Monday, July 21, 2008

Darn it!

Okay, so I did a blog in the draft section and published it, but cannot get it to be the most recent post because of the draft date. I know I am missing a blog editing tool, but because I cannot get it moved, check out Elizabeth riding her bike without training wheels for the first time under the blog archives, "Learning to Ride a Bike."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The boy from many mommies...

The other day Kai found the above picture lying on Josh’s chest of drawers. Josh needed an extra suitcase for a business trip overseas, so he borrowed the little cheapo one we brought back with us from China last year. In that little gray suitcase we kept many of the keepsakes from our trip to China. Josh stacked these various items precariously on our ironing table in the bedroom for me to put somewhere safer at a later time. One of the keepsakes was a red silk photo album. The album was given to us by the orphanage staff on the day we received Kai. The staff took a series of pictures of Kai right before we came to China. The picture mischievously slipped out of the spotless album and I had yet to slide it back into its designated plastic sleeve.

As soon as Kai caught sight of the photo he headed straight for it, like pulling a bucket of water up from the depths of a cool dark well, Kai slowly drew near it and looked down into the image, diving in with his deep brown eyes. I held my breath as Kai gingerly fingered the picture. He plopped himself down on the beige carpet and crossed his legs. I lowered myself down next to him, immediately realizing at that moment, that I hadn’t been his mom for a year yet, only 10 months. It felt as if the pasty white horse in the photo was whispering, “He is still more ours than yours.” I looked over his shoulder and pointed to Kai perched on the taunting horse. “Who is that little boy?” I chirped in that mommy-talk manner that so often annoys me so much. I slip into it most often when I am trying too hard to control what I really want to say. My voice defaults to a sing-song mode in tandem with my rising blood pressure. The higher my voice, the more uncomfortable I probably feel.

Oblivious of the shifting mood of his mother he smiled up at me and said quietly, “Kai.” “Yes, that is Kai!” I congratulated him loudly. “ And who is that?” I asked, pointing to the women peeking out from the corner of the picture; the woman I knew to be the orphanage’s director. “Mommy!” he announced, delighted with himself.

Elizabeth, never one to miss the action in our house, zipped into our bedroom to see what was going on. “Oh, is that Kai’s mommy in China?” she asked excitedly. Elizabeth and I have talked extensively about adoption and Kai, and how Kai had a “Tummy Mummy” in China, but that we are his forever family. Despite these conversations, Elizabeth seems to harbor the notion that we took a child from a mother in China. There are times when I can see the accusation in her eyes, wordlessly telling me “I do not believe this story you keep telling me about parents not being able to care for their children. I just don’t buy it.” I have to tell you, part of me doesn’t want her to buy it. In her world we are all loved an accepted by parents that think you are the best thing ever and treat you to ice cream on the weekends. In my own heart, there are days when I grieve for his birth parents. I feel frustrated and conflicted about the need for adoption period. I would be lying if I denied the moments when I feel like a thief, like I have stolen something precious out of China for my own benefit, like I will not be the mom he needs me to be, the mom he could have had in China had things been different.

I ignored Elizabeth and my own increased heartbeat and asked Kai again, “Kai, look here, who is this?” Again, he smiled, never taking his eyes away from the picture and answered, “Mommy.”

Deep breath. Augh, I did not want to go here today. I wasn’t having a great “mommy” day to begin with. I felt frustrated and exhausted with the everyday rigors of being a mom to a 5 and 3 year old in the middle of summer vacation. Up until this point in the day, Kai insisted on pushing every little button he could find to produce a loud reaction from his big sister and me as well. This little episode wasn’t helping the day move along with the smooth sailing melody of family bliss. It amazed me how easily Kai could throw down “the mommy” card. The question now became, “Does he even know what a real mommy is?”

I watched my son fondly look at this picture of himself in his first home in China. Such obvious love and pleasure brightened his face. On the day we toured the orphanage, we met the caretaker that took Kai home with her often. I am ashamed to tell you that I do not know or remember her name. We have a picture of her holding Kai that day. She stands unsmiling, looking into our camera lens, a neutral shade of composure drawn across her face. Our guide informed us that he called this caretaker “Mommy”. We are so thankful to this woman and all of her love for Kai. Every social worker, doctor and adoption coordinator tells us that Kai certainly received a lot of love in his first years, and this is why he was able to bond so readily with our family.

