Saturday, October 23, 2010

Visiting the "Library"

This shout-out came from Sophie, who was in the bathroom:

"Do you have a newspaper that I can read while I'm in here on the potty?"

One of the laws of human nature is that women are quick and men need time. Yes, there are exceptions to every rule, but that's the general law. In fact, we've taken to calling that special room the library because one of us does leave his books in there "just in case."

It doesn't surprise me at all that Sophie is intent on breaking this law of nature and walking her own road. It started early on, where she was apparently training for more than just using the big potty. She was training for proper toilet reading.

It has progressed. Now that she's on the big potty, she's following the "man-style" feeling obligation to let everyone in the house know when she's going to go "poop and pee" as well as requesting reading material. This particular shout-out came while I was at my desk and even though I tried to keep the laughing quiet, it was impossible, which just fed the fire.

Unfortunately, or not so much so, there is no deeper meaning that I can draw from this situation. It is what it is.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Two Things She Can't Do

Mommy, when I grow up, I want to be a mommy just like you but I want five babies."

Are there any other words that can cause a mother to both feel very proud, very humbled and very scared all at the same time? I feel honored that from Sophie's point of view I'm a good enough example of what a mommy is that she would want to be one herself.

Another thought that races through my mind is one that embarrasses me and that I chase away as quick as I can. It runs along the lines of, "But don't you want to be something more than that; like a doctor or a scientist?" Isn't that horrible. Being a mother is my primary responsibility. I don't believe that it's a "lesser" occupation at all. In fact, I work harder now than I ever did out in the "work force" as a project manager.

Lately, however, another thought goes through my mind. It's comes as a result of a situation that happened to some friends of ours. Their son got in some trouble that involved the police and could go to court. This comes on the heels of their second son, a college student, who has several DUIs under his belt right now.

Why I bring that up is that there are two jobs that my daughter and I can't ever aspire to, even if we wanted to. The first is President of the United States. I was born in France and she in Armenia. Because of our international birth we're automatically rejected as potential presidents (thank goodness). The second thing that we'll never be able to do is be elders in our church because we're women. Our church has decided that in this one instance, the words "man" and "husband" used in 1 Timothy 3 should be taken literally and globally, thereby excluding women.

At this point, because our church is amazing in so many other areas, I'm able to deal with mismatch in theology beliefs and move forward. As long as no one tries to teach our daughter that this is absolute truth, we won't have an issue. However, where I do have problems now, is that the father of the two boys who have now both been in trouble with the law is an elder at our church. In the same passage in 1 Timothy, Paul teaches, "one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how can he take care of the church of God?)."

How do I explain to my daughter that our church has decided to pick and choose which rules for eldership are literal and which are ok to ignore? How do I explain to her that while our reason for not being allowed certain areas of leadership is centered around something we have no control over those that are controllable but not followed can be ignored? Or that even though we are equal image-bearers and may have been given the gift of leadership or teaching, because of this one uncontrollable item and men's Bible interpretation, we're being told our gifts and equal image-bearing don't matter?

Unfortunately, this isn't the only instance where these "rules" of eldership have smacked me in the face. The last church we belonged to had an elder whose son was caught flushing another child's head down the toilet. One of the elders was a single man (no wife, no children).

I grew up in a church where the lead elder was a woman. Since the elders were the pastor's accountability, in essence, the head shed of this 13,000 member church was female. She was and is incredible. She walked with God, had humility, wisdom, strength and compassion. I want my daughter to know women like that; Women who are allowed to use ALL their gifts in the church, whether it be the gift of serving to wash a toilet or the gift of leadership or teaching, which still enables them to wash a toilet when needed.

I want my daughter to be a mommy if she gets the opportunity. There's no greater joy or responsibility. I pray that she will be a part of a church where she is allowed to use the gifts that God is already building inside her. I also pray that she never wants to be president.

Monday, August 16, 2010

He Knows If You've Been Bad Or Good....

Sophie: Do you think Santa will bring me a new high chair for my babies for Christmas?
Mommy: What do you think he'll think about the fact that you broke the old one?
Sophie: I'll hide it. He won't know. And you won't tell.

For anyone who thinks that babies are innocent, I beg to differ. The first morning after we brought Sophie home from the orphanage she threw up on me. Even at that young age she was devious enough to know which parent couldn't handle spit-up and would start gagging immediately.

