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Sunday, March 22, 2009
Episode 9 of "A Man and His Pond"

The water is 60 degrees now.  So the koi can be fed.

Notice the reflection at the water's edge.  I am going to have fun with my waterproof Olympus this summer!

Posted at 05:36 pm by beckyww
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Thursday, March 19, 2009
Go Ahead. Try This at Home.

Julia is practicing to participate in the American Heart Association's "Jump Rope for Heart."

Those whooshes you hear?  Watch carefully.  Those are "double unders."  She's twirling the rope under her twice for each jump.

Go ahead.  Try this at home.  Hurmph

Posted at 05:09 pm by beckyww
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Friday, March 13, 2009
Now I Can Break Out the Whips and Chains

Nobody adopts accidentally.  You might get pregnant accidentally, but you're sure not adopting accidentally.  Sometimes - facing the mountain of paperwork, interviews, medical exams, background checks, etc., you wonder if you're ever going to adopt at all, or if someone 100 years from now is just going to stumble across your withered corpse hunched over a stack of paperwork clutching a blue-inked pen with your eyes forever frozen scanning the horizon for a notary.

A tiny fraction of that paperwork is a lengthy written personal evaluation done in preparation for a social worker visit.  Keith is not keen on questions more personal than, "What's your name?"   So imagine his delight when - in October, 2004 (Julia came home in May, 2006) - he and I each had to answer literally 18 pages of questions like, "Describe why you are not satisfied with yourself" and "What are your three main fears or concerns?" - all before our first social worker visit.

I had never before had any meaningful contact with a social worker.  I'd met a few social work majors in college - generally people whom (to me) seemed to be trying to compensate for majorly messed up home lives of their own by trying to fix everyone else's.  But here I was in October, 2004, chasing dust bunnies and mentally preapring for whatever else I might be asked by whom I pictured to be an 80-year-old drone in bi-focals and corrective shoes, eager to peer under my couch cushions.

Instead - our agency (Buckner) sent us Jennifer, a super-friendly, well-organized social worker from Ft. Worth, who specializes in adoptions.  One of the first phrases out of her mouth, "I don't care about your dust bunnies.  And I don't even look under my own couch cushions."   I knew I liked her right then.

Jennifer did the required pre-placement family visits before Julia arrived home in May, 2006, as well as the required post-placement visits (monthly for six months, then on the year marks.)  We actually looked forward to them.

Today was huge for us.  Today was our last required post-placement visit.  We're coming up on the three-year mark of Julia's adoption, and that's the last post-placement visit required by the Russian government.  Jennifer flew in to ask a few more questions, check out the house, talk to all of us (individually and together) and share a pizza.


Everyone in the home has to be interviewed alone.  Rachel told me later, "Mom, I told her how you beat me every night." 


When we started in 2004, Jennifer was taller than Lois and Hannah.  Not so much now.

So as soon as Buckner files this last report, stick a fork in us, we're officially "done" with what we owe the Russian government.

Of course, we'll never be "done" with what we owe Buckner.  And everyone who helped us bring Julia home, like Jennifer - with whom I want to be friends for a long, long time.

But in the meantime - it feels good to be "done."  


Posted at 07:33 pm by beckyww
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Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Wiggle Me This

Spring Break weather has been warm and breezy - until today.  The day we picked to go to Fiesta Texas.  And we froze our ta-ta's off. 


The new Wiggles section of the park is sooo cute!  There was virtually no one there today, so the girls rode the Wiggles stuff multiple times, and we all did Scooby Do and the bumper cars several times.  In between the shivers and dodging sprinkles (which haven't hit our yard yet.)

Note to parents: Let your kids go first.  They dry the seat for you.  Wink

Posted at 02:29 pm by beckyww
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Monday, March 09, 2009
Hola! It's Spring Break!

The purses.....the Talavera.....the dresses.....they were calling to us.   "C'mere, girls....c'mon.....come back to see us....special price, just for you....best price for you, lady....come in, come in..."  

So we answered the call this Spring Break weekend and headed to Progresso, just across the border in the all-important Rio Grande Valley area of South Texas that supplies most of our fruits and vegetables.  And knock-off Prada bags.  Keith found us a strict maximum-of-five-guests motel room for $89/night (including breakfast) so by packing light, stopping at Wal-mart to replace the pajamas he forgot, eating breakfast in shifts, sneaking in an air mattress and quickly shoving Julia in the closet or behind a sister whenever staff was around - we managed two nights in one room pretty darned economically.


I really push the girls to take securely-closing backpack purses.  Leaves your hands free to signal, "That's too much!"  The bridge between the U.S. and Mexico seems a lot shorter earlier in the day, when you're not toting 10 lbs. of Talavera and the morning breeze is still blowing.


