Saturday, December 8, 2007

Socks, sleep, the internet

I'm up in the middle of the night again. Well, actually it is almost morning now (4:47am). This seemed like a great time to share one of my favorite factoids.

Research shows that people who wear socks to bed fall asleep faster than those who don't.

Maybe I should have put socks on 4 hours ago when someone woke me because they needed to use the potty.

The internet is an interesting thing (really this is related to the sock tidbit). Looking for the original source on the sock information - I read it in the newspaper years ago - I Googled "reseach socks sleep." The newspaper bit I read had a specific number that intrigued me, along the lines of sock wearers fall asleep 30 (or was it 70?) percent faster. What I found is plenty of sites that note only that "research says." But no-one who actually cites the study. This site mentions it is a Swiss study, and good old Dr. Mercola explains the science behind it (or at least what sounds like credible science, I can't tell you for sure because he doesn't cite his source.)

So, in the spirit of the internet: Research shows people with bare feet who stay up in the wee hours of the night surfing the internet are grumpier the next morning than those who put on socks and go back to sleep!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

For the record

Last week I had one of those “I’m exhausted and I can’t fall asleep nights.” My usual solution to that problem is to surf the web in the darkened living room until my brain slows down to feel the tiredness of my body.

This is not a good plan. Usually, I end up reading blogs from various perspectives on the adoption triangle. And usually, I find at least one post that freaks me out, neatly highlighting that I have NO idea what I’m doing, or clearly underlining how little I truly get what Rosie’s experience of the world is/will be.

So, as usual, I’m up surfing. And as usual I find a blog post that fills me with complete dread. What is unusual about this post is that I’ve already seen it multiple times - it is yet another link to the October 10 Seattle PI article , interviewing me as part of their announcement for the “Which Way Seattle: Transracial Adoption of Black Children?” panel discussion. What filled me with absolute horror about this particular link is where is was posted: Harlow’s Monkey . Harlow’s Monkey, as far as I’m concerned is one of the Meccas of the transracial adoption blog world. The writer is filled with knowledge, compassion, honesty and authenticity in droves. She is a pioneer and one of my current heroes.

So why do I care that she posted the link? Well, because of the article. Because working with the media is a messy thing. When a reporter interviews me regarding a topic I am passionate about, I expect my words to go through their filter, the editor’s mill and come out an imperfect version of what I really said and meant. When this article came out, hubby asked me what I thought, and my complimentary response was, “well, he kind of quoted me sort of right most of the time.” My mom loved the article (okay she loves anytime any of her children or grands end up in the media), my friends said it was “nice.” And usually I’m fine with that. They know me, they’ve already heard me talk at length about the subject. They understand when something the writer said doesn’t really jive with my point of view.

But this is different. Here is someone I deeply respect who barely knows I exist, has no idea who I am, and has no basis for determining if what the article says I said really aligns with who I am. And this is her (an all her readers’) introduction to me. Yikes!

To be honest, interviewing for this article could not have been easy that day. Apparently the PI decided at the last minute to run an article. I’m not sure John Iwasaki was given much time to think through the subject. I was contacted by WACAP, our adoption agency to see if our family was available to do the article. I figure they picked us because they know we’re homeschoolers and would probably at home during the day and in time for Mr. Iwasaki to do the interview, write his article and still meet the deadline. Also, interviewing me could not have been easy. Theo’s in a shy-with-strangers-cling-to-mommy phase. Rosie loves new people and was pelting Mr. Iwasaki with her own line of questioning. It was lunchtime, my kids and I were hungry and working on low blood sugar. And we were babysitting a friend’s two year old. Which means Mr. Iwasaki and I were trying to have a complex adult conversation with three hungry kids demanding our separate attentions.

So just to put it out in the ethers and for my peace of mind:

  • The article says “Through the first three years of adopted daughter Rosie's life, Cole busied herself with being a mom. The sociological effect of the adoption never seemed particularly relevant to the white woman.” What I said was that my primary focus was on creating a strong attachment with Rosie and that the focus on our relationships to the outside world were a far second.

  • The bit about Rosie noticing other African Americans is right, though off a little on our time line. She was in her 2’s when she made it really clear that she was aware who looked like her and who didn’t. “I thought this was a big deal” was an abbreviation of my reaction that, “Oh, we’re at a new developmental level. This is a big deal - It’s time to change our focus from filling her baby-love cup to creating her attachments with the outside world.”

  • Before Bill and I were married, we hatched a plan to have 4 children in our family. At the time, the idea of birthing 4 children into a world where so many kids are not getting their basic physical and emotional needs met seemed highly irresponsible. I’m a little foggier on the “high mindedness” of this idea now, but we’d still really like to adopt more kids into our family. Our basic agreement is still 4. I say I have options on 6. Bill laughs.

  • I have two refinements to the final paragraph: "My biggest responsibility is to prepare her for how people perceive her and make decisions based just on how she looks," Cole said. "I think that's the challenge for parents of any child of color."

    • In my conversation with the reporter, I believe what I said went something more like this: “As far as transracial adoption goes, one of my biggest responsibilities….” I really did get at Pact Camp that for most transracial adoptees race trumps all other questions of who and how to be in the world. And Rosie is a complex little person who will need to have a full understanding of the multiple layers of own racial identity. Helping her navigate how other people perceive her is important, but probably not as important as how she defines and accepts herself.

    • About this being a challenge for the parent of any child of color, I would just add that my next sentence got edited out. It went something along the lines of, “And for those of us who don’t have the personal racial experiences our children will have, it has an added level of difficulty for which we need to be truly diligent and resourceful.”

      I’m extra sensitive to how John reported this comment because of a recent post by Tama Janowitz in the New York Time’s series called “Relative Choices.” I, and others in the adoption community, found her post astonishing and offensive from a variety of perspectives. I fear being lumped into her camp, “parenting an adoptive child isn’t really any different than parenting a biological child.” Personally, I’m of the deeply held conviction that parenting our TRA children comes with challenges we will never face with our biological children. Two specific ones: being separated from their biological mothers creates a deep primal attachment wound I am convinced will affect our kids their entire lives. Secondly, being a different color than intimate family creates the “Outsider Within” phenomenon that necessitates that these children question and search for their racial identity in a way my look-like-me children never will.

And with that, balance is restored to the universe.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Nutcrackers

Come November 1, the people in my household undergo a miraculous change. Theo becomes a Prince, Rosie transforms into Fritz, I hail to Marie, Bill to Godfather Drosslemeyer, and Maggie’s doggie features become Mouse King traits. For 2 months, we are a living Nutcracker household.

I have no idea WHY we purchased our first Nutcracker DVD, Theo was 3 and Rosie about 6 months and most decisions from that time period are fuzzy. Anyway, we acquired a copy of the George Balachine and the New York City Ballet's Nutcracker and Theo watched it hundreds of times. He memorized every movement of every dance. He was the Nutcracker Prince (played, gasp, by Maucauly Culkin) for Halloween.

A year later, fearing that he would become bored with the same version over and over, I bought him a copy of the Ballet of the Slovak National Theater Nutcracker, which he proceeded to watch probably 50 times before coming up for air. Titillated by a second version of the Nutcracker, Theo wanted to see more. I wanted him to experience the beauty of live music and the thrill of seeing the dancers on the stage. So we got tickets to the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker. He sat on my lap through the entire performance, and I experienced his thrills through the tremble of his little 4 year old body when soldiers rolled out their cannons, also his complete anguish of living though the lovely (and thus boring) dance of the Snowflakes. We spent most of that Christmas season talking about the differences between Balanchine and Stowell/Sendak’s interpretations of the story.

When our third Nutcracker year rolled around, we were living with a real life ballerina, our new housemate Jana! Having a dancer in our house, one that had participated in the Nutcracker for most all her life, brought a new rule into our lives. No Nutcracker until after Halloween. It just didn’t seem right to subject her to the Sugar Plum Fairy in July. Mid-December, we went to see her dance in ARC Ballet’s "Taste of the Nutcracker". Theo was thrilled with the small scale performance and enjoyed being able to sit on the gymnasium floor right next to where the dancers were. He would not, however, talk to Jana after the performance because she was in costume. The rest of our post-Halloween season was split between careful study of NYCB, PNB, and Slovak versions. Theo stunned me with his own version of the doll-soldier dance, almost perfectly recalling Balanchine’s chorography though his little body could not always mimic as well as his memory.

Until this point, Rosie had been a Nutcracker tagalong, playing nearby the TV while Theo jumped up and down on the couch to various dances, sitting on my lap at the ARC performance, hanging out with Daddy while we went to see PNB. At 2½, Rosie came into her own. She discovered I had the Nutcracker music on CD, and introduced Theo to the joys of dancing around the living room. Soon, I had two sword-wielding, stick horse-riding children propelling wildly through the house for what seemed like hours at a time.

