Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In Celebration of International Breastfeeding Week: An Adoptive Mama's Tale

Let's start with the never(s): 

I have never been pregnant.  I have never purchased a pregnancy test, peed on a stick, and waited to see what it would reveal.  I have never felt a baby kick, hiccup, or "dance" inside my own body.

I have never held my breath and wondered if I would give birth to a boy, or a girl, or one of each.  

I have never had a sonogram picture of my offspring to frame or show off to my friends.  I have never had a blue or pink-themed baby shower where friends guessed the diameter of my middle and gave me monogrammed bibs.  

I have never given birth.  I've never had to decide between a hospital or home birth, between a bed or a tub, between natural childbirth or utilizing an epidural.   I've never had to create a birth plan or choose who would cut the umbilical cord. 

I have never had milk in my breasts.  I've never had to purchase a nursing bra, a nursing tank, nursing pads, or one of those bibs for my child that says, "I like milk." 

My children, all three adopted as newborns, have been fed formula via bottles from the day of their arrival into the world until their twelve-month birthday.

So why am I celebrating International Breastfeeding Week?  

Because, as I've shared before, it's always been my desire to breastfeed.  I know the physical and emotional benefits.  I'm from a family of breastfeeders.  I think a mom nursing her baby is beautiful.

So why didn't I do it?

With baby #1, who arrived after fourteen months of waiting, I didn't have the support.  There weren't communities of support like there are now.   When I brought up the possibility of breastfeeding an adopted baby to one medical professional, she scrunched up her nose and said, "I didn't know that was even possible."    Despite the resistance and lack of resources, a few times, while rocking my infant, I would offer her my breast.   Then I felt ashamed and artificial and quickly slipped her a pacifier.  What if someone saw me?  Or what if my baby latched and actually found comfort at the breast?  Failure and success were both scary.

Baby #2 arrived two years later, on the FIRST day we started waiting.   I had no time to research or prepare.  The baby was THERE, craving my attention as much as her two-year-old sister.   I was juggling a part-time job and two children under the age of two.  I was tired.  Overwhelmed.  And blessed.

Last summer, we started the paperwork to adopt a third child.   And like with all adoptions, one never knows the "due date."   But this time, this time I was going to fulfill my goal.  I was going to breastfeed.    I hired a lactation consultant, rented a pump, and started pumping and drinking mugs full of lactation tea.  

And then a delay.   Our state was at a stand-still on background checks, a required step in the adoption process.  We were told there was no end-in-sight as to when our background checks would be cleared and we could move forward with adopting.

I was discouraged.  And tired.  I was pumping 6x a day, working it around the needs and demands of an almost-four-year-old and almost-two-year-old, my part-time teaching job, and writing a book.    This wasn't the peaceful, happy journey I believed to be true of breastfeeding moms.   Articles on breastfeeding featured professional photos of mothers smiling down lovingly, dreamily, at their nursing babies.   I was staring at a groaning plastic machine that tugged on my nipples for ten minutes, six times a day, while my two kids took the opportunity to empty the cabinets or beckon for another snack or start a wrestling match just inches from the glass facing on our entertainment center.    What if I pumped for months and months with no baby in sight?    What if it took a year or years to adopt a third child?    

So, I gave up.  I packed up my tubing and flanges, returned to pump to my LC, put my nursing cover in storage.  And honestly, I breathed a sigh of relief. 

Two weeks later, our background checks were cleared. 

Two weeks after that, we were matched with an expectant mother.

Two months later, our son was born. 

And today, I'm kicking myself.  My bundle of joy is no longer a bundle.  He's almost seven months old.   He's tall, and he's scooting, and he's saying "dada," and he has two teeth.  Every day, he looks older.   

