Elitist Soup*

I made this last night and it was a hit. I often make something kind of like it, but this one needed to be recorded for posterity–in case I want to do it just this same way again sometime.

You need:

4 cups of mushroom broth

2-4 frozen salmon filets, thawed and chopped into bite-sized pieces (or fresh salmon to serve about 3 people if it was the entire entree)

one large onion

lots of crushed garlic

some sweet peppers (I used a bag of frozen tri-colored peppers, thawed and drained. Fresh would be better, but I didn’t have any on hand.)

about 2/3 cup of soy sauce, about 1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar, about 1/3 cup of honey and a good healthy squeeze of sriracha (to taste).

about a cubic inch of peeled and sliced fresh ginger (but more never hurt anyone)

a package (enough to serve 4-5 people) of soba noodles (you can also use udon or ramen)

Chop the onions and garlic and sautee them (I used safflower oil, but whatever you use is fine) until partially carmelized.

While sautéing, boil the noodles in a sauce pan. Chop the ginger and (in a separate bowl) stir it together with the sauces (soy sauce, sriracha and honey) and mushroom broth.

When the noodles are done drain and rinse them well in cold water. Return them to the sauce pan and add the mushroom broth/sauce mixture.

Deglaze the sautee pan with the rice wine vinegar and add the peppers and salmon. When the salmon is looking cooked through, pour the sauteed ingredients into the noodles and mushroom broth. Stir.

If you have it, fresh cilantro would be an awesome garnish for this.

Serves 4-5 people, depending on how many people want seconds…or thirds… Yum!

* so-dubbed jokingly by my friend Trish, overhearing a Twitter conversation about cooking at home being “too expensive” and me protesting. I’d say this meal cost about $12-15 and it served five with double helpings for four of us. I think all but the sriracha and rice wine vinegar were organic too. I shop pretty carefully–stocking up on the frozen salmon when it’s on sale, for example. Actually, I buy almost everything on sale or in bulk on the Internet. There’s no way we could have gotten this high quality of a meal at a restaurant for even $20 for the five of us. And it took a total of about 30 minutes to make. Probably more like 20-25. So there. Not so expensive. Not so time-consuming. It does, however take planning.

P.S. If you are thinking “but two of those five people were little girls” I must tell you that Nat and Selina ate as much as Cole and I did. They love this stuff. It was Josiah who was out seconds, because he got the leftovers (about a bowl full)  in the fridge when he got home late.

Homeschool Update Spring 2013

Well, technically spring, anyway…

IMG_2834

After a week or so, we got some sprouts. Those are yellow squash in the foreground.

It has been so cold for so long that I forgot to start the seedlings for this summer’s garden until two weeks ago. (Usually, I would start in late February or early March.) But while Cole was visiting her mother in Philadelphia for Spring Break, and Selina was with her, Nat and I got out the seedling trays and planted whatever we had left over from years past, including okra, yellow squash,cucumbers, sweet peas, mini sunflowers (called “teddy bear”), tomatoes (some kind of little ones–grape or cherry or something) and bok choi. I seriously doubt many of them will thrive after transplant. I usually end up at the garden center buying new starters after mine have failed. But I try every year anyway.

Working on the Winter Garden

Working on the Winter Garden

Whatever comes of our efforts, they won’t be as magnificent as our dreams. I started getting seed catalogues in January and rather than spend money on ordering anything, I handed them over to the kids, rolled out a big banner of plain paper and let them go crazy. We enjoyed our “winter garden” during the long, long, loooooong months of winter that stretched into…well, last week, actually. We had snow flurries all morning on 1 April. (It wasn’t funny.)

IMG_2758IMG_2764Both girls have really been wanting to take on big projects that require all kinds of planning and construction. Nat proposed making valentines for everybody at church and she and Selina both spent about a week of work-times (9-11:30 every morning) on this huge job.

Nat also spent quite a bit of time designing and making this sign for Josiah, after he had been away visiting friends in Brooklyn for about a month. There is a rumor that he burst into tears at the sight of it, upon his arrival home at about 5 in the morning:IMG_2785

A Page from one of Selina’s “Biscuit” Stories

Selina has been going gangbusters on her language these days. She would still much rather write than read, so she’s made another book of photos she took herself. She has also been enjoying copying pages out of some of her favorite books. I figure the good old nineteenth century “memorize, copy, recite” technique won’t hurt her–especially given that she’s the one who wants to learn that way.

