What did you just say?

People are made in China, too.

We all do it.

The brain issues the statement and the mouth broadcasts it faster than the censors can hit the bleep button.

Then, my dear, you are in the throes of an awkward moment.

Recently, I found myself on the receiving end of one while volunteering in Girl from the East’s kindergarten classroom.

In case you are new here, Girl from the East was born in China. She is an American citizen through adoption. She is the world to us.

Girl is six years old. We became a family in 2006 when she was just under 11 months old. Everyone who knows us well knows our dynamic. Although we cannot shield her from the ignorance and hate of the outside world, we are fortunate to travel in fairly educated and enlightened circles.

But when something changes, like starting a new school, we have to start fresh. We have to go through the shit — again.

So it came as a kick to the gut during a classroom holiday party when one of the volunteer parents uttered an insensitive statement for everyone to hear.

Apparently upset that the plastic glue bottle would not produce a dot of adhesive for him in a timely manner, he began banging the container on the craft table. Then, he stood up, handed the glue bottle to the teacher and said something close to this:

“Another useless piece of crap from China.”

OK. I know. We are in an election year. The anti-China rhetoric is blowing around like trash in the streets. We, especially those of us in the Rust Belt, gripe about the outsourcing of manufacturing to overseas factories. We all grumble that things are not made to last.  I’m just as upset about it as you are.

As I mentioned, my daughter was made in China, quite possibly to hard-working farmers, or severely overworked and under-compensated factory workers. It is not the fault of the collective overseas workforce that products are inferior. Look to the greedy corporations, suppliers and governments. Many of these factory workers travel hundreds of miles away from their home villages to earn wages to support their whole family. Some have children they never see.  It is an ugly situation and we all suffer the consequences of it through low-quality and sometimes tainted goods as well as job loss right here in the United States. It is a huge problem.

Please direct your anger where it belongs. Boycott products and companies that take part in these practices. Write letters. Start a movement. Please do not China bash, especially in front of my daughter or your children or anyone of Asian appearance.

Telling me, oh, I thought she was Korean, does not make it OK.

Our classroom is somewhat diverse. We have a racial and ethnic mix. Open bashing of any of the other races or ethnicities is unheard of in today’s hyper-sensitive school climates. Yet, China bashing is rampant.

My daughter is proud of her roots. She is too young to understand the complicated relationship between the United States and China (heck, I don’t get it, either.)  She is too young to understand things like Communism and the Cultural Revolution and emerging capitalism. She’s just a kid.

We teach her there are good and bad people in China. Good and bad businesses in the United States. We must take things on a case-by-case basis.

I haven’t forgotten that day or those words. I’m still wondering what to do. I started writing a proactive type of letter that could be distributed via the school’s weekly newsletter, but it doesn’t seem like enough.

Why didn’t I call him out? Why didn’t I pull him aside afterward? I’ve done that before to little satisfaction on anyone’s part. Perhaps I’m not the most diplomatic. Perhaps those who say such things are firm in their beliefs and are just twitching to engage in debate.  When I approached an offending parent at toddler play group a few years back, she vehemently stood behind her words, asserting that there is no correlation between statements of inferior products and the people of a nation. She suggested I grow thicker skin because the issue isn’t going away.

I’m not going anywhere, either. The day I held my Girl from the East for the first time was the day I knew I’d taken on an extra duties, ones that require added defense and offense for the inter-country adoption community.

So, please, take a moment to think about the source of your anger. Think about your audience. Think about the innocent people you might hurt with your uncensored remarks.

Thank you.



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Another first

Girl from the East is on the verge of six.

Her life thus far has been a series of milestones, from the subtle shifts that hatch a toddler from a baby, to the major leap from preschool to elementary school. She’s reading chapter books, writing words independently, and balancing on a two-wheeled bicycle.

One so-called rite of passage that has escaped her experience is the fast-food kids meal, particularly the McDonald’s Happy Meal.

My Girl is picky.

I am picky.

Most of us in this household do not eat meat. The rest eat it rarely. Unless we are on a road trip or desperate, we avoid fast food restaurants. When we do go, Girl eats french fries and those clever apple fries they serve at Burger King.

So, when fellow blogger Melissa invited me to take part in an event to launch and critique the new Happy Meal**, I figured Girl from the East would be a great candidate. She wouldn’t know a new Happy Meal from an old one.

I worried I’d be opening a can of worms. After all, I don’t want her to become a Happy Meal addict, like Girl from the West was for a while. (Oh, the mistakes of first-time parenting.)  I reasoned that since she’s waited this long, and since I explained this visit was a special event, it would be no big deal.

Once we arrived at the restaurant, which featured one of those indoor play structures, Girl kicked off her shoes and socks and leaped on the structure like a caged monkey set free. While she ran, jumped, and swung around overhead, I nursed a medium coffee.

When the meals in a box arrived, Girl easily chugged two kid-sized chocolate milk bottles. (Not the first time in her life.) She ate all the packaged apple slices and swiped some of the grapes and apples from my fruit salad. She ate most of the scaled-down fries and some of the chicken nuggets. Then it was back to playing air hockey with the kids.

I’m still wary of overly processed and packaged foods. Even after this experience, I’ll be limiting our visits to the we-need-to-burn-off-some-energy-and-it’s-too-cold-outside-for-the-park kind of days.

