Monday, October 29, 2007

Donatello Found! (With Feet!)

...As I was saying....if you try, sometimes, you just might get whatcha need!

Another great coloring page clearing house:

Coloring Pages to Print

Josiah and I are surfing the web right now, looking for printable coloring pages of Donatello and a Wookie with feet (they must have feet so that we can cut them out and play paper dolls with them....the feet are crucial). I ran across this clearinghouse of coloring printables that I thought I'd share....very helpful! (links to Chewy Chewbakah....but no Donatello....Oh well, you can't always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes...:)

As always, I'll link it to the sidebar for future reference.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Here's an idea for a MOPS conversation starter:

Thanks for passing this along, Kimberly.


My Response to the MOPS Debaucle: Loving my Kids is a Walk to the Park

I joined MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) this year. I remember my first invitation to join, some 4 years ago or so. A woman in the library talked about a preschool-like atmosphere for small children while mothers congregated in another room to (and these were her exact words) "discuss a topic." I bristled (visibly, I'm sure...I've never been very good at bristling on the sly) at the idea of joining a melange of women circled around buffet-style breakfast foods to "discuss a topic," and I graciously (except for the bristling part which I had no control over) declined. Years passed, and with them 8 or so more invitations to join MOPS, each of which I turned down for one pitifully contrived reason or another. Then, last year, a friend asked me to come for a free visit to a MOPS openhouse. Well, if you've even given a cursory scan to my prior posts, you know how I feel about free things. So I went. And the women were kindhearted and authentic and vulnerable and helpful and funny, and the childcare rooms were orderly and fun and well-thought-out...and....well....I joined!

So far this year, the "topics" have been limited to introductions on the first week and design and decorating on our second (because of which I have moved a couch away from a wall and plan to rehang my drapes!) far so good! Last week, our third week of ...topic discussing....I stayed home with two sick kids and missed a presentation/discussion starter entitled "Christianity 101." I cannot comment on the presentation at all, as I was enjoying the day with my children (illnesses notwithstanding), but I clearly missed the most hoppin MOPS day on record! More than a couple of other mothers from our group have made a point of talking with me about the scant discussion of material that they have all described as "heavy." Aside from some doctrine (dogma?) -laden talking points, the salient issue that everyone keeps mentioning is the speaker's insistence that we must, as mothers, evaluate whether or not our love for our children supersedes our love for God....hmmmmm. (I think that's a fair parsing of the point; I'll steer clear of the various illustrations he used to elucidate it since I wasn't there to take them in first hand.)

When my friend talked to me about the presentation and, in particular, this point, I must have looked.......stupid. That's the look I get when I'm processing. Here's how it works: I take in the incongruous statement (eyebrow curls downward), I try to comprehend it generously, giving full deference to the speaker and his overall intent (head tilts back, eyes widen and focus somewhere to the left of the person telling me the information), and then I formulate a response (eyes narrow, head shakes vaguely...almost imperceptibly): read, I look stupid.....worse, disinterested. WORSE, like I tacitly agree with the declaration at hand! In other words, my friend probably walked away from telling me about the speaker at MOPS believing that I was one of the following: a genuine ignoramus, not at all interested in what she had to say, or in agreement that a mother must somehow choose between her love for God and her children, which exist in some sort of artificial hierarchy!

SO, I'm clearing the air with this response, which it took me until later that evening to formulate and which it has taken me a full week to articulate in this post.

First of all (isn't it nice that I can't interrupt a several-screen post with a phrase like "first of all"?), let me say that I have NO problem with anything offensive. The MOPS presentation has, more than once been described as "mildly offensive" or at least "intrusive." I ache (probably visibly know how I am....) over having missed it! I love mildly offensive, intrusive things! In fact, no real transformation in my life has ever occurred without having begun as something that I had previously labelled at least mildly offensive, and I am always hungry for another transformation (my husband is not......he's good....I on the other hand....). So I began my assessment of this idea by challenging myself with it, since it grates so dissonantly against the web of philosophy and faith upon which my mothering tenuously hangs.

The thread upon which his proposition keeps snagging is this one: any assertion that loving God and loving people are opposed to one another seems either heretical or begs a redefinition of the word LOVE as I understand it. Worship, perhaps. Honor, maybe. But loving God and loving people cannot be opposed to one another. The one contains the other, like the concept "Mother" contains "woman."

