Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Stuff I Do For Free

My son saw a responsibilities chart in my daughter's room tonight and asked if he could have one. We've tried all kinds of positive reinforcement systems since the kids were toddlers (I think potty training started it all -- boy, did they get us trained!). Stars, Points, M&Ms, Skittles, you name it.

He read down the list of tasks on Katrina's list and said "Cool -- I get a nickel for each thing I do on the list, right?" I can see the gears in his mind grinding away, calculating the money he will get each day for making his bed, brushing his teeth, feeding the cat, loading the dishwasher... As a fifth grader, he is already falling prey to the grips of capitalism and consumerism. Apparently, he is the ONLY kid in school who is not wearing $200 sneakers!

Katrina answered him before I could. "No, Alexander -- that is the stuff I do for FREE."
"For FREE?" he asked incredulously.
FOR FREE? I asked.

They hear the spiel about being part of this community we call a family. They know I don't get paid for taking them to various practices, tutoring, cooking nutritious meals, and late night runs for poster board and rubber cement for the project they neglected to remember until the night before its due.

I decided to try a new tact: Promoting voluntarism and the personal growth and satisfaction that come from helping others and making the world a better place. Both kids have the volunteer gene in their DNA. Their compassion for others is well known among their friends and teachers.

They spent six months collecting soda and beer cans to take to the recycling center to donate the proceeds to a family who was raising money for a liver transplant. All that time, all those cans, and the syrupy drip marks in the back of my SUV, got them $9.70 to give the family. "How much of a liver will that get him?" asked my daughter. "Probably one Tylenol in the hospital," I thought to myself.

We created a matching program and they did some extra things around the house to earn money so they could donate $50 to the liver transplant fund.

Is it possible to channel that compassion MY way?

They are children and still learning about exchanges and different types of rewards.

But what about some adults? They will walk for cancer, talk nice in front of the preacher, but back at the office refuse to help a co-worker. That's not my job... I don't get paid to do that... I've seen this attitude in retail stores when I'm a customer and think "If I were your mother/manager..."

I thought of all the stuff I do "for free" for my family, my co-workers, my community and really don't think twice about it. I do it out of a sense of philanthropy (love of mankind). I don't think about quid pro quo -- I figure that if I share kindness and grace with others, it will come back to me when I need it most. And it always does.

What will you do for free today?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

What Names Hang from Your Family Tree?

Did you know that humans and apes have 99% of their DNA in common? It makes the question I heard growing up, "What are you?" all the more poignant. Back then, the question referred to your ethnic heritage. Are you Greek? Irish? Polish? Italian? Jewish? I learned my fractions at a young age by trying to give the ingredients to my gene pool. Let's see, I'm half Greek, a quarter Irish, and a quarter French, German, and maybe some English.

As teenagers, we would try to calculate what our children would be if we married that cute but not-so-bright ball player. Or that sorta cute and very funny band geek. Calculating ethnic genetics and capability genetics proved to be a task that could keep a slumber party talking all night.

Marriage was the last thing on my mind during and right after college. I was out for opportunities to gain wisdom from the world. Dating was not supposed to be a direct path down the aisle as far as I was concerned. And despite my "mixed heritage," the pressures to find a "nice Greek boy" were strong. The cultural pressures actually worked against ambitious Greek American women who wanted to set the world on fire more than their stoves at home. Expectations create very powerful social norms, and the best way to manage the "perfect Greek wife" image was to avoid it.

Of course, when I brought home a WASP with the last name "Peed" to meet the family, you might think I went a bit extreme. I was used to having a name that sounded funny and no one could pronounce, but with a funny sounding last name that is so clearly spelled, well, that was another thing. What is it? people would ask. It doesn't sound Italian, or Irish, or Polish...

What kind of name is "Peed"? This is the question that led me to pursue the genealogy of my dear hubby. Growing up with that name is not for everyone. Two of Robert's uncles changed their last names to avoid the teasing (they are now Reed and Peet). So if you run into folks with either of those last names, there is a good chance that their ancestry actually has some Peed in it! That makes me smile every time I meet a Reed or Peede or Peete.

Our children have grown in their resilience with the name. They say the first couple of days at school each year are the toughest, as new teachers call out names and kids who hear Peed for the first time snicker. But they have learned to let name calling roll of their backs, which is a very useful skill in life. No one has yet to come up with a smarty pants comment that we haven't already joked about at home. (I told Katrina that if we had named her after my Aunt Mildred, she would have been Milly Peed).

Of course, their middle names are my maiden name, so we had to make sure their first names were strong and easy to pronounce and spell.

With our impending adoption(s), we are back to the drawing board with names. The new wrinkle in the process is that our child/ren will be from China, so we are working on how to honor their heritage without creating names that are overwhelming for people. Your name is the first impression you make in many instances -- people often see your name on paper before they meet you.

So, if you have any great ideas, please feel free to share them with us. We have about a year before we will travel to China to get our child/ren.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Happy New Year (Back to School Year)

The night before the first day of school is much like Christmas eve. The kids have a hard time falling asleep in anticipation of what awaits them the next day. Last night was was particularly big -- one child nervous about starting middle school and one excited to begin his last year at elementary school.

This morning, Robert drove Alexander ("call me Alex") to elementary school today where he begins his last year there. He's now a big fifth grader, asking if his clothes match, putting gel in his short hair. The kindergartners look so small in comparison to these 5th graders. And their parents looked so worried, compared to the seasoned parents of older kids. I remember the first day of kindergarten like it was yesterday...

I drove Katrina to middle school (her first day as a 6th grader). She wanted to ride the bus, but since I'm leaving town for the week, she let me drive her there today. She also let me park the car and walk her to the front door. We walked hand-in-hand from the car UNTIL we turned the corner to the front of the building where there were 100 or so kids milling around waiting for the bell to ring so they could enter the building. When she let go of my hand, she said, "Now mom, don't say anything to embarrass me!" Katrina has never said that before and MEANT it, and I confess to being a bit incredulous. "What would I say that would embarrass you, honey?" I asked. "Just use your good judgment, mommy, I trust you." she replied.

Note to self: kids do remember what you say to them and they will quite smugly turn your phrase back on you!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Paperchase Winds Down

Great news today! Our homestudy is complete and has been approved for China, Georgia, and the US. We should get the approved report this week and then need to have it certified and authenticated. That means take it to Fulton County and then down to the Secretary of State's office. Still waiting for a dozen documents to come back from the Chinese Consultate in Houston.

With all these done, then we'll take pictures of all the paperwork (for posterity) and deliver the stack to CCAI's Georgia office for dossier review and preparation.

On a sad note, there was a major typhoon that hit the southeastern coast of China today. It is reported to be the worst to hit in 50 years. We will try to find out if orphanages (called SWIs -- social welfare institutions) were damaged or destroyed.

The airwaves have been full of news that the British government foiled a significant plot to blow up several airplanes heading from London to the US. So far, 25 people have been arrested. As of today, no one can go through security with any liquids, gels, or lotions. All toiletries must be checked luggage. The lines at Hartsfield were hours long today. I travel to Washington, DC next Monday.