Thursday, August 28, 2008

For John, and Martin, and Anna

Something is wrong with me.

I keep watching the Democratic convention, and I keep crying. Crying!

I know, you’re thinking, Who even watches a convention, let alone cries? Put down the C-SPAN and eat some chocolate, woman!

Yeah, I know. It’s half boring business convention and half rah-rah rally, and I shouldn’t get sucked in. But in between the charged rhetoric and the glammed-up theatrics, I keep seeing these moments of humanity that remind me that these are real people working for their real convictions for how the real world should be.

The overflowing pride of Marian Robinson for her little girl, Michelle.
Michelle Obama steadying Barack's frail old great-uncle Charlie Payne—an interracial family, like mine.
The free-flowing affection of the Biden family, from feisty grandmamma on down.
Lily Ledbetter, who will never personally benefit from the justice she keeps seeking for America’s daughters.
The old African American delegates from all over the country, blinking back tears because they thought they’d never see this day.
Even (good God!) Hillary had me choking up, not at her words but simply to see the clear bond between her and Chelsea.

Oh what an America we would be if we could all be so proud of our families and work so hard for our convictions.

After Barack Obama was officially nominated, one of the networks caught Rep. John Lewis for quick interviews on the floor. In 1965 John Lewis stood and prayed and took a beating on a bridge in Selma, Alabama, for the right of black Americans to be able to register and vote. In his lifetime he will be able to vote for a black man who calls himself a son of Selma because he knows that when he was born, many like Lewis were still being beaten bloody for his right to vote.

That doesn’t mean everyone should vote for Obama—such decisions are based on many factors. I have many friends who won’t, and that’s fine. But I hope that despite our differences we can appreciate that this moment in history is possible because many have stood bravely, many have toiled thanklessly, and yes, many have dared to hope.

So when Barack Obama accepts the nomination for president tonight, yes, I will cry. I am not ashamed to be emotionally overwhelmed by witnessing this moment and knowing I was a part of it.

I will cry knowing that this year, America helped make John Lewis’s dream come true.

I will cry remembering how 45 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream helped make my dream come true.

And here she is.

My tears, my joy, my dreams, my work for a better world are for her.

There has never been anything false about hope.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Steeped in Summer

I'm hoping to get a little extra work done this morning since I have a teenager here hanging out with Anna. The great thing about teenagers is that they will work for food.

Summer weather has returned after strange thunderstorms last week and too much fog on the beach all summer. When it's too hot in the Valley the moisture is pushed to the coast. But in winter when it's colder there it will pull it through so they get the fog and we get sun. Or as we say, it's beautiful here because the Valley sucks. Ha!

Last week I did walk the bridge on a beautiful morning and yesterday the beach was fantastic. Anna and I waded in the water and ran from the waves. She loves to be chased and to run even if she's not. She'll run around the house from wall to couch to wall: Run run run run run SAFE! we say, and she laughs and runs to slam into her next safe base. I see a future in baseball as a pinch runner.

Oh, but what I said about infrequent bathing? Does not apply on beach days—she had sand everywhere.

Small price to pay for life by the bay!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Our Hair Routine

After my recent hair post Porter asked for the rundown on the how and when of doing Anna's hair. So hair's my report on how we do things around hair. (With a strong punny accent. Sorry.)

I'm pretty much a once-a-week bath-giver. I could claim this is because I heard too much soap and water can dry out her skin and hair, but let's review my motto: above all, I'm lazy. And besides, the dog washes her on average twelve times a day.

I usually use Pantene for Women of Color conditioner. Occasionally I'll use a natural jojoba shampoo I got from Northern Essence (they also have great diaper rash cream safe for cloth diapers and an amazing orange cream lip butter) and/or an Herbal Essences conditioner for curly hair that some random lady in Target told me to get. I prefer the Pantene, though.

Here is her hair shortly after a bath. MUST. SQUEEZE. CURLS.

Here it is later the same day. As you can see, her afro is much bigger than her baby's.

I usually don't put in any leave-in conditioner because it seems like it would build up, although I have used natural oils. But would some product help keep her curls detangled and un-frizzed longer? I may try some Curly Qs hair milk as some of you recommended. But for now I usually let her go the day of her bath with her hair loose and by the time I comb it all out, it's tangled enough that we'd both prefer I not do that every day.

