Tuesday, December 30, 2008
It was 64 degrees the day after Christmas, but not here. Care to take a guess where? Would you imagine it was in Ohio? Yes, outdoors in Ohio!! Northern Ohio!!
While LA has been experiencing a bit of a cold snap, Ohio was enjoying an after Christmas meltdown of the good weather kind. Snow for Christmas and warmth the day after? Perfect!
Of course this is the year we stayed in LA, but we're not complaining. We've had gorgeous, albeit cold, weather here over the last few weeks. It rained (something that many of us here in LA actually look forward to - especially if we don't have to drive in it) and that meant a fresh batch of snow on the mountains and clean air all around.
LA after a good rain looks like a different place with snow-capped mountains in clear view from the beach. In fact, you can get to the snow from the beach in two hours or less (traffic permitting) and that is exactly what we did today. We poked sticks in the snow, made a snowman and watched the big kids on their makeshift sleds. Not exactly a white Christmas, but a lovely day nonetheless.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we stayed at a couple of hotels. This one won the award for best baby amenities with a full line-up of baby shampoo, lotion and powder in a fully equipped pack-and-play. Believe it or not we've actually stayed at a pretty nice hotel that offered a crib with no crib bedding, so we take no baby-related amenity for granted and we especially appreciate the facility that goes the extra step to provide something nice.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Island Boy had his first real experience with snow over the Thanksgiving holiday. We traveled to Ohio to spend time with our family there and we enjoyed just about every form of precipitation possible. It rained; it snowed and it hailed. Island Boy loved it.
Although we didn't have nearly as much ground cover as we would have liked, Island Boy managed to find the piles of snow and explore them thoroughly. He stomped on them, made snowballs out of them, played King of the Hill on them and generally had a great time.
We had a wonderful visit with Grandma and Grandpa, Uncles, Aunts and cousins and we can't wait to see them all again.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
"Bone!", Island Boy pointed out.
No, I explained, that was a shell. I went on to describe a shell as something that was on the outside, while bones were generally found inside.
Island Boy turned, pointed to the window and said, "Outside!".
Hmm. Good point.
No, I said, shells were outside of a creature, not outside of a building.
Island Boy pointed out the window and confirmed, "Outside!".
As I pondered the best way to clear up the misunderstanding, Daddy wisely decided to just go with it, and offered Island Boy another "lobster bone".
"Bone!", Island Boy declared happily.
We all smiled and enjoyed the rest of our meal since, as anyone that is the parent of a toddler knows...when Island Boy is happy, we're all happy!
Sunday, November 16, 2008
In our area, we are far from the fires, but not from their effects. To add to the strangeness of the already too early Christmas decorations and music (didn't they used to wait until the day after Thanksgiving for those??!) we've had light "snow" showers in the form of ash fluttering down upon us. The skies have darkened with the smoke and the sun has taken on an apocalyptic hue.
The air is bad - very very bad - but we are otherwise all fine and hoping for the fires to soon be under control.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Island Boy loves flags. Along one of our regular driving routes we get to see a very large American flag. Each time we approach it, Island Boy excitedly says, "Flag! Flag!", as soon as it comes into view. As soon as we've passed it and it is no longer within view, he says, "More, please!". I always tell him we'll see it again soon.
Today an American Flag was flown over the US Capitol in honor of Island Boy. We have now been home for over a year. We couldn't think of a more appropriate gift to commemorate this very special occasion.
It's been a pretty incredible year. Island Boy has grown and changed so much. He's a truly amazing and very happy person and that makes all of us very happy.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Regardless of your political views, it is difficult to deny the hope and desire for change that drove this election. In the end, the race wasn't about race and that is as it should be.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
So what does qualify as a Mommy Vacation? Here are some examples:
1) Taking a shower. (No kidding!!! I know plenty of women who prior to becoming mothers had been meticulously hygienic, but taking a shower is one of those things you just don't always have time for as a mom. So, when you do get one it can feel like a real treat and you really learn to enjoy it.)
2) Taking a walk. (ANY walk - not even a long one!)
3) The ultimate indulgence??? A night out with your spouse!!
How can these three things possibly qualify as a vacation? According to Merriam-Webster the definition of the word, "vacation" is:
1 a respite or a time of respite from something:intermission
2 a scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended, a period of exemption from work granted to an employee
3 a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation
Although prior to being a mom my definition of "vacation" would have always trended heavily towards #3, it is now clear that #1 is the only real definition of "vacation" for Mommies and Daddies. So, Mommies and Daddies, enjoy your "vacations" whatever form they may take and whenever you manage to get them!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
At two or so, Island Boy may look right at us while performing an act he knows we won't approve of. The little darling is an expert at looking adorable while he dumps his entire box of crayons on the floor, for example.
At twenty-two or so, we're all still doing silly things like staying out too late despite being perfectly aware of the consequences the next day. At fifty-two or so, people are still testing limits with themselves and with their spouses. Hmm...I wonder what will happen if I don't take out the trash?
