Thursday, October 26, 2006

Lim-bo Lim-bo Lim-BO!

Our moving process began three months ago. And for a long time, we managed to keep the Move from invading the rest of the house. We warehoused the Move in Sr. Compa & my bedroom, and we set up residence in Compaito's room.

But now? Now our old room is full, and there are boxes, boxes everywhere. It's funny; were I to go on a five day trip, I would know exactly how much to pack, and what I didn't need to take with me. But faced with the contents of my house, I can find some sort of justification of why I might need five sweaters for the next five days. Because ordinarily, I NEVER reuse a sweater, oh nooo.

As much as this move is needed, I do feel wistful at times: Compaito is leaving behind five little play buddies and a backyard playground, and won't have a sibling to make up for it for at least eight months- probably longer.

But there's a lot to be said for tree-lined streets that a kid can safely bike, for a lack of widely known crack houses in the immediate vicinity, for no mould in Mommy& Daddy's bedroom, for a neighbourhood without a gun problem, for no prostitues at 9am beside my house. All those things make it good.

And especially, especially, a little room that will masquerade as a study for a while, but which will nurture, over the months, my hope for a second child.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hello, World!

Wait, don't go away! So I was moping around throwing myself a little pity party and Not Posting and I got linked on A Little Pregnant!

No, hold your applause, I wasn't linked because I am witty and charming and otherwise an All-Round Halfway Decent Person, I got linked because I asked to be. And Julie, gracious host of Linkdom that she is, acquiesed.

And then I stopped posting.

And the reason I stopped posting is because my real feelings around adoption right now are not very honourable: they are whiny, and privileged, and perhaps not the sort of thing folks referred from an infertility blog might want to look at.

But given that blogs are supposed to be for the reckless dissemination of The Ugly Truth, here goes:

I fantasize about giving up on adoption. Because its tooooo haaaaaard.

My privacy is invaded. I must lay bare Whether or Not I have Engaged in Pornography Watching, and Whether if I Did it Was Alone or With my Partner, and Why I Went to the Psychologist at Thirteen (can't remember, but it can't have been serious, or I would remember- right?) and How Many Family Members (Immediate and Extended) Have Ever Smoked Pot (hint- almost all of them, including Great Grandma, but she didn't inhale).

I am uncomfortable telling my (brown) partner how he should experience, interpret, and deal with racism (see below)

There is no guarantee of ANY kids in the system who match our criteria

Every time we have a homestudy, our worker (whom we like, Thank God) extends the homestudy by another session, and I don't want to say no, but I am also doing a hell of a lot of work juggling.

My (Spanish Speaking) partner often doesn't understand the questions and answers them incorrectly, unwittingly creating red flags that we then have to go ahead and discuss, and explain that no, he thought you meant X, and he was really trying to say Y, and it's TRUE, but I feel like if I was our SW I'd feel like the wife was trying to make the husband look good. Which is stressful.

I'm in the middle of moving house, and yet it must look presentable for the homestudy.

And I know that I'm a lucky fertile s.o.b., so to speak, and that if I gave up the worst thing that would be likely to happen is that I could give birth, with a bigger space between siblings than I wanted, and that I may be haunted for the rest of my life that I made the wrong decision, and there is a little person that was meant to be my child.

I'm tiiiiiireeeed.

*End Whining*

So, ummmm, welcome to my blog, y'all. Make yourselves at home. Coffee's on, and please put your feet on the table. I do.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Culturally Incompetent

So last homestudy session was the one (I had thought the only one) where the cultural competency assessment was done.

I knew it was coming; I welcomed it. I think it’s crucial for parents who intend to parent cross-culturally to have some measure of cultural competency. I felt comfortable that we would “pass”, not that anyone ever “fails” any portion of a homestudy, they just have to “work on” things until they are approved.

