Monday, March 31, 2008

March 31, 2003

An email message I sent from Nanning, China, on April 2, 2003:

Hi everyone!

It's no accident it's taken me 2 1/2 days to get back to the computer. It's 10:30 p.m. here in Nanning. Kevin and Madeline have crashed, and I'm running on adrenaline down here in the business center of the hotel. Since our first meeting is at 10 tomorrow (a late one for me), I can stay up another hour or so.

We had an uneventful flight to Nanning on an aging 737 operated by China Xinhua Airways. We arrived about 6 p.m., and it was 90 degrees in the shade, with 200 percent humidity. (Since the Chinese don't care much for air conditioning -- they have it, but they don't crank it up like we Americans do -- Kevin and I have been hot, hot, hot! Especially lugging around a 20 pound "velcro baby." I've dropped at least 10 pounds in the past week, as has Kevin. Nanning reminds me a bit of the Florida panhandle, flat and semitropical. The city itself reminds me of Baton Rouge for some reason.

The first 48 hours have been a little rough. They handed Madeline over on Monday night at the Civil Affairs Office. I knew Madeline instantly on seeing her. Her nanny grinned at me and pointed to me and said something to the child. Then, the nanny pointed to Madeline's cheeks and to her own. Both of us have dimples, and the nanny knew that from the photos of us I had sent to the orphanage. It was so cute -- they had all the babies dressed alike in little red and black matching Chinese-style pajamas.

Madeline was just taking it all in when her nanny burst into tears. Well, that started Madeline crying, and the next thing you know, I had both a new baby and a young Chinese woman in my arms comforting both of them. We went back to the hotel and they shot the pictures for the adoption certificate -- two sweaty but happy parents and one screaming infant in our case. Madeline was inconsolable for the next three hours and finally cried herself out and went to sleep on our bed

The next morning, she was sullen and clingy, obviously in mourning. She was clingy and quiet all day, wouldn't let me out of her sight (and still won't), and she wouldn't eat very much. We went to the Civil Affairs office and completed the adoption, then went to the notary.

We also met with the orphanage staff. One of the nannies told me she had actually been the one to name her An An, which means, in Cantonese, "safe and sound." You see, Madeline was found at three days old on the steps of a Qinzhou police station approximately 10 minutes after she was abandoned there. Her birth mother made darned sure she'd be safe and sound. Pretty amazing, isn't it? God works in wondrous ways.

When we returned to the hotel in the afternoon, Madeline felt hot, so I took her temperature. 100.5. I called our guide, Alice, and asked about a pediatrician who practiced WESTERN medicine (thank you very much). I wasn't taking any chances.

Well, I know we signed up for an adventure by adopting in another country, but a trip to a third world hospital? Heaven forfend! But we did it. And it was a very nice hospital. Apparently, Nanning has a well-regarded medical school with a sterling hospital. It was attractive and clean, and we were in and out of the emergency room in an hour. The bill was a whopping 52 yuan, which is roughly $6.50. That covered a doctor visit, lab work and three prescriptions. Alice came along to translate.

Madeline had a viral infection, but is rapidly improving. She smiled for the first time at the hospital (the nice young doctor flirted with her) and has really come along since then. She's obviously feeling better and her temp is down. She's acting like a normal year-old child now, flirting, laughing and cooing and stealing food off my dinner plate. This morning at breakfast she stole my watermelon cubes and ate them with gusto. She practically stood on the table when she saw a banana we had gotten her from the buffet. The kid is a bottomless pit.

If Madeline's eating, Mommy is not. She is too busy feeding Madeline. This might be a good thing. I needed to lose more weight anyway...

Off to bed.