I know about this mommy, his caretaker mommy. And of course I know he had a birthmother, but all we have of her is a copy of the one sentence letter stating his date of birth. Was the director also a sort of mommy in his eyes? Did he have 3 mommies before me? My heart broke; I stared out the bedroom window as a cardinal landed on our fence. Did we tear him away from all of these people that I know so little about right now? Does he miss them and is unable to verbalize it to us because of restricted English speaking vocabulary?

Selfishly, I could not help but wonder if Kai viewed me as just another caretaker? Is he happily enjoying the family life here, content to sort of roll with the punches? Is he just a flexible kid who will love without loyalty? I want to be his one and only mommy on the one hand, and yet on the other hand, I want to acknowledge and respect the women who cared and loved for Kai his first 2 and half years of his life. They can be important people, but I want to be the mommy.

“No throw away,” Kai pleaded as he held the picture close to his chest. The cardinal I was watching flew up into the oak tree to next to his brown camouflaged female mate. I turned my gaze away from the window and assured him that I would not throw away the picture. With that promise barely off my lips, he dropped it on our bed and hopped on one foot down the hall to play with Elizabeth. I picked it up and returned it to the pile of keepsakes for later, took a deep breath, and stretched my legs. Those women, the keepsakes, the memories, the stories of Kai’s first 2 and half years do not fit in a box or a suitcase. I am not sure where they belong, but as his mom, I will do my best to preserve what I do know and help him along the way, as we grow together in this journey of international adoption and the blending of worlds and cultures. There are at least three women in China who loved my son. We do not share cultures or languages, and yet we each share a part of Kai’s life and helped shape the boy he is today, regardless of who came first, second or third.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Danskin is Done!


I am anxious and excited,

I am here

I am hoping I can make it through the swim,

Nerves are here

Look at this shifting sea of women, all shapes and sizes,

Beautifully strong, anticipating women are here

Men cheer for their wives, mothers, girlfriends, sisters,

Women they love are here

I do a dance, take a deep belly breath and say a prayer,

Courage is here

I swim, bike, and run with my sister by my side,

Family is here

We cross the finish line and I hold back the tears,

Joy is here

My sister and I vow to do it again next year, hopefully with more family…

Two new triathletes are here

Strength, Faith, Women. We did it.

And we are here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Let's Get This Party Started!

Ok, so here we go folks! It is Friday night and I am all packed for my very first triathlon! Here you can see all my "gear". Earlier today Elizabeth helped me lay it all out to make sure I had everything. I've got my Body Glide, the wonderful wetsuit, two sets of goggles, and the appropriate clothing to get me through the race with the least amount of pinching, rubbing or chaffing. My Dad has tuned, cleaned and checked out good ol' Goldie, my bike. I have talked to my sister a gazillion times on the phone checking and rechecking all plans of attack for the big day.

I started getting a little emotional today. Do you know I have been trying to learn how to swim in order to do a triathlon for over 5 years? I took my first lesson from the Westfield High School swimming coach when Elizabeth was only 2 months old. It was my first back in a swimming suit post baby. I didn't even know that I needed goggles to swim! The coach spent about 15 minutes with me, looking somewhat puzzled, not quite sure how to help me, before I gave up and got out of the pool. I could tell by the look on his face that he had no idea where to start with me.
That was the first of many times I went to my car and cried. I felt absolutely ridiculous and stupid for even trying to learn how to swim, when I obviously knew nothing about it, not even enough to know to bring a set of goggles. It felt even more ridiculous to be crying over swimming. Who cares? I did... a lot.

I went through 2 other adult swimming programs with little success. Finally, I checked out the book Total Immersion Swimming from the library and started up again. This January, I made it my goal to learn how to swim. With my handy purple binder in hand, I followed the given exercises and drills day in and day out, no matter how much I hated it, or felt like I sucked. And today when I went in to the Monon Center for my final swim before the race, I realized just how far I've come. There I was, swimming, breathing fine, feeling the water flow across and over my body and gasp....liking it!

I've joked that my goal on Sunday is to not drown. But here's the thing, I know I am going to be fine. I just do. I am totally ready. I may cry again when I get out of the water, but this time it will not be a result of total embarrassment, but from irrepressible elation.
Get ready ladies and gentlemen, The Brickhouse is coming to town! I may not be fast, but I am ready to kick some butt and probably cry when I'm done! I am still Kate Kneifel after all...

