13 And Counting

I remember the first time I saw Gracie. She was sitting on her foster mother’s lap, so tiny and delicate, that she looked like a doll. She was a preemie so everything about her seemed fragile and small. I fell in love with her right then and there as I stared at the tiny 3×4 inch photo in my computer screen; engraving her sweet face on my heart forever. Truly, it was love at first sight and I was bound and determined that she would become our daughter. I thank my lucky stars that my dream came true because everyday with Gracie has been a delightful dream with a mixture of happiness, joy, and a pinch of awe thrown in for good measure. She truly is amazing!

Today Gracie turns thirteen. It is hard to believe that I will never again be raising a mere child. Instead, I am guiding young adults towards the time when they leave the nest…hopefully for good.

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Since Gracie is a now an official teenager, it means I have four teens living in my house. Maybe I should say co-existing, as war could erupt any minute when you are stepping through emotional teenage land mines which are scattered, undetected, here and there. Gracie assures me that she will not act like a teen but she is already rolling her eyes and using THAT tone of voice which indicates that somehow I have become the absolute dumbest person ever to live on this planet. Forget the 55+ years of experience, the college degrees and my affable personality…I am soon to be regulated to the status of something below pond scum.

While I am excited about someday becoming an empty nester (finger crossed) I do have to admit I miss those times when my children thought I could do no wrong, when they believed I was smarter than G*D, and when the little things I did brought them such pleasure. Those were simpler times though I didn’t recognize them as such. I often viewed them as chaotic with all the meltdowns that two children with autism could bring. But now… well, even the meltdowns don’t seem quite as bad as when I was in the midst of them and I can look back and be proud of how I handled some situations that would tax the patience of a saint. Not to say I handled them all well but I did GOOD ENOUGH and that is just fine with me at this point in the game.

Today is one of those momentous days. Time and perceptions will shift for both Gracie and I as the label of TEEN is applied like a gooey sticker to her soul. May we each grant the other grace and dignity in the coming years as she grows wiser and my brain cells shrink in number. May we create memories that sustain us and may we see the best in each other instead of the worst. For the teenage years are upon us…may we both survive them with patience and our sense of humor intact! And may Gracie happily survive the impact that autism has on a family and a sibling..she has done a remarkable job thus far.

Happy Birthday My Sweet, Talented, Gracious, Fun-Loving And Hard-Working Baby Girl! You are my Superhero!

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Superheroes And Fish

California has little water. What we do have are high mountains onto which snow is suppose to fall, building up a snowpack, which then melts during the warming temperatures of spring. This water is then stored in lakes and reservoirs where it is released into canals from which farmers draw the water they need for their crops. It least it is suppose to work this way but climate change appears to be messing things up a bit.

Off of the “MIGHTY” canals are many small ones that divert the water to specific locations. I live along one of these smaller canals. Usually, the canal is dry except for the months of May, June and July when the water flows from farm to farm and eventually out to the ocean. But it wasn’t always this way. Back in the 1800’s the area from Bakersfield to San Francisco was pretty much a big lake. People traveled by boat up and down this HUGE swath of water that was many hundred of miles long. Then man decided to tame the waterways and all of nature that went with it. I suspect this area was much prettier before man’s intervention.

One of the highlights of my day involves walking along the canal and visiting with my wild neighbors. Every day I see Henry the lizard who darts out from the bushes to give me a hello.  Sometimes I see the graceful white egrets dipping their bills deep into the silt looking for bugs and other delicacies. And on every stroll, I always hear the THA-RUPM of the gigantic bullfrogs which live around the banks of this soothing waterway; its quiet gurgling sounds washing over me and cleansing my mind .

But then the inevitable happens they crank down the trap door which stops the flow of the water. One day I’ll be walking and notice the waterline has lowered. The next it is lower still. Finally, around the pipes, all that are left are small shallows, minuscule bodies of water which the sun is unable to reach and suck dry quite as quickly as the rest.

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And so yesterday, as I took my walk, I went to take a look under the small “bridges.”  To my surprise there were about one hundred 3-5 inch long fish swimming lazily in the rapidly vanishing water. An unfortunate few were floating on the top an impending sign of danger to all that remained. It reminded me of the times in my past, when my life as I knew it, suddenly dried up and I was left  slowly suffocating and gasping for air. I ran home in a panic.

“Come on kids. Let’s go. We have something important to do!” I shouted as I came bounding through the door. “Get the swimming pool net, get the ice chest, get a water scooper and some shoes that can get wet….we are going to save some fish!”

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Of course, the kids looked at me as if I was crazy, like tweens and teens often do. Eye rolls soon followed.

Then Paul asked,” so what will we do with them after we catch them?”

Frankly, I was stumped. But after a few seconds a plan begins to focus in my mind.

“Why, we will drive them to the MIGHTY canal and release them. That’s what we will do!”
And so we headed off to the shallows armed with everything we needed to become the super heroes that we knew we were capable of being. But there was a problem as is always the case with superheroes in these types of dicey situations. In our case …the fish were not cooperating. Every time the net would come towards them they would flit away into the pipe and hiding from our super herculean efforts. Ten minutes went by. Not one fish. Twenty minutes…one floating fish was netted. Thirty minutes…it was so hot we were ready to swim in the slimy shallows ourselves. A hundred fish and we could not catch one.

Finally, like all great superheroes. we decided to look for other good deeds to do elsewhere but we learned an important lesson …you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. I guess fish are like humans in that way and stupidity knows no bounds.

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A Miracle

Yesterday I spent the morning in a courtroom. No, I wasn’t on trial for murdering the guy next door who blares his music at 1 a.m. though the impulse is sometimes there. It wasn’t for a parking ticket or a jaywalking offense. It was for something much better…an adoption!!!