Last year, we added The American Ballet Theater’s Nutcracker to our collection, with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland. The kids only needed to view it a few times to integrate the differences between this and all the others. Theo’s interest in the Nutcracker eased, willing to watch the DVDs and attend the PNB performance, no longer spending every moment of the day as The Prince. Rosie’s first words in the morning, however, became “call me Fritz.” Her adoration for the wild little brother who breaks the Nutcracker in an act of spite entertained us all. Within a week, she had all of 4 the adults in our household trained to begin and end every sentence addressed to her with “Fritz.” “Fritz, will you put on your socks please, Fritz?” garnered all sorts of smiles and cooperation from her that made the game worthwhile.

As the summer air cooled this year, Rosie anticipated the arrival of Nutcracker season. In September she was already asking to get it out. Thankfully our Jana-pity rule allowed me to easily put off getting out the DVDs until November 1. It was hard to tell this year if Rosie was more excited about the fun of Halloween or the joy of the first Nutcracker viewing. Quick agreement was reached about which ballet to begin with – New York City Ballet is always our first. But all this careful study over the years has lead to discriminating tastes. So now our routine also includes careful negotiations of which version to see, with both children reminding each other about the merits of preferred parts of the one they are hoping to see.

Theo still spends parts of his day as the Prince or a Soldier, scouting out empty rooms before I enter to protect me from the Mouse King, though he is more engrossed in comic books than the Land of Sweets. But Rosie has taken on his passions, telling people at the grocery store that her name is Fritz and calling me Marie throughout the course of the day. Our daily discussion center around complex analysis of all things Fritz. Why did he break the Nutcracker? How was he feeling? Maybe he should have taken a nap before the party? Does the Mouse King represent Fritz in Marie’s dream?

I like to think our years of interest and study in the Nutcracker is my children’s first literary experience: exploring different interpretations of a story, discussing characters and their motivations, learned how to compare and contrast many similar works.

In case you’re interested in the Nutcracker, here is our quick rundown of the versions we've seen:

New York City Ballet and George Balanchine By far the children's favorite for the narration and the many child dancers. Adults find Maucauly Culkin's wooden performance wearing after 15 or so viewings. We recommend this as the best way to introduce other children to the Nutcracker.
Ballet of the Slovak National Theater The children enjoy this production as it shows the dancers getting ready for the performance: applying makeup, putting on costumes, helping each other get ready. It has sparked the beginnings of understanding how much work goes into the performance, not just the effort of the dancers, but an entire team of people who create the costumers, the sets and make everything look and move along with the dancers.
Pacific Northwest Ballet While there is no DVD available for this, we do have a copy of the book. Stowell and Sendak team up to create a very different story where Clara and the Prince travel to a Pashima's domain rather than the land of sweets. The changed interpretation is stimulating for the kids. As big Sendak fans, we all enjoy the familiar, fantastical tone of the scenery.
American Ballet Theater As tastes in our household mature, the ABT version is becoming the preferred production. Who can resist the strong leaps of Baryshnikov or the grace of Kirkland? This is the one to watch if you'd like to truly admire the dancing. Also, my children have noted the story of this version to be "nicer." Clara and Fritz behave more as wound up, yet loving siblings that warring parties, and the Nutcracker is broken by a well-meaning but drunk guest rather than by Fritz.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Slippery Slope to Adulthood

Theo woke up this morning looking like a cross between Beast Boy from Teen Titans and Bucky the Cat from Get Fuzzy.

By this evening, he looked like a seven year old, just in time for his birthday.

What’s a mama to do? I’m still cherishing the day he got these teeth, now he’s busy losing them. And you know what replaces them? Adult teeth!!

I reel at how fast my little man grows.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Why I Homeschool

There was much research and thought in the series of choices that lead us to homeschool our kids. But from time to time something happens that tells me why, today, right now, I homeschool our kids. I had one of those moments last week.

Around 2:00 on Tuesday, we went to buy boxes for the move, (Yes, we bought a house. More on this later). The man selling them helped us transfer the 125 empty flattened boxes to our car. Apparently he enjoyed the kids because he gave them each a roll of bright red packing tape, I suppose with the idea that they could use them to help with the box rebuilding. As soon as we got home, both kids flew out of the car and around to the back yard. Jana and I were busy moving boxes from cars to house and didn’t check in on them. 20 minutes later we found them in the back yard creating a giant red spider web with the tape. They spent the next hour happily expanding their creation.

I cannot begin to verbalize why when I came around the corner to check on them I had a deep, gut level “yes, this is why I homeschool my kids”, but I did. Maybe something about the freedom to use their imaginations, maybe something about the joy of seeing them engrossed in creation together as a team, maybe just the sheer delight that they were outside using their bodies and brains in the beauty of a November day. Maybe something else, but whatever generated the feeling, I always cherish the moments of internal validation that homeschooling is the best thing for my kids.

The Fashion Way

Years ago, friends and I worked through Julia Cameron's 12 week creativity course, The Artist’s Way. The work was intense and reveling, we felt empowered. We so enjoyed each other’s weekly company that we craved something more (can you tell this was pre-kids?). All of us were feel fashion-inept at the time, so we decided to create our own personal course we called The Fashion Way.

Based mostly on a book we found by Jennifer Robin called Clothe your Spirit: Dressing for Self Expression, we set out to shift our vision from using the arts to express our creative selves to using our bodies as our own palates. Focused on finding each person’s own assets and personality, and boosted with hilarity-inducing pictures from the 80’s, the book actually did a reasonable job of helping me identify what I like about me, both my body and my “spirit”. It also gave me the idea of clothes as vocabulary for expressing who I am and how I want to be perceived as opposed to falling in line with what the media says I should look like.

Fast forward 10 years, I still rely on some of the underlying principles I learned alongside my girlfriends. And, my wardrobe needs are radically different. My requirements as the homeschooling mom of 2 young kids may be the direct opposite of those I had working in a casual corporate environment. Last year, I once again found myself in my closet cursing the closet full of clothes with nothing to wear.

Enter MissusSmartyPants. A recommendation from FlyLady, I discovered her site during one of my midnight surfing binges. Mom bought me a subscription to her site and I’ve been enjoying her weekly diatribes. Though her theories spend little time supporting my woo-woo urges to express my inner spirit through my clothing, she makes the mechanics of what to buy, how to wear it and where to buy very simple. Her emails every week allow me to spend a few minutes remembering what it feels like to think about just me, linking me back to the self-loving, navel gazing young woman I used to be.

Here is some of my favorite bits from MissusSmartyPants:

List for a "seasonless" basic wardrobe:
2 Pairs of Pants. One black, other pair in a neutral color (in seasonless fabrics)
2 pairs of jeans. One casual style, other pair darker and dressier.
1 dress. Basic black (or other dark neutral) that can be dressed up or down. A simple sheath dress is best.
2 shirts/dress blouses. White or ivory & 1 colored
V-neck tee shirts. White, black, etc. and with some stretch (fitted)
3 sweaters. Seasonless and lightweight
2 jackets. Tailored, must coordinate with pants (one can be a denim jacket)
1 skirt. Basic black (or other dark neutral) in mid-weight fabric (like garbardine)
1 purse. Classic design/shape. Opposite to your body shape (for example: if you are curvy, a rectangular purse with structure)
Basic shoes. Black and brown pumps, flats, mules, and pair of sneakers
** Style Tip: You can stretch your wardrobe if own two shirts for every pant (or skirt). Pants and skirts can be repeated more often.

A concise list of fashion DOs for my body type
I’m a type “B” Beautiful Me
Tips for pants (usually my down fall because of my small waist, ample hips and long legs) include:
· Choose only flat front pants.
· Pants should be mid-rise (below or at navel) and ease into a straight leg.
· Average to taller “B’s” can wear a more flared pant.
· A flare or boot-cut pant balances the curve of the hips
· Shorts should be the length of a mini-skirt (mid-thigh), or should be at the knee (Bermuda, city shorts) to be attractive on your legs.

A color palate for my best colors
Spring Colors
Warm tones like ivory, beige, camel, golden yellow, peach, bright green, salmon or warmish pinks and violet. Warm light and bright colors are best. Avoid black and blue-reds. (again, blogger and I have differing opinions about formatting and it won't let me import the image with the color chart - sorry)

Shopping recommendations
My weekly subscription features shopping recommendations for my body shape with real pictures from real websites. Not that I do much shopping these days, but I enjoy the pictures and the information does influence my occasional outings to the thrift store. In danger of sounding lame, so far my favorite tidbit from these weekly missives has been a pointer to the pantyline-free undies from Jockey.

