Monday, February 28, 2011

Transracial Parents----Dig In!----And Possibly WIN

Miss E before Mommy and Me Dance class. I believe she's inspecting her tutu. :)
Recently, a Facebook friend of mine suggested a page to me. I clicked on it and discovered a book for transracial families called Brown Babies, Pink Parents. I was THRILLED to say the least. There are few good books that talk about transracial adoption. And I do believe that one reason adoptive families say no to adopting children of color is because they are fearful of many things----hair concerns, comments from strangers, opinions of family members, etc---and these topics NEED to be addressed! If a little education can open hearts (and doors for brown kids)---bring it on!

I contacted the author, Amy Ford, who graciously granted me an interview AND a copy of her book to giveaway to one lucky reader of my blog.


Tell me about yourself (your job, your hobbies, your life in general, and of course, your kids! I'd love to know your kids' names and ages, and how they came to your family).

Wow. This is a big question. I am a mother, an author, and an adoption advocate. I spent 16 years as a professional travel planner before throwing myself head first into full time parenthood. While I no longer have a traditional J-O-B, I spend my days promoting the book, facilitating workshops on transracial parenting, and speak to parenting groups around Texas on the importance of honoring our children's heritage. In order to fund the life we have grown accustomed to, I do in home jewelry parties for Jewels by Park Lane. Park Lane allows me to work flexible hours, make a great commission, and I spend my days dripping in jewels while carpooling, hauling trash, and running errands.

My partner, Kim, and I decided to create a family through adoption since her family of origin is comprised of biological, adopted, and foster children. Kim comes from a big Catholic family in Chicago. When her parents were told it was not possible to conceive children of their own, Kim's parents adopted 2 children through Catholic charities. They also become foster parents to a son who was never able to be adopted. When Kim's mother was 30, she gave birth to a daughter. Eight years later what she thought was the flu was actually Kim - biological daughter #2.

So Kim and I figured this was the way we would create our own family. We became licensed foster parents in Austin in 2002. Madison was our second placement and is our oldest daughter. She was placed in our home at 13 days old. Maddie is 8 years old and in the 2nd grade. McKenzie, age 5, is now in kindergarten and came home to us at 17 months old. Morgan, age 2, is McKenzie's biological sister and came home to us directly from the hospital. My children are 2 years, 3 months, and 2 days part apart. All 3. Yep. Let that sink in.

On the rare occasion I have leisure time, I love to knit - maybe too much. It is a huge de-stresser for me and I love it. I can't make anything with shape but I can create blankets of varying sizes and scarves. I also love to read, go to the movies, and travel.

Why did you decide to write your book?

I wrote Brown Babies Pink Parents to share with other parents the lessons I never learned in preparing to be the mother of African American children. When we became foster parents, it never occurred to me that we would parent so many African American children. I had no idea how to comb hair or care for skin. You should have seen me slathering babies in Johnson & Johnson lotion every time I changed a diaper and wondering, "Why isn't this working?" I knew I needed to incorporate people of color into our life but I had no idea how to do that. I had no idea how to teach my daughter how to be black in America. There was no instruction manual! I read every book I could find on transracial parenting and they all seemed to be written by social workers, therapists, or bitter adoptees. After reading all of these, I still didn't know how to comb hair or how to connect to the black community. Somebody needed to write a book and somebody turned out to be me.

What is the book's main message?

The message of the book is love. I love my children more than I do the next breath I am going to draw. I recognized early on that I didn't have the necessary life skills to teach my kids the lessons they would have to learn in order to successfully navigate this world. I love them with every cell in my body, but love is not enough. More is required of me. White parents can raise black children, but it requires reaching beyond our comfort zone.

I have been asked why we didn't adopt one of "our own" (meaning a white baby). If someone were to ask you that question, how would you respond?

I love the ones God gave me to love.

What's one important lesson your children have taught you?

Just one? That's tough. My kids have taught me, and continue to teach me, that I don't have to know everything or have it all figured out. I don't need to have a ready answer or the right thing to say. I just have to show up and be in the moment with them.

What's coming up for you? Can we expect another book?

I don't know about another book yet. Something in my gut says yes, but I have no idea what it will be. I can tell you my #1 priority these days is to take the message of transracial parenting to the national level by growing our non-profit organization, Parenting Across Color (http://parentingacrosscolor.com/). Since the book launched, I have received dozens of requests for a local support group like the one we have in Austin. Parenting Across Color began as a local parenting group but we have since incorporated and gained tax exempt status. We are actually in conversation with an NFL player who was transracially adopted to become the national spokesperson for PAC. This is such an exciting time for PAC and every day brings something new. Stay tuned!


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GIVEAWAY: Enter to win a copy of Amy Ford's book! There are many ways to enter:


1: Become a blog follower and leave me a comment on this blog post telling me you did so.


2: Post this giveaway on your blog or Facebook and leave me a comment telling me you did so.


3: Post a link on your Facebook page or your blog to "Rachel's Sugary Sweet Suggestions" (Amazon store) and leave me a comment telling me you did so.
Note: Please leave a separate comment for each "item" completed. :) Thanks!


You have from now until March 4th at noon (CST) to enter. A winner will be drawn at random and announced on that day. The winner has 48 hours to e-mail me (supagurlrae at hotmail dot com) his or her full name and address. If I'm not contacted by then, I'll post a new winner.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Foster Care

My heart is incredibly heavy for the children in foster care.

