Friday, December 5, 2008

Love, Loss and Root Beer

Last year, one evening while we were finishing up dinner Q said to his father, "Dad, how do you feel about fish?"  

"I like it.  It's delicious!"  Replied my husband.

"Nooooo, I mean PET fish Dad!"  

So started the conversation that led to our adventures in animal husbandry.  Or fish husbandry.  It has been a marvel to me how complicated this has been our exploits in creating a living environment for these fish.  If I wrote it all down it would be good for an entire television sitcom season.  Perhaps one day I will and that will be our ticket to the big time.  Today, however is not the day.  What I want to say today is that Q and I have become very attached to our wee aquatic friends.  We have two tanks, one in his bedroom ( a single Beta Male fish with truly beautiful red body and fins) and one tank in our dining room which up until yesterday contained three Cardinal Tetras and one velvety blue female Tetra name Potato Chip (red beta is French Fries and the three little ones are something like Ice Cream, Root Beer and Bubble Gum.)  Yesterday, Potato Chip died.  She died while he was in school - thank goodness since it was not pretty - she was gasping and doing a combat crawl across the bottom of the tank.  I scooped her up and got her out of the tank before he came home last night and because he had a friend over for a play date he never noticed.  

And so this morning after breakfast, I put him on my lap and told him that his little fish died yesterday.  His eyes opened large and he turned to look into the tank and then fell against me and cried and cried.  If it had been one of the little three schooling fish I doubt that would have been the reaction but this was beautiful blue Potato Chip who was the star of the tank.  Full of vigor and wiggle and always swimming in and out of the various rocks and things we gave her, she was fun to watch and we often commented on her antics as we ate our meals.  

"I'm mad at God Mom" was his first response.  

"I wish I could do something to help you sweetie, I know it's hard."

"I want Root Beer" was his second response.  Which was not a request for another pet fish but rather for the soda.  A week ago, he had talked me into ordering root beer for lunch while we were out having pizza and I gave in which is not something I typically do but I was in my first just lost my job haze and he ended up with a huge bottle of root beer in front of him.  I asked for a glass, poured him his root beer and then took the rest home.  Since then we have not been around at a time I think soda is an option (which is basically only lunch.)  And he has been talking about that root beer for a week.

I looked at him and was still about to say no not for breakfast when he popped off my lap, ran into the kitchen, open the refrigerator with his usual heave ho style and grabbed the bottle of root beer from the door.  I wish I could say he swiftly opened the bottle and downed the stuff but he struggled with cap and was not able to get it off.

I got up from my chair and took the bottle, unscrewed the cap and poured him a small shot of root beer which when I handed it to him he downed in two or three swigs.  Had it been Saturday morning I would have let him drink the entire thing, but I felt his teacher did not need a grieving 6 year old on a sugar high.  With pop music coming from the radio, dinner and breakfast dishes pile up high in our little 1940's alley kitchen and the scent of coffee and banana bread wrapped around us we stood there in the kitchen for a moment looking at each other.  Out the kitchen window I spotted a blue fleck and had Q quickly stand up on a chair and pointed out our Blue Bird friend hopping up and down the branches of our neighbors towering pine tree.  We didn't say anything just watched him for a moment.  He was almost nearly the same color as our little fish.  Q looked at me, smiled and then gave me a big hug.  "I'm taller than you" he said as he let go of me and I grabbed him took him off the chair and said to him as he escaped my tickling hands "Not yet you aren't baby, not yet."


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Alice Walker's An Open Letter to Barack Obama

Extraordinary as always. Alice Walker. Required reading. Period.

http://www.theroot.com/id/48726

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.

We are the ones we've been waiting for.

We are the change that we seek.

Barack Obama

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Before

the before picture.
Us. February. 2008.






Thursday, October 30, 2008

Raising a Super Hero

These past few weeks have been challenging. I work in the financial field. In New York. Nuf said.

Meanwhile, these past few weeks have been glorious. To watch a wee preschooler turn into a young boy "I am not a little boy!" And this past week I realized he is correct. He is not a little boy. He is a boy. The painting above was done by our dear friend Rick Price. Q is 2 1/2 years old in the painting. When I asked Rick to paint Q's portrait I was thinking of the classic portrait. We had a baby blue sweater with a peter pan color that Q never wore but that I loved. However, I believe in letting the artist follow his instincts so when Rick asked what I was thinking I left it to him. "I'm thinking, Spiderman" said Rick. Rick worked at our local cafe and almost on a daily basis Q and I would stroll in, me wearing exaustion with as much grace as I could muster (Q is not a sleeper) and Q wearing - almost every day - his spiderman costume. He was not allowed to wear it the two days he was at daycare (against the rules) but every other day he had it on. Q wasn't pretending anything in those days, he WAS spiderman. You can see it in this portrait, can't you? Spiderman going over his accomplishments at the end of a long day. Relishing the fame. And he was/is famous. "Hey" casual passerbys would say "it's Spiderman. Nice to see you!" And Q would nod usually. Sometimes give a small wave with his little hand. Those little hands in the portrait, Rick got the hands perfectly. They are Q's hands. No one elses.

After Spiderman there was Batman. Same thing - about a year. One day soon I'll write about our adventures out in costume. Those days were magical. I often think about the fact that I am not raising a boy, I am raising a man. Well, lately I have begun to think I am raising a super hero.

We are conservative people. So during challenging times, we pull back a bit and prepare ourselves for anything. Last year Q took drum lessons until the summer. We were going to take the summer off and start in the fall again. He was excited. In truth we have the money. And some to spare. But like I said, we are conservative and so we are slowing down on some of our 'wants' in order to never have to worry about our needs. I explained to Q that while we did have the money we thought it best to keep it. Things are uncertain and that we could practise the drum at home in the meantime. He smiled at me and said OK. "I think that is smart mom."

Meanwhile he has been actively petitioning for a new pet (we have 5 fish in two tanks) which are his responsibility and now he wants a guinnie pig. We had pretty much said it was a possibility for Christmas. But last week we decided again that while we had the cash, we didn't feel it was a great example for Q that during uncertain times we take on more responsibility with bringing another, living, breathing, eating animal in our home. And so I sat him down and said exactly that. Not in any kind of heavy way at all, in fact hopefully with a happiness about it. I explained that we liked to live simply in general but especially now. I said the reason that we did was so that our worries were always very small and that we never had anything bigger to think about than maybe are we eating too much dessert? Or what color are we going to paint the bedroom? Simple stuff. Again, he looked at me and said "OK, I understand. We'll have a new pet one day." Yes, we will. And we hugged. And I was amazed.

A few days ago, I came home from work and we were getting ready to read stories. He was sitting in his rocker and said "I'm just going to rock for a moment and think. You can sit on the bed and talk to me if you like." "OK" I said and I sat down on his bed. We talked for a couple of minutes and then he said "I think you are a great Mom." Wow. It's the best thing in the world. Then he got up from his chair and got into bed and told me to sit forward a little bit. I did and I felt his little hands rubbing my shoulders. Although rubbing is too strong a word because in reality his touch was so gentle I could barely feel it. "Q, are you giving me a massage?" "Yes, I know you've had a hard day." About one minute later he got down and went into the bathroom and came back with an absolutely soaking wet warm washcloth." He had me rest my head on a pillow and put the cloth on my forehead (his father does this for him if Q says he has a headache.) While I layed there he rubbed my feet for a minute. "There, do you feel more relaxed?" Yes, I told him but did he think I wasn't relaxed? Do I look when I come home like I'm not relaxed. "No, you look happy" he said (whew - I was beginning to get worried.) "I just thought that after a long day you could use a little extra relaxation."