Probably my favorite thing about MissusSmartyPants - her emails every week allow me to spend a few minutes remembering what it feels like to think about just me, linking me back to the self-loving, navel gazing young woman I used to be.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Sleep soapbox

Most of you know I have a deep passion for the biological imperative for humans (of all sizes) to get enough sleep. Some of you might be tired ofhearing about this, even.

Here is a really great article on the effects of loss of sleep on schoolaged kids.

And with the compelling information that our kids (and their parents) really need to get "enough sleep", here are the research numbers on what "enough"sleep is. Remember, for adults, it is 8 hours, and for all ages, these numbers are +or- 15 minutes. According to the vast amounts of research, there are no exceptions, just more or less well hid levels of sleep debt. Keep in mind, too, that especially for babies and toddlers, this is the amount of sleep they get in a 24 hour period.


Hands down, my favorite book about sleep is Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's Sleepless in America. If you need ideas getting more sleep for your kids or yourself, let me know. I'd love to support your family in finding the rest and peace you need!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Pact Camp: First Glimpses Out of the Race and Adoption Fog

This is part of a series of posts about our expereinces at a camp for families formed through transracial adoption.
Intro is Pact Camp: An Introduction
Part 1 is
The Information
Part 2 is Challenges on Planet Barnacle
Part 3 is First Glimpses Out of the Race and Adoption Fog

First Glimpses Out of the Race and Adoption Fog

Usually in an environment where I know no-one and know nothing, I keep my mouth shut. For the most part I did at Pact camp. But there was one conversation I really wanted to join in. The concept I was trying to communicate had to do with hearing someone else’s intentions. What I actually said had little to do with that and came out really wrong. Sounded dumb and wrong and clueless. And as I felt it all coming out wrong, my attempts to fix it went even more wrong. Finally I just stopped talking. But I’ve spent part of everyday berating myself for it.

I’ve reflected quite a bit on the shame and self-hatred that came out of that moment. And here’s what I think drives it. Bill and I wandered cluelessly into this world of transracial adoption – so completely steeped in our upper-middle class thrones of white and class privilege that we couldn’t even conceive of them. We just assumed we could give an African-American child everything they need. I am filled with anger and bitterness at our arrogance and at the system that so readily encouraged our uninformed plunge into this task for which we are so woefully unequipped – leaving our truly amazing adopted child at risk for so many degrees of hurt.

My moment of public abstruseness laid out for the room to see how much I don’t get it. How unprepared I am to meet some of Rosie’s most basic needs. I like to be organized, informed, tidy, protected. Having my ignorance bared for all to see shamed and horrified me.

But here’s the thing – now everyone knows the comprehensive levels of my cluelessness (including, importantly, me). Now I can be totally frank with the people in that essential room (and you who read this) that right now Rosie and our family are in trouble. And now I have the truth, tools and resources to begin creating a world in which Rosie can grow up supported in her very personal journey to discover who they are and what is special, meaningful, lovable and powerful about her.

Like an alcoholic, I have struggled with the first step – admitting I have a problem. The shame and self-hatred of being powerless has washed over me. Now I can move on, find our family’s own steps to living in a sane world that acknowledges the truth of all parts of each of us. Now there is hope.

Pact Camp: Challenges on Planet Barnacle

This is part of a series of posts about our expereinces at a camp for families formed through transracial adoption.
Intro is Pact Camp: An Introduction
Part 1 is
The Information
Part 2 is Challenges on Planet Barnacle
Part 3 is First Glimpses Out of the Race and Adoption Fog

Challenges on Planet Barnacle

Pact Camp logistically was hell for me and the kids. We struggled mightily with food, relationships and scheduling. It didn't seem like others struggled, so I fear this was an unfortunate planetary misalignment for our family. We are a little high needs and quirky.

I had anticipated a few challenges with food and had called and talked with the camp organizer in advance. I brought extra snacks and lots of oatmeal, she told me the kitchen would be aware of our food restrictions and work with me. Sounded like we were good to go. I was in no way prepared for what we came up against. The kitchen understood there were people who couldn’t have eggs, corn, wheat, and pineapple. What they didn’t get until 3 days into it (despite my repeated conversations) was that it was all the same 6 year old boy. Their repeated offering for his alternative food choice was a big plate of tofu and creamed vegetables.

Now, we’re pretty exotic and diverse eaters. A normal month will see us eat foods from around the world: India, Japan, Africa, Thailand. My son loves seaweed, roast duck, taro and buckwheat. But handing him a plate of baked tofu and veggies just isn’t going to make it past his 6 year old palate. For 3 days I had a kid who fed on a few offerings from each meal. A breakfast of sausages and oatmeal isn’t that bad, but follow that up with a lunch of a slice of turkey and some grapes, then a dinner of a few ounces of chicken and some potatoes chips and by bedtime I’m facing an angry, starving beast who can’t sleep.

The final straw: Tuesday dinner we scavenged the buffet and came up with a plate of mashed potatoes, then hopefully headed to the kitchen for the “alternative” offerings – yet another scoop of tofu. Theo started whining, I burst into tears and we fled to the quiet of the trees to regroup. I skirted most of the other campers (because I hate to have people checking on me when I’m on the edge), and we found the camp organizer, who had already heard from the kitchen. She told me where I could find a kitchen to use and told me how to get to town. The kids and I piled into the car, and I only had to pull over twice to cry on the way to town. Once there, we filled our bellies with tons of delicious sushi, had an Ben and Jerry’s pity party (think 3 spoons and a pint of vanilla ice cream in the Safeway Parking lot). We made it back to camp about 11:30pm relaxed and armed with 2 bags of foods Theo could eat. From then on meals were tear free.

The other food challenge was the large presence of what our family considers junk food. Sugared cereals for breakfast, cake, cookies, or brownies for lunch and dinner, fruit “punch” and Nestle hot cocoa for drinks. My kids know we don’t eat these things, and we talked about the possibility of them being offered at camp several times before we arrived. But again, none of us were prepared for the onslaught. Every meal included a long conversation about why we don’t eat those things, why they are so fun to eat and how hard it was to have them available and watch other families eat them.

Probably the food issues would not have thrown us for such a loop if all of us weren’t emotionally raw from navigating the foreign seas of life with others in charge. Remeber, we're homeschoolers living in a city that is knee deep in child-let learning and reflective/active listening theories. At 9am, we were split into groups, 4-5’s, 6-7’s, etc and adults. We were in our groups until lunch time, then we had 45 minutes to eat and connect and then we were back in our groups for another 2 hours until “Family Time.” Family time was compromised by planned talks and activities with the amazing presenters and the hair clinics. Finally dinner was at 5:30, and then more programs planned at 6:30.

It was too much for us. Being group by age alone was enough to freak out my kids – the kids they connected with weren’t always just their age. Groups were further divided into boys and girls, a completely unusual concept in our part of the world and very disorienting to Theo who values the balance of boy and girl energy. The time away from each other was too concentrated, and the short time for meals was stressful. I quickly abandoned the hope to participate in the evening programs. We’re often winding down for bed around 6:30. And my kids don’t do well on shorted sleep.

Rosie’s group had an amazing adult working with them, a social worker and attachment expert from Minnesota. She “collected” Rosie (a la Dr. Gordon Neufeld) the first day, and Rosie was devoted to her the rest of the week. This soothed most of the experience for Rosie, though she still dreaded the act of separating through most of each break.

Theo, however, didn’t have an adult he was oriented towards and, from his telling, the kids in his group were not particularly kind or respectful towards each other or the counselors. Actually, it wasn’t just Theo who noticed this, our daily conversations with the head counselor for the 6-7 year olds mirrored Theo’s concerns. The counselor worked so kindly with Theo to help ease his experience. But the truth was that Theo’s cup just wasn’t getting filled. The rambunctious set of boys he was often group with , the very structured set of activities and the lack of time for imaginative play left him hurt, angry and aching by the end of the first 2 hours of the first day. And it just got harder from there. He and I talk a ton, worked with his counselor and cried a lot together. Finally Theo and I spent Thursday afternoon and Friday morning together playing foosball, talking and walking around camp.

So camp was wildly hard for us. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything harder that didn’t include a trip to the hospital. That said, because of the amazing information and presenters for the adult sessions, I anticipate going back next year, armed with my husband, plans for lots of alternate meals and a very well spelled out schedule of freedom and connection for Theo and Rosie.

Pact Camp: The Information

This is part of a series of posts about our expereinces at a camp for families formed through transracial adoption.
Intro is Pact Camp: An Introduction
Part 1 is The Information
Part 2 is Challenges on Planet Barnacle
Part 3 is First Glimpses out of the Race and Adoption Fog

The Information.

I came to camp desperate to understand what I needed to do to help our family become a safe and supportive place for Rosie to explore her identity and ultimately love and accept herself as a black woman raised in a white family. The volumes of solid information, practical advice, and heartfelt sharing of life experiences blew my mind. I’d been clinging to the idea of Pact Camp for the past 4 months, trying to keep myself from spiraling into a messy explosion of angst-ridden motherhood. What I was offered was far beyond my hopes and expectations.

