Saturday, December 23, 2006

In the End

In the beginning, I didn't know how to begin. I know less how to end, but I know that it's time. I've finished even my vacation stories, everything I'd stored . . .

When I started blogging, I was trying to organize my thoughts for Miss-I-to-be (thoughts about how to love and miss someone I'd never met chief among them), to make sense of our experiences as a family-in-waiting, to update friends without repeating endlessly "still no referral" and either sobbing or sighing depending on the day, and to think through becoming a multiracial, multinational family, blessed and burdened by the joys and losses brought through and by adoption.

Of the last, we will never stop thinking, and thinking, and thinking. But as far as writing here . . . in some ways, because this has always been a mommy blog even as it's been an "issues blog," what I've had to say and what I've been willing to say have limited one another.

Above all, I've tried to protect my daughter's privacy (what will these blogged-babies think someday? Will it be so common to live whole lives on line that they won't find it strange that we've written about their first parents, or their poop? I hope not . . . But just this week Newsweek and a blog-hating blog ask similar questions) and respect my son's need to control which anecdotes I share (especially now that he's reading). I hope I've done that. I hope I've anticipated their needs while I've tried to meet mine which became ultimately and unexpectedly, to commune.

Thanks for sharing our journey to becoming the conspicuous, complicated, crazy family that we've become. Thank you for being part of who we've become, for giving me so much to think about, in your comments and on your blogs (which I'll continue to read).

And who knows? Maybe someday we'll be blogging baby #3, "Baby A." as little bun is wont to say.

Hee haw and Merry Christmas,


Dear Miss I.,
I was talking recently with friends about the value of a "plan." Really, they were talking about a plan, and I was smiling knowingly.

I would never have planned for either of my children to have arrived in the way that you have. I couldn't have anticipated the miracles you would be.

I am grateful for each day. You bless me just by being.

Much love,

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Magic Moments

A new favorite holiday memory:

This is the Year of a Million Dreams, says Disney, and while we never win anything, we were one of the families granted a wish -- even if I never knew we wished it.

Three of our party of ten happened to be on the right ride at the right time.
After the ride, my niece was bursting with excitement. "We won, we won!" she screamed. "What did we win?" "Nothing!" she replied happily, but the Disney representative asked:
"Have you ever wished you could have one of the Disney theme parks all to yourselves?"

In all sincerity (and I'm all sincerity) I'd never considered it. But once he mentioned it . . . and it's always fun to win.

MGM closed at 8, so from 8-8:30 the families selected for the "Magic Hour" attended a concert while the park emptied (one cynic suggested that that half hour would be used to hawke time shares; we were pleased to learn that would not be the case). Our children were already exhausted, though Miss I. enthusiastically danced to the eighties music and took Van Halen's command to "Jump!" quite literally. Afterwards, we were free to roam a now less crowded park, and for all the talk about running from roller coaster to Tower of Terror, we headed first to the New York Streets, where the Osbourne Family Christmas now abides. As we strolled down the main street, under beautiful lights timed to Christmas music, it began to snow.

It was our daughter's first snow, in Orlando, FL.

Wishing you magic moments, magic hours, and, if you want it, snow for Christmas.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Six months

Today is the six month anniversary of Miss I.'s arrival to the United States.

Today is the anniversary of the day a man I hadn't seen in a week (but who had experienced a lifetime in that week) met me at the gate wearing a little girl I'd loved from afar. The day she had practiced "Hi Momma" as she waited in customs and fell asleep before she could share it. The day her Adadda had to leave her with a woman she wasn't too sure about as he got the fastest (but most needed) shower ever, and in her panic she pooped and then in greater panic pooped again mid-diaper change and then panicked that she'd done the wrong thing to someone she'd only just met. The day she decided to cling to me with everything she had in her.

Also the day I first heard her laugh.

Happy six month anniversary, Miss I-of-mine.
It feels like just yesterday we met, but like I've loved you my whole life.

This is going to come out wrong.

I've tried (and failed) to write this post before. It has nothing to do with our recent adventures, to which I will return, but everything to do with everything important to us.

Back when we expected to adopt domestically, I was surprised to find birthmothers ("first mother" or "mother" the preferred terms in our family, but I am speaking of broader conversations) divided by anonymous online doptive parents into two categories, even when speaking of particular women: women who did not deserve to parent or women who deserved to be sainted. The former were poor, irresponsible, easy (all equally negative and equally character flaws, and all in contradistinction to the relatively better-off prospective adoptive parents). The latter were sacrificing everything they loved for the baby another family would soon love.

I realize how naive it is that I was surprised (and had I been reading adoption blogs at that point, I would have known that you all already knew this). This binary is rooted deeply in our culture, in ancient conceptions of women as (forgive the momentary family unfriendliness) either virgins or whores, and it won't be eradicated with corrective measures in the adoption community. But there's a start, and an important one.

I was impressed, at the time, by an adoptive mother who had defended the mother of her child. Someone had said "I could never give up my baby," to which she responded, "Could you if you were in a burning building?" And she elaborated: relinquishing a child for adoption was like tossing your child to safety, from the window of a burning building. It was not an unloving act, the act of a woman pathologically unattached to her child, but a supreme act of love. Yes, I thought, that's a good way to explain it to people outside the adoption community, people who don't get what it is our child's mother would have to have done: a woman would be compelled to throw her child from a burning building, and I would be there to catch that child. She and I would recognize each other equally as mothers, and I would know that there was nothing else that she could do.

But then a funny thing happened. As much as I wanted to do the catching, it started to seem that buildings were rarely really burning. And someone should have been helping those women put out fires. Our agency was invested first in keeping first families together, and even then . . .

In only one situation shared with us (of three) do I really feel that that building was on fire. Two involved potential single parenting in economically fragile circumstances (but parenting was still possible in those circumstances). This one involved mental illness and lack of basic needs being met for the mother and her son (though at that time the placement would still have been a voluntary one). I think of that little boy (a toddler) frequently, and pray that his mother received the help she needed to live and to parent as she so desired and decided to do.

Without returning to the metaphor (until now), we turned to international adoption when the anxiety was too high, when we knew we just couldn't do it. We ruled out countries where we didn't feel that the building was really burning (a developed/developing nation, a long wait by prospective adoptive parents for relatively few children, etc). As I adore my daughter, I like to think that we made the right decision. I like to think that she'll think so (eventually). And I am certain that her family's building had already burned, and so had her community's. Though that doesn't absolve us -- their buildings burned as we in the west fiddled, and no decisions for our child were made free from durress, free from the pressures of hunger and illness.

Even so, I suppose what I am asking is this: There's a lot of talk about ethical adoption (usually talking about domestic adoption, as the inquities of international adoption are frequently discussed at other, macro levels) but doesn't any ethical consideration involve not just what happens during and after the process, but also who should be actively discouraged from relinquishing a child?

But can we use the "burning building test?" (as we implicitly did, when we decided on Ethiopia). If everyone used it, it would certainly call into question agency practices of recruiting expectant mothers to become birthmothers. Yet if a situation meets the burning building test, isn't it automatically coercive? And who am I/who are we to decide whose building is burning and whose isn't?

But the truth about why this matters to me? Under all these layers of ethical consideration, I think there really lies my own need to be able to say to my daughter that her first family couldn't have parented her. Because I'm not sure I could look her in the eyes if they could have.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Where is she from?

AMH's (Of Hope and Hormones) Peanut has been attracting alot of attention, too. She writes of that "I'm down with that" kind of behavior that we've often experienced, followed by the worst (to me) of the rude questions -- Is she yours?!

"So our waitress was partaking the same over-the-top attention when she suddenly stops and asks "Is she yours?" I wasn't sure how to respond?? Mine as in biological? Mine as in my daughter? Mine as in my child but not my husbands? I did't get it. So I just mumbled a "Yes" and then she proceeded to ask how long we've had her? I responded with a "Since she was born."

I get asked about once every other day, "Is she yours?" and I generally clearly and sometimes wearily say "Yes." Enough with this question already. She is mine and I am hers -- ask her who I am and she calls me not just "Momma" but "My Momma." This is in no way intended to invalidate her first family in order to validate ours, or to deny her other belongingness to people who loved her with their lives.

My family has taken their cues from me, sharing little of her story with strangers who ask, not because it is secret or shameful but because it is private and her very own. Left to our own devices, we could probably all proudly share that she is OURS after much difficulty and many years through a process so improbable, in the way that part of me (us?) wanted to proclaim to people who complimented our infant son that he was the survivor of labor so early, delivery so traumatic that this child, that we, had defied death. But in either case of course we wouldn't.

So when my sister had Miss I. with her for a few moments at Disney World and another park guest approached and asked "Where's she from?" Sis answered "[Blooms]burg," as are we all -- factually correct and nonrevealing. Miss I is indeed from both [Blooms]burg and Ethiopia, and my son is "from" New York and [Blooms]burg. She is indeed mine (and I am hers) and she is her family's and they are hers and they are in her.

As it happened, this woman was in the process of adopting internationally, and so had real questions and because it was clear she was invested in adoption, I was happy to share some (that is, my) parts of the story.

