Friday, August 29, 2008

Happy 36th Birthday Heather!

On this day in celebration of Heather's 36 years on this earth, we are more grateful than ever for her birth. With all she does for so many people and her wonderful spark of life, we love Heather so dearly and we are so thankful for her presence in our lives.

And in typical Heather fashion, she eschewed a cake at night and preferred home made pecan sticky buns for breakfast. It was the perfect way to start the day.



Thursday, August 21, 2008

Blog Break

Honestly, there is so much to say. I have never been one to lack blogging material. I have 3 million thoughts each day that could be subjects of blog posts. But right now I just feel a strong sense that I shouldn't be blogging. I've been plodding along, but suddenly it just doesn't feel right, and I feel like it is time to call it like it is and take a blog break for a little while. As I am having the best summer of my life with a new adorable baby girl, two cool 4-year olds, and my husband-soul-mate, miles away my cousin Karen is suffering the worst kind of suffering. It is too much to grasp. Right now we're in a holding pattern -- just waiting. Here in Pennsylvania we are waiting to hear that the end has come. Waiting each hour for updates from the hospital in New Hampshire. Waiting to hear that relief and sweet peace have come for Karen. Waiting to hear that a new long chapter of a terribly painful journey has just begun for her husband and two little girls, for my aunt, uncle, and cousin (Karen's brother), our entire family, all of her friends and the people she has touched in this world. Sometimes being far from the rest of my family feels really far. Now is one of those times. And yet, somehow, times like this are a reminder to me of how nonexistent time and space and distance really are. If you believe, if you are faithful, if you pray, please send out a loving wish for peace and strength for Karen, her family, and all who suffer so in the world right now. And please pray for creativity and ambition to all those out there working to find a cure for cancer. If you're interested in the blog my cousin's husband has been keeping, you can link to it here: http://karenstasko.wordpress.com/

K & O Today






Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Our Little Travelers

If you ask K & O what they want to be when they grow up they say, "Travelers!" If you ask them what their favorite thing to do is, they'll say "go on trips!" Their love of travel comes through loud and clear in their daily play. I mentioned in this recent post their obsession with playing "Travellers." According to their teacher from this past year, they got their entire pre-school class wrapped up in this at school every day -- I wrote about that in this post from last March. This summer, with them at home, I've had a chance to watch the two of them play 'Travel' on a daily basis. It is always a variation on a theme. But it is always elaborate, dramatic, vividly imaginative play. They make an airplane with blankets, pillows, chairs, etc. They work hard to construct the airplane's wings, jet engine, cockpit, etc. They discuss in great detail the trip they are on, where they are going, which airports they are flying through, etc. They pack up bags, bring their carry on's through security (including taking their shoes off), etc. Snacks are often involved (for eating on the plane). Recently maps have become a regular addition to their Traveling play. And in the past few days they've been adding Meera to the whole thing too - they put her Bjorn chair in between their seats so that they are all sitting together in the same row on the plane. They will sometimes wait for hours (literally) for Meera to wake up from a nap so that she can join them on the plane before taking off. They seem to always be jetting off to some fabulous beach for a glorious vacation. Watching all this play everyday has me reminiscing about all the fabulous beaches we've been on with K & O for glorious vacations... and all the amazing trips we've had (even when they haven't involved a beach). So far they've been on 14 trips involving air travel, and numerous other road trips. I was inspired to look through some of the photos from our early vacations with the boys. Here are a few of my favorites.






Monday, August 18, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Today

This is what we did today (click here). A fun, fun, fun day!
:)

Open Book 2008...

... is now officially closed!
all of the questions are as answered as they're gonna be.
The End.

Open Book Answers PART VIII (by H and B)



Q: My name is Stella, and I'm 15. I love love LOVE your blog! Your boys are such a joy to read about, and I love their spirit and the way your family does everything! Something that struck me awhile ago was when Kyle and Owen were wearing tutus. You have no idea how cool that is to me! I know so many people who would gasp in horror at the idea of letting their boys wear tutus, but you guys are so open, and you just let your boys [and now GIRL] do their own thing! I love your way of parenting! I often babysit kids, and cringe at the way some people treat their little ones. You guys rock! I don't have a question yet, but I wanted to say hi anyway, and I'll keep thinking about a good question for you!
H’s Answer: Thank you for reading Stella! And thank you for the compliment about our parenting. Just the other day K & O were running around with nothing on but those pink tutus (because they were absolutely naked except for the tutus I won’t be posting photos of that here on the blog!). I thought of you while I was watching them.
B’s Answer: -
I think it's really cool that the boys love doing this, and we make a very strong effort to not discourage them from exploring things that are typically considered "girly." Some would say that for black boys, that anything other than creating a strong sense of masculinity will just make it harder for them, but in my experience I have found that the strongest men are the ones who are most comfortable with gender.


Q: Hi Heather and Fam-It's Marsha Bowersox, a former student of Heather's (MA, 2002) and a big fan of your blog for many reasons. I love the living, thinking, moving sociology incorporated into your daily lives. I love that you take the time to tell others about how you're parenting. And most of all, I love that you're phenomenal role models for someone like me-- kids are definitely in the long-term plan, but how? when? where?why?!?I started reading during some long, lonely days in the place I currently call home- Transylvania, Romania. Email, blogs, and really any link to friends & family really brighten my days.My question: Is it truly possible in 2008 to raise kids without gender biases?
H’s Answer: Hi Marsha!!!! I love that you’re reading our blog from Transylvania! And you know that I love you and am so proud of you! (To all of you reading out there—this is one of my best grad students of all time—look for her name in the future… she’s going to do something great with her sociology!!!!!!)… So… thanks for the yes/no question Marsha (see! You *are* a good student – doing exactly what is asked of you by the prof!)… So, the answer to your question is NO. It is not truly possible in 2008 to raise kids without gender biases. Here is a good sociology book you can read on this subject if you haven’t read it already: Gender Vertigo: American Families in Transition, by Barbara Risman.
B’s Answer: I don't think it's possible to raise any child in this society without a gender, race or class bias. Nor do I think you would want to really; I believe that to be color (or gender or class) blind is to ignore the difficulties of disadvantaged people. I believe that the best you can do is raise them with a sense of awareness, empathy and justice. I hope we can do that, we work very hard on it.


