Friday, September 30, 2011

Adoption T-Shirts

My oldest daughter has two adoption shirts.  One has a definition of adoption on it that says something like "loved and adored by both my families."  The other says simply, "Worth the Wait." 

It's obvious we're an adoptive family---pink parents, brown babies.    But I wonder if putting shirts like this on my toddler is beneficial or detrimental, and if yes to either, to whom is it beneficial or detrimental?

Is stamping a big fat "ADOPTION" sign on my child going to make her stand out more?  I think yes---but is it good or bad?   I feel like transracial adoptive families, by default, are adoption educators (good or bad, well, that's up to them).    So perhaps a t-shirt like this encourages people to approach us, ask a question, which leads them to a better understanding of adoption.  But is it fair to stamp an essential "ask me about adoption" stamp on my toddler?   Shouldn't she just be able to be normal?   Well as normal as adoption is (which it totally isn't "normal"---and I don't mean that to put down adoptive families, our family included---but adoption is just this complex, bizarre, complicated, intricate thing...).  

Upon receiving these shirts, I was so excited.  Finally, something that fits our family!    Shirts with messages stamped across the front are quite popular (my college students wear them all the time) and powerful.

I remember reading an article during the 2000 election about parents putting political onesies on their infants.   Some argued that it's the parent's right to dress his or her child as he or she chooses.   Others argued that it's ridiculous to put a political message, one that obviously the child couldn't grasp, across the child's chest.   

I want my child to be proud of her adoption.   She has two families---one by birth, one by adoption---both of which love her dearly.   She was worth the wait (14 months of wondering if we'd ever be parents, to whom, under what circumstances, what possibilities, etc.).   But does the world need to know that all the time, via a t-shirt, placed on my child?

I don't know.

Thoughts?     

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Eczema

Miss E has eczema.  Boo.

I did many things to try to rid her of it:   creams and lotions (all recommended by a dermatologist), bleach in the bathwater (which worked temporarily but smelled horrible), changing laundry detergents, keeping pants on her legs when outdoors, limiting time in the bath tub.    She was too young to endure allergy testing...so that was off the table.  I talked to numerous parents who all told me the same old tricks I had already tried.

None of it really worked.

So finally, I had a conversation with Miss E's biological brother's mom (got that?) who said she took her son off milk and his eczema went away.   

So, one day, cold turkey, I stopped giving Miss E milk and started offering her soy instead.  (Which she rejected for about a month, but I was persistent).

The exzema cleared up in a matter of days.

I talk to many moms of brown kids who say their children have eczema, and it's frustrating to pinpoint what the cause is and how to avoid it.     (Note, excema isn't just a brown baby issue).   


If you are struggling with your little one's skin, here are some practical, inexpensive or free, healthy ways to help ease your child's eczema:

---Eliminate the use of body products that contain "dirty" ingredients.   Try alternative ways to moisten your child's skin like coconut oil, olive oil, vitamin E oil, or almond oil.   (The last two contain potential allergens---so be careful!)   I buy organic oils that are USDA certified to insure I'm getting what I want.  I also LOVE Chartreuse products---made in the USA, mostly organic, and no water in the lotion!   My saleslady is also the girls' nanny, so please visit her Chartreuse page and check out the amazing products. 
---Make your own laundry detergent.   Even "free" detergents can be full of things you don't want on your little one's skin, and many green beauty and cleaning books state that the cleaning industry is highly unregulated---meaning, you don't know what you're getting or doing to your body.     The recipe I use for detergent is:   3 cups of Borax, 3 cups of washing soda, and 1 bar of grated (healthy) soap.   Use 1 Tablespoon per load of laundry.   
---Don't use dryer sheets or fabric softeners.   1 cup of vinegar in your rinse cycle helps eliminate odors and soften clothes.  Use dryer balls or a rag with a few drops of your favorite essential oil on it instead.
---Limit bathtime.  Water dries out skin.  (That's why it's silly to buy any lotions containing water!)   10 minutes in a warm bath.   And do not bathe more often than necessary.   Miss E gets a bath 2x a week.
---The most important tip:  Do whatever you can to figure out the cause.    I was simply covering up the problem with creams and lotions and bleach.   Once I discovered the sensitivity to milk, problem solved!   