The Speakers
There were many speakers at camp with very well organized presentations about an array of subjects related to transracial adoption. Maybe someone else will objectively outline them, but since I don’t have all week to write about the wonders of each presentation, I’ll just focus on my big take-always. One of the things I really liked about the presentations was that all of these people had direct experience with transracial adoption: adult TRAs, siblings, parents. And their professional lives reflected this. So all of the information we got was expert level but with the necessary underpinnings of true understanding, rather than just academic speculation.

Sue Harris O’Connor and Lisa Marie Rollins shared honestly about what it was like to be them growing up as transracial adoptees in white communities. Their descriptions of always feeling like “the other” – both in public and in the privacy of their own homes – and their honest conversations about not feeling fully accepted and beautiful were answers to questions I’ve been asking myself for a long time. Basically, what happens if we don’t move out of our Disney-white perfect neighborhood and lifestyle? Now we're house hunting.

Sue also communicated her racial identity model. This is so helpful for understanding Rosie’s world, I found it breath taking! Swiped from Susan Ito’s blog, here it is with Susan’s helpful examples.
· Genetic Racial Identity: this is the factual identity that comes from birth family. A person is half X, and half Y. They may or may not know the details of these facts, but this is what is. (for example: I know that I am half Japanese and half… something else)
· Imposed Racial Identity: this is what others assume/say/think about another’s racial identity. This is about people thinking that I just can’t be Asian, that I must be Jewish, or Italian, or Puerto Rican or whatever. Or this is about people thinking I’m not at all white. Or about people thinking I look just like their freaky aunt Betty. Many people experience this as racism or confusion or judgment, but it’s all about other peoples’ experience of you. Biracial/multiracial and transracially adopted people get other peoples’ imposed racial identity their whole lives. Susan Harris, in a different forum at the conference, read an incredibly poignant piece from notes that a nurse took about her as an infant in foster care: on days that she appeared to be especially “Negroid” in her features, she also seemed coincidentally “delayed” in social development; on other days, she seemed less black to the nurse, and oddly, also more “advanced.” (sigh)
· Cognitive Racial Identity: This is what a person thinks or knows themselves to be. I know that I am biracial/hapa. I know this with my brain.
· Feeling Racial Identity: (okay, this is where I really started blinking the tears) This, Susan Harris explained, is what you feel like inside. Regardless of what other people tell you, and regardless of what you even know to be true. This is where I say, I feel Japanese. Whatever that means. I feel Asian. I don’t feel half white because I feel like I have little proof or experience of that aspect of myself. I have not met or seen proof of my white birthparent. The three out of four parents I know (2 adoptive, one birth) are all Japanese. Despite the “facts,” this is all that I feel I am inside. She says that this feeling RI is not always in synch with the other kinds of racial identity: genetic or cognitive. At this point my brain was going BINGO BINGO BINGO, the cherries were all lining up, the slot machine lights were flashing and twirling and I just felt like one big Yes.
· Visual Racial Identity: This is when you need to use a mirror to understand who and what you are. Often transracial adoptees feel disconnected from their visual image (I know I am, although after forty-something years I’ve gradually, and I do mean gradually, started to get used to what I look like) and have a distorted racial image in the same way that people with eating disorders have distorted body images.

John Raible talked about the concept of transracialization . My nascent understanding is that this means not just living in an area where there are some people of color, but actually creating lots of meaningful long-term relationships with adults who look different than you do. He then asked us to question with whom we work, live, worship and drink. He introduced the idea of Allies, stating that in the struggle of race, there is no neutral. And he had plenty of practical suggestions for how to become racial Allies and how to begin to transform our lives. Suggestions beyond joining a church and putting our kids in a racially diverse school, which are two things our family is very unlikely to do.

Amanda Baden gave me some initial vocabulary for understanding the transracial part of our world, defining and using words like race, culture, ethnicity, white privilege and class privilege. None of these are unknown words to me, but presented in this context with her explanations, they now hold a more useful and meaningful place in my head.

Holly Van Gulden specializes in attachment. I loved everything she said and bough both her books about adoption and attachment. They’re at the top of my reading pile now. Her stories entranced us all, and she had a fascinating way of talking – using what she calls “parts language.” Like any new way of expressing oneself, it sounds really stilted at first, but she had several compelling examples of how it is effective with adults in professional settings. Basically you describe the parts of you and/or your child as you talk: your stubborn parts, your singing parts, my helpful parts, his sad parts. I, of course, had to try it out on my kids as soon as we reached the anonymity of the airport. Both kids have really responded to it, and so far I find that the conflict between us has diminished. Can’t wait to learn more through her books!

The Information and Concepts
For me, the best part of Pact camp was the relief that comes with the acknowledgement that yes, something is not right with our family. What a relief to have some initial vocabulary and concepts I need to start making the changes my mommy-instinct has been screaming about over the past several years.

I’ve talked about most of them, but there is one additional, giant idea I wanted to share, something I have never needed to see or understand before. Race is IMPORTANT – many of the speakers underlined that in their life journey, race trumps all. In dealing with all the challenges of transracial adoption, each of them first needed to resolve the issues of their racial and cultural identities and how they fit into the world before they could begin to move into understanding the layers of questions brought in by adoption.

The To-do List
So with this knowledge and compassionate professionals to set me straight, here are the action items I see for the next year.
- Get cultural-sensitivity and anti-racism training for both Bill and I
- Take a long hard look at where we live
- Exchange our extra-circular activities for more diverse ones in more diverse locations
- Figure out what is developmentally appropriate for conversations about race and racial identity with our children and start talking

The Compliment
Another great moment at Pact Camp was what I’ve been think of as “The Compliment.” Winter, the really loving, alive and fun woman in charge of the hair clinic, high fived me when she realized I’d been the one to braid Rosie’s hair. And another for doing the beads myself. Ah…… a little salve for the many wounds of hair anxiety. I don’t totally suck at this!!!

Pact Camp: an introduction

** Edited July 2011 - make sure to check our family's growth and progress with Pact via my Pact Camp 2011 post.

This is part of a series of posts about our expereinces at a camp for families formed through transracial adoption.
Intro is Pact Camp: An Introduction.
Part 1 is
The Information
Part 2 is Challenges on Planet Barnacle
Part 3 is First Glimpses Out of the Race and Adoption Fog

Pact Camp

At the end of June, the kids and I headed off to Pact Camp. Pact, according to them, “… is a non-profit organization whose mission is to serve children of color in need of adoption or who are growing up in adoptive families.” Pact Camp is, not surprisingly, a camp - a week long summer camp that focuses on the issues involved in transracial adoption. Parents have the opportunity to hear speakers on a variety of adoption, race and parenting topics. Children get the chance to spend time with other transracially adopted kids and their siblings, as well as interact with counselors who specialize in adoption and race.

In the past few years, as I trolled the Internet looking for information and advice to assuage my waves of fear about our family’s ability to help Rosie create a strong and loving self definition, I have come repeatedly across Pact. I don’t know what has been more reassuring to me, the answers they seem to help families find or the really hard questions they seem to be constantly asking.

In desperate need of face-to-face conversations with real live peope, I packed up the kids, our sleeping bags and three huge duffels of other random things that the kids *had* to have, and flew us down to San Jose. I’ve worked now for months to try and create the perfect posts that will succinctly capture the most important moments and take-aways from our time there. But the task is overwhelming. The sheer volume of information, plus the waves of feelings as I deeply begin to grasp the far reaching effects of race and adoption on my childern and our society as a whole are beyond my feeble powers of summerization.

Bear with me as I try to express myself. Here we go.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Summer Power

One of the things I love most about summer in Seattle - and this seems to come as a shock to most people - is the Blue Angels. There is just something deeply thrilling and truly awesome to me about watching those huge, heavy machines doing a screaming ballet far above me.

For four days in August, our yard randomly shakes with the thunder of jets passing directly overhead, kids yelling "there it is, there it is" and the dog woofing wildly. The past three years, the kids and I have driven down to the Museum of Flight to see them parked and hit the souveniers tent. And for the past two years, our family has enjoyed the airshow with our feet in the sand and waters of Lake Washington. This year we invited friends and made a potluck event out of the day.
As a homeschool mom, I'm constantly aware of the educational possibilities that arise during the day. I sometimes wonder what my kids are learning from this annual tradition. To admire the miliary and the mighty machines it creates? To swoon at the power we humans have learned to harness? Perhaps to understand the ambivilance, or duality, that many things in our life hold - the wonder of the gravity-defying jets and pilot precision versus the sadness of the purpose of the creation of such force and skills?
In the end, I hope they're learning something deeply positive and formative from it, because I love the planes and can't wait to do it all again next year!