I've researched adoptive breastfeeding for years.  I have an LC.   I have the tools.   I have the opportunity, as I have chosen to take a break from teaching and stay at home with my children full-time.  I have an able-body.   Sheesh, I wrote an adoption book and even had a section on the importance of attaching and bonding to an adopted child, citing the benefits of adoptive breastfeeding!  Oh, and I facilitate a local adoptive mom support group of seventy women.  Oh, and yes, I'm a fairly crunchy mama:  I baby-wear, I recycle, we eat organic and vegetarian, and I use raw apple cider vinegar for every ailment.   So...

Why, why didn't I have the courage, the confidence, or the conviction to breastfeed my children?

The answer is multi-faceted for both myself and many adoptive mothers.

For one, there just isn't much support or resources for adoptive mothers wishing to breastfeed.   In fact, there's very little information on the importance of adoptive mothers bonding with their infant babies.  The research and support tends to focus on bonding with older children who have come from foster care or orphanages in other countries.    Though, this is steadily (and encouragingly) changing.   I connected with a crunchy, adoptive mother who happens to also be a stellar lactation consultant, and who had the drive to pour her knowledge into a current, comprehensive book on adoptive breastfeeding.    And there's the hard-to-find blog posts on the subject, like my new friend over at Slow Mama who spoke out about breastfeeding her preschooler for the first time.

For another, adoptive breastfeeding isn't all that common in contemporary, Western culture, so when it does happen, it's a real show-stopper.  If you think biological mamas have a hill to climb, at times having to defend their breastfeeding decisions, whatever they are, try being one of the women in my club.   Women like me who have milky-white skin and are raising chocolate-skinned, afro-headed babies.  (As if that alone doesn't turn enough heads and prompt unsolicited stares, comments, questions, and assumptions...)    Adoptive breastfeeding is yet another reason for people to stare, comment, question, and assume.    And most people, I've found, greatly underestimate the importance of the adoptive mother bonding with a child she didn't "home grow"; people often believe an adopted newborn is a blank slate, with no trauma related to the loss of his or her biological family.   It's not that adoptive parents need the public to approve their decisions, but it would be nice if those choices didn't induce the demand for justification.

Another reason is that adoptive breastfeeding takes work:  a lot of it.  Without a pregnancy, an adoptive mother must induce lactation using her chosen path which might involve prescription medications, herbs, massage, pumping, special foods/drinks, etc.    Sometimes women choose to utilize a supplementation device (a bag holds the milk and tubing connecting the bag to the mother's breast), though they can be expensive and require a lot of patience and practice as they can leak, break, or be rejected by the child.    A woman might pump for months, even years, with no baby to put to the breast.   She might never produce any milk, or only a little, rarely establishing a full supply, requiring the baby to not only breastfeed, but for the mother to supplement and possibly continue to pump.   Exhausting. 

Finally, the truth is that some women don't feel that they have earned the right to breastfeed a baby.  We didn't create 'em, grow 'em, birth 'em.    We didn't endure morning sickness, stretch marks, heartburn, weight gain, sleepless nights prompted by an ever-filling bladder.   Our scars aren't physical.   Instead, many of us quietly battle disease, infertility, miscarriage.   We have to prove our worth as a parent to our adoption agencies with background checks, home inspections, interviews, questionnaires, and training.   We are questioned at every turn.   To commit to breastfeeding takes an immense amount of confidence and dedication, which is hard for some adoptive mothers to come by when the journey to motherhood has been nothing but knock-after-knock, question-after-question, demand-after-demand.  Some perceive that adoptive breastfeeding is un-natural or inappropriate for the woman who hasn't birthed the baby ("some" including social workers, the child's biological parents, friends, family, and health care professionals).   

So where does that leave those of us who haven't birthed our children?  

Last month, my friend, who is a breastfeeding mama, middle-school teacher, and photographer, posted that she was offering mother and child feeding session photo shoots.   I immediately sent her a message and said, What about a skin-to-skin shoot?   She was in. 

