Saturday, August 30

My Pal Al Becomes a Teenager Today



Thirteen years ago today I became a mother at the age of 26. It is hands down the single-most amazing day of my life, that day I gave birth to my daughter. Not even the recollection of 41 hours in labor and complications can taint the memory of the moment I held my baby girl for the first time and realized that astoundingly deep, special, love that other moms had told me about but that I had never experienced until then. There is no other love in the world like that of a mother and her child.

There are people who tell me to "cut the cord." I want to know why I have to? If my daughter likes to be around me but has a normal social life and friends, why should she not want to turn to me when she needs advice or help or just to snuggle? Why should she not want to be with me when she is somewhere where she does not feel comfortable? Why must a cord be cut at this crucial age when kids get involved with illicit substances, irresponsable peers, boyfriends who may pressure them to have sex and bring unexpected children in to the world only to dash the dreams of two youngsters with a future? Our society has become a bunch of cord-cutters way before the cord should be cut. Drop-outs, teen pregnancies, drug users, absentee parents, permissive parenting, emotionally unavailable parents... these are all good reasons for parents to keep that cord intact until the child indicates he or she is ready to cut loose. When I was a kid it was called "having a strong relationship with your parent."

So, today my baby girl becomes a teenager and I find it so hard to come to terms with. Wasn't it just the other day I carried her in the Snugli and danced with her to get her back to sleep at 3:00 AM? Wasn't it just yesterday when she was playing dress-up? Where are the years going? My beautiful little baby is now a beautiful little woman in whom I see many of my own traits- some good and some not so much and so many more that I only wish I possessed. She is artistic, creative and musically talented- playing drums, keyboard and singing soprano in the competitively selected choral group at school. She is sensitive, intuitive and feisty. She is athletic-- playing basketball, soccer and cheerleading all since she was seven years old. She is writing a book, she writes songs and poetry and she loves to learn. While at times her adolescent moods interfere with some (or all) of these activities, I know that they will pass. (They will pass, right?) For the past 3 years, my "little" girl (who is now 5'2") has been setting her alarm to wake up at 5:50 AM, the exact time she was born, in order to wake me up and thank me for giving her life. She then goes back to bed and I fall back to sleep thinking about what a sweet child I have and how lucky I am.




So to the teenager I call "My Pal Al" (after a favorite kids' book of ours) I say

HAPPY 13th BIRTHDAY!!



I love you the whole wide world and the universe!

Thursday, August 14

The Olympic Gymnastics Routines Have Me

I don't usually watch the Olympics. I do enjoy the gymnastics competitions, especially for men because I am amazed that a man can contort and move his body and demostrate such strength in such a graceful way. So this year I have watched almost all of the gymnastics competitions and I have found myself staying up late with my daughter cheering for Jonathan Horton (her favorite)
and Alexander Artemev (my favorite).

When I coached cheerleading I was always in awe of the girls who could do standing tucks, back tucks, roundoff back handsprings and rted combinations. When I see the USA girls do this and more on the bars, the vaults, the beam, or their floor routines I watch, mesmerized, knowing that under no circumstances could my body ever be trained to imitate that. Watching Alicia Sacramone fall attempting her mount on the bar broke my heart, but not as much as it did when she fell later in the floor exercise. She was the one I was rooting for the most. Here she is at Olympic Trials doing a great job- no falls.




My favorite event this year is the pommel horse, and only because I saw Alexander "Sasha" Artemev turn his body into a machine atop that horse. In and out, side to side, up, then down and finally a complicated combination of twists and turns with his lower body in the air gave me the chills. His dismounts were excellent and he was proud of his bronze medal.



But remember when a bronze medal counted for something? These young men who earned the bronze medals for gymnastics were so visibly excited to have that medal, with one even saying he would tattoo the bronze on his back when he got home, are what the Olympics are about-- the pure love for your sport, the spirit of competition whether you win one or not- the most momentous occasion of one's life.

And then there is the grumpy Swede. Ara Abrahamian does not consider a bronze medal to be anything more than a failure in his quest for gold in Greco-Roman wrestling. So when he got his medal, he stormed off the stage and threw it away. Boo hoo. Only a bronze. I hope the next person was awarded it. If he didn't want the bronze medal, he should have performed to the standard of gold!
Here you can see this sore loser get his medal, high five the guy next to him, step down from the stage and throw his medal on the floor and leave. What a baby.


