Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Whole Duty of Children

A child should always say what's true
And speak when he is spoken to,
And behave mannerly at table;
At least as far as he is able.

From: A Child's Garden of Verses ca. 1885.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pose, Please

The other day at the park I saw a few early spring robins and attempted to photograph them. First of all, I have a Sony PhD camera. (PhD = Push Here, Dummy.) In order to photograph a close-up of a robin I'd actually have to GET CLOSE to the robin and that's not going to happen. So all my shots turned out looking like a shot of lots and lots of grass with this dot right in the middle that COULD be a robin.

I cropped the shots, of course. Which emphasized the fact that everything in the shot is in focus except the bird himself. The shutter speed wasn't fast enough to catch him so I coaxed him to hold still for me. He wasn't interested. He reminded me of small children and the Sear's photographer.

There's the problem of the robin making rude gestures as soon as I snap the shutter. I'm pretty sure that in robin language this is something akin to giving the finger. He didn't want me to take his picture.

As he took his leave, my camera finally decided to focus on the robin rather than the ground just in front of him.

Then I discovered the great truth of American Photography. If you want a picture of a robin to put on your blog, there's always one on Flickr.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Oops, I offended the PC Police!

I innocently posted on an adoption forum yesterday that my son was talking about the "brown baby" coming into our family. It unexpectedly unleashed a flurry of controversy over whether a parent ought to make race an issue to other siblings when talking about an adopted baby coming into your home. The general consensus was that it is unnecessary and possibly harmful to do so. I found that people misunderstood my use of "brown baby" and thought that I was referring to the coming baby ONLY with that term and that I planned to call her that when she was older as well. Honestly people! I would never do that!!!

But the whole thing was actually really positive in that it got me thinking really seriously about the issue of race and the need to support our future daughter's race as we had learned in the training. The need to articulate my thoughts on this subject forced me to clarify them in a way I might never have had to do were they not challenged.

WARNING: This ended up being really long. I don't blame anyone for not wanting to read the whole thing; I just want to post my thoughts here since I went to the trouble to write them all out.

Here is how the story started...

Curly and I were walking together one day, well, she was in the jogger, and we started talking about Baby Bear. (DH and I call each other Bear and any expectant baby in our family has always been Baby Bear before specifics are known.) So she says, "Baby Bear is coming soon, right, Mommy?"

I said yes, probably not till at least after my birthday.

"And M's mom is getting a baby too, right Mommy?" she persisted. (M is Curly's best buddy and is in our church small group. Her mom, my good friend, was due this week and in fact just had her baby on the 18th.)

"Yeah, M's mom is going to have a baby out of her tummy like I had Little Mister." I answered.

"But Baby Bear isn't in your tummy, Mommy, you have to fly on an airplane to get her." Curly was pondering the differences. We had read "Over the Moon" to her.

"Right. And when we get the babies, our Baby Bear will be brown, probably, and M's baby will be pink and they will both be so pretty." I said, wanting to give her the facts. I had told her Little Mister would be a boy and would be very small and pink, and I thought this was similar.

"We'll have our brown baby and M will have her pink baby," she summed up. I agreed because to me that seemed pretty accurate. No matter what race Baby Bear is, she will most likely be somewhat brown (although our friends have bi-racial AA/White kids who are blonde-haired, blue eyed white-skinned kids, so you never know.) But I figured she wouldn't care what color the baby was, I was just chatting with my daughter.

Later she told her brother about our "brown baby" and I thought that was kind of cute and not a big deal. She had no intention of being racist, she was merely repeating facts. I didn't think much about it, in fact, not even when I posted it in the other thread.

We'd been taught in our Transracial training that to ignore our future daughter's race (and it's a 90% chance that she'll be AA or a mix with AA) is doing her a disservice but we should acknowledge it and celebrate it. I figured that teaching our kids to anticipate her color would be a good beginning to celebrating her race.

