Wordless Wednesday

30 05 2012


Sunday Slideshow

27 05 2012

Scenes From PJ’s Birthday Party






(In case you are wondering, it is true, Little Dude is not the only Kembatten living in our neighborhood.)

Reality Show Audition: What W0uld Y0u D0?

25 05 2012

In recent months, I have had multiple experiences that were reality show worthy.  Up until now, my embarrassment kept me from blogging about them.  However, today’s experience wasn’t completely embarrassing (at least not for me – and my kids are too young to be mortified by my behavior.)  So, I thought I would write about today’s incident, and then, perhaps, I will summon the courage to write down the first and second incident.

Title:  Auditioning for What W0uld Y0u D0?

Alternative Title:  How I Staged A Mutiny At Great Clips.

PJ is a twirly girly.  She twists her hair into knots on a daily basis.  This unconscious behavior even occurs in her sleep.  The only thing that seems to help is keeping her hair short, which she loves.  When she first started twirling I told her if she didn’t stop I would cut her hair as short as Little Dude’s (#2 clippers).  She got super excited.  It took me weeks to convince her that that wasn’t actually a good idea.

I like short-hair on girls, but I despise the process of getting a hair-cut.  So I avoid it when possible.  PJ’s hair has been growing for a couple months. She vacillated between wanting to wear it in pony tails and wanting to have it cut.  Late last week, she decided on short and has been begging me everyday since to take her to the stylist.  Today, we finally made it to Great Clips.

When we showed up they had a 20 minute wait which would have made us late for swim class.  Much to PJ’s distress, we needed to postpone the cut for an hour.  They explained we could not put our name on a list or make an appointment from in the store, but we could go on-line to make an appointment.  Not a very convenient system, really, but okay.

After swimming we headed back to Great Clips, not having gone on-line but willing to take our chances with the wait.  When we got there we were third in line and another stylist was supposedly on her way in.  About 5 minutes later, she called and said she forgot she was scheduled, but would head in shortly.  The fact that I know this is testament to just how small the store is and how everyone in there knows exactly what is going on with everyone else.

I broke out a game and tried to keep the kids happy while we waited.  It probably took about 10 minutes… it is hard to keep track of time while simultaneously keeping my kids from destroying a public building.

When it was PJ’s turn, the stylist, Kit, was available.  Kit and I talked about the cut PJ wanted and she went to work while Little Dude and I settled into an empty chair across the aisle.

As previously mentioned, I am a hair cut freak.  I hate getting my hair cut.  And I hate getting the kids’ hair cut.  So, I actually try to tune out when the kids are in the chair.  But I could hear Kit chatting PJ up.  The first thing she asked her, “Are your ears pierced?” caught my attention. I don’t know what PJ replied, I am pretty sure she doesn’t know what pierced means.  Then I heard Kit say, “Well, maybe you can get them pierced this summer.”  To which I replied from across the salon, “Or, when she turns 13.”  I was pretty annoyed as piercing is clearly a personal family choice and I don’t need to start arguing with PJ about it now, thanks to KIT planting ideas in her head.

Of course, Little Dude was being Little Dude so I really did not have time to wallow in anger.  I was needed to help him investigate how the hydraulic system worked in the chairs, how blue the lollipop I bribed him with was turning his tongue, and whether he actually could drink from the water fountain by himself.

Despite the chaos, it was impossible to miss the drama that began to unfold.  A middle-aged woman of Indian descent sat down in a stylist named Brenda’s chair.  After a bit they came to an impasse.  The customer explained that she did not like her current haircut which she received at another salon.  However, she did like the haircut that Kit gave her previously.  Apparently she did not know the right words to use to describe the style.  (I can so relate to this… I have no idea if I want my hair stacked or wedged or undercut… I don’t know what these words mean.  I now take photos in and say, “Will this work on my hair?” )

I am not sure whose idea it was but Brenda turned to Kit, while the customer moved to another empty chair in the salon.  Brenda started by saying, “We are having a communication problem,” (which sounded to me like she was saying, this woman’s English sucks.)  She then explained the situation to Kit and said, “Since she liked the cut you gave her, she is going to wait for you.”

I don’t remember how I cut HER hair.” Kit replied in a loud and curt tone.

The conversation between Kit and Brenda continued while the client sat less than 10 feet away.  Including the three stylist, me and my kids, and the other clients there were 11 people in the room, ALL of whom could hear EVERY WORD that was being said.

