Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Sunday Mourning

It has taken me more than two weeks to get up the courage to write this post, and I'm not even sure that I'm entirely capable now, but here goes...

July 3, 1992-January 11, 2009

Two days before, she spent the majority of the afternoon in my arms.  It was unusual for her, she normally didn't like to be handled, but on this day, she would bark unless she was in my arms.  (And I was standing.  No sitting allowed.)
The day before, Cadence spent much of the day dragging me to the pantry and demanding milkbones.  When I'd deliver, she would seek out Puppalina where ever she was, and give it to her with a hug, nudge, kiss, pets...
Saturday night, we all went to the coffeehouse at our church.  Dad and James performed, Kelly was an emcee.  It was a great night, James even did an impromptu performance at the end of the night that we were all extremely proud of him for.  Afterwards, James, and I came home early to put Cadence to sleep.  Pup was in her Little House, then she came out, greeted us, was her normal self.  We said our goodnights, Cadence gave her a goodnight hug nudge as she always did, and we went into our room to put Cadence to bed.  When James and I came out a short while later, mom greeted us with tears in her eyes.  "It's Puppalina," she said "she's not doing well."
Evidently sometime between when we said goodnight and when Dad got home, she'd had a stroke and a grand mal seizure.  He found her on the step in the hallway, and gathered her up and was sitting on his bed cradling her when we went in.  She was more alert than she had been, and in fact continued to recover, at least in terms of strength, to the point where she didn't want to be held anymore.  We tried to make her comfortable in one of her usual spots, but she needed to walk.  She seemed perfectly fine, as long as she was walking, but she couldn't see, and would run into corners or other obstacles without being able to get out, and then she'd yelp and cry horribly.  For hours, she walked, and walked...she would take water, and she was fine as long as she was moving.  I tried holding her and walking, but she wanted to walk herself. We made a big circle in the living room, lined it with blankets, (and gave her access to her little house,) so she could walk in circles, free of danger or corners to thwart her journey.  We gave her some Tylenol and hoped she'd settle down, but she just kept walking.  I called the vet at 2am, and he said to try benadryl, but that did no good either, she fought the drugs.  She started stumbling more, but just kept going.
Around 4am, I had a glimmer of hope, she suddenly showed interest in fact, she ate 4 whole pieces of pot roast - more than I had eaten for my own dinner - happily, and seemed to be her old self, as long as she was eating.  But after a good meal and some water, she resumed her travels.
I stayed up with her all night.  By dawn, I knew she was suffering far more than she deserved to be.  I called the vet when the sun came up, and asked if they made house calls.  They did.  Right after I made the call, Pup finally settled down, in the kiddie pool which we'd brought in and lined with her favorite blankets, towels, robes...I got in, too, and got to lay there, holding my sweet little puppy, for the last 45 minutes of her life.  
A husband and wife team, the vets arrived together that sunday morning.  It was very brief.  She went very quickly, very quietly, very sweetly, in her own house, surrouned by family.  There was nothing gross, nothing...just peacefully, finally, rest.  I had my hand on was so hard to let her go.  I felt something from my throat and chest surge out and envelope her, going with her.
It is uncannily quiet around here these days.  It's amazing how much ambient sound she provided throughout the down the hall, snoring from the other room...evidently she was a noisy breather, because I miss her sounds in every moment.  We've all heard phantom murphs and snorts.  Every morning James and I still look for notes from mom about whether or not she's had her pills yet that day.  The bench in the kitchen still has the grooves from her younger days, her claws marking the soft wood as she jumped up and down.  Cadence's nap no longer coincides with Pupup's afternoon outting and snack.  Seeing certain colors in close proximity sets me off.  Not having her here has left something decidedly hollow here.  We all miss her, terribly.

Pepper with Puppalina's ashes.
We couldn't get her to move or leave them. 

Monday, January 26, 2009

Gongxi facai, xinnian kuai le!

Happy Chinese New Year, from all of us.  Here's Cadence in her (traditionally) red dress on a red chair celebrating the new year watching a Chinese New Year episode of Ni Hao Kai-lan, and eating a (not-so-traditional) stroopwafel.  We had been planning to make jiaozi to celebrate, but we're going to Louisville instead to see a reading of a friend's play.  We're going to make them tomorrow - and I may even do a food post about it, if I remember to take pictures.