If Josh came home and asked me, "Would you like to go to the park or go for a walk this evening?" I would get that stupid look on my face. I would respond, "Why don't we walk to the park?" I know there are lots of ways to get to the park; we could ride bikes, take a car, roller skate, run -- but my favorite way remains walking. I'm best equipped for it, by both inclination and ability. ............ If someone asked me "Do you love God or your children more?" I would doubtlessly look stupid (if not mildly offended!:), and I would say that loving my children is my favorite way to love God. I know there are lots of ways of loving God -- appreciating and preserving the world He created, singing in the choir, serving meals at the Waffle House -- but I LOVE loving my children. I'm best equipped for it, by both inclination and ability. It's my favorite way to love God in much the same way that walking is my favorite way to travel to the park. The one accomplishes the other; the two do not oppose one another.

If only loving my kids and finishing my school work reconciled so easily!

Apart from the fact that the speaker directed his objectionable comment to an audience full of women who have elected to occupy themselves fully with the care and training of their children at the expense of other daytime occupational or avocational interests (which doesn't seem.....nice), I think his intentions were probably good....although I wasn't there to hear the "good" part, so I can only comment on the one or two things that made their way back to me after my kids had fully recovered.

Hooray for MOPS, though! The discussion hour last Wednesday may have been flat, but the last several days have been carbonated with its repercussions. I'm not sure what this week holds, but I for one, am hoping for something REALLY "The Art of Censoring Objectionable Material from Your Children's Books," or "The 2008 Election: Vote Libertarian or Don't Vote at All." I hope the art project isn't too distracting (yes there are art projects....there was tote painting....a little stamping....and I missed mug painting...I'll not comment further.) because I'm overdue for some transformative conversation! Bring it on, MOPS!!!

By the way, I think that November may be National Chemistry Month, so Carey, if you're reading this, know that I'll be thinking of you!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Family Perspective Week: Final Thoughts

You are all wonderful. Allow me to elaborate:

David: Your thoughtful responses to this week and to my capacious posts made me so grateful for your friendship and so proud (again) to have you as my brother. Thank you for taking the time to care about every aspect of our family (and OUR family, as it grows and grows and grows). The future for Josh and I and our kids seems much less intimidating because of your consider-ate support and

Josh (AKA Anonymous): You are the most wonderful man in the world. Did I mention that?

Mama (AKA Deleted Post and Subsequent Comment): It is BECAUSE of your love and not in SPITE of it that I have grown up to love other people. Thank you for being exactly you.

Karen: Thank you thank you for "hosting" this week. You and Jeremy are going to be magnificent parents. I can't wait to mother alongside you and to continue to learn from you.

Kimberly: Thank you for being in my family. Your insights and your friendship are indispensible.

I love you all! Thanks, again, for taking time to engage in Family Perspective Week (our first annual? Shall I make t-shirts this year?), proving, once again, that I have an unmatchably wonderful family.

I will respond to those of you who shared your responses to me privately via email. Please consider yourself included in the taxonomy of thank yous, however:)

Have a great night, and please, feel free to chime in with your various perspectives whenever you have time/feel moved/can't find anything good on TV. I LOVE hearing from you.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Family Perspective Week Part 2: Okay, here's what I think...

Weird, isn't it, that I always seem to end my titles with elipses? Elipses may be the defining punctuation of my life, now that I think about it! (Weird, isn't it, that I'm thinking about it?) I lapse into elipses (how's that for a grunge/alternative band name) constantly when I write (when I'm not writing parenthetically....which is a whole OTHER pathology), and if I were to choose an end punctuation for my life, I think it would be elipses... 10 years ago, I would have said exclamation point; 15, I would have said a question mark; now, it's elipses...hmmmm.

But this post is about Transracial Adoption (though I can't imagine how anyone would guess that from my title or introductory paragraph...see why my journalism major only lasted a semester?), so I'll get right down to it. In the last post, I described the evolution of my feelings about parenting, race, and this adoption journey of ours. Now, I'd like to share some ideas that I have about the same sorts of issues. I like to divide things up, break them into smaller parts so that I can look at them more closely (see Homeschool vs. Public School, for example). I have come up with two concepts of race that hold perfect tension on the tug-of-war line between confusion and truth in my mind. I'd like to share them with you, but the caveat for embarking on this post is that if you read only part of it, the tug-of-war sways grossly out of balance. So (if you can tolerate all of the self-indulgent parenthetical asides), read the whole thing in a single sitting. Otherwise, you'll be choking on dry cereal one morning and drinking silty milk from a bowl the next.