Obviously, we have been giving Q massages since he was a baby. He is a wound up kind of guy and it always helped him go to sleep. And now this week I see we were giving him more than a massage. We were teaching him how to take care of the ones he loves. And what else is a super hero but someone who knows how to look inside the heart of the people they love and respond with kindness and love.

Are we raising a superhero? I think our little superhero is raising us.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Turning Six



We have said good bye to 5 and are now onto 6. It's different. It's been a bit different for a month or so. He's more him and less us. He's adding to the conversation. He mimics less but still asks and asks and asks. He wants to know now. The weekend started with presents and fun and ended in the woods on a lake. Cold but with the sweet wood smoke autumn air at a memorial hootenanny for a friend's father. And in between a party at home with 10 or so little boys (and one little girl) running around inside and out living completely in the moment and happy. The little girl, 5 years old asked if she could play the violin and so right after the Happy Birthday song and while we all devoured our cupcakes she played her violin. It's wonderful. And yet all the while I am thinking - 'Five is gone? That's it? How? Where did it go? No. I'm not ready. I want it back. Now. I'm not kidding.'
And yet I cannot deny that I love 6 already. Love that he is becoming more of himself. Love that he is adding to the conversation. Love what he remembers and how he's stretching his independence. Love that he is trying to figure out where we end and he starts. I love it, I do. I just want more. And when he blew out the candles on his birthday cookie (yes, cookie) I made a wish with him. I wished that every child turning 6, every child all over the world who turns from 5 to 6 and all the children younger and older than that too would know the happiness and love and security that Q has already known. And while I wished for something I knew was not yet possible I prayed that God might give me the knowledge and strength to help make it so.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lessons from Q

Q & J 3 years old


Y and I were together for 14 years before we became parents. White woman, black man living in the US. In those 14 years race rarely entered our conversations. There were many ‘incidents’ but they didn’t cause much angst or need for conversation. We work hard to change what we can and don’t waste much time on what we cannot. When I became pregnant I was thrilled. It was a long, medically intense time and Q is alive because of the amazing doctors and hospital staff that cared for us. During that time I never considered how having a child would bring race into our lives in a way it had never been while we were a couple. I look back now and wonder at my innocence. There are some lessons, however, that we cannot learn from books, movies, or seminars. There are some lessons that come only on the backs of our children. This, I was unprepared for.

The photo above is of Q and J at the time everything began to change. Look at them. Look at how small, how innocent. Q and J started as infants in the same daycare class two days a week. They loved each other almost from the first. Before they could speak they were friends. J would arrive first, grab two fire trucks and sit next to the door until Q showed up. He would then hand a fire truck to Q who might have said thank-you if only he could speak, but he was about a year old and J a year and a half so instead they giggled and played and squabbled all day long, no words necessary.

When we would show up at the end of the day neither of them were ready to come home. One look at us and they would run laughing in the other direction. On the five days Q didn’t go to daycare he would wake up and say the name of the daycare hopefully and when I would say brightly “no, it’s a mommy/daddy & Q day!” he would look faintly disappointed but always try to cover it up with a shy smile as though he didn’t want to hurt my feelings.

One day when they were three years old (as they are in the photo,) Y arrived to pick up Q. They were running in circles when J ran up to Y and said “Y, how come your skin is brown?” Y looked at him and said, “J, how come your skin isn’t?” J raised his little eyebrows, smiled and went back to running in circles with Q. J had already internalized the fact that in his world, white was the ‘norm’ and brown was ‘different.’ Q began to feel this too and began to talk about it. He was three years old when he first told me that he wanted to have my color skin. Once he said he was angry at God for giving him brown skin.

One afternoon as we drove home from the daycare I noticed he was unusually quiet and had a serious look on his face. He was 3 ½ at the time. When I asked what he was thinking about he said that one of the children had asked something about why Q’s skin was brown and that one of the teachers had said because we were all made different to make the world a more beautiful place (or something like that. I cannot remember exactly but it was a very positive message.) “Oh that’s nice sweetheart.” I said. He turned away from the window he had been looking out of and with real frustration he said as he looked at me in the rear view mirror “No it’s not Mommy. It’s stupid. I’m different, they’re all the same.”

That was my different/same turning point. I realized in that moment that being white and never having suffered from being ‘different’ I always looked at it as a positive. But if you are a young preschooler and all you want to do is fit in or feel at home when you are with your friends or in school or your place of worship and you are the one that stands out, then different is not nice. Different is something you want to shed so that others can begin to look at you just for you. You want to belong and be noticed for something like singing or building blocks, something you can feel proud of because you can control it. You want to feel as comfortable in your own skin when you leave home as you do when you are home. Positive messages of difference are lost on you.

I understood that I was oblivious to what he was experiencing and that I would have to catch up very quickly. I knew too that it would be our responsibility to help his current and future preschool teachers learn some of the lessons that Q was teaching us. There is a time and a place for learning about what makes us individuals and unique but I now believe that in the early years we need to start building on a foundation of what we have in common. We are all family to each other, we are all related. That’s lesson number one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Herr Hartmann photo off of Flickr Creative Commons Children in Debre Markos
I started out today in a funk. Q's asthma is worse (always is in the fall) and we were up for the 5th or 6th night in a row in order to nebulize him. Then it's a good hour before we all settle down. He was still coughing after the medicine so I went downstairs made him tea with honey. Still coughing a few minutes later I get out of bed again thinking sleeping with him might help. Y suggests putting Q in our bed with me and Y slept in his bed. We finally settled down at 4. I was awoken to Q asking me if it was time to get up. "What does the clock say?" I asked him as he was sitting up all chipper and ready to go. "There's a 6 and then a 5 and then a 7." Damn, I thought my eyes aren't even open and I'm late.
So a rush into the shower w/ Q saying he wanted breakfast before my shower - he's starving. Sorry buddy Mom is late. Shower rush down stairs and he's running around the house saying alien's are coming. When Q wakes up he wakes up. He has very little down time from 6 AM to 7:00 PM each and every day. He's also vocal and a bit loud. Y and I were spent. I have a cold and I think he has one two - although he wouldn't admit it if I asked. And Q is running in between our feet in our little kitchen. At one point we both said at the same time "Q Please!" which made him promptly disappear. I had finished ironing my shirt was putting that on as my coffee was almost brewed and ready to go into the thermos, looking at the clock and thinking 20 min late - that's not too bad considering but then when I went into the living room to gather my things there was Q sitting scrunched up in a corner of the couch looking very hurt.
So I sit down and ask if I had hurt his feelings. He burst into tears and hugged me. "I thought you didn't want me around!" Ugh, yuck, blch! This working mom thing sometimes just so totally sucks! I make him sit on my lap and look into my eyes and I apologize really big. I'm sorry. I used the wrong words. I was trying to think about what I needed to do and I should have stopped and said that to you. I would never want to hurt your feelings. I make mistakes too but the very worst ones are any that hurt you even for one little second. I love you.
Then lots of hugs. "Are you staying for breakfast?" No sweetness I'm late, but so are you, we all slept in but that's OK because you needed me more in the middle of the night than you do now while you eat and get ready. It's almost time for you to leave too.
So we left OK but I like our mornings to be special and this was not. Then the long drive to work and then work being so iffy. Working in the financial business right now - not fun.
So it's a little pitty party for me and my sore throat and then I read the following article. And now I'm not pittying myself but I'm angry at myself for not counting all the extraordinary blessings that I have.
I've posted the photo above because of all the things I hear those that come back from Ethiopia talk about it is the numbers of children without adults that seems to leave the biggest impression.


Monday, October 13, 2008

We Get What We Settle For

February 2008, Our first family political action moment. Q is holding the hope sign.


