Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gender bias and the schools

Parents, School Tangle Over Boy's Long Locks

Really?  Do the educators in Texas have nothing better to do than fight against a hairstyle?

You may have noticed that Patrick has long hair.  Actually, it's currently longer than mine since I just got mine cut.  In fact, Patrick has the longest hair in the family.  He says he wants to grow it to the floor.  I rather doubt it will go that far but hey, it's hair.  Hair cuts.  Hair grows.  You have to pick your battles and hair isn't one I'm about to pick.

The only issue with the little boy in the story is his hair.  If the school is concerned that it's in his eyes or is a safety issue, they could easily request that it be pulled back and out of his face.  But instead, they choose to say the following: "[S]tudents who dress and groom themselves neatly, and in an acceptable and appropriate manner, are more likely to become constructive members of the society in which we live."

Let me take this in parts:
"[S]tudents who dress and groom themselves neatly..." There is nothing in the story about the child being dressed improperly or ungroomed.  He is not dirty.  His hair is not uncombed.

"and in an acceptable and appropriate manner"  I am guessing this is from whence the whole thing stems--"acceptable and appropriate" for the stereotype of a boy ONLY, because girls are not bound by the same rules for hair.  If it is a safety issue, then both genders should be bound by the same rules.  If not, then it is simply gender bias.

"are more likely to become constructive members of the society in which we live." The little boy in the story says he wants to grow his hair long enough to donate it to Locks of Love (or a similar one, they don't name the charity in the story).  In case you're not familiar with them, Locks of Love gives wigs made of donated human hair to children undergoing cancer treatments.  Your hair has to be a certain length to donate--I believe you need to donate 10 inches.  It sounds to me like he's already showing concern for others and a desire to help them.  How is that being an unconstructive member of society?

And long haired men never succeed, as we well know:

This one's for you, Mom.

Oh wait, he's an elf.  My bad.  But meow...

Many of the commenters say awful things about the child based on the length of his hair.  I won't address those because honestly, no words I can say are going to change the mind of someone so narrow-minded.  But other comments need to be mentioned in relation to my own son.

Several of the commenters say that the child is being taught that he should get to flaunt the rules because of the fight over his hair's length.  Since when did the length of one's hair have anything to do with being taught respectful behavior?  Maybe we're "lucky" in that our school district does not have a dress code about hair lengths on boys and we don't have to fight it.  But if we did, and we would fight it, it would in no way absolve Patrick from having to be respectful of his teachers, pay attention, and do his work properly.  However, it would teach him to stand up for himself and fight against things that are not right and are unjustified.

Others claim that his parents are the ones forcing him to have long hair, that a 4-year-old wouldn't make that decision on his own.  I beg to disagree, because when 4-year-old Patrick came home and said he wanted long hair, he was pretty adamant about it.  Jason really didn't want Patrick to grow his hair. I held to the old "pick your battles" party line, and we decided to let Patrick choose.  He grew it for a while, got tired of having snarls combed out (because it DOES have to stay clean and neat, regardless of its length), got it cut once, and then decided to grow it again.  It's been growing for about 18 months now, with only an occasional trim, and comes down a little below his shoulders.

Still others say that his hair is a distraction to the school.  In what way?  It is in his eyes, so I can see that might be distracting to him.  And I can understand if the school asked him to pull it back so that he wasn't distracted by it.  But how is his hair distracting anyone else?  It ISN'T, plain and simple. 

I actually found it ironic that many of the supportive commenters were advocating that he should just pull it back so it wouldn't be an issue.  Patrick has pulled his hair back in a ponytail for school on a couple of occasions.  The first time he did, another child said he looked like a girl.  Patrick punched him.  I would call that more distracting than having his hair down--which has not been an issue for anyone, including the other boys in his class.

Frankly, I love Patrick's hair long.  He had a trim the other day and it really looks great.  I don't see him looking like a girl.  I see him looking like Patrick, a child with interests in science and art and pretty much anything you introduce to him.  I see a child who comes home with wonder about the things he's learning in school.  And never once, beyond the one incident, has his hair been an issue for anything.

Ostracizing the little boy in Texas won't help.  Shaming him for having long hair isn't doing anyone any good.  I wish the school district would also learn to pick their battles and realize that in the grand scheme of things, a 4-year-old boy with long hair is a nonissue.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Flashback Friday--six years ago

Why yes, we did stuff 15-day-old Patrick into a Santa hat.  OK, we didn't have to stuff.  He was still under 8 lbs by then.

Don't worry, we took him out later.  Jason wanted to wear the hat.  And Patrick was clearly worn out.

We are leaving for NY in a couple of days, to enjoy the holiday with my family.  Jason is already looking forward to lamb for Christmas dinner.  I plan on "baa'ing" under my breath through most of it.