A final note, even before Bela Karolyi mentioned how young the Chinese women's team looked, as in, not the minimum age of 16, we sat here and noticed that some of those girls looked younger than my almost 13 year old daughter! There's a big secret newspaper article about it that was pulled and is not spoken about so the mystery will remain unless China fesses up.

Wuddya tawkin abou? The Philly Accent

For 38 years of my life I spoke with a Philly accent and never realized how heavy it was. I had never paid attention to the way I chop the ends of my words off, or slur some words together. That was until I did an internet radio show early in 2007 and a friend of mine in Florida harrassed me about my thick Philly accent. So I started paying attention to how I speak and it's a wonder people know what I am saying! I'm way in the suburbs of Philly now and not many people speak like I do. But most of the people here are from New York or Joisey so they don't really notice. So now I catch myself saying words that other people pronounce correctly and I mangle. That's "cuz" I'm originally from "Sowfilly" (that would be South Philly, but to me, it's all one word).

I never realized that instead of saying "leg" I say "leyg." I do remember being teased by friends in high school because I couldn't (and still can't) pronounce "mirror." I say "mir-eh" and of course it's not "window" for me, it's "windeh." I say "anutheh" not "another" and "aready" not "already." My dad always corrected my pronunciation of "crayon" which was (and still is) "crown"' as if I had a speech impediment. Come to find out, it is no such thing! It's a product of my upbringing ovah deh! "Didn't" is "Dint" and "nothing" to me has neither an "o" nor an "ing." (Nuthin) If you bother me while I'm "writin" I'll say "whadyawan?"

For vacation, I just go "Downehshur" which means the Jersey Shore, and by the way, you don't go to the shore, you're not "at" or "on" the shore, you go down the shore and you are then down the shore. I pay the lectric bill, (it's a cuppela hundred dollahs but I wish it were only a cuppela corders) and I don't know what happens to the "E." I dry off with a tal after I showeh with wuhduh.

I never say "youse" or even "yiz" but I do call everyone "you guys."

There's a more complete list I found for more Philly pronunciations. I don't committ all of the crimes on the list but I have some not on there!. Check it out!
Amd here is a great link for more detailed reasons as to why we tawk funny- at University of PA they actually study this phenomenon!

So, YO, next time you hear someone with a funny Philly accent speak, take a look at your own regional accent ovah deh.

Monday, August 11

Is She Your Daughter?

Today I had to take my oldest daughter to the hospital for some bloodwork. Between registration and going in to have blood drawn, my daughters and I waited with the crowd to be called back again. Gabriela, my seven-year old, sat down at a play table and Allie and I opened books to read. I couldn't concentrate, however, because I felt like people were staring at me. And whispering. I knew exactly why. I looked to my right and there was a couple staring at me, then Gabriela, then Allie, and whispering. Again, I knew why. I didn't need to hear their conversation to know what they were saying. "The older one looks just like her but the other one must be from China." Gabriela was oblivious to the stares but I wasn't. After a few seconds I heard the dreaded words:
"Excuse me." I knew it was meant for me. I looked up, ready to answer.
"Yes?" I asked.
"Is she your daughter?"
Well duh, of course she is, didn't she hear her call me MOMMY a second ago?

"Yes."
"Is she Chinese?"
"No," I answered, not offering any other information.
"Where is she from?" the woman was not giving up. This was my chance. This time I had a smart-ass answer that my husband and I had always joked about using when people are rude enough to ask me how my family was formed.
"My uterus." I replied.
The woman looked startled, confused.
"You mean she isn't adopted?"
Now I'm mad. What nerve! Didn't I just say the word UTERUS? I am floored. Gabriela is not listening, she's playing happily.
"No, she is not."
"Oh. Well, no offense, but she looks Chinese."
"None taken. My mother is Chinese."
Now the woman has no idea what is going on.
"Really? You don't look Chinese."
Here was the coup de grace that I had dreamed of using.
"I know. My mom was adopted."
I got the girls together and walked to the other side of the waiting room and left the woman and her husband to ponder how my mother is Chinese but I'm not and how Gabriela looks Chinese but is not adopted.

This was not a young couple that perhaps was asking about Gabriela because they wanted to adopt. I've met parents like that and they know how to approach adoptive parents for the most part. I've also met other adoptive parents who will come up to me and say something like "She is so cute. Is she from _____." Parents of Chinese children know Gabriela is not Chinese. (She is Guatemalan, by the way.)


