Thursday, February 26, 2009

Gondar Market - Ethiopia

I especially like the chicken pen in the foreground (pardon the car mirror, although it is an interesting contrast, isn't it?)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Not Going to Be Quiet about Privilege

Sometimes I wonder how much I want to tackle the big stuff here. I enjoy posting pics of Blueberry and sharing stories about the big kids, too. But I'm a thinker. I am wrapped pretty tightly even though I often have a calm and easy demeanor. My intimate friends would tell you I'm pretty wired about the things I care about. I can't make happy over shopping, cooking, cleaning, or a new hair cut. Thus, when I'm not in the grip of managing the day to day events of our busy family I'm exercising my intellect. Recently I have been working on the notion of privilege - specifically, white privilege. Today my work was complicated as I'm over half way through my reading of A Thousand Hills. I cannot fathom how we (and I do mean WE) have continued to burrow into our privilege and ignored events as gruesome and obvious as the genocide was in Rwanda. Dang.

Understanding the idea of privilege is key to discussions of racism, sexism, classism, agism, and any other ism you can identify. My focus is primarily racism, but I think I get to my understanding from a grounding in feminism. I'm a white woman, so this makes sense in terms of my own growth.

The "go to" resource on privilege is Peggy McIntosh's "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" . I read it for the first time about 20 years ago. I've read it over 20 times. I use it when I teach - I have my freshman HS students read this. They're ready, believe me. Recently, I've been having a deep look into my knapsack. And, I've been trying to dig deeper into understanding the idea of privilege. I've got some resources I've been using to help me get it. If you haven't read McIntosh...READ IT!

I've decided to work at blogging about privilege. I don't want to write a term paper in one entry, so I'm going to do this piece by piece and label the posts "privilege" for easy access. This is for me, for my husband, and for my kids. It is so important to me that we work together in our commitment to be an anti-racist family. I'm not recreating the wheel here folks - a lot of my thoughts aren't original (very few are, in fact). I'll be citing the works of others and providing links to excellent and accessible resources. I'm hoping to allow other people to help me learn. You are welcome to learn along with me.

I want to start with a very clear articulation of Privilege provided by brown_betty:
Privilege is not: About you. Privilege is not your fault. Privilege is not anything you've done, or thought, or said. It may have allowed you to do, or think, or say things, but it's not those things, and it's not because of those things. Privilege is not about taking advantage, or cheating, although privilege may make this easier. Privilege is not negated. I can't balance my white privilege against my female disadvantage and come out neutral. Privilege is not something you can be exempt from by having had a difficult life. Privilege is not inherently bad. It really isn't.
Privilege is: About how society accommodates you. It's about advantages you have that you think are normal. It's about you being normal, and others being the deviation from normal. It's about fate dealing from the bottom of the deck on your behalf.

That's enough for now, even though I'm still in the thick of thinking as I write.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

Some Organic and Some Not

Schwartz is a meateater. Twinkletoes and I LOVE this salad; Organic Girl - berries and balsamic. We needed a change from our spinach salad with Annie's Goddess Dressing. We found it - and we gobble it up with abandon. But Schwartz, he's another story. The other night I made a beautiful whole wheat pasta dinner with garlic bread and a huge bowlful of salad. I like my pasta al dente - nearly crunchy. But Clementine prefers his pasta cooked. I try to please the masses by cooking the pasta firm but not with too much crunch. My timing was off, as usual. I told the kids to go ahead and start with salad while the pasta finished cooking. Schwartz said, "No thanks, I'm saving my hungry for real food."

