Wednesday, September 30, 2009
The folks at the IAC have been amazing partners to have along for our adoption journey. Dr. Mary Allen Staat, the center director and herself an adoptive mom, is wonderful. She sent me to Vietnam armed with some medicines she thought we might need that would be hard to get in Hanoi. She was on call the whole time we were there -- around the clock -- and spent several days exchanging international emails with me, trying to help us diagnose and treat a rash Ellie developed a few days after leaving the orphanage.
Dr. Staat and her staff reviewed my referral information before I met Ellie, to determine whether she had any obvious health or developmental issues. They saw her MANY times after we came home, checking up on her vaccination status, her growth rate, her developmental progress and her minor health issues related to her time in the orphanage. They scheduled appointments for Ellie and me with an occupational therapist, a psychologist and a social worker. They checked up on our bonding process and made recommendations to improve it. They referred us to a pediatric gastroenterologist when we needed one. They set up a dermatology consult for us. They helped me educate my pediatrician on some international adoption issues she'd never encountered before. I don't know how I would have navigated the health-related end of the adoption process without the IAC staff.
The IAC also provides some terrific classes, both pre- and post-adoption, designed to meet home study education requirements and assist in the adjustment process. My entire relationship with the IAC, from the first class to Ellie's last visit, was a huge help to us in becoming a family.
So why am I telling you this? First, because the IAC is one of only a dozen centers in the United States that provides specific help for internationally adopted children and their families, and I wanted you to know what a unique resource we have right here in Ohio. And second, because the annual IAC fundraising auction is coming up and I want you to come out and see my cute kid modeling some cute clothes.
Passport to Forever, a dinner, auction and children's fashion show benefiting the IAC, will be held Saturday, Nov. 7, at the Oscar Event Center at Jungle Jim's International Market in Fairfield, Ohio. A cocktail reception and silent auction will take place at 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 8 p.m. The evening will also include a live auction, a fashion show featuring internationally adopted children modeling fashions from The Children's Place, and entertainment by Spirit of the Pacific Islands, a dance troupe performing dances of the Micronesian, Melanesian and Polynesian Islands.
And did I mention that Ellie will be participating in the fashion show?
Tickets are $75 and may be purchased on the Cincinnati Children's website. The deadline is Oct. 30. If you want to donate an item to the auction, please leave a comment and I'll put you in touch with the auction volunteers.
And don't forget to come out and watch Ellie in the fashion show.
If you don't live in southwest Ohio, never fear -- the IAC has assisted thousands of adoptive families from 47 states and nine countries with their adoption of children born in 49 different countries. You can use the IAC's services no matter where you live, and they will accept your donation no matter where you live, too. :)
And please come and see my kid in the fashion show.
As you were.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
I'm happy to say I couldn't have been more wrong.
She was completely mesmerized for nearly two hours.
I told Ellie about two weeks ago that we would soon be going to see a show featuring her favorite character in all the world: Mickey Mouse. Or, as she calls him, just plain Mouse (she's tight with her homies like that). So as you can imagine, all I've heard for two weeks is "See Mouse? See Mouse?" But when the day finally arrived, she seemed a little unsure that she actually WANTED to "see Mouse."
See, we didn't just see Mouse from a distance on the ice. We got to be up close and personal with Mouse AND with his significant other, Minnie. Mom Central and Feld Entertainment hosted a pre-show party, and Ellie had the chance to meet the man . . . er . . . mouse . . . himself. And she was not so sure she was happy about it.
We walked in the door of the party and there they stood -- Minnie and Mickey, ready and waiting to pose for pictures. We stood in line with everyone else, and the closer we got, the more tightly Ellie clung to my leg. Then Amy in OHio's little sweet potato, P, who was in line ahead of us, decided she WAS NOT going to have her picture taken with Mouse. Her dad had HIS photo taken. Mommy had HER photo taken. P was having no part of it. This Ellie took as her cue to follow suit.
"NO! No Mouse! All done! All done!"
I persuaded Ellie that it would be okay because I would be in the photo with her. So with her head buried in my shoulder, we went forth to meet her idols.
By the time our little photo op was done, she had warmed up ever so slightly, as evidenced by the fact that she waved to Mickey and said, "Nice meet you." But I think she was relieved when Minnie and Mickey took their leave.
I sort of understood how she felt. Under most circumstances, I'd be freaked out by two six-foot-tall rodents, too.
At any rate, she LOVED the show, which is at U.S. Bank Arena through Sunday. If you have a chance, I highly recommend taking your kiddos to check it out. And just because I like you, I'll give you a tip: you'll get a price break if you buy your tix on Ticketmaster and use the coupon code MOM in the MC Promotions code box.