I live in the St. Louis area. There are some affluent, lovely areas in the city, but there are also some really tough areas, places hit hard by crime and poverty. Seemingly every night, there's a story on the news about a parent who does something crazy-abusive to a child. For example, a few weeks ago there was a story of mom who punished her six-year-old daughter (for bed wetting) by bathing her in ice cold water, resulting in hypothermia and hospitalization. What?!? First off, six year old kids wet the bed sometimes. Second, what's the big freaking deal? But apparently, it was a big deal.

Miss E's interim care mother (the mom who had her for a few days until we could go to court for custody) got a call for a baby, an infant, with TWENTY ONE broken bones. How is that even possible?

Another news story. Man gets mad at girlfriends 22 month old son and throws him into the wall. Seriously?

I know, I'm not talking about rational, normal parents here. But I can't help but feel my heart breaking for these precious children.

I cannot imagine someone picking up my infant and throwing her into a wall because she was crying too much. Or shoving my toddler into ice cold waters because she had a pee-accident. Every time I hear a horrifying story, I think, that's a child who needs love, who needs a home, who needs a CHANCE. I put my child's face on that child in the news story, and I immediately want to cry.

This is going to sound crazy to some of you, but about a month ago, I became determined that we would take foster care classes offered in March and open our home to infant and toddler foster children. I know! I have an infant (three months old) and a 2-year-old. Life is already crazy-busy at times. But things kept happening that made me think...why not us?

The more I contemplated foster care, the more I was certain it's for us. For a few days, television shows and songs were talking about foster care. I flipped on the radio one afternoon to hear a Christian band (Mike's Chair) singing "Changing the World": "Something here is wrong/there are children without homes/but we just move along to take care of our own/there's so much suffering right outside our door/a cry so deafening/we just can't ignore." Then I would hear Carrie Underwood sing "Temporary Home." Then I was watching a police show where a young lady was being kicked out a foster home without any of her belongings. And I felt my heart ache and ache and ache.

So I went to my Bible. But everything I was reading didn't say DO IT. Really, God? Seriously?

I flipped through Ecclesiastes and stumbled upon the "season" chapter (3:1-8). To everything there IS a season. Is this our season to do foster care? Then I read Ecc. 7:8, "The patient in spirit is better than the proud is spirit." Was God trying to tell me to shut up and wait instead of getting all full of myself about the good mother I am and could be to other kids? Perhaps this season of my life is to raise and focus on the ones I already have in front of me...

Then I read Matthew 6:33-34 which basically states that we are to seek God first in everything and then everything else will fall into place.

Matthew 7:24-27 talks about the wise building their house (or I take it, our plans) upon the rock (meaning Jesus) while the foolish build their house on the sand (which is easily swept away).

Even good intentions can be built on sand.

Our pastor often talks about the definition of sin. It means "to miss the mark." Sin doesn't always mean outright wrongdoing, intentional wrongdoing, or ill will. Interesting stuff.

It's so easy to miss the mark. When your heart strings are being pulled and pulled and pulled, doesn't that mean, in Nike's words, "Just do it"? Well, no.

The truth is, doing foster care, I strongly believe, is in our future because:

1: I believe WHY NOT? We have a healthy, happy home, a stable environment, space, love, and education. We have the support and love of other foster and adoptive families. We have a great agency to work with.

2: I believe Christians have a duty to stop saying, "I could never do that," and start thinking, "How could I do that?" or "Is God prompting me to do that?" (whatever "that" is). And this is coming from me---Miss Plan Everything Out Perfectly. God never intended, I don't think, for any of us to have pampered, pretty, perfect lives. I do believe, however, that He wants us to have BLESSED lives, and blessings come to us in imperfect, confusing ways sometimes. Somewhere, somehow, we have to put our hearts on the line and our faith into action.

3: We love children. I have never struggled with loving other people's kids. I have worked as a babysitter, nanny, camp class leader, Bible school teaching, ministry coordinator, etc. And each time, I loved those kids with my whole heart, believing in them, caring for them, and giving to them. A child doesn't have to be biologically mine to be "mine."

4: We believe in good ethics. Biological parents have a right to their children. (Now yes, the courts can get really screwed up and make bad decisions...but overall, as a general belief, we believe that children need to have the opportunity to be connected with their biological families). Doing foster care is a way for us to demonstrate our beliefs. The foster care system attempts to reunite biological families.

We have decided we will not do foster care during this season of our lives. And we made sure our reasons were sound, not excuses. I'm not saying "no." I'm saying, "Until." I don't want to "miss the mark" or jump into a season that God hasn't planned for us. I eagerly anticipate the day that we will say "yes" to foster care.

If you are interested in reading more about foster care, I have read a few books on the subject and hope you will, too.

Three Little Words
Damaged


I pray that you have the courage to say "yes" to whatever God is marinating in your soul.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Interesting Conversations

As a transracial, adoptive family, we've been subjected to a variety of comments, looks, and sounds (a sigh, a "uhhhh huhhhhh, a light laugh, etc.). Most, to be fair, have been positive.

The weekend before last, our family had three rather interesting adoption conversations with strangers.

1: We enter St. Louis Bread Company to eat lunch. We pick a seat near the gas fireplace (ahhhh). A family is sitting at the table on the other side of the fireplace: mom, dad, six-year-old daughter, and a infant. The daughter spots us, immediately walks over, and asks me, "Are those your kids?"

I say to her, "Yes. They are adopted." (I can tell she's asking because we don't "match.") She proceeds to ask me a few more questions, and her parents just look on, not really disapproving or interjecting. I tell her, "A different mommy had them and couldn't take care of them, so we take care of them." The little girl asks, "Do they still see her [their other moms]?" I say, "Yes, they do get to see their birth moms." The little girl proceeds to tell me that her little sister uses different bottles than we do and her sister's name.

