Being a Transracial Family, Cam, FPM

Year one is almost done.

*Stock photo, not my school, or the school any of my kids attend*

This past September I began working in our local school district in the role of School Nurse. I know it seems like an odd move for me after working for myself for 2+ years. Not gonna lie, I miss the flexibility of making my own schedule. I miss making as much money as I did before I began working in a public school.

Our district is working toward the goal of having every school become a truly Trauma Sensitive School. I definitely want in that process. It is my passion. I also see so much being talked about in our district in regard to acknowledging our racial inequities. My kids have experienced both micro-aggressions and overt racism in their schools. I loved that this need for learning amongst staff was being acknowledged.

I accepted the job in July, and for the past 9 months, I have truly begun to love the schools I have been welcomed into.

Even though my own kids have been students in the district for over a decade, finding my place at the beginning of the year was so hard. The education world and the medical world are like two different planets. I would leave every meeting I attended thinking three things…”What just happened here?” “Why did it happen?” and “Why are these people the way they are?” I’m starting to figure some of that out. Again, completely different planets.

I adore the kids. Adore. them. I now have some of the funniest stories from some of the most creative elementary students ever to share with my own kids. We spend every night at dinner talking about the goings on in all six of “our” schools within the district. The first year of any new job is hard though. It’s uncomfortable to feel inept. This has been harder than any other year though, and at first, I couldn’t figure out why.

I hit roadblock after roadblock this week that explained a lot, and I think I finally have an answer as to why despite great successes and forward movement that it would be hard for anyone to dismiss, I feel so beat down. For awhile, I couldn’t put my feeling on why? I couldn’t even truly name the “beat down” feeling. That’s unusual for me. Part of my own training was focused on self-identification of my own struggles. I am good at identifying and addressing those so that I continue supporting others. But this feeling, it’s a feeling of sadness over…something…that I couldn’t quite put my finger on? I was able to name it once I was out of school for the day.

Before I transitioned to this role I used to chaperone my own kid’s field trips. Not every single one of them, but a few a year. This year, I have chaperoned exactly zero. That has left me with the very natural feeling of ‘mom guilt.’ I’m a work out of home mom, that feeling isn’t unfamiliar. I can hold space for it.

When the opportunity arose for me to chaperone a field trip for Cam, who is now a Sophomore in high school, as his pre-college group attended a conference on inequities in education, I jumped at it. Cam is enrolled in a program that will give him a full scholarship to college. He is in a track to become an educator. He hopes to teach middle school math. While not pressuring him into this, we are definitely encouraging it. Black, male, educators are precious and rare. They are needed. I know this firsthand.

During the conference, a panel presentation was scheduled. The panelists were local high school students who were going to discuss their experiences as students of color in our local high schools with the room full of educators in front of them. One of the panelists cancelled, so a fellow student asked Cam to join. I did push him to do this. Cam is finding his voice. That voice is necessary for him. He needs to be able to discuss, and share, his experiences with racism if he really wants to serve his students.

He got up there. For the first few questions, he let other panelists speak. Slowly, I could see him become more comfortable. He began to share, so maturely, some of his experiences. He shared what it felt like to be the only Black child in his Advanced Placements classes. He shared how it felt to integrate the Men’s Swim Team in 2017. Yes, he is the first Black Varsity men’s swimmer at his high school. He shared how he could see a need for change on multiple levels in his schools. Then he shared a story from school that he never told me.

He had been pulled aside one day after class, with three other Black classmates, and only three Black classmates, to be questioned about why the classroom smelled of marijuana. All of the white students, Asian students, and less brown kids had been excused. Only the three darkest children were asked to stay behind. “Why does it smell like that in here?” The students explained that the odor had been present when they entered the classroom. This explanation was dismissed, and for a solid five minutes, he and the two other students were asked repeatedly which one of them had just smoked.