Top to bottom: Mulan, Ellie spellbound by the show, Ellie enjoying her wizard's hat, toy soldiers from Toy Story, Aladdin and the Genie, It's a Small World, grand finale, Mama and Ellie self-portrait
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Black and DiTerlizzi followed up their huge success with Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, a three-volume serial featuring new characters and a new setting, but the same familiar population of goblins, sprites, giants and other mysterious magical creatures that made The Spiderwick Chronicles such a success.
Now on tour promoting The Wyrm King, the final installment in the Beyond Spiderwick series, Black and DiTerlizzi will make a stop in Cincinnati next week to meet their fans and sign a few autographs. You can catch them on Monday, Sept. 28, at 6 p.m. at the Blue Manatee Children's Bookstore on Madison Rd., and at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Rookwood Pavilion on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m.
Black and DiTerlizzi were kind enough to answer a few questions for me recently -- read on to find out a bit more about their creative process, the origins of the Spiderwick books, and what the two are planning next:
Q: I understand all eight of these books grew from your childhood love of stories about faeries, goblins, trolls and other magical creatures. Can you talk about that, and what it’s been like for you to bring your childhood imagination to life in these books?
Tony: For me, it has been beyond a dream come true. What’s been amazing is the response from many that this was the first book their child read on their own. That means a lot because we aimed these stories for the younger-than-Harry-Potter-and-Snicket reader who may feel overwhelmed by longer books. That’s also why I drew so much art for these – there are lots of places for young eyes to take a rest and soak in some visuals to aid in comprehending the tale.
The other aspect that comes through in these books is our love for the fantastic. I have been drawing monsters like goblins, dragons and trolls since I was a kid. I was so inspired from Brian Froud & Alan Lee’s drawings in the 1979 book Faeries, and playing Dungeons & Dragons. So the idea of our stories inspiring the next generation of storytellers is just totally awesome.
Holly: I definitely grew up believing in ghosts and faeries and all kinds of other things. I lived in an old spooky house and my mother told me how she used to play with the ghost that lived in the attic. I was pretty much terrified all the time. The thing I try to remember most when I am writing the books is that feeling of certainty that the supernatural is real and the world is a more interesting but dangerous place because of it.
Q: These books remind me a lot of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen in terms of tone and mood. What influence did those writers have on both of you when you were kids?
Tony: We had big collections of those two authors in the DiTerlizzi house growing up, so your observations of them influencing Spiderwick are correct. I love how the faerie characters in those tales were not so nice -- in fact, many were downright dangerous. I think as adults (and parents) we forget how much we enjoy thrilling, dark adventures when we are younger. I loved the Grimm tales and still do to this day. In fact, I just purchased an 1890’s copy of Grimm’s Tales by German illustrator Hermann Vogel – the drawings are exquisite.
Holly: I had a huge, unabridged Brothers Grimm on my bookshelf and I would page through it a lot, along with a bunch of other beautifully illustrated fairy tale books. But I think the book that had the biggest effect on me in terms of Spiderwick was reading Brian Froud and Alan Lee's book, Faeries. It pushed me to start researching folklore. At that point, like most kids, I'd read a lot of mythology, but not a lot of folklore. When I started looking for information on faeries, I realized that the public perception of them as kindly, sparkly sprites was wholly different that the capricious and dangerous beings they were in folkloric stories. I was totally fascinated.
Q: It’s unusual that two people who are both interested in these types of things would find each other and end up working together. How did that happen?
Tony: My wife, Angela, and I moved to Brooklyn, New York, in 1996. We met Holly and her husband, Theo, shortly thereafter when Holly came to interview me about my illustrations for the game Dungeons & Dragons. Sadly the magazine she was interviewing me for went under, but our friendship blossomed.
One of our favorite things to chat about was story and plot in books we’d read, movies we’d watched, or video games we’d played. This chatty dialogue (you know, the kind of conversation you have when you go with a friend and get a cup of coffee after seeing a film together) evolved into us plotting and scheming up a story of our own. I had shown Holly an early version of Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You which I had pitched to Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers back in 2000. Since she knew the faerie lore so well, she began helping me with the research. I wanted this book to stay true to traditional folklore, but re-imagine some of the well-known creatures in a (hopefully) new and exciting way.
Along the way, my editor and I realized there was more to this project than just a faerie field guide and the man who created it. We began tinkering with the idea of modern day kids getting thrust into the world of old faerie folklore. Since Angela and I had helped Holly land her first young-adult dark faerie novel, Tithe, at Simon & Schuster, I knew she and I could create this story together for them.
