Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Decade in Review (in less then ten sentences).

1999-Leave New York City for an island in Maine.


2000-Begin my teaching career.


2001-Organize first of five annual week long artists retreat on a lake with five amazing women.


2002-Buy my first home on the mainland.




2003-Decide to become a choice mom.


2004-Welcome Sam into my life.



2005-Publish my first piece in a magazine.



2006-Commit to being a writer as well as teacher and a mom.




2007-Welcome Marcel into our lives.



2008-Voted for a president who won!

2009-Put Mama C and the Boys on the map, published ten times.


Thank you to one an all for being part of this amazing decade.


* And thank you to Honeysmoke for the inspiration for this decade-in-review post and it's design:
http://www.honeysmoke.com/


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Language of Love



I can't keep all this sweetness to myself.
Marcel woke our first morning home full of
joy and brotherly love.

Here he delights in the sounds and the mastery of his own instrumentation.

Consider this your New Year's Baby from MamaC.

It was either that or my big mug wishing you all a laughter filled
New Years. (One of my big goals, is more laughter-for me-of me-around me.)

They say VLOGGING is the new blogging.
I say reading is still something one enjoys doing on occasion.

I am in my "what will I manifest in 2010?" mode.

I have two days to myself, after eight days solid with the boys.
I started with a hot stone massage.
When you create space in the body, it's amazing
how much space opens up outside the body,
my magical masseuse/healer/visionary guru and dear friend Sage offered.

I left there seeing my manuscript writing itself,
a gym membership landing in my lap with the time to
use it, and the key to the perfect and affordable writer's studio
handed to me by March.

Then I imagined myself in a nourishing relationship.

I walked home slower then I have placed one foot in front of the other in years.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Adoption Mosaic--A Model for All

The Adoption Mosaic newsletter is out, and ready to be downloaded. You can reach it and them through my link on the right under "Mama C in Print" as they included "Black Enough" in the Winter Edition!  But as much as I am fond of self promotion, that is not why I am writing about them here.  In their own words :
  
Adoption Mosaic is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization providing educational resources and ongoing support to all those whose lives are influenced by adoption. We provide pre-adoption support and post adoption support through adoption readiness trainings, transracial adoption workshops, adoptee and community movie nights, our adoption blog, book reviews, movie reviews and much much more.

Based in Portland, Oregon they are providing a model for what the adoption community should expect, demand, and commit to world wide in my humble opinion.  I can't imagine how much more connected and supported I would feel if we had an events calendar like this to look forward to:

January 2010
Calendar
In addition to all of the above is their thought provoking blog, and resource rich quarterly newsletter.  I feel as if A.M. is a constant affirmation to all of us in the adoption mosiac of what we should, could and can expect in the way of dialogue, community, connection, and education. With this kind of resource and think tank as a model it ups the anti and importance of the day to day work we are all doing already. 

So check them out, spread the word, and offer them your feedback, praise and ideas! I have also noticed on one of their calendars of programs they have co-hosted in other cities as well. So don't let the location stop you, if you are an East Coaster for example.

Thank you to Tara Kim for introducing me to the organization, and for including my poem in their newsletter as well as a handout for their African-American Hair Care event!
 

Monday, December 28, 2009

Living Large






















I love this photo.
What a magnificent image of Sam at five, Sam and I.
We're home safe.
The boys were remarkable travelers.
Strangers were kind, help was abundant.

Uncle retrieved us from the airport
and had a feast waiting for the weary trio-
what a gift.

(In the car waiting for Uncle to put the suitcase
in as I buckle him in Sam announces; 
Mom that was the best time-
I am so happy still!

I kiss his head and reply,
You couldn't have said anything to make me happier.)

Unpacking is one of my joys.
Reliving the week in folded pieces,
and play dough canisters tucked in winter boots.

Sam's birth mother's birthday present was waiting
on the kitchen table.
Transformer pajamas, two DVD's, and a five one dollar bills.
An envelope full of family pictures,
and the card.
"I love you very much, and I always will."
What a gift.

Of course to myself I am thinking;
you wouldn't have loved the way he
just tackled his little brother...

I want to text her immediately and thank her
and tell her that he loves the pajamas
(and not tell her they were a little small,
and how I am secretly OK with that, as if
somehow that shows that she is not
completely in sync with everything
about him, although
damn close) but I wait.

I need time to land too.

I notice the floor in dire need of a wash,
the draft blasting in from the window,
and the hole in my quilt that looks
even bigger somehow.
Sam asks if our toilet got lower
to the ground, as Marcel
runs around with the one stuffed animal
he managed not to bring with us
in his arms.

Everything is perfect in the homecoming
light.