Q: Hi! I'm a grad student at Stanford and have been reading pretty much every day now for a little over a year now. I read mostly because I find daily inspiration here to keep going as an ambitious female in academe. Thank you for giving living color to the POTENTIAL to have a strong family and a powerful career as a woman. You are literally the only proof I have that it might actually be possible for me. And believe me, there are many days when I really need that to keep going (I'm sure you get it). One thing I love about your blog is that it gives me so much food for thought in regards to gender (both in terms of partner/relationship and parenting). So my question is this: Now that Meera is in the picture do you think you will raise her any differently than you raise the boys in regards to gender? Do you think it is more important to be aware of gender in your parenting now that you have a girl, or is it no different than before? Do you and Braydon talk about this stuff? And if you're willing to answer an open ended question: how do you think about gender/parenting differently now that you have boys AND a girl??? Would love to hear your thoughts. Again, I really appreciate your blog. Thanks for not being afraid to put it all out there. And thanks for being a real life example that it can work as a HIGH-ACHIEVING MOTHER!!!!
H’s Answer: Oh, hello to you – whoever you are – pushing hard at Stanford. I feel for you, I totally do. I know how hard it is. Keep going and don’t stop. Thanks so much for your comment—it makes me feel good to know that you’re reading. The thing is, if you were one of my students you’d get a lot more than this blog re: this subject. I try to be really honest with my students – both male and female – both undergrad and grad – about the challenges, pitfalls, and sheer pain of trying to do this whole career-and-family-thing. I also try to be honest with them about the beauty and joy and gratification of it. I think academics are in a particular situation, too, so if you plan to go on to stay in the academy, you’ll be presented with a whole series of challenges and privileges that are pretty unique to our realm (I'm sure you know a lot about this already). Be sure to be in touch with me via email anytime and I’ll do what I can for moral support. My basic answer to your question is that no, I don’t think of parenting differently now that we have a girl. I am thinking now about things like eating disorders (which I wasn’t thinking too much about before) but other than that, it is not much different for me. But- I am going to let Braydon answer this question because it is too huge for me and if I get started I’ll write an entire book on this blog about it. Again, Stanford gal, thanks for writing and keep up your good work!

B’s Answer:
Hi thank you for your sweet comment, that means so much to us! I believe that too much responsibility for changing gender inequality has been put on women and that men have largely escaped any kind of accountability for fixing gender problems. And I am not talking superficial things like that it's ok for women to wear pants, but not ok for men to wear dresses. I am talking about more structural things like that our country is setup in almost all its institutions to benefit a patriarchial setting. For example, schools let out around 2 PM - um, hello?!?! Who do they expect to pick up the kinds - mom. If mom picks up the kids at 2, then how will she work? If she's not working, how does she have anything other than dependence on her husband. If she has no independence, how can she make a case for equality? She can't. It's totally not fair.

And the problem with this, is that it's just sooooo much easier to go along with it than to fight it. But when women and men go along with it, then it puts them both at a disadvantage to make any change; the women is disempowered for change and the man is empowered to keep things status quo.

So, we put a lot of focus on gender in our family, in terms of justice. All three are so young now, that we don't have discussions about gender specifically, but I am very sure we will over time. We just come at it from a foundational belief in equality. You can see how that effects what we do with the boys, what we encourage, what we don't discourage. Does that mean we will have Meera wear pants only in boy colors? Of course not, that debases the entire framework and adds no value to the notion of equality. Does that mean we will not have difficulties with gender in our lives? Ha!

What it means is that at least we're aware and doing what we can to make it better. And I think that's really all you can do.

But before I get off my soapbox, I just want to say, that I am no perfect guy when it comes to gender. I work on it, I am aware of it, but we still really struggle with who is on the hook to get the boys when the school calls and they are sick and need to be picked up. Most of the time it falls to Heather. But we're working on it.

Olympics at 3 AM

On Friday night Owen had a nightmare. He has a history of these, going back to his having night terrors as a little baby. The night terrors were so traumatic for us - he would be wailing and wailing, screaming, with his eyes wide open, his little body completely stiff.

At first we thought we should wake him, but read about it and found that it's not really a good idea to wake him and that as far as the research can tell, kids who have night terrors have no recollection of it. The research also says that there is no apparent cause for night terrors, it's just something that happens. Of course, with his past, we are skeptical about there being no cause.

His night terrors have since gone away, but he still has nightmares from time to time. It will go for a few weeks with out having any, then he will have them a few nights in a row. Couple this with the fact that he hates going to bed, sleeping, or in anyway being out of the action and once he has a nightmare and wakes up, it's really tough to get him back into bed and going to sleep.

As the one mostly responsible for night-time childcare, I have long struggled with this. I don't have a lot of patience in the wee hours of the night (only saints do I think), but being impatient typically makes things worse. On the worst of nights, I'll be up with Owen for a couple or more hours. Fortunately, that does not happen too often!

On Friday night around 2 AM, Owen had a nightmare and I was up with him. While I was dealing with this, Heather got up and fed the baby. It could have been a little party! Heather suggested that instead of trying to get him to go back to sleep, that I change tactics (which she is much better at than I am) get up with him, and go watch the Olympics. I have been having trouble staying asleep, so this made good sense.

