Saturday, August 7, 2010

We're Moving (the Blog)

As I keep telling Sammy, Change is Good. As a family, we just up and moved ourselves, and in that spirit, I've up and moved the blog as well. My new blog has the same name, at a brand-spanking-new host. So please update your settings and look for this blog at

Thanks for sticking around through the switch!


Friday, August 6, 2010

"Princess and the Frog": Zoology 101.

Molly: Can I kiss a frog?

Nana: Well, I have a frog in my garden.

Molly: NO! I mean a REAL frog. One that TALKS.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Good Hair

After the haircut.

Molly got a haircut today. Molly's hair is a subject unto itself. It's a source of admiration, but also, strangely, controversy. Because her hair isn't typical for Ethiopian kids. It's not what most people would think of as "African" or "African American" hair. Ironically, her hair most resembles Emma's at the same age: big fat ringlets, fine and soft and wispy as cotton candy. I can't oil it because it turns into a grease slick. She can't really wear the braids she wants like her friends, or like Keyana in I Love My Hair, which is one of her favorite books. But on the other hand, most days I can throw barrettes in it (which she loves) or put it in a ponytail (which she hates), which makes it easy for me, and for her. I'm in awe of my friends who create beautiful, intricate braids and hairstyles for their little girls. Molly's hair doesn't lend itself to that, and I think that's probably ok because I don't think I have the styling chops to pull that off. Certainly can't do anything with my own hair.

But no matter what, this hair thing is fraught with peril, isn't it? Because hair is bound up in our culture--certainly in African and African American culture, and in European American culture too--"good hair," "difficult hair," "bad hair days." In my family, we've got Jew hair, thick and crazy and wavy, grows like crazy, doesn't respond to blowdryers or product, takes heavy-duty artillery to straighten, gets increasingly wiry and difficult as we grow older. Molly's hair is none of that. It's magical. It's soft as spun silk. Her ringlets are like a fairy princess's. But somehow, I don't think that's going to let her off the hook.

At the salon today, the stylist and I discussed Molly's hair. I was talking about how hard it is when it gets tangled up (that spun sugar turns into mats--fast) because we have to be so careful with the product we put in. Anything heavy or oily turns her head into an oil slick. Many of the products for African American hair don't work at all on her. Well, the stylist said, she doesn't really have African American hair. Her hair is "more like ours." It's "nicer," she said. And so it goes. I flinched, inwardly, and said nothing. Should I have stopped her there? Of course. Should I have told the stylist--with her flimsy stick-straight blonde hair--that of course it wasn't "nicer" than more typical AA hair, just different. And of course her hair is just as African as "typical" AA hair. It's not "white" hair, either--whatever the hell that means anyway. My hair is nothing like the salonista's, either. What did she even mean, "more like ours"? But I said none of that. In fact, I didn't say much at all. Just agreed that yeah, it wasn't typical. And then we left.

So is this what Molly will be saddled with? People telling her how "lucky" she is because her hair is atypical for an African American child? The backhanded compliment that will make her feel crappy--at the same time an outsider and denigrating the other kids she knows? What kind of message is that sending? And what about the message that she doesn't really have "black" hair, either? Will Molly have to defend her hair for not being "black" enough? Will she feel like she can't be proud of her hair, as gorgeous as it is, because it's different? Cuz as far as I know, if Molly's African American, her hair is, too. How bad am I for not calling the stylist out on her thoughtlessness, her casual racism? How crappy a mom does that make me?

Every day, I tell Molly how beautiful she is. I know it's retrograde of me. I know I'm not supposed to do this, as the mother of a girl especially. So I also tell her how smart and kind she is. But the thing is, she is beautiful. Really, really beautiful. And so is her hair. And, as retrograde as it is, I feel like it's important that she never forget that. No matter what messages she's getting.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Three Years

Here's where I get to get sappy and maudlin. Three years ago today we met this amazing little person for the first time. I am in constant awe of her, of her bright spirit, her joyous self, her funny, quick mind, her beauty, her kindness, of the amazing little person she is. And I stand in wonder of the process and series of events that brought us to her. When you have a biological child, there's this weird combination of random events that goes to create this child, and of course, the one you birth is the one you get. But adoption feels so much more, and less, random in its way. Because this little person was on the planet before we ever knew about her. And she has another family that loves her halfway around the world. And yet, it doesn't seem possible that we could be without her in our lives. And the idea that she could have left her home in Ethiopia and gone to live with someone else is inconceivable. If you believe in meant to be, she was meant to be. She is always and forever part of her first family. And she is, and was, always and forever meant to be ours.

Three years ago, this little person entered our lives. I can't imagine our family without her. We are so very very lucky.

July 7, 2007, the first day we met Molly Fanaye

With one of her nannies on the day of the official ceremony when she came home with us.