I usually do her hair in the morning when I'm doing a diaper change/getting her dressed. I have her sit on the changing pad facing away from me—it's on a semi-low chest thing so she's sitting around my waist level, looking out the window. I put about five thousand books and things up there for her to play with. They are never enough.

To wet her hair to comb through I have a spray bottle filled with water, light olive oil, a couple drops tea tree oil. I know the olive oil seems weird but it seems to work and be cheaper and less buildup than trying to wet all that hair with a product. It just sucks the moisture so I use a lot, so it seems like I'd go through a lot of detangler-type product—wouldn't I? What do you all use?

I have also used virgin unrefined coconut oil. It's nice because you can use it on hair, scalp, and skin and it's safe for cloth diapers. And it makes her smell like a macaroon.

Mmmmm . . . macaroons . . . What? Oh yes, hair.

Once I have her hair combed out with a wide-tooth comb I start parting with a finer comb and the rat-tail end of it. Be thankful this is not a video or you would fast-forward: I am slow. But getting better. It's actually easier with slightly longer hair. If necessary I'll use alligator clips to hold sections of hair until I get them in puffs/ponytails. I will sometimes spray a leave-in conditioner on the puffs and the part that's left free in back.

I know. I said I don't use a leave-in. Except when I do. I'm a rebel against my own cause.

By now she'll have launched all the books across the room, dropped the combs into the black hole behind the changing table, drooled all over the hair clips, and started shaking her head no no no no no no until she's dizzy—we're pretty much done. On the rare occasion she's up for a little more sitting, I may braid the puffs. Often I'll leave puffs for one day and the next day I just have to comb the back and redo the puffs, which makes it more likely she'll sit long enough for me to braid them.

This is the beauty of having her hair styled: it's much easier to spruce up quickly. Which helps me get out of the house with her in less than the 2.75 hours it seems to take these days. And I am fairly obsessive about her hair looking good in public—I don't want to be that mom with the unkempt child, especially an unkempt black child, and especially especially white mom with unkempt black child. We all have bad hair days, but I'm too aware of how much attention is paid to my child and how people might judge her if her hair looks out of control, unfortunately all the more so for a minority child.

Also, I have a raging ego that feels sad when I appear incompetent and happy when complimented. There, I said it. Now you confess something.

Please leave a comment with your hair product, styling, and maintenance tips! (Especially if you think I could clearly really, really use them . . .) As your reward for reading this ridiculously long post and its excruciating detail useful only for my husband's reference in case of my untimely death (I'll file it with the insurance policy, honey), here is a photo of Anna whining. Yes, Mom, she really does.

Nooooooo more hairdoing!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hair's the Thing

At the adoptive families' gathering a dad watching Anna said to me, "Her hair's cute. Is it easy to do?"

"No!" I laughed. "Not for me!" Then I noted that it is getting easier for me, and the difficulty has everything to do with my general girly beauty incompetence and much less to do with her hair. Her hair's not bad—I'm bad at hair.

Anna just had soft baby hair when she came home, and then a lot of that fell out, then grew back in and gradually got thicker and curlier. It was amazing watching the straight baby hair start to curl up away from her head and then spiral. One of those changes you can kind of watch happen and yet it sneaks up on you until one day you look back at old photos and realize how much she's changed.

So she didn't have enough hair for me to start doing anything with (besides spray and comb) until spring, and then her parts took me for . . . ev . . . errrrr to make and still looked drunk and disorderly as often as not. But I tried to keep practicing so she'd get used to me doing her hair, even though I could still get away with leaving it loose.

By June I was getting better and tried dividing it into more sections (though it was still too short in back for this to stay—wow, she has a lot more hair now):

Then I was able to try making teeny tiny braids and finishing them with snaps:

I have to say that although I usually don't do beads, I love that if I want to, I can easily change the whole look of her hair with different styles and snaps and beads. I had fun with it on the 4th of July. Voila, fully accessorized patriotism!

(Okay, not fully accessorized: no flag pin.)