The one thing that I wasn’t prepared for was how North American and academic our concept of cultural competency is. I grew up steeped in social justice and anti-racism discourse. I’ve taken workshops on it, and I’ve given workshops on it. But I haven’t discussed anti-racism a whole lot with Sr. Compa. Racism, we’ve discussed, mostly in the context of individual occurrences, and whether or not they could happen in his country, or in mine. But not anti-racism. I’ve never sat down and said: “Now, Sr. Compa: did you know that the definition of racism is ‘prejudice + power?’ And do you know what ‘white privilege’ means? It’s important for you to be conversant in these concepts, see, because you’re a brown person in North America.”

I haven’t done so, because I am a white person, and he is the one who is and will be experiencing both systematic and direct racism (hopefully not too often), and thus it would feel incredibly patronizing for me to do so. I trust him to recognize racism when he experiences it, and I respect him enough to have given him the space to respond or react to it according to his own thoughts and feelings. When people experience prejudice, they need to be reflective, or angry, or sad, or dismissive on their own terms. And while much of the prevailing North American anti-racist thought has been developed by a very diverse group of intellectuals, they are almost all North American-born. As far as I can tell, it makes a big difference.

It is always disorienting to hold certain concepts as a given, and to have them shot down without so much as a second glance. I have written before about the disorientation I felt when I was pregnant/new mom and living in Compa’s country, and was told by his family:
- Don’t hang up the laundry on the clothesline, the baby’s umbilical cord will wrap around its neck
- Don’t let the dog or cat climb on your lap, the baby will be born hairy
- Rub the baby’s nose on the sides, so it doesn’t turn out flat
- Don’t leave the house for forty days, the baby will get sick
- Don’t expose the baby to the sunlight for forty days
- Your baby has colic because he is possessed. You need to find a woman who is not on her period to do the sign of the cross, and then spit on his forehead.

And that’s to say nothing of the reactions I got just for being me:
- People trying to charge me twice the regular price, assuming I was rich
- Two men who threatened to stab me in the belly at 8 ½ months pregnant, trying to mug me.
- People who literally wouldn’t ask me the time of day, assuming that I wouldn’t understand them, who walked past me in order to ask Sr. Compa the time of day.
- People who, knowing that we were a family with a baby, and knowing that Sr. Compa didn’t speak English, asked if I understood Spanish
- An old woman who argued with me for fifteen minutes trying to convince me that my biological child was adopted (I wasn’t offended, but accuracy is nice- I found her more amusing than anything else).
- People who admonished me because I was letting my baby get too tan, when Sr. Compa wasn’t there to let people connect the dots

While in Sr. Compa’s country, I had varying reactions to all these incidents. Some of them made me laugh heartily. Some of them made me laugh bitterly. Some of them made me frustrated. Some made me feel completely powerless, or invisible, or angry, or scared.

Once when I was really frustrated with my in-laws telling me what to do/not to do, Sr. Compa gently reminded me that they were telling me these things because they cared about me, which was incredibly grounding for me. Beyond that, he gave me the space to feel whatever I was going to feel, and say whatever popped into my head, no matter how reactionary it was, knowing that it was just me trying to handle the challenges of being different. To this day, I am incredibly grateful for that.

It can be incredibly alienating to live in another country, no matter how many things there are about that country that you love and cherish. No matter how well you integrate, there will always be days that you miss the tangible (food, music, weather, family) and the intangible (a way of looking at things, or doing things; a sense that your friendships are deep and lasting, and that you share the same cultural short-hand). On those days, you feel particularly fragile, and you need to be able to feel you can be yourself around those who are closest to you.

In light of that- what does it matter if a person chooses one day to brush off an incident of racism, or a comment that just doesn’t sit quite right? Or if, conversely, they choose to hash it out at length over the dinner table, seething at the injustice? Shouldn’t we, as individuals, get to decide when and how we act on an incident (within reason)? Must we necessarily follow a formula (experience it, label it, act on it) in order to be seen as “coping well” with racism? Can’t we simultaneously believe / teach our children that we (and they) are capable of being and doing anything, while recognizing the role that racism plays in our society? Occasional denial and idealism have got a lot of people a long way: sometimes we determine (or are encouraged) to be on the “unlikely” side of the statistics, and when we succeed, we forge a path for those coming behind us, who because of our idealism, also believe that anything is possible for them. Is that so wrong?

