Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It's the little things that raise the blood pressure

I went to drop off the profiles at the agency yesterday. As I hand them to the secretary she asks if I know about the profile fee. I am sure I did at some point, but it hadn't been mentioned recently, thus forgotten. There are a lot of fees, presented in a very long list given to you at the first meeting. This, of course, is a large one. $2,000. OK. Pay day is this week. It can wait a couple of days. No problem. However....
On top of that she also says we have to supply the plastic sleeves for the profile to go into. Wait.... What? For serious? We're shelling out 2,000 bucks to put our names in a book, and the agency can't spend the $0.25 for a plastic sleeve? That they can reuse?
Sigh.
Thus, I will be making yet another trip to the agency this week.
On the more informational side and less rant side.....
We have an appointment at 5 PM on June 10th for the videographer. Within a week or two after that we will officially be in the book and waiting.


3 hours later...
OK, I feel a little better and a tad sheepish. Here is a quote from an email I received from S today.
"There is no need to worry about the placstic sleeves."
Of course John already bought some. I will donate them to the agency or use them for school or something. Now it's just another big check. I think the only ones after this are the videographer and the BIG one for an actual baby.

Transracial Adoption News


Isn't this always the case? As soon as something comes into your life, it's all over the place? Transracial Adoption has hit the news lately. First, there was an article from the Associated Press: Major changes urged in transracial adoption. This article basically states that race and racial training should be an element of the adoption process, when said adoption crosses racial lines.

“The view that we can be colorblind is a wonderful, idealistic perspective, but we don’t live there,” said Adam Pertman, the Donaldson Institute’s executive director.

The crux of the problem may be that a disproportionately high number of black children are in foster care. U.S. laws require discounting race in placing those children, but some believe race, or at least race education, should be a major factor.
If you've been reading this blog for more than a day, I think you'd know that Duffy & I agree with that sentiment. The statement appears to be made more toward foster adoptions, though, as those are decisions made by the state.


Next is this story from National Public Radio: Transracial Adoption Insights. This is much more along the lines of what I believe Duffy & I are going to go through (perhaps I'm saying this with rose-colored glasses, but I really think I'm quite a realist). Here is the story of a well-adjusted adult African American who grew up with white parents.

"My dad was always my dad, and my mom was always my mom. The only time it became an issue was when I'd bring new friends home from school."
The story here is that we need to make the show the effort to bring cultural experiences to the child. I think it's a really well-written piece, and made me chuckle.


This brings us to the adoption books that we're reading. I remember hearing of a study while taking a psychology course about unhappy women in marriages (I have a point - stay with me). Apparently, some time before my time, a magazine found that something like 80% of all married women were involved in affairs - as this magazine sent out a questionnaire to a large number of women, and 80% of those that were returned stated that the participant was involved in an affair. Normally, this would be huge news. But, the questionnaire took several hours to fill out -- and only those people who were unhappy really had the time to write up everything. So, the "boring" responses would have been filled out by people who never would bother to fill out such paperwork. I think we're finding much the same in the books we're reading about transracial adoption. People who had bad experiences wrote books. People who had "boring" experiences either didn't bother to write a book or never thought that there was any reason to bother writing as nobody would ever want to read it.


In what we do read, there have been tons of cases where a "child of color" was raised "white". We get tons of anecdotes:

  • African American boy trying to figure out why his hair doesn't work the way daddy's does
  • Asian kid trying to get his eyes to "straighten out" so that he'll fit in with his friends
  • African American girl using makeup to make her skin look lighter
We will not be hiding the fact of adoption (hence the term "Open Adoption"), and we will most certainly not be hiding the issue of race. This child will not "look like us", but it's going to be loved like no other. I'll fully admit that I'm looking forward to this challenge, and to celebrate a few new items (Kwanzaa (which I'll have you know is an African American cultural holiday and in no way "competes" with Christmas or Hanukkah), Juneteenth, and others as we discover them).