The mom tells her daughter it's time to order food. After they walk away, the dad leans my direction and says, "Thank you! You were so gracious." I responded that little kids her age are curious and the questions do not bother me.

(I really hope I did ok in this instance. A fellow adoptive mom of a ten-year-old said adoption is hard to explain until you can explain the "birds and the bees" simply because biology and "where do babies come from?" plays a huge part in adoption. Obviously I wasn't going to give this little girl THE talk, so I had to make-do).

2: So we eat our lunch and when we are about to leave, an older woman approaches us and says, "You have a beautiful family." We say thanks, and she tell us she has SIX daughters. I watch my husband's eyes widen. (After all, two is a lot of work...imagine 2 x 3!)

3: Communion was held at church the following day. Miss E was in the nursery, but Baby E was with us in church. As we proceeded up the aisle to take communion, I could feel stares of people. This isn't unusual considering 1: we are carrying a newborn and people love to look at babies and 2: our baby is obviously a different race. After church, an African American woman came up to my husband (as we were getting our girls ready to leave) and said, "It's so good you take care of those kids." My husband responded, "Well, they are our daughters." (The woman assumed the girls were foster babies, we think). She then smiled and made a few more comments before walking away.

Our family attracts attention. And I hope we can respond each time we are asked about our family in a way that is gracious, educational, and honest. I want my girls to be proud of what I say---never feeling ashamed, embarrassed, or angry. I want them to be proud of who they are, where they came from, and the possibilities that are ahead.

I have no idea the impact that my words will have on a stranger. I just hope that with God's wisdom and grace, that I say the right words for all involved.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

CUTE!!!!

One of my readers makes adorable adoption onesies for infants and toddlers as a way to raise money to adopt an AA baby. I hope you'll stop by her blog and check them out!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bonding (Plus Coupon @ the End for Lotion)

Daddy and Baby E



So here's how domestic infant adoption generally works.

The adoptive family gets the call that the baby they are matched with has been born. They could have known a long time that they were matched, or they could have not known at all because the situation was a "cold call" (meaning, the birth family chose adoption and an adoptive family after the baby's birth).

The adoptive family meets the baby. The adoptive family then welcomes the baby into their home, usually after they have custody. (If they do not have custody but take the baby home, this is called a "legal risk placement" meaning the birth family hasn't officially/legally terminated their parental rights).

And then, what?

Newborns do keep new parents on their toes. There's diapers, tears, feedings (and the dreaded night feedings), baths, snuggle times, doc appointments, and of course, these things are now added to the already long list of daily tasks---work, school, chores, errands, meetings, travel, etc.

Let me get this out of the way: Can you bond with a baby whom you didn't carry in you for forty weeks? YES. Can you bond with a baby who doesn't look a thing like you? YES. Can you bond with a baby who has TWO moms and TWO dads? YES. Can you bond with a baby who was thrust into your arms and whom you knew you were taking that baby away from his or her biological family? YES.

How long does that take? How do you do it?

I will first say, I'm not expert. I'm one woman with one experience. But, I hope I can offer some insight.

First, how long does it take? There is no norm, I don't think. There are so many factors---the way the adoption happened, the type of adoption, the child's personality, the parents' personalities, time, background, etc. I think that if it begins to feel like too long, professional help should be sought. Just remember, a pregnant woman has nearly a year to bond with her baby. So perhaps that is the norm?

Second, how do you do it? How do you bond with this baby who wasn't yours a few days/months ago and is now yours forever?

A few suggestions:



  • Skin to skin contact. Parents who have babies in fragile medical situations are often encouraged to place their child on their bare chests. I have read various experts say this is incredibly soothing for the baby and helps parents bond with babies who are stuck in hospitals. Skin to skin contact is intimate and loving.

  • Sling that baby! I love my sling and use it often. My hands are free to do chores or do an activity with my two year old, yet I'm able to have my baby daughter against me. She can see my eyes, feel my heartbeat, and recognize my scent.

  • Eye to eye contact. I have noticed that Baby E LOVES eye to eye contact. She's content being in my arms and looking into my eyes. Something about these moments increases security, love, and bonding.

  • Choosing an activity only you (and/or your spouse) do for your baby. For us, it's feedings and diaper changes. Occasionally, a babysitter will have to do these tasks for us, but our daughter is learning that Mom and Dad provide the food and take care of the yuck afterward. :) What's more loving than that? Plus, feeding times can be great eye contact and/or skin-to-skin times. I love my Boppy pillow which provides extra support and brings the baby closer to my face.

  • Cuddle and snuggle. This is hard for me to do during the day when I'm taking care of both girls. But after Miss E goes to bed, I usually hold Baby E while she drifts off to sleep and while she sleeps. And it's good for you! I once read that holding a new born boosts the positive and happy energies in the person holding the baby (whatever that's called scientifically, I don't know). And of course, this is time for the baby to grow more familiar with his or her new Mom or Dad.

  • Bath time. Again, baby is looking up at Mom or Dad. I talk to my baby through her whole bath (if I'm not trying to tame Miss E from dumping water on the baby's head). :) Once your baby gets past the scream-because-I-hate-bath-time-phase (hopefully that happens quickly), bath time can be awesome for eye to eye contact. Afterward, you can give your baby a good lotion rub down for some skin-to-skin contact.

