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7 posts from April 2010

April 29, 2010

Before & After: Kitty

It's been hard to get into the groove of posting on the blog lately but I saw this on another blog and
thought it might be fun.  Especially since I tend to edit the heck out of my photos then never post them
on the blog or do anything special with them.

  The subject is my sweet kitty, originally named "Baby".  Then when we got actual babies,
it was too confusing calling her that so we changed her name to "Kitty".
Yeah, we're clever, huh.

Here's the original photo, straight out of the camera.


First I gave it a little crop using the rule of thirds:

20100419lowes park and backyard4333

Next, I brightened the areas that were too dark and darkened the areas that were too light.
Then I spiffed up the eyes using the dodge and burn and sponge and sharpen tool: 


I was curious to see how it would look in black and white and I think it's pretty nice.
I should have posted this yesterday for Lisa's Black & White Wednesday. Better late than never, eh?

the long road

kitty backyard bw

Daddy's been traveling all week so it's just been me and the kids and Kitty.
When Daddy's gone, Kitty gets to sleep in the master bedroom with me. She's a comfort but she's also a
big pain in the neck because she meows and stands on my head. Not sure why I put up with it except that
I love her.

April 20, 2010

B&W Wednesday: Band-Aids --- The Beige Badge of Honor

Maddy bandaid pool bw framed

Maddy got a little boo-boo while she was playing in the pool yesterday.  She fell on the rocks next to the pool and got a tiny mark on her flawless little hand and trembled in anticipation of what those teensy droplets of blood might mean... a Band-Aid.

You see, Maddy LOVES band-aids and, by default, the little wounds they cover.  In fact, she's been known to self-inflict a wound just to get one of these beautiful beige bandages of honor.

Doesn't she look wounded and serious?  Oh, she was so proud!

Here's the original photo - SOTC - and the original boo-boo too.  Isn't it amazing how some photos look so much better in black and white?

Maddy in the backyard color

For more Black & White Wednesday fun, check out The Long Road to China.
More of our Black & White Wednesday posts here:  Black & White Wednesday

April 18, 2010

...it tastes more like a slug than a banana

We headed West this weekend.  First we spent two hours at the beach then the boardwalk then the birthday of a certain little cricket and her mommy.  We forgot the camera so you'll have to just take our word for how fun Saturday was!

Sunday, we returned to hike the Fall Creek Trail.  It was beautiful and this spot quickly rose to the top of our list of local favorites. 

Blog 20100418fall creek trail4085

The meandering paths are flanked by a creek and towering Redwood trees and several varieties of ferns, ivy and clover.  I especially loved this clover because the leaves looked like hearts.

Blog 20100418fall creek trail4121 copy

There were big bright spots of these blue flowers too!

Blog 20100418fall creek trail4167

Our girls love to hike and search for sticks and bugs and this trail really delivered!  We found fantastic walking sticks right away and Maddy spotted a Banana Slug immediately after that.  From that moment on, they searched for more banana slugs and counted 7 before we turned around and headed back.    

Blog sluggy closeup

On the way back, Gwen collected 'orphaned' banana slugs and carried them on leaves or sticks until we found another slug.  Then she'd lovingly place the "lonely" slug next to its new "friend".    She was especially on the lookout for young (small) banana slugs because she thought they might be babies and even more in need of families.

Blog gwen with sluggy 2

Obviously, she's not squeamish about slugs and bugs and other icky stuff.  And even though I was repulsed by these disgusting things, I hid my contempt because I knew they were harmless and I really admired her courage and compassion for them.  After staring at them for two hours, I think they might actually be pretty (in a slimy mollusky kind of way). 

Once again, I'm making a mental note to double check the presence of that second x chromosome in Gwenny because I could swear she's actually a boy.   I had to stop her from picking these things up with her bare hands! 

On the way back to the van, the kids said they were hungry and we said we had a snack for them and jokingly suggested that it would be the banana slugs and Maddy announced that they'd be gross because they tasted more like slugs than bananas!  As if she knows what a slug tastes like?  We got quite a laugh out that that!

Blog 20100418 fall creek trail quary4221 

Here she is at the base of a huge kiln constructed in the 1870's.  It was designed to fire limestone into powder and it was operational until the 1920's.  Now it's overrun with ferns and moss and its' really beautiful.

After a few hours on this trail, we headed downtown for lunch and sightseeing and shopping.  Then home where the girls resumed their search for gastropods in the backyard and complained when it was time to come inside for the night.   

Dinner consisted of ravioli and cheesy toast but, for some reason, there were no takers for our favorite fruit:  Bananas.  :)

April 13, 2010

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

Especially when they happen on the same day.

