Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Questions about parenting across racial lines

I've gotten comments about where Kamu is from and how long he's been home, but I would estimate that 90+% of the people who've asked me questions haven't really been nosy. Sometimes they are. The other day, a woman sitting next to me was watching Kamu play and asked if Patrick was also adopted. I said "No." Her response was "Oh, so he's natural?"

My response was, with a slight laugh, "Well, they're both natural--neither one is made of plastic or anything!"

She responded "Oh, you know what I mean."

No ma'am, I don't, and I'm trying to make a point that your terminology is not acceptable without blatantly telling you so. I've never referred to a child as "natural" before. Doesn't that really ask questions about his conception, especially since I've already said he's not adopted, and why would that be anyone else's business but ours? I've heard people refer to children as "natural" when compared to those conceived by artificial reproductive technology (though I still don't get that; does ART make them fake kids somehow?). When I refer to how our kids joined our family, I usually say that Patrick is ours biologically or by birth and Kamu is ours by adoption from Ethiopia.

I've asked parents if a child was biologically theirs if they're a "conspicuous family", as our prospective adoptive parent training person put it. It's still tough to open up that conversation even as the parent of a transracial family (though I find it's easier if I have the kids with me). It's always enjoyable when I manage it without awkwardness, and I've made several friends that way.

Many of you are parents of children of other races and other countries. How do you open up conversations with other people about race? What types of comments have you gotten about your children and how do you deal with them?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Deja vu, please!

Whatever I did today? Please let me keep doing it*! It was my first day of summer home with both boys and it was amazingly wonderful. We had some fun this morning before Jason left, though I must break Patrick of his habit of climbing into bed with us when he gets up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night**.

We'll ignore when Jason and Patrick, in the middle of a pillow fight, clonked heads--the back of Patrick's head on Jason's front tooth. There were some tears to soothe, but they're OK.

Then Jason left for work and the boys and I ate breakfast. For once, they both ate full and healthy breakfasts--Patrick had cantaloupe, eggs, and milk; Kamu had yogurt, Cheerios, and milk. I discovered that Kamu is reliably using the sign for "more", which is a lovely find on the heels of him saying Mama regularly. The boys played with blocks for a while. Patrick built and Kamu knocked down, and there was lots of laughter involved.

We got dressed and read another chapter of The Mouse and the Motorcycle (James and the Giant Peach is in the on-deck circle for when we're done with it), as well as Oh My, Oh My, Oh Dinosaur and Mr. Grumpy. I am so glad the "Little Miss" and "Mister Men" books are back! Patrick watched Curious George and SuperWhy while Kamu and I had some one-on-one time to play a bit.

We went to Tarjay for a pump to fix Patrick's bike tire, came home and ate lunch--and they both ate full and healthy meals again! Then we went outside and fixed the tire. Patrick rode around the bottom of the driveway for a bit and Kamu played on his riding toy while I got out the whale pool and inflated it. It needs cleaning and I've discovered that one side has a hole that needs to be found, but it won't affect the use of the pool itself even if I can't fix it.

Both boys were tired and hot, so we came inside. Kamu had a cup of water in his crib and fell asleep in about 3 minutes, while Patrick had a cup of water and Goldfish in the playroom. Patrick and I had some nice one-on-one time and read a few more books (Mr. Impossible and Mr. Tickle and the Dragon). I came downstairs to e-mail and read for a bit, fending off Patrick's repeated inquiries of "Mama, when is quiet time over?" with telling him that it would be over at 4 and if he didn't stop asking, it would be even longer. At 4 p.m., I went up to find Kamu quietly awake...and Patrick sound asleep in his bed.

We had planned on pool time after quiet time, but it's pouring right now. I've moved my flower planters out to the front steps so that they'll get watered and am happy to see that my rain barrel is collecting a steady stream from the downspout. It's cooled off enough that cooking dinner won't be torture***. My Kamu is cheerful and playful, my Patrick is asleep, and my day has been great. I'll leave you with some pictures, though they're not from today.

Patrick at his final gymnastics class of the spring.

That really is Patrick upside down--he had so much fun in his class!

Kids in the bath are so cute!
And finally, a very short video of Kamu walking! Within days of his evaluation and setting a 6-month goal of walking across the room and standing up without assistance, he was doing both. Jason and I have never seen a child walk so quickly once he started.
*I'm consciously ignoring the fact that the load of laundry that I washed and hung on drying racks this morning was forgotten until after it had been drizzling for an hour. Thankfully I got them in before it started pouring, but I'll bet they were almost dry before it!
**Of course, climbing into our bed is an improvement over finding him sound asleep on the floor outside of the bathroom with the zipper of his jammies only up to his stomach a couple of weeks ago--he was apparently too tired to make it any further!