I want Miss I to see me comfortable with a range of answers in a range of situations so she can decide to whom she'll say "Bloomsburg," to whom she'll say "Ethiopia" and to whom she'll say "Why ever do you ask?"

(Smacking myself on the head wondering why I didn't ask "why do you ask?" at the mall today, but knowing exactly why she did ask).

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Disney Part II: The Animal Kingdom

Sure, Animal Kingdom is at least as ideologically problematic as Celebration and the Africa stop in the World Showcase (It's Africa, as a gift shop!).

Animal Kingdom is divided into Africa, Asia and DinoLand, places you can happily and "safely" tour through Disney "magic." Why, on the resort channel in our hotel room, our family learned from a perky teen that half of the park is "just like the real Africa, without the malaria shots!" (It's yellow fever shot, malaria pills . . . and what goes unsaid is that it is also "Africa" without African people). Still, we expected our family to love it for its "safari," gorgeous landscapes and landscaping, and a Lion King live performance.

Our visit was anything but magical.

So when a "cast member" conducting research asked if I'd be willing to respond to an emailed survey, I was happy to do so. I'll post the response to the question regarding service/treatment by cast members below:

*We are a multiracial family, and as such, we often attract a bit more attention than other families. In the case of our visit to Disney's Animal Kingdom, this added attention was disproportionately negative:

In the first instance, I was with my daughter and son (my husband had stepped back to observe) near the gorillas. One gorilla pounded on the glass and my son turned to me, intrigued (not having identified this as an aggressive gesture) and "showed" me what the gorilla had done. At this point the staff member said, "Little man, don't use body language. That's probably why he did that." The staff member was clearly concerned by the gorilla's aggressive behaior (natural, it seems to me, to wild animals kept behind glass) but surprisingly, inaccurately assigned responsibility for that behaior to a child (well-supervised by both parents and ery well-behaved). My sensitive five year old son was thrown by the chastisement and was "sad" and "embarrassed" for a good while afterward, not feelings expected by a child visiting Disney. Had she said (to educate) that gorillas respond to our body language he would have been more careful and would have learned something important about the animal world and human interaction with it.

The second and third instances are as follows: Prior to the Lion King our not yet two year old daughter was playing at my feet. We were in the front row as my mother was using a wheel chair, but we planned to seat my daughter with my husband in the second row when the show began, for her safety and for the performance. One staff member approached us and insisted that my daughter be contained. I explained that of course she would not be free, nor would she be in the front row at all, when the show began. She turned to my mother to continue, though she did agree that my daughter was fine where she was for the moment and that the plan was sound. Just moments later a male staff member approached as I was picking my daughter up (to pass her back to her dad), and lectured me, though she was already in my arms. I gritted my teeth and passed her back. The show did not begin for several more minutes.

My children's father, particularly when not right beside them, is not always (or easily) identified as the father of both, and while we do understand the importance of safety and security for animals, performers and audience, we couldn't help but wonder (nor could others around us) whether we were treated differently as a result of our non-traditional family composition (whether consciously or unconsciously). As a family, we were very discouraged that this might happen in a Disney park, and it greatly affected our ability to enjoy what would otherwise have been a beautiful day.*

This was a difficult complaint to write (so please don't tear it apart), and not only because the survey times out if you actually try to provide a coherent, substantive response. It was also difficult because we believed that we were treated differently because of assumptions made about me as the (seemingly unaccompanied) mother of children of two different races. Any wording that relied on our being a two-parent (heterosexual) family, justifying racial difference by mentioning adoption (as in, "it's okay! I'm a good person. This is an international adoption") felt like it would trade on our privilege and deny the rights of other nontraditional families not to be harassed.

No doubt about the connection between fascism and Disney World.
But really -- telling on me to my mother? Crossed a new line.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

This is just to say . . .

I just happened to eat at Taco Bell twice on the same day, immediately after the e.coli outbreak had made the news but not at my house, where we read but do not watch. I wondered aloud why it was a ghost town, and obviously, No One responded. (The better question, I suppose, is why I would eat at Taco Bell twice in one day.)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Disney Part I

Against our better judgment, we agreed to a "quick" trip to Disney World at a very inconvenient time. We had promised, afterall, to take our family there when our son and my niece (four months apart) were five. So we kept our promise, and we made the plans. A late flight there and back on a Sunday would minimize work time missed and maximize park time. A stay at the Pop Century (review forthcoming) would put us right at the park, and in our price range.

So we began where it all began: the Magic Kingdom.

I'd never been much of a fan of the Magic Kingdom, never much a believer in magic, and much suspicious of the finger scan nececessary to use our park hopping tickets, but I promised my husband that morning that I'd leave my cynical self behind (even if the politically engaged one refused to stay at the hotel) and I was rewarded for it: My son beamed, and my daughter exclaimed "Happy!" as we moved from adventure to adventure, despite their lack of prior knowledge of Mickey or Minnie Mouse or Disney films. (That one of her favorite words is "happy" is one of our greatest joys.)

If only the Animal Kingdom had been as much a pleasure (see Part II, this week's rantotheweek, in just a bit).

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Be back soon.

Gone to Disney World. Be back soon. And do I have stories for you (if you love/hate Disney World and/or if you are in a multiracial family and/or if you really believe in Magical Days.)

Friday, December 01, 2006

World AIDS Day

For what our children have lost, and so that more won't be lost.
Click here to link to the (red) campaign, and here for information on a successful Clinton initiative to reduce the cost of antiretrovirals to developing countries. Click here to light a candle.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Bloom Estate

When we unrolled the new rug -- purchased at 40% off on black Friday, sure to be stained by the next Friday -- ds asked if he could have it someday, "when [I'm] old." He thinks he and his wife would like to have it in their house. I told him that many of the things we have would be his someday.

Tonight as we decorated the Christmas tree (pictures coming) he unwrapped my Old World Christmas fruit ornaments with special care, knowing they're my favorites and remembering that I'd broken one two years ago. "Can these be mine someday? They're my favorites too." "Yes," I said, "Some of these will be yours, and some Miss I's," and after a pause I added "and some A's" (A being the imaginary name for an imaginary child, an idea being explored here at Chez Bloom). He turned from the tree, arms still in the air, sugar plum dangling from its hook. "I know I said I might want another baby, but I'm happy with things just the way they are."

Calculating little man. He said it wasn't about the ornaments, just about "our happiness," but it wasn't just the tree lights twinkling in his eyes.

I told him we wouldn't have to divide anything for a long time. First I'd keep everything at my house even after he'd moved to his own house, then I'd bring much of it with me when I moved in with his family. "Oh," he said seriously, almost flatly. "I didn't realize mothers would live with their grown children."

I said: "Of course, you'll have to ask your wife." I thought: I come with the rug.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The More the Merrier? (or Scarier?)

Owlhaven asks this:

"When you think about enlarging your family, what are some of the questions and concerns that come to your mind? Was it or is it a difficult or an easy decision to declare yourself ‘done’ with having children? If your family is already complete, feel free to share the questions you had as you faced the issue in the past. When you decided, did you decide once and for all, or did you find yourself revisiting the question over and over? I was chatting with my sisters about this over Thanksgiving, found it a fascinating topic, and thought it might be interesting to discuss here as well."

We've been thinking alot about this lately. Ds has been thinking about it even longer.

When we decided to begin the adoption process for Miss I, we just knew someone was missing, felt like we needed this other person in our lives. This time it feels more like it's about needs than wants.

When we decided to adopt transracially and internationally, we felt it was important that our child not be the only child of color in our then-very white family. Then she came home, and she wasn't sleeping and neither were we, and I thought maybe we were done afterall. Then there were many days when we went back and forth -- one day we would name him or her, the next we would declare ourselves complete.

Give it six months, wise women said. Six months for our new family to feel normal, six months before making major life decisions.

Third mom's question and the subsequent answers remind me of the reasons we felt that commiting to Miss I meant commiting to a second Ethiopia adoption.* My husband reminds me that I am practically a crazy woman practically all the time and was through the entire adoption process. (He rejects this characterization of the conversation).

And then he reminds himself of all that he saw in Ethiopia, all the children he could so easily love
, and he seems to think maybe we are just crazy enough . . .

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanks giving

Dh and his darling daughter are raking leaves in our backyard and I'm struck by their amazing and everyday beauty.
I'm so very thankful.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Our Life Less Extraordinary

I've skimmed my own recent posts and realized that, by and large, they are quite normal. Amazingly and wonderfully, our family is starting to feel normal. This might be bad news for blogging, but it's really good news for us. (Though it does make me worry just a touch).

In a post prompted by the impending arrival of her (white) (biological) son and thoughts and feelings this raises regarding a potential adoption that was not to be (shortly before the snapper was conceived),Sster asks whether she had romanticized her prospective role of white mother of a black child. She writes, "I’ll put it bluntly: is this a racist reaction? Have I become romantically enamoured with difference?"

I said I didn't know. Who am I to say? This is really hard.