Here's to a happy, prosperous (though maybe just in a spiritual sense) new year.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Layout v2.0

Okay, so it's not huge difference... I just switched the template over to Blogger's Custom Layout format. Previously, I'd done up the design in the classic template format since it was simpler. Hope it looks good, and we welcome any feedback.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Ni hao, Kai Lan

Before we came down to Kentucky, we hadn't owned a television that functioned as anything beyond a monitor for the DVD player in years.  We would watch movies, and netflixed any TV shows that we actually wanted to see...entire series at our fingertips, without commercials and loaded with special was actually a pretty good arrangement.  The biggest advantage, I found, was that it totally removed the temptation to mindlessly flink through channels, watching drivel - that you don't even like - until 2 am, and then being tired and angry for having done so.  

Now that we are here,  however, the TV has become a bigger part of our lives.  I try to make this into a useful or positive thing, rather than letting it deteriorate into a bad, intellect-draining habit.  We still try to stick to watching just the shows we want, and almost never flip through the channels just surfing for something to snag our interests. (actually, I think we did that all of once and felt so gross we haven't even been tempted since.)  And we're fairly lax about tailoring our lives around the program schedule, especially since its so easy to view missed episodes online these days.  But the biggest question that has come of it is how to deal with programming for Cadence.

Obviously, there are a plethora of television shows out there marketed to kids.  Very few of these, however, are actually beneficial.  In fact, last I checked, the only one that studies the actual effect it has on its young viewers is that tried and true old favorite, Sesame Street.  Independent studies have been done by third parties, though, and what they've found is both surprising, and, well, not at all surprising to anyone who's spent any amount of time viewing the majority of the stuff out there.  Turns out that only a very small percentage of kids' shows are actually doing kids any good...the rest is the preschool equivalent of  The Price is Right or Mama's Boys.  Sesame Street, Blue's Clues, and Barney Ranked among the highest in terms of educational value...I balked a little bit at that last one, my little sister was addicted to that show when she was little, and I hated it...but I have to admit, she did seem to learn from it. [Total side note, we watched about 3 minutes of an episode a few weeks ago, and Barney's voice had changed so dramatically from what it was 10 years ago it freaked us all out.  No pretense of trying to sound like the old barney...I wasn't sure if I should be OK with it or not!]  

Anyway, one day a couple of months ago, I happened to notice a TV listing for a show called Ni Hao, Kai-Lan! on Nick Jr.  Intrigued by the mandarin title, we decided to check it out.  After an initial viewing and some research, we were all quite pleased to discover this little diamond in the rough, and it seems to be pretty well suited to our little lady.  

You probably haven't seen much, if any, Ni Hao, Kai-Lan! paraphernalia, since the show only debuted about a year ago.  It takes the bilingual experience of Dora the Explorer a step further, making Ni Hao, Kai-Lan! not just bilingual but fully bicultural, and then combines that with the structured, interactive format of Blue's Clues.  It's core cast of characters, centering around a young Chinese American girl named Kai-Lan, is rather delightful, and I find that the problems they encounter are often refreshingly realistic, despite the comfortable lack of realism in their world.  For example, in the pilot episode, the main problem Kai-Lan and her friends encounter is a tantrum thrown by Rintoo, the tiger, because he's angry that he lost a boat race.   Focusing on the phenomena of Cause and Effect, each episode pits Kai-Lan against something unsavory - a friend throwing a tantrum, a friend storming out of a party, friends arguing - and then has the viewer help her along while she looks back at the events leading up to the incident, in order to see why it happened.  Once she's done that, Kai-Lan takes steps to figure out how to remedy the situation, often aided by her grandfather, Yeye.  Yeye's pleasant omnipresence lends a sense of saftey to the series, and it is largely through him that Kai-Lan learns and shares her Chinese cultural heritage.  
Kai-Lan is also unique, at least to American television, in that it does not focus on excitement as being the main positive emotion.  In Chinese culture, being calm more often singled out as being the main positive emotion to strive for.  Ni Hao, Kai-Lan!, despite the exclaimatory title, seeks to show a calm, observant enjoyment alongside the excitement.  Creator Karen [nee Kai-Lan] Chau credits her mother for instilling in her, and now her work, what can be found Among Kai-Lan's more American values:  the show has a vaguely feminist streak, which the forces behind its launch hope to use to empower the estimated 60,000 baby girls currently living in the states, all adopted from China...many of whom were given up because their parents preferred male heirs but were under the strict "one child" policy.

