Thursday, April 29, 2010

I Had a Dream

Not like an "I Have a Dream" dream, more like a "How Screwed Up is My Subconscious Mind?" kind of dream.  In it, David and I decided to take Cameron to see a movie, which is weird to begin with because Cameron does not have much interest in seeing movies.  You would think we'd take him to "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" or something, but, no.  We took him to a remake of  "Jaws."  This is a kid who gets scared during previews of Disney movies.  We sat him by himself in the middle of the theatre and we went to sit in the back.  As the movie began, it suddenly occurred to me that this was Not a Good Idea.  I rushed to get Cameron and hurried him out of the theatre.

We exited the theatre into what appeared to be a mall food court.  And this, my friends, is where my subconscious decided I had left my 2-year-old.  Yes, my food-allergic 2-year-old.  Alone in the food court.  I spotted him near a table, eating a muffin.  "Oh no!" I thought.  "Milk and eggs!  And maybe peanuts!"

I rushed towards him and he said, "It's okay, mama.  I asked if I could eat it."  This, you see, is one of our food allergy safety rules.  And even my subconscious loves rules. Matthew pointed at a stranger.  "He said I could eat it." 

I tried to grab the muffin out of Matthew's hand, but he took off running.  Still clutching the muffin, he scampered onto a down escalator with me in pursuit.  As I reached the escalator, I noticed that it descended into a long, dark tunnel of rock.  And above the escalator?  Why, there was a sign that read "Escalator to the Center of the Earth."

My subconscious scares me.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In Which My Children are Sweet and Innocent

"Matthew, do you like sharing a room with Cameron?"

Matthew nods "yes" vigorously then looks up at me with concern.  "Mama, I so, so sorry that you don't have a bunk bed.  Maybe we can buy you one at the store."

We took a walk around the neighborhood last night and Cameron spotted some cans underneath a big pine tree.  He gasped.  "Someone LITTERED!  We should get those cans and recycle them."  He crawled underneath the branches and retrieved severals cans of Miller and Bud Lite.  "Eww!  There's still soda in some of these!"

"Cameron," I explained, "that's beer.  I think probably some kids who are not old enough to drink alcohol were out here drinking that beer, and they threw the cans under the tree to hide them."

Cameron shook his head sadly.  "What a shame that some people don't behave responsibly," he said.

Brothers at the Park

The boys and I hit the park today, where we ran into one of Cameron's school friends.  I'll refer to him as Takashi.  Takashi has met Matthew many times but today, after greeting both boys enthusiastically, he stared at Matthew quizzically.  Then he turned to me and said, "Is Matthew . . . is Matthew . . ."  English is Takashi's second language so I waited as he searched for the right words.  "Is Matthew . . . a REAL brother for Cameron?"

"Yes," I said.  "Cameron and Matthew are real brothers.  I think you are asking why Cameron and Matthew look different.  They are real brothers but they look different because we adopted Matthew.  Do you know what adoption is?"

"Noooo," answered Takashi.

"That means that Matthew didn't grow in my belly," I started.

But before I could finish Matthew jumped in.  "I grew in J's belly," he said authoritatively.

"Matthew grew in another mommy's belly," I agreed.  "Her name is J.  And Matthew looks a lot like her.  And after Matthew was born, he came home with us to be a part of our family."

"Oh!" said Takashi, still looked a bit bewildered.  But Matthew was grinning ear to ear.

A while later another mom said to me, "How old is he?"

"He's 2 1/2," I responded.

"Wow!" she said.  "He's so coordinated!  I've been watching him and he can do everything the big kids do!"  Then she pointed to Cameron.  "Is that his big brother?"

"Yes," I said.

"That must be it.  Big brothers always teach little brothers how to do stuff!"

At this, Matthew marched forward and pointed towards Cameron.  "THAT'S my big brother.  His name is Cameron," he said.

