Monday, October 26, 2015

Good Reads: Five Must-Read Adoption Articles to Get Ready for National Adoption Month

All of November, I'll be focusing on National Adoption Month.  To get you ready, I wanted to share some of the articles I've written on the subjects (my favorites).  I hope the variety of topics will encourage you, educate you, and empower you.

from  Adoptive Parents:  It's Ok to Say 'No' to Adoption Opportunities'

from Scary Mommy:  We are a Real Family Thank You Very Much

from Babble:  Are You Scared Their Birth Parents Will Try to Take Them Back?

from Huffington Post:  The One Thing You Should Say to an Adoptive Family

from Today Parenting Team:  I'm Not In the Mommy Club

Let's get ready for November, Sugars!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Moms (by Adoption) in Business

I know so many moms who adopted their kiddos, and some of these mamas have gone into business for themselves, using their children's adoptions as inspiration for the wonderful products they create. (These are not sponsored posts!  These are products we have liked and use in our our household.) Here are two of my favorites:

Africa Sleeps   This mama sells organic and healthy hair and skincare items for kids of color, as well as fabulous sleep caps

South Africa: Pink Grapefruit Nourishing Conditioner

Lemon Starfish (Books)  Kelly Greenawalt is the author of several books starring kids of color, including her new release The Freckled Speckled Rainbow Dog Salon.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Telling All

Hi, Sugars:

Today I want to talk about "telling all" or "spilling it" when it comes to your child's adoption story.

Now, you might be thinking, it's our family's story, not just my child's story.

Well, yes and no.  I mean I get that every story has a "once upon a time" and hopefully a "happily ever after," but the "once upon a time" usually starts with you, the parents.  But the middle of the story, well, that's your child's:  their background, their birth parents, the circumstances surrounding the adoption placement, your child's adoption-related struggles, etc.

I have no problem telling people:
  • Why we chose to adopt:  Type 1 diabetes, diagnosed when I was 24.  Autoimmune and chronic disease.  Can be passed on to biological children.  Can make pregnancy difficult and potentially dangerous.  
  • How long we waited for each child: There's really nothing personal about this, and I like to tell those considering adoption that you just never know when your child will arrive.  My first baby arrived after 14 months of waiting, my second on the first day (yes, you read that correctly) of waiting, my third after about four months of waiting.  
  • Some reasons why moms choose to place their babies:  I never reveal why our children's birth parents placed.  I share that sometimes moms place due to lack of support from the biological father or her own family, lack of financial stability, already parenting multiple kids and feels she cannot parent another child, has addiction issues, feels she's too young or too old or too inexperienced, has goals she's trying to meet that will be deterred if she parents, etc.
  • Some struggles adoptees may face:  Grief, attachment issues, identity issues, guilt, shame, and more.  But I never share my children's personal struggles.
  • We have open adoptions:  This becomes obvious once people get to know us, because there are pictures of our kids' biological families on our walls and we visit them a few times a year. However, open adoption doesn't mean giving strangers or even those close-ish to us access to details about our kids' biological families, the reasons they chose to place their children, etc.  
  • Adoption is complicated:  This is a BIG topic, so I'll spare you a lot of details.  You likely already know that adoption is complicated.  However, I don't share the confidential things we work through as a family. 
  • Children have beginnings and those are part of their story:  However, we don't share our children's birth names or health history.  
When we were first considering adopting, my cousins who had adopted their son internationally, sat us down to answer our questions.  They gave us one excellent piece of advice:  Once you share something, you cannot unshare it.  This conversation happened nine years ago before social media was one of our most prevalent and sometimes risky ways of communicating.  Truly now, nothing can be unshared if it's been shared on social media.

So as you are searching for adoption resources (many of them I will be offering to you in November during National Adoption Month), I want you to know that I'm pretty critical and skeptical of those who put it all "out there," meaning, the parents who adopted the child share their child's personal story freely.  The justification's include:  it's freeing to just tell "the truth and the whole truth and nothing but the truth," that it's cathartic for the parents who have had a long and tumultuous journey to parenthood, that we live in an era of sharing (it is what it is), that it brings the story's writer/teller popularity in the adoption community (earning them more "likes" and followers).  