First off,
Race is a CONSTRUCT: One of the last classes I took during my last run at school spent a lot of effort in examining the ways in which people create ideas, especially socially significant ideas like race, culture, and gender. We talked about the fact that categories that seem pretty discrete and concrete actually exist along a much more fluid continuum than our conceptions would allow. Gender was, during that course, the example that impacted me. Our professor walked us through reading and class discussion that shook apart the dividing lines between categories so broadly accepted that stick figures in skirts or slacks almost universally symbolize their preeminence. But what makes a man a man and a woman a woman? Biology? That answer seems most obvious, but consider the biological qualities that we accept as identifiers. Hormones? Some self-identified women have hormone levels more saturated with testosterone than most culturally identified men. Chromosomes? What about Jamie Lee Curtis and the better part of a women's Olympic shot-put squad, all of whom have been dramatically affected by their ambiguous chromosomes, which include the decidedly male Y attatched to their pair of Xs? That's not to say that men and women aren't different, but it does illustrate the fact that the words we use to meen "male" and "female" are more pliable than we might normally recognize, that they actually represent some combination of a whole slew of factors that may or may not come into play in every instance to which they are applied.

Did I mention that this post is about Transracial Adoption? (7 right turns do, indeed, make a left.) All of that to say that if categories such as male and female represent loose amalgamations of expectations that we drag around without realizing it, then certainly already ambiguous categories like race and tribe slip their fences.

Did you know that people who are from India living in England are considered black? Most American people don't use that word in the same way. What about the word "Indian" in America? At least two stridently distinct ethnic heritages carry that label in our country. And are Russian's Asian? Are Haitian's African? Do you see how the words we use to describe other people leak like sieves? None of the categorical qualifiers that we might stuff in the bottoms of our language are sufficient to plug their holes. Complexion? Language? Family History? Many people who would check the box next to "Black" or "African-American" on a survey line have lighter complexions than other people who identify themselves as categorically white. People from several different continents all speak Spanish when they talk to their great grandparents, friends, and business associates. And while we're on the subject of great grandparents.....consider the flexibility in your family tree. Most of us don't know our great great grandmother's maiden name, and we know even less about the minutae of her daily life or the person she perceived herself to be. Some people's worlds are rocked when their family tree changes color or shakes off its leaves. My husband's German family is actually Danish. My grandmother's mother was Scottish and not Irish. My patrilineal ancestor snuck over on a boat from England and not Ireland. What about Carlos O'Kelly? Where's that guy from? Where are any of us from? Cultural heritage and ethnically rooted traditions can bind families together, but they cannot be regarded as racial signifiers. They don't have the stickiness to do the job. They're like a pencil-scrawled post it note, passed down from generation to generation: the writing has faded, and the back just never holds.

So what is race? Just like gender (only moreso) it is a conglomeration of labels that have slowly saturated our ideas about one another. Some of those labels were scribbled on the back of the post it note passed down to you through the generations. Some seeped in between the worksheets in our kindergarten classes. Some, we made up to explain the vague trends in our own experience. Who knows? I didn't know that "Jewish" could be used as a racial identifier until recently. Ten or twelve years ago, when I went to college, I think, I first heard someone say something like "He looks Jewish" or "That sounds like a Jewish last name." I had absolutely no idea what that person meant. In my arrangment of seives, Jewish was the religion of Moses, Abraham, and Jesus, and the people who observed Purim and Yom Kippur in my high school were white, like me. They just went to a different church. There was no special look, no identifiable last name in my construct of that "race."

Add to that (or add that to) the fact that I am committed, by a lifelong faith, to the absolute particularity of every person and his or her crucial importance to the heart of a loving God, and you have nothing but a shattered reflection through which to sift for any remnants of what you (or I) once labelled "race." In such light, the CONSTRUCT, simply cannot hold.

My children will be (are being) raised in accordance with that truth. Their indispensable voices, their irreplacable selves, their inimitable perspectives...their perfect particularity in the sight of God....will always govern the way our family operates. Our lives and the love that infuses them with meaning will unrelentingly reflect our commitment to the unity that comes from absolute diversity (not the shoddily drawn diversity of arbitrary categories but the radical diversity of individual, unrepeatable souls).

There you have it. Tug of war team # 1, truth, and its presidence over our family and all of its members: Race is a CONSTRUCT. It does not exist.

And here's the second, unmistakable fact:

Race IS a Construct: It DOES persist as arguably the most powerful construct in human history. It has been used to justify war and cruelty beyond measure. It continues to dellineate neighborhoods, churches, and cafeteria tables. In its prevalence, it creates commonality. People who have been stung by the broad, stupid application of the construct, again and again, are galvanized into unity by the heat and pressure. Likewise, people coagulate into like-mindlessness and power by virtue of their appropriation of a construct in common. So, at its best, the construct of race offers people a home, a place where belonging exists before words because common experience rarely needs to be spoken. And in this solidarity, people are comforted, empowered, and understood. At its worst, the papers.