  • Play time. Newborns don't play all that much, but after the first month or so, they are awake longer. I sometimes talk to my baby (often just saying her name in a sing-song voice) and just wait for her eyes to light up or for a smile. This counts as play. :) Again, great for eye to eye contact.

A few things I don't do (and this is just personal preference):



  • I don't deem middle-of-the-night-feedings as bonding time. I actually aim for no eye contact as I sleep train my baby. A mid-night feeding is all business. :) I keep the lights low, change the diaper half way through (so there's no sudden change of pace at the end), and don't talk.

  • I don't rock my babies to sleep, usually. I worked with Miss E so she'd fall asleep on her own, putting her to bed when she was sleepy but not sleeping. I'm trying the same thing with Baby E. So right before bed, I'm not trying to shove a squeaky toy in the baby's face.

  • I don't pass my baby around, especially when she is so new. Do others hold her, yes? But do I, upon entering a gathering or event, allow anyone and everyone to hold the baby? No. For one, it's sick season. For another, I'm trying to get my baby to bond with me, and I want her to see, feel, smell me as much as possible.

I, like many mothers, sometimes struggle with carving out time to create these moments. We have a lot on our plates! But babies are only so young for a short period of time, and bonding is so important.


What ways have you learned to bond with your adopted child?

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Here's how to get a coupon for Burt's Bees lotion----good for baby massage!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dear Bio Parent...

My girls, holding hands.


Writing letters to my children's biological parents is something I enjoy. But as you can guess, I love to write. :)



I admit, it was quite intimidating the first few times I wrote to my oldest daughter's birth mother. I didn't want to say anything that would upset her; after all, she had just given us her flesh and blood. How heartbreaking! But the more I wrote, the more confident I grew.



What I typically include in letters:


  • The child's height/weight, based on a recent doctor's visit, or our own measurements

  • How much/what she is eating.

  • Clothing size (to demonstrate growth).

  • Language development (new words/sounds)

  • Physical development (first steps? new tooth?)

  • Unique experiences---a trip to the zoo, Christmas, a family vacation, etc.

  • Firsts---first smile, first word, first bite of chocolate :)

  • Favorites---foods, activities, friends

  • Any hardships---an illness, a stage of defiance, unique challenges (biting---oh no!)

I also include a lot of pictures, anywhere from 10-25 per letter. I make sure to send a variety of photographs showing everyday and special activities. I usually write captions on the back with the date the photo was taken and what was going on in the picture. Do I include pics of the whole family? Sometimes, but most photos are just of the child by herself. If any professional pictures were taken, I always send the bio parents a copy or two.


At holidays I usually send a card, and this includes the smaller holidays like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Halloween, etc. I'm a card freak. :) The Hallmark ladies know me (and my girls) by name.


I believe it's best that the letters are honest and detailed. Just like a good conversation---there's some humor, there's some seriousness, there are details, and there's good old honesty.


I'm asked by many, how often do we send letters? Usually it's every other month. Why this time frame? It gives me time to get pictures copied and to send a hearty letter (usually 2 pages), and it isn't so far apart that the bio parents think we've forgotten about them.


How do I stay organized? I keep a running letter on my computer desktop at all times. If one of my girls does something interesting, has a first experience, sees the doctor, etc., I update the letter with that information. I can then save the letter so my daughters can read them in the future. Keeping a running letter is helpful so that I don't forget any details I want to share.


I usually print the letters on fun stationary, which I have plenty of. I want the letter to arrive bright and cheerful---not bland.


How do I sign the letters? This is often a detail adoptive parents struggle over. "Love"? "Sincerely"? Nothing at all but names? It really depends on the relationship. There is no perfect answer.


I think the point is---suck it up and do it! No matter your emotions as an adoptive parent, those letters usually mean A LOT to the biological parents. They entrusted you with their children, so why not put forth effort and enjoy the journey.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Family Fun

Like many of you, we've been stuck at home due to ice, snow, and sleet (0h my!) for weeks on end. Here we are enjoying one another's company----very closely. :) We miss the sunshine so much but snuggles and kisses are oh-so-lovely!
I've been making simple but delicious recipes for my family. For this, just cook the pasta of your choice (whole wheat is best!), add in a jar or two of pasta sauce, some spinach (I cook organic, frozen before mixing in), plus any other veggies of your choice (yellow squash, carrots, onions, etc.). Top with cheese (I love goat cheese) and bake for about 20 minutes (or until hot). It's easy to sneak in lots of fruits and veggies when you mix it in with favorites like pasta and cheese!

This is my version of pasta in white sauce. Instead of fat-laden Alfredo sauce, I place 1 package of light cream cheese, spices (of your choice), and 1/2 cup of water (from the pasta) in a sauce pan and cook over low-ish heat until creamy. Additionally, I cook whole wheat pasta in another pan, and veggies (frozen veggies used here: carrots, zucchini, and yellow sqaush) in another pan. I then sauteed some cherry tomatoes with spices in another pan. I keep my ingredients separate so each person can build his/her own pasta. Top with Parmesan cheese. This is YUMMY!
Enchiladas are easy to make! I buy small corn tortillas and place inside of them the ingredients of the person's choice. Mine were made with cheese, sour cream, and salsa (vegetarian) while my husband's contain hamburger. Roll each and place in a glass baking dish (sprayed with olive oil) seam-side down and top with store-bought enchilada sauce and cheese. Bake at 350 until hot, usually about 20 minutes. Serve with a side of peppers and onions that you saute in olive oil and spices of your choice.