I'm sure at eighty-two or ninety-two or even at one hundred and two, if we're all lucky enough to be around that long, we'll still be testing our limits. Our limits are always changing and so are we, so why not?? This is one "phase" we apparently never outgrow.
Monday, October 20, 2008
I considered the reasons why this might be true. I'm sure it has something to do with the generally mild climate that much (although not all) of the state experiences for much of the year. There are many areas of the state where we can get by with no air conditioning at all and possibly even with no heat all year. We are fortunate enough to have lots of sunny days (don't let the word on this get around!), so I think we can even get by without turning on the lights much of the time, too.
Still, the state also has Death Valley (where I'm pretty sure both air conditioning and heat are required, although there are probably relatively fewer residents there than in Greater Los Angeles) and the Sierras (where I'm pretty sure heat is a requirement during the winter months, but perhaps they all use natural gas for that).
The reporter suggested that it might also have something to do with the general increased environmental sensitivity or awareness of Californians relative to much of the country. (I wonder if there are any statistics on that?) Whatever the reasons, I found it interesting. Now if only we can all work on reducing our dependency on oil...
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
It all started innocently enough. I asked Island Boy if he'd like to go to the Farmer's Market. He said, "yes!" and nodded enthusiastically. It was going to be a quick visit. It really was. I only needed a few items and I knew exactly where to find them.
The troubles began when my normally excellent Parking Karma failed us. Instead of finding a lovely spot right where I wanted to be we circled and circled, narrowly missing a few choice spots as they opened up. Fine. Parking Karma or no, we finally found ourselves a spot (with time on the meter to make up for the lack of market proximity) and strolled towards the market.
I suppose there might have been some hints even at that early stage that something might go awry, but I wasn't picking up on them if they did exist. Instead, we managed to arrive at the first farmer's stand only to find the item we sought wasn't among the offerings for the day. Strike One!!
"Juice?", Island Boy requested. "We'll get some juice on the way back to the car, ok?", said me. Bad move.
Off we went to pick up an herb salad. Ah! That went well!! Next stop? Grapes. Island Boy loves grapes, but this is when things began to fall apart. There I was with a bunch of grapes in one hand and a semi-boneless toddler in the other and I realized our time was up. Whether I was done or not, we were done with the market for the day.
I attempted to derail the meltdown with the promised juice. That worked! Ah, but it was only a temporary patch. We hightailed it back to the car, but the car was too far and the meltdown too fierce.
Why? Maybe it was the juice, maybe not. We may never know, but I imagine it had something to do with the fact that Mommy had a plan. Ha! What was I thinking?!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
It turns out to be a pretty interesting class and one that is well-suited for couples (yet not to the detriment of the few of us attending without our spouses). Still, it seems a paradox to spend time away from one's child in order to learn to be a better parent. Can we become better parents by spending time away? That's what we're all hoping.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Fortunately, we were prepared when we attended the LA County Fair last week. Island Boy was ready with his full repertoire of farm animal noises despite having seen very few farm animals in his short lifetime prior to this excursion.
(Tangent: One day Island Boy had a bite of beef on his fork and I told him that it was beef and that beef came from cows. He looked at me, looked at the beef, said, "MOO!!", and shoved it in his mouth. Very cute!!)
We spent much of our visit in the Big Red Barn where cows, sheep, pigs, goats, chickens and even a few farm dogs all roamed in large enclosures along with their babies. We listened for the crow of the rooster and the snorting of the pigs and watched the animals as they ate, drank, slept and played.
We enjoyed petting two docile creatures in a small pen off to the side of the festivities and learned that they were not cows as I (and apparently most visitors to the Fair) had assumed. No, one was actually a miniature yak and the other a zebu! How cool is that? I was not prepared to share with Island Boy the associated noises that these furry friends make and they didn't help me out while we were there. Although I had no idea the zebu was from South Africa until the nice lady tending to him told me so, I was able to correctly identify the geographic origin of the yak. (Thinking about the geographic origins of these two made me wonder why someone thought to pen them together...) Island Boy loved the yak and spent a good amount of time stroking its fur and exploring its little horns(!).
For reasons that I have yet to understand, the horses were nowhere to be found in the Big Red Barn, so we walked a painful distance - all the way to the other side of the Fair so that I could show Island Boy the Clydesdales, a team of horses that has always impressed me with their size and beauty. Unfortunately, our trek was not well-rewarded. While the horses were beautiful, each stood in a separate and what appeared to be a much-too-small stall with bars all the way up and the public was kept well away from them. It just didn't have the same impact as getting up close and looking one of them in the eye, or standing close enough to gain full appreciation of the size of one hoof (think very large dinner plate).
After visiting the Clydesdales, I still felt like we were missing out unless we managed to get up close to a real horse, so we located the California Mustangs. I was hoping to see an impressive herd of them galloping across the plains (ok, just kidding here, but seriously, how cool would that be??), but once again, the public was kept well back from the horses. They were in larger quarters than the Clydesdales and the bars did not extend to the ceiling, but the experience wasn't quite what I'd hoped. Let's just say the environment did not exactly convey, "wild and free".
