Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Transracially Adopted Child's Bill of Rights

Our adoption agency, WACAP, got a new website recently and in surfing around I found a link to Pact, a non-profit organization formed to support transracially adopted children. They have a ton of articles to that end, and I will most likely spend quite a bit of time sorting through them in the coming weeks. But the one I gravitated to right away was called A Transracially Adopted Child's Bill of Rights. Here they are:

A Transracially-Adopted Child's Bill of Rights
Adapted by Liza Steinberg Triggs from "A Bill of Rights for Mixed Folks," by Marilyn Dramé
  • Every child is entitled to love and full membership in her family.
  • Every child is entitled to have his culture embraced and valued.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who know that this is a race conscious society.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who know that she will experience life differently than they do.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who are not looking to "save" him or to improve the world.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who know that being in a family doesn't depend on "matching."
  • Every child is entitled to parents who know that transracial adoption changes the family forever.
  • Every child is entitled to be accepted by extended family members.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who know that, if they are white, they benefit from racism.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who know that they can't transmit the child's birth culture if it is not their own.
  • Every child is entitled to have items at home that are made for and by people of his race.
  • Every child is entitled to opportunities to make friends with people of her race or ethnicity.
  • Every child is entitled to daily opportunities of positive experiences with his birth culture.
  • Every child is entitled to build racial pride within her own home, school, and neighborhood.
  • Every child is entitled to have many opportunities to connect with adults of the child's race.
  • Every child is entitled to parents who accept, understand and empathize with her culture.
  • Every child is entitled to learn survival, problem-solving, and coping skills in a context of racial pride.
  • Every child is entitled to take pride in the development of a dual identity and a multicultural/multiracial perspective on life.
  • Every child is entitled to find his multiculturalism to be an asset and to conclude, "I've got the best of both worlds."

I want to take some time here in coming weeks to reflect on each of these, as this is a complex list that proscribes a rather tall order for intentionality and flexibitily for adoptive parents. Not all of these "rights" are ones that make intuitive sense to white people - many are aspects of our ethnic identity that are invisible to us because we are ascribed them automatically. More on that soon.

I'm away this weekend, working at a church training event, but expect to see more on this and related issues when I return.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Weekend Projects

What a wonderful weekend! As you may remember I planned carefully and arranged to have zero committed time other than church this three day weekend and it was amazing. A lovely little stay-cation. Also, I got things done. Or one thing.

I really only got one project from my list moved along towards completion, but it turned out better than I had expected. I'm in the middle of redesigning our bedroom to be a shared space with baby, and it's been a fruitful process so far. While there are plenty of resources for nursery decoration and lots of inspiration to be found on the internets and elsewhere I haven't found a lot that is useful for a shared bedroom space. I want the room to be a place where grown-ups can feel comfortable, but I also want it to be a fun playspace for kiddo. Since our home is small we live in the entire thing, there's no shutting the bedroom door when we entertain as usually the party will spill over into that space as well. And that's how we like it. It's good motivation to keep a neat and organized home. (and I have to give a shout-out to Apartment Therapy and Ohdeedoh, my favorite sites for small-space decor and usability ideas.)

So I decided the bedroom would be more whimsical than the other living areas, but needed to remain relevant to us. And no gendered baby decor - I resist that sort of thing on principle anyway, but since the space is shared it is even less practical.

SO. I had an idea, after looking at some local art in a coffee shop, and decided to try it out. Saturday afternoon we walked all over town getting my ingredients:
Old vinyl records, gesso, acrylic paints and brushes.

First the gesso, to prep the surface.

Then I painted!! I bought primary colors with the intention to mix them, but the green and purple ended up not working with what I had in mind, so I painted them over with red and yellow.

Once the records were painted Andrew and I decided on some images that we like, that represent us well and would be fun to stencil onto the records. Here's what we've come up with so far:
Cassette, because we can both remember real mixtapes.

