Thursday, October 1, 2015

Buy Coffee for Jerks?: Adoption Talk Link-Up

This topic is anything here goes something.

By now, you've probably heard the story of the woman who was standing in line at a coffee shop when she overheard the women behind her poking fun of her hair and her weight.  In return, the woman bought the two women's drinks.  Her 22 month old daughter was present during the incident.

Hold up.

This is like turning the other cheek.  Killing with kindness.  Catching flies with honey.  Salt and light. Counter-cultural, for certain.

I'm a mama bear.  When someone says something inappropriate or insulting to or in front of my kids, I feel my blood begin to boil.   Like the time my toddler son was called a "cute little thug," or when I hear someone say that something or someone is "so retarded," or when we're asked questions about adoption/our family's authenticity in the worst possible ways.  

I have had moments of victory.  For example, the time we were standing in line at Aldi to buy groceries and a stranger-woman turned to us and said, "Are they real sisters?"  (They being my two girls at the time).  I said, "Yes."  She then says, "But are they REALLY real sisters?"  Before I went all un-Jesus on her (it was right after church...), I took my girls by the hand and walked out the doors and to our car.    There was the time a woman blocked us from exiting our seats at my middle daughter's basketball game and began asking similar "real" questions.  I finally said to her, "That's really none of your business."   There was the time I was growing increasingly upset at a children's librarian who kept giving my family double-takes, and for some reason I felt like I must hold my tongue.  As we checked out our books, she confessed that she was adopted as a child and shared some of her experiences.  Giving her the benefit-of-the-doubt ended up being a fantastic opportunity to have a rich conversation.

But there have been times, as I shared in a recent Infant Adoption Guide podcast, that I gave away too much information and too much of my power as a mommy and advocate for my child.  These mostly occurred early in our parenting journey when I desperately wanted to be deemed as a real and confident and conquer the world mom.  What wasn't ok was that in being prideful, nervous, and anxious, I gave away too much information to people who didn't love us and wouldn't be part of our lives: they were just strangers.  Nosy strangers.

Families like mine constantly work at striking a balance between protecting our kids' stories and family privacy and being friendly enough that someone might actually want to be our friends for the long-haul.    Too much information makes us weak and isn't fair to our children, but too little information makes us seem snotty, uncertain, and prideful.  We dance, and dance, and dance again, each time getting a little smarter, stronger, and spot-on.

The mom at the coffee shop took the higher road than I have many times.  She had just a few minutes to decide what to do.  Should she give it to the women good (she had every right to!)?  Should she ignore the two women?  Should she put them in their place with a big dose of humble (pie) coffee?  Should she roll her eyes at them? Should she be passive aggressive, or just aggressive or just passive?

We moms are so hard on one another.  Strangers can be so cruel.     The saying is true.  Hurting people do hurt people.   What should we do in return, when we encounter hurt that stems from ignorance, pride, anger, confusion, selfishness, or bullying?

Every situation is different.  Every day is a new adventure in learning grace, patience, kindness, self-control.

One thing is for certain, the mom at the coffee shop made a choice that had far more of an impact than the alternatives.   I hope that I can have the wisdom, patience, and conviction to do the same, no matter my mood, my schedule, my anger, or my fears.

Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!

Today's topic is Names. Grab a button for your post and join Erin, Jamie, Jenni, Jill, Madeleine, Rachel, and me!
New to linking up? We'd love to have you join us, here's how.
No Bohns About It

Monday, September 28, 2015

Can't Stop, Won't Stop: Powerful Posts

I always tell myself I'll slow down.  I'll stop writing so much.

But I cannot.

Ideas, questions, experiences:  they are restless.  They are bursting.  They are simmering.

These past few weeks, I've shared my heart in several articles.  Here are just some of them:

Happy reading, Sugars, and cheers to a great week!   

Monday, September 21, 2015

Open Adoption: Heart-On-My-Sleeve Truths

"My days and heart are full. I have three babies who are part of three different open adoptions. What I know is that I know nothing. That every situation, every child, every day is different. That my heart has been broken and put back together more times than I can count. That adoption is intricately interwoven with the fibers of my heart and because of that, I’m relentlessly pursuing the right things in the right times, always with education, empathy, and empowerment."

Sugars, if you are struggling today with open adoption, wondering how open adoption works, or considering if open adoption is right for you and your family, please head over to Lori Holden's blog and read more.   Lori is the author of The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption, and the book includes contributions by Lori's daughter's birth mother.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Adoption Talk Link-Up: Names

Parents-by-adoption often have a lot of questions about naming their child:
  • Is it ok to change the child's birth name if we don't like it?
  • Is it ok to change the child's birth name if the name doesn't fit the child?
  • Is it ok to change a hard-to-pronounce name?
  • Should we offer to co-name the child with the child's biological parents?
  • Is it ok to give a child we adopt a family name or name the child after dad making the son a "junior"?
  • Is it ok to merge the child's birth name and the name we like?
  • What if we give the child two middle names?
  • What if teachers struggle to pronounce our child's name?
  • What if our child gets made fun of by peers for his or her name?
  • What if the expectant parents will only choose a family who will allow the expectant parents to name the child?
  • Does the child's name need to be common in his or her racial culture? 
These dilemmas can be solved, I think, by asking oneself a single question:
  • What will most benefit and potentially please my child?
Every adoptee and adoption situation is different, but ultimately what should matter most is the child and what will work for him or her.   If you are uncertain what would best benefit your child in terms of names, I suggest asking some adult adoptees what their opinions and experiences are.

