No Thanks, Starbucks!

Starbucks has recently come up with a new way to get people talking, talking about race. They have kicked off a #RaceTogether campaign that is intended to get people talking about a HUGE issue in our nation, race and along with it, racism. Now, I applaud Starbucks for the recognition of this very important issue in the United States and the desire to get people talking about it. What I take issue with is the idea that I would want to talk to the barista behind the counter about it or some random person I met in line while waiting for my coffee (Ha! those that know me will know this will NEVER happen!!! But you get the point.).

Conversations about race are conversations that need to happen. Absolutely! As a history teacher, these conversations need to happen and continue happening so that we can learn from the past, we can learn from others experiences, we can acknowledge their experiences, we can start to see this issue through another’s eyes, and on and on. Knowing intellectually about the history of this country is very different than hearing about it through the eyes of someone that has had those experiences. It is also important to acknowledge the history of race and racism in this nation (not just towards blacks, but any other minority group as well), and to help move the nation forward by having these types of conversations.

But these are not conversations that I want to have with some random barista or stranger in the line at Starbucks. These are conversations I want to have with people I trust and have an ongoing relationship with. These are conversations I want to have with one of my best friends for 25+ years or with a friend and former teacher, for example, people that I trust, I can be open and honest with and they with me. This is because these can be very intense and emotional conversations and if I am having it with someone that is a stranger, I will not understand their emotion and it will be easier to pass off their experiences. Yet, if I am discussing these issues with someone closer to me, it will be much more difficult to pass it off and we will also know each other well enough to be able to ask questions, be open to the responses, and to know when it is necessary to put the conversation on hold or take a break due to the intensity of the conversation. And this conversation can be picked up again at a later time, something that can’t be done with the barista or random stranger.

Now that we are a transracial family, we are much more acutely aware of these issues than we ever were before, but we can not understand them from a first person perspective. Thus, it is vitally important that we have these conversations with people that can and do so that we can help our son deal with these issues and help him process experiences when he has them. One of the best ways we can help him with this is to have people in his life like him that he can talk to about these issues and that can provide him with first hand knowledge about how they handled similar situations. We must continue to educate ourselves, but we can not simply leave it at intellectual knowledge. We are going to face questions from strangers, friends, and family so having the difficult conversations about race, racism, microaggressions, etc. is extremely important for us. Just not at Starbucks!

Why I watch Hoarders

…to make myself feel better about my house!

No, seriously, I watch the different Hoarders shows mostly so that I can understand what leads to these sorts of issues and make sure I don’t have this issue. Now that I am a stay-at-home mom, I can totally understand how one might get herself into situations like those portrayed. While often these people have some sort of trauma in their life that triggers the hoarding behavior, it can also be something as simple as going to the store to fill some time while at home with a little one (you know, getting out of the house?), that could lead to something much bigger like a shopping addiction that fills your house with stuff.

But, watching it also makes me aware of the stuff we have in our house that we don’t actually need or use and the need to purge. Having a little one in the house also made me very aware of this fact. My husband and I have never been ones to hold on to stuff simply for the sake of holding on to stuff and we have often gone through our clothes (usually each season as we put away the clothes for the previous season and take out ones for the upcoming season) to donate to the local thrift shop or charity for the homeless or something. But, we haven’t really done that with the stuff in our house. Last summer, knowing E was coming to our home, it made us start to look around and put stuff in a yard sale pile which grew and grew. We participated in a yard sale near my parents’ home (local church hosts, rent a space, sell your stuff). It was great because the church took care of things like advertising, etc. We just loaded up our crap err…stuff, some tables and such, and set up our stuff in our assigned space. We sold a lot of it and then the stuff we didn’t sell was taken to the local thrift store, so we were able to get it out of our house. We have continued to build a yard sale pile so we can do the same this spring in the community yard sale.

Those that know me well know I love books and have a really hard time getting rid of them. However, we had a bookshelf in E’s room that was full of our books while his books were sitting on top of a blanket chest. So, a few days ago, I took all of our books off of the shelf and put them into some plastic bins, dusted the bookshelf, and put E’s books onto the shelf along with some of his larger toys (to get them out of the middle of the floor). Then, I had to figure out something to do with our books. While Ed was playing with E last night in E’s room, I would grab a bunch of books and ask if he wanted to keep or get rid of each one. I made the decisions about the books that were mine and then we both had input on books that had been given to us (marriage, etc.) or books we had shared (Bible study books, etc.). I then loaded up the books to donate in a box so we can get them out of our house. I’m going to take them to the local library (assuming I can carry the box…ha!). I need to do this same process in our office downstairs, especially since I have all of my school books sitting in crates in there, too.