Holly: When I came up to interview Tony about his artwork, we got to talking and realized we had a ton of interests in common. He had just moved from Florida with his wife, so we wound up hanging out a lot. We always loved talking about stories and decided that it would be fun to work on something together. Tony had just the project.
Q: Usually children’s books are presented as “written by so-and-so” and “illustrated by so-and-so.” This is the first time I’ve ever encountered a book for which the writer and illustrator get equal billing. Why is that? Can you talk about your collaboration and why you felt it was important to present the books that way?
Tony: Once Holly came onboard and we began plotting the stories, we soon found that both of us had great ideas and approaches to telling this story. Having written and illustrated a couple of picture books prior, I came at it from that viewpoint, whereas Holly was working on older, teen fiction. Spiderwick became our creative meeting ground in the middle.
We didn’t hold back on our participation for plot, art, book design, touring, marketig . . . anything. At the end of the day, she went off and wrote the manuscript and I drew the art, but there was so much interaction along the way that we felt it was not accurate to simply put “written by” and “illustrated by.” We’d used every trick up our sleeves to make these stories the best possible books they could be. As many may know, this is unusual in crafting an illustrated book. But it somehow worked for us and I think the books are much richer for it.
Holly: We wanted the credits on the book to reflect how they were made and also our unusual way of working together. From the beginning, we've had huge, sprawling conversations before either of our pens hits the paper. We would map out some of the things that were going to happen in the story, then I'd go off and write and Tony would go off and draw. We'd check back with one another a lot and exchange stuff. Tony would send me drawings that would inspire new scenes I hadn't previously planned on. Making all the Spiderwick books was an extremely collaborative process.
Q: Given the dark nature of the subject matter, and the age group at which the books are aimed, why do you think The Spiderwick Chronicles and Beyond Spiderwick are so popular?
Tony: You have to remember that Spiderwick debuted in a time when Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events dominated book sales. I absolutely love those books, but I don’t know if I would have read them all had they been released when I was eight or nine years old.
This became apparent to me when I was on tour for The Spider & The Fly. To my delight, I was speaking to groups of fourth and fifth graders who liked my latest picture book; however, I was reminded of the chasm of reading levels present in that age range. Some kids were reading Magic Treehouse, others the latest Harry.
All of us involved in developing Spiderwick wondered if there was a way to create an older-aimed, 500-page story that somehow was less daunting to younger readers. I think it was our editor extraordinaire, Kevin Lewis, who suggested serializing the books. Keep in mind, a serial is different than a series in that there is no recap at the beginning of the book – it simply picks up where the previous story ended, like a comic book. So you could be seven years old and tackle these one by one, or 10 and read them all in one sitting. Plus parents seemed to enjoy reading them with their children, and that’s always a big seal of approval in my book.
Holly: I hesitate to guess why anything is popular, but I think that kids appreciate some darkness in their books. Grimm's fairy tales are dark. I think darkness can feel really honest. I remember being that age and I remember that I was frightened of a lot of things. Stories where kids were able to overcome monsters were definitely important for me.
Q: The children in both sets of books face real-life issues as well as the fairy tale sort – divorce, an inattentive father, problems in school, death of a parent, stepfamily issues. Why was that an important element for you to include in the stories?
Tony: I think none of the fantasy elements would appear believable if there was not some sort of “real life” thread that our readers could hold onto. Also, that sort of friction sets the stage for a (hopefully) more dramatic tale. I don’t think it would matter how many neat faeries and curious creatures we stocked the stories with if the reader didn’t care, or feel, for what the heroes were going through. Sadly, the issues you listed are quite common with American children these days.
Holly: I think the more real the characters are and the more real their problems are, the more readers will believe in them and their adventures. But I also believe that as storytellers, we have to tell the truth as we see it. Facing problems in school, death, divorce, and family issues are things kids have to do on a daily basis and those kids deserve representation in their literature.
Q: Florida seems like an unlikely place to find faeries. How and why did you choose Florida as the setting for the second set of books?
Tony: After the initial five books chronicling the Grace kids were completed, Holly and I wanted to show our readers that the fantastic world could be entered anywhere. Since the Beyond Spiderwick books are forged from the opposite approach of the first books, a humid, tropical landscape seemed like a nice change from a cool, autumnal New England.
This attitude towards the second story is applied in all sorts of ways throughout: Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide is simply purchased in a store versus discovering it in an old musty attic. Also, the Vargas family is a blended family with troubles arising from the family coming together as one – the Grace family was a family being torn apart by divorce.
