A "good enough" mom muses about alpha moms, adoption, computers, the State Of The World, Internet quirkiness, and the Kosmik All
Sticker strategies gone wrong

In the hopes of giving parental units valuable and useful advice, I am putting forth OmegaMom's Prescription For Sticker Bribery.

Goal:

The goal of sticker bribery is to get one end result.

Recommended:

Offer the bribee one method of obtaining stickers.

Contraindicated:

Do not offering the bribee two approaches to obtain stickers.  Offering two approaches, with only one of the approaches being the desired goal, is a sure-fire method of getting the bribee to not achieve the goal.

In other words, yes, we had uninterrupted sleep last night (the angels sing, "Hallelujah!").

Unfortunately, the dotter decided that a silver star--and associated greater length of time before getting Slinky Dog--was worth bedding down from the very beginning in the little "bed" in our bedroom.

Humph.  Smart little stinker.  I have been outwitted.  So, I guess we have to work our way through one set of silver stars, then remove the silver stars as an option.

Since the real goal was to get a full night's sleep without any tantrummy interruptions, it worked.  OmegaMom woke up fully rested this morning.  It's amazing what a difference a full night of sleep can make in one's outlook--as all new parents know.  (OmegaDad, however, did not get a full night's sleep.  This can be chalked up to two reasons:  1.  OmegaMom was heavily asleep when he came to bed, and apparently was hogging the bed.  Shameful hussy.  OmegaDad had to be satisfied with one-third of the bed, rather than a half.  2.  OmegaDad is afflicted with sleep apnea, which OmegaMom has been giving him the hairy eyeball about, and urging visits to doctors and sleep clinics.)

Alas, the tantrum, rather than being quashed entirely, was merely postponed.  I delivered a sobbing daughter to preschool this morning, having pretty much ignored the screaming and kicking from the backseat of the car, and confiscating one pen, which was thrown at the driver (me) by the tantrummer (Dotter).  The tantrum started when I took exception to the dotter not buckling herself in.  It escalated when she complained that the straps in the carseat were too tight.  It crescendoed when I ritually offered my morning little coffee for de-wrappering and shaking, thinking the ritual might calm her down, then withdrew it when it was rejected.  It reached the apex (or would that be nadir?) with the pen-throwing incident.

Picture me rolling my eyes.

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posted by Kate @ 9/29/2006 08:21:00 PM   1 comments

Clouds on the sunshine

As Miss C. said in the comments to my last post, everyone needs a pass on sunshine and happiness once in a while.  In general, the Omega household is just puttering along, but there are some clouds on the sunshine.

First off, that really way-kewl opportunity for OmegaDad vanished into the mists.  Sigh.  What happened: at his mid-August conference, he was actively courted by a high-level person in his agency for a specific position.  This HLP actually re-tooled the position announcement so that he could apply for it.

Then two weeks later, the HLP got bumped upwards in the chain of command (moving and shaking going on).  *Poof* went the job.  Within a week, it was re-re-announced, with qualifications that automatically disqualified OmegaDad.

Then there's the dotter.  Another sigh.

After our trek to Colorado, I was going to review the second adult workshop I attended, about emotion regulation.  I obviously haven't gotten around to that.

Anyway, it appears that we are having some real problems on that front.

The dotter has been having severe tantrums.  The kind of tantrums where she gets wound up to the point where she is throwing things, hitting things, screaming, and ends up...sobbing, "Help me!  Help me stop!"

So, one night, while she was trying to calm down in my lap, and I was trying to get her to breathe in deeply, then breathe out, I asked her, "Would it help if we found someone other than Mommy and Daddy to help you learn how to calm down?"  She nodded yes.  As a result, I'm looking for...someone.  A child psychologist?  A counselor?  An occupational therapist?  Goodness only knows.  Time for me to call Dr. Sheila, our pediatrician.

In the meantime, we're going to shortstop some of what's causing the tantrums: late nights to bed, trying to get her back into her bed after she wakes up in the middle of the night, etc.  We've invested in...

...another sticker chart!!!

She gets a gold star if she stays in her own bed all night long.  She gets a silver star if she stays in her bed for a significant part of the night, and sleeps the remainder of the night on her "special bed" (folded quilt with sleeping bag on top).  She gets no star if she crawls into bed with us or throws a tantrum in the middle of the night.  After seven gold stars or 14 silver stars, she gets this.  We'll see how bribery goes.

It sure would be nice for all the Omegas to get a full night's sleep...or several full nights' sleep in a row!

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posted by Kate @ 9/28/2006 07:09:00 PM   7 comments

Grump, groan, bitch, moan...

Complain, complain, complain.

OmegaMom is in One Of Those Moods.

I'm sure you know the kind of mood.  Where nothing anyone does is right.  Where you're just itching to Be Alone.  Please.  Where if somebody came up to you, smiling and happy and joyous, all you'd want to do is smack them.

Tell me it'll be better tomorrow.

"Tomorrow, tomorrow, I'll think about tomorrow, tomorrow is a braaaaand neeeew daaaaaay!"

Hah.  That didn't help any.  Now I want to smack the authors, lyricists, and songwriters of Annie.

On Sunday, my 102-year-old grandmother--bless her heart--told me my hair looked scraggly.  She also asked if I was going grey (yes, Grandma, I've been going grey since I was 25, thankyewverramuch).

So, since her eyesight is going, that meant my hair really looked scraggly.  And grey.

Then I saw the pics of me on OmegaGranny's blog.  Sunken eyes, blotchy face, scraggly hair and all.

Bah.

So I got a much-needed haircut yesterday afternoon.

Alas, I got the dregs of SuperCuts.  Oh, it's an okay haircut.  In fact, OmegaDotter has been constantly saying, out of the blue, "I really like your haircut, Mommy!" (which is nice).  But it's too short.  (Yes, I know it will grow out.)  There's an area on the left side of my bangs where it's supposed to segue gracefully into the remainder of the hair, but doesn't--it is chunked up an inch shorter in the next lock.  And while she did a nice job outlining the ears, the rest just leaves me feeling cold.

I did the dotter's fingernails this evening.  This always, in my imagination, is a nice mommy-daughter bonding moment.  In reality, the dotter fidgets, wiggles, scratches, mashes her newly painted fingernails against the paper towels, the chair, her clothes, my clothes.  And my rosy daydreams of gentle bonding go *poof*.  Bah.

The floor around the coffee table, the coffee table itself, and the futon are all covered with scrids and scrads of paper, various crayons, some toys, and remnants of balloon animals.  I want Someone Else to clean it up, because it's not my mess.  Dammit.

Did I mention I'm in a Bad Mood?  I'm in a Bad Mood. 

Bitch, moan, gripe, groan, complain, complain, complain.

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posted by Kate @ 9/27/2006 07:47:00 PM   6 comments

Kids, cats, catastrophes to come?

If you have want a cat with a very laid-back temperament, my advice is to get it as a kitten and subject it to a preschooler.

Our kitten--Wooly by name, wild & wooly by nature--allows our dotter to pick him up by whatever appendage is available and carry him around the house in cradle carry, fireman's carry, upsidedown carry.  He allows our dotter to pin his ears back.  He allows her to kiss his "cute little button nose!"  He gets put into boxes.  He gets shut into closets.  He gets doll clothes draped over him.

He endures every one of these indignities with great forebearance and--dare I say it?--dignity.  Every once in a while he emits a squeak or a growl, but on the whole, he puts up with an awful lot.

He is paid off for this tolerance by pipe cleaners strewn across the floor...balls to play with...balloon animals to chase around...being force-fed Pounce ("Can I give the kitty some cookies, Mommy?")...scrids and scrads of paper to savage...and having a warm body to cuddle with on the futon.

The scrids and scrads of paper are the result of OmegaDotter's new favorite toy:  her own pair of scissors.

I am dubious about this "toy", a gift from OmegaDad.  I am constantly reminding her to carry them properly (she has to dart about the house with the scissors in hand as she searches for items to cut).  We have already found one (small) lock of hair...I haven't found the area of the head it came from, so--so far--it's not a disaster.  It's just that I have in my memory a picture that was emailed around the IT department four years ago, of a darling dark-haired four-year-old with four-inch brunette curls strewn around her like a brown cloud.

