Archive for August, 2010

I’m an auntie again!

There’s a new baby girl in the family tonight — Sarah Isabelle!!

My sister, Sarah, gave birth at home with two very competent midwives at her side as her husband, Ryan, ran between her and their other four kids. It’s baby number five, and finally a sister for my niece, Val.

I’m so glad it’s over. Hard to know that your baby sister is in labor. Sarah was having contractions on and off since yesterday morning. For her last birth in Philadelphia, I went to help and was the first to see little Benedict when they all came home from the birth center. But just last month they relocated to Missouri where they don’t know anyone yet. I was a little worried about how it would all go.

Welcome baby girl! And a big bow to my sister and her husband who amaze the whole family.


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I found the perfect solution for home renovation obstacles: Invite an old friend with carpentry skills who wants to spend time with you to fly into town.

That’s what happened here this weekend. Beth flew in Thursday night from Toronto and before I knew it, our pots were on the wall and the towel rack was up in the bathroom.

Beth was my roommate back in 1990 and we’ve been friends ever since, which is a long time. She has a lot of gifts that I don’t have and whenever she visits there are only two things she wants to do: eat good food and organize my house. One time I came down from the bathroom and she had rearranged my living room furniture. Another time, she visited me at my father’s house and decided his kitchen needed to be entirely de-cluttered. It took all weekend. Thankfully, he liked it.

The eating well part of our visit started right away at a favorite restaurant. Irene joined us since she was in town for the evening from Boston. Ever have a fish called Amber Jack? Don’t miss it if you get the chance. I missed some good photo opportunities of our table, but here’s a sweet one of Brian and Beth at a funky place we went Friday night above the American Visionary Arts Museum called Mr. Rain’s Funhouse:

Aren’t they darling?

This is how fun the Funhouse bar is:

Before I go further I should mention that our car broke down Thursday… a few hours before I was supposed to pick Beth up at the airport. Well, it didn’t technically break down. The oil light kept coming on and a little voice was telling me to get it checked out, but our regular mechanic around the corner was on vacation. Finally, I got a recommendation for another guy who told me that our car needs a new part and we should have our regular people do it since the problem may have been their mistake. Oh — and he said the car shouldn’t be driven at all until then.

So, we had to get very creative about how to make things happen without a car. (Which included how to get to and from my dear friend Lisa’s surprise birthday party on Saturday night.)

This is where I bow my head in gratitude for the generous people in my life. Margaret took me to pick up Beth. Hal drove us out to the party. Lisa’s sister-in-law’s friend drove us home. Abby lent us her car to take Beth to the airport. (Hillary was right — it does take a village. At least when you have car problems.)

The rest of the time we did things the old fashioned way: walking. It was a gorgeous weekend so that made it easy. I took Beth, a vegetarian, to our favorite vegan restaurant, and we hit some boutiques, furniture stores, and fun shops.

In between, the home projects were tackled. About three quarters of our kitchen drawers are now re-organized. Beth made me throw a bunch of stuff out. I fought for some things. Brian sometimes stuck his nose in and they ganged up on me. We all came out still speaking to each other. Beth gave us some great feedback and ideas for new rugs, a couch, how to set up our entry way, how to create more storage in one of our closets, how to make more storage in the bathroom, what colors to paint the kitchen, and more.

She also brought me a bag of clothes she doesn’t want anymore and there were some winners in there. Kind of nice because the only clothes I’ll be buying this fall are things like quick-dry, mosquito repellent pants.

A funny story:

The first night Beth was here we went to bed late… 2AM. At about 3:30AM I became aware of a lot of racket outside, but I was so tired I just tried to ignore it. Then I was startled with a knock at our bedroom door. Beth was standing there. A helicopter really loud and really low was circling our house shining a big spot light everywhere.

I, of course, know that this is Baltimore and this was a police search helicopter and all I could think was, “I hope we locked our doors.” But Beth, being a Canadian who associates all things American with terrorism, guns, and other scary things, was wondering if we were getting bombed, or if someone got us mixed up with the president, since we are only 60 minutes from the White House after all.

