replaced with frantic attempts to create morning routines involving putting on socks and getting out the door with a dry diaper. Extensive potty training rituals replaced gaming. Ridiculously long work hours gave way to “learning how to delegate.” And a full night’s sleep became a thing of the past.

The decade ahead, I imagine, will be filled with dance and music and art and star gazing and chapter books. And the incomparable joy of watching beautiful Liana grow and learn and experience the world around her. Holograms? Check points at which we need to show our national ID cards? Space Tourism? I think the next decade will offer a small window of opportunity to bring Liana to see glaciers while they are still grand, and coral reefs before they are bleached beyond repair. Perhaps the Obama years will usher in a renaissance of sorts. Or perhaps the damage is already so deep that the decline of the empire in inevitable.

The one thing I can predict with certainty is that any predictions I make here today will look ridiculously naïve a decade from now.