We first thought we'd adopt from China, only because we knew families who had done it, knew it was possible, and possibility was what we most hoped for. When we first considered domestic adoption, we were asked if we would consider children of african descent. Of course we would, after which we promptly spent days by turns being angry that there would be a difference in "desirability" of black children and all other races and worrying about whether any white parents were remotely qualified to raise black children.

So after our general adoption preparation reading (all eye opening), we threw ourselves headlong into reading and research, psychiatrists' studies of transracial adoptees, sociologists' studies of transracial adoptive moms. (Turns out I had the most in common, according to one sociologist, with white mothers of black children). We asked ourselves in what ways our environment was already supportive of a black child or children, what would have to change, and what we would be willing to do to make those necessary changes. And overall, we felt eager and also very very insecure.

Somewhere along the way we started to form a picture, maybe when ds started talking about his sister "Truckabella" or when the grandmothers mentioned their girl. Maybe sooner. One adoption preparation exercise asks the prospective parent to literalize that "picture," to sketch "her" child (the exercise was intended to help prospective parents realize that they did have these pictures, and that these pictures have consequences). I drew a brown little girl - not a baby - with long eyelashes and curly black hair.

One year later, a black little girl with long eyelashes and delightfully curly brown hair lives here. When we realized that domestic adoption was not for us, was not a good fit for our family, we knew that Ethiopia was where we'd find our little girl. Was this decision, in addition to being imperialist, also racist? No. It was what our process had prepared us for.

But I do know that this way I didn't have to let go of a picture (and every loss of a picture is a very real loss -- I' ve had to give up many in the past) -- she is in some ways what I expected and a million things I never could have guessed.

We knew she would change our life, knew she would make our family different, knew we would change her life immeasurably. We would become a minority family, and she would become the black daughter of a woman described affectionately as the "whitest woman I've ever met" once (which can't be true :) I know some the people she knows). But we would have a choice. She wouldn't. I had no romantic notions of what it would be like to be the white mother of a black child, no sense that it would make me a part of a community I would otherwise be excluded from by definition. But I knew I'd be excluding her from many -- in this case, black children raised by black mothers.

I'm not sure if it's because I'm a pessimist or a pragmatist, or because I'm ever wracked by guilt, but I know my picture of myself as the white mother of a black child wasn't romantic. Yet I also know that once we got that far in the process, I wanted this little girl

(oh how that smacks of determinism, which I avoided responding to, though let me say this -- I find our finding one another all the more miraculous because it was so improbable and contingent, not because it was "meant to be")

and while I know we'll always be different, that she'll always be different because of our choice, I like that our improbable family is starting to feel so normal.

Guilty as Charged

We need finer distinctions at Chez Bloom.
"I didn't do it" and "She did it" are tired, and they aren't adequate to the situations we find ourselves in (she might have poured the water on the floor, or written on Momma's work, but who gave her the idea? The tools?). Which is why ds now knows the meaning of "Accessory," "Accessory after the fact" and "Conspiracy to commit . . ."
Should I be proud that my five year old can plead no contest?
Mia's Saving Grace is worth a read on any day: a nuanced thinker, a thoughtful writer, a very capable mom, and a woman merging two histories divided by adoption, she challenges her readers. I want to call your attention to a really important post in which she shares her experience of sharing her experience with adoptive parents, some receptive and some defensive, all with a lot to learn.

Here's just a bit of it:

"Kids should feel safe talking with their parents and not bear the weight of grown up issues upon their shoulders. Adopted kids should feel safe and comfortable verbalizing their feelings to their parents and not fear hurting the people they love. If you adopt a child it is what it is……they are ADOPTED. You can’t wave a magic wand and make them not adopted. Deal with your emotions, see a therapist if you need to but make yourself available to your child without handing them your baggage. If I could say one thing to fearful adoptive parents it would be to uncross your arms. Open them up and embrace truth.

Those of you who’s arms are open~thank you. Keep questioning, keep learning, keep growing. And don’t be surprised if your kids grow up feeling safe and secure in your presence, honored as an individual, self-assured, confident, more like a cherished daughter or son than a possession. Of course they will still have some issues. Who doesn’t have issues? But how wonderful it will be to know they will feel comfortable coming to you and talking about how they are feeling….the sign of a healthy parent/child relationship. That’s a huge payoff don’t you think?"

I think so, and I hope so.
Please go read the rest.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Name calling

By her own account (through the influence of her brother) Miss I. is (laughingly) a "Bad Baby, Bad Baby, Bad Baby" and the dog is a "Dood Dirl." Of course, she calls me "Natty" and "Awnawshus," (as in, "Shhhh, Natty Momma") neither of which are good things. All of which speaks volumes about my parenting (of the first one, her idol).

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Toys R Us?

I waited at Toys R Us forever yesterday, but I got it, the toy I had no idea would be an IT toy when we decided to buy it for dd. It just seemed right for her.

The shelf it had occupied was empty, so I thought I'd come back, though I'd go ahead and purchase the tie-fighter LEGO set on sale. (Don't tell ds. It's the next marble prize). But when the cashier asked if I'd found everything I was looking for, I mentioned the Bounce and Spin Zebra, on our birthday list for dd, mfsrp $45, online for $69, onsale there for $32 when they'd had it. She called over a man from customer service, who called to the back, and told me to wait. They had only two left. So I waited, and when he brought it up front, another mother, cart already filled (she's the kind that will have Christmas handled before Thanksgiving) asked if she could have it. "This one's for this guest, but you can have our last one."

Then I waited in line for awhile behind a mom with her twenty-one month old in cart. She asked what my daughter was "into," and for a moment, I felt really incompetent. I can tell you that my son loves LEGOS, that he loves Star Wars, loves to build, loves to sculpt. Him, I can buy for and could even at two. Her? Not so much.

So I sheepishly said I didn't know, without explaining that we've only known each other for five very intense months, that we are having a difficult enough time with basic communication. She likes everything, for the most part. As predicted, she could have fun in a paper bag. She loves lots of things. So I could have said she loves to dance, loves disco!, loves to read, loves my cell phone and Daddy's "Palm Pie," loves her dolls, loves the box of hand-me-down fancy shoes from my niece, loves our cat and dog, loves her life. These are the things she's into. But no, ashamed that we didn't form a preconstituted market for some doo-dad (and if we do, we don't watch commercials together to find out), I just said, "I don't know."

She seemed surprised that I didn't know. (Who wouldn't be?!) Her daughter loves the Disney Princesses, and can sing and do interpretive dance to "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes," and despite being just the cutest-bit shy, the little girl showed me a couple of her moves, right in her seat. And that Disney Princess, however much Disney Princesses make me cringe, really was a doll.

The cashier kindly offered that in addition to the it toy of our choice, they'd also gotten TMX Elmo back in stock. I didn't buy it (she likes our first generation Tickle Me Elmo just fine).

I don't usually stress too much about Christmas shopping and always manage to keep it in perspective (except the med school year when I cried because our budget was so tight). But for a moment I wondered, how long til I really know my daughter?

In Other Business

Dawn's got a great business idea, and I'd love to see it (and her) succeed.
Especially if you blog, check out This Woman's Work, at right, for getthemblogging.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I was responding to Erin O's comment on a post below (and Erin, you didn't pressure me at all. Just made me think!), and I realized something. I'd implied we were on the way to number three, but we aren't, yet, I didn't think, though we struggle almost daily with whether or not we should be (many from our travel group already are!).

Sometimes I think I'm crazy for thinking about #3. (See the 90 minute tantrum, below, or the help I receive from a dear friend each week just to keep my house organized and my sanity semi-intact as dh works extra hours). But sometimes I think kind of like this
at largerfamily, written by Owlhaven in October:

"You see, I’ve been to Ethiopia. I have memories of walking through orphanages with child after child plucked at my clothes looking pleadingly upward, and raising their arms begging to be picked up.

I know deep in my soul that at this very minute there are thousands of children dying a little inside every day because they have no one to call their own. No one.

I also know how little time it takes for a former orphan to become a sassy, self-assured, much-loved member of a family. It is a miraculous and delightful metamorphasis to behold.

And here we sit, blessed beyond measure. How can I blithely say I’m done, knowing that in saying so I am shutting the door in the faces of real living children?"

She goes on to say to say that this feeling isn't about a savior complex, but the real sense that someone is missing.

Is someone missing here at Chez Bloom? Sometimes I think, given that it'll take us a good long time to process the paper and to wait, that January, at the latest June, will be the time to ca-ca or keum the po-po.

We'll never be a larger family. I don't have the temperament for it (I think I'm much too impatient, maybe a little too fragile), though God bless those who do --

but are we really done?
I don't think so.

Adoption Madness

No thanks to Criminal Minds (follow link, click feedback) for portraying an adoptee as a psychopath, inspired by the novel written by the post-modernist professor he believes to be his mother. She isn't, but as a birthmother, she is willing to die for him.
It used to be just NBC on my bad list (see L&O, L&O:SVU, and potentially Heroes, though my judgment on that one is still pending).
Whatever we do mean by Adoption Awareness this month, this isn't it.