Sam asks if he can eat in my lap.
Marcel wants to sit next to Uncle.
I can't believe how lovely the man next to Sam
was on the plane the entire way home.

We are all soft around the edges.

Lists start to write themselves;
thank you notes,
grading,
bank,
grocery,
call someone about this,
and ask someone about that,
and then I look at them
and all of us
and I relax-
because we made it home in one piece-
 and we are all amazing and
this is enough.

Wisdom of the Ages

When Marcel can't communicate his needs
he falls to the ground and gives in to the primal
release of frustration and anger.

Fists and feet pounding.

At forty-one I do the same thing, but instead of the floor
I take it out on myself through constant
internal doubt laden
comment and questioning.

I prefer the Marcel model.

As a highly verbal child with a relatively clued in Mama
he has less and less opportunity for
such dissolution into his emotional flooring.

As a highly verbal and communicative
woman/daughter/mother/sister/friend
it is remarkable how much I could learn from Marcel.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Houston We Have Landed














He did it.
His first overnight a grand success.
Just spoke to the small voice, in the large boy.
Mommy where are you?
Have some breakfast young man. I am so proud of you.
OK.
And then call me when you are ready for me to come pick you up.
OK.

Thank you G & G for guiding him to the top of this star safely.
I am well rested, as Marcel calls it all;
Mommy I'm ready to see Sammy now.

To Nana last night I confess;
I didn't realize how hard it would be to let Sammy find his
independence.
She nods with understanding, having raised two boys too.

A night apart gave me needed light and lightness.
A night apart gave me the space to see
how much I have been dragging  him in,
while he has been pulling away.

I can see the earth more clearly from the moon.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Air and Space















We took to the air.
We conquered space.

Seat 12 A finds Sam alone with Mama and Marcel
behind, marvelling at how my almost five
has already claimed air travel as his own-
while I try to keep Houdini at two
from the call button, again.

Washington, D.C. landing at night
lights large on merrily lit lawns.
Keeping tired eyes wide
the entire ride to Nana's house we go.

Waking to birthday balloons
jelly donuts and the promise of a day
devoted to being high and five.

Birthdays are for adoptees either of epic import
or stuffed under the carpet hushed for another year
Sam falls under the first category:
airplane+bowling alley+pizza party meet the bill.


















I can be an astronaut
as he places his flag in the new moon of his independence.
Tonight this explorer is on his first overnight
with Grampy and Grammy Bear-Bear and Blankie,
I'm here with the co-pilot and
Nana navigating a lift off of another direction.
Marcel lands so softly in my heart these days.

The territory that I am fogged in again is the familiar
ground of dissapointment unwrapped.
Being fourteen wrapped in forty-one.

Motherhood is a gravitational pull
though not always pulling me to the mother I want to be
in a yoga pose, sleep deprived on the warm carpet before
the waiting tree I promise myself
space to let this be enough-for once.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Unpaired and Prepared

Solstice.
Incremental return to light.
A five year old on the horizon.
A packed suitcase and two copied birth
certificates on the ready.
Imminent flight.

Single Mother by Choice
or circumstance we are
Unpaired and prepared
for travel and arrival and
the getting there.
Daily.

Hats of to us at the holidays
ladies as we make it as big
or as small as they require.
Stoking the fire in the hearths
of our intentional
families.

Short haired with a vision.
On a mission to collect
the day in keystrokes.

Stronger at forty-one then at
forty. A soccer mom not becuase
I take them there, but because I join
them there on the basement floor
where I have the moves flying
by Sam scoring with precision
as Marcel yells GOAL Mommy!
Discovering alone while Uncle is away
the autonomy I need is not in the dishwater
or on the screen, but in the score
of 3 to O.

Every day an incremental
return to the light.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Hairless and Hepless living with Hip



























Music is Sam's passion.
For his birthday-an ipod nano shuffle
loaded with his twenty favorite songs
and a special decibel limiting head set.
(Who knew ear buds didn't fit little people's ears?
Thankfully I had him open this present a few
days before we got on the plane.  Uncle saved the day
with a pre departure swing to the Apple store
with nephew to re-fit the nano's listening device.)
Now he spends hours moon walking in footy pajamas
to MJ, Madonna, Outkast, The Jackson Five,
Stevie Wonder, and Jack Johnson.

He earns an i-tune download every few days for
remarkable feats of Sam-ness.
He ballroom dances with his friends at school,
and leaves a gaggle of adults speechless.
He has never seen ballroom dancing,
but he appears to have been taking lessons for years.