Practicing Stacked Equations with Coins

Nat, on the other hand, has been enthusiastically working on Math ever since I gave her real money to work with. (She thinks this is a major coup.) We’ve been doing all kinds of things with concrete coins in the past couple of months that Nat has been reluctant to do in the abstract.

One of the best things about not going to school is that the girls (and I) have the time and energy to do a lot of what school would call “extracurricular” activities. Both girls are still taking dance classes on Saturday morning, but now Nat has added a mid-week private dance lesson with her adored teacher, Rosetta. The dance seems to be really helpful in developing her ability to focus and discipline herself to attend to instruction. Rosetta was kind of surprised to find that Nat knows all the stuff she’s been teaching in the beginning ballet class on Saturdays. Until she had Nat one-on-one she didn’t realize how much Nat knew, because in class, Nat is a distraction queen.

That’s pretty much what I’ve discovered in homeschooling too. Nat knows a lot of stuff, but it can be all but impossible for her to settle in and work if a social engagement is an option. Sometimes even having her sister just within hearing is too distracting for her. But when she can get a little peace and solitude, she will often get very deeply into what she’s working on. More and more these days, she comes up with her own projects too. Recently, she proposed making a list of words in her own best handwriting for her sister to copy. Both kids thought this was the coolest. thing. ever. And I was supermom for “letting” them do it. Ha!

This is a sweet retired pony who lives at our new favorite place.

Meanwhile, we’ve added another activity. There’s a down-to-earth horse ranch about 40 minutes away (by car) and we’ve started lessons there. They even offer a homeschool program in which the kids get riding lessons, then an hour of other horse-related learning and activities after the lesson.

I knew animal-loving Selina would have the time of her life with the horses, (and she did!) but I didn’t know for sure what Nat would think. Turns out Nat is hooked for life. The day after her first lesson, Nat sat down and journaled at great length about the experience. My favorite line from her account was, “My teacher told me that I had to trot my horse, but my horse trotted me instead.” Since that first day, every single night before bed, she counts the days left until the next riding lesson and tells me she loves “her” horse.

Yep. I remember all that.

In fact, I’ll be taking a lesson of my own while the kids are doing their non-horse activities. I used to ride a lot when I was a kid/teen and could use my spending money to pay for lessons. The older I got the less cash I had for it and the less I’ve been able to do it. So I’m thrilled to have an excuse to start earnest lessons again. Cole will be taking some beginner lessons with the girls when she has some time later this summer, too. I can’t wait to see my whole family on horseback!

New Project

As most of you know, my debut novel, Jack will be coming out from Musa Publishing in September.

Of course, I would like roughly a gazillion copies to sell in the first month, so I can rocket to the top of novelist glory in record time. To that end, I have been reading all about book marketing.

Trouble is, I find it hard to believe that many of the things “They” say you should do to “promote” your book would actually amount to many sales. Book sales seem to me to be almost a matter of sheer luck. Being a best-selling writer strikes me as about as likely as winning the lottery. Like the lottery, you only hear news stories about the ones who make it, and not the (roughly gazillion) ones who flop.

So, what’s a debut novelist to do? Well…I asked myself, “why do YOU buy a book, Shannon?” To which I responded, “Well, Shannon, I buy a book because I’ve already read a book by the person who wrote it and I liked that previous book.”

That’s almost the only reason I ever buy a new novel. Very occasionally I take a plunge on a new writer, or I follow a recommendation from a friend. But I do not tend to buy a book because I like a person’s blog, her tweets, am her Facebook friend or saw an awesome “trailer” for her novel.

I blog, I tweet, I am on Facebook and I plan to make a book trailer. Because…why the heck not? But when it comes to the factor that leads me to buy a book, I’m at a loss. This will be my first book, so no one is going to be buying it based on having read and liked my others, right?

I hemmed and hawed about this conundrum for a while and finally decided, oh what the heck, give ‘em a book. You see, I wrote two books before selling my third one. So I picked the better of those two and am publishing it scene-by-scene via a new project I’m calling the “Story Sea.”

