So much good in a day

Watching our president, become our president, again. C 2013 Mama C and the Boys
Watching our president, become our president, again. C 2013 Mama C and the Boys

We’ve been all sorts of good busy in these parts. We’re doing great overall. Aside from the preponderance of tissues we’re upright, and accounted for. Watching your brown president become your president again must be about as life affirming in the “I can do anything I may ever choose to do” department for a five and eight year old of the same complexion and gender I would imagine.  I can’t help but wonder how seeing a woman accept the oath of office might have impacted me thirty-five plus years ago.  Here in Maine we also took great pride in the selection of Cuban American poet Richard Bianco as the inaugural poet as well. Hearing all the references to gay rights, climate change, and just about every other equality I can imagine, I felt like a walking goose bump for most of the morning. I feel hopeful. Tremendously hopeful today for the world our children will inherit.

I also had the amazing good fortune to collaborate with several dynamic women and men, young and old and in between, on a celebration honoring Dr. King that families from at least six local elementary schools attended yesterday. The creative portion of my contribution consisted of a staged dramatic reading of Martin’s Big Words by Dorreen Rappaort that I adapted, narrated, and directed with the help of several amazing youth volunteers, and other PTO parents and friends. With three rehearsals in a forty five minute period we pulled it off to an audience of about 250. I was also able to facilitate a little participatory conversation about “big words” as it related to MLK before we wowed the crowd. Afterwords families participated in creating a gigantic mural of dreams (that will be displayed at the City Hall, and travel to several of the participating elementary schools) and were led in a remarkable ongoing drum circle. Right?

I wrote to my co-leader of our “Cross Cultural Committee” of the PTO that this event allowed me to feel as if I answered Dr. King’s call to service in helping to organize and facilitate this event.  She wrote back that creating the opportunity for so many youth of color, and families and children to show up and engage in all of these ways was a gigantic source of  joy for her too.

Rehearsing the play. Photo by K. Mngqbisa
Rehearsing the play. Photo by K. Mngqbisa
mural making. Photo by K. Mngqbisa
mural making. Photo by K. Mngqbisa
waiting...photo by K. Mngqbisa
Drum hands   photo by K. Mngqbisa
mural
Mural phase 1. photo by K. Mngqbisa
wordplay
Wordplay. photo by K. Mngqbisa

If you are wondering how we managed to pull all this off and send the first 75 families that arrived there home with a free copy of Martin’s Big Words while working full time, raising our families, and being in relationship-you should be. It was hard work. I’m not afraid to admit that. But the results were enthralling. The positive reverberations are innumerable.  One photographer who was sent to the event without a reporter, took me aside and said; “I am going back to the office and fighting for this story. The looks on folks faces during the play, the drums, all of it? Now that was moving. That is a real story.”

Feeling inspired? Want to do something like this at your local elementary school next year? Great. Find some like minded folks, and get started. Start small. Organize around a great book, and invite to help would be my suggestion. (For a great post with a zillion resources on books to talk about race, check out this post at Rage Against the Minivan). If you are not part of your PTO, now would be a great time to join.

Did you attend, organize, read, compose or experience something that inspired you and yours too this weekend?  Share it here, or commit to something you’d like to help make happen next year in the comments, and then come back periodically and share your progress! We’d love to be your cheering squad!

Things in flight, and the boots under the table

It’s been, uh, let’s say rather full around here.

Kindergarten is big. It is about as demanding a shift on a little guy as it gets. A thousand new things to learn how to do well. Add a a zillion hundred new names of your new friends. Take away your mom and brother’s easing, reassuring words, looks, and hugs all day and you are setting up a little person for hard patch.  He’s handling it beautifully at school. His teacher has nothing but great things to say. He is smiling when I pick him up.

getting away as fast as he can…

Then we get home. Two words: OVERWHELMED EMOTIONS.  This looks like outbursts of the vocal and physical variety. Things in flight: toys, fists, demands. Often his entire four year old self racing as fast as he can (which is FAST) in the opposite direction from me. Shrek and I have had some great conversations about how to best support him. Reasoning wasn’t working. Time outs were turning into complete mayhem. Then we reached out to other circles as well. What we’ve come up with that seems to be really helping-more connection-more hugging-less time outs-and lots of reassurance that these are BIG EMOTIONS and they are OK and that he is DOING GREAT.

An example of a successful switch it up intervention was last night. He and Sam were watching a movie. He lost track of the plot because one of the characters spoke in a heavy accent. He stands up right in front of the television screaming; “I HATE THIS. IT MAKES NO SENSE. I AM GOING TO TURN IT OFF NOW!!!” Asking him to please sit down, or count to three with the promise of a time out would lead him strait to Melt Down Avenue before you could say; “Don’t throw that remote!”. Instead Shrek suggested that I stop folding the laundry in the other room, and offer to sit with him in my lap, and explain the narrative when necessary. He was cuddled in my lap, quietly watching and laughing in seconds. When the dishes were done, Shrek joined us too. Maybe this seems completely obvious to you. But to me–who was so into CONSEQUENCES for everything, it has been a great reminder to switch it up, CONNECT MORE and find what works better.  It has also been great to realize that what works for one fantastic kid, is not necessarily working for the other fantastic kid. Why this was an ah-ha this late in the game?

