Happy Western New Year!
Love and bright blessings,
Janice, Darren and Alexei
Happy Western New Year!
Love and bright blessings,
Janice, Darren and Alexei
Good grief! It’s almost the end of October. As usual it’s been weeks since I posted anything. And it’s been months since I posted new pics here! For those who follow the blog and aren’t on Facebook, I greatly apologize.
Without further ado:
Yes, Alexei turned 4 this year. 4 is a bit more challenging than 3. We’ve had a few knock-down-drag-out erm… discussions about listening and not always getting what we want. Fun! But he really is a super good kid. He’s just definitely checking the boundaries.
We recently had his speech evaluated through the school district because we were still having some trouble understanding him and it was clearly causing him a lot of frustration. Fortunately the speech therapist was able to give us a few tips for helping him so a formal course of speech therapy ended up not being necessary. We did a follow up a few weeks later and she was very happy with his progress. We continue to model correct pronunciation and push him to use his pronouns and full sentences. He’s improved by leaps and bounds and the moments of frustration are much less for both of us.
We had his birthday party at Gullwings Museum in Oxnard. He loved it. The theme was Star Wars (as you may have noticed in the birthday post) but he wanted the Disneyland Castle on his cake. I love this kid!
We had a house party at a place we rented for Darren’s birthday. Yes, Darren cooked his own birthday dinner. Nothing new there. LOL! Big time thanks to Auntie Resa for keeping Alexei entertained with the light saber fights and “airplane” rides.
We’ve done a ton of Disneyland since the summer hiatus of course. Alexei got picked for the Jedi Academy at Disneyland! He was super proud and excited. Eowyn got picked too so it was a happy day for both kids!
I’ll try to post the video of them fighting Darth Vader. Too many of the pics are of him and a bunch of other kids so you just get the diploma pics for now.
Alexei and I also go to meet up with our friends Beth and Silpa, their daughter Sofia and foster son at Disneyland a few weeks ago. Alexei did pretty well in the roll-reversal of being the biggest kid introducing the toddler to Disney. Had to remind him a few times that he had to let other people pick rides too but we only had a few bad moments over that. Heh. He and Sofia walked around much of the park hand in hand. It was pretty darned cute.
This also marked a major milestone as Alexei was finally brave enough to meet some of the characters. He actually met Tinkerbell and the fairies by himself but we met most of the others with Sofia and/or “A” so out of deference to their privacy I will not post those pics here. Those of you who are friends with either Beth or Silpa on FB can check out some of the great pics there.
He’s now the oldest kid in his daycare, which has been great for him. His caregiver has been doing preschool stuff with him for a few weeks now.
He liked this NASA outfit at daycare so much we were inspired to go visit the Space Shuttle Endeavor on the one year anniversary of it being brought to the California Science Center. The whole museum is a blast and it’s FREE. (OK, $10 parking but still…)
It was really hard to take pics with the shuttle in the temporary building so here’s just the shuttle.
Alexei is obsessed with Star Wars right now so of course is going as a Jedi for Halloween. He’s very adamant that he is Obi Wan Kenobi!
We took our annual pilgrimage to the pumpkin patch with Auntie Boo on Fillmore and Western Pumpkin Liner.
So Friday Alexei woke up with a pretty clear case of Pink Eye. Sigh. You know how much fun it is to try to get a four year old to let you put drops? Fortunately we’ve developed a routine that allows him to have some control over it so we can get it done. He first has to give all his stuffed animals their drops (Visine) then Alexei gets his. Then Mommy (also Visine.)
After the doctor’s visit we had to go by my office to change the back up tapes so Alexei got to hang out a Mommy’s work for a bit. Everyone fawned over him of course.
Here’s the equine menagerie:
Halloween is in a couple of days. I promise I’ll post pics of the Jedi!