This has been our weather lately. LOTS of ice, snow, and sleet. Here's Miss E trying to shovel snow. She's growing "like a weed" and does something new every single day (actually, every single moment). She's learning Bible verses, shapes, colors, new words/sentences, and mostly, many dance moves. She is an excellent big sister and tell us "baba" or "binky" when the baby cries.
Here we are making snow angels. I do realize this picture looks like a murder scene....

Here I am doing a stunt into a pile of snow. Yes, I'm cool like that.

Not to be topped...my husband does his own snow stunts.

Just when we thought we'd never see the sun again...Today is 60 and sunny! Miss E is enjoying bubbles. She spent lots of time running in circles through the yard, jumping on residual snow in Crocs (oh my---wet feet!), and waving at airplanes.

Meanwhile, Baby E continues to grow and change. She is "talking" nonstop, smiling, and enjoying the sights. Today the girls' babysitter and I took the girls for the first walk of the season (and Baby E's first walk ever).

I have no doubt the cold weather isn't over yet. So I'll keep the projects coming. Here's a photo of homemade cafe latte soap! Yum!!!! You can make this soap recipe (and many more) via Soapmaking the Natural Way by Rebecca Ittner. It's fun learning to create new things, and it's even more fun to say, "I made this!" and pass on the goodies to family members and friends.
I hope your home is a place of health and happiness! Cheers to a hopefully very soon spring season full of newness and light.





Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

November 2010
November 2008

In honor of Valentine's Day, I wanted to share with you two very special photographs: THE CALL pictures. We had our camera handy both times we got the call telling us we were chosen to become parents to a precious little girl. I am so thankful to have these photographs which remind us of how blessed we are.


I hope you find some time today to appreciate and honor yourself and those whom you love. Celebrate in a way that makes you happy---be it roses and a romantic dinner or donuts and an old movie. Reflect on the joyous moments in your life, relish in the smiles and laughter around you presently, and dream of a lovely future.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Is it ever clear?

Adoption is a topic that confuses me and consumes me.

If you would have asked me three and half years ago about adoption ethics, I would have scratched my head and said, "HUH?" Followed by, "Oh! You mean like making sure the birth mom gets counseling as she waits to give us her baby?"

GULP.

I recently viewed a blog of a matched adoptive family. The blog features a photo of "their" future child's ultrasound and the name of the baby. They already have ordered a book for the baby's Adoption Celebration Day for all guests to sign. And the date of the celebration and the baby's name is already engraved on the book (which there is a photo of on the blog). There was a baby shower, specific to the unborn baby, complete with nursery items with his future name and a cake featuring his name. They have stated that "our birthmother" lives in a specific state (state is named).

This couple seems perfectly nice, but the disclosure of very personal details and the in-utero photograph on a public blog, for a baby not even born yet, is astonishing to me. I want to scream at them, THAT BABY ISN'T YOURS. If and until the expectant mother signs consents, that baby isn't theirs. And I want to smack agencies for allowing any of these ideas to be truths in the eyes of waiting adoptive families. Where is the education? The ethics?

Adoptive parents often blindly trust their chosen agency. After all, professionals know best, right? And it's a lot of money a couple is putting in on top of trust. So the alliance with the agency begins, the trust begins, even if it isn't earned, well researched, or well thought-out.

Where is the true compassion and respect for this woman who is pregnant? Where do the ethics stand? And what about the adoptee, the unborn child, who cannot right now speak for himself?

As I became more experienced in adoption through reading, online discussions, friendships, and personal experiences, I found my adoption beliefs becoming both more concrete and more blurred.

The truth is, there are no easy answers. And dare I say, many times there are no perfect answers or right answers.


I've been reading the blog of the young woman on MTV's 16 and Pregnant, Ashley Salazar, who chose adoption, then decided to parent after her baby had been with the adoptive parents for a few days, and then after a month of parenting, Ashley returned her baby to the adoptive family. Talk about torture. Ashley's baby, Callie, is over a year old now, and Ashley blogs about her raw emotions as she lives with her decision to give Callie back to the adoptive family.

I've been re-reading one of my favorite adoption books, The Girls Who Went Away. If you have never read this book, it's an absolute MUST read. It will blow your mind. The book consists of stories by women who placed their babies for adoption before Roe v. Wade; this was during a time when there were two options for an unmarried, pregnant young lady. 1: Get married and say the baby was premature. 2: Give the baby up for adoption. Can you imagine a world like that? Single parenting is normal now. Women have options. But guess what? The adoption system as a whole, 30/40/50 years later, is still really screwed up. There are issues, major issues, heart wrenching issues that adoptive families, biological parents, and adoptees deal with.

And you know why I think that is? On one hand, yes, there are corrupt, unethical agencies and individuals who are manipulating moms into placing their babies. But on another hand, it's because adoption, at the heart of it, isn't natural. Housing and bonding with a baby for forty weeks and then giving that child to two people who are essentially strangers just isn't natural.

I'm often asked why I have my girls. This question comes to me in various forms. The annoying, "Why didn't her parents want her?" (Oh no, she didn't just ask me that...) Or, "Why couldn't they keep her?" Or, "Why did they give her up?" Or, the vague but clear, "What's your daughter's story?"

These reasons are deeply personal, and furthermore, I don't necessarily know the whole story and concrete answers. I'm not sure I need to know or want to know. My heart is already so full and heavy with adoption contradictions, that I'm not sure I have room for much more.


