Monday, July 22, 2002

July 22-26, 2002

JULY 22, 2002

My daughter is becoming a bowling fanatic. She’s been playing fitfully for a few years, in a youth league here, a father-daughter one there, but this summer it’s about all she wants to do with her lazy summer days. Her skills are improving slowly but steadily, and although her dad can always find some glitch in her technique to nag about, I’m pretty impressed by her ability. Then again, I personally have such trouble staying out of the gutter that I’m impressed by anybody who can hit pins on a regular basis.

I’ve always felt that this child could get some important validation from sports, but actually implementing that has been problematic. Specific skills she can pick up fine -- hitting a baseball, putting a basketball in a basket -- but integrating them into a strategy of play that incorporates teamwork and the anticipating of your opponents’ moves? Those are things that have been and may always be beyond her. Severe language delays not only impact every conceivable area of schoolwork, they can also make team sports entirely incomprehensible.

Since she refuses, on the basis of these insecurities, to go out for community softball or basketball teams, I’ve been trying to aim her toward more individual sports. There don’t seem to be a lot of track-and-field opportunities for elementary schoolers, but I did manage to get her set up for tennis lessons, which she enjoys, and swimming lessons, which she doesn’t. And then there’s bowling, which she has self-selected as her current activity of choice. She went to the alleys four times last week for a total of 13 games, in four of which she went over 100. Today, I’m taking her on my lunch break.

If she keeps up this way, she should be getting pretty good by the end of the summer. And that’s great with me -- I’m just happy for her to be excited about something. If it’s something that’s played in air-conditioned rooms, so much the better.

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JULY 23, 2002

I'll admit I haven't been checking over the fiction shelves a lot lately, but in a little perusal of's offerings this weekend I'm finding that international adoption seems to be the mystery/thriller plot-line du jour. And why not? Our visit to Russia seven-and-a-half years ago was filled with mystery and suspense -- what were they talking about? where was our translator? why is this taking so long? when will we ever get out of here? who knew that all bad American TV shows came to Russia to be dubbed? how long until "Santa Barbara" comes on again? -- but while it was thrilling and scary for us personally, I have it on good authority from people who have heard our tale time and again that, really, it's not so thrilling for the populace at large. So I suppose these authors should be forgiven for pumping up the volume on the experience, but I'm not sure I can. Read these amazon descriptions, and see if you're able to. [Comments in brackets are mine.]

China Run: A Novel by David W. Ball
"When the Chinese government, citing 'clerical error,' demands that six American families waiting for the adoption papers they need to take their promised babies back to America surrender their precious charges, Allison Turk refuses. With her young stepson, three other adults and three infants, she defies the powerful forces arrayed against them--including her own husband--to flee halfway across China and make a run for the American consulate in Shanghai. This courageous but foolhardy attempt seems doomed to fail; escape seems impossible, especially in a country whose language, law, and customs they can't begin to comprehend. One by one, all the fugitives except Allison and her little family are picked off, captured, or killed, including their unlikely allies--a tour guide, a fisherman, a gangster, a country doctor--all of whom are as vividly rendered as China itself. Driving this riveting, compelling adventure story to its heart-stopping conclusion, Ball turns in one of the most exciting thrillers of the season!" [This is allegedly based on a true story, but I hope in real life it was less intriguing. Do Americans have a right to break laws and risk death to defend their "precious charges" if those precious charges aren't legally theirs? If this story really happened as told, it's hard to believe China would still be allowing adoptions.]

White Male Infant by Barbara d'Amato
"What began as an uncomplicated adoption of a Russian infant by wealthy American parents, New York surgeon Dooley McSweeney and his lawyer wife, Claudia, turns out to be anything but simple. After a bone marrow biopsy on four-year-old Teddy and some additional medical tests, Dooley realizes that his beautiful red-haired, green-eyed son is not the Russian baby they thought they'd legally adopted three years earlier, but an unknown child, kidnapped from God-knows-where. A man of great integrity, Dooley decides the real parents must be found. He refrains from telling Claudia of his fears, as he's sure she would run away with Teddy, leaving him sans child and wife. Meanwhile, an American journalist, Gabrielle Coulter, and her videographer, Justin Craig, are in Moscow working on a documentary on orphans around the world. The two plots coalesce when Justin is brutally murdered at the Hotel Metropol and 'Go Home!' is spray-painted on a nearby wall. Hooligans wreck all their video equipment, except three tapes that Gabrielle has secreted in her handbag. Keep Kleenex ready as you near novel's end, for Dooley and Gabrielle's search for Teddy's true identity inevitably leads to heartbreak." [I've heard of parents doing bone scans to see if their child is really the age they were told, but gleaning a false identity from a bone marrow biopsy? Parents, just say no.]