If you can only read one thing about the campaign this week you might want to read the amazing piece in the NY Times from Saturday by Frank Rich. The title is: The Terrorist Barack Hussein Obama. It's a scary piece. I think it should be read by everyone who is registered to vote.




In the article he talks about the dangerous tone of the groups rallying around the Republican Camp these days. I do not believe they represent Republicans as a whole but to many very good Republicans are keeping silent and allowing it to happen. The following is just one quote from the piece;


"There are indeed so few people of color at McCain events that a black senior writer from The Tallahassee Democrat was mistakenly ejected by the Secret Service from a campaign rally in Panama City in August, even though he was standing with other reporters and showed his credentials. His only apparent infraction was to look glaringly out of place."


The link to another piece about this black reporter being ejected:




Want to learn more about the man McCain hired to help smear Obama's name? Go here:


to learn about South Carolina consultant Tucker Eskew and how he used McCain's adopted Bangladeshi daughter to imply that McCain had had an affair. Of course, McCain did have an affair with a young millionairess but because he married her and stayed married to her (she stayed thin and gorgeous and wealthy - and was already 20 years younger than him - hard to upgrade from that) it's supposed to be OK. No the power of Mr. Eskew's completely off base accusation was that it was a interracial affair. The McCains were said to be deeply hurt by this for their daughters sake. However, they have gotten over their hurt. This is one of the most disturbing things about McCain, his willingness to associate himself with the very lowest in his party to get what he wants.


And if you want to know what it's like to be a black sound man trying to do your job while covering the Republicans go here:


In this article you will also read about the supporter who yells out "Kill him!" meaning Obama.


There's so much more but I'll leave you to keep following the links.


I'm tired of decent Republicans saying that their party has been hijacked. I understand the very real issues that decent Republicans have and why they vote Republican. I understand to how difficult it is to vote for the opposing team. This year, however, our country needs everyone to stand up and put an end to the lowest among us strangling our political system. We need two powerful, and honorable parties to have some kind of fair representation of the American people. This year if we can all vote for the positive message for once, the anti-racist message then maybe it will be the last time the Republicans will put up with the tactics of their own party terrorists. Republicans vote Democrat and make your own party bow down to you next time in order to get your vote.


I beg you.


Friday, October 10, 2008

tagged

I have been tagged by C. at http://www.habeshahouse.blogspot.com/ I did not know what this meant so I went back to her site and it says:





Here's who I am tagging:

Who I am today

http://www.trlw.blogspot.com/



An Ethiopian Adoption Blessing

http://www.tami-borninmyheart.blogspot.com/



http://www.straightmagic.blogspot.com/



http://www.bluecollaradoption.com/



http://www.singlemomodyssey.blogspot.com/



http://www.adoptioncubed.com/

http://www.eshururu.wordpress.com/



Random Weird:



1. I do not sleep well and I have never slept well. The problem stems from the fact that my favorite hours in the day are 8 PM - 2 AM and then 5 AM to about 9 AM. Those are my most creative hours. When I was very young I would wake up so that I could hear the first bird begin to chirp. So it's always been there and I know it will always be. I do not nor will I ever sleep well.

2. I drive fast. I like to drive fast. I drive 120 miles a day and I DRIVE. While I drive I listen to really loud music until I worry about my hearing or the soon to be loss of it. Then I turn on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman until the things she reports on make me so mad/sad that I turn back on my really loud rock music and no longer worry about my hearing loss because there are many more things to worry about than that.

3. When I was 19 and she was 23 I traveled with my best girlfriend (more the big sister I always wanted and never had) Tracy Brooks for three months. She chose the itinerary; we would follow spring as it arrived in Europe. We started in Greece in March and ended in Ireland in May. We saw the Forum in Rome covered in wisteria vine. Everywhere we went people were throwing off their winter blues and heading outside to stroll in the sun. One's first visit to Europe should be in the spring when the air is clean and the locals are so so happy to have the tourists back. Before we set out on our voyage Tracy told me to buy all my clothes one size too big because we were going to eat our way through from the South to the North. We did. When we got off the plane in NY more than 3 1/2 months after we had left Tra's mom shouted out from behind the rope barrier in JFK "Well, I can see you enjoyed the food!" She was right. We did.

4. My favorite birthday was when I turned 20 and I was back on Nantucket for the summer. Tracy said we were going to a restaurant with friends but in reality she made me a spectacular spring meal. There were peony petals on the table and the herb bread was baked in flower pots that were tied with a ribbon. It was wonderful to have someone work so hard just to make a meal special and memorable. Men get this treatment rather regularly but woman not so much. The colors, tastes, scents and even the texture of the air of that evening remain vivid in my memory.

5. During a low point in my romantic life when I had had a couple of dates with men I found homely in face as well as spirit I vowed to my best friend over a few glasses of wine that I was going to ask the next good looking guy that I saw out on a date. My theory was that even if I didn't like the guy at least he wouldn't be bad to look at and I would get out of the house. A few minutes later a good looking man walked into the cafe and put on an apron to start his bartending shift. I couldn't ask him out right away because the only way to speak with him in the busy cafe was to take our bill up to him in order to pay it. When we finally finished our wine I went, paid the bill and with a few people waiting behind me to pay their bills I asked him out. August 12th 2008 was the 20th anniversary of that meeting. Being shallow can pay off. Never forget it.

6. Once for this handsome bartender's birthday I made his favorite pie (lemon merangue) in a heart shaped pan and then put the pie in a box lined with tin foil and wrapped with wrapping paper and ribbon and we drove out into the country for a late fall picnic. We laid out our blanket and I filmed him on an old super 8 film camera as he took out the birthday box and tilted it up for the camera to see how nice the bow was. When it came time to open his present he was shocked and delighted that it was his favorite pie. He took the knife, cut through the merangue and began to laugh. Not what I was expecting. "What?" I said. "That's so sweet. You put it in a heart shape pan and the merangue looks so perfect but you forgot the lemon filling!" I grabbed the box to investigate and sure enough - pie crust and merangue but no filling! "I put filling in!" I said. "Where is it then?" He said. This was not turning out the way I planned. Finally we tore apart the box and there was the filling, between the box and the tin foil lining. The car ride had warmed up the lemon into a kind of lemon soup and when he tilted the box to show the camera it literally gurgled down to the little point of the heart an into the lining of the box. Truly. It did. All was not lost. We scooped up all the lemon, drippled it on top of the lemon and sliced it all up into pieces. Yum.

7. One summer morning, 12 years after our trip to Europe, in a house on Nantucket surrounded by lavendar plants I sat awake with my dear friend Tracy and 5 other friends. It was just before dawn when the first birds began to sing and a soft breeze brought the scent of lavender to us. In those moments between the restful dark quiet of the night and the busy light warmth of the new day Tracy's soul finally was freed from the body it had been tethered too. It was a sweet and terrible thing and remains along with me becoming a mom the most important event of my life. We are rarely granted the privilage of being with our dear ones at the moment of their passing. It is one of life's greatest blessings. The morning she died Tracy was 35 and she is forever in my heart 35. I think of her every single day and cry more often than I will say here. I cannot believe she does not know my wonderful Q. He, however, experiences her love all of the time. As we work, Q and I in the kitchen baking and creating recipes. As we eat each and every meal with lit candles set on the table. As we walk in gardens of lavendar and I tell him that one day when he graduates college I will give him as a present a trip to Europe and he will not make his itineray based on monuments and museums but rather on a season and on the timing of the blooming of flowers and the spring song of birds. Of all the things to know about me, this last one is the only one that matters.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

You Carry My Heart

Photo: Q Dec 06, Union Square, NYC dancing to the light and sound holiday display. Auntie G is on the left watching.

