Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thursday is book day!

I came across this book as I was looking for ways to show my daughter that there were other kids-maybe not exactly like her-dealing with issues that were difficult for them. While I do believe that we are lucky-we are healthy, have a roof over our heads and lots of love-I also believe that we have the right to ruminate on our problems-even if there are others in the world in more dire straigths. I believe that we have the right to think our problems are as important, albeit only to us, as anyone else's problems.

That's why I liked this book. The short stories and poems collected in this are arranged in sections that focus on particular problems and crises children may face that isolate them from "normal" peers. Themes include sickness, disability, hospitalization, loss, conflict, developmental change, and loneliness.

The stories are simple, most 2-3 pages followed by a few questions to talk about. Characters featured in the stories represent a range of ethnicities and socio-economic situations.

If you want to help your children either cope with some of these issues-or help them walk in another child's shoes for a moment, then this is the book for you.

It isn't rocket science and won't 'fix' problems that kids face, but it is a beginning and you and your child can explore the issues together in 'safety' because the problems aren't happening to your child.

So, enjoy this week's selection.

With respect,

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Say what you want-but remember that actions still speak louder than words.

Did our notion of free speech go out the window when Columbia University President, Lee Bollinger introduced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a "a petty and cruel dictator." Granted, Ahmadinejad did say some flamboyant and controversial things-like questioning the Holocaust's impact on Palestine and claiming that there are no homosexuals in Iran-which reminds me of an equally ridicules statement by Bill Clinton claiming there were no gays in the military-but that is another story!

At any rate, I am not supporting Ahmadinejad or Iran in any shape or form, but I am questioning the wisdom of Lee Bollinger's introduction-which if it doesn't undermine our sense of free speech, it certainly seems like it can be selective use of free speech to me.

And while I don't condone the Iranian president, I also don't appreciate Lee Bollinger playing fast and loose with one of the most important tenets of the Bill of Rights.

Here's why: it is clear that most American don't like the things that the Iranian President said and don't like the schemes that they suspect the Iranian people are concocting even as we speak-and that is OK. I am totally concerned with what is going on in the Middle East-and in Asia-and any other place where nuclear weapons are a real threat.

Can we separate what the Iranian government and people are "doing" from who the Iranian people "are".

We need to be able to separate deeds from the people who are doing them or talking about doing them.....just like we do with our kids. You probably always like your kids-although this might be tested at times, but you probably don't like the things that theydo. You might not like what George Bush is doing
in his role as President, but unless you know him, you can't determine if you "like" him.

To put it another way, don't say "I don't like George Bush". Say instead, "I don't like anything that George Bush is doing in the Middle East." You have the right to say what you want(remember Freedom of Speech) but you need to be mindful of the consequences especially when it comes to our kids forming points of view on people.

You may be tempted to shrug this off as just semantics-but words can be weapons, too.

Yesterday, we defined bias, prejudice and discrimination. Today, we need to think about the consequences of our biases and prejudices about Iran and its people and the actions that it might lead us to take. More importantly, we need to be mindful of how our children will interpret our thoughts and actions.

Will they assume that all Iranian people are "bad". Do you want them to make decisions about people based on the actions of one person. How do you square biases and prejudices driven by the Iranian president with the family from Iran that just moved in to the neighborhood.

Equally as important is if you want your children to be judged by the prejudices spewed from the Iranian president. Do you want you new Iranian neighbors to make the assumption that your family-like all Americans-are fatally flawed?

Bias, prejudice and discrimination is a two way street, but we do have the opportunity to evaluate people on a 'one-off' basis by they kind of people they are, by the things that they do-and not just by what they say. And I would venture to guess that we want our children judged by their own merit, not by some stereotypical measures that other ascribe to all Americans.

Person by person and community by community, we need to look beyond the rhetoric-we don't have to agree with, like or respect the rhetoric, but we do need to respect a person's right to their own views.....and decide if we want them in our circles by how they act on their views.

With respect,

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

D (definition) Day

I was tooling around the Internet yesterday and came across a statement that biases were based in facts while prejudice was not based on facts. That struck me as odd, so I decided to look around a bit more. I wanted other opinions on the differences between bias and prejudice.

