Sunday, February 28, 2010

A very quick tour of San Francisco.

If we were sensible creatures, we would have slept in late, packed, grab lunch and head home. But although P and I are polar opposites in some aspects, we are equally clueless as to when to call it quits. It is a flaw we share, and not even SS's arrival has tempered that. Although we wanted to be home at a decent hour, we set out to give SS the 99¢ tour of San Francisco. Besides, we had valet parking until noon, so why not take advantage of it. We started just outside our hotel, in Chinatown. Sunshine began spreading his magic by choosing the steepest street for us to climb, while pushing 27 pounds of love. I was glad that P had the foresight to bring both the Hummer and the Sn00py stroller. While it seemed overkill at the time, it was a genius move. There is no way we could have navigated the crowded streets/sidewalks with the Hummer. I totally messed up by not bringing the Ergo, but at least we did not have to carry SS all the time. P commented that his arms hurt from yesterday and I was wondering why. I then realized that it was from holding SS and I was right. Even though I'm in lousy shape, I am used to schlepping our tiny bundle of squirming joy around.

Chinatown was quite the experience, as always, but this marked the first time we were in such a mass of beautiful Asian faces since China. We were there just for dinner in November 2008, a quickie stop. This time it was an interesting mixture of excitement and melancholy. And OMG, it was crowded, really crowded. People were lining up everywhere for the many drawings being held. We browsed through some of the shops and just walked around, soaking it all in. My normal social anxiety did not hit me as strongly as it usually does. Funny, because an outing at an amusement park sends me reeling, and I hang on to P for dear life. The guy's hand is usually numb and bruised by the end of the day. Maybe it was the setting or maybe it was that my focus was on SS, but no panic moments. SS did well because she was low on the stroller and did not have to contend with facing people.

Squeaky clean and ready to hit the the town.

Here we go...

Something we had not experienced since China.

It was so neat to see the streets decked out with lanterns.

Finally, a lion up close.

We debated whether to have lunch in Chinatown. P had read in the hotel magazine about one of the 100 places to eat before one dies. I had no idea such a list existed. Since we are lemmings, we just had to leap right in. A place that caught his eye was a Vietnamese sandwich shop. I had wanted to try bánh mì for a while, but was not sure about dealing with finding parking again. But since we are not the sensible type, we nixed lunch in Chinatown and drove to Little Saigon. The sandwich shop is small, and there were quiet a few people lining up (picture in post below). Their menu is very simple, and the two women behind the counter run a tight ship, asking people for their orders no matter how far back in the queue they are. Think of them as a very polite version of the The Soup N@zi.

I had bánh mì gà (chicken) and SS and P had bánh mì thịt (roasted pork). Not only are the women efficient but those sandwiches were simply delicious (see picture of SS having a bite on post below). I wish I had known that they use jalapeños, as I quickly discovered after my second bite. I am a wimp when it comes to spicy hot food and they add a lot of peppers. I quickly removed the offending peppers and at least my sinuses were cleared. Thankfully, SS did not bite into a pepper before my discovery. Although P and I both love cilantro (coriander) we had never had it in a sandwich. Let me tell you, we are rectifying that omission from now on. And get this, only $3 per yummy sandwich. Saigon Sandwich is on our must list now.

Nice lunch out of the way we drove to Pier 39 in search of SS's name in Chinese calligraphy style. We bought ours in 2000, and were hoping for hers to match ours. We struck out in that respect, but purchased two, her name and her first name. I need to ask JJ, but I think his match ours and I think we bought it for him during an amazing day spent there 14 years ago. I don't recall when we were last there, but the place has certainly changed. We walked around for a while, waited for SS's names and headed home, content and tired. We arrived in time not to watch the Winter Olympics closing ceremonies. We fed SS and P crashed and burned shortly after that. SS did her hyper thing and I had to use tough love (telling her in a stern manner that the T@z Devil imitation was over) to get her to sleep.