The email sums up the basic events of our first meeting with Madeline. There are a couple things that were inadvertently omitted, however. We left Beijing mid-afternoon of Monday the 31st. As some of us were waiting in the Radisson lobby for the bus to take us to the airport, an elderly woman in Mao pajamas came over to our group and started talking to us in rapid-fire Mandarin. She moved around our group, bowing again to each of us and saying the same thing over and over again. Of course, our guides were outside at that point. After the woman left, the front desk clerk explained what she'd been doing there. Apparently, she was related to someone who worked at the hotel, who tipped her off whenever a group of adoptive parents stayed there. And she'd come to the hotel to thank the parents for taking care of the little girls. A couple of times later on in the trip, we ran into other seniors who had a similar reaction to seeing us -- a gentleman in the park in Nanning and one in the Guangzhou airport, a married couple (who did speak some English) on Shamian Island near the U.S. Consulate. These people all remembered life before the one-child policy took effect and held in high regard its small victims.

The second thing I omitted is lighter. After they handed me Madeline, it suddenly hit me that I knew very little about taking care of babies. Sure, I'd read a couple of childcare books, but I had almost no practical experience with the little ones. I didn't even know how to make a bottle! The next morning, I arose before Madeline started to stir and crept out into the hallway with my bottles, liners and the bag of formula that the orphanage had supplied and figured out much formula to use in an 8-ounce bottle. I'm sure my ignorance and inexperience with babies definitely played into my decision to take Madeline to the hospital later that day for a 100-degree fever. That trip to the hospital, by the way, probably had a significant impact on my own health, but that's for another post.

I sent several emails from China to friends, family and colleagues relating the events as they happened, but looking back on those emails now, I realize they didn't capture my roller-coaster emotions. No doubt, this was because I was entirely focused on figuring out how to care for this squirming little person who'd joined my family. I realize now though that they seem a bit dry. To write about what all this felt like adds an entire dimension to the story. We left for the Civil Affairs Office within minutes of arriving at our hotel in Nanning. I remember clearly the oppressive heat and humidity, the nervous chatter on the bus, and other parents asking our Nanning guide Alice about a thousand questions as we wended our way through the streets. I remember walking into the Civil Affairs building, which was a converted hotel, and down a narrow hallway and into a paneled ceremonial room with a huge silk carpet and red lanterns and tassels hanging from the ceiling. I remember the high-pitched laughter of the group ringing in my ears, sweat pouring off my forehead and stomach acid creeping up my throat. I remember standing around the perimeter of the room and hearing babies crying in the hallway, while the provincial Civil Affairs officer droned on and on about the responsibilities of parenthood. I was thinking, "Let's just get this done!" It was labor of sorts. Interminable labor, no less. (But my video is much more tasteful than the ones people show of themselves giving birth.)

As they bring in the babies on the video, you will notice that the nanny in a burgundy blouse points directly at the camera and speaks to the nanny next to her, who was carrying Madeline. I didn't notice this at the moment, but when I saw the video for the first time, I had one of those forehead-smacking moments and realized that the nanny in burgundy was identifying me and Kevin to Madeline's nanny. Madeline's nanny then caught my eye to let me know that she was carrying my daughter, so we'd know which baby to film. Or to try to film. The man standing between us and Madeline was well over 6 feet tall. But you can hear me and Kevin talking about which baby was Madeline in the video clip.

I will always wonder about the nanny who handed us Madeline. I wonder if she (and the entire orphanage staff) knew more about Madeline's origins than we were told: that she was found at a police station. Looking back, I have good reason to doubt that story. Madeline's nanny seemed incredibly attached to her. While a few of the nannies were sniffling a bit when they handed us the babies, she was the only nanny who let loose and bawled. She cried so much that they had to take her out of the room. Before she left, however, she gave us a handful of snapshots taken over a few months. One of the photos was clearly taken in a private home.