I took yesterday off from work so that our social worker could come and conduct our home visit for our home study. I know a lot of people stress out over the home visit but we didn't. Our small very crowded house was relatively clean (she didn't stick to the dining room chair and there were fresh hand towels in the bathroom) but I didn't worry about making it look 'good.' I figure she's seen too many homes for me to get over on her on how well were keeping up with three very busy lives. It was a terrific visit as much of the information she gave us helped us finalize our request. We are going to request a child 12-24 months old, either gender. So that is that. She told us the waiting times are getting longer and while I would love to have our youngest child home now - today - I also believe very strongly in God's hand playing the most important role in all of this. Our child will come to us in good time.

Because I wasn't driving my usual 60 mile ride to work I was able to bring Q to school which was very special as it was a really big day for him. His wonderful school has a tv station run by the 4th and 5th graders and every morning the "Morning News" is shown on flat screen tv's in each classroom. Yesterday, was Q's deput on the morning news. It was an interview taped last week where he was asked to talk about how he rides his bicycle to school everyday with his dad. We stood outside the school with the dozens of other children and thier parents and I got to meet his new best friend a wonderful little boy who has a beautiful smile and a twinkle in his eye similar to Q's. I could see right away why Q liked him so much. When his teacher came out to collect her children I asked if I could stand in the back of the classroom and watch morning news. "Of course!" she said and so I got in the back of the single file line and walked in. Q was not in the line because he had broke ranks and ran in another door. Once in the building we walked about 10 feet and then turned to walk down a very long hallway. On either side of the hallway were first and second graders lined up and waiting for their teachers. The kindergartens were walked to their classrooms down the middle of what was the most adorable group of faces. Everyone was chattering but not loudly, kind of a low hum but everyone - 80 - 100 children were standing in an orderly way just laughing and talking and being delightful. It was great fun. At one point a little boy said "Wow, she's a really tall kindergartener!" about me and I heard a lot of giggles. As I entered the class room I found a spot along the back wall and watched 20 little children start their school day. First off every child needs to place thier lunch order. Those with lunches from home placed their lunch in a basket. Those with lunch money gave it to the teacher and then chose what they would have for lunch, the cold or the hot menu. Usually there is a picture of what is for lunch on top of a long strip of cardboard. Each child has a paperclip with their name on it. If they want the turkey sandwich they put thier paperclip on the strip with the sandwich picture. If they want the pasta with meat sauce they put their paperclip below that picture. Yesterday the pasta picture was missing. So as the teacher was taking lunch money, and saying hello and watching a child's magic trick she is saying over and over again, 'the hot meal is macaroni with meat sauce. No there is no picture today. Yes, there is meat in it. What's macaroni? It's pasta." And on and on. Meanwhile some children are going to thier desks (which are arranged in groups of 6 and set up in different areas of the classroom) and taking a book from the book basket that she's placed in the center of each table. Some children are putting thier afternoon snacks in the refrigerator, some are putting thier folders in the place reserved for folders and then putting their back packs away and one little boy is running in a circle on the carpet where they have circle time. The children are happy and animated but what really stood out is how responsible and orderly they all were. Organized chaos. I saw what Q loves about it. Meanwhile a couple of first graders keep sneaking into class and she warns them with great good humor that if they sneak in once more they may have to stay with her all day. They of course, sneak back in and she grabs their earlobes and wiggles them to their delighted giggles. One more child, maybe in 3rd grade came in to say hello and get a hug and then we were down to business. The children were in their seats and everyone had a book in front of them and was 'reading' the pictures and in same cases talking to their neighbor. And then the tv came on and the morning news started, complete with a lead anchor who announced each segment "and now to Louie Zagarilli for "on this day in history" or "and now to Clara Burke for today's weather." Then you would see Clara sitting in front of a large hand drawn sun telling us that today in B...we will see a few clouds but mostly sun. And now back to Zeke Tyler." "Thanks Clara," says Zeke. We watch a small segment of the 4th graders field trip to the river and the scientist explaining about the tides. And then comes the little brown bear. While he's introducing his segment some of the children are talking quietly throughout the classroom and the teachers softly shushes them but when they hear the bear say "my friend Q" all the whispering stops, all the rustling hands stop moving and all eyes are on the tv where they stay riveted for the 2 min Q is on the screen. I cannot see Q's face but I see his shoulders kind of shrink in as he watches. The children cannot believe that one of their own is on the morning news. For his part his interview is brilliant. Really. He speaks clearly and in a serious tone about the environment and how perhaps others could ride their bikes to school maybe once a week if they live close enough. The bear comes back says good bye and the screen goes black and all at once everyone starts talking "that was Q, that was Q. Q was on the morning news!" As he turned around to look at his teacher he had a look on his face I had never seen before. He was smiling so sweetly, and so proudly but there was something more. He had made his own self proud rather than Y or I. That's what it seemed like. Meanwhile the assistant principle had come into the room to find Q and tell him what a great job he did and asked him if he still rode his bike to school. I went up to him and kissed and hugged him and told him it was such a fun thing to be able to see that and then I walked out. He didn't say too much to me. This was his time with his classmates and teacher and principle and while he was glad I was there I was the outsider and he was with his peeps. I watched for a couple more minutes from the door. He could have seen me if he had turned his eyes my way but he never did. He continued to answer the principles questions and the rest of the class just hung on his every word for those few moments.

When trying to describe parenthood to soon-to-be parents I always, always fall short. There's the sleep (or lack of it), the laughter and the songs and the wonderful bed time stories and the middle of the night trips to the emergency room for the double ear infections. There's the fear that you're not doing enough or that you are in fact doing too much, protecting them when they really do need to get a bruised knee every once in awhile. But none of this describes parenthood. I think yesterday I finally had a realization about what is for me the defining thing about parenting Q. When he was born he took such a great portion of my heart right out of my chest that I sometimes have trouble breathing. When he was an infant this was not such a big deal because I carried him, my heart, with me where I went. As the years have passed more and more pieces of my heart are handed to him over time and as he begins to travel beyond my arm's reach I am at times frozen with a mix of fear and love. I watch him move in the world and it is my own soul that goes forward with him. There, there goes my heart, into the world and lately as he goes, he doesn't look back for me to see if I am watching him, to see if I love him. He knows he has my heart.

Monday, September 22, 2008

photo from flickr - Obama rally.

I found a wonderful blog today written by a woman who goes by C. She's a white woman with a black husband and three small children, two from Ethiopia. Her writing is charming and smart at the same time. If you haven't been to her site before the link is:
http://habeshahouse.blogspot.com/

On her site was this amazing essay by Tim Wise. I try not to post things going around the internet or other blogs but this one is so well written and so right.


If you're white and you have black children or are considering adopting you may want to think after reading this how this privilage thing will affect you and your family and what you are going to do about it, if anything.

Again, Thanks C. for posting this on your blog.

This is Your Nation on White Privilege
By Tim Wise



For those who still can't grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.



White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because "every family has challenges," even as black and Latino families with similar "challenges" are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.



White privilege is when you can call yourself a "fuckin' redneck," like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll "kick their fuckin' ass," and talk about how you like to "shoot shit" for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.



White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.



White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don't all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you're "untested."



White privilege is being able to say that you support the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance because "if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it's good enough for me," and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the "under God" part wasn't added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.



White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.



White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was "Alaska first," and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she's being disrespectful.



White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you're being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college--you're somehow being mean, or even sexist.



White privilege is being able to convince white women who don't even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a "second look."



White privilege is being able to fire people who didn't support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.



White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God's punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you're just a good church-going Christian, but if you're black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you're an extremist who probably hates America.



White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a "trick question," while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O'Reilly means you're dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.



White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it a "light" burden.