So there was that, and the fact that I grew up in south Florida and knew we could capture the tone and feel of the area fairly accurately. Holly came down in the summer of 2006, and I took her to many landmarks that I knew very well. I wanted the settings to inspire her for Nick and his adventures.
Holly: We chose Florida, in part, precisely because it seemed like an unlikely place to find faeries. We wanted to make the point that there are fairies and faerie-like creatures in lots of different places and climates. We also both grew up by beaches and thought it would be interesting to get to work more with some aquatic creatures.
Q: I didn’t intend to ask any questions about the Spiderwick movie – I think that’s a different topic altogether. But I have to ask what you thought of the casting of Nick Nolte as Mulgarath the ogre. I thought it was a great choice – they definitely look alike!
Tony: Hee hee! They do! Overall, Holly and I were both quite pleased with the film adaptation. There were changes to the storyline, of course, but that is to be expected when you are adapting five little books into a three-act, 90-minute piece. And they upheld the basic themes of the books (not to mention it looked amazing), so you can’t really ask for much more . . . except perhaps a sequel (crossing fingers).
I thought Nick was a fine choice for the role. He’s always had that deep, smoky growl to his vocalization, so the jump for him voicing an ogre wasn’t a big leap. I think the big surprise for me was Seth Rogen as Hogsqueal the hobgoblin. Sure, I thought he was hilarious in his starring films, but I couldn’t recall his voice being the thing I loved about him. However, when we saw the rough cut, I was completely turned around - he was a perfect voice for Hogsqueal.
Q: Tony, this one is for you: You’re working on a series for young children called Adventure of Meno. The subject matter includes farts, David Hasselhoff, and a child-like alien who talks like an Asian immigrant in a Saturday Night Live skit. Please to explain!
Tony: Ha! Yes, Adventure of Meno is certainly a departure from the picture books I’ve created in the past. But I think that has much to do with the collaboration with my wife, Angela, on the books. Meno was created while she was pregnant with our daughter, Sophia. We had been reading A LOT of the toddler books and had rediscovered our love for Little Golden Books.
So, along with the birth of Sophia, the Meno books were born. They were part Hello Kitty, part Gerald McBoing-Boing and a whole bunch of silliness. I firmly believe that a book can be simply about having fun together as a parent and child while sharing a story. To me, that step can lead down a path of a lifetime love of reading.
As for his Meno-Speak, we were trying to capture that 1950’s, robotic, “Greetings Earthlings, I come in peace” tone to the narrative. We’ll see if everyone else thinks they are as funny as we do.
Q: Do you have plans for additional books/serials/collaborations?
Tony: Because of the surprising success of the Spiderwick books, Holly and I had to put some of our own stories on the back burner. That said, we both have new BIG stories debuting next year. Mine is titled The Search for WondLa. It’s the first in a trilogy aimed for middle-readers (like Spiderwick) that centers around a girl who has been raised on an alien planet under the care of a robot. Throughout the adventure she searches for other humans and learns what constitutes a true family. It is due to release next fall.
Holly: I am working on two new series. One is a series of graphic novels, called Good Neighbors, that I'm working on with the artist Ted Naifeh. The first book, Kin, came out last year. This October, the second book, Kith, comes out. The final book, Kind, comes out next year. They deal with a girl named Rue who has to figure out where her mother disappeared to and whether or not she's human.
I am also working on a new series for teens called The Curse Workers. The first book, The White Cat, comes out in May and is totally different from anything I have ever done before. It posits a world like ours, but where there’s always been magic. One in a thousand people are born with the ability to do curse work. In 1929, in the US, curse magic was made illegal, but it flourishes on the black market. Charms to prevent being worked are so common they’re sold at the check out counter in drug stores.
The series follows a boy named Cassel, who is not himself a worker, but who is born to a family of grifters and curse workers. He’s in school, trying to stick to the straight and narrow when something happens that causes him to investigate his past and his own family.
Thanks, Tony and Holly, for giving us a small peek inside your collaborative process and your very creative minds. Be sure to check out these authors at their appearances in Cincinnati next week, and if you haven't yet read the Spiderwick books, I highly recommend picking them up next week and getting them autographed while you're at it!
Monday, September 21, 2009
But no. We had a monsoon here on Sunday.
Our buddy Amy in Ohio had spent a ton of time over the past few weeks putting together Blogger Day at the Ballpark, and we were so excited about hanging with our bloggy friends. The fine folks from Chevrolet had come all the way from Detroit to sponsor a pre-game bash featuring food and a couple of new Chevy models to check out. Everyone was bringing their kids and spouses -- what a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon, right?