Learning to Ride a Bike

On Thursday, July 10th, Elizabeth learned how to ride 2 wheeler for the first time! My class was canceled as a result of a pipe bursting downtown, so I turned the corner in our neighborhood and witnessed my little girl swerving away without training wheels. I wish I could write more about this, but my class is wrapping up and I have 3 projects to work on this weekend. Still, I wanted to post something fun.

So, here she is, proud as can be, on the day she learned to ride a bike!

Doesn't it remind you of that glorious day you learned how to ride a bike? My mom, Josh and I stood on the driveway reminiscing about the day we learned how to ride. You never forget. It was such a big day! I am so glad I was there. Keep trusting yourself Elizabeth! This is just the beginning sweetheart!

The Beehive Lady

I am no detective, but there are certain people I would love to follow around for a day. The beehive lady is one of those people. She works out almost everyday at my workout center, Cardinal Fitness. She has jet black hair that I imagine gets shampooed into her hair every 4 weeks. The water must run purple when she flips her hair over to rinse it all down the bathroom sink. She seems like the type that would worry about the hair dye staining the white porcelain. Perhaps even before she allows herself the pleasure of inspecting the new color, she gets out some soft scrub to clean away any possible traces of her monthly ritual.

She comes into Cardinal each day wearing a white tee-shirt and some kind of nylon shorts. Her socks are white ankle length, not the long calf length socks that men her age seem to fancy so much. I can almost see her thinking, “Are these men self conscious about their calves? Why do they insist on pulling their socks as close to the kneecap as possible? Socks are not meant to double as leg warmers.”

Zelda does not strike me as the slightest bit self conscious, (fictional name, I do not know her real name). Sturdy white tennis shoes grace her feet. Her shoes are so spotless, I must assume they leave the dark closet floor, padding down the sidewalk in front of her tidy white house, only to shortly meet the well vacuumed charcoal carpet at Cardinal.

She hops onto the same Elliptical machine each day, where she slides and glides away for about 30-40 minutes. Bright pink lipstick gleams on her lips, while the rest of her face has been treated to a session of full make-up. It reminds me of my best friend’s mother in junior high, Mrs. Kathleen Harris. Each morning she would sing out, “Time to put my face on!” And she did just that. Out came the creams, lotions, wands, brushes, powders and tiny bottles of magical liquids. Zelda looks like a firm believer in the uplifting powers of a little blush on the checks, a bright color to pop the lips and a good thick ring of eyeliner to top it all off.

She must spend a good amount of time combing and teasing her hair into her elaborate beehive-ish hair-do each morning. Certainly, she possesses a favorite hairspray that keeps it all in place and looking just so, even through 40 minutes of working out, Aqua Net? Pantene? Or maybe a fancy salon brand? I would like to know, that is some powerful, high quality stuff!

The other day, while I was walking into Cardinal, I spotted her driving into the parking lot, in a gray Cadillac soft-topped convertible. A convertible! With that hair! How does that work? Does she drive it and just let her hair go on a holiday, breaking free from the extra firm hairspray, flipping and twisting in the wind? I am going to believe that she does. Just imagining the scene brings forth a sweet sense of freedom. I start to long for an open twisting mountain road, to power a convertible and wear a scarf of some sort, leaving everything behind for a while, looking to see if maybe I am someone else deep down, flying in the wind. Perhaps discovering something mysteriously wonderful about myself I never realized within the confines of a traditional car on a normal day? Who doesn’t want that moment?

So, I continue to look for that convertible around town, hoping to catch Zelda in a moment of her own. I will be sure to let you know if I spot her boat-like Cadillac zipping through the streets this summer. I’ll watch to see if she allows the beehive strands to unravel themselves in reckless abandonment, fully embracing the speed and the wind, as they create an entire new hairstyle on their own, if just for only one day.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Playground envy

Do you remember what it was like to be a kid at the playground and make a new friend? The formula included 3 action steps. #1-Walk, run or skip up to the person you hope to play with. #2-Introduce yourself and ask them to play. #3-Go play. I watch my daughter make friends in this way each time we visit the playground. It works like a charm each time. They follow each other around climbing up ladders, slipping down slides and practicing their pumping skills on the jet black saddle swings.