We’re planning to go away for our anniversary and Xmas this year. Thinking Cabo or Puerto Vallarte as they are both close and warm. Anyone have any personal experience with resorts in either area, especially ones good for small children?
Bright blessing and love to all,
Janice, Darren and Alexei
(Trigger warning for discussion of sexism, homophobia and adoption related issues. Also, note, I am referring mainly to trends and beliefs here in the US.)
Folks who know me (IRL or from Facebook or Twitter) know I am an abashed liberal and lifelong feminist. Now being both, I will readily admit I focus a lot on women’s issues and how our patriarchal society short-changes girls and women on a daily basis. But it is also true that patriarchy is bad for boys and men. It sells them short in a lot of ways. One of those ways is intimately tied to adoption.
Across the world, more boys are available for adoption than girls. Boys wait longer in countries that allow PAPs to request the gender of their child. Boys wait longer in Special Needs programs. Boys wait longer in US foster care. I’ve read of PAPs who have rejected referrals for boys from China’s “traditional” (aka the Non-Special Needs) program!
(Full disclosure: Darren and I were open to either a boy or a girl and stated so in our paperwork. I actually had imagined having boys or one of each when we first started. But when we settled on China, which at the time was referring something like 95% girls to the US , we “knew” we would get a girl. Getting Alexei instead of Lorelei was a surprise but a happy one.)
I don’t want to be seen as judging other people’s family building choices. There’s quite enough of THAT going around (a post for another day!) I know very well that that individual families have very legitimate individual reasons for preferring to adopt a girl over a boy. Frankly, since I already have a son, I would like to have a daughter! So I understand. But although each individual choice may make sense, it is still part of a clear pattern: when there is a chance to make a choice, adoptive parents tend to chose girls.
There are a lot of theories about why this might be but all of them seem to come down to sexist notions about boys and girls.
One theory is that women usually drive the adoption process (which is probably true, at least if one goes by the skewed sex ratios on adoption boards) and women prefer daughters to sons (insert raised eyebrow here.) I guess because they want their child to be “like them” as possible. This is coupled with the belief that men don’t care as much about the sex of an adopted child as they do a bio child therefor they default to whatever the wife’s preference is (raised eyebrow again.)
My personal theory is many folks erroneously believe, consciously or not, that girls are more pliable and easy to raise than boys. That girls are more loyal to the family (and specifically the mother) than boys. The flip side of this is the belief that boys are more trouble to raise and will leave the family and not look back. I’ve heard these opinions from quite a few parents, bio, adoptive and foster, enough to make me think, consciously or unconsciously, that belief this drives a lot of the “demand” for girls in adoption.
I’m not even sure where to go from that point, except to say, this obviously does a huge disservice to boys who need families to love and nurture them and teach them how to be wonderful men. Seriously, if there is any thought that has given me more anguish about not feeling equipped to parent a child with identified special needs, it’s knowing that so many boys are still waiting for a chance for a family based on their sex alone.
Annnnnd now I seem to be once again veering into “safe the children” territory. Perhaps I have more of a savior mentality than I like to admit. 😉 But for the record, we didn’t adopt to “save” a child. Our money would have gone a lot farther given to an NGO like Half the Sky if we had that goal in mind. We adopted because we wanted a family. An entirely selfish impulse. To go back and adopt another child with any other goal in mind other than creating a family is, in my opinion, not a recipe for long-term success for all parties involved. Like with the previous post, I don’t think folks should be moved to adopt to “rescue” a child from their situation. I do want folks to think about these issues when they are already moved to adopt for reasons of family building.
OK, I don’t have a good segue here but while we’re talking about issues of sex and adoption, I want to mention the issue of men adopting. (At this juncture I won’t even get into the issues of gay and lesbian *couples* adopting – again, that’s a post for another day.)
It can be difficult for single women to adopt, even domestically. Although attitudes are changing in this country, there is still a lot of bias against single mothers, so they may wait to be chosen by a birth mother or be discouraged by a social worker. Many countries are closed to singles of either sex, because of the same bias and/or fear of same-sex couples getting around bans on gay and lesbians adopting.
