Thursday, April 25, 2013

I've Got a Secret...But It's Out! (And No, It's Not a Baby!)

Last month I was struggling a lot.

#1---Weather was crummy (cold, rain, snow, wind, clouds).   

#2---I have three kids under the age of 4.5.  Stuck.  Indoors.  

#3---I was losing motivation, energy, and joy.   (And yes, I do blame the weather for this issue.)

#4---Baby Z was taking one night feeding.  This wasn't so bad except he was also wanting his pacifier put back in 5x a night.    And even when I wasn't the one attending to him, I was still listening for him, hearing him, and trying to squeeze my eyes shut and put the blanket over my head so I could try to catch some shut-eye.

Then I see all these little postings on Facebook with sayings like:

"Great moms have dirty dishes, sticky floors, and happy kids."

To which I realized, according to this random posting, I wasn't a great mom.

Because I cannot stand dirty dishes or sticky floors.  :0)

Toys scattered, that's one thing.  Dirt, well, that's another.

I found myself doing dishes while the kids napped (though I always swore and generally stuck to doing what I wanted during nap which didn't include chores), wiping counters and sorting mail at 10 p.m., and growing increasingly frustrated at the little piles of STUFF throughout the house.

I've decided to stop trying to be ok with dirt.  There is no point.  It's ingrained in me to want a clean home.      We host a lot of playdates, and I want people to walk into my home feeling comfortable and, well, clean.   I want the bathroom they use to tidy.  I want them to walk around on my floors without their socks sticking.   I want my home to be uncluttered.

Now, I'm not someone who scrubs my fridge once a week or takes a Q-tip to the baseboards.  No.  But I do want the floors vacuumed, the dishes done, and the toilets clean.  

"Great moms...."


It's true that at times, I've dedicated myself to cleaning instead of playing with my children.    My mind just cannot settle when there's a looming pile of slowly-hardening, food-laden dishes.

So we did something I didn't think we'd ever do...

and my husband agreed to it...

we hired house cleaners.

I truly used to stand by the belief that hiring people to clean your house was for the rich and snobby.  I mean, who do you think you are that you are so far above picking up a mop or rag?  Oh  Rachel.   Really?!? 

I had to learn to let go a bit.   To let someone else do the literal dirty work.  To accept that yes, it costs money, but that money pays me in time.  

We have a team clean our home twice a month, and the amazing thing is that it's cut down dramatically on how much I have to clean.  

For one, my kids love their beautifully made beds---so much that Miss E spends at least one evening sleeping ON TOP of the made bed.  :)   For another, the cleaners do a REALLY good job.  They tackle things I never did (light fixtures and baseboards) and things I don't want to do (inside of the microwave).   And after they leave, we are motivated to keep things clean because we respect the money we spent on the service and love how nice everything looks.

My sister, who also has someone help clean her house, said to me the other day, and I thought this was really wise:   Allowing someone else to clean means less time she is upset when things aren't done.  It means instead of her husband coming home from work and her getting onto him for not helping with this chore or that chore, they can instead plop on the couch together and watch tv or just talk or visit a family member.

I never thought about it this way:  that sometimes letting go, hiring help, and letting that person or people do the job, you're giving your marriage a lift!  

I've eased up a bit since getting a house cleaner.   I'm still adamant that my children (yes, even my 2 year old) pick up after themselves.   Because they are capable, and because we are teaching them to always respect the things you have been blessed with.  Laundry goes in the hamper.  My four year old folds napkins and washcloths.   The 2 and 4 year old like to help empty the dishwasher and sweep (they have mini-brooms).    Another favorite chore is spraying and wiping interior windows (with lots and lots and lots of spray, of course).     And I'm still uncomfortable with undone dishes and unvacuumed floors---but I've been letting them go longer lately because I know I have fewer chores to take care of.

So here's what I say...

Great moms take care of all they are blessed with, but none do it in the same way.   But each of us is trying, each of us is evolving, and each of us defines "great" in different ways.  And that's ok.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wanna Win?

Who doesn't like free stuff?