Monday, May 26, 2008

Wardrobe

I don't know about John, but I am finding that a lot of the adoption process is finding the right balance. Especially now that everything is starting to seem very real, (To keep up the pregnancy analogue, I think now that we are so close to the possibility, it is like hearing the heartbeat for the first time. Oh, my GOD there is a BABY in there! Well, oh my GOD there is a BABY out there! Or soon will be.) I find myself looking more and more at baby stuff. So at the moment balance means deciding what is a smart step to take or purchase to make, and what might be too much, too early. For instance, the social workers suggest having a car seat and stroller picked out for quick purchase, but not to buy yet. We are painting the nursery and doing the floors, but we will not furnish it yet for our own psyches' sakes. I won't baby proof yet, but Hudson and Grayson (the children of friends) have been gracious enough to give me the opportunity to take notes on what will need to be done. I plan on hiring the guy from City Wok to build a wall in front of my fireplace. (Don't worry if you don't get it.)
That being said, little things are happening. Both our mothers have been collecting baby things, which is awesome. People have also given us small presents, especially in the way of clothes, so I thought I would share some pictures, because it is all uber cute. Let's call it the beginning of the celebration.

This is everything together.

These are a handmade sweater, booties, and cap that my sister and I wore as babies. My mother gave them to me for Christmas. I guess she is hoping for a girl. Though she swears she put these on Wil. Alex and I cry foul. Neither of us would have let Wil out of the house in these.
Apparently my sister found this onesie a couple of years ago, and finally gave it to me for Mother's Day. With our baby, it fits on levels.

These onesies and caps were a special gift from our friends, Heather and Will. Heather and Will are raising two multiracial children of their own, so we have been doing a lot of discussing lately. We were just visiting them this weekend, and they presented these to us. I think they might be the perfect homecoming outfits. Also, I can wear the caps.

Oh, and here is a video of Wills. How precious is he?

video

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Profile

So here it is! The profile that will hopefully attract a birthparent or parents quickly. No, that's not the right attitude. It is the profile that will attract the right birthparent(s) at the right time. Not many people get to see their hopes and dreams in paper form. I have to say that I worked really hard on it for the last two days, and I am pretty proud. I think it does a good job representing who we are in a very readable way. We look forward to feedback from everyone, even if you have something you think might make it better.
This is really happening!

The Profile Key


As Duffy alluded to, our next big step is filling out the profile key. Well, I guess the profile page (which I thank all that is holy that I have a very creative wife to do, as she has turned out a tremendous page in a bare minimum of time, with a minimal amount of cursing) is actually bigger - but we're partly looking forward to that.


So, what are we willing to "accept" in a baby? While we have no questions of race, there are questions about alcohol / drug abuse, imprisonment, etc. We'll be contacting many of you directly, but if you're reading this and can offer any advice, please let us know (you have our email addresses and/or can leave a comment).


We're not entirely sure how we're going to fill out everything, but we're leaning toward excluding a child if:

  • There was a "serious" medical condition that would place the child into the "special needs" category (and, in the event that this happened, it doesn't necessarily exclude us from accepting the child - but we cannot legally back out of an adoption if we said that we would take a child in this category only to find out that the child needed care that we simply couldn't provide)
  • The birthmother engaged in alcohol abuse, cocaine, crack, herion, PCP, or LSD, or Ecstacy at any point during the pregnancy
  • The birthmother socially drank for the last two trimesters of the pregnancy
  • The child was conceived through incest
  • The birthmother was HIV-positive (see first bullet point)


This leaves on the "accept" list:

  • The birthmother socially drank during the first trimester of the pregnancy (in theory, this is the "before she knew she was pregnant" option, but there is no way to specify this on the form)
  • The birthmother smoked marijuana or received Methadone during the pregnancy
  • The child, pre-birth, is known to have a minor/correctable medical condition (e.g. cleft pallet)
  • The birthfather was HIV positive / drug user / mentally ill / violent criminal (basically, we don't care too much about the father in this -- which sucks from some point of view writing this as a male - but there are only genetic markers that he can give the child, and the birthmother's behavior during pregnancy is really the only issue)
  • The child was conceived through stranger or acquaintance rape
  • The birthmother was imprisoned for either a non-violent or violent offense


