Saturday, June 30, 2007

NOT about adoption!

Look, we went to Santa Cruz! With the pelicans! And the boardwalk lights! Plus, the moon!

We had an eventimous week. We went to California and stayed in by far the coolest hotel I've seen. There were antique Brownie cameras in the Norwegian Blue/ Chocolate Brown lobby, and large swaths of velvet randomly hung all over the modern scandesign place. There was a Rubic's Cube to play with in our room, along with a really great selection of design magazines and nifty artwork framed in those huge-mat-thin-black-frames.

Because I so loved the decor and was more than a little dazzled by the attention to design, I spilled an entire caraffe of skim milk on the nicely appointed breakfast buffet table. It was okay because everyone there was interviewing with Silicon Valley, so they had been right there with me in awkwardston in one way or another for much of their geekster lives. The waitstaff didn't even blink, bless her heart.

When we got back from Cali, I went straight to Aumsville to help with Cowgate '07. There's this total heifer in heat, see, and my dad let me play around with big sharp spikes, welded wire panels and a hammer for a couple of days. We mended the fence, though come to think of it those exact materials might have been useful in convincing her to stay put by means of... persuasion, know what I mean? If she could build a memory to last more than the 3 seconds she has available, it! could! work!! (Young Frankenstein rulz.)

Here's that horny cow with my friend's baby.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Flawster System

Have you noticed how great a mom-in-law I have? Take a look at her comment on the previous post. I know, it's just not fair. No explaining Jonathan, though...

Anyway, I figured I'd get around to the foster-to-adopt thing. Thank you, fair readers who might still be slogging through my blog, for tolerating one more post on our adoption research.

We haven't totally given up on the good old US of A yet, except for one thing: I think it might make me a criminal.

There is no WAY I am capable of dropping off an in-process of adoption toddler I love at their birthparents' home for court-mandated visits during which they will suffer the kind of treatment that required their removal from the home in the first place. If I had evidence the parents were screwing up again with a child I loved, I would be crushed and angry and... it just would not work for me.

The other huge consideration is Toby. I'd rather not parade kids who might be, might not be siblings through our home only to lose them because of nutty legal problems.

I literally have to limit my exposure to the stories out there about what happens to kids in the system in the States. Most happens at the hands of their bio-parents, despite the impression given by a few well-advertised cases of foster parents being evil. Just this morning, for example, I read that in a huge survey of the kids themselves (1951-1984), 90% "always feel safe" in their placed homes. I also read a story about some seriously messed-with, messed-up kids being given to some unwitting family by the state of Florida (who refused to warn the family or share the boys' extensive psych files and is now paying a settlement) with poor consequences all around.

We haven't written off a domestic kiddo completely, but it is a very bleak state of affairs here. I am not convinced open adoption is better for the kids, and I don't like the idea of trying to win over a birthmom to have her pick us from a pageant of other potentials. We're meeting with some friends who have been through several types of adoption and hope to get some good advice and clear leading.


Do what's in front of you.
Run your own race.
Is there any better advice out there? In fact, the first friend/mentor I remember telling me this was herself an adoptive mom to a developmentally delayed behaviorally challenged toddler and a crack baby. Both boys are completely at or above average now, and a big happy part of her life along with a baby she had the year we left Madison.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

You Crane

The country we are most intrigued by is Ukraine.

Adoption is different there in several important ways.

First, you are not allowed to use an agency in Ukraine. This is meant to eliminate a potentially corrupt middleman and to discourage human black market style transactions. You can hire a translator, or facilitator, but that's it.

Second, photo-listings of waiting children and pre-selection of any kind are illegal. This is also supposed to stop human traffickers and pre-bribing somebody to get a particular child.

Third, unless there is a health issue, children are kept in the system unavailable to foreigners for one year from the time they are documented.

I respect Ukraine for doing what it can to avoid immoral practices in adoption, but I can see a couple of potential deterrents for me here.

On the day that you are finally given your appointment with the state-run agency, you are shown books full of photos of waiting children and are expected to choose a few to enquire about within about an hour. The agency then calls the child's orphanage to confirm they are available (some of the files are old) and that nothing drastic has changed about their situation. If the child is sicker than the file indicates or if a long-lost relation has resurfaced, you may have to move on to another face.