Hop on over to TRADED DREAMS, a blog written by my friend Lauren who is a fellow transracial adoptive mama, and enter to win a copy of my book and a tote bag.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Open Adoption Option

Despite it's ever-growing popularity, open adoption is one of the scariest, most risky relationships a person can enter into.

Because, in most cases, open adoption stems from complete strangers coming together over a joint interest, a child, and that may very well be their only commonality.   

We have three open adoptions.   But like most adoptive families, we started out only open to a semi-open adoption (at most) where we were most comfortable with one-way communication (pictures and letters going to the biological parents a few times a year).   This decision was made out of a lack of education and out of insecurity (WE ARE THE PARENTS.  THE ONLY SET OF PARENTS.  PERIOD.).

Many international adoptive parents have confessed that they have chosen to shy away from domestic infant adoption (despite it typically being less expensive and requiring less travel) simply because of domestic infant adoption birth parent horror stories.  No doubt, these stories are scary.  And I fully understand why adoptive parents are quite scared of the Other (the birth parent).  After all, the media vilifies birth parents while idolizing adoptive parents.    (I talk a lot about this in my book).  

We have a range of open adoption experiences and of birth parents.    In one case, both birth parents are involved in an ongoing relationship.  In one case, it's a biological brother and his adoptive family, with occasional contact with birth mom.  In one case, we have contact with birth mom and some extended birth family.  

No one-size-fits-all.

My motto in adoption is this:   don't make choices out of fear; make them out of education.  

I have gobs of resources listed on this blog and in my book.  I hope you'll check them out.

When we are asked why we chose open adoption, I often share these things:

1:  Who are we to keep our children from their biological family members when these individuals pose no harm to our children?

2:  Why shouldn't our children have access to as much information as they will want/need in the future, information we, as their adoptive parents, cannot provide them?

3:  Why should we not have access to family health history which can help us better meet our children's needs?

4:  Why should our kids' birth families not have access to updated information and photos of the children they gave life to and love?

Also, something to consider, is that if you, as an adoptive parent, are insecure in your position in your child's life, that is unhealthy for your child and unhealthy for your emotional health.    Your child will eventually understand that you were the gatekeeper in his/her life, either fostering or diminishing the access the child could have to his/her biological family.

So ask yourself:

1:  Will the birth parents cause harm to the child?  

2:  Are the birth parents supportive of you as the adoptive parent (meaning, they respect your role as the child's primary parents)?

3:  What is going on with me, emotionally, that I'm holding back from open adoption (and anything, really, adoption related)?   Where can I seek help for these issues?

4:  Does the child want a relationship with his/her biological parent?   Or, if my child is very young, would the birth parent knowing information/seeing the child bring the birth parent joy, peace, and assurance?

Open adoption is not an easy option.  In fact, it can be quite uncomfortable for everyone involved at times, or even for many seasons.  But ...

what is right isn't always easy

and what is easy isn't always right.

Blessings to you, friends, as you make decisions along your adoption path.  I'm cheering for you and praying you have an open mind, open arms, and an open heart.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I Hate When My Spouse...

you filled in the blank, didn't you?

It's easy to do.   Critique.   Believe that your complaining, nagging, or hints will improve the situation.   Fix the flaw.  Heal the wound?

This past weekend, my husband was supposed to be doing yard work.  The first lawn mowing of the season.   Cutting up tree stumps leftover from a massive snow storm destroying two of our 50 ft trees.   Picking up debris.  

But instead, he kept getting interrupted.   The girls wanted "tractor" (lawn mower) rides.   Baby Z wanted nothing more than eye contact and smiles from his Daddy.    Then I went to move an outdoor toy box into the basement before a week of bad weather hit, only to find 30+ worms squirming around on the concrete---to which I yelled at Steve (who was trimming apple trees) to come down and get rid of the writhing creatures who were in the threshold of the basement door.   

The girls stood a good distance away as Steve plucked up worm after worm and put them in a bucket. Then did tricks with the worms.  Then the girls and Steve took the worms into the yard to safely set them free to do whatever worms do (I'm sort of anti-nature and anti-creature)...

and they loved it.