Rosie at the Museum of flight with the jets.

Theo with the number 6 jet - important to him because he is 6 years old and it is one of the two solo fliers.

Saluting as we pass the Concord. Check out Theo's new flight suit!

Beach fun while we wait for the show to begin.

For Rosie, this much power is still best observed from Daddy's arms.

In true kid fashion, Theo became totally engaged in this sand castle minutes before the Blue Angels started flying and missed most of their acrobatics due to the construction of many towers.

PS. Sorry about the formatting in the post. Blogger can't seem to get it together.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Returning from summer

It has been over 6 weeks since I posted, I guess the lazy days of summer sucked me in. Actually, I have several posts written and languishing in my inbox as they aren't perfect yet. Will I ever learn? In the spirit of returning to the bloggosphere, I offer you my plans for dinner:

Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup with roasted marshmellows for dessert.


Sadly I predict that in 30 minutes my table will be brimming with ginger-teriyaki salmon, asparagus and a nice green salad. And maybe some raspberries with whipped cream for dessert.


Sunday, July 8, 2007

Breakfast: How about a kick in the head?

I hate morning. I have a variety of complaints about it – first of all there is the whole waking up part. I hate that. Then there’s this whole expectation about being polite to other people who talk to me before I’ve had my shower. I hate that, too. And finally there is the whole issue of breakfast. I really, really hate that.

Breakfast in my world is a nutritional minefield populated by grain-based syrup delivery devices (waffles, pancakes, French toast, oatmeal) and egg-based foods that neither Theo nor I can tolerate. It seems like everyone under the sun agrees that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Often this dictate is quickly followed by recommendations for the various sugar foods that instantly destroy any possible blood sugar balance for the day.

Fortunately thanks to the 20/20 program, my personal breakfast quandary has been resolved by the ubiquitous protein shake. Unfortunately the official 20/20 shakes themselves came with their own layer of angst. Specifically, soy protein isolate, which I think is really bad for our bodies. In hopes of finding a reasonable substitute, I sampled every single whey shake at Whole Foods, PCC and Seattle Super Supplements, pouring most of them out after the first sip. Mercifully, Heather jumped in to saved me with her own version.

In commiseration with everyone who hates morning as much as I do, I offer you the small relief of her quick, nutritious, delicious breakfast:

Breakfast V.07
2/3 Cup Lite Coconut Milk
1 Cup Frozen Blueberries
2.5 Oz. Orange Juice (or an additional 1/2 cup of blueberries)
1 Scoop (approx. 21 grams of Protein) of your favorite egg protein powder

Because I can never leave well enough alone, I change a few things.
- Rotate the frozen fruit
- Add 1 TBSP ground flax seed
- Skip the oj and add water instead
- Use whey powder instead of the egg powder. Because I’m going for the “whole food” experience here, I am mindful to get whole whey powder rather than whey protein isolate
- Add 1 tsp almond or vanilla extract
- Add 3-5 drops clear stevia liquid

Sunday mornings, however, still get to me. I have this internal desire for a special breakfast on Sunday mornings and have as long as I remember. Getting married provided a full time breakfast buddy, and I learned quickly that having pancakes or waffles first thing puts me into a horrible sugar coma for the rest of the day. That is when my feelings for breakfast changed from mild annoyance to true hate.

All the same, with Bill gone to Washington DC, this morning the kids and I concocted a eggless, gluten-free, pro-biotic laced waffle recipe. After carefully chipping them off the heart shaped waffle maker with our trusty wooden chop stick, I set the kids up with little mounds of waffle crumbs which they decorated with whipped cream, fresh berries and maple syrup. I happily (and smugly) sucked down my mango protein shake while the kids munched on their colorful mountains. Finally, the kids appetites satiated, they headed off to play. In a total moment of “how bad can it be” stupidity, I finished up the leftover waffle hills.

Five very short minutes later I felt like I’d been kicked in the head. The next few hours were spent taking very small steps and begging the kids to speak in quieter voices. Finally my brain took over and I slammed a large amount of protein and drank several quarts of water. The rest of the day has been mindfully spent eating carefully balanced meals and snacks with renewed resolve to stay loyal to my morning protein shakes.

Epilogue: our dinner tonight – Kraft macaroni and cheese. It will be good when Bill come home from the conference.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

a hopeful poem about anger

Usually when Bill is out of town for a length of time, I get short on sleep, patience and positive discipline techniques. So this week, I've had occasion to reflect on the edges of rage in parenting.

Today, Christina Springer, a poet and homeschooling mom that I admire posted this poem and it soothed my mommy soul.

a moment
i hope
the rage

turns into a cherry blossom, so
I can brew

wine from sunset ripened fruit.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sibling Rhythms

Somewhere along the way, Bill and I abandoned the need for a happy marriage. It’s just too much pressure. Instead, we’ve embraced the idea of happy marriage moments. To really feel those moments of connection and understanding, recording those flashes when our hopes and dreams of what being married would be actually coincide with the reality. Then letting those moments feed our souls and govern our stories of what our life together is really like.

I’ve been struggling recently with our children’s relationship with each other. It is loaded for me. A Newsweek article in Fall of 2006 nicely summed up my reading in which research shows that sibling relationships are foundational in our perception of who we are in the world. Core beliefs about ourselves that govern our personal and work relationships for the rest of our lives generate from the hours spent playing blocks on the living room for with our brothers and sisters. Over the past 4 years I’ve noticed that my kids’ willingness to play cooperatively together or beat on each other seems to go in spurts, not surprising related to their own developmental surges. Their advances in locomotion, conversation and intellectual skills almost always causes crisis in our home as they re-work who they are in relationship to each other and what to do about it.

We’re going through one of these rediscovery periods right now. Having been seriously working at our new developmental programs for about 3 months now, both children are changing noticeably. Despite having been through this almost every 6 months as we get new programs prescribed, I was blindsided as levels of strife in our days heightened this past week.

Two days ago, we had a group of friends around for dinner. Theo, who is currently obsessed with chess, set up a game to play with one of the daddies. Chess is beyond Rosie at this point, and she is wild with frustration and resentment about missing out on the fun. After days of being left out of the game, seeing him play with adult friends and being left on the side to watch was more than she could bear. With one mighty swipe, she knocked the board clear and shoved Theo across the floor. His reply, after days of putting up with her messing up his games and listening to her scream, was to start pounding on her.

After the fleeting thought of “what kind of parent do my friends think I am?”, I was washed with fear that I’m raising two little monsters who are going to abuse and destroy each other at this very early age, creating two broken people who would never be able to form meaningful relationships with others or hold meaningful jobs and ruining their lives forever.

In contrast, this morning while I was cooking breakfast Theo and Rosie built a fort out of couch cushions. They worked out where to put the fort, how to place the cushions, just the right way to hang the blankets. They each also added their own touches. Theo determined where the guns would go and while they constructed the perfect gun holders, Rosie initiated conversations about what to name her baby and where to change said baby’s diaper.

It was a sweet moment for me to overhear. One that warmed my heart and promised me that they are having a great time together and learning how to make space in their worlds for the whole of each other. Which of course will transfer to their lifelong ability to reach out to others and create fulfilling relationships that will bring peace and joy as they live to ripe old ages.

I have myself on a veritable mommy roller coaster. What I’m trying desperately to keep in mind right now is two things. One is the idea that getting punch in the belly by your sister or brother doesn’t actually hurt that much – the long-term lessons learned from the blow have more to do with how mommy or daddy handled the situation than the physical pain. The second is the notion that focusing on the moments of joy and understanding in my children’s relationship not only helps them see themselves as a brother and sister who love and enjoy each other (most of the time), but also helps create space for more of those happy sibling moments.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

In Vain

I grew up in Montana, and my family was very active in a Four Square church. Our church, which interpreted the Bible very literally, was very big on the Ten Commandments, and we were taught never to take the Lord’s name in vain. I grew up surrounded by people who were offended by the popular phrase, “Oh my God.”

20+ years later I live a very secular life in Seattle, stronghold of secular culture. I no longer flinch when I hear adults take the Lord’s name in vain, but part of me still cringes when I hear children doing it, especially little ones. Partly because much of my family still live in Montana and Wyoming and are very conservative, I’m mindful of the vocabulary I model for my children. I would hate to have our annual visit to the beloved grands and great-grands marred by a few deeply offensive words by my darling children. So I “Crumb it!”, “Darn”, “Dang”, “Fudge”, and “Heck-o-rama” with the best of them. It entertains me to try to be creative with my expressions of happiness and joy, too.