If I don't arm my children with the tools to face down the wrong-headed implications of the most powerful construct in human history, then what kind of parent am I? And if I deny them an opportunity to melt into a community where they can find ease and identity without words among people who share common experience, an experience of a construct that I will never have nor completely understand, then I will have failed my children. I have an obligation to educate, encourage, and empower my family on all sides of this volatile, powerful, hateful, ennobling construct with every tool that my own resources and the resources of my community can provide.

I don't know how we'll manage it, but I'm fairly sure that if we let these two facts slide out of balance, if either side begins to pull harder, our whole family will collapse in a filthy heap. So I'm committed to the effort, with all of my heart. And I'll trust in the miracle of being set aright and hosed off again and again by the one who created without construct and yet enabled us to create them. And I can't tell you how much peace washes over me as I end that sentence with a solid, definitive period.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Family Perspective Week!

I'd like to tell you all about my wonderful little sister: she is thoughtful, tenderhearted, and loving (sounds like I'm naming Care Bears here, doesn't it?), AND she has organized a family perspective sharing week in preparation for our adoption! Because of the weight of words like black and white, and because of the way that those concepts will be transformed and will transform our family dynamic, Karen (my thoughtful, tenderhearted, loving little sister) thought it would be helpful to set aside a week to challenge our individual ideas about race and share our discoveries with one a family. She could not have planned a better adoption gift for me if she had used all of the time and resources in the world to try. Josh and I have spent the last year and a half examining our own ideas about adoption and race and our family. We have reimagined our dinner table and our grandchildren and ourselves. We have admitted weaknesses and embarassments and developments to one another nearly every week (sometimes, every day) throughout this entire journey. Wouldn't it be bizarre for us to expect (or even hope, for that matter?) that our family would instantly evolve to a place that has taken us months and months (and months and months) to even approach as parents? We don't, but opening up a conversation wherein people can admit their perspectives without fear, where we can feel safe to challenge, confess to, and accept one another as we grow toward love together can be difficult. (Now I sound like one of those weird new greeting cards that seems oddly specific...). That's why I'm so grateful to Karen for holding this conversation for all of us.

NOW, for my first contribution to our dialogue:)

A couple of months ago, I responded to a post on a forum for Ethiopian adoption. Another mother was struggling to reidentify herself and rediscover her ideas about race as she prepared to adopt a child who would be African-American. In my response (which I tried to think through carefully, though it only got one, very caustic, reply), I shared my own struggles with the same ideas. I'm going to paste my response here with as few interruptions as possible:

What lessons our new children teach us....before they even arrive in our arms. This process (and I keep thinking of words like whiplash or crawl or hurdle as I type that phrase) compells me to evaluate parts of myself I was entirely unaware of before I "met" my children. Following your example, I am going to share my starts, steps, and stumbles in muddling through the minefield of race, motherhood, and far.

First, the decision: After a series of loosely connected encounters with the question of international adoption, [Actually, the night after Josh and I had decided not to have any more children during a conversation at the WalM*art.....and I don't think we are the only people on the planet who have ever reached a decision like this one at the Walm*art....I began to pray. I prayed for my children, and then thought to add "and for any other children that you may give to us....though you're going to have to beat me over the head with that one because I'm pretty comfortable with two." At that moment, I had an uncomfortable (uncomfortable like when I tried to mail the unsigned check to our adoption agency!) sense that if someone in our church had a child that needed a home, I would open our family...and mother(*verb*). After I finished praying, I went to the computer, where I had just received a congregation-wide email from our preacher that mentioned a blog of someone connected to our church who was adopting from Ethiopia. I opened the link (Dani and Brian West....I'll post the link to my sidebar), just to kill time before hitting the regular blogs I regularly use to kill time. Within an hour I was crying. Within two, I was purposefully sifting through agency requirements and country-specific facts.] I opened up one night to the possibility and began to surf the web.....researching. Ostensibly, I researched agencies, costs, wait times, etc. More honestly, I was researching myself. Every time I opened up a file with a photo of a family completed by adopting internationally, a blog about adoption, or photos of waiting children, I stared, searching faces, studying eyes, trying to decide if these could be MY children, my babies whose skin and hair don't resemble me....or my husband. Yes! Yes! Yes! and so we began discussions. {More accurately, I left a voicemail on his work phone, saying something like "Josh, I think we should adopt internationally. Let me know what you think when you get home."}

Second, the quest: Was I a racist? The magnificent mystery love from that first night slowly evaporated, burned off by the harsh light I turned inward to search for answers to that question. Love and hate cannot occupy a common space; mothering and racism cannot coexist. An urgency to justify my un-racist heart obsessed me. I read pages and pages of internet material by writers [of several different racial identities] convinced that caucasian parents could not adequately parent adopted children of color because the gulf (racism) could not be bridged. I have been raised around the insidious us/them mentality of latent racism, confessing equality and clutching my purse. Could I think of black people (and not just black babies) as family? I began to watch, stare really, at the black people I encountered throughout my day (my life) thinking, could you be my grandmother? could you be my sister? could you be my grown up child? could I love you like I profess that I do?