Every smile.  Every compliment.  Every gesture that made them laugh.   Every second of every minute that Daddy entertained them.

You see...the thing that drives me the most crazy about Steve, his procrastination, seems to be his best characteristic.  He's willing to stop whatever "has to get done" and be present with his children.   It doesn't matter how silly the demand (get rid of these worms!) or how minor the request seems to him (tractor ride!  smile!  eye contact!)...he does it.  Willingly.  Without complaining.  Without blame.  Without hesitation.

I really admire that.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Brown Girl Dolls: An Interview

In one of my magazines, I stumbled upon a short article highlighting Dr. Lisa Williams, creator of Positively Perfect dolls.  I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Lisa.   Be sure to like the doll line's FB page and check out the website, too!   

Rachel:  Tell me about yourself, personally and professionally.

Dr. Lisa Williams' bio:   [. . .] a visionary leader, award winning speaker and author. She’s the CEO of the World of Entertainment, Publishing and Inspiration (World of EPI), LLC. The World of EPI was formed with the mission to be an expression of joy. Every item we create reflects the beauty and intelligence in all children. While featured in many magazines for her expertise in business, she is also known for her ability to motivate executives, future leaders and audiences of all sizes. In addition to winning numerous teaching awards from major universities such as Penn State, Ohio State and the University of Arkansas, she has been awarded the Outstanding Female Faculty Member of the Year from Penn State University and designated as an “Amazing Woman” by University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) and Dr. Lisa was most recently honored as the WalMart 2013 Supplier Of The Year for her vision in creating the Positively Perfect Doll Line. A line of multicultural dolls created from her heart to show the beauty in all children.

Rachel:  Your website states that your dolls feature a range of skin colors and hair textures, which I have found to be quite rare in the toy world. Almost all "ethnic" dolls seem to be light-brown in tone, and the dolls almost always have straight, silky hair. As a mother of three African-American children, I can tell you that none of my children have straight hair, and the light-brown skin tone isn't representative of ALL African-American kids. (In fact, my children range from light-brown, to medium-brown, to dark, velvet brown). Another typical "ethnic" doll feature is eye color. Even when I do find a brown-skinned doll for my children, the doll's eyes are often green or blue, which is very uncommon in Black children. This is very frustrating for moms like me who seek out dolls who look like our children. What was your motivation for creating diverse dolls?

Dr. Lisa:  My inspiration for creating the dolls was so that all multicultural children would be able to see their unique beauty reflected back to them. Whether their skin is vanilla cream, caramel or mocha, or have hair that's wavy or curly I want them to create a doll that perfectly reflects that gorgeous combination.

Rachel:  Your dolls each have special talents and abilities. One girl likes to write, one likes to create art, one likes to dance, another plays sports, etc. Share with me why you went beyond the typical doll-make and decided to give your dolls a "story."

Dr. Lisa:  All little girls have dreams, aspirations and unique talents. I want these dolls to inspire them to continue to reach for those dreams. And are soon to be released Positively Perfect jingle, the chorus says that "we are smart and pretty too. We are positively perfect in all we do." These dolls reinforce that our girls are smart and pretty. They can be athletic, intelligent, great writers and dancers.

The entire jingle is attached below:
“We are smart and pretty too, we are Positively Perfect in all we do.

With arms wide open and smiles so sweet we run and skip to greet.

...Cause we are smart and pretty too, we are Positively Perfect in all we do.

We are sister-friends and daughters, too. Loving and caring in all we do.

...Cause we are smart and pretty too, we are Positively Perfect in all we do.

With big dreams and talents galore we achieve so much more.

...Cause we are smart and pretty too, we are Positively Perfect in all we do.”
Written by Dr. Lisa Williams
All copyrights own by World of EPI (2013)

Rachel:  The dolls' slogan or mantra is "Postively Perfect: Just the Way You Are." Explain how and why this was created.

Dr. Lisa:  I want our little girls to know they are perfect just as they are. They do not need to change, or wish they looked different. They were created from perfection and nothing needs to be changed. There is no mistake concerning them everything about them is perfect. Our little children are truly Positively Perfect.  