What is the parable about the rabbi who tells the man that if his home feels crowded and overwhelming it is time to buy a goat, a cow, a horse and so on and so on?

Establishing trust with the new bird.

Yesterday we welcomed “Friendly” or “Sky” or “Bird” depending on who you ask into our home. Sam in particular is thrilled to have a parakeet. I’m enjoying it too. Lots of opportunity for literacy; “Read to us what he can’t eat again Sam?” and “Parakeets really need quiet in the house to adjust.” It was really sweet to have this be a FAMILY decision, including Shrek, to get the bird or not after a student’s family asked us if we’d be interested in the bird, cage and all. Having a pet is a big deal, and this felt like a great place to start. A bird requires daily attention, and care, but it doesn’t poop on your floor, or bark.

So, why did they want to part with such a beauty?  SHE’S ANNOYING according to the daughter. Huh. To be discovered?

Now to some seeing a large pair of industrial strength boots under your kitchen table might be annoying too. Or perhaps it just a sign of a welcomed change, a growing family, and wait what was that parable getting at?

Shrek’s boots on my, I mean, our kitchen floor.

So although I still feel a rather palpable feeling of loss when I walk around the community pool near the skate park and see this:

in a few steps I have the pleasure of watching Sam leaping into his own in magical ways, that remind me how precious it all is, and not just in the summer time.

I hope your new starts and transitions are not all feeling like “dropping into the big bowl”, but if so, remember that once you leap, you do reach the bottom, with another chance to climb up, up, up, and try it again!

One part thrilling + one part exhaustion = 2 parts kindergarten

He’s hanging in there.

He read a book that he colored in himself, and stapled together.

He sleeps about 14 hours a night. Hard.

He eats for three.

He looks a year older already.

He says the names of his new friends in his sleep.

He tried school lunch and loved it.

He “forgot” he had a packed lunch the next day, and had another school lunch.

He fell apart around dinner and bed time almost every night.

He shook his head in complete disbelief when I told him it was Saturday, and there was no school today, and said; “Well if you are certain everyone is home today, then I’ll stay home too.”

Show time (take 2)

Walking with my big brother up to my FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL EVER!

It’s official.
I have two kids in elementary school.

WHEN did THAT happen?

Yesterday I was bringing Sam home from the hospital. And a few hours later, I brought Marcel into the world. Right?

Marcel hasn’t stopped talking about everything he already knew how to do!!!

Sam’s teacher informed me that he is being an amazing helper in the classroom.

I’m off to a great start too.

Trifecta.

(for now).

Screen. Screamed. Screening.

The kindergarten screening was today. Too soon to tell just how relieved he is, but here’s to hoping! His teacher is clearly all about reassurance and welcoming. His classroom looks magnificent. Sam happened upon his new teacher too, who also is a rock star. No, really. Musician by night, amazing educator by day. He saw the names of his friends, and felt better too-although he doesn’t reveal 1/100th of what his little bro does. I have to remember to check in sometimes.

Because I’m doing this post on a mobile device-I’ve got the pictures a little out of order (flip the first 2), with no patience left to discover how to fix that. I have a little transition triggered head cold telling me to slow down… HA! Thanks for all the supportive comments on and off line in the last few days with all of our life shifts. We’re going to spend a couple of days chilling with Uncle this weekend in his new home. Everyone is really excited about that too. Bring it on!

And yes, Sam is wearing a self adhesive yellow mustache in one of the photos. Doesn’t every dentist give them out?!

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2. Check in

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3. Release

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4. Exhale

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5. Reflect

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A little edgy one could say

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The “What if I’m not good enough” gremlins have taken over Marcel’s central processor. The kindergarten build up is sending my angelic sweet pea into the lead role of the Hot Mess series at the Mama C ville community theater. Tantrums barely describes the constant flow of tears, kicks, thrown objects (mostly at Sam-who should be wearing the helmet) and the all around refusal and chaos mode he seems most comfortable in.

Yes, I’m reassuring him. The world is too. It doesn’t seem to be helping.

Yes, I’m acknowledging his feelings, and trying hard to give him strategies to navigate the feelings (breathing deep, lots of rest, almost no sugar, tons of exercise). We’ve gone to the playground at the school a few times every week. None of this seems to be helping either.

