baby development

Thursday, September 29, 2005

What's Really Important

I've been listening to KLOVE on the radio ever since I decided that there wasn't enough of Jesus in my heart. I started trying to do something about that several months ago. This song by Nicole Nordeman sums up how I've felt about prioritizing my life these days. It's called Legacy, and these are the lyrics below. The chorus is how I feel I truly want to live.

I don't mind if you've got something nice to say about me
And I enjoy an accolade like the rest
You could take my picture and hang it in a gallery
Of all the who's who's and so-n-so's that used to be the best
At such 'n wouldn't matter much

I won't lie, it feels alright to see your name in lights
We all need an "Atta boy" or "Atta girl"
But in the end I'd like to hang my hat on more besides
the temporary trappings of this world

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?
Did I point to you
enough to make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who blessed
Your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy

I don't have to look too far or too long awhile
To make a lengthy list of all that I enjoy
It's an accumulating trinket and a treasure pile
Where moth and rust, thieves and such will soon destroy

Not well traveled, not well read, not well-to-do or well bred
Just want to hear instead, "Well done" good and faithful one

Matthew 25:23 says "His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord."

I would like for God to be proud of me. I would like to have made a difference in people's lives, and for them to have seen Jesus through me. I might not have become a doctor or a pharmacist like my parents wanted, but I can still save lives. In fact, what I can offer people is far more valuable.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Decisions, Decisions

Well, I just got a voice mail message from the foster mom of the 3 little angels we watched last weekend. It seems she has to also work this weekend and next weekend at least before they are able to change her work schedule. She wanted to know if we could take the kids again this weekend and maybe next weekend while she works.

I called Michael. We are meeting at 8 tonight for dinner - and I told him he could think about it until then. I would not blame him if he were not jumping for joy.

They demand a lot of attention. Michael has so much work to do and a conference submission deadline, article re-writes to do, and student tests to grade. They kids are sweet, but they are a handfull. Their foster mom paid us $60 for Saturday and Sunday from 7-5 ($30 each day). That is not much money to watch 3 kids all day, but it would help us save money to buy that rocking chair that I want for the nursery, or the changing table I desperately need if I am going to change that many diapers. But it's not like we couldn't afford to buy those things without the extra money.

Oh, how tired we were come Sunday evening. Everything hurt. Can we do that again? Should we do that again if we are that serious about becoming parents? Oh, but 3 is a lot. We were outnumbered. And when we become parents, we had only asked for one - maybe 2 at the most. Three is a lot - oh, yeah, I said that already.

My heart wants to do it, but my head says no. The house is still a wreck from last weekend. The kitchen is filthy. The only thing I have done is laundry. And all day Friday I'll be at a conference in Cincinnati. Mercy.

Well, the up-side is that we know their personalities and what they like to eat, and we still have animal crackers and apple juice in the house. We also have more books now that I bought on ebay this week. The three car seats are still installed in my car.

The down side is the consumption of our free time, our down time - our weekend. I am still selfish. And I have this selfish feeling that I'd rather give up my weekend for kids that are "mine" - my foster kids, my kids. Ugh. If I babysit too much, I'll get attached. Then if they come up for adoption, their foster mom will get to adopt them - not us. Ugh.

Well, we will need to decide tonight and call Workingmom back so she can make plans. Geez, she really doesn't see her kids much if she picks them up at daycare at 5 and drops them off at 7 am, and doesn't see them on the weekends until time for dinner and bedtime. It must be tough for her. I can understand why she would want to do this. I understand wanting to be a mom, even if it's not convenient. I can't be upset with her anymore. She wants to be a mom. This I understand.

Oh, God, what do you want us to do? Please guide us to make the decision you would have us make.

Presidential Humor

Donald Rumsfeld was giving the President his daily briefing. He concluded by informing the President that, "Yesterday, two Brazilian soldiers were killed in Iraq."
"OH GOD NO!", the President exclaimed. "That's terrible!" W wept.
The President's staff sat there, stunned at this display of emotion over a few foreign solders. They nervously watched as the President slumped, head in his hands.
Finally the President looked up and asked . . .
"How many is a Brazillion?"

Slaying Goliath

We read the story of David and Goliath in group on Sunday morning. I imagine I've read the story dozens of times, and heard dozens more interpretations. What "struck" me (pun intended) is the resonance the story had in me now that I was no longer a child, but an adult facing Goliaths of my own.

Now, I have never come face to face with a gigantic Philistine, nor do I ever care to.

But I have faced people I thought were my friends who commented when Michael and I got engaged how opposed they were to blacks and whites marrying (with off-handed comments like, "But Michael's different - he doesn't act like a typical black man.") Hmmm. And what would that be like?

I later faced people I thought were my friends who commented after I was married to Michael that they "hoped to God [we] never had children because of those poor half-breed kids" (adding other off-handed remarks like "you know what I mean"). Unfortuantely, I did know what they meant.

I have a boss whose initials are A.S.S., and makes sure folks are well aware of that fact. She keep asking me, "So, do you have a kid yet?" I politey say no, that we are still waiting. I think to myself, "Do you think I'd be sitting here if I did? Heck no, I'd be on vacation setting up doctors visits and finding a good day care, and spending time with my baby. I would NOT be sitting here." But I do not say that.

I am sub-fertile, and so is my husband. People constantly tell us "Oh, just wait - you'll become foster parents and then get pregnant!" They just think they are being cute. They aren't. Infertility is a painful journey. Many feel like less of a woman, or like they've been robbed of an opportunity that comes so easy for others who didn't even want children in the first place. I waited to try to have children because I thought I was being responsible. Now I find out that I probably could have easily had children had I started in my early 20s. It makes me angry.

My mother insists on reminding me about horror stories of parents who have had their children taken away after the adoption was complete because the birth father stepped forward and wanted the child. I told her that does not happen if the proceedings are done correctly and the correct steps are taken. She kept saying, "All it takes is one judge." Gee, mom, thanks. That helps so much. She told be about a beautiful family she saw from Guatemala, and how pretty the little kids were. She thought we should adopt from there because the kids would be so beautiful and look more like ours. Oh yeah, that little Latino will for certain look like my pasty white self or Michael's dark self. As if we care what the child looks like. *Sigh* She means well. When I told my dad about looking at houses for sale, he joked that maybe we could get one that came with a kid. That hurt my feelings, but I laughed it off. My family likes to kid around a lot. We always have. But sometimes it borders on hurtful, and they don't know when to stop. It's like when I was a teenager, and they jokingly called me "Buffalo Buns". I was not fat then. I am now.

And, of course, the list goes on.

David was somewhere between 8 and 12 years old when he slayed Goliath. I am 34 and struggling to slay the giants that prevent me from being positive about this adventure, and about life in general. I am doing so much better than I have in a long, long time.

I like a song I hear on KLOVE all the time now by Casting Crowns, called The Voice of Truth. The song goes like this:

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes To climb out of this boat I'm in
on to the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He's holding out His hand
But the waves are calling out my name
And they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again.
"Boy, you'll never win!""You'll never win!"

Chorus: But the Voice of Truth
tells me a different story
The Voice of Truth says, "Do not be afraid!"
And the Voice of Truth says, "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of Truth

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takesto stand before a giant
With just a sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armor
Wishing they'd have had the strength to stand
But the giant's calling out my name
And he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again.
"Boy you'll never win!""You'll never win!"

Chorus: But the Voice of Truth tells me a different story
The Voice of Truth says, "Do not be afraid!"
And the Voice of Truth says, "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of Truth

But the stone was just the right size
To put the giant on the ground
And the waves they don't seem so high
On top of them lookin' down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
Singing over me

Maybe someone out there needs (like me) to be reminded about the Truth. I'm praying for all of you.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A Friend Survey from Megan! Yippie!

OK, she must have known how bored I was at work, so Megan sent these questions. As usual, I'll answer them here. I deleted some that didn't really apply to me, and inserted some new ones at the end just because 50 is a cool number.

1. First name? Tamara
2. Were you named after anyone? No
3. Do you wish on stars? Sometimes, if the mood strikes
4. When did you last cry? Last Friday, when we got a call from our social worker and I got my hopes up too much
5. Do you like your handwriting? Yeah, I suppose so.
6. What is your favorite lunchmeat? Roast beef...though I get bologna cravings as a comfort food
7. What is your most embarrassing moment? Once a guy I really liked came over to the house, and while we were sitting in the livingroom talking, I noticed that there was a big can of Raid roach spray on top of the piano. I felt so ghetto.
8. Any special talents? I can do a great impression of a dying cockroach where I lay on the floor and wriggle my arms and legs until I die and fold my arms and legs over on my stomach.
9. Do you have a journal? This blog is currently my only journal
10. Do you use sarcasm a lot? What's sarcasm? hehehe
11. What are your nicknames? Tam, Tammy, Diva
12. Would you bungee jump? Never.
13. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? not usually
14. Do you think that you are strong? intellectually and spiritually - yes, emotionally - no, physically - I used to be
15. What is your favorite ice cream flavor? Butter Pecan, but right now I'm on a lime sherbet kick
16. Shoe Size? 7.5
17. Red or pink? Red
18. What is your least favorite thing about yourself? my weight
19. Who do you miss most? my grandmother
20.What color pants and shirt and shoes are you wearing? Beige dress pants, brown dress shoes, and a brown short sleeved sweater thing that is identical to the one Megan is wearing in greenish-blue that she inherited from me. (go figure)
21. What are you listening to right now? My boss talking way too loudly on the phone in her office
22. Last thing you ate? A vanilla milkshake from McDonalds. I am obviously trying to slowly kill myself
23. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Burnt umber - just because it sounds cool
24. What is the weather like right now? very cool and breezy - right about 70
25. Last person you talked to on the phone? My husband - talking about dinner plans for tonight - Corky's BBQ!
26. The first thing you notice about the opposite sex? Whether they can form a meaningful sentence without looking at my breasts
27. Do you like the person who sent this to you? Heck, yeah.
28. Favorite Drink? Grape soda
29. Favorite sport? football
30. Hair Color? Dark chestnut
31. Eye Color? Dark brown
32. Do you wear contacts? Nope - black wire rimmed glasses
33. Favorite Food? ice cream, Chinese, and Lee's fried chicken
34. Last Movie You Watched? Ethan Hawke's version of Hamlet
35. Favorite Day of the Year? Christmas Morning (ditto), although I like Thanksgiving too sometimes
36. Scary Movies or Happy Endings? Happy Endings
37. Summer or winter? winter
38. Hugs OR Kisses? Hugs
39. What Is Your Favorite Dessert? deep dish apple pie with vanilla bean ice cream
40. What Books Are You Reading? Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner
41. What's On Your Mouse Pad? Dell Logo
42. What Did You Watch Last night on TV? watched Denver spank KC - go Broncos!
43. Favorite Smells? my husband when he's just stepped out of the shower, Chanel #5, warm cookies, clean laundry, fresh cut grass
44. Favorite Sounds? The ocean
45. Rolling Stones or Beatles? ick - neither - both are/were highly overrated
46. What's the farthest you've been from home? Aruba & Bonaire (can't remember which is technically further)
47. What would you rather be doing right now? Sleeping
48. Favorite instrument? piano
49. Do you have an ipod? not yet
50. What is on your coffee table right now? candles, papers (not a good combination, I know), cat hair (eeew), and a laptop computer.