Kit was basically ranting, “If SHE wanted to see me, SHE needed to request me as soon as SHE walked in the door.”  Part of the crisis was that she had another client waiting that had specifically requested her.  But I am sure all of this could be remedied by talking to the woman directly.  Instead she just went on in a disrespectful tone.  She kept referring to the client as SHE even though SHE was sitting a few feet away. It was insulting to the client and uncomfortable for everyone in the room.

Thankfully, Little-Dude-The-King-Of-Destruction, Little-Dude-The-King-Of-Distraction, pulled me away from the drama.

Next thing I knew, PJ was finished.  The client, who still had not had her haircut, and I were both at the reception desk when Kit started giving her a lecture.  Kit’s voice was raised and she was explaining ad nauseum that the client SHOULD have requested her, or booked her appointment on line.  She then went on to explain, ad nauseum, that another one of her clients requested her specifically and had already come back twice today to see her (which we ALL already knew from her previous rant.)

She was LECTURING this other adult, a woman who was probably older-than-her, about how she would HAVE to wait, or something. I didn’t quite get it – despite standing less than 12 inches from both of them.  She just kept going on and on and on.  And the client said nothing, nothing, nothing… just stood there politely.

Finally, Kit ran out of steam.

She turned her attention to me and started explaining the technical details of how she cut PJ’s hair different.  I was avoiding looking at her.  I replied something non-committal and tried to get her to take my debit card.  BUT she KEPT talking to me.  She seemed to be seeking validation and trying to prove what a reasonable person she was. But she was kissing up to the wrong lady…

I finally said, “It really does not matter to me.  I just want to pay and go.”

She said something, I honestly don’t know what it was, but somehow it encouraged me to explain, “I have listened to you talk enough and I really just want to get out of here.  Your complete lack of professionalism with the way you talked about this lady in front of her as if she wasn’t here was outrageous and I just want to go.”

So Kit began to explain how SHE was JUST TRYING to explain that you can check in on-line and if you want a certain stylist you need to say so right away.

I said, “No, that is not what I am talking about.  I am talking about YOU talking about this client in front of her and the rest of us.  There is no excuse for being rude and unprofessional.  It has nothing to do with the computer system or the way people check in.”

Of course she had an immediate epiphany – NOT.

She continued to try to explain to me how the line was long and how the system worked.

So I leaned down on the counter, clasped my hands together and calmly tried AGAIN to explain that it was HER BEHAVIOR that was the issue.  There is never an excuse to talk about someone in front of them as if they were not there.  Nor is it ever okay to talk about a client in front of a room full of other clients.

At some point in the conversation Brenda stepped in to tell me about the other stylist who hadn’t shown up.  So now I was trying to explain professionalism to Brenda at the same time as I was explaining it to Kit.

I remained calm, and realized it was probably a waste of time.  I actually wanted the conversation to end, but I also was NOT going to accept their excuses.

Kit finally rang my card.  The mistreated client looked over at me and said, “Thank you.”

I replied, “You are welcome.  I certainly hope you are never going to come here again and never going to give them any of your money.”

At which point she tried to explain that she really was trying to leave and was just trying to pay Brenda for her time.

I gathered my children and left.

The client walked out after me and said, “Thank you,” again.

I said, “I know that was a waste of time.  There really is no point in trying to explain manners to someone who obviously was not taught them by her mother.  “

The client said, “Your children are lucky to have you.”

Then, from behind us another client appeared.  It was the elderly lady who had come back multiple times to wait for Kit.

She said, “I decided not to give them my money.  I will go somewhere else.”

I have no idea if a comment was made about me or the other client after we walked out, or if the elderly lady was just moved by my speech alone.  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter.

I stood up for another person… in front of my kids… which SHOULD matter more to me than what Kit and Brenda think.

When we walked outside John Quinones of What W0uld Y0u D0? was NOT waiting for us… thankfully.  Because that guy really drives me nuts.

Wordless Wednesday

23 05 2012

Not In My Best Interest

22 05 2012

A friend of mine is advocating for Naomi.  Naomi can not advocate for herself.  Because Naomi is 6-years-old.  And Naomi lives in an orphanage in Thailand.  And Naomi is HIV+.    My friend is holding an on-line auction.  Her goal is to raise awareness about Naomi, and to raise money, so when the right family for Naomi is found, the financial burden of adoption is reduced.

My goal is to get some cool stuff for cheap…

Okay, fine, I will be charitable….

and to raise awareness about Naomi and help her future adoptive parents, whomever they might be, bring her home... (fine, are you happy?)

