Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Choosing a Name


We are often asked who named our children---us or the birth parents?


Our girls both have birth names, and we chose to incorporate their birth names into the names we gave them.


We wanted to honor where they came from, where they started, and who gave them life. But we also wanted to make sure the kids became ours and felt like ours, and one way to do that, we felt, was for us to name our children.

We wanted our children to have non-traditional names. I feel that they are unique, and their names should reflect that. We also wanted names that started with a vowel.


Naming a child is such an honor, a blessing, and a responsibility. We spent many many many (to my husband's dismay, at times) hours discussing names. I checked dozens of baby name books out from the library, searched online, and discussed names with other parents.


My advice is that an adoptive couple carefully consider the child's birth name and the wishes of the biological family when naming the child. Arguably, the child's name is the one thing a biological family gives the child (obviously besides life and an adoptive family) that can always stay with that child. I'm not completely for or against name changes, but my hope is that the circumstances and feelings of all parties are considered when a decision is made. You can read more about naming your child here.


Proverbs 22:1: "A good name is more desirable than great riches."

Friday, March 25, 2011

You Are What You Eat...Really.

Raw food snack.
More raw foods.

Dinner one night---yum!



More healthy snacks.


Miss E enjoying her nachos.




I'm often asked nutritional questions. Not because I have any letters behind my name or because of a degree in anything medically related (I have an MA in Teaching of Writing). I'm asked because I am always learning about nutrition. Always. To the point of yes, driving myself crazy sometimes.

My love of nutrition started with my type I diabetes diagnosis five years ago (yesterday). All the sudden, I was told to count EVERY carbohydrate I put into my mouth in order to calculate my insulin dosages. Mind you, I HATE math. HATE it. Unless I'm calculating a percentage off of an item at the mall. Then math is my friend. But division, addition, subtraction, multiplication, square roots, anything algebra related, calculus---oh my! My anxiety issues (with panic attacks) started and ended with math classes. Yep, it's that bad.


But then when I was told I had a forever and ever and ever disease, one that THRIVED and depended on, gulp, math, I had to get over my anxiety and insecurity and start learning and conquering.


And that's when it started.


I've had a rocky relationship with food. Diabetes does that to the best of us. I used to consume loads of fake sugars (yet wasn't satisfied...) and carbs galore (as long as I cover it with proper insulin, that's ok right?). But the more I learned, the more I changed...for the better.


Becoming a mother made me even more aware of the importance of eating a healthy diet. I didn't want to fill my children with poisons because the foods featured cartoon-character packaging, claims like "made with whole grains" or "low fat" that attempt to cover up unhealthy truths, colorful foods (unnaturally colorful---think Fruit Loops and Pop Tarts), or because I was "supposed" to feed them certain foods like a "Happy" Meal (what is so happy about that, really...) or Lunchables.

Here's the eating guidelines I tend to follow. And when I say "guidelines," let's just say I DO NOT believe in diets. Ever. Any "diet" will not work long term. Period. What I am listing here is how I live, decisions made out of years of research and trial and error, and my family follows the same guidelines:

  • Vegetarian. Why? For one, I've never liked meat. For another, organic meat is really expensive, and traditional meat is full of unhealthy chemicals, hormones, preservatives, and fats. Eating vegetarian, I believe, is healthy (if there's a balanced diet) and saves families a lot of money. There is such a thing as being a flexitarian (like my husband) who eats meat sometimes but also dabbles in vegetarianism. The Food Pyramid puts a lot of emphasis on meat...because guess what? The government deals heavily with


  • Organic (as much as possible). Why? Peace of mind. Though organic doesn't equal healthy (there are organic pre-packaged cookies and chips), choosing organic produce, dairy products, condiments, etc. provides a person with a basic promise---what can and cannot be in those products IF those products are labeled organic by the USDA.


  • Minimal. The fewer ingredients listed on a package, the better. And if you can't understand what a particular ingredient is, it's probably because it's not something you should be consuming. And if you eat a lot of produce, good! That means there is probably no nutritional label to read and decipher.