On our way back to the Big Red Barn we had the pleasure of petting a chicken so fluffy there seemed to be nothing to it but fluff and we also explored the lovely skin of a Bearded Dragon. We hit the Big Red Barn one more time on our way out for a final rewarding visit to our farm animal friends. Although he insisted he was not ready to leave, Island Boy was asleep in his car seat before we were back on the freeway.
Monday, September 29, 2008
As it stands, we have just experienced the largest one-day drop ever in the stock market, the earth is undergoing climate change that is impacting everything from oceans to polar bears (and those are just a few of the things we can already see, measure and know) and our country is involved in two wars and contemplating another. How could things have gotten this bad?
I don't know what this presidential election will bring and I don't know whether anyone can really turn this ship around soon enough. I do know that if I were a candidate for president right now I would be rethinking my decision. I'm glad that someone is willing to step up and take the job and I hope that it is someone that can return our country and the world to peace and prosperity.
Please think about what's important to you. Is it the economy? Is it foreign policy? Is it health care? Is it the environment? If you know what's important to you, please educate yourself about which candidate shares your views. Don't rely on soundbites. Watch the debates. Go to the candidate websites. And please, VOTE.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
In any case, it seems that she may have been his first crush and due to family circumstances (hers, not ours), she won't be seeing us much any more. We're sad to see her go, but we're sure Island Boy will be ok. As my grandfather always said, "She ain't the only peach on the beach".
Monday, September 22, 2008
Things in the Aisle of the Moaning Dolls were pink and frilly as you might expect, and I did not linger. Yet, as I passed, noises began to emerge from the shelves that sent chills up my spine. I was literally too creeped out to turn around and see what was happening. Whatever it was, I wanted nothing to do with it.
I don't know what's happened to dolls these days, but whatever that was, it didn't sound good to me. Realistic? Perhaps when you're dealing with them in smaller numbers, but to me an entire Aisle of them was just plain creepy. This was one occasion when I was happy that I didn't have a little girl to draw me back to the Aisle. I shan't wander there again.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I cannot tell you how strange and wonderful it feels to be able to say that! From this day forward, our family need not send personal information to outside parties. Yes, that last piece of nagging paperwork: a one year follow-up, has been completed slightly ahead of schedule. It's not that it was difficult. It's just that it existed.
Now? Done! Finito! Hao le!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
For example, in order to apply for a US Passport (something we wouldn't even consider NOT doing although a shockingly small percentage of Americans hold them - heck, even the possible future leader of the free world, Sarah Palin, didn't have a passport until just last year!!), we must provide proof of US Citizenship. How do you prove you're a US Citizen? Normally, one would provide a copy of one's birth certificate. Easy? Of course not!
It is true that we should receive a copy of our little one's birth certificate sometime in the next year, but we don't have it now. We have other documents in our possession that should serve the purpose, but as the Wicked Witch of Social Security demonstrated, the reliability of those documents as proof is questionable in many (most?) situations. It's not that the documents aren't legitimate. It is simply that many government workers and others with an interest in such matters are unfamiliar with them and with the variations in the laws and documents from state to state.
Why is a passport important? Here's just one reason other than the fact that it is a relatively easy and reliable way to prove citizenship for many, although not all, things in life: it's been my experience that if you don't have a passport, you won't be able to travel outside the US. Fortunately, I learned this lesson early in my life when I missed out on a FREE trip to Africa as a new high school graduate when someone backed out of their prepaid trip at the last minute. A FREE trip to Africa?! Sign me up!! What's that? I need a passport? Oh. Umm...frick!! I immediately applied for a passport and have held it every since - just in case. I was rewarded years after receiving my first passport with a very last minute business trip to Israel that couldn't have happened without a passport in waiting and I have been rewarded many times since.
But I digress.
For those of you skeptical of your potential for opportunities for surprise last minute international travel, there are other more important reasons to consider obtaining a Certificate of Citizenship. The most critical reason to apply for a US Citizenship Certificate is that it is the only way to update the USCIS database to reflect the citizenship status of your little IR-4 former immigrant. I don't know anyone that wants to risk a tussle with the USCIS database either now or at any very inconvenient time in the future, so it's best to just get this last little business cleared up ASAP.
Bite the bullet and write the check - a whopping $460(!) (how on earth could it cost so much to get a purportedly unnecessary document when a US Passport costs "only" $100?!) and your family will sleep better at night. I know we will - assuming we actually receive the thing without any further hassles, that is.
Friday, September 12, 2008
My how many month-old?! You must be mistaken!! When did THAT happen to MY little baby?!
Honestly, every week seems a bit too often to be reminded just how quickly my little baby is growing up. It's nearly as unnerving as facing my own annual milestone.
I admit it, there are occasional moments when I fantasize about turning the clock forward, but most often, I realize how precious each week is in a life just beginning and I wouldn't trade a minute of it for anything else in the world.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Sunday, September 07, 2008
I am under no illusions. I do not consider myself to be unusually polite, nor do I believe we are raising an unusually polite young man. No, I understand completely that in this context, "please" simply means, "I want it. NOW!"