Mother of All Tantrums

If you're a long(er)-time reader, then you know that we've been struggling with tantrums since Miss I came home. Today we set a record: one and a half hours before she finally cried herself to sleep. About every twenty minutes she tried to pull herself together: "Done." Deep breath. "I done. All done," and then she would start again.
My beautiful daughter was screaming and growling.
I wanted to leave her in her room, shut the door, and take my own deep breaths. I did step out for a few moments to call my mom for advice and encouragement, but I was too fearful that she would feel abandoned to leave for long. So I sat there on the floor of her room while she screamed and growled and cried.
Readers, I am not Catholic, but I prayed to Mary.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Fashion and Function

The bikini bottoms over jeans were just for fashion, I thought. But they're for function. They go much faster on the slide.
Pants on the head, legs wrapped round? I think that's just for style.

Adoption Awareness?

I'm a little hesitant about "Adoption Awareness Month." I'm not sure exactly what it means: awareness that there are families like mine ("awareness" being about as useful as "tolerance"), promotion of adoption or placement for adoption, or advocacy for adoption reform. Maybe all of these things? It isn't exactly like Transplant or Breast Cancer Awareness . . .

But I do want to thank Sesame Street for making me cry this morning. Word on the Street is that Gina is bringing Marco home from Guatemala tomorrow, and so far it was handled quite sensitively, and she couldn't live in a better neighborhood for a multicultural family and for finding great role models for her son.

In my real RantotheWeek (which is a bit inaccurate, as I think they're more like Q3 or 4) I'll post about Disney and Disney Princesses (and the history behind the exclusion of black princesses later.)

Three's Company

Ds announced yesterday that he's still lonely, but that he likes his sister so much we should "do it again." He wants another little sister, only this time he wants her to be "zero" so he can "raise her the whole way." He promises to take care of her if I take care of Miss I. What ever happened to "Please Momma can I have a puppy?!"

Sunday, November 05, 2006

O-h N-o

My son can now read -- I mean, really read, not just read/remember Hop on Pop or More, More, More Said the Baby or anything Eric Carle.
This is very exciting, yes, except for one thing: He's wise to my tricks.
Today he realized that "Walter the Dog Who Passes Gas" is actually "Walter the Farting Dog." ("What's farting, Momma?" Bless his temporarily innocent little heart.)
Tomorrow I'll have to give up spelling over his head.

My daughter pointed to a word on a box and happily exclaimed "Aybeeceedees!" One of her 35 English words is the first four letters of the alphabet.

Friday, November 03, 2006

And Your Name Is?

So I have lots of more important things to blog about, but this one has really been bothering me, and it'll just take a second:
You all know I am the queen of "Why do you ask?" both in terms of using it and recommending it for use to transracial/multiracial/adoptive/open/nontraditional in anyway families. It works for most questions, and it helps guide our answers (or stops more questions from being asked). But here's one I can't figure out:
"What's her name?"
Rarely did people ask my son's name when he was a baby or toddler. "Hey, buddy." "Hi, little guy." "Hey there, handsome."

But everyone wants to know Miss I's name. Sometimes it's an attempt at a subtle way of acknowledging their acceptance of a family of our construction, a question in which one can casually use "your daughter," both to test it out and validate it: "What's your daughter's name?" (See, I get it, and I'm okay with you -- and if it's a mistake, it's a mistake in the enlightened direction). Or it might be a way of asking a question that is personal but not TOO personal, trying to get me to offer more than is asked, as if I'll blurt out "HernameisIandshewasadoptedfromEthiopiaandhereareallthepersonaldetailsofherrelinquishment." Or maybe it's a way to feel admitted into our inner circle, because we emit such a warm glow. Maybe they're taking a survey -- I like to hear about, and complain about, baby names too.

The problem is that I always feel compelled to answer, and they never forget. Add this to her incredible beauty and electric personality, and you have an intensification of our fame/infamy. I go to the grocery store a week later: "Hi, Miss I!" The clerk turns to another clerk. "This is Miss I. Check out those lashes!" (which, by the way, really are to die for). In another store, "Miss I! It's you!"

I'm not totally comfortable with strangers calling her by her first name, as if she knows them and they know her. I know that most people are harmless, but for the same reason that I don't sew ds's name on his backpack, I'm not comfortable with the world knowing Miss I.

But I can't exactly say, "Why do you ask?" to that, without seeming like a paranoid freak. (You'll probably all chastise me for ever having answered in the first place. Or maybe now I'm being the paranoid freak).

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Some good news to share:

Our friend's baby is on her way to good health, and the courts have approved their adoption. They are a beautiful family, and I wish them continued health and much much joy.

Our own re-adoption is on its way to finalization here in the US. I didn't expect this to be so emotional, as we were already legal in Ethiopia in May. Still, reading the draft order made Momma and Daddy cry. The attached exhibits, which I'd already seen and read before, put me in mind again of the love and loss that came before us. That she shall hereafter be known as the daughter of A. and D. Bloom brings us profound joy.

Thank you for sharing in our joy.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"At issue are remarks the Massachusetts Democrat made on Monday before a college audience in California in which he said he was joking that if people don't study and work hard they could end up getting "stuck in Iraq." He said it was a "botched joke" that was referring to President Bush."

It wasn't a bad joke; it's that he told it wrong -- he doesn't have a good sense for the comic, and he should know that by now (wouldn't a good student learn?)

But if Kerry's really going to be charged with being unpatriotic (and for crying outloud, he's a distinguished veteran, as were many of his supporters in the last election), you'll have to charge us too:

Ds currently attends kindergarten at a school that provides narratives and keeps binders of progress, but no grades. I unthinkingly remarked in front of him that I was concerned about his transition to a school that issues grades in the first.

Since his dad once jokingly posted my grad school grade report on the 'fridge, he knows that "A"s are "really good."

So he said, "I hope I get A's. But what if I get a C?"

I answered, "One C? Nothing, really. All C's and D's? You could be president."

That, I think, is what John Kerry meant. Oh, and it's funny and awful, because it's true.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Random nonthoughts

I'm off caffeine and chocolate today for a medical test tomorrow, and honestly, it's like I'm fasting. Sure, there are other things I could eat, but . . .

Little bun is sick (and I expect Miss I to be sick tomorrow) and he wanted me to hold him "like when I was very small." Little bun, you are still very small, and you will always be my baby.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My friend's beautiful baby girl is still struggling. I'm terrified for them, and completely helpless.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dear McDonalds,
Please stop making us say "two boy toys, please."
Please stop making anyone say "boy toy" just to get a toy with playability value.
And please stop using images of happy black employees all the while making skinny white girls a prize.
The Blooms

Note to self: No way, no matter how much she loves her nuggets.
Another friend's tiny daughter is very sick again in Ethiopia. Fortunately, her parents are able to be with her. Please pray for them too.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The General and the Particular

Manuela's loss and the loss suffered by another family in the ET adoption community have impacted me in ways I could not have anticipated and still cannot quite manage. I'll be doing a fairly normal thing -- folding baby laundry, playing with my daughter's hair, smiling at Miss I in the rearview mirror as I drive -- and be caught off guard by new tears or the sense that it can't possibly be true. I haven't met these families, these women, but I loved their baby girls and I feel their absence. If you pray, please keep them in your prayers.

Much less importantly, I'm not sure I handled this well:

We met a couple today who seemed genuinely interested in international adoption.
They'd been talking about it for awhile.
They really feel that it's right for their family.
They want to help.*

*(If I could add sounds to my blog, you'd hear a record needle scratching across a disc. So just imagine it.)

I tried to ignore (the tone of) the last, but it added a bit to the caution I already feel when asked questions by strangers.

"How long was she at the care center?"
"About three months."

"Why was she relinquished?"*

*Sometimes I say, "I'm sorry, but that's not something we share" (let alone with people we just met at someone else's party, surrounded by others we don't know). "That's her story to tell or not tell as she decides when she's old enough to understand that decision."

Sometimes I answer in generalities, and this was one of those times (I suppose because they really do seem to be considering it).

I said: "Many times, children are relinquished after the death of both parents, the death of mother, absence of the father." But as I said this list of very general possibilities, I became teary.

"What about other family?" she pressed on. "Were they just too poor?" She made the conversation more specific again.

I sighed and answered in generalities again, and added (without lecturing, though I'm sure that's how it reads) that Africans have always -- until now -- cared for children within extended family networks, despite decades of poverty and famine. But now, HIV and AIDS have destroyed those extended families, leaving all children vulnerable (hence the sense in the statement that all African orphans are AIDS orphans, regardless of their parents' HIV status).

Her eyes widened, and the most personal question went unasked. But she did ask this:
"Are the children carefully screened for HIV?"

She looked to her daughter, who was playing with mine.

This is how it went:
"Yes," I said. (I would have wanted to know this as we investigated Ethiopian adoption).
"Oh good," she said, almost casually.

Were we talking in generalities or specifics?

This is how it could have gone from there but didn't:
"Oh good that people who are adopting from Ethiopia know what they are getting into, or oh good because my daughter was playing with yours?"

