Thursday, February 28, 2013

"It's Not Boy Time; It's Girl Time!"

It's the eve of Women's History Month, and I've got a burning question for you:

Should there be some roles/positions that are just for men and just for women, or should there be equal opportunities in every area for both sexes?

These things come to mind:

"Boys will be boys..."

"Sugar and spice and everything nice; that's what little girls are made of." 

If boys are emotional, they are "sissies."

If girls like to wrestle with siblings and climb trees, they are "tomboys."

Baby girls can wear blue, but put a baby boy in purple or pink, and GASP!  

All my friends swear that parenting boys is SO different from girls...yet to be proven in our household as Baby E is quite the active child.

Words I still hear today include "policeman" and "chairman."

Boy clothes often sport skulls and guitars and phrases like "stunt man," while girl clothes are covered in butterflies, glitter, and phrases like, "I'm a princess."

I still see constructions signs warning drivers:  "Men at work."

I see toy ads picturing little girls playing with pink toy kitchens and nurturing baby dolls while little boys are rolling metal trucks through dirt piles. 

In movies, girls are usually the empty-headed damsels in distress who predictably fall for the most ridiculous of tricks (Ariel trades her voice for legs, Sleeping Beauty touches a needle, Snow White eats an apple, Belle lives with an abusive beast, etc.) while sporting long, flowing hair, a tiny waist, and HUGE eyes.   Boys are the heroes.    Message: girls need to be rescued and better look pretty when it happens.

I still see the generic "he" used for males and females.

I want my daughters, and my son, to grow up and be whatever they are gifted to be.    If my son wants to play with dolls, frankly, I'm happy.   I mean, I would love to have a kind, nurturing son!  My daughters love toy trains and love watching the garbage truck, police cars, and the UPS trucks drive by our house.     Good!  They might learn how to change a tire someday or aspire to be part of something moving and exciting.

I guess I don't get what drives parents (and society) to STILL, after all these years, put limits on children.   I'm guessing it's fear.   Fear that a child will be a misfit.   A too-sensitive guy or a too-assertive female.


Now I have two daughters and a son.   All these thoughts are going through my mind.  Who will they become?  What possibilities will be taken from them simply because they are a certain sex?    How do I raise my children to be strong in who they are, naturally, not letting the world limit them?

What do you think?   Are some roles/positions male or female only?   Is that ok with you?  What do you hope for your children?  Is society's movement toward "anyone can be anything" detrimental or helpful to our sons and daughters?    Does this at all play into adoption where society tells adoptees what they should/shouldn't be and should/shouldn't feel? 


Note, the title of this post comes from Miss E, who often reminds me that though she has a brother now, it's still girl time.   ;)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Go Get It, Girl!

It started when I was pretty young, probably in middle school.  

I would feel it in the middle of the night, or when I was waiting for my mom to pick me up after school, or when I was walking around the two acres we lived on.    Years came and went.  Crushes and boyfriends came and went, as did friends.   There were events that flagged dates:   births, dances, birthdays, vacations, ends and beginnings of school years and jobs, deaths.   Though the excitement of Christmas or a vacation quieted it, it was always there...looming, brewing, and promising.

I stumbled upon it the other day when a bookmark I had made in early high school tumbled out of my library bag.   It was an index card that I had covered in magazine scraps:   bright colors, letters, and phrases.    I was about to toss the bookmark in the trash when I noticed a phrase glued to the lower corner:   "I've always had this feeling that God has something different for me."

And then I remembered.

"It" wasn't always a very good feeling.  In fact, I don't remember it ever being something I deemed as "good" or "hopeful," but it definitely ignited anxiety and suspense in me.    Finding the bookmark reminded me of it, the way I always felt as though I was carrying a tremendous burden or secret, and I couldn't articulate it to anyone because I simply didn't know how or that I could.   And even if I did, who would understand?

It didn't go away until the day I was told I had type I diabetes.   The day, the moment, I was told I had this disease, "it" was gone. 


I still can't tell you what "it" was, exactly.  I used to think it was simply anxiety or superstition (both quite common in a type-A person like myself).  I might venture to say it was God trying to prepare me for the journey ahead.   Or could it have been the Enemy trying to tether me in fear and nervousness, preventing me from living my best life possible, and then God squelched that the day I finally had an answer to why I was so sick for over a year and a half?  