If it looks like a potential match, you are sent on a trip to the orphanage. Some are a long way (17 hours in a decroded train) away. Sometimes when you reach your destination, other children are brought to you first, and may recite poetry or sing. If your heart hasn't shattered into a surprisingly small and black mess on their Eastern Block floor at this point, you may then see the child you selected from the books full of children. You have some time to consider the child and may visit several days in a row before announcing your decision.

The whole thing is wrapped up by a little more paperwork (am I signing up for another doctorate here?) and then you are officially family. Sometimes people don't find their child on the first few tries. You are allowed two appointments with the main agency, after which you are sent back to your country to recover and then may ask for one more appointment. Most people find their kids on the first trip, but others don't. With travel expenses and application fees (to the Embassies while you're filling out a year's worth of forms) most can expect to pay between $10,000-20,000. These fees also help defray the cost of the care the child receives while they are in the system, but are payed whether the parents travel home alone or not.

I respect the intent and think it's one of the best attempts at fairness I've come across. I just don't like the Jeopardy-timing parade of kids in need. That would take a LOT of prayer...

It's a system.


I talked to Rachael today, who would be like my evil twin except are you sure she's the evil one, because between us maybe we actually need, like, what are sets of four babies called, quartets? Anyway, we're made for each other, that squeeky little violin playing hobag and I, and I missed talking to her and was thinking up nasty things to send to her house so she would call me. And then about a 30 minutes after thinking that, she did.

I didn't answer right away- I have this mental problem with answering the phone sometimes even if I'm bored and lonely. But toDAY, finally, we chatted about stuff and she doesn't know it yet but she totally inspired me to get out the door and go for a run.

Except I walked because that jogging stroller is still missing its propeller and it's eleventy thousand degrees in the shade.

The thing with Rachael is that she is a very obsessive person, too. And I can always count on her to have some great thing going, like a Very Restricted Health Food Kick or a Very Demanding Workout Streak or Ticking Off Socially Conservative Legalist Churchfolk Jag or even sometimes Practicing.

So I hung up the phone, ran right upstairs and took a 30 minute nap while Toby fought sleep with all he's got. We both gave up and I could not think of a single reason why I shouldn't get outside and excercise. Believe me, I tried.

It felt so incredibly great, it would be so nice to do that more often. I'll have to consult my rigorous schedule, and see if Rachael might move in with a cattle prod or perhaps a .22 rifle.

Dance, you nancypants violist! she'd screech, Dance!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

There will be a quiz.

I'm so good at obsessing, a wonderkind, seriously.

This time we are passing in a kind of limbo, between maybe staying and maybe moving, between investing more in life here and preparing to send out roots again, gives me a need to feel productive at something measurable. You should see me here, with my pile of library treasures and about a zillion links to go through. This month has been a good time to educate myself more about the many choices to be made about adopting.

The racial question has faded a bit for me, and I feel it wouldn't matter as much or at all once the child was a part of our family. With any adoption there is the decision to impose yourself on a kid, assuming your home will be a better world for him. Striving to make that life a fabulous one will doubtless fill our days and give us little time or energy to spend worrying about the minds of others.

There have been some nice discoveries. Observe these quotes:
Jamie Lee Curtis on folks questioning those who adopt interracially, "It's just hateful. It's just a hateful thing to say. It's obscene to question motive. These are human beings helping other human beings. End of story."

From an adoptive dad's comment on an post discussing the idea that in a perfect world there is no adoption: "I am bothered by the idea that we should cede superior morality to the folks who dislike adoption. What we are doing is not wrong or second class, and we have no business saying that adoption is a bad thing.
We do what we do because there are kids who need homes. That is not evil or wrong, the institution of adoption as the vehicle that allows these children to have a future is not bad either. If the detractors can't come to the table without moral capitulation on our part, that's too bad and that should be a price we don't pay."

And finally, a little Rogers and Hammerstein, from South Pacific (1949)
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
Or people whose skin is a different shade
You've got to be carefully taught!

You just might have something there....

Scene: Factory in China owned by a US toy company
Pan in to drab flourescent-lit offices where a tablefull of men is smoking over profit reports and warm cokes.