I found these definitions from Southern Mississippi University the most succinct and informative-and considering their location in the Deep South, I assumed that they were pretty familiar with bias, prejudice and its consequences.

So here goes:

There are many definitions for the word "bias". In human relationships, the most important of these connects bias with prejudice.Bias implies unfair judgment based on these arbitrary human characteristics. It's also something we all do, whether through a systematic like or dislike of certain characteristics, or simply through lack of familiarity with the world of human difference.

Prejudice is a feeling we have about one another and our human characteristics: age, facial features, hair texture, body size and shape, gender, skin color, nationality, language, religious values, cultural values, sexual orientation ... the list is endless!

When people act on their biased feelings -- whether intentionally or unintentionally -- then they are acting out "isms", such as racism, sexism, ageism, heterosexism ... the list is endless and devastating to human potential. This is what is meant by terms such as "harassment" and "discrimination."

When all is said and done, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck-then it is a duck. So, lets be honest and not get caught up in semantics. We need to own our biases, stereotypes and prejudices-and not let our kids imitate them.

With Respect,

Monday, September 24, 2007

Are you my mother?

Do you remember that great children's book-Are you my mother?-where a baby bird falls out of its nest and goes looking for its mother. The baby bird stops to ask the cow, dog, and even a steam shovel if they are its mother. They all tell it no, and he keeps on searching until, lo and behold, he finds his mother-and she is a bird.

But let's rewrite that story just a bit. A weak and sickly baby macaque monkey is abandoned by his mother. He was found, near death, and brought to an animal hospital. where a white pigeon literally took him under her wing and 'mothered' him.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what people look like that we forget that we don't have to look like anyone to be loved. And isn't that what we all want-to be loved no matter how we look? Isn't that the message you want to send to your children?

I know that I do.

With Respect,

Friday, September 21, 2007

We can all relate to this story!

Everyone can relate to this came from

A man observed a woman in the grocery store with a three year old girl in her basket. As they passed the cookie section, the child asked for cookies and her mother told her "no." The little girl immediately began to whine and fuss, and the mother said quietly, "Now Ellen, we just have half of the aisles left to go through; don't be upset. It won't be long."

He passed the Mother again in the candy aisle. Of course, the little girl began to shout for candy. When she was told she couldn't have any, she began to cry. The mother said, "There, there, Ellen, don't cry. Only two more aisles to go, and then we'll be checking out."

The man again happened to be behind the pair at the check-out, where the little girl immediately began to clamor for gum and burst into a terrible tantrum upon discovering there would be no gum purchased today. The mother patiently said, "Ellen, we'll be through this check out stand in five minutes, and then you can go home and have a nice nap."

The man followed them out to the parking lot and stopped the woman to compliment her. "I couldn't help noticing how patient you were with little Ellen..."

The mother broke in, "My little girl's name is Tammy... I'm Ellen."

So the next time your child is whining and complaining, remember this story...and it might make you laugh.

With Respect

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday is book day!

"The Jade Dragon" is a story of two girls-one born in China-Stephanie-and adopted and one born in the US to Chinese-born parents-Ginny. Ginny, feeling like the odd-girl out is thrilled when Stephanie joins her class. At last, another girl who looks like her. Maybe she can finally get a best friend. Unfortunately, Stephanie is not interested in anything Chinese-even Ginny-and Stephanie's mother continually rants about Stephanie's lack of "Chineseness", making it difficult for her daughter to forge a relationship she desires.

While the story, is about the relationship between the two girls, it is the context in which the story plays out that is interesting. Written in the 80s with references to "The Smurf" and "Star Wars", the language used about adoption is now considered a no-no. For example, Ginny's mother refers to Stephanie's birth parents as her 'real' parents-a moniker that parents whose children joined them via adoption have fought hard to stamp out and how unlucky Stephanie is because her parents didn't want her (ouch). Ginny's mother also refers to Ginny as an ABC-American Born Chinese. She scoffs at Ginny's attempt to walk the line between dutiful Chinese daughter and hip American girl.