My take on the new meal? Four apples slices are not enough. My girl eats a whole apple in one sitting. Why skimp on the “healthy” part of this meal, Mickey D’s? Why not offer carrot sticks or sliced bell peppers, too? Oh, and stop with all the packaged dipping sauces. At least a few fruit, vegetable, yogurt, and oatmeal options on the menu justify a return visit to the playscape.

Here’s the bottom line: A fast food restaurant is what it is. I’ll give them credit for trying. After all, if you want your child to eat healthfully, you obviously make other choices. McDonald’s isn’t going to become McWholeFoods is it? My experience in parenting teaches me that what children are given to eat becomes the norm. If junk food options are removed from the menu, then they are not eaten and are quickly forgotten.  With both of my girls, it was not until they began spending time around their peers in a school setting that they began craving and demanding candy, juice boxes, and other treats.

So far, Girl hasn’t asked for another Happy Meal.

The best part of this event? Girl burned off all that energy and fell asleep in the car on the way home. Early dinner. Early to bed. Easy night.

Happy mom.

** Speaking of new things, this is my fist disclosure disclaimer. I was not paid to write this review. I participated upon invitation by another blogger and was given a $10 gift card and a tote bag with discount food coupons for eating and critiquing the new menu options for McDonald’s restaurants.

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Good reads and the open road

Photo by Eric I E via Creative Commons

We are going on a road trip.

Yes, we are.

We are pointing the compass West and driving away from the flat terrain of the Great Lakes. We’ll be tearing across that big lawn that separates the Midwest from those pretty purple mountains. How far will we travel before we shed this sticky, scratchy blanket of humidity? How many miles before I breathe that sigh of release?

I look forward to inhaling the scent of sage and  alpine air and complaining of dry skin rather than leaking pores. I’m pretty sure I’ll perform prostrations at the base of the mountains and kiss the earth. Maybe I’ll post a picture.

This is my first road trip out West with full Internet/digital capabilities. As much as I’d like to unplug for 10 days, I know I’d rather document and share the experience.

This also is the first extended family trip — other than that haunted weekend last summerwe’ve had since March 2009, when the severe belt-tightening was just beginning to make our eyeballs pop. It will be on a nickel and dime. Frankly, I’m not sure we don’t have panhandling worked into our itinerary. Most of our adventure is possible due to the generosity of family. It will be challenging, but I also think it will be character building and oh-so-worth-it to see the land I love and spend quality time with family.

Road trips mean endless hours of the same scenery (cows! more cows! cows and barns and silos!), lousy radio stations, even lousier food choices, and my favorite part — books. I’ve already stuffed my backpack full of reading material.

In the spirit of summer vacations and road trips and good reads, here are a few new and recent finds on the Internets. I like to think of these sites as warm and welcoming down comforters on a cold afternoon, as eye-opening as the first cup of coffee of the morning, and as pleasantly wonderful as finding a new best friend right down the street.

Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce — I can’t get enough of this new blog. What a great concept not only for a blog but also for life.

The Suniverse — I met this blog’s author at the Detroit stop of Bossy’s (No)Book Tour and fell in love with her style. She makes me laugh and cry all at once. Her posts ring true.

You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me — Another  beautifully crafted blog that spins the stuff of life into colorfully touching tales.

Mrs. Blogalot — Always funny. Always on target.

Momma Mia, Mea Culpa & Redhead Ranting — I found these two blogs through Tribal Blogs and they fast became part of my daily/weekly blog habit. I think if you went out with these ladies for a few cocktails, the night would not be boring, I am sure of that.

Happy reading.

Next report: Live, from cattle country.

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A small confession

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

I almost forgot.

I’m a Mick by birth. I hope this doesn’t earn a black mark on my permanent record.

I remembered after I’d dressed this morning — in khaki and a multi-colored top that had only one trace of green in it — that I needed to wear green today.  I rooted through my jewelry box until I found a rarely worn necklace with green beads. I added that and a green tank top to my ensemble and declared myself celebratory.

Irish is big around here. It’s big in a way that encourages drinking, spending money and acting crazy. We have a few annual parades organized by Irish cultural groups, but that is the extent of ethnic recognition.

As I ran my errands this morning,  I noted  the number of green-clad revelers wobbling along the pavement as they hopped from pub to pub. (I hope they gave their young livers notice that they would be working double-time today.)

As the descendant of Irish immigrant dairy farmers who settled  on the flatlands along the Detroit River, I grew up proud of my roots. My father made a big deal out of March 17. If we didn’t make it to the annual parade, we at least had corned beef and cabbage for dinner. My mother baked several loaves of soda bread. We all wore green. My dad would drink too much beer and sing “Danny Boy.”

When I studied American history in college, I was shocked, devastated really, to learn that the Irish were not embraced upon their arrival in the United States. They were despised and treated poorly. It dulled some of the shine on my Irish pride.  Since those days, aside from giving my oldest daughter an incredibly Irish name, I’ve not done much to embrace my Irish.

In fact, in the last decade, I’ve almost ignored the day altogether.

I confess: I don’t like corned beef and cabbage.

I don’t like Guinness.

I’m not a fan of “Riverdance.”

I don’t know all the words to “Danny Boy.”

I don’t even like shamrock shakes.

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