Fast forward to today.   My daughters are loving the Mary Mary song "Go Get It."  The song is about the fact that there is something waiting for all of us, a blessing, but in order to receive it, we have to go get it.    My favorite line is, "It's your time."  

This is my time.  And I know it.

I'm married to Superman, I have three beautiful children, I'm a freelance writer and college writing teacher, and I have written a book.  A book.     I cannot believe it.  The proof is sitting right in front of me as I type this.  My name is on the front.  It's real.

A lot of women I know wait for their dreams to come true, for Prince Charming to swoop in and rescue them.  For the right job to fall in their laps, for the motherhood role they year for to magically appear one day like Timothy Green.   For the weight to melt off.  For the self-confidence to arise.   For friends to be more loyal, children to be more obedient, husbands to be more mindful.

But that isn't how life works.

The best lesson my mother taught me is that I am in charge of myself.    I can't do anything about how others act (or choose not to act).   

This is my life.

And I'm making my dreams come true.

God laid the groundwork for my blessings.  He put them in the right place at the right time.   

But it's up to me to go get it.

And I am.  With joy.  With energy.   With excitement.

Life is full of seasons, and no doubt there are inevitable, unavoidable bumps in the road.   But that happens for ALL of us.   As Mary Mary talks about, those things that crop up build our muscles, prepare us for what is next.    Don't let someone stop you from going for it; and especially don't let yourself get in your own way.

Go get it, girl. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Casting Opportunity


I was told about this casting opportunity for a possible new show about unique parenting styles.    Click here to learn more.

Hover or Ignore?

There seems to be two ways to parent these days:

Hover.   This involves making sure you are within a foot of your child at all times.   You constantly guide, correct, discipline, and praise.    You show your child how every toy is supposed to work.   You don't get a babysitter occasionally (admit it....or ever).   Your child has an invisible umbilical cord from him/her to you.   You are set on making sure your one year old knows all her shapes, letters, and colors by age two, so you bust out flashcards whenever possible.    You do loads of baby signing.   You make sure to rotate your ITunes music so your child can hear the various classical artists as well as songs in other languages. 

Ignore.   This involves avoiding eye contact and interaction with your children as much as possible.   While your kids are at the park, you are lounging on a bench with your cell phone in hand, texting other moms.     If your kid eats one too many cookies or watches too much TV, let it be...every day.   Generally, kids are more of an annoyance than a blessing.     Playdates are the best because you and other like-minded parents can ignore your kids together.

Now, before you write me a slew of nasty comments ;)  ...

It's SO hard to strike a balance between what Mommy needs (time to chill, de-stress, rest) and what the child needs (which is ever-evolving), what Mommy wants for the child and what the child wants from the Mommy.

Hover-parenting is exhausting.    I mean, your back has GOT to hurt from standing over your child morning, noon, and night.   But ignore-parenting is equally exhausting, because you have zero energy for life.

I end my book with a story about one of "those days."  You know, when the kids are driving you nuts and you are exhausted and your have not an ounce of motivation to conquer your to-do list.     Miss E approached me, begging to go outside, but it was raining.   I told her, "We can't go outside; it's raining."  Her response was to get out our raincoats, boots, and umbrellas.   (Duh!  What is rain-gear for if not to use it IN THE RAIN).

So we did.    I didn't really want to, but I did.

It turned out to be a glorious time!    (Read the book; I draw an analogy between that day and adoptive parenting).

As adults, we put ridiculous limits on possibilities.    We make plenty of excuses and convince ourselves that those excuses are legit and perfectly practical.    We restrict, put up walls, and join ranks with others who do the same.

Hover-parenting and Ignore-parenting aren't all that different.    Both greatly limit potential in ourselves and our children.

I don't often sit down and reflect on my parenting (I have three "babies," so I don't have a lot of time for that....), but what I do hope for, overall, is that my parenting is balanced.

Lots of free time allows kids the opportunity to get creative.  If I'm always talking, always responding, always disciplining, and always praising, my kids won't learn to be self-sufficient or creative.     But if I spend more eye-contact time with my phone than with my children, what am I teaching them?   To take their concerns, their accomplishments, their questions elsewhere?   