  • Raw. We are currently working to add more raw foods to our diet. The thought is that important enzymes in foods are destroyed and/or reduced when foods are heated above 118 degrees. Raw foods are so healthy---nuts, nut butters, seeds, fruits, veggies, etc.!


  • Homemade. I try to make as many of our family's foods as possible. Does that mean I'm making my own special pasta sauce on a weekly basis? No. I don't have THAT much time. :) But I don't get our dinners out of boxes or from a fast food chain. I carefully plan out weekly menus, shop accordingly, and enjoy good, real food. We bake our own desserts. Homemade isn't just for nutritional benefit---it also brings the family together in the kitchen.


  • Real. Real foods. Why? Because the more the food has been manipulated, the more fake stuff in it, the unhealthier it is for you. I have diabetes, and fake sugars are heavily marketed to people in my community, but I don't use them. Fake sugars have been proven to make people, over time, GAIN, not lose, weight.


  • Balanced. I strive (though don't keep track of) to feed my family a balanced diet. This means protein (eggs, nuts, beans, cheese), produce (fresh and frozen are best), healthy grains (love my Trader Joe's Seeded Bread Rolls), and desserts. Yes, desserts. Variety is the spice of life, and dessert is the "icing on the cake." We do, occasionally, eat out--and yep, that includes some French fries and stuffed-crust pizza. ;)

What You Can Do As a Parent:




  • Learn to read a nutrition label and ingredients lists. This is crucial! This process takes time. You have to learn the different names for ingredients. For example, in the future, high fructose corn syrup will be labeled as "corn sugar." So while an uneducated consumer scans a label for HFCS, the ingredient can still be in the food, just under another name. MSG, a controversial additive, can be labeled under many terms.

  • Learn the benefits of eating organic foods. Eating all organic is expensive, but you can start by learning about the "Clean 15" and the "Dirty Dozen." I carry a copy of the list in my wallet to reference when I'm grocery shopping.


  • Be careful whom/what you trust. I can emphasize enough that there is no magic diet to follow. If someone claims to have THE answer, run. Quickly. A good expert will offer researched advice but be honest enough to say that there are possibilities and opportunities elsewhere. And never follow a diet that tells you to eliminate entire food groups or requires detox or starvation. PUL-EEZE!


  • Learn nutritional basics. A person's body needs a balance of proteins, healthy fats, and carbs. A registered dietitian is a wonderful resource if your insurance covers his/her services.

  • Be an example! You can't tell your child to "eat your veggies" while you gnaw on a a KFC chicken breast. Well, you can, but it's not very effective.


  • Get rid of the crap. Cleaning out your pantry, fridge, etc. will empower you. Replace the stuff you no longer want in your house with the foods you do. A powerful tip I often read is to place healthy foods in sight---fruits on the counter, veggies in the front of the fridge, etc.


  • Consider reducing meat consumption by experimenting with vegetarian recipes.


  • Utilize the Internet, the library (book and DVD loans), and/or a magazine subscription swaps to save money while making changes.

ABOVE ALL....


  • Make small, steady changes. You can do it! You are beautiful and worthy of healthy eating. And your family deserves the very best!

Monday, March 21, 2011

White Girls Everywhere!

Some of our brown baby dolls.
LOVE this! One of Baby E's Christmas gifts---a "basket" of six dolls. Two are white, two are light brown, and two are dark brown. Beautiful!





I was letting my daughter have some rare TV time while I put her hair into puffs. On comes a commercial for Lalaloopsy dolls. I was intrigued by their cuteness...until I saw two things that disturbed me. First, out of the TWELVE dolls, there is ONE who has brown skin. ONE. Second, this doll is clearly supposed to be African American, but her hair is a layered blond bob. Seriously? It's like the doll could be black but not TOO black. Sigh!




