Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Trying a new tactic

In the past week, Kai has:

1. Colored across my laptop keyboard with a dry erase marker.
2. Scribbled on my cream desk drawers in the kitchen.
3. Cut open the back of one of Elizabeth’s dolls and pulled the stuffing out.
4. Scratched our kitchen table with a metal skewer from the kitchen drawer
5. Hammered out chunks of the corner of our upstairs hallway with a meat tenderizer.
6. Scratched our bedroom wall with the prongs of a plug in air freshener.

After feeling very frustrated and upset, and being thankful that I am not a drinker, I thought back to some advice my mom gave me one year when I was a camp counselor. I was a junior in college. I had decided to stay in Bloomington for the summer to take some classes and work as a camp counselor. I called my mom to get her input on a particularly bothersome little girl. She was in second grade and she was incredibly clingy. This girl made Scotch tape look aloof. To be blunt, she was driving me nuts. My mom offered the following advice, “Kate, that little girl is longing to be noticed. She wants attention, so give it to her. Make her your special helper. Go out of your way to overload her with positive attention.”

I was skeptical, but had no other strategies left to use, so I tried it, and “Voila!” it worked like a charm. Once this little girl knew she’d get the attention she needed from me, she backed off and proved to be a delightful camper the rest of the summer.

Getting back to Kai, I decided to apply this theory to our current problem of his unquenchable curiosity and destruction. To his credit, he does not do all of these things in anger. The kid is obsessed with cause and effect. If you k now Kai, you can almost see these words scrolling across his forehead, “How does pushing button A make tab B spin around? Well let’s see!” My neighbor Katie, described Kai this way to her mom, “He’s like our own neighborhood Dennis the Menace”. Kai has also be been referred to as the neighborhood greeter as a result of his boisterous salutations. If Kai spots a neighbor out our window, he’ll dash to the window, throw if open and yell, “Hey there Jim! Where ya going?” This occurs regardless of the weather, snowstorms, rain, heat or air-conditioning on, it does not matter.

Anyway, Kai obviously wants to explore with tools and see how they work. So, today I took him to Goodwill and we picked out an old plug in radio and cassette player. We came home, spread out a blanket in the garage, got out all the tools, and proceeded to take the thing apart. I taught him, “Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey” and how to use wire cutters, “Think of the blades like a beak, the wire has to be in the center of the beak if you want to cut them.” He learned how to manipulate needle-nosed pliers, which is great for a kid with some fine motor delays. We sorted wires, screws, and other parts into groups on the blanket.

We played together for an hour, both of us enjoying ourselves. I pray that this strategy works. If it does, I will happily truck over to Goodwill as many times as needed so he can explore safely as much as he wants.

Friday, May 21, 2010

First class

“You just push. And if you don’t push, you will be left to push again the next time.”
Jieru-the Chinese PhD student who is co-leading our trip to China.

I went to my first class for the China trip yesterday. The above quote is when Jieru was explaining to us all about the crowding in China and how the Chinese do not wait in line most of the time. She stressed if you try not to push you will not get anywhere. I think I’ll be okay. Really, out of all of the things I could be worried about, my biggest concerns going into class today were:
“Do we need to bring sheets and pillows for the dorm rooms we are staying in?” And, “Who am I going to be rooming with?”
One of the two questions was answered. We are not staying in a dorm at Peking University after all. Apparently, the organizers weren’t quite sure we’d be comfortable there, so instead, we’ll stay in a hotel on campus. This means clean sheets every night and someone to make my bed! Yahoo!
We’ll be walking distance to all of our classes on campus. I am really excited to see the campus and get into the daily life of living in China. Apparently, we need to be prepared for no air conditioning in most places as well. China is pretty hot and humid in the summer, and I’m a sweaty person. Bring on the Certain Dry. Hopefully that will keep me from totally pitting out all of my shirts!
The roommate question still hasn’t been answered. I’ve had mixed results with roommates. We’ve either been wonderful friends, OR they dropped out of school. No kidding, two of my roommates in college dropped out of school, leaving me a room/apartment all to myself. Please God, do not let me send someone home from China as a result of living with me!
Anyway, when I went to China last time, I made a decision on what type of attitude I would bring along, sort of like picking out shoes for the trip, “Mmm, should I bring my anxious and worried attitude or my adventurous and open-minded attitude?” Since the anxious attitude gets so much use around here in the States, I decided on my open-minded and adventurous one. For the most part, it worked.
This time, I am conjuring up my inner NPR correspondent attitude, Michele Kelemen, to be exact. Since I am traveling without the added stress of meeting my 2 year old child for the first time, I want to really take notice of little details in China. I want to really get to know the other students there, say “Yes” instead of “I’m not sure”, and look to experience as much as possible.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Here's Your Sign!

I love this sign, precisely because it reminds me to do the exact opposite of what it says.

“NO Wading, NO Swimming, NO Trespassing.”

I have found that wading, swimming and trespassing are all quite satisfying.

