Sunday, March 01, 2015

The Speech

For posterity's sake, here is the speech. She said that technically she didn't write it (it was SO long, mama!), but instead she told her counselor and she wrote it for her. Her words, though. Our pride. 

"I was adopted when I was one day old. I know nothing about my first mama except she was kind enough to give me to the orphanage--maybe because we were poor but I don't know for sure. Maybe we didn't have enough room in our house or enough money to take care of me and she didn't want me to suffer. But what I do know about my first mama and baba is that they were from China.

Because I am from China, I call my parents mama and baba because that's what they call parents in Chinese and Arabic. In Spain, they say mami and papi, and in Canada, they say mom and dad. My mom and dad are from the USA, and they are Ms. Tara and Senor Ethridge.

When people ask, 'where are you from?' I think it is weird and none of their business, but I tell them anyway to be kind. I say I am from China but not totally because my mom and dad are American. I am Chinese but I don't speak Chinese. I have never been to China except for when I was just a baby so I don't remember. But I would like to go there to try the noodles because I LOVE NOODLES! 

I am a third culture kid because I live overseas from my hometowns and home countries. This makes me feel cool because I am part of cross-cultural places."

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Big Day

As we were getting ready the night before Sojo's assembly, she mentioned that they could wear something from their culture. I suggested her Old Navy tshirt with the American flag, and she suggested her Chinese dress. Seems like an ordinary request, but this is from the girl who has refused to wear any dress for almost three years. Her motto is "it's my body and my choice" which I wholeheartedly love, and I sincerely hope she clings to that motto forever. 

But, she wanted the qi pao, and that was beautiful in that it is her heritage. Only problem is that the qi pao is a few years old, and it was tight. I cut the side to make it fit, and we pinned it on her the next morning. A last minute change for her was letting her hair down--another thing she very rarely does. I knew the day was special for her, but these added extras made it obvious that this was truly an important day for her.

The assembly itself was a huge hit, and I love that our focus at school is making them very kid-directed. Not to be overshadowed by her speech, she and a small group of friends made an entire Minecraft world that was akin to the true community of 2nd graders on stage. I had the chance to help them with this part of the show, and it was wildly creative. They made a community where everyone is welcome (the theme of the month was Cross Cultural Citizenship), and we made a movie of them traveling from landmark to landmark. 

She knocked it out of the park with her speech. Her poise, her confidence, her reading fluency! I was completely in awe, but I am most days when I'm with her.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

On Being Adopted, part 1

Sojo's class is in charge of this month's assembly at school, and the theme is cross-cultural citizenship. Our counselor told me later that she was chatting with the 2nd graders, getting them to tell stories about their own experiences of living abroad. She then asked if anyone would like to share a story on stage about their experiences, and Sojo raised her hand and said she wanted to talk about being adopted.

Um...ok? Surprising (in the very best of ways) as she usually is hesitant to talk about being adopted. Sometimes she'll ask a question or two, and she knows many details of her story; however, for many years she has done much to avoid the subject overall.  That being said, in the last few months, we have noticed there is a new depth to her questions and observations. After writing an essay of sorts about her experience, she brought it home to practice. Sitting at the dinner table listening to her, it was extremely hard to not cry as her beauty and innocence and goodness shines through. Most of all, the speech lets us know that she is in a good place with being adopted, and that is what we always hope for.

Today is the day of her performance. And not to have her speech overshadow all the other coolness that is her, she and a small group of friends have worked tirelessly on creating an amazing Minecraft community that will be showcased as the backdrop of the show.

She's made me promise not to cry (hello, empty promise!! I cry at everything, and how on earth could I not cry when this sweet girl talks about the kindness of her first mama who didn't want her to suffer?), but the tears will be of joy, not sadness.  We are both forever grateful that she came into our lives, and she fits so perfectly. Also grateful that she and I both embrace such a funky style--the above photo was just a regular day, and we both look so crazy! Crazy fabulous, that is.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Off the Beaten Track in Bahrain

Bahrain is our family getaway place. About 3 hours from us, it is where we head for movies and malls, PF Changs and IHOP, abaya-free shopping and adult beverages. We normally have a routine of heading to the mall and staying at a hotel in the mall. This time, however, we ventured out about 30 minutes past the main area of town to a hotel right on the water. And the water is the most crystal blue ever, and that color against sand apprehends me every single time.