My dear friend (I’ll call her M) started down this path many years ago. While she and her husband (K) have two of the nicest boys you will ever meet; M felt like their family was incomplete. Her desire for a girl pulled at her heart for so long that she was unable to ignore it no longer. But first she had to get K on board. It took a while but once K made up his mind there was no turning back. They have worked hard to become a loving family of five.

Adoption is not for the faint of heart. There is the fingerprinting, the intense and intrusive background checks, the numerous day-long adoption classes you are required to take, and social worker visits that happen so often that often it feels you are adopting them. And then there is the paperwork. Mountains of it. Enough paper to clear acres of pristine forest. But perhaps the worst part about adoption is the waiting and uncertainty. The amount of faith you have to have to love a child with all your heart, even though you know there is a chance that their birth parent may try to reunite with them, often to the detriment of the child, can be crushing to your soul. Yet, you just keep loving despite of your own fears that a social worker could arrive at your door at any time and leave your arms empty once more.

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Adoption is fraught with challenges. It is often conceived in fear. In addition, there is immense loss felt on the part of the child even if their birth parents were less than stellar.But when it is done right it is the most miraculous thing in the world. Somehow  families are created despite all the chaos and the gift you receive with the first hug that your child spontaneously gives you and the first time they call you Mom…well… there is nothing like it in the world. It’s like stumbling out of the forest into a sunny field full of wildflowers.

And so I was honored to be able to sit and witness the legal creation of this family especially since my three adoptions had been such a blur. As I sat there watching the sunshine unfold and M trying not to cry; it gave me time to appreciate all that I have been given through adoption and how much richer my life is because of it. And while I distain the word “lucky” in the same sentence as the word adoption I do have to say that the Smith family has been lucky all the way around. Miss S now has the best set of brothers who willingly share all they have and teach her in such loving and touching ways. She is lucky to have found the best set of parents EVER.  People who are there for you no matter what, who provide unconditional love and lots of laughs. They provide patience and support, and spend time well spent reading and playing with their children, and exposure to new and wonderful experiences outside of their home. Together M and K make every day the best that it can possibly be for their family. They are the kind of parents every child deserves.

The Smith family is also lucky to have Miss S enter their lives. She brings her own fiery brand of temperament into a household that lacked her kind of undeniable and exuberant spark. She also brings that girlishness  that was so wanted into a testosterone ladened home. Miss S also brings a fresh look at life and an exuberance for it that makes everyone around her smile; her constant joy reflected back to them on her beautiful and radiant face. I do not know of any family made for each other more than this one. Lucky. Yes. Blessed. Yes. Content. Yes. Complete. Finally.

And so my friends, may you always remember the gift that each of you received today and when life’s little irritations arise may you always look back upon this day to put a smile on your face and give you some perspective. You are the family you dreamed of and what you have created all together is, indeed, a miracle. YEAH!!!!!

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Mrs. Hot Pants…304 Days To Fix This

If there is one thing that makes me quiver in fear it is costumes. The kind of sexy-for- your-eyes-only, see-through, leave-nothing-to-the-imagination…oops my nipples are showing type of ensemble meant to be worn in the bedroom and not in public unless you are seriously, seriously drunk. I hate them. My thighs are too fat, my legs too short and my head too big. They are meant for 25-year-old girls who eat a piece of lettuce for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and that’s only when they are indulging. When I was 20 years younger and untold pounds thinner I could do this. At this age, I just think I look like Winnie The Pooh Stuck In the Honey Tree with a dash of Miss Piggy in a wetsuit thrown in. (Yes, we woman are too hard on ourselves but we will save that discussion for another day!)

Unfortunately, my husband recently told me that he misses seeing me in this type of attire. He’s a visual kind of man he tells me. He’s a I wanna’ see before I touch kinda’ guy and so I began to peruse the “can’t-touch-this-sexy-momma” online store and did I ever get some ideas.

Unfortunately, I could not find the “this-is-the-one-to save-your-marriage” type of look though with the mid-life crisis component of the “let-me-marry-my-younger-than-my-daughter-aged secretary” being all the rage in men these days; the innocent school girl look just might do. Unfortunately, I suspect on a 55-year-old woman it might be more reminiscent of a Catholic priest in drag than anyone B used to date in high school. Yep, this one is definitely a five drink minimum proposition before I would even consider reliving my teen years again.

I considered the sexy santa suit/wear but with the twelve animals that would have to imported and the fees associated with the mandatory quarantine… well… it began to feel a somewhat sacrilegious to me. And in truth, making that “bowl-full-of-jelly” scene appear in real life would probably make B swear off Christmas for the rest of his life. Besides, red isn’t my color.

The policewoman outfits were kind of attractive but it is doubtful that I could get B into a pair of handcuffs because he knows that with the mood I am in I might be charged with “unlawful entry” when I got done with him. He’s smart enough not to take the chance.

The French maid was adorable in the photo. And the genuine feather duster, I must confessed turned me on. In fact, that whole maid idea got me so excited I decided to hire one next week to clean my house. But I’m willing to bet she won’t be French and won’t have cleavage that enters the door one minute before the rest of her.

Many afternoons I spent in search of the perfect “look-I’m-trying-to-make-an-effort-to-turn-you-on”clothing. Finally, after I had just about given up, I came upon the obvious choice. What with my skills used for fighting for truth, justice and the American way, leaping over a minefield of toys in a single bound, and having perfected my mind reading abilities in order to determine which child is the culprit;  I realized there was only one costume that would do…

The one…

The only…

Superhero…

For mom’s everywhere…

Wonder Woman.

And it works because I AM the original wonder woman creator of the “perfect” family and even more a “no yell” kind of world. Even better, the costume fits me perfectly too…but unfortunately for B I don’t look like her in it!

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