Thursday, August 27, 2015

Favorite Books for Young Black Boys

When my girls were born, I dove into girl-world.  I bought every brown-skinned doll and piece of art I could find.  I found clothing with brown girls included, and I stocked up on loads of books featuring Black girl protagonists.  When my son was born, I was equally as driven to find dolls, art, clothing, and books that reflected his brown skin.  

Here is a list of some (and I do mean SOME; our book collection, extensive) of our favorite books for young Black boys.

(There are a few books in this series)

for a complete and extensive list, please check out my new book:

Monday, August 24, 2015

Colored Rice Sensory Bin

It's still quite hot here in the Midwest, so hot that going outside (unless we are in a pool) is unbearable.  But leaving the TV on all day is mind-numbing and makes us all grouchy.   Thank God for rice sensory bins!

(My oldest, age 6.5, and her brother, age 2.5, enjoying the hodge-podge sensory bin.)

First, here's why the bins are ah-mazing:
  • They provide sensory play that is both calming and engaging.
  • They smell so good which is great for your kiddos who like to sniff.
  • They are an awesome catch-all for those random trinket-junky toys you get at birthday and school parties, hand-outs from the bank, leftovers from Halloween and Christmas stockings, toys from kids' meals, and pieces from toy sets that are no longer complete.  
  • With a four-sided bin, up to four kids can play in a bin at any given time.  (You can make the bins as large or as small as you choose depending on how much space and how many kids you have.  
  • They make great gifts!   
  • They keep the kids occupied while you try to accomplish a thing or two.  
  • The rice is easy to clean up.  If you play on a hard floor, just sweep up any spillage.  If you have your kids play on carpet, vacuum up the spilled rice.  We also play it outside on our screened-in porch or even on a sidewalk.   
  • The bins are easy to store, and the rice stays good for a long, long time.   
  • You can customize the bins to fit your kids' likes and favorite scents and colors.   
  • You can spend as much or as little as you like on the bins.  The most expensive part is the bin itself, because the more long and shallow bins (think "under bed" bins) that have secure lids can be pricey.   The rice and Kool-Aid is inexpensive.   
  • The bins are great to pull out during rainy, too cold, or too hot days.  They might be used on sick days, too...but don't plan on being able to sanitize all those tiny toys (or the rice---ha!) when the play is done.  
What you need:
  • A bin with a lid that fits on securely.   Carefully select your bin, considering the size (depth and length and width).  Make sure you have a designated place to put the bin.  
  • An old sheet to go under the bin (it makes clean up easier and you don't waste as much rice. After the kids are done, pour the rice from the sheet back into the bin).  
  • White rice, Kool-Aid packets, and rubbing alcohol.  Plus you need cookie sheets and foil and something to stir the rice with.   The recipe I used to make rice can be found here.   A NOTE ABOUT THE KOOL-AID:  As a non Kool-Aid drinking family, we realized that the flavor listed on the packet doesn't always "match" what you would think the color of the powder will be.  If you want to go for scent, choose the scents your kids like.  But if you're going with a theme (like we did with our ocean-themed bin) where you are aiming for specific rice colors (blues, purples, greens), you need to test out the Kool-Aid packets first.   Some of the Kool-Aid packets we bought offered SUCH light colors that it was hardly worth coloring the rice with them.   
  • Items for the bin.   I prefer a variety of textures, sizes, and purposes.  Also decide if you want a themed bin (like our ocean-themed bin) or a hodge-podge bin for all those random toys I talked about above.  I get measuring spoons as "shovels" at the dollar store.  
(A close-up of our hodge-podge sensory bin, the first bin we made.  As you can see, there's really no theme here.  There's a dinosaur figuring, a Minnie Mouse, cardboard rolls for funnels, a few bouncy balls and duckies, mini My Little Pony figurines, pieces from PlayDoh sets, a cookie dough scoop, figurines from playsets that have long lost all their pieces. etc.)

Get your kids involved:
  • Have your children help you pick out the Kool-Aid packets and stir the rice as it's drying (see recipe above).
  • Have your kids find items for the bin:  think leftover pieces from toy sets, small toys from birthday parties, even items from the recycle bin (like the toilet paper cardboard---used as funnels), small plastic figurines, bouncy balls, small toy cars, rubber duckies, leftover PlayDoh set toys, etc.
  • Have your kids help you scour stores to find items for a themed bin (like our ocean-themed bin. The figurines came from a set at Target which was $8; the red measuring spoons were from our dollar store; we added small seashells from a beach vacation).   Set a budget, and talk about calculating your items as you shop to stay within the budget.
  • Have your kids save their money to add items to their rice bins.  
  • Create rice bins as gifts for birthday parties or Christmas exchanges.  At minimum, you could gift colored rice and instructions on creating their own sensory bin.  
  • Create holiday or season themed sensory bins:  Halloween (black/orange), Fall (red, orange, yellow), Christmas (red/green), Valentine's Day (red/pink), Winter (blue/white), Spring (pastels), Fourth of July (red/white/blue), etc.  
  • Choose a theme by browsing the figurine sets at a local store.  The dollar section at Target is a great place to start!  