Most interesting is the peek into the girls' psyches. Both girls feel that they are outcasts-different in a fundamental way. Ginny asks Stephanie if she wishes her white parents were Chinese. Stephanie confesses that she wishes they all were white. Ginny also 'confesses' to not wanting to be Chinese-more to please Stephanie and gain her trust than anything else.

This type of story is important for a couple of reasons:
1. It provides insight on the difficulties growing up as a person of color in
the world.
2. It highlights the juxtaposition between kids wanting to be "American" and
their parents desires to instill traditional values and culture.
3. It shows the lenghths that kids will go to in order to fit in.

While I cringed at the 'improper' adoption language and other slang, my daughter didn't blink at them. She related to both characters-Stephanie for being the Asian daughter adopted by white parents and to Ginny, always feeling like she didn't belong-except when surrounded by other Asians.

Your children may not be Asian or adopted, but the feelings that Ginny and Stephanie explore may be a wake up call. If your kids aren't 'different' they may get a better understanding of what that feels like. And you can start to "really" understand the power of language for form values.

With respect,

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

In the pink....standing up to bullies!

The pink triangle was originally used to identify homosexual men in Nazi concentration camps. Today, the pink triangle has evolved to a symbol of gay pride. Of course, some men-regardless of their sexual orientation-simply like to wear pink and don't think twice about the color's significance. But, there are some people who assume that a man wearing pink, must be gay and then go out of their way to make sure that man knows how he feels about homosexuality as the 'story' below indicates!

Once upon a time, a high school boy came to school wearing a pink shirt. He was minding his business when a group of older boys began to harass and threaten-they thought that he was gay because he was wearing a pink shirt.

The younger boy was devastated, but he was not alone. Another senior decided 'enough was enough' and decided to give the bullies something to talk about.

The next day, the older boy and his friend handed out 75 pink shirts before class-and also brought a pink basketball to school and pink material for headbands and arm bands. About 1/2 of the schools 830 students wore pink that day-including the young man who had been bullied for wearing pink in the first place.

The bullies got made and began to throw chairs in the cafeteria, asking if the kids knew that pink on a male is a symbol for homosexuality. The response-who care-and that it didn't matter to him or anyone else. Judging people by the color of their shirts or pants is ridicules, is also what the bullies heard.

And the young man who was bullied in the first place-was supported and defended by his fellow students. Those kids were sure raised right!

The End!

Of course, this is not a once upon a time story. It happened in Nova Scotia earlier in the month.

What do you think your child would do in a similar situation? Would the stand up to the bullies or would they look the other way-not wanting to get involved? What do you think you would have done?

With Respect,

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Satire-the reprise

The battle over the appropriateness of a recent YouTube video depicting adoption from China is still raging-weeks after the video was first uploaded. This discussion followed hot on the heels of the controversy generated by O. Yang's photos of white fathers and daughters born in China. Like everything, some people feel that it is satire and other think it is a horrendous and destructive and racist piece of 'entertainment'.

Who is right? And do we have the right to make that decision?

Merriman-Webster Online dictionary defines satire as:
1 : a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn
2 : trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly

Franky, both the video and photo series meet the criteria as satire. Yet, members of the community were enraged that these artistic endeavors saw the light of day.
They want these types of things stricken from our collective memories? Other think that if something offends you then you should just not partake.

So what is a thinking person to do? Surely, ignoring the offensive material is one way. Censorship of offensive material may be desirable, but not realistic in our free speech society.

Thinking people have to come to grips with the fact that there will always be material, billed as entertainment, will sneak into our lives-and it will always create controversy. However, as time goes by, things that were once considered ok, become obsolete (think about Aunt Jemima Pancakes-Aunt Jemima was portrayed with a kerchief on her head, thick, full lips and curly, curly hair early on...and by the next generation her look had changed significantly because the earlier look was hopelessly stereotyped.) We can hope that what we find offensive will go the way of the original Aunt Jemima.

Until that happens, we might want to look at these things as opportunities to help our kids understand the role that the media plays in our points of view of what is ok and what isn't. We can use these opportunities to discuss the 'whys' and 'what ifs' of our value systems.

It is a great opportunity for you to show your kids the difference between satire and racism-from your point of view. We should not give up the fight to eliminate bias and racism, but we should use what examples to show our kids the consequences of 'satire'.