The scissors have resulted in a new type of artwork:  cutting things to pieces and glueing them back together in different arrangements.  Due to preschool having knights, kings, queens, and dragons on the curriculum last week, the dotter arrived home with some splendidly colorful dragons.  One of them she drew all by herself, and it was quite grand, with many teeth, fire coming out its mouth, and spiky horns all over the place.  An artwork-in-progress, which already had a "horse", a door (with glued-on window, doorknob, and doggy door), and green triangular grass, soon was bedecked with dragons as well.

Prior to our weekend trip to visit OmegaGranny, I asked the dotter if she would be willing to give her stupendous artwork to Grandma Julie or Great-Grandma.  Alas, no.  But, she was willing to loan it to them.  "Giving" is a concept that we need to work on, I'm afraid, though she thought giving Grandma and Great-Grandma some of the chocolate-chip cookies she and OmegaDad made over the weekend was a good idea.

So there we are.  A kitten fast growing into a loving, laid-back cat.  A kid developing new abilities left and right (she can skip now!).  Catastrophes a-brewin', I'm sure.

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posted by Kate @ 9/26/2006 07:26:00 PM   2 comments

Johnny asks, I deliver - Why China, Link 2

Everyone who adopts is asked, "Why did you adopt?"  If you adopt domestically, you're asked, "Why didn't you adopt internationally?"  (The implication being that adopting in the U.S. is needlessly risky.)  If you adopt internationally, you're asked, "Why didn't you adopt one of the neeedy orphans here in the U.S.?"  (The implication being, "What are you, some kind of selfish racist?!") 

Johnny, over at It's Come Down To This, has started a "chain" post, devoted to answering the "Why China?" question.  He posted his response, then tagged me to go next.

Well!  Actually, this is one of my highlighted posts (see the menu to the left).  I thought about it.  What to do, what to do?  Not much has changed since I wrote that post, though I left out one reason:  the predictability and smoothness of the process.  A quick back-and-forth via email with The Ringleader, and I end up reposting, with this intro.

Since what prompted me to post the first time was an interesting discussion on another blog, I'm keeping the intro to the previous post, too.


Sster at Boomerific posted (quite a while ago, alas, and I am just now getting to it): "...how about a post in the next day or so about what brought you to adoption and what ethical/moral/political/personal battles you have had to wage surrounding that decision? I'm looking for something more than "I wanted a baby," because we all want babies (see, I'm a little selfish too. just a little. you know.). Everybody's story is so different and interesting."

This is all in the midst of a discussion of "baby shortages" and altruism versus selfishness involved in the process of adopting. Then, this week, the topic on Adoption Parenting included a similar question.

What brought the Omegas to adopting? Well, we started out the usual way: when we got together and knew it was going to be permanent, and looked at my age (34), we said, "Whoops! Time to get started on that family thing!" Unlike the majority of adults, sex just didn't seem to do it. We went off to get tested. OmegaDad was found to have three sperm, one of which wasn't bad...(not literally, but that's OD's joke). We waited until we had $$ for IVF with ICSI. That's when we found out that OmegaMom's eggs were fried--we got one lone little embryo. Got pregnant for three weeks. Tried again. Got cancelled. The eggs were really fried.

OmegaDad, who had had three years to ponder the "what if it doesn't work?" and "OMG, my body is dysfunctional!" issues, immediately promoted adoption. OmegaMom, who was stunned to find out that she had the eggs of a 48-year-old at the ripe old age of 38, went through the requisite angst for about a year, during which she seethed with envy at pregnant women, hated baby showers, cried a lot, and turned into a shrew.

During that year, at OmegaDad's prompting, we trotted off to the local domestic adoption agency, where we hit a snag. Turns out that LDAA, being bound to a conservative religious organization, wanted us to be married three years. We had only been married one. Whoops!

In retrospect, it was a Good Thing. This gave OmegaMom a chance to work through lots of issues and research the adoption world.

I started out on the Adoption Debate board on iVillage (I'm not linking to it because I'm still peeved that they changed the format to one where you have to click through zillions of ads to see the posts--besides, the format killed the board pretty dead, and I haven't been back there in ages). I met and talked with birthmothers, adult adoptees, adoptive parents who had adopted from a variety of systems--domestic private, domestic via the state, international, family, etc. It was a learning experience. I distinctly remember one Sunday afternoon emerging from the office to sob on the sofa, telling my husband that the birthmothers all hated me and it was horrible and I was never going back there, blah, blah, blah.

Of course, I went back there.

I learned a lot about the Bad Old Days of domestic private adoption, where young unwed mothers were forced by their families and adoption agencies to relinquish their childen, even though they didn't want to. Of being in labor with unsympathetic nurses who essentially told them they were Bad Girls and Deserved What They Got. Think this is all gone? A relic of the time when appearances mattered? I know of a case where the teen birthmother was shipped out of town to give birth--without support of friends or family--and her baby was handed over toot sweet to the adoptive parents, because the birthgrandparents didn't want the neighbors to know. This was in 2001.

I read stories of people adopting from the state. Some had to wait years. Some went the foster-to-adopt route, had a child placed with them, only to have the child removed because the birthparents had finally gotten their shit together or because (for some unknown reason) the social workers decided the child needed a different foster family.

I read stories about people adopting from the state who discovered--after the adoption papers were signed--that the files on the child(ren) they adopted had been carefully vetted so that any "issues" were hidden away. Being an optimistic sort, I tend to think this was a case of social workers meaning well, wanting to get children out of the system and into families.

I read stories about international adoptions that turned out to have been the result of corruption and baby-brokering.

OmegaDad and I discussed things endlessly. We started out thinking of domestic private open adoption--we thought that was most ethical. Then we heard stories of potential birthmoms who felt obligated to relinquish their children after months'-long relationships with potential adoptive parents. One day, we went through a series of scenarios where the birthmother realized, shortly after relinquishment, that she had made a mistake...when would we feel ethically bound to return the child to its first mother? One month? Two? Three? Six? It was a hard discussion.

We couldn't bear the thought of having to return a child after having it in the family. But we felt ethically bound to do so.

So we looked at international adoption. OmegaDad, being enthralled with Hispanic culture, wanted to adopt from a Latin American country. At the time, there were a number of articles about corruption in the systems--baby selling, mothers being lied to and discovering that their children, supposedly being cared for in orphanages while the parents made their way through a tough financial spot, had been adopted out, stories like that.

I looked into international adoption from two countries where babies in orphanages were typically abandoned due to cultural and political issues (things that no one person could make a difference about)--India and China.

And, to be crass, these two countries were much less expensive to adopt from than others.

And there were all these girl babies. Babies in societies where not having a family was a big societal ding. Girls in societies where--in my cursory examination--it seemed that females were relatively low on the totem pole. Thirdly, I had heard that the mortality rate for babies in these orphanages was very high.

So...these two countries satisfied us all around: Healthy babies available. Girls (we had resigned ourselves to boychildren if I ended up preggers, because OmegaDad's family was ALL BOYS for three generations). Societal issues that made it seem that it would be better for the child to be adopted internationally rather than remain in an orphanage.

At the time, adopting from India was taking 18 months from start to finish. China was taking less than 12. We wanted a baby now! So we turned to China.

What happened? The time from start to finish for China almost immediately lengthened. It took us 9 months to get our dossier completed. It took 14 months for us to get our referral.

During this time, I began reading about transracial adoption and conspicuous families. Began reading about subtle racism. Began listening to adult international adoptees. Realized there was more to this whole thing than I had originally thought. But those are topics for another post, because this one is just too darned long. Later, gators.


Who's next?  I think I will choose Mrs. Figby, at Letters From the Zoo.  Take it away, Mrs. F.!  (And if you've got a similar post in the archives, please do what I did--repost with a new intro & a tag at the end!)  Johnny suggests you choose someone who posts fairly regularly...

Here's Mrs. Figby's post.