***The 10-minute-prep-time estimate for dinner clearly wasn't meant for those who were preparing dinner while peeling carrots with an 18-month-old on one's hip. Or with said 18-month-old, having lost interest in carrot peeling, pushing a laundry basket containing two race cars and a box of granola bars into one's legs and saying "Ow!"**** Repeatedly.

****This is a word that gets used around our house a lot. See previous references of two boys, husband, two male dogs...and me.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My obsession

Thank you all for the lovely words! My job really won't change now that I'm tenure-track, but I will have year-round benefits and they'll pay me quite a bit more if/when I teach during the summers (not until my kids don't want to spend the summers with me). In a few years, hopefully I'll get tenure and then I'll have more job security as well. I really like my job, so I am thrilled about this!

So what will I spend my summer doing, other than taking care of Patrick and Melkamu? I really like to garden. I have a greenhouse--it was Jason's Mother's Day gift to me several years ago, and we built it together. It was finally finished last year, just in time for us to get hit with a Level 4 drought. Basically, I can't water outside except for a personal vegetable garden. I can also water using reclaimed gray water and/or storm water.

Well then, I thought, I'll buy a rain barrel! A 60-gallon one, good for plenty of watering. We shortened our rain gutter in the front and put the barrel underneath it. After a few weeks and a few good rains, it was completely full. Alas, I used it the other day to water and apparently didn't hook the hose back up properly; at some point that night, the hose fell and the barrel was empty by the next morning. Now my few poor flowers wait for it to refill so that they can be watered again. Thankfully it rained last night (and thankfully, the tornado warning that we were under came to nothing) and they're doing OK. I have alternating impatiens and begonias out front, as well as daisies. There are primroses and pansies up by the mailbox. And the morning glories that I planted last spring have reseeded themselves nicely and are springing up by the fence outside of the greenhouse.

But a vegetable garden--that I could do! Only...well, our land is a wee bit sloped. Laura, think your house except going down from street level. Instead, I'm container gardening. I did the same things I did last year...at first. I have four upside-down tomatoes in hanging baskets, two Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes and two Early Girl regular tomatoes. There are herbs growing on top of them. I also have a red bell pepper and a yellow bell pepper growing the same way in my greenhouse, also with herbs growing on top.

I planted new bean plants in my long rectangular planters. Last year's beans were semi-successful, but I attributed their poor yield to the freeze that caught them a few weeks after they were transplanted out there. I also planted two rectangular planters of cucumbers.

Then I expanded a bit from last year. I planted two rectangular planters of Swiss chard, which I love. And then, joy of joys, I found a ton of old 10" and 12" pots out in the garage that I must have bought back when we lived in Columbia!

Instead of 4 tomatoes, we now have 12: the ones mentioned before, a Mr. Stripey, a Better Bush, a yellow pear, a Lemon Boy, two Rutgers, and two Roma. (And, because Jason will call me out if I don't admit my nerdiness, I am taking notes on when they were planted and will note their yields so that I know what to buy next year.) Instead of 2 peppers, we now have 6: the ones mentioned before, another red bell pepper, a green bell pepper, a banana pepper, and a chili pepper.

It's a little ridiculous, but some of the beans are already 3" long and we'll be eating them within a couple of weeks (or sooner). I didn't plant enough of them, so I've planted 10 more seeds of the bush beans that are now growing and another 10 seeds of the pole beans that I grew last year; those will be ready to transplant in a couple of weeks, and producing a month after that.

Fresh veggies are delicious--but I think I might need to learn to can tomatoes by this fall! The nice long growing season down here pretty much ensures another 4 months of veggies, and I actually got peppers into October last year. Yum!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

As much as I love my kids

I am glad that I will be going back to work in August.

As a tenure-track assistant professor at Georgia Perimeter College.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Summer fun

Oh, there are so many plans afoot for the summer--which starts next week for me! I'm actually done with school but will be judging the International Science and Engineering Fair this week in Atlanta. Yes, I'm an enormous nerd and cannot wait to be there. I don't know what category I'll be judging. It will either be something molecular biology-related or something medicine-related. All I know is that I get to meet a bunch of Nobel laureates! How incredibly cool is that!