Where my mind goes is here:  The people who are most important to me are my husband and my children.  I have been chosen as my children's parents, and I believe that being a parent means that above all, I work my hardest to ensure my children's safety and well-being.  If I'm focused on handing out their story like a grandma hands out cookies, then I am not focused on my children.  Instead, I would be using my children for personal gain (from the list of justifications listed).  

It just feels dirty to me.  Selfish.  

I get that all of us in the adoption community want to bring more awareness to adoption (including the 120,000+ kids here in the United States who are waiting for a forever family), that we want adoption to be more socially acceptable (not take second place to having biological children), that in some cases (like mine) the adoption is apparent so there's no need to "hide."  But I argue, there is middle ground.  There is HIGHER ground.

Whether you are a fellow writer like me, or you are a parent who has just adopted, is considering adoption, or adopted your children years ago, I want you to consider something my pastor often says: "You don't reap what you sow today.  You reap tomorrow what you sowed yesterday."  

So before you push "share" on that picture of the baby in utero you are matched with, before you vent about your child's birth mom on social media, before you spill your child's adoption story to the new neighbor, please remember that you should put your child's best interest first.  Because in ten or twenty or thirty years, many of your "friends" will no longer be there, many of your "followers" will have long forgotten you, but your child will still be your child.  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Adoption Talk Link-Up: Adoption Language

Hi, Sugars!  

Let's talk about adoption language.  

I've written extensively on the things people have said (still say) to our family regarding race and adoption.  I've shared how I feel about the terms "real family" (or "real sibling" or "real parent), when someone had the audacity to call my toddler son a "thug," and the horrific time this past spring when a stranger drove by our home and shouted the n-word twice at my girls.  

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

It's just not true.  

Words hurt.  Words carry weight.  Words can stay in our minds forever

We've been the target of a lot of really inappropriate and uncomfortable comments and questions.  And I've worked diligently to respond in the ways I feel are most correct.  I'm well aware that I'm modeling for my children how they might respond on their own in the future.  I'm teaching them to respond with grade, strength, and confidence.  I'm showing them that boundaries are healthy, privacy should be valued, and they have every right to stand up for themselves.  

The Bible shares some wisdom on the power of words:

Eph 4:29:
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Prov. 15:1:
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Prov. 16:24:
Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Luke 6:45: 
A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

Proverbs 17:22:
A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

The truth is, there will always be individuals who don't get it right, even those within the adoption community.  I see online posts where an expectant mom is referred to as a "birth mom" or a "BM" (even worse).  I hear people refer to babies as being "given up" rather than "placed"---words with very different connotations.  I see moms refer to themselves as their child's "adoptive mom."  

Just last week, a nurse at a medical appointment asked me if I was my child's foster mom.  I said no.  She says, "Adoptive mom?  Because I'm just trying to figure out what to put in the chart."   I said, "I'm her mom."   (I later chuckled to myself.   As if my daughter, when she has a bad dream in the middle of the night or hurts herself calls for her "adoptive mom" rather than just "MAW-MMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!")   

In my seven years of parenting and almost nine years in the adoption community, I know that there will always be those who can't, don't, or won't get it right.  And what is "right" is ever-changing as our culture and understanding of adoption (and race) changes.  

I sure cannot control naive, ignorant, or rude people. But I can control how I choose to respond.  Because how I respond teaches my children a lot:  about others, about how I feel about adoption, about how they might define themselves and how they feel about adoption (and race), and much more.

Responses should be strong, grace-filled, cheerful, and honest.   And not just responses to others, but how we (as parents) respond to our children, and even within our own internal dialogue.   

It's certainly not easy.  Choosing anger, frustration, snarkiness, sarcasm...these are naturally where our minds go when someone says something hurtful to our children, our families, or about adoption in general.  But there's simply too much at stake to choose the easy road over the higher road.   Choosing the "road less traveled" really does make "all the difference."

Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!