There are still tons things that we're still determining (how premature a child if the child is born prematurely, whether we want to be considered if the birthmother is being treated for mental illness, etc). These are straight-forward questions, but it's the truth of adoption. Duffy said things well in her post, in that if we got pregnant on our own, we wouldn't have to be worry about any of this (she would take care of things medically so questions of drug or alcohol abuse wouldn't come up -- then, any complications are just the work of a higher power), but we're not in that situation. We'll see how the next few days turn out as we complete our research.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Home Study

Writer: Duffy, John was the entry from earlier today.

First we would like to say thank you to everyone who sent their thoughts and prayers. We love you guys.
The home study went very well. S, the social worker, was right when she said there was nothing to be really nervous about. Of course, no matter what, we were nervous. She said all parents are. You can't help it. It's like a review at work; even when you know it is a good one, it is the judgment of another person. However, S is so incredibly easy to talk to. We did a lot of laughing and chatting, some off topic. It really put us at our ease. I can see why she is so good at working will birthparents.
First we went over the profile key. This is a set of criteria that will be used to match our profile with prospective birthparents. It asks us under what conditions would we be willing to accept a child, such as mother's and father's medical histories, like chronic depression or bipolar, and drug use. This is the tough part. Here is where I still mourn our potential biological child as none of this would be an issue if I were giving birth. It also asks if we would be willing to take sibling groups or twins, Downs Syndrome or other conditions, etc.
Needless to say, it will take a lot of thought and discussion, some of which we already have done. And some calls to people who know more about medical things than us.
Next, we looked at other family profiles, and S went through what was good and bad about each of them. I showed her what I have currently written, and she approved. Once we have that finalized, I promise to post it.
That lead to the video. While we wanted to use the production services of our friend, Will, who has graciously offered, it seems that we will probably have to use the service the agency works with. And the guy sounds kinda like a jerk. But we will call and make an appointment. She also brought a video for us to watch. The couple was very nervous and rather stiff, but they were also very sincere and cute.
Finally, we went on a quick tour of the house. It's hard not to be defensive about the stained carpet and pile of chew toys, despite the fact that S is so not caring about that stuff at all.
All in all it was a good experience. We are officially approved. It felt like a very concrete step towards the completion of our family that we long for.
I would estimate that we will officially be waiting sometime in June.
Now we are going to celebrate with Chinese food.

The Day of the Home Inspection Is Upon Us!


Ok - with that out of the way, we're at "the day". Yet, I haven't a clue what today will bring. My plans are:

  • Drop bike off at shop over lunch (did not Bike In today, but hope to tomorrow)
  • Leave the office at 3:30 and pick up bike
  • Go home and run around with puppies for awhile
  • Lock up said puppies
  • Ensure that I haven't done anything to disrupt the pristine condition that my sister-in-law has left our house in
  • Worry about what the heck is going to occur at 5


See - I'm STILL not really sure what to expect. From The Child Welfare Information Gateway:

Home visits primarily serve to ensure your home meets State licensing standards (e.g., working smoke alarms, safe storage of firearms, safe water, adequate space for each child, etc.). Some States require an inspection from the local health and fire departments in addition to the visit by the social worker. The agency will generally require the worker to see all areas of the house or apartment, including where the children will sleep, the basement, and the back yard. He or she will be looking for how you plan to accommodate a new family member (or members, if you are planning to adopt a sibling group). Social workers are not typically inspecting your housekeeping standards. A certain level of order is necessary, but some family clutter is expected. Some agencies would worry that people living in a "picture perfect" home would have a difficult time adjusting to the clutter a child brings to a household.


I read that as "we're ok" -- well, I think I pulled the battery from one of our smoke detectors over the weekend because of smokey cooking conditions, but I can just plug that back in. I think I'm going to quickly mop the basement floor because, well, if it's going to be looked at, stickiness may be frowned upon. We'll see, though - this whole ordeal has actually given me anxiety dreams.


