Saturday, January 28, 2012

Meanness vs. Racism-Another Perspective

From my world wide web friend, L, who blogs at Wordy Girl...

L is also the mama to a little girl from Haiti.  Her girlie is in elementary school.

"We have been blessed by very diverse public schools, but we have not been exempt from those kinds of remarks being made to V. If I were you, I would mention it to the teacher so she can be on the look out for this child's similar behaviors and nip them in the bud. It might not be racism...yet. But it could easily develop into that if she is allowed to remark on people's race without any consequences. As a parent, I would absolutely want to know if my child said something like that so that I could address it with her. Perhaps the teacher could decide whether it warrants a remark to the parent.

One of the things I have come to appreciate is that racism is determined by the experience of the victim. If it feels like racism to the person to whom it's directed, then it is. PC and I have a rule - if it looks like racism and smells like racism, it is."

Many of the thing L said I actually thought about.  If my child were making mean comments regardless of what they were, I would expect the teacher to deal with it and to let me know if the problem persisted.    

I also think what she said about perception being true.  We've all heard that perception is reality and if someone is feeling slighted and perceives that race was a reason for the slight, then you can't talk them out of his/her feeling.  One of the best things I think I've read on racism and our sensitivity to it came from another adoptive mom in some forum.  What she said was that for people who are the minority, they often walk around "sunburned."  They have had previous experiences that have left them hurting.  But those of us who don't know them closely don't see those previous experiences.  For the "sunburned" person, a light pat can feel like a slap and a poke can bring them to tears.  Those previous experiences make certain situations extremely painful.  It is not necessarily pain that is forced or exagerated, but pain that is a part of who they are.  In other words, their what has happened in the past and what is happening now are shaping their perception of how they think others view them as a black person, white person, Asian person, etc..  

I know a lot of moms who are parenting kids of a different color who would have done just what L said.  They would have let the teacher know what their daughter said happened and asked the teacher to deal with it.  And there's nothing wrong with that.  It's another one of those mom issues that perhaps there isn't a right way to do it.  In my case, I had good reasons for why I handled it the way I did.  (My prior background with little kids and race, my prior experience as a teacher, the age of the child, the number of incidents.) And if L were faced with a similar situation and dealt with it in the manner she described, she would have had a good rationale behind her actions as well.  

There's really just one story here.  We both are moms who are keenly aware that we are not raising Caucasian children.  We're both moms who want to make sure our kids know that they can talk to us about issues involving their skin.  We're both moms who want to make sure our kids know that it is not okay for someone to make us feel badly, especially in regards to our skin color.  We're both moms who want our kids to be empowered and assertive.   It's one story just different perspectives.  

Thursday, January 26, 2012

More proof I'm a Mom...

*I have a dirty sock hidden behind my tv...and I know it's there but just don't care
*the snow in my front yard has rake tracks in it
*I am very hopeful that I convinced my child that his rash is not appropriate for show and tell on today, especially since it is circular and looks like ringworm (it's not; the professionals have declared it ezcema).  I am about 95% sure he shared his wiggly tooth instead.
*I was the referee in an argument that sounded like this:  Kenson, you're a door uh bull!  I am not!  I'm handsome!  Stop calling me names!

All from last week because what mom has time to actually document her kids' lives as they are actually happening?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

3 years...head down memory lane

It's been three years this week since Kenson came home.  3 years?  Hard to believe he was little and small when now he is big and tall.  (Especially since he just polished off a cup of yogurt, 2 fried eggs, a piece of toast with jelly, about 1/2 a cup of mango, and 1 orange slice for lunch.)  On the teetor totter of attachment, he's now spent 2 1/2 years in orphanage care and 3 years in a family.  It's just one of those things that makes me smile to know that he now has 6 months of his life where family living outweights orphanage living.  Head back in time and check out my posts from that January, full of pictures and some little tidbits about being home with our new little guy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Racism or just plain old mean

Today, Conleigh told me that someone hurt her feelings at school yesterday.  At first glance, I think there are a lot of white moms who are parenting black children who probably would have been burning in their souls over the hurt.  Here's the situation:  another little girl told Conleigh she couldn't play a certain game because only peach girls could play.   At the surface, it sounds a lot like racism.  And my Mama ears certainly perked up when I heard that skin color was involved.