So now the cultural competency assessment continues, and I am afraid that, once again, we won’t feel “ready.” Even though we already have a beautifully brown little boy, who knows who he is, and loves himself very much, and who is loved.

Everybody go surfin

So I guess Sr. Compa was missing his island a little, because he went and created this wicked new design, which we of course went crazy and put on everything from bags to bibs to threads for young and old, to sell in our on-line diversity store. Here in Small Canadian City, it is raining. And wet. And generally miserable, as is our wont. So you can't blame the guy for wanting to bring a little summer back.

Since Sr. Compa was "hogging" the computer last night, I wasn't able to tweak the Christmas card designs to reflect more family configurations as planned, but fear not, they're coming! Also, if folks are interested in custom designs, please feel free to email me highish-res, individual or group shots of your family, and I will create a custom greeting card design for you at no extra charge, as fast as my little fingers can go.

You can reach me at More coming soon, I promise! (Including a "real" post on cultural competency, and on race and anti-racism discourse in North and South America.) Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mr. Moose likes to say good words

So I was reading about the exploits of a certain young cowboy over at A Little Pregnant, and was painfully reminded of my own parenting faults. Because, you see, Compaito has a nasty little habit, which is that whenever he wants to express his extreme displeasure, he lets loose a big ol' "FUCKIT!", which when I am lucky, sounds more like "Puck It" or "Bucket", but which, deprived of any context where loudly announcing the presence of a bucket were called for, might as well be a neon sign over my head with a big alarm going "WOO! WOO! EXTREMELY BAD PARENT! TOO YOUNG! PROBABLY WATCHED CSI MIAMI IN HER SON'S PRESENCE WHEN HE WAS AN INFANT TOO! AND I'LL BET SHE DIDN'T WAIT TOO LONG TO INTRODUCE PEANUT BUTTER AND SHELLFISH! WOO!"

I have tried a number of strategies to curb the FUCKIT, including the popular "Ignore it and it will go away", but when you're in the middle of an elevator full of parents twice your age with kids at home half your son's age, and which couldn't open soon enough, "eventually" is tooo long to wait.

Now, as it happens, I am a really good parent. Like, not to boast or anything. I bring my kid apple picking, and to the zoo, and the multicultural festival, and the park, and to the old farm museum, and dagnabbit, if field trips were a course, I would get an A. And, while I have a goodly potty mouth outside his presence, I make gargantuan efforts to make sure my around him language is rated G. Except this once.

And that's the frustrating thing. Because I'm sure, if I said FUCKIT all the time, he wouldn't have picked it up, like all the other bits and pieces of pedestrian language he has yet to pick up, like, say, prepositions, and the proper use of the possessive. But noooo, I said it once, and so my son, recognizing a rare jewel, quickly claimed it for his own. Well FUCKIT.

I did an informal poll among my friends, who quickly reassured me that they too, succumbed to the lure of the swear word as mere tykes, much to the chagrin of their parents. One friend gleefully bandied about the word "shit", whilst another crawled around under the table at a family gathering brightly repeating "Dammit! Dammit!" It was her first word. Her second was "helicopter."

The use of FUCKIT is, thankfully, fading in the Compa abode and more importantly, outside its walls. I'm sure at some point I'll find the whole thing amusing. Like maybe when he's sixteen.

But as for the little cowboy in Julie's post, I can't forgive whomever introduced him to the words fucking bitch. Because, as I intend to compromise when Compaito becomes an unwieldy teenager, "we don't swear at people. We swear with people."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Doing it Again

I recently had a conversation with an old friend about my plans to adopt, as well as how emotionally difficult dealing with a developmental delay can be. She questioned whether adopting another child was something I should do, given that I have not exactly been skipping through fields of petunias in response to the fact that my son has a (mild) developmental delay, and given that many children in care have undiagnosed developmental delays.

In our conversation, I tried to explain that experiencing negative emotions surrounding disability or developmental delay is normal; what would be pathological is to NOT experience those emotions. But then I came across
this article in the always-apt Rob's blog, and felt that it conveyed what I wanted to say so much better.

