Crybaby

My two and a half year old has learned a new song. For weeks she has been singing “Hello, hello, Hello, hello, we welcome you today.” She doesn’t know the other lines; she just sings this opening refrain over and over and over. Only now she sings it: “Nihao, nihao, Nihao, nihao, we welcome you today.” Her sisters know Mandarin Chinese words for the welcome part and the other parts too. Strange, exotic words that sound kind of like “zhegu” and “waumen gaoxing ti rujin.”

A few weeks ago a family from church adopted their second daughter from China. They went ahead with this adoption even after finding out they were miraculously pregnant with a son. Their daughter is nine, and until her new father arrived in the country, she had no idea she was being adopted, she spoke no English, and she had lived her entire life in an orphanage.

We learned twenty words of Mandarin, with the help of a local high school teacher, so that we could sing to her in her own language and let her know how welcome she is here. Here in her new home, here in America, here at church with us. We’ve wondered how she will fit in, and how this warm, loving family will stretch and swell to fit everyone who belongs in it now. We’ve prayed and pronounced words utterly foreign to us.

Every time we passed out the sheet music with the transliterated lyrics, I cried. Some Sundays I kept it to a discreet tear or two. Today, when we preached all our practicing, when she stood at the front of the room as fifty pretty-homogeneous Americans, all secure and well-loved, stable and confident kids and their teachers sang “Nihao, nihao” I saw her parents who had come in to check that she was doing okay, and her visiting grandmother who was holding her new little brother, I left the room.

I looked in through the glass, at the slender, shiny-haired girl, in her new pink dress, next to the other visitors in the special visitor spot, and I saw her eyes light up, her smile break then widen. It didn’t really sound much like the Chinese you hear on NPR or in movies. But some of the words must’ve been recognizable, and the simple sincerity of the children singing was as evident as their enjoyment of the loud echo parts and the untranslated ending hurrah.

I sobbed. Part of it is just me, crying at the very idea of Chick-fil-A’s sublime nugget-breading spices, and part of it is — What if every child in the world was this wanted, this welcome?

I’m not a follower, I just kind of really love her

So, a lot of stuff online, especially the marketing and many giveaways and the frequent popularity/value divide and the networking (sometimes) disguised as friendship, it all kind of makes me puke-y. But.

But. At the risk of sounding like a sheep, I would like to publicly declare that I love Stephanie Nielson. She doesn’t need my love in any way or know of it, but I love the blogging that she is doing, that she has been doing since she started blogging again after the accident. I read her and suddenly, what anybody says about me doesn’t matter. (Actually that’s a line from Some Kind of Wonderful, but you know what I mean.) I read her, and suddenly my kids smell better, my husband looks gleam-y eyed, and my doughy thighs that nevertheless function pretty darn well, even them I am quite grateful for.

I’ve been really emotional for the past couple months, and unfortunately it’s not because I’m pregnant, and I didn’t even know how badly I wanted to be pregnant again until the test this morning was negative. But my odd hormonal fluxes aside, read this post on Love and this Elephants and on Beauty and this one called A Mother, and then tell me you didn’t cry. A lot. In a good, cleansing-cathartic-reborn-renewed sort of way.

Stephanie is having a birthday this Saturday, and The Sweet Tooth Fairy down Provo-way is donating all proceeds from the sale of their vaNIElla cupcakes to the burn fund. I’m so cold and dead at heart that usually even fundraisers for good causes bring on a big Humbug, but I am going to be at the cupcake store buying cupcakes on Saturday. Tom and I have had these cupcakes, and though Tom says the frosting is almost too sweet (it isn’t), he really likes the cake part, which has an intriguing hint of nutmeg or cardamom (which I know aren’t that similar, it’s probably just nutmeg, but I have dreams that it could be cardamom).

If you don’t live in driving distance of the Provo, you can order cupcakes online, AND, you can enter to win a dozen cupcakes over at my friend Vanessa’s I Never Grew Up blog.

Amen.

If I ever left my kids

It would probably be at the Super WalMart, after a marathon shopping match during the pre-dinner rush, with a cart full of  life-sustaining staples like water balloons, brownie mix, and Mountain Dew, on a day that the children have been no more bothersome than usual and that I have forgotten my wallet in the car.

As I walk towards the dirtiest red minivan in a lot full of Honda Odysseys, I breathe deeply of the summer air, protected from the harsh sunlit glare by my rose-colored prescription lenses, get in the toasty car, blast some Franz Ferdinand, and ride off past the orange construction cones dotting Highway 73, towards the ocean, and freedom.

