Friday, July 30, 2010

Things that go bump in the night

AwesomeCloud isn't verbal enough yet, and he doesn't seem to be afraid at night, but if he ever gets to the point where he complains about the monster under his bed, we have a ready answer.

Oh, and did I mention?

Toddler bed!

We got it from Craigslist for $30. I've looked at the plastic beds shaped like cars and trains and decided I would absolutely insist on a wooden bed. It fits a regular crib mattress, which we have already, but it's still being used in the crib. So I figured I'd fold up some of our many comforters (we don't have storage space for them all anyway) and make a mattress-like surface that AwesomeCloud can practice sleeping on. So far he loves it. But he hasn't practiced sleeping very much yet. Mostly, he's practiced looking out the window and fiddling with the shade strings.

And while I'm showing off pictures, here is the very fist photo AwesomeCloud has ever taken. It was the ol' "Hand the toddler the camera and let him loose" technique.

This photo was taken at a lake in Jaffrey, NH, where our friends have a summer home. It is of our friend Rachel's legs and his Daddy's elbow.

There were more pictures, primarily of grass, but this was the first and the best.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Speech! Speech!

Today, AwesomeCloud kicked butt in speech therapy. He's learning to perform for prizes - a difficult concept for him, since we don't practice bribery at home, but it's starting to sink in. He's really into the musical games, and he's starting to memorize them. I don't have much of a musical games repertoire. Just "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "Five Little Ducks," and that's it. I had forgotten completely about "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes." That's a good one.

His receptive vocabulary grows and grows, but his spoken vocabulary is still quite small, and consists of the same small handful of syllables as it did months ago. I can now get him to make the "ch" sound, but not in any words.

He is still a nonstop bundle of energy, even on sweltering days. There has been quite a bit of scenes like this one: me sprawled out on the couch, panting and groaning, and him running around the room in circles and dropping books on my chest.

Fortunately, he loves to go shopping, so we take advantage of the public A/C early and often.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fat mama

Last summer I lamented to someone that I was stress-eating like crazy while waiting for my LOSC/TA/CA. (These are acronyms for various stages of paperwork.) I can't remember who it was - I made that lament a lot - but they assured me that I'd lose the pounds quickly after AwesomeCloud came home, because I'd be chasing him around so much.

Didn't happen.

He didn't walk until January - that's five months after we adopted him. And then, he was cautious and timid. And I continued to stress-eat.

I'm not one of the unfortunate many who have an infuriatingly slow metabolism and can't lose weight no matter how little they eat. My metabolism is definitely in the 'manageable' range. It's quite responsive to the amount of eating and/or exercise I do. I have to work very hard to get results, but if I do the work, I get the results. And if I eat too much and exercise too little, I gain about as much weight as the experts predict I will.

So I know my weight gain is directly due to my habits. Have I changed my habits? Not much. I do a few things to mitigate the amount of weight I gain, like drink water, or add veggies to everything I cook. But then I eat a big heaping bowl of ice cream. So while I can mitigate the gain, I can't seem to stop it, or to actually lose any weight.

Likewise with the exercise. I try to dance a little every day, but it's hard. It's hot, I'm lethargic, and until now I accomplished little by chasing ol' Too-Timid AwesomeCloud five steps this way and three steps that way. More often I have to stop and wait on him.

That just changed.

Cloud has become enraptured with jogging. He's seen joggers jog by our house and he's so totally inspired by them. He even loves the word 'jog.' He wants to jog, and he expects me to jog alongside him saying "Jog jog jog jog" the whole way. And even though his little legs can only propel him at a speed that equals walking for me, he expects my knees to go up just like I'm really jogging.

I'm glad he goes slowly, though. I need to build myself back up again. I'm not as fit as I used to be.

Will this lead to weight loss? Well... it depends on how well I address the ice cream problem.

I bought ice cream sandwiches, figuring I could limit my portion sizes better if I only eat one a day (and none some days), but today I ate two of them. Ooops.

Hey. It was hot out.

I always do better starting in September anyway, when I can move again. But early mornings aren't so bad. Maybe Cloud and I can start jogging after breakfast.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


1) On the dunes at Sandy Neck, getting ready to release spadefoot toads into the wild.

2) On the ferry from Woods Hole to Martha's Vineyard.

3) and 4) At a Cape Cod League baseball game.

5) Wading at Millway Beach.

And here's Cloud digging in the sand at Wiley Pond Beach.

It's a busy summer. Earlier today we went to the Grecian Festival, and now Cloud and his Daddy are at Barnstable County Fair with his aunt and uncle and four cousins.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I'm so tired I can barely......