Owen and I went downstairs and turned on NBC. It was a recap of the women's all around gymnastics finals with Shawn Johnson and Nastia Lukin. Since the gymnastics has typically only been on in prime time, the boys have not really been able to see it. This was Owen's first extended exposure to it.

And he LOVED it. He loved sitting there and cuddling with me and having something to drink. He loved watching those amazing athletes do their floor exercises. Tumbling astounded him, with how high they could jump. He said on more than one occasion "Whoa!" When it came to the uneven bars he said "Papi! That looks fun!!!" Heather reported to me that she heard him saying Papi this and papi that many many many times. It was joyous for him.

And heaven for me.

The next summer Olympics, the boys will be eight years old; how time flies. I wonder if in the 2012 Olympics, will I be up at 3 AM watching highlights with Owen again, recovering from a nightmare.

I can only hope, insane as that might sound.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Open Book Answers PART VII (by B)

Q: Cate said...
I'm a former Big Sister in Big Brothers/Big Sisters and there's a strong possibility I may end up with custody of my Lil' Sis. I adore her, and her grandmother, who has custody, is in failng health.
She's African-American. I'm white, and now live in a very non-diverse community in Oregon. Okay, bluntly, it's almost all white. She visited recently, and we were eating out. A lady at another table shot us dirty looks our entire meal. I wanted to scream, "WHAT?! Have you got a problem?"
Have you run into situations like this and how do you handle them?

A: Hi Cate, sorry to hear that happened to you, the sad truth is that it happens a lot. We also live in a predominately white area (something we struggle with and are trying to figure out what to do about), and experience lots and lots of looks. Now, to be fair, we get lots of different kinds of looks, some curious, some encouraging, some attempting to ignore us and some that feel hostile. I believe that black/white relationships (whether that is parent/child or adult) in the US are still very touchy for a lot of people, so that’s what generate the looks. And for us, we can deal with the first group of looks, it’s the hostile ones that we struggle with. We find that generally, we get an immediate sense if someone or someplace is friendly to our family (keep in mind that when either Heather or I are alone, we are protected by our white privilege and don’t experience this) and if it’s not, then we just avoid it in the future.

As for how we deal with it, I tend to take the long view – that most people are just ignorant and curious, so I either ignore it, or I try to just smile and acknowledge that they are people who are interested in our family. Other times, I wear a protecting veil which says “don’t bother me, don’t even look at me.” Heather tends to take the “when in doubt act dumb” approach (which always cracks me up since she’s so intelligent) and if someone gives her a look she looks back with a quizzical “whatcha looking at?”

Good luck with your Little Sister!

Q: Life in the Bend said...
Thank you for your blog. My husband and I adopted our two children from Ethiopia in February. We have our own blog at http://lifeinhebend.blogspot.com
Do you feel that most people treat K., O., and M. equally now that M. is here? I ask because I worry about the effect having a biological child could have on our first two children.

Do you feel like you treat Meera differently than K & O? Do others in your family or circle of friends treat her differently? We have noticed that people treat our twins differently simply because they are twins and have that unique twin thing going on. My oldest has said she wishes she were a twin because the twins get all of the attention. My heart breaks a little when she says that.

A: Congratulations on your adoption – that is great news!!! Oh, this is such a hard question, and not because it’s hard to come up with an answer, but because it’s so emotional. I will say that it’s a little hard to know right now since she is younger than when we got the boys and also because they were twins and she is a singleton. When she hits 8 months, maybe I can offer a better comparison, but maybe not. And it’s also hard because she is the “second” (really third) child, and as anyone with more than one kid can attest, the second is qualitatively different. And maybe there is gender stuff in there too.

All that said, I do notice subtle differences in our friends and family. I can’t say if there is favoritism of any kind, because for everyone K&O are so special and M is so special.

Q: vy said...
I haven't commented much before so here's my intro. I am a mother of a soon-to-be 4 year old adopted from China. We are currently waiting for our second child from China. (Hubby and I live in Denmark. He's a Dane, I'm American.)
My questions...will you share your tips for preparing the boys for the arrival of their little sister in an upcoming post and will you include any good books on the subject matter?
I don't recall you ever mentioning any sibling jealousy and they just seem so loving and sweet with Meera. I would love to hear any tips.
Violet

A: Hi Violet – good luck finishing your adoption and thank your for reading! We did a LOT of prep for the boys prior to Meera arriving. We talked to them about where babies come from (age appropriate – but literally also). We talked to them about how they came from their Birth Mother’s belly. We talked to them about how their skin is brown like their Birth Mother’s and that Meera’s would be like ours. We read books like “I’m going to be a big brother”. And “Baby makes 5” (Berenstain bears). We talked to them about how she won’t be able to do much, that they have to be super gentle. That they will be role models and she will want to do what they do.

From a jealously standpoint, we continue to be amazed by how sanguine they are about it – they are just not jealous. All we can think is that other than their generally sunny dispositions, the twin factor is in effect. They have just never known any other life than sharing their parents with their brother, so this is just another little thing in the mix.

Q: Have any of your colleagues offered unsolicited advice about the blog (i.e, be careful what you post; aren't you worried about security?; etc.)? ~Gooch: Surprisingly not! But then again I don?t do anything to make it public. I only have one colleague that I know of who reads the blog. A lot of people tell us we should be worried about security, etc. I am not concerned about it, but I am going to have Braydon answer that part of this question in one of his Open Book posts.

A: I think that in today’s media and online world it’s futile to restrict your privacy; any reasonably talented software developer (and reasonably is a pretty low bar) can build an application to find out basically whatever they want about you – not even by hacking. Almost anyone can develop an application for Facebook or MySpace (and lots of other social networks) and access any of your data, Google makes lots of hidden pages available and tracks your browsing and search activity and reams of credit cards are stolen all the time from the most secure of electronic settings. All your private information with the exception of what you ate for breakfast is accessible online and even that is suspect with people uploading camera phone pics and video to YouTube all the time these days. And while not always easy, it’s not impossible to retrieve.