It's been raining forever.   We've made the best of it and I have lots of photos but nothing that really gets me excited. 

Saturday night, I took a photoshop class from Lisa and learned a bunch of cool stuff.  I'm still trying to apply it but here's a peek at my first attempt to edit my photos using her techniques.  Pretty cool, I think!  You can click <here> to see a larger version of the final edit for this photo.  I think it turned out nice!

Before and after gwen purple flowers skinny


I like the way her face turned out but I should have kept the sparkle in her hairband.  Maybe next time...

Maddy splashing in rain boots

Here's Maddy splashing in the rain puddle.  You'll have to click <here> to see a larger view since this came out much smaller than I expected! 

Here's Maddy looking cute, as usual.  In the before photo, her skin tone was splotchy and she had lots of stray hairs on her face.  Her face was dark and her eyes were just two dark shadows.  But the "after" photo is pretty amazing!  Be sure to click <here> so you can really see how cool her eyes turned out! 

Maddy portrait lens outside

And here's a pretty black and white just in time for Lisa's Black and White Wednesday.  I took the finished edit of the photo you see above and applied an action to it to turn it to black and white. I've never used actions before but (thanks to Lisa), now I know how to do that too!   Larger view of this black and white?  Click <here>.

Maddy black and white

I have many more photos I'd like to share but it's taking me a long time to process them because my new skills are pretty clumsy.  But I think I'll get faster and better with some practice!

If you have photoshop and need a few simple but effective tips, I strongly recommend Lisa!   She's a great teacher.  And she's really nice too!  :)

April 12, 2010

They don't call it a "last resort" because it's the first thing you do

I'm usually really critical about adoption disruptions because I think adults who agree to adopt children need to be emotionally prepared for the very worst attachment process and willing to ride out the hard stuff all the way through to the end.  But we're kidding ourselves if we don't believe there can be times when it's just never going to work.  Bio parents are faced with hard choices like this too so it's not a situation that is unique to adoptive parents - as the media implies.

Everyone has probably heard the news reports of the single mom in Tennessee who adopted a 7 year old Russian boy when he was 6 and many months later, put him on a non-stop, one way flight back to Russia with a note explaining that he was violent and mentally ill and she could no longer parent him.   She made arrangements for someone to meet him at the airport and take him to the Russian Education and Science Ministry. I'm not going to link to the story because there are hundreds of reports and they all seem to report the facts a little bit differently.  You can Google "Russian boy returned" and read all you want.

I don't know where to start telling you about how I feel about this so maybe I'll just toss out some bullet points.

  • I'm not excusing the behavior of the adoptive mother and grandmother but I am trying to understand it.  I want to assume that the family thought through their various options before deciding that this one was best.  It certainly wasn't the easiest or cheapest so I find it very hard to believe that it was their first choice.
  • The media has consistently failed to get even the basic details of this story correct.  There are conflicting reports of the boys age and wildly different accounts of when he was adopted and how long he was with the family so I'm hesitant to believe that they're reporting any of the critical details correctly.  Since the adoptive family isn't talking, there's simply no way to confirm reports that the family never sought help. 
  • Given the sensitive nature of mental health services - especially where kids are concerned - I don't believe that any agency that provided assistance would be allowed, legally, to contact the media and share that information with them.
  • About the flight:  Why is the media making a big deal about the fact that he was "alone" on the plane?  Children flying unaccompanied is common.   It was a nonstop flight and he was supervised by flight attendants and a responsible adult met him at the airport in Moscow.   The airlines deal with this all the time.  It's no big deal and it's certainly not a crime. 
  • A boy, age 7, is not a baby.  At age seven, most children understand the difference between right and wrong but still need lots of guidance.  How do you punish a boy who has nothing he cherishes?  If he physically threatens you or your other children, what is your recourse?  How do you keep your family safe today? 
  • I've been a mother of a 7 year old and I know they're still very young and vulnerable at that age but I also know they're strong willed and physically strong too.   If you' can't control your 7 year old, you're in BIG trouble when he's 15.   Maybe this child shouldn't have been adopted to a household without a strong male influence?

This child was with his alcoholic biological mother until he was 6.  I don't know how bad your alcoholic parent has to treat you in Russia before you're removed from her care and sent to a new family on the other side of the Earth.  Or maybe she had him removed from her home because he was violent and was threatening other family members?  I wonder if we'll ever hear from her. 

Was bio mom drinking when she was pregnant?   Are his problems due to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?  Drug and alcohol abuse is the primary reason we wouldn't adopt from the USA or Russia.

