Back to school “questioners”

I’m pretty sure my kids were some of the last kids in America to go back to school. I know many of you dealt with the back to school drama over a month ago, but this was our first full week back, so it’s kind of rearing it’s ugly head in our house right now. For starters I’m pretty sure each of my children have already brought home at least 1 trees worth of newsletters, fliers, and PTA announcements. And by the way, their school went paperless a few years ago. I can’t keep track of it all. I did fill out the updated contact page we get every time I turn around few months. But apparently I somehow missed noticing the back to school questionnaire in Nariya’s backpack.

Now let me start this by saying that each night I like to try and take a few minutes to myself before I start doing the evening chores. I’ll sit on the couch and mindlessly watch kitten videos on facebook read extremely intelligent news articles. I usually limit myself to 20 minutes before I must start making the next days lunches, folding the laundry, and cleaning up from dinner with one hand (all while using my other hand to hold my eyelids open). Eventually I won’t be able to last any longer and I’ll fall into bed. Where I’ll be awoken 15 minutes later. Last night, riiiiiight as I was about to begin my 20 minutes of nightly relaxation Nariya filled me in on the presence of the above mentioned school questionnaire.

Nariya: Mommy. You keep forgetting to do your homework.
Me: My homework?
Nariya: Yes. My teacher says you haven’t turned it in.
Me: What homework?
Nariya: The homework in my folder.

I start rummaging through her backpack and find my “homework”. I send both kids off to bed and sit down to begin filling it out. I’m annoyed to find that the paper appears to be two full sides and will certainly cut into my 20 minutes of glory. I answer the first few questions on when my kid’s birthday is and if she’s allergic to anything. She’s not. Phew that was easy. Nariya reappears in the doorway,

Nariya: What are you writing?
Me: I’m filling out this questionnaire for your teacher.
Nariya: What’s a questioner?
Me: A questionnaire is for her to find out more about you.
Nariya: What does it say?
Me: Well the current question says “What’s your child’s nickname?”
Nariya: Did you put Riya?
Me: No. I left it blank.
Nariya: WHY?
Me: Because no one has ever called you Riya.
Nariya: But I want them to start.
Me: All your friends from last year know you as Nariya. New nicknames only work when you start a new school or something.
Nariya: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE
Me: Fine. Now go back to bed.
Nariya: Can I help you fill it out?

Yes! What a novel idea. I should start having the children fill these things out themselves. It could help them work on good handwriting and remembering phone numbers and all those good things. I hand the paper to her. And lay back with my feet up. Ready to enjoy my remaining 18 minutes.

Nariya: I can’t read this sentence. The words are too big.

I sit back up.

Me: “Explain your child’s nationality or cultural background (Example: mother-Chinese father-Japanese)”

Oh boy this is always a loaded question for adoptees…

Nariya: What do I write?
Me: Well what do you think you should write?

I figure this could perhaps open up a good conversation on culture and adoption. Because as much as I want to finish this thing quickly, I’m also always on the lookout for good teachable moments. Instead, Nariya takes the pen and writes the following phrase “mother and father – human.” Oh gosh. And with the pen too.

Me: You know what, how about I do the writing and you tell me what to write?
Nariya: Okay.
Me: “What sports or activities does your child enjoy?”
Nariya: Karate….
Me: You have never taken karate.
Nariya: But I want to.
Me: Nariya this is stuff you actually participate in.

I start to realize having her “help” isn’t going to be helpful. I’m not sure why I ever thought it would be. Will takes this opportunity to stroll back into the living room.

Will: What are you guys doing?
Nariya: We’re filling out a questioner’s page. Want to help?
Me: You know, I think I can handle it from here. Why don’t you two head back to bed?
Will: Sure I’ll help.
Nariya: What are my favorite activities?

Will snuggles up on the couch and looks at the paper

Me: No-no-no back to bed guys!
Will: Uhhhh skateboarding, baseball, Chess..
Nariya: Those are your favorite activities, not mine. This questioner is about me.
Me: Guys back to bed!
Will: How about swimming? You love swimming.
Nariya: Yeah put swimming mommy.

It’s not like she’s ever been on the swim team or anything, but she has at least been in a swimming pool before as opposed to a karate studio.

Me: Okay fine I’ll put swimming, but then let’s hurry this along. “Does your child have any responsibilities at home?”
Nariya: Fold the laundry, feed Charlie, do the dishes, clean my room, scrub the bathroom, take out the compost, take out the trash, sweep the floors, turn off the lights…
Will: Change baby Hazel’s diaper, make your bed, scrub the windows…
Me: Okay guys we’ve got plenty of chores here.
Nariya: Did you put them all?
Me: I can’t fit them all.
Will: You know why they only give you two lines? Because normal kids only have two chores.