(My middle daughter, age 4.5 and her toddler brother, age 2.5, enjoying the ocean-themed sensory bin.)

To learn more about the importance of sensory play, check out the final chapter of my new book Homeschooling Your Young Black Child:  A Simple Getting-Started Guide and Workbook.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

5 Things Strangers Keep Saying to This Mama of 3

I’m a mom of three young children, ages two, four, and six.  I eat, breathe, and sleep all-things-children. That is, when I do sleep and eat.  Not only do I have three young kids, two books published (and one on the way) to be marketed, a house to maintain, an adoption and fostering group to facilitate, but also an autoimmune disease that requires 24/7 management.   And then there’s my steadfast husband of eleven years, the one who always gets my leftovers, which frankly, isn’t more than a peck on the cheek and a “your it” high five the minute he walks in the door
Life is chaotic, beautiful, overwhelming, and rewarding.  Some days I laugh.  Some days I yell.  Some days my only consolation is an over-priced, lukewarm latte and knowing I get to watch Millionaire Matchmaker when the kids go to bed.

On the rare occasion when I round up the kids, load them in the minivan, and head to my local Target, I can predict with precision what strangers will say to us as we make our way up and down the aisles. I’m already a bit on-edge when we arrive, since the whole reason for the trip is that the only food we have left in the fridge is one egg and some last-Christmas chocolates.  As I round an aisle, I see her: the grandmotherly-type who holds my gaze a few seconds too long. I just know she’s going to utter one of these five things:

They grow up so fast. Treasure every moment.  Yes, this is said to me while my toddler rips open a box of tampons and throws them like confetti and his sisters giggle hysterically. I guess I should throw up a victorious and energetic fist and yell, “Carpe Diem!” and snap a photo of my bundles of joy for Facebook, but really, I just wish it were legal to drink margaritas while shopping in Target. 

You have your hands full!  I guess I could be nice and say something Hallmark like, “If you think 
my hands are full, you should see my heart!” while cupping the faces of my three little ones.  But really, I just want to say, “Thank you, Captain Obvious!”  And my hands, they are full, full of the tampons I’m frantically picking up off the floor.

Wow! You have a lot of kids! I could smile and say, “The more the merrier!” but I’m too busy trying to keep my son from sticking one of the unwrapped tampons up his nose while his sisters proceed to yell, “BAGINA!” (aka: “vagina” in preschool world) and, “Tampons go in BAGINAs!”

They will be off to college before you know it!  I sure hope they go to college.  Then they can get a good job and pay me back for all the tampons they wasted. 

You are brave! I never took all my kids to the store! Brave? I’d like to think “crazy” is a more accurate description. And unfortunately, all my servants and nannies have the day off, so I have to buy groceries and feminine care items myself.

To be fair, I know that these ladies are trying to bestow experience and gentle advice, as well as encouragement and compliments upon me.  They see themselves in me. They remember the hard days of wiping noses and bottoms, kissing boo-boos, giving baths, toilet training, teething, growth spurts, and discipline. But they look back and recall what really mattered most: snuggles, milestones, and quiet “I love yous.”

Some day I hope to slow down enough to really reflect on the beauty of a small hand on my cheek, sticky kisses, and midnight cuddles, but for now, I’ve got tampons to pick up. 

School and Adoption Sensitivity: Adoption Talk Link-Up

Before I became a stay-at-home-mom/writer, I taught college writing for eight years.  During these eight years, I learned a lot about what my students needed and how I, as their teacher, could provide those things for them to ensure they had the best learning experience possible.    Compound this education with becoming a mom by adoption (x3), and I've figured out that there are some things I need to do for my children's teachers, in terms of adoption, to make sure my kids have a great school year.

My second daughter, a preschooler, is being homeschooled this year.  As you've probably noticed, I've shared about this a lot in the past month, with the publication of my new homeschooling book.

My oldest daughter attended half-day kindergarten (at a public school) last year, and she is now in full day first grade at the same school.   It is important to me, always to protect my kids' personal adoption stories, but there are some things I feel the teachers need to know, including:
  • Adoption is an open conversation in our home.  There are no secrets.  Therefore, the child may choose to freely talk about adoption at school.   However, we've empowered our child to know she doesn't have to answer questions about her adoption if she chooses not to.  
  • Adoption is obviously how we built our family, but we aren't an "adoptive family."  We are a family.
  • Adoption is complex and bittersweet.  If questions or concerns arise, please ask me!  
  • I'll happily provide resources for the classroom or school library; this includes adoption resources and resources created by/featuring African Americans.  
  • We refer to birth siblings and "siblings," therefore, you might here my child mention names of kids who aren't in our family.  
  • We have open adoptions, so our child may talk about visits or communication with her biological family.  
  • Sometimes my child may struggle with separation or transitions.  This might because of adoption, and it may not be.  But either way, I want you to be aware of it.   I let the teacher know the best way to help my child with times of separation or transition.  (For us, it's hugs.)
  • School projects that involve the child's earliest days or biological information aren't difficult for us, as we adopted our kids at birth and have a lot of their information; however, these projects might need to be tailored at times to fit our unique family dynamic (and the different family dynamics of other classmates).  Please be flexible and let us adjust the assignments as needed.   For example, we don't really have a family tree.  It's more like a family orchard.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