That is, unless you live off the grid, which you don’t, since you own a computer, have an ISP to access the internet (which you pay a bill into their system which is online in some capacity), you have a telephone number found in the phone book, against which anyone can do a reverse look up and find out where you live, not to mention, just using Google analytics tells me exactly when and where you were when you read this post. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Credit card companies track where you spend, what your habits are, what your trends are, where you like to eat. They respond by selling that information to other marketing companies, with employees who are not screened by any government agency (not that that will make things more secure necessarily), who can also use that information in other ways that might not be so friendly. I forgot to mention that if you use a loyalty card at the grocery store, they track that information and trend it and can tell you not only what your purchase habits are, but what you are likely to buy over the course of this month and when.

Sorry to rant, I get fired up about this, because if you believe for a second that your privacy is safe, you are sadly mistaken; and most people believe their privacy is safe. A much better thoughtful reaction to our overall lack of privacy, is that most nefarious people in the world just don’t care enough about you to action the data they can access.

So – while you won’t see us putting out SSNs our there or our credit card numbers, we generally take the view that you’re safer in a crowd in the light than in a dark room wearing a blindfold with a stranger standing next to you.

The last thing I will say is, that while much information is in the public, some is much harder to get than others. It’s not trivial to get a credit card number. It’s not trivial to get a social security number (it’s easier to pick it out of someone’s trash can than off the internet right now). It’s not trivial to access someone’s bank account. There is value in obfuscating certain information, but it’s also pretty shocking how little people actually work to protect their privacy.

Q: Jess said:

Hey, I didn't leave my question on the Open Book post, but now that I see other people broke the Yes or No Phrasing rule, I want in!

MorMor and MorFar are all over this blog, but I've "seen" your parents, Braydon, just about once. (I hope I'm not bringing up something painful here, and I apologize if so.) Is Heather just way closer to her parents than you are to yours? I've been curious for a long time.

A: Hi Jess – this is a very emotional and sensitive question too! Heather is unusually close to her family. When I was first getting to know her, I actually thought there was something unnatural about it, but in truth it’s the most amazing parent to adult child relationship I have ever seen, really incredible and beautiful. And frankly, it takes a ton of effort on all their parts to make it work.

Also, over the years I have struggled with my relationship with my parents for lots of different reasons. Fortunately I have worked through a lot of that in my own life and am so glad that over the last few years things have gotten a lot better, and I am focused on making sure they keep improving.

Q: Kristi said...
I'm way late but I finally thought of a question!!!
What are Kyle & Owen's favorite books?
We are adopting from Haiti as well - we have a one year old boy waiting for us and just met him in June. Haiti is an amazing country with amazingly smart, funny, beautiful children.

A: Hi Kristi – hang in there waiting – you will get through it, you will, you will! Kyle and Owen love books. Kyle has really really loved books from the start and we have many many books. And, he has them all memorized, it’s really quite something. They tend to go through cycles of which books they like and some keep coming back. Here are some of their favorites at the moment:

  1. The Berenstain bears: Baby makes 5, Clean’s house, Big Road Race, Get in a Fight, Forget their manners
  2. Curious George: Original, Ride’s a bike, and a few other new addition ones.
  3. Queen of the Scene (this is really Owen’s fav) by Queen Latifah
  4. “Please baby please” and “Please puppy please” by Spike Lee
  5. A mother for choco (an all time adoption must have)
  6. Pancake, by Eric Carle
I am sure I am missing a ton, sorry! Heather has also posted a lot of Top Ten Books here, here and here.


Q: Hello ! I am an AP to a tiny 20 month old wonderful girl from Haiti, we have been home for two months and to say my life has changed for the better would be a major understatement! I love how chill you are with your kids, and also that there is not a lot of "god" talk in your blog which is rare in the adoptive world I have found. As a city-dwelling parent I love seeing photos of your big lush yard ! My question is this-at what age did your boys become truly aware of strangers (rude) questions? What come backs have you both used ?
Thanks, I love your site!

A: Thanks for noticing about our use of language. Our adoption was motivated by our life philosophy, not our religion, so, for us it’s not about God (sorry to everyone who feels differently, I respect your perspective). We believe that humans have free will and make decisions independent of any deity. We also believe that we are obligated to do right by others and with great privilege and power comes great responsibility. But our blog is also not a platform for political punts.

But on to your question! Actually, I am not sure how aware our boys are of rude questions exactly. Meaning, they generally are so happy go lucky and seem to genuinely believe that people in the world are good that they are oblivious to the less-than-sensitive questions people ask. So, I think that for right now, Heather and I are trying to teach by example, without pointing it out to our boys that rudeness is happening. That said, here are Heather’s any my general tactics for dealing with in appropriate, rude, subtly racist, or other not so pleasant comments (some of which are just ignorant, some of which are not so ignorant):

  1. Ignore it and pretend like they didn’t even ask it or make the statement.
  2. Take it at face value and just answer or respond
  3. Gently correct their use of language by repeating it back to them with something more appropriate
  4. Play dumb, ask what they mean and make them dance around it
  5. Point out what they said was bad (we reserve this for special and rare cases)

Q: All these serious questions! I feel like I've got to lighten the mood! Hope this isn't too late (I'm past the deadline!)
If you two could go anywhere on a 4 nite vacation for just the two of you where would you go?!
Smiles,
Sherri (been reading from Montreal for about 8 months)

A: (From H): Ah! What a dreamy question! If it was just the two of us, and just 4 nights, it would have to be the Ritz Carlton Montego Bay Jamaica (we vacationed there before we adopted K & O and it was just such a fabulous, exquisite place to spend a few days – I would love to go back… but definitely not with the kids! LOL!)