SS was totally into this instrument (forgot the name, invented eons ago in Persia, or was it Prussia?). When the guy finished his song, he received a very enthusiastic "YEAH!" from SS. He returned the favor by playing two Irish jigs and the alphabet song for his tiny enthusiast.

SS was mesmerized by the penny pressing process for 1.5 seconds.

SS was beyond excited when she saw Sponge Bob Square Bloomers, but when we took her out of the stroller for a photo op, she decided to be thirteen and concentrated on her corn dog. Have we mentioned how much we are looking forward to her adolescent tude?

Right after this picture was taken a %$&*^#@* seagull took SS's corn dog right out of her hand. It really shook SS and she was a bit of a mess after that.

Mama, what is there to see here? Those sea lions are just lazy.

This dude really scared SS (as if she needed more traumatizing), but it did not stop her from accepting the lollipop he gave her. That is, he gave it to me to bring to her.

The reason why we needed to stop by Fishermans Wharf.

We wish we could claim that we finally coaxed a beautiful smile from SS, but she was playing with a little girl. What the heck, a beautiful smile is a beautiful smile.

Time to head home.


Waiting for bánh mì.

She could have at least slept in.

SS was down by 10:00 p.m., and P was snoring before then. I managed to sleep from midnight to 4:00, more than usual, but not enough to recharge my fully spent batteries. SS woke up whimpering around 4:00 a.m. and that did it for me. I was so tired that I comforted her with my eyes closed. Way to go Mama. Once P is fully awake (Mole's Disease is hitting him really hard this morning) we'll decide if we are going to venture to Fisherman's Wharf. There is something we need to get for SS there. Getting old really sucks. SS's first word this morning "OUTSIDE!!!!," said with the boundless energy, and a huge grin only a toddler can muster.

We saw quite a few families like ours yesterday, and SS noticed. She also noticed the many beautiful faces like hers. I pointed out children in the parade and told her they were Chinese. SS said "me, me Chinese." We took the elevator with another family with a Chinese daughter. The mother approached us outside, and it was a repeat of something that has happened before. If people see me alone with SS, it is very easy for them to understand that I am her mother. If they see SS and P alone, the same. Throw us together and it messes people's schemas. The mother came to us and kind of stuttered out her question, "Is she, is she Chinese?" We proudly said yes, and she asked SS's province, etc. Two Caucasians and a Chinese kid totally understandable, but throw my ethnic womb in and there's doubt.

P was pretty surprised that SS gathered so much attention from the Chinese. Come on, it's Chinatown, she should just blend in, go around unnoticed. We had quite a large group of Chinese behind us at the parade. At a point they were talking to SS in Chinese as I was holding her. My back was to them, while SS flirted and hammed away. They were all smiles, until I turned around when SS asked me something. They went from smiles to WTF looks. They did recover and kept on their Chinese onslaught (and smiles) on our non Chinese speaking daughter, but SS did not seem to mind. Their is something so melodious about listening to a different language, and I think SS gets that.

The parade could have been a heck of a lot shorter if they refrained from displaying every freaking politician in office, as if people care. Wow, some dude or dudette in the back of a car, that sure was worth the three hour drive. UGH.

I looked at the pictures this morning and they were awful, we are so disappointed. P and I will never forget our first Chinese New Year Parade, but the pictures were for SS, who won't remember a thing. We were too far away, and by the time the parade reached our viewing spot, it was nighttime. We are going to look into getting a better flash and perhaps another lens. Our camera is not top notch, but it is a decent camera. We are really sad about the pics, and are going to wait until we get home to try to find a few good ones.

We are off to shower and then we'll walk to Chinatown and soak up some more diversity.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

That was one long parade.

First, traveling with SS definitely has it benefits. The nice Asian young lady (sorry, did not catch her name) who checked us in was quite taken with SS. She gave us a room upgrade with a view of the bay because she thought SS would enjoy it. We had no idea that toddlers were such view connoisseurs. P and I were thankful but did not think much about it. Turns out that other than having Coit Tower smack in front of our window, plus a nice view of the bay, it also offered a view of the end of the parade.

