Friday, January 31, 2014

simple kind of life

I had two goals this year: read more and write more. This is my sixth blog post and I've finished one book.

Translation? I'm slacking. But I'm not blogging as much because I'm busy trying not to slack in other areas of my life. Days move quickly, and before I know it, another week has passed with little to no writing or reading (other than brief news articles).

We are very settled in at this point to life as Seattle-ites. We have WA state licenses, tags, etc. I've somewhat figured out the bus system. And we've managed to navigate driving fairly easily through the streets of downtown. It's been interesting adjusting to big city life. Somedays, I think I may start blogging about my daily trips downtown. The bus rides alone could provide weeks worth of material. Then, I remember that I'm too busy to keep up with this space, let alone manage another.

The weather has of course been a challenge for us, coming from Florida, but we've been adapting well. We've learned that activities can't stop for a little rain, and that a sunny day -- even when cold -- is best spent taking advantage of the outdoors. The views from every angle of this city are incredible, and I think I may never get tired of staring at Mt. Rainier.

K is doing well. She's enjoying her new school and still working on using her words. She got sick this past week -- for the first time since we arrived in Seattle. It was over in a day, which gives me hope that she's finally built up her immune system to resist some of these daycare germs.

Currently, the excitement in my life consists of being addicted to Orange is the New Black and finding recipes for our new Dutch oven.

For the first time in ages, everything feels simple. And I like it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

are we so different?

Late last month, I had the opportunity to attend an exhibit at the Pacific Science Center called RACE: Are We So Different?, a project developed by the American Anthropological Association. This exhibit has been travelling around the country since mid-2007, and it landed here in Seattle this year (see the project's website if you're interested in future locations). I'm fortunate enough to work for a semi-government agency, which allowed me to attend the exhibit for free, as well as sit in on a post-exhibit workshop about ways to combat institutional and structural racism.

I had mixed feelings prior to my visit. On one hand, I was eager to attend for a number of reasons: my love for museums, my fascination with history, and my interest in race, diversity, and culture -- particularly from the standpoint of a parent through transracial adoption.

On the other hand, I was somewhat nervous. I didn't know how I would feel after viewing this project. Would I feel sad? Would I be angry? Would this change my perspective in any way?

The crowds were large that day. I worked my way though the exhibit alongside individuals and families of different races, ages, and sexual orientations. I saw an older white couple with their young, black granddaughter. Several same-sex couples with their children. Single moms. Young adults. We'd all gathered at this place to learn about the history of race and diversity in this country. And not just race as a skin color, as I discovered while moving through the hall. "Race" in the context of so many things: blood type, distribution of wealth, medical care, location, schooling, crime. The exhibit touched upon every aspect of life that makes us different from one another.

Each topic was heavy. From the Japanese-American internment to the loss of Native American land, every example stirred up emotions inside of me that I still can't quite put into words. But two places in particular stood out to me in the exhibit hall that day:

The first was a compilation of video interviews from adults who spoke about their experiences with race and racism. One of these speakers was an adoptee from Korea. Her parents brought her to the United States in the late 70s/early 80s, gave her a traditional American name, and then raised her in their predominately white, suburban town in northern Minnesota. Here, she had very little interaction with other children who "looked like her." She was expected to assimilate, and when she experienced instances of bias, she didn't receive the support she needed from her parents -- who failed to understand that these interactions were racism.

The second was another video, this time of high-school aged children who were speaking about their experiences in their school cafeteria at lunch time. They spoke about the "unsaid rules" of the lunch room and where people sat. What struck me in particular about this were the comments from the mixed-race teens, who admitted that they didn't feel comfortable sitting with one race over another because they were often teased about their skin color or being mixed. It ended with one of the young ladies saying how she wished it wasn't like this. She stressed to her peers that it was up to them to change these invisible boundaries and continue the hard work of their parents and grandparents toward racial equality.

You can probably guess why both of these examples stood out to me.