Now with that background information: everyday, twice a day, the kids and I spend an hour and a half doing the physical part of Theo’s brain growth programs. To organize them, we have each task (creeping, crawling, hopping, etc) on a page in a 3-ring binder. The children take turns flipping the pages to find out what we do next. Somehow Friday’s programs seemed to stretch deep into the late afternoon. As Theo turned the last page of the programs, onto the clean up page that indicates we are done, he declared loudly, “Glory Hallelujah!”

My immediate internal reactions:
“I have the funniest kid on earth!”
“Oh no, would praise to God from an atheist/agnostic kid be offensive in Wyoming?”
“I gotta watch what I say every minute with these kids.”
“Wow, these brain growth programs really work!”

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Nutritional Integrity

Here is a letter I've just sent to the Director of the amazing 20/20 Nutrition and Fitness program at our beloved ProSports Club.

Dear Dr. Dedomenico,

Next week as part of your 20/20 Lecture series, several of the nutritionists on your staff will be speaking about toddler nutrition. As an alumnus of the 20/20 program and the mother of 2 small children, I am pretty sure I understand the bulk of what they will present in the class. In that hour, your nutritionists will share information about how we as parents would do best to offer a proper balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates with a careful emphasis on the quality of carbs being offered: lots of veggies, fruits and a moderate amount of whole grains. “Treats” should have 9 grams or less sugar per serving.

However, as we check in and pass through the foyer on our way to drop our kids off at Discovery Bay you will have offered them: refined wheat bagels, fruit leathers, frosting covered cookies and muffins.

You have a huge case of institutional psychosis on your hands.

I love sugar. It is a yummy treat my family and I enjoy from time to time. But you do us a disservice by putting right at the eye-level (and reach) of our small children.

Don’t take the sugar and refined grained foods away – certainly let adults choose to indulge in them. But please, take them out of the reach and plain view of kids, sending the right message and relieving us of the power struggle. My suggestion is to only place at kid level (both inside the cases and out) foods that earn your 20/20 sticker of approval.

Will you support families in making the nutritional choices you advocate?

Sara Cole
ProClub member, 20/20 Alumnus, Mom

Monday, May 7, 2007

Some information about cancer and nutrition

One of my college buddies who still remains very dear to my heart was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months ago. At 37 weeks pregnant. Truly the stuff of nightmares. Her labor was induced a few days later, she delivered a healthy little girl and her family began the quest for appropriate cancer care, caring specialist and something like a peaceful, balance life for their two small children while in the midst of this terror.

E is from Viking stock. And Viking women are fierce. I am always awed to see her, her mother and her sister together. They know what matters in life and they make a mighty team. Finishing up her first phase of chemo treatment she is positive, humorous and seems to be handling things like hair loss with aplomb. I hold her and her family in my heart every day and hope this dreadful and surreal year will someday have the soft fuzz of an old dream for them.

Information is one of the few things I really have to offer at this time. Below is most of an email I sent to her recently after she asked me to find out what I could about breast cancer and nutrition. I’d just like to emphasis that I am while I have learned a ton about nutrition over the years, I am not any kind of specialist. If you have cancer or a serious malady, make sure to find a highly trained, information-driven specialist to work with who can truly hear your concerns and work with where you are at today.


At long last, here are all the nutrition ideas my brain has been storing to share with you. Of course, you know I’m just Sara and not an MD or ND or any sort of nutritionist, though I’ve had it out with most of the good ones lately! I hope some of these ideas help. If anything is unclear or if there are specific areas you need more information in, let me know and I’ll research more for you.

Here are the few things I’ve learned for sure:
· Glucose feeds cancer cells – so maintaining a balanced blood sugar level is very important. How do you do that?
· Eat protein at every meal/snack. Probably around 4-5 oz at meals and 2 oz at snacks is appropriate for you. Focus on lean meats like chicken, fish, certain cuts of beef and pork.
· Eat your carbohydrates WITH your protein. Nutritionally carbs should be tons of fruits and veggies, maybe a small amount of whole grain cereal items (bread, cereal, crackers), sprouted or sourdough will do your body best. Watch serving sizes on these so you get enough veggies and not too much grains.
· Make sure to get plenty of healthy fats with each meal. They are blood sugar neutral and help you body absorb nutrients. If you’re eating extra lean meats (think skinless chicken breast and some fish), make sure to add healthy fats to your meal. Keep an eye on your saturated fat intake – not because they’re bad, but because they’re good. Research is rapidly showing that saturated fats are antimicrobial to help keep our bodies clean, they also help our systems manufacture vitamin D. Good sources are avocados, coconut oil, palm oil, grass fed beef.
· Dairy is bad for glucose levels. Avoid it. I’ll be darned if I can find my article that supports this, but essentially dairy sends glucose off the charts for a fairly long time period. Looking for the convincing info….
· No sugar. Really, no sugar. Or maple syrup or agave nectar or honey or fruit juices. Or any of the things that essentially turn to sugar in our bodies: refined grains, potatoes, etc. For a while, you would even do best to avoid natural sweeteners like stevia. While stevia does not directly impact blood sugar, the sweetness on our tongues signals our bodies sugar is coming which in turn signals an insulin response.
· Exercise. Not so much cardio work, but muscle building work. If don’t know how you are feeling these days. This sort of thing may just be out of the question for you. If not, any gym will have weight lifting classes, or I have the world’s most hip, most information-driven, most mom-friendly personal trainer out there. (Um, yes, I am a little self conscious that I have a personal trainer, but she makes my whole world a better place.). Her blog is at Check out for more ideas.
· Dairy stimulates production of the “EFG receptor” which increases tumor formation. For a digestible discussion of this, check out my wonderful and nutritionally freaky personal trainer’s blog:
· Now that we’ve established that dairy is bad, culturally this is a really hard thing to give up. If you are going to have some, stick with cultured, fermented or raw. Think yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, sour cream or true raw cheeses (not heated over 105 degrees). Turns out brand matters in this, Nancy’s is a great brand for true cultured products. But really, for all the world it sounds like you are much better off without it.
· Soy is bad. Not the popular point of view right now, but it is. It is full of estrogen, which is something you just don’t need extra doses of now, or probably ever. Most of the popular literature out there recommends several servings of soy every day. Here is a complete and well researched article about the politics and dangers of soy
· If you really feel compelled to consume some soy because the institutions are promoting it, stick with the types of soy that Asian women from the positive soy result studies are really eating, in the quantities they consume: 1-2 TBSP/day of fermented soy: Natto, miso, tempah, shoyu/tamari.
· The food pyramid is a beautiful, political creation that represents various food industries well, but it doesn’t serve our nutritional needs well. Research doesn’t support the call for 6 servings of grains/day or 3 servings/day of dairy products. Bodies fighting cancer need great vitamins, minerals, antioxidants: fruits and veggies. Lots of them. According to several sources, at least 9 servings a day. Whew!
· Here is a great site, written by a nutritionist who was diagnosed twice with breast cancer. There is tons of great ideas and information on her fairly short site. She recognizes that there is not research to point to what the right “breast cancer diet” should be, but she’s made some great educated guesses. Her name is Diana Grant Dyer. I like her balanced approach to the confusion about soy, and dairy. I would substitute the below shake for the one she recommends on page 3.,,jdgd,00.html

Groovy information, right? But what can you actually EAT?

Here’s what we’re eating these days:

Breakfast shake (or anytime you’re starving need good nutrition and can’t hold it together to make something more complicated)
Throw all the ingredients in the blend and run until uniform. The longer you blend the more whipped the coconut milk will be.
2/3 cup light coconut milk
1/3 cup oj (or an additional ½ cup berries)
1 scoop egg protein or whey powders (21g) – avoid any “isolate” powders
2 TBSP flax meal
1 tsp almond or vanilla extract
1 cup frozen berries or fruit

Snacks – trying to balance protein and carbs and be nutritionally rich
Salami (nitrate free) and 1 piece of fruit
¼ nuts and 1 piece of fruit
Hummus and veggies
Duck breast w/ crackers or bread (they sell smoke duck breast by the pound at the Whole Foods deli)
1 apple and 1 TBSP nut butter
Left over breakfast sausages and a piece of fruit
Sourdough pretzels with apple butter, nut butter or some other dipping sauce
Celery with 1 TBSP nut butter
Chicken soup
Olive and a few slices of deli chicken (again nitrate free)
Blender ice cream

For dinners right now, I’m letting Leanne Ely be in charge. I bought her book, Saving Dinner the Low-Carb Way. It is a year’s worth of recipes by season, arranged by weeks. Each week has a menu and prepared shopping list, which makes things so much easier. Since it is low-carb, the recipes are mostly protein and veggies. Much to my relief and surprise most of the recipes are really, really good. A few are okay. Haven’t come across one yet that we just can’t eat.