It was a long parade, and by 7:20 p.m. we had moved from our original spot to the bridge connecting the hotel to the other side of the street. It was restricted to guests only so other than people on the bleachers (for $30 a seat) it was not crowded. That was a great move on P's part, because we had our chairs, backpack, SS's fun bag and her stroller. We are very proud that we did not forget SS in that messy move. I can't imagine navigating all that through that mass of people once the mass exodus began.

By 8:00 p.m. SS was losing it big time, too much noise, too much stimulation, and a very long day without a nap. We called it a night, and to our surprise, we had a great view from our room. We sat by the window (12th floor) and watched the end of the parade from there. We fed SS, changed her into her PJs, when we heard more firecrackers, and music. Dude the parade was not over, truly unbelievable. Somehow that last group was way behind, and back to the window we went. We are all rather exhausted and SS is bouncing off the walls. P does not have the heart to get tough with her, so I am about to play tough guy (as usual) and I am about to get her in bed.

We had an great time, but are too tired to download, select and post pictures now. I had reservations about coming, not only the overall expense, but SS's sensitivities, and the fact the she is so young. I am glad I caved in, because it was a really awesome experience. We did not have the best spot for picture taking and P expressed his displeasure at the pictures he took (I have not taken a look yet). It does not matter, we had a great time, and this was important to P because he is so proud to be the father of a Chinese daughter, that it meant so much to him. He was beaming, not only because of what we saw, but because he was holding SS, while ye yelled "GO CHINA!" He is equally proud of my and JJ's Puerto Rican heritage, that's why it was so important for him to visit my birth place. Besides, the man seems to thrive in situations where he is the White odd dude out.

Well, I have a pig to wrestle into bed, more later.

Searching for lunch.

OK SS we are here.

Almost there SS.

Are we there yet?

Where's SS?

Brunch on the go.

She's a big girl now (big sob).

Friday, February 26, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It took her 14 months, but she got on that horse.

It was 34 degrees and raining when P left for work this morning. SS and I did what we now like to do on cold, rainy days. We cranked up the heat, got out our shorts, and pretended it was summer. What can I say, SS is as much a sun child as P and I. JJ used to be, but the traitor is now accustomed to that lousy bay weather. SS found her cowboy hat (aka the giraffe visor) and stunned me be requesting help getting on her horse. That same horse she received as a Christmas gift in 2008 and has scared her senseless since.

I have no idea why we did not store that horse in the garage. Initially SS would cry when she saw him. The next step was to press his ears and when the noise began, SS would flee like a bat out of hell. After that she summoned us to hold her on our laps while she pressed his ears. After a few months she was content pressing his ears and standing next to him by herself. About two months ago, I began to find SS caressing the horse, and combing his mane and tail. She asked to get on it a few times and quickly asked to get down.

Not this morning, this was the morning for SS to take her final step. She got on and stayed on for quite a while. Even better, she seemed to enjoy herself and hopefully this is really her final step. SS is such a funky creature, she throws herself into some scary situations with reckless abandon and no fear. Swimming comes to mind, something that was so foreign to her before coming home. Then the superficially easy things, swings, a toy horse, completely paralyze her with fear. Then it takes her forever to get to the point most kids her age are. There is no middle ground with SS, fear/fearless, love/hatred, fire/ice that's our girl. We wonder how this aspect of her personality is going to play out in her future endeavors.

SS is missing her JJ something terrible, seeing him everywhere. She babbles endlessly about how JJ is at his house, how he needs to come back, and about his car. That and that T went in the car with JJ. That was back in October and SS won't let that go. JJ and T are probably a couple as far as she is concerned. It just dawned on me that SS never said JJ's ex-girlfriend's name, yet after one meeting, she has not forgotten his roommate. We Skyped today, but JJ's video camera stopped working halfway through our call. SS was devastated and we were sad to find out that JJ won't be able to join us on a little adventure this weekend. We planned it with both of them in mind, but such is life.