As we talked, I worked with Conleigh on responses for when people say things like that.  Responses like "That hurts my feelings.  Stop.", "Brown girls can do anything peach girls can do.", "That's not true." and "Why do you say that?"  We also talked about when to walk away and when to tell a teacher.  Sometimes it's not worth wasting your words on a mean person.  When telling a teacher, you should try to use your words to resolve the problem but if you can't, tell the teacher as it's happening and be sure to mention that peach and brown were involved.  In this case, perhaps the best response is actually asking the little girl in question to look at her own skin color.  She's Hispanic and is more beige than peach.  (Conleigh thought that was quite funny.)

All of that still leaves the looming questions:  does the preschool have a rampant racist and what will I do about it?  After hearing more, I think what is more likely at play is a little girl who often treats others with meanness choosing to continue that meanness by pointing out something that she thinks makes Conleigh different.   (Based on previous comments made by both of my children regarding this little one and the things she says.)  Perhaps I am naive but I don't think this little girl's family carries on at home, making disparging marks about black people.  Instead, I tend to believe that this little girl has probably witnessed cattiness of the female variety and perhaps has witnessed someone making comments about others who are different.    So the reality is, I'm not doing anything other than teaching Conleigh to do her best to deal with it on her own.  Mean people are a part of life and the best thing I can do for Conleigh is to give her the tools to deal with it.  If it happens again, then perhaps we will take a different approach.  But as a one time display of meanness and little girl "blechiness", we'll leave it at that.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Locs Style-Full Head Flat Twists

I always have a terrible time finding any inspiration for things to do to jazz up Conleigh's locs so I thought I'd share our latest style online for others to view.  I parted her hair in half and then parted each half into 4 sections.  From there, I did flat twists starting at the front and going all the way to the nape of her neck.  I find myself using flat twists over cornrows because they are faster and because Conleigh doesn't have  lot of hair in some places so I run out of hair if I try to do cornrows.  Since cornrows are a braid, if you miss stitches it starts getting very noticeable.  With flat twists, you can miss stitches and no one is any wiser.  At the neckline, I used a rubber band to hold each twist which left me with some straggly looking ponytails.  So I twisted and rolled each of those ponytails into messy buns which I secured with a soft, colored ponytail holder.  (Early morning pics, after about 2 days of wear so we're a little messy looking yet.  She does have some new growth which I just started braiding/locking so I didn't want to stress it by putting it back in the twists.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Kidnapping Plot is Hatched

Last night, D tucked Conleigh into bed and laid down beside her for a few moments.  As he laid there, she informed him that she needed to talk to him.  About Ezekiel.  Which was of course fine with Derek.  And then she asked "Can we go steal him?"

Friday, January 13, 2012

Love the Boy...His Thoughts on Future Employment

About a month ago, I was in the car doing the unthinkable, talking on my phone.  I was returning a phone call from one of the workers with Lutheran Family Services regarding questions I had about getting our homestudy completed.  Kenson happened to be in the back and wanted to know who I was talking to.  Since he didn't know the woman, I simply said it was someone who helps kids who don't have families find families.  I added that that must be a pretty cool job and Kenson agreed, saying with a very serious voice, "I want to do that job when I get big."

Fast forward to this week.  Again, we were in the van.  Kenson and Conleigh were having some conversation about jobs.  I don't remember the exact words but somehow Conleigh offered up a suggestion to Kenson for things to do when he got bigger.  Offended, he huffed back "I'm not doing that!  I'm helping families and kids.  What job do I want to do again, Mama?"

Oh my deep thinking little boy.  What other 5 year old do you know who would like to be a social worker when he gets big?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Let's All Say Emancipation Proclamation! Adventures in Transracial Parenting

This President's Day will mark a change in our parenting, I think.  I know that's not something most people would say.  But this Monday (or sometime around there), we will be deliberately talking to our kids about race.  I wouldn't say that we've ignored race in the past.  There have been lots of discussions about chocolate skin and peach skin.  But we have let that be child initiated, never something we deliberately pointed out or called their attention to.  (Other than maybe pointing out someone on tv who was chocolate.)

