Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson, My Take

When I was in 5th grade, a friend of mine who is not a member of my church approached me and informed me that because I am Mormon, I wasn't allowed to drink soda.  I told her that I could drink soda, to which she raised her voice, "No! I know that you can't drink soda! Mormons aren't allowed to drink any soda."  As all of our friends' eyes turned to me, a rush of frustration and exasperation swept over me.  I knew what was and wasn't allowed in my religion.  She was not of my faith, so why did she insist that she knew better than me what my beliefs were?

So, what does this have to do with Ferguson and Michael Brown?  Frankly, it has nothing at all to do with the specific incident or the case itself, but I believe it has everything to do with the nation's reaction to it.  I don't know exactly what happened that fateful August day.  I wasn't there and neither were you.  Did Officer Wilson pursue and shoot an innocent man because  he was African American?  Or, did he chase him and shoot him because he was angry? Did he feel his life was in danger?  I don't know.  I wasn't there and neither were you.  

But, here's what I do know.  There is a reason the Ferguson community reacted the way they did.  They are saying that they're tired of being treated a certain way.  Michael Brown has become a symbol, just as Trayvon Martin was a symbol.  White people who argue that what happened in those cases wasn't because of racism or that it isn't being reported accurately in the media are missing the point.  Stop talking and listen.  Listen to the people who are trying to tell us what their experience is, how they are feeling, the problems in their communities.  If you aren't a black young man, then you have no way of knowing what a black young man feels like or what he goes through.  So, stop telling the black community what they are or are not experiencing!  Or, how they should or should not react to an incident in their community!

I am not a black woman, so I have no idea what it feels like to be a black woman in America.  If one of my African American friends tells me of her life experiences and how she feels in society, guess what, I listen.  Just as ridiculous as it was for my 5th grade friend to insist she knew better than me what my religion's standards were, it is equally ridiculous for non-black Americans to tell black Americans that their feelings and experiences aren't valid or accurate.  

Similarly, as a white mother to 3 black children, I have experiences that many people can't relate to both black and white.  I've had many people try to tell me that incidents of racism that my family has had really weren't racism, that I was reading into things, or being oversensitive, or that person really didn't mean it that way.  My favorite one was that they weren't talking about my children, as if insulting African Americans in general is not insulting to my children.  Why?  Because my kids have white parents?

What I would've appreciated my 5th grade friend doing was to ask me, "Are Mormons allowed to drink soda? Can you drink that?" And, even better if she would've listened to my answer.  Instead of telling black Americans why they're wrong about Ferguson, why not listen to what they are saying about their experiences and their frustrations with society?  And, even better if we set aside our own defensiveness and work together to fix the problems that continually plague our country.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mourning a Loss That Never Happened

As is typical in foster care, I have had some highs and lows these last few weeks. Having a pre-adoptive placement of our sweet Special K is ten times easier than a regular foster placement, any day. Special K is already walking and talking, a little, and we know he is ours never to be taken away. At least, that's what his caseworker tells us. We are so grateful to have another son and to know that everyone's intention is for us to adopt him. All of this is good. But, my heart has been grieving lately.

Our previous foster son, Baby S, who was with us from birth until 9 months old, just celebrated his 1st birthday. We were happy to be able to celebrate with him and his birth family; grateful for their generosity including us. Baby S is turning out to be a little ball of charisma, cuteness and charm. I miss him beyond words! It is so nice to see him every few weeks, but I miss my baby cuddling with me every night before bedtime. I miss being his mama. And, it makes me mourn having missed all of that with Special K. I didn't get to see Special K in the hospital as a newborn like I did with Baby S and all my other babies. I didn't get to see his firsts or be the one he bonded with. As I watched Baby S at his birthday party and held Special K on my lap, I grieved not only for missing Baby S but for missing Special K's infancy.

Yes, Special K has a bright future ahead of him now with a mommy and daddy and four older siblings to look out for him. I look at his gorgeous face and am amazed that I have once again been given a gift that is beyond value. There is no way to measure the joy and gratitude. I just didn't expect to grieve over losing a baby I never had. Special K was not my baby. He is my boy now, and I will give him everything I possibly can to make his life happy. What every child deserves. But, some losses stay with you, and I don't think I'll ever fully get over not only losing our little Baby S, but losing those days of infancy with Special K.