When I posted "brown baby" the other day I was surprised to find out that it's actually a no-no to say that because all of our training about TRAs said the opposite. So now I am confused in the extreme. Some experts in adoption say that adopted kids of minority races who were adopted in white families who had families that avoided the issue wish their families would have embraced their race more and supported their racial identity.

Growing up, I had two Cabbage Patch Kids, one was white and one was black. I always proudly pointed out this fact to people because I thought the black one was so pretty and the white one (newborn style) was so cute. I wanted people to agree with me that the beautiful chocolatey color of my doll was beautiful.

So I guess when talking to my daughter about it, I kind of did the same thing, picturing in my head a lovely little creamy brown or chocolatey brown baby I wanted to describe that to her. I was not even thinking about avoiding or promoting race at all until later when I thought, "You know, them thinking that brown babies are pretty is not a bad thing at all".

You remember the scene in "Fried Green Tomatoes" when the kid loses his arm and Idgie calls him "stump"? Ruth asks her why she calls him that and her answer is that everyone else is going to be calling him that so she might as well be the first. To me, it shows a sense of humor and and acceptance of a difference with grace.

"Brown Baby" means nothing negative in our family whatsoever. I see no reason to avoid the skin color issue. I want our child to be aware that she is black and be proud of the fact. I will be proud of her skin color! (I only use the future tense because I have not met her yet.) I am not saying it to draw attention to a difference but to celebrate a fact of her and I think she will understand that as she gets older, as she senses our pride in who she is. It's going to be obvious to everyone we meet that some of my kids are pink and some are brown. The less "weird" we make it the more our kids and others will feel at ease.

Others may disagree and that is okay. After a lot of training on transracial families, a lot of talking to friends of other races, a lot of thinking and a lot of desire to do what will make our daughter the most proud of her race, that is the route I have decided to take for now. I see no reason that "our beautiful brown baby" can't be talked about and celebrated in the same way that we talk about "my brown-eyed girl" and my "red-headed boy". After all that is what she is.

We as humans identify one another by a trait. I was always "the tall girl". But after we meet our daughter I am sure the traits will change. She won't just be "the brown baby" but she will be "her name" or "the one who likes to sing" or whatever. Even now, she is often "our new baby". I hope I am able to explain myself without sounding overly defensive. I just want to share my heart for our baby and my reason for referring to her in that way.

I feel like by avoiding it or dancing around it, it classifies it as a negative. It's not polite to say "the fat girl". People get all weird about "the blind guy" even though blind people themselves have no problem calling themselves that. I call myself "whiter than sour cream" all the time (yep, Weird Al!) We draw attention to the traits in others we think are good or desirous. In that spirit, I want to draw attention to the fact that my baby is brown and I am delighted with it!

Hubby and I were talking some more about this later and another good point came up. Our daughter IS going to hear about her race all the time. It's unavoidable. But if she always hears about it from others because we avoid the issue then all of her connotations will be negative.

BUT if we talk about it all the time in a positive way then hopefully she will have enough positive self-image of herself as a black person to respond to the "why are you black and your parents are white" or "you're black, you're different" that she'll inevitably get from outside. I'd like her to be able to say, "Yeah, I'm black, isn't that cool?"

If you read some of the articles given in the sticky above about transracial adoption (PACT was part of our TRA training...some really thought-provoking articles) you'll find things like this:

To say that "race is not the most important factor in defining who they are or who their friends should be" seems to ignore the realities that in certain circumstances race is the defining factor for people of color.
From: http://www.pactadopt.org/press/articles/adopt-race.html

Our use of her race acknowledges this fact and also shows our determination to do whatever we can to make her race a positive aspect of who she is and her part in fitting into our family.

One other issue we have in our family with regard to race is that we live in Idaho. There isn't a big AA population here. There isn't an "us vs them" mentality here at all. We have a lot of races represented at the university so preschool and play groups have kids of all races, but there isn't really a stigma attached to being another race (that I have seen in children's groups) and a Black child may well be a child of African parents as an AA student's child or a local. I can say I have seen prejudice though, especially against Native Americans and I hate it.

