Saturday, October 31, 2009

If at first you don't succeed . . .

Recently, I opened Cameron's school bag and found this drawing.  "Cameron, what's this?" I asked.  I was pretty sure it was either the Death Star or some kind of Jedi fight scene or maybe a Lego Power Miners.

"Oh, that's my plan for the sand box," Cameron answered.

For weeks, Cameron has been reporting on the progress of The Great Sand Box Dig.  He and his friends have been foiled by rain, by girls stepping on their tunnels, by youngest groupers dumping sand in precisely constructed ditches.  But they don't let it get them down.  They keep digging.  Because as you can plainly see in the below diagram, it's gonna be really cool.  I'm talking tunnels and trenches and holes that reach the center of the earth kind of cool.

Cameron carefully explained the plan to me and then pointed to the red squiggles at the top of the page.  "See these?  These are two of the classrooms.  Not MY classroom, the other classrooms.  And they're red because they're on fire."

He said this very casually, which I found that much more disturbing.  After some discussion, this element of the plan seems to merely be a flair for the dramatic rather than a cry for help or a need to contact the school psychologist.  I mean, when you spend most of your time drawing Star Wars scenes, you need something to spice up a boring-looking plan.  Additionally, fire gives the tunnel system purpose.  I mean, let's say the classrooms are on fire and you flee to the playground?  Wouldn't you be glad that someone had planned ahead and dug escape tunnels to the center of the earth for you?

A few days later, I opened Cameron's school bag again and found this drawing.  "Cameron, what's this?"

Cameron gave a heavy sigh.  "Well, the sand box plan hasn't been going too good," he said.  "I had to come up with a Plan B."

This time, he's keeping it simple.  Cut-and-dry.  No fire, no drama, just a few simple tunnels and your run of the mill hole to the center of the earth.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Aced that one!

Yesterday, Cameron was telling me about a reading test he took on the computer.  At first, I thought he was talking about a reading comprehension test.  "Which book was it, Cameron?" I asked. 

"No," replied Cameron.  "It wasn't one of those kinds of tests!  It wasn't about a book!  It was like a fill-in-the-blank kind of test.  There would be a sentence, like maybe, 'My mom took me on a ---- ride.'  And then there would be choices and you had to pick the right word.  Like, let's say choice A was 'bicycle.' Then you have to think, does that make sense?  'My mom took my on a bicycle ride?'  No!  That's not the right answer because, of course, it is daddy who takes me on bicycle rides!"

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable #8

So, there are a lot of people who blog about adoption.  And in particular, there are a bunch of open adoption bloggers who participate in a roundtable -- each blogging in response to a specific question.  I've wanted to participate for a long time, but each time the question is sent out it seems that I don't find the time or I don't really know how to answer the question.  You see, our adoption is not as open as many of the other bloggers, and not as open as I would like it to be.  So, sometimes, I don't feel like our semi-open adoption has given me the experience or insight needed to respond to the roundtable questions. But this time, when I read the question, I knew my answer immediately. "Write about a blogger (or bloggers) who influenced your real-life open adoption, and how."

When we first adopted Matthew, I think I had this idea in my head that other families who had chosen to adopt transracially would automatically have a lot in common with us.  I couldn't wait to meet other families like ours, and I assumed that those families would be like ours in more ways than just being a transracial adoptive family.  It was a bit of a surprise, then, to start to realize that there are lots and lots and lots of different kinds of people who adopt transracially and that some of them feel very differently than I do about issues involving race and adoption. 

Slowly, over time, I've built up a wonderful group of friends who have also adopted transracially.  I love to talk with these women, to listen to their stories, to learn from their experience and I love to see our kids playing together!  But before I found them, I found Dawn.  What first attracted me to Dawn's blog was that, like me, she has an older, biological child and a younger child who joined their family through transracial domestic adoption.  But the more I read of Dawn's blog, the more reassured I was that there were other families out there that were really like ours -- families who want their child's first family to be a part of their life, parents who think it is important to talk about race and fight against racism, parents who acknowledge that adoption involves grief and loss, parents who think critically about the ethics of adoption.  And Dawn made me think even more deeply about these things.  You see, Dawn's youngest daughter is several years older than Matthew.  When I read about her questions, when I see Dawn's responses to her, it helps me think not just about what we're doing now for Matthew, but what's coming.  Through Dawn, I've come to realize that I've made mistakes and I'll probably keep making them -- every parent does.  But by being open and honest and by acknowledging when I don't handle things the right way, I hope that Matthew and I can have the kind of relationship that I see between Dawn and her daughter. 