Well, that was a fun distraction from work. Only 1 hour left - wooo hooo!

Monday, September 26, 2005

3 little angels

This weekend we had the honor of spending the weekend with 3 beautiful little kids.
"Bo and Luke" are 21 month old twin boys and "Kewpie" is a 7-month old baby girl. Their new foster mom is still trying to get her work schedule changed so she can take care of them on the weekends. This past weekend, from 7-5 on Sat. and Sun. they were with us. It was a pleasure. Here's some things we learned:

1. Animal crackers no longer cost 25 cents a box, but you can buy them by the bag, and they are well worth the cost.
2. You cannot avoid Barney, and 21 month olds will dance the dances right along with him. It is a strange purple dinosaur cult.
3. Dora the Explorer is pretty cool.
4. The Wiggles are kind of creepy, but better than Barney given a choice.
5. Nap time is a beautiful time of day.
6. The workers in the church nursery are saints. Michael suggested that they get to go to heaven before they die for doing such good work.
7. Cuddling is good.
8. Toddler diapers are very funky. You should not inhale when you change one.
9. A baby will stick her foot in a poopy diaper faster than you can pull it out from under her.
10. To a child whp has never seen one in person, cats are very scary.
11. After a child gets used to a cat, they are very fun to chase through the house while screeching and laughing.
12. People talk to you more and introduce themselves to you more when you have cute kids with you.
13. You can fit 3 car seats in the back of a Ford Taurus.
14. Putting 3 kids in their car seats is a good workout.
15. If you feed a kid pineapple chunks, they will eat them like candy and then poop a lot.
16. Boobs make great pillows.
17. It is apparently great fun to pull CDs out of the media cabinets and scatter them on the floor.
18. When you are done with your sandwich or sippy cup, simply throw it on the floor and expect someone to pick it up.
19. When foster mom or dad tells you to pick it up, stand there with your lip sticking out and whimper sadly.
20. Cute grins will get you everywhere.

Needless to say, we learned good lessons and had a very good experience. Our social worker promises we will get a call for our own placement very soon. It was nice to hold Kewpie and feed her a bottle, and lay her down in the crib and watch her sleep. It was great to see the boys hug all over Michael and beg him to lift them up in the air and swing them around, and then settle in and hug him and sit on his lap with their head on his chest. He is a beautiful man, but its hard to put into words how beautiful he looked holding the boys with them looking so content.

I know the kids enjoyed their time with us, and it felt good knowing that. I'll avoid the urge to overanalyze everything - for now anyway.

Learning to Love

I'm learning to love my husband again. Sadly enough, I didn't always feel this way. But lately it has been great. It's been so nice, it's really beyond description. And the nice-ness has nothing to do with sex and its frequency. It has to do with truly liking being together. We took care of 3 kids this weekend. And we gave each other wonderful hot lotion massages with the back massager. And we went to sleep. We slept good. We made chili-cheese dogs at home. We ate a Wendy's frosty for dinner. Life was somehow spectacularly good. I felt very much in love, and I have for a while now.

I haven't cried in, well...quite a while. Some tears came on Friday when I learned that someone else had these beautiful kids placed with them, while we were still waiting. But I got over it and moved on. In minutes, I sucked it up, blogged about it, and moved on. I did not cry all weekend. I have not cried today, nor do I feel like it. My doctor will be pleased with this nes when I see him in October.

I can't remember the last fight I had with my husband, or when it was. I'm sure it wasn't that long ago. But when you're used to fighting and crying most every day - going this long seems, it seems like home.

Thank you, God, for allowing us to tough it out through the difficult times. Thank you for teaching me to be more like you and more like Michael. Thank you for helping him understand me and enjoy being my partner too. Thank you for letting us be foster-foster parents to these beautiful kids this past weekend. Be with their foster mom, Bev. Keep her steady as she changes her job schedule and loves these 3 little ones. Be with the birth families, and help them find their way to a stable life where they can care for their children, or relinquish them to parents who will give them a good life - a life in you. Thank you for showing us that we have more than enough to provide for children, and more than enough energy and patience and love to go around. Thank you for teaching Michael and I to work together, and for giving us such good experiences to teach us about caring for little children. Thank you for giving us second chances to "get it right".

Would I Do It Alone?

Cluttergirl asked recently, "Do you think you could go through the risk of losing the kid, empty crib and all that if you were a single mom instead of a couple? ie that that child was your only family in your house?" I stared at her question for several minutes, vascilating between firm affirmative and firm negative responses in my head. I decided it required some blog time.

When I started dating again, I got to know a guy named Mike. When it became clear that we were just going to be good friends, I confided in him my desire to have a family someday. I told him that I had a plan - that if I turned 35 and did not have a child, or one on the way, that I would adopt. I was so certain of this, that I said I would adopt even if I were single. I didn't want the lack of a partner to prevent me from having the kind of life I wanted for myself. Mike liked the idea, and as our lives moved in separate directions, I forgot that we had shared those conversations.

Recently, I received an e-mail from Mike telling me that he was getting married and asking how Michael and I were doing. And this is what he wrote: So, tell me, any kids yet? You told me that you were going to have a child even if you had to adopt as a single parent. You would be so great as a mom. I hope you do if you have not yet.

Wow. God bless Mike for remembering what was important to me. I appreciated that. And I appreciated his vote of confidence. As a social critic and self-proclaimed grumpy-old-man, Mike's seal of approval on my potential parenting abilities means a lot.

And now that I know how much "social work" is involved in caring for and adopting children from the foster care system, I do not know if I would do it as a single mom. I read cubbiegirl's accounts, but understand that she has Geo and anticipates him as a part of her future. He's a tremendous help to her in caring for Bugaboo.

Michael will make a terrific dad. He'll screw up just as much as I will, and somehow that is comforting to me. We'll talk about the things we do right and the things we do wrong, and together come up with better, more effective and healthy parenting strategies.

Ok, here goes. No, I don't think I would do it alone. Not right now, at least. I might if I owned my own house, had a newer car, had a lot less debt, and was in better physical shape. Now, I don't suck right now or anything. It's just that if I were single, I'd have to had the odds stacked a lot more in my favor in order to survive as a single mom. And if I didn't have any debt, I wouldn't worry so much about providing for my family. I don't just want to eek out an existence with my kids - I want them to be able to do the things they want to do and have great life experiences. I want to be able to send them to the dermatologist when they get acne as bad as I did in high school (boy was I thankful for my doctor then). I want to be able to get them braces for straight teeth, and at least 1 or 2 "cool kid" outfits that make them feel good about themselves at school. I don't want my kids to have to be the poor kids, or the kids who can never afford to do anything when their friends are going places, or the school is taking a trip.

Another downside of all this is that we don't have any family in Kentucky. Michael's family is in Mississippi and mine is in Florida in hurricane ally. There is no possibility that Michael's family will ever, ever move anywhere else. Mine keeps saying they are getting out of Florida, but my brother only lives about an hour and a half away on the coast as well. I don't see them leaving anytime soon. So, we have no "gramma and grandpa" to help out in a crisis. Babysitters will have to consist of generous graduate students of Michael's and possibly some friends from church who are yet childless. It will be a challenge just to get everything done with 2 people to do it all. Even now, we often feel swamped with work and daily/weekly/monthly tasks as both of us work full time and are involved in church and do like to get out from time to time.

This past weekend of doing respite care was humbling. Michael and I tag-teamed like experienced parents. He cuddled those kids like he had been doing it for years. He fed Kewpie her bottle and Bo and Luke climbed into his lap and laid their heads against his chest and you could see in their little faces that it felt good. I know - I like his chest too. Ahem... I warmed bottles while Michael held Kewpie on the sofa. I changed one little one while Michael watched the others. We took turns trying to get them to nap. When they fell asleep in the car, Michael carried them up to our 3rd floor apartment and laid them in bed - and did such a good job that they never woke up. That is talent.

Maybe I could do it alone if it was just one child. But then again, I just don't think I could do it right now. I could if I had to. If something happened to Michael, I could do it alone. It would be terribly hard, but I could make it work. We had to know that going into this. We had to know that the other would be alright parenting alone if something bad happened. We know we would be fine. But we also know we like having each other.

So, perhaps my answer would be different in a few years. But for now, I just wouldn't do it alone.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Mourning Sickness or Morning Sickness?

*sigh* For the past few days, I've been nauseus in the shower. I've been exhausted and restless and feeling just plain worn out. And I haven't done squat.