My heart exploded.

Third, harder questions: Questions that weren't really questions at all but truths that flattened me. I had lived a lie. I fought for equality and cherished friendships, but I kept words like "they" close at hand.....little racist safety nets should I be rebuffed or rejected. I flailed about inside myself, loving children I had never met and hating myself for loving so badly all of my life. The big question: would I whip out my racist "they" (from the back to the front of my heart) on hard days with my children?
Suddenly, peace: the floor broke.
I fell through. God smiled, and I learned, from my children, the love and connectedness that has made me ALIVE and has stilled and invigorated me. There are no words for this stage in the process for me. [I typed that last sentence on the forum in a moment of efficient, maybe evasive, delerium. Of course there are more words! Sometimes, I have described my efforts to investigate my race and my heart as an elevator. On the top floor ...the floor near my eyes and mouth.....I say and see...or at least I say that I see....the right things. Children of God. Multiplicity as a miracle. Individuals as infinitely particular, etc. Floor two, the level that lands me right at the center of my heart, is a nightmare. Distances I hated to admit. Stereotypes I never wanted to believe I believed. Smallminded stupidity that I couldn't acknowledge.....I thought....if I were going to continue with this adoption. I kept pushing the up button. Finally, I resolved to open the doors to level two, face whatever I found, and trust God with whatever followed, even if it meant ending our adoption. That's the moment I described before with the phrase "the floor fell through," and I really did feel like God was laughing (with me? at me? at least near me.) I had just tried to tell him that the Red Sea was too deep or a mustard seed too small or a minivan just too expensive (wait until I tell you all about that one!). I felt like I had fallen into a warm sea. And people were not scary; they were all small, like me, and swimming in the same big sea. Brothers and sisters. FAMILY. Ideologically, I have always wanted to believe that family.....big, boundless family, was possible. Now, I was soaking in it!] Along the way I have toiled over other issues, the particulars of mothering (empowering without terrifying my children...caring for them properly...etc.) and of mothering a child born to and loved first by another mother....a mother I would learn to love as I continued to sift through my fears about adopting. [See She's my Baby's Mama] I'm not afraid of what I'll find anymore when I look inside. I run deeper than I would have ever learned had it not been for my children.

I have a million (or so) more thoughts on this topic that I hope to contribute to our dialogue this week. Thank you, Karen, for organizing this week, and thank you, everyone, for participating.

By the way, I think we should have a family perspective week every year, guided by developments in all of our lives. Think about it (perhaps we should have a family perspective week to gather everyone's thoughts about what it would be like to have an annual family perspective week....perhaps).

Light a Candle 2....the update

By the way, the nice man I spoke to when I called the Indianapolis Opera to ask about discounted tickets to the Sunday mantinee was busy...too busy to take the time to listen to and investigate my whole "That nice boy at the information desk named Patrick suggested..." ....and "we just got our days mixed up....." .....and...."Olivia has so looked forward to another Mozart Opera....." SO he interrupted me to offer us COMPLIMENTARY tickets (complimentary $95/per seat tickets!) to Sunday's matinee of The Magic Flute. We saw it!!!!! It was beautiful. We are blessed beyond measure! (Did you pick up on the fact that I love free things? Here's a motto: "Got something free? Give it to me!" Do you think there's any chance that one will end up on Lawrence Fishburn's wall? I'll keep working on it...)

As Long as I'm Quoting People......

I've run across this prose poem a handful of times this year, and it still gives me pause. Marianne Williamson (who is okay) wrote it, and Nelson Mandela (who, of course, rocks) quoted it just before he first took office.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us;
it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously
give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

If I'm going to be unoriginal, I might as well do it richly, right? (I saw this quote, aptly abbreviated, in Akeela and the Bee this evening.....we have free Sh*wtime this week on cable...I'm not sure if I'll sleep at all, but it is fun to watch movies!, because it's free.) Here's the Akeela version, for those among you who prefer it distilled.....

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously
give other people permission to do the same.

I like this efficient version. I like to read it aloud. I like, then, to imagine that I could write something inspiring too....something that might also one day hang on Lawrence Fishburn's wall.