Today we went into Boston. It was free harbor cruise day. We marched AwesomeCloud all the way from South Station to Boston Harbor. There was crying, laughing, dragging of feet, dashing out of reach, and lots of stops to drink some water.

The free harbor cruise was 'sold' out. They gave us vouchers for a free harbor cruise some other day. We think we'll go soon.

We ate the picnic we'd brought for Spectacle Island in a little shaded alcove next to the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Then we considered going to Chinatown.

Later, we changed our minds about Chinatown and went right to South Station. There, we had another picnic, with three people sharing one chair.

I tried a McDonald's berry smoothie. It was good. I've also had their mocha frappe. It was okay. I haven't eaten at McDonald's in 17 years, but if they want to introduce drinks that I like, I'm all for it.

I'd probably be a Starbuck's fan if I could afford it.


We took the train back to the car and then we drove to my grandmother and great aunt's house, where we ate more and enjoyed the AC. Cloud's great-grandmother and great-great-aunt were happy to see him. He showed them how quickly he warms up to people even if he hasn't seen them in a while - very quickly.

When we were leaving, he gave his great-grandmother a kiss on the cheek. I was proud and a little teary-eyed.

So... our great harbor cruise adventure did not involve a boat.

It will next time.

Also, I'm going to be in the NEWSPAPER!!!! One of the local papers - Falmouth Enterprise. And I'm not going it be in it per se. But the reporter has been reading my blog, so I'll probably be quoted here and there.

Yeah, it's not on the level of KJ appearing on CNN, but it's something. I'm happy. :-D

*waves hi to reporter*

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Just" an adoption, and all the racial issues that go with it

Every now and then I come across a comment on someone's blog that says, "Why don't you just adopt?" The latest one was on this post on the popular blog Motherlode. The post is by a father sharing his thoughts on secondary infertility. Comment #8, John, is the "why don't you just adopt" commenter.

"He couldn't love a child without his genes, no?" Lovely comment. As if the adoption process provided parents with a child whose only notable differences were hidden invisibly in her DNA.

Adoption is not a neat replacement for giving birth. It is certainly not "just" a path of less resistance than dealing with fertility issues directly. Adoption is its own thing. If infertile couples pursue adoption after failing to conceive a child, it's not because adoption is an alternate route to the same result. If anyone believes that it is an alternate route when they choose to adopt, the adoption process sets them straight. Usually.

(I've heard anecdotal stories about perpetually clueless parents who refuse to address their child's identity and issues as an adopted person. This is unfortunate. I can't understand how they do it.)

The first thing this new, hopeful family learns is that the world is not exactly teeming with adoption opportunities. They get to choose the age, gender, and other parameters of their child, but the odds are good that the type of child they want is not available. If they were to give birth, they know what they'd get: "newborn, our race, our inheritable characteristics." Gender and health are still random chance, but if this couple were to request a child like that from an adoption agency, they'd be told that there's a wait. A long, difficult wait. But if the couple would open their parameters a bit...

...for instance, if they would request an older child, any race...

...the adoption agent's face would light up. That's the kind of family she's looking for. That's the kind of match she can make. There'll be hardly any wait, and she'll make sure the paperwork gets taken care of. This family has just opened the door of opportunity for her.

They've opened a door for themselves, too. Quite often, that door is labeled, "Congratulations! You are now a multiracial family."

Once you walk through that door, you become a multiracial family. For the rest of your lives, all racial issues in society will be your issues. Including the really hard, hurtful ones. If this family is afraid of criticism, judgment, and societal disapproval, they'd be wise to think twice - this door leads to all that.

They can always step back and take another route. If they're white, then for a little more waiting time and a bit more money, they can adopt a white child one way or another. And let's face it - nearly all adoptive families facing the interracial option are white. If a nonwhite family wishes to adopt a child of their race, the number of options will narrow, but they will probably still be able to adopt without too much headache.

Unlike giving birth, adoption is an industry. It is directly beholden to the laws of supply and demand. This factor creates a certain cognitive dissonance in the minds of the hopeful family, who would rather think of adoption as a process leading to a child they can hold and love and send to the best school in their region. Instead, they're stuck in endless business transactions, negotiations, and bending to the laws of supply and demand.

Therefore, the family who steps through that door of becoming a multiracial family is quite common. families have different reasons for choosing to adopt a child of a different race. But once they have joined the club, they are in it for life.

