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12 posts from July 2009

July 31, 2009

A day of celebration and tears


Exactly five years ago, as the hot summer sun was about to make it's daily debut, a 4 pound Chinese baby girl was born and screamed her first protest at the world. 

And the world totally deserved it.

Her family was probably worried about the baby's obvious prematurity.  In China, it's a common belief that premature babies are likely to die in early childhood even if they beat the odds and survive infancy.  This little baby was just barely 4 pounds and her future was uncertain.  She also had a very minor cleft palate -- something her family might not have noticed because it was very VERY minor. 

Or, perhaps, their concern was the fact that this infant was female and the family already had a little girl and really needed a boy to guarantee their security in old age? 

Whatever the reason, someone bundled up the tiny infant and carried her down this dirt road towards the gate of the local High School. 

It was a Saturday on the last day of July and it was HOT.  But we know for certain that most of the teachers lived on campus and someone would probably find her right away.   Her family probably knew this too.

They quickly scribbled a note on a torn scrap of paper that stated her birth date and time.  She was only a few hours old when they set the newborn girl down on the ground.  Then they turned around and walked away. 

From this heartbreaking act of desperation, our family was completed. 

That little girl was Madeline and Maddy is five years old today.  Today, I'm certain her birth family will think about her and wonder what happened to the baby they left alone at the gate of that school five years earlier. 

As a mother, I'm sure they can't find any peace with what they did.  It's just the nature of moms to fear the worst and that's probably the case with mothers in China too.  How can they possibly expect that their baby is a thriving, robust, little fireball living with her virtual twin sister in a lovely house in Silicon Valley, California.  They can't know that she's got a Mommy and Daddy and Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and even a kitty who love her to pieces.  They would probably love to know that she's an artist and her favorite food is cantelope, cheddar cheese and chocolate pancakes.   

Someday, this little girl - who we've affectionately nicknamed "Our Scientist" - will attend Stanford University.  We're absolutely sure of it.  And we'll celebrate birthday after birthday with her and watch her grow up and fall in and out of love and marry and have babies of her own. But her birth family will probably weep each year as they remember the little baby they left at this gate -- the baby they gave back to The World. 

And, every year, we'll remember them and be gratful that their difficult choice put their baby on a path to us.  And we'll quietly hope that this will be the year they find peace with their choice.

July 28, 2009

July 28th

Referral anniversary 4 
July 28th is a special day.   Somewhat bittersweet but mostly sweet.  It was on that date in 2004 that we first saw the beating heart of our tiny baby on the ultrasound machine in our Doctor's office.   It was on that same day that a family in China kissed their 5 week old baby girl goodbye for the last time.  That baby was Gwen and while we were celebrating our new (but brief) pregnancy Gwen's family was in mourning.   A few months later, we submitted our dossier to China and exactly one year later - on July 28 2005 - we got the call.  We had a daughter!  I still get choked up when I think about how it felt to hear her name and her birth date and open the envelope and pull out those small photographs....  it felt like magic. 

I love the shape of Gwen's mouth.  It's small and round and pouty and beautiful.  I'm late posting this because I've been scouring my photo archives for photos that illustrate this particular common expression.  I couldn't find any non-smiling photos of her in 2008 - I guess that was an especially happy year for her!  I really love seeing how much she still looks like her earliest photo.  She was four or five months old in that photo an I sure wish I would have been able to kiss that sweet little baby face back in 2004.  We have no other baby photos of her so that one is extra special.  You can click the image for a larger view.

PS:  Another July 28 blessing to our family is Kelsey.  Happy 21st Birthday, Kelsey!      

July 24, 2009

Music in the Park... again

There seemed to be twice as many people this week as last week.   Here's Andrew and Maddy -- who absolutely refused to turn around and face the camera.   Oh the hard life of the dedicated Mamarazzi!

Music in the Park - Daddy and Maddy

As usual, Gwen was up the tree most of the time.  Here she is looking insanely beautiful with the sun low on the horizon (my favorite time of day to take photos).  This photo is straight out of the camera (no editing).  It might be one of my all time favorites and it's currently my desktop background.  To fully appreciate it, you really need to see it in a larger size.  I think <this link> will do the trick.

Gwen in the tree listening to music in the park

July 23, 2009

My kids will never experience life in 35mm

Back in the old days, we shot a roll of film and paid 11 cents per image to view the results (with a discount for double prints - remember that?).  One Hour Photo was as instant as the gratification got but it was still incredibly satisfying to hand over my little perforated top-of-envelope receipt, pay ten bucks and get a thick stack of memories in return. 

Since we couldn't preview anything, most of the pics were duds and there was no scrap booking back then so everything you didn't send to Grandma went into a shoe box -- along with all the negatives.    And that's where they've stayed for 20 years.