Miss E still has occasional patches, but I have found that by using natural remedies and making a few changes (which have saved me money in detergent and doctor bills), life for Miss E is much more happy.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Baby E is 10 Months Old!



Our youngest daughter, Baby E, is ten months old today.  It's hard to believe!    She's doing so many new and exciting things:  saying "mama" and "dada," pulling from sitting to standing position, drinking from a sippy cup, learning to use a baby fork on her own, enjoying splashing in the swimming pool, teething, doing classic baby "snorty" face (wrinkling her nose and breathing really hard while closing her eyes), playing with her big sis, and listening for a few moments while I read to her.

I'll admit, when we first brought both of our girls home, they hardly felt like mine.  This is common when adoptive families, who haven't had the ten months of gestational bonding and preparation, to feel that they are babysitting, not parenting, their new child.    It's strange, miraculous, and frightening (even when you have plenty of child care experience like we did), to be handed a bundle of joy who will be yours FOREVER, a little someone who was born to someone else, looks like someone else, and has known, for the gestational period, someone else's voice, scent, and heartbeat.  

But after many sleepless nights involving feedings, cuddles, and quiet songs, after fits of tears followed by giggles and smiles, after marathon play sessions, after kisses and cuddles, that baby becomes fully ours, despite that she looks nothing like us, that she exudes her birth parents in personality, preferences, and gestures, and that she was a stranger when she came to us, she is ours.

Here's an excerpt of a letter I wrote to Miss E around her 10 month birthday:


Today you had just finished eating some mixed veggies.   (I know you were finished because you threw your sippy cup, then your fork, then some veggies onto the floor).   I wiped off your hands and took you into the living room.  I gave you a binky (you look so sweet when you suck your binky) and we read Ten Little Babies.  You were attentive, focused, and quiet.  What a beautiful moment.   After we read the book twice, I put you in your bed for your nap.



I realize that I have now had you as my daughter for ten months which is the same amount of time your birth mother, _____, carried you in her.   This is a defining moment in my life.   I’m sad that _____ is missing you, and I’m sad that the circumstances in her life meant she felt she couldn’t parent you.  I try my very best to send detailed letters to her and lots of photographs so she can see how you are doing, what you are interested in, and most of all, that we are living up to our promises to her---raising you in a Christian home, letting you experience new things, traveling, and educating you.



You are such a blessing to our family!  Did you know when you were younger, we would get you out of bed when you were sleeping just to hold you and look at you?  Yeah, you are that awesome.  J


And today, now that Miss E's sister, Baby E, is 10 months, I am feeling this wave of emotion all over again.   

Baby E was carried by her birth mother approximately the same amount of time that Baby E has been ours.   

Please think for a moment what it would be like to have your ten month old baby, one whom you've cared for every day with love and devotion, to be taken from you.   Just like that.  Here today, gone tomorrow.   Imagine the heartache, the terror, the confusion, the fear.  Imagine the trust it would involve to hand your baby over to people you hardly know....forever.    Imagine not knowing if those people will keep their promise to write you letters or visit you, keeping you informed on how your child is doing.    Imagine wondering if you'd be forgotten eventually, or how you would explain your choice to your child one day if he or she were to ask you, "Why did you give me up?"   (I know the PC language is "placed for adoption"---but I can tell you that some of the birth mothers I know use the term "gave up" because that is what it felt like to them.)

I am not a birth parent.   But I know several women who are.  And I will tell you that these women love their babies.  They think of them every.  single.  day.     They stumble upon grief during unexpected times.  Their lives are never the same because a part of them is missing, forever, even when the loss was voluntary, even when the adoption is open, even when they can see and touch and speak with their birth child.