A: (From B): Oh, I love this! We LOVE vacation and have made experiences a priority in our and our family’s life. So, if it was just the two of us, I think it would be a nice little villa on the Playa del Carmen in Mexico (or a beautiful all inclusive would be fine too!).


Q: Brooke said...
Sorry this isnt a yes or no question. But I was wondering how your neighbors are doing with their adopted children?

A: Hi – I am not sure it’s really our place to comment on another family’s rearing of their children in this fashion, although everyone is entitled to their opinion. Sorry!

Q: Tiz said...
Hi My name is Tamsin and i live in Western Australia with my Husband and 2 boys (also very lively!) aged 6 & 4. I found your site via a site given to me by a friend with a daughter from China. I dream of adopting our next child but at this point it seems it will have to be just that ...a dream. Thank you for your great blog, you have a lovely family.
My question is Do you live in a culturally diverse community? I ask this because i do not and it worries me that a child from a different culture would find this hard if we do get to adopt from Ethiopia as we would like to.
Thanks Again

A: Hi Tamsin – wow – that is so cool that you’re reading from Western Australia, thanks for checking in! We live in a very white area and we struggle with that. To put numbers on it, in our locale, at the last census there was only one black family (I am pretty sure that is accurate, but not 100% sure). We are really torn as what to do. Right now we’re doing some serious soul searching about how to address this problem. Why is it such a problem, why don’t we just move to a more diverse area? Because, when you break it down, there are just not that many diverse areas. And when you overlay any kind of class filter, the number of areas is dramatically reduced. And when we factor in our careers (which are not as mobile as we’d like), then it’s really really tough.

But, that should not deter you, since if you’re sensitive to race and work to make race an important part of your life and child’s understanding, then I think it’s entirely possible.



Q:
Anonymous said...
How on earth are you going to find time to answer all these questions?!!!! (You don't have to answer this one.)
Gail

A: Hi mom! It’s Saturday night and I have been working on these for an hour or so. Each set seems to take about an hour of writing, and more time of thinking and then more time for inserting pictures. So, figure for 7 sets of questions, about 14 hours total. I have only done two sets, so Heather carried the weight on this mostly (as she does mostly anyway – thank you Heather!).

In terms of fitting it in, here is what we do: 1. Work 2. Spend time with family and friends occasionally 3. Chores. 4. Rinse and repeat. Note the absence of hobbies and external interests!

Open Book Answers PART VI (by H)