Every parent has seen it happen. Babies wait until that moment during a diaper change when the "protection" is off and the parent's back is turned while they're either disposing of the disgusting Pampers or pulling out a new one in order to pee a river all over the changing table (or worse, the bed).

As they grow older, it just gets worse. Who among us hasn't opened a closet and found a broken item that's been missing for months. For me, it was opening a drawer in the living room and finding a half-eaten Pop Tart. They start out devious and it just gets worse as children get older.

Sophie's solution to her high chair dilemma was fast and well thought-out. I watched her mind process the problem and come up with the solution within seconds. There was just the faintest pause between each short sentence as she thought of each problem and immediately came up with the corresponding answer to it. One part of me was impressed with her fast processing, but the other part was sad at how easily she came to the conclusion that deception and cover-up would be the best solution (I'd make a politician joke here but that would be too easy).

Even with this, there are moments of sunshine when Sophie's honesty brightens the room. We're working on a method of stopping the thumb sucking entirely. She only does it when watching television or in bed, but it's time for it to go away completely. So, there's a chart on the refrigerator and every day that she doesn't suck her thumb she gets to put a sticker on the chart. She can choose a trip for lunch at McDonalds, Wendy's, or Cici's. She can also choose a tattoo or an item at the dollar store. At the end of the day we ask her if she's sucked her thumb at all. Amazingly, if she has she tells us. I don't know if she'll realize some day that a lie will get her what she wants or not. Maybe she's already thought that through and decided that we'll just stop believing her if she says that she hasn't. Plus, she still believes that I have eyes in the back of my head so she might even be thinking that our asking is just a test.

We definitely realize that the art of lying and deception will be fed by peer pressure as Sophie grows older and will work against what we're trying to teach her. It's already happened. She had a playmate that's a good bit older than her at the house and they didn't realize how well sound travels from her room to my office. At one point I heard the friend say, "...and don't tell your mother."  I didn't know what the situation was but I immediately called both girls into my office and had Sophie stand next to me.

Very gently and with lots of love I explained to her how she can always tell me anything. I told her that if she has even done anything wrong I would be more saddened and upset that she tried to cover it up or hide it than by what she had actually done; and that when (not if) I found out, the discipline would be more than it would have been without the lie. Her friend was watching the two of us talk with an open mouth. Her parents may have a different way of handling discipline (I'm being politically correct; I KNOW they have a different way), but my mom dealt with us by talking through things before discipline was meted out simply to make sure that any was necessary and to what level it should be given.

As time goes on and I'm not there to hear the whispered words and watch Sophie see others lie and deceive, I hope that this is building a strong enough foundation that she'll be confident in her choices to do the right thing. Hopefully her strong will can influence others instead of her being influenced.

Fortunately the One that sees if we've been bad or good is also very forgiving. She knows who He is too, thank goodness and that's the strongest and most stable foundation we can ever hope for.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Everyone Puts Their Pants on One Leg at a Time

"Mommy, will Santa come in the bathroom to poop so he'll see my snowman night light?"

The whole idea of Santa is one that my husband and I had many "animated discussions" about when Sophie was a baby. I was raised in a family that treated Santa as any cartoon hero that you know doesn't really exist but look up to anyhow (for me it was the original black and white Superman show). Christmas was first and foremost about the birth of Christ (and then the presents). My husband was raised believing in Santa. Since we both ended up pretty much normal and well-balanced and my brother, who is a psychologist, told me to lighten up when we presented our case to him, I decided to go with the "let her believe Santa is real" option and just see what happened.

Last Christmas was the first year that Sophie truly understood the concept of Santa and she embraced it totally. Life began revolving around making sure Santa knew what she wanted, where he was working, if he was going to be able to get everything done, etc. I have to admit that playing the "Be good or Santa will see you," card was used a few times by me. Santa was

When we decorated the house, we put up a Santa night light in the bathroom so our young lady would be able to see where she was going if she needed to go potty at night. It wasn't until a couple of days later that the question about whether Santa was going to see our Christmas decoration in the bathroom was brought up.

After a good laugh and running to write down what she said before I forgot it, it hit me that even though Santa was bigger than life to Sophie, she realized that he still went to the bathroom. He does this HUGE job, but when the rubber meets the road, he's just a guy and he needs to poop too.

How different our perspective of those we hold in such high esteem would be if we first remembered that they have to poop just like us. Lately it's happened to some big heroes in various venues. The football world saw that Michael Vick poops; and in a different way the golf community saw that Tiger Woods does as well.  (Is it ironic that my daughter just walked by and let me know that she has to go poop?)

