Tuesday, September 26, 2006

here's something i've been pondering

several times recently i've read prospective adoptive parents say that they are only willing to consider an open adoption because they believe open adoption is best for their children.

i don't completely understand this.

i do, of course, believe open adoption is best for children, and ultimately everyone else in the adoption triad as well. in an ideal world -- at least an ideal world in which adoption still happens (putting aside the possibility that this is a contradiction in terms) -- all adoptions would be healthy, open ones.

but i don't understand how it's better for a child to be rejected by a potential adoptive family that is committed to openness, just because the first family doesn't want an open adoption. it seems to me that *all* children are better off in an adoptive family that is committed to openness. it seems to me that perhaps children whose first families want the adoption closed will *particularly* benefit from an adoptive family that is going to be sensitve to all the complex issues that arise when that child wants to find his or her first family.

i can certainly see how an open adoption could be best for adoptive parents who want to have that experience, and i think that's a valid reason for only being open to an open adoption. but i don't see how it's best for the children.

i'm not trying to create an argument here so much as i'm asking for clarification. i really just don't understand this reasoning (and it's possible i have the reasoning all wrong), but i would like to.

any thoughts?

Monday, September 25, 2006

a week in the life: a series in seven parts


in almost no respect has this been a normal monday. normally, i would pack micah off to school, spend the morning cleaning, catching up on laundry, making a grocery list; i would spend the afternoon after picking up micah shopping at the co-op, perhaps baking bread, fixing a special meal to be shared with kate and pete and ada down the street (i feed them on mondays, they feed us on thursdays).

instead, i'm recovering from a nasty stomach bug that had me throwing up all night friday, and had me worn out the rest of the weekend just walking across the room. this morning, trixie, micah and i managed to sleep in a bit because trixie had an appointment to have a couple of teeth pulled. except not so much: we arrived, she was perky, she headed back bravely with a stuffed animal in each hand ... and promptly refused to open her mouth. sigh. we'll try again, there's no real urgency, just a crowded mouth.

the rest of the day was pretty mundane: some time on the computer while micah watched a video; a hike in the woods with the kids after school; openning a couple of jars of canned (homemade at my dad's this summer) chile, defrosting some corn (from new jersey), boiling some macaronni. by the time dinner was done, half of it delivered down the street, i was feeling icky and took to my bed.

this afternoon we got news that julie's sister, who had a lumpectomy today, probably has breast cancer. the results won't be back for a day or two, but the surgeon is very concerned.

it hasn't been a great day.

Hunger, by Adrienne Rich

--for Audre Lorde


A fogged hill-scene on an enormous continent,
intimacy rigged with terrors,
a sequence of blurs the Chinese painter's ink-stick planned,
a scene of desolation comforted
by two human figures recklessly exposed,
leaning together in a sticklike boat
in the foreground. Maybe we look like this,
I don't know. I'm wondering
whether we even have what we think we have--
lighted windows signifying shelter,
a film of domesticity
over fragile roofs. I know I'm partly somewhere else--
huts strung across a drought-stretched land
not mine, dried breasts, mine and not mine, a mother
watching my children shrink with hunger.
I live in my Western skin,
my Western vision, torn
and flung to what I can't control or even fathom.
Quantify suffering, you could rule the world.


They *can* rule the world while they can persuade us
our pain belongs in some order.
Is death by famine worse than death by suicide,
than a life of famine and suicide, if a black lesbian dies,
if a white prostitute dies, if a woman genius
starves herself to feed others,
self-hatred battening on her body?
Something that kills us or leaves us half-alive
is raging under the name of an "act of god"
in Chad, in Niger, in teh Upper Volta--
yes, that male god that acts on us and on our children,
that male State that acts on us and on our children
till our brains are blunted by malnutritiou,
yet sharpened by the passion for survival,
our powers expended daily on the struggle
to hand a kind of life on to our children,
to change reality for our lovers
even in a single trembling drop of water.