I am also hiring Astrid Lydia Johannsen to make fabulous avatars for some of the characters in the story, one at a time, as donations (yes! you can donate!) to the site trickle in.

Putting this up is a gamble of course. You might hate it and then NEVER buy one of my books in the future. But maybe you’ll love it and buy them all! Or you know, something in between. But at any rate, here it is, risk-free (to you):

1900

EdenEden Smith was not a boy.  But anyone who happened past Harvard Square would not have known this to see her standing there in a boy’s suit, squinting at her watch and running a nervous hand through her neat, short hair.Sophia Since coming East, Eden had found that no one expected to see a girl in boys’ clothes, so no one really saw her when she wore them.  What they saw was just another Harvard student roaming Cambridge. MORE

Just Another Purim-Themed Picture Book about Gay Dads and Aliens

The Purim Superhero by Elisabeth Kushner
The Purim Superhero by Elisabeth Kushner

Because I am exceptionally lucky, I have known Els Kushner for several years, via the magic of the Internet. When I heard that her first picture book was finally released, I was eager to see the final results of something I got to watch happening behind the scenes. It was as terrific as I expected. Now I’m eager to share it with you.

I asked Els to tell Lesbian Family about herself and the book. Enjoy the results below. And be sure to order a copy of The Purim Superhero in e-format, paperback or hardcover. You have just enough time before Purim, on 25 February this year.

1. Tell us about yourself. Who are you, what do you do, how did you become interested in writing for children?

Oh, I’m just another Jewish lesbian librarian/writer/parent who plays the ukulele and periodically attempts to garden. I’m a kid person and a kids’ book person, so I guess it makes sense that I became a children’s librarian. I’m from New York and New Jersey and Seattle and, now, Vancouver, where I live with my spouse and our daughter and a lot of books and musical instruments and small plastic items. I’m addicted to text in all forms, from fiction to old New Yorkers to podcasts. I stay up too late on a regular basis.

I’ve written lots of things, for years, short stories and blog posts and bits of novels and what have you. I think people tend to write about they’re interested in, what their thoughts and feelings revolve around, even if their writing isn’t directly autobiographical. And for me, the experience of childhood and adolescence is endlessly fascinating: life is so vivid when you’re a kid, so many things are new, and you’re also so powerless and subject to the whims of the adult world. I also really like stories about community, and when writing about kids there’s a sort of automatic community a lot of the time, as they’re often in school or other groups.
2. This book began as a contest. Tell us a bit about that. What were the perimeters of the competition and what was the process like?

In early 2011, Keshet sponsored a contest for an 800-to-1000-word picture book manuscript with both Jewish and GLBT content. The contest description specified that the storyline shouldn’t be primarily didactic, and that it should have “clear, clever and interesting narrative plot with universal themes and Jewish content.”

The process of writing the manuscript had in some ways started years before I saw that contest announcement, when I was a librarian at a Jewish day school, and was looking for books to read to my students for Purim. Purim is a Jewish holiday that takes place in February or March; its customs include reading the Book of Esther aloud, dressing in costume, eating cookies called Hamentaschen, and generally being silly. It’s a very kid-friendly holiday, but–maybe because, unlike Chanukah or Passover, it doesn’t correspond with any major Christian holidays that take place at the same time of year –I couldn’t find any good read-alouds at that time that told the story of a contemporary kid celebrating Purim. (There are a few more now, but there weren’t then.)

After a few years of thinking, “sheesh, someone should write a good Purim picture book,” I thought, “maybe I should write a Purim picture book.” I noodled around with that idea a little, but I couldn’t really figure out what the driving conflict would be. Then, a few years later, I saw the Keshet contest and thought that a kid with same-sex parents would be a great protagonist for a Purim story.

The final part of the equation came when I had a writing date with a couple of friends one day while I was working on the manuscript, and one of them brought her 8-year-old son along. I was grousing to my friends about how stuck I was, and how I couldn’t figure out what kind of a problem my protagonist should have, and my friend’s son got very caught up in this question and started giving me these amazing suggestions about how aliens and monkeys should come take over the “Jewish church” and have a big fight…he got really into it and was drawing pictures of the great alien-vs.-monkey battle while we were writing. I was struck by how original and quirky his imagination was, and how a kid like him, with strong and individual interests, might have a problem fitting in with his peers, but how that kind of difference, like gayness, or Judaism, could also be a source of strength. Nate’s interest in aliens is inspired by, and a tribute to, him.