After that's done, I will have Melkamu to myself for a week while Patrick finishes up school. I can hardly believe that he'll be in preschool in the fall, and kindergarten next year! Sniff, sob. My babies are growing up.

We'll definitely be taking some trips to the library, as Patrick and I have discovered the fun of chapter books! We're reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle right now; we read a chapter every night before bed, and sometimes a chapter or two during quiet time. Kamu loves to listen to stories, though he prefers to be able to take the books and flip them around. Board books are a lifesaver with that one, let me tell you! I've been on a quest to find more books with black characters and especially those with transracial families; if you have any favorites, let me know! Some of our favorites are Corduroy, Whistle for Willie, and all of the How do Dinosaurs...? series.

We'll also be going to the pool, and hoping that Kamu likes it. I'm hoping to sign Patrick up for swimming lessons this summer (he will have them once a week in preschool), because he loves the pool. When Kamu came home, he would scream as soon as he touched the bath. These days, he will sit and play in the tub for a little while. He and Patrick take baths together, so I think he saw that Patrick likes it and figured out that maybe it's not quite the torture that he thought it was.

We'll be doing a playgroup once a week, which will be lots of fun. And of course, there will be trips to visit family, trips to the zoo, and perhaps even a vacation to the beach for the four of us!

It's likely that Kamu will be having some therapy sessions this summer as well. We had his Babies Can't Wait evaluation the other day and he is delayed in speech and gross motor skills. Neither of these was a surprise, though he did show off while there--he repeatedly took several unassisted steps at a time and cleaned up toys. He's been taking more steps since then as well, up to 4 at once! I'm sure the speech issues are because English is the third language to which he's been exposed (birth family spoke Hadiyissa, care center nannies spoke Amharic), but we'd be perfectly happy to find more ways to help him communicate with us. His receptive language is getting better by the day, but his expressive language needs help.

But gosh, he's so cute that he could probably get by on that alone:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

On Mother's Day

To all of you who are mothers with your children in your arms

To all of you who are mothers with children in your wombs

To all of you who are mothers with children in your hearts

To all of you who are mothers with children in your dreams

Happy Mother's Day.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The boys' room and an update

When Patrick was an only child, it was pretty bland. Really bland. Truthfully, it was our guest room and he took it over because he preferred a bigger bed to the toddler bed. (And he "cleaned it up" one day during quiet time.)

Now the boys share a room. Patrick has a loft bed (the bottom bunk is in the basement for Melkamu when he's big enough) and Melkamu is in the crib.

The "cave" under Patrick's bed is a HUGE hit with both boys and friends alike. It's a cozy little reading nook. We love to read bedtime stories in there, and Kamu plays peek-a-boo with the blanket constantly!

There are other changes coming for the room. We bought some beautiful carvings to hang in the boys' room while we were in Ethiopia, and those will be hung on either side of the window. In all of my "free time" this summer (hahaha! Pardon me, my sides ache from laughing so hard), I'm making a new curtain with material that Patrick picked out--I know you'll all be shocked that it has dinosaurs on it. I'll also make a new covering for the "cave", since my mom made the blanket that's currently there and it's getting stretched out a bit as the boys sit on the end of it. I've got some material to make Kamu some new sheets for the crib, and I'm hoping to finally finish the blanket I started crocheting for him last summer, before we even knew who he was!

Note to the kids: take naps this summer. A lot of them. Looooooooooooooong naps. Every day.

A quick note--my boys are growing! We officially moved Kamu into 2T clothes, and Patrick is fully into 5T. It's hard to believe they're getting so big.
Even better--Melkamu took his first steps this week! I tricked him into taking the first couple: he was walking while holding my fingers and seemed pretty steady, so I slipped them out of his grasp and he took 2 steps and grabbed a chair! Since then, he's taken several more on his own. We're having him evaluated by Babies Can't Wait later this week because he's still got muscle development issues that need some help, but he's doing wonderfully!

Because he's finally starting to walk, his daycare moved him into the 1-year old classroom...even though he'll only be there for two more weeks. While I'm not sure how I feel about him having to make the adjustment for such a short period of time (mind you, he seems OK with it), I am glad that he's with kids his own age and his speed developmentally. I'm also glad that he'll at least get to know the room a bit, so that it won't be completely unfamiliar come August.
I suppose I can't delay grading those papers any longer. Only one more exam to give!