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posted by Kate @ 9/22/2006 08:24:00 PM   1 comments

Growth

So the OmegaMom blog hit two milestones this past week:  I passed the 20,000 visitor mark, and broke into the Technorati top 50,000.  (Then, of course, I bounced back over the 50,000 mark in Technorati.  Bah.)  (I had images, but they were being funky, so they're gone now.  Double bah.)

And, for PAGent's amusement and edification, I would like to mention that I have had 29 hits on my blog for searches related to "cat drool", but no hits on that page with any weird s3x connotations.  There are an awful lot of people out there who are plagued by cat drool, it seems.

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posted by Kate @ 9/21/2006 11:02:00 PM   4 comments

Lies, damned lies, statistics, and media write-ups of surveys

"Half of all fertility clinics allow parents to pick gender!" trumpets the headline of an MSNBC story.  (The exclamation point is implied.)

Then you read the story, and crunch some numbers.  And it turns out that a whopping 1% of all IVF attempts involve non-medical pre-transfer genetic screening for sex.  (PGD is used in 5% of IVF attempts. 66% of that 5% is for abnormalities incompatible with life; 12% is for "single-gene disorders" such as cystic fibrosis; 3% was to diagnose problems that affect only males, because they have only one copy of specific genes.)  Note that there was no quantification of the number of those attempts that were for "balancing" family (e.g., family already has a girl, and wants a boy), nor was there any indication in the story of how many of the people who were using PGD to specify sex were going to be using IVF and PGD anyway, nor was there any information on how many of those cycles were successful, etc.

Bah.

Oh, yeah, it's a touchy subject.  But the majority of people who read that headline and that article will come away with the idea that hordes of people are using IVF to select the gender of their children.

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posted by Kate @ 9/20/2006 07:35:00 PM   2 comments

The moving finger

The blogosphere is a funny place.  Even with pictures added, the majority of the impression one gets from a particular poster is via the written word.  One would think that this would make posters one-dimensional--it's just letters thrown up on a monitor.  How can you get a real grasp of what someone is like, or how someone is feeling, by just reading some words sent in little packets from one computer to another to another?

In one corner, there's a snarky remark about a feminist blogger posing for a group photo with Bill Clinton.  Boobs are pointed out.  I read it, and immediately form a mental image of the original poster, pursed lips and all.

In another corner, there's a laconic economist who posts a few paragraphs now and then, a portrait in minimalism.

In this spot, there's a long-waiting adoptive mom-to-be who finally gets her referral.  The joy and delight practically fizzes and dances out of the monitor.  Days of hectic work are interrupted by sneak peeks at this blog, to warm my heart and remind me of those days of rising excitement.

Over here is a mother whose latest post spurs me to a frenzy of worry.  "Just words", again, but the exhaustion and despair and beyond-caringness that the words describe is palpable.  I want to step through the screen, be able to take some of the burden off her.

Here is a woman waiting for her army spouse to return.  Here is a straightforward man writing about fatherhood, adoption, and remodeling.  Here is a woman in the early stages of a tenuous surprise pregnancy after many miscarriages.  There is a mother who is watching her son turn into an adult before her eyes.  Yonder is a woman who has packed up her daughter's belongings into a few small boxes, waiting for her to return from her ill-advised adventures.  In this spot, a man is passionately calling for blogging to be a conversation.  Over there is a widow who is cultivating her eye for interesting details in her hometown via a photo and text blog.  In another spot, a father is writing about the hopeful progress of his young daughter's anxiety and depression treatment, and gleefully tossing up nostalgic music videos recalling the '80s.

Each of them is a snapshot in time.  "The moving finger writes, and, having writ, moves on."  The mom with a referral travels to China.  The economist (I think) starts teaching yet another semester.  The snarky poster moves on to making snippy remarks about how weddings are supposed to be about all the guests being excited that the virginal bride and groom are about to consummate their relationship (Yes.  Really.  Very odd.).    The exhausted mother...?  I don't know.  I just know that the ones and zeroes that cross the fiber optic cables criss-crossing the country can coalesce into real, live individuals, people who you care about.

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posted by Kate @ 9/19/2006 11:35:00 PM   7 comments

Golden apples of the sun

One of the autumn rituals I remember from my childhood was driving out to a place called Jonathan Orchards with friends to pick a ton of apples, get a few gallons of freshly squeezed apple cider, and some super-sharp Wisconsin cheddar cheese.  On the drive home, we would pig out on freshly picked apples and cheese.

The apples you get in the supermarkets are oh-so-big.  And oh-so-bland.  Not bad, mind you, but just not anything to remember.

Today, the Dotter and I went out on our annual Fields of Gold photograph expedition, and then on down Way Cool Creek Canyon to the West Fork trail, to get some hiking in.  This does have some bearing on my memories of apples...

I was wary--first, because of the sturm und drang of the past few days, and secondly, because the Dotter tends to not be able to handle a "real" hike without becoming whiny and wanting us to carry her.  Let me tell you, the thought of carting a 35-lb. (or more, not sure) little girl who is all whiny up and down a trail didn't appeal to me.

The first stop was a lovely little meadow that edges one of the big curves of the road from Hippy Dippy Enclave in the Woods to the highway.  Oh, there are some grand meadows further away, meadows that stretch on for acre after acre of yellow flowers at this time of year.  But this meadow was on the way, and the yellow flowers are beginning to wane--best to stop before the hike and get the picture now, I thought.

Then we motored on, down the twisty, turny road that switchbacks through Way Cool Creek Canyon.  By the time we arrived at the trailhead, the Dotter was fast asleep, so I had a half an hour to people watch, and note the plastic bags filled with apples, and realize--how could I forget?!--it was apple picking time.

The flat bottomed meadows that dot the edges of Way Cool Creek Canyon have one-hundred-year-old apple orchards, left over from when it was still relatively unknown and was being homesteaded by sturdy pioneer types.  West Fork is one of those spots, with ancient old apple trees dotting the area.

As we marched out, we passed the trees, some with ripe red apples crowding the (sigh) upper limbs.  I found one under one of the trees that looked relatively new, and handed it to the Dotter.  Intrigued by the concept of Apples!  In trees!, the Dotter took the apple, bit into it, and went, with surprise, "Mmmm!"

Somehow I persuaded her to let me have a bite of that apple.

These apples aren't the big glossy baseball-sized monsters you find in the grocery store.  The biggest ones were only slightly bigger than the Dotter's fist.  The skin isn't the tough, thick skin that the commercial apples have--it was light and crisp.  The apple flesh was tender and juicy.

And the flavor--oh, my God.  The flavor.  It was like biting into heaven.  Tart, sweet, zingy.  Beautiful.  Scrumptious.

So we hiked, the Dotter occasionally letting me have a small bite from her apple.  The air was scented with fermenting apples...wet forest...hot rocks.  We stopped to play in the main creek:

We passed some utterly gorgeous overhangs with moss-covered seeps flowing down the rock walls:

The Dotter learned to use rocks as stepping stones as we crossed the creek a few times on the way out.  We plunged into shadow early on, and stayed in the shadow, with the sun highlighting the canyon walls.  We found a spiky green caterpillar that was crossing the trail, and examined it closely (but, oh, no!  I forgot to take a picture!).  The Dotter happily played in the sand in the trail, learned the etiquette of allowing others to pass when you're stopping to peer at things or write your name in the dirt, and got wonderfully dirty.

We turned around, got back to the apple trees, and began trying to get apples.

Alas, the majority were too high up.  However, after climbing a few trees fruitlessly (har!), I finally found one tree bough that I could shake, and we got a handful of those luscious, zesty apples to bring home.

It was a good day.

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posted by Kate @ 9/17/2006 07:17:00 PM   5 comments

There's a couple of books I want to get...

One is called "Your Four Year Old:  Wild and Wonderful", the other is "Raising Your Spirited Child".  The latter, by the way, was recommended to me by our pediatrician when the dotter was two years old.  Hm.  At the time, I was kind of huffy; now I'm wondering if the pediatrician is some type of psychic or something.