I don't know if I'll post again before we leave, so enjoy the last night of Hanukkah, have a very Merry Christmas, and a safe and happy New Year!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


My kids went to bed at 7:30 up until last summer, then we got lax about it.  Summer's so laid-back and it wasn't a big deal if they slept in the next day, so why not let them stay up until 8?  Or 8:15?  Or even sometimes 8:30?  It's not like we usually had to be somewhere right away in the morning.  It just didn't seem like a big deal, and it really wasn't a problem.

I often had Bradley students ask "Your kids are already getting ready for bed?" when Jason would bring them upstairs at 6:30 or 6:45.  Yep.  It takes them for-freaking-ever to get ready for bed, especially if it's bath night.  Bath night usually consists of:

1. Bath for 20 minutes or so, depending on the level of splashing and the amount of whining done about washing hair and bodies.

2. Lotion--Kamu year-round (twice a day in the winter), Patrick in the winter.

3. Hair oil and combing--Kamu, only if his hair has been washed

4. Detangler and brushing (and once, braiding)--Patrick, every bath night.  Ignore the pathetic braids.  I have no girls and therefore am completely out of practice.

5. Jammies--this can take a while, since the kids like to run around nekkid.

6. Brushing teeth--conversely, we have to insist that this take longer than the kids would otherwise do, though they don't mind brushing.  When they rush through, I often take over brushing for them.  They get to choose the language in which I count to ten (English, Spanish, French, Italian, Hebrew, and working on Amharic) and I count at a reasonable rate to get them brushed properly.

7. Story/stories--depending on what time it is, the general level of cooperation in the bedtime routine, and the length of the story chosen.  Normally each kid gets to pick one book (or chapter of a book, in Patrick's case).

8. Tucking into bed--Kamu likes to be "wrapped like a hotdog" in blankets, and both kids need their special toys

Kamu has his monkey.  He named it "Judge" the other day, and it seems to be sticking. 

(Side note: the monkey was named "No-no" when it was Patrick's, because Patrick thought that's what monkey's said...after all, "No more monkeys jumping on the bed" was his favorite book.) 

(OK, another side note: last night, I asked him if he is excited about his birthday party.  He said "Yes.  Monkey come Kamu birthday?"  I said sure he could come.  Kamu held him up so they were face-to-face and said "You come my birthday?"  I thought it was so cute how he invited his special pal himself!)

Patrick has Shamoops.  Shamoops has been Patrick's special pal for years.  Shamoops is a master hide-and-seeker, and has been "lost" in the house several times.

We live in fear of ever losing either of these animals.

OK, done with the pictorials.  Back to the bedtime routine.

9. Prayers--we say Shema every night, and then ask G-d to watch over the soldiers and bring them home safely.

10. Song(s)--again, depending on time.  The kids like to have me sing to them, either Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Kamu's current favorite), Little Horses (always Shamoops's favorite), Do Re Mi (Patrick's favorite), and a variety of others.

11. Monster poem--we made this up and it must be said three times for full effectiveness.  It goes:

Monsters, monsters go away
You are not welcome here
This is Patrick's bedroom
And Melkamu's bedroom
And you are not allowed.

It's free-form.

12. And finally, lights out.  Actually, they're often out before prayers and songs, but otherwise this is when they finally go out.

When we started back at school, we half-heartedly went back to 7:30 bedtimes once in a while, but mostly they went to bed around 8.  Patrick is always exhausted in the mornings, grumpy, argumentative, moody.  It's a fight to get him out of bed, dressed, and fed before school.  Kamu is a ball of happy energy who eagerly bounces out of bed around 6 a.m. normally, which is endearing but a little hard to take for those of us who are not morning people.  Since Patrick has been saying he's too tired in school lately, we decided to move bedtime back to 7:30 for real.

Last night, the kids were in bed with lights out and were threatened with dire consequences if they got out of bed for anything other than the bathroom.  They were both sound asleep by 7:45, and Patrick actually woke up on his own when our alarm went off this morning.  He wasn't grumpy.  He paid attention.  He said he had a good day at school.  His attitude was awesome all day that he was home, and I'm guessing it was better at school also.  Needless to say, he was in bed at 7:30 tonight also and neither kid made a peep after that.

I'm a big fan of reading kids' cues and behaving accordingly.  This is one we missed for months, but hopefully we're on the right track now.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

What I do when I'm supposed to be teaching...

It's currently 8:45 p.m.  I'm holding an online review for my anatomy students but while 6 of them are in the online classroom, none of them are asking questions.  So I'm really just sitting here with my headphones and microphone on, wearing sock monkey pajamas and extremely fuzzy socks.  Since computers have the wonderous capability to have multiple windows open at the same time, I thought I would post the very few pictures that I have from Thanksgiving (because I forgot both the power cord and spare battery, and our camera doesn't use regular batteries):

The view from our room at Treasure Island.  One of the things I love about being in Las Vegas is that it's this big city, full of bustling energy...

...and then you turn 45 degrees and you're looking at the desert and mountains.

At the Mirage (I think).

One of my favorite pictures :-)

The living statue at the Venetian. I hadn't been there before and it was really cool.