With luck, by the time our kids get older, they will find hurtful satire has gone by the wayside because they don't get the play they once had.

With respect,

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Fun!

If you NOT convinced that how we say and do things-even unwittingly-are picked up by our kids, read these REAL stories below...

A little boy was doing his math homework. He said to himself, 'Two plus five, that son of a is seven. Three plus six, that son of a bitch is nine....' His mother heard what he was saying and gasped,'What are you doing?' The little boy answered, 'I'm doing my math homework, Mom.' 'And is this how your teacher taught you to do it?' the mother asked. 'Yes,' he answered. Infuriated, the mother asked the teacher the next day, 'What are you teaching my son in math?' The teacher replied, 'Right now, we are learning addition.' The mother asked, 'And are you teaching them to say two plus two, that son of a bitch is four?' After the teacher stopped laughing, she answered, 'What I taught them was, two plus two, THE SUM OF WHICH, is four.'

It was that time, during the Sunday morning service, for the children's sermon. All the children were invited to come forward. One little girl was wearing a particularly pretty dress and, as she sat down, the pastor leaned over and said, 'That is a very pretty dress. Is it your Easter Dress?' The little girl replied, directly into the pastor's clip-on microphone, 'Yes, and my Mom says it's a b-tch to iron.'

Have a great weekend.
With Respect,

Thursday, September 13, 2007

San Diego, anyone?

I promised my daughter I would take her to Sea World in San Diego, CA for Thanksgiving-who wouldn't want to share this festive day with Shamu?!

It has been many years since I have travelled to San Diego, so I was a bit flummoxed about how to begin to search for places to stay that were child-friendly and near the attractions we would want to visit-the beach, the Zoo, Sea World etc. I also wanted to be able to take cabs and walk places to eliminate renting a car (for some reason this has always been my least favorite part of traveling).

Looking online for accommodations and flights proved to be challenging-first the amount of information is enormous and there was no ability to compare and contrast, so the back button on my browser was working overtime.

Fortunately, I found Hotel Reservations. The site is very straightforward and has all the bells and whistles that a traveler might need-but they don't get in the way of the information. It took me some time to get used to the way the information was presented-there is a lot of information in a little bit of space, but once that happened, I was good to go.

I started with hotels and was pleased to see that there were LOTS of choices-bed and breakfast, luxury, budget and everything in between and the prices were competitive-if not better than other sites. There was extensive information on each property-including distances to the places we want to see- which allowed me to further hone in on the area that was best for us. The best feature I found was the ability to compare the finalists and pick a winner-one that I don't think I would have found on my own.

The search for flights was a not as successful, probably because we will be traveling at Thanksgiving. While the flights were limited, they were extremely economical and I liked the ability to view the results by price, total duration and total flight time-when traveling with a seven year old, travel time becomes quite important.

The vacation packages were also quite good. The ability to identify attractions we wanted to be near, took some of the guesswork out of the mix-and eliminated the need to make numerous phone calls to figure out if I would spend the week in the car or not.

Since we are also looking at a trip to China in the not-to-distant future, I also peeked at the hotel and flights for that journey. I have been shopping that trip for quite a while and was pleased to find out that the prices and choices were plentiful, varied and well-priced.

After some searching-I sure got the travel bug. Thankfully, travel is one great way to expose kids to other cultures, traditions and people, so I can feel good about giving my daughter great experiences that I can also enjoy-without breaking the bank.

Check em out and maybe we will see you in San Diego!

With Respect,

Thursday is book day!

I confess, I love to read with my daughter before she goes to sleep. We do it every night (whether she wants to or not!).

Some of our favorite books are from The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne. We love traveling with Jack and Annie as the explore everything from the first Olympic Games to meals with lions and buffalo. We can almost hear the wind whooshing through the tree-house as they leave on their adventure and breathe a sign of relief when they arrive safely back in Pennsylvania.

These books are great for beginning readers and to read together. They allow the reader to experience history, nature, and other real life adventures through the eyes of contemporary kids. The juxtaposition of contemporary characters against historical events has been a great way to engage children and then even expand the conversation into a wonderful 'teachable moment'.