But hard as it is for women, the number of programs open to single men is minuscule. And again, the reasons come down to sexist notions about men, especially single men, and children. I have found that even I, as a person who is surrounded by examples of good, nurturing fathers, have to fight my own prejudices about single men adopting. But needless to say, I find it sad that people in a position to make decisions about about who can adopt, from government officials to agency representatives, can judge someone to be an unsuitable parent on the basis of gender alone.
I have no pat answers about how to change any of this. However, this is one part of why I’m a feminist. Continuing to fight the stereotypes of men and boys as difficult or dangerous or what have you is just as important as fighting stereotypes about women and girls being soft, stupid or what have you. I know this doesn’t solve the problem for boys waiting for families right now or men wishing to be fathers right now. But such is the nature of the struggle. Those we fight for may not even have been born yet.
Love and blessings,
So Sophist Six over at Tolerant People invited folks to write guest posts for her and since I’ve had some ideas kicking about in my brain to post here, her invite seemed as good an opportunity as any to get some of it out. Now as I have started to write, I see this is probably going to be a series of posts because, well, adoption is a very complicated matter. And I don’t think Sophist Six really wants a dissertation on her blog. So here’s part 1 of hopefully many more to come. The rest will probably be posted only here.
Pause here to add the disclaimer that the opinions below are mine and mine alone. I do not pretend to speak for all adoptive or prospective adoptive parents, much less other folks touched by adoption. I am familiar with and sympathetic to the perspectives of others in the adoption web. And I especially try to see things from the potential viewpoint of my own son, who is nearly 4, adopted from China, and has barely even had an idea about what those things might mean to him. Please don’t assume that because I don’t address a different viewpoint that I am not conversant with it.
I also acknowledge that my view is one of a person of pretty major privilege, being well-educated, upper middle class and (although actually bi-racial) benefiting from the assumption that I am white. I know this. I own this. I try to hear and allow other perspectives to inform and change my opinions. But ultimately my views are what they are based on my own lived experiences. They are subject to change. But this is where I am now.
And I should probably add trigger warnings for a wide range of issues from infertility to abandonment to child abuse.
So a little background on me and how I came to be an adoptive parent.
Much of my adult life I was child-free by choice. I have never had a desire to be pregnant and for a long time I didn’t really want to be a parent. I still think this is a valid choice. Being a parent is a major undertaking and not everyone has the desire to do it , which is NOT a “lack” in the person in question. One is no less of a whole person simply because one chooses to seek other challenges than becoming a parent.
A lot of the reason I was not interested in being a mother was due to family health history. I won’t get into the details because the stories aren’t mine to tell so it’ll just have to suffice that there are major health considerations that have stopped me from wanting to bring children into the world. I do not want to be responsible for passing those issues along.
As an aside this caused some tension between me and my mother for a long time. I think she thought I was judging her choice to have children. I was not and still am not. Mom and Dad had kids somewhat in the dark and somewhat in knowledge of our genetic illnesses but I trust they had some idea of what they could handle. I certainly knew what I could handle – or rather, couldn’t handle – and made a different choice. My brother, who used to feel the same way I did, has since made the opposite choice and I am thankful for the blessing of the niece that resulted from that change of heart. I would never say he was wrong, either. He made the right decision for himself and his family. But I still choose not to have children of my own body.
Now although I was pretty firmly in the “no kids” camp, I had long ago formed the idea that if I ever did decide to be a parent that I would probably adopt. I had only vague ideas of what that meant. My parents had been official and unofficial foster parents and we
knew a number of families that were built by adoption. But few people who haven’t adopted really know what it involves.