And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren't sure about that whole "change" thing. Ya know, it's just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain…



White privilege is, in short, the problem.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Principle Two

photo by Peter Casier WFP

Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Seven Days Seven Principles

Rita Willaert photo from Flikr CC


The inherent worth and dignity of every person.







Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sunday School

This past Sunday I stood in front of our congregation with a dozen or so other people and vowed to do my very best teaching our kindergartners the essential elements of our faith. The congregation also made their own vows to us that they would support us in this endevour.

I will teach our 7 little kindergartners whom I really adore for several weeks off and on throughout the year. One child is a foster child and one a domestic adoption out of the foster system. One child is my son. Two other children are Asian. It's a wonderful little group and being there in that building for the day made me so happy and helped lift my dismal mood.

These are the very best people I know, the members of this denomination. They truly walk the walk. You basically cannot belong unless you serve the community and the world in some way. Our kindergarten class will be making a compost pile for the garden committee, planting daffodils in a couple of weeks to help our spirits in April, and selling crafts to help save money for the local dog shelter. All of these tasks to teach one of our 7 main principles: the Interconnectedness of life. I think they are going to love it. What do 4 and 5 year olds love more than helping? A couple years from now they will start to learn some of the stories but for now I believe they need to live it. Live it first, read about it later.

The funny thing is I have a feeling the vast majority of McCain supporters hate us and everything we stand for. We promote peace, welcome all (and I mean all) and believe the most important worship involves getting your hands dirty and speaking out for the poor and the downtrodden. We believe in conserving our resources. We believe this earth is on loan to us by our children. We try not to label others or ourselves. The inherent worth and dignity of all people.

Drill baby drill would not be heard in our fellowships.

Love baby love. Yes.

In any case, I am so happy to have this merry band of hard workers. They keep me grounded and uplifted at the same time.

Friday, September 12, 2008

In my name

September 8, 2008. 2 children, 4 woman were killed by our missiles in a small village in Pakistan while we were looking for friends of Osama Bin Laden.

September 3, 2008. We killed 15 people in a Pakistan. This was the first time we have openly operated on Pakistan soil.

A Pakistand security official was quoted as saying "You can't keep on raising the intensity and missing out on targets and still expect to be respected as a big military power."


August 21st, We killed 90 children, women and men civilians in Afghanistan. We then lied about it. It turned out someone shot a video. We had to take back our lie. We are investigating ourselves.
My questions for myself. How many children is it OK to kill in our search for a murderer? Is it OK to drop a missile in the country side of New York, or Vermont, or New Hampshire if a known murderer lives there?
What happens to a soldiers heart when he discovers the people he has killed were civilians. How does this affect him when he get back home to his family?
I am beginning to ask myself these questions in order to hopefully have answers for my son as he get older. I do not feel it's fair or just to ask our troups to go into war, in our name, without asking ourselves if there is anything we could do to promote peace.
The Republican ticket is not showing any hope of getting out. What can I do?




Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 2001

We saw the column of smoke over Manhattan but didn't yet know. We had been out early to go and vote in the primary and were walking to the subway when we saw it. We spoke, kissed and I went down into the subway to catch my train into lower Manhattan for work. I was reading the paper standing up leaning against the doors as the train pulled out of the tunnel and made it's way up and over the Manhattan Bridge and then as the towers came into view almost all at once half the people on the train car cursed. Together just one soft under our breadth curse. The train was suddenly silent. No rustling, no conversation no movement just silence and then the soft sound of a few people crying. It was one of the trains that brought workers to the World Trade Centers and I know the people crying had to have worked in the buildings. By then both buildings had been hit. A man standing near me and listening to a radio said that two small planes had flown into the World Trade Centers. And we all looked at him and then back at the smoking buildings - what?! The train had stopped for a moment on the bridge and we remained silent and watching and then it lurched and we were pulled back into a tunnel this time on the Manhattan side. Coming out of the subway onto Broadway the crowds just stood and stared as the sirens just kept on blaring. Every police car, ambulance and fire engine screaming it's way downtown as the smoke continued to rise.

A few minutes later I stood with two other women and screamed and cried and held each other as first one and then the second building came down.

I was sent to go out and get water and food staples. On the street I saw people praying with their hands together and their eyes closed. I saw an Orthodox Jewish Man standing and swaying mumbling his prayers. I saw a Muslim man stop on the street put down a small mat and bow to say his prayers. We all prayed, silently or out loud, we all prayed. And worried.

We had no idea if those were the last planes or if it was just the beginning. We couldn't get the television reception. The trains had stopped. If you wanted to walk over the bridges home you could but it would and did take many thousands of people hours and hours of walking. I decided to stay in Manhattan. Sometime in the afternoon the phone lines opened up a little bit and I was able to talk to my husband.

A little girl in the very long line at the store told me she went to school near the towers and she had been evacuated. She said she wasn't sure if she was going to go to school tomorrow. Her mother and I looked at each other but we didn't say anything to her.

The next day the fliers started going up. Fliers of missing friends, husbands, daughters, cousins. Always the best photo of the person, smiling, happy, sitting on lawn chairs or at kitchen tables, laughing and always always looking out at you. Every single available space was pasted with these fliers. "If you see ...Please call her Mom." Her Mom. I thought at the time - no...you're supposed to put your name down. Your name. Mary, or Sue or Lisa. Not mom. But of course, what else could she do? Her daughter, who looked so young sitting at the table laughing, her daughter was missing. Maybe she couldn't remember her own name. For weeks I walked to work looking at my feet, unable to look up at all those faces. The fliers stayed up for months after we all knew no one was coming back.

Union Square became an outdoor living memorial space with the fences shrouded with the fliers and people singing, playing music, praying. Buddhist, Christians, Muslims, Hindu's the world, everyone there praying and singing and walking slowly past the fliers.

And what have we done since then? Invaded a country that had nothing to do with these murders (but does have a lot of oil.) We have murdered more than 100,000 people in the name of what? Revenge? Is that who we've become?

And now all these years later, as neglect our own schools, and homeless and sick. As we send so much of our money to go and murder more in my name. In my name. As children are blown apart. Children blown up a dozen or two at a time while we are looking for the one or two terrorists in their midst. Now, we are about to vote to keep in another warrior. A man who thinks that war is the answer. A man gunned down during one illegal war that we started - that if we had not started he wouldn't have been a prisoner - why does no one say that - WE started the Vietnam War. It was OUR fault. The Vietnamese never attached us. And still we are doing it again. In our name. And children are watching us kill their friends and family and they are making vows of revenge.

I am so tired and so sad and so angry.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

First Day of Kindergarten



Two years ago we spent six months visiting all the schools within forty miles of our home.  We chose a beautiful little school that went from preschool through fourth grade and thought to ourselves "great, that's done."  It was a long drive - 25 minutes away but we really liked it. Liked the director, the teachers, the other families.  And they liked us, asked us to join the board.  More importantly they loved him.  Everyone just loved him.    The only problem was, he didn't like it.  He liked the other children and loved the director and the teachers but he was the only one in his class with brown skin and he talked about that all the time.  It was also very quiet, controlled you might say.  I loved that.  Seemed very nice to me.  Not to him.   His favorite activity is going to China Town in New York City and just walking through the crowd on Canal Street with all the noise and car exhaust and thousands of tourists pushing past us to get to fake purses.

And so last week he started kindergarten at the large, somewhat chaotic but very wonderful magnet public school a short walk from our house.  The director is wonderful and has done really great things with a school that a few years ago was failing.  Now there's free violin and cello starting in kindergarten (not that my led zeplin lovin' drumming crazy guy is going for either - but I like the idea that someone's kindergartner is taking cello.)  there's environmental science and a TV station run by the fourth and fifth graders.  