Chinese businessman #1, in Mandarin: Thank you for coming, Mr. Brown.
Translator: We thank you, Mr. Brown.
Brown: The thanks are all on this end, boys. We are very happy with our numbers, gentleman, and the focus groups are all over those new, more colorful Thomas the Train sets. What news do you have for us today?
Chinese Businessman confers for a minute with colleagues. One mentions to another how much money could be saved in shipment if the toys were only filled with a lighter fluid. Nods are exchanged and they gesture to the translator.
Translator: He says you should consider lighter fluid.
-Fade, swell music (Glory, glory halleluja?) & roll credits-

Seriously, how else did they come up with Kerosene as an appropriate filler for toys? Could be they needed to offset the weight of all that lead paint.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Toby is becoming more and more himself, growing personality by the day. He's already overflowing so it's fun to see him expand when you have already thought GEEZE he's spunky, what a ham a thousand times.

One very small complaint I have about his growing confidence is that he's begun to explore the dark side of his power. He likes to throw things. At mama. Ha.

On Saturday we observed Father's Day with my kick-butt dad & a big delicious BBQ at casa del Aumsville. It was sweet- the house was scented with peonies my mom had cut in enormous bunches- M. Stewart eat your heart out.

So Toblerone and I were sitting quietly next to one another on the loveseat in my parent's dining room, chatting up the fam and playing with some agate coasters he loves. I saw the arm raise back and issued a Darth-Vader-Low-Voice "don't throw, Toby." He let loose anyway, and immediately tilted his head down so as to avoid meeting my eyes. I leaned in close and said some Mommy-speak sanctioned thing like, "We don't throw things, Toby."

He thought for a second, head down, eyes averted. Then he turned his head up to look directly into my soul, leaned up and gave me a kiss right on the lips.

His first kiss was a diversionary tactic, a bomb diffusion, a flower in the barrel of a gun.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I just had the most surreal experience. My pianist came over to rehearse for some upcoming gigs and of course, Toby refused to give up and succumb to his nap once he heard us. So I figure, I'll just let him play while we play, it'll expand his brain cells, I'll be mom of the year, right?

Yeah, you see where this is going, all you people with your overdeveloped senses of reason.

For the first few pieces he did alright, being generally cute and bopping from toy to toy on his own, scoping out the situation. Then he fell on a toy. Then he filled the room with such a stench I fully expected the air to turn shades of mustard. On our return from the diaper change he wanted an ice cube. And couldn't keep away from the piano. And was apparently starving right NOW. He was a tyrant, a cranky drooly tyrant with extra whining.

The only redeeming thing was that he was perfectly in sync with the music. Tragic opera aria? Yeah, mom, awwwawwwwwwww (cue nasal discharge) I feel that. Weltschmertz is the new baby blue.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Talking amongst ourselves

We're still pondering and considering the race aspect of our adoption decisions. So this morning it was nice to recognize that if we do adopt interracially, and we may well do, it would be in no way as confrontation-ful as I was imagining.

J drew an analogy to getting a neck tattoo: most people will have a strong opinion about that one way or another, but few will say anything to your face about it. With adoption, people who do have an opinion are probably even more loathe than the anti-tatty to push past all the civil boundaries: extremely personal topic, children involved, incomplete knowledge of the facts (although that's probably not as big a barrier as it should be for alotta folks), and unlikelihood of convincing anyone of anything.

I think of myself as a strong person, and most people seem to agree- I am no wallflower. At 34 I'm finally peachy with all that. So why is it hard to read those zany zealots without letting it sway my own compass? Why let those whose season tickets are so clearly stamped *Peanut Gallery* weigh in on such an important decision?

Anyway, it's been a great day at the Ward ward. I was jazzed this morning when J casually mentioned asking a co-worker about his two adopted Chinese children and the research his family did before bringing them home.
[unadulterated fawning] First, J is one of those complex people (commonly known as "men") who tend to be listening and processing things long before I even realize they're on his radar. I love when he brings home new info like this- and he had this conversation weeks ago. [/unadulterated fawning]
His friend hasn't had much comment from anywhere, and Owlhaven the blogger also says the folks in her (~5% African American) area are generally polite and friendly.

We are looking at Ukraine or Russia in this week's study: Neat!
People are better and worse than I imagine. It's just that when it comes to children, those extremes carry so much more import.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

File under: Racially Skittish

For most men life is a search for the proper manila envelope in which to get themselves filed. ~Clifton Fadiman

One of the best things about the internet (besides the unlimited potential for feeling productive while wasting time) is that you can get a lot of first-hand, primary source information and opinions. The information is often surrounded by Miss Information- she's everywhere, man- but if you are willing to do some dusting off and ferreting out it can be great.