It occurred to me that I have pseduo-morning sickness. I might even have mourning sickness. Every morning I still choke down 1000 mg of Metformin and every night I choke down another 1000 mg more. I no longer take the fancy-fangled fish-oil prescription pre-natal vitamins that my skinny OB/GYN prescribed. They smelled (and tasted) like fish and cost $40 a month. Even sans fish-pills, I still feel queasy in the morning. I gave up on taking Clomid. I just can't go through the crazies I've heard other women talk about. I just don't think God wants me to do these artificial insemination attempts that my RE says are our "first step" - followed, of course by invitro which would pad his fat little wallet with another 10K.

It didn't help matters that with the increase in my Metformin dosage, it's still been 33 days since my last cycle, and no sign of it coming any time soon. I see my GP in early October, and he has said if the testosterone levels aren't down, we will ditch the Metformin and go with another class of insulin-sensitizing drugs. Oh joy. I can't wait. More new meds and a whole new batch of side effects. As if it wasn't bad enough to get used to a medication whose biggest side effect was (and I quote directly from my CVS printout: "loose stools". Loose stools my ass (word play intended). It was more like minor explosions that could probably be heard around the block. Even the cats would run to the bathroom door and wonder what was going on. And talk about just like the commercial that goes "Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now...", it was just like that - only it wasn't having to pee. Eeeew. It was horrible.

I think this waiting for our first placement has given me this sickness. I think my body believes it it pregnant. I am eating very strange things and the things I used to like to eat are no longer as appealing. I have really, really wanted bologna. I have eaten more bologna sandwiches than I care to admit. With ketchup - it has to be with ketchup. On the flip side, last night we ordered pizza. I love pizza. I love Papa John's pizza and the garlic dipping sauce for the crusts. That stuff is evil. I hate to admit it, but I can chow down on some pizza. But last night, I ate 3 pieces and was very, very full. It was hard to eat the third piece. (stop laughing - there are perfectly wonderful people who eat more than that) Instead of feeling satisfied, I felt weird. Today at lunch, I tried a BBQ sandwich. It did not taste good either. The fries I usually love just didn't do it for me. Very weird.

My face is breaking out. It is bad. It is teen-age lumps underneath the skin bad. I even got a big zit on my freakin' earlobe - on that hard little flap of cartilidge that juts out into the middle of your ear. What tha? The Metformin was supposed to make these symptoms of PCOS better, not worse. It is bad enough I am considering seeing a dermatologist. When I ask my GP, he seems to shrug it off as a symptom of the PCOS. I am tired of being 34 with acne. There, I said it. I am tired of zits!

Yup - mourning sickness. I really, really wanted to have children with Michael. It f-in sucks that we can't do that. It sucks that we don't just have an extra 20K lying around to be able to afford to go to an adoption agency and fly around the world and do an international adoption. It sucks that we had to find all this crap-ola so late in life. I sucks that I want my husband to be enough. Why can't it just be enough for it to be the two of us? He said to me once back when we were dating that he didn't understand why he wasn't enough - and why I felt I needed to haev children. He said he hoped that one day he would be enough. I know now he wishes he'd never said it. But sometimes those words just echo in my brain and I hear it over and over and over.

I got a call from our social worker asking if we wanted to do respite care for a group of 3 siblings - 21 month old twin boys and a 7 month old little girl. I was so angry when she said it would be "good practice" for Michael and I and "break us in". What tha? Still, I said OK. These kids were just placed a week ago. Had it just been the twins, we might have gotten the call. We said we'd take 2 if they were siblings. These kids are bi-racial too. I could take twins. My heart really sank. I don't want to be a babysitter! This feels so unfair! I want to lash out but there is no one there to lash out AT. My husband is actually nice and loving and supportive these days. Ironically, he's one of my favorite people to be around now. I don't even want to lash out at him. *sigh* It's the mourning sickness. I thought it was gone. It reared it's ugly head as soon as Melanie called with the "Do you want to babysit?" question. All in a matter of seconds I got my hopes up and then - psych! No! It was just a babysitting call. Ugh. I hate waiting. All these families that they say they have such a desperate need for, the urgent rush to get things in and do the home visits - and now.....(crickets chirping)....nothing. The crib is collecting dust. Baby clothes no longer smell like Dreft. They smell like closet.

****Fast forward an hour while I talk to the girl I'm doing care for this weekend*******

Oh, I just went from tired to officially pissed. She's single, and can't get off work on the weekends, and "can't find daycare that will do weekends". I do not feel sorry for her. I am pissed. Why didn't they put those kids with someone who had their stuff together enough to actually take them all? She sounds horribly young. She wants to adopt. She had asked for a 4 and 5 year old. Our worker called her last week to take these 3 kids. She said okay. The kids came with nothing, of course. She complained about that. OMG! And she sounded shocked that I wanted her to PAY us! I was NICE about it and said I would do it for HALF the daily rate of the 3 kids. Here in KY, that would be $30 a day for ALL of them together. I was nice because it will not be overnight stays. She was like "that's a lot and I haven't even gotten any clothing reimbursement yet". Well, boo hoo for you. You shouldn't do this if you can't afford it! AAAAAHHHHH. I want to help the kids, really I do. But there are 3 of them, and she can't even be with them because of her work, and now she's trying to get someone to take them on weekends. This isn't even a temporary thing - she was hoping we could do this EVERY WEEKEND!! Um, no. No. No. No. I had to ASK her to bring formula. I had to ASK her to bring diapers. I was afraid she was going to expect me to buy that stuff. Un, no. I will buy that stuff for MY kids, MY placements.

OK, I know I'm sounding really, really bitchy here, but I am frustrated and I need to vent so bad. I't 5:45 and I can't go home yet because I don't want to bite poor Michael's head off and he has no idea what I've gone and gotten us into. I want to be selfish. I want to be a higher priority. This girl said she got certified in July and this was her first placement. And suddenly she has 3 kids. She couldn't answer any questions about them because she said when the worker brought them the kids were screaming so "she didn't hear a word that woman said". Lovely. Just lovely. Oh, and to top if off, AFTER I said yes and AFTER I told her where we live and when to drop them off she told me the boys have runny noses. She claims they are allergies and that the doctor gave her a prescription for Zyrtec for them, but that she hasn't gotten the script yet. Lovely.

Well, I will keep my loyal reader updated as my weekend progresses.

Reminder to self - this is a test, this is only a test.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Roll Call - Waiter's Anonymous

Stacy called the meeting to order, and Cindy has already gone. I guess I'm up next.

My name is Tamara, and I am an impatient waiter. It started for us in January of 2005 when I learned I have PCOS. Later, my husband learned through multiple semen analyses that he was sub-fertile as well. We began classes to become foster-to-adoptive parents in July. We completed our training at warp-speed on August 11th. We were finally approved to be on the wait list on September 15th. We expect our official letter from the state within the next week or so. Meanwhile we wait.

We have been through a whirwind of emotions and soul-searching. We have a "nursery" now in our home with a crib that converts to a toddler bed. It is made up with girl-bedding, and boy-bedding sits in the corner un-opened in case it is a boy. We have a hig chair, walker, bouncie seat, tub seat, play mat/gym, stroller, and a car seat in each of our cars. We have read too many books and articles and blogs to count. I have enough clothes to outfit a baby of any age or gender for quite a while. I even have diapers and formula just in case. I figured I would donate it to Katrina relief if Baby MIA arrives and is done with the formula stage.

I want our baby in time for the holidays. I want to be able to take a baby home to Michael's folks in Mississippi to end the year on a positive note following hurricane devastation. I want to make Christmas cookies with a child, even if s/he can't understand what Christmas is yet. I want to take my first real digital picture with a real camera that is not also a cell phone - and take it of Baby MIA.

I am crazy with the wait, ya'll. This is insane.

Next member?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Children's Books on Sex Ed

So here's my latest "find" online - a book released this year for teaching 4-8 year olds about sex. I haven't checked it out in person at the bookstore, but the cover and online reviews intrigue me to no end. Here 'tis:

Here's one review:

From School Library JournalPreSchool-Grade 2–Willy is not good at math but excels at swimming. He and his nemesis, Butch, practice every day for the Great Swimming Race. Finally, armed with goggles, a number, and two maps, he and 300 million other competitors swim madly for the prize–the egg inside Mrs. Browne. Willy is a sperm. All his practicing pays off and he victoriously burrows into the "lovely and soft" egg, which grows and grows in Mrs. Browne's tummy until it becomes a baby girl. But "Where had little Willy gone? Who knows?" However, when little Edna is old enough to start school, she isn't very good at math but she IS very good at swimming. This breezy and amusing romp may not resolve those pesky questions about reproduction but it certainly lends personality to the process of fertilization. The double-entendre title is indicative of the cheeky and humorous text, which is lively, well paced, and essentially accurate. The line and watercolor illustrations perfectly suit the irreverent tone and include a lift-the-flap expanded page and a "find Waldo"-style spread. Both sperm and humans are endearingly expressive. As to the science, an unclothed Mr. and Mrs. Browne are anatomically correct but the racing map of Mrs. Browne's reproductive system is confusingly vague. Nonetheless, adult readers will be thoroughly entertained and children will be charmed if not completely informed. While a relatively innocuous and engaging piece of sex ed, this title could be a potentially provocative addition to picture-book collections.–Carol Ann Wilson, formerly at Westfield Memorial Library, NJ.

Tamara's ever-important note: sex ed will be handled by my husband and myself via conversation, books, examples, and whatever else seems appropriate for our children. We believe that educating children about sex and sexuality is not a "one time" even where you whip out a book or a chart or a video, but that it's simply a part of life. We'll probably be quite open about sex and sexuality. I wouldn't want folks to get the idea that I'm looking for a book to replace good parenting skills and many conversations over a lifetime.

3 Essential Children's Books

OK everyone, here's something that we can talk about a little to pass the time while we, the members of Waiters Anonymous sit frustrated that we do not yet have our child(ren) placed with us.

What children's books do you think are essential to have in your house to read to a child?
If you have children, or care for children, what books do they like?
When you were little, what were your favorite books?

I'll start the conversation. Please get folks to comment on this blog so we can start to create a great list of essential children's books that are tried and tested!