On one hand, I want my daughter to know that she has amazing hair and when old enough, can do with it as she chooses. If she wants to go blond, fine. If she wants to wear it in a huge afro, fine. If she wants it straight, ok, but if she stays curly, fine. Weave? Sure. Dreads? Whatever. Cut it super short or wear it long---great.




But we're talking about a little girl's toy. And I want my daughter's toys to reflect girls who would realistically look like her. AND, I want her to have options. So she can only choose one of one brown doll if she wants a doll that's brown, while little white girls have eleven options.




It kills me to see white privilege so glaringly apparent in the toy industry.




There are toy companies that make good efforts, no doubt. And yeah, there's nothing wrong with being white :) or having white parents, but black children need to see other black faces, even if they are just doll faces. And they don't need to be told by yet another source that white is better----white people hair, white people variety, white people options.




I'm trying to instill in my daughter that's she's beautiful, that her hair is fab, and that brown girls are just as special as white girls. I hate the little digs made by the toy industry (and the greeting card industry, and the ornament industry, and...). I doubt they are intentionally trying to ostracize black kids, but it sure seems like they aren't making a strong effort to show that black is beautiful either. There seem to be few companies that try to represent the rainbow of children in our world and give our children options to enjoy playing with a variety of ethnic toys. In fact, I spent hours this past November trying to find a black-girl themed Christmas stocking, but in the end, I had to have one made because everything I found featured white girls.




And with a strong turn, it seems, back to natural hair, black girls need to know that it's ok to be proud of their natural mane. Toys need to reflect true black hair---and in our household that means curly, coarse, and versatile.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Some Poetry, A Monument, and Resources

Miss E and her amazing eyelashes!


I recently checked out Nikki Giovanni's book The Best 100 African American Poems from my local library. (The book contains an audio CD!) Since my daughter is interested in repetition, memorization, and lyrical rhymes (be it a saying or a song), I thought this book would be an interesting read. I skimmed old favorites like "Harlem" by Langston Hughes and discovered new treasures, like this poem entitled "Who Can Be Born Black?" by Mari Evans:


Who

can be born black

and not

sing

the wonder of it

the joy

the

challenge.


And/to come together

in a coming togetherness

vibrating with the fires of pure knowing

reeling with power

ringing with the sound above sound above sound

to explode/in the majesty of our oneness

our comingtogether

in a comingtogetherness


Who

can be born

black

and not exult!



Also, I just recently heard about the MLK monument set to open this year and hope to visit. You can take a virtual tour here and read about the monument's features here.


I have a section in my Amazon store dedicated to African American resources. This section of my store contains video and book resources that discuss, dissect, and explore African American experiences, perspectives, and culture. This is the newest addition to my Amazon store, and I'm working to build up resources----so please be patient.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Two Ways to Get Connected

If you are a mom looking to connect with the African American community, Mocha Moms might be right for you! Sadly, there's no chapter in my area; however, you always have the option of starting your own group. Looks like they offer a variety of options. Mocha Moms isn't just for AA women---men and women of other races can join, too!

Granted, Adoption Month is long-gone (November), you can still find ways to incorporate adoption-minded activities, services, and fun into your life using this day-by-day guide from Adoptive Families. Enjoy!

Monday, March 14, 2011

How Our Adoption Journey Started

March 24 is the anniversary of my diabetes diagnosis (5 years this year!). I am blessed to be able to share my story with my friend Kerri Sparling, a popular type I diabetes blogger, and her readers. I hope you will check out my guest blog entry and explore Kerri's blog.


You can read more about my life as a mommy with a chronic disease in my latest article for Diabetes Health called, "The Thrill of the Syringe."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Open Adoption: Visits

Miss E walking around in my high heels.
My family is excited about our upcoming visit with both our girls' biological families.


Many people who are new to adoption or those who don't know much about adoption are often shocked and uncomfortable when they learn we are part of two very open adoptions. They don't understand why in the world we would allow our girls to see their biological families. There is the assumption that birth families should just move on or get over the adoption. There are also assumptions that birth families are bad, immature, detrimental, etc. people and therefore do not deserve to see their biological children.


