Selina's speech is actually starting to clear up a bit. Who knows where it's headed, but for now I have to record the cute before I forget.
Selina's favorite book right now is Not the Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton. I say, "do you want to read a book?" and she grins ear to ear and declares "Nahhhhh-Tihhh-totomus!" But today I noticed it was more like, "Not the Hippo-tamus!"
She has a little cold at the moment and she will come up to me, distressed and say "I need tissue! I sneeze!" And she's always right, but in spite of asking, she still gets mad when I actually wipe her nose.
She came to me with the toy tea set and announced, "I make tea! Is vewy hot!" then she blew into the empty, plastic cup.
On the phone to Cole's mother, she said "Hi Grandmom!" with great enthusiasm, then explained "I dwaw peechoo!" ("I'm drawing a picture")
The other day, she carried her shoes up to me and said, "Mama Shannon?" I asked "what?" and she handed me a shoe and said "I need help with shoes. I ready to go now."
She has also picked up Nat's habit of declaring woefully "I'm so sad!" when she is crying for any reason. It's the worst for tearing your heart out.
When we pass by the bathroom she asks "take a baff and pwetty haiwoo?" ("Take a bath and pretty hair?") And she still calls Nat mostly, "sheestoo" for "sister" though sometimes she calls her Nat. Water is still "wawoo."
They still spontaneously hug each other and tell each other they love each other. But Nat does a lot of grabbing things out of Selina's hand too. I give that another six months at the outside. Selina's gonna just start shoving Nat away when she sees her coming in for the grab. She'll do it unemotionally but effectively, I predict. That's how she is. She's very effective physically but not hysterical at all when she trips and falls or fails to do whatever she's trying to do. She just says calmly, "I need help!" and/or gets up, brushes herself off and moves on. Occasionally, if she actually hurts herself in some painful way, she'll announce, "I hurt toe!" (or finger or what-have-you). But she isn't melodramatic about it all, which is weird, since Nat really, really likes to perform her feelings bigger than life. Selina is a great audience for Nat and sometimes copies her in a studied, less emotional way. (She always grins really big though, in a proud "look at me! I did it too!" kind of way--even when she doesn't really know what "it" is.)
It's awesome how different they are in personality. They fit together like puzzle pieces. I hope their relationship continues this well.
The lettuce, kale and broccoli raab are doing well (in fact, the broccoli is in the fridge awaiting the wok):
The peas died after I put them outside a month or so ago. I direct planted new seeds in the pots and got new seedlings, plus the dead ones I'd cut down came back! Now my peas are small but mighty:
My cucumbers are absolutely dead and my lima beans are mostly dead--in fact,t he lima beans seem to have some kind of blight. There is definitely something wrong with the leaves. I stuck new seeds down in these pots too--both the cukes and the lima beans. We will see. If they grow, it will be September before I harvest anything...
The bok choy was A) overcrowded and B) getting too much sun? Or something? Anyway, long before it started looking like anything I would recognize as bok choy, it has bolted. Which is bittersweet because the flowers are pretty. I'm going to let them do their thing and then pull them all up and plant something else there--probably more kale.
I moved this box into a shadier spot and put the box with strawberry seeds (not yet sprouted) in the sun. I'm probably going to break down and buy strawberry plants. I'm also going to have to buy pepper plants, because my pepper seedlings died just from having the window opened on their window sill! The tomato seedlings, on the other hand, share a tray with the pepper seedlings and growing very slowly, but are standing up to the open window just fine. Maybe I'll buy one plant in case the seedlings bite it when transferred, but maybe they'll make it.
Meanwhile my "fun" planter, this big concrete urn on one of the balconies, is full of seedlings I got from shaking some of those random wild flower seeds in it. Lo and behold, who knew windshield wiper fluid was a native prairie grass???
Just kidding! That's my drip watering device. I stuck about six pinholes around a milk bottle, filled it with water (in this case, water with blue plant food in it) and buried it halfway in the urn. I figure the flowers and grass will grow up around it and hide it, but I can water it by filling the bottle. By the way, the larger of the seedlings here are transplanted sunflowers, so that's one thing that didn't die in the great migration outside.
Oh yes, and the squashes seem like they will probably pull through. Lost about 90% of their large leaves the first week out, then I learned to look at the weather and see the wind speed predictions and put them down by the patio wall to shelter them on high wind days. They got some baby leaves growing and are putting out buds now.
Lesson learned: direct-sow the early things and buy baby plants for the late things. Seeds don't save any money if it all dies and I have to buy plants later anyway. The whole "hardening" thing is just not working out for me. Any tips?