Cam explained that he doesn’t smoke. He explained that he is a student athlete, a member of the Varsity Track Team, with his sights set on running in college. He explained that he has made a promise to his parents, and to his coaches. He explained he has a personal code of conduct along with an athletic code of conduct, to which he adheres. None of that mattered to this teacher. He had to explain all of that, when he owed no explanation to this individual. Finally, after a sufficiently uncomfortable period of silence, all three students were excused. As they all walked to their next classes, now late, they discussed how change isn’t coming fast enough. The adults aren’t creating change fast enough to stop the trauma of students who we are supposed to be keeping safe.

Later that night, I asked Cam why he hadn’t told me the story when it happened.

“It happens all the time, mom. I saw how much it cost you to try to make change on the swim team. Nothing really changed. It cost you so much. I saw what you went through when we got that letter. It cost us all so much. It’s better to not lose so much over these smaller interactions.” This was a small interaction to him. That broke my heart. What would be big to him?

We’re not moving fast enough to stop the trauma. I’m not moving fast enough to stop it from happening to my own son. I’m not moving fast enough to stop it happening to the students I serve every day in a place that I promised them would be safe.

There are so many stories to share. This is one of many of Cam’s stories. Brady has just as many. AJ and Jax have stories. Ally has stories. Juliana and Sofia haven’t even crossed over the line of being teenagers, yet, they have stories. Isa has stories she can’t even name yet.

Cam had the courage to share this story publicly in this moment. He is allowing me to share it here. The point of sharing it is not to seek retribution for the person who committed the act. She is still teaching. She will continue teaching. He knows that neither he, or I with all my privilege, have the power to change that. We know that if we tried to seek retribution for every act of racism we had seen this year, that we would be fighting constantly, and that fight would cost us so much.

Grief. That’s the feeling. It’s a sign of my privilege that it took me this long to name it. I am sure people of color have this feeling named and claimed. I have named it now too. And I will have to figure out how to move through it if any change is going to come from what my kids have endured, all my kids, at the hands of people I may interact with at work.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Deafness, Dessert, FPD, FPM, FullPlateBupa, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Megafamily, Sofia, Tess

Disney 2018: All the things I want to remember.

Hi Kids!  It’s mom here.  I’m writing to you at the tail end of our Disney 2018 adventure.  We haven’t been here since January of 2017.  We were supposed to come in January of 2018, but your sister’s impending arrival put a little crimp in those plans, so here we are, ten months later.  Isabel is with us, and we all agree the delay was so worth it.

I wanted to commit to memory some things about 2018’s trip.  Sometimes, years after we take these trips, when we’re back in the most magical place on earth, and your favorite place to be, I get flashes of memories and I think ‘I should write that down before I forget!’  So, here I sit, on the patio of our Grand Villa at Saratoga Springs, writing it down before I forget.

First and foremost, I want to remember what it felt like for all of us to be together.  This is Ally’s Junior year of high school.  It is a little bit of a question mark how long she will be able to come with us.  Although, she insists it is forever.  I want to remember that, because forever is a hard promise to keep.  I want to remember what this little girl looked like when she met her beloved Mickey Mouse.  This was her first visit, and it didn’t disappoint.  She RAN through the parks with reckless abandon, searching for that mouse.  We finally found him at a character breakfast.  A $900 character breakfast that Disney paid for because of a mistake they made with our reservation.  Let’s remember that too, not because of the mistake, that made me cry, because it was a doozy, but because sometimes mistakes are huge blessings in disguise.  

I also want to remember this face.  Gigi finally had the language to understand ALL of what was happening around her.  She marveled at the interpreted shows we saw.  Thank you Disney, for providing ASL interpreters, it means the world to this girl.  She has named all the characters, this one is ‘Carrot Nose.’  She was THRILLED to meet him.  She knows he is friends with ‘Princesses, Frozen’ and I interpreted as she asked him all about them, in ASL.  ‘Princesses, Frozen, where? You are friends! Tell them, COME!’  Carrot Nose, couldn’t make them appear, but she was cool with that too.  Hugs and onto the next thing!  She has grown so much in her time in our family.  What once would have caused a complete meltdown is now explained to her and she simply moves on.  Thank God for language.  