Tomorrow he meets his new teacher at his “screening”. This, I have insisted will help. “After you meet Mrs. Bindergarten and see your classroom you’ll feel so much better!” He seems skeptical.

But if I had to start a new full time job, with little real knowledge of the expectations, place, colleagues or BOSS I’d be a hot mess too. Being the child of a demi-perfectionist/ control seeking Mama is not helpful at this time perhaps?

We just got back from the library, and checked out every “first day of school” book we could grab. Overkill?

In the car this morning he says; “Will I always be able to find my room? What if someone else is at my cubby?” We’re getting closer to harnessing the beast I’d say.

Any other parents out there with some back to school jitters under your roof? What are your best strategies? What’s helped the most?

100 great days (ways) to bring Black History into the elementary schools

100 days with a spin!

I am all for celebrating math in school. I am all for celebrating school. I am just even more for finding ways to celebrate Black History today, and everyday.  So when Sam’s teacher sent home a blank piece of poster board with the instructions to create your own way to celebrate the #100 in honor of the approaching 100th day of school I realized we had hit the jackpot! I asked Sam who his favorite brown skinned athlete was–because he had already decided he wanted to do something about sports: Jackie Robinson! Continue reading “100 great days (ways) to bring Black History into the elementary schools”

Getting all clever in time for Valentine’s Day

It’s still three weeks away. But at least over here, when it comes to tackling the holiday of love with ease and intention–major planning is involved. I’m talking about Valentines Day, and elementary school. I know that many don’t participate in the holiday–and I certainly respect their choice, and reasons why.  I have mixed feelings about it, but have decided to go about it this way until the kids can make their own choice about how to approach it. So to that end, we always make our own cards, and use the holiday to focus on something we appreciate about the recipient. Continue reading “Getting all clever in time for Valentine’s Day”

Safe Space(s): Departures and arrivals

My son will be starting a new school in the new (calendar) year.

Updated post as of December 21st. 2011:

He stepped out of the old building with his head held high, and his pack full of artifacts and fabulous memories. Before he left-he hugged his amazingly caring, and dear to all of us teacher after giving her her favorite thing: a pink rose. Then he presented his class with a bag of sweet tangerines for their snack that day. He found other adults in the building he had formed important connections with–and had appropriate good-byes. In the car he announced to me; “That was easy Mom!” I cried a few hidden tears, and headed us out of the driveway to our next destination-some new school new clothes, and then a visit to the new school (saving this for another post).

So why did we leave? I described it to him this way; “You were at an amazing school, that was just the right place for you, while you were there.  And now you are going to a school that can see all of you the way you and I do. A school that can see you as a scientist, a writer, an athlete, a musician, a diplomat, a great friend, a wonderer, a mover, an explorer, and a brown skin chocolatey boy in all his big glory!” Sam’s eyes got so wide. This landed with him in important ways. His largess in the world, and the physical largess of the building we are transitioning to are in sync. He feels this on many levels.

Translation: my son loves to move in so many ways. We have found a school that has programming and structures in place that can give him the space and encouragement to do that (physically, emotionally, socially and academically) in ways that as his mother, and as an educator I see are a better fit over all then where he was. It is not important to me to talk about how we came to this discovery–but to celebrate how right a move it was for our family. Marcel is part of the story too–as several of his dearest friends already attend, and will attend next year in kindergarten the same school with him. It is quite possible that we will also move into the “neighborhood “that the school serves at some point in the not so distant future. We need a back yard, neighbors to play ball with, and a street to ride our bikes on. We are all shifting in other ways too. The move seems to welcome and encourage these shifts in unexpected and magnificent ways.

He will be deeply missed. I will deeply miss so much of what I cherished and valued there. But, with even a few days out, I see that all of that good stays with us, and just builds on what we are coming into. I will be writing about the new, in the new year. For now it is about honoring the space between the two.

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I will be on LIVE radio tonight! (7:30PM Eastern time) the guest on Dr. Anne’s; “Safe Space Radio“. If you follow the link to the station you can link up to it on the internet I believe. But that is way above my head. (I’ll post the link to the recording of the show next week.) It’s all of half an hour on the subject of transracial adoption.

After hanging up the phone with the host last night, during our pre-interview talk, I felt confident, and competent on so many matters in this arena from my point of view. Meaning, after almost seven years in the role as adoptive transracial Mama, I can claim with ease and semi-clarity my views on the joyous messiness of it all. I understand that these beliefs and understandings shift, and are meant to. It is a relief to finally understand that there is no absolute best way to do any of this adoptive/transracial/parenting dance we are permanently on the floor trying to get right. On the floor is a wildly appropriate metaphor no?

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One last departure and arrival of note: I am dropping off the photobook to mail to Sam’s birth father (care of the agency) this afternoon. We had to arrive safely as a family first in  a place where the decision to put it out there, and to release control over the outcome was quietly agreed upon.