P.S. These are my ruminations on the feelings of loss that I as an adult have had. I can write in a blog about it and process the pain. But, for these little ones in foster care, their pain is exponentially more intolerable. Yet, they don't have the words or the ability to understand the losses they endure. Special K's pain must be so much more than mine, but he can't express it. I do recognize that.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Why I Have to Keep Blogging

I've taken a serious break from blogging mostly because I was feeling too overwhelmed by my everyday life. In that time, we got licensed to do foster care and had our first placement, a 5-day-old baby boy who became (in my heart, at least) my baby.  He spent 9 months with us until July of this year when he was returned to his mom and dad.

To say that the last year has been an emotional rollercoaster is a gross understatement.  My heart has grown, been twisted, torn and expanded in ways I never expected. I didn't expect to fall so helplessly in love. I didn't expect his birth parents to get it together. I didn't expect that a mere 2 months after our foster baby went home, we would be blessed with a gorgeous 21 month-old boy who we will be adopting!!!  

Nothing about the past year has gone how I thought it would. But, I am so grateful for the bumpy windy road we have travelled.  Two months ago, I was not grateful. I was heartbroken. Isn't that just how life is? When things seem darkest, the light comes bursting in.  Sometimes it happens quickly and unexpectedly. Other times, the light comes slowly, so slowly that you feel like the darkness will never end.  

Now, I have 5 children and one who comes to stay on the weekends.  It turns out that just because our foster baby's case ended, hasn't meant our relationship with him or his parents is over.  We get to continue to help our sweet baby boy and be a support to the whole family.  What could be better than seeing the results of putting my heart on the line to love a child who would not be mine?  What could be better than having another little boy come to our family who brought the light with him that dispelled the darkness of our grief?  Now, I understand that there was a plan all along.  I just needed to wait for the light to shine again so I could see it. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Truth About This Summer

First off I have to do some advertising for my home-based preschool - Little Amigos Preschool - www.littleamigospreschool.com. We're registering for the Fall 2013 semester, and I'm happy to continue to offer a preschool option for families on a budget. We use a pay-as-you-go tuition system where you only pay for the classes your child attends ($15/class). For more info, visit our website - www.littleamigospreschool.com.

Now, onto my rantings about this summer. I love my children. I'll just start there. And, we had grand plans for doing our own little summer school at home and swim classes and soccer and gymnastics and riding bikes and playing outside. June was pretty close to that. We had lots of sports activities and did a theme for each week for our at-home summer school. In fact, the first few weeks of June, I actually did lessons and projects with the kids. Our themes included "Under the Sea", "Asia", "Outer Space", and I can't even remember the others. We started the summer out strong.

July, unfortunately, has been more like this - 1) bedtimes have gotten later and later, 2) wake-up times have gotten later and later, 3) our summer school has officially ended a month early, 4) I let my kids skip their sports classes (except Maija who is preparing to be on the competition gymanstics team), 5) kids fighting, 6) me yelling at them to stop yelling at each other, 7) more fighting, and 8) WAY too much TV (Dr. Who, anyone?). Sigh.

I suppose I should just be proud of myself that June went almost as planned and embrace the chaos. We have 1 month left of summer break. I can do hard things!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

End of the Year - That Was Fast!

You know how time is relative? If one were to use my blog to measure time, the old saying "time flies" would literally be true. My last post lamented the start of a new school year, and now next week is the end of the school year. Where did it go? Seriously, I want to know. Where did the time go?

Although, I am baffled by how fast the year has passed, here are a few clues:

- I started a home-based preschool
- We began getting certified for foster care
- We sold our house
- We lived in a hotel for a month with 4 kids (waiting for the new house)
- Moved into the new house
- Got settled and...
- It was the end of the school year

Yep, that's pretty much how it all went. Here is a sort of photo essay of the year.

Photo by Rachel Eng Photography

Photo by Rachel Eng Photography

Photo by Rachel Eng Photography

Photo by Rachel Eng Photography

Friday, August 24, 2012

Another School Year? Really?