Those two for obvious reasons

And this is an image that our baby will learn to recognize long before he or she knows how to speak, most likely:

Because s/he'll see it, among other places, on her mama's arm:

These should go up on the wall soon, and I think will fit very well with the old show posters, and the lovely sweet painting I bought last year that felt so much like us I had to have it:

The artist is Megan Marie Myers, go look at her stuff it's heartbreaking and adorable.

So now it's back to work. I don't mind. The last three days' loveliness will last me a good long while.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

(on a good day) It's like...

"That must be so hard" Morrie says to me across the meeting table. "To just be waiting and waiting and not have any idea when..." he trails off. We're sitting at a meeting for the congregational consulting network that I am a part of, and everyone is engaging in the vital catch-up and chit-chat that must precede business and more focused discussion at these sorts of things. I'm currently the youngest person in the group. Most of my co-consultants are well into the grandchildren and retirement phase of their lives. They are all quite dear and interested in our adoption process. Since we meet every other month up until recently I have always had something to report: homestudy started, homestudy completed, profiles done, etc. But our last couple meetings I've had nothing but the "still waiting."

"I can't imagine what that must be like." Morrie says. He is a retired priest, a gentle soul, and one of my favorite people. So instead of replying the way I would to most; brushing it off, or talking about my other projects or making a wry joke about having plenty to do to keep busy, I stop to think. What is it like? How does this experience of waiting compare to something that he might understand?

"It's like waiting to fall in love." I say. Morrie and his partner have been together for decades and are a couple that Andrew and I greatly admire. I don't know much about their story but I am willing to bet that, like most good love stories, there was a waiting and longing and loneliness that preceded it. Morrie and I move on to other topics, but the more I think about my new metaphor, the more I like it.

It felt, to me, like I waited for Andrew for a long, long time. I spent the first half of my 20's exploring the world for myself - a brief flirtation here or there, some classically heartbreaking "complicated" friendships, and a lot of watching while my beloved friends worked their ways in and out of passionate and not-so-passionate romantic relationships. I was fairly confident that I would be a good partner, and quietly confused as to why no one snapped me up. My nearest and dearest friends kindly shared this confusion. But it didn't happen. So I developed a personal philosophy of life that connected loneliness to strength, decided that one romantic relationship shouldn't be the end all and be all of a wholly lived life, and that a romantic partnership wouldn't be the only long term relationship that mattered in my life.

Then Andrew came to see my band play and we snapped each other up faster than either of us expected. We were family to each other in a deep, mysterious, and wonderful way from almost the very beginning.

Oddly this didn't change my ideas about love, friendship, loneliness and strength. Despite the deep conviction that this was the person I had in many ways been waiting for and spent many lonely hours longing for, I've never felt regret that it didn't happen sooner. My life didn't begin when Andrew appeared. Quite the contrary, I had a wonderful life full of friends, laughter, and plenty of deep loving relationships with other people long before I knew him. In fact, I think that's one of the reasons my marriage is strong and lovely. As a new family Andrew and I were born into the best possible environment.

So now we're waiting again, together. The more I think about it the more I see similarities. We'll find our baby much the way we found each other - we don't know when it will happen, or have much personal control over who it will be. Our new family member will come with biological connections to people we don't know, and those people will become a part of our network, our child's first family. And our life won't begin when that new person arrives. Quite the contrary, we're living life as hard as we can now: loving each other and our families and our beautiful friends, making plans and dreaming dreams and trusting that all of it together will be the best possible environment for the brand new person we're expecting to be, if not born into, then raised into. It's not that I don't feel impatient or spend time every day imagining who s/he will be, what it will be like to know and hold him/her, making plans for how to welcome and weave a new person into the life of our family. But as impatient as I am, I trust that in the end, I won't regret the waiting.

Yeah, on a good day, it's like that.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Project Updates!

I am coming off a jam-packed exhausting and wonderful weekend of meetings followed by company followed by church followed by meetings followed by more company followed by work followed by meetings. Whenever I come to the end of a jag of activity like this and face a couple wide open evenings with no plans I feel a little confused. So I thought I'd review and update on my various summer pre-baby projects to help get myself oriented to a slightly less programmed week.