I played the cello in middle school.
I saw Annie Lennox in concert before she was the Eurythmics.
I pressed my ear to the floor
that was my brother's ceiling downstairs
to fall asleep to Simon and Garfunkle, and Bonnie Rait.
I went to the bands my friends started in college.
I go to bands my friends started in middle age.
I haven't initiated a musical choice in my life.
I listen because I am invited to.

Living with this new generation musician
may or may not change this.

I am trying to invite musical intelligence into my life.

Like this morning-
sitting in the chair,
watching my hair fall to the ground,
(Pixie style? She asked.
I want it off. I said.)
I did not tense up when she began the conversation.
Of course I couldn't remember anything I listened to.
Doves, Ya Ya Ya's, Muse and Metric
are her current faves.

I write these down
in the little hard bound
blank book I keep in my pocket
for such occasions.
I have been carrying that
little book again.
This is a good sign.

It amuses her I think-
that I am curious what she listens to.

Last week I asked my 6-8th graders to tell me their top three songs.
I am compiling a list, suddenly curious
what my students are listening to.
I spent the afternoon watching their choices on You Tube.

Two words sum up the recurring themes: apocalypse and romance:

Yankee Daddy
Lady Gaga
Mario
New Boyz
Bad Boyz
Cupid
Beyonce
Rihanna
Justin Bieber and
and Lil Wayne

We do listen to Chopin before bed.
Jim gave me the CD when I asked him to get the boys
some good classical music next time
he was in his basement of freebies.
(For a non musical person, I am surrounded by DJ's,
musicians, composers and the like.)

Annie Lennox taught Lady Gaga everything she knows in my opinion.
Luckilly no one is ever going to ask me for my opinion.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

History in the Texting Part II














Around this time
each year there is a flurry of activity
in our communication.

At first it was letters.
Then it was calls.
Then emails.

Now, Sam's birth mother and I text each other.

Texting is short, less direct, and safe:
for both of us.

The flurry is attributed to Sam's birthday
and Christmas.

Both of these holidays are important to her, too.

The last flurry of texts:
shirt/pant/shoe size
if Sam had Monsters and Aliens, the movie.

(I google it quickly, read the preview
is it something I will be able to support?
The eighty-six foot tall blonde protagonist
scares me, but I say "no he doesn't" and reply.)

I ask what books her kids are reading.
What they are doing that interests them.

I warn her that what Sam picked out for her
was well, something she might not want to wear
out of the house.

OK, LOL she replies.

Will she choose to wear a gaudy
necklace out?
Will she explain who sent it?
Where does the ink to that story land?

It was five years ago that we all met in the hospital
room, twice. Then once in her house on our
way to the airport to say goodbye.

I felt loose with her this time.
Light even. So I venture into
new territory. Leave the familiar
warn down chips of the
polite, semi-formal well
establish path,
and venture to new ground;

It was five years ago
this week that I got the call
that you had chosen me.
We have been talking about
that a lot.

Send.

That was the hardest
thing ever. 
There was so many people
2 go through.

Received.

I gasp.
I picture it-on her couch.
Her pregnant with a pile of profiles.
Mine in there somewhere.
Did mine stick out a little
with it's horizontal orientation?

Imagining her turning each page,
picturing a little version of
herself inserted into each family
portrait.

But, I can't imagine
the meaning
of hardest in that text.

I feel the gratitude that she shared this with me.
In a text, that I can save here.

(She chose me because I was the
most like her
I was told.)

We were both-
single.
She wanted to be a-
teacher.
She liked to read-
plays.

I did too.

Whoa. Sam and I like to 
say that he helped you choose
me. I am so thrilled you 
made the crazy choice you did.
He is my pride and joy.

Send.

Then I quickly follow with;

We love you so much.

Send.

I love you guys 2 :-]
Go to bed lol. It's 
late over there.

Received.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tears from the Royal Family: Ode to Ti & Naveen






















We were all crying at the end-for different reasons.

E the older was crying because as a twenty-one year old Haitian woman
seeing a gorgeous hard working brown skinned princess on the screen-
opened up so many years of not seeing herself up there.
With Marcel sleeping in her arms, she cries because these boys
who are her boys too-won't know what it's like
to be invisible in Disney's World.

E the younger was crying for the loss of Ray,
and all the sadness his passing opened up in her little
compassionate five year old soul. Her mother  guiding
her to the gentle message there-of fireflies into stars everywhere.

Sam was crying, because movies do that.
Evoke. Even if he didn't know why.
Maybe crying at something so much larger then you
when you are almost five.

Shadow Man was so scary that
he hid behind his home made tiara-mask that he and little E
created for the event.  His brown eyes seeing his brown eyes
through glitter lined holes, filtering the fear.

I was crying too.
Funny how never seeing yourself as a princess girl-
keeps you from yearning for a certain kind of charming.
Drawn more often to the shadow of a man.