After that, my biggest problem was getting the manuscript down to the requisite 1,000 words; I think I went through six or seven drafts. I’m pretty verbose normally (as you can probably tell by my answers to these questions!), so that was tough.


3. You are a lesbian parent. Does Nate’s experience with peer pressure to fit in come from your own experience as a mom in a same-sex headed family?

My experience as a mom in a same-sex-headed family has mostly been pretty undramatic. We’ve been lucky enough to live in communities where being a lesbian parent is accepted as a pretty ordinary thing 99% of the time, and the few times it hasn’t been, well, I’ve experienced that as the other person’s problem, not mine.

I’d say Nate’s experience with peer pressure comes more from my own childhood as a sort of nerdy, bookish kid who had different interests from most kids my age. I had a lot less confidence than Nate, so I dealt with that experience by being pretty shy and withdrawn. I think it takes a very solid sense of yourself to do what Nate does and maintain your individuality while acknowledging and honoring that deep desire to be part of a group.

I also wanted to explore, a little bit, the way that gender expectations for boys of Nate’s age—about 4 or 5—are in many ways so much narrower than for girls. My experience from working with preschool and elementary-school aged kids, and from being a parent, is that there’s more tolerance for girls rejecting traditionally “girly” things than for boys who aren’t deemed sufficiently interested in things that mainstream boys are supposed to like. And a lot of the time, it’s other kids who are doing the gender policing. So a story about a girl who, say, didn’t want to dress up as a princess would’ve had a very different feeling and, I think, might not have been as dramatic.


4. I loved the connection the book makes between Esther coming out of the “closet” of Jewishness and Nate’s anxiety about expressing who he really is. That’s quite a sophisticated connection and a wonderful theological point. Do you find overlaps in your own life between voicing your Jewishness and your lesbianism?

Both Jewishness and queerness are identities where you sometimes have to “come out”—they’re not so immediately apparent, in general, as race or gender, so there’s an element of choice in whether to identify publicly as part of that particular group. In my life, right now, they’re both identities where a lot of the time I’m part of a small minority: the neighborhood where I live, for example, doesn’t have either a large Jewish or GLBT community, and many of the friends and co-workers I see on a regular basis are neither queer nor Jewish. I guess, like Nate, these are aspects of my identity that in many ways aren’t the driving forces in my daily life right now—I spend a lot more time and energy actively thinking about being a parent, or a librarian, or a writer, than I do about being a lesbian. But at the same time, my lesbianism and my Jewishness are so central to who I am.

Both are also communities or groups that have been historically oppressed but that I experience as a gift—I’ve always loved being Jewish, and as an adult, I’ve found a lot of strength and creativity and just general wonderfulness in the lesbian community and in claiming a lesbian identity.


5. The illustrations for the book are just the best. Can you tell us what it’s like to work with an illustrator for your words? It seems like a relationship requiring a lot of trust.

I love the illustrations too! Mike Byrne has really captured Nate’s sweetness and individuality.  One little-known fact about picture books is that usually the author has little or nothing to do with the illustration process; generally the publisher selects the illustrator, and they and the illustrator work together to determine the visual component of the book. That was the case with The Purim Superhero: I was sent some early drafts of the drawings, but mostly I didn’t know what the art would be like until I saw the finished book. It was a little bit like meeting someone in person for the first time who you’ve only known through emails and blogging—even though I’d created these characters, I felt like I understood them on a whole other level when I saw the finished illustrations.


6. What’s next for you? Do you have any more picture books up your sleeve? What about other writing you are working on?

I’ve been working on a picture book set during another Jewish holiday, Shavuot. One of the customs of Shavuot is to stay up all through the night and study, and another is to eat dairy foods like blintzes and cheesecake, and I think the combination of staying up late and eating cheesecake could be really appealing to a kid.