Yeah for our Finn. He continues to show the classic attributes of a 19 year old American carnivore.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Boy and His Dog

Blueberry and Grace

Yesterday we had the pleasure of a visit from our cousins. Blueberry enjoyed cousins Kat and her daughter, Grace. Grace is amazing - sweet, smart, and darling. How cute - and how precious.
There has been a dearth of family visits for us - for a variety of complicated reasons. So, Kat's visit made our day. Cute kids run in the family, dontcha think?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Big Horns and Beautiful Boy

This image is one of my favorites.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Finn's Top 5

Schwartz loves TV. I mean, he really LOVES TV. He claims he doesn't get to watch TV like this in Finland. I don't know if he means he's not allowed (Sari, is he?), or if he means that he doesn't have over 500 channels to choose from and 24/7 entertainment options. This is the trouble with Direct TV, there are so many choices. Believe me, Schwartz revels in the TV. He mentioned one day that he had watched 9 hours of television the day before. What??? I don't know when he's squeezing in 9 hours after a day at school and daily tennis. But then, I go to bed at 10 PM and I don't monitor this 19 year old's habits. He's on his own. Obviously, he's got company-the television!
So, here are Schwartz's top 5 shows. This is what we see him watching, day after day. It's junk television American style.
Hell's Kitchen
2 and a Half Men
Family Guy
South Park
special mention: Futurama, JackAss, Superstars of Dance
I'm going to buy this tshirt for him. I'm sure he'll appreciate my sense of humor. I'm so glad he's making the most of his time here......Hehehehehehe

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

10 Minute Short Film

If you have ten minutes, watch Steph Green's academy award nominated short film The New Boy. The film addresses race and immigration and uses the schoolyard and schoolroom to tell the story.

Swimming Songbird

The middle fish with the dark goggles is Songbird - who swims for a Div III college team and broke 1 minute in her 100 free at conference last week. She's a silly, happy, fun loving young woman. And, she's a great swimmer!

One of the things I really enjoy about my children is that each of them has a number of things they enjoy doing. When they were very little, I exposed them to many activities with the hope of cultivating hobbies, interests, and ability; reading, music, travel, bicycling, swimming, baseball, cross country skiing, nature walks, tree climbing, and art were all on the list. Some of these activities were mandated, like swimming. All of the kids had to learn how to swim and we ultimately filled our summers with swim team. All of the kids learned how to downhill and cross country ski. Only 2 of them liked it, but they all learned. Some days some kids enjoyed nature walks, other days they complained. But we all walked, and we all learned to travel and explore with great curiosity. Each child played an instrument. I aimed for exposure -for cultivating both the body and the mind.
As they grew they each developed their own interests and were drawn to develop deeper experiences in particular endeavors. Songbird is a great swimmer, softball player, nature girl, and tremendous recorder player. She relaxes by doing art. Twinkletoes is an avid reader, a gifted clarinetist, and a superb ballroom dancer. She's also a prolific writer. She journals, writes poetry, and even has a story she wrote that is over 100 pages. Waffles is passionate about snowboarding, wakeboarding, and soccer. He is interested in how things work and the mechanics of things from boats to computers. All of the kids are amazing travelers and independent thinkers. All of them can and do think out of the box.
Each of the kids is busy - busy enough that at the end of the day they are all tired and sleep well. Busy kids are tired kids. Tired kids are kids who don't let trouble find them. Really - it has worked for us. My teens are fun kids and good kids. Most importantly, they are kids who are engaged and interested.
Blueberry will have similar influences in his childhood. He'll have the positive influence of his siblings in his life - and lots of opportunities to enjoy time with his siblings during their young and energetic adult lives. I look forward to witnessing Blueberry's interests and discovering what energizes and engages him. I can't wait!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

6 months and another post placement

From here in 6 months time. Blueberry is now 11 months old and he has been with us for 6 months. We are so very lucky to know this precious boy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

You should see this movie

You really should see this movie - War Dance. It was nominated in 2008 for best documentary feature. It was moving, gripping, sorrowful, informing, revealing, and difficult. War Dance features children from the Acholi tribe in northern Uganda. The children and any surviving family members are living as refugees on account of rebel attacks in their villages. Their school qualifies for a musical competition in Kampala and the filmakers document their efforts to represent their school and their tribe at this national event. The kids are amazing. The kids are resilient. The kids dream and hope, although they've suffered such losses. Their stories are heartwrenching.

The movie isn't perfect; the images are riveting, but there is some favoring of images over what I imagine are awful and difficult living conditions. Sometimes directors and producers go for the zing and the flash instead of grinding out the dusty and grim day in and day out of children and families living in broken environments. I found myself wondering how a film can make pain and longing look romantic (or a better word might be noble).
Still, this is the kind of movie that might elude your "gotta see it" radar. And, it's likely that the political and social realities of Uganda aren't high on your radar, either. Yeah, rent it.