I foolishly crowed in an email to some friends that we had a small victory this week:

This morning, the Dotter was in a clingy bad mood. I was in a bad mood myself because we all woke up late. This combined to a now-rare (yay!) tantrum, which ended with me scooping her up barefooted from the driveway to plop her in her carseat and continued in the car for a while.

BUT!

The small victory is that this evening, when OmegaDad picked her up and was driving her home, she told him, "Daddy? I made a fuss this morning." (Daddy already knew.)

All on her own, no prompting.

Hah.  Famous last words.  Today has been Tantrum Central.  Sigh.  I'm guessing it's yet another developmental spurt making its way out. 

So, to remind myself that, in tandem with the tantrums comes Good Things, a gratuitous pic of the Dotter enjoying herself on our recent trip:

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posted by Kate @ 9/16/2006 11:17:00 PM   3 comments

A sort of roundup

While I sit here waiting for garage sale clothes to wash and dry and be folded by the Magic Garage Sale Fairy (hah!), I thought I'd put up a few articles that caught my attention recently.

Birth:  Elective C-sections have three times the infant mortality rate that vaginal birth do.  Of course, not having seen the original study, I can't say how badly the reporters have mashed it up, but the rundown in the story is that the researchers looked at only C-sections that were done for women at "no medical risk" at the time of the C-section for more than 5.8 million births, and still saw this much higher risk of infant mortality.  This seems, in my quick glance, a pretty valid study (not one of those studies done on a handful of people).  The risk factor seems pretty hefty, too (not a 3-percentage-point difference, but an actually 300% difference).

Astronomy:  Take a look at the night sky in North America some evening after October 15th, and you may see a new star as bright as Venus, moving across the sky.  What is it?  The international space station.  It seems that the unfurling of its solar sails is likely to make the space station quite bright at night.

Blogs:  The first woman space tourist (Anousheh Ansari) is going to be blogging about her experience on the international space station.  She comes across as a frighteningly competent woman in this article:  she's a venture capitalist who has backed the XPrize for private spaceflight, the XPrize for genomics, and is looking to fund suborbital spaceships for tourism.

Nerdy flirting technique.

Feminism:  Homesick Home has a conversation with Linda Hirshman, the feminist who excoriates women with more than one child who buy into the patriarchal glass ceiling.

Art:  OmegaGranny stumbles across Jurassic yard art and has the pics to prove it!

Blogger seems to be having a problem with its feeds; or else Bloglines is having a problem with Blogger feeds.  Bah.

It's time to put OmegaDotter to bed, then continue washing and drying and folding.  The garage sale is being put on by our tiny little local Families With Children From China group to benefit Love Without Boundaries.  Later, gators!

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posted by Kate @ 9/15/2006 08:57:00 PM   2 comments

Grandma's attic and other memories
When I was a wee lass, one of the more fun things to do was to climb up into Grandma W.'s attic and rummage around in there.  There were dusty old lawyer's bookcases filled with ancient books (a complete collection of Charles Dickens, which now sits in my glass-front cabinet)...old sea trunks from Great-Grandpa W.'s seafaring days filled with things like old broken wind-up pocket watches (with chain)...old family diaries and journals and letters...and in one trunk was an entire collection of old handmade costumes and party dresses from when my Aunts and father were little girls and boy.

The neighborhood kids and I would raid that trunk over and over again, playing dress-up.

Two of the dresses I had in my possession for many years:  a pink silk taffeta springtime dress with ancient faux posies, with a pattern of tiny flowers dusted across it, and a bronze colored silk taffeta dress with a looooong brown velvet sash.  Both were, of course, floor length.

The costumes were equally grand, but the only one I remember was a Harlequin.  Alas, the remaining dresses and costumes are only dim memories for me, and have long since gone to collect dust Somewhere Else, if not put into the landfills, sigh.

At Grandma G.'s, we had one dress leftover from either OmegaGranny's childhood or GreatGrandma's childhood, a green taffeta (also floor length) with a second netting skirt over the taffeta skirt.  Having no other fancy dresses to play with, my cousins and I would fight over who got to wear the green dress, with the losers being consigned to wearing some of Grandma's fancy nightgowns, which draped very splendidly.

GreatGrandma still has pictures of the three of us all posed in the dress-up costumes, fading Polaroids with three long-haired, gap-toothed girls of stair-step height.

I was at Target the other day, wandering the Halloween costumes and girly dress-up aisles.  (I'm sure OmegaDotter has plans to be the horsie again this year, although I fear the costume is too small for her now--besides, it is covered with cat hair and dirty from last Halloween and dusty from being pulled hither and yon around the house.)  Seeing the costumes made me kind of sad; I remember OmegaGranny making me costumes or helping me come up with impromptu ones using grown-ups clothes and various scarves and jewelry around the house.  One particularly memorable costume was when I was about the same age as OmegaDotter:  Mom sewed me a Cat-in-the-Hat hat, dressed me up in black leotards and tights, created a long black tail and sewed it to the seat of the leotards, and I went out as the Cat in the Hat...complete with a small stuffed black cat to put on my head underneath the hat.

So in a wonderful confluence of events, today's mail brought the catalog from the Wooden Soldier.  I glanced at the cover before eagerly diving in, and lo and behold, they now have a website!  (LizC will be delighted to know that one can get the pony dress and legging set for one dollar less! than the site her friend sent her; Carol Anne will be happy to know that they have Scotty stuff, too.)

The Wooden Soldier is a heaven of girly-girlishness.  It makes my "I want to dress up!" side come roaring to the fore; of course, since I can't fit into any of the dresses, I displace it onto OmegaDotter.  I'm still not very likely to spend upwards of $150 on one dress that the dotter will fit into for all of six months (thus ensuring she can't wear it for more than one season).  But oooooh!  (SQUEAL!)  How I wish that we lived in a time or a place where fancy dress-up parties for kids was the norm.

Feast your inner girly-girl:

This one, if it were bronze and didn't have that oh-so-cool latticework on the bottom, would be like my bronze one with the velvet sash.

The pale blue ones are reminiscent of the green one described above.

And this one just tugs at my inner romantic, the one that always loved sleeves that did that sweeping open droop over the hands.  You can imagine wearing it and having Errol Flynn (showing my age) or Johnny Depp leading you into a ballroom, or giving you a passionate kiss on the palm of your hand, then leaping over a balcony railing directly into a swordfight.

 

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posted by Kate @ 9/14/2006 07:17:00 PM   2 comments

Hedonics

"Hedonics".  Doesn't it sound great?  Sort of like a combo between "hedonistic" and "ebonics".  Or something.  Very luxurious.  Sumptuous.

Misleading.

What is "hedonics"?

Weeeelll, while I was perusing links resulting from a Technorati search on "housing bubble", I ran across a grand rant on a one-post blog.  It was howling about the "scam" that is the current CPI (consumer price index), and how a variety of dubious (in that poster's eyes) statistical chicanery was resulting in a CPI figure that is far too low.

The question was:  Why, if the economy's doing so well and the CPI is rising so slowly, do people feel so horribly crunched when it comes to dollars and cents?

Hedonics is an approach to figuring out what to do when an item in the CPI shopping basket drops off the market.  As an example, say that five years ago, one of the items was a 750MHz PC with a 750MB hard drive, a CD/RW drive, a 17-inch monitor, 2 USB 1.0 ports, blah, blah, blah.  Take a look at any well-known computer retailer, and you won't find such a beast mentioned.  These days, we're all up at 2GHz, we've got multi-gigabyte hard drives, DVD/RW drives, we've got 4 or 6 USB 2.0 ports, etc.  How do you compare the two?

One way is to take a comparable item and match it for a few months, then phase out the old item.

The other way is to use hedonics to examine a number of factors in the new and improved version.

All way cool, actually, and interesting to a geek like me (I had to compile a stock index for a few years for a newsletter, and had to figure out what to do when a stock split or consolidated, and got a very good education in the decimal representation of 8ths).

The problem is that the actuaries factor in such intangibles as increased performance and more variety, then use that factor to decrease the perceived cost.