For about a year now I've been researching adoption. This is a touchy thing to look into on the web, because Miss Information's good buddy Screaming Zealot likes to hold forth about the whole complicated issue. I've been pretty fortunate, though, and have floated into some informative, honest sites.

I know I can gather and analyse all the facts and statistics in the world (and I will, Oh yes, I will) but what I need the most is to read and talk to the people who have been through the process. People who blog.

Yesterday one of my favorite blogging women, Mary of Owlhaven and the Ethiopia Blog put up this post, sparking a couple realizations on my part.

First, when I imagine my family including some Ethiopian kiddos, I get nervous. I'm not proud admitting this, but I realized over the past few months that I see the Miriam with an interracial family becoming defensive & shrill, maybe even bitter. I see myself worrying that I would have to justify my kids, my presumption. If the world was made up of me, Jonathan and Ethiopia, I would adopt from there because I see a great need there. How lame is it to care that much about what others might say, and how I might feel, and how I might be changed?

It's a dark kind of wierd to learn something disappointing about yourself. It's also liberating. To admit it, to hear Mary's thoughts (she has been wonderfully generous about responding to comments and email in addition to her well-written blogs), to talk to my friends and especially to spark conversations with J; all these things have brought my thoughts back around to the issue at hand. I didn't feel led toward the interracial thing, but the more I talk & learn, the less I think of it as a problem. The more I can loose my fears and feel like myself.

The loving service which God sends His people into the world to render includes both evangelism and social action, for each is in itself an authentic expression of love, and neither needs the other to justify it.

... John R. W. Stott (b.1921)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Oops, I to-ook a plant.

Here's my newest obsession. Sedum plants! Like hens and chicks. And stuff. I may or may not have committed a felony a couple weeks back in that national park we visited. It's fat and happy now in my front yard.

They're stubby, easy to care for and cheap: like ME like ME... my name Iiiisobel, married to mysellllf, myyyyy name... uh.. sorry, these little episodes of song-breaking-outage are easier to understand in person.

Speaking of just how easy it is for crap to get stuck in my grey and spongy matter, I have now heard Oops I did it Again in its entirety. It's a real red-letter day, thanks to whoever programs the aural environment at Washington Square Mall. Doesn't the video involve Ms. Spears in a child-porny school uniform with pigtails or something?

As only Toby's stunning vocabulary shockingly robust lexicon can put it: Ew.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Happy Wedding, B-man.

This is our friend Brent about six months ago up in the North Woods of Wisconsin. He is none other than J's best man from our very own wedding lo these many years ago. He and lovely Laura are having a ceremony this weekend on the coast near Olympia, so we'll be outta here for a few days.


I've been sick. Being sick is gross and depressing.

But hey- Toby's learned a new word, "Ewwwwwwwwww," which he enjoys saying rather a lot.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Market me with love.

We have fallen prey to the carseat conspiracy. In a big way.

See, a few months back I was researching what to put the little bugger in next. Up to now he's been in one of those sort of half-shell with a handle type dealies, which faces the back of the car and can be carried into stores provided your upper body looks something like the Governator's. Those suckers are heavy with a side of awkward. They always seem to situate the kid's weight just far enough from your body that all the load is on the weak flabby middle of your back where the love handles start. Toby's almost 17 months old and weighs about 24 pounds, so we pretty much never carry him around in that thing anymore.

He is ready to face forward in the car. And by that I mean, I am ready to have some respite from the "crackerrrr, crackerrrrr, uh-ohhhhhh, uh-ohhhhhh, crackerrrr, nononononononono" carsong. He is an easygoing guy, but the car seems to bring out the demanding in him this week. I am hopeful that facing me and being able to see more of the scenery will help him chilllllll.

So, I went for the only seat with Side Impact Protection (SIP) available and tested in the US of A. Am I the only person un-PC enough to say it's crazy that Europe has better child protection gear? Wouldn't you think the land of the personal injury attorney would want the best & safest stuff available? What exactly has Graco been developing for the last 10 years?

We spent two hundred and fifty dollars. I know. I know! But do you know how much guilt reduction we got with that? We are putting his butt in a seat made by a race car company! You can't beat that kind of smug snugness.

Unless of course you fall on your head and decide to buy a $52,000 pirate ship for the backyard. Prove to me that it will keep kids safer, maybe throw in a couple endorsements from actual pirates and hey- maybe we can split the shipping.