Will write post-inspection.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Profile

Apparently, I haven't been sharing somethings with my husbands. Before I started our profile that will be given to potential birthmoms, I did some reading. The general idea is to be yourselves and not try to appeal to the masses. You don't want to appeal to the masses, you want to appeal to one specific person. We want the person who will laugh at our dorky Dr. Evil and Mini Me costumes. We want the person who thinks going camping and hiking with friends a couple of times a year is cool. Our birthparent(s) would not be shied off by a big Greek family or New Jersey Wasps (I kid! Don't yell at me!)
Namely, it is the same thing as filling out a good personal ad. Be yourself. It worked for me last time.
I am off to do the preliminary cleaning, so I won't take as much crap from my beloved, talented sister. Seriously, people, when Alex cleans your house, it's like a new place. It makes my house feel bigger. She should have a show on TLC or HGTV.

On the road to the inspection


So David finally started the yard work we hired him to start a few weeks ago -- but he's done tremendous work thus far (for only working a day). What this means is that we're not going to have to worry about the state of our flowerbeds when the nice lady from Adoption from the Heart shows up. Yes, these are the types of things that we're presently worrying about.


I've gone so far as to clean up my half of the room -- mostly. I'm sure I could do a better job, but it no longer looks like an intergalactic dumping ground. The basement - well, that's another story. Actually, it's not too too bad down there (well, goldfish keep dying), and I'll be able to churn that out in an hour. I guess I should mop the floor or something like that. The only problem is that I really don't know what to expect.


This weekend will be a busy one for us - we need to complete our first draft of our "eye-catching journal page" for the adoption book. Duffy's done a lot of work on it, but whenever I start writing something, I feel like I'm a greater dork than I already am. Part of my fear is that I do not know my target audience, though -- do we write something that would appeal to the masses (and, therefore, appear saccharine), or write something that details exactly who we are, but therefore knocks us "out of contention" with a not-small-percentage of expectant birth mothers? I know I'm putting way too much thought into this -- but I want something to stick out that clearly identifies who we are and will make everybody love us. Easy right? On top of that writing, the Greek Festival is this weekend. Duffy & I are taking our "Littles" to said fair, and then she's working the festival Saturday & Sunday. Me, I'm going to a bachelor party. Woo Hoo! My marvelous sister-in-law will be performing her cleaning magic on our house on Sunday.


Don't worry, there will be plenty of frantic posting between now & the inspection -- and we'll have a full recap afterward!


Monday, May 12, 2008

Of Flooring and Baby Gifts


So we picked out flooring last Thursday evening. There were a few needs here (all of these were features of the house as we bought it . . . none of them were our idea):

  • All of our bathrooms are carpeted and carpet doesn't make for the best flooring material anywhere that water is involved
  • The nursery was known as the "pink room", where the floor was an electric pink shag carpet
  • We have three dogs and a large person who don't always wipe their feet when coming in from the mud, and the upstairs hallway is Berber carpet, which likes to keep dirt hidden within its little folds


While we would really like to remove all of the wall-to-wall carpet in the house, finances don't really allow that at this time - so we are re-doing the floors mentioned above. In the nursery, we're having a pale maple-looking laminate floor installed, which should compliment the yellow walls & ceiling nicely. In the hallway, we're installing a laminate that closely resembles the downstairs hallway. In the master bathroom, a blue tile floor. In the guest bathroom, a green tile floor. And, in the downstairs half-bath, Duffy gets a purple tile floor. Work should begin in a month or so (after the materials arrive), and should be done a week or two later. We are quite excited.