I want to remember how the Christmas decorations were just going up as we got here for this trip, how we’ve never seen that before, and how excited all of you were.  They appeared overnight and you all declared it ‘magic.’  I want to commit to memory how you all believe, so wholeheartedly, in magic.  

I want to remember that this was the year that Cate posed for photos with a sass that only she could pull off, and only at this moment in time.  I took about 1000 pictures of you, Cate, because of this moment in time.

I want to remember that this year, at the age of 8, was the year that Bowen FINALLY reached 40 inches tall and got to ride a rollercoaster.  I want to remember what that did for his self-confidence, and how he declared himself no longer little.  He is now ‘a middle’ in our family.

I want to remember our bigs.  I want to remember how Ally spent all day wrangling strollers, without ever being asked, she just did.I want to remember how Cam, Brady and AJ set down their phones, chose not to venture off on their own when offered, and spent all day in the Magic Kingdom riding all the little kid rides with their younger siblings, because they believe in magic too, just a different variety.

Kids, I want you to remember me at this moment too.  Because, the days are long, but the years go by so very fast.  I want you to remember how much fun this was for me too, even when I had to yell “WALK THIS DIRECTION!” in my drill sergeant voice to get us to the next ride.

I want you to remember that you all are my joy, my magic.  All 12 of you.
I also want you to remember that I can whip a tea cup better than ANY of you.–FullPlateMom, who got her teacup whipping ability from her dad, and who plans to keep passing that on to future generations.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Dessert, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Megafamily, Phineas, Tess

It’s The Great Pumpkin!

Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He’s gotta pick this one. He’s got to.

Say, Charlie Brown, I’ve got a football…

I got a popcorn ball.  I got a fudge bar.  I got a pack of gum.  I got a rock.  

By the way, whatever happened to the world war I flying ace? Oh, he’s probably getting ready to take off in his Sopwith Camel on the next dawn patrol.

You kept me up all night waiting for the great pumpkin, and all that came was a beagle!

Maybe not only a beagle!

–FullPlateMom, who hopes you all find your Great Pumpkin too!

 

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

We Made It.

Tomorrow we’ll start week 3 of school.  Last week was our first full week.  They are ALL back at school now.  

We’ll pretend this one says ‘first day’, but I’m not changing it, because this is SO Jax.

All the sass.

It was my first day of school too.  In May I applied for a job I never thought I would be accepted for in our local school district.  I am a School Nurse at two schools that are ‘Behavioral Health Schools.’  We are focusing on Mental Health outcomes for our students.  I am so proud to get to be part of this.  Working with teams who focus on how poverty, past trauma, and race affect student achievement in school.  But, I also get to see kids who have fallen on the playground and scraped their knee, or kids who have lost their first tooth.

It’s crazy hard, but just like most things in life, it is worth it.

And, the health insurance is really great too.

–FullPlateMom, who is stocking her office with some great tools for mindfulness.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Dessert, FPD, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

DC Day 2–Their History and Culture

Today was the day!  The kids finally got to see the African-American Museum of History and Culture!

We rode the Metro to get there.

Those four were quite excited.

Then we walked through one very famous mall to get to the museum.

The museum was amazing.

But the absolute best part is, none of it was for me.  Because, you see, when this was written, it was meant for me.  Well, not me exactly, because I’m not a man, but this was written for people who look like me.  This museum was devoted to the history and culture of people who don’t look like me.  I was their as a guest, to appreciate that history and culture, to learn about it, but not to belong to it.   It is good for me, as the majority, to be in a space that feels that way.

After the museum was over, we headed to China Town, where we ate in a tiny little restaurant with some great friends.  Photo credit on this one goes to Reece.  This might be the only family photo we have since Colombia!