First, I loved a book called "Fish Head" (1972) by Jean Fritz. This is how the book begins:

"Fish Head was a cat. A raggedy,scraggledy,patched-up,scratched-up cat. And right to the tip of his chewed-up tail,Fish Head was proud. Everyone on Clambake Island knew him. They were all used to seeing him pound down the waterfront with a stolen fish head dripping from his mouth. And so most of the people--most of the time--called him Fish Head. But not the butcher at the Waterfront Market. He called him a LONG-TAILED LIVER-LOVING THIEF........"

It is for an older child, but the writing is simply fantastic. I loved this book so much, it got worn so that the pages were falling out.

Second is the Phil Eastman (1960) classic "Are You My Mother". In this book, a baby bird sets out to find his mother. But he doesn't know what his mother looks like--or even that she's a bird! Mother and child are ultimately reunited, but not before some pretty confusing situations. It's funny (and touching, really) and for a younger child - though I would probably still enjoy it.

Next is the "Berenstain's B Book" (1971). I can still recite the words to this book like it was just yesterday. "Big brown bear, blue bull, beautiful baboon, blowing bubbles, biking backwards, BUMP black bug's bananna boxes and Billy Bunny's breadbasket." It's great for teaching reading and word sounds, and the pictures and great - and very funny.

Sadly, I think many of these are out of print. There are plenty of used copies on Amazon and Ebay, though for reasonable prices. My wonderful mother think she has saved boxes of our children's books in the attic. Barring water damage from 3 hurricanes in the last year, we might be able to salvage some.

So, friends, what are your favorite children's books? Let me know, and I'll post pictures of them so everyone can be on the lookout. I'll keep working on this project, and maybe it will distract me from the horrendous wait for our first placement.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Michael Meets The Schwab

Tomorrow my darling husband will hop a plane to New York where he will take a cab to a decent hotel and cram. Wednesday he will take a cab to ESPN studios where he will meet Stewart Scott and Howie Schwab (aka The Schwab - as in Stump the Schwab). He will play against two other champion wanna-bes in an attempt to get to go head-to-head with The Schwab in a game of extreme sports knowledge. No, this is not just for "big sports fans" - that would be like simplifying Jeopardy down to the basic description of "a game show for smart people". Stump the Schwab is for sports fanatics. It is for people who listen to sports talk radio with headphones while sleeping, listen to games on the car radio, read about sports online, know every sports statistic ever released, live, eat, and breathe sports, and watch basketball in the hot tub on their honeymoon. Oh, right - my husband does/did all that and more. This show is for him.

If he can get past the two other contestants, he'll win $1,000. If he beats The Schwab, he wins $5,000 and a chance to come back for the end-of-season tournament for a chance at $30,000. He wants a big screen TV, and a hot tub. I would like for him to have whatever he wants. But mainly, I want him to have a blast - no matter what. I've done really well to not even think about it in terms of money. We have plenty of money to get by. But what we don't often have is guts...cahones...the ability to take little risks and go for a dream. And we don't have nearly enough fun.

I don't know if Michael will tell me the outcome, or if he will just let me watch the show when it airs with the rest of our friends and family. I'll keep my faithful readers updated - and, of course, I'll let everyone know when it's going to air.

P.S. - he also got invited to a Jeopardy audition...but it's in Tampa, FL. He may just go there too. He's been trying for a year to audition for them. We shall see.

How Did I End Up Here?

When I was little, I dreamed about what my family would be like. There were always kids in the picture. Always two - a boy and a girl. The boy was always older. I would cut out pictures from magazines of my little dream family - little brunette kids that looked like me. From time to time I'd cut out pictures of adults that I thought I would look like, and pictures of what I thought my prince charming would look like. That fairy tale lasted into adulthood.

Graduate school changed me. I stared working on my MA in 1991. I was 20. A mentor told me that marriage and children would ruin my career and ruin my life. She was divorced and childless, and a miserable monster of a woman. I should not have listened. I looked to other female mentors. One had adopted a child from Korea when she found she could not conceive. Others had children and husbands, or were the forever-single-and-childless-by-choice rebel women whom I also admired for needing nothing outside of their careers and their few hobbies.

I got married for the first time in 1993. I had just turned 22. The guy I married had no college degree, no career, and even less ambition. He held 10 jobs in the time we were legally married. He watched us sink deeper and deeper in debt and did nothing to help make it better. It did not take long for me to realize that having children was out of the picture. I figured it would never happen. In 2001 when I talked to a lawyer, something changed. He was a friend, and he and his wife had just had their first child. I felt something. I thought I was sick. I went home and cried. Not for my dead marriage, but for the dreams I had given up. Here I was close to finishing a PhD, 30 years old, with a great job and students who loved me. I had just won Educator of the Year. I had friends and an active involvement in theatre. Life should have been pretty good. But all I had paled in comparison to what I knew I had turned my back on.

In 2002, I fell in love with Michael. I was single again, and the world was mine. I returned to church, I reconnected with friends and made new ones. I saved money and paid off debt. I wanted the family I never had. One major problem - Michael did not want children. He didn't just not want them, he went out of his way to say negative things about them, and about women and couples who chose to have children. When talking about male and female colleagues who were becoming first-time parents, he talked about them as though he was mystified. He talked about the men as though they had somehow lost all reason and sanity and about the women as though they were less evolved. In the Spring of 2003, Michael broke up with me. I had failed to get hired as a professor at Ohio U. where he was at. He made no attempt to be with me because his career was (at that time) what came first. Once again, I felt life was over.

Immediately, I started dating again. I would not date someone who didn't want marriage and children as part of life. I didn't just feel like I was running out of time. I KNEW I was running out of time. At home over the summer of 2003, I made an announcement to my parents. I said that I was going to date again. I also said that if I turned 35 - in May of 2006 - and I was not married and trying to conceive, that I would adopt a child as a single mother. I announced that I was going to start saving for this now, as my prospects were slim in the town of Columbus, GA. Keep that declaration in mind as you read on.

Readers can review my on-line dating experiences in the archives a few months back. It was October of 2003 when I flew to Ohio to see Michael again. It had been 6 months. I realize this is not a long time, but it felt like forever. I still loved him so much, and nothing I did made those feelings lessen over time. The trip did not go well. We talked about marriage, but he could not say he wanted children. In December of 2003, we managed to do Christmas at his parents home in Mississippi. He said he wanted to marry me, and that we could have as many children as I wanted. He said we could start trying as soon as we got married. The following Spring Break in 2004 he drove down to GA from OH, and together we drove to MS and got married. Afterwards, we went to our respective states to finish out the semester. In June I moved to Lexington and Michael moved down in August to begin his appointment at UK. Shortly thereafter, I went off the pill. My cycles didn't come. In January of 2005, I went to a new doctor who sent me for bloodwork and an ovarian ultrasound, and quickly put the pieces together. I had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. I started on Metformin to get my testosterone down. Through no suggestion of anyone, I asked Michael to go for fertility testing himself - it came back "subfertile". That was a nice way of putting it. He had such low motility and high morphology that conception between the two of us would be virtually impossible on our own. Still, we tried. But we were not getting younger, and didn't have all the time in the world to "just see" if we could make it happen. Michael went on Clomiphene to boost his testosterone. It worked - he had higher testosterone and tons of swimmers - they were just mostly non-moving and funky shaped - even worse than before.

I'll spare readers the stories of the many nights I cried and felt worthless and punished by God for all of the bad things I had done in my life. Readers who have followed me for a while have read about the toll it took on our marriage. We ended up in marriage counseling, our enjoyment of each other down to a bare minimum, our arguments more heated, and our intimate life together almost non-existent. One night after hours of battling each other, Michael said he didn't want to be married anymore. The next day, I contacted our pastor. I did not know what else to do. I was ashamed and desperate. When he met with us, he was strangely upbeat. He asked simple questions, and then the shocker was this: He said he saw a great deal of hope. He said he didn't think the marriage was failing, but that we were just struggling like many couples do. Hope. He said he saw hope. In my mind, I cussed our pastor out. I sure did not see hope.

I needed a change. Out pastor told us to stop going to our marriage counselor - that it was doing more harm than good. He was right - within weeks we were more calm, talking, hugging, and even enjoying more intimacy. We worked on forgiveness instead of rehashing our hurts and frustrations.

Desperate for sunshine, I decided to become a foster mother to a batch of kittens. They were orange tiger kittens. Three bursts of sunshine with loud motors who needed love as much as they wanted to give it.

When they were gone, I got another batch of kittens - this time 5 kittens - 4 weeks old. Again, I loved being a caretaker and watching the little ones grow and jump and climb. I watched this batch of ferrel kittens learn to be held and cuddled. I watched them learn to not be afraid of me.

In talking to my mom one day (who knew about the PCOS and infertility), she asked why we didn't just foster human children instead of just kittens. It was an off-handed remark, but mom has been more in-tune to my feelings and needs than most people - despite our differences, geographic distance, and infrequent visits. I had to wonder where that comment came from. We talked about it a while, and then dropped the topic.

At work the next day, I googled "how to become a foster parent", and then looked up Kentucky. I picked up the phone and called for information. It was easy. They sent us information in the mail and an invitation to the next orientation meeting. It was incredibly fast.

The night of the orientation meeting was June 29th, and to be honest we were not sure what we were doing there. The place was in a very poor neighborhood (the projects?) with a police station nearby. I was physically shaking from nerves. There were about 22 people there. We were asked to go around the room and introduce ourselves and whether we were interested in fostering or adopting. When it got to us, I could barely speak (and I teach Public Speaking). I said we had no idea what we wanted, and I was not lying. At the meeting, we set the schedule for our training classes - whoever showed up would be in the class for the next 5 weeks. Our classes began on July 7th. We met Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6-9. By the end of 5 weeks, there were only 8 of us remaining. Michael and I were the only married couple - the other 6 women were single, unattached women ranging from the age of 25 to 50-something. We felt like the survivors of a very tough process. The leaders had surely chased away anyone who was just looking for a way to earn some extra money (who the heck would do such a thing, anyway?) or the faint of heart or those who just weren't ready. There were many nights that I cried and said I wasn't going back to the rest of the classes. The problems and issues were overwhelming. The "partnership formation" with workers and agencies and birth parents seemed daunting and quite unpleasant, and a huge amount of work.