The average person doesn't know how much adoptive parents go through to qualify to adopt.  The media acts like this Tennessee woman wasn't screened well enough but we know that the paces prospective adoptive parents are put through are intense and would screen out a huge percentage of biological parents if the same standards were applied to everyone. 

The media keeps talking about the horrible instances of abuse by adoptive parents without mentioning that it's extremely rare and even though adoptive parents sometimes hurt their children, it doesn't happen nearly as often as it does with biological parents.  This is especially remarkable considering that most of the children we adopt come from a slice of the population that is exposed to circumstances that would make them somewhat "at risk" and they pass that to their children.   All of our adopted kids suffer (to varying degrees) before we adopt them and they bring all of that baggage into our home yet you don't hear about the 99+% of us deal with it and form healthy loving bonds with our new children.   You just hear about the ones that don't make it.

Assuming the boy really was violent and mentally ill and really might have wanted to burn down his family's home (with them in it), let's consider where the adoptive mom was supposed to take this boy.

  • You can call your agency but they're not going to absolve you of your parental obligation and take the child off of your hands.  They'll give you some advice and encouragement but, in the end, you will be the one living with this 24/7 and only you will know how much of his threats are potentially real. 
  • Some agencies have connections to families who will step in and take a child in the event of a disruption.  But if this child is really violent and dangerous, I can't imagine any family risking their own children (meaning the kids they already have) to take in such a child. 
  • You can't call 911 and simply tell them to come pick up your kid.  I can tell you from experience because I was a deputy sheriff and I got those calls.   When I got there, I never found a criminal.  Instead, I usually found a remorseful kid sitting on the couch crying.
  • If there's obvious evidence that he's committed a violent assault, he can be taken into custody and charged.
  • If he's obviously mentally ill (ie behaving in a way that makes police believe that he is an serious threat to himself or others), he can be transported (by paramedics) to a hospital for observation.  But it has to be OBVIOUS.
  • You can't take him to Social Services and drop him off there.  Again, I have some experience with this because I was a counselor for a large county welfare department and worked with Children's Protective Services for 13 years.   That system is designed to protect children from abusive parents.  Not the other way around.
  • Even if you could manage to get him into the foster care system, there's probably no family that would keep him.   He would be bounced from home to home until he ended up in a state run facility (at a massive cost)
  • Prison would probably be his next home after that.
If Russia lied to the adoptive mother about the severity of his mental health issues, then I can understand why she'd be angry enough just send their problem child back to them.  Yes, I know that sounds harsh but if what she says is true, Russia knew what they were doing when they "tricked" another US family into taking yet another one of their horribly damaged children.   Obviously not all children who are adopted from Russia are forever and irrevocably damaged but many are and Russia has a moral responsibility to not pass these kids to well meaning adoptive parents.  Surely there are other kids suffering in orphanages in Russia who can really benefit from having a loving home?  Since there are more kids than families, can we please have some of those healthier kids instead?

Now Russia is saying that the boy had signs of abuse?  Is this another lie?  What are we supposed to believe from Russia?   The boy claimed that he was beaten with a broom stick at the Russian orphanage and now it's reported that his adoptive mom "was mean to me and pulled my hair".    My kids accuse me of being mean to them all the time!  And I can't count the number of times I've used Gwen's long ponytail as an extra appendage when I've needed to catch her or hold onto her.  Obviously I've not hurt her though and wouldn't you think this boy would have something else to say about his treatment in the USA if there was something really abusive going on?    There better be something more than an old bruise on this kid if Russia is claiming that he was mistreated in the USA.    I can't even tell you how angry this makes me if it's true and I'm even MORE angry if it's not true!  This TN mother's life is ruined.   She has a 10 year old bio son (if you believe half of the media reports) and his life is ruined too because his mom is probably going to jail on whatever charge the lynch mob can make stick.  Can we please have some sympathy for them?  Does anyone really think this is the way they wanted their adoption to turn out?  Unless there is evidence that they planned this from the very start, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt today.  They LIVED this and all I've done is read a bunch of potentially inaccurate reports about it.  I may eat my words later but I'm reserving harsh judgment until more of the facts are in.

I've always had a tug at my heart to adopt an older child.   If there was ever a chance that we'd do it, that chance is totally gone now.  This really makes me worry about who we would trust and who we would turn to for help if things went seriously bad?  The answer to both questions seem to be... nobody.


UPDATE:  The lawyer for the adoptive family is supposed to talk on Monday.  I'm very curious to learn how some of the blanks in this story will be filled in.

Thanks, Andrea, for the link to this other great article on this topic:  http://www.slate.com/id/2250590/

Thanks to everyone who has engaged in intelligent, articulate and polite discussion with me about this.  It's a hot topic and I appreciate your thoughts and your civility. 

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