Some of my happiest memories are of wandering Laredo with Judy and Sarah, and later with Keith and the girls - but no more.  Drug lords have destroyed Laredo for decent people, including tourists, as they have with so many other border towns.  While the girls were distressed at the soldiers manning armored vehicles and automatic weapons at the entrance to Progresso - I found them - and the signs scattered about that explained their presence - vaguely comforting.  Maybe the Mexican government is serious about keeping criminals from taking over Progresso.  They were certainly searching enough cars for drugs - and that's on their side of the border, apart from the checks on the U.S. side.


Rachel, Lois, Hannah and I all bought new purses.  Prada, Chanel, Dooney & Burke and D&G were the most prevelant. - some Kate Spade - even a few Juicy, though they were way too high ($75)  because of scarcity.  Good quality, though, I'll say that.  Our purses' average cost was about $20, with matching wallets going in the $5 - $10 range. 


The heroes of any shopping trip in Mexico:  Plastic-webbed shopping bags.  They sell for about $1 - $2@.  We've had ours at least 15 years, maybe longer - I'm not sure they can be destroyed.   You can tell the experienced shoppers on the bridge walking over because they bring their own. 


Hannah and Rachel, who lamented, "My lips wouldn't fit."  Personally - not knowing whose lips had been masked before - I wouldn't have even tried it on.


Question:  "For my room?"  Answer:  "No."


Keith will - from time to time - catch a scene like this and mutter, "Stinks around here," meaning, "She's so spoiled."  I generally respond, "What's your point?"


Lunch time!  And tank you, too!


A cold bottle of Coca-Cola Light - the best!  Fun to have a bottle instead of a can.  Filtered ice cubes, of course - we always ask.  Unfiltered could mean a very, very long night in el bano.


Cabrito, we think.  Which we didn't order.


Julia was fascinated by this artist hand-painting scenes on the bowls of bent spoons and even asked to have this picture taken with him.  I'm going to count the silverware when we unload the dishwasher tonight.


Car Wars.  When you're trying to turn attention away from the fight you just started, break into "Jesus Loves Me" at top vocal capacity.


Lois can read in a moving vehicle, an activity guaranteed to have the rest of us reaching for the plastic bags.  She's re-read the "Zombies Survival Guide" in preparation for the 2010 release of "World War Z," which she and I intend to see opening night.  We both belong to Lost Zombies and maybe this summer, we'll finally make our own video to post.  We meant to last summer, but what with battling the Solanum virus and all....


Home again!  And Talavera critters waiting to join the herd on the back fence.  The alligator was almost as challenging to tote across the bridge and pack for the ride home as was the snake five years ago.  We bought two cheap ($3@) blankets, strictly for packing.


Hasta la vista, Progresso - see you next year?!


Posted at 12:55 pm by beckyww
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Thursday, March 05, 2009
Fly Away Home

We've just returned from the second grade school play, which was preceded by a mercifully brief PTA meeting (I had to gouge Keith when - as the meeting began - he softly groaned, "Make it stop.  Make it stop.")

Julia was "Speaking Bug #12," a little lady bug.  Seldom have I seen a insect portrayed to such depth.


Fashion by Rachel:  Antennas a la headband, glitter sticks and pom-pons.  Red shirt with glitter-trimmed black circles.  Black tights.  Black flip-flops with red cloth fuzzed tie-ons


Army ants, bumble bees, love bugs, flies, moths, butterflies, even a louse, stink bug and maggot.  But absolutely none cuter than our little lady bug.

For those who don't speak Lips2Microphone:  "Before we go, I think it's time to get some free advice.  The lady bugs are so refined, they know how to act nice."

My hands are sore from clapping.  My left eye has a bit of a twitch from camera-squinting.  I'm behind on laundry, the dishwasher needs to be unloaded and the breakfast table needs to be set.

But nothing is bugging me tonight. 

That position in the family has been taken.

Posted at 06:38 pm by beckyww
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Sunday, March 01, 2009
Give Me Your Boys - er- Eyes

The middle school boys from our church camped out at our house this weekend for "Disciple Now." This year's theme was, "What if...." with curriculum developed around the lyrics to Brandon Heath's "Give Me Your Eyes."   Rachel was in Galveston for a school function; Hannah and Lois were at their own host homes.  Julia - of course - was in the big middle of all eight of our boys.


"Mom, they're in my room.  I could just sleep on the floor next to them...."   Ha!

She could have eaten pancakes and waffles with Mom, Dad and leader Ross in the dining room but oh, no...

I don't remember any Brandon Heath tunes on the Rock Band menu, boys.  Julia was crazy to play but I reminded her we had guests.  Sigh.

May I just say that I think the three silliest words in the English language are, "Not Dishwasher Safe?"

That's Lois and Hananh, second row from the top, on the left.  They prounced their themed shirts "fly."

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
Ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see

And give me some more hands to finish all this laundry and clean-up.


Posted at 05:55 pm by beckyww
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Monday, February 23, 2009
The Lost

My bedside book now is The Lost:  A Search for Six of Six Million, the account of a Jewish writer's search for the final fates of six relatives fallen victim to Nazi brutality.  The author can really tell a story.  I'm not Jewish, lost no family in WWII and yet I am captivated by this book.

