Tuesday, June 29, 2010


My favorite blogs are the honest ones. Not necessarily the messily honest ones that are so raw that you want to look away but the ones that present with clarity the hard truths about life, specifically about adoption. I'm never inspired by the "oh, isn't my life just peachy" blogs.

Here is some honesty. It may be messy. Look away if you need to. This is not an inspiring post but it is an honest one.

I am afraid of not having what it takes as a mother. I feel like I am a decent mom to our first child. We have a rhythm to our days. We have rituals with each other. Life feels comfortable. Our relationship is easy. We know each other. Abe checks in with me all day long, even if he's busy playing. We are connected. We've known each other since he was nine months old.

This morning in the middle of an argument with my husband (yes, we argue sometimes), all my fears about being mother to our next child came spilling out. What if I can't handle the language barrier? What if she won't bond to us? What if we don't bond to her? What if she and Abe don't bond as siblings? What if that connecting thread of love never forms? What if I don't know what to do when she's having tantrums? What if I can't comfort her when she's grieving? What if I haven't done enough reading or at least haven't read the right books yet? What if she sees every area where I'm lacking, meets our Ethiopian friends and decides she would rather live with them? What if she hates us? What if I fail?

I'm sitting right now in the big purple chair that is in Abe's room. When this next child comes home, this is probably where her bed will be, at least in the beginning. I'm physically filling the space that she will occupy perhaps later this year. I want to be able to look back at this day and remember these fears.

Ted has no fears about this next adoption. He has the utmost faith that it's all going to work out. He is nothing but excited, saying that he wishes we had traveled back to Ethiopia yesterday. He is so ready to parent a daughter. Ted is a fantastic father, but sometimes I wonder if he's stupidly optimistic or just plain stupid. When I opened up this morning about all of this, his eyes filled with tears, and he told me that he knows that I'm not going to fail. He said, "I know you. You won't be able to do anything but love this child."

Please don't get me wrong: I want another child (funny how writing "another child" feels easier than "a daughter"). I want Abe to have a sister. Abe wants Abe to have a sister. Somewhere deep inside of me, I know that it's all going to be okay, even better than okay. But I also know that the first six months (or longer) can be a trial of fire, and I worry that I won't have what it takes. As a teacher, I've never liked the first couple of weeks of the semester. I always want to fast forward to half-way through the semester when we're comfortable with each other and have our inside jokes and rapport all set. I'm an introvert and have never been comfortable in the process of getting to know a new person. If you are my friend, I probably didn't enjoy getting to know you; I just like knowing you now. It feels similar with this next child, just intensified by a hundred thousand.

So these are my fears. While I know it's probably going to be fine eventually, I'm afraid of the nitty-gritty messiness and unknown of what our next year is going to look like. It freaks my shit out, and I break down crying about it sometimes, which makes me feel selfish which then makes me feel guilty.

I can only hope that my stupid husband is right. He has faith in me and in us as a team. If only I could borrow some of that faith.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Lesson in White Priveledge

While playing in our backyard yesterday, one of the girls on our block came to me asking for a band-aid because the scab on her ankle had come off. Kids love band-aids. I brought one out for her from our medicine drawer, and as she was opening it, I explained that it was "Abe-colored." At first, she thought I meant that we had some fancy band-aids that Abe had designed.

I said, "No, they are actually the color of Abe's skin." She looked puzzled. I said, "Have you ever noticed at the drugstore that most band-aids are peach, pink, or beige colored? Doesn't that seem unfair to all the people who have dark skin?" She said she'd never thought about it. As she peeled open the packaging, she smiled when she saw the color.

She eagerly put it on her ankle and ran to tell her friend about her "Abe-colored band-aid."

Today at a birthday party on our block, she ran up to me with a huge smile to show me her ankle, saying, "Hey look! The band-aid has stayed on since you gave it to me yesterday!" Later in the afternoon, her friend came in our house with a tiny scrape on her finger and asked for a band-aid. Before I handed it to her, she checked to make sure it was one of the "Abe-colored ones." I said it was. She wore it proudly, showing everyone.