The gondolas were a nice feature.  People just don't travel by gondola through hotels nearly often enough.

And look, I found this handsome guy willing to pose for a picture below the cool ceiling!

Once we were in St. George, the kids had a wonderful time with Grandma and Grandpa.

Legos with Grandpa.

Running amok with Grandma.

Patrick whipped us all at Uno repeatedly.

And this would be a lovely picture, but for my 6-year-old's poor timing...sigh.  Someday, I will have cute photos of my children with their grandparents that don't involve one child's finger up his nose.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thankful Thursday

What a special day--Patrick turned SIX today! Hard to believe, isn't it?

Just 6 short years ago, at 3:29 p.m., we met Patrick.

He weighed 6 lb 11 oz when he was born at 37w5d.

He made Jason and I into parents, roles we treasure.  Since last night, I have been thinking about what exactly was happening at each time of the night and day, from when my water broke to going to the hospital, to when we found out that we were the parents of a son.  It was a long day for all of us.  A miraculous, incredible day.

Today, I am thankful for:

1. Patrick.  He is such a genuinely great kid, full of life and creativity and happiness.  He loves to be having a fun time, and his interests are so varied that you never know what he's going to be focused on from day to day.

2. Watching Patrick as he has started kindergarten.  The day he came home and said, with wonder and excitement, "Mama, do you know that we're made of cells?" made my heart flip-flop in my chest.  To hear him so thrilled about learning things, especially his love of science, is awesome.  He thinks it's great that I teach about the body and is constantly asking questions about what's going on--and he just soaks up the information like a little sponge!  He has learned so much already this year in kindergarten and we're not even halfway through yet!

3. Having conversations with Patrick.  He is so interesting and always has something fun to talk about.  I love to hear all about his dreams each morning, about his specials at school each day, and especially about his art.

4. Watching Patrick as a big brother.  We always thought he would be a good big brother, since he is such a nice kid and so empathetic, but watching him with Melkamu has been an incredible joy.  He is so considerate of his brother's feelings and of being sure to include Melkamu when he does things.  We actually had to tell him that he can't always give in if Melkamu takes something of his because he just wants his little brother to be happy :-)  Having them share a room was a fantastic decision and I hate to have to tell them to turn off the giggles from upstairs after bedtime.  I told them yesterday that since they're sharing a birthday party next weekend, they'll have to pick a cake together.  I was expecting a bit of a fight, some whining or arguing.  Instead, Patrick immediately turned and said "Kamu, do you want a superhero cake?"  And Kamu said "Yeah, Superman!  Batman!"  Just that easily, it was decided.  The bond between them is so special and deep.

5. The fun of watching Patrick become the child he is, from his long hair to his love of Wii Legos Star Wars.  It's so interesting to watch him as he develops.  The first time he wanted long hair, it lasted a few months but then he wanted it cut because having it combed would hurt him.  We cut it once, then the next time it was time to get it cut, he decided to grow it again.  I don't think it's been cut beyond a very small trim since summer 2008.  He likes to wear it in a ponytail sometime, but punched a kid in his class for calling him a girl the first time he wore a ponytail to school.  Even though we had to talk to him about better choices for behavior, it was nice to see him sticking up for himself and not giving in to peer pressure (which has been an issue in the past).  He's very, very into art and has gotten really good at drawing.  I'll have to try to scan in some of his pictures.  Watching the different aspects of his personality develop as he grows is such fun.

I love you, baby.  Happy birthday!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

NaBloPoMo 30--What's in a name?

I figured I'd end on a post I've been meaning to write for a long time.  Stephanie referenced something to this point the other day, and since I've been wanting to write about it forever, I thought it was finally the time to do so.

Long before I ever had Patrick (in fact, long before I ever met Jason), I had dreams about having children someday.  This was odd enough since when I was conscious, I never thought I would get married or have children--I just didn't see myself that way.  I always saw myself in a cool apartment, hanging out with friends, and having a grand old time.  But in my dreams, the oldest or only child was always a little blond-haired boy who looked just like Patrick as a toddler.  The others varied but he was a constant.  And even though I never thought I'd have kids, I knew that I would name a little boy Patrick John.  Before I was ever pregnant, I knew that would be his name.

So I was shocked when he was born and I spent hours while we were in the hospital agonizing over my choice!  What if he's not a Patrick? I wondered.  What if I've chosen the wrong name for him?  Does he look like a Patrick?  Naming a child is an incredible responsibility.  In many ways, it sets the stage for them.  I've been surprised at how often a person's name fits them perfectly.  Clearly, we chose to keep Patrick as his name and I can't imagine him with any other name.

When we chose to adopt, we originally wanted to adopt an infant and planned to rename him.  We planned to keep his given name as a middle name, drop his last name for ours, and give him a first name of our choosing.

Then we learned that children in Ethiopia are given their father's first name as a last name.  It didn't feel right to drop that--it's too important to him.  So we figured we'd keep both his names as his middle names, but still give him a new first name.  An American first name, one that would be easy to pronounce and spell.