And when I entered the manuscript for The Purim Superhero to the Keshet contest in 2011, I’d just finished a very rough first draft for a young adult novel that’s sort of a sequel to a short story I wrote a long time ago. The story was published in an anthology called The Essential Bordertown, which is part of a shared-world series about a city between the human world and Faerie. The story, and the novel I started, are both about a girl who runs away to Bordertown after she’s been involuntarily outed at school, and falls in love with another girl there. I was having a hard time revising the draft, and then I found out that I’d won the Keshet contest, and what with one thing and another that rough novel draft is still sitting on the side of my desk, with more and more files and books and bits of random detritus piled on top of it. I give it sort of a look every once in a while and promise the characters I’ll get back to them and work on their story and make everything better, if they’ll please, please just be patient a little longer.

Cross-posted at LesbianFamily.com

Dream of the Blue Poodles

Selina was pacing the kitchen floor when I walked in to get some tea.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Oh…just thinking,” she said.

“What are you thinking about?”

“I’m thinking about what kind of dog I want to get.”

We can’t get a dog. Not in this condo, not at the kids’ ages, not while Cole is commuting to work. We got guinea pigs almost a year ago to give Selina a cuddly mammal to molest, but she still spends an inordinate amount of time planning for her someday dog.

“What kind of dog do you think you might like to get?” I ask her.

I try to give her as much fantasy dog as possible, considering how much I feel I’m failing her in the real dog department.

“I think…a poodle. Because it’s curly–like me!”

She changes dog types frequently, but I gently urge standard poodles when given the chance because they are less allergy-inducing. So I was happy to hear this.

“That sounds like a great idea,” I tell her.

She pauses.

“But…I don’t think poodles usually come in blue…

Homeschool Notes October, November, December

We’ve been settling into our routine pretty well this fall. The interesting thing about routine–I always think the days I let it go will be easier than the days we stick to it and I am always wrong about that. The kids are in better moods (therefore, I am in a better mood) on the days we stay on schedule (at least roughly) than on the days we throw caution to the wind.

So we’re learning to make the schedule a priority.

Within the routine of the schedule, things are still pretty scatter-shot. It’s almost the opposite of the routine thing: I will decide “It’s time for Kid A to learn Thing B” and sit down to make this happen. It never goes well. On the other hand, if the kids decide they want to do something, they get really deeply into it start-to-finish and end up happy and proud.

This is something I believe is true from a theoretical standpoint, and it’s how I want to approach education with them. (And gee–it’s not just theoretical if I report that it’s working, right?) But I have the teensiest bit of control freakishness that creeps up from time to time and convinces me I am ruining the kids for life by letting them buzz from flower-to-flower at their own pace, rather than running them through hoops. So I up and try to control their learning and it goes horribly wrong.

I’m not sure how many times this will have to happen before I let go and trust the kids.

Here’s an example. This week, Nat found an iPad app that is a Montessori division board. She wanted to play with it. So I bought it for a dollar or whatever and she played with it. But she wasn’t in the least understanding the concepts involved and I could see that. I beat myself up about it for a while, convinced I should not have given it to her until she had a solid grasp of multiplication.

But she really wanted to figure it out.

Nat works on her division with sea shells.

Nat works on her division with sea shells.

So I told her I’d give her some division work, but not on the iPad. She was good with that. I gave her a big box of sea shells we collected on the beach when my parents were spending winter in the Gulf, and five bowls. I made a list of division problems: 50-:-5= ; 45-:-5= ; 40-:-5= etc. down to 5. Then I showed her how to count out fifty shells, divide them evenly between the bowls and count the number in a bowl to arrive at the answer.

She loved this. She did it for 50s, 40s, 30s, 20s and 10s and went through the whole process for every single problem, even after realizing that the answers were always 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

I still don’t think she has grasped the concept of division, but all that practice is getting it into her and the steps in the process are a challenge to a kid with distraction issues. It’s great for her to practice counting out 50 shells and learning that if you make a simple mistake and count out 49 or 51, the whole problem will fail.

If I had asked her to do this without her original interest I can only guess she would hate me forever. I mean, how dull can you get??? I would hate it, myself. But it was her project and she was all into it. And if she learns multiplication via division instead of the other way around, I guess the sky won’t fall.

Another Nat-inspired, Nat-produced activity this past week was a shrine to her Granddaddy. My father died last July (in case you managed to miss me blogging/tweeting/FBing about that constantly). His 67th birthday would have been this past Sunday (9 December) and Nat wanted to do something to honor him. I suggested taking an extra can of “sharing food” to put in the basket at church on his behalf and she was good with that, but had her own plan.