Where do you stand on parenting?    What are your greatest faults?  Greatest accomplishments?  What changes are you making for the benefit of you and your children?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Does He Miss Her?

A few weeks ago, I was putting Miss E down for her nap.   We were in her bed, Baby Z between us.   Miss E looked at me and asked, "Does the baby cry because he misses B?"  (B=Baby Z's birth mother).

I was floored that my four-year-old would think to ask such a question.

I replied, "Probably sometimes.    Do you miss your birth mother sometimes?"

Miss E, "Yeah."

Conversations like this make many adoptive parents very uncomfortable.   I talk a lot about this subject in my book:  open adoption, the Primal Wound, etc.

If you haven't yet read Nancy Verrier's book The Primal Wound:  Understanding the Adopted Child, I encourage you to do so.  It is a one-of-a-kind book.

Granted, I was very resistant to the Primal Wound concept (which occurs when the bonding process between mother and child ceases to continue after the baby is born, resulting in "abandonment and loss" which is "indelibly imprinted upon the unconscious minds of these children"---Verrier pg. 1) when I was waiting to adopt my first child and even after her arrival.  Why?  Because it's messy and painful and complicated.

There are stacks of books for adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents.   But there are very few which explain and support adoptees and birth parents.     I hope in the future, we will see more and more publications from the perspectives of adoptees and birth parents, but until then, start by reading Verrier's book.   You will gain insight that will no doubt benefit your parenting!

But so is adoption.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love Letter to My Ladies

Dear Miss E and Baby E:

I'm so incredibly blessed to the one you call "mom."

I often feel inadequate to parent you.  I lose my patience, I zone out, I daydream of a beach vacation.    My days sometimes feel like I'm in one of those rotating doors; I do the same things over and over and over and wonder if it even matters at all.   Laundry.  Kissing hurt body parts.  Dishes.   Errands.   Non-stop trips to the "potty."  School drop-off and pick-up.    Making meals.    Sweeping up crumbs.  Admiring artwork.    Belting out commands.

Sometimes I have to take a step back and think about the fact that God knew you two (and your brother) would be mine....long before I was even born, or before I met your dad, or before I was told I had diabetes.     And even right now in this moment, while all of you are napping soundly in your beds, God's plan is playing out.

What God calls us to do isn't always glamorous, easy, or clean, but it's almost always rewarding.

You two can say the funniest things.  Do the sweetest things.  Turn a tough day into a good day with just a look, a hug, a giggle, or a comment.    You are both wonderfully beautiful in so many ways.   I love tucking you into bed each night and reciting to you:  "You are beautiful.  You are funny.  You are creative.  You are silly.  You are smart."    It's all true!   Both of you are so much smarter than adults, and you are only 4 and 2.  You get what matters in life and you could careless about the things that do no matter.    The world is yours!  You can do anything, be anything.   There are endless possibilities.  You don't know yet to be ashamed or self-conscious or too scared, because you haven't yet had the world teach you those things.  I savor this time of innocence.

Here's the deal:  the world is going to tell you who you should and shouldn't be.  And the messages will always be conflicting and depleting.   

The Enemy wants you to believe the lies that are whispered to you through other people, through the media, through ANY means possible, any person, who tells you that which is contrary to what you are supposed to believe.

Remember the Taylor Swift lyrics I sing to you?    I hope you will carry them with you always:

"Don't you worry your pretty little mind/people throw rocks at things that shine/and life makes love work hard/....they can't take what's ours..."

We, as women, must shush the voices that tell us we aren't worthy, we aren't pretty, we aren't talented, we aren't smart, we aren't capable.   We have everything we need to succeed in life and we must learn and re-learn to say no to that which doesn't nurture us.  

Remember---I can do ALL things in Christ who strengthens me.   ALL things.

I hope that what I do for you, each day, is enough, and that you always keep Philippians 4:13 as your foundation.

I can't wait to see what you do with your lives!  

Happy, happy Valentine's Day, my loves!