While we waited, though, I read a lot of adult adoptee blogs.  (I still do, actually, though they are not easy to read in many respects.)  I heard their words about many things, and one of the things that resonated with me is the importance of having their name, of knowing their name.  It's one of the few things that their firstparents are able to pass on to them, and not even all of them have that.  Those who didn't seem to keenly feel its loss.  I thought How can I do that to my child?  How can I take away the name that might be the only thing he has left of his family?  When Jason and I discussed it, we both felt the same way--we couldn't do it.  It didn't feel right for us.  We decided that having the same last name was enough "claiming".

Besides, with a sister named Siobhan, hard-to-spell-and-pronounce names are nothing new to me.

When we told people about our referrals, one of the first questions we always got was "Are you going to change his name?"  And we replied, "No, it's his name."  At first we prevaricated, saying that since he wasn't an infant, it would be too hard for him to learn a new name; ultimately, we just told people that we felt it was important to keep it.  Still, many people persisted in telling us that Melkamu would need a new name, one people could pronounce and spell.  Someone told me "It will be too hard for him to spell!"  (When I pointed out that it has the same number of letters as Patrick's name, he stopped saying that.)

In Ethiopia, when the adoption is complete, a new birth certificate is issued for the child being adopted.  Instead of the child's original name, it has Child's first name - Father's first name - Family last name.  Melkamu Delelegn became Melkamu Jason Morrey.  I figured we would immediately rename him when we did the readoption to be Melkamu Delelegn Morrey, but Jason liked having his name in there.  Go figure.  After much discussion, we decided that he would be Melkamu Jason Delelegn Morrey.  It's a mouthful, but every part of it is important. 

Still, I have to admit that an exasperated "Melkamu Jason!" doesn't roll off the tongue as easily as "Patrick John!"  It's getting easier the more I use it, and I use it a lot lately (oh, 3 is fun...).

Melkamu means "The good one" and "Handsome".  How could we possibly have chosen a more appropriate name for him? We've yet to find out exactly what Delelegn means, since it's not a common name even in Ethiopia, but the closest we can get is that it may have some reference to trade as a business.

Names are important.  Names have meaning.  A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but Melkamu by any other name would be missing something vitally important to his heritage.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

NaBloPoMo 29--Nearly there (*gasp, choke*)

Almost there!  I have almost made it through the 30-posts-in-30-days that is NaBloPoMo.  My Bloglines is full beyond full, I've left very few comments on other blogs, but I have posted almost 30 posts this month.  I almost missed today also, primarily due to being sick and trying to get work done for tomorrow.

What's that, you ask?  Wasn't I just sick?  Why yes, I was. 

College students + children + airline travel + not enough sleep = Erin's immune system under attack

On the bright side, there are only 4 days of classes left for me!  On the busy side, this week includes:

1. The last 4 days of classes, which means hordes of panicked students who've decided that now would be the time to ask if there's any way they can still pass the class.

2. Lessons-and-Carols week: choir rehearsals every night except Wednesday, show on Friday, and two shows on Saturday.  Please, please don't let me lose my voice again!  And if you haven't bought your tickets but would still like to go, let me know--I can easily give you the ticket info!  You would love the show...we sound incredible!

3. Patrick's 6th birthday: his party's not until the 13th but I still have to figure out birthday cupcakes for school and plan celebratory meals for that day.  And that also means my baby is turning SIX!  Wah!  (More on Thursday.)

4. Time to write holiday cards!  We've missed out the last 2 years but have sworn that we will get them out this year. 

5. I have to plan an activity with cells and microscopes to present to high school teachers on Friday.

Off to bed--this will be a busy week!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

NaBloPoMo 28--Home again, home again, jiggity jog

We just got home a little while ago from a wonderful Thanksgiving trip to visit Jason's family.  It was really great to see everyone and spend time with them--we can't wait to do it again!

I'd just like it known that I am currently 3-0 for visits to a casino without losing money.  Jason is not. 

(And yes, I do gamble.  I spent almost 2 hours playing blackjack ($3 table.  I gamble but am not stupid).  I started with $60 and finished with...$60 exactly.  I was down to about $20 at one point, up to almost $100 at another point, and was right back where I started when I finished.  It was lots of fun and since I always plan on losing any money I bring, I consider it a huge success!)

The kids just went to bed, as they are on Mountain time right now and it just now feels like bedtime.  They had a great time being spoiled at Grandma and Grandpa's house and have already lamented having to leave several times.

OK, I'm exhausted and going to bed.  More tomorrow, with the very few pictures I took before my camera battery died!

Friday, November 27, 2009

NaBloPoMo 27--Flashback Friday

And...I'm officially caught up on missing blog posts!

Patrick normally has reasonably good fashion sense, but he decided to abdicate all ability to match patterns one day in early summer--and this was the result.  The shirt and shorts were bad enough, but then he passed over all the normal plain colored socks in his drawer and decided on the camouflage pair.  It could only have been worse if he'd chosen his tie-dyed shirt instead of that one, and I don't know that it would have been THAT much worse.