First day of school he said while eating his cereal "I am a mix of anticipation and anxiety." He really is too much sometimes.  A few minutes later his father took this photo and yes there it is the anxiety and anticipation.   And the verdict after his first full week;  he loves it!  He actually can't wait to get to school.  His classmates are a lovely mix of children from many different cultures and he seems to feel finally comfortable in his own skin.  So we've learned a lesson.  All the research in the world won't make up for sitting down and listening to your own child.  And sometimes test scores are not the most important factor in whether or not the school will be the right learning environment for a child.

It's been such a lovely week.  We feel so blessed. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

30 feet in the air this August.  The choices family night at camp were; fishing, crafts, kick-ball or making your mother crazy by climbing to the top of a 30 foot wall.  Witness his choice. Granted he wasn't trying to make my heart stop he was just doing what he does.  He was going for the heights. I am in awe of his reach.  I wonder at his ability to overcome his fears.  "I was terrified!"  He told me.  But the next day he asked to go back up.   They had to call Y to ask if it was OK.  The preschoolers are not ordinarily allowed up the wall.  Family night was an exception and only a couple chose to climb the wall.  Of course, Y had to sign a release.  A release!  The next day they called back.  It was his last day at camp and Q had asked the wonderful director if he could have one more turn up the wall.  The director was kind enough to call us.  I can't keep him safe.  I can't hold him to me any longer and ask others "have you washed your hands?"  Gone are the days I check on him in his crib; is he too warm?  too cold?  all squished into the side of the crib?"  I'm brought to tears at times remember how sweet and how short those days were.  And yet I don't want those days back.  He's too extraordinary to stop or even slow down.  The world is waiting for him.

Yesterday was the first day of kindergarten.  Again, he said he was scared.  He cried outside on the sidewalk.  But when the teacher said it was time to go in he took a little boys hand and walked quietly and with purpose forward without looking back. 

Keep on reaching baby boy.  I am in awe and it is such a pleasure watching you grow.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

For Quinn


Angels sing and dance amongst us as children sit at a counter and ask for a soda, as a woman riding on a bus and does not get out of her seat, as a father wakes up from his mid afternoon nap to have dinner and go to his second job. Angel's trumpets blare as tens of thousands of marchers quiet for a moment to listen to a man with a dream. Angels hover humming over a jail cell that holds the man who will leave the jail a leader and will take his people in one direction before he travels to mecca and changes course which will cause eventually his assassin to load his gun and take aim, while his own children watch. Angels hum, whirl, twirl, dance. Sing lullabies and laments year in and year out as babies are born, grow up, grow old and die. Tonight Amerca's native son walks out on blue and even the angels skirts still as they turn to watch and listen to a dream unfurled.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Where are you in this picture?

Photo from Rita Willaert's Flickr site.

I study these photos each day to try to understand what our child will have lost. I look and I look and I look and still, what will I be able to tell this little boy or girl who comes to us? You come from beauty. You come from love. You come from a neighborhood. You come from a home. Your parents, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles and neighbors, they all loved you. They all miss you. They all remember you. I look at this picture and I see neighbors I might know with their children standing as we do in line at the co op or coffee house. I see the children laughing and goofing around, happy and looking up at the adults to see who is watching them. I almost always find myself. Here in this photo I am wearing a black scarf on my head that has a white diamond pattern. I have my hand on my son's shoulder and he is leaning in to me and looking up and smiling and if you look you can just barely see that I am smiling too down at him in happiness and wonder. And there I might be if fate had not put me here. I might be standing in line in Ethiopia. I wish everyone well in this photo. They are so beautiful. I am in awe.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Book Report - The Hairstons


Beautifully written by a white outsider with no connection to the family, Henry Wiencek writes with a respect and a certain sense of wonder about the senior members of the Hairston clan, both black and white.
The Hairstons won the National Book Critics Circle Award for good reason. While taking us through the long and painful history of our country he manages to show us the humanity of the individuals involved. He opens the book with the handshake of two of the senior Hairstons clan, one the descendant of slaves who worked the plantation and the other the descendant of the slave holders. The handshake is friendly, the men seem to like and admire each other. And the author wonders if it's geniune. How could it be? But if it is a true handshake of friendship after years, lifetimes of unimaginable suffereing, then how is it possible? What came to pass? It took Henry Wiencek 7 years of research and interviews with hundreds of family members to answer the question. We have only to pick up the book.
Highly recommended!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Summer 08 - revised

This is my second post about our summer vacation in the midwest. The first was a long rant and on rereading it I decided it was not what I wanted to remember about our vacation. So I've replaced it with an image that I do want to remember about summer vacation - Q catching his first 'big' fish!

And therein lies the reason I love being a mom. The first post was basically a list of very adult type of complaints; airline delays, family squabbles, exhaustion, packing, etc. But when I look at our vacation through Q's eyes I remember fishing on the boat peers, cousins happy to see us, grandparents, swimming in the lake watching the tour boats come into port, a big hill of sand and a game of king of the hill, flying through the biggest clouds, music, wonderful junk food, sunny cabins, long walks along the shore with the wildflowers in bloom, yoyo's, marshmellows toasted over the firepit, ice cream stands on a road in the middle of a corn field, laughter, swinging in a hammock hugging my five year old while looking up through the tall, tall oak trees, visits with old friends and more, much more.

So thanks, Q, for your eyes and your sharing and your laugh. I remember now how much I love summer vacation.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What will you remember?


Lady Freedom Among Us by Rita Dove (www.afropoest.net/ritadove14.html)
...don't think you can ever forget her
don't even try
she's not going to budge
no choice but to grant her space
crown her with sky
for she is one of the many
and she is each of us"







Thursday, August 14, 2008

Summer

Summer. This was last year when he wanted to have his head shaved. This year there's more hair and now that he's 5 1/2 a lot more attitude which is terrific as I love both his hair and his growing in-your-face attitude. We've been blessed with one of those children who own at a young age an inate and truly superior sense of humor. It makes flight delays and sunburns and bad food all good. Really. I wish every harried traveler could have a companion like him. Strapped into his seat for a an hour and a half and then being returned to our original airport because of mechanical difficulties (we were happy to go back - there were LOUD banging sounds going on the entire time) what did he do but make up funny songs. Songs about planes and being late (which we were, for the flight that would eventually return) and mechanical difficulties and airplane engines that double as espresso makers, lots and lots of songs. And jokes. At times we both laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes. Sitting in the front row of a small plane he every once in a while knocked on the wall in front of us. Just knocked while he sang and talked. Every maybe 5 or 10 minutes, a knock. After awhile I said to him, "You realize that is not the pilots cabin don't you?" His eyes got huge and twinkly. He had of course thought that was the wall separating the pilots from us. "I thought it was the pilots room!" "No," I said "you've been trying to annoy the coffee maker for the last half hour." He laughed so hard I thought the stewardess was going to get out the oxygen for him and so of course I laughed too.

I do not understand the craze for bringing dvd players on trips like this. Maybe it's because I'm a working mom but I don't think so. Really, what is better than traveling? Than leaving home and getting to fly above the earth to actually and truly fly through the clouds? I know what is better. What is better is to have the oppurtunity to fly through the clouds with a 5 year old and see the wonder in his eyes and in no small way feel it again myself.

At the end of the plane ride he said to me "Ya know Mom in your every day life you can be very serious. I sometimes forget how really funny you are."

What could be better?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mothers and Grandmothers


photo by Oriol Gascon from Flickr

And so our mothers and grandmothers have, more often than not anonymously, handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower
they themselves never hoped to see - or like a sealed letter they could
not plainly read.