Unfortunately, there are those whose stars rise so high that even they seem to forget that they poop like the rest of us and when it happens, they do it in front of the world and the crash is one from which they never recover completely. Mel Gibson is one of those, as is Brittany Spears.  For me, the worst scenario is the ones who we hold so high even though we are well aware of their shortfalls (sorry, I'm getting tired of the poop analogy and I think you know what I mean by now). We are willing to turn a blind eye to the stink and only focus on the glitter and glam.

This was the case for me in 1982. The person in question was my favorite comedian and actor. He was very, very funny, especially with physical comedy. He was also a local boy who made it big; having gone to my high school. I actually met his older brother because his mother had worked at the same pharmacy as me and once the family moved to California, the brother came in to chat and tell us what the movie industry was like. My hero was John Belushi and he died in 1982 of an accidental overdose. I remember where I was when I heard and I cried my eyes out.

These popular icons seem unable to learn from their fellow artists, athletes, etc. Whether it's an accidental overdose, suicide or a different kind of fall (aka Rob Lowe and Hugh Grant), it continues to continue. Marilyn Monroe, Billie Holiday, Anna Nicole Smith, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson....this list doesn't end.

I want my daughter to have heroes. I'd like them to include people of quality and character, but I am not that naive. So, when she has pictures of whoever replaces Lady Gaga by the time Sophie's a teenager, I hope that in addition to admiring the artist's style and voice, she still remembers that when it's all said and done, her hero poops just like she does. Human is human after all.

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's All a matter of Perspective

Mom peeking in the rear view mirror: "Sophie, are you sleeping?"
Sophie: "No, I'm just resting my eyelids."

My parents live 800 miles north of us in a west suburb of the ever-expanding shadow of Chicago. On trips like that, or even on the 4-hour trip to my in-laws house we pray that Sophie will sleep....a LOT. It saves a lot of pain all around. When she's awake and stuck in the car for long periods of time she can get.....fussy. When she's fussy, we suffer.

In truth, even when she's awake and bubbling with joy and goodwill, her curious mind lets loose an endless stream of questions, comments and observations to which she requires an answer or comment to every one. After an hour or two, it can be a little tiring, especially if you're someone who relishes peace, quiet and silent reflection.

On the flip side, when we take shorter trips, like to our zoo which is an hour away, the last thing we want on the drive home is for Sophie to fall asleep and take her nap in the car. If she does that, we're robbed of a couple of hours of getting things done around the house once we get home. Those short car power naps are all that it takes to recharge her batteries and energize her for the rest of the day. So we are constantly making sure that she doesn't fall asleep by talking to her, tickling her, giving her food; whatever it takes.

The day she gave this response to our attempt to keep her awake was the day we realized that we'd hit another milestone; one that would require us to stay on our toes even more than before. We have a politician on our hands. She's three years old (at the time) and she knows how to spin.

I think that being able to spin  a situation or statement is an incredible art form. It amazes me that I can read a piece on Fox News' site, go over to MSNBC and see the same situation described in an entirely different way, with an opposite conclusion; both sounding very plausible.

Perspective is merely spin to your advantage. Unfortunately, it's not always honest. While I applaud our daughter's ability to use her creative mind to quickly come up such a witty response, she'll need to learn and heed the point at which spinning passes simply sharing her perspective and becomes lying.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


"Yea! We're going to the A B C D Y to go swimming!"

We have a beautiful lake across the street from our house. In the winter the cold blue sky is reflected on it and the bare brown trees provide a stark contrast to the blue. In the summer it's exploding with wildlife. There are hawks that live in the area and they scream to each other over the water as they look for mates and proclaim their territory. We have turtles and snakes and other creepy crawlers there. Canada geese arrive in formation and take over the beach area, calling to each other and squabbling like little children night and day.

Which is the reason that we don't usually go swim in the lake. It's nice to look at and the beach is a fun place to long as you avoid green goose droppings. Even though the lake is tested regularly, come mid-summer, there are weird globules of algae floating around and the bottom has that slimy suck-you-under sediment that's uncomfortable to walk through.

Which is the reason that we decided to look into getting a membership at the YMCA even though we have a lake with a beach, a dock and a slide right across the street from us. My husband took our daughter for a tour the first time and she loved being in the kids' room while he examined the weights and other areas she didn't care about. The nice people at the Y gave us several free passes so we could get a feel for whether we wanted to join or not. The second time we went was to go swimming. Once we were all dressed, we moved down towards the car, which is when Sophie let loose with her exclamation. It was cute, but it also reminded me of one of my least favorite things; acronyms.