When Ellie and I left our house, which is about 40 miles from the ballpark, it wasn't raining. About nine miles into our trip, the heavens opened. We arrived at the pre-game party to find a few die-hard bloggy types clustered, wet and shivering, around a table full of snacks and coffee. The back of the new Chevy Equinox had been pressed into duty as a dry spot for the kids to hang out. I would have taken pictures of our pathetic little group, but I didn't want to drown my camera.
We stayed for a few minutes, socializing and eating cookies and donuts, but pretty soon we had to admit defeat and give it up. We packed it in and headed to Grandma's house for lunch and a nap instead.
Later in the day it cleared up a bit and the game went on, with the hometown team pulling out a win for a change. But for us it was too late -- we were, by that time, a lot closer to home than the ballpark. So we basically spent Sunday morning driving 40 miles for a donut. Which tells you the depth of my devotion to donuts.
So, since this year's baseball season is winding down, and since our team will, um . . . NOT be going to the play-offs, I guess Ellie's first game will have to wait til next year.
Thanks, Amy, for all your hard work on this event, and thanks to our friends at Chevy for helping us out. Hope you guys had fun when the clouds eventually cleared!
Friday, September 18, 2009
Second, I have two words for you: Michael Bolton. Twins separated at birth? You tell me.
Or maybe you're interested in some of Nax's other fine qualities. Balding? Check. Bill Ray Cyrus ponytail? Check. Caterpillars for eyebrows? Check. Vacant Keanu Reeves-like expression? Check. And please note the underarm hair. You do not even want to know about the other parts of him that are similarly outfitted. Suffice it to say it is no more attractive in silicon than it would be in the flesh.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I won't get into all the stuff she told me, but suffice it to say there was definitely something more going on than just smoke and mirrors. She knew stuff about me and my life that she couldn't possibly have known if she were a total phony. I don't know exactly what she does or how she does it, but it was fascinating.
One of the things she does is analyze your past lives and talk about how they contributed to who and where you are today. Please do not email me about the pros and cons of believing in reincarnation -- I'm not sure I DO believe in it, and whether I do or don't is really none of your business. But you have to understand that part of what she does in order to appreciate this next little tidbit.
We spent some time discussing my daughter, my career, my religious beliefs or lack thereof, and my state of single-tude. Toward the end of the hour, I asked her about Dr. Wonderful and whether I had done the right thing by kicking him to the curb after all these years. We had not discussed him previously, and she knew nothing about him or our relationship and its many dysfunctions.
She thought about my question for a minute, and then she said, "You were his life preserver -- you spent a lot of time towing him through the ocean of life, and that was comfortable for him. He didn't want to give that up."
Yeah, you got that right, sister. Preach on.
"It's time for him to sink or swim on his own," she said. "You have your daughter to think of now."
So far this was all pretty standard stuff you would say to anyone who's just ended a relationship, so even though I was taking her words to heart, I wasn't overly impressed.
Then she said, "He's very indecisive. That's what ultimately came between you, isn't it?"
Um, yeah. You could say that.
Then she went on to describe some more of his characteristics, all of which she nailed so precisely it was as if she had known him all his life. It was incredibly comforting to have someone size him up so thoroughly and confirm for me that I did the right thing by removing him from my life.
The one glitch in this little analysis was that she kept referring to him as "her." This puzzled me, but I didn't get too hung up on it.
Finally she shook her head slightly and said, "I'm sorry -- I mean HIM. I keep saying HER. It's just that he's spent many of his previous lives in female body, and I'm having a hard time seeing him as male. This is, in fact, the first life in which he's been in male body. He has a lot of feminine characteristics."
Well, why didn't ya say so?! That explains A LOT about the last 15 years.
Dr. Wonderful also happens to be the world's worst driver. When I told my mom what the psychic said about him, she said, "I think this may also be the first life in which he's driven a car." Good point.
Anyway, if Dr. Wonderful has spent this life learning how to be a man, perhaps that explains why he hasn't been very good at it. I just wish I hadn't been reincarnated this time around as his guinea pig.
Monday, September 14, 2009
But when my sister signed my nieces up for dance and tumbling, I got to see firsthand what fun they were having, and how much they were enjoying their new leotards, tutus, and ballet shoes (it IS all about the clothes, after all). So I found a class in our area and off we went.
I had intended for Ellie to attend a class called Creative Movement (whatever the hell THAT means), which is designed for ages 2-4 and does not require the help of Mom. I had planned to sit on the bench in the viewing area, take pictures and enjoy the show. A bunch of toddlers in tutus, I figured, had to be pretty entertaining.