Adoptive Nursing/Donor Milk Media for Kids

World Breastfeeding Week was at the beginning of this month, and after my initial post, I thought I should share with you some resources to show your kids on adoptive nursing.   There is adoptive nursing/donor milk (in the form of one animal providing milk for another) in the following:

The Fox and the Hound (25th Anniversary Edition)

101 Dalmatians: Diamond Edition (2-Disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Conversation With God

Recently, it was a hot summer day. I had just finished working out, and I told the kids they could play in the water table and baby pool in the back yard. I got out two huge tubs of water toys, got the water table and baby pool filled, and let the kids do their thing.  Meanwhile, I put up a camping chair just inside the basement doors (in the air conditioning) and kept an eye on them while they played.

I rarely get a quiet moment. Someone always needs something.  And then someone else needs something else.  And then the third child needs something else.  And then the first child needs what I just gave the third child, which makes the second child upset.   Vicious cycle.

But for a few minutes while the kids were armed with water squirters and old sippy cups, I sat in a chair and thought, "Wow.  I don't think I've prayed, I mean like REALLY prayed, in....huh.  I have no idea how long it's been.  So it must have been a long time ago."  My brain shuts down by about six p.m. each night.   Those last few hours of the day feel like a hurricane of jelly beans and Lego blocks and toothpicks being pelted at my face.   (You mamas know what I'm talking about!)  It is NOT pleasant.   There's dinner, Daddy walks in the door (cue crazy x1000), the house is a disaster, and then there's pjs, brushing teeth, potty breaks, stories, back rubs, prayers, songs, threats, tears, yelling, and eventually, EVENTUALLY, blissful silence.   And at that point, I have about 1% battery power left.   On a good night.

So my conversation with God, as I sat in a camping chair sporting my workout clothes and a Flintstones'-style ponytail, went like this:

Hi, God.

It's been awhile.

I'm tired.  Obviously you know that.  You are God, after all.

Look at beautiful my babies are.  Thank you for them.  My girls.  My son.  They are so happy.  

Wow, this chair isn't all that comfortable, but it feels good to just sit.

God:  You know, you can tap in to my power at any time.    It is the best resource you've got.

I know.  Why do I forget so easily?

Sheesh.  I really need to do this more often, and not in a "bless so-and-so" kind of way that I do when I see a prayer request from a friend on Facebook.  

I feel so far from you, God.  It's lonely.

I'm always here.  I help you even when you don't ask for it.

I have sensed that at times.  Especially during some hard adoption moments over this past year.

I really want to adopt again.  But I just don't know.  One day I think it's the best idea ever and I'm ready, and the next day I think it's a terrible idea.  Then the what ifs start.  Want to hear the baby names I have picked out for my next seven kids, most of whom will be girls because I have more girl names picked out?   

I'm a God of peace. Not confusion.

I know.  I create my own problems.   I hate how self-reliant I am sometimes.  

I really should pray for my husband more.  Isn't that what holy women do?   Ok.  Here goes. God bless my husband.  Help him to have a good day.  Help me be receptive to you as I go about my day, taking your cues and helping my husband feel encouraged in the ways that he needs.

I'm tired.  And all I'm thinking about right now is whipping up some latte popsicles.  Cheaper than Starbucks.  

And my writing.  I'm mostly proud of it.  But I really need to write more positive things.  All the news stories about racism in our country makes me crazy.  I just cannot be silent, yet when I share stories, am I just feeding the frenzy and not really making a difference at all?  

You need to focus first and foremost on raising your children in Me.   

But there are so many things working against my kids, against Black people.  BIG things.  Systematic things.  Racist people.  I don't feel like I'm ever doing enough.  Please, please protect my children.

I already have.  I already am.  They are with you.  You are the mother they need.  There is a purpose for them and their lives.  

I'm scared for them.  But I'm so thankful to be their mommy.  You know just the other day...


I should do this again soon, God.  Thanks.  I gotta run and tend to those sweet babies I was just praying about.  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Multicultural Homeschooling Materials for Young Kids

Hi, Sugars!

First, thank you to everyone who has purchased Homeschooling Your Young Black Child: A Simple Getting-Started Guide and Workbook.  I hope that it's helping you gear up for a fabulous homeschooling year!

Today I want to share with you some of our favorite multicultural materials for your home.  These are excellent to tie-in with your homeschooling time!  

---Click on the image to be connected to a website for more details and purchasing---

World Playground

ABC flashcards depicting African American History

Global Wonders: Around The World

eebooTell Me a Story Creative Story Cards - Fairytale Mix Up