So on a sunny Saturday morning, she came over with her baby, and she snapped hundreds of photos of me with my son.  In the background, her daughter cooed and babbled, while my friend smiled and gently directed and winked at my little one.   The shoot went well, and I anxiously waited for her to send me the pictures.

Two days later, the pictures were ready.  I held my breath and began to browse.

The photos were just stunning.  

I think when you see a photo of yourself, it's easy to criticize your looks:  your chin, your hairstyle, your thighs, your paint-chipped toenails.    But this time, I didn't go there.  I just watched picture after picture scroll through on my computer screen, each more beautiful than the last.  

All I saw was love.  Smiles.  Adoration.  Bonding.   Pink skin on brown skin.   Mother and baby.  My precious son. 


I think I'll continue to wrestle with my decision to breastfeed my son or not.   I am both overwhelmed and blessed with my three young children and my role as a stay at home mother.   I continue to feel a mix of guilt and relief for choosing not to induce lactation.  (So I'm trying out a Lact-aid with my son...slowly and steadily and also bottle-nursing).      

What I want adoptive mamas to know is that putting your child, whom you adopted, to your breast, is ok.  Your child very much needs that assurance, that time to learn your scent, your heartbeat, your voice, your texture.    You don't need to "earn" it, seek approval, or accept the judgement of others (or even yourself).  Quiet those disapproving, doubting voices and hear this:    

You are the mother. 

Breastfeeding Without Birthing author Alyssa Schnell spends much of her book talking about the protocols a mother might use to induce lactation.  There's charts and graphs and photographs.  All necessary to the book's goal.   However, woven throughout the chapters, Alyssa gently yet confidently reminds her readers of this:   nursing's utmost goal isn't to produce milk; nursing is about a relationship with your child.  

My son doesn't, and probably never will, receive milk from my breasts.  And in the quiet moments I have with him, I know that what he wants from me, what he NEEDS from me, is what I've been giving him all along:   love from my heart. 



This post was inspired by MOTHERING, who is celebrating International Breastfeeding Week.   Click here to read posts by other fab bloggers!  


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Where I've Been, Where I'm Going

I've spent some time lately thinking about how much my life has changed in the past few years and where it's headed.

First, yes, I have my "hands full" (as so many people remind me) with three little ones. 

But I've managed to "have it all."  I got my degrees, spent eight years teaching college composition (meanwhile adopting three children), wrote a book, wrote many articles, started and have maintained the role as facilitator of an ever-growing adoptive mom support group.   God has been good to me.

And I'm only 31. 

I'm at the point now where I look at people in their early twenties and realize I'm old(er).   And hopefully wiser.  More mature.  I have learned to be more gracious.  Less naive.  Less dramatic.  Less enticed by lesser things.

And I'm also at this place where I'm thinking, Now what?

I'm not teaching this fall, for the second semester in a row.  My longest break from being in a school since kindergarten.  It's strange.  Exciting.  A bit scary.

The book was published in March and has been steadily selling since.

My friend and I started a business on Etsy, which is slow, but we believe in what we're doing. 

I'm in this place where I'm wondering what I should be doing next.

Should I...
---work vigorously to promote my book and the Etsy business?
---start another book?
---go back to writing articles?
---start a new business?
---keep blogging/stop blogging?
---something else?

Or simply focus on my husband, my kids, and my diabetes/staying healthy?  

I feel change brewing.  Quietly roaring under some surface.   A mild prompting.

What is it?

I flipped open my Bible the other day, and here's the verse that is resonating with me as I move in whatever direction God would have me:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What Not To Say In Your Adoption Profile Book

As a writer and type-A lady, I spent a lot of time reading online profiles (written by prospective adoptive parents) and deciding what NOT to write.  For one, I wanted to stand out, to show who we truly were as a couple.  For another, I didn't want to be cliche.