So we get there, aaaaaaand . . . no. Ellie refuses to attend Creative Movement. As soon as I usher her in the door and walk out, she bursts into tears and presses herself against the viewing area window, begging me to come back.
With the teacher's permission, I take off my shoes and join the class. I figure I'll play along for a few minutes and then sneak out the door once she gets comfortable.
No such luck.
As soon as I'm safely back the hallway, the screaming starts once more.
At this point, the teacher suggests we might be more comfortable in the Mommy & Me class, which is scheduled to start in just a few minutes. Okay, I say. I can do dance class. No problem. I'm not dressed for it today, but by next week, I'm all about dancin'. I'm on it.
So off we go to Mommy & Me class. Within the first two minutes, it is clear to me that this is essentially the same class we had just attempted -- the only difference is that this one encourages moms to participate instead of expecting the little darlings to follow directions all by themselves without making the teacher crazy. Cool, I think. This will be something fun we can do together every week. And at Ellie's age, having Mama along probaby makes more sense.
We skip. We gallop. We hop.
We play freeze-dance to some goofy Hannah Montana song. All the while I am trying not to notice the three mirrored walls around me, reflecting my every ungraceful move back to me. I try not to compare my ungainly bod to those of the other mommy-dancers. I also try to pretend there are not other adults (including my parents) out in the hallway watching me. Basically I am having a flashback to my uncoordinated childhood. But it's for my kid, I tell myself. I can do this.
So when class is over, I spend a few minutes talking to the teacher about how this class is probably a better fit for us, and I comment that I'm not sure why I didn't just sign us up for this one to begin with. "I really should have known she wasn't ready to do this without me," I say.
"Yes," the instructor says, "I think this one will work out better for you. And it's so hard to get little ones to participate in the recital -- it will really help her to have you on stage with her when the time comes."
Um, excuse me?
Turns out that the primary difference in Creative Movement and Mommy & Me? Is that Mommy gets to join her little sweet potato in the recital. In front of all the other parents. From the whole school. Who will all be seated in the audience. NOT dancing.
So. At the age of 39, I have taken my first dance lesson, and will be participating in my first recital next spring at the ripe old age of 40. The good news is that I have approximately 10 months to come up with a way to get out of it.
On the up side, Ellie did look A-FREAKING-DORABLE in her tutu. Can't wait to see what I look like in mine.
Friday, September 11, 2009
A lot of adoptive families call the anniversary of their adoption "Gotcha Day," which is an expression I loathe. It sounds like I reached out and snatched this kid off the street and made off with her, and am currently holding her in a headlock. I prefer to think of it as my anniversary with Ellie. So, like all people who celebrate anniversaries, we spent the day, just the two of us, doing something fun.
First, we rode the Duck Boats on the Ohio River:
Checked out the fish,
Sat in a giant clam shell,
And drove a bus.
I talked to someone recently who is, for lack of a better word, a psychic. She told me that children choose the families they are born or adopted into because of what they can learn there, as well as what they can teach. The Christian variation of this is, of course, that God chooses a family for every child. I'm not sure what I think of that -- do abused children choose on some sort of cosmic level to be born to their horrible parents? Does God put innocent children into hideous situations? I have a hard time believing that. But I understand the thought behind that idea -- that Ellie and I chose each other because there are some lessons that only the two of us can teach each other. I can't embrace the idea that we were "meant to be" together, because that would mean Ellie's birth mother had to lose a child so that I could have one, and who would want to worship a god who would do such a thing? But there's no doubt this kid is teaching me things that another child couldn't have.
Through her I'm learning patience (a much-needed lesson) as well as how to enjoy my life more fully and laugh more often. I'm learning to ignore the unimportant stuff and revel in the small moments that will never be repeated. I'm learning the joy and pride that come from watching this little person grow and change, and knowing that I have a part in that.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
But that's a story for another day.
What I AM pretty sure of is that God has a sense of humor. You want some evidence of this? Behold: the second coming of Jesus in the form of a crunchy cheese snack.
A couple in Dallas found this in their Cheeto bag back in May, according to various and sundry news sources on the interwebz. They think it's a reminder from God of how blessed they are. They're keeping it in a plastic box and considering an eBay auction. According to one article I read, a piece of toast with the likeness of the Virgin Mary recently sold on eBay for $28,000, so they might have a pretty good shot at some serious cash.
Blessed indeed.I think God may be trying to tell us something, because Jesus has made a habit over the past few months of showing up in the form of fried snack food. Check out this second praying Cheesus found by a youth pastor in Houston (left), and a Cheeto crucifix found by a Missouri woman back in July:
These two concern me for a number of reasons. First, the crucifix Cheesus on the right has a tiny pinhead, which somehow doesn't seem right for the deep-fried son of God. If God is sending us a sign in the form of crunchy orange cheese, you'd think he'd pay closer attention to the details.