“I will make a birthday card, with his picture on it. It will say “Happy Birthday Grandaddy, we miss you!”

I told her that sounded like a good idea. Then she added, “I can put it up on a shelf and when I miss him, I can look at it and say a little prayer.”

This was all her own idea, mind you.

Nat's Shrine to her Granddaddy

Nat’s Shrine to her Granddaddy

And it’s exactly what she did. I gave her some card stock and printed out a few pictures of Daddy. She opted to use all the pictures and make multiple cards. Then she put them on the fireplace mantel and placed a sea shell (the same ones she used for the division project) in front of them to “make it pretty.”

I am kind of blown away by it, and really proud of her for coming up with her own little tribute and orchestrating it all in her own special way.

Selina has been doing lots of building lately. She makes elaborate cities with Lego blocks or wooden blocks, then dresses up all the people and animals and enacts little plays with them in her cities.

She finished the word book we started a month or so ago and she is very proud of it. In working slowly on that, she has also just started taking an interest in spelling out words throughout the day, and reading others as well. Her reading hasn’t started rolling on its own quite yet, but it’s going to soon, I think. She is a little linguist–always wanting to know what words mean, and using a wide vocabulary correctly in an easy, natural way. Once reading really clicks for her, she’s going to take right off.

(I have a little video of Selina reading her word book, but am having trouble uploading it for some reason. Watch this space. Maybe I’ll figure it out.)

At bedtime, if I am not totally wiped out (which, let’s be honest, I usually am), we all take turns reading a book. Nat reads something aloud to us, I read something aloud to us and Selina “reads” something aloud to us. We have some great picture books without words that Selina especially enjoys and can feel really expert at “reading.”

We should do it every day, but I am not Wonder Woman. So to substitute, I often tell Selina to choose some books and have Nat read them to her. This works especially well. Selina wants to be like Nat and so it inspires her to work on her reading and Nat gets really proud of herself if she can teach Selina to recognize a new word or two from their reading together.

We’ve also found a lot of great apps for the kids’ iPad, but I want to do a whole separate post about how we are using those.

Selina is a whiz at jigsaw puzzles. So that’s one thing we try to keep on top of. (It is really hard to find puzzles in her current zone of 250-300 pieces. 100 is too easy and 500 is too hard, but they seem to jump between those two sizes, most of the time.) I found one recently that’s 101 pieces, but they are small pieces, rather than big, kid-friendly ones, so that upped the challenge a bit.

A New Puzzle!

A New Puzzle!

Selina tends to master a jigsaw after about two or three times doing it and it’s hard to keep ahead of her learning curve. But puzzles are an especially great way for her to exercise her weak eye when she wears her eye patch, so I want to indulge her as much as I can.

Speaking of puzzles, Nat is a big fan of Geo Puzzles. They are mostly fabulous realistic maps with the pieces shaped like the countries. (My quibble is that they put Mexico in with South America, then put the U.S. and Canada together in one puzzle.)

Her favorite thing for the longest time was her Africa puzzle. She chose that puzzle to begin work time every single day. So after a while, I started making her other Africa work, like matching countries and capitals, writing out all the countries for handwriting practice (she was really proud of this–so eager to get it done she actually woke in the middle of the night and got it out to finish it), African country word-search puzzles, and picture books and television documentaries (yea, Netflix!) about Africa.

Then, Cole found out that for work reasons, we might have an opportunity to take the kids to Brazil next spring. So I put Africa away for now and took out South America (plus Mexico…grumble, grumble…) and she’s been doing that one.

I told Cole that I remembered having to memorize the countries and capitals of every continent by rote in grade school, trace and color maps and be tested on it all. I hated the pressure of it. But Nat has learned all that stuff because it was fun for her. So I count that as a win.

We still aren’t getting enough physical activity in the week. The girls have ballet on Wednesdays and Saturdays. But they could really use a good vigorous hour of play or other movement every day. Next “semester” we are going to try karate at the Y in addition to the current ballet schedule. Hopefully that will help them in a number of ways. Nat’s sense of self-control is definitely showing improvement since she has turned a corner in ballet (according to her teacher). I am hoping karate will help her continue that improvement. And Selina just needs to run around!