Thursday, September 04, 2008
We have just completed (or nearly completed) a major landscaping project. Although our yard had been perfectly dog-proofed, it wasn't necessarily toddler-proofed and it certainly wasn't what we'd call our home's most attractive asset. So, I spent the majority of the summer managing the project and trying to keep Island Boy entertained along the way - mostly away from home.
That's all behind us now and we finally have a new yard to enjoy. The only problem is that with our new little paradise, it feels like summer has just begun, and of course the calendar refuses to agree. Fortunately, living in Southern California affords us a bit of an endless summer, so we're hoping to ignore the calendar, crank up the patio heater as necessary and enjoy our "summer" for months to come! We've got some serious catching up to do!
Monday, September 01, 2008
Dear friends and family of those traveling:
It's awesome that you're planning to be there for the family when they get home. Whether you're meeting them at the airport, meeting them when they arrive at home, or planning to see them in the first few days or even weeks after they return home, here are some things to consider:
First of all, it's not about you.
Yes, I'm sure you're very excited to see your new niece/nephew/grandson/granddaughter/cousin/friend, but realize you will have a lifetime to shower this new family member/friend with affection.
For now, it's all about that baby boy or girl that has just been through one of the most (probably the most) terrifying experiences of his or her life so far. Every sound that little baby hears is new. Except for the parents that little baby came home with, there are no familiar faces (and the parents have only been familiar in the last 3 or so days), no familiar smells and probably very few familiar tastes or toys. That little baby has just endured a ten-hour plus plane flight - something few adults do well. Your face is new; your smell is new and, unless you happen to speak Mandarin, your sounds are new. If you do happen to speak Mandarin, and the parents don't, feel free to speak it, but remember it's not about you. It's about the baby first and the parents second. You come somewhere after that in order of importance.
While the baby will undoubtedly be irresistible, remember that the thing he or she needs most at the moment is comfort and that comfort is best given by the people he or she knows best: the parents. What the parents need most is your help and support so that they can focus on the baby. Although the child isn't a newborn, this family is like any family welcoming a new child: things are crazy and everyone has huge adjustments to make.
What can you do to be most helpful? Bring food!! Lots and lots of food. Bring enough food for the entire family to eat when they arrive home (probably exhausted and just in time to eat and go to bed) and when they wake up the next morning and to sustain them for the next week in case they are unable to leave the house. This gesture will be appreciated far more than you know.
If you'd like to do something else that will be appreciated beyond measure, insist on taking a number of photos of the new family together. Chances are they haven't yet had a nice family photo taken of them and this is the first time they are all at home together, so take some pictures (and take lots of them, because after a long flight there is a good chance there will be a few duds in there!).
Still want to do more? Make sure the house is clean, plants are watered, cars are full of gas, clothes are washed...anything you can think of that will free the family up to spend time helping the baby adjust. Oh yes, and of course books, clothes and toys for baby are always appreciated, too.
If you're not planning to visit right away, but find yourself visiting anytime in the first few months, the same rules apply:
Bring food! Lots and lots of food! We found it so incredibly helpful (even months later) when we received meals that would last for multiple days and required no effort on our part. Offer to take pictures! Help with household chores or errands (assuming the couple is ok with that).
Here is a very special and very important thing you can do on the 3rd week after the family arrives home: Plan a 2-3 hour get-away with the new Mommy. Insist that the new Mommy accompany you to a movie or to a mall or to a spa or to a knitting group or on a hike, but insist that she get out of the house and away from the baby. Everyone will be better off for this brief time. Trust me. If the new Mommy is like me, she hasn't had any time away from baby since they met (other than during naps, but that doesn't fully count) and she really, really needs it whether she likes to admit it or not. It's also a nice time for Daddy to spend with baby. Everyone will come back refreshed and better for these few precious hours.
So there you have it - lots of ideas for how to show your love and they're all pretty easy.
Congratulations to all of you and happy, happy homecomings!
Thursday, August 28, 2008
I do believe that counts as a minor miracle at this age, so we're very pleased with his services.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
After dinner, Island Boy watched the dancers preparing to go on stage (flirting with the ladies, as always). When we took him in to watch the show, we were holding him and standing near the wall trying not to block anyone's view. He wanted down so he could launch into his own full-on dance routine that stole the show. Ah, to be so uninhibited!!
A few nights ago we decided to try the restaurant again. As we approached the entrance, Island Boy began snapping his fingers and dancing. He totally knew where we were!! Although it wasn't Mariachi night, Island Boy found the recorded music inspiring enough to try out some of his moves up on stage and he didn't even have any margaritas!
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I've never received such an error message before. The paper seemed fine - standard 8 1/2 x 11 generic printer paper.
Upon closer inspection you'll never guess what I found in the paper tray?
Yes, both a CD and a puzzle piece. Very helpful. Mismatch indeed!