Not that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it.

Not Green Card

If you’re itching to see The Proposal, you’re better off watching the trailer five times and then renting Green Card, though  in The Proposal‘s favor, there is no montage.

(I loathe montages, those cop-out mishmashes set to thematic music that are supposed to take the place of pivotal transition action. The worst montage of all time, is, of course, the speech montage in that movie sort of inspired by J.D. Salinger — the one with the cute black boy and Sean Connery as the reclusive writer? In the climactic scene where Sean Connery (a famous, eccentric, brilliant writer) leaves his apartment for the first time in seventeen years to read a speech at the cute black boy’s school and as soon as he steps to the lectern to give his speech, a godless montage of camera shots and “inspirational” music takes the place of, you know, words.

It’s a travesty, basically.)

While The Proposal doesn’t commit that most egregious of all cinematic sins, it’s quite a letdown in other ways. From the tired orphan issues and daddy issues (Sandra Bullock’s and Ryan Renold’s characters, respectively) to the apology-to-the-family scene near the end that I think is actually identical to the  speech in While You Were Sleeping, it’s all-cliche, all-the-time, and not in a cheeky sort of way.

I’m really not much of a feminist (I mean, I stay at home, and only recently started mowing the lawn again), but the portrayal of Margaret as a scary boss strikes me as sexism of the worst sort. When she fires an underling who is demonstrably lazy and ineffectual, she says he has two months to find another job and that he can tell everyone he quit. And she never makes personal remarks or raises her voice. Sounds pretty fair to me, but what do I know? I haven’t worked in an office in seven years. Maybe male executives fire goof-offs by giving them raises and holding their hands in a purely platonic manner.

But the biggest strike against The Proposal is that it failed to convince me that Margaret and Andrew have any warmer feelings for each other than I do for tapioca pudding. I like tapioca, I’ll eat it, especially when my dad flexes his cooking muscles once every six months and whips up a batch in the microwave, but I’m not going to weep if we’re kept apart by a tragic blood feud, okay?

Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock are cute of course, and witty enough. They even have a kind of reverse-Sabrina take-a-break scene complete with Frenchy-artist scarf for Margaret and a consistent give-and-take comraderie, but they don’t fall in love.

My cousin was (understandably) disturbed by the nudey scene, but the truth is that I would gladly sit through raw footage of octopus-unicorn sex if at the end of the day I’m convinced that Miss Tentacles and Mr. Sparkly are going to happily populate the world with octocorns and enjoy seventy years of maritime bliss.

Too Much Sorry

I learned how to say “I’m sorry” from my dad. I didn’t always love him when I was a kid. I was afraid of his contempt, and he wasn’t often patient or easygoing. But he taught me how to say “I’m sorry,” because he always said he was sorry. And he proved he was sorry by changing. He became a better man, a better father. He recognized that he was sometimes not a good father, and he had the desire and will to change.

This taught me a lot about the good man who is my father, and that saying you’re sorry is important and best of all: that proving you truly are sorry by becoming something different, — that that is not only important, it is possible.

All that to say that I believe in saying “I’m sorry.” The words are important, because words are important. Whether it’s saying seven positive things to counteract one criticism or being grown-up enough to say I’m sorry when I am, I want the people who eat in my kitchen and model their behavior after mine to know that their feelings, and the words they hear — the words that circle in their heads like my parents’ voices circle in mine — that they matter to me.

I want them to know I value them enough to say “I’m sorry,” even though I’m the mom and they’re the kids, and even if they’re probably still young enough to not remember if I yell irrationally about the crumbs in the car.

There are lots of opportunities to practice “I’m sorry” online. Lots.

Last week I was a little bit appalled by a self-flagellating “I’m sorry” essay on the Motherlode blog. A blogger on momlogic had written about her three-year old son asking (upon being introduced to her coworker): “Mommy, why is her face brown?” Readers attacked her for not answering the question herself. Instead, she had turned to her colleague to see how she would like that kind of question addressed.

Maybe this particular firestorm was more an indication of how fraught race relations are rather than how we teach our kids and respond to their questions. Because allowing kids to interact with other adults without parental intervention is actually a good thing, an invaluable part of learning to converse. If a parent always jumps in to interpret, kids miss out.