Alice Walker

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Book Review - Next Stop Grand Central

Next Stop Grand Central
Maira Kalman

This book is magical. It's magic realism for children and adults. Even the youngest children will find it interesting as Kalman introduces the wonderful men and women who work at Grand Central but preschoolers will be especially delighted with some of the more absurdist moments.
The page where the opera singer sings "my knee" has become a family insider joke when real life just goes over the top Q will stop and stand and belt out "My KNEEEEEE!!!!!"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Big Brother Q!

You and Jake again several years ago. See how thoughtful you are as you hold Jakes hand? What are you telling him? What is your just barely three year old self thinking as you walk in your Spiderman costume and little red jacket? Of course, at that time it wasn't a costume, for you wore that Spiderman suit almost every other day. Wore it so often we had a portrait of you painted in the red and blue costume so that we would never forget that magical time when you were a super hero almost every day.

You will be a wonderful big brother! Thoughtful, kind, full of empathy and love and much, much good humor! How we laugh! I cannot wait to share that laughter with our new little brother or sister. Oh, and of course, the tears, and spills and tantrums and walks and talks and stories. The dances and music and stickiness. The hugs, the kisses, the car rides and plane rides. The swimming. The questions. All of it. The breakfast table plans and dinner table reports. The parties. The sick days. The love.

You will be a wonderful big brother!



Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dream Variations by Langston Hughes

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me-
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening...
A tall, slim tree...
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friends, Brothers, Cousins, Memories

Photo by Rita Willaert from her Flickr portfolio, Ethiopia

"You live in a white state. Deal with it."

Click on the quote to reach the article at Boston.com

"You live in a white state. Deal with it." A quote by a policeman to a 5 year old who pushed another child after he was called a racial slur.

The above article is about racial profiling in Vermont, where an African American graduate student was stopped by police 13 times during his one year in Vermont, twice the first day in the state. Vermont is no different than any other state in this country this is not the exception it is the rule.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday, July 7, 2008

Dose of Realty

Often White people will think that Black people are being defeatist when Blacks try to tell the truth about what living in this country is like. I don't know how to go about helping people to jump over this psychological bridge to foster some real understanding of the situation. If we were to be defeatist, we wouldn't talk about these issues. We would live our lives trying our best to shelter ourselves (we will never be able to shelter our children) from the truth. More importantly we would not be preparing ourselves to help our children deal with these realities.

I've decided one way to help is to post news items about real life in America for those that are not White. Often we will not agree with the 'official' reaction. In the story below the school boards actions are completely inappropriate. Hopefully, there will be the occasional story where the official reaction is just. In any case it gives each of us an oppurtunity to reflect on how we as parents might have responded if it was our child in the same situation. The reality is, one day it will be our child.

Dose of Realty today is the story of the Black Student Union members at a school in Los Angeles. It's important to note that it is often our children that are trying hard and becoming involved that get singled out for abuse. The school's racial makeup is 45 % Hispanic, 30% White and 4.5 % Black. That's important too.

To read about their experience of being Black in America please go to:
www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25419359/

Sunday, June 29, 2008

For Parents Considering a Transracial Adoption

****Please Note*****Parts of this post contain information from a 10 year old report that uses the term 'oriental' which is considered offensive by many people. The correct word should be Asian. At the moment I am not going to change it - although I am considering this. I don't know if I have time or if it is even right of me to change old text to reflect new understanding. I think it negates the hard work that has been done in the past and might make someone read it and assume the past was easier than it was. Please leave a comment if you disagree, I would love opinions on this topic. Thanks! Thanks Andrew for bringing this to my attention!
Thanks go to Casper Anderson at http://casperanderson.wordpress.com/ for posting this and for offering so much needed insight into the world of transracial adoption.

Questions on Intercountry AdoptionReprinted from the report on Intercountry Adoption: 1995

COAC Collection” Mar/Apr 1999 Knoxville, TN Council on Adoptable Children

We cannot overemphasize the importance of your being involved with a parent group before, during, and after your adoption. Parent groups provide education and support that will greatly benefit both you and your child.
Transracial adoption is not for every family, just as adoption is not for every family. Some very nice people are not necessarily good parents. Many good parents cannot really accept someone else’s child and love it as their own. Many adoptive parents are excellent parents to a child of their own race, but not to a child of another race or background. It takes parents with a certain sensitivity and understanding to parent a child of a different race in our race-conscious society.
Adopting a child of a different race: What is involved for the parent and the child?
1. From the parent’s point of view: Your family will now be interracial for generations. It is not just the question of an appealing little baby. How do you think and feel about interracial marriage? How does your family think and feel when people assume that you are married to someone of a different race? How do you feel about getting some public attention - positive or negative stares, comments? A possible problem could be that the child gets too much attention and others in the family tend to get “left out”. What are your thoughts about race? What characteristics do you think people of other races have? Do you expect your child to have them? The children get Americanized. Do you raise him to have the same identity as you or your other children? Do you help him to develop his own identity? Should he have a foreign name? What relationship will his name have to his sense of who he is?
Imagine a child you know and love being sent to a foreign country to be adopted. How would you want him to be raised? As an American in a foreign country or as a native in that country? How can you learn what it is to be non-white or non-black, and growing up in a white or black society? You don’t know this from your own experience, so you’ll have to find out to teach yourself to become sensitive to your child’s world.
Discrimination against Asians, Indians, Mestizos is more subtle than against blacks, so it is less obvious to a Caucasian or Black, and will require more sensitivity to subtleties.
2. From the child’s point of view:
Preschool years- The people he loves best look different from him. It will be natural for him to want to resemble those he loves, or else understand why he looks different, and learn that difference is not a bad thing.
Latency Stage- The child will need help in understanding his heritage and background so he can explain and feel comfortable about his status with his friends. He needs to be able to answer the question from other children, “What are you?”
Teenage Years- This is the time where he tries to figure out, ” Who am I?” Curiosity about his birthparents or background may become stronger. Questions about dating arise, and you should look at your community. Try to guess how many of your friends and neighbors would wholeheartedly accept their child dating yours. How would you feel if your child developed a special interest in his native country, and identified himself as a foreigner, involved himself with a group of Oriental, Indian, or Latin American teens, wanted to visit his native land? Hopefully you would have kept alive his interest in , and knowledge of his original country’s culture and progress and not feel in the least threatened by his wanting to identify himself with such others.
On to Adulthood- “Whom will I marry?” is a rather different question from “Whom will I date?” Do you have any idea now that your child might marry a Caucasian, an Oriental, a Mestizo, a Black? Would you recommend for or against interracial marriage for your child?
Summary: In addition to your qualities, thought, and feelings as parents, it is important to understand your motive for this kind of adoption. Do you feel you are doing a good deed for a poor homeless child? Do you feel that you’d be acquiring a status symbol, a conversation piece? In her book Adoptions Advisor, Joan McNamara on p. 41 bluntly and accurately remarks, “You are adopting a child, not a tropical house plant to put in your living room.” It is important that you respect the child’s country and culture.
If you feel that your own values and culture are superior to those of your child, or if you feel your primary orientation is to help this child become absorbed into your culture at the expense of his own, you might find transracial adoption is difficult for both you and your child.
It is important to keep in mind that children are removed from their own country ONLY because they essentially have no future in that country, and no possibility of being cared for by permanent nurturing parents, either by adoption within that country, or strong long term foster care. Their only alternative to intercountry adoption would be institutionalization until they reach maturity.
LINK
Posted in Adoption

Friday, June 27, 2008

*** Parenting Tips

"Parenting Tips for White Parents with Adopted Children of Color" by Sun Yung Shin in the Summer 2007 issue of MN ASAP Family Voices newlsetter.

I found this on the Harlow's Monkey Website. The tips are straightforward and helpul.

http://harlowmonkey.typepad.com/harlows_monkey/2007/10/parenting-tips-.html

Adoption Means Forever

This is not easy. Talking about children who are abandoned for one reason or another, not once but twice, or three times or more.