We still hit the mall and movies, but we headed out to our new hotel around 3 p.m, in time for some afternoon beverages and a beautiful, albeit chilly, sunset view. Gilgamesh, Sojo's favorite friend, is in her arms enjoying the sunset as well.

Dale and I realized that in every country we have lived in, we have had a place. Our place. Meaning a place to go to that felt like us, where they knew us and we could go if we needed a break. The thing is, we hadn't found that place in Saudi. Staying at a hotel in the mall is convenient, but it isn't the same as a balcony overlooking the water and an awesome buffet breakfast the next morning. So, we seem to have found our place here, and that feels good. 

Since we were off the beaten track already, we decided to search for a pottery village called A'Ain. I can't really say it was a village as it was one small area with a shop, but the whole entire process of mountains of clay to making the pots to the kilns were there, so it was interesting. Sojo thought it was awesome, and the potters invited her to join them at the wheel right away. Definitely a interesting weekend for us all, and we are already thinking of when to go next. 

Monday, February 02, 2015

A Moment

So often, I find myself awash in gratitude for my beautiful family. Today, as we walked to school after lunch, I snapped this shot. Seemingly ordinary, it is in fact teeming with all sorts of things pertaining to this very moment in time. 

*Leggings with athletic shorts over top. This new look is so funky as she randomly chooses everything, and somehow it all goes together. She can even pull off leopard leggings and neon orange shorts.

*Wearing the same shirt she slept in last night

*Carrying 3 spring rolls and sweet chili sauce to give to a friend who was envious of her snack the other day. On a side note, I have become a spring roll queen and have it down to a science. This is making my family incredibly happy.

*Dale happily carrying Gilgamesh, Sojo's favorite stuffed animal, as well as her security blanket, Angry Bird T-shirt, that is now sewn to Gilgamesh so they don't lose each other. There is something going on of late in regards to security that is making her want to bring him to school every day. He stays in her backpack once we get there, but still...we are trying to figure out if it's a phase or something is bugging her.

*I love walking to and from school, and the weather is starting to warm up (bummer!), so it's easier to convince Sojo to walk when it's not 'freezing.'

The small details of the windows of time are things I love to remember. A whole lot of cherishing going on.

Monday, January 26, 2015


Our golf course on camp is entirely made of sand. They oil the sand to make it flat, and you use a little piece of fake grass from which you hit. It's unlike anything I've ever seen, but it is well used and totally free, so it's hard for the golfers to argue too much. For the little ones, the sand bunkers were tons of fun for the cousins this weekend when my brother and his family came down. Augie ran around in circles in the bunker, and Sojo's best way to connect with her cousin is to let him chase her. He will do it forever, and he has the funniest laugh when he is running around trying to get her.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Tennis, Anyone?

With the start of a new trimester, we sat down with Sojo and made a big list of various sports and activities offered on camp. Her job was to pick two--our way of keeping her involved but also honoring that she loves to come home and do all that fun kid stuff of riding bikes and playing in the park. She wound up choosing tennis and baseball, which we thought were awesome choices.  I grew up with lots of playing tennis in the street with friends, and I have tons of great memories of the sport. We opted for private lessons because the whole waiting in line thing is just not fun at all for kids, and they are pretty cheap for a half hour.

With fingers crossed that she would like it, we headed off to our first lesson with a borrowed racket and a Darth Vader tshirt. Watching her play, I was gobsmacked at how well she hit the ball, and she loved playing with the teacher. Just the right amount of competition and instant gratification to hit the ball so well. She was so hooked that she wound up going for another lesson the following day, which surprised me as her friends were waiting to play in the park. 

Kudos to her for branching out and trying something new. Kudos to us for steering her towards a sport where Dale and I can watch instead of being the coaches.