The first gave me a sense of understanding as to how far we've come with regard to transracial adoption and ensuring that we raise our children to understand and embrace their culture. I realize that not all situations are picture perfect, but in general, adoptive parents are far more educated than they used to be about the complexities of transracial adoption. (See my dear friend T's recent post for a much more eloquent piece on parenting a child of a different race and/or culture.)

Yet, the second video left me wanting more. While we've come a long way since the 70s and 80s (in every aspect of race/equality), it became clear how much farther we have left to go. We still live in a world where even children who've been raised to be open and accepting of others have a hard time erasing those lines that have been so firmly drawn for centuries. I shook my head as I walked away from it, asking myself, "How will we ever fix something that's so engrained in our society, to the point where even our children unknowingly participate?"

I clearly don't have the entire answer to this question. I don't think anyone does. But as I looked around the room that day and examined all of the diverse faces, I realized that the short answer is to keep doing things like this. We keep educating. We have conversations. We encourage our children to do the same. And we focus on the big picture. Not the "so-and-so is a biased person, and I need to change his or her perspective" picture. Instead, we focus on the structures and the institutions that hold us down. We fight for legislation that provides us with equal rights. We encourage organizations to become more inclusive.

Most importantly, we stand for each other. While the content of the exhibit was sometimes heavy and overwhelming, it only took a second of me glancing at the other attendees to force myself to become uplifted again. Looking around the room, I couldn't possibly believe that inequality CAN'T be fixed. Because even though we looked different from one another, deep down we all wanted the same thing... and I (want?) have to believe that a majority of people want that same thing, too.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

18 months

K had her last "baby" well visit earlier this month, and it was with our new pediatrician here in Seattle. I was nervous, heading to a new doctor. We were rather attached to our old pedi, and we were sad to leave her during the move. But all was fine with this visit, and I think we will continue to see this doctor in the future. She seemed very practical and down-to-earth, and I liked what she had to say about growth and development.

We are still on the low end of the growth charts. She weighs 20 lbs. even and is just under 31 inches long. Much like our last pedi, the new doc didn't seem too concerned about her size given her circumstances. I expressed slight concern about K's eating habits, which are hit and miss these days, and she assured me that it tends to yo-yo at her age. She was right, as a week later she was cleaning up anything I put on her plate.

We also spoke about talking. K's very good about pointing to items when we ask her to or following commands ("Get your jacket." "Close the door." Etc.). However, talking has been a bit slow. She asked me to keep an eye on it, and we will reevaluate it at her two-year appointment. The good news is that she doesn't think that it's anything too serious or a sign of a larger issue, due to other factors -- since she is extremely social and does things like follow commands, make eye contact, and recognize words and objects. In any case, I thought it might be a good idea to start tracking what she says or attempts to say. So far, we have: mama, dada, papaw, dog, book, duck, yay, uh oh, bye bye, no, and bus. We also have attempts at banana and penguin.

It's crazy to me that the next time we head in for a well visit, she'll be TWO years old. My tiny little baby is no longer a tiny little baby. She's a full-blown toddler now, running around and wreaking (adorable) havoc:

(Side note: this photo was tweeted by the Seattle Seahawks before Sunday's game!)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

over the rainbow bridge

When I was in high school, we decided that it was time to get a family dog. We knew we wanted a miniature dachshund (my mom had grown up with dachshunds), and we drove to meet a woman whose doxie had recently given birth to a small litter of puppies. We saw this guy's face and fell in love immediately:

In fact, we fell so in love that we came home early from our family's Christmas vacation to pick him up. I remember holding him in my hands as we drove back to our house. I placed him on our kitchen floor and he bounced over to the Christmas tree, promptly peeing underneath of it.

He was tiny and not the least bit tough, so it made perfect sense to give him an ironic "tough guy" name: Harley.