Dawn was like a support group for me before I built up my own real-life support group -- although I don't think she's aware that she is or ever was my support group!  I so appreciate that there are bloggers like Dawn, who are willing to share their experiences and to challenge me to be an even better parent.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


The other evening, the kids were sitting at the table eating a snack that David had made for them.  From another room, I suddenly heard Matthew screech, "HELP!  HELP!  I'm stuck!"

"Mommy, come help!  Quick!" shouted Cameron.  "Matthew really needs your help!  He's stuck!"

As I raced to the kids, I yelled, "Stuck?  Where's he stuck?"

"In a huge cobweb!" answered Cameron.  Being a wee-bit arachnophobic, this was about the last thing I wanted to hear Matthew was stuck in.  Although, in fairness, there are few answers to the question "Where's he stuck?" that would be good answers.

As I rushed in to the kitchen, there sat Matthew, hands covered in a web of sticky marshmallow from the S'more David had made him!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Guess I Can Cancel the Megaphone Order

Cameron attends a Montessori school and I'm a big fan of their teaching methods.  I love that Cameron is learning independence, I love that he is able to both follow his own interests and be challenged, I love that he is in an environment that values respect, creativity and responsibility.  I have observed Cameron's class many time and have tried to apply many of the techniques at home.  And at Cameron's recent birthday party, I resorted to a technique his teachers use without even thinking about it.

Cameron, four of his Montessori classmates and two neighborhood friends gathered to celebrate Cameron's birthday and to have a LOT of fun with Legos.  At one point, the party was getting a little rowdy and I was trying unsuccessfully to get the boys' attention.  On a whim, I clapped my hands *clap clap clapclapclap*  Immediately, instantaneously, the five Montessori kids stopped what they were doing, turned to me and clapped back *clap clap clapclapclap*  And the other two kids stopped what they were doing to stare and wonder, " What was THAT about?"


A few nights ago, during dinner, Matthew held up his arm and observed it.  "Brown," he announced. "My skin is brown."  He looked over to me and asked, "Your skin is brown?"

And so it begins.  We read Matthew lots of books about adoption, about family and about skin color.  We tell him his adoption story and talk about his first family and how much they love him. But I'm pretty sure this is the first time that he's broached the topic himself. 

"Yes, Matthew, your skin is brown.  My skin is not brown, my skin is peachy.  Do you know who else has beautiful brown skin like yours?"


"J.  Do you know who J. is?"  (Note:  Matthew's story is his own, so I'm not going to be sharing his first family's names or details of his story here.)

Matthew thought for a moment, studying his arm, then smiled.  "J. is birf mama!"

"That's right!" I reply.  "J. is your birth mama!  And her skin is a beautiful chocolate brown color, just like yours is!" 

It's a pretty easy conversation to have right now -- pretty simple question, pretty simple answer.  But each time I tell Matthew his story or each time Cameron asks a question about adoption (typically a more challenging question!) or each time a curious preschooler wonders why Matthew doesn't look like me is training for the more in-depth questions and conversations to come.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Not a Fan of Fringe

When Cameron was about 2 1/2 years old, he took a pair of kiddie scissors to his PJs.  Apparently, they needed to be livened up with some fringe on the sleeves.

This morning, Matthew came to me with a look of bewilderment on his face.  He held up his arms, then pointed to one sleeve.  (Yes, he's wearing the cut up PJs.  They are still plenty warm!)  "Look, Mama," said Matthew.  "Somebody cut my PJs!"

"Yes," I agreed.  "Someone did cut your PJs.  Those were Cameron's PJs when he was a little boy.  Do you know who cut them?"

Suddenly, comprehension dawned on Matthew's face.  "Mr. Charlie cut my PJs," he answered.  No matter how much I insisted that Cameron, not Mr. Charlie the barber, was at fault, Matthew was convinced.  "Yes, mama," he said.  "Mr. Charlie cut my hair.  Mr. Charlie cut my PJs."

I have a feeling Mr. Charlie is going to get an earful at Matthew's next haircut.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I Couldn't Believe My Third Eye

This morning, the boys were running wild as I was trying to make lunch.  "Please," I begged, "settle down!"

To my astonishment, Cameron stopped running and said to Matthew, "Try this Matthew.  Sit on the floor criss-cross-applesauce.  Then put the backs on your hands on your knees."  Matthew attempted to imitate Cameron.  "Now close your eyes and breathe iiinnnn through your nose and oouuuttt through your mouth.  Now isn't that relaxing?  We do this at Tae Kwan Do.  It's called meditation."

One Foot in the Grave

This morning, Cameron walked in as I was putting on some makeup.  "Oooh," he noted.  "That makes your cheeks look nice and red.  That makes you look younger."