It seems like the years are flying, and the beginning of a new school year is always a poignant reminder that children grow up.  This year is no exception. We've had 2 big milestones with Rebekah starting kindergarten and Forest starting preschool. It's hard to believe that they are getting so big. Maija started second grade and is turning 8 in a few months. It just doesn't seem real.

Here are pictures of their first days of school

First Day of Second Grade - Maija

First Day of Kindergarten - Bekah

Bekah & friend Julia - They were so excited when they found out they're in the same class and sitting next to each other.

First Day of Preschool - Forest

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Finland and How I Never Knew My Mother

I know, I know. It's been ages since I last blogged, and the posts seem to be fewer and farther between as time passes. It's not that I have nothing to say. Anyone who knows me at all is well aware that I have plenty to say, pretty much all the time. But, as a very good friend pointed out to my soon-to-be-husband back in 2003, "You have no idea how many dead horses you will be beating." In other words a lot of what I have to say is the same stuff I always say. How many times can I blog about poopy diapers, toddler tantrums, soccer games and the majority of what makes up my days? I often think, "I should blog about that. Oh wait, I already have."

Today I have something new to blog about, Finland. My two oldest daughters and I just returned from a weeklong trip there to visit my mother and father. My mom is from Finland and she and my dad are currently living there as missionaries. They've been in Finland for almost a year and have five months to go. Although I've been to Finland several times, my last trip there was 26 years ago. A lot changes in a quarter century.

My perspective as an adult is very different than it was as a young teenager. My adolescent memories of Finland include being irritated that I had nothing "fun" to do, listening to my walkman (yeah, that dates me), and being puzzled by how emotional my mother was. Her mother was in a retirement home at the time and was suffering from dementia. There were times when she didn't even recognize my mother. Unfortunately, as a teenager I was more worried about myself than my grieving mother. My grandmother passed away not long after our trip. Needless to say, that visit to Finland was a bit depressing.

This time around was quite the opposite! We had such a great time enjoying the greenery, the myriad lakes, the people, the language, visiting old friends, and most importantly seeing all the things about Finland that make my mother who she is. All of these things that I had thought were my mother's quirks, like making really runny scrambled eggs, turn out to be Finnish things. My mother's serious demeanor which melts into warmth and sweetness when you get to know her. Her love of cheese and rye crackers. The tone of her voice and the rhythms of her speech. Her nose. My mother's skepticism and her love of beauty. I came to understand things about my mother that I had never fully understood in a lifetime of being her daughter.

One particularly poignant experience was when we visited the home she was raised in. Many times mother told me of the impoverished circumstances she had grown up in. Her family lived in a large house that was shared by six families. The space allotted to my mom's family included a small kitchen with an attached living room which also doubled as their collective bedroom. That's it. They partitioned the room by hanging curtains. There was no plumbing or bathroom (or shower for that matter.) All residents of the house shared a common outhouse and sauna which were not connected to the house. Imagine a freezing winter's night in Finland and having to go to the bathroom...outside. The sauna was their means of bathing. They would sweat out the dirt and grime and then rinse off in cold water.

I thought I had a pretty clear mental image of what the living conditions were, but when we went to the house, I was stunned to see how small my mother's living space was and the general condition of the house. I had a whole new appreciation for my mother's strength and determination, and also for how blessed her life had been since then. It's almost beyond description the differences between her life then and her life now.

Watching my mom interact and converse in her own language, her own culture, in her homeland, I've never seen her so at ease and at peace. And, to have her two eldest grandchildren with her (and her daughter, too) to share it with, my mother seemed to be happier than I've seen her in years. I am so grateful we made the trip and grateful to Kent for staying home with the two babies (I can't imagine how hard the trip would've been with two toddlers in tow.)
It's amazing to me that you can have one of the most intimate relationships known to man, that of mother and daughter, and decades of shared time and experiences, yet in the end I hadn't really fully known or understood her. And, I probably will never know all that makes her who she is. It goes to show you that one can never know another person's heart, not completely. Our own perspective gets in the way.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Motherhood: Work, Hobby, or Political Spin?