Blender ice cream
1 pound frozen berries
1 cup liquid (cream, yogurt, kefir, young coconut water, coconut milk, a little cabbage juice)
¼ c sweetener
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 scoops protein powder (42g) – avoid any “isolate” powders
Put in blender, start at slow and increase speed. The ice cream will form 4 mounds around the blades when finished and will have the consistency of soft serve. Not all blenders can manage this recipe.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

A day in the life

Occasionally, all the stars align just perfectly so that there are a million really cool things to do in Seattle all in one short 24 hour period. This always sends me into existential crisis. Can I do them all? Can I justify dragging the kids to all of them? How many of them have true education opportunity? What about my commitment to create a peaceful world for my children and respect their needs for quiet space and puttering time?

Yesterday was one of those days. The lineup was huge: Seattle Tilth edible plant sale, a co-housing clothing swap, Open Day for boating season complete with boat parade just blocks from our house, free comic book day, a friend’s birthday party. Besides, of course, our normal Saturday routine of Aikido class, the grocery store and naps.

The kids and I quickly jettisoned aikido and the grocery store (who needs food?). The Tilth sale ranks high on my priority list – the master gardeners tell me which plants to use in what parts of my gardens and provide me with healthy little specimens I’m not too likely to kill. Plus there are crafts and Mighty-O-doughnuts!

Since free comic book day fell out of our heads, that left Opening Day, the clothing swap and the birthday. Turns out the birthday was a ride on the amphibious Duck boats and Theo was the only child his friend had invited. The special honor and the favored event closed that deal for us, the only trick being that Theo needed one of his parents along to feel safe. And if Theo and a parent went, Rosie NEEDED to go, too. Oh, and my brother had my car for the day to attend a hockey tournament in Everett.

Friday night Bill and I realized we needed a plan. A few minutes at the dining room table and several calls to the birthday family gelled everything for us.

Here is how it went:
Phase 1: Bill worked while the kids and I enjoyed the Tilth sale. We got a wagon full of plants, visited with a few friends, made pipe-cleaner arts galore and ate donuts until the line wait dwindled from 1 1/2 hours to a quick 15 minutes. We paid for our plants, did a little swinging at the playground, then Rosie dropped off for a nap on the way home.
Phase 2: While Rosie slept in her carseat and I made a car-edible lunch, Bill finished up working and Theo had some quiet time reading in the kid bedroom. After she woke up, Bill and the kids gathered up a few more clothes for the swap, and we headed out.
Phase 3: We met our birthday friends at the clothing swap, and after a couple of minutes at the swap (just enough for Theo to decide it was boring), they headed off for the Duck ride. Rosie had a mild crisis over the pack splitting up – she wanted to be with Mommy and she really wanted to ride the boats. In the end, the Ducks beat out mama and they were off.
Phase 4: I spent a fun half an hour trying on clothes with a dozen other women, claimed my treasures, and went home with Leah and Sophie, mom and sister of birthday boy. I enjoyed our quiet time of chatting over trimming rhubarb, cleaning strawberries and threading fruit kabobs.
Phase 5: The boat riders called to annouce the ride was over and suggested bringing home Thai food rather than meeting at the restaurant. They soon arrived, the kids made straight for the digging area, and we adults made up plates for everyone. The food was great, the adult conversation was engaging and the kids even managed to eat a few bites between stages of play. Ahhh.

24 hours after coming up with our Saturday master plan, we were back at the dining room table feeding our kids rice porridge and doing a clothing-swap fasion show. We marveled at how fun and peaceful our action packed day turned out to be.

Not every big day out works so wonderfully for our family, here are some important points about what worked well for us this time:
- Bill and I made a plan. We considered most of the options at hand and chose the ones we though would meet everyone's needs the best, yet at the same time being aware of our family as a whole.
- Every "event" in our day respected our children's needs to be kids: doing crafts at the Tilth sale, meeting up with friends at the clothing swap, playing baseball after eating take out rather than sitting quietly in a restaurant for dinner
- Our plans were flexible. Originally, I was going to accompany both kids on the boat ride, but Bill really wanted to be included, so we swapped. This gave him a fun adventure with the kids and face time with a dad with whom he shares parenting values. It gave me focused non-kid time at the swap and let me off the hook for the Duck ride, about which I was mildly enthusiastic. We choose to have take out instead of eat in the restaurant, this gave the kids freedom to play together without us getting after them to sit still and use medium voices. Both my kids need puttering time everyday, and they got to share it with their friends.
- Our kids got to make choices. Because they value costumes and exciting wardrobes so much, the clothing swap excited them. And as soon as it got boring they had an out. Rosie, though stressed by the choice, got to pick what was most meaningful to her.
- We had some quiet time at home in the middle of the day. Turns out that even the short 45 minutes we were home recharged everyone's batteries. The peace of our own food, our own beds and the comfort of our own home power us to go back out into the world.

As a record, Bill took a picture of me in all my clothing swap glory, making the rice porridge!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mommy anguish

On and off over the past 3 1/2 years, I've gone through seasons of anguish about my ability to teach Rosie to be a confident, happy, strong, self-loving Black woman.

My anguish has recently reached a fevered pitch. Over the past 6 months she has become very aware of the colors of the people around her. I am so aware of the lack of diversity in the world we have created - especially devoid of close relationships with blacks.

I'm convinced it is my fault. Probably Bill's, too, but for once I focus most of my blame on myself! It is amazing to me how white all our activities and choices seem to be: Aikdio, Suzuki guitar, our choice of neighborhoods, homeschooling, holistic health care, organic foods. Perhaps it is less a race issue and more a class issue. Whatever the cause, Rosie's need for group identification are not being met.

For the first few years of her life, our main focus was on satiating her with love. Opportunities to connect with a more diverse community escaped me. Now as she gets a little older, the possibilities seem a little more open. Things like T-ball at the local community center seem simple enough, we can do that.

But I have a huge need for community - to connect deeply with others who share my values. I see groups and activities I am drawn to - self help and women's empowerment seminars that are right up my ally. But they are targeted to African American women and I fear not being welcome. Showing up and being turned away, rejected as being part of the system that pushes them down, rather than welcomed as a desperate mama of a beautiful black child who longs to find a community to support raising her to be and love all that she is. I suppose this is all part of my story, that each of these women knows in her heart the mama agonies I suffer, but I still cling to them.

It keeps me up at night - the struggle between the agony of seeing her unmet needs and my fears of being unwelcome or rejected. I wish someone could sprinkle our family with pixie dust and make everything easy and right for all of us.

Friday, April 6, 2007

And the Summer Gods smiled upon us

The weather is amazing today. Warm sunshiney pure golden happiness. Currently the kids are running through the sprinkler in the back yard.

To add to our pre-summer delight we discovered a stevia sweetened soda pop, just what my childhood tastebuds desire on a day like today. Zevia comes in 3 flavors, we tasted and approved the orange soda today!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Peeks of homeschooling fun

I've recently been listening to a series of lectures on education by Lisa VanDamme. The CD I've just started focuses on motivation in education. My big take away so far (I'm maybe 20 minutes into it), is that if you provide children with appropriate material presented in an interesting and engaging manner, there is no need for motivating them. Of course, she explains it much better and qualifies things like "appropriate", "interesting" and "engaging."

Here are some pictures of the kids loving what we do and doing what they love.

Six year old cuteness

One of the major rights of passage when one is six is losing teeth. Theo swallowed the first lost tooth while eating ice cream. The second one he carefully extracted himself to insure he would get to put it under his pillow for the tooth fairy.

His mommy can't get over how cute he is!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Do I get some sorta prize?

Imagine this: it’s 9:45 pm. It’s been a long day that topped off a long week that has just wrapped up a complex and overwhelming month that required me to pull over and cry more than once while driving the kids around town. Tomorrow is Sunday. It is my morning off from kids, hubby and life. I’ve just snuggled up to my sweetie, got all the blanket and pillows just so when suddenly, “UGH” I remember I’ve forgotten to do my daily workout. In normal life this wouldn’t be a problem, right? Just pull the blanket up a little closer to my chin and promise myself I’ll do it tomorrow.

Except this is me and my life is never normal.

So problem one, hubby and I have this agreement that I’ll do my workouts 5 days a week and that he’ll support me steadfastly in this.

Problem two is that I’m not just committed to these workouts for academic reasons. They make a noticeable improvement in my life: My body is stronger. Back and neck pain are a rare occurrence these days. I’m much more relaxed and easy going with the kids. I have this new sleek, shapely body that is really fun to live in. So it’s hard to ignore the benefit of the workout.

The biggest problem, number 3, is that in my distress, I said that “UGH” out loud. “What?” from the other side of the pillow materializes into me and my pink nightie doing my interpretation of split snatches and brachiating at 10pm.

Now it turns out the snatches were fun and amazingly somehow I managed to ooze myself across the brachiation ladder 4 times for the first time since junior high.