But while all of this is important and scores points with Mama and Baba, its the show itself that scores points with Cadie, and that's what brings it all together and makes it great.  She's picking up on the Chinese words Kai-Lan uses {she now says "tiao!" and jumps when anyone says tiao [jump], and counts ...yi, er, er, qi...[one, two, two, seven...]}although the fact that we've started using a bit more mandarin around the house probably contributes to that, she's definitely engaged and repeats things back to Kai-Lan when she is asked.  She loves the opening of each show, where Kai-Lan tickles the sun so he'll wake up and start the day.  And as I said before, the characters are pretty fun...There's Rintoo, a rambunctious little tiger, Hoho, a small but loving little monkey, Tolee, a koala who is obsessed with pandas, Lulu, a pink rhino, who (inexplicably) usually has a red balloon tied to her horn, allowing her to fly.  [as a side note, we've noticed that Lulu seems to play the role of the Chinese child living in the states to Kai-Lan's American-born-Chinese role, as she uses more Mandarin than any other character on the show, save Yeye, and speaks with a thicker accent.] 
Anyway, it is broadcast every weekday morning on Nick Jr (except on holidays, when all tv caters to kids old enough to beg their parents for toys...but I'll save that rant for another day) and we've happily adopted it into our routine.  We're looking forward to Jan. 26th, which is the Chinese new year this time around, when there will be a primetime broadcast of a special new year's episode.  If you've nothing better to do that day, and get Nickelodeon, I recomend checking it out. (I think its at 8/7c.)
to close, I'll post a little (heavily edited) clip from the episode that inspired us to make jiao zi this evening (...mmmm, sooooo goood....sooo fulll!).  It doesn't give you the full idea of it, but its kinda cute nonetheless.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dear Cadence, Month 18

Dear Cadence,

Mama. Baba. kitty cat. dog. duck. more. out. back. this. what is this? I did it! yes. eye. I. ay ay, ai, Hi! Nana. Papa. Apple pie. bye. ouch. oh. um. that. arf. miao. moo. baa. xie xie. vroom vroom vroom! 'P!' o'clock. dining room. mom. that. quack, oink, neigh, ball, ear, hat, book, bear, puppy, penguin, baby...

I know I'm forgetting a lot, but these are all words you have in your repertoire, words used correctly on multiple occasions, and then often returned to cold storage. I get the distinct impression that you're saving them up for one day when you'll just bust out in full sentences. My belief is furthered by the fact that you've started stringing together some basic, simple sentences. Some as gentle as, "mom, what is this?" and "this is a bear," others, created entirely in sign language, expressing desires mixed with social niceties, such as "more drink, please."

You've learned to give us puppy dog eyes and say please when you want something, and then to try the other parent when one of us says "No." You've also created a word all your own for referring to both of us at once; "Maba!" Maba, you demand, must pay attention, and come here.

Earlier this month your shoes finally wore out from all the running, dancing, and jumping you do in them. They wouldn't have lasted half as long if we let you wear them at home, but you only wore them when we went out and about. So, we stopped in a shoe store just to take a look at the options. For the first time, you seemed genuinely interested in the possibility of new shoes for yourself. You took shoes you liked off the shelf, and indicated which ones you wanted to try on-and try them on you did. Baba found a brown shoe with three tasteful little pink flowers on the toe, and your eyes lit up and that was your shoe. You tried it on, and the sales lady fetched you the other one. A big gleeful smile stole across your face and you marched around the store on your heels, staring at you feet, and admiring them in the mirror. I asked if you'd like to try on any others, but you were done. You'd found your shoes. We paid and left the store, but before we left you ran over and gave the saleswoman a big hug. And we've been hard pressed to get you to take them off since. You don't like to take them off when we get home, and will often bring them to us, asking us to help you put them on, even we have just taken them off.

