Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Photography Debut

Back in September, Abe said in this fancy-cool video that he wanted to be either an actor or a "sartographer" when he grew up. Ladies and gentlemen, here is Abe's debut as a photographer:

Me and one of my favorite friends in Portland, the one I tend to hang out with at hipster grocery stores. Also, if all goes according to "plan" (ha, we're talking international adoption here), we'll be having coffee together in Addis Ababa in May. Very cool.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pan Lives On

The Peter Pan phase lives on, as strong as ever.

Friday, April 22, 2011


The end of a long day of work, and I'm tired. Headache. Dinner with friends to celebrate the "family day" for their 3-year-old from Ethiopia. Before cutting the cake, speeches are made, the first by the 6-year-old big sister who quietly says something about being glad she has a little sister. Everyone claps. My right eye won't tear but my left eye is shooting them from the inside corner, running down the side of my nose. The kids in the room take turns making speeches, which are all amazingly appropriate for the occasion.

Later as the boys wrestle, I watch the speech-giving big sister and her good friend, another adoptee from Ethiopia, a little girl Bee's age. These two are the same height. They organize a game of hide-and-seek. I imagine another little girl in this mix and hope they will be friends.

I stand in the kitchen for a few moments to say goodbye to the host. Another mom comes in and gives her own little speech about how she looks around at these kids and knows that, though their road to parenthood wasn't what they expected, they feel so lucky that these are the kids they get to raise. The tears start, again running down the left side of my nose.

As I go to gather Abe, the big sister's friend from Ethiopia, the one who reminded me two weekends ago that one of the best parts about having a little girl will be (hopefully) someone to brush and put little clips and braids in my hair, ran crashing into the back of my legs, hugging me tightly. She almost knocked me over. I turned around and picked her up and told her that those kinds of hugs are my favorite kind. She asked why. I told her, "because all you can do is just stand there and take it."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Discussion on Race and Adoption

What follows is a slightly edited version of a fb discussion I had last night with a couple of women I love love love. All names have been changed.

Ya'll - We had our Trans-Racial discussion night tonight with a speaker who was adopted internationally in 1980. SOOOOO amazing. I learned so much. He's also a social worker and works with adoptive families so he knows what he's talking about. AH-MAH-ZING.

SHARE SHARE SHARE please. Or was it recorded?

Okay, this will be random from my notes. (Not recorded - small group in a circle, sharing - so cool.) Excuse the randomness. Randomosity.

*If you don't give your child the language of adoption to connect to their feelings about it, they will not be able to process their feelings, and it will come out negatively - anger, aggression, etc.

* For PreK you can google "Identity games" and find games to play to help your child figure out his/her identity (haven't tried this yet).

*When discussing adoption w kids or being black in a white family, put it on yourself. "That man sure had a lot of questions about our family. I felt {insert feeling} about him asking so much."

*Always recognize that the WHOLE FAMILY's identity changed when you became a trans-racial family. It's not that you are still white with a black child, you are a part of a trans-racial family. The identity is the family idenity - "our" identity. (Obv. that only applies to parents - you want the child to learn his/her own identity within that family.)

* One easy way to show parent's connection to the culture is to discuss current events about the country of birth. Show that you are interested. And not just about poverty/helping, but just about the people, the country.

*The speaker said one of the most important things you can do is surround yourself with other adoptive families. And, he felt that it would be most beneficial to have a parent's support group that meets to discuss issues on a regular basis. So that you are using the language and bringing up the issues with other APs and then can do the same with your child after working through it yourself.

*This is a big one - Never refer to your children in the possessive when discussing adoption. (Obv saying, "My sweet baby," is fine....) Gotcha day - no. When people ask where you "got" him, take the focus off him and say, "We adopted from Ethiopia." So it's about the whole family and not singling him out. And not, "We got him from..." These are the only notes I took, but we also discussed racism, being uber-conspicuous as a family, how our kids may stick out in their school and have to deal with that. (Give them the language to discuss it - he kept saying this - the language and consistency.) I wish ya'll could have been there.

I like your random notes that aren't random when you think about it. I wish I lived closer, we have nothing like that down here.


Oh, I wish I could have heard this too. I've always disliked "gotcha day" and people asking where we "got" our son. I love the suggestion about knowing what's going on in the country, and not just "helping." Giving the language to talk is so important. I think all the time now about the school issue since our daughter is going to be going to an UBER white school this fall. I'm sort of dreading this. We are looking at houses in more diverse areas of town already too. Ugh.

I was mostly surprised with how the speaker said it was important to talk to your kids about everything. Don't shy away from the fact that some people don't like people with brown skin. Talk about it. Talk about the fact that you all look different. Point out the differences (something I was so hesitant to do) so that the child will know how to talk about them when it comes up for him.