For more on naming the child you adopt, check out pages 42-43 of my first book Come Rain or Come Shine:  A White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children.  

Monday, September 14, 2015

Don't Blink: The Truth About Distraction

Last week a book arrived in my mailbox, a book I had pre-ordered some time ago.  A book I knew I needed but was thankful that there would be a season between when I ordered it and when it arrived.
Was I ready?

I dove right into the pages the same day the book arrived.  I had my pen in hand, underlining line after line that spoke to my heart.  The words shook me up and spoke truth.

Reading the book felt like a splash of cold water to the face, the first mug of hot tea on a fall night, and a needle's sting.  Simultaneous refreshment, comfort, and pain.

It felt like conviction.  It felt like hope. It felt like fear.

Chapter one talks about filling the spaces:  taking short spurts of time and filling those with living rather than distraction.  Noticing rather than ignoring.  Relishing rather than rushing.

So I did just that.  That evening, my kids were rather rowdy, but we couldn't go outside since it was pouring rain and lightening.  I pulled out two huge tubs of Lego Duplos and started building.  My oldest daughter and I built a zoo and a shopping center, my middle daughter sat nearby looking at family photo albums, and my son built and played with a train.  We put some jazz music on.

It was magical.  It was relaxing.

This is doable, I thought.

The next morning, I walked my oldest daughter down to the bus stop.  We held hands.  It was picture day, so we practiced all the smiles that one shouldn't express when a photo is taken.  It was silly and glorious.

Suddenly my daughter said, "Wow!  Look mommy!"

Behind us, in the midst of a large overgrown area, was a single flower peaking out.  It was beautiful in a quiet, non-demanding way.   Just waiting to be discovered and appreciated.

It was something I never would have seen if I hadn't been listening and engaging.   It would have been another thing that went undiscovered.

Later that day, I was carting my younger two kids around town, running errands.  We were flipping through radio stations when an old favorite grabbed my attention.  Don't Blink by Kenny Chesney.

A sign?


Or maybe it's just the fact that I'm intentionally listening and living.

This isn't an easy battle for me.  I have a disease that requires control.  I have a type A personality.  I'm an oldest child, so I may be a bit, er, bossy.  I'm organized, punctual, and driven.   Not exactly things that help me ease up and enjoy the moment.

But I'm trying.  And that counts for something, just as Rachel Stafford shares in her book.

Sugars, I cannot express enough how important it is to be in this moment.  Whether you are considering adoption, are waiting to adopt, or have already adopted.  No matter where you are in your life journey, being present is the best give you can give yourself.   And if you are like me, you don't know HOW to do that.  That's why I'm so thankful that Stafford wrote her book, and I had the courage to buy it (and trust me, it takes courage)...and then pick it up and read it.

Today, I want to encourage you to buy (or borrow) Stafford's book.   Consider her humble, direct, and heart-centered messages that teach us to re-embrace the beauty that surrounds us.  To look people in their eyes, to listen to their words, to hold hands.

Choosing to live in the present doesn't drain you like distraction does.

To get a taste of the fabulousness Stafford's book contains, check out her recent Huff Post article called The Single Most Important Parenting Action We Can Take Today.

And to learn more about how your child might feel as you spend more time with your IPhone than the people right in front of you, check out this Huff Post article.

Also, Elite Daily featured a fabulous article called How Sex Isn't the Only Form of Infidelity.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

COMING THIS MONTH!: New Book for Young Black Girls

Hi, Sugars!

I'm so excited to provide you with this preview of my newest book, Poems for the Smart, Spunky, and Sensational Black Girl.  Illustrated by Sharee Miller, owner of Coily and Cute, and authored by me!

Poems include: birthday, beads, art, Black history, slumber party, church, fun at the beauty shop, Santa, new sibling, and much, much more.

The book should be available this month.  I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"These Are a Few of My Favorite Things": When It Comes to Hair Care for my Kids

I was at Michael's this morning picking up a few odds and ends when I ran my cart directly into a Christmas decoration display.

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE Christmas.

But it's 90 degrees here in St. Louis.  Christmas isn't really on my mind....

However, the decor run-in had me thinking about the song from The Sound of Music, "My Favorite Things."  So today, on this rainy, hot Tuesday (which feels like a Monday), here are some of my favorite things:

The Magic Twist Hair Sponge:  fabulous for creating coils in my little guy's hair.  It's very easy to use, and his coils usually last 2-3 days (without him wearing a sleep cap).

I Love My Hair:  Sesame Street video

Africa Sleeps Sleep Caps:  Beautiful, durable, and they stay-put!  (This company is owned by a mom-by-adoption!)  Last Christmas they sold the most amazing holiday lotion that smelled like cookie batter and had glitter in it (GLITTER!) that I put on myself and my girls.

Ballies for hair from Osh Kosh:  If you want ballies beyond the solid colors (and ball shapes), Osh Kosh has a rotating selection of colors and shapes.

Curls Creme Brule (hair cream):  Smells like cake batter, doesn't leave any residue, and isn't greasy.  This stuff smells like a holiday!

I Love My Hair:  One of my girls' favorite books about hair.  For a complete list of our favorite hair books, check out one of my articles.  

Ribbon barrette from Spritely Girl on Etsy:  Have a daughter who wants some color in her hair, but you aren't willing to alter her hair to get the color?  My oldest adores her rainbow ribbon barrette.  It easily clips (and stays) into her cornrows, giving her outfit another pop of color.

What are your favorite things?