Mama Odie tell us to dig a little deeper
to find what you need.
Ray's in love with the evening star,
and my sons can now be the president and the prince.

+++

Note: A more measured take on the film may follow.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Black and White























This is an oddly perfect picture of us.

(And if you have the dubious distinction of being on our
holiday card mailing list, you'll get the hard copy
as soon as Snapfish says so.)

The best part was that I ushered us all on the floor
the other day for an inspired;
"Hey lets make our holiday card right now" moment
and it worked on one try.

I have a feeling 2010 is going to be the decade of making things 
work like that more often, because my first forty years of trying
to be perfect did not yield much in the way of perfection.
It is the parts that were not what I intended
that have turned out the best.

I had another piece that you read here first accepted for publication
today-- the Shades of People book review-at Adoptive Families Magazine.)

That brings my number of pieces published or accepted for publication
to a total of nine this year, not including a podcast scheduled for
January or February on Mixed Chicks Chat. My goal was five.
Give yourselves credit readers for giving me the lift, the incentive,
and the feedback to keep at it.

Happy Hanukkah, Princess and the Frog Opening
in most of the country, and above all 
Happy Eve of Anticipatory Motherhood to me. 
December 12th, 2004 was when I got "the call".
Sam was born, and in my arms less than two weeks later.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Self Portrait by Sam






















This is why Brown Santa Man is getting him a camera.
He took this yesterday-after sledding.
He loved it-and asked me to post it.

Not just any camera--the Argus Bean-in green.
Not mentioning it here to promote it--but to warn you away
from those "my first camera" numbers by Playschool and the like.
According to this budding pho-tog you can't see a thing in those-
the screen looks like a muddy puddle-and what kid wants that?
Argus Bean clips on to anything, is water proof, indestructible,
and has rechargable batteries.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Breakthrough on Ice


I slip on my green slippers with the pom poms and sneak into the kitchen to make the instant coffee.
It is a snow day. I am not full of joy for the day off. I wanted to go to work. This tells me that I am more off balance then I thought. 


A few hours later I am sledding down a hill in a blizzard with Marcel in my lap pausing from the crying long enough 
to holler in delight

and Sam holding onto the back of the sled
laughing his butt off.
We are there with a new friend and her daughter.
Soon we give in to the ice pellets on raw skin

and trudge back home to thaw with hot cocoa, 
popcorn and ugly decorated cookies.

My new friend admires my home, my children.
Her daughter looks like I did as a girl, with her square jaw
and wispy bangs. 
Girl energy in my house is balancing.
I realize I still long for that daughter too.

I remember the one I lost at thirteen weeks,
and the message on the machine identifying the tissue as female.
Her fantasy name: Dixie. Meryl Dixie Junior Girl Dale actually.

I like being reminded of her, and what it felt like to carry
all that girl knowing for that blip on the screen,
that then faded out.

If I wasn't a mom, I would have been in all day
longing for an opportunity to be outside sledding with 
a superhero like Sam, and a loop like Marcel.
I would have had no idea how easy it was to stay inside alone,
and write. 






















Because to me then, that was a hard choice.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

You Are Not My Real Mom, take two.

The following is as verbatim a record of our conversation
after dinner tonight as I could reconstruct.

I've been here before, and had several hours of
(now discontinued for financial reasons) family therapy
to help me navigate it better each time.
It begins with Sam.
_______________












I want my real mom.

I am your real mom.

No, I want my real mom.
I want her to be here now.

You mean your birth mother?

No, I mean, my real mom.
She's my everyday mom, not you.

It feels really hard to not have her here doesn't it?

Yes!

I don't want to hurt your feelings.

OK.

But, I want to live with her now.

[As the wrecking ball heaves itself out of the debris
which was my heart, and gathers momentum
for the next hit, I breathe and remember that this is
all about him.  I can do this. I can.]

That doesn't hurt my feelings, I say.
It makes me feel good inside that you are telling
Mommy what is in your heart.
I always want you to tell me what you need to.

You don't love me everyday.

Now that is crazy talk. Of course I do.
Why do you think that?

If you loved me everyday you wouldn't yell at me.

I wish I wouldn't yell.
And I wish you would listen
when I ask you the first three times.
And, I wish I wasn't so tired.
But you're right. Sometimes I do yell. 
I love you even when I am yelling.

[At this point Sam gets off the stool he is sitting on,
and climbs into my lap, putting his head underneath
my chin, and against my neck.]

I am looking up at the letter he gave me
that he wrote at school today.
It is taped to the wall, all alone looking regal.

The first letter he ever wrote:

I U. I L U Mom. Sam. (L=love he tells me).