Those photos are a gift, but sometimes they make me wonder all the more about who my little girl might be and what the orphanage didn't tell us. Madeline had no developmental delays and there's almost nothing about her that would suggest early institutionalization. I find it hard to believe she was simply, as one of our fellow travelers put it, the teacher's pet. I do know, however, that she was meant to be our daughter. I know that beyond any doubt and I find it humbling to have been given such a child to raise.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

March 28-30, 2003

We spent March 27th and 28th on airplanes. From BWI, we flew to O'Hare, where we met up at the gate with most of our travel group, which was comprised of 55 people, or 17 families. A few stragglers, e.g., people who had beaucoup frequent flyer miles on airlines other than United, a dad-to-be who was a CPA and swamped in seasonal tax work, etc. (To no avail, we had tried to use our own 120,000-plus United frequent flyer miles -- Kevin used to travel a lot for work -- to upgrade to business class. Grrrr!) Our plane to China was literally full, every seat of the big 777 taken. Fortunately, we had good weather and lenient flight attendants, and I spent much of the flight standing in the back galley talking with people whom I'd previously only "met" online and in a video teleconference a few days before the trip. We shared family pictures, including referral pictures of the children who were waiting in China for us, and life stories as the plane bored its way through the Friendly Skies. We also talked with other travelers, including a bunch of retired folks who were on a group tour. One little old lady kept expressing her amazement that we were able to adopt from "Red China."

We landed in Beijing a little after 3:00 p.m. China-time on March 28. Our guides Sherry and Johnson met us at the airport. Sherry was a young, sweet-faced kid -- I believe she was 24 at the time -- who spoke fluent, idiomatic American English. Johnson was a 40ish man with a kind smile and apparently quite an expert on internal travel in China. They had a tour bus waiting and whisked us away to the Beijing Radisson, where we were free until 8:00 a.m. the next day.

The Radisson looked like any downtown hotel in small-city America. It could have easily been in Chattanooga. A mid-size city hotel, it had the requisite sunny atrium lobby with cushy jewel-tone chairs and a brass-and-fern bar off to one side.

Kevin and I have always felt strongly about resisting the temptation to Americanize our foreign travel. So while a number of our fellow travelers planned to dine at KFC or Pizza Hut, both of which had restaurants near our hotel, we decided that we should eat what the locals do. We asked the front desk manager -- a young American kid -- if he'd recommend a good seafood restaurant (and not necessarily one that catered exclusively to foreigners). The manager first checked the reservations list for the hotel restaurant, which was a celebrated Cantonese-style eatery, and found that nothing was available. Then, with a wicked gleam in his eye, he told us that he had just the place for us. It was 3 or 4 blocks away, and he drew a little map for our use. "You'll feel like you've walked into a National Geographic special," he promised.

We found the place easily enough and, yes, our young friend was right. There were rows and rows of aquarium tanks filled all kinds of sea creatures. My sushi-loving husband went nuts. There were also a couple of big tables displaying various uncooked vegetable dishes. The place was full. We were the only Caucasians -- heck, we were probably the only non-Chinese -- in the place. One of the wait staff approached us, showed us to a table, and procured a couple of beers for us. He then explained, more in sign language than in the bit of English he knew, that we needed to make our selection from the tanks and the table and the chef would prepare our meal. We chose a spiny lobster, some dumplings that we thought we recognized, and a vegetable dish with snow peas. Apparently, the chef would decide how these raw materials would be prepared.

A few minutes later, the waiter returned with lobster sashimi. Kevin was ecstatic. I did not eat raw fish at that time. I was hungry, though, and I didn't want to insult the chef or the waiter, so I dug right in, thanking God with every bite that I'd endured a round of hepatitis shots a few weeks before. And it was good! I've eaten sushi occasionally with my husband ever since. Hunks of raw fish still aren't my favorite, but I'm not grossed out by them either. Later, the waiter brought us more lobster, this time deep-fried in a spicy batter, and of course, our dumplings, veggies and more beer. This truly delightful repast cost us $23, I think.