There was a time when acronyms were used only for long names of things like YMCA, MRI, and FDA. For most of us, we don't even remember what they stand for, but the acronyms have become the product or program.

With the advent of text messaging acronyms have been taken to a new level. I'll read something on Facebook or a friend's blog and see a series of letters and have no idea what they mean. For instance, one friend writes about her HHBL. Any idea what an HHBL is? According to the Urban Dictionary, it's hunka-hunka burnin' love. I'm assuming that's her husband.

What's even worse to me how acronyms have bled into notes and e-mails we send. Over the past thirty years our society has gone through an amazing transformation. We used to wait by the mailbox for that personal, hand written note from a loved one because hand writing was really the fastest way to write something, even though there were typewriters. In the early 1980's word processors came along and people started typing out their correspondence even though they still had to mail the letters (and the United States Post Office sincerely misses those days). Entering the middle 1980's AOL (eek, an acronym) changed everything. E-mail and instant messaging were born and handwriting all but disappeared.

Today it's not good enough that a thought can be transmitted instantaneously via e-mail, text message or blog. Even these messages have to be abbreviated as though the person on the other end is so busy that they can't take the extra five seconds to write thank you but instead feel it necessary to use ty instead.

If you haven't guessed, I'm not a fan of abbreviations. If I write to you I won't use them because I think you're worth taking the time to write out the whole word for. When I sign my name I won't put c or cp, but I'll let you know that I'm Christiane.

Our daughter is growing up in this age and will most likely look at this and think I'm an old fogey. but, I'm sure that when she's in college and opens her mail box and finds a personalized, hand written note from her mother in there, she'll say TYVM. DYKWIM?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Sophie: Mommy, your brownies and poop are the same color.

I am one of those rare people who don't like chocolate. It's beyond the, "I just don't care for it," stance and all the way to the point where I just won't eat desserts that have chocolate in them (though I have been known to make an exception for cheesecake). My husband enjoys chocolate but can go without it and doesn't go out of his way to find it.

Proving that the chocolate addiction is a gene thing and not just a habit that's picked up from being around others with the same need, our daughter (who, remember, is adopted) is a die hard chocoholic. I don't think she even had a piece before she was two simply because I hoped that feeding her fruit early on would create a love for that form of natural sugar, but upon the first bite of chocolate, all that changed.

Since our little lady did develop a taste for this nasty thing, I knew that I'd be making desserts here and there with it. Since my husband does like brownies, those end up being my go-to treat. Even if not using a box, it's pretty hard to mess them up.

One day sometime after having a brownie as a treat, I went in to help Sophie finish her "business" and she came out with that gem of a quote. The fact that it's true is a bit horrifying. The fact that I've used brownies to make a litter box cake even more so (though I didn't tell her that).

The truth of the matter is that appearances can be deceiving, especially in a society like ours that is so easy to use stereotypes so easily.  A friend of mine once told me about an exercise that he had to do with a group of others. They walked into a room and were presented with an arrangement of cardboard cut-out men and women ranging in age, race, economic status, etc.  Each person was asked to go stand by the person with whom they thought they would feel most comfortable going out on a date. After everyone had settled next to their cardboard man or woman, the leader of the group started reading descriptions of these real-life personalities. Some women had chosen to stand next to a well-dressed, handsome man in his early 30s who was actually a rapist. Men stood next to a woman who had beaten her child to death because she had a beautiful smile and looked so nice.  We just never know.

Deception has gone far beyond face-to-face though. Working with an Internet technology company, I am more than aware of the dangers that social networking sites present. I have three friends on Facebook who have an extraordinary amount of friends; 1,943 1,066, and unbelievably 2,658. I find it hard to believe that these three people really know those "friends" yet they continue to post personal information about their lives on their page; travel plans, concert attendance, dinners out, etc. Why not just post a sign out front of their house that says, "Hey thieves, we're not home"?  

It's sad that we have to teach our daughter that appearances can be deceiving and that she needs to be wise and aware at all times. The days of heading to the park on her own are over. Even playing in the front or back yards is supervised and she knows not to talk to strangers no matter how nice they appear to be. 

Some say she's shy as a result, but appearances are deceiving. She's just smart.