Our first home visit was July 22nd, and it went very well. Our teacher asked us mainly about the kind of children we would like to have placed with us, and about our plans to adopt. She asked about infertility, but didn't press much. All in all, that visit went pretty well.

Every week we had "roadwork" to do (a nice way of saying homework). We had to answer questions as a couple about what we could and couldn't handle. Many time we just stared at each other. How is it possible to know what you could handle until it's there and you're trying to deal with it? There was so much guess-work. There was so little actual training. I am no more prepared now to care for an infant than I am to say - care for an iguana. (Tank? Water? Bugs to eat? Change the cage? Pet it?) Everything I know about the baby that will one day end up in our care I have learned on my own - by asking others, by observing, and by reading books.

August 11th was our last foster parenting 101 class (or whatever it was called). I miss the other women and having folks who were glad to see each other 2 nights a week. August 19th was our second home study. It was dreadful because all of our psychological and emotional past had to be talked about - divorce, past debt, depression, suicide attempts, my mom's breast cancer, infertility. And I cried and cried right in the middle of it - so hard that I had to get up and go to the bathroom to get some water and calm down. Still, but for the grace of God, we were approved.

One woman who survived the classes with us is Janet - now my friend. She's 27 and having her second home study today. She put it off due to nerves and her fears that something would go wrong and she would get her hopes up. Janet's single, and wanting to foster girls who are school-aged. She has no plans to adopt any time soon. She will make a great foster mom. She already has bunk-beds with the bedding all set for girls to come into her home. We try to check in on each other and keep each other sane. We'll probably be each other's respite care as well. I know without a doubt she will get her final approval. She's a good woman - girls will be lucky to be in her care.

So, when looking back at how I ended up here, I'm astonished. It's God, it's "life circumstances", it's the gentle suggestions of loved ones and mentors. Michael has become a much better partner and plays a more active role in looking forward to being a father. His excitement doesn't always show in outward ways, but he tells me on occasion when I'm upset - "I want this too." That is miraculous. To have been through those classes and the invasive home studies and still want this is the miracle. I think they must set it up that way for a reason. I guess they figure that in the end if you can handle the mounds of paperwork, the topics in class and the gut-wrenching inspection of all aspects of your life - you are fit to parent. Funny though, they never asked if I could change a diaper, give a bath, take a temperature, or if I liked to read books to a child or rock a child to sleep at night. They didn't ask about what I'd do when Baby MIA woke up 8 times a night screaming and crying. No, instead they ask about my infertility. Now that's brilliant.

How did I get here? God only knows.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Fostering to Adopt

Michael and I have committed to being foster-to-adopt parents. We understand this is a tough position to be in. Since it works differently in other states, I'll explain how it works here. There are fairly new permanency laws. No one wants to see children shuffled from one home to the next with little hope of having a permanent family. Too many kids were in permanent foster care, and too many were "graduating out" of the system - turning 18 and being on their own with no hope left for being adopted.

KY doesn't want to place infants with a family who would not be willing to eventually adopt them IF parental rights are someday, for whatever reason, terminated by the courts. Once a child is placed in foster care, their case comes before a judge immediately and a plan is made for the birth family to follow. The courts have to hear a child's case on permanency by 18 months of foster care. This is when a judge either decides to terminate parental rights on the recommendation of the social workers and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services - or to extend the amount of time a birth family has to get it together.

We have asked to only have "legal risk" children placed with us. We want to adopt. We realize that legal risk is just a best guess by the judge and by social workers based on their expertise in seeing families struggle. In KY, social workers try to place legal risk children only into pre-adoptive homes, regardless of age. So, we would be willing to take a child up to age 2 who was a legal risk. We'd also take siblings if they were both young. We may change our minds someday regarding age, and accept older children. I hope no one will blame me for wanting a baby. We can't have biological children, and I'd like to have the experience of caring for a baby - even just once.

One example that creates a lot of legal risk is the big problem with meth in KY. It's no secret, and it's so sad. The average life span for someone who gets addicted to Meth as an adult is 5 years to live. Most likely, a child of a meth addict will never be able to be returned simply because getting clean is so difficult and time consuming. It may take years of treatment. Meanwhile, they don't want children just existing in foster care not knowing if they are ever going back to their parents.

The argument in KY from the perspective of birth parents is that they are not given enough time to clean up and get their lives in order. Many feel they are not given a fair chance when they are told, for example, that they have 6 months. Our teacher for foster parent training said that from her years of experience, if a child hast returned within 8 months and the birth parent has not shown progress, they most likely will never get their child back.

This puts foster families like us in precarious and painful positions. We will love each child that is placed with us. We are told we will likely go through several (if not many) placements before a child comes available for adoption. If no family wants the child, we would have "first rights" to adopt. We will go through what "regular" foster parents go through with visitations with birth parents and siblings, and working with social workers and birth parents to try to return the children.

This also means we may wait longer for a placement. Our social worker will be careful not to place children with us that she knows will be returned within a few months. It is nice that they want to save us unnecessary heartbreak too. And we will have heartbreak. We will love on a child and see it returned to its birth family, and our room will be empty again. But another will come along eventually. And one day one will be ready to adopt. And if all works out, we will become forever parents.

So, waiting is tough. But having a child leave our home we hoped would be ours will be much harder. I will cry. And then I will get better and do it again I'm sure. I've talked to foster parents who adopted, and none had to wait more than 2 years to adopt a child. For goodness sake, international adoption could take that long and cost more than 20K. If we can adopt a little biracial or African American child, the adoption cost will be free. Talk about a sign from God - God knows me and how I'd worry about money.

We know so little - we don't know gender or age (well, under 2 or so) or ethnicity. We don't know our "due date". The crib is ready. Our students all know and are so excited. Every Monday they want to know if we have a baby yet. So cute. I hope we get a call soon. I hate that in order to get a call, a family has to be ripped apart. It seems so unfair. But being on the call list feels like I'm being molded and shaped and prepared. Every day that goes by without a child is just one more day God needed to prepare us in some way.

Censoring Myself

Michael reads my blogs from time to time. I've always felt like that was a way for me to communicate my thoughts and feelings to him that I would never be brave enough to tell him in person. He can also be rather intimidating to talk to. He's much more intelligent and accomplished than I am, and while he does nothing to put himself above me, I am often more self-aware than I'd like to be with him. In the past, I've written things that were harsh. Several months ago, I wrote a blog in which I said I hated him. In fact, I did hate some things that he had done or failed to do. We were in marriage counseling at the time, and it wasn't going well. We stopped going when our pastor told us he felt it was doing more harm than good. He was right. Things improved greatly between us once we stopped re-hashing all of our problems week after week for one hellacious hour.

Last night, Michael was brave enough to reveal to me that reading that post really made him uncomfortable. I told him that I thought this blog was my place to write my feelings and be completely open and honest with myself and anyone else who might be going through something similar, or who could offer support. I couldn't sleep last night. I knew that what I had written was true, and that in many ways I still carry anger about things from the past, or things that I still believe are true and problematic.

I got up early this morning and called in sick to work for the morning. I deleted the post Michael was referring to. I read it before I deleted it. It was raging mad, and I could still feel the vibrations of my anger through the words on the screen. I hit delete. It asked "are you sure"? It asked "Do you want to permanently delete it?" I hit "yes" and it was gone.

I then thought about M. and what I had written this week about our friendship. I thought I was doing the same thing I had once done when I wrote about Michael. Once again, I re-read the post and heard my frustration through the words. I felt love for M. in my heart, but that certainly didn't come across in my words. I had wanted to get my feelings out so much more than I had wanted to hurt M. I did do some things intentionally. I wanted to open her eyes and shake her so she would stop engaging in so many self-destructive behaviors and stop getting stuck in cycles that put her back in the dark places she's been before. But that is not my job. That's God job to perfect us. I had done to M. the same thing I had done to Michael. I had hurt two of the most important people in my life with my anger.

I deleted the post I had written about M. In her mind, it was too little, too late. Damage done. She's right.

This blog was originally a place for me to vent and share my feelings about all kinds of things and people. The problem is that I didn't think I had to censor myself. I was wrong. There is no such thing as free speech. All speech carries a price tag of some kind.

One of my students advised me regarding what her father who is a preacher tells his parishioners: "Stop, Drop, and Roll" before you vent anger. Just like you are on fire and trying to save your life. Stop what you are doing and what you are saying. Drop your defensiveness and drop to your knees and pray. Roll on in a different direction.

From now on, I will try not to write things that may hurt my husband and friends. I will try to vent my anger and frustration in different ways. I will try to be more positive. But now I don't know how or where I will be able to express my anger, and I'm worried about keeping it inside. I know, I know - go exercise. Greeeeeeaaaaaat. Exercise. Yup. Exercise. We'll see.

This Semester's Class

I'm pretty fortunate this semester. I've been fortunate ever since I started teaching here (except for one section of whiners my first semester in which I packed up and left class and told them I was not going to tolerate their bitching and whining any longer that day, and told them they were dismissed for the day). Since then, my classes have been pretty good - and always unique.

I like arriving early for my 6:30 pm class. I like to leave work here and venture the short distance down the road to the community college so I can rest and rejuvenate from the 8-5 workday in order to get some energy to teach with that evening.

Simply put, I like my students. I like being around them. I enjoy hearing their stories, learning about where they work, their family backgrounds, their kids, and their personalities. I like presenting them with fascinating things to think about. I love it when something doesn't quite sit right with them, or when a theory goes against their upbringing, attitudes, or previously held beliefs about the world.

I realized Wed. night before class how much I enjoy being in their presence. There are round tables and chairs in a study area just around the corner from the classroom. Since there is another class in there before us, folks congregate out there. Students come straight from work since trying to go home between work and class often seems like a waste of time.