Second, this rash of messianic snacks seems to be concentrated in Texas. I don't know what this means, but I'm sure it says something significant about Texans and their relationship to trans fats.
Third, the Cheeto on the left does not look like Jesus to me. It looks like Lt. Dan from Forrest Gump. I don't know the meaning of this either, but I'm sure God is trying to tell us something important.
The Dallas couple who found Cheesus in their bag of snacks said they aren't sure how much they should ask for him on eBay. One thing is certain, though -- if they don't get the amount they're hoping for, they plan to eat him.
So much for signs from God.
Monday, September 7, 2009
If a tree falls in the forest and I blog about it, and there's no one there to read it, am I still irrelevant?
As important as it was to me to see an actual movie, that is not what this post is about. This post is about blogging and whether or not I should be doing it. The movie we saw was Julie & Julia, a true story about a blogger who spends a year cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child's cookbook and blogging about her experience. So basically it was a movie about typing -- not something everyone would enjoy, I guess. But as a blogger, I thought it was great. Interspersed with the modern-day scenes of Julie cooking and typing were scenes of Julia Child's struggle to publish her landmark cookbook in the 1950s, and how the two women were going through similar things 50 years apart.
When Julie is deciding whether to start a blog and what she should blog about, she tells her husband, "I could be a blogger. I have thoughts." I laughed out loud at that -- every blogger knows that's really all it takes to start a blog. Thoughts. Whether anyone cares about them or not, whether you're a good writer or not, if you have thoughts, you have what it takes to start a blog.
But then later in the film, Julie's husband informs her that she is an incredible narcissist for thinking that anyone would want to know her every thought. I didn't laugh out loud at that, but I did sit up and take notice.
One of the other bloggers who saw the film with me mentioned that her original intent in starting her blog was to help people. And she does -- she teaches them how to use coupons effectively, and her thousands of readers adore her. I, on the other hand, started blogging for purely selfish reasons. I'm writing just because I love to write, and because it challenges me in a way nothing else does. I'm doing it for Ellie. But on the narcissistic side, I'm also doing it because I hope people will read it and be entertained.
But there are two problems with that. First, entertainment is not a particularly worthy cause. And second, I read a lot of stuff out here on the internetz, and I know I'm a mediocre writer at best. There are a lot of people out there with so much more talent than I have, and so much more to say.
In order to be really GOOD at blogging, I would need several things, but mainly these two: more talent, and more time to devote to writing. I can't really do anything about the talent, but could I put more time and effort into this little experiment? Well, let's think about that. There are 100 other things in my life that need more time and effort from me, and all of them should be ahead of blogging on my list of things to do. Based on the state of my house, I need to spend more time on housework. Based on my daughter's mildly bad behavior last night and my horrendously bad behavior in dealing with her, I need to put more effort into my parenting skills. Based on my boss's poor opinion of my abilities, I need to put more effort into my job.
With things like that hanging over my head, is blogging likely to get the time and effort it deserves? Probably not now or ever. So should I keep doing it when I know I'm doing a half-assed job, not only at blogging but at everything else in my life as well? Probably not.
I don't really know where I'm going with this train of thought. I just know that it IS narcissistic of me to assume anyone would want to read my every thought. It IS arrogant of me to think I can attract readers based on writing skill alone when I am an incredibly small fish in an infinite pond. It IS irresponsible of me to neglect other things in my life because of this hobby that feeds my ego in whatever small way. And, while housework is better done half-assed than not at all, parenting, blogging and my career are perhaps things I shouldn't have undertaken at all if I can't or won't put forth the time and effort to do them well.
Should I be doing this just because I have thoughts? Is that enough? I don't know. But I'll keep you posted.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Congratulations, Nicole -- you are the proud owner of four free tickets to see Disney on Ice at US Bank Arena on Sept. 23! Thanks for participating in this giveaway sponsored by Mom Central!
If you didn't win, never fear -- you can still get your tickets through ticketmaster.com. And because you're a loyal reader of Doritos for Dinner, you can get a DISCOUNT. Just enter the coupon code MOM for $4 off weekend tickets, or a four-pack of weekday tickets for only $44!
Really. We sang it in the car on the way home yesterday.
And if you're between the ages of 35ish and 45ish (not that I am or anything), I bet you can sing it right along with us.
Yes, that's right. My daughter has received her first dose of Schoolhouse Rock.