During lunch, I could not figure out why SS was so hyper. It was one of the worse spells of hyperactivity I have witnessed from out tiny dynamo. Just as P was about to leave, equally confused and after SS managed to head butt him too many times, it hit me. Chocolate milk, stupid me! I usually give SS chocolate milk as a treat on Wednesdays (story time) and have no idea how she talked me into it. Blame it on the rain. After my epiphany put SS's behavior in perspective, Sunshine had a great laugh at my expense. Because, seriously, I was as dumbfounded as he was, except that he had not loaded her with sugar and caffeine. Another golden moment in motherhood for me.

In the food department, SS has discovered pepperoni and can't get enough. Sausage was her all time pizza topping favorite, but that is so two year old and SS is almost three. She ate 18 slices yesterday, I had no idea she had it in her. That is in addition to cheddar cheese and R*tz crackers. Go SS feast stage! Today she requested, guess what, the same for lunch.

SS and her cowboy hat, is she ready to be a cowgirl?


So what if I'm the slow to warm up to things type?

Goodbye sausage, hello pepperoni.

SS's pepperoni sandwich.

Getting her gear ready.

The joy of cooking, let's see if it holds when we ask her to pitch in in her teen years.

Not the best video I got of SS on her horse, but she actually requested it, said "say hi to Baba," and pointed to my purse camera (I was using the D60). The purse camera is used at home only for video. What a little Diva. She has also begun to get testy yells "no pictures," while placing her hand in front of her face. It has to be tough living with a paparazzo.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gung Hay Fat Choy lunch.

A few weeks ago SS and I were approached at the Mall by an IA mother. She walked up to us and said "your daughter is Chinese," not a question, a statement. she introduced herself and later to her Korean born teenage daughter (she also has a bio son and Korean born son). I got a kick out of meeting her daughter E, because although very polite, she had that "Oh Mom, are you stalking parents of Asian kids again" body language. G provided her e-mail address and invited us to join her and other parents of adopted Asian children to their Chinese New Year lunch. She stated that it seems to be the only Holiday they can manage to get together.

Chinese New Year was last Sunday, Valentine's Day, but the lunch was today. It is the first time since China that we had been surrounded by Caucasian parents (except me, of course) with Asian children. The children were from China, Korea and the Philippines. We were immediately drawn to the "teen table," were most of the kids brought along a friend, because misery does indeed love company. SS was one of the smallest and youngest children in attendance. She was also the only infant/toddler wearing a bib and using a sippy cup. What's with that? Oh, she was also the only one with her own spoon/fork/chopstick toddler ware. I might have to leave the latter home.

The lunch brought back memories of China, how we did not know anyone prior to our lunch meeting and then we shared such an amazing journey. It also brought back memories for SS and we are both sure she was not in a reminiscing mood. Our social butterfly shut down in a place where most people believe she should have thrived. All around her were Caucasian adult faces with Asian children, oh joy! SS was (insert huge yawn) very well behaved, but she was not herself. She was not the flirty irresistible thing she usually is. SS was not climbing over us, or clawing at us, but she was very apprehensive about that crowd. Last time she was in that environment the proverbial rug was pulled from under her and her own private emotional hell began. We did not push her to interact, and we are so very grateful that not one single person tried to touch her, pick her up, or force more interaction than she was giving.

The restaurant is on the second floor of the airport, and we were seated by the closest window to the runway. SS almost whispered "airplane" to me, and I took her by the window. SS would usually be so mesmerized by the planes that she would allow me to stand or sit her by the window. When I tried, she quickly clung to me. Got it kiddo, your Mama is not leaving your side. P was chatting at our table but had noticed SS's demeanor. Once we arrived home, P returned to the van to retrieve something. He closed the front door and SS wailed, and great timing Sunshine, since I was in the bathroom. Well, that is why he is Sunshine.