I'm not exactly sure what I think about the girls' eagerness to wear our dark brown band-aids. It probably goes no deeper than their affection for Abe. I find it sweet, but I do hope that on some level, it has planted a seed in them of being able to see the world through the experience of their friend Abe, where even a simple thing like buying band-aids becomes more complicated than it does for them.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer Has Come

Finally, the rain has stopped in our corner of the Pacific Northwest and the temperature is warm enough for us to put away our down-filled vests.

This is what summer is supposed to taste like:

These grew in our backyard. Notice the deep red all the way through to the middle.

This is what summer is supposed to look like:

Turns out that the mist from the pressure washer was a huge hit among our neighbors.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My Family's Sister

Small containers of pimento cheese, sometimes store-bought but often home-made, sitting beside a plate of wheat crackers. Always. A bowl of pineapple chunks with a little silver fork for dishing onto the fancy glass plates. Cloth napkins. Always cloth napkins, never paper. Iced tea, unsweet, and diet-sliced wheat bread, two revisions to keep the diabetes at bay. A small glass bowl with pickles. Fresh tomatoes. Vanilla ice cream.

This food was consumed in the late afternoon of hot Mississippi summers. Everyone had been swimming and come in to the plush carpeted stairs leading up to her apartment. A chandelier hung in the hallway leading to her door.

Everything was fancy at Sister's apartment. Thick wool ru
gs lay on top of wall-t0-wall carpeting so when you walked, it felt like you would sink into the floor. Beautiful avocado green couches beneath gilded mirrors where you could catch a reflection of the David statue in the corner, sitting atop an ivory-colored pedestal, large fig leaf over his unmentionables.

Around the corner was the den, a sitting area with an enormous antiquated television from the '70s and glass bookshelves built into the wall with a large shell at the very top from which light shone down making it all glitter.

After fixing your plate, you'd either sit at the dining room table, always with a towel under your bottom so your swimsuit wouldn't soak the chairs or you'd sit on the balcony's wrought-iron chairs which left patterns on your legs when you stood up.

At some point, we'd all end up in the master bathroom, fingering the bins of nail polish and hoping someone would pai
nt our nails. We'd take a shower in the room with the painting of the naked lady above the toilet. We'd get dressed, go back out, drink a coke.

The lady who owned this glorious apartment, scene of so many rich memories of my childhood, is my grandmother's sister, my great aunt. She is
being buried today.

Her grandchildren called her "Mimi," but the children on my grandmother's side all called her "Sister." Many Southern families seem to have a "Sister." At my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary, Sister told a story about how our grandfather immediately welcomed her as his own sibling, refusing to call her "sister-in-law," but simply, "Sister."

It may sound like a cliche, but Sister was a true Southern lady. She never wore pants. Ever. She only wore tailored suits, all the time, no matter how humid or hot it was. Her nails were also perfectly manicured every single day that I knew her. She had a few wigs but in her later years didn't wear them as often. She was classy. She was fancy. She always had amazing lipstick.

For a while, she lived in Milwaukee, which to me as a child, seemed like the big time just because it was north of Memphis. I would pore over the photographs of my teenaged mother's trip to visit her there. My mom, with her perfectly coiffed beehive, eyeliner, A-line miniskirt, stepping onto a plane seemed like the highest sophistication. It was as if my mother became glamorous simply by being near her aunt, our Sister.

Even Sister's granddaughter, my third cousin who lived in California, seemed like the most beautiful and exotic creature I'd seen. I loved when she came to visit. She had the largest eyes imaginable, with mascara that made them look like stars. When I was a young grade-schooler, she was going to her high school prom, and I simply idolized her. Later, she became an artist who worked for Disney, which carried on my fascination with the glamorous lives of people who lived in places like Burbank and Milwaukee.

It wasn't until I was a young adult that I found out about the difficult and complicated things Sister experienced in her life. The last time I saw her was well over a year ago, and I sat on those green couches with her and my grandmother where she told me a lot of those stories. I was glad I visited her that day. We even had snacks on those small glass plates.