But this February, we're headed full force into parenting kids of a different color and tackling the topic of slavery.  I know-you're probably thinking "With your 5 year olds?"  It sounds almost inappropriate.  But hear me out.

We definitely recognize that we as parents shape our kids views about race and their views regarding racism.  We also recognize that by making every unfair or questionable incident about racism, that this is akin to crying wolf.  That this crying wolf means true episodes of racism get ignored because we are always playing the race card.  We also recognize that being overly sensitive about race issues may create in our children a cynical, jaded perspective that doubts the goodness of others and does not give others grace when we are unsure of their motives.

But we are also aware that we are not parenting kids who are white.   At some point in time, we will be having hard conversations with our kids about race because of the actions of others, news stories, and their own curiousities.  As someone else has said, race is a little like s*x.  There are lots of things you don't want your child learning from others and lots of things you'd like to be the first to explain.

Slavery is one of those things. I've known for awhile that we would have to discuss it with our kids.  As  former first grade teacher, I have covered the topic of slavery as part of our curriculum.  It's pretty hard to explain Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. without giving a very basic introduction into our country's racial history.

And in doing so, I'm pretty sure I watched two black students learn about the idea while sitting in a class full of mostly white and Hispanic kids, without the comforting words of a parent to help sort out the questions and confusion.  I just watched the wheels turn as their little brains made the connections.  "Black people were not treated well."  "People said mean things to black people because their skin was black."  "Black people were made to be slaves?  I'm not even sure I understand what that means but it doesn't sound good."  "I'm black."  How I wished I could have spoken with the parents to make sure their child was processing all of this well.  But race is already a difficult issue.  Add that it feels a bit like questioning their parenting, and there just didn't seem to be a good way to say "I am wondering if you've covered black history with your child because we talked about it at school today and she seemed pretty shocked."

I recently read a post on Rage Against the Minivan that reminded me that we need to start tackling some of these hard topics, before our kids hit school and have friends and teachers introduce them to things like slavery, abuse, and civil rights.  So this President's Day, we'll wade into some pretty deep waters.  We'll add some tools like short biographies on President Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. to our toolbox, remind our kids that not all white people treated black people badly, begin telling them about Haiti's history as the first black democracy that arose out of a slave revolt, and end by sharing that all races have the ability to be mean and hurtful to others because of skin color and that this is always wrong.   While normally we're not fans of pride as a behavior, I am hoping that come President's Day next near, my kids will perhaps smile smugly as they hold in a small but grand secret:  They already know just what the teacher is talking about.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Nothing is Impossible

When we met with our social worker last week to wrap up our homestudy meetings, she asked us what our kids thought about Zeke's special need.  Then she quickly added, "I guess maybe you haven't told them?"  Her assumption was correct.  We hadn't.  Mostly because we were still waiting to hear "yes" from China and it seemed like an extra detail to add to our simple conversation with them of "We're praying about having a little boy or girl from China come to be in our family."

Tonight at supper, the time seemed perfect.  While they were finishing, we said our Bible verse for the night which was "For with God, nothing is impossible."  I asked them about impossible situations like people flying or turning funny colors like blue or purple.  And then D piped up, telling them that Zeke doesn't really have fingers.  He asked them if it will be impossible for Zeke to throw a ball or ride a bike.  Kenson and Conleigh just couldn't fathom that.  I mean, how would he hold onto things?  Then D asked them if they thought Zeke would be able to hold a cup or bottle.  Again, they were pretty sure he couldn't.  Therein lies the perfect moment because we have some photos of him holding a cup.  It was a perfect tie in to our verse.  People think things seem impossible but God helps us to do the impossible.  He helps people with no hands ride bikes and throw balls and hold cups.

Then Kenson proceeded to finish his supper and start on unloading the dishwasher while trying to use only his thumb and pointer finger, just like Zeke...gotta love that kid!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Adopting Down Syndrome Kids-Now is the Time!