I rejoice in my sweet Baby E.  I am thankful for the presence of her birth parents in our lives.  And I am always mindful of the magnitude of their decision to allow us to raise Baby E.    

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Black Female Lead Characters

It seems like black people are always the cool sidekick to the white hero.  

My little sister and I used to love watching Walker Texas Ranger (yep, good old Chuck Norris).   But we loved watching Walker's sidekick Trivett, a handsome black man, the most.    However, Walker was always the center of the fights (and victories), and Trivett would usually kick a little rear in the background, or get injured only to have Walker save the day and return to Trivett to help.  

As an adult I began to grasp how black people are underrepresented in books, movies, television shows, advertisements, greeting cards, toys, and much more.   Though there has been progress, such as Tyler Perry's popular films and television shows starring many black actors, there's much to be desired.

My daughters need to know that black girls can be "stars," and let's not limit them to Princess Tiana.  It seems white little girls have limitless options of characters who look like them (and dolls, and other toys, and on clothing items, and greeting cards with white faces, and advertisements, and and and....).     

I've been researching book series and movies that feature black girls (who are strong, lead characters).   I discovered Shanna, though many of the books seem to be out of print.   There's also Grace.     There's also a series for grade-school girls called the Sugar Plum Ballerinas.    I love Fancy Nancy books (so cute and fun!), but Nancy's best friend, Bree, a black little girl, is always the sidekick and never the star. 

I find plenty of books featuring AA kids, though they aren't always the main character and rarely does the book move into a series where my girls can see a little black girl progress in various situations.    

I hope a successful children's book author (many, actually) will produce a series of books featuring a young, black, lead female character.  And I hope we will step up and support these authors by purchasing their books.   

The publishing industry is much like any other business---it comes down to supply and demand.   If we, as consumers, clearly convey our desires (with feedback to companies and by "voting" with our dollars), there will be an increased supply.   

If you know of more black female characters, please share!  

 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sensory Fun

I don't buy many toys for my kids (unless they are on major sale and would be adored).   For one, they get plenty from relatives on their birthdays and Christmas, and we have many friends with older kids who give us the toys their children have outgrown.  For another, I am anti-electronic toys (aka obnoxious, battery-gobbling, uninspiring toys).  

But, my girls' birthdays are both in November, followed by Christmas in December, so there's a ten month gap between toy-receiving sessions.   So, what can a mama do who wants to bring in something new but doesn't want to spend money?

Over a year ago, I created a sensory tub for Miss E full of dried beans of various colors and sizes along with odd-and-end household items like toilet paper cardboard rolls, plastic containers, and cheap spoons.   We would place the open tub in the kitchen (for easy sweeping afterward).   NOTE:  This is an awesome toy for AA kids, like mine, who aren't allowed to go near a sand box.    :)  

Now that Baby E is mobile and FAST, the dried beans pose a choking hazard.  So I came up with a new idea:  a toddler and baby safe sensory tub featuring fabrics, ribbons, and other odds and ends.



Ask friends and family members for any leftover ribbon and scrap fabrics they might have.  (You might even call your local fabric store to see if they are willing to donate any items to you that they are throwing away).  Throw in things you no longer want or need.  I found several jar lid rings in my kitchen which are perfect for "threading" fabrics.   

Just the other day I caught Miss E "decorating" Baby E like a Christmas tree.   Baby E was sitting perfectly still, mesmerized by her sister's actions.   :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What To Feed The Kids?

Like most moms, I want to feed my children healthy, wholesome foods, but there never seems to be enough time!   Furthermore, being a diabetic means I take healthy eating quite seriously.

After many sessions of trying various recipes, I came up with my own recipe for muffins that can serve as part of a meal or a snack for kids of all ages (even babies who have a few teeth!).