On Wednesday, students gathered early at the tables. While I was physically and mentally exhausted, I enjoyed just sitting there talking with them and listening to them. K. talked about his 5 yr. old daughter and 2 yr. old son his love for Batman movies. He told us about his trip to Disneyworld this summer with them. The whole group somehow got on the topic of cartoons, and we all named the ones we loved as kids. We mentioned characters like Foghorn Leghorn, the chickenhawk, Snagglepuss, Deputy Dog, Hong Kong Phuey, and Chilly Willy the penguin. We talked about Bugs Bunny, and how P.'s son wondered if Bugs was gay (he did, after all, kiss Elmer Fudd and cross dress for a laugh). We talked about Romper Room and the Electric Company and Captain Kangaroo. It was just great. How I wished we could have just had class out there and talked about cartoons and children's programming.

I decided I need to jump on ebay and buy some kids' movies and videos. I need some Disney stuff. I need stuff that K. mentioned like Dora the Explorer, the Wiggles, and Travis the Train. I'm glad I have students who have more of a life outside of work than I do. I guess living vicariously sometimes has its merits.

We got to talking in class about how our families influence our self-esteem. We'd like to think that we can grow up, and even if our parents don't approve of us or the things we do, we can dismiss it and move on. We'd feel more comfortable thinking our self-esteem and self-worth as adults had no connection to our parents. We wish. So desperately we wish. I dropped an example that might have been too revealing. I said that while I had decent self-esteem and was 34 years old, a university administrator and part-time professor - my father still had a great deal of influence on my self-esteem. He did not, nor does he now, approve of my marriage to a black man. He does not approve of the choices I have made in life. He has dropped the "n-bomb" (the n-word) in conversation (well, in talking at me) to refer to African Americans. He has been very open in accusing me of ruining my life by marrying a black man. His disapproval and bigotry bothers me very much. A. asked in class if I didn't just feel sorry for my dad instead of letting it affect me. My answer - both. I feel sorry for my dad. But AI also want to be liked and approved of, especially by my parents. No amount of therapy will ever change my desire to be approved of by my dad.

It was a good class. I hope I didn't share too much. I often share personal examples to illustrate points - or allow them to share personal examples if they'd like. A. has been open about sharing her experiences having a son with autism and the challenges they faced and how infant massage helped her son. The males in the class are great at sharing masculine examples, or the male perspective where my own falls short. So far, we've learned about attachment and bonding, the basics of communication and interpersonal relationships, why we form relationships, the different types of attraction, Social Exchange Theory, Knapp's stages of relationship development, family identity scripts, self-esteem and self-concept. We've really covered a lot in this first month of class. I'm really having a blast with them, and hope they are getting more than their money's worth. So many times I see folks who say they are "just at a community college". And I feel so bad. What can I do? So I try to give them the very best of me and what I have to offer. I put myself out there and push and challenge, and encourage and guide. And I tell them that I've taught at private institutions where tuition is 25K a year - and that they get no less from me here than they would have gotten from me there. It's all I can do.

But seriously, this class rocks.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Got a message from our social worker and looks like everything is a go. This is the note, and although it is a bit personal, I figured I hadn't really held back on my blog before - so why start now. Here's how it read:

It arrived in the mail today. I will add this to your file and everything should be good. The letter does encourage that you and Michael maintain joint counseling in reference to your martial issues and up coming parenting issues. Are you all in joint therapy? I was just wondering if you all saw someone when you needed, did not see anyone, or saw someone regularly. You will probably receive your approval letter within the next couple of weeks. I will place you all on the on-call list for placements. Let me know if there is anything that I can do for you.

I am relieved. I am also wondering what will happen next. I feel like we have been launched in a tiny boat out into the ocean with only our oars and fishing poles and life jackets. Our training gave us the bare necessities. We know so little about being parents. We do have marital issues. We will definately have parenting issues. We will undoubtedly argue and disagree, and probably fight. Well, I will fight - Michael will probably just leave and go for drives or work in the office.

An overwhelming wave of fear just washed over me as I've started to type just now. My hands are shaking and it's harder to type. I'm in my office. (long pause for a kleenex break...i can always blame my puffy eyes on my allergies) Calm down Tamara. Easy girl, God is keeping you safe - He will never leave you or forsake you.

Oh, this is funny. My mind just started obsessing about how filthy dirty our place is. Ish is everywhere. I haven't cleaned my bathroom in God only knows how long. Eeew. I mean, nothing visible is growing or anything, and it still looks white and doesn't smell bad, but you know...GERMS. But what if I clean and clean and scrub and bust my ass and then no baby? What if we are waiting for months? Oh no, I cannot keep the place clean for months on end.

Now the fun begins. Now I get to keep my cell phone on all the time and jump every time it rings wondering if THIS will be THE CALL.

I'm going to try not to get overly excited by the news. It could still be months. Besides, patience is not one of my gifts and I could use the practice.

Random Observations on (In)Fertility

I realized this morning as I was sitting on the toilet exhausted from way too little sleep (now that's a great blog-opener right there) that it has now been well over two months since I took my basal temperature every morning to see if maybe I had ovulated that month.

I realized that despite having bought a fancy-fangled digital ovulation predictor with expensive pee-strips you use every morning and insert into the monitor to test your level of hormones - I have not used it this month at all. If I ovulated, I don't know it. If I did, great. If not, well, that's one more crusty 'ol egg stuck up in there that isn't coming out for anything.

My ovaries and uterus and the relative functionality of either of those pieces-parts (parts is parts) does not determine my usefulness as a woman, a wife, or a human being. It also will not determine my life satisfaction. This year, my mother lost a good chunk of her breast to cancer. She is now slightly lop-sided, bruised beyond recognition with a black and blue breast now also burnt and blistered and scarred from radiation. She had tubal ligation years ago. She feels no less of a woman. When my grandmother had a mastectomy due to breast cancer when I was in college, she informed us that breasts do not define you as a woman. I learned then not to define myself by the presence or absence of my feminine parts. It would be years later (as in, uh, now) that I would learn about not defining myself via their function or dysfunction. I am not a dysfunctional woman. I am just different. 5-10% of all women have PCOS. Many don't know it until they have fertility problems. Many are undiagnosed and frustrated with irregular cycles, raging libidos, adult acne, excess facial and body hair, depression, anxiety, allergies, asthma - and so on - all symptoms of PCOS.

I realized that this month was the first month in a long time that I did not chart out the days planning when would be a good time to TTC (try to conceive) or BD (baby dance).

I realized that this month I have stayed away completely from my old online PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) support group and the endless chatter about cycle days, Metformin dosages, Clomiphene, difficult husbands, cervical mucus, basal temperatures, injections, crying over BFN (big fat negatives) on PK (pregnancy kits), and the angst over realizing you are getting older and "running out of time". I guess I just wanted to "get over it" instead of re-hashing it day after day and month after month. I wanted my period to be just that - and not the feared and hated enemy.

I realized that every morning as I pop 1000 mg of Metformin, and every night as I pop 1000 more, that I do it for my health and my insulin resistance now more than I do it to aid my ovulation. I'd like to have lower testosterone levels, less excess facial hair and adult acne. I take my meds so I can be healthy. I don't take them anymore with the prayer of "Dear God, please let me conceive this month". Now, I thank God for another day that I'm not diabetic.

I realized I feel pretty O.K. about being an infertile couple. There are times it still hurts a great deal. There are times I wish it would have upset Michael too. But I also realized that I haven't cried this month about infertility. That is a giant step in the right direction.

I may have written this before, but I'm starting to feel like we are special in some way. Our specialness as a couple is the only thing that has catapulted us into becoming pre-adoptive foster parents. Our uniqueness as a couple may very well be the only reason that one child (or two) will get to have a permanent family. God was counting on us. Even before we were born, he knew we would do this. He knew we would make certain choices, and that together we would struggle. He knew that Michael would not want to have children. He knew that I would put it off until I was stable - and that by then my ovaries would be too filled with cysts. We are very blessed to be in the position we are in. I feel more like we are fulfilling a grand purpose - far beyond the daily grind of my job, and far beyond the daily stressors.

Infertility isn't the evil monster it once was.

It's fascinating that we were reading about David and Goliath in Sunday school.
I feel like in many ways, this was a Goliath for me.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Getting Certified & Certifiable

In short, Michael contacted his therapist yet again, and she said she wrote and mailed the letter yesterday. I am hesitant to breathe a sigh of relief. I'm still worried something else will go wrong. Maybe I'm feeling pessimistic. The social worker said that's all we needed, but I got my hopes up 2 weeks ago when I thought this was all taken care of. I guess I will just have to be more proactive from here on out.

I'm tired. Michael and I have been staying up way too late at night talking about issues. It's exhausting. And it frustrates me that then he gets to sleep in. Because he doesn't teach until 3 in the afternoon, he's still in bed when I leave at 7:30 or so to be at my desk at 8. Last night, I wasn't able to get to sleep until 1. I'm way too grumpy for my own good today. Darn, I'm awful when I've lost sleep - especially when I've lost sleep due to emotional and relational talks that are pretty heavy. Michael can get up and work until he's tired. Me, I just lay there and let my mind race. Aaaaaahhhh. The alarm went off at 6 this morning and I wanted to kick the cat.

Oh, I need some sleep. And I gotta teach class tonight. Maybe this is just preparing me for lack of sleep once Baby MIA arrives. Yes - I need to be more positive.

I'm debating posting this - folks will worry about me. Don't worry friends, I'll get some sleep and be fresh-faced in the morning. Well, at least I'll give it the 'ol college try.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A Professor By Any Other Name - Part 2

I am truly amazed at the number of comments sparked by my previous post concerning what I prefer to be called when I teach my college classes. Clearly, many people are passionate about and committed to their positions on the subject. Thank you all for your feedback. I intend to use the comments as discussion when I teach the chapter in my class concerning the power of language. That chapter talk about labels, and sexist and racist language. But the most powerful aspect of language are not the words themselves - for meanings are in people, not in words which are mere symbols. The power of language lies is it's ability to shape thoughts and feelings - which can and certainly does lead to actions and behaviors.