Now I’ve heard and seen search helicopters circling around our neighborhood from time to time, but they’re usually here for only 5 or 10 minutes. This time it lasted an hour. And they were making very small circles around our block over and over. It was loud, obnoxious, and unnerving. I assured Beth that this was not a national security issue, but probably just a murderer running loose somewhere close by. On that note we went to bed. And then… I couldn’t fall back to sleep.

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Our dining rooms chairs came home today. They were sitting at my friend Abby’s house for the past month… she of the crafty talent and enthusiasm for do-it-yourself home projects. Thank heavens or these chairs would never be done.

I can’t decide if I like the fabric. I wanted something bold, modern, and colorful to contrast with the 1930s style frames. Something fun and different. But I couldn’t find anything affordable that I liked. (It stinks to have expensive taste sometimes.) I settled for a quality fabric that I thought would hide grubby handprints and not be too plain. It works. And now that I know how to do it, I can always change them again.

I got these chairs our of the garbage on the side of the street when we moved in. A neighbor was tossing them out — they were his great aunt’s or something. Chairs are expensive so it’s great to have five otherwise new looking chairs for the cost of some discount fabric, foam, staples, and a friend’s generosity. You can see I had another helper along the way, too:

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Ode to the Victrola

This is my husband’s pride and joy — a 1916 Victrola. He’s had it for almost 12 years and there aren’t too many around anymore. There’s a small chip out of the wood, and some old red paint in places which creates a pretty patina.

Historically, the Victrola fits snugly between the phonograph and the radio. Back in the 1880s, a creative entrepreneur named Emile Berliner invented the mass-produced phonograph record. Edison had already created the cylinder phonograph in 1887, but there was no way to mass produce cylinders, so Berliner’s flat disc design was a breakthrough. He asked Eldridge Johnson, a small machine shop owner in Camden, New Jersey, to develop and manufacture a low-cost, spring-wound motor for his disc phonograph. This eventually led —  after some complications and legal issues — to the founding of the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1901, which went on to produce many Victrolas. (So called, apparently, because Johnson thought it was a musical-sounding word, and an unusual one.)

The model we own is fairly rare. We have 10 records for it — 78’s, they’re called — and they’re pretty cool to play. The music makes you want to break out your flapper dresses and drink a few martinis.

Today we moved the Victrola into our storage unit. As we reconfigure our living space to add two little ones, there’s just no space for it right now. When Brian realized today was the day it was leaving, he got a funny look on his face. I’d call it worried, with a little sad thrown in there. He gets so anxious whenever it has to be moved.

For Brian, this Victrola is a piece of history, linking us to a small group of people who over the years started up that spring motor and listened to those old recorded voices. He gets very moved thinking about our linkage and connection to those who’ve gone before us, and the integrity of something that has stood the test of time. I guess this makes sense given his passion for history.

Thankfully, the friends who let us use their moving truck and their muscles were very careful and the Victrola is now sitting peacefully in a temperature controlled building across the harbor waiting for the day when Brian has a bigger office.

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Holding on to your kids

I’ve been making my way through a stack of books about adoption issues, attachment, and other recommended resources I’ve heard about over the past year.

One book called Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child is full of hands-on, practical advice that I already forget– and I just read half of it. Oh, my poor brain… how is it going to ever parent?… it’s half gone already!! Anyway, I ordered it for future reference as needed.

Another book looked promising, but I didn’t care for it… something about ten things every adopted child wants a parent to know. Great title, but not a great read, and nothing I didn’t know before.

A third one seemed like something I should read in a few years and has nothing specifically to do with adoption, but I decided to skim it because it came so highly recommended. I got hooked. Maybe because back in my graduate school days I studied and loved the field of developmental psychology so much.

It’s called Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Should Matter More Than Peers, and I think every parent should read it.

There are two authors: a psychologist specializing in child development and family therapy, and a medical doctor. Their views fly in the face of many parenting books that focus on behavioral changes and skill-building. They believe that the health and well-being of a child is directly related to remaining attached to his or her parents, and other important adults.