NaBloPoMo 26--Morning snickers

Melkamu: "I hurt my arm!"

Me: "Oh no Kamu, what happened?"

Melkamu, very matter-of-factly: "Shark."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

NaBloPoMo 25--Thankful Thankgiving Thursday

It seemed appropriate to have a Thankful Thursday on Thanksgiving!

Today, I am thankful for:

1. Wonderful families on both my side and Jason's side.  They never fail to make me feel lucky to have them, to have their love and support for our family.  We genuinely appreciate spending time with all of them and are so glad to get to see both sides during this year!

2. The gorgeous area in which we're spending our time with Jason's family.  They live in southern Utah and the area is just breathtakingly beautiful.  Melkamu, Mom, and I went for a nice long walk through the rocks and hills today, so that Kamu could climb and play.  We had a great time.  Dad, Jason, Patrick, and Adam (Jason's brother) went off-roading in Arizona to see pink sand and petroglyphs.  They came back dirty and dusty and grinning from ear-to-ear.

3. An incredible Thankgiving dinner shared with loved ones.  It was absolutely delicious and we are so grateful to Mom for such a wonderful meal!

4. A surprise at dinner tonight--to celebrate Mom and Dad's birthdays (Mom just turned 60 and Dad is turning 70 next year), we're all going on a cruise in Alaska next summer!  I believe I just posted that going to Alaska was somewhere I've always wanted to go, and being able to go with everyone will be such a wonderful trip.  I'm already incredibly excited and can't wait to go!

5. The joy of both family and friends, at this time of year and the rest of the year round.  I am so thankful to have all of you in my life.

NaBloPoMo 24--The missing days

Alas, my streak broke when we were getting ready for our trip!  I could have decided to only get an hour of sleep on Monday night and get a blog post written, but decided the extra 30 minutes would be important.  As it turns out, 6 hours of sleep spread out over 2 nights still wasn't enough.  Go figure.  On the bright side, I did get all my work done and brought nothing work-related to Utah, so I'm enjoying the vacation without the worry of work!

The flight out here wasn't too bad.  Our flight was set to leave at 7:30, which is normally when the kids go to bed.  We didn't get to the airport as early as we'd planned, though we were still at our gate before our flight boarded.  However, we didn't have enough time to wait in one of the long lines to get food.  We bought a few snacks but I figured that we'd just buy some food on the plane (though I hate the fact that they charge so much for it).  To my surprise, AirTran does not have food even to purchase on their planes.  Hungry and tired children do not make a happy combination.  Then we had to beg people to switch around seats because they'd seated all 4 of us separately and wouldn't help us get them moved when I asked at the gate; after the moves, Kamu and I were together and Jason and Patrick were together.  It worked OK, but we did have several people who didn't want to move.  I seriously wanted to ask the AirTran people if they expected other people to take care of our children on the flights.  Last time we flew Delta and were assigned seats apart, they were happy to help get us seated together.  AirTran fail #2.

Jason and Patrick played some Uno for a while, and Kamu and I read some stories.  Then Kamu was finally ready to sleep.  I asked for a blanket, because Melkamu was cold, and was told that AirTran doesn't have blankets or pillows either!  I was appalled at their lack of service. 

I don't think we'll be flying AirTran again.

Thankfully, I had my sweatshirt and used that as a blanket for him.  He slept on my leg most of the way, and Patrick slept on Jason most of the way--which meant that Jason and I also got to sleep most of the way.  We finally got to Las Vegas, exhausted but happy to see Mom and Dad M.  We spent the night at Treasure Island (the kids were disappointed that their pirate show is not going currently but really enjoyed seeing the ships) and then spent the next morning wandering around some of the hotels.  The Venetian is so cool!

Mom, the kids, and I came back to the house while Dad and Jason went to get Adam at the airport.  We got all settled in and the kids got to open their birthday presents--needless to say, they've been having an awesome time here!

I'll post lots of pictures when we get back and will probably post more then also.  Until then, have a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

NaBloPoMo 23--The one I almost missed

And is destined to be really pathetic, because I'm trying to finish all of my work before we leave for Thanksgiving. I would LOVE to not have to bring my laptop or anything else with me so that I can just relax and enjoy our trip to see the Morrey family. Mind you, this may mean no more posts while we're gone--it is highly unlikely that I'll get to writing and scheduling posts ahead of time. Before we get on the plane, I must:

1. Finish writing a lecture.

2. Grade 50 tests from 2 separate classes.

3. Grade 17 research papers.

4. Grade 20 lab notebooks.

5. Figure out what we're doing in tomorrow's lab.

I think I'll post some pictures for your viewing "enjoyment".  Without further ado, some more photos of the last week:

The birthday boy's breakfast!

Mama and Daddy may have known what to get Kamu...he can't wait to take it on our trip tomorrow.