Your Mama   


Monday, February 11, 2013

Appreciation Trumps Frustration

It's SO easy as a mom to become consumed with negativity (frustration, anger, helplessness) based on your children's personalities.   

When Miss E was born, I was surprised and a bit, well, shall we say, prideful, when I would hear parents talk about how difficult some of their children were.   Miss E grew from a pleasant newborn to a compliant and charming toddler, to a creative and obedient preschooler.  EASY.    She stayed in her toddler bed, potty trained like a pro, ate her veggies, held my hand in the parking lot---you get my drift.

Then Baby E was born.   And I quickly "ate crow."   

Baby E can be quite the challenge, and it started long before she turned 2.    I tell her not to do X, she does it.  I say "not one more time" and guess what?  Yep.  She does it twelve more times.    I put her in the corner, she smiles at me.  

I was reading a parenting book a few months ago...the title slipping my mind...and the author talked about praying for your child's strengths and challenges.    This is something I sadly never thought to do.   (Sadly because I feel like I should know to do this....I grew up in a Christian home and have been in church my entire life, so why didn't I know this?)  

So I made a list of my kids' strengths and struggles, and I also pondered this:

Why is it that we work so hard to discipline our children in areas that could be strengths of theirs, not faults?

Baby E is our firecracker.   She's sneaky.  Or, is she simply resourceful?    She's disobedient.  Or is she creative?   She's always testing us.  Or is she persistent?

I'm beginning to realize that yes, she may need more (or different) discipline than her older sister, but the things she does that drive us bonkers may actually be personality gifts and propel her into the wonderful life God has planned for her.

If her current personality is any indication...

she's going to set some great goals for herself and achieve them despite obstacles.  

she's going to break hearts with her charm.

she's going to have high expectations and demand the very best from those around her.

she's going to learn some hard lessons in life and then use those lessons to do great things.

I'm not saying we should give in to our children's whims and allow them to walk all over us.   Not at all!  But I am saying that I'm learning to appreciate Baby E's personality and preferences and see them as blessings.     Yes, my child can push my buttons, but when did I, as her parent, start allowing that to happen?   After all, I'm in control of my emotions and reactions.

Being a parent is HARD.  Every day brings about new challenges, obstacles, and demands.    But what we do with what we are given means everything.

I'll leave you with this...

Last weekend we were running errands at our local mall.    Baby E was being her usual self---walking a bit too far ahead of us and us constantly reminding her to come back.    She was touching everything she could despite our sing-song "no touching" chants.  

As we were putting on our coats and preparing to go to our car, Baby E and Miss E stopped to talk to the Clinique lady in Macy's.     They were asking her questions.  They shook her hand and said, "Nice to meet you.  My name is...." as they often do when meeting new adults.    Baby E reached out and touched the various makeup brushes in the lady's apron, to which, of course, I asked her not to.    The lady happily engaged with the girls, even when Miss E coughed into her hand and then shook the lady's hand immediately afterward.     I was attempting to prompt the girls to say goodbye, knowing it was getting too close to bedtime and we were risking meltdowns from hunger and fatigue.   As we prepared to move on, Baby E looked up at the lady and opened her arms for a hug.

Baby E.

My girl who used to NEVER talk to an adult.

My girl who is in a kicking phase.

My girl who was surrounded by glass bottles and tubes of lipstick....

Instead of ignoring the lady, instead of kicking her, and instead of destroying displays and displays of $30 lipsticks and $50 lotions....

gave the woman a hug.

The lady's eyes filled with tears.  Baby E grinned.   We said goodbye and walked away.

Maybe Baby E somehow knew what that woman needed.   And we busy, preoccupied, rushed adults were too busy to "hear" that woman's need for some physical contact.

Nothing moves me more, gives me more, than after a long, frustrating day of giving and giving and giving, to have one of my children reach up at a random moment and hug me, pat my shoulder, or meet my eyes and say, "I love you, Mommy."

I'm a work in progress, and my focus is to appreciate my children for who they are and who they can become.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Black History Month

We love Black History Month!

First, some of you might wonder, why is there a Black History Month and not a White History Month?  Well, my friends, every month is WHITE-everything month.   :)   I'm not being snarky.  I'm serious.   My book comes out very soon, and I promise I will convince you that sadly, I'm correct.   

