Monday, December 15, 2014

St. Nick

After considerable anticipation (especially on the parts of Mama and Ol' Baba), Caroline met St. Nick for the first time.  We were pleased that she - unlike many small children meeting He Who Hands Out the Goodies for the first time - didn't cry or fuss.  She got into his lap without any trouble, but then looked puzzled and a little dazed.  Worse, she forgot all the coaching I gave her about what *I* want.  Oh, well... Maybe next year.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Prepare for Christmas

This will be Caroline's first Christmas with us, and likely her first Christmas ever.  She's been learning quickly about Santa Claus (aka "Ho-ho-ho") from various cartoons and recognizes him when she sees him or one of his impersonators in public. 

Ol' Baba makes a decent easy chair AND he's got cartoons about Ho-ho-ho!
Caroline, my wife and my in-laws were having breakfast at a pancake house when a gentleman with a long, white beard and wearing a red sweatshirt came in (could it have been the man himself getting breakfast after an all-night practice flight?  Could be...).  I'm told that Caroline's eyes got as big as saucers and she muttered, "Ho-ho-ho!" She proceeded to visit the fellow and thus got a candy cane and some face-time with St. Nick to go along with her pancakes.  Too bad I didn't have forewarning, else I could have asked her to put in some requests for me!

Along with Santa, of course, comes the tree.  I pulled our little tree out of the garage, and Chrystal decorated it.  She had some help from a certain elf.

It may be that Caroline did rather more playing than decorating, but I'm pretty sure she had a good time.

Look at the pretty toys!
Speaking of toys, like small children everywhere, Caroline can get as much - if not more - fun from the box than she can from what's in it.

"I see you!"
Somehow, I'm reminded of the Martian baby "Mot" in the old WB cartoon "Rocket-bye Baby".
With Caroline around, I think that Christmas is going to regain some of the magic that it's lost for me in the past several years.

On the topic of Santa Claus, I can't recall where, but a blog some time ago reminded me of a scene in "Miracle on 34th Street"* where Kris Kringle meets a little girl, adopted as an orphan from Holland by an American family.
KRINGLE - Well, young lady, what's your name?
MOTHER - I'm sorry, she doesn't speak English.  She's Dutch.  She just came over.  She's been living in an orphans' home in Rotterdam since... We've adopted her.  I told her you wouldn't be able to speak to her, but when she saw you in the parade yesterday, she said you WERE Sinterklaas - as she calls you - and you COULD talk to her.  I didn't know what to do ---
KRINGLE [to the little girl] - Hallo!  [begins to speak in Dutch, to the delight of the little girl and the amazement of the bystanders]

Occasionally, we all need to be reminded:

Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus.


(*) "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947; dir. George Seaton)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Edyukashun pt 2

Even before we adopted, even before I became a prospective father, I had some interest in our education system.  The interest, I should say, of a person looking at a train wreck or any other disaster in the making.  Consider this recent news item:

Only NINETEEN of 600 students in New Jersey school district scored high enough on SATs to get into college
Shocking exams results from a New Jersey school district have revealed that only 19 out of 600 students could get into college.
Just over 3 per cent of pupils from Paterson were deemed 'college ready' based on their SAT scores, meaning they achieved at least 1,500 out of 2,400 points.
The average score obtained by a student in the area was just 1,200. It is a decrease on the 26 (4.2 per cent) who reached the benchmark last year.

This is in Paterson, NJ, scene of the movie "Lean on Me".

The maximum possible score for the SAT is 2400 (three sections, 800 points per).  The minimum possible score is 600.  Assuming that the students who AVERAGED a 1200 did roughly the same in all three sections, i.e. 400 points per section, this translates to:

MATH              16th percentile

READING         18th percentile

WRITING          21st percentile

For purposes of comparison, the average scores on the three sections were:

MATH               514

READING          496

WRITING          488

TOTAL             1498

Naturally, the school board in Paterson is busy making excuses for this situation.  They ring hollow to me.