I’d like to see the following sign posted instead:

To make your experience more enjoyable, feel free to:
Clean up after you are finished.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Artist's Date

The Artist’s Date-This is an idea from Julia Cameron’s books. What you do is pick something new to visit or do, once a week with the intention that the purposeful date will fuel the imagination. She proposes the activity as a way to fill up the tank of experiences and images in which you hope to draw upon in later works. This absolutely makes sense to me. I love the idea in theory, but the practice ends up proving to be a little difficult. My plan was to visit the clock shop today with my camera and sense of smell ready. I have a distinct idea of what such a shop should smell like, but perhaps I would be terribly off the mark. I hope for hints of must, laced together with the lemon pledge, cedar, spiced cologne and WD40.

I’ll have to wait until next week to find out because today, I made an impromptu decision to make my artist’s date the Chinese New Year exhibit at the library. Since I leave for China in less than a month, and I just started the process of putting together a Chinese Cultural group for Kai, I figured it would serve me well. After looking around a bit, the man at the front door approached me and asked if I wanted to know more about any parts of the exhibit.

I shared my trip with him, and the fact that our son is also from China. We spoke for about a half an hour. It turns out; he is a newly minted Professor from UCLA. Apparently he served as the personal tutor for Meg Ryan’s daughter from China. He just finished his PHD program and his wife is in medical school at IUPUI. He showed me pictures of his son, David, 2 and a half, who is living with his parents in Beijing right now. Imagine that, he was in California, his wife here in Indy, and his son and parents in Beijing.

We described our sons and laughed as we did so. I searched this man’s face for hints of disapproval of our adoption of Kai and found none. I blessed him a hundred times in my mind for the lack of judgment and curiosity. He shared with me David’s 100 day picture and why 100 days is a significant time for the Chinese with babies, and the traditions they perform on those days.

He gave me his card and some information on the Confucius Institute at IUPUI. It is amazing to me how many resources I’ve come across lately in my desire to learn more about China and to create a place for support and learning for Kai. This is the first time I have shared the adoption of Kai with a Chinese person and not felt inwardly nervous that they would be somehow upset with me. Just as I hope Kai grows into a better understanding of his own cultural identity, I too hope to grow in my own understanding of what it means to be a Caucasian mother of a son of Chinese decent. It is time for all of us to stretch out a little more and open ourselves up to this other facet of our family culture now.
I told Xiaoan Li that I would bring Kai back tomorrow. I want to go through the exhibit with Kai and also introduce him to Xianoan Li. Some days unfold with such deliberate richness that I want to sit and linger in the moment. My spirit softens and slides across the sharp the edges of fear. Today, that is how I feel, loose and light, excited and flexible. It feels as if a prayer is being answered, one note at a time.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Professional Eavesdropper-Notes for Tuesday May 4th

“Did you enjoy your bath?” she asked once he stopped singing to her.
“I did, “he replied, leaning back into the bench, willing it into a recliner. “But I only washed off the offensive parts… or the attractive parts. “You know,” he continued, suddenly a connoisseur,” the natural aroma of man is an aphrodisiac.”

Leaving that nugget of information hanging in the air between them, he began singing another song. At first, the women seemed annoyed, pursing her lips and looking down at her feet while her chin rested on her hand, almost pouting. But now that he’s moved onto bathing techniques and bodily odors, her face appears relaxed, her gaze loving.

The man wore freshly pressed jeans, a long sleeve white tee shirt tucked in neatly, and a shiny silver vest on top. He appeared to be in his late 40’s. The woman he was educating on scent and attraction wore a red-sequined blouse. Her hair fluffed out around her head as if she accidentally bumped into a baby cumulus cloud, dropped from the sky by a careless mama cloud, and it plopped right on top of this unsuspecting woman’s head.

The man continued to sing to her. Trying to remain discreet since I was sitting right across from them, I conjured up my inner sloth and slowly raised my eyelids up from my book to search for clues about this couple. Were they mother and son, or husband and wife? The woman had the velvety powdered white complexion that I hope to develop or acquire, as I age. Such skin speaks of cold creams, sitting in the shade, and lavender scented dusting powder from a flowered compact case. I the little corner of my mind that lights up with eavesdropping like an attic light at midnight, I could already see her applying the cold cream in broad strokes over her forehead and down the slope of her nose before she climbed into bed under her rose colored comforter.

I wondered why the man was taking a bath around 2pm in the afternoon. I don’t know many men that take baths period. My own husband wrinkles his nose at the very notion of a bath. The song he sings right now does not sound familiar to me at all. It feels strangely personal to be sitting right here in the foyer of my daughter’s elementary school, surrounded by things like PTO fliers about a volunteer luncheon,the poster encouraging us to Vote Yes on the Carmel School Referendum, and the flag. Even the flag,stretching toward the ceiling as it guards the front doors, shifting its weight back and forth, seems somewhat uncomfortable.

After a few moments of attempted undercover eavesdropping and observing, I bring my book and my curiosity outside to wait, leaving Mrs. Whitecloud and the half-bathed man to his serenading.

People watching at its best.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I know it is a little thing....

but it is something from the list. This is my desk area. On the left is the passage by Marianne Williamson that I love so much. On the right is the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. I recycled these frames. They used to hang in Kai's room, but he outgrew the animal prints in them.

I may have already posted this, but here is the Marianne Williamson passage. I absolutely love it.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

-Marianne Williamson