Today's topic is Names. Grab a button for your post and join Erin, Jamie, Jenni, Jill, Madeleine, Rachel, and me!
New to linking up? We'd love to have you join us, here's how.
No Bohns About It

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Girls Can! Crate: Empowering Our Girls to Be Fearless

Last week, a box arrived. It was our very first crate from GIRLS CAN! CRATE. And it featured none other than Bessie Coleman, one of the ten women I featured in my first children's book, Black Girls Can: An Empowering Story of Yesterdays and Todays. In a nutshell, here's what we loved about our crate:

  • each crate explores many different subjects, so the crates are awesome for homeschooling! In the crate we received, we explored history, science, math, art, reading, and writing.
  • the colors. As you can see from some of the site's photos below, this isn't a box full of pink and purple glitter. Red, blue, yellow! Whoo hoo!
  • the range of activities for different interests. My oldest loves art, so decorating the planes was a hit! My middle daughter loves anything active, so the high-flying aerial stunt game was her cup of tea!
  • the packaging. The crate was fun, modern, and not over-the-top.
  • everything needed to have fun was included in the crate. I didn't need to leave my house (or change my yoga pants) and buy a single thing.
  • the "fact" card featuring the chosen woman. On Bessie's card, there's a place for your little learner to write how she was brave like Bessie. My middle daughter responded, "When I had my surgery." (Adenoid removal is a BIG deal to a 4.5 year old!). We hung up Bessie's card in our home learning space, and we plan to add more cards as our crates come in.
  • reasonably priced. Some crate subscriptions are ridiculously expensive and not in the budgets of many families I know. With the affordability and the amount of things you get in a crate, you can rest assured the crate will deliver as promised! And think, you could put a crate subscription on your child's holiday or birthday wish list!

Here's what you need to know (and want to know) about the company, the crates, and the creators:

Rachel: What inspired you to create GIRLS CAN! CRATE?

(Megan) This is such a great question and a hard one to answer briefly! With GIRLS CAN! CRATE, we wanted to create more than just a product. As a mama to a 4 year old, my daughter is consistently “told” that her value is in her appearance and that too many things are “just for boys.” Not too long ago she said to me, “Mom, let’s play prince and princess. I’ll be the princess, you be the prince, and you rescue me.” I want my little girl to be a confident problem-solver, who stands up for herself and for other people.

I’ve spent the last decade in the nonprofit sector working to combat educational inequity and sex trafficking. There is a significant gender achievement gap in the United States that must be addressed...and the consequences of it are far reaching. Women are significantly more likely to hold minimum wage jobs, live in poverty, experience violence and abuse. Women also hold less than 15-20% of leadership positions in all sectors and hold less than 25% of all STEM jobs (science, technology, engineering and math), the most in-demand and one of the most influential career fields.

We created GIRLS CAN! CRATE to address these gaps by empowering girls to believe they can BE and DO anything. Most toys created for girls today are related strictly to appearance. It is our goal that as girls engage in fun, hands-on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) activities and are introduced to diverse fearless women who have helped make the world better, they will build confidence in themselves, their abilities and their potential to also help change the world. In order to help ALL girls reach their full potential, we will donate a portion of all proceeds to three nonprofit organizations working to empower girls.

Rachel: How is your product different than other products on the market?

(Monika) What really sets GIRLS CAN! CRATE apart from other gynocentric toys is the fact that we highlight accomplished women from history. We say, “Look at this amazing lady! She was real and she did something incredible! She persevered!”  Many of the woman we highlight had to overcome what seemed like insurmountable circumstances. I don’t think you can read about them and not want to puff out your chest and grab your cape. And obviously, there is a delightful convenience (and joy) of having something delivered. The ease of having everything you need to create something in one exciting box! Parents don’t have to come up with a project and then run to their local craft store.

Additionally, I think the fact that we are all women ourselves means we deeply know our audience. We know their struggles and aspirations because we have experienced them.When we are thinking up activities we aren’t thinking about the bottom line, we are thinking about how our daughter or niece would interact with them. We are educating the next generation of women and it’s something we take very seriously.

Rachel: What can girls expect when they receive their crate?