Sam, I know that you have so many feelings in your heart
for her. I love her too.

You do?

Of course. Without her there would be no you,
and no you and me.
I wouldn't be a mommy, you wouldn't be you.

I love her more then I love you.

It may feel like that sometimes.
But the thing about love
is you can love more then one person at a time.

Like I love you and Marcel and her?

Yes.

Can you hold me in front of the Christmas tree now?
I need a cuddle.

Me too.

Marcel needs a cuddle too! he screams.

***
A little back story:
Last night Sam's birth mother texted me to ask
what Sam wanted for his birthday which is approaching.
I had told him she had asked.
I had asked him what he wanted me to suggest.
We brainstormed, and I wrote her back.

Then this evening two of my friends-both adopted
were over for dinner.
Sam knows their stories. 
He wanted to know why I wasn't adopted too.

***

If these conversations are this hard at four, imagine fourteen.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Weekend Vignettes-On the Lighter Side

Marcel on seeing the significant snow fall upon waking;
Mom?! Who put all that play dough on the cars?

On our economics situation after I say I didn't get yogurt this week:
Sam: Are we poor?
Me: Not in the important things, like friendships, love, having our
health, a roof over our..
Sam: But Mom, yogurt is important.

On our way back from our monthly transracial family/potluck gathering:
Sam: Mom were you the only not brown skinned person there?
Me: Uhm, no, there was so and so there, why?
Sam: It's OK if you are the only one that looks like you,
because I have  friends who look like me. And so can
you and Marcel.
Me: Thanks for that reassurance Sam.
Sam: But, maybe you should cut all his hair off next time so he
can look a little bit more like me.
Me: No! His hair is magnificent, and so is yours.
Sam: I am growing an Afro mom, so I can be in the Jackson 5.

Me: Marcel what are you playing with?
Marcel: Mom you know this is a train.
Me: Right.
Marcel: Not right mom. Say; Yupadoodle Mr. Noodle. OK?

+++

I lay down next to Marcel singing Summer Time for the fifth
time tonight, with Sam chiming in at the end from the top bunk
and I don't much mind how imperfect I am.
(Picture above is in the Nana's bed two summer's ago-
inspired by the topic--and who doesn't love a sleeping babies pic?)

At the end where the song goes;
Until that day nothing is going to harm you,
With your mama and ________________ standing by,
we insert the names of everyone in our lives who we love, cherish etc.
It is the closest thing to a family ritual we have!

We also edit the beginning --to the Single Parent friendly version:
Summertime where the living is easy-
fish are jumping and the cotton is high.

Your mama's rich and your mama's good looking..

 or

Your mama's rich, and your uncle's funny/good/not looking...

+++

With the newly strung lights twinkling in the next room
reflected in Marcel's deeply conditioned and glistening hair,
Chopin by request (Jackson 5 not allowed at night night time)
tucking them both in softly around the edges
their deep breaths descending into sleep
I inhale our combined strength.


+++
A final Sunday request: What do you want to know?
I am soliciting feedback, or suggestions for blog topics.
Email me at: mamacandtheboys@gmail.com with anything 
you'd like to see tackled here. I'm game.
I'm eager to know if there is anything you've always wondered
what my approach or take or experience with is or isn't.
Let's have it!

To more vignettes from the lighter side!
Have a great week, Mama C

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Stella Luna Lands a Letdown

Sitting in the auditorium I notice
first the lack of color around us.
One biracial father, one other adoptee.

Including my family, that makes four
out of say, three hundred.

My first response is not dread it's curiousity.
Why aren't there more, OK any families of color here?
Here being a public school auditorium just outside of town.
What is the cultural difference in entertainment value
that is of little or no interest to families of color here?

What is it about children's theater that holds no appeal?
Or was it how it was advertised? Or to whom?
Where could I go on a Saturday afternoon 
and see another or other demographic?


Then when the play starts, the dread sets in.
All white cast of four from Toronto.
Two men, two women. 
They sing, they dance, they exude.
They manipulate the puppets, 
and they attempt to captivate the all white audience.

Then the content unfolds igniting the dread like a pile
of dried leaves, crackling and swirling around me.
An accidentally abandoned 
baby fruit bat "adopted" by his bird friends is forced 
to deny all that he knows 
to survive in this new family's home.

He eats bugs instead of fruit,
Sleeps upright and by day so his new mother 
doesn't kick him out.

She threatened once.

He calls himself clumsy, and flies away in shame.
Where he is happily reunited with his real mom.
Bye bye bird family. 
My biological family has saved me now.

With Marcel on my lap laughing, 
and Sam three seats away next to his friend
with a serious and distant look on his face.
What is his interpretation? How will I ever know? 