So, after reading hundreds (probably...) of profiles, here's what not to put in your profile and why (in no particular order):

"Dear Birth Mother"      A woman isn't a birth mother unless she is a woman who has placed a child for adoption.     ("Dear Expectant Mother" is most appropriate, or simply "hello.")

"Dear Friend"    You don't know the woman looking at your profile book.   Why are you calling her friend?

"Thank you for choosing life for your baby."   Ug.  Cliche.   Annoying.  And assumes that abortion was an option she considered.  She may have.  She may not have.  Just don't.

"Your child will be a gift from God."  Don't throw in God into every single sentence, especially when you don't believe in God but think saying God will make the expectant mommy swoon. 

"We love baking cookies on Saturday afternoons."   Ok, unless you own a bakery, come on.   Details are great.  Saying something about visualizing sharing your favorite Scottish shortbread with your little one, that's nice and authentic, but trying to sound like you and spouse having nothing to do but bake cookies on Saturday afternoon....really?!?

"We experienced so much loss and pain..."   You do realize that a woman placing her child for adoption will experience tremendous loss and pain, right?  (Please say you get this!)    Put down the verbal violin and stop sounding so desperate.   Every person wanting to adopt has a story.  Telling it honestly and without desperation is admirable, even desirable.  But if your profile book includes a pop-up box of tissues...your are going overboard.

"We can't wait to meet the child God has for us."  And then your openness is only for a healthy, White infant (preferably twins!!!  one boy, one girl!  two for one deal!) who hopefully has your blue eyes and hopefully has your husband's sandy blond hair and tall stature...and, and, and.  

"We promise to..."  Alright. Hold up.  Don't make promises you aren't going to keep.  Think long and hard about what you write in this book as far as promises.     Promises should be kept. 

______ (overused Bible verse)    Try to be original.  What verse inspires you?  What verse might encourage the expectant mother?   Don't, please don't, share a verse about adoption or pain.  Dime a dozen.  

I'd love to hear from you!  What are you tired of reading in profile books?  What makes your skin crawl?   What's insulting? 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Adoption Ethics

I've seen more and more blog posts and discussions on adoption ethics lately, which makes me smile and sigh in relief.

Finally.  Finally.  We are talking about it more.  Finally, we might begin to force change.

So, here it goes.  In a nutshell.

There used to be this girl who believed whatever the "Christian" adoption agency told her.   Adoption was better for "birth mothers" who needed a "stable, loving couple" to raise her child.   Write checks, fill out the paperwork, write more checks, be interviewed, create a profile book, write more checks, maybe create a You Tube video about how great we are, wait, write more checks.  

But this girl began to meet birth moms, and they weren't who the media, who the agencies, who the public believed them to be.  They weren't strung out, young, sexually promiscuous, immoral, unintelligent.   The women this girl met were in their twenties, women who had made a few bad choices along the way (choices that were made by many, many women, it's just that these few had gotten pregnant), and found themselves in tough situations.  They were hairdressers and call-center workers, they were college students, they were daughters, they were sometimes financially strapped (like many people), and scared:  scared to place, scared to parent, scared to meet the baby they would soon have. 

This girl met such women in various places:  at a Mexican restaurant, at church, in an airport.   And she also met adoptees:  young and old (and in between).   She also met adoptive parents who were advocating for the rights of birth parents and adoptees and weren't screaming, "It's all about me getting the exact baby I ordered up from my adoption agency!"  These parents were talking about rights and discernment and selflessness, words that the agencies, that the media, that the public didn't allow in it's vocabulary.    Instead, such places promoted "saving" children who "needed good homes" (no doubt by handing over $10,000, $15,000, $20,000, $30,000 + dollars---but no, it wasn't baby buying...).

This girl then met a young woman who was considering placing her baby for adoption...with the girl and her husband.  She was in college, an adoptee herself, pregnant for the first time.    This young woman became friends with the girl.   The girl was with the young woman when she was pregnant, right after her baby was born, and at the moment when she placed the baby into the arms of a loving couple.  She was with this young woman when the agency was pressuring her to sign papers, to make a forever-choice.  She was shocked to find herself rooting for the birth parent, the young woman, instead of the ones like her:  the adoptive family.