Simply put, girls can expect a crate full of inspiration. The boxes are fun, fresh, and creative. Your kids will be so excited for their new box to arrive monthly. Here's what you (the kiddo!) can expect in a monthly box:
- You're going to get your name! How cool!
- A 20 page activity book filled with a story of a fearless woman, games, puzzles, and art/craft projects you can do at home.
- 2-3 educational, hands on activities that are STEAM based (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math). These will help you realize how FABULOUSLY smart you are!
- All the “tools” you’ll need for these activities - markers, paints, scissors, glue.
- You’ll get or make costume pieces (like an aviator hat).
- A character trading card for you to collect
- And more :)

Rachel: What about parents and educators?

(Megan) Parents can expect ALL OF THE ABOVE and:
  • Their kids will have FUN and their kids will LEARN important skills and lessons that last after the crate is closed.
  • Fearless, diverse female role models (Our goal is that ANY little girl can open our crates and see what can be possible for her.)
  • Practical everyday tips on how parents can help girls develop important character traits and mindsets (For example, tips to help girls grow more fearless, to develop positive body image or handle failure)
  • All the high-quality materials they need, no need to run to the store!
  • Quality time with their kiddos working through the crate
As a former teacher, educators are my people! Our crates feature seriously inspiring ladies from different races, ethnicities, backgrounds, and career fields that their students will love meeting. Inspiring women, and particularly women of color, are way too often underrepresented in school and in curriculum. Teachers will easily be able to align the activities in our crates to math, science, literacy and history standards, while fostering critical thinking and ensuring their students have FUN!

Rachel: What can we anticipate seeing from your company in the future?

(Kristen) One of the great things about what we’re doing and what we’re about is that there’s no shortage of inspirational ladies for young people to learn from. Here’s a teeny tiny taste of what’s to come...our next box features several inspiring female artists and includes everything kids need to create their own masterpieces, make some unique costume pieces and some fun science experiments. We’re hard at work finishing up box 3 which features a lady who helped change the medical will LOVE making their own medical equipment that actually works, creating life-sized body maps and more. We’ve already said too much. Don’t you love the element of surprise? In the near future, we’ll be adding additional resources to support parents in addressing additional questions or challenges that arise for their kids as they learn about these inspiring women and what they had to overcome. Eventually, we hope to launch a crate to empower older kids to become social innovators who combat urgent social problems. Additionally, we want to engage in great and challenging conversation through our blog. We would love to invite those who are working to fight against the world’s ugliness or who want to celebrate what is beautiful to share their thoughts, experiences, expertise, and inspiration with us and our audience.

A little more information…

Crates start at $25.95/mo and you’ll get to choose which nonprofit your purchase will go towards during check-out! There’s a new crate every single month and you can start month-to-month or sign up for a 3, 6, or 12 month plan for added savings. Subscribers always have the option of “pausing” their subscription if more time is needed between shipments. You can help us spread the inspiration! Once you sign up, you can invite friends too. You’ll have the opportunity to share a $10 off coupon with friends and for every friend that subscribes, we’ll give you $10 off your next purchase! A savings win/win!

Find Girls Can Crate on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.

for 25% off your first crate, WHITE SUGAR BROWN SUGAR readers can enter code SUGAR25 at checkout

Monday, October 5, 2015

'tis the Season to Get Ready: Gifts for Kids of Color

Hi, Sugars:

I'm thrilled to share with you that effective immediately, you can follow me on Twitter and Facebook to get daily suggestions on the best gifts for kids of color.

For many years now, I've been completely obsessed with children's books, art, games, toys, music, apparel, hair products and accessories, and videos that feature characters of color, Black history themes, etc.  I'll also be highlighting media the promotes diversity and adoption education (for both adults and kids).  I've written several articles on the subject, but these articles end up getting buried in a website's content, not seen by as many people who can benefit from them.  

To streamline the fabulous resources and gifts I've discovered, I'm sharing them all on my IG and Twitter accounts.  Everything I post is something my family has personally purchased, borrowed, or observed!

Are you ready to fill your feeds and accounts with fabulousness?  

Many of the resources posted are listed in my books, but my IG and Twitter accounts will add new suggestions not listed in the books as well.  

I'm so excited about this project!  

Announcing...Book #5!

Dear Sugars,

I'm so excited to share the happy news with you!  