These people are rarely people interested in adopting. I am more than happy to help those people. These are tehe people that have asked me how much Gabriela "cost," why she was given up for adoption, couldn't we have children of our own, and asked if I met her "real" mother.

I used to take these opportunities to educate the rude and the curious about international adoption and adoption-sensitive language but I'm getting tired. I'm not ashamed of how Gabriela came to be my daughter, on the contrary, I am grateful and proud. I am an advocate of adoption. However, people need to think before they approach a stranger and just let things fly out of their mouths, especially when the child is right there.

Saturday, August 2

Happy Birthday Lauren!!

Today is my cousin Lauren's birthday. She is older than I but I will refrain from mentioning her age. She doesn't look it, regardless. Lauren is beautiful-- so beautiful that when she had her senior portraits taken in high school, the photographer asked to use her face as his advertisement photo. She is also one of the most caring individuals I know, using her common sense and her nurse's training to care for my aunt who is sick with Lyme's disease (See July 1st post). And that is on top of raising her 4 children.

About the time I started college, Lauren became more like an older sister to me-- something I always wanted as a kid since I was the older sister and had nobody to confide in or teach me about makeup and boys and girl stuff. She always had great advice, and while together we are quite the judgemental duo, she has never judged me for a decision I have made and vice versa. I guess you could say our support for each other is unconditional, like love.

Happy Birthday Lauren, and Many More!



Love,
Claudia

The Throne

When I was a kid, and I mean as far back as I can remember, my grandparents had a clear toilet seat with real coins inlaid in the plastic. As a very young child I thought this was the coolest thing ever and always tried to count the coins and see how much money was in there, but would lose my place and give up. I knew there were Kennedy half dollars in there, maybe five. As a teenager I just thought it was freakishly odd. Nobody else I knew had a toilet seat like this and I always thought it was some special Italian item for some reason. It turns out that they bought it on a trip to where else? Las Vegas.

When my grandparents moved to Florida in 1986 they took the seat with them. On my first trip to visit them I recall saying "Oh My Gawd it followed them here." And to make matters worse, in their new home they put the seat in the bathroom that had a solid wall of mirrors and great big Hollywood vanity lights. It was what I pictured a Vegas casino bathroom to look like.

My grandmother died in 1996 and my grandfather moved back to Philadelphia to live with my parents. My dad had flown to West Palm Beach to pack up what he could for my grandfather and shipped it to Pennsylvania. He said he was mainly shipping items of sentimental or monetary value and having an estate sale for the rest. So, imagine my disgust when that coin-laden toilet seat showed up- IN MY PARENTS' POWDER ROOM!! I know when I walked into that room I actually screamed. "WHY WON'T THIS SEAT DIE?" My mother said "That's a very valuable seat." (To whom, I wondered, to the collectors of coin-encrusted toilet seats??) I responded "That is a very TACKY seat." Not to mention it did not match the d├ęcor in the powder room at all. Well, my mother must have agreed because on my next visit there, it had been replaced.

Fast forward about four years later when I was at their house after my grandfather died, throwing away some stuff I had stored there years earlier. Out of the corner of my eye I saw it, something bright and shiny under a box and some newspapers, like it had fallen out of the trash and then a box fell on top of it. I dug into the pile and to my utter horror there it was-- THAT FREAKING GAUDY COIN TOILET SEAT. I yanked on it to pull it out the pile and when I had freed it, I dumped it right into the garbage can. I smacked my hands together to dust them off and walked away proudly. That seat would be no more.

About an hour later my father came home from a fishing trip and I heard him open the garage door. He spent a few minutes in there putting his gear away and then he came into the house... HOLDING THAT @!(@*#)(# TOILET SEAT. "DAD! What is that a boomerang? I just threw it out." "Hey, you leave this be," he said waving it in the air. "This is expensive." "Dad,look, let's get the axe. We'll bust it open and you can have all the coins, ok?" My father gave me one of those patented "Don't mess with me" looks and returned that eyesore to the garage. I appealed to my mother. "Mom, is Dad just going to keep that coin seat in there like Fred Sanford?" "He still has it?" ooops. "Yes, I threw it away and he fished it out." "Well, you know, it wasn't cheap."

Yes, I know. But it's a 25 year old, used, gaudy, cheesey, tacky COIN-FILLED TOILET SEAT!!!

It's 2008 and the seat remains in the garage. Not being used, of course, just saved. 'Cuz it's expensive.

Feel my pain.