I do see how my son using the term "brown baby" can be misconstrued, especially by people in the South. It's a shame, really, that that is the case but I can see how it could be misunderstood.

In the end I think my innocent comment had simply been misinterpreted. That's fine; it happens. But it's a lesson to me also that I really can't be too careful about what I say. The last thing I want to do is to hurt my daughter and my words can easily do that when combined with the hurtful words of others.

I have been told that this will actually probably be less of an issue once we have our baby. We will be able to talk about her actual traits and attributes rather than splitting hairs over how she "might be". But the reality is that we live in a society where words can wound and it's important to me to try hard to show love and acceptance to my daughter through my words.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Snapshot In Time

What are we doing right now, on a Saturday evening in late March?

Hubby, in order to avoid doing the dishes, rolls out cinnamon rolls and listens to a mix CD of love songs that sends pop music wafting through the house.

The kittens, who like Kelly Clarkson but don't think much of Paramore, are beginning to open their eyes.

The Goombas have barricaded themselves in their bedroom where they are watching "Mulan" and competing for building the tallest block tower.

I, the distinguished authoress, am stealing cinnamon roll dough, blogging and wearing a T-shirt that Hubby got for free at a computer nerd conference. Good stuff.

The back of the shirt. Yeah, I don't get it either.

The outdoors decided that it was time to snow again. Good thing we took our snow tires off today. On a happy note, however, it is still light at 7:30 PM, which I love!

Piper, in from the snow and soaking wet, hunts for yummy dropped food under the dining room table.

After the cinnamon rolls are done, Hubby and I have big plans to eat junk food and watch "Face/Off" which I rented tonight from Howard Hughes Video. Have a happy Saturday evening everyone. :)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Keeping Little Mister Occupied

Part of the frustration of teaching the elder child is the unwillingness of the younger child to keep busy and out of our hair. Apparently this is a universal phenomenon because recently on a homeschool message board the topic came up and many mothers chimed in with similar frustrations and ideas.

One mother provided several wonderful ideas for keeping a two-year-old occupied while an older child gets assistance on reading or math.

One of the best of these ideas involved poker chips and an old yogurt tub. Cut a slot and you have an instant piggy bank. Little Mister loves this toy, spending quite a bit of time lately putting all of the chips into the "bank" then dumping them out again only to repeat the process.

Meanwhile, Curly does computer games, workbook pages or learning toys all focused on reading skills. So far I have never needed to use any coercion whatsoever in getting her to learn; it's as though she is a sponge soaking up information and delighting in practicing skills.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hard To Wait Tonight

Adoption is really hard tonight. I constantly have people ask me what my "timeline" is. Which I guess is the "I have no idea what you call somebody without a due date" way of showing interest and caring. People are always asking me for "news". As if when we get news I wouldn't be shouting it from the rooftops and emailing everyone withing ten counties! At least any solid news, which "news" usually isn't. Not at first. Everything is wait and see. I am not a good wait and see type person. I do better with action.

In order to give myself something to do, I packed Baby Bear's suitcase. It took 15 minutes to pick out new clothes, hand-me-down clothes, diapers, wipes (OMGosh, did I get wipes?) etc...

So until I get "news" I have a few words to cling to. The brief explanation everyone wants to know.

Georgia or Louisiana.
Hopefully by this summer?

One of our adoption grants was denied today. I think it has made me jittery. So many horror stories people have told. So many possible things to go wrong. Even so many critical comments from people who have strong opinions on the ethics of adoption, who have been wounded somehow in the adoption process. My heart goes out to them.

This time a year ago I was waiting for our house. It was worth the wait and we eventually moved in and life was grand. Every long wait stretches me a little bit more as a person. So I wait still. And stretch more. This is hard, about as hard as I thought it would be. So far not as hard as those last miserable weeks waiting to deliver during pregnancy. I fear something will happen to break my heart and make it far worse than those last few weeks. I fear. Yet I still cling to Trust. One day after the next. Each day is one day closer to my unknown due date.