The auction ends at 8 pm est, WEDNESDAY.  It features a wide variety of items – from adoption books (duh) to electric toothbrushes (if I did not just buy a new one 60 days ago, I would be all over that.)  There are items there you need anyway (iTunes cards and good coffee beans), and other items that will make your home more beautiful (art and picture frames).

So, I guess I will let you in on the action.  Maybe you will out bid me.  Just keep in mind, only 44 more shopping days until my birthday.

This is where you can find what you are looking for.

Speak For Yourself – Or, PLEASE Be Very Careful

14 05 2012

Ethiopian adoption is in the news and as more media outlets pick up the story, more APs are being asked to speak.  But most of us won’t tell the details of our children’s’ stories.  So, what is left?  Supposition?  Innuendo?  Hearsay?

More importantly, who is the audience for these stories?  Please God, don’t let it be my Aunt Mary, or the woman who lives next to my Mother-In-Law.  Please don’t let it be the nasty lunch-room lady at my kids’ future elementary school.  Please don’t let it be any person who is going to hear or see these reports and conclude that MY child was stolen from his biological family.

I am afraid.  I am afraid of what excellent parents with good intentions but not a lot of interview experience might say.  I am really afraid of what sad parents who have had to deal with the fall out of corrupt adoptions might say.  I am especially afraid that no matter what these APs say it will be twisted by the interviewer.  Or that the editors’ will pull the most sensational sound-bites to use in promoting the show every hour on the hour.  Or that the intern who is in charge of the website and podcasts will put their own twist on the headlines that show up on the WORLD WIDE web…  Yes, WORLD WIDE and FOR.EV.ER.

This does not mean that I don’t believe every member of the triad has a right to tell their story.  In fact, I think in some cases he/she is obligated to tell their story to prevent further corruption.  But it must be understood that each story is an INDIVIDUAL story and no SINGLE story represents the entirety of any adoption program.

Do I wish the media wasn’t focusing on Ethiopia adoption?  YES – if that meant there was nothing to focus on.  BUT, I do think there is a story here.   And, I actually for the most part love the media.  (Crazy, huh?)

For many years my job was to get the media to help me educate the public on issues.  For many years my job was to convince the media to help me raise money in subtle ways.  For many years my job was to help the media help my organizations save the lives of animals.   And sometimes that meant talking about euthanasia. Which is complicated, but when handled correctly is an issue worth tackling.

So, I do think Ethiopian adoption is worth talking about.  And I think corruption in adoption is worth talking about.  And I think international adoption is worth talking about.  And I think children in need of families are worth talking about.  EVERYONE SHOULD BE TALKING ABOUT CHILDREN IN NEED OF FAMILIES (and the fact that they exist in EVERY country of the world, but especially in the poorest countries.)  (A link to someone who just tackled this topic well.)

However, I doubt that the current media focus has much to do with children who need families.  I am assuming most of the upcoming media stories are going to start out with sweet portraits of loving families and slowly but surely narrow in on stories of corruption.

When I worked in media relations to prepare for an interview, I would think about questions I was likely to be asked and would rehearse my answers in my head.  While I certainly have not been asked by any media outlet to speak about adoption, I find myself going through the same mental exercise.

Likely Question #1

Tell me about your family and how you came to adopt from Ethiopia

Blah, blah, blah – read my blog… (okay, this is NOT what I would say, but you know, you are here so you can read my blog.)

Likely Question #2

When you were in the adoption process were you aware that there were allegations of corruption in Ethiopian adoption?

I was aware that there were allegations but at the time the general consensus was you could avoid the pitfalls by choosing a reputable agency.  The US Government had not stated any specific concerns about adopting from Ethiopia and the Ethiopian government was constantly making changes in an effort to improve the process.

Likely Question #3

There are some people who believe Ethiopian adoption should be shut down completely.

For the sake of the children in Ethiopia, I certainly hope it does not get to that point.

I, like most Adoptive Parents I know, believe that international adoption is just one avenue for helping children.  First, everything that can be done to keep children in their biological families, assuming those families WANT and ARE CAPABLE of parenting them should happen.  Second, if possible, kids should be adopted within their own countries and cultures.  FINALLY, an international placement with a well-educated adoptive family can also be a wonderful choice.  And believe me, adoptive families with reputable agencies get lots of education.