Anna definitely has hair that's the exact opposite of mine. I think it's pretty high on the scale of thick and curly. And it grows up/out. Don't get me wrongI love her loose curls, especially right after a bath when they are incredible tight spirals (I will try to get a picture soon). But they don't stay defined well for too long, and now her hair is so long and thick that if I don't put at least some of it in puffs or braids, combing it out becomes difficult enough to well exceed a 19-month-old's attention span. And I need to save as much of that attention span as possible for getting the ponytails sectioned off before she starts, in an apparent attempt at humor, shaking her head no no no no no no no. You try doing that to your hairstylist sometime and see how well she does.

But my braiding is getting better and it's getting easier with a little more length to grab. My parts go a lot faster and are straighter. I can even get a couple days out of a style before redoing it, or just keep the parts and redo the puffs or braids.

So I'm partly just noting my progress and partly surveying for tips here: How are the rest of you who are new to handling this kind of hair doing? Those of you whose girls rock the cool headbands, what kind works best and how do you get your kid to leave it on (for the love of pete!)? Any product you'd recommend that might help me be able to leave Anna's free? Is Carol's Daughter all it's cracked up to be, for this kind of hair? What product? (And can you get Brad to come over and give me a demo?)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Morning Giggle with a Side of Silly

I have found the perfect T-shirt for our friend Gus:

You have to click the link to see the image. Do it, because the words alone don't capture it.

That is, ahem, deliciously ridiculous.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ketching Up

On the child front, the next tooth has finally broken through. It's a whopper. She did wake up at 2:00 a.m. and refuse to go back to sleep the other night, though. How is it that when you plan to get up early and be productive, that's when they keep you up half the night? They know. I don't know how, but they know.

Anna's been quite successfully eating all table food too, although I have to use up the mystery cubes that are in the freezer somehow. Fortunately she doesn't know that toast isn't usually spread with mushed veggies. I think I really just needed to get some more kid-friendly foods on hand—well, I had to get any food on hand, because we were down to no cereal, bread, mac and cheese, or toilet paper, and that is NOT COOL. If she only eats a couple kinds of veggies right now, so be it. It'd be nice if she'd eat more of our meats, but there are enough others she eats. I got some frozen chicken nuggets and she likes those and pretty much anything with ketchup.

Did you know they say ketchup is one of the things you should buy organic because it's where many people, especially kids, get a large portion of their veggies and organic has 57 percent more lycopene? True story. Not that I do it.

Tonight a friend who knows the new-ish neighbors we've only caught glimpses of is introducing us to them. What can I say, we need to be set up because we're not very good at meeting our neighbors although we're still desperate stalkers of anyone who looks like they might be under 35 and able to hold a job other than a certain kind of illegal distribution. So I've been busy today making iced tea and brownies and pico de gallo—or as my husband adorably calls it, pico de mayo—and decluttering toys and chasing down dust bunnies. Because if you can't keep up with the Joneses, you can at least offer them a place to sit that's not covered in cat hair.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Don't SAHMBOSS Me(me) Around

This is Porter’s fault.

She tagged me with this meme/award which is now known as The Super Awesome Hot Mama Blogger or some [edit:] shizzle (SAHMBOSS) meme/award. So you can blame her for the introduction of naughty language to this blog (oh, you know you say it too), the ensuing waste of your time, and in the case of some of you, your being tagged too.

Below are my answers to some scintillating (or not) questions. I have tried to incorporate “ice cream” into as many as possible. Then I will “tag” some more of you SAHMBOSS chicas to post your answers, tag your friends, yada yada yada, we’ll all know way too much about each other.

Let the SAHMBOSSing around begin!

A. Attached or single? Attached via wedding ring.

B. Best friend? My husband. (It can be both true and a cop-out, right?)

C. Cake or pie? Pie. Or whatever comes with ice cream.

D. Day of choice? Friday.

E. Essential item? Laptop with wireless. Camera. Toothbrush.

F. Favorite color? Yellow.

G. Gummy bears or worms? Not a fan of either, but the worms have an extra ick factor.

H. Hometown? Rockpile, MI.

I. Indulgence? Staying up way too late eating Chinese food and ice cream and watching mindless TV.

J. January or July? Clearly someone in the desert wrote this meme. July!

K. Kids? One and only.

L. Life isn’t complete without? Purpose. Community. Food. The great outdoors. Ice cream.

M. Marriage date? No, we don't go on dates; we're married. Oh, when did we get married? June 21 (the longest day . . . insert joke here) of 1997.