Ongoing Projects
Couch to 5K: Okay, I'd be lying if I said this project is still going gangbusters, but I'm proud to say I haven't let it die completely. I'm averaging three runs every 1.2 weeks. ish. I need to step this up. The great thing about following this running plan is that I can repeat steps when I'm not ready to amp it up. So I'm holding steady somewhere in week five at the moment, and I am hoping to make it to week 6 at the beginning of next week. I have noticed major changes in my energy and stamina, and this is motivating for me to continue to work at this. I have also learned that if I don't run first thing in the morning it's not going to happen, and that I don't like running on a track. It's boring. I have discovered that I can run to NPR podcasts just as well as I can to music, and that Andrew is pretty kick-ass when it comes to making this-is-your-run playlists for me.

Career Development: This is most of what I've been up to the past couple of months. I finally turned in my grad school application, and am waiting for an interview date. I completed my second solo consultation yesterday, facilitating a very productive meeting with one of the sweetest vestry groups I've had the pleasure to encounter. I keep learning tons about my chosen profession, and it all makes me more and more excited to be a priest someday. I know that once we get our wee one I won't be able to do many of these extra projects with other parishes for a while, so I'm soaking up all the experience I can now.

The Reading List. So back when I made my original post I was thinking about tackling many of the adoption and parenting related books that I have piling up on my library card and nightstand. I haven't really done that. Instead, I've found myself immersed in fiction, specifically science fiction written by women. It's awesome. I will get back to the non-fic stuff soon. I think it's a healthy thing for me to take a step back from the full immersion I was pursuing for a while at the beginning of the wait. Everything was baby ALL THE TIME!!! Someday soonish that will be the reality like-it-or-not. So while I haven't any adoption related reviews for you (yet) I can heartily recommend The Margarets by Sheri Tepper and Life by Gwenyth Jones. I am currently far enough in to Children of Men to tell that I'm going to like it as well.

New Projects
Make my Own Dressform. I'm an on and off sewer, and spring is when the bug usually hits me to hit up the fabric stores and take a run at sewing pretty clothes for myself. I've been thinking wistfully for a year or two about buying a dressform, one of those fancy adjustable busts that helps with sizing something to fit as you sew. Unfortunately they are just too expensive to invest in for a hot-and-cold hobby, which is what sewing is for me. One of the times I was bemoaning this Andrew, who is DIY to the core in a way that I am not(yet), noted that the internet probably knows how to make one for cheap. A quick google search later he was proved right! There are a lot of ideas out there on the webs, but we're going to give this one a try, hopefully this weekend. I'll post pics.

Redecorate Bedroom. Okay, not completely. But I've been reading a bit on Montessori-style parenting, and I want to rework the bedroom to fall more in line with those ideas of baby-friendliness. I also have an idea for some cheap, fun customized wall art that I won't go into detail about here in case it's a bust, but will post pics of if all goes according to plan.

Go Raw for Summer Last summer A+A "went raw" which actually means went about 75% raw in diet for the summer. This morning we decided to do it again this year, with gusto. We have The Raw Food Detox Diet book, and we use it as a resource all year long. In the cold, wet Seattle winters it's just not realistic to keep up a diet of mostly uncooked food. I need hot soup and comfort food. But now that spring has sprung Andrew and I are both feeling the lure of raw carrot soup, super smoothies, raw phad tie and guacamole salad. We will still eat cooked foods for dinner fairly often, it's bbq season after all, but within the next few weeks processed and frozen food will disappear from our kitchen. I'm excited, even though this means future cupcake projects will be put on hold 'til fall.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

3 months, 5 days...

I have a ticker, over there on side of the screen, that keeps track of our wait. I love AND hate the ticker, a familiar mix of feelings to have about various parts of this process. Someday I'll write a post about how adopting has helped me to move beyond the either/or thinking that permeates so much of how we Americans like to operate and accept the both/and realities of the world. But not today. Today I'm busy both loving and hating that ticker.