It's 11pm and my job is not done. Little feet run in and out of bedrooms where they should be sleeping. My five-year-old repeatedly comes to tell me that she's scared and can't fall asleep, and my seven-year-old is crying because I'm upset that she's not in bed. I've been taking care of children since 7am, and apparently I have miles to go before I sleep. Anyone who tells me that what I'm doing does not qualify as work is gonna get a verbal smackdown because I'm completely exhausted.

Before you rush down to the Comments link to tell me how I can get my children to sleep and how I could do things better, I'll preemptively defend myself by mentioning that Kent has been out of town for almost 3 weeks now, and even though I have help from our Finnish friend who's staying with us, my children are SO ready to have their daddy home. And, so am I. No matter how you slice it, this mothering business is hard work. That's right...work!

In the last week a new round of the Mommy Wars has erupted over comments made by Hilary Rosen that Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, "never worked a day in her life" because she chose to be a stay-at-home mother to five children. So, if taking care of children is not work what are daycare providers doing? What are nannies doing? How about teachers? Maybe this attitude towards caring for children is the underlying reason that teachers are paid so little. Or is it a career choice only when one is caring for other people's children? If you choose to care for your own children, it's a copout.

I've worked in a variety of jobs since I was 14 years old. I've been a waitress, a cashier, a customer service rep, a corporate trainer, a high school teacher, a research assistant, a computer programmer, and a doctoral student. Then I had my first baby and after a year of trying to juggle a PhD program and being a new mother, I chose to stay home full-time which I have done for six years now. Without a doubt, I have never had such a demanding and overwhelming job in all my life. It is ten times harder than being a full-time high school teacher. It's harder than getting a PhD. It's harder than waiting tables. It's harder than any other job I've had because it is unrelenting. I don't get sick days or personal days. I'm at work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I know it's a choice to stay home, and I also know that many women would like to stay home but can't. I also openly acknowledge that I don't know what it's like to work full-time and raise children. Especially for single mothers, it must completely overwhelming at times. I know many amazing women who work and raise kids, and I have nothing but respect for them. But, that's just the point. I won't tell a working mother that they've never worked a day in their life because they haven't stayed home with kids. So, don't tell me that what I'm doing every day isn't work, especially at the end of a sixteen-hour-day with four children 7 years-old and younger...and I'm about to start the nightshift.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Love Letter to Brenner Pass

(Note: For those who don't understand all the Mormon lingo in this post, here's the shorthand. For a time I was the leader of my congregation's - Brenner Pass - women's group, and this post is deidcated to those women.)

Dear women of the Brenner Pass ward:

Last week I attended my new ward's Relief Society birthday activity. We had an amazing dinner and beautiful music. I had fun chatting with my new friends. But, sitting there and looking around at all of the women, I felt like something was missing. I realized that there were so many women I didn't know and whose lives I knew almost nothing about. And, I missed you, deeply.

For that moment I remembered how close I felt to all of you and the love I had for each one of you. I shared so many moments of joy with you and moments of sadness and pain. I knew your children and your husbands. I knew your worries and I worried with you.

As much as I love our new ward, there is a hole in my heart without you. Thank you for letting me into your lives and for being my friends and my sisters. I miss you terribly. I wanted you to know that. But, most of all, I wanted you to know that I love you.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Poor Poor Blog

My poor neglected blog. It's not that I don't love you anymore, but I have to confess that I am in another relationship with Facebook. I could tell you that I've been neglecting you because I've been so busy with the kids, which is true, and that someone has been sick on and off since Christmas. That's true, too. But, the real reason is that Facebook is where I turn to first when I have pictures or info to share with the world. Facebook only expects me to write a quick sentence or two, but you, my dear blog, require many sentences. And time.

Like Newt Gingrich I would ask you to be in an open relationship because Facebook doesn't care if I have other relationships. But I know that you require time, attention, cute backgrounds, uploaded pictures, and witty prose. I guess I'll let you decide, oh blog of mine, if posting once a month is enough to make you happy or not. Call me callous, but I can't promise you any more than that right now.

Please forgive me,
The writer of the blog