I spend a brief second deciding if I should point at that I can’t recall the last time either child made their bed, but I quickly realize that making this comment is going to prolong this conversation. I scribble down as many chores as I can fit.

Me: “Please explain any significant events that may affect your child (example: divorce, remarriage, death, recent move)”
Nariya: Put nightmares.
Will: When have you had a nightmare?
Nariya: I did! Remember about Uncle Grandpa?
Me: I’m not sure your “nightmares” are affecting you that much…
Will: Yeah Nariya, that spot is just if someone really important died or if your dad leaves.
Nariya: My dad could leave?
Me: No. Now let’s leave this one blank and head to bed.
Nariya: Put Nana died.
Me: Honey that was a few years ago.
Will: Nariya I don’t think that’s affecting you. You only put something there if mommy or daddy dies.
Nariya: It’s affecting me! I’m really sad!
Me: Okay fine I will put it.

I scribble “Nariya’s Nana died a few years ago, she wants you to know this”

Me: I think that’s good. Why don’t you guys go to bed?
Will: There’s still one more question
Me: Yes I know I can handle this one.
Will: It says, “What are your child’s strengths and weaknesses?”
Nariya: My weakness is my strength.
Will: That makes no sense!
Nariya: Yes it does! I’m not very strong, so I’m weak. My weakness is my strength!
Will: Mommy is not going to put that! Your teacher means are you good at math or not!
Nariya: Put math as my strength, and strength as my weakness!

At this point I am loosing my mind patience and would have written just about anything to have this thing over and done with. I quickly scribble Nariya’s last sentence in what I hope is illegible handwriting. I silently vow to never ask for help filling out one of these things again. I hope my child is able to function at school this year despite the fact that she is overworked at home and dealing with the upsetting death of her great grandmother. Perhaps her teacher will understand seeing as Riya has two humans for parents.

schoolquestionairre

Please don’t talk about my child’s weight

I have a daughter. I might be a teeny tiny bit biased, but I think she’s one of the most beautiful daughters in the world. She is smart and kind and funny and strong. She is a 6 year old girl. Everyday she is one step closer to becoming a woman, or as she says “a grownup.” She plans to be a doctor, a mom, and someone who can do handstands. I’m equal parts excited to meet this adult lady, and terrified for her arrival.

Terrified? You might be thinking. Yes. Terrified. Because being a woman is hard. There’s sexism, and motherhood, and a ridiculous standard of beauty.

She may be a child now, but there is still something you can do today that will help her and other little girls so very much when they reach adulthood. It has to do with that last thing I listed, the standard of beauty. You see my daughter has a sturdier build then some kids. Not all kids. In fact many kids look just like her. But the body shape of so many children seems to be cause for concern for some adults. Some adults feel the need to make comments about my daughter’s shape and the shape of her friends. Some of the comments are even meant as compliments. But these comments are inadvertently sending a different message. I bring this up today not to judge the people who have said these things, but to educate them that these comments are hurtful. All of these comments have come from women, the majority of them have come from other mothers (or grandmothers). These comments are unintentionally setting up young girls (and boys too!) for a lifetime of body issues.

1) “She was such a fat/chubby/plump baby/toddler” or other comments on how she used to look

This comment is usually made as an observation. It isn’t meant to make anyone feel bad. Most babies are cute and chubby. And my daughter was no exception. But as she’s gotten older, fat/chubby/plump have all begun to be used in a negative manner. For a child who isn’t hearing anything else about their weight, chubby baby comments might not be a big deal. For a child who is getting food/appearance comments thrown at them constantly, being called a chubby baby is a big deal. My daughter isn’t hearing you say she was cute. She’s hearing you insult what she looked like as a baby.  This comment also sends the message she has always been fat/chubby/plump.

2) “She is really slimming down!” or other comments on her current appearance

This is usually said enthusiastically by someone who hasn’t seen her in awhile. We got two of these on the first day of school this year. I know the person saying it is trying to pay a compliment. I know their heart is in the right place with this one. I also see my daughter every day, so no need to fill me in on her current appearance. Also, she can hear you and this well intentioned comment tells my daughter several things a) Everyone is noticing her weight. b) Slimming down is very important. c) She’s looking good now, but wasn’t before. If you haven’t seen my daughter in awhile try asking her what she did on her summer vacation or if she read any good books lately. Skip any and all comments on her current weight.

3) “Does she play sports? She really should play sports!” or other comments on her activity level

This might be a perfectly acceptable comment. If you say this when my daughter is kicking around a soccer ball with her friends, and you notice her mad dribbling skills, this comment is fine. If you say this when my daughter is eating a piece of cake at a birthday party it’s not cool. She does play sports thankyouverymuch and as her mother I will be the one to worry about her activity level. We’re trying to teach her that athletic activities are a fun way to exercise, not a punishment for having a piece of cake. This comment sends the message that she needs athletic activity more than other children her age. I think every child needs physical activity daily. Instead of acting like she’s the only one, why don’t you write the school board and encourage them to schedule gym class more than once a week.

4) “Oh my gosh she can really eat!” or other comments on what/how much she is eating

Yes she can eat. So can I. We’re both extremely thankful to be healthy and not need feeding tubes. Oh you were commenting on how much she was eating? Oh okay. Well your comment has sent her the message that eating a lot is bad. Now she feels guilty and sad about eating “too much” according to you. You know what many people do when they feel sad about food? I’ll give you a hint, they don’t magically turn in to little health nuts. They eat more. Or they don’t eat at all. Your comment didn’t help, and maybe even hurt. We’re teaching her healthy eating habits, but she’s also still 6. No need to guilt trip her for enjoying a second piece of pizza.

5) “Aren’t you afraid she’ll be fat when she grows up?” or other comments on her possible future appearance

Actually no I’m not worried a bit about what her size will be. What I’m worried about is her feeling like she can only ever eat salad. I’m worried about her thinking she has to spend all her energy at the gym, or feeling like a failure when she realizes this isn’t possible. I’m afraid that one day she’ll look in the mirror and not see the beautiful person I see when I look at her. I’m not worried about her being fat, I’m worried your comment just instilled a little more fear in her. Just made her a little bit more afraid of growing up to be anything other than skinny. I’m also worried about the other little girls who hear you. You might have been talking to my child, but your words are effecting them too.

So let’s work together here, and learn to watch our words around children. Let’s teach our daughters, and all the beautiful girls out there of every shape and size, to love themselves the way they are. Let’s teach them that healthy eating is not a punishment. That it’s okay to have ice cream sometimes. That physical activity is something to be enjoyed, not ruled by. Let’s teach girls that they are worth so much more than what the scale says. Let’s teach them this, so that when they grow up they may grow into happy, healthy, confident women.

self image weight comments

Hazel said mama!

The kids were having me “interview” them about school starting. Will wanted Hazel to do an interview too, but seeing as she’s not exactly speaking in full sentences yet, he was doing the talking for her. I guess I really did need to be patient, here she is saying mama, just a mere 5 days after I posted about it. This is the first time I ever heard her say it.

Our 4th Anniversary

4th anniversary

Today is Rob and my 4th wedding anniversary. Or should I say Rob and I’s 4th wedding anniversary? Now that school is really back in session, I feel like it’s important to get my grammar write. Anyway, we were married 4 years ago today.

I’m not sure that 4 years is one of the anniversaries that people usually make a big to-do about. Unless you’re Kim Kardashian (happy belated 73 days btw) I think the big celebrations in life are reserved for your 1st, 5th, 10th, 25th, and 50th anniversaries. Or in other words, all the years that have zeros, ones, and fives. However, every year is a gift and a blessing so I’m going to honor that.

Although 4 years may not seem like many to most, I’m happy and proud to have made it this far. I love being married yo! I mean don’t get me wrong, there are the ups and downs. And the downs aren’t exactly the most fun thing in the whole wide world. But I love my husband. I love our 3 awesome kids. I love the life we have. And I love the cake, which I intend on eating tonight to celebrate.

Now off to buy the husband a Kumquat. Or perhaps I should opt for the more scandalous Passion Fruit?

First Day of School! (sort of)

This morning I combed their hair and took their picture and brought them to school… and then found out that tomorrow is actually the first day of class. Yep. Way to go mom.

first day of school

Will was happy for one more day of summer, Nariya was dissapointed. Both were relieved to have the obligatory first day of school picture out of the way which is always a hassle and a rush. I can’t believe I have a 4th grader and a 1st grader! Or at least I will… tomorrow.

My loquacious baby

My baby girl is starting to talk. We started with sign language, which has gone well. Lately she has also begun to speak actual words. Lest you think I’ve gone all “my 10 month old is the smartest baby in the world and can talk and also read and recite the dictionary” on you, I assure you that when I say speak I mean she strings together a few monosyllabic sounds in a purposeful way and we’ve gone ahead and translated them to actual words. Her main party trick is “All Done” or Ah-Da as she says it. She whips it out all over the place. A few pushes on the swing, she’s Ah-Da. A couple of blueberries, Ah-Da. 37 minutes nursing, Ah - oh no wait she’s not all done.

These are the “words” she says:

  • Ah-Da (All Done)
  • Da-Da (Daddy)
  • Uh-Oh (Uh-Oh)
  • Aye-Aye (Night-Night)
  • Nariya (this is according to Nariya herself, no one else in the family has heard it so it’s validity cannot be ascertained)

 

These are the words she refuses to say despite frequent coaching:

  • Ma-ma

My husband claims she has said it and will occasionally call me over from another room “Erin, quick she’s saying Mama again!” and I’ll come running and he’ll say “Hazel, say Mama!” And she’ll either sit silently or laugh in my face depending on her mood. I’ve tried to calmly await the Mama. I’ve heard the rumor that Dada is easier. But now I’m Ah-Da with the patience, hurry it up little lady and say my name!

Oh you wanted to take my picture? I'm Ah-Da waiting around for THAT.

Oh you wanted to take my picture mommy? I’m Ah-Da waiting around for THAT.

I need you! For a new project

Yesterday started as many days in the month of August have started, with me scrambling to find childcare. I received a text message from my husband “reminding” me that the daycare would be closed the next day (which was a Friday) for Labor Day weekend. I say reminding, because that’s the word he used. Informing would probably be a better word choice. Since Rob does daycare pick up and drop off he’s usually the one expected to keep the calendar up to date on closings. As you can see, its not his strongest attribute. (Case in point: two weeks ago. Teacher training day Monday and Tuesday. Notified Friday.)

After his text I began the mad scramble to find child care. I started with our standard favorite. No response. Moved on to our backup. Our backup’s backup. Our backup’s backup’s sister. Her friend. Her cousin. 7 women I don’t know how I got the number for. The neighborhood yahoo group. Facebook. I now in addition to needing a babysitter, needed a stiff drink.

Our standard favorite called back, she was not available Friday. Are you available tonight? I asked in exasperation. She was. Whew.

I texted Rob to let him know. It went something like this:

Me: I found a babysitter for tonight

Rob: We don’t need one for tonight

Me: We do now

Rob: What about tomorrow?

Me: Still working on it

The afternoon went on and we finally found a sitter for the next day.* Rob met me at work that evening and we started strolling around the city. We stopped for bagels because I really needed some lox (I’m still recovering from the 9 month pregnancy ban on smoked salmon). We each got a Coke. Let me take a minute to explain the current coke marketing campaign to my Amish readers. Essentially Coke has begun putting different words or names on each bottle. It’s really exciting to spend 10 minutes selecting the perfect name or word for your day, and then another minute or two posting the picture on instagram with a clever hashtag like #thisisforallthejackiesinmylife. My husband, fad lover that he is, refused to even look at the different words available. He just took a random Coke with a random name and happened to get Brian. Yep Brian. Seriously, there is nothing that special about Brian.Unless perhaps you’re a die hard Beach Boys fan in which case Brian might be a good choice. Or if perhaps your husband’s named Brian, which in Rob’s case it is not. I tried to convince him to put it back and at least take family or love. Nope.

So he drank his Brian and I was forced to move on with life. We were in the W 30′s, and decided to make a stop at B&H (as all film nerds love to do). Now Rob and I have been discussing buying some camera equipment for awhile now. I thought it would just be one of those things we continued to discuss for the rest of our lives but never actually did, like cleaning the closets. So we go to look at the camera we have been discussing for ages and spend a few minutes talking about how gorgeous the shot is and what a great lens and wouldn’t we love to own a camera like this and think of all the films we could make and yadda yadda yadda. The salesman in front of us starts giving us pointers, I look up from the camera, and guess what his name is. Yep, Brian. Not Dennis or Carl, Brian.

We bought the camera.

Now this will be helpful, as I do occasionally shoot things outside of work. And when I say occasionally I mean Cory Booker’s 40th birthday party, and that one wedding, and those two Bar Mitzvahs back in 2010. But perhaps with a new camera things will pick up again?

But I’m also dreaming big folks. I have this idea for doing short interview style pieces. Just a few minutes on different topics related to adoption. I’m talking everything. And this is where you come in. I’m looking for subjects. Adoptees, birth moms, adoptive parents, international, domestic, infant, older child, foster, anything. If you live in the NYC area (NY, NJ, CT, PA) or know someone who does that would be willing to let me do an interview, would you shoot me an email? Also we travel a bit so if you know anyone in the Seattle, DC, or LA areas that could work too. My email is nobohnsaboutit (at) gmail (dot) com

brian

 

*Lest you think I hire babysitters all willy nilly, just wanted to let you know the one we found was recommended by a friend who has used her on numerous occasions for her 4 boys.

Tru-Colour Bandages, a lot more than just a bandage

There is something in our house that has been causing some excitement lately, and that my friends is a new product called Tru-Colour Bandages. Tru-Colour Bandages are a brand new line of bandages in darker skin tones.

baindaids2

Both of my big kids and myself and my husband are pretty excited about these (I’m sure Hazel would be too if she knew what a bandage was).  I actually began looking for a product like this when my children first arrived 5 years ago, but had long since given up.

Having bandages that match skin tone is actually a bigger deal than you might think it is. I’ve heard a lot of people say “well I just use character ones!” as if that takes care of the problem. Yes I agree that does work better than putting a beige bandage on brown skin, but it isn’t enough. For starters your child cannot wear a character bandage forever. Well I mean they can, but they probably won’t want to. I know this may be hard for those of you with preschoolers to believe. At this point in your child’s life there is likely nothing that makes them happier than covering their entire body in rainbow colored bandages. But I assure you, this love affair is not going to last forever. What about when your teenager gets a nick shaving? A paper cut while typing that 8 page essay? A skinned knee when they slip sprinting to the front door just in time for curfew? Hello Kitty might work for your 5 year old, but likely won’t work for your 15 year old.

There is also a greater issue at play here, and that is validating that our children have a skin tone worthy of a bandage. That’s silly! You might be thinking. But it isn’t. Why do we buy our kids of color dolls and toys that look like them? Why do we make sure to watch Doc McStuffins and Little Bill? Why do we browse the teacher’s book collection on back to school night to make sure it’s diverse enough? We want our children to see themselves in this world. To know they belong, and fit in. When your child has the option of a skin tone bandage, it is just another way of saying that their skin belongs.

Tru-Colour Bandages will be available this fall, so check them out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the web. Also, consider encouraging your child’s school and family members to check them out as well. This is about a lot more than just covering boo-boos.

Here’s the Bean a few years ago wearing a standard “flesh tone” band aid. As you can see, it blends in about as well as a porcupine in a petting zoo.

trucolourbandages1

 

Dream big little lady

Nariya and I had the following conversation over breakfast at my mom’s house this passed weekend.

Cinnamon-Toast-Crunch

Nariya: Mom did you read this cereal box? It say’s I’ll do amazing things when I grow up.

Me: You will! You absolutely will!

Nariya begins to eat her cereal while I decide to take this opportunity to turn the cereal box into a motivational speech.

Me: You are such a good kind person. You will definitely do amazing things. I see you helping the homeless, feeding the hungry, making our schools a better place… You can do anything you put your mind to!

Nariya: Really? Anything?

Me: Yes really! What amazing things do you think you might do when you grow up?

Nariya pauses between bites and appears to be thinking. I smile in anticipation of what amazing thing my little darling might dream up. Perhaps she’ll want to become a heart surgeon who saves lives or a scientist who finds the cure for some rare illness.

Nariya: Handstands.

Me: Handstands? Oh yes handstands are amazing. Anything else? Like maybe being our first female president.

Nariya: Nah, just handstands.

 

Race and the bean activity

One activity I found particularly interesting that we did at camp involved putting beans in a bag. A category was announced (self, mother, father, teacher, principal/boss, best friend, neighbors - you get the point). If that person was the same race as you, you put a black bean in your bag. If that person was a different race, you put a garbanzo bean in your bag.

This was Nariya’s bag:

WCC8

Yep. Transracial parenting fail.

I had thought that living in a diverse area meant that our child was automatically surrounded by people like her. But this clearly shows it isn’t enough. She may have a few Black friends, but her best friend is not. She may have had a Black teacher two years ago, but her current teacher is not. There may be a Black family on our street, but our next door neighbors are not. We are living an illusion of diversity. Just because we pass people of color does not mean our child is getting enough exposure.

My eyes are have been opened. Back to the drawing boards. What can I do to change this area of our lives?

*She could have had one black bean for our president, but when the announcer said “president” she thought they meant president of the school. So she went ahead and added a garbanzo. Not that this extra bean would have made much of a difference…