Likely Question #4

Some people believe the vast majority of adoptions from Ethiopia are corrupt.

I think it is important to realize that the word corruption is being applied to a huge array of circumstances.

In many cases there are mistakes in paperwork.  These mistakes may be intentional or they may be accidents.  A common example is age discrepancies.  For example, saying that a 6-year-old is only 4.  This may happen because one of the middle men in the adoption chain believes it will make the child more adoptable.  Is that corrupt?  Well it certainly isn’t honest.  But it is NOT the same thing as buying and selling babies.

Yes, corruption exists, but how wide spread it is, no one really knows.  And what any individual means when they say corruption varies greatly.

At the same time, I am not trying to cast doubt on any families’ story.  I am grateful to the brave families’ who are putting themselves out there to tell their stories  and to work for change.

Likely Question #5

Even if it is not “buying and selling” of babies, there are documented cases of children being “harvested” in Ethiopia. Cases where employees of adoption agencies go to villages and encourage parents to place their children for adoption.  And there are allegations that Ethiopians do not understand that adoption is permanent.

The cases of harvesting are a huge concern.  No parent, in ANY COUNTRY, should ever be coerced into giving up a child they want to raise.

At the same time, I find it  incredibly hard to believe that Ethiopians can not understand the concept of adoption if it is explained to them clearly in their own language.  In fact, I get very concerned when I see people portray Ethiopians as unable to make educated decisions about their children.  It smacks of racism.

If coercion or lying are involved in the education of parents, there is no question that corruption has occurred and arrests should be made and agencies should be shut down… NOT just from operating in Ethiopia but from ever operating any place again.

Well some people would say one example of corruption is one too many and therefore the entire program should be shut down.

And I would say to them, that many, many children would suffer and die if that was the case.

Likely Question #6

International adoption costs lots of money.  If the money families were spending to adopt babies was spent on helping families in Ethiopia, there would be no need for adoption.

That is a concern that most caring adoptive parents struggle with at some point.

Yes, adoption is expensive.  And in poverty-stricken countries money can go a long way.  But it is an extreme over-simplification to assume adoptive families could send 25 Grand a piece to Ethiopia and there would be no kids needing homes.

In fact, there are kids who need families in every country of the world, even in the US and other developed nations that have safety nets for poor and sick citizens.

While poverty plays a huge roll in child relinquishment in poor nations, it seems to me that almost all adoptions are based on an array of compounding circumstances that build upon each other.  Poverty is the easiest to site because it is obvious and it is blameless – meaning it casts no shame on the birth family.

What I think is truly inspiring is that most adoptive parents I know, not only paid adoption fees but are also giving their time and money generously to Ethiopian causes.  The APs I know are a powerful force for raising money for development projects in their children’s’ homeland.  I am inspired by what I see fellow adoptive parents doing – raising money for schools, libraries, wells, medical care.  You name it and an adoptive parent is working on it.

Likely Question #7

If adoption is important for saving children’s lives, but corruption exists in every adoption program, what can be done?

Honestly, I don’t have a great answer to this question.  Certainly, there are numerous successful adoption programs around the globe that should be studied.  Best practice management strategies should be in place.  And The Hague Adoption Convention should be enforced.

Adoption agencies should not hold so much power in the relationship… somehow adoptive parents should have more ability to change programs, decline referrals, and conduct timely and independent investigations without fear of incrimination or loss of money.

Beyond that, the people solving this problem should NOT work for adoption agencies and they should NOT work for NGOs that ultimately have a stake, sadly, in the status quo, in developing countries.

I am just a mother who knew there were children in the world who needed homes and who had space in her home for another child.  There are other families like mine and there are certainly children needing homes.

In the 21st century, we should have the collective will to put these two groups of people together in an ethical and loving way.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

11 05 2012

Yesterday’s finger-painting session quickly evolved into a body painting session.

At first I was super annoyed, then I decided I should get a chance to participate.  After all, the two most beautiful canvas’ were dancing around in front of me.

Before I even finished, he figured out that by blowing air in and out of his belly he could make the snake slither.

I am pretty sure he was happy with the results.

Hers didn’t last as long… she bent down to look at it, and it got wiped away.

Of course both snakes wrapped around their necks.  After Little Dude wiggling because of all the neck tickling, I figured it was smarter to place hers a little lower.

Despite the paint being non-toxic, it did weird things to our skin when it dried.  And I ended up having a temporary reaction.

Still, the bathwater turned a very pretty color and the whole experience was worth it.