So, after dual Mother's Day dinners (Outback Steakhouse with my mom, and then Amy's Thai Cuisine with Viki), Alex came over to show off her gift for us - a little onesie (is that how they're spelled?) with "Mom needs chocolate" on it. The funny thing is that Alex didn't really realize any racial connection to that until she actually was showing us. Hee. Speaking of Alex, though, she's coming over to do her magic on our house sometime this week, meaning that I need to get my butt in gear and clean up some stuff. I'm realizing right now that we didn't take any before & after photos of any of the remodeling . . . maybe it might make sense to do so for my messes. :-)


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

My Take on Racial Issues


After Duffy's post on racial issues, I feel like I should chime in. Part of me takes the hippie approach: "All you need is love", but I'm saying that having grown up white in a neighborhood that can best be described as 99% white. I don't know what it's like to be a minority. While I've certainly been party to being judged based on my looks, it's usually been, in my earlier days, by girls choosing to dismiss me before I even worked up the courage to talk to them at a pick-up bar -- and that is NOT discrimination, just good sense on their part.


What I'm trying to say is that, while I can claim that being raised in a loving family is "enough" for a black, white, or polka-dotted child, I have absolutely no experience in such matters. I can only say what I hope is the case, and then try to do my damnedest to make that the case.


In the current political landscape, one of the current criticisms against Barack Obama is that he isn't "black enough". What if my child goes through the exact same identity crisis? I mean, this child is going to be raised in the suburbs by white parents. Yes, we will do everything in our power to ensure that the child accepts who he/she is, and feels proud to be the person that he/she is - but, really, what if that child feels that they deserved to grow up "black"? Heck, I don't even know what that means.


I think Duffy touched beautifully on the facts of adoption - anybody who finds out that their birth parents could not / chose not to parent them is destined to have some level of abandonment issues. On top of that, we have the potential of being asked "if my birth-parents couldn't parent me, why couldn't a same-race family take me in?". Honestly, I can't say, for certain, how I would respond. I do think that race issues in this country are continually progressing to the point where "race issues" will not be a term in some future generation's vocabulary. We are not close to being there.

All we need is a voluntary, free-spirited, open-ended program of procreative racial deconstruction. Everybody just gotta keep f**n' everybody 'til they're all the same color.
- Sen. Jay Billington Bulworth, Bulworth (1998)


I guess, my last words on this are: I really, really want to be a father. I hope that's apparent to anybody who reads this and/or knows me. I firmly believe that a child raised in a two-parent household is better off than a child raised in foster care. I know that there are proportionally more black children placed into foster care in this country than any other race. I believe I can be a good father to any child. I believe that I will be a good father. I'm already doing research into what may be different in caring for a "child of color" than typical care of a white child (heck, if Duffy said that she wasn't eagerly anticipating learning how to care for a black child's hair, she'd be lying). I'm looking forward to showing my child role-models that they should follow from their own race (and yes, everybody John Coltrane will be involved in discussions of such role models). I'm looking forward to showing my child role-models that they should follow from his/her parent's ancestry (the gold spoon history of the Batzer name is actually a pretty cool story). I'm looking forward to teaching a child how to throw a curveball, and play the piano - how to read, how to drive. Yes, we're not in a race-blind country, but I like to think that being a good parent is a race-blind activity.


(sorry if this was a bit preachy)


New Poster


So, I figured it was about time that I chimed in here. While I'm in regular communication with many of you regarding the status of our baby-gettin' process, I've never made it around to actually publishing anything here. Mainly because, well, I figure this is too nice an arena for smartaleck posts - and you know me, can't lay off the snark sometimes.


We have scheduled our home inspection -- May 20th. While we're constantly told that the home inspection isn't a "big deal", I'm afraid that it is a little stressful. As I understand the need, this event is basically a check to ensure that our home is a "fit" home for a child. The social worker will want to see the house itself, see where the child's room would be, and ensure that we don't have a meth lab in our basement (we do, but it's hidden, and they'll never-ever find it . . . actually, lately, the basement has been a kind of goldfish hospice, where good goldfish go do die -- yucky fish tank, but need more fish now -- but I'm digressing in an already long parathentical aside). From my end, it means that I need to clean my s**t up. Those of you who know me know that I'm messy, although I tend to confine my messes to relatively small portions of my living area. So, sometime between now and the 20th (probably late night on the 19th), I'll clean up "my half" of the bedroom and try to make the basement presentable. In addition, we'll see about getting rid of the bulk of the junk from the basement - it's just a matter of taking apart the stupid waterbed frame that won't fit up a flight of stairs.


