Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Post-adoption paperwork

This will be different from state to state, but in case anyone is looking for how to do it in Pennsylvania:

Step 1 - Registration of foreign adoption (equivalent to readoption in some other states)
You do not need an attorney to do this. Take all your paperwork (Ethiopian court order with official translation, embassy-issued "birth" certificate, Ethiopian passports showing IR3 visa, Certificate of Citizenship, any paperwork that has children's pre-adoption full names etc.) and hand over the ORIGINALS - gulp! - to the Orphans' Court. This is also the time to request a legal name change. In a couple of weeks you will get a call to go pick up the official registration of foreign adoption and get your paperwork back (you can use the mail, but remember, these are your original documents). At the same time the Orphans' Court will forward the information to the Division of Vital Records.

Step 2 - U.S. birth certificate
This time you can use copies, so it's easy to do it by mail. Follow the steps here and send your request to the Division of Vital Records (Ignore the broken link at the top because you've already completed the registration of foreign adoption). For "child's name at birth" put the name listed on the U.S. embassy-issued birth certificate. You will receive a U.S. birth certificates in the mail a few weeks later. Be aware that special characters like apostrophes do not show up on the birth certificate.

Step 3 - Social security card
Go to your local Social Security office. You'll be using your originals again, so better not to mail them. In addition to all the documents listed here, I was asked to provide either an immunization record or a record of a well-child visit. Once I had all the necessary paperwork, I could wait in the office for the request to be put in and take my originals home. The cards came in the mail just a couple of days later.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Whose culture is it anyway?

We so want to keep our boys connected to their culture of origin, but are finding it hard to do so. Almost all the Ethiopians we have met are from around Addis Ababa and most have never heard of Burjii. The Ethiopia described in children's books is Lalibela, Gondar and Axum, the Amharic language and fidel, the shamma, the iskista. None of that has anything to do with our boys. Yes, I want them to be proud of being Ethiopian, but I also want to them to be proud of being Burjii and to feel that the Burjii are as important to Ethiopia as the Amhara and Tigrinya are.

The boys continue to be very resistant to going to the Ethiopian church and I now think it's partly because the church has nothing to do with their experience of Ethiopia (and partly because church is boring). At the church everyone wears a white ne'tela, so visually it's pretty striking. The only person we ever saw in Burjii wearing white was me. And everyone at church speaks Amharic, which for our boys was never more than the language of the orphanage, not the most positive of associations. It would be as if someone took me to an NRA convention and said, "You're American, they're American, so this is your culture." I would definitely resist.

I have been looking online for more information about Burjii culture. There is not a lot out there. Anyone have any resources to point me toward?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Helping D (part 2)

Me: A, do you wan- 
T: K, how was-
Radio: In today's new- 
Dog: Woo-

We call it "blocking." He tries to intercept any attention that may go to someone else or something else. He's VERY loud.

Talking about it and consequences haven't worked because even negative attention is attention. So now we are trying ignoring.

I have two main issues with ignoring. One, he has already experienced the ultimate "ignoring" in his life. Ignoring him, especially when he's clearly feeling anxious, seems like the opposite of what we should be doing. Two, if you're going to ignore, you have to be prepared for the inevitable escalation. You're going to have to ignore ear-splitting, house-shaking tantrums.

But... it's working. We've created a point system. He gets points for "Letting grown-ups do what they need to do." We catch him allowing us to attend to other people and things and reward that behavior, and we give no attention to his attempts to block us. It's only been a few days, but I already see a huge difference. I can tell he's working it out in his head. He says to me, calmly, "You're listening to the radio. You're paying attention to the dog." "That's right," I say. "But I'm still thinking about you."

It makes my life easier. I hope that his newfound calm is helping him, too.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Helping D (part 1)

January was a busy, social month for us.  My mom was here. We had a big birthday party for A. D started preschool. My best friend from high school flew in for a visit (we drove into the city to see Independence Hall just the two of us, bliss!). My sister was here with her kids. It was fun, for all of us, but for D it also was stressful. He has been getting more and more anxious, and I've been looking for ways to help him.

Below are some of the things, old and new, that I've been using to calm him and make him feel safer.
  • Lying down with him again at bedtime and staying until he falls asleep
  • Face-to-face breathing exercises - I've always done these with him and they usually help.
  • Setting the timer for transitions or for a calm period is a huge help.
  • Classical music - it seems to calm him down and puts me in a better mood, too.
  • The "Magic Circle" (Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child, p.103) - I got a big piece of twine, tied it in a circle, and showed D how we could stand in the circle and and use it to pull each other. His face lit up as if I'd finally delivered that skid-steer loader he's been asking for. "You mean we're connected??!?" I carry the twine in my pocket everywhere we go. 
What calms your child when s/he feels anxious?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Christian World Adoption

"Christian" World Adoption has been among the worst of the worst in Ethiopia. I am very happy they are finally closing.

Ethiotube: Fly Away Children - Commercialization of Children

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Nine-month snapshot

At 6:30 D is already downstairs playing with Legos and talking to himself. A comes into our bedroom and announces the time like a town crier.

