Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March this-and-that

Just truckin' along here in March, hoping that winter will soon be over. A continues loving school, especially math, and swimming, and pretty much every new thing he tries. He's been in a consistently good mood for the last couple of weeks, which has been really nice. D just increased to preschool three consecutive days a week, and I think that's a better routine than the one-on, one-off schedule. He's still highly anxious and that's our biggest concern right now. I love weekends, because he does so much better when the four of us are all together.
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We had a great visit with our friends from Burjii who live in DC, and a Skype session with our friend from Burjii in California. Been thinking a lot about Burjii lately. A has shared a few more vignettes with us. He told us about the two-handled water pump in the village and how he or D would hold the water pail while the adults pumped, about how if they stepped on a thorn an adult would use another thorn to pry it out, and about how they once got shoes made from recycled tires. I can't begin to express how important it is for me - and for them, I think, in the future - to have these little pictures of their early life.
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I am so sick and tired of the sexism in children's books and TV shows. Books are so overwhelmingly male - it's not just that the main characters are usually boys, it's also that when they're animals they're male animals, and when they're vehicles, they're male vehicles and when they're freakin' weather elements, they're still male. Aaarrrrggghhhh. I'm so tired of he, he, he, he, he. I work really hard for equal representation in the books we bring home. A current favorite is "Violet the Pilot." TV shows are even harder - so far the only female-centered shows we've found that the boys like are Dora the Explorer and Doc McStuffins. I would love to hear more suggestions, especially if they're available on Netflix. And the almost complete absence of gay characters is even worse. We've read "Uncle Bobby's Wedding" and "And Tango Makes Three," and I'd love more suggestions.
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Six months ago, A spent a lot of time whining, screeching, barking, and meowing. Today he and I went to the zoo and talked to the keepers of the tigers, aardvarks and meerkats. We spent half an hour giggling over the gibbons. We discussed the strange habit some people have of referring to all animals as "he." On the way home we talked about the marriage equality case going before the Supreme Court. It's pretty amazing how much has changed in six months.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Some things to remember

  • A saying for the first time ever, "I made a mistake," and the nervousness and pride at his own bravery so clear in his voice.
  • D shouting out random phrases that he picked up from books and songs, like "SAW-EDGED TEETH FOR CUTTING THROUGH FLESH!!" to the shoppers at the grocery store (from his dinosaur book) and "JUDGE NOT!!" to the swimmers at the YMCA (from Bob Marley).
  • Both boys sounding like middle-age women, like A saying, "easy peasy" and D commenting primly on a new friend, "He seems like a very nice boy." 
  • D using "How 'bout...?" instead of "What would happen if...?" so, "What would happen if we drove too fast?" becomes the casual suggestion, "How 'bout we drive too fast?"
  • A's utter reasonableness, like when my sleepy, "Don't play with jacks in my bed" is met with a sweet, "Mommy, I counted them, there are ten, and when I'm finished I'll count them again so I don't leave any here because they are sharp." Um, okay then.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mercy Mercy: video, links, thoughts

A lot of people are talking about the documentary Mercy, Mercy, so I thought I'd post it here, along with some relevant links and a few thoughts.

Background on the movie: 

The movie:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTirNtngWTE or watch below:

 Some thoughts:

The adoptive parents come across as batsh*t crazy in some scenes, especially the dinner scene, but the less than one hour they are on the screen cannot possibly tell us what happened over the course of four years. I'm sure the real situation is much more complicated. The movie didn't show us any particularly challenging behaviors from Masho, but I assume there were some. This is in no way to blame a child for an adoption gone wrong; I'm just saying the family probably had a much harder time than we saw on camera.

The adoption professionals in Ethiopia were deceitful. They allowed the family of origin to believe one thing and the adoptive family to believe the opposite. They made the biological family think the two families would be connected. They didn't educate the adoptive parents about the biological family's expectations. They sat and talked with the adoptive parents about not letting the biological parents come to the airport, while the biological parents were sitting right there. Later they acted like it was the biological parents' fault for not receiving any reports of their children for four years.