She was saucy. You never knew what she would say. As a kid, I was quite overweight for a few years, and after I lost the weight, Sister never seemed to get over the shock of it. Every single time I saw her, she would hug me, keep a grip on my elbow and size me up and down, telling me how pretty I looked. She'd look right into my eyes and tell me something about my outfit our how my hair was styled. It felt like an inspection, one I miraculously always seemed to pass.

On facebook this week, some of my cousins and I were swapping our favorite stories about Sister. They made me guffaw in laughter, tears running down my face, yelling for Ted to come in the room to hear the latest one (I would share those stories here, but I try to keep this is a pg-rated blog). I am so lucky to have had an aunt like her, one whose glamor and snark kept us all on our toes.

Goodbye, sweet Sister. Give Granny Brown a hug for me. Tell her my life feels jolly, just like she wanted it to. Hug Grandaddy too, for a really long time, giving him a kiss on the cheek from "Number Two." I know he's glad to see you, his Sister. Our Sister. I hope I look so good at my 80th birthday party.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


A friend came to visit last week with her son. It was a good week. It got me thinking a lot about my women friends. I have always gotten along great with guys; two of my best guy friends even served as "bridesmen" at our wedding. Guys are great. It's probably just our lack of geographical closeness to each other, but in the last couple of years (well, since becoming a mother), I have found myself closer to girl-friends than guy-friends.

Last week felt like a celebration of that, all week. A few things.

Our whole family went vegetarian for the week, and I never felt that I was lacking anything. Of course, the first thing I did upon arriving home from dropping my friend off at the airport was to fry up some bacon for a breakfast burrito. But for our vegetarian week? No problemo. When the choice is sisterhood or bacon, I choose the former (at least until said sister is on her way home).

I introduced Abe to top-notch stellar television programming like Hannah Montana and Family Matters so that I and my friend could sit and drink our $3.99 bottle of white.

Telling my friend one of the two secrets I've always wanted to mail in to postsecret and then not having her judge me or think I'm weird. Okay, maybe a little weird (there were some raised eyebrows and maybe a giggle), but we were able to joke about it, which is a good sign that her knowing my secret would not be a deterrent from any future visits.

This is not the $3.99 bottle. This is the bottle brought as a gift from Colorado. We drank this the first night. It only went downhill from there.

Conversations like this between me and my son, about Courtney's son.

Introducing my dear one from Colorado to cajun tater tots from The Kennedy School and having her love them as much as I do.

Getting up earlier than usual because of our differing sleep schedules and realizing how nice it is to be already heading back down from Mount Hood by 1pm.
At Mount Hood, where it was snowing in the middle of June. Not just snow on the ground, but actual snow falling from the sky (obviously, it had stopped when we took this pic)

Freaky-deaky scary youtube videos about The Shining and this movie, which I refuse to watch.

Proud Aunt Lori moment: teaching my friend's son to do the "redrum" voice from The Shining.

(seriously, I haven't seen The Shining in probably 25 years)

Dressing our boys up in matching bumblebee costumes, which they found to be hilarious fun.Cute, right? No? Okay, nevermind.

Um, duh: pizza.We got to have Courtney here for Abe's birthday party. Because the weather was nice (for about a day and a half only) and I didn't want to spend time indoors baking home-made from scratch cupcakes like last year, we had a big box of Voo Doo Donuts for the party. Abe loves them. We got to sit in the sun instead of slave in the kitchen.

The donut our son chose for his third birthday donut cake. I mean, of course. Wouldn't you have chosen that one?

On Courtney's last full day in town, I was shocked and thrilled that every one of these ladies was able to get together on short notice, with meeting place unknown until that morning. It was incredible. I had the best time. It was like a mini Oregon Blog Union 2010. A highlight was talking to this lady (the "creepy one without a kid" as she posted on fb, which made me giggle) about What It's All About. They are living it, the dream, the Way. Inspiring.