Poems for the Smart, Spunky, and Sensational Black Girl has been released on Amazon!

Here are some fun facts about the book:
·       ---  23 sensational poems on topics such as:  getting one’s hair done, slumber parties, a new sibling, the importance of one’s name, sitting in church, strong Black women, art, school, future job aspirations, and more. 
·       ----  10 illustrations: vibrant, featuring girls with different hair types and skin tones, engaging
·       ---  Poems emphasize:  confidence, racial pride, kindness, having fun, learning lessons, bravery
This book is the only one like it on the market!  It’s contemporary, bright, and confidence-boosting!  ---It’s formatted as a 6 x 9, much like many of the easy reader books you’ll find on store shelves, perfect for girls ages 5-8.  

I can't wait to hear what you think about it! 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Buy Coffee for Jerks?: Adoption Talk Link-Up

This topic is anything here goes something.

By now, you've probably heard the story of the woman who was standing in line at a coffee shop when she overheard the women behind her poking fun of her hair and her weight.  In return, the woman bought the two women's drinks.  Her 22 month old daughter was present during the incident.

Hold up.

This is like turning the other cheek.  Killing with kindness.  Catching flies with honey.  Salt and light. Counter-cultural, for certain.

I'm a mama bear.  When someone says something inappropriate or insulting to or in front of my kids, I feel my blood begin to boil.   Like the time my toddler son was called a "cute little thug," or when I hear someone say that something or someone is "so retarded," or when we're asked questions about adoption/our family's authenticity in the worst possible ways.  

I have had moments of victory.  For example, the time we were standing in line at Aldi to buy groceries and a stranger-woman turned to us and said, "Are they real sisters?"  (They being my two girls at the time).  I said, "Yes."  She then says, "But are they REALLY real sisters?"  Before I went all un-Jesus on her (it was right after church...), I took my girls by the hand and walked out the doors and to our car.    There was the time a woman blocked us from exiting our seats at my middle daughter's basketball game and began asking similar "real" questions.  I finally said to her, "That's really none of your business."   There was the time I was growing increasingly upset at a children's librarian who kept giving my family double-takes, and for some reason I felt like I must hold my tongue.  As we checked out our books, she confessed that she was adopted as a child and shared some of her experiences.  Giving her the benefit-of-the-doubt ended up being a fantastic opportunity to have a rich conversation.

But there have been times, as I shared in a recent Infant Adoption Guide podcast, that I gave away too much information and too much of my power as a mommy and advocate for my child.  These mostly occurred early in our parenting journey when I desperately wanted to be deemed as a real and confident and conquer the world mom.  What wasn't ok was that in being prideful, nervous, and anxious, I gave away too much information to people who didn't love us and wouldn't be part of our lives: they were just strangers.  Nosy strangers.

Families like mine constantly work at striking a balance between protecting our kids' stories and family privacy and being friendly enough that someone might actually want to be our friends for the long-haul.    Too much information makes us weak and isn't fair to our children, but too little information makes us seem snotty, uncertain, and prideful.  We dance, and dance, and dance again, each time getting a little smarter, stronger, and spot-on.

The mom at the coffee shop took the higher road than I have many times.  She had just a few minutes to decide what to do.  Should she give it to the women good (she had every right to!)?  Should she ignore the two women?  Should she put them in their place with a big dose of humble (pie) coffee?  Should she roll her eyes at them? Should she be passive aggressive, or just aggressive or just passive?

We moms are so hard on one another.  Strangers can be so cruel.     The saying is true.  Hurting people do hurt people.   What should we do in return, when we encounter hurt that stems from ignorance, pride, anger, confusion, selfishness, or bullying?

Every situation is different.  Every day is a new adventure in learning grace, patience, kindness, self-control.

One thing is for certain, the mom at the coffee shop made a choice that had far more of an impact than the alternatives.   I hope that I can have the wisdom, patience, and conviction to do the same, no matter my mood, my schedule, my anger, or my fears.

Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!

Today's topic is Names. Grab a button for your post and join Erin, Jamie, Jenni, Jill, Madeleine, Rachel, and me!
New to linking up? We'd love to have you join us, here's how.
No Bohns About It