Fessler's book offers some interesting insight into the perspectives of birth mothers. One birth mother shares, "You hear about people's lives being touched by adoption. It's no damn touch. I mean, that just drives me nuts. You're smashed by adoption. I mean, it alters the mothers' lives forever" (97). Another birth mother wrote, "That baby is with them [the birth mother] every breath they take, every second of their lives. Every prayer, that baby is with them forever" (132). And finally, a part of the book that haunts me, is a birth mother who wrote, "I will never have peace. I will never have peace" (173).

Despite my conflicting feelings, I continue to torture myself with more reading. :) I'm addicted to learning. I can't help it.

I also just finished reading The Third Choice: A Woman's Guide to Placing a Child for Adoption by Leslie Foge and Gail Mosconi. I didn't read this book to confirm our choice to adopt. I read it to learn more about another side of adoption, the birth mother's perspective. (Note: This book was written by adoption professionals, not birth mothers). I did learn that open adoption can help take the sting away from insecurity regarding the child's well being with the adoptive family: "Some early critics of open adoption expressed concern that birthmothers would not be able to handle the ongoing relationship with their birthchild and that the openness would make it more difficult to separate form the child. In general, we have not found this to be true. As a matter of face, in the vast majority of open adoptions in which we are involved, birthmothers are actually able to separate more easily because they can see for themselves that the child is safe and happy and that the adopting parents love the child as their own" (25). Interesting. This seems to be the case in both of our adoptions---that the hardship of placing the children with us is always present, but there is trust and security in our relationship because of our openness. I never thought about this as a potential benefit of open adoption, but I digress....

This is a mess of a post. I'm not sure I have a point.

What I know is that I'm thankful for my daughters, for their biological families, and for the life God has blessed me with. I'm not sure this whole adoption thing will ever be clear. I'm not sure it needs to be. Perhaps it's just too much for a person to grasp. Or perhaps humans are just too corrupt to ever get the truth if it slapped us in the face and said, "I AM THE TRUTH!" I don't know.

My heart aches for the women who placed their babies (long ago or recently) and will never have peace. I'm not sure one can have peace about something as unnatural as handing her baby over to another family FOREVER. I would hope that with time, there's grace, there's understanding, there's self-awareness, there's productivity, but peace, I'm just not sure that can happen.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Let Go


I have never been one to relax. I'm like my dad: passionate, hyper, enthusiastic. I get a good idea, and I'll turn it into an action in two seconds.


As I learn what it's like to be a full time SAHM again (I first did it for eight months with my first daughter), I'm creating a to-do list because that's what I do. I'm project and goal oriented.


I've been trying to figure out how to teach Bible verses to my daughter and incorporate that into our daily routine. I'm also planning to start teaching her (more formally) her shapes, letters, and colors. I wanted to implement a date night with my husband once a month and a reading night for our family once a week. Miss E and I have Mommy and Me Dance Class once a week. I have my adoptive mama group I facilitate. I workout every morning. I'm in the process of learning to make homemade soap. Then there's dishes, laundry, cooking, errand running, cleaning...you get the point.


One day I was venting on Facebook about my to-do list, and a mommy-friend of mine posted something so simple and wise: You have two babies. It's ok.


She's right. So what if my daughter can't recite a Bible verse perfectly and I haven't mopped in two weeks? If Miss E claims that the red block is green, at least she's saying a color! :) If we have on our pjs until 1:00 in the afternoon because we were playing all morning, so what?


Again, I am so blessed to have this time at home with my girls. I realize this is a privilege, and I should take full advantage of it. Life isn't a project or a checklist. It is, to be cliche, a journey, and it really is "ok" to just let life happen.


I will constantly channel my purpose and passion into doing what I think is best for my family, but with two babies, a husband, a house, diabetes, and my writing career, my plate is full. So I'm leaving room, lots of room, for "dessert." :)


Cheers to wise friends and letting go! And remember, it's ok to say no!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

RESOURCES GALORE!

I believe in self-education for many reasons.

1: "Experts" aren't perfect. FIVE medical professionals failed to diagnose me with type I diabetes over the span of a year-and-a-half. I had every classic symptom of type I, yet not one of FIVE medical professionals thought to do something simple: test my blood sugar. I'm not knocking all doctors (though some are brutal!) as I do currently have a wonderful medical team which helps me manage my diabetes, but I know that above all, as my mother taught me, I'm in charge of myself. So, it should come to no surprise that I believe...

2: You are in charge of yourself. You cannot fully rely nor blame others for things which you ultimately decide upon/have control over. Ignorance is NOT bliss. Knowledge is power. Why give that power away?

3: Each of us is accountable for personal decisions. I believe in making empowered, confident, wise choices. Our decisions almost always impact other lives as well as our own. Someone is always watching----be it another adult or your own children or spouse.

I have been asked by many adoption friends for my ever-growing list of adoption resources. I have read all or in-part every single book on my list. Books are fabulous because readers can digest them slowly and when the time is right. They can be referred back to time and time and time again.

I'm thrilled to share with you my resources on the topics dearest to my heart---adoption (resources for parents and children) and good health. You can always check out my growing list right below my blog title which links you to my Amazon store.

I am so excited about this resource list!

Happy reading! Happy shopping! Explore! Grow! Learn! :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Baking = Love

Miss E trying to figure out if she will take on the challenge of an almond-oatmeal bath or not.
Oatmeal bath mix (recipe from ECOBEAUTY) ready for use! Smells DELISH!
Miss E's new apron.
Miss E admiring the heart she cut out.
First attempt at whole wheat sugar cookies with homemade icing.

Cheesecake---my latest obsession. The crust is a mix of vanilla and chocolate organic sandwich cookies. Yum!