So if you're looking at a 25-inch color TV set with remote control, say that it goes off the market and is replaced by a 25-inch flat-screen color TV.  Hedonics could say that the implicit value of flat-screen versus curved screen is enough to offset some of the cost.  Or, say that the car model which increased in price $2,000 over the course of a year now features a GPS system, figured at costing $1,250, as a standard feature.  So, the cost rise is figured at $750...but you, dear car buyer, are still going to be paying more.

It does work the other way, as well, but, according to some things I've read, not as much in the decreased cost version as in the increased version.

Housing costs (30% of the CPI) are factored into the CPI by looking at monthly rentals, not mortgages.  The folks at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, who compile the CPI, claim that this actually results in an incrase in the CPI because they factor in aging...on the other hand, with housing prices having gone up double-digits in each of the past few years, the impact has been to deflate rentals.

Health insurance premiums aren't tracked at all (their explanation is that given the difference in coverages, out of pocket payments, and outcomes, it is extremely hard to compare such--which I can believe).  In the end, though, the consumer knows that health-care costs are rising rapidly, no matter what the CPI says.

My!  It's been very interesting to read!  I am in no way an economist, so I've probably gotten some of it wrong.  But it all seems somewhat dodgy to me now...

Inflation debate brews over intangibles at the mall

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posted by Kate @ 9/13/2006 07:28:00 PM   3 comments

Red forests

Long-time readers may recall that I have been bemoaning the state of the forests around here, talking about the toll the drought and the dreaded pine bark beetle has taken.

There are a variety of beetles, each of which feeds upon a different species of pine.  Three years ago, the forests around Prescott and Williams, AZ and the road from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon turned red-brown seemingly overnight due to the pine bark beetle.  This particular beetle feasted on pinon pines mostly, with a few forays into ponderosa pines.

Whenever we motored down to OmegaGranny's house, coming over the hill into the basin that Prescott sits in would make my heart ache.  Once green hills were painted brown everywhere we looked.  And, of course, as the acreage of trees killed grew, so did the fire danger.

Hereabouts, we have seen swaths of the telltale mark of the beetle infestation.  I thought it was bad here.

Then we drove through Colorado.

Summit Pine Beetle Home

(This isn't my picture; I grabbed it from the Summit County pine bark bettle infestation website.)

This was the view from our "hotel" room window (yes, it's blurry, sorry):

All those mountain in the backgrounds of those two pictures?  They're covered with brown trees, brown and dying.  Snow Mountain Ranch had a ban on burning (no campfires!), and they were aggressively removing acres...and acres...and acres of the trees.

It was ever so much worse than we've had it around here.

Why is it so bad?  Well, there's the drought, of course.  Pine bark beetles are always there, but usually, when they bore into the bark and start eating away, the (well-watered) sap running through the trees acts as a natural healing agent.

Then there's the fact that all these mountains were logged, and the trees that have grown back are all around the same age--sort of a monoculture, as it were.  Many of the trees are nearing the end of their life cycles, and are more vulnerable to pest infestations.

There's also an almost century-long history of fire suppression--all for the best of reasons, at the time.  It wasn't until the historic fires in Yellowstone National Park in 1988 that the Park Service and Forest Service began to significantly change their fire management practices.

To top it all off, the drought years have generally been warmer, and beetle larvae which would die off during cold months are more likely to survive.

Some tree-core research indicates that this has happened before, so it will probably happen again.  In the meantime, these beautiful, lodgepole pine covered mountains have changed and will be changing drastically.  We'll be back there next year, so maybe there will be another entry on this then.


Wander on over and check out this week's Carnival of Family Life; last week, OmegaGranny was featured, this week I popped one of my posts into the fray.  Hi, visitors!  Stop by and stay a while!

If you want to submit a post to the Carnival, the info is at PinkDiary.

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posted by Kate @ 9/12/2006 08:04:00 PM   0 comments

Five years ago...

OmegaDad and I were getting ready for a three-day weekend spent in the Bay Area attending the wedding of some friends from Los Alamos, and spending some time with Omega relatives.

That morning, I drove into work in the sparkling sun.  I never listen to news or music; it's my "morning time" to daydream and get into the swing of going to work.

I got into work early; there was only one other person in already.  I turned on my computer and (bad workerbee!) immediately went to my Current Debates board, because there was some hot debate that I was following, and I wanted to see what was going on.

I opened it up, and there was a monster thread.  Just scanning the subject lines let me know something horrible had happened.  I opened it up and read it.  The world fell apart.  I wandered into Mike Z.'s office, befuddled and horrified.  He looked up at me with an ashen face.  The day was spent in a haze of disbelief.

Mr. O and I had been planning to fly--all flights were canceled.  But the bride and groom had decided to drive straight through from South Carolina--so we, too, drove, motoring across Arizona and the Mojave Desert in an eerie quiet.  No planes overhead, no contrails.  Not many cars, either.

The wedding was beautiful, joyous.

The shock waves of that day still reverberate through our lives.

I can't do justice to it.  Some of my blogging buddies have:

The Ravin' Picture Maven - Another 9-11 Nightmare
SpaceAge Housewife - September's Winds of Change

Some other blogging buddies have joined in the 2996 Tribute: Honoring the 9-11 Victims Project:

Miss Cellania - Robert C. McLaughlin
Clueless in Carolina - A Tribute to Christopher Quackenbush
Stupid Grin - Ricknauth Jaggernauth
A Scrapper's Thoughts - A Letter to Brad Vados

2996 Tribute

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posted by Kate @ 9/10/2006 09:43:00 PM   3 comments

Kitchen disasters

We have been living through the Summer of Visitors.  There was OmegaBro and SIL and chilluns.  There was FIL and MIL.  There was Aussie Cuz and Memphis Cuz and Memphis Cuz Jr.  There was a drive-by by a nephew and his girlfriend (how did that happen?  Sheesh!  He's supposed to be 10 years old forever, y'know?).

Today there was another coupla cousins, stopping by for a quick visit as they make a tour of Indian land for their (woohoo!) 25th wedding anniversary.

These things happen in waves; last year and the year prior, we had no visitors a-tall.  None.  Zero.  This year has more than made up for it.

At least the house gets vacuumed more often! 

OmegaDad, reveling in the coolth of autumn, and under duress from yours truly to try a weekly menu to see if we can curtail our expenses, dug out a favorite recipe of ours from old, Chicken Corn Chowder.  Absolutely scrumptious.  Warm, filling, aromatic--it brings to mind the wonders of autumn and winter cooking, filled with things like Split-Pea Soup, casseroles, pumpkin pies, family gatherings, fires in the wood stove.  (Another sign of autumn:  the elk have begun bugling at last; lying in bed with the dotter the other night, I heard what sounded like a very large, very rusty gate creaking and swinging in the wind.  After a few moments, I realized it was a bull elk out in the Big Meadow either asking the elk ladies to come get a load of this hunka-hunka burning love, or else admonishing any other bull elk in the neighborhood that a real Elk's Elk was marking this as his turf.)

The combo of the cousins' visit, the savory soup, and the autumnal atmosphere reminded me of one of my greater kitchen disasters.  Don't ask me why, it just did.

Many moons ago, when I was just a young lass, living with my paternal grandparents while attempting (hah!) a year at Northwestern University, the seasons swung around to OmegaGranny's birthday (Feb. 1).  The grandparents were off visiting relatives, it was a snowy day, and filled with a fit of dotterly love and grandiose ambitions, I decided to make mamasan a birthday cake from scratch.  An applesauce spice cake with buttercream frosting.  Yum.

So I rummaged around in grandma's kitchen, found various baking devices, found an old Fanny Farmer's cookbook with the recipe, and started grabbing ingredients.

Problem number one:  I couldn't find baking soda in grandma's pantry.  Oh, well, thought I, surely just baking powder will do the trick.

Don't laugh.

I chopped nuts, I sifted flour, I stirred in applesauce and various (oh-so-yummy-smelling) spices.  I pottered around, poured the two layers into the layer cake pans, popped them in the oven, and turned to the frosting.

For some reason, I was in a hurry.  So rather than creaming the butter by hand, I decided to use the mixer.

Now, I know some folks swear by using a mixer to cream butter and sugar.  Let me just state, here and now, that this particular incident is why I have resolved never to cream using a mixer, ever again.