Then she read some books, like The Girls Who Went Away.  

Oh yes, and she and her husband were considered many, many times as the adoptive parents to unborn babies.   And though she was desperate to be a mother, as the months went by, she found herself praying the words, "God be with this expectant mother as she makes her decisions" instead of "God let her pick us."  The focus changed.

This girl became a mother, three times, through domestic, infant, transracial, open adoption.   And each time she watched the biological mother walk into the court room to testify before a judge her understanding of placing and her reasoning for doing so, thereby agreeing to terminating her parental rights, this girl felt more pain than joy, more heartache than satisfaction, more grief than celebration.

You see, she had learned that it wasn't about her.  It wasn't about her heartache and what led her to choosing adoption.  It wasn't about the months of waiting, of looking at an empty crib and answering, for the hundredth time, "Heard any news yet?"   It wasn't about baby names or baby showers.  It wasn't about what she wanted in a baby, what she had planned for her life, or her timeline for making the word "family" happen.

It was first about the mother, the one who would choose.

And then about the child, who would be greatly affected, forever and ever, if the mother chose adoption.

She was in last place, the exact place the media, the agency, the public told her she shouldn't be.  

And it was ok.  It was well with her soul to be in last place.  Because she was exactly, exactly, where she should be.


The following stems solely from my experiences and the experiences of those closest to me who are also adoptive parents.    My views on domestic infant adoption aren't popular, but I believe they are ethical.  

When entering into domestic infant adoption, here are the things I wish I could have told my pre-child, pre-adoption self:

---When choosing an agency, don't ask how quickly I'll be placed, how many couples are waiting, how pretty to make my profile book, etc.  Instead, find out how biological parents are treated (before, during, after placing), how they are supported should they choose parenting, what support is offered after placement or choosing parenting, what sort of advocates they have, how much counseling they receive, how adoptees are supported, etc.

---Don't choose an agency based on the fact that they claim the title "Christian."  

---Ask as many questions as I want, and don't worry about annoying the social worker.  

---Do not support an agency that charges adoptive families based on their income or the race of the child to be adopted.

---Pray for each mom looking at our profile book, that she will make the best choice for her child, not that she will choose us to parent her baby.

---Birth father's have rights too. 

---If an agency promotes birth parent stereotypes, offers birth parents goods/money/experiences in exchange for placing, and/or attempts to coerce the biological parents in any way, run...fast.

---Don't push to be at the hospital, in the delivery room, at every pre-delivery appointment, etc.   It's not your baby if/until TPR is signed.  Period.   But out.  Give the mom space.

---Say it and mean it:  I support the biological parent in whatever she decides.  

---Truly, selflessly, pray for the biological parent (before, during, after placement, if placement happens).

---Never stop learning about adoption.    Never stop fighting for what is right, even when it doesn't serve me in any way.   Never stop praying that God will guide those who are in crisis pregnancies, those who adopt, those who are adoption professionals, those who create policies that affect moms and babies, those who are adopted. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Right Place, Right Time: Continuing My Adoption Education

I do love a good adoption discussion...but while writing the book, along with facilitating an adoptive mom group (which now has 68 local members), and being an adoptive mom, oh yes, while starting up an Etsy shop featuring adoption t-shirts, I was feeling a bit jaded, overloaded, unmotivated, even disgusted, with adoption.

Not a good place to be when my job (writing about adoption) is centered on the very topic I was tired of talking about, engaging with, and educating others on.

Last week we had our monthly adoptive mom meeting.   This time our meeting was at a member's house with a special speaker:  an attachment therapist.  We all sat in a circle, plates of snacks on our laps, chatting with those sitting next to us:  old friends mingling with new.     Mamas with many kids (7), mamas with no children, mamas with bio kids, mamas with adopted kids, mamas of kids with special needs, mamas of foster children...it was a diverse group. 