So the first question is whether racial inquiries are in a category apart. Is it unconscionable to not immediately set little kids straight on the appropriate modes of racial discourse? How do you answer a question like that? Do you talk about skin pigmentation and the sun? DNA, genetics, the slave trade, family group migrations from continent to continent? Do you say that God created several different shades of skin because a rainbow wouldn’t be anywhere near as interesting or beautiful if there was only one color instead of seven? Do you say skin color doesn’t matter, what’s inside matters?

(Perhaps a parent should always answer this type of question, because she knows her child and which type of answer (scientific, moral, metaphoric) would best satisfy her child.)

This mother, put on the spot by a fearless, unprejudiced three-year old, didn’t have a pat answer ready. Instead she turned to her colleague, who responded playfully and memorably.

So far, so good, right? Of course then the mother (made the mistake of blogging about it and) got attacked for doing it (parenting) all wrong.

Which is not surprising. The internet, especially strangers on big sites, can be cruel. I have seen too many good people torn apart by unthinking, uncaring strangers for the crime of being reflective and uncertain and honest to think that writers should accept such attacks as the whisperings of their own conscience.

But that was exactly what this mother did. There was too much sorry in her response to her critics. Too much mea culpa and cringing and “feeling ashamed at the cowardly way I handled my own son wanting his mommy to help him work through something in his head.” She said she “dropped the ball entirely” and worries that it wasn’t her son who hurt her colleague’s feelings, it was her. Of course by all accounts the colleague, who humorously and child-friend-ily compared her skin’s color to peanut butter, didn’t seem all that hurt. But the mother continued on about how she “blew her chance” and missed a teaching moment — a moment when it was she who needed to be taught. She concluded that she is flawed.

I don’t want to criticize this woman because she already seems too self-recriminatory (and also it sounds like she is a great, conscientious mother), but it made me think of other instances in which I have heard people — especially women — apologizing too profoundly for things that either a) aren’t that big a deal or b) aren’t really sins or crimes or character flaws, but rather mistakes or things that happen in the course of everyday life.

I see my sister over-functioning in her relationships, eager to overlook infelicities and mold herself into someone agreeable (loveable). I hear friends apologizing profusely for missing a husband’s phone call or a mother at the park apologizing to her child for the kid’s falling down when the mother wasn’t being hyper-vigilant every second of the day.

Women apologize for being sad about secondary infertility when they know that some women have borne no children or for not being ecstatic about a surprise pregnancy because some would be overjoyed. I apologize for  finding being a stay-at-home mom occasionally frustrating because I know some women would love to stay home.

My oldest daughter has learned to apologize when she spills the milk, and last night she tried to gulp back her tears when she banged her arm badly on the wooden leg of a chair, after a particularly spectacular gymnastic feat. I was reading a book, and she is aware and old enough to know how much I dislike interruptions. But her arm was pretty bruised up and I was happy to get her an ice pack and coo soothingly over her pain.

I felt bad that she thought she had to restrain her expression of hurt because it might inconvenience me, that she feared my impatience. I am here to comfort her and make things right in her world (even if my book was getting good right then). She doesn’t have to say “I’m sorry” for needing me; she doesn’t have to apologize in order to get my attention and affection.

And neither does my dad.

and I have had plenty of bright sunshine over the years

My mother-in-law is having cataract surgery tomorrow, and she has kept me informed about the procedure and plans. Since we moved to Utah almost two years ago, we haven’t been able to see Dick’s mom and sister and our nieces, and I miss them. (And my brother-in-law and nephew. Grampa we have seen, and wasn’t that wonderful.) We are planning a trip this fall that will include Disneyworld, a place I love with a love so pure and fair it is embarrassing in a grown woman, but in the meantime we rely on the internet to keep us connected.

So last week Marian wrote me, wishing me a happy anniversary (11 years!) and telling me about her surgery tomorrow. She wrote that cataracts occur with the aging process and that UV/sun damage also plays a part, and that she has “had plenty of bright sunshine over the years.”

I don’t really have anything to add to that. I can’t say it any better, except to say that, as I turn thirty-two, I have had much bright sunshine over the years, and my wish is that by the time I have five beautiful grandchildren of my own, I, too will say that I have had plenty of bright sunshine over the years, even if I am having cataract surgery because of it.

(And good luck, Nana! We’ll be praying for you!)

snugglepot and cuddlepie.

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie is one of the best books i have read.i love it! i am in love with Obelia and ragged blossom! Snugglepot and cuddiepie is about to nuts (tiny people) who go on adventures to see a human.Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are gumnuts who live in bushes.nuts are men and boys and blossoms are women and girls. but thanks to Kirsty Taylor i have the book!