Blogger and blog-reader, Kara, has asked me to pass onto you, a request for your experience with transracial adoption. You can do that by checking out her webpage with the info, but here's a reprint of some of it:
I’m working on an interview project for a class entitled Intercultural Conflict Resolution. Our topic is intercultural conflict in transracial adoption. As I’m a Korean adoptee myself, this is a topic that’s very personal and sometimes painful to discuss, but some of my classmates do not come from the same places. For the record, my two groupmates are not adopted.
Part of the reason this project is important to me is that I object to the basic ethnographic premise of the project, which was to interview people to research a certain topic. While I, myself, am adopted, I make no claim to know the experience of other adoptees, whether Korean or otherwise, not to mention other people involved in adoption. I don’t feel qualified to define the questions of such a project; I don’t think that should be solely up to me or anyone else. This project is required, so its terms are not exactly negotiable, but I far prefer letters and storytelling to rigid questionnaires, as I believe those involved in any kind of research should have control and influence over what questions define such research, not to mention what content comes out of it.
This is an invitation to share those stories with us in the form of a letter. These can be letters you have never written before, letters you have already sent, letters you wish you could send, letters you hope to send one day. If you are an adoptee, this could be a letter of advice to your younger self, or a letter to an adoptive parent, a birth parent, or another adoptee. If you are a birth parent, you might write to your biological child, the person or people who adopt that child, etcetera. Any kind of letter is welcome, including ones addressed to us! All letters that we share will be anonymous, so don’t feel pressured to add any names, but please indicate how you identify and to whom your letter is addressed.
These letters may discuss issues of race, identity, and intercultural interaction, but please feel free to personalize them and reflect on your experiences however you wish. Thank you in advance for sharing your stories, experiences, and families of all kinds with us. We feel honored to be able to listen.
I blogged about this at Strollerderby and I mentioned it on Facebook, but I have more to say about it.
These lesbians and lesbian exes and ex-lesbians and what-have-you are getting me down today. The story is: Once upon a time two women fell in love and got together in Seattle. There they settled down, feathered a nest and each gave birth to a baby, each of whom was adopted, in turn by the nonbiological second mom. Happy-happy, joy-joy.
Then the family moved to Florida and all hell broke loose. Moms split up, agreeing to coparent amicably, until Mom A falls in love with a fundamentalist Christian man, gets engaged, repudiates her lesbo history and refuses to let Mom B have any more visitation with Mom A's bio child.
Mom B sues for custody (of her nonbio, but fully legally adopted child) and the court overturns the adoption (made in another state, mind you) on the grounds that Florida doesn't grant adoption to gay people. Mom B appeals and the appeals court rules in her favor, saying Florida, whether it grants gay adoptions or not, must recognize adoptions made in other states under the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Now, Mom A has appealed to the Florida Supreme Court (no word on whether they are taking the case yet).
Here are some points:
1. If Florida upholds its right to willy-nilly reverse adoptions made in other states, um, whoa, Bessie! What does that mean for any adoptive family, not just queer ones? You may think that you are safe because Florida doesn't ban you from adopting at the moment, but this kind of precedent sure opens a can of worms to allow Florida to decide it doesn't like you either and will dissolve your relationship to your child while on vacation at Disney. Florida, by all accounts is Crazy State. You never know what it's going to do next.
2. Mom A is a jerk, obviously. But not just because she is keeping her bio kid from its (don't know the genders here) second mom. She is, one must assume, also repudiating her own parenthood of Mom B's bio kid, in spite of having adopted the kid legally in Washington. Now that's major jerkness, right there.
3. We need federal laws governing this stuff, not state ones. I know that's a long shot, but if states are going to go ignoring the full faith and credit clause, and if the U.S. Congress is going to support them in that with laws like the DOMA, which allows marriages to be dissolved when crossing state lines (also in glaring contradiction to full faith and credit, among other things), then states need to simmer down and let the feds take over family law in these broad areas of marriage and adoption. You can't just dissolve legal familial bonds when a family arrives in your state. That is dangerous on a zillion levels. Certainly, most clearly in the case of a child whose parent can just renounce her responsibility to provide for and nurture that child as a parent who took on these responsibilities legally--and for life--in another state.
4. I have been reading all this adoption stuff (new books from conference) about the various ways that a loss as devastating as an entire family will mess with the developmental tasks at every stage of a child's life. Whether adopted at birth or after five years of foster care, kids still sustain a loss at the outset of adoption that adds challenges to growing up healthy, happy and whole. It can be done of course, I'm not suggesting otherwise. I'm simply saying that it adds challenges and makes life more difficult. Why any parent in her right mind would create this situation for a child by taking that child from a (perfectly healthy, non-abusive) second parent is beyond me. Why orchestrate a loss for your child when you could have prevented it?
I know, people are nutso when they break up. Ex-gay fundie converts even more so, I am sure. Much as I wish it were not true, lesbians are just normal human beings like everyone else and no better behaved in a breakup than straight, legally married people who might just as readily swipe the kids if it were so easily done, given no legal protection for the ex's relationship with them.