You're developing quite the sense of humor, these days, one of your favorite games involves faking out Baba. You also found it particularly hilarious when I caught you picking the Rody's nose...and then repeated it, howling with laughter, for anyone who would watch. Hiding in the closet with the doors closed, waiting for someone to walk by so you can pop out and surprise them is another big favorite. (So is making the rhino you inherited from Baba charge after you so you can run away shrieking and giggling.) And you've since figured out the concept of getting someone's attention to show them something funny. Your silly phase has begun!

You love reading the boynton books, and you seem to particularly love Moo, Baa, La La La since you can now make all of the animal noises required, and Blue Hat, Green Hat because you can understand why the turkey is silly. Granted, you gaffawed at that book the very first time we read it to you a few months ago, but now you can point out why it's so silly.

You continue to do a little dance (you expect us to provide the correct soundtrack) every time you point to your belly button. You want us to sing the belly button song from the boynton CD Philadelphia Chickens. This works well enough unless you point and request the song from someone other than Maba, since most folks don't get the reference or know the song. You are never satisfied without the belly button dance!

You are getting much more aware of your body and your self as you become more aware and comfortable in the world. I hesitate a little to put the following into this letter, but only because I do publish these letters online and I don't want you to be embarrassed, even if it isn't for many years. But it is, I believe, a positive thing, and I want you to be able to look back and be proud of what a healthy, well adjusted little girl you are.

The other day, mid diaper change, as I turned to get a clean diaper from the drawer, you sat up and contemplated yourself for a moment, and then patted my arm to get my attention. "Mom, what is this?" you asked, pointing to what is usually hidden beneath layers of cotton. Of course it was nothing new, but that particular day you felt motivated to learn more, and so, you asked. "That's your vulva, sweetheart. It's a part of your body, just like your knee is a part of your body." "oh" you said, and then you [very genuinely and sweetly] waved to it, and declared; "HI!!" I sincerely hope that you will always be able to keep this level of comfort, this genuinely accepting relationship with - and appreciation for - your own body.

This past month saw your second christmas, and what a day that was!! You made out like a bandit, and seemed to have an amazing time. I don't know why I was so surprised by how awed you were when you walked into the living room on christmas morning o find a herd of sheep for you to hug and love, but I was, it seemed like just one more notch in the stake, saying "this baby isn't a baby anymore, she's a full fledged little girl." you savored every moment, every unwrapping, every toy, book, smell...I had so much fun just watching you...I think this may have been my best christmas ever. I had my parents and sister, you and your baba, all five cats and both dogs with me to celebrate, which is something I've always wanted, and to top it all off, (and bowl it right over,) I got to experience this christmas through your wonder. I was through the roof.

But that isn't the only thing that made this christmas great. Starting with your very first christmas, last year, I wanted to show you the joy of giving, just as much as receiving. Last year I had gifts to give everyone from you, which I explained and tried to engage you in...and you did, as much as a five and a half month old can. (probably more, honestly.) But this year, much to my astonishment, delight, and a slight sense of "well, of course, that's my Cadence!", you totally go it and took over. Being on a very tight budget this year, we'd made several trips to the mall to comparison and window shop before we made any decisions. I guess I didn't realize how much attention you paid during these forays, until the day Baba, Kelly, you and I went to do our annual its-closer-than-it-should-be-to-the-holiday-christmas-shopping-run. Baba and Kelly went off on their own (we always end up shopping for each other on these trips, which adds to the oddity of them) and I decided to use the time to get stuff for them. I asked you what you wanted to give Kelly for christmas, and you directed me to a very specific store, and directly to a necklace we had looked at during an earlier trip. "you want to get this for Kelly?" I asked. Yes, you nodded. Did you want to look for anything else? No. You're sure? Yes. For Kelly. Yes. Ok. BIIIG SMILES!!