I held SS and when P returned he reminded her that when he leaves he always says bye, and that he always comes back. Besides, I have to give P kudos, because he makes a big deal about the fact that he has to go to work, is sad to leave, but is happy that SS and I are together. We did some hugging, kissing and more reassuring. SS walked over to her rocking chair and placed a blanket over her head. It is something she does when she is overwhelmed. Remember her two impromptu naps during landing last summer? We asked if she needed to be in her crib and she said yes. We got her comfortable, kissed her, and she napped for two hours. I hate to admit this, but we jumped on the opportunity, P did some shopping, while I cleaned the kitchen and the fridge. We sure know how to make the most of her naps.

We believe that it is important for SS to be exposed to other families as conspicuous as hers. But we are also mindful that it will trigger memories, feelings and fears. How we wish we could have read her mind during lunch. We can't, but we will always be mindful that circumstances that bring fond memories to us, will not be pleasant for SS. P surprised me by how quickly he picked up on SS's distress. Although we initially had plans to do other things (P is working tomorrow, Sunday), it was understood that this was it for us today. SS needed a nap, and lots of cuddle time with us.

No pictures, because although there were about fifteen families and forty individuals. not a single camera was in sight. P thanked me on the drive home for not bringing out mine. Gee Sunshine, I can exercise some form of self restraint when necessary. Thus only pics of SS wearing a skirt that P bought for her all on his own, two years before she came home. It's only a 2T, but it only fit now, and I had been waiting for SS to rock it. She did not disappoint. Given how SS felt, we were lucky to get them at all.

I did enjoy my first Chinese New Year group lunch. What was the the lack of bibs, sippy cups and toddler sized silverware?

Stop Mama, I look just perfect, quit messing with my clothes!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sientate en tu silla.

Lately I have been struggling with P's commitment to raise SS bilingual. I am terribly impatient and not good at teaching anything. Then there is the concern that SS is lagging as it is due to her circumstances. But wait there's more, the entire responsibility rests on my shoulders. Plus, there's the "she's an American, she should only speak English" crowd. Intellectually I realize that SS should be behind her peers in speech. It should not bother me, but it does. And maybe the fact that P is so committed when I do all the work gets on my nerves. While I do admire his desire and determination to have a child fluent in Spanish, I have been very tempted to throw in the towel so many times. Sometimes I wonder what difference it will really make in her life, it's just Spanish, not Mandarin.

A few weeks ago we attended a multicultural event at a local high school. It had been a tough week for me with SS in the language department. The key speaker asked how many in the audience were bilingual. He urged those who raised their hands to pass on that gift to their children. Not the day to hear that. It would be easier if SS was surrounded by other Spanish speakers, but it is just me. Since I am so concerned about her English development, I end up saying things twice, and that is a drag. When P comes home from work, I mainly grunt, do not want to talk unless necessary. Other times, I drop the Spanish completely, upset at my inability to form a bilingual phenom. And it does not come natural to me. Before SS came along, I only spoke Spanish at work when required with my clients. No Spanish speaking friends, just my communication with Abu. Language is very use it or lose it. I sometimes challenge P to step up and learn the darn language, which is unfair, since he was raised within an educational system that places very little emphasis on acquiring a second (or more) language. It has always puzzled me why we wait until the window for optimal language learning is closed (estimated to be about 10 years old) to introduce a second language as an educational requirement. And that is part of P's desire and determination. He wishes he was bilingual, has given it his best since the eight grade, and is still struggling.

I was rigidly introduced to a second language at age five, not by choice, but by design. My educational system required both languages to be taught. But, it is still very possible to graduate twelve years later with a minimal command of English. I lucked out, because it was important to Mami and Papi, and they made that clear to me. They would ask me about my homework daily, but paid special attention to my English homework. They would ask me what I learned, and made me repeat it for them. Wait, did I just come full circle? Mami and Papi did not know a word of English. But it was obvious how proud they were of my learning progress, and the heck if I was going to let them down. The responsibility rested on my teacher's shoulders, but Mami and Papi were committed and determined. What the heck, I should give it a try.