Rachel:  What do you hope to create or encourage in the children who buy and play with your dolls?

Dr. Lisa:  I hope to inspire self-love, self-esteem and self-compassion in our children. I want our children to learn to love themselves, to be patient with themselves and to be forgiving of themselves. I want them to know how uniquely talented and gifted they are. When they understand who they are and their unique gifts, they will be a source of love and light in the world. And that love and light will be reflected back to them and in a life full of success.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I'm Doing a Good Job?!?

Last week I braved Target with all three kiddos in tow.  Not that I had an option.  We were one bottle away from being out of baby formula.

Taking all three kids anywhere creates a lot of anxiety and tension.   I'm always on edge.   Primarily because of the kids' safety.  Try walking a preschooler, toddler, and infant through the parking lot.   Then, once you are inside, taking them all to the bathroom (because you don't want to get into the grocery dept. which is on the complete opposite side of the store from the bathrooms and see your two year old do the potty dance), finding a cart that doesn't wobble, squeak, or stick, load them all in, and proceed through the store.  

Then, of course, after safety, is behavior/conduct.  Three kids in three different stages and in three different moods.   What combination will this create?  

On this particular day, we were almost finished shopping.  I had prompted Baby E many times to keep up, popped the baby's binky in at predictable intervals, and had told Miss E (again) that I didn't have her allowance with me and a doll house cost much more than $2 and no she couldn't buy popcorn instead.  

As we walked past the art supply aisle, a lady called out to me, "Your kids are so polite!"  (The store was rather empty, and thus, fairly quiet).    I smiled and almost said, "For now."   (I tend to attempt to connect to people, at times, by discounting compliments and relating my life to theirs).  But this time, I accepted the compliment.  She said, "I heard your daughter just say, 'Yes, mommy' when you told her to do something. I wish my kids would do that!"    

For a moment, I let it sink in.  I'm doing something right.

My kids are turning out ok.

And I'm not saying this based on one instant of good behavior at Target.  

I'm saying this because when I think about my children, they are doing ok.  And I'm doing a good job mothering them, despite all the little whispers that tell me I've failed (again), that I got impatient, or that I didn't respond in the right way, that I used too negative of words, that I yelled too much, disciplined too little, didn't give so and so enough attention, let them eat too many desserts. etc.

I beat myself up way more than I let on.  

I hate being type A sometimes.  I want everything to line up perfectly.  Ducks in a row.   That's me.

But parenting NEVER yields perfection.    Just when I get one formula down, one behavior tamed, one mood altered, the next thing crops up and I'm back to square one.

I'm not a "words of affirmation" person (Thank you, The Five Love Languages) compliments don't mean much to me.   But for some reason, a random stranger saying something nice to me about my kids (beyond the "they are soooo cute" which we get constantly out of transracial adoption/racial weirdness) and their behavior, made me stop and think.

I hope you'll take a moment to pat yourself on the back.  Your kids are doing something right.  They are making good choices.  And they learned it from you.   So way to go, mama.   Keep up the good work.  And remember, we all need grace.  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Shhhh....Mom Needs Five Minutes of Peace!

Life with three is harder than I anticipated.   My four year old is endlessly asking me to watch her attempt a cartwheel, color with her, admire her letter-writing, show her how to write a 3.   My two year old wants a snack, a potty break, another snack, a wrestling session, a high-five.   My infant needs a bottle, a diaper change, soothing (from another sister-attack), eye contact.

(I think I chose the two hardest roles in the world:  teaching and mothering.) 

A past-favorite blogger of mine had once posted an idea:  quiet boxes.  She bought shoe-box size tubs and put quiet activities in them for her young ones.   Things like beads and string, felt, etc. 

I adapted this idea for my own kiddos, taking quiet toys (puzzles, beads and string, a few stuffed animals, dolls with snap-on clothes, action figures, board games, and pop-up books) and dividing them between two tubs, each containing age-appropriate toys for each girl.   I put the toys in under-the-bed tubs and stored them away for a "rainy day."