To be a transracial adoptive parent is a constant
unending stream of messages that require 
interpretation, mitigation, and action.

Like a fruit bat, I just want to hang upside down 
sometimes and let that be enough.
Writing this blog, and knowing that my readers
can see me hanging here, is so very often 
the enough that I need. Thank you.

Friday, December 4, 2009

It's not funny


I woke up this morning
worried.

Am I too serious?

Will my kids be humorless?
Am I that mother?

Well I know I am that mother to some.
But I don't want to be the one all the other
kids avoid.

Uh Sam, we like you and all but your
mom? Well she keeps hounding us about making good choices, the importance of education, racial identity and self advocacy to name just a few. Man she can't let it go!  We just want to chill and be with you. 

Or:  

No dear you can't go over there. 
We love Marcel too, but his mom, is well
you know vegetarian, and kind of well serious. 
Let's invite him over here, it'll be good for him.
The kid needs a break.


I mean aside from being two,
could this be why Marcel covers himself in paint?
Draws long blue lines on the wall with a permanent marker,
and hurls my shoes into the air while singing
"That's poppycock Mr. Noodle!"

Is this why Sam asks me to dress more like Madonna?

[Yes I showed him a Madonna video. OK, I'll
admit it, I showed him three, even four.
He liked the sound of her name.
Then he liked the sound of her music.
Last night he liked the appearance
of her thigh high boots.

Mom do you have boots like that?
Can Santa get you those?]

It's not funny.
I worry.
Is Sam's appreciation of Madonna OK?

(Uncle calls her a class act, and calms me that way.)

While taking the veggie lasagna out of the oven,
I think Class? Billie Holiday has class. 
Well troubles too, but she had class!
Why isn't is he asking me to dress like her?

Last night when I grabbed the empty orange juice container
and pretended it was a mic while singing
"If we took a holiday, took a time to celebrate.." 

Both the boys screamed;
MOM DON'T DO THAT! 

But, I protested;  "It's my right to express myself!
Remember the Bill of Rights?"

And the holiday I was thinking about was Kwaanza
and we have so much to celebrate,
and the heft of the juice box
really does make it funny.

But they were too busy
singing; "ABC it's as easy as 123"
while sliding around the kitchen floor
in their socks pulled up over their footy
pajamas (more slide potential) to notice.

I guess they'll be OK.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Braggarts Beware


Braggarts beware of open containers of paint
on newly bathed bodies-not for the faint

of heart, seeing full arms, torso, and head.
Slathered in less than sixty seconds in red

tempera, a thick chalk like paste.
Marcel didn't have a minute to waste

to decide what to color on when the easel is bare.
He walks into the room, smiling so wide as we stare.

Look Mommy! I paint my body all by myself.
Announces one very red and curly haired elf.

Bragging Rights in Blue

I don't indulge
in this practice often
so forgive me when

I recount the following
with unabashed pride.
Which is probably more

revealing about my values
then the accomplishment itself
but lets not over think it

so. Two lollipops for a Monday
car ride home-offered to the buckled in
dynamic duo: one brown, one blue.

After trying to negotiate a peaceful
solution to simultaneous screams of BLUE.
I give up. Sam won first pick, and Marcel

lost.  Without so much as a prompt from
me-Sam exhales as he delivers his own
deeply considered blue;

This is so hard for me, but
here Marcel you can have mine.
The exchange, the quiet, the amazed me.

A mile down the road Marcel delivers too;
Thank you so much Sammy for 
letting me hold-on-and-have your blue.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Blind Side-Movie Review




Considering how precious my night outs are you know that I pick my entertainment carefully. I was curious about this movie because of a review that I read in Adoptive Families Magazine last month.

All of their claims about adoption friendly language and treatment of the issues was 100% accurate. 

This is based on the book Blind Side by Michael Lewis. It is a true story about a young man, "Big Mike" taken into an initially informal foster care situation in Mississippi by a very wealthy and thoughtful family.

Among other things handled with care and insight was the depiction of Michael's biological mother and her inability to parent.  The film painted her as troubled, and compassionate. I particularly appreciated the final nod to her at the conclusion of the film when Mike, who now goes by Michael, explains the root of his resiliency.

I went on YouTube to see interviews with the real characters in the story, and was impressed by how well Sandra Bullock was cast as the spit fire outspoken designer who finds herself
changed by Michael, and not the other way around.

All of the characters undergo subtle and meaningful shifts in the film as they each discover their own potential.