Island Boy does love the electronics and I can't blame him for thinking the paper tray looked like the ideal place to insert things. The baby proofer can't help us now. No, we're way beyond that at this stage. Why is it that a certain commercial involving oatmeal and a VCR keeps coming to mind??
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
Island Boy wasn't shy about jumping right in to play with his friends the Salsa Twins. During this visit, my son managed to vacuum the floors while the twins piled over each other playing banana ride (I'm not sure I have that exactly right, but it was some sort of ride...) in the chair. After Island Boy got good and worn out playing with the girls, we went over to visit with two boys and their parents.
I'd been told that boys and girls are different, but the energy level between these two pairs could not have illustrated the chasm more clearly. While the girls are very energetic and not at all shy, the boys are...well, let's just say they're boys. There was certainly the dolls vs. trucks dichotomy, but it was more than that...something you really had to experience to fully appreciate. The boys even had a piano at their home so they took turns playing duets with Island Boy. It was tooo cute!!
Island Boy had just enough time for a brief siesta before heading over to enjoy an authentic home-cooked Indian meal and entertainment on gorgeous Indian drums at yet another friend's home.
We wrapped up our time in the BA with another brief visit with the twins before heading for home. Those little girls are so sweet they actually requested that "that wittle boy" come to visit them again. And no, the cuteness didn't end there.
Perhaps the most adorable quote ever:
"We are little friends", said one of the Salsa Twins as the weekend came to a close. Is that the sweetest thing you've ever heard??
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Friday, August 01, 2008
We had the pleasure of spending an evening at the Greek with James Taylor. He made the evening feel very intimate with his warmth and humor. He's the kind of artist that always surprises you with the number of hits he has had over the years. His voice is still simply amazing. If you haven't listened to his music in a while, go listen now. You won't be able to resist a smile.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
I'm just checking to make sure I haven't completely lost all of my remaining marbles. It is JULY, isn't it?? For some reason I thought perhaps it was November or possibly even October...oh, it could be the fact that I received not one but TWO solicitations today for CHRISTMAS CARD orders.
Now I have no possible excuse for sending cards out late this year except for perhaps the fact that by the time the holidays do finally roll around I may actually be sick of hearing about them. I love the holidays. I really do! But c'mon, isn't July just a little tooooo early to start thinking about them??
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
While sitting on the music teacher's lap at the piano, inspiration hit and his fingertips danced over the keys to create something actually musical!
I was amazed to hear the teacher recreate his melody. I've always been impressed by people that have the talent to listen to something and play it back on any instrument. Granted, his composition wasn't particularly complex, but she was actually involved in a conversation during his moment of genius, making it all the more impressive when she played it back and later wrote it out for me.
I do admit that the composition could have been shall we say...accidental and it may not be quite the stuff of the Philharmonic (any Philharmonic) at this point, but still...regardless of any of that, it was music to my ears.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I happened to be holding Island Boy when the tremor hit. We stopped what we were doing and waited while our house creaked and our dishes rattled. Island Boy seemed a little rattled as well, but I'm not sure if I should attribute that to the quake itself or to my reaction to it (one naturally tenses up a bit when a quake begins, particularly when one is holding a baby). The shaking was not intense at our location, but it did last for a good long time.
For those of you that haven't experienced many earthquakes you may find it interesting to know that they all feel different. Some start with a thump; some feel like the rolling waves on the ocean and others sound and feel like a strong wind gusting through. This one was the rattly sort.
I always find it funny to think that even though I live in California I experienced my first earthquake in Ohio of all places.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Island Boy was in his element spending his days at the beach just like his Mommy did when she was growing up. We enjoyed the long daylight hours of summer splashing in the water, dragging our fingers and toes through the sand, hiking among wildflowers in the mountains and roasting S'Mores over the fire in the evening. We rented a boat which Island Boy insisted on driving and even spent an evening at a local music festival picnicking on the grass and dancing in front of the stage.
Island Boy loved having the older kids to look up to and they had a good time laughing with us as they tried to teach him to say, "broccoli". Listening to Island Boy say, "broccoli", was apparently the funniest thing these children had ever heard and it was a riot to watch them enjoying each other all weekend.
Our hotel was set up with families in mind from the ideal location to the Mickey Mouse pancake breakfasts to the movie theater (which we did not partake of) to the piano in the lobby (which Island Boy simply could not get enough of). The only thing that could have made it slightly more perfect from our son's point of view might have been a resident doggie.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
The Hollywood Bowl is more than just a concert venue. It is a gourmet experience. It is an unwritten rule that an evening at the Bowl must involve a picnic with wine before the show. Said picnic can happen at your car, on the grounds surrounding the Bowl, or at your seat. Picnicking at your seat is best for those lucky enough to have a box (typically season ticket holders).
On a perfect summer evening, we were fortunate to be the invited guests of season ticket holders. We had a truly beautiful evening listening to the music of the LA Philharmonic while reconnecting with friends we haven't seen in much too long and enjoying a delicious picnic. What could be better?
