Wednesday, September 26, 2012


* Because he needs a family and a home.
* Because sometimes life takes you by surprise.
* Because Bryce and Isaac were feeling outnumbered.
* Because we're already that conspicuous family-- both big and multicultural. One more won't change that.
* Because we left a "normal" size family behind two kids ago.
* Because there's one empty seat in our minivan.
* Because I am a sucker for paperwork.
* Because we already need two hotel rooms when we go on vacation.
* Because ten fingers and ten toes are totally overrated.
* Because we didn't know when we adopted Rose that abandoned little boys wait much longer for families than little girls do.
* Because we have an empty bedroom.
* Because our transition with Rose has been so much easier than we expected.
* Because we're a little bit sadomasochistic. 
* Because I have a thing for even numbers.
* Because it's not much fun to be the caboose.
* Because no one else understands what it's like to be Chinese and adopted like someone else who is Chinese and adopted.
* Because I've loved the name Elias since it was in our top three baby boy names, way back in 1999 (the other two? Bryce and Isaac, of course).
* Because I have this great idea for a Brady Bunch Christmas card for 2013.
* Because we already have a wonderful orthopedic surgeon, thanks to Isaac, and an excellent physical therapist, thanks to Rose.
* Because we embrace chaos around here.
* Because Eli is living, not just in the same country, but in the very same province, in the very same city, in the very same orphanage, in the very same room where Rose spent her first eleven months.
* Because we know where to find both McDonalds and Starbucks in Nanjing and Guangzhou.
* Because we didn't learn how to wait patiently last time around-- we need a refresher.
* Because our baby photo shrine in the kitchen was feeling lonely.
* Because we need Eli at least as much as he needs us.

Our one year anniversary of our match with Rose feels like the perfect time to announce what some of you already know-- sometime this spring, we'll be headed back to Xuzhou, China to bring home Elias Leman. Eli will turn one in October, which means that he and Rose will be virtual twins! As a mama who always sighed with relief when just one baby showed up on an ultrasound, this is a pretty big leap of faith for me and the rest of the family.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The squeaky wheel

Yesterday Ed got Rose dressed and ready to go hiking with the family up to Donut Falls. When I get Rose dressed, I typically put her in one of her three pairs of pink shoes, since they seem to go with everything in her closet. But Ed put her in the green squeaky shoes we bought her at Jenny's Place on Shamian Island. Squeaky shoes are a Chinese thing-- some adoptive parents buy them in every size. I bought a tiny red pair in traditional Chinese fabric, but Rose outgrew them by the time she learned to walk. I had sort of forgotten about this green pair.

When Rose stood up and started to run away after she had been shod, she got an enormous grin on her face. Over the last two weeks, she's transformed from a kid who mostly crawled, to one who NEVER, EVER, EVER stops moving. So we were treated all day yesterday to SQUEAK, SQUEAK, SQUEAK, SQUEAK, SQUEAK, all over the house. On one hand, it was nice because I knew where she was, but on the other hand, that is a whole lot of squeaking.

As much as I'm delighted to have Rose as part of our family, I always find this age to be a little exhausting. This weekend, Rose colored on our floor, put pen all over our leather ottoman, decided that bashing the mirror with metal rods was way more fun than just beating it with her hands, drank most of one of my diet Cokes, got herself stuck on top of things at least a dozen times, figured out how to remove cabinet locks, tried to eat cleanser and dishwasher soap from that cabinet, tornadoed through several loads of folded laundry, consumed a whole avocado we were going to eat for dinner, and kept me up in the night both nights, one of which ended with both of us sleeping on my closet floor. I also ran a marathon this weekend, which has limited both my ability to chase and my patience.

I'm tired. I'm allowed to say that, right?

Sometimes I feel like I'm not, because I chose this. I chose my other kids too, but for some reason, choosing Rose feels more intentional. I'm not sure if that even makes any sense. I did choose her, and every day, I'm glad for that choice, but some days I really want to take a nap. But first, Rose needs to lose the squeaky shoes, at least for an hour or two.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Six months

Six months ago today, I waited in the American Consulate in Guangzhou, China with a group of other adoptive families. We were all getting our exit visas, which meant that in a day our two, we'd board a plane with our kids, and they would become American citizens. In two days, it will be the six-month anniversary of when Rose came home.

Since that time, Rosie has learned to do so much. Sit, roll, eat solid food, laugh, tease, talk a little bit, and finally, in the last few weeks, she's started walking. She took her first steps almost two months ago, but she was maddeningly reluctant to make the move from a crawler to a walker. Now we spend hours each day walking around the house (she pulls me if I don't move fast enough), so she can explore. Her favorite place is the reading nook-- the spot in her bedroom that was Annie's bed until a few weeks ago, when we did a big kid switcheroo and sent the oldest three down to the basement (yes, the upstairs is blissfully quiet with just Rose and Maren up there). Her favorite person is her dad-- she throws herself into his arms the minute he gets home. Her favorite word is "ma" which means just about anything. Until the soft palate is fixed in November, she probably won't say much more. Her favorite food is, well, I'm not sure, since the girl eats like a horse. If I want to get work done, all I have to do is stick her in her high chair with a neverending supply of bananas, raisins, cake, and pirate booty and that girl will go to town.

At seventeen months, I finally feel like Rose has caught up. She's doing the things a seventeen-month-old should be doing, and acting the way seventeen-month-olds act (infuriating at times, but always adorable). She's definitely one of the gang here, and she has the whole family wrapped around her little finger. We're so glad she's ours!