The other night I was making dinner.  My girls were bumping into me, yelling, demanding that I play their favorite songs on the IPod (of course, they cannot agree on that favorite song).   I was trying to cook on three different oven burners.    I could feel the heat rising, both off the burners, and within me...I needed quiet.  Just a few minutes of quiet.  

My friend and I were discussing the 5:00 curse.  The clock can show 4:59 p.m. and all is well.  Kids are happy, mom is patient, smiles, butterflies, and lollipops.   Clock turns to 5:00 and all the sudden milk spills, baby cries, toddler hits, preschooler whines, dinner boils get the picture.

So we were having our 5:00 moment, and my four year old, who is very in-tune with my attitudes and mindsets, says, "Hey!  I've got an idea!  Let's get out our quiet boxes!"

Um.  Brilliant!

So the girls go to their separate bedrooms, slide the boxes out, and play quietly for 15 minutes.

I finish dinner and put food on their plates.  As it cools, I tell them, calmly, that once they pick up their boxes, they can come to the kitchen to eat.


So, do not walk.  Run.  Run to the store.  Buy the tubs.   Spend a few minutes finding quiet toys to fill the boxes with.   And then use them.  ASAP.

Have a glass of wine.

Call a friend.

Lay on the floor, the couch, whatever flat surface you can find, and take a deep breath or two.

Paint your toenails.

Read a trashy celeb magazine.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What is Black? Who is Black?

As a transracial adoptive family, we get a lot of comments stating who and what we are supposed to be.   "We" meaning mostly the kids.  

We've been told that our toddlers liked to dance because it's "in them" (as Black people).

Or that maybe our second child, who is tall and active, might "play basketball" (and never any other sport...but anyway...)

Watermelon.   (Which my oldest doesn't like at all).

Fried chicken. (We are 90% vegetarian).

Hip hop music.  (We listen to Christian music 90% of the time because it's one of the few "clean" genres.   We also like some country, jazz, oldies, top 40, etc.   But those must be carefully selected based on lyrics).

(So funny.  We were once asked what language the girls speak, and my friend said we should say "rap."  LOL!)

What and who is Black?

I'm forever caught between teaching my children how to be Black (yes, I realize I'm not Black, thank you very much) and to be able to function in the Black community and letting them be whoever they want to be/are made to be and whether that is seen as Black or White or something else...fine.  

I believe first and foremost, that God created each person with a unique personality and purpose in life, and those things cannot be put into a tidy race-box.    A person following God's will for his/her life will never be accepted by some or even most people.   

I also believe that transracially adopted children have a right to be assimilated, as much as possible, into their racial culture and community, because the world sees the child as their skin-color (their race), and everyone, deep down, wants to fit in to some degree.

I also believe that the coolest people I know follow to the beat "of their own drum."   And trying to be X, Y, or Z to make others happy will lead to extraordinary unhappiness and a life of being society's doormat.    Not healthy.  Unhappy.   And definitely not focusing on one's own calling in life.

I've seen a few t-shirts that have caught my attention.  One says "Black and educated."   Another says, "Black and strong."   "Afrocentric."   Etc.  All out to state to that being Black doesn't have to be what the media says, what the movies or rap videos say, what racists want us to believe.

But what changes perceptions the most, perceptions that reflect negatively on Blacks, is simply exposure.   Having Black children has changed me significantly.   I was never a racist person, and I grew up in a racially diverse town, but I didn't understand what it was to be Black (to be suspected, never trusted, simply by skin color; to be disadvantaged, never given the "benefit of the doubt," because of skin color) until we adopted---until we lived day to day and skin to skin with one another:  Black and White.  

I'm not sure who or what Black is.  And I'm not sure there should be an answer.   Right?  I mean, who wants to be put in a box?  

I want my children to flourish.  To be free to be exactly who they were created to be.  To yield to their natural talents, abilities, and personalities.  To embrace their skin color and possibility, whether that possibility is generally seen as Black, White, or something else.  

So as I further explore this intricate topic, I'm going to be sure to pick up a copy of this new book.   And I'll continue to hope and pray that my children have the conviction and drive to soar in life, to grow where they are planted, but also not be afraid to never stop changing.