How early should you start talking about everything though? I don't want our son to know yet that there is a history of people who don't like dark-skinned people. I've tried to point out the differences between us, but he has resisted talking about it. It's weird. A couple of weeks ago at bedtime, he and I got into a long, intense, funny, and endearing conversation about adoption and his sister and his birth mother. I came downstairs and immediately wrote it all down so I wouldn't forget. So much to work through.


The speaker said to just talk about it - even if they resist. Because at some point, they'll draw from those discussions. I told the story about how I lost it (crying) trying to explain MLK day to our son because I didn't want to tell him that people didn't like brown skinned people. But we read an MLK book and it had a part with a playground that was "Whites Only." I explained that MLK couldn't go to that playground bc people back then were stupid (choose your own word there ;) and thought that skin color meant you were different.

I went on to say how we passed a playground a week later and he asked if that playground was for him or not. And I thought this was a major fail. The speaker said it was a success. Our son *asked* about it. He is thinking about it and he felt comfortable and had the language to ask. He will sooner or later start to understand that it isn't like that anymore (for playgrounds) and he'll ask more.

And apparently it's never too early. It just sucks a bit for us parents to have to explain the ugliness of racism. SUCKS

I can see how talking about how you look different could be beneficial. Our daughter has two racially mixed cousins. One was raised where it wasn't discussed, Jean. The other cousin, Ben, it was discussed. Right now, Jean is 15 and she's very confused about her identity. It doesn't help that she has no contact with her paternal family (not her choice, they've never had anything to do with her. It's sad. ) plus, her mom is now remarried (white guy) and she and her husband just had a little girl a couple years ago. So you can just imagine how out of place Jean might be feeling. Her school is all white, so that doesn't help. She's told her grandma (my aunt) she feels out of place and uncomfortable and like she cant talk to anyone Its sad.

Now Ben is different. It's a complete 180. Both his parents are remarried to others, his mom is black, Charles, his dad is white. His mom Carissa just had a baby with new husband (both black) and Charles and his wife (white) have a little girl. But what Charles and Carissa and his grandparents have done is work together and told Ben from a very early age, yes, you look different than your dad and your dads family, but that's ok, we can talk about it anytime you need to. They've also got him in a school that is diverse. And that's a big help. It's night and day different between them.

Racism is hard to talk about, maybe only because it hasn't been eradicated and it is still out there. It would be nice to be able to tell our kids "there used to be a time where some people were stupid but not anymore". It would be nice to talk about it being in the past, that they don't have to worry about it anymore. But that's sort of like unicorns existing. You want it to be real so bad, but it's just an illusion of reality.

OH! I also asked about this tonight: How do you tell if it's an "adoption issue" or a "kid issue," and the speaker explained it so well. It's both. Adoption will ALWAYS play a role in our kids' lives, so they can never really be separated. I loved that. They are layers instead of two separate entities.

Okay, that's it. Thoughts?

A friend sent me this photo yesterday of a little boy pirate who grew up to become president.

Another little boy pirate, dressed this morning for "pajama day" at school.

Monday, April 18, 2011


It's still ten degrees colder than usual for this time of year, but at least, oh at least, we are getting glimpses of the sun, in scattered moments, between the rain.

"Mom, I brought you something."

We have tea all the time at home but never tea parties this fancy and beautiful.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Excellent Travel News

We still can't book tickets until May 9th, but I did find out this week that this lady is going to be my travel companion on this first trip:

(I love this clip so because I despise the book she is referencing, the ones that tell us to "manifest" things in our lives that we might be lacking).

Susan and Larry are some of our favorite friends in Los Angeles. We actually shared a house for a while when we were living in Portland and traveling down to Southern California every month or so for Ted's job. When we got that life-changing call on March 3, 2008, Susan was the first person who heard the news, as I ran across the dining room and sent the phone skidding across the hardwoods in my frantic rush to find Ted. As I called my mother to tell her the news, Susan was basically screaming and crying in the background. When we got back to the U.S. with our son, Susan was the first person to meet Abe on his first full day here. Plus, one time, she knitted me a tea cozy, which I still use several times a week.
Oh, and her book is wonderful, in case you are looking for something to read.

Susan is going to be the best travel buddy ever. I am beyond excited.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Let Me Serve Them

N is from Ethiopia. He is Oromo. He has the darkest skin of any Ethiopian I've met. He is shorter than most too. He always wears a suit, sometimes with a bright red scarf when it's cold out. He has been the most regular member of our program for African elders at my job in the almost three years I've been there. He stopped coming for a while when he got a job downtown directing traffic at a construction site but then he came right back when the job ended.