When we first started looking at adoption programs and agencies wait time was one of the big factors. Andrew and I had tried to get pregnant for a bit before deciding to adopt. We had no money and thought it would be cheaper. (HA!) But we had always wanted adoption to be part of how we built our family, so our move towards adoption was much quicker than some of the friends that I met through infertility buddy groups. Nonetheless, by the time we started the process it already felt like we'd been trying to build our family forever. There was a lot to think about, much to consider, but one of the factors that drew us was the wait time our agency published with the materials for their AAI program. Average wait time 3-11 months, it said. With waits as short as 3 days, and as long as 18 months.

3 days!! 3 months!! That was my main takeaway as we flipped through the details of the program.

"That's a pretty wide window for an 'average.'" Andrew said.

"Psh. We're not average." I replied confidently.

So, now, looking at my ticker I hate it because obviously we are average.

3 months, 5 days.

Average, Andrew likes to point out, in this case just means "majority." And as I've gotten in touch with parents who have adopted through our program, and talked more with our adoption coordinator I have realized that the statistical average is really closer to 7 or 8 months. What 3-11 months really means is that after 3 months it's anybody's game. Lots of people match in month 3 and 4 of waiting. But lots of people also match in month 10 or 11. The field is wide open. It is much much MORE likely that it will happen.

So, I love my ticker, because we're now in the anything-can-happen-wide-open part of our wait.

3 months, 5 days.

Some day, sweet some day, I'll be writing this in the story of my child's life. We waited __ months, __ days for your first mom to find us, to pick us as your mommy and daddy.

I love my ticker, because it is ticking down to something, to a stopping point at a number that will be part of our family story forever.

But I hate the ticker, too. Because today, 3 months 5 days, is not that number, and not that day.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

you're adopting, right?

It was, pretty much, like any other Sunday morning. Part of my job as Lay Pastor for Children's Formation at my church is teaching Godly Play each week, and it's a little ridiculous how much I look forward to hanging out with these kiddos. Our church is experiencing a surge of growth in the kids-and-young-families department just currently, growing from just a couple teenagers and one lonely baby four years ago to now - 15+ children running around our parish hall on any given Sunday. It's fun for me to know them all, to track their growth and notice their haircuts and skinned knees and be there to feel proud for them when they finally get over their separation anxiety, start preschool, get contacts or any of the other many milestones that are very very important to people under the age of 10.

This was Mother's Day Sunday, so attendance was a little low. My guess is that several of our urban families did something special for their resident mothers and skipped the usual bustle of Sunday morning for something calmer. We're not a church that does a lot for Mother's Day, a secular holiday after all. In large part this is because of the diversity of our place. There are lots of families here that don't fit the "traditional" model: only dads, older couples without children, and plenty of women who either by circumstance or choice are not mothers. We love Our Mother Mary very, very much - her shrine was lit up with candles - but there wasn't much talk of Mother's Day itself. I don't think the homily by our single male deacon even brought it up.

Nonetheless, the kids that came had Mother's Day on the mind. I was in the older class, 6-9 year olds, and my small group of four kiddos had a lot to say about the day. Well, actually, three of them did. C., who is the daughter of a single mom and very attached, was full of stories about the secrets and surprises she had planned for her beloved mama that day. A. and L., siblings whose mother was the other teacher in the room, were very excited about going somewhere special for lunch after church, in honor of the day.

Godly Play is a very carefully structured curriculum with three main parts: Lesson, Response, and Feast. Lesson is where we experience a story, Response is an opportunity for each child to use art materials, or story materials on their own to respond to the lesson, and Feast is when we have a snack together and socialize.