–FullPlateMom, who is taking this babies into space tomorrow, thanks to the Smithsonian.  DC, we love your free museums!

 

Adoption, AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Colombia, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

One More Day–Day Thirteen

Today, to take our minds off the fact that we only have one day left before we bid Joe and Isabel farewell, we decided to head to the science museum.  It was one rainy afternoon in Bogotá and the kids were super excited to visit Maloka.

Then we went and ate familiar food.  Cam never complained once, but after two weeks without anything typically American, he was ready for something familiar.  So, we ate Burger King.

We came back to our little Bogotá abode and there was a beautiful cake waiting for us.  We celebrated our last night in Bogotá with our friends at Zuetana.  If you’re looking for a place to stay in Bogotá, Claudia who owns this guest house, is amazing.

I am processing so many emotions about leaving that I don’t even know how to put pen to paper, or in this case, fingers to keyboard, to get them out.  I am leaving my daughter behind.  My fragile, malnourished, daughter.  There just aren’t words.  The bottom line is, I wish it didn’t have to be this way. I wish we could all just stay in Colombia and be with her until it is time to come home.

Alas, school is calling, literally, for the other kids.  So, tomorrow at 4am, we’ll rise to make the long trek home.

–FullPlateMom, who misses Isabel already.

Adoption, AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Colombia, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

Back to Bogotá–Day Twelve

We’re now 48 hours from leaving Joe and Isabel behind to finish the adoption process.  On Friday, at the absolute crack of dawn, 12 of us will head to the airport and the other two will head a few hours down the road to La Mesa.  La Mesa is a smaller town about three hours outside of Bogotá.  It’s supposed to be warm, beautiful, and, a retirement community.  It’s the Boca Raton of Colombia.

Joe will be there for about a week to go to court and, hopefully, be granted a Sentencia.  This is the piece of paper that declares Isabel our daughter.  After that, he’ll head back to Bogotá to get her passport, her visa, and then, they’ll come home.  We anticipate he’ll be living here in Colombia for 2-3 more weeks.  I will be at home, alone, with the other 11 children.

I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t scared.  I am totally scared.  I’m scared of managing it all at home, and I’m scared of letting go of this process.  I feel Joe is ill equipped to handle it.  Not the diaper changes, and the parenting without me, he does that all the time.  I’m talking about knowing the ins and outs of when to push and when not to, when an ethical line is being crossed, and when what is being asked of you is routine.  It will be a steep learning curve for him.

Leaving Pasto today was so hard.  Tess cried big giant tears as we left the house on the hill where we had been staying for the past week.  The owners became like family to us over the last week.  Monica, one of the owners, helped us with the children, acted as a tour guide for us encouraging us to get out and explore Pasto and the surrounding areas, and she made us the best Colombian treats (my children now all love aqua de panela).  But, what we cherished the most, was that Monica spent so much time telling us about our daughter’s homeland, and her culture.  We know so much about Isabel’s birthplace, because Monica was so willing to share with us.

The guest house she and her husband own is absolutely beautiful.  It is attached to their family’s home.  Monica checked on us multiple times per day.  People thought we were crazy for staying in what we, in the United States, would commonly refer to as a hostel during a time that would be so unpredictable for our family.  Adding Isabel to our family wasn’t easy, but the people who surrounded us became part of her story.  Even some of the other people staying in the guest house with us became part of Isabel’s story.  AJ told Joe he loved having people come in and out and stay in the guest house with us because they came from all over, and he had the opportunity to ask them about their part of the world.

We will miss them terribly.  I promised Tess that we would be back someday, to the house on the hill, in the place we first met Isabel.Love has made us brave, and that bravery has blessed us immeasurably.

We will carry it on during the next few weeks as we live apart, and leave behind the country we love.

–FullPlateMom, who isn’t feeling so very brave right now.