Photography Fun At The Park

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cute, Cuddly and Getting Bigger!

Kittens grow so fast. Even though their eyes still are not open, and they pretty much just sleep in a pile, they have doubled their size then doubled it again. Cinnamon is a wonderful Mommy, feeding and cleaning them, rarely leaving them even to go eat.

Once in a while it's like she goes stir crazy, though. She'll suddenly start wandering around meowing, wanting pets, wanting to go upstairs, wanting to go outside, then come right back in. She soon settles down and goes back to her kittens. It kind of cracks me up because remembering back to MY nursing days, I can really relate. When Little Mister nursed, I used to call him my "barnacle" because it felt as though he was hanging onto me 24/7 and sometimes I wanted to get away SO badly, but as soon as I did I missed him dreadfully. It looks like Cinnamon feels the same way!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Violin Candyland

Curly, being four, thinks CandyLand is the coolest thing since sliced bread. Also, this time of year, violin practicing begins to pall as the weather gets warmer and other activities take over our attention.

So in an attempt to keep our practice time interesting, Curly and I came up with: Violin CandyLand!!!

Today we took turns drawing cards and following the instructions for which song to play. Sometimes we worked on keeping our fingers on the tape. One notable time, Mommy's fingers ran clear up the fingerboard, much to Curly's amusement. We played through all of our songs with a minimum of fuss and when we finished we sat and played a "real" game of CandyLand together.

Bread Pudding

My mom used to make this when I was a kid. I suppose it's one of the ultimate comfort foods, although personally I prefer oatmeal. Hubby loved it though, so I have a feeling I'll be making more of it from time to time.

Start with a slice of bread, torn into quarter-sized pieces. I also threw in that eighth hot dog bun that always gets left after we eat the seven hot dogs in the package. (One of life's unanswerable questions... why there are seven dogs and eight buns.)

Cover the bread with milk. I added some half-and-half. If I'd been really naughty I'd have added some heavy cream but unfortunately I didn't have any.

Nuke it just long enough to get the milk good and hot. No need to cook it very long.

Add as many goodies as you prefer. I raided our baking cupboard and came up with Craisins and pecans.

Sprinkle your goodies on and stir them in. You can also do this before microwaving if you want the goodies to get hot and the nuts to be a little softer.

Add some brown sugar and cinnamon and stir well. On the amount, it depends who you're serving the bread pudding; if it's for my mom, you want to add approximately 1/2 cup brown sugar, but for normal people it only takes a few tablespoons.

There it is. Hot Bread Pudding, good for a night-time snack, a Saturday breakfast or a snuggle-in-front-of-the-fire food.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Big Red Barn

While I was fixing lunch, Little Mister "read" Margaret Wise Brown's The Big Red Barn to himself. Lucky for us, the cameras were rolling.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Sis!

Today my sis turned the big two-one. We spent the day in L-town hanging with the family. She got "Twilight" from Mom and Dad so even though she has seen it a number of times we watched it together. At the Mexican place at lunch she wanted a Margarita but she forgot her ID! Then she discovered it in her coat pocket and got the 'rita after all.

This evening her friends had planned a surprise party for her and asked her fiancee to keep her busy until 8:30. But he knows she hates surprise parties so he told her what was going on and she laughed, enjoying the afternoon not being angry with her friends for forgetting her birthday. Now she just needs to figure out some way to convince her friends that she actually IS surprised when she goes home. The whole business cracked me up... such a conspiracy!

We had a great time with my parents. They love the grandkids, playing with them and laughing at their funny speeches. Little Mister wandered around singing "Hap-pee Byert-day to EEEWWWW!!!" over and over.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mending Fences

Hubby and I have been working a lot lately on mending fences.