It would be nice if interracial families were a big club. Unfortunately, while racial identity can dictate a person's sense of belonging, interracial families may find themselves automatically marginalized. We make our own clubs in order to feel less alone, and to help our children feel less alone. Our worldview changes - news articles about racial tensions catch our eye. Racial equality becomes extremely important - for the wellbeing of our children, which of course is our highest priority in life. We scan classrooms and soccer fields for skin tones that had never interested us before. When we chat with other parents, we put out feelers to find out if those parents' children are experienced with racial diversity. We scour every lesson and eavesdrop on every backyard conversation for signs of intolerance. We endure curious stares in public and field awkward questions. We start to be suspicious of our neighbors, because one of them turned out to be a shameless bigot and we never know when another bigot will show up.

And if we ignore the racism that shows up in everyday society, we leave our children to deal with it by themselves. If we're not vigilant, the problem won't go away. We just blind ourselves to the issues that our children can't avoid. We can promote racial tolerance with all our hearts - in fact, just existing is a form of promoting racial tolerance. We love our kids of different races. As people see that, they'll become more accustomed to the idea. But love alone won't end racism. There's an awful lot of people out there in the world, and not very many of them are looking to you for examples of how to behave.

And no matter what your race is or your child's race is, just the fact of being adopted creates its own issues for your child. Yes, that child is yours. You love her and she loves you. Adoption is for life (usually) and it's for real (usually). (All the recent cases of adoptions gone wrong make me feel like I have to add all these horrible disclaimers.) But the phrase "You're mine" means something slightly diferent when you say it to an adopted child. That different meaning is okay. It's still as sincere and as true.

But don't pretend the relationship is exactly the same in every way as it is to a child by birth. The child knows the differences. The child knows that society knows the differences. If you cannot acknowledge the differences, again, you're leaving your child to deal with it by herself.

I'm not saying that infertile couples should not adopt. (I've heard other people say that. I'm not gonna.)

I'm not saying that adoption is a grueling process that is not for the faint of heart and will beat you in the end. (There are some horror stories, but most of us break through the bureaucracy and find exactly what we'd wanted - a wonderful child who we love.)

I am saying that racial and/or adoption issues will change you, and that it helps to be prepared for that change and to make it willingly.

And I'm saying that adoption is not a morally superior alternative to fertility treatments. Nor is it a carbon copy of giving birth. It is not easy, and there's nothing "just" about it.

But mostly what I'm saying is that trolling the internet, leaving "just adopt" comments everywhere, is reprehensible and decidedly unhelpful. It is a mark of the perpetually uninformed and incompassionate. Adoption is not a decision to be made under the pressure of random internet commenters, but from one's own heart.

Reassure yourselves, random commenters. If the blogger you feel the need to advise is moved to adopt, he or she will adopt of his/her own free will. Or not. No additional justification to you is required.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Foodie firsts

AwesomeCloud picked and ate his first wild blackberry!

And he doesn't even like fruit very much. I think there's an instinct for eating pick-it-yourself fruit. I think I have it too.

In all, he ate four blackberries - three I picked for him and one he picked himself. He even sort of followed my instructions on choosing a good berry to pick. "The black ones, not the red ones." I don't know if he knows his colors yet, since he's never really responded to any color in a way that proved he knew it by name. But I keep trying.

Daddy and Joe took him to the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence today, while I spent the afternoon at home sweaty and miserable and failing to find the paper cutter so I can cut the signs I made for Audubon. Meh. Sometimes I go outside and look up at the gray clouds, hoping for a raindrop. None yet.

Hmm. AwesomeCloud had another first today, but I can't recall what it was. They come so fast and furious, especially if you count the nuances, like 'first sentence spoken as a three-syllable phrase' and 'first sentence assembled independently' as two different things.

He tried his first bratwurst sausage yesterday, and had his first taco a week ago. (The bratwurst was my first, too. Hey, we can't all be on the same schedule.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Aquariums - my new obsession

Exciting things are happening in the aquarium.

First, a recap. My brother gave AwesomeCloud his spare fishtank as a late birthday present, and I chipped in with supplies and the fish. We got 6 platys, or Southern platyfish, named Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maine.

One of the fish had babies. I think it was Maine. There was hardly any shelter in the tank at the time, so I added a bunch of pebbles and created hiding spots.

Vermont and Maine died. And then another fish had babies. Probably Rhode Island - she was looking pretty pudgy for a while.

Now we have one baby who is quickly growing, and who dares to come out in the open once in a while. He has a single tail spot like Maine did. We named him New York. There are also at least three tiny baby platys who almost never show themselves. There may be more than three. They look like tiny swimming eyes with transparent fins on them.

We recently added a pleco, which is short for plecostomus. It's a type of algae-eating catfish with a round suckermouth. We named it New Jersey. New Jersey is a lively little guy. The tank has never been cleaner! Unfortunately, we won't be getting New Jersey a mate and breed little plecos, because his species is territorial.