As an adult, I long for this kind of simple connection with other adults. I want to make friends with ease too. There are many days that I long for someone to just play with. I don’t always want to discuss husbands, potty training, the failing economy or Angelina Jolie. I want to meet someone at the park and laugh together as we lazily lob the neon green ball back and forth across a cracked court. I want to lie in the grass and feel it tickle the back of my neck while we study the clouds and see who can find the most shapes in them. I want to kick a ball in a backyard and watch the fireflies flick on their lights and know that I can stay out as long as I want.

There are times when I was just sure that my new “best friend” was just waiting to me in find him or her. I remember when I transferred to Indiana University, I told my mom, “Just think, in a few months I will have a whole set of friends that I don’t even know right now.” That was pretty optimistic, as if the welcome committee was forming at that very moment, preparing for my upcoming arrival with helium balloons and bowls of finger food. But you know what? I met one of my very dearest friends on the day I moved in to my dorm. Like my daughter on the playground, Veronica and I immediately connected. We lived right next to each other in the college dorm that first year and she’s been a huge influence and inspiration in my life since then.

Sadly, there are many times when I go to an event with high hopes of making a “super new friend” and I find myself feeling like a major loner that will never connect with someone in that “like at first sight” kind of way. Which makes the friends I already have all that more important. There have been friends that I have let slip away. I didn’t put in the work to keep in touch, and they didn’t either. Today that just feels like a horrible waste, like throwing away my mom’s famous homemade German Chocolate Cake because I don’t have enough milk to drink with it. Well, that is just plain silly, lazy, wasteful and depressing.

This week I am meeting with a college roommate that I haven’t seen in a few years. After thinking about this post, I decided to call and try to get in touch with her. I left a couple of messages and hoped that she hadn’t written me off yet. She called back a few days later and apologized for not getting back to me sooner. We talked for a while catching up, our conversation expanded into that beautiful, sense of assurance that time had passed, but our friendship remained. I am meeting for dinner in a couple of days, and I am thrilled. I keep reminiscing of how I used to sing songs I thought were silly at night as we laid in our bunk beds in college and she would laugh below me, making me feel as if I were so funny and clever. Or how we talked seriously about the men we later married in that tiny little closet of a room in our sorority. I feel like I rediscovered this dust laden treasure in the attic. We chatted, brushed ourselves off and found that what we put away a couple of years ago still has a lot of meaning and love to it.

I am working on my own 3 steps to making and keeping friends. Hopefully I can be as successful and happy and my daughter, that would be a mark of a true accomplishment.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

You choose...

I admit it, I love to people watch. Observing people at my workout facility has to be one of my favorite pastimes. I’ve belonged to several different fitness centers in my day. Interesting people show up at all of them without fail. I am what you would call a regular. I join a place and regularly workout 5-6 days a week. I join the other “regulars” each day without knowing much about them. While I see these people almost daily, I find that most regulars rarely chat too much outside of the occasional, “Are you using this bench?” or “Can I work in a set real quick?” I created nicknames for different people I see each day. I often wonder what my nickname might be. I imagine something along the lines of, “The unwanted chatty girl”. I try to be friendly, but realize that many times people just want to get in, burn some calories, pump up some biceps and get out. Friendly banter does not fit into their workout schedule. Perhaps an annoyed woman complaining to her spouse, gets into her car and whines, “Oh, the chatty girl caught me and I didn’t get in my last set today!” Then again, maybe other couples don’t comment on the other patrons like Josh and I do, but I doubt it.

So, I thought I share my personal list which describes the delightfully interesting people I watch and semi-interact with on a daily basis.

  1. Super buff- almost scary woman-
  2. The military man
  3. The unwanted critiquer
  4. The beehive lady
  5. The I am worried you are anorexic woman
  6. Sunglasses Guy
  7. Sports Bra woman
  8. Creepy, Flirting man
  9. The Gas Man
  10. The My Boobs are Weapon lady

Here’s the deal readers, (all 3 of you, thanks Mom, Jenny and Aunt Patty, hopefully there are a few more). These guys are all real characters and I have personal stories regarding each one of these people.

So, here’s my brilliant plan, post a comment on the blog. Let me know your vote for which character you would like to hear more about. I’ll share the story about that particular person by next week. In case you haven’t been keeping track, I am going for one entry a week, and I post on Wednesday, at the latest. This should be fun! I can’t wait to hear from you. (I am secretly hoping to hear from someone I don’t know, so if you are reading this and don’t know me, make my day and leave me a comment!)