In the end, I decided to send her a letter, hoping that I could better explain why I would (and hope to) do it all over again:

I was thinking a lot about the discussion we had about how parents react emotionally to developmental problems or disability in their kids. Recently I came across this article which does a very good job of explaining the grieving process all parents must go through in order to deal with developmental delay or disability in a healthy way.

In Compaito's case, the process is made more difficult at times by virtue of the fact that we cannot be sure yet of the nature of his delay (temporary or permanent), and whether the dreams we imagined for him are really lost at all. It is a kind of "aborted grief", and so it may take more time to process.

In one of the books I was reading when Compaito's language delay was first diagnosed,
"Like Sound through Water", a parent whose child had previously been diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified: the King of all Non-Diagnoses) was thrilled when, after a year of Early Intervention, her son caught up to where he should be linguistically and socially. The greatest regret she expressed was that they had decided not to have more children because of her son's "disability" (no longer an issue), and that now he would not have siblings.

I don't want to have that regret. I hope all this helps you understand why I might want to do something (have another child through adoption) when my parenting experience hasn't been "care-free." I want to have another child because Compaito is a loving, social little guy who would be an incredible big brother, and whose life would hopefully be enriched by a sibling into adulthood. I want to have another child because, no matter how painful my experience has been dealing with a developmental delay, it has given me a thousand times more joy.



Doing the Math

In the past month or so, a number of very funny, strong, thoughtful bloggers have shared the stories of their battles with depression. Reading them has helped me come to the decision to face my own increasing anxiety head-on, and for that I am deeply greatful.

After all, why let something that can be resolved or managed within 6-8 weeks affect a lifetime? I'm no math whiz, but the right choice seems clear to me.

I'm ready to do the work. Joy and peace are mine to claim.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Minding my own business

Sorry for the delay in posting- I was busy getting the first AA Christmas Card design up for our new store. No official opening yet, as we still need many more designs, but you are welcome to purchase the ones available. I'm excited- it's looking more and more real!

Friday, October 06, 2006


When I was a kid, I was decidedly not cute. I wasn't physically ugly, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't endearing to adults. I was very precocious, and likely came across as a know-it-all (if present behaviour is any indication of past behaviour). I began writing at age 3, and reading at age 4. By age 5 I read chapter books.

Once I told all the other kids in daycare that there was no Santa Claus. Our teacher took all the older kids (7-10) aside, and told us that we were free to believe whatever we wanted, but that we were not to share our beliefs with the other children. Also, she wanted us to know that she, personally believed in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and God. "So you don't believe in God," I observed. She sent me for time out.

Of all the kids I resented (and I was an embittered little soul) I resented the cute ones the most. The ones with long eyelashes, and round cheeks, and what I viewed as speech affectations, who said things like "biscetti" for spaghetti, and "hostible" for hospital.

It is now, as a parent, that I have to concede that there MUST be a God, with a devastating sense of humour, who sent me my curly headed, round-cheeked, long-eyelashed little boy, of endless wit and good heart, who when he wants to get by says: "Coo-mees, mama, coo-mees", and refers to himself as "Jishyo", rather than by his name, unless he is asked to repeat his name correctly. And just to get me back for being such a cold-hearted, jealous little tyke, God sent me a child who will need extra help to grow out of his way of speaking.

So I smile to myself, and remind myself that other parents enjoy these funny sayings, and I should too, and I gently reply: "It's excuse me, Papi, not coo-mees".

"Yeah, scuse-mees. I TOLD you yesterDAY mommy. Coo-mees."

And he bats his cute little eyelashes, and I get out of his way.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Monster in the Room

A big part of the reason the blog My Beloved Monster & Me speaks to me the way it does (get it? Speaks to me? Arrrgh- Oh, the gross unfairness of it all, but YES, Schuyler's story speaks to me) is because of the Monster metaphor employed.

We are now in the middle of all kinds of specialist's appointments, and trying valiantly to be both proactive and to ignore the big question mark that hangs over Compaito's future like a dark cloud.