Harley gave us so much joy, during times when our family needed it most. When we brought home Harley, my mom had just finished chemo treatments. He was there as she grew healthy again and eventually returned to work. He was there to give me love when I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and reassured me as I left for college, a scary unknown, just one month later. He was the rock that kept my brother and I going through our parents' divorce. He was there through two high school graduations, two college graduations, and a wedding:

When Joey and I moved back in with my mom in 2009, he was the one who comforted me through two surgeries and the agony of every failed infertility treatment. He's who inspired Joey and me to adopt Danica (though he wasn't always THIS comfortable with the young puppy in his presence):

The last year has been tough for Harley, and I knew when we left Florida back in November that it might be the last time I would see him. I was right. Today, Harley will be put to rest.

Thank you to my sweet boy for all of the happiness that you brought into my life. I'll treasure every memory that I had with you, and though I'll miss you more than words can describe, I'm happy that you'll be pain free and sleeping peacefully once again. I love you, and I hope that they have plenty of doxie-sized soccer balls over the rainbow bridge.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

the best we can

There are these moments when I look at my child, as she's screaming at the top of her lungs, and I want to burst into tears. It's not because I don't love her or I'm angry with her. It's simply because I feel like, in those particular moments, I'm failing as a mom. She's screaming, and I can't make her stop. I don't know what's wrong, and nothing I do to try and calm her down works. It's sort of like beating your head against a brick wall – nothing will get through to her. Nothing will make her feel better.

That same feeling creeps back when she refuses to eat – when not even a fresh grilled cheese quesadilla will convince her that placing food in her mouth is better for her than throwing it on the floor or squishing it onto her high-chair tray or quietly sneaking it to the dog. "She'll eat when she's hungry." Except that she never seems hungry. How can I make her understand that it's important for her to eat? That she's already small? That she needs this food to grow and become strong? I can't.

She throws things at the dog. At me. She hits and (sometimes) bites. She rages and rampages until she's done . . . or maybe not. Maybe she picks back up again in 10 minutes. It's different every day.

Yet, the ending is always the same. At the point when I feel like I might break – when I feel like I am completely helpless – she becomes her old self again. She curls up on my chest and strokes my face with her hand. She looks up at me with her big, beautiful eyes and gives me a kiss. She lets me hold her and rock her and sing to her. It's as if she's telling me that she's sorry. It's like she's comforting me.

It's as if she's reminding me that I'm doing the best that I can. And so is she.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

my (longer) PSA

I have a problem. My problem is this. Not just what was said by MHP (that's perhaps a different post, for a different day), but some of the discussion that's taken place afterward by people in the ALI community.

I did not undergo IVF. We chose to "skip" the procedure and instead went down an alternative path. IVF was not for me. I certainly don't think there's anything wrong with in-vitro. I fully support anyone who chooses to do it. It simply just wasn't for us. No further explanation needed. Conversely, there are plenty of individuals in this community who've undergone IVF, surrogacy, or who've chosen to live child free (after medical treatment). They have not entered the adoption process for whatever reason, and that's their decision. Everyone chooses what fits them, their family, etc.

Here is something I don't do: I don't waltz around pretending like my choice is in any way, shape, or form better than yours. My path to resolution was not and is not superior to your path. It's different. What I didn't do after I resolved my infertility was then turn around and speak with ill will against those who've taken a different path toward peace. But, yet, I've seen this sort of negative response against transracial adoption from members of our own community. I've watched on social media as women who've NEVER taken part in the adoption process, in any way/shape/form, have spent time negating those of us whose lives have actually been touched by transracial adoption.

I wrote briefly about this on Twitter over the weekend, but I needed to get this PSA out in more than 140 characters:

If you are not an adoption professional, a birth parent, adoptee, or an adoptive parent, you don't get the right to act like some sort of expert on adoption in general (or, more specifically, transracial adoption). You don't get to pass your personal opinions off as fact. And you certainly don't get to judge any individual who is part of that process for his or her choice.

How would you feel if the situation were reversed? If IFers who had adopted were busy spreading hateful comments about IVF, surrogacy, child free living, etc. through Twitter and the blogosphere? I'm guessing there would be complete and utter chaos. Rage. An uprising. And yet, when this occurred over the weekend, I barely heard a peep from those who followed along and presumably read this garbage.

If you want others to support you in your journey, I'm sure we are all happy to do so. But remember: the street runs both ways.