Because...well...it didn't cream, see?  It just turned into this bowlful of pellets of sugar and butter.

Hmmm, thought I.  Well, that didn't really work.  What to do, what to do?  So I called someone (don't remember who), who suggested, add more confectioner's sugar, more butter, and cream it all by hand.

This eventually worked.  However, I ended up with double the frosting mix.  Eh, what's a little extra frosting, think I.  Sort of.  This wasn't turning out the way I had planned.

So then I pulled out the cake, which was done by now.

Except...well...it looked kinda...flat.

Very flat. 

Like a cake that was supposed to end up being four inches high was going to be about an inch and a half high.

Um.  A Powerful Lesson On The Differences Between Baking Powder And Baking Soda.

By now, I was crying.  My splendid birthday surprise for my mom!  Ruined!  Horrible! 

I kept crying as I cooled the cakes.  I sobbed as I slathered the oh-so-thin layers with double the frosting.

I called a taxi.  But, since it had kept snowing while all this culinary experimentation was taking place, the taxi company said it might be an hour before a cab got there--if they could promise a cab would be there at all.

It was getting dark.  I sat in the dimness in the living room waiting for the taxi, watching the snow fall, and feeling like I was a Total Failure At Life.

The taxi finally came.  It took us an hour to drive to my parents' house.  I had the still-warm ultra-dense cake on my lap...

When I got there, the first thing I did, after dumping the cake on the kitchen table, was collapse in my mother's arms, sobbing out the tale of the cake.  My mom, my dad and my cousin (one of the aforementioned 25th anniversary cousins!) gamely tried the cake and pronounced it quite tasty.  Cuz guffawed and made comments about this being the recipe those single-serving packs were trying to copy.

Folks, this was thirty years ago.

I have never--not once!--forgotten to double-check whether the recipe calls for baking powder versus baking soda since that day.

I have never--not once!--creamed butter and sugar with a mixer since that day.

And my baking has greatly improved.

Many thanks to the little birdie who informed me of my typo which greatly reduced the impact of my Powerful Lesson!

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posted by Kate @ 9/09/2006 11:08:00 PM   8 comments

Praise be!

I am here to sing the praises of antibiotics.

I looooove antibiotics.

They are the Gift of the Gods.  Truly.

Three days and nights of being a subhuman zombie.  One Augmentin pill and suddenly I feel almost human again.

(Well, now it's two.  Plus some Flonase.  Plus some turbo-charged pseudoephedrine [spell that one three times fast!] and guaifenisin.)

Antibiotics.  Indoor plumbing.  Central heating.  Glasses.  LASIK surgery.  Long-distance refrigerated delivery cars.  The ability to eat fresh fruit in the middle of the winter.  Connecting with total strangers across the world via Internet.  Fifty kazillion books on every subject under the sun.  Cataract surgery.  Heart stents.  Disney's Mulan.

Yum.  All the good things of modern civilization.

Unfortunately, all of those good things come with bad things attached.  Sigh.  Plastics manufacturing run amok.  Dependence upon fossil fuels.  Overuse of antibiotics.  The ability to ruin someone's life anonymously and from a distance.  Heart stents that don't work.  Disney's Mulan played over and over and over again.

So, just for funsies on a slow Saturday morning, leave a comment with one thing about modern civilization that just knocks your socks off, plus one thing about modern civilization that leaves you with an icky feeling in your mouth.

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posted by Kate @ 9/09/2006 09:26:00 AM   7 comments

It's oh-so-fashionable!

It's the latest thing, apparently: "To Give Children An Edge, Au Pairs From China".  This was passed on to me by OmegaGranny via email, and also happens to be being discussed on one of my (too numerous) email lists.

I have such mixed feelings about this trend.

First off, it seems that there's a certain amount of "Yellow Peril" feelings hiding behind it.  China is exploding as a world financial player.  If you look around, you find all sorts of articles hinting or outright stating that We Have To Watch Out, because otherwise those sneaky Chinese will steal our show.  Or those sneaky Indians.  Big populations, moving quickly forward on the economic front, jobs being farmed out there...

So you've got some folk who will want their kids to be able to compete in the global financial marketplace of the future.

Now, I don't know about you, but me?  I'm too busy worrying about whether OmegaDotter's recent ability to stay dry at nighttime will be derailed by a few accidents to worry too terribly much this early on about her competitive position vis-a-vis global domination.  Hell, I just want her to be happy, find something she loves doing as a job, find a partner who fits her like a glove (if she wants), and all that stuff.

But there are some folks who think like this, and, I guess, more power to them.

There's one line in there about parents of kids adopted from China driving the market for Chinese au pairs.  Now this I can grasp much better.  How cool to be able to give OmegaDotter a daily caregiver who can give her a background not only in the language of her birth but also in the culture!  I had a little wist about it when I read the story--wouldn't that be nice, I thought.  Then I thought about our checkbook, thought about how well she's doing in her preschool, with all her buds...about how, in her preschool, she has Navajo kids, Hispanic kids, black kids, and (of course) blonde curly-haired Caucasian cherubs.  (Well, hell, they're all cherubs, frankly, except for X. and J., who, I understand, are "mean" and get sent to TimeOut a lot.)  I like the diversity she gets at preschool, the social interaction with kids of varying backgrounds, the fact that the gals who teach there are mostly from the early childhood education program at Small Mountain University.

Now, a babysitter with that background would be cool.  And, since SMU has a rather lively exchange program developing with a coalition of Chinese universities, this might be more likely for me to accomplish.

How do my readers who are adoptive parents approach the question of finding adult Asian role models for your kids?  I have a failing:  I am a social klutz.  I do just great on my blog and on lists--it's nice and cozy for me because I like writing.  But how does one find and make friends of a particular ethnicity without feeling like a leech?  (Let alone the difficulty of finding and making friends in general...)  There's a Chinese church group--but we're not churchgoers.  NOT.  We both have very dim views of organized religion of any kind.  OmegaDad and I have tried to make overtures with the couple who owns a local restaurant that we frequent a lot, but those overtures seem to have fallen flat (splat!).  Now that the dotter is past her initial rejection of all things Chinese (trust me, it was serious--she would have delayed hysterics at home after being amongst the Asian folks at the local restaurants or at any of the festivals we went to), I want to have her branch out, get some sort of connection going.

(Editor's note:  This is a dreadfully flabby post.  It seems to dart off into a variety of tangents.  I wanted to make some cogent point, but all I can do is flail around.  Bah.  I blame my raging sinus infection, which has me stuck at home, just wanting my mommy and my hubby.)

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posted by Kate @ 9/07/2006 11:05:00 AM   8 comments

Princess dancing
(Or, "The Ballet School as Social Hub")

My review of the second adult workshop has to simmer for a while.  I got something from it that seems to be helping A Minor-In-the-Grander-Scheme-of-Things-Yet-Very-Annoying Issue the Omegas have had for quite a while (the Foot Thing), but it's still early days yet, and it's offbeat enough that I don't want to toss it out there until I've got a few more data points to factor into the equation.

So the dotter has now had two ballet lessons.

She's hooked.

I found the (insert feminine, high-pitched squeal here) cutest little black leotard with flippy little skirt at Chez Target the day of OmegaDotter's first class.  I knew she'd love it.  I told her as I was sherpherding her into the bathroom at daycare. 

She was skeptical.

I unveiled the cutest black leotard from the shopping bag.

OmegaDotter's eyes widened.  The flippy little skirt sealed the deal.  The black leotard with the purple and lavender slashes is now in the dustbin of memory (for the nonce).

However, any pictures we take of her in it are never going on this blog.  No way.  See, with its spaghetti straps and flirtatiousness, it's just too...um...pre-teen looking for me to want a pic of her in it floating around.  In short, she looks smashing in it.  I mean, really smashing.  It's scary.

I drove up to the studio in trepidation.  The thought had occurred to both me and Mr. OmegaMom that, while the thought of ballet class might be hunky dory, the reality would be one of those scenes where the child melts into horrified tears at the thought of Leaving Mommy, segueing (sp?) into a total meltdown of the kind that parades through nightmares and wakes parents up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night.