Cookies!

Cookies!

Finally, some holiday notes… I am a bit of a control freak, as I mentioned above, and one of the ways that manifests is that I can’t stand cooking with anyone but myself. I had been cooking with Nat somewhat regularly last spring, but this had fallen off for a few months, as life just became too crazy for me to keep it up. It’s a challenge for me to let kids spill and lick spoons and mix poorly and all that normal learning stuff that happens in a kitchen. But I am trying to get back into the swing of teaching them to cook, so we did some holiday cookies.

The only real disaster in our cooking adventure was losing the 1/4 teaspoon down the garbage disposal. but it was my favorite measuring spoon! Alas.

The only real disaster in our cooking adventure was losing the 1/4 teaspoon down the garbage disposal. But it was my favorite measuring spoon! Alas.

It was the first time I ever made rolled cookies, so it was a new thing all-around. The kids did great and I kept my head on my shoulders (mostly). And the results were tasty, so that covers a plethora of kitchen sins.

I’m also teaching them to sing the Hallelujah chorus. Which really just means I’m introducing them (especially Nat, since she can read words well) to understanding a musical score, how to count musical time and follow your part. Actual singing is going to be another project altogether, since Nat has a habit of confusing

Hallelujah!

Hallelujah!

pitch with dynamics (ahem). But she loves to sing. So Hallelujah, it is.

Josiah is home again for several weeks (he spent the summer and much of the fall in a tepee in Iowa) and he is going to try reintroducing Nat to more routine guitar lessons. I think she’s ready to do that, as her attention and ability to focus has increased a bit lately. We are looking forward to lots of music in the house again!

Meet Lindsay of “Fortunes Full”

 As a part of the annual Adoption Blogger Interview Project sponsored by Production, Not Reproduction, I was paired with Lindsay, sweet, busy new recruit to the two-kid lifestyle, and brain-behind-the-blog, Fortunes Full. Lindsay began documenting her adoption process once she and her husband were ready to begin.

A mother by traumatic birth (pre eclampsia, premature emergency c-section, weeks in NICU), Lindsay knew she wanted to adopt if she had any more children and her partner agreed.

She brought home a new son (her second) this past spring, a few weeks after another plan to adopt fell through when a father decided not to place.

Without further ado, here is my interview with Lindsay:

What kind of adoption did you do?

We decided very quickly on open, domestic adoption through a local agency. It was the perfect fit for us.

How did you make the decision to do this kind of adoption versus other types available (if they were available)?

As we were learning about all the different kinds of adoptions out there, we were shocked at how great the need for African American/biracial adoption was versus how long some people were waiting for a baby of their own race. Everyone has different needs and comfort levels, and we understand that. But for us it just didn’t matter, at all. We wanted a baby and felt we were emotionally and logistically equipped to raise a child of another race, respectfully. We also needed this adoption process to have a very low impact on our son, W, who was two at the time. So we decided on domestic to avoid extensive travel. Then we learned that there was an agency very close to our home  that specialized in open adoptions. We figured that if we were going to have a child of another race, that it would be beneficial to know their birth family – to see where they came from. It was all just too perfect. Open, domestic, multi racial adoption. Boom bam.

Of course it didn’t wind up turning out quite that way though…

What factors (specifically about adoption itself) where most important to you at the time you began the adoption process? Did these change or shift at a later time? If so how and why?

We went into adoption with one focus: a healthy baby to bring home from the hospital. We were robbed of that experience with Little W and we were craving it. So that was our driving force in the beginning. But once we found our path (open, domestic), I think a fire was lit in me and I developed a passion for it. Open adoption is a relatively new thing and I think it’s very scary to outsiders. I love “spreading the gospel” to people who aren’t in the know. Hopefully some form of open adoption will be the norm, some day.

It was also important to me to find a respectable agency that put the needs of the children first, then the birth parents. We were lucky to find that in our local agency. In my opinion, once agencies or adoption professionals start putting the needs of the adoptive parents before the babies and birth families, you’re creeping into what seems like very questionable moral/ethical ground.