But that's okay. Connecticut is pregnant. I looked closely and could see the little eggs showing through her translucent belly. Today we added even more rocks for the new batch of babies.

(What am I going to do with all these platys?)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

So many parenting options, none of them wrong

The more I read mommy blogs and adoption blogs, the more immune I become to comparing myself unfavorably against them.

It's become normal for parents to look at other parents and see how they're raising their children; calling it "parenting styles," and puzzling over which style is the best. Maybe you think yours is best, and when you read about someone raising their kids differently, you feel compelled to correct them. Maybe you feel you're doing it all wrong and that other parents have the child-rearing secrets you lack.

Maybe you realize you're not perfect, but you hit upon a parenting technique that works. It really really works. And maybe you don't go trolling the internet as the Know-It-All Mommy commenter, but on this one issue, you know you're right. you are just soooo right.

I see that a lot on blogs.

We have a tendency to assume that if doing things one way is right, then doing things another way is wrong. This is not necessarily so. It's true in math - if your bill comes to $23.08, then you can be sure that it does not also come to $72.55.

But in parenting styles, not so much. Parenting styles rely on two variables that never affect math - the personalities of the parents and the personalities of the children. Statistics aren't the best parenting guide - if one approach is statistically favorable over another approach, that doesn't mean that your kid is doomed to fail if you do it differently.

For example, helicopter parents. Helicopter parents are supposed to be a phenomenon of our times, and one that's damaging to kids. It's every parenting blogger's favorite target. But I don't put much stock in helicopter parenting as a cohesive style. Some parents do some overprotective things sometimes. Or some overly permissive things, sometimes. There are some anecdotal extremes, there are some attention-getting statistics (like the one that says that violent child attacks on teachers in first grade in Texas rose 6%).

(See, parents are spoiling their kids to ridiculous levels. The kids don't learn boundaries, rules, or self-control. Some of them physically attack their teachers. The parenting style, therefore, must be the root of the problem.)

You know, actually, stories like that are pretty scary. The way the human mind works, next thing you know, you're wondering, "If I give in and give little Kylee a popsicle now, will she hit her teacher later?"

We hear claims that if kids are damaged, it must be the parents, and their parenting style, to blame. Therefore, if we use the wrong parenting style, won't we damage our kids?

I don't believe in such a strict correlation. Lots of kids grow up to be relatively okay, regardless of parenting style. In fact, some very successful people came from broken homes and had traumatic childhood experiences, neglectful or misguided parents, and difficult school experiences. How do those kids do it? It really depends on the kid. Some people rise above adversity. Some people become a product of their upbringings, reacting to little things like their parents' eating habits and something their teacher said to them at school, and never seeing beyond that level. You can't make them rise above. If they're going to stay small and reactive, they'll stay that way in spite of your best attempts. Likewise, the kids who do wish to rise above will survive all your parenting mistakes and limitations and will awe you with their incredible can-do attitudes.

Also, parenting style implies that there's an underlying parenting philosophy. For instance, we travel a lot with our son, because we have the philosophy that we want to introduce him to the world so he'll grow up to be worldly. We're starting small, and as he grows older, we'll travel with him more and more. That's a philosophy. If we have a parenting style, that's part of it.

We don't have TV and therefore our son doesn't watch any TV. That is not a philosophy. We're happy in our TVlessness, and we save money by not paying for cable or satellite, but we're not morally opposed to AwesomeCloud watching TV. He has shown himself to be uninterested in Disney movies and Sesame Street, and we are also uninterested, so we do other things with him instead.

But a lot of people mistake this quirk of our lifestyle for a parenting philosophy. Sometimes, people try to convince us to show him some Sesame Street, or defend their own habit of letting their kids watch TV, or both at the same time. I don't criticize them. I grew up watching lots and lots of TV, and I don't feel any regret over having been allowed to burn my brain on the boob tube. I doubt that I'd be a much better person if I'd had a TV-free childhood. But that doesn't mean I'm in a rush to go out and get cable.

Really, the TV is more inertia, finances, and lack of need than it is philosophy. There are times when I need Cloud to leave me alone for a while so I can do something. But TV doesn't accomplish that anyway, and I've actually found other ways to get stuff done. Or to not get stuff done and live with the consequences.

I think we parents are looking over each other's shoulders too much. If you really feel like you're doing things wrong and that there must be a better method, that's one thing. If you frequently lose your temper when you don't think you should have, or if you look into an empty cookie jar and worry about your child's diet, then there are probably methods you could learn that will help your family. But if you're satisfied with your child's cookie consumption until you meet someone whose child eats nothing but vegetables and whole grains, then you can feel free to continue with the cookies. Kudos to that other parent with her other dietary habits. Kudos to you, too, for doing well enough.