Our Mother's Day Feast (grapes and animal crackers) was full of Mother's Day talk. Everyone had something to say, except for one child. O. is a special kid, for a number of reasons: he's smart and bookish, he says startlingly funny things, he's an only child, and he's adopted. His is an international transracial adoption, and his dad is a single parent. I've come to both love and dread the twinkle he gets in his eye right before asking a question that he's pretty sure I won't like. A couple weeks ago it was "What's a virgin?" When things get silly during a Lesson or Response time, there's a 65-70% chance O. is involved.

So it was different to see him silent during feast. And then I realized: of course he is. If I thought Mother's Day was hard for me, I can't imagine how it must be for him. Here is everyone, chattering away about the super special stuff they are doing with their moms today, and there is my sweet little friend with absolutely nothing to contribute. I'm not sure what if anything he knows about his first mother, but I know he was too little when he came home to remember her now. I felt a wave of sympathy for him, a feeling much too mushy to reveal to a nine-year old boy.

"Hey kiddo," I said softly and he looked up at me. "Not everybody gets to know their mom, huh?" It wasn't very smooth. I've since come up with lots of other things I could have said. What I meant was I see you. I see that today is different for you. The other children were still talking away, and for a moment it was just me and O. I think he understood. He nodded and the corner of his mouth quirked up a little bit.

"Hey," he said, with a hint of that familiar gleam in his eye. "When are you getting your kid, your baby?" I had told him about our adoption, a few weeks ago.

"I don't know," I replied, as the other children started to pay attention. "It could be a long time, or it could be soon."

"You're adopting right?"

"Yup!" I smiled. I still smile when I get to answer that question in the affirmative.

"Is it going to be a boy or a girl?" and off we went. The subject changed, we all spend the rest of feast talking about my pending adoption, and baby names. The kids offered suggestions, and were a little in awe when I revealed that our girl-name is both an important word from the Bible and a character from X-men. "Does your husband know?!?" O. asked in disbelief. I assure him that it was Andrew's idea.

I can't give O. a mom, nor do I think he must have one. His dad is amazing, and the family they make together is beautiful. But I can support his family by being someone who truly loves and respects the way it was built. So much so that I'm going to build my family that way, too. For a moment in that room it felt like we shared a secret connection. Everyone else was talking about their moms - but really they were talking about their families, and those families were all the same kind, a good kind, but not quite like the family I'm building and not like O's. O. wanted to talk about adoption, about our kind of family, and we share the belief (he has the actual experience) that family isn't about moms and dads and biology as much as it is about love.

And that made my day.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A picture post

Its not really fair for me to mention the hamburger cupcake project without posting some pics, so here you go:

The hamburger is chocolate cupcake, the bun is white cupcake, and the ketchup and mustard are dyed frosting. The lettuce is coconut dyed green, you can see it better in this picture:

Andrew brushed the top with olive oil and sprinkled some sesame seeds to give it a bun-like appearance. I'm pretty sure he found inspiration for this online, where there is an endless supply of odd cake ideas. He's going to put on some darn good birthday parties for baby A+A someday.

But for now we put on parties for other folks, and yesterday's cupcakes were for my Mother-in-law, who LOVED them:

We had our Mother's Day weekend picnic in the best of Seattle weather, in the sunshine looking at Lake Washington:

Today isn't quite so sunny, which is just fine by me. I have some gardening to do, dahlias to get planted, so I'd better hop to.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Why it's a happy Mother's Day.

It's a sunny spring day in Seattle, and Andrew is in the kitchen working on a new cupcake project (they look like tiny hamburgers!!). We've spent our morning being ridiculously and wonderfully domestic, scrubbing our 730 square feet of home from top to bottom, folding laundry and leaving only to shop for food for the picnic dinner we're planning for Andrew's mother and step-father this evening. They're on a ferry right now, munching on popcorn and watching the city get bigger and bigger as they get closer to us. Andrew is the d.j. for our day, which means that Built to Spill is on the record player and he is singing/humming along. I'm not sure he's even conscious of it. This is one way that "happy" sounds, around here.