YOUR CHOICE MUFFINS

Makes approx 12 muffins



Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ cup of dry base---a combo of a few: oats, whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, wheat germ, flax seed, cereal, etc.
  • 1 ½ t baking powder
  • ½ t baking soda
  • ½ t salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar


Wet Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of liquid---a combo of milk, soy milk, orange juice, pineapple juice, unsweetened applesauce, yogurt, etc.
  • 2 T of olive or canola oil or 2 T of unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup of chopped/diced/tidbits fruits and/or veggies (berries, peaches, pineapple, carrot, apple, etc.)


1:  Heat the oven to 400.   Grease or place cupcake holders in a cupcake pan.  As an alternative, grease a 9 x 13 glass baking dish (which I prefer because it’s easier to clean) and then after baking, cut your muffin "cake" into portions. 


2:  Combine dry ingredients in one bowl, wet ingredients in another.  



3:  Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients.   Combine just until mixed---not until smooth.  A few lumps are fine!



4:  Pour into your pan on muffin cups and bake about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.



5:   Serve and/or freeze extra.    (The muffins unthaw in about an hour---so they are great to take when traveling or eating out).  



Tips/Thoughts:



  • Combos I’ve tried:  apple carrot muffins, pineapple flax seed, blueberry banana.  Have fun experimenting!
  • Flax seed adds fiber and protein.   Make sure to buy ground (not whole); you can find it on the baking aisle in stores.  
  • For optimal health, I purchase as many organic ingredients as possible including dairy (milk and eggs), fruit (regular fruit contains tons of pesticides), sugar, and oats.
  • This recipe is perfect if you fruit that is almost too ripe, stale cereal, etc.



  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cultural Gallery

Amy Ford writes in Brown Babies, Pink Parents about supporting your children of color by decorating your home with art that features people who look like them and/or support their cultural norms.

Over the past year or so, I've been collecting art to frame and place in my girls' bathroom/guest bathroom.   The room features the only bright color in our house----a vibrant strawberry red.    Since the room is used often by my family and guests, I found it to be the perfect place to feature my art collection.

Being the bargain hunter I am, here are some tips on creating an affordable art gallery:

1:  Purchase greeting cards that feature kids who look like yours.   I suggest looking at (Cost Plus) World Market.


2:  Purchase postcards featuring kids who look like yours.    One of my favorite pictures came from a postcard I purchased at an art museum in Washington DC.   It's a picture of an AA woman on a beach.



3:  Scour Etsy.  Many sellers will customize art to fit your desires.   I have found prints for as little as $9!   The mermaid print on the left is from Etsy, as is the print on the bottom right.    (The upper right photo is a greeting card from World Market---a photo of babies of various races and in various moods).



4:  You could also (gasp!) use artwork from books you have purchased.   Currently, Border's is going out of business, and I've heard they are due to close by the end of September.  Now might be a perfect time to load up on cheap books that might feature art you can frame.  


5:  When choosing frames, choose the same style and color so you do not distract the viewer from the art itself.    I chose black frames with white mats.    I've been asked where one can get the best deal on frames.  I recommend Kohl's.  If you have  Kohl's charge card, you get an additional twelve sale offers a year that the non-charge-holder-customer doesn't receive.    Combine the 50%+ off frame sale with a 30% off coupon (and sometimes you can even earn or redeem Kohl's Cash at this time) to get frames for as little as $8 each.  


Happy creating!   My gallery creates interesting conversations with guests, and my oldest, Miss E, loves picking out her favorite picture (which can change moment to moment).   

   

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Adoption Book: Your Stories Wanted

Please check out my new page and publish the info via FB, Twitter, e-mail, etc.   I want to hear from you!

What A Wild Week!

 What a busy week!  First, we prepared for a weekend-long visit with Miss E's bio brother and his adoptive family.   Miss E prepared a very special cookie for her big brother---complete with 1/4 of a container of orange sprinkles.  
 We visited The Magic House in St. Louis.   What fun!   Baby E was all tuckered out and took a nap in the sling.  
 Miss E and her bio brother at the St. Louis Zoo.       They loved sharing snacks and kisses.  
 What Labor Day is complete without a donut?     We made a rare trip to Krispy Kreme.  (Donuts, by the way, freeze really well).
Miss E started preschool today!   She did great---didn't shed a tear and was smiling when I arrived to pick her up.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What I Know: A List of Health and Happiness

It's easy, with the hustle and bustle of a new school year, to forget what we need as women so that we can maximize our performance as mothers, wives, employees, community leaders or participants, friends, etc.