Background cookies: Almond Spice (love them!). The front: Pumpkin Chocolate Cookies.
Our favorite cookies: Double Chocolate! (Recipe link below).

We love love love to bake around here. Pretty much every other day, we are making a cheesecake, some cookies, brownies, etc. And if we aren't baking a dessert, we are making up a new beauty product from a yummy, eco-friendly recipe, like the ones found in ECOBEAUTY by Janice and Lauren Fox.

Baking is an excellent activity for young kids for many reasons.
  • Baking teaches direction following.
  • Baking teaches math: measurements, volume, etc.

  • Baking can teach colors and textures and temperatures.

  • Baking helps create bonding moments and memories.

  • Baking teaches patience.

  • Baking allows for lots of creativity.

  • Baking is an art project.

  • Baking allows for indoor fun on bad-weather days.

  • Baking teaches tradition (bake an old family recipe).
  • Baking can be sharing (take your baked goods to someone to brighten his/her day).


I started baking a lot in college when I was drowning in grad school under stacks of books and student essays. If I needed some stress relief, I whipped up a tried-and-true batch of chocolate chip cookies (and then took them to my peers or students).

Happy Baking Tips:

  • Find a go-to recipe, like our family's favorite cookie, but don't be afraid to try new recipes often. I have a folder that I keep in my kitchen where I place recipes to try that I find in magazines, online, or gather from friends.

  • Learn how to bake healthfully for your family. Experiment with whole wheat flour, nuts and flaxseed, dark chocolate, organic dairy like eggs and cream cheese, agave nectar etc. (Another major benefit to baking is that you control the ingredients unlike store-bought goods). Because of my diabetes, it's important to me to know what I'm putting into my body. (Note: I do not believe in using fake sugars or fat free products. Real food in moderation is best!)

  • Always keep baking ingredients on hand. You never know when your two-year-old will ask to bake cookies. How can you say no? :)

  • Invest in some kid-friendly baking gear---bigger bowls (to allow for stirring messes), fun aprons (we have many!), etc.


  • Utilize your freezer. We may bake a lot, but we don't eat cookies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We freeze our baked goods and keep a lovely variety around at all time for when the cookie-mood strikes us. And we, of course, give away lots of baked goods, too!
  • Read about the fun of baking! My daughter's favorite book is Mr. Cookie Baker, and I enjoy reading Sugar Cookies to her.

I hope you create a happy kitchen by baking and cultivate traditions and memories that will pleasure your family for years.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

February: Valentine Fun and Black History Month Activities

Our family's handprints holding up a heart (with plenty of excess glue, courtesty of Miss E) Is she saying there's room for more hands? :)
Valentine decor made super-simple: hang plastic heart cookie cutters from ribbon around your kitchen/dining area light fixture. This makes an excellent "mobile" for infants and toddlers and adds some Valentine cheer to your home.

Ready-to-bake stoplight cookies! Yum!





Miss E's "I Have a Dream" collage.



Sweethearts!





Happy February!

I've never been a big fan of Valentine's Day. I don't like flowers (I'm allergic), traditional chocolate (I like fancy stuff), and I'm not one for jewelry beyond a few key pieces I wear often. I'm a vegetarian, so no steak dinners here.

But now that we have little one's, Valentine's Day calls for Valentine decor around the house, a little gift (this year, a book for each girl that fits her likes---for Miss E a book on going to the potty, and for Baby E, a book on bath time since she finally likes taking a bath), maybe some heart-shaped PB and J sandwiches, etc. We're planning a family Valentine dinner at a restaurant (probably St. Louis Bread Co---nothing fancy) where the girls will wear their tutus (of course!).

Great books to read this Valentine's Day include...
That's Love (Beautifully colorful!)
Kiss Kiss (Fun book with unique illustrations)
A Special Kind of Love (For dads and sons---beautiful book!)
TRUELOVE (Great for pet lovers)
Henry In Love (A blueberry muffin brings two young friends together---so sweet!)
Sugar Cookies: Sweet Little Lessons on Love (Love everything about this book!)
You Are My I Love You
You and Me


Then there's Black History Month. A dear friend of mine sent me several websites that offer ideas for your little ones to creatively celebrate this month. Check out Gayle's Preschool Rainbow, Barbara Shelby's suggestions, and Family Education.

So far, we've made stoplight cookies (simply use a standard cookie recipe, we used PB, shape into rectangles, and then line up red, yellow, and green M&Ms to represent the lights before baking) to celebrate the man who invented the stop light. We glued cotton balls to a blue sheet of construction paper and wrote "I Have a Dream" on it to celebrate Martin Luther King. We traced each family member's hand on a shade of paper that matched his/her skin tone and glued the hands together which hold up a heart. I printed out a Rosa Parks coloring sheet for my daughter to color, and we're going to illustrate Langston Hughes' "Dreams" poem. And as usual, we'll be reading from our large collection of African American-geared books. You can find many books geared toward AA history in a box below my title called "Rachel's Sugary Sweet Suggestions."

So February, a month I usually dreaded with it's excessive coldness and red roses, has now become a favorite time of year in my household!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

AND THE WINNER IS....

Kristy said...
"Great interview, Rachel. I am trying to start to go a more eco-friendly route, and even if I don't win the book I will definitely check it out! I'd love to try a mask in Gracie's hair!"

Kristy, CONGRATS! Please e-mail me (supagurlrae at hotmail dot com) your full name and home address. I'll ship your book to you next week! Please e-mail me within 48 hours, or a new winner will be drawn.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Interview and Giveaway!

