Friday, July 29, 2011

John Raible Rocks, Again

Posted on his blog today is a short video addressing oppression and adoption.  What I love about John is his amazing skill of combining the straight up truth with clear thinking and beautiful ways of expressing himself.

The video has me thinking about two things right off:
- what am *I* doing right now to be an ally to my kids, my friends and the people in my communities?
- what is adultism and how do I balance an understanding of it with my understanding of a child's need for hierarchical relationships (to be free to depend and be taken care of)?

Here again is the link to his 10 minute video.  At the end of the post, you'll see a link to his hour long webinar that most certainly is worth a listen or seven.

If you're an adoptive parent or considering adoption, really, go hear what John has to say.

Outside is Good

Summer seems to have finally arrived in Seattle.  While the rain has been trying for my soul, the newly installed garden has greatly appreciated the many deep soakings. Probably our water bill has, too.

The updated yard includes four generous planting boxes for my baby-step square foot approach to growing veggies. With 44 designated square feet, I'm awash in 44 yummy options. And that's in addition to all the edible bushes filling our plantable spaces.

When we bought this house our 7200 square foot property came split into various smaller "regions." The backyard came as a lush green lawn surrounded by tall cedar fencing -great for privacy.  Then there was a tiny front yard split by tall fencing from a good sized but non-visible and much-neglected hilly side yard.  Along the street, on the other side of both the driveway and the tall backyard fence someone built a fairly large terraced area that is invisible from all other parts of our house and yard. We call it the Back 40.

The front and side yards recently merged and terraced to create a space that our family spends a huge amount of time enjoying.  I drink my morning tea out there before the rest of the family wakes.  The kids play and jump in the trampoline by the hour.  We all spend time picking berries and fussing over the veggie boxes. Bill hangs out in the sitting area practicing guitar.  The dog lolls around near everyone, keeping careful watch over birds and passers-by.

For some reason, during the planning process, Bill and I (well mostly me) figured we wouldn't need help with the Back 40.  I had plans to recruit a neighbor to garden the space.  Well, for the 2nd year in a row the garden-share plans fell through.  So while our front/side yard is delicious, gorgeous and well used, the Back 40 sports a gigantic weed pit.  Mostly I'm distressed by the horror of it, but Rosie as an 8 year old doesn't see weeds, she sees flowers.  This week it became our bouquet picking area.

I'm grateful summer is really here.  I'm grateful to have an outside space that works so well for our family.  I'm grateful to have such lovely kids who remind me to relax and find the joy in life.

Gosh, I hope the weather holds!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chatting about Collecting

As part of my collecting research, I brought the subject up with a group of friends who have also done the Neufeld Intensive 1 and 2 courses.

I loved everything they said and so enjoyed hearing their perspective. Too busy listening to take notes, here is what I currently remember from the conversation.

- Collecting has various iterations.  My previous post focused on the collecting we do after a separation - be it a physical separation like being in different locations for a couple of hours or a mental separation of a kid involved in media or a book for a length of time or an emotion separation as in a disagreement that creates discord and distance between us.

Collecting is also part of a more constant state.  It is the moments of connection between us and our kids that grow the strength of love between us.  Someone referred to it as growing and strengtheing the cord of love that connects us, and used a hand gesture that reminded me of a tree branch getting thicker and more complex with time and the stresses and strains of life.

- One friend referred to collecting as the sauce that makes everything else go.  He talked a lot about how collecting, more than being things that we do, is a posture and the way that we ARE with our kids.  Warmth came up over and over in this part of the conversation - lighting up when our kids come in the room, letting know that we're crazy about them, so in love with them and really enjoy being with them.

Warmth, as I wrote before, can seem like a pretty alien concept to me.  But in listening to my friend, I remembered how often Neufeld talks about offering a complete invitation to our children to be fully themselves in all their glorious and less perfect ways.  Warmth, and invitation, then might just be other words for unconditional love.  Both sides of the unconditional love - the unconditional "I love you no matter what" part and the love "my heart delights in seeing and knowing you" part.

I'm thinking then, and let me know what you think, that a large part of collecting is letting our children know that they are wholly and completely embedded in our hearts forever more.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

15 Years Coming Up

In a month, Bill and I will have been married for 15 years.  Woof. That's a lotta years.

For anniversary sport, we usually at least try to make a nod to the Traditional/Modern Anniversary Gift Guide.  Sometimes it is a stretch.  In the past I've gotten Bill a subscription to the New York Times (paper), a Leatherman MultiTool (leather) and The American History Dictionary (ivory and gold - okay this was a big stretch, but the book cover IS ivory and gold colored and I knew he'd love it).