"Oh, his name is Cameron?" said the woman kindly.  "I could tell he's your brother.  You look just like brothers, the way you were chasing each other around and playing together."

I thought it was a lovely way for her to acknowledge that Cameron and Matthew are real brothers in so many important ways.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Visit from Debbie

I haven't posted in a while, I know.  The thing is this:  Matthew is two.  I'm spending inordinate amounts of time setting the timer for timeouts and taking away his tricycle and toys.  Sadly, I have yet to discover his currency.  He has figured out that calling me names ("You're a poo poo!" and "You're not a big boy!" were his go-to taunts) just got him a longer time out, so now he shouts from time out, "You're a MOMMY!" in a tone that makes it clear that this is no compliment.  The one thing that keeps him out of trouble is to keep him constantly, endlessly active which is . . . well . . . sort of exhausting. 

Enter my best friend, Debbie. 

Debbie visited from New York City this past weekend and, it turns out, she has endless energy as well.  The boys LOVE her.
Our weekend together was fantastic and we're all missing her terribly. Debbie, Matthew wants you to know that he thinks you're DA BEST.  And me?  I'm Mommy.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cameron Lets 'Em Down Easy

Cameron just relayed a story to me over dinner which apparently occured some months ago, but went unreported to me.

"Remember how I told you that Radhika broke my sunglasses?" he said casually.

"Uhhhh, yeah, I think I remember that," I replied.

"Well, she used to be my friend but then she started being mean to me.  It all started because she wanted me to be her boyfriend."

"Reeeaaallly," I said.

"Yeah, and I said, 'Well, I'm your friend but I'm not your boyfriend.  Plus, I think it is a little too young to be boyfriends and girlfriends.' And then she ripped my sunglasses off my face and threw them on the ground!"

Transracial Adoption Playgroup and Bookclub

I'm going to depart from my usual format briefly.  I read a lot of adoption-related blogs and recently saw a blogger mention that she was considering starting a transracial adoption support group.  I left a comment but wanted to blog about it myself, too.  I don't know how many adoptive parents read my blog, but in case you're out there, I wanted to write about a group that a friend and I started last fall. 

When I met this friend, whom I'll refer to as "Janice," we immediately bonded.  She was the first real friend I made who had also adopted an African American child.  It was such a relief to be able to talk openly about our families, to understand each other's stories, hopes and worries without all of the explanation that usually is required!  Before too long, we had each met a few other moms like us and Janice and I started talking about how much fun it would be to get all the kids together.  But if you've ever been a part of a playgroup, you know that conversations go something like this:  "Hey, Janice, did you watch . . . Matthew!  Matthew, no! . . . just a minute . . . Don't put that in your mouth!  Eww, yucky!" and by the time you try to finish your conversation with Janice, you've forgotten what you were talking about and she's busy redirecting her child away from that one toy that every kid has decided they want to play with.  At the same time. It's not exactly a social opportunity for the parents.  So, we started thinking that we needed a group for the grown ups, too.

As a result, we started a transracial adoption playgroup and bookclub.  I think I speak for all of the families involved when I say it has been wonderful in more ways than I could ever have imagined.  Here's how ours works.

We meet once a month with the kids for a playdate -- a park in nice weather, one of our homes during the colder months.  We also meet once a month, grown ups only, for a bookclub.  We choose the books together and they are typically about transracial adoption or race or parenting.  Thus far, it has always been the moms who meet and those women have grown to be my good friends.  We discuss our book, but we also share our triumphs and challenges, adoption-related and just general life kind of stuff. 