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
It often involves hours or possibly days of food preparation, but it isn't just about the food. It truly is about the experience and bringing family and friends together. It is meant to happen every Sunday - a feat that isn't easy in current times. Still, whether it happens weekly, monthly or occasionally, it's a very special thing. There is something about sharing a meal with family and friends on a Sunday makes you sit back and relax in a way that doesn't happen in quite the same way on other days of the week.
On this particular Sunday we were happy to be part of Sunday Supper at someone else's home. Island Boy was perfectly content to enjoy his Sunday Supper around the kids' table with twin four-year-old girls. Photographic evidence indicates that the girls enjoyed playing with Island Boy too. Island Boy even had the opportunity to play a rhinestone-studded guitar. He was in heaven.
The evening was over too soon as it always is, but another wonderful thing about Sunday Suppers is that there will be another Sunday coming around again next week...
Monday, July 14, 2008
Island Boy worked the crowd, greeting nearly everyone and pausing to give special attention to each of the doggies in line. He also cheerfully smiled at anyone that looked like they might be willing to let him play with their phones. The number of people willing to allow our toddler to play with their phones was surprising at first, but we realized the consequences of one of those phones being damaged at that point were small at best. Those people were standing in line to replace the very phones he was playing with so they might suffer with a broken phone for minutes at most. Island Boy had a fantastic time and yes, he does know how to use the touch screen. :-)
He'd been prepping for months - one of his favorite words is, "Apple".
When does he say, "Apple"? Nearly every time he sees something that resembles this:
It still cracks us up every time.
That's our boy!! :-)
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Riiiiiiighhht!!! What was I thinking? At my age, I should know better.
As I sauntered in to my local Social Security office, confidently carrying a carefully arranged file folder which had been prepared months in advance, I was as cheerful as one could be when facing what was sure to be a tedious and extensive wait. I twiddled with my phone while waiting and was pleased to be called by what appeared to be the nicest gentleman in the place. He really was nice. Oh, so nice.
It turns out he was a volunteer and just "helping out" and completely unprepared to deal with issuing a social security number to a US Citizen sans birth certificate. And here we go...back into the waiting room I went as my two-hour parking meter began to run down and my nerves began to jangle (parking tickets in this part of town are not what I'd call pocket change).
Finally, she was ready for me. I cheerfully presented my orderly paperwork and was blindsided with a very droll, "Why do you need a social security number?". What?! Umm...ok, maybe this isn't going to go quite as smoothly as I'd hoped, but I answered cheerfully and respectfully. Before I could complete my sentence, I was cut off with a recital of all of the things you can do without a social security number and told I didn't need one for any of those things, particularly for filing taxes. Yes, I said I was fully aware of all of the things I could do without an SSN, but there was one thing I needed to do that *did* require a SSN, so I would really like one, please. She insisted I didn't need one. I insisted I did. She then admitted I did need a SSN for the thing that I wanted it for (opening a brokerage account), but she made no apologies or any recognition whatsoever of the fact that she had just insisted I didn't need an SSN. Fine. I'm totally ok with that.
Next issue? According to this lady, I had no proof of my child's US Citizenship! I held a court document in my hand demonstrating what I was told by a JUDGE was proof and what my extensive research told me was proof, but somehow it wasn't good enough for the Wicked Witch of Social Security.
What was she concerned about? Perhaps she was concerned about issuing a Social Security number to a tiny little terrorist?? While I haven't been with my son every second of his entire life, I am fairly confident in stating (even under oath if necessary) that he is definitely not, nor has he ever been a terrorist.
She kept my application and sent me home to collect one additional document. Since by this time I had invested over 2.5 hours sitting at that office, I pleaded with her to allow me to make an appointment to meet with her on my return visit so I could avoid the part about standing in line again. No dice.
On my return visit I brought with me not only all of the requested documents (completed application, Passport for my child, court documents, my ID), I also brought with me documentation from the US Department of State website indicating that my son was absolutely, definitely a US Citizen. She reviewed the documentation and continued to challenge me on his status, refusing throughout the conversation to refer to "the child" as my son. When I pointed out the facts to her she responded by saying, "Well, that's what you say". I said, "No, that is what the US Department of State and the US Citizenship and Immigration Service say." Her final words to me were, "I haven't yet decided whether I will approve this application or not."
While at first I thought she hated her job, the more I thought about it the more I realized she absolutely loves her job. There are few positions at this level I can think of that wield more power than this one. She believes that she holds the power to prevent a person from getting a social security card. While that may or may not be true, why would she want to prevent a baby from getting a card? Perhaps just to make her job interesting or to get back at the world for some injustice she suffered. Whatever her reasons, she's the one that needs to live with them.
Friday, July 11, 2008
There are more than a few interesting details beyond the most obvious within this story. The first being that complicated cases take WAAAAYYY too long to resolve. A few extra months in a court process seems unreasonable when a child's life is involved, but fourteen years?! What excuse on earth could possibly justify that amount of time passing? Surely if they are looking for someone, that person either doesn't exist, doesn't want to be found or they have been using some very poor detectives to do the search. You have to figure over a period of fourteen years this case has spent its fair share of time stashed away at the bottom of various stacks of cases on the desks of various judges waiting for that singular human that is willing to say, "enough is enough" and do what is necessary to reach a resolution, whatever that may be.