So, I paid for that, and returned to the main hallway of the mall. Content with and proud of your performance on the first question, I wasn't expecting a repeat performance when I asked you what you wanted to get for Baba, but that is what I got. You once again directed me to a very specific store [a different one, mind you] and to a little piggy bank you had admired once before. (Containing the change from his pockets was an ongoing issue in your early life...I insisted that he put it in a container to avoid the risk of coins falling within your everything-goes-in-the-mouth-baby-reach, but he could never find a satisfactory receptacle. He'd been using a disposable tupperware container without a lid for about a year by this time.) There were lots of piggy bans, big and small, with hand painted decorations on them. You chose a small one with no decoration or frill whatsoever. I tried to turn your attention to some of the painted ones, but you insisted on the blank Piggy bank. So, wishing to respect your very clear choice, I took it up to pay, but that's when I got my biggest surprise of the day. The woman running the shop asked if I wanted anything written on it...I hadn't realized they were all customizable (in fact, I realized, belatedly, that was the whole point of the chose and ornament, statue, frame-whatever- and they would decorate or write whatever you wanted on it. I guess you just didn't want anyone else's designs infringing upon your message.) "Um, I guess," I stammered, and then, not expecting an answer so much as buying time to think, I turned to you and asked "what should we write on it, Cadence?" You responded, without missing a single beat, by emphatically pointing to yourself, then shouting "Baba!" very loud. "Oh!" I said, "You want it to say, "to Baba, from Cadence?" Yes yes yes! you nodded, gleefully grinning and leaking happy bouncy energy all over the floor. "Ok!" I said, affirming your answer to the artist. But then, it seemed a little too formal for the amount of optimism you were bringing to the table, so I asked if you wanted to say 'to baba, love cadence' instead of from, and you looked relieved and jumped into my arms, giving a satisfied grunt and excited kick to launch yourself upward as you nodded 'yes, yes, yes!!' By this point the artist knew that you were calling the shots, so she consulted with you about color and size and all that, while I merely provided the proper spellings. It was wonderful. And I was SO. GLAD. to be able to share this with you. To see how much you were into the whole gift giving thing was incredible.

After that, I had confidence in your ability to think about others, but you're still a kid, and I don't expect you to perform spot on every time, so I was still surprised when, on a separate trip, you picked out items for Nanna Marianna and Papa Scott entirely on your own, and Baba tells me you even screened my gifts. And even then, it's one thing to pick things out, its another to understand on christmas morning that those things you bought aren't for you. But, once again, you seemed to catch on faster than anyone else could have-you were interested in the items you chose, but ultimately, you seemed really glad to be giving them to their respective receivers-sometimes again and again throughout the day. You're an amazing little girl, Cadence.

Giving is a wonderful thing. You delight in giving now, alway distributing whatever snack you get to anyone else within range, sharing toys, even at peak-a-book, where most of the other kids can't figure out how to relate to their own hands much less another small person, you will often run back and forth from the toy box to the others, giving them toys and books. You've started spontaneously offering hugs and kisses, too!

You'll come to a family member and tip your head up slightly and purse your lips just a bit and wait for a kiss. You've also started saying "bye bye" if you know that you are about to leave someone's presence, and often you will include a kiss with that, without being asked. It's incredibly sweet and cute, and melts my brain every time.

Another giant sign of Your Grown-Up-Ness is that you've begun to lose yourself in your imagination. You've always been able to self entertain for brief periods of time, but recently, you'll start playing with something and I'll look over 15 minutes later, and there you'll be, talking to those dutch barbies I have left over from a theater piece I did in Amsterdam [that strange ken doll with black skin, blond hair, and joints everywhere but his knees, and his round faced, inexplicably old world dutch counterparts in mom jeans and abba tops...]and having them talk to each other, or making two sheep kiss, or building wondrous creations out of blocks, chairs, animals, boxes, and wagons...playing string hoping to catch a cat...You have discovered your imagination in earnest, and its fascinating to watch. Although, I do try to give you your space...goodness knows I don't want to stifle that creative play and energy. You'll need that to fly!
Take wing, Amazin' B. I have nothing but confidence that you're gonna soar.
but no matter what, you'll always be my Baby.

I love you, Cadence.

Love Always,