Crimson Angels by Susan Turner
"Crimson Angels is a touching story of a small town couple going through the adoption process. However, somewhere along the line something went terribly wrong. Crimson Angels is a must-read for anyone interested in international adoption. The story will take the reader along the process. However, the ending may surprise you. Sometimes, things don't always happen the way they should." [A must-read for anyone interested in international adoption? Would you say a book about a pregnancy that went terribly wrong was a must-read for those who wish to give birth? Doesn't matter, though; anybody who's getting their pre-adoptive information from thrillers should probably think twice about adopting anyway.]

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JULY 24, 2002

For a brief moment last night, it appeared that my daughter might be a mermaid. Fortunately, she was only a slob.

She had just finished watching the adoption-related tale "The Thirteenth Year" on the Disney channel for about the 47th time. The movie relates the story of an adopted boy who discovers that his birthmother was a mermaid when he hits puberty and starts sprouting scales. When it was over, my daughter went to change into her pajamas, and then screamed for me to come into her room. I did, and she pointed in horror at a green patch on her leg. "What's that?" she asked me, terrified. I examined the spot and had to conclude that it was not mermaid scales, but in fact a drop of mint chocolate chip ice cream, which she had been eating in front of the TV.

She was immensely relieved, since she had assumed that since she was adopted like the boy in the movie, she might turn into a fish like he did. I assured her that her birthmother was a normal land-dwelling woman, and that the story on the TV was just pretend anyway. I was delighted that she understood enough of the plot of the movie to apply it to herself, apprehensive that she had taken the fantasy aspects at such face value. And a little wistful, too ... because if she was really a mer-girl, that would make her swimming lessons so much easier.

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JULY 25, 2002

Boy, nothing makes you feel older than going to a museum and seeing your childhood playthings preserved under plexiglass.

That's what happened to me yesterday at the Liberty Science Center, a big discovery-minded place within view of the Statue of Liberty that had among its exhibits one on toys from the past fifty years. "Great Toys from Our Childhood," it was called, and were they indeed. Not only did I recognize the toys and remember playing with them, but the packaging and style were the ones I remembered. Yes, I could tell the awe-struck kiddies in my presence, I could recall back in the olden days when you played Mr. Potato Head with an actual potato! Actually, the kiddies weren't awe-struck at all; they were too busy playing with flat magnetic Mr. Potato Head pieces to be very interested in my nostalgic ramblings. But still.

I will say that my childhood playthings have stood the test of time. Most of the items on display were still on the market, though many have lost their gee-whiz charm. My son certainly plays with Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars not significantly different than the ones on display; products as diverse as Twister and crayons and Nerf balls are still as close as your local Toys R Us. You can still even buy an Easy Bake Oven (at least at the science center gift shop), although I would have thought that the microwave precluded the need for that toy.

Other pasttimes seem to have passed away. I haven't seen Magic Rocks or Mexican Jumping Beans turning up at birthday parties lately. And I don't know if they still make the Magic 8 Ball, but I did have to show several confused children of the '00s what you do with it. But these modern kids, they catch on quick: After I explained to one little girl that you ask a question, turn the ball over and read the answer, she said "Is my sister a brat?," turned the ball over and, with barely a look at the murky window, declared the answer "Yes!"

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JULY 26, 2002

Our summer vacation is almost half over (the kiddos go back to school Sept. 4), and so far I'd have to say it's going well. My son made it through two weeks of church CCD camp wtih flying colors, and now seems to be doing just fine at the neighborhood mainstream day camp we picked this year as an alternative to the super-duper special needs camp he'd gone to previously. The camp director mentioned to me that he was doing so well, next year we may not even have to pay for an aide to shadow him. Personally, I'd rather the aide was there and not needed than the opposite, but it was a nice vote of confidence. My daughter is attending "Camp Grandma," staying home and keeping her grandmother company during the day. Still, we've managed to find things for her to do; her dad and I have been taking her bowling on lunch hours and days off, and she has a higher average and a sore arm to show for it. Afternoon tutoring and lessons are going well, although she still hates swimming; my son is being amazingly cooperative at his in-home piano lessons, although not so much during the week when we want him to practice. And those worksheet-a-day books I bought to bridge the summer? Unlike past years, both kids are actually, remarkably, doing a worksheet a day. Bully for us.

On the downside, of course, those books I bought to teach my son cursive over the summer are looking pretty dusty. My hopes that the kids would learn keyboarding have been dashed by the fact that, after an early summer flurry of interest, neither one of them wants to go near the computers right now. I'd hoped to keep my daughter busy with playdates with her schoolfriends, but they're all busy (of course, last summer, when my daughter was in camp, they were all free). And while I'd hoped to have my mind pretty much settled about the upcoming school arrangements for both kids by this time of the summer, I still can't get the special ed director on the phone. But hey -- there's still one more month. The summer's only half over. Miracles can still happen!

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