This morning SS woke up with a craving for scrambled eggs. She was playing with her kitchen (gosh, she loves that thing), turned to me and said "mas huevos." More eggs? You have not had any yet. SS was very antsy while I was making her eggs. I absentmindedly said "sientate en tu silla," without other cues, because my brain was not fully functional. Before I could follow up, SS made a beeline for her high chair and climbed on it. HUH? Things are getting through? I was so excited that after SS was shoveling eggs into her mouth I called P. He was really excited, so proud that SS understood that very simple request and followed through. It was really neat to hear the pride in his voice over something so small. Just like it was so neat to hear Mami's and Papi's pride over my very minimal progress.

SS polished three scrambled eggs (not all on her plate here).

SS's dilemma, she loved her toast with jelly, but did not want the sticky stuff on her fingers.

Iron Chef SS's new creation, "fresas fritas"

Cleaning and inspecting her carrots.

Outfit from the grandmothers and in the never say never category. Despite P's edict against anything Smelmo, D*sney Princess crap (except mighty Ariel), B@rney and the Teletubb*es, this one had to be worn. It's a size 24 months, the top won't fit much longer, but the overalls will fit for the next two years.

And she does make it look good.

SS trying to keep up with a kiddie song.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

We are going with the laparoscopy.

We had our consultation with Dr. JG, and barring P discovering that he botched a surgery like mine, I am tentatively scheduled for April 1st. That is so us, and we are posting early, because we do not want people to think we are yanking their legs when P posts a picture of me and SS on a gurney again. The doctor spent the first ten minutes gushing over SS and gave us a scare. He asked us how often people say things to us, approach us, and want to touch her, to pick her up. We both tiredly said things like, always, too many times, getting tired of it. He then stated that it is normal to feel that way and he would love to pick her up and eat her up. Dude, P and I were so tense, and thankfully he picked up on our body language and answers to his inquiries that it was not an OK thing to do. We were relieved that we would not have to look for yet another surgeon.

Dr. JG went over the procedure, showed us illustrations, went over recovery and possible complications. His bedside manner is completely different than Dr. PB's, this dude cracks jokes left and right, quite affable. Not that we are looking for a stand up comedian to operate on me, but it helps. Unlike PB who felt 3-4 months is long enough for a reversal, Dr. JG does not want to do them before the fifth month post op, and prefers 9-12 months. Before I knew it I spewed out that I was done defecating out of my torso and doing double diaper duty, done. I want whatever is left of my life back. As it turned out, his preference for a five month wait, and my preference to wait after the kids' birthdays fit perfectly.

As we were almost done he asked how much SS weighs, he asked if she was about 40 pounds. We said we wished, she might reach that weight by high school. He then picked her up, you know like when you want to estimate weight, and said, wait I can always tell. He quickly placed her on the floor and declared that she's 28 pounds. Pretty close, SS is 27 and 1/2 pounds. His next statement made my day. Dr. JG said that I won't have any restrictions about picking up SS. That was quite a relief because I am nothing but a stickler about the recommendations made by physicians. We forgave him that quick pick up given the outcome. That being said, we are going to make her t-shirts with bold letters stating "DO NOT TOUCH THE CHINESE GIRL!"

Mr. Sun was shining brightly again, and since we are getting rain tomorrow, SS and I headed out to the gardens to celebrate. We had not been there in quite a while, and had a lot of fun, but were overdressed for the 65 degree day.

A very relieved P (aka Sunshine) after being told in detail how his wife will be sliced and diced.

Always has to stop at the darn maps.

SS proudly posing in her a toucan threw up on me outfit.

Only fitting to have SS Queen of Anything Aqueous climb on this water celebration exhibit.

This is the last time SS will get to wear these pair of Chucks. I wanted to change her into her Vans, but she threw a fit, she is definitely right there and it made me uncomfortable. But if she wanted to be uncomfortable, let her, not worth the fight. I did bring the Vans along, just in case. At home, she pointed to the Chucks, said "pink", then to her outfit and said "pink." Guess what Ms. Know It All? Black goes with everything, but I agree, your choice was better than mine.


It's a drumstick and a microphone.

A bridge just my size.