We can look at each other through both our lifetimes
like those two figures in the sticklike boat
flung together in the Chinese ink-scene;
even our intimacies are rigged with terror.
Quantify suffering? My guilt at least is open,
I stand convicted by all my convictions--
you, too. We shrink from touching
our power, we shrink away, we starve ourselves
and each otehr, we're scared shitless
of what it could be to take and use our love,
hose it on a city, on a world,
to wield and guide its spray, destroying
poisons, parasites, rats, viruses--
like the terrible mothers we long and dread to be.


The decision to feed the world
is the real decision. No revolution
has chosen it. For that choice requires
that women shall be free.
I choke on the taste of bread in North America
but the taste of hunger in North America
is poisoning me. Yes, I'm alive to write these words,
to leaf through Kollwitz's women
huddling the stricken children into their stricken arms
the "mothers" drained of milk, the "survivors" driven
to self-abortion, self-starvation, to a vision
bitter, concrete, and wordless.
I'm alive to want more than life,
want it for others starving and unborn,
to name the deprivations boring
into my will, my affections, into the brains
of daughters, sisters, lovers caught in the crossfire
of terrorists of the mind.
In the black mirror of the subway window
hangs my own face, hollow with anger and desire.
Swathed in exhaustion, on the trampled newsprint,
a woman shields a dead child from the camera.
The passion to be inscribes her body.
Until we find each other, we are alone.


there's a lot of talk around the blogosphere right now about anger and pain in adoption. i'm not sure what this poem means in that context, but it came to me, and i thought i would share it. adrienne rich and audrey lorde were both very important to me in my heady days as an undergraduate, evolving as a feminist, newly a lesbian.

i'd love to know what you think.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

a week in the life: a series in seven parts


micah woke up twice in the night, both times having to go to the bathroom with diarrhea. or maybe more accurately softer-than-usual and much more frequent stools. not sure what that's about, but it's wearing me out. we're in the process of getting him to sleep through the night in his own bed (previously he slept with me and julie slept elsewhere, which worked well in the getting plenty of sleep department, and not so much in the marta-and-julie-are-*married*-and-not-just-ships-passing-in-the-night department). it's going ... okay. the rule is he can't get in our bed until the sun comes up, and most nights he only wakes once or twice, and usually just needs the covers put over him and a pat. which i can pretty much do in my sleep. but for the past several nights it's been more like three or four times a night, and involves trips to the bathroom, and i often have a hard time falling back asleep. so, it's feeling a bit like having a newborn again, except that i was so much better able to cope when it was a newborn waking me every few hours. i was the poster mama for "this isn't so bad" and "this too shall pass." now i'm just a grump.

the other thing micah is doing is waking up early. really really early. this morning he was up at 5:00. i tried to get him back to sleep, bringing him to my bed even though the sun was decidedly not up (julie, however, was, on her way to an ungodly early spinning class at the y). but no go. just before six, trixie woke up (an hour earlier than usual, but who could blame her, what with all the racket micah was making, and my grumpy yelling and stomping around). i put them in front of a dvd and slept on the couch for another 45 minutes or so, which made me relatively human and able to cope for the day.

relatively. it was a bad morning. i managed to get trixie up and out the door by 7:50, when our neighbor leif took her and his two kids to school. leif is also on the board of the charter school where all our kids go, and he had a capital campaign meeting at 8:00, so needed her early. i was supposed to be at that meeting too, but have decided there is no way in hell i have time to run a capital campaign on top of everything else i'm doing, and i emailed the school's ceo to that effect. "sorry, won't be there today, maybe ever. love, marta." but then micah and i took to fighting, which was mostly me being pig-headed and cranky, plus a little of micah being ... micah. he threw his breakfast on the floor for no apparent reason. hit me and threw a toy when i put him in time out on the green chair. so it was up to his room for a more serious time-out, for both of us. then we fought about eating the breakfast he had thrown on the floor (he did finally eat most of it) and about cleaning up the markers he had dumped the day before. he tried to convince me that he is "too small. i'm just a little boy! i can't clean up the markers!" i tried to convince him that i would call kate and tell her that micah couldn't come down this morning and play with ada as planned if he didn't clean up. i'm not sure what i was going to do if that didn't work, because i was *desperate* to take him to kate's, but it did work, and i dropped him off for a couple of hours.