Nope.  She spent the twenty minutes before class eagerly peering through the one-way glass at the class before her, and when the teacher came out to gather up the pre-schoolers and kindergarteners, she darted in without a second glance.

Which left me with all these ladies.

Waiting.

Um.

So--what do you talk about with strange females who are also waiting for their kids to be done with their class?

Let's see:  From that first evening, I now know that the west-side Montessori school is totally not geared towards three-year-olds (contrary to popular rosy opinion).  I know that to get into Pinecone School (highly desirable), you need to get on the waiting list.  I know that the best strategy is to get on the waiting list for at least five schools, so that if someone drops out, you get a spot.  I know that the lady who taught immersion Navajo to second and third-graders at one school was reassigned to teach regular eighth grade, so now there's no immersion Navajo, and the lady is Not Happy with her new assignment.  I know that gymnastics class is less expensive, but very popular.  I know that there's at least one other adoptee in the class, whose mom is currently fostering four children under 18 months old.

At the end of that class, as the dotter was darting out, glowing with happiness at dance class, I ran smack into one of the ladies who has organized a local Families With Children From China playgroup.  Seeing the Dotter and me there prompted her to sign up.

The second class social half-hour was spent with the same lady, giving her a rundown on the heritage camp, discussing plans for future meetings, and figuring out ways to boost participation in the email group and come up with ideas for the Moon Festival gathering we're going to hold.

These half-hour social stints are jam-packed, lemme tell you!

The one man who was there, on the other hand, sat and read books, and never acknowledged that other people were there at all.  This is a very big commentary on the different styles of men and women.

After the dotter's second class, she demanded to stay to watch the teen dance troupe practicing.

Horses.  Ballet.  Pink and purple.  Social mommies.  Good lord.

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posted by Kate @ 9/06/2006 10:44:00 PM   4 comments

Ack! Ack! Ack!

Dear God, this has to be a joke!  Right?  Right?

DEAR DR. BROTHERS: I am the parent of an adopted child from Eastern Europe. We have had her only about four months, but it is obvious that she is not fitting into our family. Our two older children think she is "retarded," and indeed she sits sullenly in the corner most of the time, or rages at everyone with tantrums when she doesn't get her way. I am wondering if I made a terrible mistake, and my husband feels the same way. We wanted to help an unfortunate child and enjoy another little one in our family, but this is too hard. What would the implications be for our two natural children if we arranged with the agency to place her with another family? -- S.D.

DEAR S.D.: It does sound as though your family might be better suited to a child from a nearby state or community -- perhaps an infant -- than to a foreign child with many language and cultural adjustment problems ahead of her. Most people who adopt from overseas are asked to attend classes explaining what kinds of problems typically come with that type of situation, and what you might expect in the first few days, weeks and even months of suddenly becoming a parent to a child from another country, another culture, one who may have suffered some deprivation or even abuse as a baby.

Perhaps your kids could help their newly adopted sister to learn the alphabet and form English words, and she could help them out with a little foreign-language lesson. In any case, you will all need a great deal of patience to give the child a fair chance.

If you absolutely find nothing good happening and want to "return" her, you will at least have tried your best to help her adjust to your family. And while you're at it, teach your kids some manners. I hope you return the child only as a last resort, because she shouldn't be made to feel like an animal at a Humane Society shelter, hoping for the permanent adoption that finally sticks.

ACK!  What agency did these people use?!  How did they pass a homestudy?!  Don't they know anything about attachment?!  Didn't they get any preparation for the possible effects of institutionalization on older children (and younger children)?!  Did someone maybe wave "Attaching in Adoption", by Deborah Gray, or "Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft", by Mary Hopkins Best, in the general direction of these people?

And what about Dr. Brothers' response?!  Have the biokids help with the alphabet and have her give them foreign language lessons?  Excuse me?!  Please tell me something got edited out by the version of Dr. Brothers' column I read.  Please.  Where's the advice to get counseling?  Psychological assessment?  Early-intervention program in the county?  An attachment therapist?  It's obvious from the first paragraph that Dr. B. thinks these folks are a poor fit for that child (I think they've got some Big Problems, myself!)--why the hell didn't she provide a real helpful answer?

But, hell, if you're going to give advice, maybe the advice should be:  Get that child away from those "parents", and to a different couple or single person who actually has a clue.

Holy cow.  I wake up, slug down some DayQuil and zinc tablets (yuck), wade into my blogroll and my email groups, and I stumble across this.  Sheesh.  I am continually amazed at people...

(This is not to say that beforehand preparation and post-adoption counseling is the be-all, end-all for a situation like this.  We all know that some children who are adopted at older ages have serious attachment issues that can be horrible to deal with in everyday life.  But it's obvious from the question that these people are...well, I'll be gentle..."clueless".)

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posted by Kate @ 9/05/2006 04:02:00 PM   5 comments

Adult workshop review I: Growing up Asian-American

As a white female raising an Asian-American daughter, I have to rely on other people's narratives to get an idea of the sorts of things OmegaDotter will face as she grows up.  I regularly pop into the blogs of a few adult Korean adoptees.  I wander around sites such as Model Minority, Also Known As, and AngryAsianMan.  Sites like these can give me an idea of what it's like out there for folks who are of Asian descent.

So when I saw that there was a panel discussion about "Growing Up Asian-American", I had to check it out.

Since the panelists were female, it was pretty much a strictly "growing up as an Asian-American female" talk.  No discussion of the minimizing of Asian males in American pop culture.  But, since what we have in the house is--gasp!--a budding Asian-American female, the talk was very apropos.  (Though it would have been nice to have an Asian man talking, too.)

Featured were two ladies, V. and C.  V. is a developmental psychologist; C. is in the sciences.  Both are second-generation Chinese; C.'s parents immigrated around World War II, V.'s in the (I think) '60s.  They both grew up in white-bread America, the midwest.  And they report similar experiences, though their family backgrounds were quite different.

They talked about the delicate balance between being different being perceived as being "bad" versus being "special".  They both report that their first experiences of racially-based taunting occurred in kindergarten.  They both felt that they had to come to terms with what being "Asian-American" meant to them--a journey of self-exploration that started in their teens and culminated in what they are now, self-confident and professional women who honor their heritage yet consider themselves fully American.

Over the years as I have read about the Asian-American experience, I've heard, over and over again, about the encounter with the white guy who sees the Asian-American female as the submissive, sexually voracious, perfect woman, with the added titillation factor of "is she different 'down there'".

Both the panelists discussed this.  When one would bring up an anecdote, the other would nod her head in instant recognition.

V. had emailed a survey to her sisters, her cousins, and a bunch of Asian-American female friends.

ALL of them reported numerous encounters with this type of guy.

It wasn't 25%.  It wasn't 50%.  It was ALL of them.

They had ALL had to come up with strategies to deal with creeps like that.

They had ALL had strangers come up to them in bars and ask them if their c*nts went sideways.

Picture me with my jaw dropped.

Oh, they recounted it with wry amusement.  They had tales of how they had learned to separate out the idea that it was okay for some men to prefer Asian females as a "type" versus the men who were fetishing the Asian female.  V. told a story of how she was at a bar with some girlfriends, and they played a game of "checking out the goods"...when V. was asked which three guys in the bar she'd prefer, she picked them out, and her friends laughed.  "Oh, V.!  They're all D.!"--D. being her husband.  She had an epiphany then--that she had a "type", and that for some American guys, their "type" happened to be Asian.

But--that they all had to have that epiphany to begin with, that they had to learn to recognize the signs of the creep to be able to forestall the sexual come-ons--this is saddening.  Depressing.

I look at OmegaDotter, and know that she, too, will be subjected to that.  She, too, will have to learn to recognize that particular subset of Creepy Guys.

They both married Caucasian men.  They had been raised surrounded by Caucasians; their ideas of what was attractive were inevitably colored by that experience.

They both talked about having a Moment, when they caught their reflection in the mirror or a window they were passing by, and wondered, "Who is that?!", because they looked different from the outside than how they internalized themselves.