What these individuals fail to realize:

---Biological parents do not "get over" the loss of their children, even when that loss is voluntary. My daughters will ALWAYS have a place in the hearts of their biological families, and my daughters will always have a part of them with their biological families.

---Birth parents are often every day people. To assume that someone who places a child for adoption is by default (according to what or whom? media stereotypes I guess....) someone who is addicted to drugs, is sexually promiscuous, isn't responsible, lacks ambition, etc. is simply an assumption. I knew a woman for years----a professional, a Christian, an active community member, a mother, a wife---who revealed to me she had placed a baby for adoption. You never know who is a birth parent.

---Open adoptions can involve loving, stable, trusting relationships.

---One thing is always in common---the biological parents and the adoptive parents love the child.

---Open adoption is a privilege for our family (and for many). To be able to foster and grow relationships between adoptive parents, biological family members, and the child is a blessing.

---Open adoptions yield continuous family history, medical history, culture, etc. that allows the adoptee (the child) to know where he/she came from and to grow in his/her identity as an adoptee. Some research suggests that relationships that yield information is so important to adoptees.


We were not always gung-ho about open adoption, as many adoptive parents are not at the beginning of their adoption journey, but the more we learned and read about open adoption and how past adoptions in earlier decades were detrimental to birth mothers, we knew open adoption was for us.


Open adoption, as I often tell others, requires that adoptive parents be very honest with themselves about the reality of their family situation. My daughters have TWO mothers, TWO fathers, siblings who don't live in the same homes. And that is ok. I cannot pretend I am either of my girls' sole mother. Though my role and their biological mothers' roles and responsibilities are quite different, reality is reality. And to not accept that reality, to not embrace it, will, I believe cause harm to the adoptee, insecurities in relationships, and eventually, major issues.


Many adoptive mothers (present or waiting) tell me, "I could NEVER be part of an open adoption." But we have to remember, raising kids isn't about us. It's not about our insecurities regarding infertility or loss of a pregnancy or fear of the adoptee's birth mother. It's about the child and raising that child to be the best adult he or she can be and sometimes (dare I say often?) that involves "sucking it up" and entering into an open adoption.


I strongly believe that knowledge is power. Learning about open adoption and growing in the idea of the possibility of a lasting relationship between biological and adoptive family members can be beneficial to all.


A totally open adoption isn't for everyone, and I do not think an adoptive family should ever agree to a open adoption situation they aren't comfortable with simply to get a child. And I do not ever believe in exposing a child to unsafe situations/people. BUT, I often hear so many excuses as to why open adoption isn't for an adoptive family, and their reasons are often oozing the truth: that they are too scared, too uneducated, too selfish.
Adoptive families need to consider the possibilities, including the multiple positive ones that can come from open adoption and work to make some adoption openness possible if the situation is safe for everyone involved. Possibilities might include pictures and letters, e-mail, texts, phone calls, and/or visits. There are various degrees of openness, but many can provide what I have read adoptees crave: information.
Our open adoptions didn't go from 0 to 60. With Miss E, we started with snail mailed pictures and letters, moved to include e-mails and texts, and now visits. With Baby E, our adoption moved more quickly into openness, but we felt secure and confident in our relationship for that to happen. Visits are joyous occasions, and we are honored that both of our girls are able to see their biological parents. They are too young now to remember those visits, but we'll continue with them, taking lots of pictures, and making memories for all.
I welcome your thoughts and comments on open adoption, and I hope that no matter where your adoptions are or could be, that you never cease to learn, grown, and embrace change.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Toddler Fun!


Just a few ideas on how to have fun with your toddler...


1: Watch "Wheel of Fortune" together. My daughter loves repeating the letters (with a shout! just like the contestants). The child gets to hear the letter and see it. How fun!


2: Cut out various shapes from construction paper. Toss the shapes onto the floor and have your child find the shape and color you request. As he or she gets older, you can have them be the game host and you find the requested shapes.