Here's some of the things we did that I think have contributed to our success:
  • We kept the group small enough -- 6 families with 11 kids -- that we all have gotten to know each other.
  • We all have the same "kind" of adoption -- domestic adoptions of African American children.
  • Our kids are all fairly close in range -- lots of preschoolers, with a few babies and slightly older kids.
  • We're all super awesome.
Aside from the last item, I think you could have a really successful group that looked totally different than ours -- a large group with kids of all ages, or a group with different kinds of adoptions for example.  The awesomeness is crucial, however.
It's been such a fulfilling experience to get to know these other women, and it's been so much fun to see our kids play together.  I love to imagine them all, years from now -- our kids growing up knowing each other, knowing that they aren't the only black kid with a white family, being able to talk to each other about their unique challenges.  I feel so lucky to be a part of this group and just wanted to encourage anyone out there who is considering starting a similar group to do it!

Oh, and one more cool thing about playgroup?   The chance to play with other people's toys.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Big and Little

As the weather warmed up, we pulled out Cameron's old tricycle for Matthew to try.  Alas, he was still too short and was unable to reach the pedals.  "Oh well, maybe by the end of the summer," I said.  But Matthew would have none of it.  He is a Big Boy now, and he would find a way to ride the tricycle.  And, incredibly, he did.  He sits way forward, more on the bar then the seat, and leans back and forth as he pedals but the boy can MOVE!
With Cameron we have the opposite problem.  We pulled out his bike and he's way too big for it!  He's making due with a loaner from a friend at the moment.  Not only has he grown in height, but we discovered that last year's helmet didn't fit either!  He tried mine on and either he has a very large head or I have a very small one because it fit perfectly!
While most of our biking involves me chasing Matthew up and down the block, we have hit the bike trail once and I'm hoping we put on some miles this summer!

Fun with Friends and Fairies

After a weekend of visiting with our families in Michigan, we met up with some old college friends and their kids in Ann Arbor.  We were participating in our first Volkssporting event -- the 5K Fairywalk.  Five grown ups and six kids, on a mission to find the tiny fairy doors hidden throughout the city. 
The fairy doors were cool, but what was cooler for the boys was that they made some new friends.  Alex and Cameron walked together the entire time, chatting away about Legos.  No one complained about sore feet, no one whined that they couldn't go on, no one begged for snacks, no one even complained about the brief rain shower -- they were too busy comparing notes on the merits of Lego Aquaraider as compared to Lego Atlantis.

Matthew also found a companion in Jameson.  Matthew rode in the stroller for perhaps 1K and spent the rest of the time running, jumping and laughing with his funny new pal.

This meant that we grown-ups, between screaming "STOP!" and patching up various injuries, had time to catch up on what we've all been up to and how old we've gotten.

At one point, we herded all the children down an alley to take a group photo with the graffiti, which was really cool until Cameron said, "What does this say?, 'For a good ffff . . .' " and I shouted, "NOOOOO!  Don't read that!" to Cameron's shock.  I'm pretty sure it's the first time I've ever told him NOT to read something.

The walk was amazing and we are already planning to make it up to Ann Arbor for next year's event.  The best part though?  When the walk was done and we got in the car for the looooong drive home, Matthew was asleep in one block.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Developmentally Appropriate

Matthew has begun testing out some charming, developmentally appropriate (I keep repeating that phrase to myself over and over, "developmentally appropriate.") new tricks.  He'll take something that clearly belongs to Cameron -- his bear, Henri, for example -- and say, "Dis is MY bear.  Dis is my bear forever and ever and ever!"  Cameron, in the tradition of oldest siblings everywhere, then screams, "No!  Mommy!  Matthew says that Henri is his bear!  He's MY bear!"

Or one of us will say, "I love you Matthew!" and he'll reply with a sweet smile, "I don't love you."  Well, actually, he tried that a few times before I taught him that there are two acceptable responses to "I love you," and they are "I love you, too" or "Thank you."  So now he says, "I don't love you.  Oops!  I mean I DO love you."

Yesterday, Matthew tried out a new one.  At the lunch table he smiled and said, "Mama loves me." 

"Yes, I love you, Matthew," I answered.

"Daddy loves me," he continued.  "And Cameron?  Cameron does NOT love me."