The next morning, after an English-style breakfast in the hotel dining room, we boarded our tour bus again for a day of sight-seeing. As we chugged down the broad avenues of Beijing, which was relatively quiet early that Saturday morning, we noticed two things: the unbelievable smog and the tiny trees that looked barely alive. China has a serious air pollution problem, folks. Pollution, in fact, has become an issue for the upcoming Olympics. Although I was feeling no ill effects from our gastronomical adventure the night before, my sticky eyes and runny nose testified to the atmospheric conditions.

As Sherry was regaling us with tales of growing up in China, our bus pulled up to Tiananmen Square, and one of the men in our group piped up and asked, "What can you tell us about June 4, 1989?"

A dead silence fell over the group, though in our heads a lot of us were probably screaming, "Oh, no!!!" I know I was. Next to me, I heard Kevin gasp. Sherry handled the question beautifully. "As you know, I am only 24 years old, so I was a small child in 1989," she began. Then she lowered her voice, and with the most serious expression on her face, said something like, "You would be very foolish to discuss these matters anywhere outside of this bus. Do not ask questions like this to the people you meet here. Do not talk about the Falun Gong. Do not take pictures of an military or police equipment you see or of people wearing uniforms. The Army wears green. The police wear blue. The secret police wear gray." While the Cold War imagery conjured up by the little old lady on our flight didn't exactly fit the China we were seeing that morning, it was abundantly clear we weren't in Kansas anymore -- or anywhere else where the First Amendment applied.

I'm sorry to admit that much of the rest of our time in Beijing is a blur, for Sherry and Johnson ran us ragged over the next two days. We started at Tiananmen Square, then visited the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Great Wall at Badaling, and several shopping outlets for silks, jade, pearls, and cloisonne. We had a festive dinner on Sunday night at a famous restaurant where Peking Duck was the house specialty. Down the street from the hotel, we discovered Carrefour, a huge French-owned Walmart-like place with an amazing and colossal western-style supermarket on the ground level -- think Wegmans -- and a department store above. On Monday morning, I spent close to an hour upstairs in Carrefour looking for fuses for Kevin's CPAP machine, which he uses for sleep apnea. His machine had blown a fuse, thanks to the uneven power supply in the hotel. (Unfortunately, we were never able to find the right kind of fuse. I endured a lot of snoring for the rest of the trip, and poor Kevin didn't get a good night's sleep until we got home.)

Besides the pollution and the scrawny trees, there were a few other things that struck us during the Beijing leg of the trip. First, we never saw a bird. Downtown Washington, where I work, is just full of birds. Later on, we learned that Mao thought they were pests -- rats with wings! -- and launched a campaign to get rid of them during the famine of 1958-61. Second, although Beijing itself was crowded and bustling, there was little traffic on the way to the Great Wall. Sure it was Sunday morning, but even in the middle of the Bible Belt, you'd seldom see a 12-lane freeway that was virtually empty on Sunday morning.

In a similar vein, we were struck by the extreme contrasts between new and old, rich and poor. Besides beautifully-maintained freeways (not that hard when there aren't many cars), there were buildings going up everywhere, construction sites ringed by bamboo scaffolding. The street where the Peking Duck restaurant was located was a sea of neon reminiscent of Times Square or Piccadilly Circus. Walk a couple of blocks off the main drag, however, and you'd see decaying buildings and other signs of extreme poverty.

Additionally, everywhere we went, we were accosted by people who wanted to sell us touristy trinkets. "Worth 50 U.S. dollar, ma'am, but I give it to you for five!" One of the first Mandarin expressions Sherry taught us was, "Bu yao!" or "I don't want it!" Self-defense, I guess. It did, however, come in handy.