The series also help children experience other cultures and traditions. For example in Hour of the Olympics, Jack and Annie are surprised to learn that girls can't attend or participate in the Olympics. The inevitable "why" that kids will ask is an opportunity to talk about womens role in history and contemporary society-and to reinforce that boys and girls can do anything they set their minds to.

So, enjoy these books and let me know what interesting questions or observations that your kids come up with.

With Respect,

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The dance of life: one step forward and two steps back!

Just when we were all excited about the way Binky Barnes's family expansion was handled on PBS, another video surfaces on YouTube. You don't even what to see what was behind door number two.

Someone thought it was funny to present adoption from China as a shopping trip-pick the one you want, wrap her up and bring her home. The video came complete with images of girls from China in plastic shopping bags. Not only was the video in horrendously bad taste, it was just plain stupid.

Of course, those in the adoption community were shocked and dismayed at the portrayal of adoption, but the damage goes far deeper than families formed by adoption.

While Binky Barnes was likely watched by many people, the video on YouTube had the opportunity to travel worldwide. It is likely that many more people were able to see the YouTube video than watched the Arthur episode.

In 30 seconds-or even from the opening shot, the YouTube video did more damage to adoption than we have seen in a long time. It is frustrating, of course, that just as we think we are making progress, something devastating happens that makes us shake our collective heads in bewilderment. Some people will give up, thinking that they can't do anything about it. Others will become militant and angry, determined to have the world see their 'correct' point of view. Still others, will hunker down, regroup and continue to raise awarness and consciouness that bias-and clearly the YouTube video was biased-is just not acceptable in the 21st Century.

While the target of this YouTube video was adoption and adoption from China in particular, the next target could be ANY group, or anyone who is 'different'. The target of the next attack could be your family, your child, your community.

The 9/11 attacks were caused in part by bias against Americans-that is a very visible reminder of the consequences of bias.

It is our job to stop biases before they escalate-to bullying, to violence or worse.

What course of action will you take in your home today?

With Respect,

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hooray Binky Barnes!

Finally, families formed through adoption have something to cheer about in the media. For the first time in recent memory a media vehicle has hit on the facts and emotions about adoption on the nose!

Congratulations are in order to the team, lead by Executive Producer Pierre Valette, who created the Arthur episodes following Binky Barnes and his family as they expand their family with the adoption of a baby girl from China. This is one of the first shows featuring adoption that wasn't demeaning or pandering. In fact, reviews indicate just the opposite-the show was able to accurately portray some of the feelings that a waiting sibling might have when facing the addition of a new family member. Binky Barnes's emotions run the gamete from excitement to dismay-and fear of getting the dreaded inoculations needed to travel to China to meet his sister.

This episode-and its sequel go a long way in normalizing adoption bringing it out of the shadows and exposing children and their parents to family formation in the real world. Attention is even paid to proper adoption language (probably for the first time in TV history). This show is a far cry from other adoption-related shows including the infamous Who's Your Daddy which served only to infuriate families all over the country and exploit the participants.

Thank you Pierre Valette, the entire team and the folks at PBS for making this happen. We just took a giant step in leveling the playing field for families formed by adoption.

With respect,

Monday, September 10, 2007

Bias bites back!

The other night my mother was related a story about a gal in her office who had recently found her dream house. The woman is black.

The woman told my mother that she and her family loved the house,but were concerned that
there were so many Mexicans
in the neigborhood. My mother was shocked that a black person could be biased. She thought bigotry and racism were the purvey of Caucasians.

Of course, we know intellectually that everyone, everywhere has biases, but sometimes it seems that it is only white people who are biased (nothing like a little supremacy complex). That is simply not true-we just don't hear about it or think about it.

There seems to be a racial hierarchy with whites a the top of the pyramid. Second in line seem to Asians (after all they are all bright and hard-working). Black and Hispanic people pull in behind Asians. Given the demographic coming attractions where white population decreases rapidly against the rise in non-white populations, this seems to be incredibly stupid.

My child is a child of color. Some people will actually say (or intimate) that 'at least she isn't black'. When I pick myself up off of the floor, I still have to bite my tongue, but what the heck is that all about?