This is how I wonder if it should have gone:
"Are the children screened for HIV . . ."
"Why do you ask?"

"Why do you ask?" is my fall back, and it's been pretty useful.
I wonder if I should have fallen back on it.
I wanted to answer the question factually, but I didn't want to answer the question behind the question -- even if the answer is "she's negative," and it is, that answer is very, very private.

People I meet socially never ask my HIV status, I suppose because everyone assumes I'm negative (and I am). Doesn't a willingness to answer that question (as I just did) when one is negative contribute to the secrecy, shame, stigmatization when one is positive?

But if I answer questions about her background or health because there's nothing to hide, doesn't that contribute to the belief that if someone keeps something private, it's because she has something to hide? If I don't answer, am I implying something by not answering? If so, that's an implication she has to live with, not me.

So -- When to ask "why do you ask?" and when to answer a question at face value?

I bought my GAP (red) t-shirt -- it was sold out online but is back in stores. While I am more than a little cynical about the suggestion that capitalism contains its own solution to inequity ("Can a t-shirt change the world?"), I hear the numbers are already very promising.

I'm sure I'll edit tomorrow - she's up for the fifth time since bedtime, so I have to run. Again.

The Joke's on Us

Three adoption cracks in two weeks in Entertainment Weekly.
Last week, adoption papers were the "five minutes ago" power baby accessory.
This week, Beverly Hills is quiet this time of year, "with everyone out Third-World baby shopping."

Madonna-inspired, these jokes are still offensive to my family and families like ours.

Friday, October 13, 2006


Damn this is hard. Almost all of my posts are "adoption." Will anyone read posts in a category like "bellyaching?" How to categorize posts about breasts? Ugh.

Out of Africa?

(a companion piece to the one below)
First, read this. What Ji-in has to say is really important. Please read through the comments.

Then, an adult Ethiopian adoptee and poet speaks of his experience as an alien. This breaks my heart, and his situation is so far from anything that could even be imagined in the Bloom household that I, like many parents reading it, want to say "but his beliefs come from his own, specific tragic childhood!"

Yet he's right when he says that international, transcultural, transracial adoption is rooted in the adults' needs to better their own lives. However much I genuinely wanted to parent a child who really needed me, it was about me more than it was to "give the child a better life."

And from my writing you can see that I'm always thinking about this (are you tired of reading it?): I made the decision that a child from Africa would land in a white family in the United States, and she didn't have a choice (when she's a teenager, if not sooner, she'll tell me this). So did the Ethiopia courts, but most certainly under the pressures of poverty, while I made my choice under no pressure but the pressure I applied to myself to enlarge my family. I would hate for anyone to look at my family, or Madonna's son? David, and believe that generally, African children are better served to be taken out of Africa.

Africa's children will be better served when debt relief is offered, when antiretrovirals are available to those who need them, when women and children's rights are protected and their welfare is seen as indivisible, and when there is more than one physician for every lot of 50,000 potential patients -- not when "we" airlift them all out into white Western families.

But then I recall that for every Miss I, there are 10,000 orphans in Ethiopia alone, and changing those things above tomorrow won't change that today, and it won't bring back Miss I's first family.

I am thankful for the adult tras who make us think. But Madonna's controversial and contested adoption will not make me defend mine, or those of the non-celebrity adoptive and adopting families I have grown to love through this process and the children we've shared.

I find it very troubling that we can go from the potentially illegitimate adoption by a celebrity of a child from a country without established intercountry adoption to the determination that all intercountry adoption is imperialist and immoral (though many were already there, and that, strangely, is fine with me). One of Ji-in's commenters asserts that because she has realized that this is so, she would not consider international adoption. At the same time, if the criticism is that this child should not have been placed because family exists to take care of him, domestic adoption of nearly every sort should be out (lots of people already think this too, and I won't debate that here other than to say that I do respect that position and many of the ways it is reached).

But the fact remains that sometimes: The first best option (first family) is gone or incapacitated. The second (extended family) is decimated. The third (same race, same country) is unavailable. The fourth (same race, different country) is also not available to the extent needed. That I am not the ideal parent for Miss I, I get. That she'd still be with me, even after such a search for alternatives, is beyond doubt. That Malawi didn't demonstrate this, that the US doesn't currently require this, is a problem. That Madonna (or anyone else in her position) would not know that she's the fifth best parenting option is a bigger one.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Arrival at the Queen of Sheba

We worried a bit over taking Miss I to an Ethiopian restaurant, for a couple of reasons.

First, we were concerned about her response to my Ethiopian embroidered shirt awhile ago. Would she panic when surrounded by familiar sights and smells?

Then there was the possible perception by Ethiopian Americans that this was the limit of how we would share her culture and history with her.

When we were reading through our first application many moons ago, when we thought we would find our daughter in China, when one or the other of us jokingly replied to the question of how we would celebrate her Chinese heritage that we'd have takeout once a week, the joke was not on the question, but on us and our hubris in even thinking about a transracial, transnational adoption.

There was no getting around, it seems to me, the fact that in the abstract we're the fifth best thing, and no one we meet at a restaurant could know us any more intimately. If our first thought had been our insufficiency to the task, surely it would be others', and well it should be. And then there is the fact that families like mine are a painful reminder to a very proud culture of Ethiopia's present inability to care for its own children.

But we really wanted her to have really good injera, which she had loved not so long ago (has it really only been four months? Was dh ever really in Ethiopia?). So we went to the Queen of Sheba, skipping nearby Meskerem, which is considered more crowded (like Addis) and less flavorful.

When we first arrived, Miss I was very shy before the beautiful waitress who seated us, and she hid her head in my shoulder. Dh was enthusiastic, eager for me to try everything including the honeyed wine (phenomenal). Ds, ordinarily a very wary diner, looked forward to his injera. Miss I. still hid. As soon as I tasted and enjoyed things, Miss I became more confident, and wanted to share her growing enjoyment with familiar flavors, and gestured excitedly to textiles hanging on the wall. Beeful. Prebby. Beeful, Momma, see, see?

Her enthusiasm caught the attention of the party behind us, and began one of the most affirming conversations we've had yet. Mr. E. raved about my beautiful daughter, then gestured to my son. "Is he your own?" I wasn't certain I had heard him over the small crowd or through his accent, and I indicated that. He tried again, twice: "Is he your natural son? . . . Your son as well?" "Yes," I replied. "He is my son as well." He smiled broadly. "You know, I am Ethiopian and I am adopted as well, and what you have done is a blessing."

Mr. E shared that he hails from Addis, that he was not familiar with Miss I's village to the south, that he thanked God for the gift we were to Miss I, and that he was even more thankful because we (protested and) considered her the gift to our family. Then he asked what ds thought of his new sister. "He's so thrilled with her he's already talking about his little brother," I said. This was met with great enthusiasm and many congratulations: "but I only meant he was talking about one. He isn't having one." And they discussed among themselves when we should return to Ethiopia for a son, how much time to allow our own Queen of Sheba to remain our little princess. (They thought not too long).

When we were ready to leave, Miss I kissed our waitress on the cheeks and waved fondly to our new friends.

Dh had told me that Ethiopians were the most beautiful and most gracious people he had ever met, and while this seems like a sweeping generalization, it also appears to be true.

If you're ever on tenth, have the dabo, vegetarian sampler, and honeyed wine (but make sure your companion orders the Ethiopian beer to taste).

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Read this.

It may seem to some that I worry incessantly about this, but it's less anxiety than awareness:

I have made a choice forever for someone too young to protest it to be forever between cultures, Ethiopian and "American" (for whatever that means), black and white (though an affluent black friend also shares that she was asked accusingly if she was "black or white?" by black women she met in college, and she feels that Miss I's biggest challenge may be less that her parents are white than that they are overeducated. I had the same problem in the rural years of my youth).

But I secretly worried yesterday that since her parts weren't straight (she's a wiggler) someday people would look at her hair and ask her "was she raised by a white woman or what?" So I spent $80 at Carolsdaughter so she could have Jada Pinkett's hair, and I can't wait for it to come.

I wonder if she'll identify closely only with other Ethiopian adoptees, transracial adoptees, black women with white mothers, and I wonder how others will relate to her.

Sorry Miss I, it seems you will not escape the showtunes, as you clap anytime I finish a song from Guys and Dolls.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A Bronx Tale

A beautiful boy, age eight, he said, had many questions for me when I sat beside him with Miss I and ds both on my lap. The most important of these, for him, was this:

"Why you don't look like her?"

I started to answer his question, working from the assumption that what he actually meant was "Why doesn't your daughter look like you?" This is not a manifestation of my white or maternal narcissism (or do I protest too much?). It's this: even if I didn't want to discuss reproduction with this child who isn't mine, I was still working from a bio-centric position, and the parents come first. I reframed his question in more familiar terms (I'd had these conversations with precocious children in parking lots, restaurants, etc several times before):

You're wondering why my daughter doesn't look like me, but my son does. Families, I began, don't always look alike and families aren't always made in the same way . . .