If you have ever thought about adopting a child with Down's Syndrome, I have to say that now might be the time.  There is a huge amount of money currently available to offset adoption costs for families who choose to adopt a child featured on the advocacy site, Reece's Rainbow.  (Like most kids have $1000 in their funds and some kids have over $10, 000 with a few close to or topping the $20, 000 mark.)  I've just pulled up a few faces; there are many many more.  

Xander, currently has over $6, 000 in his fund

Dmitry, currently has over $4, 000 in his fund

Natalie, currently has $1300 in her fund

Ashlyn, currently has over $1300 in her fund

Ilya, currently has $7600 in his fund

Jimmy, currently has over $2000 in his fund

Alexander, currently has over $11, 000 in his fund

Eli, currently has almost $19, 500 in his fund (yes, $19, 500!  That's a crazy amount!  Somebody take this kid home!

Danila, has over $11, 000 in her fund

Victoria, has over $4, 000 in her fund

Meredith, currently has almost $6, 500 in her fund

Megan, currently has $23, 598 in her fund...that has to make the cost of her adoption less than $10, 000!

Kyle, has almost $2, 500 in his fund

Evie, has almost $7, 000 in her fund

Celine, has almost $8, 000 in her fund

Kolya, has $1000 in his fund

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Why China?

Why China?  How did we get to China?  I mean, really it's out of left field for us.  China?  Really?  Trust me when I say that there are times that I am not sure exactly how this all came to be or if I really understand that at some point in time I am going to be getting on a plane and going to China.

I love Haiti in so many ways.  And I tried really hard to make our next adoption a Haitian one.  (I don't want Haiti to just be a "sending place."  I want it to be a part of our lives.  And adding another country into the mix concerned me.  How would we keep meaningful connections in more than one foreign country?)  But door after door kept shutting.  We aren't old enough.  And as of last spring when we first started thinking about another adoption, most places in Haiti weren't taking anyone who wasn't 35.  I did find one agency who was advocating for a little boy who was HIV positive but there was a lot of  upfront expense for something that involved a fair amount of risk.  (The adoption not the HIV part.  We are pretty sure we are up for HIV but that's another story.)  So we looked at other options (other countries/domestic) but never settled on anything.  Then D's grandma got sick and passed away.  Then my dad got sick.  We looked at a couple of other options in Haiti, people who felt confident they could get us approved for a special needs child.  (They had 3 kiddos who we were really interested in.)  Then that "yes" quickly turned into "no" as the orphanage changed their minds on accepting us due to our ages.  So back to the drawing board.  Then my dad died and we really weren't in a place to make any decisions despite having a very reputable agency/orphanage in Haiti say they would work with us.

I've always liked to peruse the online photolistings like Rainbow Kids and Reece's Rainbow.  That has been especially true since this spring as we were fairly certain we would be looking at a child with special needs.  I generally ignored pretty much everything related to Asia on those sites as I just didn't think we would ever go there.  (I wasn't even sure we qualified for China based on their income requirements and many of the other Asian countries are pretty expensive.)  And then, in the middle of November, there was a little girl who was missing an arm on Rainbow Kids.  I'm not sure why but I was interested.  D agreed to ask for more info which we did.  She was placed with another family a few days later but it really got our toes in the water in terms of Chinese adoption.  The more we started looking, the more it seemed like a good fit.  The timeline was right.  The cost was right.  And after talking with the staff from the situation that piqued our interest, we learned that we did qualify.  While we were looking at the file of this little girl, I happened to get online to check out reviews of the agency who had her file and was contacted by a woman who encouraged me to join another online group devoted to advocating for China's waiting children.  I did and was amazed.  There were hundreds of photos and a forum full of current information on the process.  That pretty much sealed the deal.

Zeke was not actually among their waiting child photos.  But through this advocacy site, I started connecting to other advocacy sites including those managed by different agencies.  Zeke was being advocated for by his agencies, BAAS.