And on Monday evening, so did the second expression she taught us: "Wa ai ni," which means, "I love you."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Five years ago today

Five years ago today, Kevin and I were getting ready to embark on an amazing journey, an adventure of a lifetime. Our ride to the airport, Kevin's parents Bud and Connie, would be arriving at 5:45 a.m. in the morning. The leftover Papa John's pizza from dinner was wrapped up in the fridge waiting to be eaten for breakfast. Our little dog-boy Alex, our only "child" to that point in time (we also had cats and a parrot, but it's just not the same) was already at Grammie and Gramps' house. The crib was assembled and made up with fresh new linens. Tiny dresses and overalls -- mostly size 9 months -- were hanging in the closet of Madeline's future room. Four or five changes of clothes, eight or ten baby outfits, a couple of dozen diapers, bottles, formula, snacks and lots of medicine were crammed into two large Costco suitcases, one of which had been procured the day before. We both had fresh haircuts. A video camera with several tapes, a still camera, a dozen rolls of film and $5,500 in cash -- crisp, new $100 bills per our agency's instructions -- and $2,000 in travelers' checks waited in Kevin's carry-on. My carry-on was packed, too. It was a spiffy new Land's End diaper bag. At ages 45 and 47, we were finally going to be parents!

And it's been an adventure in so many ways. Sure, I knew parenting would be an adventure. Adopting a child is like Forrest Gump's proverbial box of chocolates -- you never know what you're going to get. With Madeline, we have been extraordinarily blessed, or we lucked out, whatever your perspective. I have friends with adopted Chinese children whose kids suffer from attachment problems, behavioral issues, learning disabilities and the like.... actually like a lot of biological children that I know. Madeline has none of those issues, knock wood, at least of which we're aware. And, believe me, I've looked for them. She's going to be book-smart, she's already gifted athletically, she is emotionally intelligent out the wazoo, and if that weren't enough, she's pretty. And this is what other people have said about her. No, she's not perfect, and she can definitely act too big for her britches sometimes, but all and all, it's been good.

The trip itself was also an adventure. Sure, we knew we'd have a great vacation trip in China. We went looking forward to seeing all the things we've read about and seen in pictures. We went to gain an up close and personal appreciation of our future daughter's native country. We went determined not to be "ugly Americans," but instead to represent all that is good about our country, our culture and our faith. I think we did all of these things, but there was a lot that happened over there and after we returned that was, well, unexpected.

Come along, dear reader, while I re-live a very special journey that began on March 27, 2003.

Monday, March 24, 2008

When my child has a home of her own

A friend in one of my Yahoo groups wrote this and posted it today. It's too good not to share.

When My Children Have Homes of Their Own

I can't wait to visit them. First I'm going to drop my coat on the floor. In S's house, I'll make sure I track snow all the way into the dining room before kicking my shoes across the room. In Z's, I'll simply remember to bring six or seven pairs of shoes and leave them ALL in a heap by the front door, even summer sandals when I visit in December.

Next I will go into the refrigerator and take out the milk and forget to put it back. I'm going to eat half an apple and finish the orange juice and put the empty carton back in the refrigerator. I'll complain heartily that there's no good food.

I'm going to snack, a lot, on the awful food they do have, and I'm going to make sure that I leave the dishes under the couch. With my socks.

I will make a point of missing the wastepaper basket when I drop lip gloss blotted Kleenex towards it, and I will figure out exactly how to make the faucet not quite turn off.

If they do ask me to pick something up (I hope they won't because I'll be so elderly, but they might), I will promise to do it in a minute. I will promise this several times, while they still ask nicely and when they lose their temper (assuming they would do such a thing with their poor elderly mother) I will definitely manage to look hurt and act as though they had only to ask nicely once. Of course, I'll have the benefit of senility to give credence to my performance.

I plan to forget things when we leave the house, and not remember until two blocks from our destination, and then I will blame them for rushing me.

And at meals, I will definitely want to leave half of the food on my plate and put it in the garbage before asking ten minutes later what else there is to eat.

I know that as frustrated as I might make them, they wouldn't dream of yelling at me.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter to All!

The girls -- Madeline and her cousin Amber -- had their own private egg hunt at Grammie and Gramps' house today. Obviously, not the point of Easter, but fun to share anyway.

Here they are, showing off their Easter finery.