The attachment therapist is incredible.   It was like she knew exactly what to say.   Everyone was nodding, feeling ourselves grow more and more comfortable with every word she spoke.

She understood us.

She was cheering for us.

It's hard for adoptive mothers to fit in sometimes.   Problems are children experience are sometimes so much more intricate than seemingly similar issues faced by biological children who live with their biological parents.     We can feel (and be) very isolated in our concerns, questions, and experiences.

Here's the #1 thing I came away with:  inspiration.

I felt re-energized.  Excited.  Motivated.

I cannot possibly re-create the experience for you...but here's a few things I was reminded of/learned:

---Children, even those adopted at birth, have faced trauma.   (Check out The Primal Wound).  And this trauma can affect these children in profound ways.    (The therapist shared that there was an experiment once done on 20 young adults, 10 of whom had been NICU babies.   NICU babies often have blood drawn from the heels of their feet.   The scientists would grab the ankles of the 20 young adults.   All 10 of them who had been NICU babies reacted to the heel-grabbing, while the other 10 didn't.  The therapist compared this to children who were adopted at birth.  They may not consciously remember the experience, but this doesn't mean their bodies cannot remember).

---It's so important to have empathy for adopted children when they face tough times.  

---Don't forget to bring up adoption.   To say, "I was thinking about your birth mom.  Do you ever think about her?"   It's ok to bring it up, even when the kid doesn't.

---It's ok to try out therapies that everyone else (aka---non-adoption realm people) doesn't understand.   Unique situations need unique resolutions.

---Attachment parenting is an excellent way to bond with adopted kids.  

---Many criminals are stuck at a very young emotional age, but they are in an adult-size body.   Don't neglect to get help finding out your child's emotional age (to being to heal and attach properly).   Find a great attachment therapist.   It can change your world.

And something I learned (again) just by sitting amidst so many wise women was that support is SO important.   It's easy to isolate ourselves and feel alone in our adoption struggles, but we are NOT alone.   We need support, and it's our responsibility to find it.

Proverbs 18:1

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Doing Less to Do More

Now that I finally feel like I have my feet on somewhat stable ground with my three kiddos (we are past the newborn phase!), I'm trying to make some smarter choices as to what matters and what doesn't.   One area I'm focusing on is preparing meals for my family and cleaning.   Because my goal is to spend more time with my children and be a more centered/balanced person (which makes me a better wife/mom/friend/daughter/sister).

Here's a few things I'm doing to create more time for what matters:

1:  Little-to-no-cooking.   I'm tired of spending 30+ minutes preparing a meal to eat it in under 3 minutes.   And it's summer, so the heat makes cooking a bit more arduous than usual.  And I'm really, really tired of mountains of dishes.  (Because I'm a green/eco-friendly lady, I refuse to use paper/plastic eating-ware).   I continue to be dedicated to healthy eating (including organic/free-range/GMO-free/local/plenty of raw foods).   So for the summer, I'm going much more casual with meals and snacks, including: 
  • sandwiches/wraps:  hummus, veggies, nut-butter/jelly, cheese, honey mustard  (Use a variety of breads:   bagel things, sandwich thins, leftover frozen buns, waffles, etc.)
  • salads:  Mexican (beans, salsa, tortilla chip crumbles, etc.), Asian (pineapple, edamame, etc.), Cobb (egg, tomato, etc.), fruit/nut
  • smoothies:  Greek yogurt, frozen fruit, low-sugar lemonade, fresh spinach
  • raw fruits/veggies with dips (peanut butter, hummus, Greek yogurt)
  • muffins:  tofu banana with chocolate chips, berry/carrot, pumpkin apple, etc. (bake and freeze in batches, pulling out a few when needed)
  • frozen pizza:  Trader Joe's makes a fabulous feta, mozzarella, and spinach pizza (pair with fresh fruit, and voila!)
  • dressed-up oatmeal:  add in pumpkin puree, nut butters or nuts, agave nectar, chocolate chips (dark, of course), fresh fruit, etc.
Other meal tips:
  • Have a picnic in the living room in front of a favorite movie, or picnic in the yard, or eat on the porch.
  • Don't be afraid of making meals "match."   The other day, my kids had nachos, salmon pasta salad, and corn casserole.   :)    Just make sure the meals are balanced:  protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs.
  • Potluck!   Summers are great for hosting and attending potluck meals.  Again, don't worry about the foods matching.  Why not just have everyone bring a favorite?  Or, you can always assign a side, a dessert, a drink, etc., but keep it general to give your guests some freedom to be creative!
  • With easy-to-assemble meals like wraps, let your kids custom-create their meal by choosing the ingredients and assembling the wrap. 
2:  Do chores together.   Get kid-safe supplies and let them help.   My kids (ages 2 and 4), can do the following:
  • sweep (using mini-brooms/dustpans)
  • vacuum (area rugs)
  • clean windows (with vinegar spray and a rag---non-toxic)
  • pick up toys (obviously!)
  • fold towels/washcloths
  • match socks
  • put away some of their own laundry (like socks and underwear)
  • make their beds (pull blanket over the bed, put stuffed animals and pillow on bed neatly)
  • put away silverware and put lids on storage bowls from the dishwasher
  • dust (lower items, like the bottom of the buffet table, or the end-table, nightstands, etc.)
And because they are young, they like doing these things!   Moms and dads should not take on all these responsibilities on their own!    Do not underestimate your child's ability to help around the house.   Make it fun.  Blast music, dance, race.  Whatever works.

Just my thoughts:  don't turn chores into a greater chore by using chore-charts too early.   You'd be surprised how many little ones enjoy just being with mom or dad and don't need a reward for helping out the family.

3:  Don't care for the things no one cares about!  
  • We use cloth napkins to be eco-friendly and save money.  But there's no reason to fold them or iron them (though my kids do like to fold them...which is fine).   Just shove them in a drawer.
  • We use rags to clean with, because they are eco-friendly and save money.   But folding them is pointless.  Just have a large basket to house them, and when they are clean throw them in the basket!
  • When making beds, focus less on making them perfect and simply pull the covers up.  Get rid of the 15,000 extra pillows.   Or, better yet, like us, we don't make our beds 75% of the time.  What's the point? 
  • Focus on cleaning/caring for the areas that are most visible and used.   A tidy living room invites guests into a cozy, clean environment.  A guest bathroom should be clean and welcoming.  Keep your kitchen in semi-good shape, especially if it's a high-traffic area like mine is.
Think about the things that really do not matter, and stop taking the time to take care of them!  

4:  Do put effort in now to save time later.
  • Put outfits together for kids (I roll them together), so they can easily grab outfits and dress themselves in matching clothes.
  • Sort and stack towels so that you aren't demolishing a drawer or closet to find a washcloth amidst the piles of hand towels.    Some people put a set together to make things easier at bath time:  a towel and washcloth.
  • A bit off topic, but couponing and having a small (reasonable) stockpile makes shopping trips less stressful.   You will typically go to the store less (because you will have on-hand what you need, which you purchased at a great price, instead of multiple mini-runs to the store for a full-price item you need NOW).
  • Figure out what you need and order it online instead of going to the store.  Amazon and Vitacost have been incredibly helpful to me.   Both offer cheaper prices if you set up automatic orders for certain items.   I order lotion, beans, pumpkin and squash purees, cereal, and my kids' favorite crackers through these websites.   Benefits:  the shipping is free, there's no sales tax, and the products come right to my door in a matter of just a few days.
  • Shop without the kids when possible.  Leave them at home with dad or a sitter.  You can accomplish so much more without them (and you can leave the store without forgetting three items you needed for the week, saving you another trip later).   Sometimes I take just one child with me to give her more focus while getting the list taken care of.
With these things in place, I've been able to...
  • Work with my oldest on reading, tying her shoes, and learning her address/phone number.   Work with my middle child on shapes, colors, and letters.
  • Spend more time just hanging out with my kids:  imaginative play, coloring, reading, swimming.
  • Holding my baby and not doing twenty other things at the same time.
  • Enroll my kids in the activities they enjoy.  This month it's gymnastics and karate!
  • Host more play dates.  Attend more play dates.
  • Be in a Bible study one night a week with friends.
  • Read for pleasure.
  • Relax with my husband after the kids are in bed.
  • Get the kids to bed at a decent time and not rush the bedtime routine (which never turns out well).