Back with us at the guest house in Ethiopia.

And here is the girl she is today.

So today is about Princess Molly Fanaye. Her silly, goofy, effervescent, beautiful, sweet, brilliant, luminescent self. About how she gives the best hugs and kisses in the whole world. About the way she completed our family in the most perfect way imaginable. And it's about her first family, and her birth mother who, even though I don't pray, I still pray for every day. I hope she knows the gift she gave us.

Happy Famiversary, Baby Girl.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lies My Mother Told Me

I am a very mean mom. And a liar. Just ask my son. He's keeping a list in his head of all the times and ways that I've fibbed, prevaricated, obfuscated, and otherwise misled him in his short life. There was the American Idol debacle he was 4 and, for reasons that have never been completely clear, frighteningly, scarily, unhealthily obsessed with the state of North Carolina. As you may recall, Season 2 of American Idol featured a showdown between Ruben Studdard and the Tarheel State's favorite son, Clay Aiken. My little Sammy was single-minded in his devotion. And when, as you no doubt recall, Ruben pulled out a nailbiter of a victory, Wisconsin's Littlest Claymate was inconsolable. Truly inconsolable. So I did what any good mother would. As Ruben stood in front of America, with confetti floating over his ample lapels, I told Sammy that Ruben and Clay tied.

This was, in my mind, the only humane thing to do to stop my hyperventilating, hysterical preschooler. But several years later, Sam learned the truth. And now, he says, I am a liar. I hid the real facts from him, and he won't let me forget it.

Fast forward several years. Emma and I are watching the first season of "Project Runway" on DVD. We all agree that the odious Wendy Pepper is a disaster. Emma and I know the results of the finale, but we decide not to spoil it for Sam. So we tell him that Wendy Pepper won. Sam is irate: How could they do that?? His anger simmers all through the Bryant Park runways and then, SURPRISE!, Jay wins, not Wendy!! I thought that this harmless little fib would keep from ruining the show for Sam. Apparently not: In his mind, this is Lie Number Two.

Which brings us to this past Sunday. I decided about a week ago to think about moving. It's actually something I've wanted to do for a while, but never seemed like it would be feasible. But after a consult with a carpenter who told us that it would cost $40,000 to rebuild our porch into a 4-season room, moving to an actually bigger place started to make a lot more sense. The rest of the family is more or less onboard. Matt thinks I'm crazy, but whatever. But Sammy, the guy who said he would never move from our house because no other house would have the same white ceiling fan he has in his room, Sammy is not ok with the plan.

So I started checking out open houses in nearby neighborhoods, while Sam turned paler and paler shades of gray and looked unhappier and unhappier. He said the new neighborhoods freaked him out, because he heard they did things like send "welcome to the neighborhood" letters, which he found creepy.

That's when I hatched my plan. I created a fake email address from the "Welcome to the Welcoming Committee" of a neighborhood we're considering. And I sent him this letter. To fully appreciate it, you need to know that Sam can neither swim nor ride a bike, and that I do harass him all the time about going to my old high school, West, instead of, Memorial, the one we're districted for and where Emma goes.

*Name of neighborhood poorly disguised in case we do end up moving there:

Congratulations! I heard through a "friend" that your parents are talking about maybe possibly moving, and that they might move to Sunnyvale*! You must be so excited!!! After all, nothing could be better than moving to Sunnyvale!! All your friends are here, and the streets are flat for bicycle riding all around!! Plus, you know how much you like swimming?? Well, we have a pool!! The adults in Sunnyvale love to drink alcohol, a lot, but since they all live next door to each other you don't have to worry about what that pesky Officer Emily says about them driving cars afterwards!

But you know what the best thing about moving to Sunnyvale is? You guessed it: It's the Letter!! Yes, you get a Letter. Welcoming you to Sunnyvale. I'm sure you've heard that we have an email listserv, too, to keep each other up to date on the most important information. But nothing compares to the Letter. It's friendly and warm, welcoming and full of good cheer, much like all the folks in Sunnyvale. It's sort of like an outdoor cookout with margaritas for your soul. See? I can tell you're feeling better already!

Don't worry, this isn't the last letter you'll get. This is what we like to call the "congratulations on maybe making the best decision of your life by even thinking about possibly moving to Sunnyvale" letter. Don't ask me how we know this, we just know. If you actually move to Sunnyvale, we will send you another letter, even more glorious than this one. You can frame them both and hang them on your wall in your new room in Sunnyvale.

Oh, and one more thing: Sunnyvale is actually WALKING DISTANCE to Memorial High School. You know how your mom keeps bothering you about transferring to West? (Don't ask us how we know, we just do.) It's pretty annoying when she does that, isn't it? Well, moving to Sunnyvale would put your fears (and her incessant, mindless, chatter about that inferior school) to rest. You could go to sleep every night knowing that the World's Greatest High School is right outside your window. No way your mom could try to send you anywhere else for high school. She'll have to go down to some elitist coffee shop or something to sing her stupid "West" song. We won't let her sing it in Sunnyvale.