It's been an exciting last few days.   We hope you'll continue to pray for us and Zeke as we wait.  We have always prayed that God would bind the hearts of our kids to our hearts while we wait.  I'm not sure how often we will get pictures or updates and we know for certain that we will not be visiting him before the adoption is final.  Those little things work magic on a Mama heart.  Would you pray that even without those things he would grow in our hearts?  And that his heart would be healed from the grief and trauma which may have marked his early years and will most definitely mark his transition home?  Would you pray for our finances?  Adoption is not an inexpensive proposition.  We have money set aside but we would like to not drain our savings account.  Even doing that, I think we would still be short.  And would you pray for our kids?  Pray that they would be ready to love Zeke, that God would again press hearts together and grow relationships.

Believing that God is already at work...

More on Zeke

As my last post indicated, Zeke is a waiting child.  That means that he either has some special medical need or is considered having a special need due to his age.  

In Zeke's case, he has a medical special need.  Zeke was born with birth defects which affect his hands.  He is actually missing one hand completely and is missing most of the fingers on his other hand.  (The politically correct term for all of that is limb differences.)  

From what little bit my uneducated brain can gather, there is no real reason for why those changes occurred while Zeke was in utero; modern medicine hasn't figured it out yet.  My understanding is that there are a handful of reasons a child can have limb differences including genetic syndromes, amniotic banding, and symbrachydactyly.  Based on how the cases present themselves, I think he has the later which is basically a malformation of the hand that occurs early in the pregnancy for reasons yet unknown.  Of course, I could be completely off on that...we'll have to wait to see once he gets home.  

In general, we don't know exactly what that will mean for Zeke in terms of surgery, usage of his hand, etc..  Generally, most kids/adults who have issues with their upper limbs often forego prosthetics because they just prefer the mobility and dexterity that they have with their actual bodies.  We honestly just expect him to be a resilient, happy kid who, according to D, "can still play soccer!"  (Of course, we're prepared to deal with more, knowing that there are no guarantees with international adoption but we're optimistic that the concerns with his hands will be minimal.)

We do have pictures but my understanding is that we are not allowed to post them in a public forum like the Internet.  We have to be further in the process for that.  Can't wait until we get to that place!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Question of the Hour

Lots of inquiring  minds have asked "So what the due date for this new little guy?"  I'm still feeling out Chinese adoptions so I could have a lot of things wrong but we are hoping this will be a smooth, pain free process without a lot of hiccups.  Compared to Haiti which is infamous for its every changing ways, China seems to be fairly efficient and predictable.  (Things Haiti was not.)  It's actually a bit opposite from Haiti in that a lot of the paperwork that must be done to ensure the child is in need of a family is done before you are even matched.  And the dossier assembly will take longer than Haiti because you have to have a form approved by immigration before you can submit your dossier to China but once your dossier is to China it's very straight forward with each step sticking to a fairly basic timeline.  We are optimistic that we will be traveling 9-12 months from now.  (Which sounds like an absolute dream given the length of our last two adoptions.)    It is possible that it could be even sooner than that depending on how long it takes to get our dossier together but we'll go with 9-12 months.

Here's the process and estimates on timelines:

Submit LOI (Letter of Intent) to China that identifies a child you'd like to adopt.  
Wait 1-4 weeks for Pre Approval (PA)
Complete homestudy and start assembling dossier (3-4 months)
Send dossier to China
Wait for LID (log in date) which is China acknowledging that your dossier has been received (1-4 weeks)
Wait for LOA (Letter of Approval) which is China formally approving you as parents for your child-52 days is average wait
File I800, I864 (US immigration paperwork)
Wait for I800 approval (3 weeks)
Have I800 approval cabled to US Consulate in China (2 weeks)
Wait for Article 5 (2-3 weeks)
Wait for travel approval (TA), 2-4 weeks

The orange parts we have already done.  And the blue items we were working on at the same time as the orange items so we are actually already started on doing those things.  We just had our last homestudy visit Tuesday night and have been working on getting items in for the dossier.  So hopefully it won't take us 3-4 months to get our dossier finished; hopefully it will be sooner.  That leaves all the steps in black which are about 6 months on the long side.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

China, Here We Come!

We're excited to announce that we have been granted pre approval from China to adopt a little boy whom we will name Ezekiel Jian. Zeke is just a bit over 17 months old.  (We'd love to post a photo but we can't just yet.)   Will you join us in celebrating this big change?

Romans 15:13 
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.