i came home, poured my first cup of coffee of the day, cleaned up the disaster that was the house, did the breakfast dishes, vacuumed, took the rotting, smelly compost around to the garden, and finally headed to the park for a run. i almost convinced myself that i had too much to do and should skip the run, but i knew that would be a mistake, and the truth of the matter was that kate was watching micah so i could run. so i ran -- over a narrow rocky path through the woods, along the ridge that follows the creek, and then back again on "forbidden drive," a wide gravel path frequented by bikers and runners. it's a beautiful park just blocks from my house, and one of my favorite running spots. my run was short, maybe two miles, but it routed out my crankiness.

kate and i decided to go to smith memorial playhouse and playground with the kids, where everyone had a good time. until they didn't. ada is two years old and is one of the kids i took care of last year, about 20 hours a week. she and micah are very much like siblings. so there was a bit of pushing, hitting, and throwing, a time-out, a threat to leave immediately if micah didn't help clean up, a relatively uneventful lunch, then more hitting and throwing on the way to the car. fun fun. i managed to keep micah awake on the drive home (he's giving up naps, and often is up until 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. if he sleeps in the day, so we're way in favor of no nap, even if it means a little crankiness in the afternoon), but he fell promptly asleep in the time out awaiting him at home, so i just let it go. i set the timer for 45 minutes, put some beans in the pressure cooker for supper, made tuna salad for lunch, and sat down with raising the roof, a book about church growth, which i have been assigned by my pastor to read.

at 2:15, despite my deep deep desire to let him sleep, i woke micah, and he was pretty cheerful about it. he had a nursie on the couch, while i read about diarrhea in the american academy of pediatrics baby-to-five-year-old book (my reading was fruitless; i guess i'll have to call the pedi tomorrow ... i'm wondering about lactose intolerance?) at 3:00 we drove to the school to pick up trixie and leif's kids, dropped them off at their mom's work, and headed home. i cut a piece of bread (whole wheat which i baked yesterday) for a snack for trix and sent her off to her piano lesson a few blocks away. julie called to say she would pick trix up so they could do some shopping (my birthday is thursday; they are going on a backpacking trip in a week and a half); as they would be home on the late side, i suggested they just get something to eat and micah and i would scrounge, leave the beans for another night.

i did some church work (i'm on a task force charged with proposing a whole new organizational structure for the church, a vision of which we just proposed to the congregation; i think follow-through is really key at this point, so i'm trying to make lists of everything we need to do in the coming months ...) while micah played (by himself, a once-in-a-blue-moon event!), and then we headed to the playground at the end of the block, where we were joined by kate and ada, after kate's jog. at 5:00 we headed home, made dinner (a salad and red wine for me, avocado for micah, annie's organic whole wheat mac and cheese for both of us), then a bath and a slathering of goop for micah. once again, he actually played! by himself! okay, what he really did is take every single thing out of the play room shelves and spread them all over the floor, but i got half an hour or so of computer time (spent mostly on the first half of this post). (normally i would have put him in front of a video for half an hour, but i had taken t.v. away for the rest of the day during one of the hitting/shoving/throwing episodes).

at about 7:15 trixie and julie arrived home with hiking boots and other fun stuff in tow; trixie my nerdy 4th grader immediately fell on her homework, and julie and micah went off to create some order out of the mess micah had made earlier. they are now reading stories as i type.

the rest of the evening may involve a few moments of catching up for me and julie, although more likely she will fall asleep on the couch while i'm putting trixie to bed. i doubt trix and i will get to the hobbit tonight, though, what with the late start on homework, so maybe julie will manage to stay awake. before that, alas, a messy kitchen awaits, and it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to put in a load of laundry. it will definitely be an early night -- i'm pretty wiped.

edited to add: i forgot the call i got today (i'm on the lll helpline for two weeks) from a grandmom, whose daughter gave birth last week to a baby with a billirubin level of 13. her docs want her to stop breastfeeding. 13! it's nothing short of malpractice, imho.