Did we ever mention Melkamu's love of Mickey? ;-)

Dinner at Meskerem, our favorite Ethiopian restaurant in town.  It is always a fun night out, and we actually got Patrick to eat zil zil tibs this time (he polished off the leftovers the next night).  Kamu, as always, scarfed down some kik alicha and Jason had the lamb tibs.  It was soooo good.

And, just because I'm really proud of them, I graduated another Bradley class last night.  I can't wait to hear about the babies that are coming soon!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

NaBloPoMo 22--Happy birthday my Jason!

It's Jason's birthday :-)!!! He's now 21 years old and looking forward to having his first legal drink tonight....wait, that was 12 years ago. He's 33 today. Silly me, how time flies! This is what Jason was doing a month before his birthday 12 years ago.
Drunken Santa for Halloween. Sadly, very little changes as Jason had a lovely time drinking with the other dads at our friends' house on Halloween while the moms took the kids out trick-or-treating.

The birthday boy is being shy this year and won't let me take a photo of him yet just because he is still in his pajamas and needs to shower and shave. Misplaced modesty in my mind. You'd all love a picture of him in his shark shirt and polar bear flannel pants, right?

We had a wonderful birthday breakfast of waffles and bacon, per Jason's request, and will be having homemade pizza tomorrow night for dinner. Unfortunately his birthday dinner is getting preempted by my Bradley class's final meeting tonight and we always do a potluck for it. So pizza tomorrow night it will be!

Happy birthday, my love! I can hardly believe we started dating just before your 19th birthday--I feel so lucky to be able to share them with you!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

NaBloPoMo 21--Your questions answered!

At least a couple of them (I'm saving more for later--promise the rest won't be this long!):

Courtney asked: "You receive a million dollars to be spent exclusively on travel. How do you spend it?"

Courtney, did I tell you of my love of travel? If I had piles of money, that's what I'd do. Rarely does much time go by before I'm telling Jason of some other place I'd like us to go sometime. Oh travel, how I love thee...which is actually a little odd, because having a happy and comfortable home is so important to me.

A million dollars to spend on travel? I'd take my family, of course. We'd do a world tour. I've never been to South America, Australia, or Asia, so those are the places we'd go first. I'd love to see the Andes, the outback, the Great Barrier Reef, the beautiful and gorgeous areas all over Asia. Then, when we'd had our fill of all of those places, we'd go back to Africa. Of course to Ethiopia, and spend as much time as possible touring and learning the country, but there's so much more that I'd like to see there. It's such a huge continent with so many incredible countries...there are just infinite possibilities. If there were anything left, my next destination would probably be eastern Europe. Architecture isn't normally my thing but the photos I've seen of places in Hungary and Turkey are simply breathtaking. I've never been to Alaska and would certainly want to go there, as well as the Pacific Northwest.

There are so many choices! I'd love to hear where other people want to go also.

Stephanie asked: "Can you share how you are raising the boys as it pertains to both religions. I'm stumped which is why we've done nothing yet."

We actually agreed to raise our children Jewish before we got married, shortly after getting engaged. My parents have an interfaith marriage also, in which my mom is Jewish and my dad is Catholic, so I had the experience of being raised in a home with multiple religions. I also knew that it's really not possible to raise a child in both a Jewish and Christian religion at the same time--there's no way to get through the "Jesus is your personal lord and savior" issue if the other side is telling you that the Messiah hasn't come yet. My siblings and I are Jewish. We weren't raised in both religions. We didn't go to church except for special occasions (sibling baptisms and confirmations, and the rare Christmas Eve when my parents would let us to go midnight mass. I think I went twice.). We went to synagogue and Hebrew school and Sunday school and had Bat/Bar Mitzvahs. And we understood that the Christmas tree and stockings were to help Daddy celebrate his holiday, not ours. (OK, we eventually understood--as little kids, it was just another great excuse for more presents.)

In college, I participated in the Jewish student organization but wasn't really sure what role I wanted it to play in my life. Nevertheless, when Jason proposed, we had a discussion about what religion to raise our children, and I told him I wouldn't marry him until we figured it out.

Jason was also raised in an interfaith house, but both were Christian religions. He was raised going to both churches and at age 18 chose to be a Mormon. He had figured that we would do the same thing--raise the children going to both Jewish and Mormon services, then letting them choose when they were old enough.

From the start, despite the fact that I was still not sure about the role Judaism would have in my life, I still wanted them raised Jewish. One of my points was this: I didn't know how children would reconcile the LDS idea that people who are not Mormons cannot attain the highest level of heaven with the idea that Mama is a good person and why wouldn't she be there? I told Jason that I had no objection to bringing the children to LDS services sometimes, but that I still wanted them to be raised Jewish. I pointed out that they would be Jewish simply by the fact that I am Jewish. I pointed out that they would need to be Bar/Bat Mitzvahed at 12 or 13 and that waiting until 18 to choose wasn't a good option if they wanted to be Jewish.