I'm glad A is feeling better. He missed two days of school with a fever. I think D really liked those days because he got to stay close to his brother, read books and watch videos all day. Today they are both going off, A back to school, D on an exciting preschool field trip to the science museum.

At breakfast we read our African American biography for the day: Wilma Rudolph. A is interested, D continues to play with Legos.

A is excited about having been in the U.S. for nine months. I ask him if he's missing anyone from Ethiopia. He nods, and D says his grandfather's name. I ask them what their grandfather is like. A says he is nice. It's very rare for him to share any kind of memories, but today he tells me that their grandfather used to bring them cow meat. They put pieces of the meat on sticks and roasted it over the cooking fire in their house. I savor this mental image.

A asks if he can get a ride from me to school instead of riding the bus. I say yes, but soon he's freaking out that we'll be late. I have him look at me and take some deep breaths. Usually this is something I do with D, but today it works with A. We get to his school in plenty of time, then I take D to preschool.

He gets clingy when we go in and I stay with him as the teachers get the children ready for the field trip. When it's time to go on the bus his love of vehicles wins over and he gets on with a big smile on his face.

I now have the morning to do some things I can't do with a kid around. I edit a piece of writing for T; have an actual adult conversation with a friend; take the dog for a long walk; do an online job search; spend forever on the phone with my health insurance company, who can go die in the fiery pits of hell.

A gets out of school early today, so I go pick him up. He tells me about taking the ACCESS test. We have lunch, then do some make-up work for the days he missed. He does his math first; he loves math. We work on reading until he slides face down to the floor. The floor is his go-to place when he is feeling stressed. I talk him up to the chair, then to a sitting position, then to stating what he needs. He's tired and wants to stop. I agree that it's a reasonable request, and we stop. I'm proud that he was able to manage this stressful moment.

Soon it's time to go get D. He usually gets out of preschool at 12:30, but because of the field trip, today he's not done until after 2:30. He's excited to see us, and excited to tell us all about the bus and the museum: a T-Rex! and a Triceratops! and butterflies! and it was so hot in the butterfly house I said, 'wheewwww!' and the bus was SOOOO high! and I bounced in my seat! and I touched a turtle! and a rabbit! and I saw a moose standing very still behind a glass!

I had planned for them to have some rest time now, but we see some neighborhood friends and invite them over. Then it's time for swimming for A and basketball for D at the YMCA. A has mastered kicking and is quite the little speedboat in the water. D looks like most of the other boys in his 3-5-year-old class, alternating cute, clumsy attempts at dribbling with spinning in circles in his own little world.

We come home and I get dinner ready while the boys play with/argue over Legos and draw. We have dinner as soon as T gets home, then I go back to the Y for a summer camp information session. T gets the boys ready for bed and they are watching videos when I get back. D has had a long day and I take him to bed early. We read a book, and I stay with him until A comes to bed and they both fall asleep. I sit with T for a while, but in nine months I still haven't figured out how to reliably fit in quality time with my husband. I'm too sleepy now and soon I'm in bed.

Friday, February 1, 2013

MLK Day and Black History Month

  • Talking to kids about racism is not fun, but it is necessary.
  •  We may think of our kids as Ethiopian American, but to most people they are simply African American. The history of Black America may not be their personal history, but they need to know it.
  • I am grateful that since the boys joined our family we have not experienced any overt instances of racism. 
  • We started reading simple books about the Civil Rights movement at around 3 months in the U.S., but they freaked D out too much, and we put them on hold. We started again leading up to MLK Day. A was able to read a simple biography of Martin Luther King almost all by himself. I chose a book that did not say how Dr. King died - our boys aren't ready for that level of hatred yet. I also chose it for the sentence, "Some white people did not want blacks to have the same rights as whites." An actual active voice sentence that names the architects of segregation: "some white people." Most children's books couch this truth in passive voice, so that segregation laws just appear from the clear blue sky.
  • I knew I had to tell them about slavery. They're going to learn about it in school, and I would rather it came from me. A hard thing to do though, to say, "Guess what kids, the world is THIS awful." Turning to a book again, I used "In the Time of the Drums," by Kim Siegleson. It provides limited information, protecting them for now from the hugeness of the horror, but it gives a glimpse. The main characters are a young slave and his grandmother, and it's about resistance and being "strong-strong." I recommend this book.
  • For MLK Day we went to the African American Museum in Philadelphia. The main exhibit involved audio and it was so crowded we couldn't hear anything, but it felt good to be part of a large crowd of black museum-goers.
  • I had an interesting conversation with the children's librarian at our local library. I confessed my reluctance to burst my kids' happy bubble by telling them about racism. She said she worried about making her child feeling like a victim (they are black). Her advice was to teach our children about racism against African Americans but also about other groups facing injustice - women, Latinos, Native Americans, people with disabilities, gays. So our kids won't think the world sucks if you're black; they'll think the world just sucks. Hmmm. I've been keeping her advice in mind as I select books.
  •  For Black History Month, I've gotten books about black inventors, scientists, explorers, athletes and musicians. I don't want the kids to think that being African American is only about overcoming racism.
  •  We also read books about bulldogs baking cookies and chickens riding tractors. It's not all heavy.