But biology, genetics, parental priority did not order his logic. So he tried again, in terms he thought I could better understand.

"Look," he said seriously. "She has brown eyes. Everybody's got brown eyes," and he gestured around the train car. "You don't," he said, indicating dh, ds and me. I couldn't argue. On a train between the Bronx and Harlem, we were (at that time) the only white people and in our vicinity, the only blue eyed people, both facts I hadn't noticed before he pointed it out. Then he leaned in to look closely into my eyes. "Do you have any brown?" I don't. I suppose I could have explained "recessive traits," drawn the diagram, told him any number of things he'll learn soon enough. I could have told him what ds knows, which is that his ancestors came from cold places, hence lower levels of melanin. But these answers would have been beside his point.

Later his nine year old sister would state firmly but kindly that I had "too little hair" and I shouldn't have let "them" cut it.

Only in New York: Stop (reading) if you've heard this one

Dh had a conference in Manhattan. I miss it very much, so we decided to take the fam.
This was a huge mistake, but it can't be considered a complete failure, as we've come back with many stories, which is, in the end, the most important thing.

There are many stories to come, including our visit to the Queen of Sheba, my education in the Bronx and the reasons why you can't ever go "home" (if you've added a toddler in the meantime).

I'll share the briefest anecdotes now for anyone who's still reading after the unintentional hiatus and then I'm off to load the dishwasher.

1. For the first time, a celebrity stared at us. In a chance encounter on the street, Miss I batted her eyelashes at Rosie O'Donnell, who beamed back. I was a few steps away, so as dh told me to inform a View-viewing friend, if Rosie mentioned "gay dad," "transracial adoption" and "cutie patootie" any time soon, you know of whom she speaks. And so you do too.

2.The best encounter of the trip (voted unanimously so by dh, ds and me):
A homeless man approached us on the subway, and declared "I don't know how in the world you all found each other, but God bless you anyway." Priceless.

Domesticity beckons.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

In Brief, on Strangers

Strange women always assume that I am an adoptive mother. Stranger men always assume I am a babymomma.

One strange white woman asked dh today who his daughter belonged to (and she made some remark about "a communal child," having seen Miss I with both Grammy and Daddy). She did not ask the white parents with daughters from China, just feet away, who their daughters belonged to.

A restaurant employee looked horrified when he believed Miss I. was alone. He looked scandalized to discover her mother, less than a foot behind, white.

But then . . .

When we visited GG at the nursing home, a man we'd never met before, visiting another resident, said "You have very beautiful children," and in one very ordinary sentence offered a gift that should be a right -- very ordinary treatment.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Once again overdue

I am very overdue for a post, and it's banging around in my head, but now it's so long and complicated and digressive that I can't quite get at it or to it. I'm also long overdue on a work project - I should have taken a leave of absence, but decided instead that I really could do it as long as dh watched Miss I for four hours per week and I stayed up really late every night. Foolishness. Exhaustion.

But in the meantime, in all my spare time, I'm reading There is No Me Without You, and pushing it on other people. It's an amazing story, or set of stories, and my daughter figures in it everywhere and nowhere. She is not an AIDS orphan directly (the focus of the book) but every Ethiopian orphan is an AIDS orphan in that nothing before HIV -- not even widespread famine -- had destroyed the extended family networks that would have absorbed children without parents. And now, for every one Miss I., there are 10,000 more Ethiopian children without families.

Lunch and nap were overdue today, too (part of the theme today). Miss I. began screaming in the car five minutes from home, gesturing wildly, chewing nothing. As soon as we got in, we handed her a peanut butter sandwich. She fell asleep eating it, clasped it to her chest, and wouldn't let go.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Check out those eyes

photo courtesy her brother, who succeeded in filling his marble jar and earning his Fisher-Price digital camera.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Happy Anniversary

Dear Miss I.,
Tomorrow you will have been home three months. The changes in you in these three months are astonishing -- how tall you've grown, how full your cheeks, how secure you seem (most of the time). You are a bright, brave, beautiful babe, ready to take on the world. In some ways, you already have.

You don't say much, though you have a deep belly laugh, and I love to hear you say "Momma aye-yuh," especially now that I know that it is a possessive: Mommamine, you say. Miss I-aye-yuh, daughtermine.

But this anniversary, like all I suppose, is a bit melancholy, too. I remember so well the pain of your absence -- why do they tell us the pain is gone as soon as you come home, just as they tell women who've delivered that they'll forget the pain of delivery? I forget neither, can still feel both physically. I think each day, but especially intensely at these moments, that I while I was longing, someone was losing.

This week, we'll prepare an update, complete with pictures, destined for Ethiopia. We're required to provide this update, and an update each year for eighteen years. I have so much to say that it feels like silence. What can I say that can translate simply? You are well, and you are cherished, I-aye-yuh.

I have to run. You've woken, and you're calling me. You do this many nights, only tonight, I feel its sweetness.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Food Fight?

My son doesn't eat at dinner, so presently, my daughter doesn't either, and I'm trying to figure out how much to care about that.

I can't help having my feelings hurt, and laughing about it at the same time:
Ds and I have an agreement - anytime he doesn't like a meal, after having actually tried it, he can make himself a cheese burrito and rejoin us at the table. But a couple of nights ago, he lied about having tried, and dh caught him in the lie. "I lied," he cried, "but I was only trying to protect Momma." How does it protect Momma not to try what she's made. "Not that. Why I said I tried it when I didn't. It's because everything she makes is horrible." Many sobs, shaking shoulders, and I'm still not understanding how this is supposed to protect my feelings. "Everything she makes is horrible. So horrible. But I never wanted to tell her that she's a bad cook." But there it was. He'd said it. My cooking is horrible, and he feels horrible for having said it. (I'm actually known as quite a good cook by everyone but my children, so this isn't the emotionally scarring event it could've been).

I had him peruse our favorite vegetarian cookbook and pick three meals (I'd pick the other two) for the weekdays. He chose pizza, black bean and citrus salad, and peanut noodles. The pizza was great (though he ate little). The black bean and citrus salad, on the other hand . . . Momma and Daddy loved, Miss I. ate when not distracted by ds, and ds left barely touched.

I'm seriously reconsidering his request to just allow him to eat cereal for dinner. So long as it isn't Cap'n Crunch. (But then, should he eat dinner for breakfast, as I once suggested?) Miss I., on the other hand, should still have to keep eating from among the "real" choices until she's five -- old enough to pick her own food fight. Wish me luck - or better, patience.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Answers to a Momma awaiting her toddler, from three months' perspective

What were the greatest challenges?
She didn't want anything to do with dh when he first arrived. She's known in her travel group as having been trouble.

Sleep. She woke every hour for a long time, and screamed (like I've never heard screaming before) before falling asleep. I wish I had been prepared (emotionally) for such sleep troubles. She didn't have any in ET, so I thought we'd skipped over midnight wakings by skipping over infancy.

Fifty minute (literally) tantrums during which she positively could not be consoled. This was most difficult because her usual personality is sunny (see joys).

I (also literally) got dehydrated, because every time I had a glass of water, she begged for it and cried if I didn't give it to her. And then I'd forget to take care of Momma (one thing to do differently!) She would also scream when other people ate -- she was convinced at first that there would not be enough. We started right away leaving sippies of water and cups of cereal around at her reach and that helped. But oh that screaming . . .

Now, a bit of communication difficulty. She went from speaking kembatinga and amharic to not speaking but biting to babbling English sounds to speaking a bit of English. One morning she said a whole string of what I believe is Kembatinga and then laughed. I wish I knew what was so funny! Perhaps that I didn't understand.

Our ongoing (losing) battle with ringworm.

What were unexpected joys?
Oh my. For dh, the day she finally laughed with him was one of the proudest moments of his life. Milestones are very different with toddler adoption, but there are so many to celebrate!!!!

When she's happy, she is the happiest person I've ever known. She can light up a room just by being in it. She is incredibly smart and funny, and remarkably healthy -- she's two sizes bigger than when she came home three months ago. She sings to herself, and has fabulous pitch (thank goodness).

Did you co-sleep? Do you still?
We did at first. One night she just couldn't settle, so we put her in her room and she fell right asleep and slept soundly. I had enjoyed cosleeping with my son, had expected to cosleep for attachment, and advocated for it for others. Now I advocate flexibility!

Did you stick to Ethiopian food?

No. We have an injera basket, though, so for the first month or so she'd look in there and seem a little disappointed. Now she just looks for sweets.

Have they branched out in their tastes?

She loves pizza and "Doduts" unfortunately, yogurt and crackers with peanut butter or cream cheese. First month she ate anything, now she's practicing being picky (right on schedule, really).

As an aside, had I known she'd already had peanut butter (thanks, dh) I wouldn't have enforced that waiting to avoid a potential allergy thing, and served peanut butter (which I now know she loves) to her brother in front of her (see fifty minute tantrums, above).

What really surprised you?