So that's about it. I need to let you go so you can start packing your bags. You'll want to be ready to go on a moment's notice when you get the news: It's time to load up the van... for Sunnyvale!

Comfortably superiorly yours,

The Welcome to the Welcoming Committee

See? That wasn't so mean, was it? But Sam was a little wigged out. He thought it was very 1984 of "Sunnyvale" to know so much about his innermost thoughts. Eventually, I had to tell him because he was just getting more and more freaked out and morose about the whole thing. He's better now. It's just more fodder for his inevitable tell-all memoir.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Break's Over

We're back in school tomorrow after two weeks of winter break. We had a great time off: took Molly to The Princess and the Frog (her first "theater" movie), cleaned the pantry (thanks, Matt), and went to Chicago--shopping, museums, good food. Sam and Em went to the Art Institute to see Van Gogh and Monet, while Molly and I went to the Disney Store--a cultural experience all unto itself. We saw The Addams Family Musical, which was fun, and a little strange, too, but that was part of the fun. We went to the Museum of Science and Industry, where Molly could have played for hours and hours in the room with the balls and the pneumatic tubes. As seen here:

Molly tugs on the pulley...

really really hard...

and a little gun thing shoots water all over the place.

The girls on the hotel pull-out couch our final night in Chicago. The most exciting thing about our 2-room "junior suite" was the presence of 2 (count 'em) flat screens, although as Emma pointed out, they were often both turned to the same channel.

And now, it's 3:37 on Sunday afternoon and I am in this weird denial about going back to school tomorrow. I'm not sure if it's because I'm woefully unprepared, my own fault because I have taken the whole "break" thing pretty seriously, thank you very much, or if I am just not constitutionally and emotionally suited to work, anywhere. Although, if I could find gainful employment watching ridiculous amounts of cable television and writing about it snarkily, I would be a happy happy girl.

Last night, Sammy had a meltdown at the thought that he has to go back to school tomorrow. I get it; I really do. He has all this anxiety that's not tied to reality--worries that he won't do well (he's making high honors now) or that he will be yelled at by us, or his teachers. Freakouts because he can't find his lunch box. Feelings that he "just doesn't like that place." I guess if home wasn't so fabulously fun and exciting, or if we were meaner to him, he'd be looking forward to going back to school. But it is more fun to sit around at home. I told him that if I homeschooled him, his curriculum would probably consist of watching Lifetime movies based on true-crime novels (Language Arts), The Price Is Right (math), Degrassi (health), and Hoarders (social anthropology). And he agrees that this isn't adequate. Still, at this point, the only one who is looking forward to going back to school is Molly. That's probably not good.

Ok. I'm not sure why I started down this road. But now I've got to go and figure out what the hell I'm doing with my students tomorrow. Still in some kind of denial that I actually have to plan an outfit and wake up at 6 a.m., but what'cha gonna do?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Yogurt on the Floor

I have had my lovely new Macbook for 6 months now, and my fabu little Flip-type camera for just as long. Yet we've been ridiculously neglectful about capturing video, until lately, and it took me until today to figure out how to transfer the video clips into a usable form, say, on this blog. Of course, today I figured out that it's embarrassingly easy, and iMovie is my friend. So, my shameful technological pokiness notwithstanding, I'm pretty psyched about my newfound cinematic abilities.

Molly turned three on Monday, and of course she just keeps getting funnier and cuter, and more bossy, too. Mostly, her hilarity is self-explanatory, but this video probably needs a little backgrounder.

About a month ago, I was on the phone with my mom when I noticed a big glob of yogurt on the living room floor. This might be shocking to some of you "hygienic" folks, but here at the Cibula house, it's pretty much par for the course. So I looked down and mentioned it, and soon, Molly was yelling "There's yogret on the floi! There's yogret on the floi!"

Mom told my stepdad, Dennis, and the rest is the stuff of song legend. Because Dennis decided to compose a little musical number, to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Lyrics to the song go something like this:

In the kitchen and the bathroom there is yogret on the floor
In the living room and dining room, there's yogret on the floor
In the hallway and the basement, I think there's even more
There's yogret on the floor.

Who is cleaning up the yogret?
Who is cleaning up the yogret?
Who is cleaning up the yogret?
There's yogret on the floor!

Quickly, as you might imagine, this became Molly's favorite song. When she is upset, crying in the car, whatever, a jolly burst of "Yogret on the Floor" can perk her right up. Here she is, singing it herself, although as you can see, she's way too Mariah or Beyoncé to totally perform for the camera: