Tuesday, September 28, 2010

While We Wait: A Trip to Boston

While - in a sense - it does seem like our lives are quite consumed with making preparations to welcome a new member into our family, learning about Ethiopia and waiting with anticipation for the day we'll get to meet our child, there's a lot we're doing While We Wait that doesn't really have much to do with our adoption.  One of those things is our recent trip to Boston.

A few months ago Rob informed me that he would be going to Boston in September for a two-day conference.  My immediate reaction was, "then I'll meet you there after it's over and we'll spend the weekend there."  Looking back, I don't know what it was that made me say that.  I've never flown to meet Rob anywhere after a business trip; we've never talked about going to Boston; it was completely random.  But I instantly knew this was something I wanted to do and that we would have a really good time.  Rob, on the other hand, was not so convinced.  I think he said something like, "what would we do there?"  to which I responded, "I have no idea, but aren't there a lot of historical buildings there?  Do some research and get back to me."  Well, he did the research and decided it would be really fun, so we started planning a long weekend in Boston.

I flew in Thursday evening.  For some reason, I thought Rob was renting a car, but as we were waiting for my suitcase at the airport, he flashed what looked to me like some sort of mass transportation pass.  When I asked him about it, he explained to me that it was my bus/subway pass for the weekend.  So, once we got my luggage, off we went on our first adventure.  We caught a bus that took us to a subway station; we caught a train that took us to another subway stop; we caught another train that took us a few blocks away from our hotel; and then we walked the rest of the way to the hotel.  I'm sure there are a lot of people out there for whom this is routine, but I was completely out of my element.  But I LOVED it!  Finally, I asked Rob how he was such a pro at knowing all the stops and routes, to which he replied, "I've been studying this for about a month."  I had NO IDEA!  He's really the best :)

Friday morning we got up bright and early for our whale watching tour!  This was such an awesome adventure. 

Rob bought binoculars especially for the trip!

A view of the city from the boat

It took us an hour and a half to get out to where the whales were.  We stood on the top deck of the boat for about the first half hour and saw some cool scenery, but then went down into the cabin until we got out to where the whales were.

Iconic Northeast scene.  Beautiful!

Awesome sea side town where I would love to vacation

THE greatest thing by far was getting to see so many active, playful humpback whales.  There were a couple of mothers and their calves that were having the greatest time swimming and jumping in the water.  We really thought the whales would be further out, and that we might not be able to see them very well without binoculars or the camera's telephoto lens, but they were RIGHT by the boat!  At one point, our camera wouldn't take a picture because it couldn't focus on the whale because it was TOO CLOSE!  It was the coolest thing.  With that being said, it was really hard to get good pictures of the whales.  We took about 200 pictures, got one REALLY good one, several OK ones, and then about 100 of water.  Here's my fave:

Baby Humpback Whale

Baby taking a dive 

Baby diving again

After our whale watching tour we walked over to the North End, which is essentially Little Italy.  We found Regina Pizzeria, which has been there since 1926.  There are other locations now (we saw one at the mall the next day), but this was the original location.  We had FANTASTIC pizza there.  So good.

The menu

Really yummy meatball pizza

Equally as yummy traditional pizza

Super cute husband

After lunch we walked around the North End for a while and it was there that I discovered I LOVE old buildings!  I mean, I LOVE them!  I get kind of emotional about them, even.  Who knew?!  So, I took LOTS of pictures of old buildings.  I mean LOTS.  I won't bore you with all of them, but I will show you a few of my faves...

Look at the color!

Check out the patina - and the detail!

Loved the buildings on this little hill

Loved the colors

We also ended up walking by the Old North church.  From the website.. on the evening of April 18, 1775, when the church sexton, Robert Newman, climbed the steeple and held high two lanterns as a signal from Paul Revere that the British were marching to Lexington and Concord by sea and not by land. This fateful event ignited the American Revolution.
From the street

After that, we went back to the hotel to get cleaned up to see the Blue Man Group!  It was SUCH a great show.  If you ever have a chance to see one of their shows, you should DEFINITELY go!  We were on the third row of a VERY small theater (also very old and with a lot of historical significance), so we were about 10 feet (max) from the stage - in the "pancho" section.  Yes, every chair in that area had a pancho draped over the back for audience members to wear for the show in case anything shot from the stage.  About half-way through, they shot what looked like digested Twinkie into the crowd, but was actually pureed banana.  I got one tiny spot on my shirt.  Rob, however, somehow got it in his hair, on his face, on his shirt, on his pants and on his shoe.  Don't ask me how.  I have no idea.  As we were walking out of the show, one of the Blue men came and stood by us and Rob wanted his picture taken for Facebook...

Rob with a Blue Man

Saturday was a bit more leisurely.  We slept in, found something to eat for brunch and then made our way to the Duck tour.  On our way to the Duck Tour, however, I found LOTS of cool buildings to take pictures of.  These are just a few of my faves.

Gorgeous patina

It really isn't leaning.  Just thought the picture looked cool that way :)

Would you PLEASE stop taking pictures so we can get to the Duck Tour?!

Actually, it's a restaurant.  I have no idea if it has any historical significance.

Beautiful church

Beautiful church against a beautiful blue sky

More beauty

Love these towers


FINALLY, we made it to the Duck Tour.  Duck tours are taken in these vehicles built in WWII that travel on both land and sea.  Here are some photos from our tour...

Waiting to go on the tour

Our tour guide, "Hardly Davidson."  We LOVED him!

The original G Dub

LOVE the colors of this building

The capital, the dome of which is covered in REAL gold

What the vehicle looks like on the water

Really cool bridge that I took a million pictures of

They call these the salt and pepper shakers

Random statue on top of a building

Love the train on the bridge

House I'd like to live in some day

Very pathetic picture I got of Cheers

After our Duck Tour, we walked to eat a late lunch / early dinner, spotted a group of cars, one of which we think was carrying Bill Clinton and just relaxed for the rest of the night.  We did get back out for dessert and had some delicious Boston Cream Pie (of course!).

Overall, we had an awesome time.  We're both looking forward to going back some day, and have already talked about all the things we'd like to do "next time."  Yes, we have a lot of fun While We Wait.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Three Months!

Once again, I'm happily reporting that another month has flown by!  As I write this, we are actually in Boston for the weekend, the details of which I'll save for another post.  In the last month we have spent lots of time with friends, continued to work on our bedroom redecorating project and taken a trip to Charlotte for my uncle's surprise 60th birthday party.  I am also coordinating our church's Faith in Action campaign and helping with our comapany's United Way fundraising campaign.  Things are pretty busy right now.  In the little bit of down time we have, we're also trying to get in all of our online adoption training.  Life is pretty chaotic right now, but it's helping the time fly by, so I can't complain.  Life is good : )

For our 3 month post, I would like to introduce you to the E family...

Baby M, Daddy B, Mama A and Daughter L

We began hanging out with the E family about a year ago, and have loved watching them grow from a family of 3 to 4 this summer.  Sometimes you just connect with people and I think that's what happened with us.  The boys love to play video games and talk sports; and the ladies like to talk about sewing and decorating. 

One of the things I love so much about the E family is their zeal for bargain shopping.  They are famous for using paper Christmas plates year-round because they get them on clearance at Target the day after Christmas; they have paper cups with the names of random restaurants on them from an overstock restaurant supply store that they refer to as "The Gettin' Store"; they are always on the hunt for the latest bargain and I LOVE it!  I'm also very jealous that I don't seem to have the passion for bargain shopping like they do - which is probably why I appreciate it so much in them. 

I also love their hearts for God and ministry.  About this time last year, they faciliated a parenting study on Wednesday nights, and are now facilitating a study on the Song of Solomon that we're attending.  The thing that I love about this is that they recognized there was a need for studies like this for our age group, talked to our Minister of Education and started the studies.  They didn't wait till they were asked, they didn't suggest that someone else do it, they just took the initiative and made it happen.  I find that very encouraging and inspiring.

We are so thankful for all of the people God has given us to journey with us through this life.  Life is not always easy and there are often bumps in the road, but having friends to do life with is one of the greatest blessings I can think of.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

To Make You Feel My Love

Yesterday was kind of an odd day.  All afternoon I was very emotional - the kind of emotional where everything is wrong, but nothing is really wrong.  It was one of those days where I couldn't stop thinking about our baby.  NOT the I'm-going-to-lose-my-mind-if-we-don't-get-our-referral-soon kind of thinking, but thinking about whether s/he is born yet.  What's going on with the birthmother?  Does she know she won't get to see her baby grow up?  Is she thinking about placing her baby for adoption?  Does she wonder about the people who will raise her child?  Does she wonder if she's making the right decision?  And throughout all of those questions, the one thing I wanted the most was for our baby to know that s/he is loved already.  We don't know if s/he's a boy or a girl!  We don't know how old s/he is.  We don't know the details of his/her face, but we are already connected emotionally.  So, as I sat at my desk yesterday, trying to keep it together and not dissolve into a puddle of tears, To Make You Feel My Love by Garth Brooks came on my iPod.  I love so many of the romantic songs from the Hope Floats soundtrack, but this song suddenly had new meaning...

When the rain is blowing in your face

And the whole world is on your case
I would offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love

When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

I know you haven't made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I've known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong

I'd go hungry, I'd go blind for you
I'd go crawling down the aisle for you
There ain't nothing that I wouldn't do
To make you feel my love

The storms are raging on a rolling sea
Down the highway of regret
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
But you ain't seen nothing like me yet

There ain't nothing that I wouldn't do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
Make you happy, make your dreams come true
To make you feel my love

When I came home from work, there was a letter in the mailbox from World Vision.  It was an update on the little girl we sponsor in Ethiopia, which included a new picture.  Since World Vision has a policy about not posting pictures of their children on the internet, I'll just show you her feet.  The sweet, sad feet that I cannot get out of my head...

Until I enlarged the picture I thought those were her toes sticking out of her left boot.  I now realize that it's just a leaf, or something she's standing on.  If you could see the entire picture, you would see that Sweet Baby is wearing what I'm guessing to be most - if not all - of the clothes she owns.  As you can see, she has on sweatpants under her dress.  Over her dress, she has on the matching sweatshirt that reads, "Just Do It."  I realize she's not used to the same quality of living that I am, but I can't help but look at this picture and think, "This is unacceptable."  But what can I do?  I really don't know, but I have to find something.  This breaks my heart.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Intercountry Adoption Training - An Unmatched Set

Several months ago our adoption agency sent us the information to do our online training.  We have to do 10 hours individually and we've really been dragging our feet.  As I recall, we initially planned to complete it in April, but since it doesn't have to be completed until we actually travel to Ethiopia, we've let it slip quite low on the priority list.  A couple of weeks ago I mentioned to Rob that we really needed to get it done before the Holiday Season.  He agreed, so we made a plan to start it today.  I'm proud to say that we did 2 hours today!  The majority of it so far has been a repeat of information we've already learned from our fantastic agency, but there was an article that I thought was amazing.  I wanted to share it with you because it captures so many of the thoughts and feelings I initially had about adopting from Ethiopia....

An Unmatched Set

Could I love a child who doesn’t look like me? Yes. More than I’ve ever thought possible.

At our wedding, friends assured my husband and me that we would create good-looking children. And we believed them. It's that cloning fantasy: our children would be miniature versions of ourselves, inheriting only our best features. I pictured a child with my green eyes and his thick, black hair. My dreams left out our worst features: big nose, freckles, a long second toe, and a proclivity to indigestion. So many of our dreams (and fears) were shattered along the way: all that talk about how pretty our children would be...and it turned out we couldn’t even have any. When we started considering adoption, I wondered if I could feel like a mother to a child who didn’t resemble me or my husband.

Much as we all like to think of ourselves as consumed with thoughts more lofty than the issue of appearances, looks play into the emotional process before and after an adoption takes place. Adoption is like a blind date in some ways...a permanent one. Early in the process, birthparent and child are faceless to potential adoptive parents. Adoptive parents worry that their child will be ugly or a dud, or both. They care about looks, not because they are hopelessly superficial, but because they want to fall in love with the stranger who will become their child.

Whether or not you like your own looks, they are familiar, and there is something safe about that. It’s almost as if looking alike will ensure a degree of cohesiveness. Look-alike families are assumed to belong together, but families like ours—who don’t match—are seen as curious groupings of individuals. A white woman holding the hand of a little black boy prompts guessing: His social worker? His baby-sitter? His black father’s white girlfriend? His mother? (No, that couldn’t be.)

Minimizing Differences

Once adoptive parents decide that they can parent a child of a different race, they’ve got a more brutal decision to make—one so distasteful, it’s often avoided. They must engage in a shameless discussion about skin pigmentation: how dark is too dark? Many who cross the color line are willing to do so on a continuum of palatability that often reveals an unspoken (and unspeakable) preference for yellow over brown, brown over black, light over dark.

Even within a transracial adoption, it seems, we try to minimize the differences between ourselves and our children. There are many more Asian than African babies adopted by Caucasian parents, as if the yellow-white combination is less transracial than the black-white one. Some of us give ourselves high marks in the discrimination department, but we demonstrate our colorism by preferring brown children (whether Latino, African-American, or mixed race) with European features over black children who share none of our physical attributes. Bizarre as it sounds, white parents of non-white kids remain wishful about family resemblance.

The attraction of opposites seems to apply more to personality than to appearance. Often couples not only share some physical attributes, they even look alike. Blondes gravitate to blondes, and brunettes gravitate to brunettes. Does the wish for transracial matching follow a similar dynamic—like seeking like—or is it outright racism?

I felt like a bigot when I first laid eyes on my son. “He’s so dark,” I thought, and felt ashamed for thinking it. My gut reaction was fueled by gut fear. I was pretty sure I had taken on more than I could handle. Adoption of a white kid would have been enough of a stretch, but we had to go for a baby that came not only out of someone else’s body, but out of someone else’s culture. What kind of pseudo-Peace Corps types were we pretending to be? All I could think was that we were too white to be the parents of someone this black.

A Resounding Yes

Since that rocky start, our lives, as a transracial family, have grown to feel exactly right. Though no one will mistake the boy sitting next to me for my offspring, he certainly feels like my son. A brown child has become familial, so brown children are now familiar. Pink kids look bland to me in comparison to the beautiful mixtures we see in children of color, adopted and not. Is it possible that mixed-race children, like our son, are more beautiful than the population at large? Or does it just seem that way? Perhaps a kind of reverse preference evolves in transracial families, but it is not very different from the old idea of brunettes liking brunettes. If we perceive our family as a beautiful blend, we see the beauty in others’ blends. Put more simply, we are attracted to ourselves.

In the first stages of being a family created by transracial adoption, we were aware of how different from our son we looked. As time has progressed and the emotional cement of family has hardened, we feel unified (even though the world does not always see us as belonging together). Looking nothing like my child causes questions and looks, but it holds no charge as a threat. We are family. Having said that, it is also true that we take great delight in discovering the ways we resemble one another. When people say that my son and I have the same smile, my smile gets even bigger.

Even though I was a closet pro-cloner when I first married, custom designing the image of my offspring, I ended up with a child who is more beautiful than the one his father and I would have made. When I think back to my pre-adoption fear—“Could I love a kid who doesn’t look like me?”—I know the answer now. I know that you can love a child who doesn’t match and that that child will be nothing short of beautiful to you. I also know that you will sometimes forget that you don’t look alike.

Jana Wolff (www.janawolff.com) is the author of Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother, now in its fifth printing. She and her family live in Honolulu.