Fast forward many years, a marriage, a divorce and crazy whirlwind of relationships later and I found myself with a man I love and respect and in a place in my own emotional development that, hey, kids actually sounded like a great idea. My husband, too, had concerns about biological children and we just naturally came to the conclusion that we would adopt. (If you want to read how and why we chose international adoption and China in particular, here is what I posted when we were early in the process.
Here’s where it starts getting political.
Adoption is a very, very fraught issue. Oh my gods and goddesses! I had no idea when we first stepped into this arena just how fraught. I had only one perspective when we started researching – that of wanting to build a family – so I was really and truly shocked to see how deep a subject it became in a hurry. Adoption triads/webs. Ethics in adoption. International vs. domestic vs. foster adopt. Race and trans-racial adoption. Privacy concerns vs. needs of adopted persons. Child trafficking. Domestic and local politics effects on adoption. Attachment and trauma therapy controversies. Even choosing an agency became a political act as everyone in the adoption community weighed in on which ones were “good” and “bad” and why. And which programs were “ethical” or not was a whole ‘nother level of drama. Yikes!
Being a research aficionado and a political animal, it was like second nature to wade into it all. I won’t call myself an expert by any means but having lived neck deep in the issues for almost a decade I think I’m at least qualified to say I have an Informed Opinion.
To keep this from getting to be too long (too late?) I’m going to focus in on one issue: the way our prejudices about family, specifically the notion that “blood is thicker than water” shape public policy on adoption and can lead to some bad consequences for children.
Well, June completely flew by in a haze of travel and anti-biotics (yes, I did indeed manage to get sick again. Sigh!)
Alexei started off the month by trying to use his M&M dispenser as a cereal bowl, leading to a pic which will apparently soon be an album cover for my very talented friend and trainer, Stacy.
Hadn’t been to the SB Zoo in a while so we made a special family trip to see these little guys before they are not so little anymore!
The major highlight of the month was my birthday trip to San Francisco! I haven’t been in I don’t know how long and we figured this was as good a time as any to introduce Alexei to the joys of air travel.
Alexei did great! He LOVED the plane. He loved everything about the trip actually. Well, except getting sick and the wind. 🙁 But he enjoyed going through security (taking off his shoes is still fun for him!) He loved watching for the plane and of course climbing the ramp into the plane. He loved fastening the seat belt and making sure Mommy and Daddy buckled up properly. Playing with the window shade and seat tray was of course a blast and I’m just glad we had such a short trip or we would have been playing with the seat adjustment I am sure.
We planned on doing the full on tourist stuff, so we stayed in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. We also did everything by mass transit since cars are expensive to drive and park in that area. BTW: mass transit in San Francisco is relatively easy to navigate and at least during the times we were wanting to go places was regularly available. Seriously, they do pretty well, almost European well, with their system.
We took BART into the City and then the street car over to the Wharf. Bit of a long wait for the street car and of course it was crowded but Alexei enjoyed every little thing about it. The trip took a bit longer than we’d expected but we still got in with plenty of time to do a little exploring.
Alexei did NOT care for the pretty strong winds that were blowing that evening so it limited our time out. He was a little cranky at dinner but did ok and a warm bath at the hotel helped get him down for the night.
The next morning was my actual birthday and I got to wake up to the sound of my son’s laughter. It was pretty awesome. (A few weeks ago we got him a little alarm clock so he can know when it is alright to wake up Mommy and Daddy – yeah, he’s a morning person. The clock makes some funny animal noises which amuses Alexei to death. This is what caused the morning laughter.)
After I rousted Darren from bed (so much for a Father’s Day lie in!) we went over to the Hyde Street Pier to look at all the ships. It was pretty cool. A bit windy still but not nearly like the evening before and Alexei loved climbing up and down all the stairs and seeing all the different parts of the ships.
We even got to see the rangers climbing about in the rigging and singing sea shanties to demonstrate the work sailors did on the big sailing vessels!
We didn’t try to go out to the Golden Gate but we did get to see it wreathed in the fog!