I have a really hard time throwing anything away -- especially when it's as tiny and flat as a negative -- so I can proudly proclaim that I've kept them all.  We're talking two decades, folks.  Not thousands of pics (because you're a bit more prudent about photo taking when you're buying film and paying to have it developed) but there's still a fair bit of frozen memories in my trusty, dusty, old shoebox.

good thing I'm a packrat

Early this week, I found a device on sale at Bed Bath and Beyond.  I applied a 20% off coupon to it at checkout and, for about $40 bucks, walked away with a goodie that would help me produce decent quality copies of images from those old negatives.   Then, while the kids napped, I explored the contents of about 1/8 of my archive.  It was amazing!  I have much to share but I'll start with this one photo because it says so much about old photography and it documents an important part of  my life.  (I was in the Army, a Chinook helicopter pilot, young, living in Klein- Winternheim, Germany.)

1986 11 25 donna in germany

  • Like most women, the first thing I noticed is that I'm pretty.  I was 25 in this photo and I didn't fully appreciate how attractive everyone looks at age 25.  If I'd only known, I wouldn't have bought Cosmo magazines and cried and felt like I couldn't "compete".  Obviously, I could!
  • Those are Army socks.  Yes, they made us wear those with our uniform when we were on duty.  Although I can't tell for certain, It's almost a guarantee that I'm wearing cotton underwear since that was also a requirement.
  • The Mountain Dew was obviously someone else's since I only drank diet soda.
  • I shot ISO 100 film.
  • I had a green thumb (what happened to that?!)
  • I smoked Virginia Slims Menthol Deluxe Ultra-Lights.  I quit smoking back in 1996 and I've never touched a single cigarette to my lips since that day even though I still love the smell of a freshly lit smoke and love walking through smoking areas outdoors.  But I detest stale smoke -- especially how it makes my hair smell.
  • I can't remember how I hurt my thumb (I'm wearing a band-aide) but I'm getting a vague hit on it being preflight related.  It certainly wasn't cooking related!
  • I loved German beer.  In fact, it was my primary source of hydration back in the early/mid 1980's.  There are two bottles of it in this photo so I hope my photographer (my room-mate, Patty P?) was drinking one of them.  Even though I'm holding a horrible can of Miller Light in my left hand, I can almost guarantee that I'm using it as an ashtray.   Funny, when I think about my time in Germany, I don't even remember that American beer was available (who would want one?) but I'm holding one here! 
  • I'm really pale.  Nobody would ever believe that I'm from Southern California. 
  • My hair is short and curly even though it's been long and straight for the last 20 years.
  • I used to burn candles (??)
  • I used to be able to have candy dishes fully of Hershey's miniature chocolates.  When did that happen?!?  For as long as I can remember, I can't be within 200 feet of any chocolate confection without inhaling deeply and sucking it immediately to my lips.  All of itEvery last bit of it.

Today, I have nothing from this photo (other than those white legs).  A sad testimony to the fact that everything was 'temporary' back in those days.  When I left Germany, they were going to charge me $5 per pound for everything I shipped back to the USA that exceeded my initial allotment of 500 pounds.  So I had a huge sale and sold it all.  I don't have that sofa or that shirt or those socks or those candles or that table.  Nothing but memories.  But memories are suddenly sweet.  :)

I'm sure I'll have more memories to share as I sift through the rest of the contents of this old shoebox.

July 17, 2009

Gimme the beat, boys

Last night, we headed over to a local park with friends (and about 2000 other people) to enjoy some warm evening breezes, a picnic dinner, and an earful of good old fashioned live rock and roll.

Gwen and Maddy LOVE live music.  Since they were babies, we've noticed that they'll stand, mouth agape, and stare unblinkingly at anyone wielding a musical instrument or a microphone.  Last night was all that and more and Maddy danced for two straight hours while Gwen was extra stoked to take it all in from her perch atop a perfect climbin' tree.  

I'm not exaggerating when I say there were a few thousand people here.  They were mostly local families who probably hiked in pulling a red Radio Flyer wagon loaded with small kids and buckets of KFC.  We used to live here and might have easily been one of them -- Michael's old high school is spitting distance away -- if we'd only known that they do this (the music -- not the spitting) every Thursday night in July and have FOR THE LAST 6 YEARS!  Yeah, we're always the last to know.   

The demographic was mostly parents in their late 30's to late 40's with children under age 10.  And the band was good.  They played a nice danceable mix of classic rock from the 80's (plus or minus a decade).   Andrew and I killed a fair bit of grass underfoot as we danced in our horribly inappropriate shoes to recognizable U2, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith and Michael Jackson tunes.   And do I dare confess that our "dance" consisted of nothing more than the six or seven steps we can remember from our West Coast Swing classes of 2002?

Okay, I know how pathetically I've dated myself by using such phraseology as 'stoked' and 'tunes' so I'll stop embarrassing myself and give you what you really came to see:  Pictures.

Music in the park

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