When will your spring Caribbean getaway be to Haiti? And here is the probe: Which Haiti-scholar will you invite along to guide you around and show you the GREAT parts of Haiti, not just the crappy parts? ~Tricia V: Hi Girl! ASA is in San Fran next year, right?! If so, let’s plan to meet up then for sure! To answer your question… (nice leading question by the way!!!)… We will go to Haiti when we believe it is the right time for the boys. We don’t know when that will be. When they are old enough to ‘get it’; when they are starting to ask to go there; when they understand enough to want to know more. We assume that will be in a few years. We think we’ll know when the time comes. And yes, you never know, maybe we’ll invite you to be our guide?!!!!!
When you were adopting, did you ask for twins? If so, why?? Did you ask for boys? If so, why?? ~Terel: We did not ask for twins or for boys. Basically, we just said we were open to anything. We said we had no preference regarding gender. We said we’d take minor special needs (no life threatening illnesses). And we said we were open to multiples. Our only request was that we wanted to get a baby as young as possible (we really wanted to have a baby). We were told right away that it would be a boy. This is because of all the people adopting, so many (the vast, vast, vast majority) request girls. So, if you say ‘no preference’ you are virtually guaranteed to get a boy. We were happy to have a boy! So, we thought we were in the process of adopting a baby boy. We submitted everything, the dossier went to Haiti, and… in terms of how we got twins… the agency called us with our referral... and we were shocked when they said they had twin boys who were about 2 weeks old and “looked healthy.” They said that twins are hard to place and that they didn’t want to separate them. They asked us if we’d take them both. Without any hesitation or big discussion we immediately said that we would. That is the story! Everyone thought we were absolutely crazy for agreeing to take twins! We were scared at first (mostly at the prospect of adopting TWO babies instead of the ONE that we had been anticipating). But then we got used to the idea and we were psyched! All along I’ve been so glad to have twins because I have always thought that part of why K & O transitioned/adjusted so well during their adoptions was because they had the constant of each other. And boys… well, as wild and crazy as they are… I wouldn’t trade them for *anything*!!!!!
How much do the boys weigh these days? ~Randy & Kelly: The boys are 4 years and 3 months old. They each weigh 45 pounds. I find it bizarre that they continue to always weigh the same amount!!!!!!!!!!!! Braydon can still carry them both, but it is getting hard for me to even carry one!
I remember reading that you had strong beliefs that you should adopt first and then have a biological child, but I do not remember reading about those beliefs. Is there a certain time period in your blog that I could find this to read about how you two made your choice? If there is not would you consider sharing your beliefs on this issue? ~Beth: I’m sorry for your misconception. Somehow you picked this up along the way, but really we don’t have any kind of strong beliefs about adopting first. Now that we did it the way we did, we wouldn’t change a thing (we’ve loved our journey)—but we don’t have a philosophical opinion on the order of it one way or another. We do, however, have very strong beliefs about adoption. Basically, in a nutshell, we believe very strongly that if you can adopt you should… and that if you feel it in your heart to do it, then you should act on that in the world. The way we made our choice was really simple, actually-- we were just feeling very strongly that we should adopt. And we didn’t feel those same feelings about having a bio. child. Braydon actually finally just suggested to me that we go for it and start an adoption, since that is what we were feeling and believing we should do. We figured that down the road we might want to have a bio. child as well, but we were feeling very strongly at that point that adoption was the first priority in our hearts and our minds. It felt like a very strong pull for us – what many people would describe as a “calling.” So we just went ahead and started the process. As soon as we got started with the adoption we felt a huge sense of relief knowing that we had made the right decision for us. And from that point on we never looked back. I don’t know if we’ve blogged about that before. You can look through the posts labeled ‘adoption’ to try to find out – here is the link to those: http://johnson-mccormickfamily.blogspot.com/search/label/Adoption Let me know if you find any mention of it in any of our posts! (I honestly don’t remember if we’ve ever written about it here.)
My question is How much weight did you gain during your pregnancy? And how did you stay so fit? ~Tamara: Thank you for the compliment! I gained 28 pounds. My OB had told me that I should be shooting for 30-35 pounds. I felt good about the 28. I stayed very active throughout the entire pregnancy (even at the bitter end when I was 2 weeks past my due date). With only one major exceptions (no lifting anything over 30 pounds--- which meant that for 9 months I never picked up K or O), I did not limit my activities in any way. I was careful to not do things that might be dangerous (for example, I didn’t ski or snow tube when we were in NH for Christmas), but otherwise I did everything the same as before. Including lots of chasing after K & O, walking all over Lehigh’s very hilly campus (when I was at work), bending down all the time to pick up toys off the floor at home, etc. Since K & O came home, Braydon and I have not been doing any formal/official ‘exercise’ on a regular basis, but we are a *very* active family, always on the move, always up and out and doing something. I think that was the key for me—just keeping my usual pace and range of motion. We also eat pretty well/healthy on a regular basis. I didn’t change my diet at all during my pregnancy (other than that I cut down on my coffee and alcohol intake and I cut out diet soda completely). I ate more than usual but not a ton more. The big difference was that I started to want to eat sweet things (I had never had a sweet tooth before)… so I ate a lot more dessert than usual. But still I was careful to not go too crazy with it. At the end of my pregnancy everyone was commenting on how active I was for being so pregnant—but I just couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. So that was just how it was. Since having Meera I have lost all but about 5-7 pounds. Crazily, I have been eating more than ever (hungry all the time! Much more than while I was pregnant…) and have been more inactive than ever (sitting with the baby)… obviously this is the result of not having gained too much and also the nursing. Overall my experience with pregnancy and childbirth and postpartum has been much better than I would have expected for doing all this at age 35. Good luck to you! J
Our quesiton is What is the prayer that you say with the boys every night? ~Steve, Kimberly, and Mia: We started saying prayers with the boys every night when they were about 18 months old. They memorized it very quickly and were saying it out loud with us soon after. We have said that same prayer every night since. (The first few lines of this prayer is actually the exact same prayer that I said with my family every night before going to bed when I was a kid.) When K & O were 3.5 we added on so that at the end we each add our own personal prayer. The boys’ personal prayers are usually very basic—like, (and these are real, common, examples) “Dear God, thank you for the beautiful day and thank you that I got to play with my brother. Amen.” Or “Dear God, I really love my mommy and I really love my papi and I really love my brother and I really love my sister. Amen.” Sometimes their prayers deviate and are much more complex. Sometimes they are simple but profound. Sometimes they are totally ridiculous or pathetic. And sometimes so funny that it is very hard to not burst out laughing… like, the other night Owen said this prayer: “Dear God, I really love my mommy. And thank you dear God that I am so cute. Amen.” (!!!) Anyway, below I’m also jotting down the prayer we say for grace at every meal, as well as a meal-time grace that the boys sometimes say alone for us before a meal (it is their Waldorf School grace that they said at school every day last year before they ate their lunch). Mostly I’m putting these down so that someday we’ll remember them in case they change over the years. Thanks for the prompting!

Bedtime Prayer
Thank you for the flowers so sweet
Thank you for the food we eat
Thank you for the birds who sing
Thank you God for everything
God bless Mommy and Papi, Kyle, Owen, and Meera,
MorMor and MorFar and our whole family
God bless all of our friends,
The people of Haiti,
And even the people we don’t know.
Amen.

Mealtime Grace
God is great, God is good,
We give thanks for our food,
And help us to be ever mindful of others’ needs and wants.
Amen.

K & O’s Waldorf School Grace
Blessings on the blossom,
Blessings on the root,
Blessings on the leaf and stem,
Blessings on the fruit,
Blessings on our lunch,
And peace upon the earth.
Now we may eat.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Post from Last Year

I just took a second to see what we were posting about last year on this day. The post I wrote that day resonates so strongly with me today, one year later. Click here to see it. Today, because of something that Kyle said at lunch that I don't want to share on the blog, I'm thinking about this post from last July too.

Open Book Answers PART V (by H)