Next week will mark one year since we saw her adorable little face for the first time. I remember the emotions of that night like it was yesterday. I have to say that the six months that she's been home have gone by much more quickly than the six months we waited to bring her home.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Book Review: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Title: Beautiful Ruins
Author: Jess Walter
Enjoyment Rating: *****
Source: Audible for iTunes
Books I've read this year: 100 (slower to reach 100 than in 2010 or 2011)

So I was sitting here at my kitchen table, thinking about how this book was more of a 4.5 star read than either a four or a five, and while I was deciding whether to be stingy or generous, I went over to Goodreads to borrow a picture. Up popped my friend Angela's review, and she gave it a five and said, "Okay, so maybe a 4.5 . . . but I liked it enough to round up." So in deference to Angela, one of the smartest readers and writers I know, I will follow suit.

I spent two years in an MFA program, and one of the things we did as grad students was try out new techniques. We messed with POV, with mixing up genres, with nonlinear storylines, with revealing important information late in the game of the story. Lots and lots of times, those techniques felt more like experiments than like integral parts of the story. In other words, we usually failed. It often felt like we were saying, "look at this cool trick" and ignoring the story itself. Last year's Pulitzer Prize novel, Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, is a prime example of a book with a lot of technique but very little heart. 

Walter manages to use all of the techniques (he incorporates the entire script of a play, for example, into the novel), but I was so engrossed by the story that I barely noticed. I think that's how it should be. I realize that I've said almost nothing about the story itself, but it's kind of difficult to sum up the complex plot. It all starts with an actress who has been working on the set of Antony and Cleopatra in Italy in 1962, who gets sent to a tiny fishing village while the producer figures out how to solve the problem of her pregnancy. From there, the story spans more than 50 years, several continents, and many different narrators, before doubling back to the smarmy producer, and the inkeeper and the actress, who fall in love and remain that way even though five decades pass without them seeing each other.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Book Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Source: Library Copy
Books I've read this year: 99

John Green's The Fault in our Stars is probably my favorite book of 2012, so I set out to read his other novels, including this one, which one the Prinz Award in 2006. Reading John Green's books always makes me feel like a little bit of a loser, because he's almost a decade younger than I am, and he's just so darn smart. Looking for Alaska is no exception. I still think I like The Fault in our Stars better, but this one is great too.

Miles is a high school junior who leaves Florida to attend his father's alma mater, a boarding school outside of Birmingham, Alabama. He's been kind of a nerd in his old school, and doesn't miss anything about his life in Florida, and he soon finds a rich social life, primarily centered on his roommate, the Colonel, and Alaska Young, who's sexy and smart, full of pranks and full of life.

I don't know how to talk about this book without giving away too much of the plot, but I'll say that Miles finds his world turned upside down, and while this is a traditional bildungsroman in the vein of The Catcher in the Rye, I'm not sure if Miles is the Holden Caulfield or Alaska is.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Book Review: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Title: Steve Jobs
Author: Walter Isaacson
Enjoyment Rating:
Source: Kindle for iPad
Books I've read this year: 98

Okay, okay. I've been a little skimpy on the book reviews lately, and I have Steve Jobs and Walter Isaacson to blame. Seriously. I took this book on vacation and expected to sit in hotel rooms and breeze through it, but that did not happen. I always enjoyed reading the book while I was reading it, but I recognized when I was going into the third week of falling asleep watching Jon Stewart rather than falling asleep with my iPad in my hand, that I didn't seek out opportunities to read this book. It's because of that that I'm giving it a four-star rating instead of five, and I have a feeling that the problem is mine and not either the author's or the subject's, because the writing was pretty amazing, and Steve Jobs's story was interesting and crazy enough that it should have kept me up at night.

So I'm a fluffy reader, what can I say?

Anyway, in that roundabout way, I want to say that I'm really glad I read Steve Jobs. I've been an Apple user for a number of years now (hooked exactly through Jobs's master plan-- through the iPod, and iPhone, then I bought up to a Mac and an iPad, none of which I feel like I can live without and all of which are now sitting on the couch along with me. If there were a fire, I would save my kids and my iPhone, except that now with the iCloud, all of my stuff is out there in the ether somewhere, but I digress), but I feel like reading this book helped me understand why Apple works, why the devices are so great (and they really are all that), and why someone like me, who is fine with "good enough" in almost all aspects of my life, could never be Steve Jobs.

And he reminded me a lot of someone I know and love, who is sometimes hard to know and love, so that was entertaining too.

Steve Jobs was a jerk, but he was a principled jerk, a jerk for the greater good. And I wonder if sometimes that's okay. I'm impressed with the scope of the project Isaacson undertook, and I'm glad I pushed through and finished the book, even if it wasn't a happy little novel.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Title: Shadow of Night
Author: Deborah Harkness
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: Audible for iTunes
Books I've read this year: 97

Well heck, I'm not sure what to say about this book. If you liked The Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness's first novel about a modern-day witch who falls in love with a thousand-year-old vampire doctor, you'll probably like Shadow of Night. If you hated the fact that DOW was a cliffhanger and thought it had way, way, way too many details, then don't bother reading this one. I loved Discovery of Witches, in much the same way that I love reading People magazine. It was engrossing and easy to digest, if I don't spend too much time thinking about it. Shadow of Night takes place mostly in the 1590s in London, where Diana runs into many of the Renaissance greats, including Elizabeth I, Walter Raleigh, and Shakespeare. Let me put it this way, I will be following the witch, Diana Bishop, and her husband the vampire into the third and final installment. And I will have fun doing so.