Here are some past posts on Black History Month:




I've dedicated a significant portion of my book to Black History Month and other significant Black holidays/traditions such as Juneteenth and Kwanzaa.    I offer gobs of resources and suggestions. 

Here's a great place to start.  

How do you celebrate?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

New Music Video Featuring Adoptive Families!

Check out Josh Turner's latest video!  (To access, scroll to bottom of this link and click on the video).

Monday, February 4, 2013

Three Kids...and Counting?

Baby Z snuggling Daddy

Our dear Baby Z is almost three weeks old, and we've been asked numerous times, "Are you done adopting?"

Many parents know that going from two kids to three is HARD.     With two kids, there's one parent per child.   When one kid is driving you batty, your Other takes over.  Taking two kids somewhere by yourself is quite possible (you should see our Target bill!), even enjoyable (like when I took my little ladies to Starbucks one day for hot chocolate and scones----lovely!).     A parent has two hands and with two children, there can be the death grip on each one as you all toddle through a parking lot.   

Today started the reality of having three kids and being a stay at home mom.    Taking Miss E to and from school, doing chores, getting them down for naps, keeping the house in reasonable order.   I CANNOT function well when my house is a mess beyond the every day scatters of toys and the ever-present stack of dirty dishes.  Someone always needs something:   food, attention, praise, discipline, a kiss or cuddle, a playmate, a peacemaker.    

So experienced parents get that life with several kids is hard, especially when the kids are 4, 2, and brand new.    I believe this is why the question, "Are you done?" comes up so much.

Someone asked us yesterday, "Are you done acquiring children?  Or should I say it another way?"   (This made me laugh...since I think saying are we done "having" children is inaccurate considering we didn't have them).

Here's the deal.   God has a plan for our family.    It's clearly evident that this plan has been in place for all of time.   Quick recap:

Steve and I meet->fall in love->continue our educations->Steve graduates college and starts up the career ladder->we get married->I graduate and begin teaching->diabetes diagnosis and immediate decision to pursue adoption (by Rachel)->Steve gets on board with the adoption process->we wait and wait->we explore transracial adoption (with several very interesting encounters with transracial families which clearly show us that God is saying we're going to adopt transracially)->Nov 2008 we get THE CALL for Miss E->one and a half years later we start getting paperwork in order to adopt again, knowing it could take some time->Steve's grandfather dies and on the same evening as his visitation, the DAY we start waiting for baby #2, we are chosen for Baby E->, July 2012 we get a call for a toddler boy we cannot take due to lack of proper paperwork->we start the paperwork for baby #3 knowing the call for the baby boy is God's prompting to get our "ducks in a row"-> FBI and IL DCFS contract dispute makes us believe our process could be significantly delayed->one week after hearing this news, our paperwork appears in our mailbox!->a few days later, we are matched with a baby due in January->Baby Z is born on my b-day and we get custody two days

So, when we are asked, "Are you done?"  All I can say is, "That's up to God."   There is absolutely no reason to reply "yes" or "no" based on my very limited foresight, plans, or intentions.      There is simply no human explanation for why our lives have evolved as they have.

I've been thinking about how crazy-awesome our family is now.   A mom and dad, three kids, three open adoptions, four involved birth parents, five involved birth siblings, an large extended network of friends and family in our kids' birth town, an adoptive mom support group of 40+ women, an adoption book, a slew of articles, and new connections almost every single day.

What an incredible life I have been blessed with.        A life I never planned for, scheduled, plotted, or prepared for.

Will more kids enter our family?

Ask the Big Man upstairs.  

New book winner!

Krista Dsaid...
Definitely Penguin and Pinecone! Bummed that I didn't read this post yesterday before I sent in my son's book order for school -- the book was in his Feb flyer.
Krista!  You are the new winner!  Please e-mail me with your full name and address.
whitebrownsugar AT hotmail DOT com

Friday, February 1, 2013

And the winner is.....

Amanda Brandtsaid...
My hardest goodbye in our adoption process was to my daughter birth mother when we were in Ethiopia. She loves our daughter so much and we could see it even when we could not understand all she wanted to say.
Please send me your full name and address so I can pass it on to the author.