How much she remembers that she can't communicate. Her "happy" memories -- we framed paintings on false banana leaves and when we first got them back she happily chattered away about them. But just last week I tried on one of the embroidered shirts dh brought back for me and she screamed and cried and tried to tear it off of me. Very strong happy and sad responses.

How much this girl loves shoes and shoe shopping!

How pressured I felt to hide the difficulties in order to advocate for toddler adoption. How I hated being a poster family in those first months.

How I already can't imagine my life without her.

Has the attachment gone well?

Very. At first it was a lot of work, and quite stressful for me. I couldn't leave her sight without her breaking into a sweat of panic and breaking down. Then it became hard to separate out "I really need you, Momma" from "I just _want_ to be held" behavior. I'm still not so good at discriminating that, or she's still really good and conflating them, or she just has me wrapped.

How have they bonded with other siblings?
She bonded with her big brother immediately. Her acceptance of me followed from her trust for him. She adores him, and he adores her. She still tries to shove him off my lap, though, and insists that I'm "Me-me Momma" and that he's _her_ beebee. Hoping that she will start to see that there's enough love to go around.

What would you differently?
I need more time with this one. I thought maybe answering these questions would make me realize what I wish I had known. Only if we ever knew how hard things were going to be, we probably wouldn't ever do them. So thank heaven for our lack of foresight.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Some psychiarists posited emotional impact zones of the September 11th massacre, and in some ways I think this is fair. We all experienced it, it brought us all together (if only relatively briefly, and if only until the tragedy became an excuse for other mass murders). The state of Virginia took out a beautiful ad in the New York Times -- VA (hearts) NY that brings tears to my eyes now. But nothing can be done to bridge the difference between the pain and trauma of those near ground zero and those not, or those 15 miles away and those hours away . . .

My husband saw the towers collapse through the window of the hospital he was rotating through (later they would discharge stable patients to make room for survivors who would never come). We couldn't connect after the first phone call, after the first impact made the news (just in time to show the second) -- at that time, it had seemed a horrible accident, a terrible mistake. Our neighbors lost grown children, our church lost members, we lost our fragile sense of security.

To be honest I've avoided any sort of 9/11 remembrance today (and certainly avoided tv). Having been in New York -- having just survived our own personal trauma four months earlier, having just begun to hope that the world could be normal and my son could be safe -- we remember it too freshly still. That, I think, is the hardest part about it having been five years -- that sometimes it could've been just yesterday.

On Behalf of the Adult Miss I.

Some families have recently had success with a search agency in Ethiopia -- they've received photographs and detailed information about their children's lives before coming to the care center. In some cases that information has conflicted with referral information (referral information is only as good as the information given by the person who relinquishes the child), but the families believe the new information to be accurate. They now have to come to terms with what is in some cases a drastically different story than they believed their child's story to be. Miss I.'s story as we've been given it is much more complete than the stories many children have. We have many names, several places, and much sadness.

But I'm saddened for her by the possibility (likelihood) of not knowing any more than we know now; I've lamented the fact that we cannot have an open adoption. Yet are we ready just yet to find out that what we know now might not be quite true? Or, more importantly, can we disrupt her first family's lives like this without their permission?

But how could I tell her we didn't do everything we could have? Someday she will want to search, and before she can, the trail will have gone cold. Maybe it already has.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

We're not all Black

I've been reading "birth project" just for a short while, so I've been trying to go back and catch up. I'm going to need some time to really focus and respond in a more direct way to this post
While I mull, I really want you to read it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I won't feel this way later today, after she fights a nap, or just before she swallows another quarter, but I am struck right now by the extraordinary privilege of the last few moments, when I had my daughter from afar so very near, on my lap, giving her all kinds of smooches on her chubby, chubby cheeks because "Me-me" the "bee-bee" wanted "mwahs."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

We've started to talk about number three. This is not because we're in any way ready for a third, as I barely have a grip on parenting two nor am I over my present baby being the baby (though someone at the grocery store called her a big girl!). But since the whole process takes awhile and requires a whole lot of intentionality -- you can't accidentally adopt -- we're starting to try to imagine starting the process again.

More on this later -- right now it's just backstory to what's really on my mind:
We'd been considering traveling together next time, whether that trip was for a third child or a first family (attempted) visit. Ds would be six, I'd be in the position healthwise (if we planned for it now) to travel, etc. Those were our two biggest concerns.

We are worried about how ds would travel, and how he would worry. This is the child who worried incessantly about death when he was three and decided at four that a good God wouldn't let people be hungry, and would make sure everyone had a home. We're not sure we can prepare him for what he would see and experience, and we certainly can't make sense of it. Dh, considered by many "unflappable," had a difficult time moving forward here knowing what's happening there. This can be a productive stress on an adult, but I really worry about what it would/will do to a sensitive child.

But now we're really worried about Miss I.'s reaction, too. We know she remembers some things, but couldn't possibly know what she was doing with those memories. We know she expects to be hungry again, can't tolerate being thirsty, worries that all large groups of children signify care center. She enjoys looking at the paintings of homes from her region, loves sharing her life book and pictures of the other children and nannies, wants to "talk" about ox carts, wants me to understand the problem with the wild African dogs at the zoo. But she doesn't want me to be any part of it.

I tried on one of the beautiful embroidered shirts dh brought back for me (he brought one for Miss I. as well and she's seen them here before.) As soon as I did, she screamed and sobbed, and tried frantically to rip the shirt off of me. She calmed down soon after I
took it off, but my heart broke for her.

An international adoptee and family friend (home at 4, now 18) says she, too, remembers wanting to be an "All-American girl." But -- and perhaps this is only because of her developmental stage -- Miss I. seemed most concerned that I would no longer be her All-American momma?

And on some level, she's keeping her emotional suitcases packed, as the analogy goes. What if we were to pack our real bags? Someday, an extended trip will be a wonderful thing for all of my children. But not as soon as we'd thought.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Harrowing Moment

I'm thinking through some pretty dense issues right now, and I'll post about them soon (the unwanted attention we receive from strange men; one more reason to never shop at walmart, as if you needed another; knowing that adult tra's are justifiably angry with us; knowing that when my kids are adults I'll have a lot more to answer for than most parents; Miss I's memories, and how we are learning about them without words; trying to balance thinking with being).

But in the meantime, one example of why I can't do any of that while Miss I is awake:
She's babbling on my lap, and I'm distracted for a moment. Then she's quiet, and I hear her cheeks suck in. I turn her around on my lap, look in her open mouth. A flash of silver in the back of her throat, quickly gone. With one hand, I thrust her forward, belly against my other fist, and a quarter drops to the floor. I cry, and ds hugs me: "She's okay, she's okay." She is okay -- she laughs. But I think she's trying to kill me.

Miss I, how I do love you, and how I fear for both of us.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

How's this for emotional unintelligence?

When I've grieved as many things as I have, some blogged and some unblogged, some shared and some forever secret, you'd think I'd get better at the process of grieving. But I've lost something very important to me, and I can't get it back and the hardest part of it is that I can say that I've learned nothing transferable between my losses. Maybe the hardest part is actually realizing that I thought I would have.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

We're All Black

The "I am African" ad campaign has some people (lots of people, really) fired up. Maybe I just can't get fired up about anything right now -- afterall, my only response to the racially segregated Survivor season is that our family won't participate in anything where we can't be on the same team (which in the end has more radical consequences than any complaint I could make - the networks have stopped reading my hate mail).

Maybe it's just ineffective, too close to the ONE campaign, or just downright patronizing as all uses of celebrity utimately are or seem. Maybe they are really racist, suggesting that Africa should matter because of our (whites') primal origins, and not on its own terms.

Maybe it is confounding and confusing, just as we are in our household: when ds had to mix his skin color and name it in school yesterday as part of a unit on self-awareness and family, he painted a warm shade, tested the patch on his skin (a close match, if a little darker) and named it (and himself) "chocolate chip," despite having shared at home that he thinks Miss I. is chocolate and he's cinammon ice cream.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Goodbye to Youth (again)

Ah, vanity.

I hadn't had, or hadn't made, really, time to get my hair cut in a very long time. By the time I was ready to, I had almost enough hair to donate to Locks of Love. So I waited, and tonight I finally got my hair cut.

First it had to be gathered into two ponytails - one ponytail is enough for one wig, and I have a whole lot of hair. Ten inches had to be cut off, just above the elastic. This resulted in a need for layers. He did a great job, but it's going to take me a long time to get used to it, and by then it'll be long again. It's only hair. Still . . .

This morning my very pregnant gynecologist said this is even early for premature perimenopause (which could take ten-fifteen years to be overwith) and that we should consider premature ovarian failure. Since we aren't trying to have another pregnancy . . . she said this as if it wasn't at all startling or upsetting, just a functional issue, so I'm left thinking that it shouldn't be at all startling or upsetting. It's only ovaries . . .

Now that I think about it, maybe I shouldn't have done these two things in one day, my first baby's first day of kindergarten.

(Kindergarten is "wonderful!" "Better than preschool!" And at the end of the day, he wasn't ready to leave).