N doesn't say very much though his English is probably better than anyone else in the group. He understands most everything so all our teachers and volunteers regularly call on him to help translate. When someone asks for his help, he listens quietly to what is being said before raising his eyebrows to translate. As he speaks, he puts both his hands out, spreading all ten fingers wide, slowly gesturing and looking from person to person.

N's name, in Amharic, means "peaceful."

Every day I see him, he trails beside or behind me to take whatever I am carrying out of my hands. He jumps up from his seat to hand out food, to clean up messes, to pour coffee for others, to take the garbage out, to welcome the newcomers with handshakes and hugs, to stand behind his friends and rest his arms on their shoulders. He taught me to say "Galetooma," which, in Oromo, means "thank you." We say this to each other all the time. His children live in Shashamene, Ethiopia, and one of my deepest hopes for our trip next month is that we can meet each other. I want to look in their eyes with my eyes and tell them how loved their father is in his new home in Oregon.

N is currently fasting. He still brings his friends their plates of food and then clears the dishes away when they are done. Yesterday, another elder got up from the table before he did and started to clear away small salad bowls. As he rushed to finish the job, I heard him say "Let me serve them."

My heart swelled.

Let me serve them.

N is my current best example of how to live my life. Quiet calmness. Quick to serve. Slow to speak. Patient. Affectionate. Forgiving. His name means "peaceful," and he taught me to say galetooma.

I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking, I'd say I'd rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me

Monday, April 11, 2011

I Won't Grow Up

The soundtrack to our life, for the past eight months really, since we saw Peter Pan last summer.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Seems like years since it's been clear

"I broke free on a Saturday morning, pushed the petal to the floor. Headed north on Mills Avenue and listened to the engines roar...I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me..."

During the dark wait for Abe in the winter of 2008, I used to listen to this song over and over as I rode my bike around my neighborhood and on the paths of a cemetery that I would often end up at. It was a regular date with me, an ipod shuffle attached to my baseball cap, asphalt paths in a big cemetery, and this song.

One of my most interesting friends, a woman raised Southern Baptist but converted to Judaism in college and an excellent vegan baker, was the one to first introduce me to this song. She said it helped her through a tough break-up.

I just found this afternoon a playlist on our computer from the first few months we were home with Abe. This song is on there. I made it through that year. There was feasting and dancing. With a child at home, I didn't have as much time to ride my bike around the cemetery as much.

I listen to this song and think about a friend of mine who has been waiting longer than anyone I know to bring their six-year-old daughter home. They have met her and held her and even developed inside jokes among their family already. A judge said 'yes'. But embassy snafus are keeping them apart. This wait is excruciating for them.

I went ahead in the playlist and this song is the one that made tears well up more than anything has in a long time. I think about my friend who is waiting for her daughter, whose son is waiting for his sister. I think about this long winter in Oregon, how the sun still seems so far away.

It's gonna be alright. One day. If it kills me.

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it's all right

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bumble bees everywhere

A friend sent me a link last week to a bumblebee necklace on etsy. Bumblebees have sort of become my symbol for the Little Bee we are waiting for in Addis. I just went to etsy out of curiosity of other handmade bee items. I'm not sure how this works, but on their home page right now, there is a collection of featured items, all of which are connected to bees. Does anyone know how this works? Is etsy or my webrowser so smart that it knows to find bumblebee items based on the one link my friend sent me last week? That's probably it, right?

Second thing: yesterday afternoon a friend was over knitting and keeping me company while I priced items for the yard sale this Saturday. I was telling her the story about the Easter Sunday two years ago when these guys came to our house in L.A. to take our honeybee hive home. As I was telling this story, a UPS guy knocked on our door to let me know he'd left a box. It was a box of hand-me-down clothes from M for Little Bee. The box from this family was delivered at the exact moment I was telling a story about the family and their bee hive.

As I was writing that last sentence, I overheard Ted say to Abe about some other topic, "All kinds of weird things happen." No kidding.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Being Abe

Being Abe means making this face when things aren't going 100% fully to your liking.

Being Abe means doing things like this to your favorite cat. He's the favorite of the three-year-old for a reason.

Being Abe means riding the plasma car around the house a lot, occasionally sharing it with others (this is the shirt I was wearing the day we met Abe).

Being Abe means asking dozens of times a day "Can you tell me a story about when you were a little boy/girl?" and then listening with rapt focus when someone obliges the request.

It means not getting your new toy until you've found the one you just lost by throwing it down the stairs to the basement. In this case, it was a small Obama action figure. In the meantime, Batman and Associates have taken over. We're hoping the president is found soon.

Being Abe means practicing to perfection the Peter Pan bow.

Being Abe also means having phased out of naps but still wanting to snuggle mom, who he calls his "favorite girl," thus making the girl's heart melt to putty.