Sunday, October 30, 2005

Unexpected Talents

I think from time to time of one of the interviews Roger and I had with the social worker before we adopted Caroline. (By way of explanation, when you adopt you have to have a home study by a state-authorized agency, which means that a social worker gets assigned to you and comes out and interviews you a bunch of times both before and after the adoption. ) Our social worker was a down-to-earth, friendly woman named Judith who was herself the mom of two adopted kids. She took all the anxiety out of the home study process for us.

Anyway, early on she asked "So, what sorts of activities to you envision doing with your daughter?" In retrospect, the question seems ridiculously broad and even silly. But back then, as a mom-in-waiting, I answered eagerly to describe my idyllic view of motherhood: I'd read to her, play games and cards and dolls with her, we'd bake cookies together and lie on the grass and stare at bugs together...i went on and on. I had quite a vision.

And now, some 9 years into our life with Caroline, I think back to the conversation and think about the things I simply couldn't imagine myself doing. Not because they were bad, or things I didn't want to do -- but because it just never occurred to me that I'd be doing them. And that's not to say that we haven't done the stuff I described to Judith, many times over: we read a ton and play games and dolls (although I didn't know that Caroline's doll play most often involves some form of tying the doll up in odd bondage style and then having horses come to the rescue. Finding Barbies staked to the furniture legs around Caroline's room does make me wonder about her impending adolescence... Hmm, the bondage thing didn't come up in the home study.)

But there are just things I couldn't have imagined myself doing. One of the big lessons of motherhood, for me, is the well of resources you discover you have... patience, humor, inventiveness, and sheer tolerance for little sleep and child wailing. And drool...tolerance of drool is another. I actually stunned myself once, when we were at my folks' house and Caroline (at about 1) suddenly started to vomit and I held out my hand to catch the vomit so it wouldn't hit the couch. Did you get that? I HELD OUT MY HAND TO CATCH THE VOMIT. As an impulse. (Hmm, is that a good mom impulse, or a good daughter impulse, protecting my parents' couch? Or both? Until now, it didn't occur to me to think about that angle.)

I didn't know that, when Caroline was a baby, I'd regularly sit her in the kitchen sink with the water fawcet on to let just a small stream of water fall out. That water mesmerized her, and she'd sit, transfixed, moving her chubbing fingers in and out of it. It was the only thing that would quiet her after a vaccination or when she was really cranky with teething.

I didn't know that I'd become an expert at building under-the-dining-room-table forts with blankets and pillows and upturned chairs, to transform our small living space into something new and exciting on a cold snowy day where we were housebound.

I didn't know I'd be peering into buckets of snails (EUUUUU) after Caroline had painstakingly collected them from the agapantha bushes to make the snail families she adored. (My second quilt for her was a Snail's Trail block quilt. No surprise there.)

And I didn't know I'd be sewing Halloween costumes for horses. Yes, you read that right. FOR HORSES. That's what I was doing yesterday. Uh huh. Read that again. FOR HORSES. The woman at the fabric store looked at me like I was crazy. "Well, that's a new one on me," she said, shaking her head.

Caroline rides (rode, rides, will ride -- all tenses, with great enthusiasm) at a riding school that puts on a kids' horse show every October. The show features a costume class -- actually, usually two or three as there are so many kids who want to participate they have to double up on the ponies -- where the kids and the ponies dress up. Last year was Caroline's first year...She was a Pony Ninja Princess, a role of her own invention. She was quite specific about the costume requirements. My part involved making a red silk-like (or, a hunk of silkish polyester from the bargain bin at Joann's Fabrics) blanket with gold tassels and fringe, rein and bridle decorations (gold fringe and tassels), and a gold organza veil for Her Highness the princess. Caroline won 3rd place and I was inordinately proud. I mean, that fringe on the bridle looked AWESOME.

This year, Caroline has opted to be an EPS (that's European Pony School) cheerleader. So we found her an inexpensive red cheerleading costume and I applied EPS to the front in white felt letters (We LOVE Wonder Under)...and with red felt and white bias tape, I've made a blanket to cover the pony's flanks and say "GO EPS!" on either side....And a red breast-plate thingy that will attach to the saddle and say EPS. (Who do we love? WONDER UNDER! Give me a W! Give me an O! Give me an N!) And Caroline and I spent last evening dismantling actual pom pons (did you know it's pom PON and not pom POM? According to the package it is, anyway) to take smaller clumps of pom pon strands, attach them to those little claw-like hair clippy things which we will then attach to the pony's mane and tail. I even have more red and white bias tape (a very cheap way to get colored trim) which we will wind around the reins for more spirited color.

Everyone will look stunning and festive and spilled with Pony School Spirit. Of course, Caroline has been strictly lectured several times to NOT wave her pom pons too aggressively, for fear of scaring the ponies and causing a stampede.

This will be an interesting afternoon. Pictures to follow.


  1. Can we see photos of last year's Ninja Princess costume while we wait? Pleeeeease?

  2. OK, super mom! I don't want to ever again hear you doubting your mom skills! This is a an incredible act of love and I can't wait to see pics!! by the way, I was a pretty good Mom, but I never would have reached out to collect vomit in my hand - no way - in fact, Steve always had to clean up the vomit, un less he was gone for more than a day!!

  3. Who would have ever thought that entire days would just be filled with cleaning up bodily fluids? Can't wait to see the pictures! You are a great mom.

  4. Can't wait to see your photo's. I always loved making Halloween costumes for my children. Treasure the momemts! It's been several years however, since they've even wanted one. This year I got that chance again, and made Chaps for my 22 year old son who wanted to be a cowboy for the party he was having. They turned out great! I have them on my blog.

  5. What a wonderful story and what great memories you are creating for a very, lucky little girl. As an only, adpoted daughter, I have greatt love and respect for your life with Caroline.

  6. Pictures! Yes!

    While we lived in Bahrain we rode fairly often. The best time was Christmas carolling by horseback. It was a blast and everyone dressed up and braided stuff in the manes and tails. No costumes though. What fun!

  7. We've got to see the Ninja Princess costume! And, I can't believe you caught the vomit. It's amazing the things moms do.