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Good, Hard Read

I haven't posted specifically about the recent (now just recent-ish) conflict in adoption blogland. Because I know where I'm coming from -- I know where my family comes from and I really think adoption demands that but right now I'm very busily in the throes of parenting a toddler who's throwing tantrums and throwing kisses and lighting us all up (says dh, "I love having two of us," just before trying to agitate her to death) and lighting our world on fire.
But this is a good, hard read.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Okay, I'll bite

We were at an amusement park tonight.

Miss I. gets "nippy" when she gets tired. She looks up into my eyes with the dearest of smiles and what dh calls "glimmering," right before she sinks those big beautiful teeth into some part of my chest. Tonight she LATCHED ON. Sure we could analyze this, but I thought I was going to die.

Later in the evening, Miss I. flashed a smile at a stranger, and those gorgeous dimples appeared. The stranger asked not-innocently (because a.I was smiling and I have no dimples and b.I'm pasty and dh is pastier):
"Did she get those dimples from her mother?"
"Yes," I said. "But not from this one. From her other."
Then I wondered if I shouldn't have taken the bait or given so much up -- if Miss I., when she is older, would rather that I answered differently (a simple "Nope, not me" would have sufficed, I'm sure), in a way that somehow better protects her privacy. And on another night I probably will.
Someday she can answer however she wants. For now I am entrusted with her and with her mothers' claim to her, both valid, both forever.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Oh no they didn't.

Maybe I already blogged about this, but if I did, it's appropriate, since it's about a rerun.
Tonight NBC actually reran the Law and Order SVU episode in which a white couple adopts a black child in order to have him killed for the insurance money.
Oh yes they did.

Now the Big Baby Blues

My big baby begins kindergarten in less than a week, and I am emotionally unprepared for that event. I cried the whole way through parent orientation, I will cry through the brunch, and I will cry uncontrollably next Monday. But hopefully in the car after drop-off.
Off to cry.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Flooding in Ethiopia

You can find news on the flooding in the south of Ethiopia,along with comments from those in the affected areas, here.
Ds said "I'm glad we were able to save our baby." As always, I'm thinking about the families there, hers and otherwise.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


My sister injured her knee very badly during an exercise class. One of my best friends and I are in agreement that this is a very good reason not to exercise.

A breast self-exam is kind of the same thing.

Right around the time of Miss I.'s arrival, I noticed something. I didn't think that something could be really something (or if it was, I thought it was a swollen gland) -- after all, what were the odds? With everything else I already have? Just after the baby finally came home?! But since I'd found it, I decided to ask my doctor. We followed it through my cycles for two months, and it didn't change. And she found another.

Dh had a dream that night. Dh, who never dreams (or never remembers dreaming, which is more likely), dreamt that I left him, and left a message asking when he wanted to meet me to get the kids. I was leaving them too. Since I'm in the middle of reading The Interpretation of Dreams, I was trying to figure out how that could possibly be wishfulfillment and not an anxiety dream (but Wittgenstein argues that Freud's work suffers for his urphanomen, and I can't argue with that). Dh couldn't decide if it was a dream about breast cancer or about my supreme frustration of late, but either way, he was mad at me. Even after he woke up.

Radiology at our women's hospital also takes the possibility of breast cancer in a young (not that I feel young) woman seriously, and they squeezed me in right away to squeeze me. The radiologist did the exam himself. He asked if I'd found the lump myself: "During a self-exam? No one does those things."

I did, and I found something, and I'm fine.

On the one hand, the possibility of false alarm - or, if you're avoidant like me, of a real alarm - seems like a good reason not to do a breast self-exam. On the other hand, it isn't better not to know.

I'm Back - Sort of.

Our computer overheated. So we let it rest for awhile. When we tried to restart it, it sparked. So we have a new one on the way, and have finally managed to get my laptop to stay connected to the web. I'll catch up soon, both on your lives and mine.

While I was away, I learned/really learned a couple of things.

I adore my children, and now that I've accepted that they are driving me crazy I can see my way to becoming sane again. So thank you for all of your support, encouragement and love.
Here are three parts to my plan:
- housecleaner (two candidates sound like good possibilities, one afternoon per week, very reasonable)
- yoga
- cutting back on caffeine (again)
but here's the thing: heavy drinking might be safer for you.

I also discovered something else: my children behave perfectly (no screaming in the car! no tantrums at bedtime!) when we stay at their grandparents. So from now on, perhaps we'll spend every weekend with their grandparents.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Decisions, decisions

.0There's a guy on the internet who is allowing his entire life (which shirt? Iced tea or lemonade?) to be made by his readership for an entire year. His reasoning? It can't be any worse than the choices he's made.

So now that I've really realized that I really can't do it all, and that it doesn't make sense for my husband to give up a physician's earning potential to do the kid's laundry or grocery shop with me, I'm faced with a decision:

Hire someone to clean the house or hire a mother's helper for 4-6 hours per week. (The latter would not mean handing over caregiving responsibilities for Miss I. in any way.)

What the heck, I'll let you decide. This week only. I'll count votes from those of you who email me rather than commenting too. I just need to get motivated to get it done.

*Thanks, ladies. Right now, votes are nearly all for someone to clean, though I like Gawdessness's fantasy - I saw a "personal concierge" advertising for work - she said she'd do anything I hate to do/don't have time to do . . .

Saturday, August 12, 2006


I put her in the hip carrier and ignored her til she passed out. This did not make her happy, but it did get her to sleep, without making her feel abandoned.

But my heart is still breaking - or broken.
I should be doing better than this.

Guilt and More Guilt

It's 10:30 pm. Trying and failing to get her to bed for more than two hours. (Dh is working).

Lost my cool. Cried in front of my kids. Freaked one out, amused the other (guess which was which?).

Can't. do. it.

At least not today.

Does that make me ungrateful?

Am I the only one plagued with guilt about not being grateful enough every time I'm (beyond) frustrated with my daughter? Guilty because I should love her without limits (which would look like not getting frustrated). Guilty because this is what I wanted for so long (and I should love every minute of it). Guilty because she's already had a hard enough life (and she shouldn't have a crazy mother). Guilty because I don't remember being this frustrated with my son (but this doesn't mean I wasn't - though in truth, she is objectively more of a button-pusher than he is, for good reasons, I'm sure). Guilty because families are still waiting for their children, and would give anything to be in my position (they think).

Guiltier because prior to the last eight weeks, my son honestly believed I could do anything. Now he knows that I can't, and it scares him.

Guiltiest because I'm sure her first mother would have done anything just for the chance to be frustrated with her, if only for just one long night, two hours past what is ultimately an arbitrary bedtime anyway.

Damn the attachment people for making me feel like only a bad mother would let a toddler cry it out.

Just once.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Potty Words

Miss I. had joined the potty line-up in Ethiopia, but hadn't successfully trained (she was 17 mos!)
But now she's been interested in using her potty chair here. Today she wanted to stay on it pretending to go for what seemed like forever, occassioning the following sentence from ds:
"Miss I., ca-ca or keum [stop] the po-po!"

Saturday, August 05, 2006

My Children the Fish

Today, no bellyaching. Really! We took the kids to a waterpark, enjoyed the sun and the splashing, and felt really normal. I wasn't ready for ds to swim so far out in the wave pool ("You think you can do all these things, Nemo, but you can't!") and I survived Miss I.'s first yellow jacket sting, which gave her no more than a moment's irritation - she was fine by the lazy river - but nearly gave me a heart attack and made me cry ("I promised her I'd never let anything happen to her!" "Well, that's a dumb thing to promise").

I love my amazing, frustrating, brave, crazy, loud, independent, needy children. I really do. Back to nearly-regularly scheduled bellyaching tomorrow, I'm sure.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Something Blue?

So I just read (as many of you probably have too) that there's a new wedding fashion - post-wedding blues. Apparently, more and more brides who've spent a whole year as the center of attention/the universe are suffering from the let-down that is the reality of the marriage, post-party.

I am a little ashamed to say that I laughed.

Ashamed because I should recognize this as a legitimate adjustment disorder. But I laughed because I did plan less for the day (though it was lovely and just as I'd want it to be) than I did for the day after, and the day after that. Even then, it just seemed sensible to worry more about the marriage than the wedding.

But I have experienced the parenting parallel, twice. After the drama/trauma of my pregnancy and delivery, I was physically too tired to parent, ready to slip away. My son was safe. I had done my job. Hadn't I? But then the real work began.

Now, after the heroic efforts it took to become parents to a second child, I'm emotionally exhausted. I'm physically exhausted, too - it'll be a long time before we no longer feel sleep-deprived. But more than anything, I feel like we did the hard work, and now we need a break. But wait: Our 18 month old is behaving developmentally appropriately! She's trying to become independent! She's challenging me! Waiting for a baby was all about ME! But now it's all about Miss I.! And I don't have the emotional reserves I'd like to have. I find myself, at the center of the drama of my own making, saying things like "Well, but I asked for this," after every expression of frustration (which other parents can make with impunity).

This is all just a matter of adjustment for me and thankfully not Post-adoption depression. But maybe I should be more generous towards Bridezillas with the blues.