Sometimes it takes me months to figure out what to get my dearly beloved.  Apparently the 15th is crystal or glass/watches. For a man that likes pint glasses and has never worn a watch in the 16 years I've known him. Hmmmmm, I feel another stretch coming on.

Feel free to pip in with suggestions!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Back from Pact Camp 2011

We're back from another amazing year at Pact Camp. This makes year number 5!

Major props to the Pact staff for their continued drive to create this experience that changes our lives year after year.  Beth Hall, Susan Ito and Deanna Matthews deserve gold medals for all they give and do to support our families. Here are my highlights for what their dedication brought to us this year.

The counselors were amazing. Every year Pact brings in young folks as counselors from all over the country, though mostly the Oakland area.  Pact spends 2 days training them on race, adoption, behavior as an expression of struggling emotions, and how to handle most of whatever our kids might come out with while in their care. These young people come back year after year, their love and dedication for the campers shining through.  Both of my children adore their counselors (some of whom they've worked with for 5 years now!!) and thrive under their care.

The adult programs were, as usual, superb.  JaeRan Kim (blogger of Harlow's Monkey fame) and Mary Sheedy-Kurchinka (author of "Spirited Child," "Kids, Parents and Power Struggles, " and "Sleepless In America") both spoke as keynotes.  JaeRan inspired me to think in the long term about our kids' journey and identity development in life. They are children for such a short time. We as parents we need to aim towards adulthood, equipping our kids with the skills and relationships they need once they leave our homes. JaeRan showed a beautiful combination of professional, expert presentation and authentic personal vulnerability.  It is truly an honor to sit in the presence of someone so willing to share so deeply of herself for the good of my child. It stills makes me weepy to think of the depth of the gift she offered us.

Mary Sheedy-Kurchinka's talk focused on how to connect with our kids - calm, collect, collaborate.  Almost everything she said came back to sleep - no-one in America seems to be getting enough sleep and being tired makes everything harder. I loved her overall messages, and I was blown away by her dynamic presentation style that was fun, entertaining and seemed to take into account reseach-driven principles about how people learn best.

Behind the scenes with our kids I know there were professionals prompting thoughts and conversations with our kids.  While I didn't hear much back from kids about the conversations or their own thinking, I know the people working with my kids did a great job because of the enthusiasm both Theo and Rosie showed in sharing their art with me. Sessions were set up to communicate back to parents the work that was being done with the kids, however I missed or opted out of them. Because....

One of the draw backs, always, about camp is that there is too much wonderfulness going on for me to absorb it all.  This year camp organizers created a multitude of small group sessions.  Each afternoon I benefited from presentations and conversations while longing to duplicate myself so I could attend other sessions at the same time. I sat in on conversations about blended families (adopted and born to siblings), the racial achievement gap, "can kids of color thrive in a white environment?", and very sadly napped through two spoken pieces by adult adoptees that I deeply admire.

What really makes camp amazing is the people.  Not just in their roles as presenter, therapist, adult adoptee, counselor or adoptive parent, but the people as their whole selves.  The insight, sharing, pain, regret, struggles, victories and resources that so many people shared with me teach and inspire me how to be the person and parent my children need.

Set near Lake Tahoe, the logistics of camp were much easier for us this year than in the past.  Real beds and fully insulated walls helped with sleeping.  The food worked great for our family, hallelujah!  The site was beautiful, easy to navigate and had a truly lovely swimming pool with an actually hot hot tub.

Finally, a giant bonus for my family, there was sunshine!  With this very wet Seattle summer, we were all grateful to be warm and dry for a few days.

These 4 days at camp will bring lasting change to our lives again this year.  While the changes we make for our family are no longer so abrupt and visible, the depth and honesty of the conversation allows space for each of us to grow and learn.  It is an amazing experience.

I hope you will join us next year!

Friday, July 15, 2011

On Talking Terms with Dogs

On his show, Cesar Milan often talks about reading dog's body language and off-handedly mentions various behaviors that he sees.  The behaviors are so quick and subtle, I often have to stop the video and go back several times to really see it on the screen.  Cesar is so confident about what he notices and what it means that I've been longing for a clear list of behaviors and their meanings.

Imagine, then, how thrilled I was to discover On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas.   While the book doesn't cover every doggie movement, the focus on calming signals is quite fascinating.  With a list of about 15 calming signals, I've found the information useful for both communication with Mason and other dogs and for better understanding the state they are in.  Each page includes lots of great pictures to illustrate each signal.  The book is short, concise and easy to read. All the pictures makes for a super kid-friendly dog guide, too, as my kids are compelled to leaf through, enjoy and try to interpret every dog in each photo.