And all those sociological studies that say that kids do better with this much freedom and that much structure, or all those product studies that warn you against items that contain lead, BPA, or cadmium... it's a good idea to keep half an eye open for what they tell you. Look for consistencies in those studies rather than amazing breakthroughs. Use some common sense. Don't fret over advice that's too far removed from your experience.

But don't criticize the other person over it, if you can help it. Maybe the other idea does work, in someone else's family, with someone else's kids.

There are acts that are always bad, no matter who commits them. But if it's a matter of degrees, if it's just this percentage of kids thriving better than that percentage of kids, let it go.

I love the fact that my upbringing was different from my son's. And that there are positives and plusses to both child-rearing styles. And that the differences are all just nuance. If you look at the various ways children have been raised around the world and throughout history, the differences we bicker about are hardly different at all.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Working mom, SAH mom, and me

When it comes to the stay-at-home moms criticizing the working moms for working, and the working moms criticizing the stay-at-home moms for not working, I'm beyond criticism. I have the best of both worlds. I work from home.

In fact, I'm doing it right now. While my husband and son are at a friend's cookout and playing in the sprinklers.

Go me. Wooooot.

That's life, though. You say you'll get it all done during naptime, but of course you don't. You're too tired. You're also too tired after bedtime. You also can't give your work your full attention like you can at the office, knowing that the day care provider will handle it all - if the kid wakes up crying, you're the one who has to drop everything (remember to hit 'save'!) and tend to him.

So you work when you can. On holidays, for instance.

AwesomeCloud is being enriched right now, eating cookout food with Daddy and playing with our friends' kids. I'm not too upset at being unable to join them. But maybe one quick run through the sprinkler, and a dish of fruit salad, would be nice.

I have a bag of cherries and some leftover steak tips and some ice cream. I'll get by.

As a side note, maybe those working moms and stay-at-home moms should stop surfing the internet looking for opportunities to criticize each other and... I don't know... there must be something else they can do with their time. Go to a nice cookout, maybe.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Wampanoag Powwow

Yesterday we went to the Wampanoag powwow. I've said on this blog before that we wanted to give AwesomeCloud a greater awareness of culture and ethnicity than just Chinese/White American. Plus, he really likes drums. (Unfortunately, while we could hear drums, we never caught a good view of the drummers playing them.)

And there was dancing in traditional regalia (NOT costumes!!!) and handmade crafts and ethnic food. They managed to avoid having any silly concessions such as "Indian pizza" although some booths were selling linguica, hot dogs, and French fries. And I'm not sure the stuffed quahogs were an authentic Wampanoag recipe. But Rick said they were delicious.

The children danced first, acting out the Wampanoag creation story. Then all the dancers came out in a grand procession. There were troupes from Toronto, the Andes, Arizona, and more.

AwesomeCloud enjoyed himself immensely. He even tried the two-step dance, although his enthusiasm was greater than his accuracy. It was also very hot, sitting in the direct sunlight in 80 degrees for hours and hours, so at times he was more obsessed with stealing my drink than with the dances. (He had his own drink. Tossing his sippy cup aside and stealing my drink is common behavior for him, and he did drink his own drink quite a bit, too.)

Some other kids came and joined us at the end, and the little boy taught AwesomeCloud how to drum along to the music by tapping the rope with a stick.

As we were leaving, we were already talking about coming back next year. I think that would be good for Cloud's education. The Wampanoag cover many ethnicities due to assimilation and intermarrying, and some no longer look very Indian at all, but AwesomeCloud was the only one there who looked remotely Asian. But that's a good thing - the powwow shows him that white culture is not the only game in town, and that he is not the only "other."

Also, if anybody else walks up to him and says, "I hate China! Free Tibet!" he can reply, "Before you get into that, you have your own history of genocide to make amends for. And by the way, so far you've really dropped the ball there."

Or he could say, "You're a poopyface." Either one is fine.

PS: This post might sound a little flippant. I did not mean it to be so. I guess I'm a cynical person on some level, even as I learn to be culturally sensitive. The Wampanoag people are my neighbors, and I respect them greatly.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A secret climbing trick

If I sit quietly on the fire engine in the playground and leave AwesomeCloud to do as he will, he'll climb onto the fire engine all by himself.

Then, when he discovers he can do it himself, he'll stop asking for my help.


Likewise the couch.

I feel bad, though, because he's so short. For him to climb onto the seat of the couch is kind of like me climbing onto the top of the couch from behind it. And I'm short, too.

But I can do it, if I really try, and so can he.