It ended up coming down to what I said at one point: What child would give Judaism a fair shot when it involves Hebrew school twice a week, synagogue on Saturdays, and Sunday school on Sundays? They would look at their friends in the church who go to church and Sunday school one day a week, and there would be no way to give the two religions equal access. That a child is not going to look at what is right for them spiritually, they're going to look at which one gives them more time to play after school.

We agreed to raise them Jewish, but I said that we would still take them to Jason's church sometimes. Then I went with him once. The elders knew I was there and that I was Jewish. And at one point, the person preaching said something very much to the effect of "And let us help the Jews realize that they're wrong and find the right way." Let's just say I haven't been back since.

The elders who've come to our house for home visits have always been extremely respectful of the fact that the kids and I are Jewish, never once trying to preach to us or anything. Still, it did make things difficult for Jason in the church since those who are LDS are all about family--and Jason's family wasn't there with him because they're Jewish and have no intention of converting. He hasn't actually been to a service in years. He tends to keep his spirituality more private but I do think he misses having a church.

Thankfully, our Conservative synagogue is very welcoming to us as an interfaith and transracial family. Many interfaith families attend Reformed synagogues but I was raised in a Conservative synagogue and never felt comfortable in a Reformed service--I like Hebrew and hearing the traditional services. Our rabbi has met Jason several times and always been just as pleasant to him as to anyone else. Jason comes to help everytime we lead the Tot Shabbat services, so he's there a couple of times a year; the kids and I go most weekends (though we've slacked lately). Patrick attended the JCC daycare for 2 years and while we won't send Melkamu, for several reasons, he enjoyed learning more about Judaism and the Torah and everything.

Judaism became more important to me as I thought more about what was right for me spiritually. I love our synagogue's diversity and accessibility. We do not keep Kosher as a family but do incorporate other important aspects. Our family tries to do Shabbat dinner at our house often, with candles in holders from Ethiopia, grape juice in the Kiddush cup I got for my Bat Mitzvah, and a beautiful challah cover made by Ethiopian-Jewish women that my mom found for us. The kids say Shema as part of their bedtime prayers every night. Patrick goes to Sunday school and Kamu will start in 2 years. We still have a Christmas tree (when we're home, anyway), the kids have stockings, and we do a little Easter egg hunt each year...even though the eggs often have to be filled with Kosher-for-Passover chocolates. The kids are always reminded that we do these to help Daddy celebrate his holidays. Melkamu will be formally converted to Judaism with the other children that we adopt. It will be a Conservative conversion, not Orthodox or Reformed. He's been raised Jewish since he came home and even with an occasional Christmas tree around, the kids have no doubts in their minds that they're Jewish.

Anyway, that was an exceptionally long-winded explanation about how we decided to raise the kids with regards to religion. (Yikes. I wonder how long it will take for this post to publish.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

NaBloPoMo 20--Flashback Friday

Answers to questions being worked on for tomorrow--if you've got more, feel free to ask them in the comments today! In the meantime, here's a picture of kids in a bath...this was the very first bath that Melkamu actually sat down and enjoyed it, rather than grabbing onto our necks and screaming through the entire thing!

Patrick, meanwhile, has always enjoyed baths (well, after that first one) and now has started to enjoy showers. The problem? He already showers like a teen. Really hot, LOOOOOOOOOOONG showers. In a related note, we discovered on Tuesday night that the smoke alarm outside the guest bathroom will go off if the bathroom door is open and the showerer is taking an extremely hot and LOOOOOOOOOOOONG shower.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NaBloPoMo 19: Thankful Thursday

Today is Melkamu's 3rd birthday!!! I can hardly believe my baby is 3 already. Jason and I were just looking at his visa picture the other day, taken when he was 13 months old, and he was such a tiny little peanut. It's hard to imagine how much our family has changed thanks to our beautiful son.

So today, I am thankful for:

1. Melkamu. I cannot imagine not having this happy, joyous child in my life. He likes nothing better than to be smiling and laughing, and to make other people smile and laugh.

2. How excited Kamu has been for his birthday. It was absolutely precious watching him each day ask "Today Kamu birtday?" (not a misspelling) Last night at bed, he even started singing happy birthday to himself. He is just beyond thrilled to be celebrating today!

3. Listening to Melkamu talk. Less than a year ago, Kamu barely spoke. He had a few words and even those were only understood by the immediate family. Around April, though, his speech just absolutely took off. He uses such wonderful sentences and has so much to say now. I hope I never forget how when you ask him what color something is, his first response is always "" Then if you tell him to try again, he responds "Yeyow?" He usually gets it on the third try, but it is just adorable. The other day, he and Jason were reading a book and he was trying to count. Apparently he said "Sih, sehn, eight, four, EIGHT!" Jason counted and lo and behold, there were eight of the picture. He is so cute! And I know I will never forget hearing him say "I love you" (or "I luh you!"). He doesn't often say it unless I say it first, but I treasure it every time I hear it.

