Monday, October 31, 2011

Old Friends

These two were born one year apart in the same city in Ethiopia. They traveled together to Addis Ababa.

Now they both live in the Pacific Northwest.

Now they have brothers and sisters.

And they'll always have each other.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

School Meeting

Tonight, we went to a meeting at B's school about changes that will be happening next school year. There was a fair amount of complex drama that happened last year about district lines and such. With no kids in the system at that point, we just listened from the sidelines; this year though, we are going to these meetings to educate ourselves about all the ins-and-outs. It's interesting.

At one point in the meeting, we were to join up in small groups to discuss the proposed changes and to clarify what our values are as a community. I ended up in a group with a four other parents, two of whom were African-American mothers. One of these women brought up the issue of diversity in schools, and how important it is for her kids to have some faces that look like theirs in the class.

I'm pretty sure at this point she didn't realize I was an adoptive mother of a black child, which I'm sort of glad about since I then got to hear her unfiltered opinions about white parents who adopt black children. She joked about how she and her friend sit on the soccer field and try to pick out which of the black children are either "mixed" or "adopted." She pointed her finger saying "Yep, look at that messy hair. Adopted. Mixed. Adopted, adopted, mixed." Then she started laughing.

She went on for a while about how these parents think that "love is enough" all while not preparing their kids for the "different reality" that their kids will grow up in, simply by having darker skin. She's exactly right. Turns out she's a therapist and that some black adult adoptees have come to her to talk about how they don't know where they fit in, how their white parents didn't expose them to black culture so they have no way to judge character. She said that these kids end up in wrong crowds sometimes because they don't have positive black role models who show them how to judge character and help them know their place in the world. She even said that some white parents don't listen when their kids tell them instances where they were discriminated against.

I also found it interesting that she makes sure when her children are placed in their classes each year that "if there is only one other black child in that grade, they better be in my child's class." I was also thrilled to hear that one of her children was taught by B's kindergarten teacher, and that she loved her. I mean, she gushed about how wonderful she is.

She does "curly hair parties" for moms like me who are just learning. She is a bright, shining light of a person.

I also got her card before I left for the night.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

As Long as One and One is Two

Today on the playground, I noticed Abe standing at the bottom of a slide screaming up at some bigger boys at the top. I called him over to me. He trudged my way with shoulders down, Charlie-Brown-style. He said they'd been making fun of him for sucking his thumb.

So it begins.

I guess I sort of liked that his response was to yell back at them, despite their being older than him, bigger than him, and at the top of the slide with him at the bottom. I also admit to liking that he let me pick him up and walk with him out of sight of the big boys while he rested his face against my face with his thumb back in his mouth. I told him about how this is one of the reasons we've been telling him that he should reserve the thumb for the bed. As I'm telling him this, he looks at me sort of googly-eyed, leans forward and kisses my nose.

Substitute "father" for "mother" and "daughter" for "son," and you've got my feelings for my son. Sometimes, it's a literal ache in my chest, my love for this boy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Life has sort of gotten in the way of writing. There are a lot of things going around in my brain that I think I should take time to write about, but then something comes up like needing to get the girl who has fallen asleep on the bathroom floor to put on pajamas.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

We Love Our School

A few things we love about our daughter's school this year:

1. Every month, the principal hosts a coffee hour right after the start of school. The parents sit in an empty classroom with chairs in a circle, drink really good coffee (we're in Oregon, you know), and talk about whatever needs to be discussed.

2. After school, the kids play outside (if it's not too rainy) and the parents stand around talking, sometimes for over an hour like last Friday afternoon.

3. The "community" feel of this school is really amazing. We have yet to meet a parent who is not friendly and helpful.

4. Parents are very involved but not obsessively-involved in that "granola stepford-wife" way that results in quiet judgment and competitiveness among the parents. Yuck. Can't stand that.

5. In Beti's class, there are several other children of color, and the "room mother," is part of a transracial family. It's comforting to know I am not the only pink-skinned parent of a brown-skinned child.

6. The teacher this morning sent the kids to hang up their coats according to their skin color. She had a poster with about ten different colors of construction paper taped to it that she would point to and say "Whoever has beautiful skin this color can go hang up their coat." Diversity, diversity, diversity, understanding, understanding, understanding.

7. On the playground after school, we see the mom with the long salt-and-pepper hair who wears a "Peace" armband every day. The gawky, awkward, lumbering dad with the red-headed boy in clunky glasses who always is there every day for pick-up and drop-off. The adorable chubby boy and his spitting-image father who is the spitting image of this kid, my favorite character from Hook. The wasp-y looking mom whose hard exterior hides kind pragmatism (she rushed to help me one day when I lost Abe on the playground at a crowded event). The sprite of a black-haired, blue-eyed adoptee with artistic parents. On and on and on. Wonderful characters.

8. One morning this week, Beti's teacher had calmly brought an older kid into her classroom to have him write an essay for her about "What you did wrong out there and how you plan to do things differently next time." It was awesome, funny, and a little scary.

9. As soon as you walk into the classroom, you see a sign that says, "Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked so Barack could run. Barack ran so our children can fly." Even typing that, I get choked up, as I do every time I read it.

10. This one is the biggest of all. About two weeks into the school year, I sent a short email to all the parents in the class saying basically that Beti is new here, is still learning English, so if they or their kids notice any odd behavior, it's because she's getting used to things.

I've gotten nothing but support in response. It is blowing my mind. I haven't gotten even one bone-headed or intrusive question. I mean, seriously. Not one. Parents have written me emailed responses and have stopped me at the school to thank me for the email and tell me that they have talked to their kids about how they should be welcoming and patient with our daughter. Another one of the transracial moms wrote to tell me her daughter's story, and we emailed off and on all afternoon (turns out we know some of the same people in the immigrant community). They tell me how amazing they think Beti is, how they can't believe she's only been here two months, how she keeps up with every little thing in the class. They've been inviting her over to play after school. I get a happy tightness in my chest when I think about this supportive place we have found for her, for us, eventually for our son.

At the principal's coffee this week, as he was wrapping up, he asked if anyone had any last thing to add. Ted raised his hand and said, "My wife and I transferred in from another school, and we love the vibe here. For us, it's about the vibe, and we feel so supported..." Then he got choked up, eyes turning red and welling up with tears.

We feel so lucky to have founded another soft landing spot for our daughter.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Two Unrelated Things

Our children have reached that magical phase of not wanting to hurt each other most of the times. They moved from that to ignoring each other to finally playing more than fighting. They make each other crack up belly-laughing, and every time I hear them doing this, I sigh in relief. Every belly-laugh means one more strand tying them together. The chord is getting tighter every day.

Listening to NPR the other day about the debt crisis in Greece, I heard someone talk about how difficult life has become for the average Greek. Three examples were given: 1. Families rarely eat out in restaurants anymore. 2. Parents are buying less high quality food for their children. 3. Multi-generational households are happening more often because the adult children and grandparents can't afford to live on their own.

I then thought about how relative the term "difficult" is. These three examples were even referred to as "suffering." What? Really? I don't mean to be unsympathetic to the crisis to those living in the EU now, but have they not read stories like this one?