When I was a kid, I spent my Saturday mornings glued to the TV like most of my friends, watching Scooby Doo, Hong Kong Phooey and the Super Friends. (Yeah, you heard me, you young whippersnappers. When I was your age cartoons were only on SATURDAYS! And our TV was black and white! Hell, we didn't even HAVE TV! We had to draw pictures of stick people on a notepad and flip 'em really fast. THERE'S your damn cartoon right there!)
But I digress.
What I'm trying to say is that, as much as I loved my cartoons, the highlight of my morning was when those little animated commercials would come on between shows to teach me that a noun is a person, place or thing. That a conjunction's function is hookin' up words and phrases and clauses. That a bill is just a bill and it sits on Capitol Hill. That three is a magic number.
I'm unnaturally excited to be sharing this piece of my childhood with my daughter. Ellie, I think, is somewhat less thrilled. Yesterday I found a CD of Schoolhouse Rock songs at my local library, and I sang at bloody-ear volume all the way home. (We the people . . . in order to form a more perfect union . . .) Ellie mostly looked at me like I'd lost my mind.
I hope she comes to appreciate the songs, if not my singing. I hope that someday she finds herself singing the multiplication table to herself during a math test. I hope that any reference to the American Revolution makes her break out in a chorus of "OOOOH! There's gonna be fireworks . . . " I hope Lolly's adverbs help her get through sixth-grade grammar.
I don't know why I'm so attached to these little songs and their animated films. I guess it's because they belong uniquely to me and my generation. Disney, as much as I love it, has been around forever. So has Sesame Street. Veggie Tales, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, even the Smurfs were after my time. Dora, Diego, the Wiggles, Blue's Clues -- all those things belong to Ellie, my nieces and their friends. Schoolhouse Rock is mine. It belongs to me and my generation in a way that nothing else does. For me, it's the ultimate pop culture reference, and it never fails to make me laugh when I hear an adult humming "Conjunction Junction." I know ABC was still producing new Schoolhouse Rock songs as late as 1996 (they were even producing new songs for DVD earlier this year). But those don't count. For kids of the 1970s, the REAL Schoolhouse Rock songs -- the old ones -- evoke childhood like nothing else.
So, because they mattered so much to me, I hope they matter to Ellie in some way, too. And I hope that, like me, she gets extra credit in her ninth-grade world history class because she's able to sing the preamble to the Constitution.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
For some reason known only to God, I chose a college that had a physical education requirement. Even after gym experiences in middle school and high school that could best be described as painful, I chose to attend a school that would put me through that same humiliation as an adult. I put off the PE requirement until my junior year, at which time I took . . . wait for it . . . Bowling and Billiards. Yes, my friends, pool counts as exercise in my book.
So I attend this class, which is taught by our basketball coach, because apparently the position of bowling coach at my alma mater is vacant. Coach Osborne truly does not care whether we master bowling or pool. His goal is to teach us the basic rules, have some fun, give us all A's and be done with it.
Imagine my surprise, then, when one day Coach Osborne walks up behind me at the bowling alley. He watches as I launch the inevitable gutter ball down the lane. He glances up at my score and notes that we are five weeks into the semester and my score has yet to break 100 (to this day, I have never bowled better than a 96).
He stands back, folds his arms, and says, "Davis, are you taking this class pass/fail?"
"Yessir, I am," I answer.
His response? "Good."
I tell you all that to impress upon you my aforementioned hatred of sweat, hard work and all things resembling physical exertion. When bowling is too hard for you, I'm pretty sure you win some sort of couch potato lifetime achievement award.
So, knowing me as you do, you can imagine how difficult it is for me to drag my sorry carcass out of bed this morning at 5 a.m. to meet my personal trainer, who has harrassed me into sweating three times per week, but has not yet made me enjoy it. And then he goes and confirms what I have suspected all along: he really is trying to kill me.
After weeks of working me beyond what any sane person would consider reasonable, this morning he casually mentions that he has another client who takes a beta blocker every day for high blood pressure. This, he says, is relevant because people who take beta blockers cannot work out as hard as other people. Their heart rates simply cannot be pushed as high, no matter how hard they work. It can even be dangerous to try.
I stop in mid-leg-lift. "I take a beta blocker every day, too," I say. "For migraine headaches."
He gets a very strange look on his face. "You do?" he says.
"Yes," I say. "I do. Seems to me maybe you should have asked me about that before we started this little escapade."
So now he claims he'll go easier on me, taking into account the limitations of my heart rate. Based on this morning's workout, I still think he's trying to kill me. His idea of easy is clearly not the same as mine.
Maybe I should tell him I almost failed Bowling and Billiards.