Ironically, I don't really blame the school system.  Yes, it is ill-serving the students and the taxpayers who support it, but (as the old saying goes), you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.  The teachers can't force the kids to show up, pay attention, do their homework, &c.  The lion's share of the blame, in my opinion, lies with the parents.  If they are satisfied with their children performing so abysmally, then are we to be surprised that the kids DO perform abysmally?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Scary smart?

I preface my remarks by saying that the psychology of two year-olds and child development generally are subjects about which I know nothing.  This being said, I am starting to wonder that my daughter may be scary smart, which bodes ill for the future.  Perhaps other parents can comment on how "normal" these things are:

--- Caroline is disturbed by little bits of dead skin around her finger nails.  She went to my wife the other day complaining of a "boo-boo" on her thumb.  Chrystal told her to go to me to get it clipped off.  Now, I don't normally carry clippers, though I happened to have a pair in my pocket.  Caroline went up to me, pointed to the pocket where I had them, then to her thumb and said, "Boo-boo."

How did she know not only that I had clippers, not only which pocket they were in, but that this was what I would need to fix her boo-boo???  Clippers are not exactly an everyday object for her.

--- I carelessly left a dirty diaper in her bedroom after changing her.  A few minutes later, she brought it out, took it to the kitchen, and threw it in the trash.  Mark you, she threw it in the trash, not the adjacent and more accessible recycle bin.

How did she know to do this, especially as we don't throw her diapers into the kitchen trash???

--- I was emptying the dishwasher.  Caroline began to pull out items and, though she can't (yet) reach drawers and cabinets, she was taking things to their proper places.

--- She has recently taken to getting her little hands on the leash and chasing Mallory around, trying to hook her on.  I expect that it won't be long before she figures out the snap link.  Note that she doesn't try to put Sheepdog on a leash as she never needs one.

--- She has figured out how to climb up on a chair to get at things on the dining room table (which, in one case, led to salt all over her and the floor).

Maybe these things are perfectly normal for a small child, but they strike me as pretty astonishing.  Am I wrong?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Looking white

Halle Berry turns to court to stop ex Gabriel Aubry from straightening their daughter’s hair: report

The Academy Award winner’s lawyer successfully lobbies judge to stop Aubry’s efforts to remove 6-year-old Nahla’s natural curls in what was perceived by Berry to be an effort to make the girl look more Caucasian, according to TMZ.

I have read that many Asian international adoptees - indeed, many Asian girls - go to considerable lengths to look "more white".  This includes everything from lightening their hair to having cosmetic surgery to make their eyes more "round".

As a gravitationally-challenged person (ahem), I understand quite well how people can be dissatisfied with their appearance and feel pressure to look... different than they do.  I understand that this can be especially hard for girls as they are constantly bombarded with images of what the perfect woman ought to look like.  Indeed, entire industries are devoted to helping women look more like Barbie and less like what they actually do.

But to want to look like a totally different race???  That I don't get. 

Anybody want to tell me that Miss Zhang needs to have her eyes done,
or that she'd look better as a blue-eyed blonde???

Granting that any father worth his salt would say the same thing about his daughter(s), I think my little girl is absolutely beautiful.  I wouldn't change a thing about her, and I can't imagine why anybody else would.  More to the point, why should her looks define who she is?


Note to Halle: while I'm a big respecter of law and order and due process, I think that, if you publicly kicked ol' Gabe right in the sweet spot, no jury on earth would convict you.  Just saying.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Understanding the adoptee (pt 2)

Doubtless, this will be a continuing series.  It ought to be so as I keep bumping up against the problem that I don't, despite the best will in the world, fully understand all the challenges that my daughter may well face as she goes through life.  I think that I am no different from any other father in that I would spare her any heartbreak or grief if I could, but, sadly, the world is what it is and she's going to get her portion.  My part is to help her, as well as I can, deal with them.