N. Number of brothers & sisters? 1 older brother.

O. Oranges or apples? Apples – they equal fall.

P. Phobias? Uh . . . pregnancy? Ice cream shortage? Four more years? Losing health insurance.

Q. Quotes? “Assemble in your imagination all the friends that you enjoy being with most, the companions that evoke the deepest joy, your most stimulating relationships, the most delightful of shared experiences, the people with whom you feel completely alive—that is a hint of heaven.” —Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

R. Reasons to smile? My daughter’s smile. My husband’s laugh. Hints of heaven. Ice cream in the freezer.

S. Season of choice? Fall (aka football season).

T. Tag seven peeps! (see below)

U. Unknown fact about me? In first grade I wrote stories about two guys named “Something and Nothing” which were apparently ripped off for Dumb and Dumber, except mine were funnier.

V. Vegetable? Corn on the cob fresh from the garden, or really anything fresh from the garden.

W. Worst habits? Potty mouth, wasting time on the Internet, procrastination, staying up too late.

X. X-ray or ultrasound? Uh, who wants either?

Y. Your favorite food? Ice cream.

Z. Zodiac sign? Leo, not that I understand what that constellation has to do with my 1/12th of the population. But I do like lions.

I’m tagging:

RMM, Cat, Amy, Gretchen, Ren, Jenny, Carrie, and anyone else (mama or not!) who wants to join the fun. Get on it, you SAHMBOSSes!

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Gathering Worth Getting To

Just the girls went to the Ethiopian adoptive families' gathering on Friday because Aaron's back has been giving him heck and six hours in the car would have given him even more painful misery. I know this because I was feeling mild misery myself by the time I got home at midnight, and as I was leaving home in the afternoon I did think This is insanebut it was worth it.

Anna is not a great car traveler, probably because most of our trips around this small town last about four minutes. A long ride is thirty. This was three hours. She slept one hour, whined forty-five minutes (didn't help that the sun was hot on her), then I stopped for a little bit to eat and to break it up before the last forty-five.

Inquiring moms want to know: How does a brand stinking new Burger King have faux granite tile but not have a baby changing station? Eh, my van's cleaner anyway. Okay, it's filthy, but at least I know whose residue it is on that floor.

The party was wonderfully delightful chaos with all the kids running around. I only knew a couple people coming in but got to meet too many to keep straight—let alone match with their kids and husbands. There were more people than I expected and over twenty kids, mostly under age four. Anna didn't know what to think or do at first! But she got brave and found some slightly bigger kids to follow around and smaller babies to steal toys from and pour water on (er, "share" her water with). And she is never shy about approaching someone with food she wants!

I find it interesting to watch families in a setting like this. Who hovers? Who plays? Who gives their baby cake? Who's responsible for this child seeking buried treasure in the dirt behind the bushes? I probably hovered more than I normally would since I'd never been there or met these people and didn't want my child to be the one diving off the rocks onto the pavement and requiring an ambulance. And believe me, she tried.

We really are blessed to have such a great network of families so close by, even though it usually seems like such a long trip to go see them. I know we could have called on them had we had more bumps on our adoption road or when Anna first came home and know they will be a great support for other issues we may face more in the future as a transracial family. And there's just something awesome about seeing that many gorgeous little ones with the same roots running around. I do hope we can make more area/agency gatherings in the future. But I may just spring for a hotel.

Did you seriously think I was going to share?

Quick links, stolen from Habesha Child:
If you want to track the Ethiopian athletes during the Beijing Olympic Games, this site is a good resource.
And here is the schedule of all the events in which Team Ethiopia is competing. (Warning: this page has Olympic spoilers—the Latest Olympic News ticker will tell you how many medals Michael Phelps has won. If it can keep up.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday: Falling

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Work Hard, Play Hard

Crazy days. This week is looking to be divided into the categories work hard (last few days) and socialize hard (next few days). I finished a project, am starting a new one, and have another lined up for after that with possibly another to follow. I would say "The Universe" received all my positive vibes and sent me the work I so desire, except thathere's a Secret for yaI think that's a bunch of baloney since people who talk this way can't seem to decide whether "The Universe" is a person, place, or thing.

The universe also failed to provide my true desire, which was for my daughter to go back to sleep after she woke up at 5:35 a.m.