We did some awesome empanadas for lunch then decided to take the bus up to Chinatown. Sadly, we didn’t count on Alexei deciding to fall asleep on the bus! Lol! So we pretty much got off the bus and got right back on the other way and returned to the hotel. Where he promptly proceeded to wake up again. After trying unsuccessfully to get him back to sleep, we headed back out to do some more exploring!
Yes, we got chocolate, including getting chocolate shakes! Yum!
Then that evening we took another bus out to Nob Hill to get some fabulous Indonesian food. Yes, I was a very happy birthday girl!
Monday morning we headed over to the little aquarium on Pier 39. It was pretty neat and a good time.
After wandering about the aquarium for a while, decided to head up to Little Italy for some awesome Italian seafood! Then we walked over a ways so we could finally see a bit of Chinatown. I love the sights and especially the smells of Chinatown. Reminds me of my childhood searching for Indonesian spices in various Chinatowns across the States. It’s also nice being closer to the average height of the crowd. LOL!
So as the last little hurrah in the City, we bought some really good gelato and then went to a little nearby park to let Alexei work off some energy before the long trip home.
Yep, he fell asleep on the way to the airport, just a little bit later than I expected.
Fortunately it worked out pretty well. He was able to sleep all the way through security. TSA sent us through the expedited lane due to having a sleeping child and as an added bonus I didn’t have to go through the Boondoggle Machine (aka the back scatter scanner.) Little man woke up just in time to eat a little dinner before we had to get back on the plane.
It was a very nice trip and even with a small mistake with the parking we got home at a reasonable-ish hour.
Sadly the little cough Alexei had developed over the weekend turned into a full on upper respiratory infection for him. Then of course into bronchitis for me. Which I am still fighting.
But I had to jump head long into getting prepped for the combined Queen’s/Altavia Equestrian Championship. Fortunately there was a manageable amount of work (having secured the site several weeks in advance and gotten most of those ducks in a row helped a lot!) And of course I had a helping hand er sword. 🙂
The week of the big event of course we got a heat wave and the day turned out to be Really Damn Hot. But it was still a nice event, even if convalescing kept me from being as much physical help as I had planned. We had a wonderful carriage and horse procession, courtesy of Lady Ariadne. Two excellent rounds run by my co-steward led to a Queen’s Champion and then a run off between the next two highest scorers determined our Altavia Champ. I was quite happy to hand the duty off to Lady Courtney!
Made it home from clean up just in time to get a quick shower and then have dinner up in Ojai with the chosen family. Where Alexei learned the wonders of uncles with a lot of energy!
Had a busy week including a very pleasant homebody Fourth of July. Alexei was very excited about putting out our flag and counting all the other flags our neighbors put up! He was only a little interested in fireworks on the TV. Although now we ALL want to go do the Fourth in DC some day! And I guess next year we’ll have to find a live event to go to, maybe even attend one of the parades in the area. Sigh. The sacrifices we make for our kids.
Oh, and our menagerie has grown to include 3 fish now. Went and bought a bigger tank and all the accessories this week as well.
Alexei continues to grow like a weed. Given that I am still only employed part time and Alexei is very happy at his current daycare, we’ve opted to keep him there for now. He will be the oldest there and is already being a leader. Starting in the fall his caregiver will start more formal preschool lessons with him. I’m also going to talk to the school district about maybe getting some language support for him and look into the possibility of petitioning for him to enter K at 5 (he misses the new deadline by 1 DAY!) The other option is to let him go into Pre-K the year he turns 5 and petition to go straight into 1st grade at 6. My only concern with that is Pre-K is only at a few schools, neither of which is his “home” school nor the one we hope to send him to. But we shall see what we shall see.
In the meantime, he remains the happiest, most wonderful kid in the world. We are truly, truly blessed.
As a side note, not sure we are going to survive the 7 weeks of summer blockout on our Disney passes. He’s been bugging me nearly every day to go! Argh!