I'd love to hear what you are doing to save time and create space in your life for what you really want! 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

And the winner is....

Erin @Sew Abundantly!

Please e/m me your full name and address, and I'll have Kelly ship your book ASAP!

whitebrownsugar AT hotmail DOT com


Monday, July 1, 2013

Interview and Giveaway: Brown Princess Book


A book featuring a brown-skinned princess?  Yes, please!

Meet my new friend Kelly Greenawalt author of Princess Truly and The Hungry Bunny Problem!

I am the freckle-faced momma of four amazing black children. I grew up in a large Irish Catholic family in New York City. My parents divorced when I was teenager and I moved to a small town just outside of Houston with my mother. I fell in love with sweet tea, bluebonnets and my amazing husband, Chuck. This year we'll celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. Together we've adopted four children - Clay, Travis, Calista and Kaia - and fostered many more. My hobbies include wrangling four children, laughing until I can't breath, yacking on the phone with silly sisters, staying in my pajamas as much as possible, fiddling around in my garden and writing.
Princess Truly is a clever little girl with magical curly hair that is especially good at solving problems. In this story she helps her friend, Lola Little, grow carrots for her hungry bunny friends. It's an enchanting tale that inspires little girls to learn, to be helpful, to love their curly hair and to use their imaginations.

I wrote Princess Truly and The Hungry Bunny Problem for my daughter, Kaia. After watching her favorite Disney movie for the hundredth time, my daughter announced that her hair wasn't special or beautiful. She'd never seen a black princess with natural hair and so she decided her gorgeous curls were ugly. I was shocked... heartbroken. I set out to find a character she could identify with and came back empty handed. In repsonse to the lack of such a character, I created one. Princess Truly was born. When the story was finished, I shared it with a few close friends and family members. They encourage me to publish the book. 
I am working on a second Princess Truly book. I'm also doing lots of laundry, driving my four children to various activities and trying to potty train our new puppy, Jonas. I lead a very exciting life.
Kelly has offered one lucky White Sugar, Brown Sugar reader a copy of her book!   Here's the details:
Entry period:  July 1-July 5 at noon (Central Time).
Prize:  A copy of Princess Truly and the Hungry Bunny Problem
Entries:  You may earn one entry for each of the following:
1:  "Like" Kelly's FB page, and leave me a comment telling me you did so!
2:  Visit the book's illustrator's Etsy shop, browse her items, and leave a comment on this post telling me which one you like the most!  
3:  Share this giveaway on FB or Twitter, and leave a comment telling me you did so.
4:  "Like" my book's FB page, and leave me a comment letting me know you did.
5:  "Like" my blog's FB page, and leave me a comment letting me know you did.
6:  "Like" my t-shirt business' FB page (we specialize in creating cozy shirts celebrating adoption, special needs, and people of color), and let me know you did.
7:  Share any of the FB pages (see #4, #5, and #6) on your FB page, and leave a comment letting me know you did.
BEST WISHES!   I'll post the winner after the holiday weekend!