And because lesbians (and gay men and you know, everyone) are human, we need laws to protect our children when breakups happen. I know some people pull off voluntary coparenting with integrity. But some don't. And some really, really don't. So we need a blanket of second-parent adoption that covers all children and protects their connections to their parents.
In fact, I think de facto parents should have legal standing, whether adoptive or not. They should have automatic rights to visitation unless a court decides it is not in the child's best interest. Overall, I am tired of this stuff being put under the heading of "gay rights" because it is really about children's rights. Kids don't get to choose who their parents are. Like it or not, queers have been having children from time immemorial and will continue to do so. Protect those kids not by prohibiting them from having legal ties to their parents, but by mandating their parents support them and give them access to all other parents, whether they are born again or not.
Really, what kid would Jesus abandon?
Same-sex marriage would help--if the moms had married in this particular case--by providing same-sex divorce and thus putting the visitation and custody stuff in the hands of a court. But plenty of straight people don't bother/have their reasons not to marry the second parent of their child (biological and otherwise--look at Brangelina), so marriage really isn't the issue here. The issue is kids' rights to their parents--as defined by the kids. Children will develop connections to people whether the adults in their lives necessarily want them to or not. Step-parents, boyfriends, grandmothers who babysit every day--kids will define their primary caregivers in ways we might not. Those relationships deserve at least a glance by a court before being severed at the whim of one legal parent.
Meanwhile, this case is simple enough--the adoption was actually legal. Mom A needs to present her bio kid for visitation with Mom B and cut a check for her share of Mom B's bio kid's support. Case closed.
That's about the extent of my Spanish. But yesterday, we took Nat for a free trial Spanish class at a language school (it's a big national company, sort of like Berlitz, but geared to kids 2-10). I had found it online and was a little skeptical that it might be one of those things that is fun and all, but not particularly educative. You know, like toddler music classes or baby yoga or something. I have nothing against those kinds of things, and in fact will be using the cheap versions offered through Parks and Rec quite a bit, I'm sure, but I didn't want to pony up big bucks for "fun but not particularly educative" seeing as how fun can be cheap and even free--right?
But it was both fun and educative. I have some experience teaching English to adults in this model (the Berlitz-type model, but I taught for a smaller company) and basically, that's what they were doing, just geared to preschool kids. Nat sat in on a class (they keep all classes under 8 kids) for kids aged 3-5, and even though it was the end of a session for the class, the teacher was just brilliant about giving each child (including newbie, Nat) access to success in the language at her own level. She just kept going and going without a break for 90 minutes, changing activities about every 5-7 minutes to keep those kids engaged. She had nary a "discipline" problem, as the kids were just always on their toes to keep up with her next activity.
I think the goal of the day was the verb "to play" and maybe also "to like." The kids were putting balls in basketball hoops and kicking them and jumping up and down on one foot and holding hands and doing ring songs/dances and just all kinds of busy. Nat just stared and listened with complete attention for the first half of the class then started joining in a bit in repeating words and phrases. She absolutely loved it.
So we ponied up the cash and signed her up for one 90 minute class per week for ten weeks this summer (they also let you make up any classes you miss while on vacation or something). I know 90 minutes a week is not enough to have her a fluent speaker in ten weeks, but it's a good start for her. This one yesterday was the longest she's ever been in a classroom setting. She'll be in preschool in the fall for three hours a day (though I'm thinking of keeping her home on Fridays), so this will help ease her into that classroom/peer/teacher experience.
I also plan to explore good opportunities to reinforce the Spanish just through life in our neighborhood. We live in a neighborhood full of first-generation immigrants. Right on our block, it's mostly African immigrants, but a couple blocks down you hit a very intensively Mexican immigrant neighborhood where all the stores have signage in Spanish and that's the dominant language on the street. I'm thinking that I can find a playground right in that neighborhood, a grocery store where we might pick up milk every week--that kind of thing--to give Nat some natural life exposure to Spanish.
Then there's all the Spanish-language programming we can get on demand on t.v. If the kids are going to watch 1-2 hours of t.v. per day (which is about what we average in the summer months--more like 2-3 in the winter months), an hour of it can be Plaza Sesamo, which Nat already loves to watch, even though she doesn't understand a word of it.
The school she is going to in the Fall does Spanish once or twice a week. I doubt it's intensive immersion, but it will still be some reinforcement. And maybe if I can find the cash, we can keep up the language school in the fall.
Overall, it does look like this is going to be a good start for Project Multilingual Kids.
Selina really has some kind of language gift. She is hard to understand, but she says the most amazing things. "I need help" she'll say, handing me a toy with a lid she wants me to open. I open it, hand it back, and she closes it, hands it to me again and says "I need help again!" Really, every word.