During the year that he was about 18 mos to about 2 1/2, he had pretty much constant ear infections. What we didn't realize at the time was the degree to which that affected his hearing, and potentially, his ability to process language.

During the time when I first started to notice the delay (nagging feelings, having to make a list of the words he knew and only coming up with about 50, only 10 of which were intelligible by anyone other than myself) I tried valiantly to justify it. We speak two languages, everyone knows bilingual kids pick up language slower in the initial phase. After his "glue ear" was diagnosed and tubes put in, it was the hearing loss. He would catch up right away, because he is smart (and he IS, dammit). And yet... he didn't catch up right away. Slowly, gently, everyone from doctors to teachers to family friends affirmed my concerns that things weren't going as they should. His drooling was brought up.
And his vocabulary. And his behaviour.

And so I tried to be a "good mama." I read "Like Sound Through Water", until 4 am one day. I consulted Dr. Google endlessly, inputting a varying combination of symptoms, hoping to unlock the mystery of my little boy. Slowly, I got him in to see specialists. Sometimes I cried at those meetings or appointments. Usually that got him back to see someone faster, but it was humilliating. I have never felt so desperate, or so powerless.

During all this time, many things were suggested or implied. Some folks thought Compaito had ADHD. But I have worked with kids who genuinely have ADHD, and he's not one of them- he can be hyper, sure, but he isn't consistently hyper. I scrutinized, analyzed, tried to figure out how much of his behaviour was neurological (if any), how much of it was just plain three year old boy, and how much of it was a small human being not understanding or using language, and unable to make sense of his world. I wondered if we had missed that all-important "window" after which it is said to be next to impossible to teach the grammar, the structure of language.

I asked for reports, and tests, and analyses. One came back with cognitive issues flagged as a concern. I was furious. My son couldn't talk, but damn it all, he was NOT cognitively impaired. And yet... he lived entirely in the present. It was impossible to talk to him of anything involving the past or future, because his eyes would light up or cloud over, depending on the subject matter. Everything was so immediate. Everything I had dreamed for him got called into question. I wondered not only if he could attend French Immersion, but whether he would be ready for school at all at five and a half. I withdrew into myself. I cried a lot. I read a lot. And one of the things I read was Schuyler's Monster. Schuyler gave me hope. She met, and mastered, her big box of words. And she learned how to spell. And she bravely howled against injustice. And dyed her hair pink.
Compaito's monster is somewhere in the room. It's particularly scary, because we can't see it (maybe hiding in the closet, or under the bed), and because we can't see it, I ride a rollercoaster of hopes (that his monster isn't real) and fears (that his monster is scaryer than anything we could imagine).

We do know that he has come a long way in comprehension. He went from testing below the charts to testing at the 49th percentile for his age (which feels like he is a goddamn genius to me). His spoken language is all over the place. Which is why, when he says something completely rational and well-formed, like suggesting that the monster eat his supper, it's more than a kid saying something cute: it's a bloody triumph worthy of fanfare and encouragement.

Which is why, when I stopped laughing, I told him: Great idea, Compaito. Do you think the monster might like some ketchup?

El tiempo pasa

I looked back with bemusement at some of my 101 things, as well as things I said or thought in earlier posts. What a difference a year can make:
-I am now trying to lose twenty pounds, down from my worst point (thirty)
-I now don't have to worry about a TV in our bedroom- because we are sharing with our son (oh mouldy former bedroom, how I hate thee). Needless to say, we will be moving shortly.
-The ironing things thing was a flash in the pan. I am a wrinkled girl at heart.
-I just got rid of my stupid cell phone- and got to pay $113 for the privilege (NEVER GET A 3 YR CONTRACT).
-Compaito has been toilet trained for a loooooong time now. And thank God.

-We have a decent mattress! And a dishwasher! (Which I luuuuurve.)
-And also: I vowed that I would never start a business. Well, I am now going to eat my words. In a few weeks, all our designs for diverse greeting cards will be up at
Representus Diverse Clothing & Cards , and I will make a big fanfarious announcement about our Grand Opening. Because I am pretty damned pleased with myself. Especially about the "not doing any books" part. ;-P

So lots of change, but lots of other things depressingly familiar:
-This just in: Husband still more attractive than self
-Back still lousy
-Food still burn-y
-Rowing machine still gathering dust (beside newer mini-trampoline)
-Still hate math
-Still am waiting for second little person.