In the past few weeks, I've focused on a few signals, getting comfortable at recognizing them as dogs use them.  I've also started adding them into my communication repertoire.  Somehow even though I understand this is how dogs communicate with each other, I'm amazed at the success.  Mason, a little low on exercise this week, was having a full-out puppy crazy session upstairs.  He usually gets on all fours really low and then tears around at a berserk pace knocking people and things down as he goes.  Normally getting him to stop and calm down takes a while (or a really big treat) and involves some personal risk.  Instead, I turned sideways to him, yawned a few times and then as he watched me, I knelt down and scratched the carpet for a bit. He relaxed and sat down, calm for the moment.  Pretty cool!  Pretty easy!  (I did take him down to the lake for a serious swim shortly afterwards.)

For fun, I'm going to do a quick run down of the signals - if you're interested in using them I highly recommended checking the book out as Rugaas' clear descriptions of the signals and what they mean are invaluable.  Here are the major signals: head turning, softening the eyes, turning away, licking the nose, freezing, slow movements, play bow(!), sitting down, lying down, yawing, sniffing, curving approach, splitting up two animals and tail wagging.

Enjoy experimenting on a canine nearby and let me know what you learn!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cesar Dreams

Cesar Milan is coming to Seattle! You know, the Dog Whisperer. Whoooo hoooo!! He'll be here September 9th at the Paramount Theatre.

Knowing Cesar is coming sent me into a little frenzy of day dreams about what I'd do if I could be one of the lucky people who works with him in person. In the incredible event that Cesar and I were in the same space, I'd ask him to help me with my anxiety about having my perfectly friendly and well-behaved dog around other dogs.

Were I just to be able to ask him questions about how to handle issues, I have 3 that drive me crazy:
- how do I handle my dog's not appropriate to humans crotch-sniffing greeting?
- how do I get my tall 75 pound lab to stop stealing food off the counters?
- what do I do about territorial barking at the house windows and around the yard perimeter?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I was going to post....

But my bedtime alarm went off.  Yes, I really have an alarm set on my phone to remind me to go to bed.

As you can see from my post times, I usually blow it off.  Sigh.  However, I have a bonafide prescription from my doctor to and get at least 8 hours of sleep.  We all know I know this from the 23 previous posts I've done about sleep.  Double sigh.

I have a follow up appointment with her in 2 weeks, so the shame factor is kicking in and I'll be going to bed at a reasonable hour for the next few weeks.

Other posts in the works, look forward to talking to you all tomorrow.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Random and Captured by Pirates

Last night I woke myself up.  I was dreaming that I'd been captured by pirates, and they were tickling me.

One of my new favorite bumper stickers: When Jesus said love your enemies I think he probably meant don't kill them. Of course I have mixed feelings about this and think these sorts of issues are not so black and white as that, but I still really like the sticker.

The new Girl Genius is out!  Theo doesn't know, and I waiting for him to LEAVE so I can read my copy in peace. Then I'll tell him.

JJ, our UPS driver, is getting seriously stalked by our family right now.  Theo ordered a custom Lego Hero Factory creation - it is on its way from Poland.  I ordered a box of books from Sonlight that cover Ancient History and the "Far East." Both of us are beside ourselves with excitement.

We redid our yard - I'll post before and after pics someday.  When the guy came for the final review and payment, he left me a flat of basil that didn't have a home!  That's 18 plants, people!!  Pesto party at my house in August!

Bald eagles have been soaring over our house everyday this week.  Living in Seattle can be so darn cool.

Rosie has been creeping and crawling for 2 weeks now.  I think I already see a difference in her emotional level - she still feels everything really strongly, but she seems able to moderate and handle it better.

It's a beautiful sunshiny day today.  Let's hope it holds!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Personal Weirdness

I've been feeling really off for a while now.  Super tired, for one. I'm going in to get my thyroid and adrenals checked as I suspect there is a huge physical component to this.

But not just tired.   Sort of dazed, confused, unable to focus on getting things done, just seeming to react to whatever most demands my attention next.  Completely out of context with time - I can't seem to plan ahead, be aware of how long has past, what is coming next.

None of this is "normal" for me.  I'm doing an okay job coping and working around whatever is going on, but I'm also searching for what is causing it and looking for the relief of resolution.  It is really hard to live sort of on the outside of what is going on around me.

Anyone else every feel this way?  Any ideas what could be prompting it or help resolve it?