3: Join Barnes and Noble's new program: Kids' Club. It's free and comes with fabulous perks like a free cupcake on your child's birthday, coupons, and rewards for purchases.


4: If you haven't already, buy a low and long storage tub and fill it with different colored beans and leftover household items (toilet paper tube, old butter containers, spoons, etc.) and let the child have fun! This is an especially great toy for African American children whose parents DREAD the sandbox due to the child's hair.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What Do You Make of This?


I saw this billboard outside a Catholic church near my home and wanted to share it with my readers.
What do you make of it?
How does adoption relate (or does it?) to abortion? For an interesting take on abortion, check out this poem called "The Mother" by Gwendolyn Brooks.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Less is More: How We Clean 'Round Here

Miss E, unloading the dishwasher by herself
A few years ago, I started caring a whole lot more than I ever did about what my family was putting on, in, and around our bodies. Learning I had type I diabetes, becoming a mother, and owning a home were all major changes that had me thinking, reading, and changing. Soon enough "going green" was part of my vocabulary.


I'm often asked what I clean with, what our diet is like, etc., mostly because I'm vocal and active in the diabetes and adoption communities (online and IRL). I don't push my views onto others, but when asked, I happily share.


For cleaning: I use distilled white vinegar for nearly everything. "Everything" includes carpet cleaner, dishwasher cleaner (run a cycle 2x a month), counter cleaner, mirror cleaner, toilet cleaner, floor cleaner, window cleaner. One gallon of vinegar costs just $3-$4 at Wal-Mart. It's non-toxic (well, in a sane dose) and acts as a disinfectant. I don't love the smell, but for most jobs, you can use 1/2 water, 1/2 vinegar, and if desired, you can add a few drops of the essential oil of your choice. I love orange or tangerine essential oil.


My oldest daughter loves to clean, loves using the potty, and loves to lick surfaces (she's definitely a mouth-baby)---so vinegar is a precious commodity around here. I don't panic when she touches or licks a surface in my home, simply because I know it hasn't been cleaned with harsh, toxic, dangerous, cancer-causing chemicals.


Another great cleaning agent is baking soda. I sprinkle this onto my shower/tub with a little water and scrub away. Baking soda is inexpensive.


I use a mop that holds my own cleaning agent of choice (you guessed it: vinegar) and features washable, reusable cloths on the end. I have cleaning towels (bought in green for distinction).


For laundry: I make my own detergent because it saves money (a lot of money!) and is generally healthier. I won't launch into how incredibly unhealthy and unsafe traditional detergents and dryer sheets are...and don't get me started on bleach. Here's my current laundry detergent recipe that was passed on to me from a friend (original source unknown to me):


Mix 3 cups of Borax, 3 cups of washing soda, and 1 bar of grated soap (I used the vegan mint soap our nanny makes). Store in a kid-safe container. Use 1 T per load of laundry.


I do not use dryer sheets. Instead, I use those dryer balls (found at Wal-Mart). Clean your lint-trap often for safety, and don't store clean laundry on top of the dryer which makes it less energy-efficient.


Be aware that many "green" laundry detergents (and all products, for that matter) still contain unsafe ingredients. Just because something is labeled "green" or "natural" doesn't mean it's safe or healthy. You need to know how to read an ingredients list. The cleaning industry is highly unregulated---so don't be fooled by pretty words or pictures of a field full of lush trees on a package label.


I wash almost everything in cold water. The exceptions: sheets and towels.


For Dishes: Run a cycle of vinegar through your dishwasher 2x a month. Place a glass baking dish with 1/2 inch of vinegar in it on the bottom rack and run a regular cycle.


I don't run the dryer cycle to save energy. Instead, I open my dishwasher and allow my dishes to air dry. Keep in mind that if you have little ones, you'll want to remove any unsafe dishes (like knives) before leaving the dishwasher open to air dry.


Generally, people use way to much detergent. Find the safest and most effective detergent for your dishwasher, and learn what amount to use.