But still, do I get some sorta prize for this?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sleep Fanatic

Almost immediately after giving birth to Theo, I became passionate about sleep. Feeling well rested while pregnant was a challenge what with the exhaustion of growing that wee thing, so much energy spent throw (and not throwing) up, and finding a comfortable sleeping position. But that in no way prepared me for several essentially sleep free nights while birthing the child and "resting" at the hospital. Just to come home to the world's most compelling baby parties - all hosted by Mr. Cutie himself from 1-4 am. Throw in the sudden development of watermelon sized breast and physical postpardum complications, and I found myself Very Intersted in sleep.

FlyLady introduced me to the book The Promise of Sleep by William Dement when Theo was about 4 months old. I spent days sitting on the couch nursing him and letting him sleep in my arms so that I could devour this book. Here is what I learned.

Our health is dependant on getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep inhibits the production of prolactin and melatonin, which deranges our immune systems. This leads to depression, heart disease and cancer. Our personal safety is also dependant on getting enough sleep. As we wander into the zone of not-enough-sleep, our performance goes down. Our ability to perceive what is happening decreases, and just as alcohol impairs our response time, lack of sleep slows our reflexes to the point of being dangerous. Think driving cars, operating heavy machinery, awareness that your toddler has climbed onto the stove here.

How much sleep is enough sleep? I know plenty of people who say they function just fine on 5-6 hours of sleep. When sleep researchers allowed people to sleep without interruptions of everyday life and in very dark environments, regulating their own sleep, they normalized at somewhere between 7 hours 45 minutes and 8 hours 15 minutes. When we don’t get the 8 hours of sleep, our bodies record it. Sleep researchers call it “sleep debt”. Now, it turns out we need 10-15 hours of sleep debt in order to fall asleep, which is essentially a day’s worth of awakeness. But once we build up more than 25 hours we start to show the symptoms of impairment. As people slept in the very dark, non-alerting environment create by the researchers, they started paying off their sleep debt by sleeping 10 or 11 hours a night. The most sleep debt recorded was 120 hours – that’s 5 24 hour days or 15 full nights of sleep! Once the old sleep was paid back, they began waking after the 7h45m to 8h15m I mentioned before.

Interestingly, almost nobody with a large amount of sleep debt describes themselves as tired. Sleep deprivation “symptoms” mostly present themselves as lack of motivation, apathy, and irritability. Extremely sleep deprived people describe themselves as “worn out,” “exhausted,” or “depressed.” But somehow we don’t feel tired. My interpretation of what I’ve read is this: as we get used to functioning on too little sleep, our bodies go into a sort of crisis mode and don’t send us the strong sleep signals anymore. If you think big, this is a good plan. Pre-electricity, most humans went to bed with the sun, woke up with the sun. If our predecessors were up all night, it was very likely because there was some crisis. One of the last things you need while moving to higher ground to escape flooding or moving to a different geographical location so the newly arrive family of sabertooth tigers won’t consume your family is to feel constantly exhausted. So our bodies surpress the tiredness. That’s all good and well, but once we start getting enough sleep and eventually tapping into that sleep debt (which our bodies read as “crisis averted”), the exhaustion signals come flooding back. After a week or two of not sleeping enough, most people feel awful after a 10 or 11 hour sleep. I was always told I had slept too much, but it is actually called “sleep inertia”.

So what about the people who say they do just fine on very little sleep? Well, two things. My first question would be to define “fine.” Do they have a joyful experience of their days? Are they functioning at high levels of creativity and motivation? Are they easily able to be emotionally responsive to those around them, full of understanding and compassion? Are they hopping themselves up on coffee or other stimulates so they don’t feel the effects of their tiredness? Are they physically healthy – not just free of colds, but full-physical-check-up-healthy, with appropriate blood pressure, weight or lean body mass, hormone levels and glucose levels? Lack of sleep is clinically documented to affect all those things. My next question would be to ask if they are making up that sleep somewhere else. Albert Einstein is famous for only getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night, but most of us don’t know that he usually took a couple of two hour naps a day and his servants were under strict instructions not to wake him until he woke himself.

The truth is that very few people in our country get enough sleep. And many of us are parents of small children. So how do we get enough sleep?

First of all, we can keep our “baseline” sleep debt low.

  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour. I struggle with this everyday, there is so much to do in the world: evening outings to attend, movies to catch, web sites to surf, blogs to read, dishes to do and toy disasters to clean up. The temptation of just a few more minutes of me-time after the kids have gone to bed is huge. But do the math. If you need to wake up (or will be woken up) at 6 am, you need to be asleep by 10 pm. Nursing moms can usually count on waking up to nurse for at least 30 minutes every 2 hours. In the pursuit of an 8 hour sleep, that’s 2.5 hours of awakeness, and it needs to be factored into our bedtime math. Honestly, if your 2 year old is going to wake you up at 6 am and you have a 4 month old, you should be in bed by (take a deep breath here) 7:30 to get a full 8 hours of sleep.
  • Eliminate the sleep debt you currently are holding. Every day for a week or two, go to bed an hour earlier and/or take a nap. I know from experience that at least one sleep crisis is going to occur here in the next month – Bill and I WILL stay up and watch the several episodes of Studio 60 he has ready (hopefully not all at once), Rosie’s working on getting new molars, and we’re about to travel to Texas. All of these things will cut into my sleep by several hours. If I’m doing okay for sleep, I can handle the tiredness with aplomb and make up the few hours quickly and easily. If I come into those situations hurting for sleep, I’m going to come out of them a grumpy, ineffective person. And it shows in my parenting first and biggest.

Secondly, we can have a plan for recouping from sleepless nights.

  • If you the first time parent of a newborn or if you are sick, keep going back to bed until you’ve gotten 8 hours, even if it means starting your day at noon.
  • Go to bed early.
  • Go to bed with your kids. This is the part, again, where I take a deep breath, walk away from this dishes so I can cuddle down next to those warm little bodies that sooth me to sleep so quickly. What I’ve learned is that in going to bed with them, I usually get the 10-11 hours of sleep they do. After a few days of this, instead of them waking me up at 7 am, I start waking before them around 5am. Then I have glorious quiet time in the morning to clean up the abandoned kitchen, start breakfast, work out or look at my email. Sometimes I even chat with my husband! It works so well that I often consider making it my daily routine, but apparently I haven’t been willing to completely let go of my nightowl ways, yet.
  • If you you’re going on a trip where the time changes will work against you, go to bed an hour early for several days before you leave.
  • Have an escape route for one parent. When kids are struggling with sleep, they are usually loud. For our family, it works better to have Bill go sleep in another room and wake up refreshed. Usually, he can wake up with the kids and feed them while I get at least one hour of extra rest. Even if he can’t do that, come dinner time there is at least one parent who is relaxed and available to the kids.
  • If you’re a single parent, find a buddy who understands the need for sleep who can come over or take your kiddos while you nap. Have some meals in the freezer so you can do quick dinner prep and clean up and still go to bed with your baby.
  • Take naps. Sleep with your babies. Set up a post-lunch play date so you can sleep if you have non-napping kids. Bring a camping mat to your office. A 45 minute nap improve alertness for 6 hours. Objective studies show that even if a napper doesn’t feel better after their rest, performance is markedly improved. Again, be prepared for about 15 minutes of “sleep inertia” after waking.

Great, sleep is good, sleep is important. As adults we understand all of these tidbit and factor them into our computations of how to lead long, healthy lives. But come on, we have lots of researchers tell us what healthy things we should be doing about lots of areas of our live. We can’t do it all, right?

Maybe. AND, as a mommy I think I have a moral obligation to get enough sleep. My children need me.

  • My children need me to be healthy and live for a long, long time. I can’t do that if I’ve allowed sleep deprivation to wreak havoc with my body.
  • My children need me to be able to respond to them with gentleness: to see them, hear what they are really saying, to be full of love and compassion for who they are right now in the moment. I have learned through hard, hard experience that I cannot be any of those things when I am beyond exhausted and swimming in the irritability and even rage that comes with that.
  • My children need me to be joyous, creative and motivated. Positive discipline, home schooling and just plain everyday life all work much better on 8 hours of sleep than 5.
  • My children need me to model a happy, healthy life for them. If I want my children to be healthy and happy full functioning adults, I need to show them what one looks like. Making the effort to be well rested and talking about the whys and hows with my children gives them the tools and understanding they need to be well rested themselves.
  • My children need me to have healthy, joyous relationships with other adults. Last time I checked, my husband didn’t really like me nitpicking his casual conversations, finding fault with the minutiae of his movements or snapping at him as a regular mode of conversation. Neither does my extended family or friends. I need sleep to be kind and connect with everyone around me. And I need everyone around me as much as my kids need me.

I love my kids, I love my husband and I love my life. So I get my sleep. I hope you will, too.