Today, the first balmy Saturday of Spring, we worked on the actual back yard fence. Piper, my intrepid Pomeranian, is an absolute Houdini and pokes her way through almost any fence, running out into the street to chase cars, yapping her head off, or digging delightfully into the compost pile to unearth treasures from a winter's worth of discarded kitchen scraps.

We're also doing the Love Dare. Day 6.

For those of you who have watched Fireproof, this is a forty-day marriage building exercise where you're "dared" each day to show love to your spouse better.

Normally we don't go in for this kind of thing but when our church passed around a clipboard a couple of weeks ago we signed up. I think it might have been the offer of a free book.

So we have been reading this book on a daily basis and discovering interesting things about ourselves and one another such as: we have a lot more collaborative enjoyment in making fun of the complimentary "Fireproof" bumper sticker that was included in the book than we do in buying each other little gifts or IMming one another, which we do anyway, probably too much.

The fact that so far the dares are things we do anyway is pretty encouraging to me. We've had out marital ups and downs, being two imperfect people attempting to peacefully co-exist, make life-altering decisions from time to time and raise offspring together. But for the most part we have done surprisingly well, given my intense personality and Hubby's various quirks.

If I was writing a Love Dare book I would definitely include working together. The time spent in company with one another and the shared sense of purpose both give us the most positive interactions of any we experience.

So today I guess you could say (at the risk of sounding oh-so-trite) we were mending fences in more ways than one. Buh-Dum-Ching!

Friday, March 20, 2009

In Case Anyone Is Wondering

Enough people have asked or commented (mostly in real life or on a certain message board), I feel the need to explain/defend myself here. I don't plan to allow Cinnamon to have litter after litter of kittens. I didn't get her spayed in time this time but I will soon and I plan to make sure the kittens are fixed.

I realize that there are lots of unwanted cats out there and that people can be very cruel to animals, abandoning them etc. This has actually been the first time I even owned an animal that wasn't spayed or neutered. I was going to cherish the experience because it's not one I'll likely get to repeat (only the "irresponsible" people get to do that, apparently). I was amazed at the number of people who accused me of "overpopulating" and being so irresponsible not to spay her.

So shoot me. But normally I do advocate fixing your pets, getting them their shots and providing a lifelong home for them. I certainly do everything I feel like I ought to take good care of the pets I am responsible for. But I'm also tired of justifying myself on this issue. Thank you to the people who have thought the best of me as a pet owner. Thank you to those who chose to enjoy the kittens with me and not preach at me the sin of allowing a plain old non-breed cat to have a litter before spaying her.

I'll pass along their concern... please spay or neuter your pets. If you don't, expect a LOT of sermons.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spice Rack

My sister named the kittens.

Cinnamon, the mama cat, with kittens pepper, sage, ginger and nutmeg

Kitten Faces

Birds Chirping!

This morning as the sky grew light several birds began a morning chorus in my front yard. I got up, helped my children with breakfast and clothes, then we headed out to the car.

As I stepped outside I was greeted with balmy air and the smell of fresh, damp earth. All the snow has melted at last and only muddy puddles remain here and there. Part of me knows we have six more weeks of damp Spring weather but the fact that these signs showed up today gives me hope that spring is just around the corner and that I can soon expect my bulbs to bloom and the days to become warm enough to leave the front door open to the breezy, fresh air!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


My kids have never been big on hats. Until lately, when hats have suddenly been important for some reason.

lightning mcqueen hat

She found this hat for $5 at Wal-Mart the other day and absolutely had to have it. In her mind when she wears it she IS Lightning McQueen. She wears it day and night. Occasionally, however, it has its drawbacks because it got scrunched against her nose, resulting in the big red ouchie spot.


Little Mister, on the other hand, won't keep a regular hat on his head, but he does like his hood. I got him a new coat the other day since his 3T one officially became too tight to shove his little arms into, and when he discovered the great hood, he asks for it every time. "Hoodie On." He insists and so we do.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More Kitten Pictures

As someone commented to me, I'm sincerely glad I did not have quadruplets or have to give birth to four babies at the same time. Included in that is the gratitude I feel that I didn't have to breastfeed four hungry babies.