If adults are surprised that all people are biased and if we are using a racial 'rating system' to determine one's status in society then you can be sure that kids are getting that message loud and clear.

So ask yourself if you have any hierarchical racial system that you are unconsciously transferring to your children. You might want to consider putting a stop to that. You aren't doing your kids any favors. Kids need to be cognizant that everyone deserves to be judged based on his or her strengths and weakness, not by any antiquated and biased points of view that seep out of the most well-meaning parents.

Unfortunately, racism, like poverty, violence and other societal ills truly cuts across all boundaries. It does seem sad that some of the things that we all share are so negative, while the positive things take a back seat. Today's challenge is to become aware of how we 'rate' people and start to look at how we can keep it to ourselves.

Like any issue, recognition that there is an issue is the first step!

With respect,

Friday, September 7, 2007

Fun on Friday-from Overheard at the Beach

But I Can Get by in English, As Long As They Speak Slowly

Canadian girl to Americans: Oh my god! You guys speak Canadian? We've been looking for other people who speak Canadian!

American guy: Yup, only Canadian. No American or English. Only Canadian.

Canadian girl: Awesome! Me, too!

--Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Thursday is book day!

September is National Hispanic Heritage and National Literacy Month. This combination is a great opportunity to expose your kids to Hispanic culture and encourage them to read.

Each Thursday in September, the books highlighted showcase Hispanic culture-and are personal favorites.

Enjoy, The Day It Snowed Tortillas / El Dia Que Nevaron Tortillas, Folktales told in Spanish and English-we did.

Books are an easy, fun and inexpensive way to give your children some of the tools they need to respect, celebrate and appreciate cultures, choices and abilities.

For a few books with a bit broader cultural context try these:

With Respect:

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

CBS Radio Does It Again!

From bad to worse!

Some people just don't get it-or are so interested in making money that they don't care if they profit by abusing others.

CBS joins the rarefied crowd of those that 'don't get it'. As difficult as it is to believe, they replaced the controversial Don Imus with an even more (is it even possible) controversial racist, sexist and ethnocentric 'shock jock'.

Yep! They did it again when they announced that Craig Carton who's history includes, Operation Rat a Rat/La Cucha Gotcha-a 'game' to turn in undocumented immigrants, 'outing' politicians THOUGHT to be gay and mocking Asians by mimicking accents and traditions.

To be fair, Carton wasn't always a jerk. He has done sports formatted programs across the country and has successfully increased ratings in many of the markets he broadcast in. And like Imus, he has generously supported children's charities. CBS is pairing him with ex-football player Boomer Esiason-who one can only hope will be the voice of reason.

CBS must think that-despite the Imus flap that there is a market for sexist, racist and other offensive programming. It is up to us to convince them that we don't agree. This is the time to step up to the plate and vote with your pocketbook. Don't listen to Carton's show, don't support the advertisers that support the show. Make your feelings about this type of programming known in the only way that CBS will respond to. We need to hit them in the pocketbook.

If you are serious about raising great kids, the example you set by fighting bias, racism etc will be the best thing that you do. They will know that you don't just talk about changing things-you do something. That is more powerful than anything else you can do.

With respect

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A day at the beach-off topic!

I am fortunate to live in a beautiful area of the United States, surrounded by beautiful ocean beaches and calm bays. It is an area that is frequented by the 'rich and famous' (who don't drop by for a bar-b-que, in case you are wondering). In the summer, our mellow community is not so mellow. The beaches are crowded,parking impossible, the stores raise their prices for the 'city' people, there is a lot of traffic and tables at restaurants are hard to come by. Tempers are short-I guess when you are paying $300,000 to rent a beach house for a month, you have high expectations. The locals take it in stride, counting down the days until Labor Day and we get our communities back.

The summer visitors, on the other hand, are trying to squeeze in the last bit of fun before they head back to work and school. When the weather is magnificent, the pursuit of fun is even more frenetic.

We were fortunate to go to the beach twice this weekend-once on Saturday:

And again on Monday:

So, I was relaxed and happy coming into this week, hoping to get lots of work done and get my daughter ready for school...

With respect