One of the things I found most touching in the article was the feelings of the girl about her family and her case. The girl herself wishes the same resolution for the case as her family. She doesn't seem concerned about what may or may not have happened to her in the short period after her birth. She is content and happy and everything sounds right with her world except for that little issue of the threat of deportation. I don't think her feelings are surprising or unusual. I just found it very touching and wonderful that she and her family are very happy together. For the sake of everyone even remotely affected by this case, I hope it is soon resolved. I cannot imagine what it must be like for that family going through life with that particular dark cloud overhead.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Fortunately for me, I didn't really realize just how confusing it all was until it was all behind us. Although it is behind us now, it bears explanation for those of you that haven't yet been through it or for those of you that wish to gain some sense of what we (and many other families) have been through (or are still going through).
The first thing you need to know about Readoption is that it's not entirely clear what it is or how to go about it. The second thing you should know is that you may (or may not) be required by law to do it. Readoption happens here in the US and it happens at the state level, so procedures (although hopefully not results!) vary from state to state. Your agency should help to guide you through.
The basics of Readoption are that it involves more paperwork, of course, and culminates in an actual court appearance (for many of us the first and only of the entire multi-year adventure). In a nutshell, Readoption is the process of a US Court confirming that any decisions made in a foreign court were valid and appropriate. Shockingly, there are some states that do not recognize foreign adoptions so your child could be denied legal rights without the readoption. What kind of legal rights? These range from inheritance issues to "you don't want to know".
Here's the problem: although the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 was supposed to clear everything up and streamline the process of how and when your child becomes a US Citizen, it does not seem to have done a very thorough job (on the other hand, prior to the CCA, things must have been even uglier, so I'm sure it was a great improvement). If you read through the information here (copied from the US Department of State website) it all seems very helpful:
On February 27, 2001, the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 becomes effective. The aim of this law, which, among other things, amends Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), is to facilitate the automatic acquisition of U.S. citizenship for both biological and adopted children of U.S. citizens who are born abroad and who do not acquire U.S. citizenship at birth. We are pleased to note that, because of this law, U.S. citizenship will be conferred automatically upon thousands of children currently in the United States.
The following are the Act's requirements:
- At least one parent of the child is a U.S. citizen, either by birth or naturalization.
- The child is under the age of 18.
- The child must be residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent after having been lawfully admitted into this country as an immigrant for lawful permanent residence.
- If the child has been adopted, the adoption must be final."
"Does my child qualify for automatic citizenship under the CCA?
Under the CCA, your child will automatically acquire U.S. citizenship on the date that all of the following requirements are satisfied:
- At least one parent is a U.S. citizen,
- The child is under 18 years of age,
- If the child is adopted, a full and final adoption of the child, and
- The child is admitted to the United States as an immigrant."
The problem lies with that bit about the adoption being "final". Unfortunately, a consistent definition of "final" regarding the adoption process is left up to the interpretation of the reader. So is the adoption "final" when a foreign court decides it is or when a US Court puts its blessing on the procedure via the process of Readoption? It depends on who you ask - even the people that really should know don't provide consistent answers. The US Department of State seems to acknowledge that an Adoption Decree is all that's needed for the adoption to be final and they don't seem to be picky about whether that comes from a court here or there yet not every government employee agrees on that.
If all of that isn't unsettling enough, you may be surprised to learn that once the Readoption is completed and the question of citizenship should no longer be an issue (if it ever were to begin with), your child is still listed as holding an immigrant Visa with USCIS. Awesome!
Even after the Readoption is complete you have no proof of your child's citizenship other than a state-issued court document until you either order an optional Certificate of Citizenship (by filling out yet another form and shelling out $420, learn more about that here) or until a birth certificate arrives (and that that can take another year or more!!) or until you get a US Passport for your child - probably the fastest and easiest option. Only one of these options - the most expensive one, natch, actually results in USCIS changing the status of your child's citizenship in their databases. I'll be posting more on all of this shortly...
There is one shining light in this entire process: the court appearance. Surprising, I know, but if you're fortunate enough to require this particular court appearance, know that unlike many court appearances that you can imagine or may experience in your lifetime, this one is truly special. Our judge was warm and kind and truly seemed to enjoy his work. It was a joyful experience for our family and one that we will always treasure. For us, it was the perfect end to a wonderful beginning.
Monday, July 07, 2008
Island Boy experienced his first fireworks this year and our little American boy loved it!
We watched from a vantage point affording views of at least seven shows up and down the Southern California coast. We started him out with a few "starter shows" - these were off in the distance, so not too overwhelming and lovely to behold. While these shows were entertaining, it wasn't until the *real* show began about thirty minutes after the others that the fireworks really got Island Boy's attention.