I need to write a country song.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

44 months

Papi Bello,

It has been so many months since you were born that I had to count them on my fingers. And even THEN I got it wrong. To the best of my figuring, you are now just a bit over 44 months.

I haven't lovingly chronicled every moment or even every month of your development, but have often wished I had. I wished it at a few weeks, then a few months. It has now been a few years (a bit over three and a half), and I have realized that some of those memories have faded a bit, but I can capture these ones. And I promise to do my best, which is all any parent can promise their child. Because I know that when you are a bigger guy, all lanky arms and B.O. and pretend hatred,
too big for cuddling but hopefully never too big for hugging, I will kick myself if I haven't carefully documented the little boy who fits perfectly in my lap, who has perpetually unruly hair and a persistent toddler belly, and who is damned funny.

We were sitting at the dinner table the other day, talking about monsters (and really,
who doesn't like monsters) and you had thought: "I know!" you said brightly "mayyy-beeee, the monster eat my supper!" "Say: 'great idea' mama!" you demanded, but I couldn't, because we were too busy cracking up.

Recently, you have developed a "best-friendship". This is new territory for me- because we live in a co-op with six other kids, you have built-in after-school play buddies. I haven't felt the need to facilitate play dates, because quite frankly, after I get home I'm lucky if I can drum up the energy to take you outside for half an hour and or to play board games with you. But your teachers tell me you are inseperable, and I can see it when I come to pick you up: the two of you squeel with glee, jump up and down, hold hands and run amok through the mall, climbing into all the coin-operated car and merry-go-round rides. You give each other great hugs. It gives me great joy, and makes me wistful at the same time. I want to freeze you, or bottle you, or do something to prevent the part of passage of time where you "realize" un-truths like "boys don't hug, and they certainly don't hold hands and squeel" and other such homophobia society will eventually impose upon you. And whether or not you believe in it, you will likely conform to it, because that's what big boys have to do to survive in this culture.

But for now, I will watch you, and enjoy you. You are breathtakingly smart. You are a great counter, too. After insisting that there were monsters at the table I asked you how many. You pointed to each of us and said: "I see TWO monsters at da table. Oooone, twoooo."

Compa returns

For whatever reason, what is almost now a year ago, I stopped blogging- shortly after I had started. I have thought a lot about why I stopped; concerns over privacy, over how much to share and how much to hold back.

Ultimately, I think it was a holding my breath, not quite believing that someday, we would adopt. There are days it still feels very unreal; days that I still don't believe it could happen. As far as privacy goes, I have shared far more of my views and self than I am likely to share here on online forums, so that's not my concern. Rather, my silence was a long, drawn-out holding of my breath. And by returning, I suppose I am showing that I am ready to believe in it as a possibility. And also, that I need it- some kind of outlet, some kind of gesture of good faith on my part that I do believe someday we will adopt.

As I mentioned in my previous post, by the end of November of last year we had taken the first tentative steps. In March we began our training, we were done by early May and now here we are, in mid-homestudy, almost a year later.

If we wanted to, we could be done by November. Our homestudy will be done by then. We will likely be approved shortly thereafter. If we were crazy (as I am) we would find all kinds of ways to juggle the bills and take advantage of various subsidies in order to get a placement right away. But I have made the tragic mistake of marrying a responsible and loving man, who pointed out to me that rather than being (once again) in the position of making things work, it might be nice if we waited until they worked all by themselves. And so we will wait, from November to June, our homestudy put on hold of our own doing. And I am greatful to have married someone who keeps my feet on the ground, but Lord do I hate it when he's right! ;-)

We are working towards a transracial adoption (I am white, he is Latino and our second child will likely be black or biracial. We have one bio son). Part of our homestudy is a cultural competency assessment, and I may post on that later. Or who knows, after all this time, I may not.