Cinnamon left her nest-box this morning for the first time after nursing all four babies carefully. Once they were asleep she went to grab a bite to eat. She also wanted to snuggle with me and get some pets. Even mamas need some love and pets!

The babies, sleeping in their box look like a tangled pile of fur. The kids each wanted to hold a day-old kitten so I carefully helped them to hold and pet the tiny things. They nuzzled and mewed at us so we gave them right back to their mama.

Monday, March 16, 2009

We Gots Kittens!!!

We have four beautiful kittens, two black and two orange and I had the privilege of watching the birth. I wrote the story with pictures following.

WARNING: If you're squeamish about birth or blood, there are graphic pictures and descriptions.

This afternoon little Cinnamon, our very pregnant Siamese, wandered around the house mewling at me, asking to get in my lap then jumping back down again. She wandered up to hide under my bed and I figured she was nesting and ready to have her kittens.

Imagine my surprise when she appeared again in the dining room later that evening, apparently still quite pregnant. She stood in the middle of the dining room and looked up at me as if all of this was my fault.

"I think she's going to have her kittens right here!" I told Hubby. He replied in a non-committal tone, the one he uses when he doesn't think I know what the heck I am talking about.

"It's coming out, right now," I cried as she gave a heave and began ejecting a small, slimy wad of newborn kitten.

"Really?" Hubby's voice changed and he went to grab the camera.

The first kitten, a little black one, slid smoothly out and Cinnamon lay on the floor, exhausted. I tried to leave to go help Hubby get the camera, but Cinnamon began to follow me, dragging the wet ball of kitten after her. So I went back to her and soothed her while Hubby got the camera and an old towel.

While I stayed with her, Cinnamon attended to her baby, licking it and mothering it. When I got up, she forgot the kitten and tried to follow me. By this time the baby and its afterbirth were free of the mama so it sent up a piteous mewling cry. I picked up Cinnamon and the kit and set them both on the towel.

Curly Miss, meanwhile, was entranced with the whole process. She watched in awe as kitten #2 was born, a little orange tabby. She wanted to know all about the birthing sac, which I tore open to let the kitten take its first breaths. We watched together as Cinnamon ate the placenta and began vigorously cleaning off her second offspring, bloodied by the nutrient-rich feast her mother had just eaten over her back.

At last Curly got bored and wandered off to watch Daddy play Mario on the couch. he was trying to keep Little Mister's curious and not-so-gentle fingers away from the birthing process happening on our dining room floor.

The third kitten I actually managed to capture on video. If you're queasy, I wouldn't recommend watching, but if you're like me, it's fascinating.

I thought I felt one more little lump when I gently touched Cinnamon's belly and sure enough, the contractions began again. The poor tired mama looked at me and mewed as if to say, "Do I have to do it again?"

This time out came a dark gray baby. Once again I tore the membrane free from its little face but it held so still I didn't know if it was alive until thirty seconds later when it began to squirm and flail, rooting towards its mama.

Cinnamon lay her head on the towel, letting the kittens find her milk. After resting for a few minutes she roused herself and began to wash her babies.

When we were finally sure that she was done, Hubby went down to the basement to find a box. He cut a door in it and we lined it with a soft blanket and transferred our new feline family to it. Then I sat next to the box and calmed Cinnamon, enticing her to stay in her new home. She soon settled back down and fell almost immediately asleep, her babies making tiny grunts as they nursed.

This is the second time I have been allowed to share in a feline birth and I find it enchanting. Watching nature work and marveling at the instinct that takes over I cannot help but be amazed. I'm so glad Cinnamon chose to let me share in her birth (or rather insist that I do) because I think it is one of the most beautiful things in the world to witness, the miracle of birth.