They authors say that with the rise of the “youth culture” — which is only about 50 years old — most of us have grown accustomed to assuming that children are better off spending lots of time with their peers. Wrong, according to these guys. Where a child’s primary attachment is, there will he or she follow. Our current “peer-oriented” culture makes it easier for children to shift their primary attachments to peers early on, and remain there, with parents losing authority and influence over their children.The authors point out that it is attachment that facilitates a child’s identity development, values, and sense of self. And if that attachment is peer-oriented, parents lose much of their ability to parent and children take on the culture of their peers.

Not that kids shouldn’t have friends, the authors say, but adults should be their primary attachments until maturity. The entire last section of the book is dedicated to how to keep — or regain — this primary attachment with your kids.

I don’t agree with every point the authors make, but I have to admit that I’ve seen their theory in action and it seems to be true. Some of it is counter-intuitive — we’re bombarded with the message that kids need lots of time with friends and peers and we think they’ll be hampered without all that socialization. But when I think of the most adjusted, emotionally healthy, well-rounded, mature kids I know, all of them were raised by people who intuitively parented according to the ideas in this book.

I’m not doing it justice, but I’d love to hear your thoughts if you do pick it up.

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Moving up a notch

Yesterday, four referrals were given to families by our agency. One of those families had an overlapping request with ours, which means we were number one or two in line for the past few months.

But with their exciting referral yesterday (congratulations, Harmony and Dan!!), we officially moved to the absolute number one spot for siblings in our request range.

Oh, it’s getting close. Very close.

Of course, it could be next week or next month, or even longer.  But it certainly means it will be here before we know it.

We’re so busy these days that it’s all still a bit of dream. I do feel like something’s a bit wrong with me because I don’t wait for the phone to ring. I don’t expect the call to come. I’m working on my book proposal, and fooling around with my new camera, and trying to get the house in order (still), and working, and this parenthood thing feels like it’s going to happen sometime down the road, in some distant time.

I pray for our children every day, and wonder who they are, but mostly I just keep truckin’ … and Brian is the same. Except his eyes get wider each time I tell him we’re getting closer. I think there’s a part of us that still can’t believe we’re doing this. It’s still unreal. And we’re okay with things happening when they happen.

But when we see those faces that will be in our lives forever, I’m sure our entire world is going to change.

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No, not our babies. My other new baby… a new camera!

Never mind the claw hand or the dark hair roots, either.

I know this picture stinks. I don’t quite know how to use this thing yet. I’m proud that I know how to turn it on, and how to change some of the settings. And I consider it a monumental turn of events that I took the picture above in extremely low lighting looking into a mirror without a flash and you can still make it out. I mean, wow! It’s a whole new world.

This is a Canon Rebel T1i and here’s how it happened…

I went to a local camera equipment store, since I’m all about shopping local and independent whenever possible, and the camera I was planning to get — the Rebel SXi was gone. (I think it was the SXi… my mind is now in Friday night blank mode.) The store people were not going to be ordering more, since the T1 series replaced them.

I decided to order it online and when I went to do my research, I discovered the T1i was going for only $40 more. So I figured for some enhancements as well as video capability — which will come in handy with the kiddos — I’d just go for the upgrade. I bought the body only — no kit kens. Then I went back up to the camera shop and purchased a 50mm f1.8 lens. Then I ordered the memory card from somewhere else where the price was better. Which means everything came at different times and I couldn’t use the camera for a while which was all rather anti-climactic.

I’ve been diligently reading my little instruction book and getting lost a lot. I know this lens I have is limited in scope, but it’s very nice — and a great price. I love it already. Next up will probably be a wide angle zoom. Oh, and I need a camera bag. There’s a million kinds so I need to find the right one, at the right price. The kind that will fit neatly into a giant diaper bag soon. Any suggestions?

You should be getting some much nicer pictures around here in the days to come. I will foist my experiments on you. Not sure when I’m going to find the time to turn into an amateur photographer, but I’ll squeeze it in somewhere.

(A word of thanks to Mags and Hal who helped me along the way of this purchase — thanks guys!)

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