Learn how to properly and efficiently load your dishwasher. Over-rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher reduces effectiveness. I used to over stuff my washer, but a technician showed me that placing dishes in select places was blocking certain water jets.


Other Tips:


  • Remove your shoes as much as possible before entering your home. Shoes carry allergens, germs, and disgusting things like gym gunk, school gunk, grocery store gunk, yard gunk. I have crawling, licking babies who don't need to ingest that stuff.

  • If you are overwhelmed by cleaning house, create a schedule where you do one or two chores per day. I prefer to wash sheets and towels one day, clothing laundry another day, and clean house on one day. I alternate every other week cleaning showers/tubs and mopping floors. I usually vacuum two to three times a week.

  • If you choose to hire someone to clean, be specific about what products and procedures you want. Even if someone claims to be a "green" cleaning service, you'll want to make sure that his/her idea of "green" matches yours.

  • Get little ones involved. My daughter is two and loves to help put away dishes, put laundry in the dryer, dust, and wipe the toilet lid. Because I use safe cleaning agents, I have no problem with her helping me.

  • READ READ READ READ. And then implement what you've learned. I have a slew of resources I love. Check them out at my Amazon store.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

AND THE WINNER IS....

SHANA!


Congrats, reader! You have won an autographed copy of Brown Babies, Pink Parents! Please e-mail within the next 48 hours at supagurlrae at hotmail dot com with your home address. You will LOVE the book. I'm almost half finished with it and have highlighted many sections for future reference.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Right-Sizing: Getting Rid of Bloating

I recently read Living Large by Sarah Wexler---a book about how bigger isn't always better when it comes to many areas of our lives.



The entire book was marvelous; however, two parts in particular stood out to me:



"Welcome to 'Affluenza.' PBS did a special on the modern condition, defining it as 'the bloated, sluggish, and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses; an epidemic of stress, overwork, waste, and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream; an unsustainable addiction to economic growth" (147).



Followed later by...



"Who says that going smaller---whether it means trading your SUV for a compact or two people moving from a six-bedroom home to a town house---has to be a step down? It could be a way to live a more streamlined life, but one where its content and experiences are more greatly appreciated" (219).



It seems that there is a turn back toward the simple---crafting, cooking homemade meals, gardening, recycling/reusing/repurposing, shopping sales, donating. I love to say "no," get rid of things I don't need or use, and find a great deal. Cooking homemade meals for my family brings me joy. Watching my daughter, Miss E, play with a toilet paper roll or a large, empty box makes me smile. She is imaginative and gets joy from simple pleasures.



It is so hard to fight current culture. I love Facebook, blogging, and texting. But these things tend to say "look at me!" and take the focus off God, family, and true, healthy, fulfilling relationships. I do want a big house full of modern amenities---but that would require us to work more, spending less time with our children. Wexler is right---Americans, generally, are so "bloated." And we keep feeding ourselves the things which do not fulfill, and we know they don't fulfill, yet we keep doing it. Isn't that the definition of insanity?



I admire the many families who are "right sizing." (The economy has forced us to rethink and revise----and I'm not sure that's a bad thing). Getting back to what matters, saying "no" to what doesn't---well, that's tough, but in the end, is wonderfully fulfilling.


My suggestion is to make monthly goals in order to back away from the things that make you and your family "bloated." For me, it started in January when I gave up my beloved online adoption forum. I would get overly involved in heart wrenching topics or sometimes ridiculous mommy-wars of who-does-it-best. So I gave it up. I decided to focus my time and energy on parenting my babies instead of talking about parenting. In February, I set a goal of one hour a day online, which included e-mail, blogging, FB, etc. This goal aided me in creating more time for play with my girls, reading, baking, praying, and face-to-face fun like play dates.

So find out what makes you temporarily happy but in reality, bloated. And then change! It's easier than you think, and the results are simply divine!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Love This Show!

We've been watching Searching For... on the OWN Network. Anyone else love seeing, for example, an adult adoptee find his/her birth mother?
 
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