Another step in the process is going through the hall closet downstairs and the closet in the office to see what we can get rid of/donate/yard sale, etc. And then there’s the basement…but that’s a whole nother obstacle to tackle!

E is 7 months old!

Our son, E, is just over 7 months old now and I can hardly believe it.  He has been with us for just over 6 months now and he has grown so much.  He is now over 17 lbs. and over 27 inches long.  He’s sitting up by himself, working on crawling (army crawl style), and even pulled himself up onto a small, flat plastic bin today!  My mom and I were playing with him in his room with some toys and he was crawling all over the place.  He went over to this flat plastic bin that I had put some Christmas stuff in of his.  He would pull on it and bang on it, etc.  He then grabbed on to the lid and started lifting his head up to see the top of it.  Finally he pulled up and climbed on top of it (my mom was holding the bin still so it didn’t suddenly slide on the floor).  It was crazy and I couldn’t believe it, but I did run to get my phone and take a few pictures of it!  LOL!  (Can’t post them here yet…but we will….soon….).

In addition to all the ways he is growing, we are experiencing things in a whole new way.  It’s so weird to see things through his eyes.  I love to get down on the floor with him to see what he sees and he loves it when I’m at his level and playing with him, etc.  I talk to him all the time about what I’m doing or what we are going to be doing, where we are going, etc.  When we are driving in the car, I talk about what he can see out the window or what we are going to be doing, who we are going to see, etc.  He is so aware of everything around him, loves looking at everything, smiles at everyone he sees, and really likes going places and seeing new things.  As much as I like going to new places, it’s fun to see familiar places in a fresh, new way by describing things to him.  Who knows how much of it he’s actually absorbing, but I’m sure it’s more than we think!  ;-)

Since E has been with us for 6 months, we are able to now apply to the county courts where we live for finalization of the adoption.  This is really just a legal formality, but a necessary step, so that the county, state, and country view us as a legal family.  We have to get some paperwork completed, and then our lawyer can apply to the court for the finalization, then we wait on the court to decide on the date for finalization.  Once that is determined, we show up at the court on that date, and have a few minutes with the judge that declares us a legal family.  :-)

Road Trippin’ with a 6 month old

After our road trip to OH from MD for four days, I decided to write a post about our experiences so that it might help someone else…or at least give you some ideas to tweak to fit your needs. So, here goes…

We left on Christmas Eve morning and returned on the Saturday following Christmas, so a total of four days gone from home. The first thing I did was start a checklist of all the things I thought we would need for E. This included things like diapers, wipes, food, spoons, plastic containers, toys, high chair (for once we arrived), pack-n-play, bottles, bottle brush, sterilizer, etc. Once I had this list created, it was much easier to go through that list while packing to make sure I had what E would need. Some things I was able to take off the list because they weren’t absolute necessities or we could make do without. Then, the day before our trip, I asked my mom to come over and babysit E so that I could concentrate on the packing. This helped out a lot because I knew E was taken care of and I could focus on the task at hand.

I found some ideas on pinterest (just search road trip or travel with a ____ old) for tips and tricks for traveling with a baby. One of the things I found was the idea to use a flat plastic storage bin or container to place items you will need on the day of the road trip but that will not fit in the regular diaper bag. We already had one of these storage bins, so I just started filling it with stuff from my checklist. It had extra diapers, bottles for two feedings (two were already in the diaper bag), baby cereal container, extra pacifiers, spoons, and baby food jars. The diaper bag had the changing pad with some diapers and wipes, an extra wipes, two bottles, formula container (one of those plastic sectioned things that we pre-measured the formula into), a few spoons, oragel, hand sanitizer, etc. Then, we packed an empty diaper box with additional things that we would need but not on the day of the road trip. This included the large formula container, extra diapers, bottle brush, sanitizer, etc. We took our pickup truck and so we packed things in the bed of the truck (we have a bed cover that locks). This box of extras went in the bed of the truck along with the highchair, pack-n-play, E’s bag (more about this below), our suitcase, etc. The flat storage container went in the truck on the floor of the seat where E’s car seat was with the diaper bag on top. In the truck with us was also a bin of soft toys/books. We have the soft storage bins from Target to organize his toys and stuff at home so I took one of those and then selected some of E’s favorite soft toys such as a ball, a soft block, a soft book, a stuffed animal or two, and the like. Then, for the awake times, I sat with E in the back of the truck and we played with his toys and “read” his books. This helped keep him on his normal schedule for the day (more about this later).