Tomorrow is Mother's Day, a holiday that can be a really hard one for people like me, mothers without children yet, women who long to be on the receiving end of the cards and flowers and ridiculous consumerist hoopla that goes along with this day. I have a lot of friends who are getting those gifts for the first time this year - who will be dressing their brand new bundles in tiny I ♥ my mommy t-shirts and reading sweet missives in their husbands or partners handwriting from their baby sons and daughters. I'll be spending my Mother's Day morning the same way I gladly spend each and every Sunday: with some of my favorite people, all of whom are other people's children. We will probably talk about their moms.

But I'll be thinking about my Mom. I can never hate Mother's Day, because I love to think about my mother. (Who does read this blog - Hi Mama!) To be honest, though, I don't need a special day to do it. I think about her all the time. This, to me, is the measure of a good mother - and mine is really, really good - that I cannot go a day without feeling the influence of her mothering in my life. I hear her when I talk to children, never using smaller words or a condescending tone. I see her when I look in the mirror in the mornings, going through my routine of tooth brushing and moisturizer. Not because we look very much alike - we don't - but because the motions I see myself make are the same as hers, I remember them from leaning against her vanity and watching her get ready, years and years ago. When I make grocery lists I see her handwriting in the way I make my Ys and Ns. When I pause and think before giving advice to a friend I hear her, too, pausing to think before responding to one of my childhood questions, of which I had many. All of which she took seriously, and answered as honestly as she could.

So don't feel bad for me this Mother's Day. I'm thinking about my mom, and hoping that I'll be as good at it as she is, when my long awaited turn finally does arrive.

Friday, May 8, 2009

a little self-promotion...

So, funny thing, apparently this blog has been nominated by local parenting website as a "best local blog" about parenting stuff. I'm flattered, especially since I'm still trying on thinking of myself as a parent. Anyways, if you want to vote for this little blogging project, you can click the link below.

For Local Blog
in Seattle

It makes me happy that this is something people find interesting and helpful. It sure is good therapy for me!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

noticing the wait...

It's not that nothing has been happening, indeed our wait has been exciting so far, a veritable roller coaster. But with all the ups and downs the quiet times can feel very....quiet.

Andrew laughs at me, because in all reality I am rarely quiet and not often still. This Friday will mark a month without a day off from work. To celebrate I've been staying in evenings to work on me-focused projects: making some pretty summer dresses for myself, planting dahlias, reading fiction. I get up three times a week to "run," a project that, as of this week, is actually more running then walking for a change.

Maybe it's just that I was a little punch-drunk on the spring and the sunshine, but sometime this past weekend it started to feel like we hit our stride. The running and the tulips and the tiny splinters in my hands from the piles of mulch and compost we've been using to make up for the clay soil in our front flower beds are all working together to keep my shoulders relaxed, my body calm. Coming home to a building full of good folks who are becoming good friends, to a home that often smells like fresh sourdough bread made from our own starter that we have kept alive almost the entire time we've been waiting doesn't hurt either.

Sunshine in Seattle never lasts. As a result those of us who live here have learned to live into every moment of blue sky warmth that we get, to try and stock up on it so that when we wake up the next morning, like we did today, to grey skies and windy misty rain, our bodies can still remember the way the earth was warm, not two days ago.

So I'm trying to let the coping skills I've developed for the weather seep into the other up-and-down seasonal changes in my life. To bask in the sunshine of friends and home, and the many sweet moments of our life as I can. Whether it's a quiet afternoon digging in the flower beds with one of my sister-friends, a sunny Sunday morning walk holding hands, or a rainy night eating cupcakes with neighbors - I can choose to bask in these things, to savor them.

That way, on other days, when I'm busy, discouraged, lonesome for that little person who is out there somewhere, or just plain worn out from my overactive brain's insistence on dwelling on a time that isn't here yet, I can do what we of the Pacific Northwest have learned to do so well. Chin up, ignoring the grey mist that wets my face and obscures the mountains in the distance, I can remember that the sun shone a few days ago, and it will be summer soon enough.