I don't know what possessed me, but I asked, "Do you think I'm a young mom or an old mom?"

"Oh, you're a VERY old mom!" answered Cameron earnestly.  "You're even older than Daddy!"

"Do you think I'm older or younger than your friends' moms?" I asked.

"Well, I think some of their moms are even OLDER than you!" he said, his voice filled with disbelief that there could be mothers older than I.

"How can you tell how old someone is?" I persisted.

"Well," he explained.  "If a mom isn't wearing makeup and she's old, her face is kind of smooshy and crackly.  Good thing you wear makeup, huh?"

He's Got the Look

Cameron has never cared much about what he wears.  Oh, sure, occasionally he would spot some particularly appealing item of clothing -- a Stars Wars Lego t-shirt, for instance -- and beg that it be purchased.  But for the most part, he's as happy wearing plaid shorts and a Hawaiian shirt as he is wearing a nice pair of khakis and a polo shirt.

Matthew, on the other hand, seems to have an opinion on his wardrobe.  It started a few months ago, when he snatched a pair of Crocs off the shelf as we passed by.  "These MATTHEW'S shoes," he declared.  "I want dese.  Dese my shoes."  He clutched them protectively all the way to the checkout, where the cashier has to assist me in prying them from his grip long enough to scan them.

Then, yesterday, we went to buy Matthew some new pants, of which he is in dire need since I apparently gave away or donated the 2T winter wear prematurely.  As I picked up some cheap jeans and clearance rack t-shirts, Matthew pointed to a pair of gray pants on a nearby rack.  "Those ones," he said.  "Those my pants, Mama.  I want those pants." 

I picked up the pair of pants and held them up.  "These ones, Matthew?"

"Yes, those ones."  Then he pointed to a shirt.  "Wit dat shirt.  Dat's da shirt I want.  Those Matthew's pants, Matthew's shirt."  He was absolutely beside himself with excitement when I handed him his selections.

When we picked Cameron up from school a little later, Matthew breathlessly told him of his new clothes.  "Did you get me anything?" Cameron asked.

"Yes," I said.  "I got you these two shirts."

"Oh," said Cameron with disappointment.  "Just clothes?"

Just clothes.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Three Boys

This weekend, our good friends Jess and Pat and their baby came to visit us.  On Saturday evening, Jess and Pat would be going to a wedding and we'd be seeing how well we manage three boys.  (Verdict:  Two boys are easier than three boys.  Although to be fair, the baby was not the challenge.) 

During the day, Jess and Pat had several errands to run.  As the evening grew closer and they still weren't back, I said to David, "I'm surprised they aren't back yet!  I wonder what time the wedding starts."

Cameron piped up.  "Yep,  They've obviously been caught by the police or something!"

Fortunately, they had not been apprehended and in fact arrived at our house shortly thereafter.  Matthew was thrilled that the baby would be spending the evening with us, as he found this tiny creature fascinating.  "Look, Mama!  Baby has a belly!  Look, Mama!  Baby has ears!  Look, Mama!  Baby has a nose!"  But then, the baby grinned a gummy smile and drooled.  "EEEEWWWWWWW!!!" shrieked Matthew.  "Baby just . . . just kinda . . . spit . . . or someting!"  Matthew was horrified by this behavior but before too long the baby had won him back by rolling over and babbling.

On Sunday morning, the boys lurked near the guest room, reporting on their observations.  "I hear da baby!  He's crying!  Ohhh, he wants his mama."  After a while, it became too much to bear and Matthew begged us to go in their room.

"No Matthew," said David.  "We need to give them their privacy."

Matthew pointed authoritatively at the bathroom and said, with great frustration, "They not IN the privacy, Daddy!"

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tastes Like Good

The boys and I baked French Puff muffins this morning, to Matthew's great excitement.  "I be your helper Mama!  I be your HEEELLLLPPPEERRR!" he screeched as I measured out the dairy-free margarine. 

"Okay, Matthew," I said.  "You can help me measure the sugar. No, no, we don't put our hands in the food!"

Matthew required several reminders not to put his hands in the bowl.  And then, after turning away for a moment only to find Matthew's face covered in flour, it occurred to me that I needed to explain that faces shouldn't go in the food either.  I didn't tell him that if he was going to put his face in something, I'd choose the sugar over the flour myself.

Then I explained that, although a clever way around the stated rules, a new rule was that measuring cups should not be used to bring the food to you.

But it was worth it all in the end -- look at those smiles!  As Matthew said, upon trying his hot-from-the-oven muffin, "Mmmmm.  Tastes like good."