This post is about a Dutch Diplomat who 'returns' his adopted daughter, age 7 (after parenting her for 6 1/2 years.)

By Jae Ran

http://kimchimamas.typepad.com/kimchi_mamas/2007/12/even-after-40-y.html

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Book Report - Dragonfly's Tale


Retold and Illustrated by Kristina Rodanas, Clarion Books, NY 1991
Ages 5 and up (Please Note: In this story two children are left alone when the tribe forgets about them when they are sleeping. This is not recommended for children for all children in the preschool age.)

The retelling of a Native American (Zuni) Tale that is century's old. First translated by Frank Hamilton Cushing and published in The Millstone (Volumn 9, 1884) The author has changed it from the original.
Wonderful illustrations and a lovely story from the southwest about gratitude and kindness. I especially like this story as there are two children at the center of the story who show kindness to beggars when the adults do not and who are later repaid for their kindess in a magical way. The children are abandoned for a while by the tribe - so this may not be suitable for some children. However, the children are resourceful and the tribe comes back to find that the children have been abundantly blessed. The tribe changes it's ways. The tribe is considered very prosperous because they have plenty of food. Nice to be able to talk to children about prosperity then (enough food and warm shelter) compared with prosperity now (huge cars and over consumption.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

White Kids in Transracial Families

http://johnraible.wordpress.com/real-brothers-real-sisters-white-kids-in-transracial-families/

Wonderful summary of study done by John Raible. Very positive in some ways especially when discussing the experiences of children who grew up in families with parents who educated themselves and were prepared.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Graduating from Preschool

Precious Quinn,
Today you stepped onto a stage and received your preschool diploma. I couldn't be there so Daddy took a photo for me to see. That was very very hard for me and I know it was a little hard for you. I know you say I have told you a million times but I plan on telling you 101 million times, so here's a million and one, I LOVE YOU.

This is a picture of you and Jake a long time ago, but it doesn't seem like a long time ago it seems like yesterday morning I was driving you to day care and you were talking and talking and talking in the backseat. You were a delight. You are a delight. Even though sometimes I say the time is going by too fast, it is not. It is going by just right. I love the way you bring the world into our home in a way that is fresh and lovely and curious. I love the way you look at things from all sides - even underneath. I love that you dance everyday - my favorite is that fast feet dance you do that seems to be all the joy in your body just bubbling up and coming out. I love your hugs and your talks in the morning. I love going to the cafe's with you and sitting and watching the people. I love your questions "Mommy, is the sun light a liqued?" "What is spatula?" "Why does he want to hold her hat?"
I love your poetry and your singing rap songs that you make up. I love that you like stories that are long and have lots and lots of big words. I love that you love and love and love all over the place.

I love being your mom. And I LOVE YOU! That's one million and two.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Preschooler Activities


There was a post on one of the groups today from a soon-to-be first time mom who is adopting a four year old. She wanted to know some activities that she could do with her daughter.

The most important thing I've learned is that most preschoolers would rather spend quiet time with mom or dad than go to a zoo, a museum or some big show. Not that they do not like those things occasionally but what preschoolers want most is your undivided attention.
Here's our family's favorite activities:

Kitchen time. A child's size apron and their own cookie cutters, dough scraper and half moon vegetable cutter are wonderful tools. Don't fuss over cookie dough if you don't want to - buy the already prepared stuff in the grocery. We love to bake and sometimes we go all out but there is always dough in the freezer ready to slice up for cookies. Muffins are good too as they can be frozen and kept for school snacks. Friday nights are pizza night in our house. My husband stops off at the pizza parlor and buys the dough. Then he and my son make pizza and rollies (an invention of Q's that he's very proud of - rolled up pizza dough around whatever fillings he likes.) My husband slices up veggies (no my son doesn't use the veggies - but hey one day - you never know) puts out tomato sauce (homemade, from the jar or from the same pizza place) and cheese and maybe ham. My sons total time in the kitchen with dad is probably 30 min (of course, dad is in there for much longer) but the memories they are making together are pricesless. Fruit smoothies are great for breakfast or quick lunch and we always have frozen fruit on hand to make them. They can be made with milk, soy milk or just a banana and oj. This is a very noisy activity and I can see how it might be frightening for children are not accustomed to the sound.

Garden time.
You don't need a garden. 6 small herb pots a few seeds and some dirt, cover with plastic wrap and have the child mist every day. Soon they will have their own herb garden! Mint is one of my favorite herbs for children as it makes a terrific tea for tummy aches. Of course if you do have outside space that's nice too. Gardening for a preschooler means digging a hole - and watering, lots and lots of watering. Don't plant anything precious or expensive, preschoolers are going to kill half of what they plant. For that reason I buy a full tray of bedding plants and let him plant the full tray pretty close together. That way when half of them are all smashed up from gettting stepped on and squished (or drowned in over zealous watering) he doesn't really notice. This is not about the look, it's about getting dirty and feeling the earth between your toes.

Beach, lakefront, riverside;
Any place that you can wiggle your toes, run from waves, feed ducks or throw stones into the water is pure heaven for preschoolers. If they collect stones and sticks and seed pods give them some paint and glue and sparkles and let them make some art when they get home.

Movie night.
We are not big movie watchers and the language issue can make it difficult but I highly recommend the Pingu dvd. If you don't know Pingu he's a penguin and he doesn't speak english or any other human language. He does speak but it's penguin, so no one in your family will be able to understand it. Pingu lives in a snow covered land of course, with his mom and dad and his baby sister (her birth from an egg complete with doctor penguin helping with a spoon is one of my favorite episodes.) They are charming and adults as well as children will laugh throughout the episodes. We can't do movie night without popcorn and our prefered is jiffy pop for the dramatic effect of the inflating tinfoil.

Art.
We have an art table that is all his with paints, markers, oil pastels always out. I like the big artist sketch books with the wire binding. They can pull out the pictures if they want but if they leave them in you have a sketchbook of life as they see it. when one book is full put the dates on the front and keep. You'll be amazed at the progress.
When we work together we always make abstract work. Perfectionist preschoolers can get very hung up on "but I can't draw a dog as well as you!" and they can give up. So we make a lot of abstract stuff. Put a piece of paper in the bottom of an old 8x12 cake pan, roll some marbles in paint and then put the marbles in the cake pan and roll around. Or take the same pan, fill up with cheap shaving cream (about 3 inches deep) smooth it out and drizzle food coloring on the shaving cream. take a small fork and swirl the food coloring dots through the shaving cream. Now lay a piece of paper over the shaving cream and pull up slowly. You'll have a beautiful swirly masterpiece. And take yarn paint the yarn and use the yarn to paint on the paper by laying the yarn down in patterns. Lastly, we don't use crayons in our house. My son wouldn't touch them, I'm not exactly sure why but he had boxes of them and never used them. Then I bought him some inexpensive oil pastels and he's been drawing ever since. They feel very different from crayons and any child that likes hard lines and edges and drawing within the lines will not like them. But for the true budding artist you can't beat the depth of the colors and the emotion of the lines that your child will produce. Much of what he produces are literally frame worthy.

Tea parties are great for boys and girls, just invite all their stuffed animals and dolls and serve real tea (mint or fruit flavored) and of course cookies.

Camp in the living room/ dining room/ kitchen. Lots of pillows, chairs, blankets, flashlights and picture books. Make sure you get in the fort also. Don't forget the band-aids and first aid supplies, there's always a stuffed animal who gets hurt and will need some medicine.
The most important element to all of the above activities is YOU. Do not think these are activities for them to do on their own, although they may be capable. The idea is to spend some time together doing an activity that they enjoy.