As far as what to expect during the inspection, I don't think it's going to be too much - the agency (Adoption from the Heart) simply needs to make sure that we're prepared to take in a child and will be able to care for it - it really shouldn't be more than that.




With other things house-worthy, we finally have a master shower again. The leaky old drain has been replaced, the cracked shower floor couldn't be repaired again, so a whole new shell has been installed, and that damn hole in our kitchen ceiling has been patched. As I type this, the plumber is sanding drywall -- we tried to put sheets around to cover our stuff, but I have a feeling that we'll be cleaning drywall dust for awhile.


This Thursday, hopefully, we'll be picking out the flooring that will go into our newly-painted nursery (yeah, yeah, it's premature to call the "yellow" room the nursery, but that's what it is). We're looking for laminate flooring that will look like very pale wood - but we've got to go to the showroom to pick it all out - we'll see if we can post some pictures after we know what we're doing.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Racial Considerations

I have had some, a few, complaints that I do not update the blog enough. I guess I try and wait for big news. I still feel like I am bugging people somehow. It's me. You know me. Are you really surprised?
So all of the paperwork is turned in. We are waiting on a call from our social worker to set up a home study. She is currently getting over pneumonia, so it will probably be a couple of days. As I have spent this week trying to keep my lungs in place despite my body's attempts to cough them up, I feel her pain.
OK, what else...
I have been reading. I read a very good book, I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla that deals with how children perceive skin color, race, and social ideas about skin color and race through their developmental stages. I found it very straightforward and full of common sense. Children are not born with any prejudice, they are learned, something I think we all know. Dr. Wright, the author, discusses way to preserve that lack of prejudice for as long as possible without shielding children, especially children of color, from the truth of American culture. The other book, Inside Transracial Adoption, is not as good. It is not well written or edited, and while it has some good ideas, the authors take 300 pages to get a 50 page point across.
John and I have been talking about raising a child of another race. We can't pretend that the fact that our child will look different than us will not be a challenge to overcome. We can't pretend to understand the discrimination our child will face in his or her life. His or her life will be more challenging for no other reason than the amount of melanin found in the skin, and other people's ancient, backwards ideas about the importance of that compound. Without having ever experienced what that is like, we have to give our child the tools to overcome obstacles without truly understanding what those obstacles are. It is daunting yet exhilarating too. I feel like accepting this challenge will make me a more aware and stronger person. I hope it will make us an extremely close family with ideals that can help improve the world.
There is a grieving process that all adopted kids go through. Transracially adopted kids have another layer to that grief. They are also grieving a culture or society in which they might have fit better.
Adopted kids can resent being adopted. No matter how supportive the adoptive family is, adopted kids have to come to terms with a certain amount of abandonment, and for each kid, the level of grief is different. Some don't dwell on it at all, Others never completely accept it. Transracially adopted kids can resent being raised by people they don't look like, especially if their parents don't acknowledge that difference.
So while I am really excited about taking on this challenge, and I feel that we are strong enough to succeed as transracial parents, I am also scared of my child someday resenting us. I guess that is really a fear a lot of parents, biological or not, have. We just have to face it sooner and more openly than most do.
However, it can't all be about race. First and foremost is being a loving and supportive family that has lots of fun together.
Last weekend was Greaster, and true to form, Barbara showed up with several fabrics to choose from for the curtains. I love giving my mother-in-law a new project. It is enthusiasm in it's raw form. Anyway we went with a striped fabric that matches the yellow on the walls and the blue and green rugs. It has the word doggie across the stripes. Very cute. We are going to pick out flooring hopefully this week, and I hope to find someone to do the mural before the flooring is laid. That will probably be the end of baby prep until there is an actual fetus/infant to prepare for.
Was this post too long? Too deep? Did I waste your time? Why would anyone want to read this?
See, I knew you knew me.