*I love movies - suggest one to me!*

Sunday, February 8, 2009

4th folder 4th photo tag

This seems inocuous enough and it was actually a little bit fun (I'm still resisting the 25 Things About Me facebook tag).

4th folder is labeled "Amber" and the 4th photo is this one; It's about 5:30 in the morning and Blueberry, Mr. Silly Pants, Twinkletoes and Clementine and I all made it to the start of the Ironman Triathalon in downtown Madison, WI. This is the view from the convention center down onto the bike transition. It was awesome - and it's fitting that this is a file dedicated to Amber on my computer. Did I mention that she is Blueberry's godmother? More like his fairy godmother, in my mind.

Bird Addendum

An 8 a.m. conversation in the morning sunlight while walking Herbie the dog and baby Blueberry with Waffles, who is 16.

Me: Oh, I hear some new bird calls with the warm weather.
Waffles: I love birds and bird calls.
Me: Really?
Waffles: No.

ROFLMAO at my 16 year old son. I think I'll keep him just the same.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Birds and me and mine

I am an amateur birder. I love to bird. I started birding when I was very young. My father is surely the one who got me interested. He always would point out birds and mention them by their correct names. We had a pair of binoculars and a bird book and made use of them when we were out and about with Dad. As I type this I remember, too, that we weren't often out and about with Dad. He had a lot of rough years. Still, his tender love for wildlife always rose to the top of the chaos and it has stuck with me. I like to identify things. I like to know the names of flowers and trees and to identify all sorts of flora and fauna and wildlife. But the birds get me going the most.

I started avidly birding after my divorce. I figured birding was an excellent hobbie because I could do it alone and I had witnessed LOTS of old women birding solo in the local bird habitats. The women were cute to me - nice sun hats, cool garden shoes, great binoculars, and always a little tuft of curly grey hair peeking out from under the hat. I was happy with that image of myself at age 65. I was no longer content to identify a roseate spoonbill on vacation, I wanted to learn birds by sight. I bought great binoculars from this local shop, met this guy and began following his blog , and started birding locally and frequently. I honed my skills further with a spotting scope and favorite local birder haunts where I often met up with other birders (especially Mike). I watched in awe as others birded by ear, didn't have to check their Sibley's Guide for every bird, and could locate quick little songbirds efficiently. How cool is that??!!!

Today I received this in an e-mail from my 20 year old daughter:

....there was a red tailed hawk sitting in one of the big trees out front with his wings out. Its such a nice day, I wish I could perch on a tree with my wings out instead of read a million pages of text!

I guess birding is in the family. My heart melted when I read this. What a girl. What a girl.
I still can't bird by ear, but I do love birding. I can't wait for the spring to arrive of for the songbird migration to begin. Blueberry and I will have a lot of walks in our favorite birding refuge.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Doing the Work

And enjoying the result......Home almost 6 months and we're all really loving life with Blueberry. He's so fabulous and we're all so grateful to call him our brother and son. There is a lot of work for us in working to raise a well grounded little Ethiopian boy. The details of international adoption make our efforts full of complexity. This is not an easy path, and I didn't expect it to be. Many people have blogged about the ethics, the details adopted children face about the early start of their lives (or lack of details), the complexities of identity and belonging, and so forth and so on. I won't repeat all of that here - so many have done such a good job talking about these challenges. I'd be repeating their words and perhaps not as well. The best I can do is live it every day - and to work on the principles of being an anti-racist parent and a good global neighbor. Sometimes I get stuck - confused - stymied. I'm fortunate to have a smart and savvy community of friends to help me sort out how to navigate "doing the work." And my beloved is always a gentle and guiding energy.
Today I had breakfast with some friends; we were a table full of people with lively and learned perspectives. We had an amazing 30 minutes of rountable discussion about identity and belonging and ethics in international adoption. We had over 2 hours of conversation about a plethora of other wonderful topics. . The table was FULL of very stimulating perspective. I am one lucky momma. I think this boy is a lucky boy to have such a SMART community embracing his adorable little person.