Photos of the homemade banana hair mask. It works VERY well. Beware if you have white-lady hair. It can make your hair greasy for days. But after a few washes, my hair looks fab! Miss E enjoyed wearing the shower cap while the mask soaked in.


Happy Black History Month!!!


Green, natural, healthy living is a subject near and dear to my heart.

I care about green living more than ever for a few reasons:

1: The Bible begins with the story of creation. Obviously, the earth and all that is on it matters to God.

2: I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes in March of 2006---a wake up call. I realized that diabetes was my opportunity to make positive changes in how I cleaned, cooked, ate, exercised, beautified, etc. As an online adoption friend once said, "When you know better, you do better." :)

3: And now, with all I know, I want to model greener living for my daughters, husband, friends, and family.

Always, one will find stacks of health-minded books (including my Bible) on my nightstand. And recently, a friend handed me a copy of ECOBEAUTY. I instantly fell in love with the book.

MOTIVATION FOR CHANGE: Having brown kids, as many of my readers do, means we have to pay special attention to their hair and skin. So not only was I overhauling my beauty products (meaning, tossing a TON of stuff), but I was trying to figure out the best products and processes for my two brown baby girls (one of whom has eczema).

So after flagging numerous recipes (such as "Oatmeal Cookie Bath" and "Pumpkin Pie Mask"---yum!!!), I decided to contact the book's co-author, Janice Cox, who graciously agreed to not only allow me to interview her, but she offered a giveaway! An autographed copy of ECOBEAUTY for one of my lucky readers!

What I love about the book is that most ingredients are already in your kitchen! They are green, safe, inexpensive, and delicious! (If you have daughters, think how fun it would be to have a spa party!)

So first, the interview:

Q: I think many women want to go natural/green but don't know where to start. There is so much information, much of it conflicting. If you could offer women (and their families) one piece of advice on how to get started, what would it be?

I’ll bet they are already doing “green” things right now without really thinking about it. Getting back to basics, reading labels, being healthy, re-using items and saving money these are all things that are natural and green. Being Natural or Green is not really a shift in lifestyle but a shift in how you think about your life.

Q: Tell me about yourself---anything you want to share.

I live in Medford Oregon, have been married for 24 years and have two wonderful daughters who are both in college right now. I have a passion for Natural Beauty and DIY recipes and am the author of four books on the subject along with hundreds of magazine articles. I also love to do craft projects, cook and travel.

Q: Your daughter is a freshman in college and is already an author! Tell us what you love about being a mom.

Actually my one daughter is a Freshman at the University of Arizona and the other one is a Senior at UCLA . Nothing prepares you for Motherhood but what I love most about it is the pure Joy it brings into your life. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moments and making the best of it, without knowing what is going to happen next – Motherhood is definitely all of these things and more. The good times definitely outweigh those challenging days and even now a simple, “I love you Mom” can totally make my day – that is the “ctrl alt delete” of Motherhood !

Q: Why is it important that moms and kids go natural in their beauty treatments and body care?

I believe less is more and being able to take care of your hair and skin with all natural and simple ingredients and products can produce amazing results. What you choose to use is a matter of personal choice but if you can look great and save time and money with all natural and simple products – I think that is the way to go! I am all about looking and feeling terrific, being healthy and saving money.

Q: You have obviously modeled for your daughter the importance of natural living. What other lessons have you taught your daughter?

I just want my girls to be strong and love the life they live. I have always stressed that we live our choices and both of my girls have made good choices with the way they live their lives and how they treat others. I am very proud of both of them and can only take partial credit for the young women they have become. All the credit goes to them.

Q: Tell my readers where they can find you online and what you are working on next.

You can find my books online at many of the online bookshops like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Borders. I also have a website http://www.janicecox.com/ which I am in the process of upgrading but I do send out quarterly newsletters with tips, recipes and ideas. I am also now on Facebook and love that! It is fun to interact with other Natural Beauty Fans and Mothers.


Q: Do you have a motto for life? What is it?

Yes – I believe we are all born with a Natural Beauty and it is how we choose to use it that makes us truly beautiful.

Q: My blog readers consist mostly of busy moms. For a woman who might feel she is too busy to learn about living naturally, what advice can you offer her?

I would not stress over this; simply take it one step at a time. Start with one simple change like mixing up a fresh facial mask and treating themselves to a bit of pampering –my favorite is plain yogurt with a bit of honey added. Think easy, simple and fun and you will be fine. Also talk to family members it is amazing how many natural living tips I learned from my Grandmother. It really is true what they say there are not very many new ideas but many improved upon ideas!

---

And the giveaway....

One blog reader will win an autographed copy of ECOBEAUTY. You may leave up to four comments (four separate entries). How do you enter?

1: Become a follower of this blog, and leave a comment telling me you did so.

2: Promote this blog entry and giveaway on Facebook, and leave a comment telling me you did so.

3: Promote this blog entry and giveaway on your own blog, and leave a comment telling me you did so.

4: Leave a comment responding to something said in Janice's interview that resonated with you.

THE NITTY GRITTY: The giveaway entry time begins today and ends at noon (central time) on February 5th. On February 5th, I will post the winner's name (drawn randomly) in a new blog entry. If you are the winner, please contact me within 48 hours by leaving a comment with your e-mail address. I will then contact you for shipping information, and your book will be on its way! If the winner doesn't contact me within 48 hours, a new winner will be drawn.


Thanks to Janice for her time and talent. May we all go a little greener, and therefore, a lot healthier! Cheers!