Ready... Get set ... Kevin had to hold them back.



So how many did you find? I dunno. How many did you find?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

More influence from The Great Beyond?

I love what my friend Lorrie at Clueless in Carolina has done with the Eliot Spitzer story. Reading her post was what we in one of my adoption e-groups call a "spitting coffee at the monitor" moment. Great job, Lorrie!

Now, with tongue firmly in check, let me share my slightly different take on the matter. As you already know, I think Daddy has thrown not one, but two Super Bowls from the Great Beyond, and he's probably sitting up there right now cackling with his buddies making plans to get the Big Orange into the Final Four. But he's not the only mischief-maker there.

Last week, I was talking with someone who lost her husband of many years last summer. I knew that said husband had been an attorney, though I never knew him personally and wasn't aware of his practice area. Out of the blue, she said, "If I believed in an afterlife, I'd swear someone was getting even." "Whaddya mean?" I asked. She went on to explain that her husband had represented some of the very organizations Spitzer persecu-, I mean, prosecuted (not the prostitution rings, the Wall Street targets). She explained that Spitzer had been (at least in my opinion) ethically-challenged in dealing with the defense. This, of course, is no secret -- it was fairly obvious from the press at the time that he was quite the crusading prosecutor. And now all this extracurricular activity came to light, only a few months after her beloved spouse had passed on. Why, it was almost enough to make a Believer out of her!

Am I surprised by it all? Of course not. While it's unlikely that my friend's late husband (or my Daddy) are exercising any undue influence, as the Bible says, we reap what we sow. I'm not defending "innocent" ladies of the evening or Wall Street swindlers here, but it seems that like a lot of crusading types, Spitzer had a dirty little secret.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tiny Dancer

I thought you all would enjoy this clip. Madeline is learning one of the solo parts for the "Little Swallow Dance," which is a traditional Chinese children's dance. Her teacher, Miss Gina, is playing the mama bird -- a role that will be played by one of the older children in the dance company in the actual performance. Madeline is sort of the lead baby bird. They are dancing in Gina's basement studio.

Gina has been teaching Madeline's class at Hua Sha since January. She is new to this area, but taught Chinese dance in Hawaii for several years and coached a team of small girls to first place in an international competition. Like all of the adult members of Hua Sha, Gina does a lot more than teach dance. She has a Ph.D. in one of the hard sciences, too. They are an amazing group of women!

Friday, March 14, 2008


It's been a busy week and I haven't had time to post this, but last Saturday was quite a night! It was the PTO auction at Madeline's school. As an old special events person back during my political days, I was on the auction committee, so I was definitely going. After tagging along with me at last year's overly-crowded event, Kevin decided he didn't want to go -- he's not a party animal and the theme was country and western, which he cannot abide -- and stayed home with Madeline. Since he wasn't going, I decided to volunteer all evening, even though I paid for a ticket.

Early on, I bid on and won a session of day camp for Madeline. The laser tooth whitening and some of the jewelry and furniture looked awfully appealing, but I have to pay for camp anyway. For those of you who think that's oh-so-upper-class and indulgent, let me translate "summer camp" into working-class English: day care for school-age kids. The camp certificates were in one of the first sections of the auction to close. Since I'd paid well under face value for it and was feeling generous, I decided to participate in the wine bottle raffle and buy a $100 ticket, i.e., one chance.

For my hundred bucks, I got a raffle ticket and a bottle of wine that the auction committee had obtained from some generous merchant. Now, the wines they give away are hardly Petrus. Instead, they're in the Wine Spectator 85 to 90 range, wine that might sell for $15 or $20 a bottle. But if you enter the raffle, you have a good chance of getting more than an overpriced bottle of wine. They only sell 100 tickets in all, and they have 10 prizes, i.e., you have a 1 in 10 chance of winning something. A few times during the live auction, they stop and draw names out of the fishbowl. The grand prize gets drawn last.