You appear to be the "perfect" family. As a fellow mom of twins and a singlet, I have many trying days. Do you ever have a bad day and lose your temper with your incredibly active kids? Do you ever make mistakes as a parent--what are they? What do you feel is your biggest mistake? Would you do anything differently as a parent? ~Momto3: Oh pleeeeaaaaaaaaaaaase! We are soooooooooooo not the “perfect family”! What is the perfect family anyway?! Momto3, remember, this is a *BLOG* so you aren’t getting the full picture! You don’t see me when I’m about to lose my mind (which happens on average at least once per day). You don’t hear about all the time-outs that K and O have for serious infractions (which happen on average at least once per day -- each). You don’t know about the stress behind the scenes when the boys are acting up and my heart-rate is rapidly escalating and the sensation of my blood pressure blasting through the roof is palpable (which happens on average at least once per day). You aren’t a fly on the wall before Braydon and I finally collapse into our bed at the end of the day and I’m drinking my wine and de-compressing about the day’s dramas. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t *try* to present our family with any kind of spin. I honestly don’t. But I am very aware that I’m not often blogging about all the gory details of the YUCK. Because for me, the focus of the blog (and the focus of my life in general) is on the good. I am naturally and organically and intuitively a glass-half-full kind of person. I have a post in my head about this (Glass Half Full) that I’ll put on the blog soon (I’ve been batting it around in my head for a few weeks now). Bottom line: My kids drive me nutty and, like you, I have many very trying days! Yes, I lose my temper (on average at least once per day)! And that, in a nutshell, is my answer to your next question --- I feel that my biggest mistake(s) are when I don’t keep my cool and instead lose it on K & O. I do not hit/smack/slap/spank them, but I would be dishonest if I weren’t to admit that boy am I often very tempted to! They are very challenging to parent. The thing that is most challenging to me is not any particular issue or specific behaviorial problem, but rather just the daily grind and wear-and-tear of the *constant* movement/action/activity/roughness of them… the low-level agitation of their sheer energy level and SPIRITED nature TIMES TWO (but anyone with active twin boys knows that it is really more like times twenty). The two of them combined, with their willful confident (too often *defiant*) way-of-being is just plain exasperating. Ask anyone who’s ever cared for them for more than a couple hours and they’ll tell you that these two give you a run for your money. And that was before Meera! Add the baby to the mix… and… well, um, yes, Momto3, yes, it is trying. If I could do something different I’d take more deep breaths and ‘detach with love’ more often. I wrote about that in a previous question/answer on Open Book Answers Part III. I am working on that every single day. Working my tail off on that. But it is really, really tough. When K & O are running/jumping/screaming/slamming/sliding/shoving bouncing-off-the-walls getting into everything and seemingly pushing my buttons on purpose and I’m sitting there trying to nurse my 11 week old baby who just had 3 explosive-diapers-requiring-complete-clothing-changes-all-within-a-short-10-minute-time-span and dinner needs to get on the table 5 minutes ago and Braydon has just called to say he’s going to be late coming home from work and the phone is ringing and the cat is scratching at the door to come in and the house is a wreck from a day of play and K & O are saying to me every 2 seconds “I’m hungry Mom!” and I have a bunch of work stuff that is just waiting for me to take care of and I’m way behind on a couple of big work deadlines and the swimming pool needs to be cleaned and the gardens need to be weeded and the kitchen sink pipe is leaking and we still haven't called the plumber and I haven’t been grocery shopping in 7 days and I still haven’t sent out the thank you notes for all of the baby gifts (let alone the birth announcements) and and and… well, it is very hard to not lose it! And this is on maternity leave. I try hard to not even think about what it is going to be like when I go back to work… eeeeeks!!!!
I'm really wanting to know what your favorite salad recipes are...we have been LOVING your blueberry pecan salad recipe the last couple weeks and are in dire need of another! ~Sarah: So funny! O.k., I’ll give you another good one, but you’ve got to swap---- give me a good salad recipe too (leave it in the comments)! Here’s a good easy salad we love for late summer/early fall: Lay down a bed of nice baby greens. Add fresh, thinly sliced pears. Add thinly sliced red onion. Add a handful or two of glazed pecans or walnuts (back before we had K & O I used to make them from scratch, but I now buy them in the grocery store – ‘candied’/glazed pecans or walnuts). Add crumbled gorgonzola or bleu cheese (quality is key here – you’ve gotta buy the good stuff). Drizzle with good olive oil and good balsamic vinegar (again, quality is key – splurge for the pricey stuff if at all possible!). Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
What are the boys' favorite videos? How much t.v./ video time do they have on a weekly basis? ~Momto3: Favorite videos are (in this order): 1) Curious George, 2) Diego, 3) Wonder Pets. They also have a Red Sox 2007 World Series video (that MorMor gave them) that they are currently really into watching. They really only watch videos; almost no t.v. They’ve only seen 3 full length movies – Curious George; Charlotte’s Web (in the theater); Horton Hears A Who (in the theater). It isn’t a huge deal to us, we don’t make a big thing of it or anything, but we would prefer for them to have very limited media -- especially t.v. – mainly because of the advertising (we just don’t want them to see that at all). So, we almost never have the t.v. on when they are awake (not even the news/weather/etc.). The only exception is Saturday and Sunday mornings—sometimes we let them watch PBS or Noggin (virtually no advertising on either of those) from our bed on “S Days.” Braydon also sometimes puts the Golf Channel on in the kitchen for them in the morning every once in a great while (for maybe 10 minutes max to get a glimpse of Tiger Woods). The first time they’ve really seen ‘real t.v.’, actually, has been just this past week. A couple of times we’ve turned on the t.v. to NBC for them to see the Olympics. They’ve seen some swimming and diving (we really wanted them to see Cullen Jones and Michael Phelps swim -- which they did) and some gymnastics. Regarding videos… during this past school year they watched no videos on school days (this is a Waldorf thing—their Waldorf school *strongly* discourages any media viewing on school days—and we happily oblige because we agree with it philosophically). During the school year they watched 30-60 minutes of videos on Friday and/or Saturday before bed. Now that it is summer they’ve been watching 30-60 minutes of videos almost every day (probably about 5 days per week) from around 5:00-6:00pm while we wait for Braydon to get home from work and I get dinner ready. Once school starts again we’ll go back to the no-media-during-the-week thing. Oh! I forgot to mention—whenever we go on trips they watch videos on airplanes and/or long car drives on portable DVD players. We’ve been doing this since they turned two years old and we bought the DVD players for our trip to the Turks & Caicos. We can’t imagine traveling without the portable DVD players!!!!!!!!
Our question is do Kyle and Owen know about the blog? How long will you keep doing it? ~The Josephs: K & O don’t really know about the blog or any blogs or really anything about the internet or computer, etc. They do see the blog, they see the photos of them on there, etc., but they don’t really understand it at all. They have very limited exposure to computers in general (other than seeing us use computers all the time). Again, this is a Waldof thing (to seriously limit their computer use until they are much older), and we agree enough with the philosophy of it that we’re going with it. We see no rush whatsoever to expose them to really using computers themselves. We figure they have the rest of their lives to be immersed in the world of technology. They play with two old broken laptops of ours (that don't turn on) and pretend to “work.” But they’ve never actually used a real computer. Every once in a while, though, Braydon shows them clips of airplanes taking off and landing on YouTube. They love to do that with Braydon! As far as how long we’ll keep doing the blog… I’ve always thought that we’ll do it until it is either: 1) no longer fun for us to do anymore, and/or 2) K & O are not comfortable with us doing it.
Have any of your colleagues offered unsolicited advice about the blog (i.e, be careful what you post; aren't you worried about security?; etc.)? ~Gooch: Surprisingly not! But then again I don’t do anything to make them aware of the blog (let alone encourage them to read it!). If they do find it, that’s fine with me. I have nothing to hide. And I am careful (very careful) about what we post. You’d think from our blog that we put everything out there but in truth what is on our blog is only a tiny tiny tiny fraction of what is in our lives/minds/hearts/souls. I’m sure that is the case for most all bloggers. I only have one colleague that I know of at Lehigh who reads the blog. I have some friends (who are also professional colleagues) around the country/world who I know are reading it. And I am aware of some students of mine (current and alum) who read it. That is all fine with me. A lot of people tell us we should be worried about security, etc. I am not concerned about it, but I am going to have Braydon answer that part of this question in one of his Open Book posts (because he knows a lot more about it than me and I defer to his judgement on this subject).
I know that you write books I have figured this out from some comments that others have left in the past (or I should say I think I figured this out, because maybe I mis-understood) I have tried to find these books and have not been able to. is it open ended enough just to ask for a link, to said books? ~Happy Mom: You’re probably having a hard time finding me as an author because professionally I don’t use “Johnson-McCormick” so you have to search for ‘Heather Johnson’ or ‘Heather Beth Johnson’ when you’re looking for my published work in academic journals, books, volumes, etc. In addition to articles/papers, etc. I have a book that came out two years ago -- The American Dream and the Power of Wealth: Choosing Schools and Inheriting Inequality in the Land of Opportunity (2006 Routledge). Here’s the link to it on Amazon.com -- http://www.amazon.com/American-Dream-Power-Wealth-Opportunity/dp/0415952395/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1218827435&sr=1-1