An amazing endorsement of foster care, formal or not, and what could happen if all of our non parented youth, had such an opportunity.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Sosa Reaction/ A Girl Like Me (Video from 2005)


This video  (see below--I got carried away with the Sosa images) was posted on the Love Isn't Enough Website- in response to so many of the viewers not seeing a problem with Sammy Sosa's recent DRAMATIC intentional skin lightening.  [My own musings here, are directly inspired from there: Love Isn't Enough (formerly Antiracist Parent) website. I always have trouble posting their link here, but the address is: http://loveisntenough.com ]


A high school student recreated research done as evidence for the Brown vs. Board of Education (1954) where children of color were asked to chose which baby doll was "better" or "nicer"-the brown one, or the white one. 

In 2005, the results are not different then fifty years before:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqSFqnUFOns&feature=related 

For the entire seven minute long documentary you can You Tube "A Girl Like Me".


I read on an adoptive parent focused web page where the white parent was told it was normal for her African American child to want to be white like them. What disturbed me was not that a child would want to look like her parents, but that the assumption that this is normal from a developmental perspective was not separated from the implications this has for the parents in terms of the child's identity formation. Wanting to be white is not normal, wanting to look like your parents is.


When my Sammy saw these two pictures, he looked at them very carefully and finally said; "That's weird."

When I asked him what was weird he said; "He looks white there." I did not recreate the experiment with Sam by asking which picture he liked better-because I found myself anxious to not leave him alone in that moment. So, I agreed that it was weird, and followed up that it made my heart sad that this man did not love the way he looked before. Sam and I then agreed that he looked better as a brown skinned Dominican man.


This also brings to mind Sammy's noticing that MJ wasn't brown when he died. I wonder now if he isn't thinking that brown skinned people turn white when they get sick! That you lose all your color and turn white.


*A special shout to KJ for bringing this conversation up this morning in terms of the daycare/what does a princess look like/can she have brown hair?/bring on Princess Tiana please!

I will not let

the unpaid hospital bills interfere
with all that I manage so well financially-
like the mortgage, the childcare, the clothes that fit
growing bodies beautifully


the moments I lose patience and empty the refrigerator
on the floor to prove there are no more cheese sticks there
undermine all the times that I walk away and breathe
calling upon untapped reserves of calm

the fears of not spoiling them wrotten at the holidays
drown out my determination to maintain laughter, family, and
connection as the gifts the holidays afford-
time spent well is all they really want

the Will Not Lets wake me up tomorrow.
The Wills are a much easier troupe
to start a weekend with.
Will Write,
Will Laugh, 
Will Cope,
Will Discover that
we have all that we need.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

We are beginning a new tradition here today.
Not an original one I imagine
but new to us.

Black Friday is going to be devoted to celebrating
all things that are black which is brown.

[Economics aside-explained simply to Sam as
when a store is doing well they say they are
in the black.]

Black Friday is going to be a day where we list
everyone we know who is some part black
and who has contributed to making the world as we know it
a better and browner place to be.

Sam came up with Michael Jackson as the first on  his list.
To honor him we You Tubed him for half an hour.
The best most thought provoking find--the Jackson 5
on the Carol Burnett Show a long long time ago.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W62an6HrSww

Sam was laughing at her, while admiring the complementary colors
on their pant suits.
I was horrified picturing myself as Carol Burnett to their friends
a not so long time from now.

When I explained this new holiday to Sam,
to help me brainstorm other people we could
devote the day to his list was as follows;
Marcel, Me, and Uncle...

Should our  list include people who do not have brown skin
but who feel like they do in a way to you?

Sam ponders this and says; Yes because that would include
you, and all the other people who love me too.
And Michael Jackson at the end of his life.
But not Santa because he is really not black.

I rattle off a few obvious additions to the list
all of which Sam heartily agrees to.
Sam's birth mother and father, Marcel's donor.
Obama, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin,
Tiger Woods, Serena, and the new Disney Princess Tiana.
These being the most often occurring
and recent additions to the family lexicon.

If you're done Mom can I go now?

I nod and smile, as I jot it all down.

Waiting there watching me write Sam
the collaborator-son says,
Add this at the end mom;
Happy Black Day, and I love you.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Le Jour de Merci Donnant

Marcel just woke up in this photo.
He is so smushy vulnerable cuddley then.

So often I picture them at thirteen and ten and feel wildly appreciative of moments like these. When they want to cuddle. When I am still the one who knows what I am talking about. When the outside world hasn't taken over as the giver of the truth. When a hurt is still curable with a kiss.

Yesterday when I was fixing lunch and the boys were watching the trees being pruned right outside the window, Sam looked at Marcel and said; "You know what Marcel?"
"What Sam?" his adoring companion asked.
"I really love you."
"I really love you too beautiful Sam."

I am writing more then I ever have, and it is still not enough.
I am making connections with something I can now call- my readers-something I dreamed about saying once. I go about my day as a writer who is observing, and not the observer who might write about this one day. 