I was sitting with my friends (mainly other kindergarten parents) during the live auction and about halfway through, it was time for me to go to do my job: running credit cards at the check-out station. So I left and went out to the foyer. As the live auction was ending, someone yelled across the room, "Hey, Edie, I think you just won something inside." I was in the middle of typing a transaction with a customer at my shoulder, so I ignored the person who sung out. A couple of minutes later, the auction chairman and the development director, who'd been running cards with me, but had suddenly disappeared without my having noticed she was gone, came marching up and told me I'd won the grand prize.

The grand prize is a 52" Sony LCD widescreen TV! My very own jumbotron! The auction co-chair, her husband and I managed to wrestle it into the minivan sometime after midnight when I left.

Kevin practically had a heart attack when I called him and told him what I was bringing home. I'm sure when the phone rang at 10:45, he thought I was calling to tell him there was some sort of emergency (I'd been in a wreck, couldn't get the van started, etc.), especially when my first words were, "Honey, are you sitting down?" When I told him, he was literally speechless on the other end of the line. He's really been wanting one, but it just hasn't been in the budget. Unbeknownst to him, I had been putting aside money to get a much smaller one (maybe 40") this summer as an anniversary present to him.

The TV is still sitting in its crate. Any day, however, FEDEX will deliver the lovely French Country stand I purchased this week from Home, and we will be livin' in Hi Def!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Now we are six!

It's hard to believe, but mah babee is six. The skinny little munchkin that we brought home almost five years ago weighs 40 pounds and is now reading (sorta), in training to be a prima ballerina (Chinese-style) and getting ready for her investiture into Girl Scouts.

Of course, we are celebrating Madeline Birth Month instead of her birthday alone. Her actual birthday was February 22nd. She was home from school that day (ice storm), and fortunately, I had the forethought to pick up an ice cream cake the day before at our neighborhood Baskin-Robbins. I love to bake, but my munchkin doesn't like cake and has been telling us for weeks that she wanted "one of those cakes made out of ice cream." As she's having an expensive birthday party next weekend, Kevin and I gave her a few small trinkets from the toy department at Target -- it takes so little to make her happy -- and some spring clothes. On Sunday, her Grammie and Gramps gave her more birthday gifts.

On Saturday morning, she was entertaining herself by journaling. Since last summer, Madeline has done this. She started pulling magazines off the coffee table or cans and boxes from the pantry or the newspaper, then she'd sit at the kitchen table and copy the words off these items onto clean paper filched from my printer. I'd find pages of 8 1/2 x 11 paper with dozens of words written in pencil or mini-marker: "Scientific American," "National Geographic," "Washington Post," "Quaker Chewy Granola Bars," "90 Calories," "Del Monte Lite Pear Halves," you get the idea. Last fall, she progressed from publications and merchandise to stories about her world. They're doing this kind of writing in school, and they encourage the kids just to get it all out on paper and not worry about spelling at this time, just to spell things like they sound.

So she presented me one of her stories on Saturday:

I asked her to translate the next to the last sentence: "Mom I want to you bow down to Mego [she calls herself "Meko" after the little forest animal that befriends Pocohontas in the Disney cartoon] because Mego is the Queen of the Rabbits. But Rabbie [her white rabbit "lovey"] is my baby." Okay.... I made a big production of bowing and scraping, and she loved it.

So late Sunday afternoon, I arrive home from the grocery story to see my sister-in-law Alice's SUV parked out front. Nothing unusual there. Occasionally, she drops by our place on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Inside, Kevin was assembling ... a THRONE. Yes, Alice brought the Queen of the Rabbits her own throne. She said she and Rebecca (Madeline's cousin) saw the throne somewhere and just had to get it. It was the perfect present, they thought.

And no, they had not heard that Madeline had crowned herself Queen of the Rabbits the day before.

Very Funny!

Bored, tubby, mild .... This is a cute video and all too true for us Boomers.