So, for his bag of clothes, I put outfits together (onesie, pants, socks) and then placed each outfit in a plastic ziploc bag (push the air out to make packing easier). I also had a few extra outfits in plastic bags as well. In addition to the outfits, we also had his pajamas for each day, bibs, and burp cloths. Once we got to the hotel, I just pulled out all the bags and put them in the drawers with the pajamas, bibs, and burp cloths. This made it easier to just grab a bag in the morning, rather than having to think about which pants go with which onesie, etc.

Regarding schedule, we decided to leave around 6 am, but E normally gets out of bed around 7:30 or so and eats breakfast around 8 am. So, we packed as much as possible in the truck the night before so that the only things left to put in the truck in the morning were last minute things (toiletries, etc.). We got him out of bed at the last possible minute, changed his diaper, but left him in his pajamas. We put him in his carseat and in the truck and pulled out. The car typically puts E to sleep so we figured he would go right back to sleep until breakfast time, which he did. :-) This gave us two hours of driving and then we stopped for breakfast. We decided to stop at a place that would allow us and E to stretch our legs and stuff for awhile. After he and we ate breakfast, I changed his diaper and changed him into his clothes for the day. When we left breakfast and got back on the road, I sat in the back of the truck next to E in his carseat. As this is his normal awake time, we played with some toys, talked, “read” books, sang songs, etc. He normally takes a short (30-45 minute) nap in the morning and he kept right on schedule with that. Once he was asleep, you can move back up to the front of the car (I stayed in the back and read my own book simply because it was easier and we’d be stopping for lunch soon). We stopped for lunch, not at fast food, but at a more sit-down sort of place so that we and E could stretch our legs and have some time out of the truck. This worked well and we had time to change his diaper, etc. before needing to get back in the truck. E takes a 2-2.5 hour nap in the afternoons after lunch so I sat in the front of the truck after lunch, knowing he would fall asleep for his nap. He woke up with about 10 miles left before we arrived at our destination.

I will say that E is a very easy baby and we had an uneventful trip because of this. You know your own baby and the things that will work for him/her or not. This is simply some tips that helped us and might help you in planning a road trip with a baby.

This Season’s Rant

It has been so difficult to be a Redskins fan in general for the last 15 years since Dan Snyder purchased the team. In that time, the Redskins have had 8 different head coaches, for an average of 2 years each, though some have served for longer, while others have been “one and done” coaches.

The Redskins this season are currently 3-10. Only the Bucs, Raiders, Jaguars, Titans, and Jets have a worse record than the Redskins. There are so many distractions for the players on this team, it is no wonder they aren’t working together and aren’t able to win games. While many of the games have been close, ultimately they have been losses for the Redskins. RGIII has been injured and then benched. Colt McCoy has played well when he has been subbed in during these times. But, is it any wonder that the offensive line, receivers, etc. aren’t able to maintain consistency in playing? They don’t practice with the same quarterback week in and week out. They aren’t used to his play calling or snap count rhythm. There are lots of injuries to various players on both the offense and defense and so the subbed in players have to get used to playing and the coverages that are needed on the plays, etc. While they are professional athletes, it takes a bit to get into a playing rhythm. And now we have the controversy of RGIII being benched which has apparently pissed off the owner, Daniel Snyder, and is going to lead to, if it hasn’t already, a head-to-head with Jay Gruden, the current head coach. He might be a “one and done” coach. Clearly all of the blame for this record this season can not be placed squarely on the shoulders of RGIII. Although, I do find it funny that the Rams sent out all of the players they acquired in the deal for the Redskins to get RGIII for the coin toss last game. If that’s not a “Take a look at this, Dan Snyder!” I don’t know what is.