V. talked about how children go through a stage when they totally identify with their parents, which can cause the "my skin is different" realization...which, coupled with an equally developmentally appropriate "different is probably not good" stage can result in a child saying, "I'm brown, therefore I'm bad."  (V. touched on the idea that the innate categorization abilities of small humans was probably a good evolutionary strategy:  you don't know if different-looking foods are going to be good for you or good to eat; you don't know if different-looking people [people outside your kin group] are going to be nice, so it's good to err on the cautious side, etc.)

They spoke of the importance of role models as a child is growing up.

There was a lot of laughter and a lot of sadness.

It was a very good discussion.

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posted by Kate @ 9/05/2006 08:56:00 AM   5 comments

Heritage camp

Back in the '60s, the adoption professionals told parents who had adopted from Korea to raise their kids just like any other Amurrikin kid.

In the early '80s, Holt International Agency took a group of adult Korean adoptees on a trip to Korea.  During the trip, the director heard from these Korean adoptees that they felt the "Americanizing" had left them bereft of any knowledge of their heritage--where they came from, what it was like, why they were adopted, what were the circumstances, what it was like to be around people who looked like them.

So Holt started a Korean Heritage Camp in Oregon in 1982.

There are now heritage camps for adoptees from many, many cultures--India, Korea, China, Russia, Ethiopia, Latin America.  It's not enough.  It's a drop in the bucket.  But it's a start.

The Chinese Heritage Camp we went to with the Dotter is part of Colorado Heritage Camps.  Since OmegaDotter is only 4.5, the things they did were pretty basic:  Build a paper dragon boat.  Create a faux ribbon dance ribbon.  Learn to sing Happy Birthday in Chinese.  Begin exploring the question of adoption through a HeART Talk.  Learn the story behind the Moon Festival.

Older children learned Chinese dances, took Tai Chi and Kung Fu (the leader of the Kung Fu school is an amazing man.  Just amazing.  Imagine getting 60 kids into disciplined, organized order.  Just imagine it.  This man can do it.), explored things like paper block making, baking moon cakes, creating a journal on adoption, Chinese calligraphy.

Each year, the programs the kids are involved in become more complex, more engaging.  For instance, this year there was a panel of teen and adult adoptees one afternoon for teen adoptees to attend.

The counselors at the camp are mostly late-teen/early adult Asians, both adopted and second-generation immigrants.  Most of the teachers are Asian.  I think half the benefit of being there is simply being in a place where the majority of people you interact with are of your own race--without it being an "in your face" oh-darling-here's-your-token-Asian-role-model.  They see teen and adult Asians being themselves, being individuals, some very involved and highly motivated, some being--well, just being teens, with short spiky hair, bling on the fingers, and blase teenage attitude.

There are workshops for the parents, as well.  OmegaDad and I attended a presentation on growing up as an Asian-American female in the U.S.; I attended a talk on "emotional regulation".  There were lifebook presentations, discussions about trips back to China with your child, strategies for home-based language learning, how to start a Chinese speaking playgroup, and (of course!) scrapbooking techniques.

Each evening, there was an all-camp gathering of some kind.  The last night was a typical camp experience, where all the kids performed the dances, Tai Chi, and Kung Fu they had learned.

It was a bit overwhelming.  You start off the day running, and it's not over with until 9 p.m.  At which point, you fall into bed exhausted, only to wake up the next morning to start all over again.

When we arrived, we were a little intimidated and shy--we didn't know anyone, we didn't really know what to expect.  I had planned to meet up with two of the folks I'm on email lists with, and was expecting that to be our buttress.  But as I was leafing through the list of attendees, a name popped out at me.

"OmegaDad.  Look!  The T's are here!"

"Who?"

"S. and S.!  They're here with L.!"

"Ohmygawd!  That's great!"

The T's were travelmates with us when we went to China to meet OmegaDotter.  Their daughter's assumed birthday is one day off from OmegaDotter's.  We were thrilled--they were our favorite folks from the trip.  We ended up spending a great deal of time with them, and our daughters hit it off very well (though it was incredibly difficult to get a picture of the two of them together--they were like satellites careening around each other, rendezvousing then bouncing away, over and over again).  After the end of Sunday night's festivities, the two girls took over the presentation stage while the roller-rink music played, and danced their tushies off.  And I have an indelible memory of the dotter being carried out of the Kiva (meeting commons) by OmegaDad, her elbow on his shoulder, her hand cupping her chin, looking utterly sad that she was leaving L.

Like I said, it's not enough.  It's a drop in the bucket.  But it's a start.

Next up:  Reviews of the adult presentations.

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posted by Kate @ 9/05/2006 08:15:00 AM   0 comments

Home again, home again, jiggedy jig

The Omegas have been off gallivanting across the southwest to attend the Labor-Day weekend China Heritage Camp at Snow Mountain Ranch, Fraser, CO.  We left Thursday night and spent the night in a small town in Utah.

The next morning, OmegaMom woke up, sat up, and leaned over her dotter...

And the room spun around, and around, and around.

OmegaMom, alarmed, stood up. 

And the room spun around, and around, and around.

Remember that feeling, oh-so-long ago, of being just totally drunk, and no matter how much you tried to keep the room from spinning, it wouldn't stop?  This was sort of like that.  Luckily, Mr. OmegaMom had a similar thing happen a few years ago, so we knew it was an inner ear infection of some sort wreaking havoc with my proprioceptive sense rather than a Dire Disease which needed immediate emergency attention.

We motored on to the camp that day, winding through canyonland Utah (bee-yoo-ti-ful!) and then hitting I-70 and trekking across Colorado.

Now.  When someone says to you, "Interstate Highway", what's your first response?  Mine is "flat, bee-line straight, boring".  I believed MapQuest, and figured it would be a straight, high-speed shot from one side of Colorado to the other. 

I was forgetting one small thing:  the Rocky Mountains.

Those of you who live in Colorado are laughing your heads off right now.

I-70 twists and turns and soars through the low-lying western Colorado mountains, following the Colorado River, then plunges into Glenwood Canyon.  Once you come out of Glenwood Canyon, the highway rises and rises and rises through the western flank of the Rocky Mountains, slipping in and out of tunnels (the biggest being, of course, the Eisenhower Tunnel), passing innumerable ski resorts and swanky mountain towns.

Then you turn off I-70 to take Highway 40 (not I-40, this confused me a bit) through twisty turny Berthoud Pass.  We managed to do it on an evening when the clouds had come down to hover over the mountain tops and pour down the western side.  We dove into the clouds just as we started hitting the 15-MPH hair-pin turns going up to the pass. 

OmegaDad drove very cautiously.

Then we emerged into Fraser Valley, drove through Winter Park (straight into the setting sun), located our turnoff, and found ourselves in another world--one where everywhere you turned, there were Asian faces:  little girls, teenage boys and girls, adults.

By Sunday, the ear infection had turned into a nasty case of post-nasal drip (ewwww!).  Monday morning, we got up at the crack of dawn, chowed down on (free!) food at the commons, piled into the Little Green Car again, and drove for 13.5 hours straight back home.  During which time, my eyeballs began to feel fried, my left ear's hearing left me feeling like I was in a deep deep tunnel and everyone was talking outside that tunnel, every bone began to ache, yadda, yadda, yadda.

We stopped to play in the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon and got many pictures.

When we reached our town, the dotter (who did amazingly well being stuck in a car for 13 hours!) exclaimed, "I can't believe my eyes!", then, a few miles later, caroled happily, "I so love Small Mountain University Town!"

So today, I am home, dosed up with NyQuil and ZiCam (oh, those zinc tablets taste foul!).

Next post:  the camp.

Photos:  to come.  The USB cable to my camera is Somewhere In a Large Piece of Luggage.  I hope.

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posted by Kate @ 9/05/2006 07:34:00 AM   0 comments

About Me
Name: OmegaMom
Home: Southwest
About Me: Middle-aged mom of a 4-year-old adopted from China. Love science, debate, good SF and fantasy, hiking, music of almost every style. Lousy housekeeper. "Good enough" mom.
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