My wife and I are always on the lookout for stories about adoption and adoptees, and especially writings from adoptees (I have written in the past that these can soemtimes be difficult if not absolutely infuriating to read, but one has his duty).  As this is National Adoption Month, the otherwise loathesome Huffington Post is actually doing something useful for a change and publishing articles by adoptees.  I bring one to your attention.

I suppose you could call me a Chinese-American, but truth is, I'm not really all Chinese and I'm not really all American. I feel different ways in different situations. My name is Emily Champion and I am 15 years old. I was born in China in 1999 but I am growing up in America...


So what am I? Where is my community? I learned this summer that I belong to the community of other international adoptees -- other girls (and some boys) who left their birth countries and are being raised in places where no one looks like them. My mom signed me up for this conference in Ohio called Adopteen because I felt alone in my own community. She said that the only people who would know how I felt would be people who have been through what I've been through. So in the summer of 2014, I headed to Ohio and to Adopteen where I was one of about 130 adopted kids from China (and two very nice Romanian brothers who also came). What I learned there was that I didn't have to face my fears and uncertainties about my past alone because now I have a community. At Adopteen we did teen bonding and activities, and they also gave us plenty of time to spend with each other and just have fun. I never knew there could be so many girls who were just like me. Just to spend time with them was the best opportunity I've ever had. I still keep in touch with some of the girls and boys and they are like my second family. There are two more conferences coming up and I am saving my babysitting money and allowance so that I can hopefully go to at least one of them. This means the world to me.

It has occured to me before that international adoptees are (as the documentary of the same name states), somewhere between.  They are usually raised in white families, yet look Asian (or Hispanic or African).  People automatically expect certain things about them based on appearance, and are understandably surprised when they find that they truth doesn't match expectations.  This must be hard on the adoptee.  It seems to me that adoption camps must be very good for the adoptees as fellow adoptees are really their "community".  We certainly had planned to send our daughter to them when she is old enough, but this article gives us more of a feeling of urgency: it's not just a nice thing to do, but something very like a necessity.

Emily's statement about not feeling "really all American" really bothered me. I was raised to believe that a person, whether his ancestors came over on the Mayflower or whether the ink is still dry on his Certificate of Citizenship, is a by-God AMERICAN, entitled to all the rights and priviledges appertaining thereto. I was in grad school when I was introduced to the idea that people of color, especially second generation immigrants, don't necessarily feel this way as our society doesn't come close to the ideal of "we are all Americans" but instead often treats them like foreigners. In short, it's rather easier for a white person born in this country to believe in the "by-God American" than it is for an international adoptee like Emily.

Or my daughter.

What can the adoptive parent do about the sorts of things that young Emily has experienced?  What can prepare a child for the day when some a$$hole is going to make a racist comment or laugh at him because of a handicap?  Or even when a well-intentioned person tells him that he must be "so smart"?  What ought the parent to do to instill in his child that, "You are an AMERICAN" and that the child can be proud to be Chinese (or Korea or Guatemalan or Ethiopian, &c.) while still being proud to be American?

So much to think about and to prepare for.

I must say that one thing Emily wrote gave me a great deal of satisfaction, and ought to be a model for how bullies should be dealt with in the schools:

It was always fun for the boys in grade school to speak crazy made-up Chinese to me and one boy even told me "to go back to China." The really funny thing was, he did it in gym class and my gym teacher heard him and made him get down on his knees and beg me for forgiveness. It's still one of the best days of my life.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

6 Months Forever Family

6 months ago, we met a sweet, easy going little girl and became parents for the first time.  We were all very nervous, but Caroline never cried.  She reached out and kissed us like we had been together forever.  Adopting Caroline has been the best thing we have ever done.  She has truly blessed us.

Here are the photos from our forever family day:

We recently had a few family photos taken in recognition of six months together and Caroline's 2nd birthday.  Happy 6 month Forever Family Caroline.  We love you!