Once we were in the thick of The Wait, bringing a newborn home from the hospital seemed less and less important. And good thing because H’s adoption plan was created when he was three months old. Our feeling was… when this kid is six months, three years, eleven years, twenty years old, is it going to matter that we missed twelve measly weeks with him? No way.

As you raise your adopted child, what is most important to you today? Is it what you predicted would be important when you began the adoption process? If it has shifted how and why?

I think my answer to this mirrors that of any other parent, adoptive or biological. I want my sons to have every opportunity available to them. I want them to shoot for the moon, to follow their dreams, to be healthy and kind and loving. Being  an adoptive parent will always be a bit trickier than being a biological parent because there’s more questions to be answered and more people woven into the tapestry of our lives. This is especially so if you’re a multiracial family. In preparing for our adoption, I did all the research, I knew all the ways to include my child’s ethnicity into our family’s nucleus. But as fate had it, that sweet little baby wasn’t placed with us. And just a few weeks later we were surprised with an emergency placement… of the blondest haired, bluest eyed cherubic baby you’ve ever seen.  Go figure. So while I still want H to have a connection to his birth family’s roots, it’s not quite so pressing because simply, at first glance, there’s not that blazing difference in appearances. Did I answer that question appropriately? Not so sure. We’re just seven months in from placement, 7.5 months in from that heart breaking disappointment. So even though Little H consumes every corner of my mom-brain and is the light of my life, I still think about the baby that  wasn’t placed with us every day. I’m sure that will fade with time. But currently, the transition from expecting an African American baby to having a Caucasian baby is still a part of my life. Clearly, some of the details aren’t what I expected. But overall, the ideals that I hold important remain the same. I want him to know that he is loved by his birth family. I want him to know about them – and to know them. I want him to know that he is entitled to feel exactly how he feels. If he’s feeling sad or mad regarding adoption, I want him to know that that’s ok and that we’re there to listen.

What resources do you look to for learning what you need to know about adoption and raising an adopted person? What do you like about these? Are there any “resources” you have seen and not liked? Why?

I’m a blog junkie. I bought several books while making our adoption plan but I just can’t get through them. They’re written by well meaning psychologists and I’m sure they’re great for some people.  But when it comes down to it, I prefer blogs. Real life experiences from people who aren’t experts is what I need. I like to learn from real moms’ mistakes and laugh with them as they learn the ropes of parenthood. It puts a face and a heart on “The Adopted Child” that you read about in the books.

You have a mixed biological/adoptive family. Do you feel there are unique challenges to this experience, from your perspective? Are there unique blessings?

I do feel that there are unique challenges to having both biological and adoptive sons. Just the other day, I got into a conversation with W about how much we look alike. It wasn’t a real heavy talk. It was short and to the point then he was off with his trains and dinosaurs. But it stuck with me for a while. How would that convo had gone down if the boys were older? How would it have made H feel to hear me talk about how much W and I look alike? Will W feel left out because he doesn’t have a birth family like H? We will definitely have challenges as a family of mixed origin. Luckily, we have a few years to figure out how to tackle those subjects. Hopefully, our endlessly open dialog regarding H’s adoption and birth family will leave him fulfilled when it’s brought up that W and I look like twins. We’ll be able to jump right in with pictures and stories about how much H looks like his birth parents and siblings.
What does “open adoption” mean to you and your family? Do you feel you have the support you need to maintain a healthy open adoption? What is your support? Would you like to have more and if so, what kind?

Open adoption means so much to us. Ultimately, it gave us our son. But it also gave us such a bigger sense of love for a child.  Before learning about open adoption, I would have never guessed that loving an adopted child would include love for his birth family. H’s birth family loves him so much – and that will always be tangible to him. I see our relationship heading towards a place of closeness. It’s still very new and I think I don’t hear from them much because they’re healing. But I keep a blog for them and always let them know how open I am to him knowing (I mean really knowing them). Hopefully with time for healing, we will be comfortably close. We all live less than two hours apart, so there’s no excuse, if both parties are game.

If we need it, our agency is there for us. But I don’t feel like I need them as a middle man. I’m confidant in our relationship and the respect is there, on both ends. Like I said, I’d love to have a close relationship with them. But only time will tell if they will reciprocate.

Thanks for your thoughtful answers, Lindsay! To read my answers to Lindsay’s questions, visit her blog.