"The bird a nest,
the spider a web,
man friendship."
- William Blake

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Preschool Dilemma

We're thinking of sending Abe to preschool in the fall a couple of days a week, just for a few hours. I realize we're late to the game with wait-lists for enrollment and such, but I don't feel like it will be a huge tragedy if he's not in a program at age three (more on that subject later). We visited one potential class for him, and here are some of my first impressions of the teacher:

1. She told us that Abe doesn't look at all Ethiopian. She qualified her judgment by saying that she knows a lot of Ethiopians. I'm not sure what to think about this. I had no idea how to respond to her voicing this opinion.

2. Her first question when the subject of adoption came up was why we adopted "there and not here."

3. She told us about some of her acquaintances who have not told their Chinese child who was adopted the truth about her story. The adoptive parents are Chinese also, so it's been easy to hide the truth. She agrees this is not a good thing. But then when I mentioned that we have always told Abe his story, she said, "Well of course because it's obvious that he's not your child."

I bit my tongue. I wonder if I should have asked her, "If he's not our child, then whose is he?" I know what she meant. She meant to say that he doesn't look like us because he's not our biological child/child by birth. I don't nitpick with random strangers we meet who may not be familiar with positive adoption-speak. But a teacher? Yes, I hold an educator to a higher standard. I don't want Abe in a class where he might hear the words from his teacher that he's not our child. No, no thank you.

4. Outside play is only a reward for good behavior.

5. When I asked what snacks the kids eat, she simply said, "Healthy snacks." Well, more specific please? Your standard for what is healthy may not be my standard for what is healthy.

6. The kids (age three, mind you) are given homework. I have no problem with homework, just probably not at age three. The homework is this: photocopied pages from a coloring book so they can "practice coloring inside the lines." Something about this doesn't sit right with me. Isn't there a better way of getting kids to improve their fine-motor skills than to send them home with pages from a coloring book? If any of you early childhood education experts have thoughts about this, I'd love to hear them. I really would. I've already googled "coloring inside the lines" and have gotten some interesting perspectives.

For now, I just don't feel this class is the best fit for us.

What are the benefits to you of your child being in preschool? If kids are read to at home, go on 'field trips' to museums, get play-time with friends several times a week, have opportunities for art projects, get lots of outside play-time, is it so bad for them not to start preschool until age four or kindergarten at five?

One thing I did like about what this teacher said is that she's not even convinced that three-year-olds need to be in school. Age four is fine. But three is "borderline." Hm. Thoughts?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sun! Sun! Sun!

Big event in Portland yesterday: our spell of 31 days of rain was broken for one full day. Today we're back to rain, but what a glorious day we had yesterday. Everyone is talking about it.

Soaking in vitamin D

After a three hour walk to a farmer's market and yard sales, I sat in the park and read a new book while boys played frisbee.

Then one of the frisbee players made this, followed by home-made wheat donuts.

I came home to discover just how bad the sunburn had gotten.

It was worth it though, for moments like this.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Every Thursday at the ESL class I'm a part of, I often am not always completely aware of where Abe is at every moment. There aren't many doors he can get out of, and with the many Africans working there, he doesn't get far without someone scooping him up for a hug, conversation or story. In fact, I'm often shooed away by one of the staff, telling me that he's fine, they've got him. They let him feed documents through a paper shredder. They let him browse the ToysRUs website, asking him what he wants for his birthday. It's a nice feeling.

Today after class, I found Abe with two of his favorite friends, a lovely Congolese woman and an Ethiopian-Oromo friend. Between their desks is a large window with blinds. Abe knows that blinds are not something he's allowed to play with, but he seems to find them difficult to resist (along with curtains and any other kind of window dressing). While I'd been in the class, Abe was pulling the blinds up and down, just as he knows he's not supposed to do.

Our friend from Congo told me that she explained to him that he shouldn't play with the blinds and why. As she was talking to him, she told me that Abe said, "Could you not talk about that because it irritates me."

For a while now, if any of the parents on our block are giving their kids direction, Abe will interrupt to ask them, "Could you please stop saying that?" Up til now, everyone has thought it was funny and cute. But I think those days are ending. When I heard what he said today, okay I admit, I was stifling a giggle. But I put on my stern face and explained both then and later in the car on the way home that he is not allowed to talk to friends and grown-ups in that way.

Little stinker.