Names are critical. No doubt about that. We already know about perceptions that are formed of individuals just by hearing their name. I've had discussions with others in this blog and others about re-naming a child you adopt who happens to have an unfortunate name, one that does not set them up well for a life of success and positive perceptions, or one that is overtly Afrocentric. This is a topic for more lengthy blogs. Indeed, it is a topic volumes have already been written about by renowned scholars whose publications have far exceeded my own.

Imagine if you will that my first name was not "Tamara", but another less...oh..."professional" name. Imagine my name is Kandi. This is the name of one of my very best and long-term friends. She is petite, 5-foot nothing, size 6, and very blonde. She is also a brilliant writer and a talented scholar. She is a professor, and went up for early tenure and promotion - and got it. She is addressed as "Dr. W*****". As a graduate student, she was eager to promote what some might refer to as "feminist" teaching methods. (I will disagree there, and assert there are many ways to approach a feminist pedagogy - the name a professor wishes to be called might be considered a lesser technique.) She wanted to be called "Kandi". Her students loved her, but few took her seriously as the scholar she was. Now, an Associate Professor, her voice mail in her office says "You have reached Dr. W*****". The nature of the beast that is the academy presents a woefully unlevel playing field for many of its participants. That is a shame indeed. It is a shame that Kandi is taken less seriously because of her first name and her outrageously "cute/pretty" appearance. But I can attest to the fact that her teaching is top-notch, well founded in feminist theory and methodology, and that her students excel beyond imagination. In fact, "Dr. W's" wait list for enrollment is longer than most of her colleagues. No one bothers to question why she wishes to be called "Dr. Walker". No one argues that her teaching or her students have suffered by showing her this degree of respect.

I could choose to have my students call me "Tamara". I could choose to address my students as "Mr." and "Ms. So-and-so". I could abandon the term "Professor" as some suggest - either because it has "lost its panache", or because I do not yet have a PhD (I am ABD - all but dissertation). I could have students address me as "Mrs. So-and-so", but that is my mother-in-law, and it feels odd to me. Does what I am comfortable with come into play here at all? I find it interesting that people are far more concerned with how the student feels being forced to address me a certain way - as opposed to being concerned with my comfort level as teacher, facilitator, and evaluator. There seems to be little, if any, concern for how my comfort level with the boundaries in the classroom contribute to (or detract from) my own teaching effectiveness and ultimately the outcome for all of my students.

In short, each individual who enters the classroom has his or her preferred method of address. I cannot imagine that my student would have asked the same question of a 50-something, bespectacled white male in a tweed blazer with elbow patches. I believe she would have felt uncomfortable calling him by his first name. Remember the critical point I was trying to make in my last post on the topic. Her argument was based on my age. She argued that she should not have to address me the way I requested because I was close to her age. If her argument would have been based on something substantive (say, based on feminist pedagogy), I might have had a very different reaction. Then her secondary argument was weak as well - everyone's doing it. I teach in the field of human communication. If my students cannot formulate better arguments and lines of reasoning than that, I have truly failed, regardless of what they call me.

Maybe it's a matter or respect, and maybe it isn't. Maybe I'm not a "professor" - but my title, training, and experience sure says it. I'm an adjunct professor. I am not an instructor. I was an Assistant Professor from 1999 on. Therefore, I chose to be called "Professor". My colleagues with terminal degrees in their feilds are addressed as "Professor". Some PhDs and MDs choose to be addressed by their first name. This causes me no stress. I do not stay awake night wondering how I might persuade them to "go old school" and insist on being called "Dr." I want them to be comfortable. And I want students to learn that to successfully navigate their communicative world, they must be rhetorically sensitive enough to adapt, and adapt smoothly and quickly. They must learn how to cope with life circumstances, difficult personalities, more formal individuals, and less formal individuals. They must learn how to do this and not be so intrapersonally affected that they experience stress and discomfort. Perhaps this tiny blip on the radar screen of my class has been a more valuable lesson than I ever imagined.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Contact from the Social Worker

Well, I heard from our social worker yesterday. More than a week ago, she had requested a letter from my husband's counselor. He had asked for the letter and left instruction on where to send it - even gave her the FAX number. Well, apparently it didn't get sent yet. So, I had this message in my e-mail today:

I have not heard anything from you all and I was wondering the status of the letter I requested? Are you all still interested in fostering children? Everything is ready for approval when I get the letter....let me know.

So, I was a little miffed. I've been trying to be patient. I had assumed that everything was in and was a go. I thought we were just waiting for a phone call. Now, come to find out we are still missing one little piece of the puzzle. *Sigh*

At least we heard from our social worker. This is a good sign. She seems to be on top of things, even though all workers in our region are in caseloads up to their eyeballs.

Well, I have given my dear husband the task of contacting the counselor about the letter, and then e-mailing our social worker to let her know we're still alive and that we still want to do this. I guess our silence could have been interpreted as as lack of interest. I'm glad our worker at least checked in to see what was up.

Well, I'm sad about the delay. But in retrospect, Michael and I were both quite sick last week with whatever upper respiratory thing was going around. We would have had a very tough time caring for a child, and may have even made an infant very, very sick. Maybe we had to get "baby germs" from Bumble Bee before we got a placement of our own so we would have Superimmunity or something. Either way, I guess it's God's way of making sure the timing is perfect. I guess this means that our child is just not ready for us yet. Baby MIA, I sure hope it won't be long now. The crib looks so empty without you.

Friday, September 09, 2005

My Husband on ESPN!

It's now official - Michael got the call. In 12 days, on September 21st, he will be flying to New York to try to Stump the Schwab.

Saturday before last, he woke up at 2 am and drove to Atlanta for an open casting call for ESPN's game show of the same name - Stump the Schwab. He passed the written exam, played mock games against other guys, was filmed, and then did a filmed interview. He just received word that he made it on the show. Now, the airfare and hotel expenses are on us - and the cost and time I'd have to take off work probably means I won't tag along.

If Michael can beat 2 other guys and then take on the Schwab one-on-one and win, he'll win $5,000. This may not seem like a lot to some, but to us it would be enormous.

I need to clarify here - few have beaten this guy. Go to the website and look at his 25-year career as a sports researcher and producer, and you'll see why. He's a monster. Beating him seems like luck for those who have - or catching him on a slightly-off day, or in the tie-breaker where they ask some incredibly difficult question answered by some ridiculously high number and then Schwab and the contestant write their answers on small white boards - the closest one wins.

The few who do win get to come back at the end of the season for the championship playoffs for a chance to go head-to-head with the guy for a chance at something like $25,000. You have a better shot winning on Jeopardy, or spinning the wheel on Wheel of Fortune. But for these guys, it's the mere challenge. For Michael, it's being on ESPN. He'll freakin' be on ESPN - the show to end all shows.

I'm thrilled for him. The meaning for me is different than the meaning for him. He saw something he wanted to go, and rather spontaneously, he decided to do it. It's risky. But most of all - it's fun and it makes him smile all over the place. And he needs to have more fun, and smile more. I just never expected it would be on national television.

Go Michael!

Permanently Pregnant

That's how I feel. I'm ready to pop, but I have no due date. We now have 4 car seats - 2 infant (one in each car), 1 small child seat, and 1 booster car seat for a larger child. I have a crib all made up (and 2 extra crib bedding sets), a full size bed in Michael's office, a walker, bouncie seat, high chair, tub seat, and a stroller. I even have packs of Pull-ups that were free after a rebate. We've collected coupons for diapers and formula, and have received a free bib, bowl, and samples of rice cereal. I have clothes from yard sale and Goodwill finds all laundered and hanging in the closet or folded in drawers in the front bedroom that has now become a nursery. I have clothes and shoes for an infant all the way to 3T. I figure I have at least 50 pieces between onezies, pajamas, and assorted outfits. At the last year sale I went to, I picked up 6 pairs of shoes (why 6, I have no idea). I was thrilled with a baby pair of New Balance tennis shoes with pink accents and a University of Florida jacket with a big gator on the back. Go Gators! (I'm a UF grad.)

And we have no baby. No child...yet. And our due date is TBA. Waiting sucks. Though I must admit that while we were sick this week with the croup or whatever horrible bug we had, I was grateful that we didn't have to balance caring for a child at the same time we were convalescing in bed.

I'm feeling much better now, and I'm ready. I'm ready God! Hello?? Do you hear that? Tamara and Michael are ready! (OK, Father, I know you hear me. Yes, Daddy. OK, I'll calm down now. Thanks for the reminder.)

I bought pumpkin booties for Halloween to match the pumpkin onezie I had bought at Goodwill - just in case Baby MIA showed up in time (and was that small). If not, it will go to a friend or wait another year.

Do you know how much Goodwill rocks? There are enormous bins in a brand new Goodwill here in Lexington, and all the infant to 4T clothes in all of the bins are 50 cents a piece. I can't stay away from that place. Every time I go, I find things in the bins with the tags still on them. I find Osh Kosh jumpers and overalls - and even sports team gear for babies. A few weeks ago, I got a 4T fur coat that looks like either fox or mink. Luxury baby! (Oh no, I hope the PETA people don't pour paint on Baby MIA.)

I bought UK booties at Wal-Mart in case Baby MIA decides to show up in time for a football game this fall - or basketball season (of which we are season ticket holders). I have a UK onezie and a variety of UK overalls and outfits - just in case Michael decided to take baby to the game - which would be a sure thing in reality.

I have an empty lifebook I bought from a Creative Memories lady with baby pages and baby stickers all ready to start an album. It, too, sits and waits. The pictures from the blog and the nursery will go in there soon, but not until Baby MIA gets here. I've been looking at buying a digital camera, but can't decide which one - and now there are these new sweet 8-mega pixel cameras. Good Lord, how will I ever choose?

I swear, sometimes I can feel this so much I'm afraid I'm going to start lactating. My dysfunctional ovaries are about to bust (the PCOS aside). I don't want to be foster-waiting-pregnant anymore. I want to be a pre-adoptive foster mommy!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A Professor By Any Other Name...

...would be as sweet?