Today is the first preseason game for the Lions. We plan to watch via a series of tubes (Internet) before moving on to the important task of going to friends' house for dinner and to steal play with their Wii.

The other day Aaron put Anna in her Detroit Lions pajamas that were way too big for last year. I came downstairs to say goodnight and she showed me all the lions, pointing and whispering Raaar. Raaar. Her lions always whisper. Insert your own Detroit Kittens meow joke here.

As for Brett Favre, I can't believe he's a Jet now. Even more sad is that now the NFL Network will stop playing that footage of him working out in Mississippi. Where it's hot. Very, very hot. And sweaty . . . and tan. . . . Sorry, you were saying? Oh, right. Jets. Whatever.

Tomorrow we are going up to Portland for an Ethiopian adoption shindig organized around the presence of the lovely Paige, Chou of Habesha Child, and others who are gathering to work on the foundation they started called Ethiopian Orphan Relief. We never make it up to these kinds of gatherings, so this will be our first time meeting some of my online friends (and people I just stalk, ha) from Portland as well as the esteemed visitors. But some of our kids go way back, of course, to their Toukoul orphanage days. Doesn't that just blow your mind?

Please do hop over to the Ethiopian Orphan Relief site and see what they're working on. The funds they raise will help the various organizations in Ethiopia that they have partnered with provide the kids they serve with the things they need and complete projects such as playgrounds and water filtration. I'm eager to hear about it firsthand. And that means you're going to keep hearing about it!

Saturday we are slated for dinner with friends in late celebration of my birthday. I guess if I can't have a Wii, I get to pick the place. (This is our running joke now: "Look at that yacht! You can get me one of those, but if I can't have that, I want a Wii.") Hmm . . . in lieu of Wii, Chinese food or seafood?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Monday, August 04, 2008

My So-Called Work Life

I don't write much about my freelance work here since (1) it's largely me sitting at my computer reading, how much is there to say? and (2) obviously I can't identify projects or clients, though some authors say the darndest things which would make for entertaining blogging.

I'm pleased to report that despite being without Aaron and then our long slacking-off vacation period, I actually did some work and earned some money in July. Some years it seems like the publishing world grinds to a halt in July and I've ended up twiddling my thumbs. This time I had the work and simply took a break from it, but I've already made up for a lot of that and hope to keeping pushing through August and beyond.

For too long I've been the World's Laziest Freelancer. After I left my publishing job and starting working freelance for them, when we moved to Oregon, I didn't even bother finding any other clients for about three years because hey, they kept me busy enough and I earned enough to get by. I didn't treat it like a businessmore like something I did a little bit of in between important youth ministry work and frivolous walking on the beach (and the important work of walking on the beach with frivolous youth).

By the time it occurred to me that we really should have one of those mythical emergency funds I'd heard tell of, life started coming after us to show me why. Travel to see family got expensive. We got a house and the siding ate our savings. I found out just how much eye surgery, MRIs, and heart surgery cost, and even though we have decent insurance, the copays, labs, and prescriptions started to add up. The church budget tanked. We took on adoption and travel to Ethiopia and the budget-buster that is baby formula. And, of course, our beloved human distraction, whose limited command of the English language is so far holding her back from being much help in the family business, has been teaching me the difference between working at home and being a work-at-home mom (it's kind of like the difference between one job and two jobs three jobs one job with seventeen thousand tasks per day).

Yet I've been trying a bit harder to think of my work as a business and expand my "client list" and it's been starting to pay off. I've also had some conversations about work or jobs come to me on someone else's initiative, which is great for the self-esteem even if no work comes from them. Maybe I could really do this thing.

Still, I have to remind myself when it gets slow and/or I don't get any feedback on my work and I wonder, as every freelancer does, did they figure out I'm a fraud and cross me off their list? that they like me, they really like me!, or they wouldn't keep saying so or sending me work. And the nightmare I had about being made to take an editing test when I dropped by my old workplace didn't come true. Maybe I should really do this thing.

Time to push harder and find out how far I can go.

Everybody needs an editor, and yes, today I can say with great some temporary confidenceI'm a good one. Tomorrow? Tomorrow I may well feel like an unwanted, bankrupt incompetent again. Such is the freelance, writing, and creative life.

If I weren't so alone and afraid
They might pay me what I'm worth
Mark Heard, "Nod Over Coffee"