Bright blessings all!
June is going to be busy with b-days, travel and SCA stuff so trying to get in a post before the month of May is over.
Alexei is approaching 4 and we’re trying to decide what to do for his birthday party. Don’t really want to have something at the house and Alexei hasn’t been terribly impressed with the play-zone places (plus, they’re seriously expensive!) I am not one of those moms that likes to figure out great games or themes and I pretty much blew my creative ideas with the Moorpark Zoo b-day last year so I am at a bit of a loss. It’s also, of course, falls on the Labor Day weekend so having it at a park is probably not an option. If anyone has any bright ideas, I’d sure love to hear them!
Alexei still amazes us every day. He’s a big talker and continues to be astoundingly well-coordinated. He is still enjoying gymnastics and as you can probably tell from the video in the last post, he’s getting close to being ready for some kind of marshal arts training. He’s still a very happy boy but we’re definitely seeing some 4 year old control issues and contrariness. Heh. At daycare he will soon be the oldest kid and he is already acting as a good roll model and helper with the little kids. He’s also above the 75th percentile now for height and weight (yey!)
After a short social media break, I’m back to reading and commenting on blogs and groups again. I’ve been more quiet than before and less prolifically posting on my social media accounts. I still have a lot of big issues on my mind, mostly regarding adoption, race and gender. But at the moment I have come down with a cold and so has the boy so heavy thinking/writing will have to wait.
So here are some pics to round out the post.
Love and light,
This year’s Mother’s Day, like many before them, is going to be bitter-sweet for me. Partly because I miss my mom more than I can ever say. Partly because of thoughts of Alexei’s birth mother and foster mother (I know they don’t celebrate Mother’s Day on the same day in China but for many reasons this is the day I think of them both.) But mostly because, although we haven’t “officially” called a halt, it’s been clear for some time that – baring some major miracle – the path to a second child is closed to us.
So I started removing myself from adoption agency email lists and some adoption-related groups. And it breaks my heart a little.
I am blessed beyond measure with a truly awesome husband and the best little boy in the whole world. But there is still a hole in my heart where a little girl or another little boy should be. Removing myself from these areas means acknowledging the reality that I will never hold another baby of my own. And that really, really sucks.
On one of the Chinese adoption groups (which I haven’t visited for ages for reasons unrelated to the above,) there used to be long threads, frequently quite heated and vicious, about whether the wait was harder for prospective adoptive parents without kids than for PAPs who already had one or more. I stayed out of the arguments then – it’s kinda the PAP equivalent of the Oppression Olympics and can only cause hurt for all involved. And seriously, what’s the point of comparing your pain with someone else’s?
I will say that, for me at least, this grief is not as deep as the pain of the wait for Alexei, with its frequently soul-crushing desperation and fear that it might not happen at all. Watching one more Christmas, one Mother’s Day, one more birthday go by without the proverbial pitter-patter of tiny feet in our home at all was harder for me to face than the idea that we probably won’t get to do it all over again. I’d personally take this hurt over the other, thanks very much.
But that’s just my personal experience. Other people may feel very differently and that is just as valid.
The only thing that is harder, for me at least, is knowing that Alexei will likely never have a sibling. I watch him with kids both older and younger and I hurt for him. It’s hard for me, as someone who grew up with sibling both birth and foster, to imagine not having that bond. I still mourn for my little sister and brother who both died too young. I miss my big brother, so far away, though I am proud of and happy for the life he has built in NYC. So it is hard for me to imagine growing up without all the benefits and challenges of siblings.
This is not a knock on only-children: I know lots of singletons who had full and happy childhoods and are (or are becoming) well-adjusted adults. It’s just that I feel like he will be missing out on something special. Not to mention having someone to share the burden of these nutty parents he’s been saddled with. 🙂
Anyway, sorry for the rambly depressing post. Here’s something to make you happier and remind myself what it is I do celebrate.