Can you tell us what book you're reading right now? ~Julia: I always have at least a couple of books going at any one time. Right now I’m reading a book that my dad recommended I read-- New Passages: Mapping Your Life Across Time, by Gail Sheehy. I’m also reading Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited, by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein. And I’m also reading (for the 2nd time) Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson. Oh!---and the current issue of People magazine (with Brangelina and their twins on the cover)!!… I know that doesn’t count as a book but I just had to buy that at the grocery store the other day and I'm savoring every page of it! ;-)

Someone else asked if you have any regrets about the boys that you'll do different with Meera. Here's the opposite question from me. Tell us one thing that you did with K & O that you will definitely do the same with Meera? ~Dan and Sue: We did some basic baby sign language with K & O. We made up signs for “please,” “thank you,” “more,” and “all done.” It was absolutely amazing how being able to sign those four words allowed K & O to communicate with us (and vice versa) so incredibly well when they were babies. Four words/signs can go a long way!!! That is definitely something that we will do with Meera starting pretty soon!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Happy Birthday Braydon!

Today is my Love's birthday. Happy Birthday to the best father, husband, and friend in the whole wide world! I can't imagine a better guy to live my life with. Seriously, I am so glad this man was born!!!!!!! We like the marker of time that birthdays are, and we have been loving doing it up big for K & O's birthday for the past 3 years, but the truth is that Braydon and I have never been big into our own birthdays. But... the boys sure are. As I'm sure is true for most kids their age, our birthdays are huge for them. Last night they could barely sleep with the anticipation of Braydon's birthday. Braydon chose pesto pasta and caesar salad for his birthday dinner and cheesecake with fresh strawberries for dessert. Kyle insisted that we have "number candles" on the "candle cake"... so we did. This was Meera's first observation of a b-day celebration. She was unimpressed and didn't even make it all the way to the candle cake before having to go to bed!
P.S. Part of the reason Meera was so pooped was because today she had her 2.5 month well-baby check-up (including 4... yes 4... shots, the poor thing!). On Braydon's 37th birthday his daughter weighs 13.07 pounds and is 24.5 inches long. She's in the 75th percentile for weight; the 95th percentile for height; and the 95th percentile for head circumference. For all of the developmental tests she's measuring as a 3.5 month old (according to our pediatrician she's "very advanced"... advanced or not we just think she's so darn cute).

Jess & Sam Visit



Monday-Tuesday Jessica and Sammy came to visit. It had been too long since we'd seen them, and we had such a very good time! Sam is only 2, but man can she hold her own with K & O! Now that's my kind of girl!!! At one point Sam and Owen were playing together for a long stretch of time -- the whole time Sam was calling Owen "Hon" and Owen was calling Sam "Sweetheart"! What a riot! Jessica is a BFF from grad school. There's just nothing like good old friends (even with the relatively new twist of kid-centric visits... swingset and sandbox; playdough; Wonder Pets............). Monday night we all had strawberries, pizza, and cupcakes for supper. You can only do that with a really good friend! ;) Jess, I know you're reading. I love you girl! And I love your girl too! xo