In addition to my full-time position at the University of Kentucky, I teach part-time at Bluegrass Community and Technical College (formerly Lexington Community College). The course I teach is Interpersonal Communication - a subject I've been teaching in for over 10 years now. From 1999-2004, I taught as a professor at Columbus State University in Columbus, GA. When I moved to Lexington to be with my husband (also a professor) after he had taken the position on the faculty here, I taught 3 classes as an adjunct professor to bring in some income and make myself feel productive and worthwhile while looking for the right full-time position. I still teach 1 evening class each semester for the pure experience of teaching.

Last night in the middle of class, a young woman raised her hand to ask a question. She asked, "Can we call you Tamara"? I was surprised, as classes had started a mere 2 weeks ago and I had already covered the "what do we call you" section of the syllabus, in which I say that Mrs. So-and-so, Professor So-and-so, or Professor A (my favorite) are all acceptable forms of address. I have not finished my PhD, so I should not be called "Doctor". Anyone teaching in a college or university with a terminal MA or MS degree is then typically called "Mr", "Mrs.", or "Professor". I do this little talk nicely, and most students do end up calling me "Professor A", especially since that's how I sign my e-mails. I have never - I repeat - never, had a student ask if they could address me by my first name.

Surprised, I asked, " you want to call me Tamara?" I wondered if somehow students had gotten together and gotten a spokesperson to ask for the group. "Well, yeah", she replied. "I mean, we're practically the same age, so it seems weird to call you Professor or Mrs. A or anything like that." I was shocked as I didn't think we were the same age. She replied that she was 30-something also. I asked if calling me Professor A made her uncomfortable. She said that it did. She explained that all of her other teachers at the college have students call them by their first names. She asserted, "You don't call me Ms. Smith". At that point, one older (my age perhaps) student spoke up and said simply, "She doesn't have to." Later, he stated, "It's a matter of respect. Respect is earned." Granted, all of this exchange was taking place in front of the class, which, if I had not been feeling so croup-y and using my better judgement, I would never have allowed to happen. She had put me uncomfortably on the spot and I had allowed it to continue instead of saying politely, "To save an uncomforatble moment, I think that would be best discussed after class." Or, as my husband suggested in our , he would have simply said, "No" and moved right along.

As I looked out at the class in the dimly lit room, I saw how uncomfortable folks had become, and I regretted that. Lesson learned. Less is more.

I often err on the side of friendliness as a professor. When I first started teaching, I was determined to be a tough-as-nails, take-no-crap, shoot-first-ask-questions-later kind of teacher. I bombed my first semester. My mentor took me aside and explained that while I didn't have to wear a red suit with brass buttons, I had better not wear jeans and sneakers to class either. She ended our conversation by saying, "Remember, Tammy Faye (that's what she called me), you're there to be their professor, not their friend." "But Dr. H", I pressed, "I want my students to like me." She frowned, "Then you've got a tough road ahead. You're better off if you stick to wanting them to learn. If you do that right, some degree of liking will come naturally - the right kind of liking. But just be yourself - just a professional you." The next semester I tried that approach, and it was much better.

Over the years, I've become a much better teacher. In 2001, I was awarded Educator of the Year at Columbus State University. But last night taught me that I still have much to learn. I should have taught more last night instead of letting the conversation go all wonky and off on tangents (even though I found it quite interesting and it did relate to their assignment). And I should have just said "No. I'd prefer you call me Professor A." and moved on. I tried too hard to be likeable, and worried to much about what people think of me. Lesson learned. As much as I might dig the students at BCTC, I am not there to make friends over drinks. I'm there to be a damn good professor - to challenge them, encourage them, and teach them.

The only time I called a professor by his/her first name was in graduate school - and only by my closest mentor who suggested I could call her "Lynne." Even now, I still call Dr. H "Dr." - I couldn't even dream of just busting out with "Katherine".

My husband explains to his students that his earned title is "Professor" (as is mine, by the way - even if it is "just" an adjunct professor - that's the title). His honorary title is "Dr." He gives them the option of using either form of address. He does not give the option of using his first name, and I can't imagine a student asking. He says no one ever has. And they adore him no less. He's one of the most likeable and respected faculty members around - yet students feel comfortable talking to him about all kinds of things. They like him. I'm listening to my husband more from now on. He's a pretty smart guy.

Fostering-to-Adopt and Race

When we were filling out our initial paperwork to become pre-adoptive foster parents, one question we had to answer was that of race. What races, ethnicities, and cultures of children would we accept into our home? Even more importantly, what racial and ethnic background would we prefer in a child we adopted?

First, it's important to know more about who Michael and I are.

I suppose I need to figure out how to post our photo to the main page of my blog. My dear husband is African-American. I am mutt Caucasian. My background is Greek, Hungarian, Norwegian, English, and even American Indian. I look Greek and Hungarian. My husband is tall, very dark, and (of course), handsome. In summer, his skin glows like freshly brewed espresso. In summer, I remain pretty darn white.

I had dated "outside my race" in the past - I had, after all, lived in Mexico. In college, I hung out with guys from Argentina, Peru, Columbia, and El Salvador. I dated a guy from Sweden, but I'm not sure that counts.

I had never, ever, ever dated an African American. I had admired them from afar. I had known Caucasian girls who had crossed the color barrier. I grew up in the south where women were disowned by their families for committing such an act. My parents openly forbid me from dating black men. They openly spoke about how it would destroy my life - citing "society" and how much it would hold me back from being successful. They would comment on bi-racial children as if they were somehow less of children - little creatures to feel sorry for. I had rebelled against my parents on many, many things. This was one I dared not rebel against. I never even put myself in situations where I would meet black men I might become attracted to and want to date. I remember Derrick Broxton in college. He played the saxophone in the jazz band. He was a Christian. His parents were professionals and well educated. He was funny and kind, and smart. He was also black. I remember thinking it was a shame that I couldn't pursue a relationship with him. I was 16 (yup - 16 in college) and was at the mercy of my parents' every rule.

As I grew, I learned how ignorant my parent's views (more my father's) were, and how hurtful they could be. My brother - 7 years my junior - never dated non-white women. He never even had any as friends. Even as I went away to college, I did not break the rule.

But as a woman who was 30 and becoming single again, the former rules and views of my parents seemed much less important. When my path crossed Michael's once again and I felt the things I did, race did not enter my mind. It did, however, enter the mind of the friend I was rooming with at the conference. When I confided in her that I had feelings for Michael, she grabbed my arm and pointed at it. She said, "Look, do you see this? Do you see it? Tam, what do you see here?" "Um, hair? Freckles?" "Tam, you're white. What are you doing? Are you crazy? Your dad would shit. Your parents would disown you, right? Mine would. Geez, Tam, I love you. Think about this, will ya?" And that was that. We walked out of our hotel room and back to the convention.

Michael had different experiences with race and dating. He found lots of girls to be cute, but there were subtle messages at home, church, and school about race. Michael was in his 20's and in graduate school when he first told his parents about a relationship he was having with a white woman (though he'd had them in the past, none had ever been "important enough" to call home about). She even came to Mississippi to visit him at his parent's house. His parents and family members were not thrilled with the prospect of a white daughter-in-law, but seemed happy that Michael had found love and companionship. As Michael went through graduate school in Tampa, FL, the possibility of meeting educated black women in his social circle was virtually nil. He dated all kinds of women from all kinds of backgrounds. He was dating a white woman when we met up again in 2001. By then, his parents had probably figured it was likely Michael would never get married, and if he did, that he would marry outside his race. By the time he introduced me to them, they were pretty well prepared to meet a white woman.

My parents did not meet Michael until after we had been married for 8 months. He met them when we flew to FL last December for my brother's wedding. None of my family members had ever met Michael, nor had anyone made any effort or offer to. They vehemently disapproved of the relationship and marriage, and said hurtful and hateful things that I never though I would hear come out of their mouths in 2003 - from Christian people in 2003 no less. I was (and remain, on some level) ashamed.

Michael's parents were supportive and kind from the start. My parents (correction - my mother) are just now starting to show interest in us and what is going on in our lives. I think my mom's diagnosis with breast cancer at the start of the year, the surgery and radiation, and now our attempts to become parents has had a lot to do with the transformations. Sometimes, it unfortunately takes a crisis to open our eyes to our own wrongs.

Now, as we look to foster and adopt a child (or children), the issue of race pops up yet again. When we were trying to conceive (before we found out we couldn't), it was a given that our child would be bi-racial. How light or dark skinned our children would be - well, that is the stuff of prophets. Genetics would predict that our children would be fairly dark skinned - but the chances range from as light as me to as dark as Michael - and everything in-between. About that, we just didn't care. We cared about having a healthy child (or having a child- period) far more than we cared what that child looked like.

We've had a lot of conversations over the years about being an interracial couple, and about raising and parenting bi-racial children. We've talked about ways to protect and foster racial identity, and have them understand all aspects of their ethnic makeup. If the child chose to identify as African-American, so be-it. If a bi-racial identity felt more appropriate, so be it. We doubted the child would identify as white - but, if so, we would respect a child's need to develop their own racial and ethnic identity.

So, when it came to becoming pre-adoptive foster parents - we said race did not matter. Regardless, we were forced to choose preferences. We listed our preferences in this order: bi-racial, African-American, Hispanic, Native American, and Caucasian. We figure that so many people want to adopt little blonde-haired, blue-eyed children. We want a baby already considered "Special Needs" for no other reason than race - and that there are so few families waiting to take a bi-racial or African-American child, much less adopt them.

My dream? In a perfect world, there would be a little brown-skinned bi-racial baby who needs a family. It can be a boy or a girl. I think Michael would like a boy, although he sure was nice to Bumble Bee the other weekend. We would do our best to see to it that our child knew about their uniqueness, and celebrated that. We would do our best to teach them how to handle the looks, and comments, and questions from those who are uneducated, ignorant, and racist. We are prepared to get hurt. And I'm sure I'll get a lot of questions as to "who's child that is". I don't think I will have to practice any to be able to lift my eyes up, smile broadly, and say, "Mine."