Here’s my thought – It all boils down to some horribly bad decisions that can be placed on the shoulders of the current owner. While he is an owner of the football team and provides financial resources, he is not a coach. He has not played football in a capacity that would qualify him to make player decisions, play calling decisions, etc. He says he has been a fan of the Redskins for his life (as have I), but he doesn’t appear to have any idea what this team was all about in the heyday and the three Super Bowl wins we had under Joe Gibbs. As London Fletcher said, there is no motto, vision, or mission of this team that he could figure out in playing for this team for 7 years. What does it mean to be part of this team? Shouldn’t being a Redskin mean something (other than being the laughing stock???)? There was a time when Redskins fans from all over advertised their fandom and decorated their cars, etc. especially for the games against Dallas. I don’t find that to be true any longer and it hasn’t been true for quite a number of years. Does Dan Snyder see that? Or is he oblivious to the fact that Redskins fans are ambivalent these days? I don’t even know what time our next game is at or who we are playing against. (I used to know the entire schedule by heart at the beginning of the season) I’m not worried about missing the game on Sunday afternoon. If we have other things to do, that’s fine, we go and do them. If we happen to catch the game on the radio, I listen for a bit, but I’m not hung up on listening to every word. My crazy fandom has become a passing interest. :-(

Thoughts on Common Core

My husband sent me the link to this op-ed published on CNN.com about Common Core written by William Bennett. I thought it was an interesting perspective as it relates to the historical reasons behind it as well as there being no alternative at the present time.

While I do not agree with all parts of the Common Core, nor how it is being interpreted and implemented in various states and local districts, we can not simply dismiss it in the first year, or even the second or third. We must give it the time it deserves in order to evaluate it’s efficacy. This means we have to follow the children that have had Common Core from the beginning of their educational experience until, at the very earliest, they are in/finish middle school. Although, I would recommend we look at those children as they graduate high school and move on to college or work. Additionally, we can not dismiss the underlying causation for it. There were significant factors as reported in “Nation at Risk” that lead to a call for massive educational reform in this country. This report could be considered to be the underlying reason for “No Child Left Behind,” “Race to the Top,” and “Common Core” and other local and state public educational reform movements.

Finally, it is extremely important for people to understand that Common Core and Race to the Top are not one in the same. While the implementation of Common Core as a set of educational objectives was part of the voluntary signing on to Race to the Top, Common Core is only one issue in the current educational reform movement. The biggest part, in my opinion, of Race to the Top was and is the change in teacher evaluation systems. Every state and even local districts within states had been able to create their own teacher evaluation systems. This allowed for vast differences in the teachers across this nation and in discrepancies between teachers rated highest in one state to another. It is important that parents and students have the best teachers in the classrooms that their children/they can possibly have. We, as educators, have been entrusted with the most precious resource this country has and we MUST do our absolute best to earn and maintain that trust. We are responsible for making sure what we are bringing to the classroom is our best just as we want students to bring their best to us. Thus, part of Race to the Top is a mandate to states and local districts to create teacher evaluation systems that are more similar so that a teacher rated as highly effective in one state would get the same evaluation in another state.

It is going to be, and has already been, a painful process for all involved. But we must see it through to the end. Whether that end is realizing that this was an attempt in the right direction, but we must do more, whether it is realizing this was going in the wrong direction, and doing something different based on the mistakes from it, or whether it means something else…we need more than 1, 2, or 3 years to see a measurable result.

Scared, but hopeful, for the future…

The issues that are being highlighted by the events in Ferguson, MO and across the nation with other incidents involving black males has me extremely worried and scared for the future, especially as it relates to our son. It freaks me out to think that we have to prepare him for a world that will view him in a particular way and how to deal with that. It frustrates me that he will have more eyes on him when he enters a store, when he’s walking down the street, or whatever. Haven’t we come farther than that?!?! How, as a white person that hasn’t ever had to deal with these sorts of issues, can I or my husband teach him to handle these situations? Furthermore, why should we have to? Well, the answer to that is that the world we live in has not come quite as far as we think it had or should have.

We shouldn’t have to explain to him that most police officers are helpful and do what they are supposed to do, but that there are police officers that use their position in a negative way and that he might be perceived in a negative way simply because he is a black male. We shouldn’t have to show him ways to interact with others so that they don’t think he will create a problem in their business. We shouldn’t have to help him understand that people will think he is older than he really is, simply because he is a black male. We shouldn’t have to worry about him being perceived as the aggressor, even if he was not doing anything (“play nice, okay?”).

But just because we think we shouldn’t have to, doesn’t mean we can simply ignore these issues because if we did that, we would simply set him up for a worse problem than if he is aware of the negative stereotypes and has ways to deal with them. We must teach him appropriate and positive ways to handle them because he will encounter them in some form or fashion. We must get over our own uncomfortableness and find people that can help us by having the conversations and learning from those that have dealt with the above examples or others so that we know what to say and do.

Please: I do not want to get into a debate about the decision in Ferguson, the response to it, or the political ramifications. This post is merely my thoughts as they relate to parenting our son.