4. How thrilled Melkamu gets when he goes swimming. I know Jason wants him to play football but he is truly a little fish. His confidence in the water is astounding, which scares us to death sometimes--because he doesn't actually float yet. There was a time over the summer when I took he, Patrick, and a friend of Patrick's swimming. Patrick and his friend went down the stairs into the water since they can both swim. Melkamu followed right along behind, all the way to the bottom of the stairs. (I saw this happening and was on my way over.) Unfortunately, the bottom of the stairs was deeper than he is tall and so he was underwater. The lifeguard was sitting right next to the stairs and jumped in to get him out. He came up just fine, since we have taught him to hold his breath--he wasn't choking or coughing water or even scared--and the lifeguard gave me this bewildered look and said "He just looked so confident, I figured he could swim!" I said "Yeah, he doesn't know that he can't." He doesn't mind wearing a lifevest but we're hoping to teach him to swim without it at some point soon.

5. The way Melkamu moves and runs and jumps now. He was in physical therapy for just about a year after he came home. He didn't walk until 17 months and while he learned to walk reasonably well by the time he turned 2, he didn't run or jump until closer to 2 1/2. I would see these tiny little children, 18 months and younger, dashing about and Kamu just couldn't keep up. It never fails to make me smile to see he and Patrick chasing each other around the house, giggling like mad, or to watch Kamu say "Jump!" and jump into the air. I know how hard he worked to learn to do those and it is so wonderful to see it in action...lots and lots of action!

I could go on and on now but I will save more for when I post the second half of this: photos of him on his birthday!

Happy birthday, my baby! I love you dearly :-)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

NaBloPoMo 17--I think I can, I think I can

I feel like the little engine that could...I think I can make it through NaBloPoMo. I hope. I'm desperate and soliciting for topics to write about in the coming days! (I don't think that type of solicitation can get you arrested, so I should be OK.) Anything you really want to know about us? Light and fluffy questions as well as deep and heavy questions welcome.

We leave a week from today to go to Mom and Dad M's for Thanksgiving. We always have a great time out there and can't wait to see everyone. We fly into and out of Las Vegas and this year are spending the night at Treasure Island. The boys cannot wait! Just this morning, Kamu poked his bottom lip out and said "I wanna go see Grampa." It was so nice to be able to say that we are leaving in a week.

We'll also be going up to NY for the winter holidays (OK, Christmas, since Hanukkah is over by then). We're driving up there. It's a long drive but actually only about 2 hours longer than going to south Florida, and I took the boys there by myself over my last spring break. The only factor could be the weather. We're hoping for nice and clear driving conditions with very little snow or ice.

Can anyone say "filler"?

I taught Melkamu to say "ostentatious" the other day. There are some houses near us that just put up these wrought iron fences around them, and they have these enormous gold medallions on them. We were driving by and Kamu said "What's that?" and I felt that ostentatious was the best word to describe them.

OK, I'm done driveling. Questions please, I beg you!

Monday, November 16, 2009

NaBloPoMo 16--Fall fun!

The weekend was just wonderful, and Jason raked the leaves. The kids had a great time playing in them!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NaBloPoMo 15--Memories of Ethiopia

I realized that I never really did post photos of our trip to Ethiopia.  I couldn't upload them from overseas and when we came back, it was a little too overwhelming to really get it done.

I really believe everyone should go to Ethiopia at some point.  It was one of the most welcoming places I have ever been, absolutely beautiful, and the food is incredibly delicious.  (If you're ever in Atlanta, we have several wonderful Ethiopian restaurants here and we'd be more than happy to take you to one.) 

To all of my Ethiopian-adoptive blogger friends, I would love to hear some of your non-adoption-related memories of Ethiopia.  One of mine is of our drive to Hosanna.  Both Jason and I made the comment that it reminded us of the American southeast (a region we both love).  It was very sparse and bare, but beautiful with the sun just rising over the mountains.  The picture was from a moving car--I apologize for the quality, but the light was just gorgeous.  What amazed me even more was seeing pictures from other travelers of the same area just a few short weeks later--the rains had begun and that sparse area was lush and verdant.  Next time we go, I look forward to traveling around the country as much as possible.

These are in no particular order, and are a small percentage of my favorites.

The CHSFS main guesthouse.

The walk from the main offices to the care center.

Some views of Addis Ababa.

Scaffolding. Scary, huh?

The replica of Lucy's skeleton.  I believe she was on tour in Houston while we were there.

The ceiling of the restaurant we went to for traditional Ethiopian food and dancing.

Patrick making a friend in Hosanna.

A family near Hosanna.  We stopped on the way back to see their home.  The kids loved to have their pictures taken and then see them on the cameras.

On the way back to the guesthouse the first day we could take Melkamu from the care center.  He wasn't so sure about the carrier, but I got lots of approving looks from other people who liked that I was carrying him close instead of pushing him in a stroller.

My boys after the embassy visit, when Kamu was approved for his American visa.