Yesterday, I was trying to put my finger on why she sounds so weirdly precocious to me lately. Then I realized that she has leapt from using all proper nouns to using pronouns...correctly. She went straight from, "Selina do it!" or "Mama Shannon sit down!" to "I do it!" and "you sit down!" No you-me confusion for her, no way. Today, she was playing with the drawing board and she wrote some scribbles with a flourish and declared, proudly, "Selina!" and grinned up at me. "You wrote Selina?" I asked her. "Yes, Selina!" she confirmed, "it's me!" and pointed to herself. (Mind you, she didn't really write her name.) Then she pointed at me and said "you're Mama Shannon!, I'm Selina!"
This morning, Cole had to go to work (out of town) and Selina was devastated at her leaving. She was crying and carrying on and I was comforting her. "I need Cole-Mom!" she cried. "I need Mama Shannon and Cole-Mom!"
She's not even two yet. Tomorrow, she'll be 23 months old. She's amazing. There are two of them. What am I gonna do with two of them???
I feel so differently about adoption, biological reproduction--assisted or accidental or somewhere in between--and parenting in general than I did before we adopted.
We never had the "gotta hava babee!" fever, but we did just sort of think "baby? huh, sure that would be fun (for us)." Now I find my skin crawling at anyone who thinks of baby procurement as being about the parents almost at all. It just really bugs me when people want children because children will meet some need of theirs. But where the heck is the line behind being overjoyed at the idea of a child in your life and wanting a child to meet some need of yours? It's a fine, fine, fine line. It's not like only grim, unemotional people should be parents. Obviously not.
And it seems that babies always start by somebody just wanting one. And I am pretty convinced that wanting a baby is always a selfish thing. It's never about the baby. Especially when the baby isn't born yet. And that's obviously okay. We don't look kindly on the "rescue" model of adoption either, do we? Besides, that really turns out to be all about the parents too--how heroic and sacrificing they are, right? (If you are wondering who "we" is, I guess it's self-defining.)
I mean, I definitely start feeling this way after getting into it with people about various ART things. I am starting to really chaff at the notion that questioning the ethics of certain reproductive decisions, based on how a child born of those decisions--and the adult she will someday become--will experience them, is automatically judgmental of the person making the decisions and therefore, de facto bad. (Sorry, long sentence. I don't even know what I just said. You're getting unadulterated stream-of-consciousness, here.)
But it's not just ART stuff. It's more the attitude that ART accentuates that underlies so much reproduction, whether you conceived on the first try or you had medical interventions for 4 years and finally went to Khazakstan. It's the attitude that babies--however you get them--are commodities to be "gotten" at all.
I'm also annoyed at the attitude of entitlement from straight people, that babies are somehow a natural right and if they don't come easily, equipped with the best parts of each partner, the would-be parents are being denied a part of themselves they ought to have been able to take for granted, like tehy take their very bodies for granted. Why would anyone ever take the ability to make a baby for granted? That is so far outside of my worldview I am breathless in the presence of that entitlement. Yet I know it's really common. It just is what people expect.
And this Madonna thing? Talk about entitlement! You know, if she wants that child so badly; if she really is bonded with her; feels like her mother, then why doesn't she set up house in Malawi for 18 months? That's all they wanted from her when they denied the initial request. Now the bio-dad is involved which complicates it, I know, but initially, it was 18 months of residence. I mean, how many residences does Madonna have, anyway? How much skin off her nose would it be to add a hut in Malawi?
But this stuff just has nothing to do with the people who are minors (or embryos, for that matter) when it all goes down. It's all about the adults and what possession of these minors will mean for them. And I'm just getting fed up with that.
I don't want to give embryos rights. That's not my point. My point is that we ought to be thinking of what these people will be facing when they aren't our little doll-babies anymore, but are live, grown, human beings who want to know who they got torn from in Khazakstan or Malawi or the south side of Chicago. Or to meet their gestational surrogate. Or dealing with "existential debt" as some donor-conceived adults are now calling the burden of having to be grateful for their very lives to a protocol they now want to challenge and change. (Found this term in "Voices of Donor Conception: Behind Closed Doors: Moving Beyond Secrecy and Shame" ed. Mikki Morrissette.)
I guess listening to a lot of adult adoptees at the conference last month got me headed down this path. But it's also a parenting preoccupation of mine to worry about making sure I always think of my children as future adults with their own agency and their own questions and their own values, which will in all likelihood, overlap, but not completely match mine. I want to be able to look those adults--equals--in the eye and know I did everything I could to make it as right as I could for who they would become, not just to please myself or gratify my craving for a baby.
Anyway, this probably makes very little sense, but I'll publish it and you let me know.