The adoption professionals in Denmark were clueless. The first one completely disregarded Masho's biological family and said that she had probably never experienced a close relationship. The second one advised her adoptive parents to act indifferent toward a suffering child. I can give Henriette and Gert the benefit of the doubt, but I have a harder time with people whose job it is to know better.

The adoptive parents never had any intention of maintaining contact (see interview below). Based on what Sinkanesh and Hussein said at the beginning of the movie, this information would have been a deal breaker for them (and everyone lied about this, the adoption agency and Henriette and Gert, who said, "we have to keep in touch"). Why the hell did they not want to maintain contact? Did they think they would just erase Masho's memories? Did they think Sinkanesh and Hussein did not love their children as parents do? I know staying connected can't be required, there's no way to enforce it, but hours and hours of education on why you should stay connected can be required. Even if adoptive parents are as thoughtless as these two appear to be, adoption professionals should drill into them to the non-optionality of maintaining contact.

Interview with the filmmaker:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0212tRZ-pg or watch here:
I appreciate what a delicate position she was in between the two families. Still, the "I couldn't intervene because I had no one to go to" argument is weak. She had information that Sinkanesh and Hussein desperately wanted and information that Henriette and Gert desperately needed to hear, and she didn't share it.

Follow up video:
Video is in Danish but there is some English toward the end. The attorney says, "The child has a right to maintain her relationship with the family of origin." She is correct, this is stated in Article 183 of the Ethiopian Family Code. But again, how to enforce internationally?

Danish adoptions stopped from Enat Alem: 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Good test to fail

A little while ago, A brought home the results of a standardized reading assessment. He was on or close to proficient in most areas, except for the nonsense word assessment, in which he got a zero.

This made me very happy. A nonsense word assessment is when the child is given a list of non-words to read aloud, to see if s/he can apply phonics rules. The "words" would look something like this: gat, mog, fim, stot, bruck, etc.

Reading is about meaning. A's zero in the nonsense word assessment shows me that he gets this. He knows that people put words on a page because they want to say something. In his effors to make meaming out of the above list, he reads it something like this: get, mug, fin, stop, brick.

That's what good readers do. You just did it - you may have noticed my misspellings in the sentence above, but you knew it was meant to be "efforts" and "meaning," not "effors" and "meaming." You changed the words in your mind, whether consciously or unconsciously, so that they would make sense. Because you know what it means to read.

OK, so A gets that words on a page are supposed to mean something. Why is that a big deal? It's a big deal because so many English language learners don't get that.  They don't get it because they aren't taught that. Instead these terribly misguided programs like Reading First - no, I should say these terribly misapplied programs - teach them that reading is about making sounds in response to letters on a page. It doesn't matter if the sounds have meaning. English language learners are being taught to read h-a-t before they have the first clue that the word "hat" means something. They learn this lesson over and over again, and in a couple of years, although they might be speaking English pretty well, their reading comprehension is abysmal. They sound beautiful when they read. But ask them to retell a story, or draw a comparison, or offer an opinion, and they can't do it. At all. And then the teachers start talking about disabilities and learning difficulties. When in fact, they've learned very well, but what they've learned is that reading is all about making the right sounds.

I have seen this and fought against this over and over again. Possibly the most frustrating thing is that there is a very simple solution: Teach oral language first. Read to children. Model for them, by talking about what you read, that reading is about meaning. Read funny books and laugh. Read science books and be amazed. Read biographies and be inspired. Show them, over and over, why you read. And guess what? Eventually they will want to do it, too. Then you can start teaching them phonics.

And if they fail their nonsense word assessment, rejoice, because you know they've learned that reading is supposed to make sense.

So go, A! Keep up the terrible work.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Something I don't miss

I just realized that Penny hasn't been around in a while. I'm very glad to find her gone.

Today I am grateful for:
  • our house, which has big windows and a lot of light
  • the neighborhood grocery store we can walk to, and especially Ms. Cathy and Mr. Mike.
  • the 28 African Americans we read about in the month of February 
  • Wissahickon
  • D getting the final points on his "Letting Grown-ups Do What They Need to Do" chart in spectacular fashion - by letting me hold a baby!
  • a connection that will allow us to learn more about Burji
  • my husband, who can whip up the best shiro ever