This particular show probably wasn't the biggest in the area, but for us it was by far the most impressive since it was happening nearly right on top of us. Although we had already been watching fireworks for at least thirty minutes before this show started, it started with such an array of sounds and colors it made us want to applaud. Island Boy was captivated from the first BOOM!! This show was soo close, he actually held on tight for the first few minutes. He did relax to enjoy the show pretty quickly. When it was all over, he wanted more! MORE!! BOOM!! More boom please!!
Happy Birthday, America!
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Our treasured apricot tree produces the most delicious apricots I've ever tasted. I am only half-joking when I say that I married my husband because of this tree (I joke that the other reason was the incredible fig tree! ;-). It even worked out that apricot season was in full swing over our wedding weekend and yes, we did just celebrate another very, very happy anniversary! While eating (and eating and eating) from this very tree over our wedding weekend, our nieces and nephews dubbed my husband the very appropriate, "Uncle Apricot".
There is one small problem: all of the apricots arrive at the same time and once picked, they last only a few days at most. So during our brief season in addition to enjoying all the fresh apricots we can eat, I am frantically picking fruit, sharing it with friends and family, and furiously trying to find time to bake and make and eat every fresh apricot recipe I can think of: Apricot Puree, Apricot Souffle, Apricot Ice Cream, Apricot Pie...
Of course the squirrels often get to them first - taking a single ruinous bite out of each one just as it begins to develop that irresistible sun-ripened rosy blush. In years past, we had our faithful dogs to assist in combating the varmints. They somehow knew (well, one of them did) to guard that tree when it mattered and we didn't even have to ask. Without their help this year, we were forced to take preemptive measures. We had the wires removed that served as a "Squirrel Highway" over the top of the tree and we wrapped sheet metal around the base so the little critters couldn't clamber up as easily from the ground. These measures haven't been foolproof, but seemed to help. Still, we really miss our dogs (and that has very little to do with apricot season).
I hope you were able to guess that that is not Island Boy in the second photo. You may not have guessed that the photo of the pie was not taken at our house. We had an absolute blast visiting the home of our "guest pickers" for an impromptu baking party where we made this beauty. And yes, it was delicious!
Island Boy has had a glorious week parked under the apricot tree or in our kitchen enjoying one of the best things about living where we do. It is no wonder that he quickly learned to say the complicated word, "Apricot" - very, very clearly and with great enthusiasm!! Ah, yet another reason why we are sad to see another apricot season come to a close...
p.s. If you've got a favorite fresh apricot recipe to share, please let me know...there's always next year!
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Your own backyard can be just as much fun as a trip to Yosemite and possibly more, depending on how things go. Just think - your backyard is safe and everything you need is conveniently close in case you're worried about forgetting something. Sure, it takes just a little bit of the adventure out of the experience...or does it?? If you've never spent the night in your own backyard, that will be an adventure in itself.
(In case you're wondering - no, we didn't camp out, but only because I've had a cold. We will get out there soon. Hope you will too!)
Monday, June 23, 2008
Yes, adoption is tough on the wallet and insurance doesn't typically cover any of it.
Yes, adoption is an emotional roller coaster even though pregnancy hormones aren't directly involved.
Yes, family leave is just as important for any family with a new baby at home regardless of how old that baby might be when he or she arrives.
Bravo to all of the companies already offering benefits!
If your company isn't - yet - perhaps you can print out the article and strategically drop it off on the desks of a few key executives. If that doesn't work, perhaps you can do it every week until they suddenly think it was their idea in the first place to offer benefits. :-)
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
He may look innocent enough, but he is much more important than he may at first appear. To us, he is far more than just your average bear.
Sure, he is a cuddly companion and he certainly brings us comfort, but not simply for the obvious reasons. This particular bear signifies a very important milestone for our family. This particular bear was given to our son as he officially became a US Citizen.
Now, that's comforting!
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Getting there and back, however, was a bit less nice. Let's start with the flight out. Other than the fact that hubby was called away on business two days before we were scheduled to leave, everything was just fine. Mommy managed to pack herself and the little guy up and make it most of the way across the country before meeting up with Daddy for the remainder of the trip. Although that first portion of the trip doesn't seem that bad in retrospect I wonder if it is like labor - you tend to forget just how painful it was? Oh, and once we landed (several hours late), the hail storm didn't start until we were tucked in for the night. On the return, we arrived a full five hours behind schedule which meant an arrival at roughly 3 am LA time which was the equivalent of 6 am for us. Island Boy sailed through the entire ordeal in much better spirits than many of our fellow travelers.
Island Boy spent the entire visit outdoors (or so it seemed), just like I did when I was growing up. Other than the brief hail storm and a few showers here and there, we had beautiful weather, including a record hot day. We had good food, lots of toys and books and the great, big, wide-open outdoors to share lots of time (although never enough) with our family. We celebrated my birthday with my parents for the first time in longer than I care to remember and even attended our first golf tournament.
Island Boy enjoyed his time so much that he shook his head rather vehemently when we asked him if he was ready to go home. Just to be sure, we asked him if he wanted to stay with Grandma and Grandpa and he nodded enthusiastically. We can't wait to see them again!