9:32 and i'm off to bed.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

back to school/back to work

it's been all-back-to-school all-the-time around here. trixie had her first day the tuesday after labor day, and julie should have started that thursday, but instead we all made a whirlwind trip to indiana for julie's uncle's funeral. so julie really started with her kids the following monday, when micah also started school for the very first time. that's going pretty exceptionally well, despite a fair amount of anxiety on my part that the separation was not going to be pretty. as it turns out we are both soooo ready. micah's teachers keep asking me "and how are *you* doing?" and i try my best to keep the glee out of my voice as i give some vague, non-committal response and then skip merrily to the car for three whole free hours! four times a week! bliss on a plate.

of course everyone keeps asking me, "so, now that micah's in pre-school, are you going back to work?" rather than laughing in their faces, though, or getting all sarcastic ("no, i'm just planning to catch up on my soaps, and enjoy some well-deserved bon bons, actually), i've decided to just say to people "i work part time from home." the funny thing is that if i got paid for what i do, no one would question whether i am "working," but because for the past few years i have done my work for no pay and with a small child in tow, it is apparently not really "work." (julie says i have a chip on my shoulder about this, by the way, but you know what they say: it's not paranoia if they're really out to get you! ;-)

so anyway, today was the "first day of school" at church, and as i'm the church school superintendent, that's a big day to get ready for. it all went well, but i'm pretty wiped out. yesterday was a big founders' day and middle school dedication at trixie's school, and as i'm the president of the board of trustees, that was a pretty big day too (i introduced paul vallas, the ceo of the phila schools, and michael nutter, hopefully the next mayor of philadelphia, and the architect of our recently passed smoking ban in public places; i was way impressed with him, and am planning to volunteer on his campaign).

none of this is new work -- i've been doing both for a couple of years -- but it's like a revelation to have time to do it during the week without micah (as well as the many other kids i used to take care of -- i'm not doing that any more either (woo hoo!!)). i knew it was time to send micah to school when i had conversations with him that went like this:

"micah, why don't you put on a video while i do some work on the computer?"

"i don't want to watch a video."

"how about you turn on pbs kids?

"i don't want to watch pbs kids."

"sure you do," i would say, as i turned it on.

"I DON'T WANT TO WATCH P. B. S. KIDS!" he would scream as he turned it off.

"MICAH! YOU. WILL. WATCH. PBS KIDS! i HAVE to get this work done."

"NOOOOO," he would scream, and melt into a puddle of tears, and climb in my lap for a nursie.

so yeah, i'm just a little bit happy that those days are over.

*happy dance*

Thursday, September 14, 2006

hello friends

well, yes, i've been away. it was a busy, crazy, lovely, inspiring summer, which ended on quite a sad note, and through it all i've been wondering if i would return to the wide tent, and if so, how?

i think yes, at least maybe, but those few of you who still come round to visit (and why would you really, what with no posting for four months??) may find quite a makeover. one thing i'm always struggling with is how to find a balance in my life between by life-in-my-head, which is consumed by Big Imortant Ideas that are really important to me, and which inform my life in significant ways, and, well, my life. you know, life as i live it, day in and day out. i have found that my initial foray into the blogosphere was too consuming, and tipped the balance way too far into my head and out of my life.

there's another thing too, which is hard to explain, and not really worth going into too much. i guess i just don't like the way i feel about the me that i try to be or at least convince you that i am here in the wide tent. it's something about writing for an audience that i haven't really figured out, but 'nuf said, it's my stuff.

still, having read over my meager postings, there *were* some i really liked -- the ones that reminded me of a day spent with the kids that i might otherwise have forgotten, or a meal prepared and enjoyed, my work (which i haven't blogged about much, but which i'm really loving these days, and would like to have a record of). so i'm thinking i will try to keep blogging about that stuff, and see what happens. perhaps i'm going to peter out again. or perhaps the wide tent will blossom with the minutia of my life, minus the Big Important Ideas, which i love, and continue to think about, but need to find a less consuming place for.

so welcome back, those few of you who may still be lingering about. there will almost always be a pot of coffee on here at the wide tent, and a whole lot more baking happening these days!