I think his gnawing desire to know the details of what happened to his family strikes a widely-vibrating chord being hummed in social networking now.  Why are so many people like me enmeshed in user boards, blogs, bulletin board sites, Facebook, etc?


Just last week, I discovered both a long-lost first cousin and neighbor girl on Facebook.  I've had no contact with either for 40+ years - yet now, I've emailed each of them and they've responded.  I am particularly delighted to have heard back from my eight-years-older cousin Clyde, whom I remember as looking a lot like Judy, and having him say the childhood me was "just darling."  It's been decades since my name and "darling" were used in the same paragraph.

My good friend Chris (from elementary school) showed me a letter he compiles annually for his extended family, where each household contributes a page about itself, then he emails it out.  I was so impressed - and so interested reading it! - that I started a user board for my mom's extended family and plan to do the same thing for us later this year.
Thanks for the family letter idea, Chris.  And really - I'm all over your beating me for class president.  By one vote.  When I'd actually worked on my campaign speech and you just winged it.  Truly - all forgotten now, buddy.

But why?  Why try to re-establish relationships, keep up with cousins, find old friends on Facebook or Myspace or user boards or whatever?

For me - it's because I hate losing people.   I like most people, and love a lot of them.  Losing contact seems like such a pale imitation of how we're supposed to live, especially with the tools we have available now.  The second greatest commandment is "Love your neighbor as yourself."  How do you do that if you don't know anything about your neighbor, whether he lived across the street 20 years ago, or is slurping Diet Coke over the cubby wall right now?

I think the desire to find what's lost in our lives is hard-wired into us.  The lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost cousin, the lost friend, the lost days - we want them back.  I think that's why people go to class reunions, and church anniversaries.  I think that's why we sign yearbooks, and squint at photo albums.  And why many of us drag out dusty boxes of mementos when the blues overshadow any living color.

I imagine one day Julia will start her quest to find what's lost to her, too.  There's not much we can tell her - though every scrap of information we have and everything we've been able to surmise will be hers.  She'll be googling and posting and mining with other adoptees on her own search for The Lost. 

As the author I'm reading now illustrates so well - she'll eventually have to acknowledge what she's lost, however painful and time-consuming that might be.

Because then - and only then - will she be able to acknowledge what's she found.

By My Bed:
The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million
By Daniel Mendelsohn

Posted at 08:45 pm by beckyww
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Where is it?

Hustling out the door at work today to catch the bus - which we take to save money - I heard a few phrases droning from the lobby TV about auto makers needing "more bailout."  Their pensions aren't secure, curse the luck.  Of course, AT&T quit contributing to ours years ago. 

I checked my 401K balance records today. too.  It's back to where it was in August.  August of 1999.

Driving home from the bus stop in my six-year-old mini-van with an expired extended warranty, I heard a bit about the $75 billion bailout for mortgage lenders.   I confess I didn't listen to all of it, because I was mulling over a recent family discussion of the woman with six kids (no husband, no income) who used fertility treatments to give birth to octuplets - and now wants private donations in addition to her taxpayer welfare.   Something tells me her medical bills are higher than the cost of the two 90-day prescriptions I mailed off today - though that $500+ will come right out of my pocket, and I doubt she'll pay a dime.   The first few months of the year are always tighter, until we hit our deductible and co-pays kick in.

My government seems to think that I need to pay $30,000 for a golf course in Austin, and $5M for park trails here in San Antonio.   Huh?   That is the responsibility of the federal government - how?!  I guess the marriage penalty we pay in federal income tax helps with that, right?

This year:  Our family will take home less income and spend more on necessities than we have ever before.

So I have a question.  A sincere question.

Where's my bailout?  Who is running beside me with a microphone while I whine about no raise, higher medical deductibles and looming college costs?  Who's worried that Keith will never retire with health benefits, and insurance doesn't cover things like Julia's asthma spacers? 

Where's my bailout?

And where's yours?

Posted at 06:50 pm by beckyww
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Sunday, February 15, 2009
Beat It

We have a treasure hunt at home for Valentine's Day.  I'm not sure exactly how that tradition started, but it's set in stone now.  This year, Cupid had a PS3 World Tour set waiting at the end of the trail of clues.  Rachel was out of town, and Hannah's still half-sick from rounds of viruses assailing us.  (Our entire house needs to be boiled in Lysol.) 

Lois and her faithful sidekick promptly claimed World Tour as their own, with Lois invoking Sibling Seniority to be drummer.


Never far from the toy drum in the church nursery (1995)....


...and now addicted to PS3 Rock Band.  Ringo Starr and Alex Van Halen have nothing on her.


Though somehow, this papier mache mask she made for a school project this week reminds me more of Boy George.


Expert Guitar Hero accompanist.  Notice the look of total concentration.  The girl is serious about her Nirvana.

Keith and I chuckle because many of their favorite songs were our favorites decades ago.  When we sing along, they're horrified.

And the beat goes on....


Posted at 12:26 pm by beckyww
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