I feel more patience with them, and me.

I am thriving in my commitment to parent two children of color
with a hope born more deeply this day then the day before it-that my conscientiousness is purposeful. That my purpose is changing things for the better.

We are surrounded by so much love and support.

My eyes are closing as I write, but I couldn't go to sleep tonight without saying thank you for joining me here between the chaos and the consistency.
 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Book Review: Blended Nation


Recently many of my readers here, have been contacting me by email to introduce themselves and share how their stories resonate with mine.  "I look forward to all the ways in which you find a way to approach the intersection of race and parenting.." wrote a woman, who like myself is an adoptive parent of a child of color. That readers are writing to me is a source of great joy. That those of you who are writing continue to identify race, parenting, honesty, my voice and my experience as an adoptive parent as the reasons you return-emboldens and nourishes me.

The other night I became the audience member and reader to many of these same critical intersecting points on a much larger stage. Blended Nation: Portraits and Interviews of Mixed-Race America by Mike Tauber and Pamela Singh is a collective photographic and transcribed exploration of what it means to identify as mixed race in twenty-first century America. (You can see my earlier reference and the link to the NPR interview on this book under the November entry Blended Nation-Marcel Style.) As you may recall from a few weeks back, I was so struck by the short piece I heard on NPR with Mr. Tauber that I wrote to him to thank him for putting this work into the collective conversation and asked him if I could review and share his work here. He answered me within the day, and sent the book in two. 

I was pulled in from the cover, and felt instantly as if I just arrived at a family reunion with hundreds of kindred voices that all welcomed me in-even when what they had to say was not easy to hear. Take for example the words of Timothy Meril.  Adopted,  Puerto Rican, and Iranian, and in middle school, his portrait exudes self assurances and self doubt simultaneously. The sepia tones reflect his skin and the bark of the tree-that I trust and hope he will one day be as strong as-and provide a lush container for his honesty; "I'm not black and I'm not white and I just try to fit in... My parents and family love me, but they don't understand all the issues I deal with."  I feel a future Sammy and Marcel in his words, and in his world. And, I see our family over and over in the pages of this hefty, smooth, and visually stunning event. Interracial families, mixed race marriages, adoption, one part this and four parts that, and so many photos of radiant gorgeous people with curly black hair. Our family is the norm over and over again.

In last month's Adoptive Families Magazine, there was a story by a now grown woman, Deborah Jiang Stein, who used to pour over the photos in the National Geographic Magazine every month as a child desperate to find a picture of someone who looked like her. Her adoptive parents did not at the time have the background information necessary to help her discover what her ethnicity was (part Greek, Tiawanese-American, Latina and more).  Her essay came to mind as I looked in the eyes of the confident LaTanya Spann who is black, white and Asian. LaTanya talks about her choice in college of joining either the Asian, white or black sorority, and her decision to join a Latina-founded multi-cultural sorority instead. The difference in options for her, and Ms. Stein are epic. The book offers this perspective, and all of the possibility that shift engendered by the younger generation presents. At the same time, you are invited in, to the work of the parents that came before them, and the struggles of the peers that have not found their way to her flushed out decision.

I see this book as a tool for Sammy, Marcel and I to have many necessary conversations in the future. When Eddie, our Haitian superhero former nanny and now weekly dinner guest rock star was here the other night she said, having Marcel as a brother is going to provide opportunities for Sammy that he wouldn't necessary have otherwise. And, having Sammy as a brother will do the same for Marcel.  This book is offers me a little crystal ball moment into that map she sees ahead of them. The stories in the book, and the dare you to turn that page until you see my soul photos included should be the anchor text for all families who aim to parent children of any background fully in this century. It's like having extended family sitting on the couch who just showed up when you were at a loss for words and need their help to explain what it means to be human, today.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Say Uncle

While they are downstairs playing soccer
after watching football and explaining endzones
and replays
I am stealing a moment of thanks.

Sam's eyes say it all really.
What more could I add?
He made those cupcakes today with Eddie
to honor the man who is Super Uncle Man.

Crab cakes, roasted brussel sprouts, quinois, and cupcakes are on the menu tonight.

Flavored with admiration, appreciation, joy, humor
and love for our downstairs Uncle.
Sailor Uncle.
Football watching Uncle.
Throw me on the couch Uncle.
He likes to play rough Uncle.
T.V. will rot your brain Uncle.
Motorcycle Diner Uncle.

Don't tell him that I had a bad day at school Uncle.

I may not have a dad, but I have an Uncle Uncle.

We love you.

Thank you for giving us this chance
to celebrate
all that you do

Uncle.