So, it's list time, ladies.   :)  

Get out a piece of paper, or your fancy cell phone, or open up a fresh Word document.  Whatever you fancy.   Now, make a list of ten things you know help you be the best woman you can, the things that help you feel good, look good, and act good.   :)  

Here I go:

1:   Get quality sleep.   My new goal is to be in bed, lights out, by 10:30 every weeknight and not to use the computer right before bed (which whacks me out).     

2:   Exercise each morning---even if I can only squeeze in 20 minutes.    The best workout---an outdoor walk (because it doesn't feel like work).     Additionally, I enjoy weight lifting, using my elliptical, and using the stair-climber at the gym.   

3:   Get with God.   I know my day will be better when I feel that I'm focused on God's will and not mine, when I've prayed for myself, my husband, my kids, and my friends and family members, and when I've been divinely inspired and encouraged.

4:   Play time.    On the days when I get on the floor and play with my kids, I'm happier and their happier.     Outdoor play is usually the most beneficial for all of us---sunshine, exercise, and laughter.   But if that's not possible, bring on the Little People, dress up, and art supplies.   Acting like a kid is fun and de-stressing.  

5:  Down time.   This means time for myself (reading a magazine or book, browsing my favorite stores online, or watching one of my DVR'd shows) and with my kids (cuddling in bed with books).

6:   Husband time.   This means shutting off the tv, ignoring phone calls and texts, etc. and just focusing on my spouse.    This is usually the area that I am the least persistent in; however, it's one of the most important areas.    :)   

7:  Good food.   I aim to always make healthy meals and snacks for my family.   A lot of planning goes a long way.   I know at the end of the day when I'm tired, hungry (and so are they), nothing helps like a wholesome meal.

8:  Craftiness.   Whether I'm putting recent photos in an album, creating a super easy birth banner for my girls (cut triangles of fabric and sew them to a strand of adorable ribbon), baking a new dessert, or making a hair bow for my daughters, getting crafty is satisfying and de-stressing.

9:  Clean, purge, organize.    Ok, I am one of those crazy people who likes to clean, purge, and organize.   At least, I like the finished results.  I get out my vinegar and go to town.   :)    I feel less stressed and more happy when my house is tidy.   Now that Miss E is nearly three, she can help clean.   She vacuums (the same spot over and over....), dusts, and unloads some of the dishes.   She sets the table (who doesn't want three spoons with each meal?), too.     I keep a box in my closet where I can toss in items to donate after I've organized a closet or drawer.  

10:   Say no.   I was recently presented with two incredible opportunities.  One was to co-facilitate an adoption ministry at my church of 1500 people, and the other was to teach two hours a week at a small, private school.     Both would have been wonderful experiences, but realistically, between teaching two classes at the university, freelance writing, blogging, keeping up with the house, taking care of the girls (which includes Miss E starting preschool and tap/ballet in the same week!), and being a wife, I knew I couldn't do a great job.  So I said no to both.    It's ok to turn your cell to vibrate, not respond to e-mails right away, or take a vaca from Facebook (saying no to interruptions and distractions).     I stopped DVRing crappy television---saying no to garbage that didn't enhance my life.  Say no.  Do it.  You'll feel empowered. 

(Miss E saying "no" to stress and reading her favorite book in bed). 


After you've made your list, hang it somewhere visible.    Review it often.  When you start to feel yourself slipping into unhappiness, negativity, and stress, go back to your list and commit to revisit what you love and what you need.  In doing so, you become the woman you want to be.  :) 

Friday, September 2, 2011