Now, if there is one thing that Cameron is clear on it is that he loves Matthew, in his words, "more than my heart can hold."  So when Matthew declared that Cameron does not love him, Cameron looked devastated.  "Matthew," he said softly, "I DO love you.  I love you from the bottom of my heart.  You're my brother."

"Oh," said Matthew.  "OK!"

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gross is Good

We had a wonderful Easter weekend and are now enjoying spring break.  Yesterday, I took the boys to the museum to see the Grossology exhibit. 

I dressed them in matching t-shirts, figuring it would be easier to keep track of them that way.  Then I had this sudden vision of losing track of one of the boys and approaching a security guard.  "I've lost one of my kids," I'd say.  Then I'd point at the remaining boy, "He looks nothing like this one, but is wearing the same shirt."  Luckily, I did not lose either boy the whole day although I did at one point chase Matthew under a chain with a "CLOSED" sign and up a staircase.  Ah well, these things happen.  Right?

The whole museum was fantastic, but the Grossology exhibit, as expected, was a big hit.  The boys pretended to be sucked into a nostil.  "Hold on to the septum for dear life!"
They climbed into an open mouth, slid down the esophagus and rolled around in the stomach for a bit, digesting. 
 I expected it would be hours before I'd see them again -- those intestines are miles long, for goodness sake! -- but apparently the exhibit had had some radical surgery and the stomach emptied directly into the rectum.  Yes, I said rectum.  The boys gleefully climbed through the tunnel crowing, "Now we're poop!"
It didn't get any classier from there either.  But, boy, was it fun!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Big Boy Negotiations

Yesterday, a day the boys had been eagerly awaiting finally arrived:  the day they would share a room and get a BUNK BED!!!  We've been talking it up for weeks, hoping that enough pre-big boy bed enthusiasm would make for an easy transition.  This worked magnificently until it was time to actually go to bed -- posing for photos in the bunk bed, climbing the ladder, admiring the sophisticated robot bedding ("Look!  The other side is gray with squares on it!  We can CHOOSE which side we want!") was a whole lot different than actually, say, sleeping in the bunk bed.  At least for Matthew.  Very sweetly, Cameron presented Matthew with Henri, his beloved bear, to make him more comfortable for his first night in a big boy bed.  This, to my grave disappointment, was not enough.  After about two hours of book reading and light dimming and increasingly less patient encouragement from me, the little guy big boy was finally asleep and I creakily stood up to find that, despite the racket, Cameron was fast asleep in the top bunk.  Success!

Matthew was up three times during the night, sobbing, "I don't want a bunk bed any more!" I did a lot of hand holding and back rubbing.  Cameron slept through the first two episodes, but sat up cheerily during the 5am round and said, "Hi mommy!  It's morning!" 

"It's five in the morning," I corrected.  "Go back to sleep."

"Then why are the birds chirping?" he asked.

"Birds wake up early.  Go back to sleep."

David slept through all of this leading me to think that the moniker "that man that I live with who helps me take care of my kids sometimes" might actually be appropriate for the late night hours.  As I comforted Matthew he said, "I need a snack."

"It's night time," I replied.  "You can have a snack in the morning."

"Something vvveeerrrryyy special?" he asked.

"If you sleep in your big boy bed all night, all the way until 7am, then you will have a very special snack tomorrow," I gave in.  I was thinking a couple of chocolate chips, but Matthew knew this was a big opportunity. 

"A big boy cake?" he said, to my surprise.

And thus, he was convinced to stay in bed until the morning.  I awoke to the sound of two little big boys running down the hallway.  "Let's see the Big Boy Cake!" cried Cameron.  Apparently, they figured that I would have gone straight to the kitchen at 5am so the cake would be fresh from the oven when they woke up.  Sadly, they were forced to wait HOURS for the cake to be done.  "With sprinkles," instructed Matthew when the cake was finally ready.  "A Big Boy Cake with sprinkles."

Here's hoping night two in the big boy bed is a little easier on mama.