Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Dear Sugar: Doing the Best We Can (and Letting That Be Enough)

Dear Sugar:

Lately I've been reading a lot of posts in adoption groups about open adoption and relationships between birth families and families-by-adoption.

I've written a lot on our open adoptions, especially what you need in order to be in an open adoption, what open adoption is and isn't, and why we have chosen open adoption.

In a nutshell:  openness in adoption is NOT easy.   Anything worthwhile is going to be difficult.   Loving is HARD, and because open adoption requires love, open adoption is hard.

If you do your research and decide to love BIG, flinging open your arms and your heart, you are going to face challenges.  There is no way around it.   But the goal is to love and love big for the sake of the child, the adoptee.  We know that secrecy, avoidance, and unknowns can create difficulties that should be avoided if possible.   Parents need to be like doctors and pledge to first and foremost do no harm.

So you've said yes to openness, but now what?   I mean practically, how does all this work out when there's a triad, and sometimes multiple individuals within each point of the triangle?   When we're all raised differently, believe differently, have different communication styles and expectations (oh, expectations), then what?      What is the guiding belief or goal or mantra?

Lately I've been thinking about relationships---people I'm close to but those who I predictably struggle with.   Nothing dramatic (I have pretty much a nonexistent tolerance for drama.)    Times where there is tension, uncertainty, awkward conversations, and emotional distance.  

First, I will place blame on myself.   I think, if I were only more _____ or less _____.   I'm too much  of this, or too not enough of that.

Then I think, no, relationships are a two-way street.  The other person is more/less this or that.  I roll my eyes.  Sigh.  Feel sad or angry.

Then there's stage 3:  reflection and reality check.

And my conclusion is this:   Most people I know are trying the best they can with what they have.  So instead of complaining, pouring energy into yearning for more or less or different, or beating up oneself, the answer is just to BE THANKFUL for what is present, what is working, and the fact that we all just keep trying because LOVE is worth it.

I'm not, at all, supporting toxic relationships.    Sometimes, you do have to cut someone off, distance yourself from that person dramatically, or at minimum, have a come-to-Jesus conversation with firm boundaries.  

But overall, we're all just trying to figure this relationship thing out, whatever that relationship is, and true commitment means riding out all the storms.   When it comes to relationships within open adoption---there needs to be a lot of forgiveness, empathy, open-mindedness, and compromise.

The next time there's a hurdle in your open adoption relationship, ask yourself:  What is HERE, RIGHT NOW, that I can be thankful for and appreciative of?   Sometimes you have to look hard. Sometimes the beauty is right in front of you.

Either way, we need to remember that no matter what, we have to do what's best for the adoptee, the child.


For more information on open adoption, I suggest this book:



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dear Sugar: Simple Fall Fun With Young Kids

Dear Sugar:

I don't know about you, but I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest.  I tend to binge-pin and then realize my life will NEVER look like anything I pinned, so I take a break for a few weeks. Vicious cycle.

Here are some non-Pinterest fall fun ideas you can do with your young kiddos.  These have all been created/tried/tested by me.   My goals are:  inexpensive, easy, fun.   If my kid can't do most of the activity by themselves, we're not doing it.

1:  Bedazzle pumpkins.

Remember the 80s when there was the Bedazzler?   Oh, yeah.  We bedazzle our pumpkins!   So carving pumpkins is only sort-of fun (they never look all that great, only last about a week before dying, involve putting candles---aka FIRE---around young kids, and parents end up doing most of the carving and de-gutting):  but bedazzling pumpkins?  It's everything!

All you need is craft glue, q-tips, embellishments, and pumpkins.   We got our embellishments this year (googly eyes and rhinestones) at the dollar store.   (We have also painted pumpkins in the past, but usually the kids just mix all the colors together, and we end up with brown-gray painted pumpkins.)

Put some glue on a throw-away surface (such as a paper plate).  Give each kid a few q-tips.  Have them pick up embellishments, one by one, and place glue on the back using the q-tip dipped in glue.  Stick the embellishment to the pumpkin.  Allow to dry.  A tip:  a lot of glue isn't good, as embellishments tend to slide down the pumpkin.

This is an excellent activity for practicing fine motor skills.  We usually put on our Disney playlist (just because) and decorate away!   This activity held the attention of my active 3.5 year old son for over a half hour!

2:   Fancy fall bath.

Fall commands vanilla, pumpkin spice, cinnamon:  warm, cozy flavors.  Using some sort of blending device (we have a Magic Bullet), place oats, vanilla extract, spice of choice, and some brown sugar.   Blend until the mixture is a fine consistency.    Start a warm bath for the kiddos, pour in the mixture, and if you're feeling extra fancy, light a candle.  (We had Merry Marshmallow from Yankee candle on hand---as it's one of the few scented candles I like).   Put on some calm music, and let the kids enjoy. This is perfect for before bedtime.   (As an added bonus, oat baths are good for those with eczema.)

3:  Pumpkin tic-tac-toe.

Gather five mini white pumpkins and five mini orange pumpkins.  Create a tic-tac-toe board using masking tape and a large piece of posterboard or cardboard.  Have fun!    If you want something more permanent, use a board and paint the lines on.   This portable game is great beside the bonfire or inside on a chilly day.

4:  Bake pumpkin muffins.

Easiest recipe ever.   Mix 1 can of pumpkin puree (we use organic) and some pumpkin spice with one vanilla cake mix (we get the vanilla cake mix from Trader Joe's since it's free from unhealthy ingredients and food dye).   Bake as package directs.   You get moist pumpkin "muffins."

5:  Leaf fishing.

My second child invented this game.  One day my oldest was getting her hair done, so I took my younger two kids to a local park while we waited.   My daughter found a stick with a pointy tip and occupied herself for a half-hour by "stabbing" fallen leaves and holding them up.  We deemed this game "Leaf Fishing."   The kids had fun "catching" big leaves, small leaves, and multiple leaves.

6:  Nature painting.

Go on a nature walk and gather things like acorns, small leaves, pinecones, and gumballs.   Cover your kitchen table or counter with white paper (that comes on the big rolls).  Give each kiddo a paper plate with different colors of washable paint (we like the basic colors, the neon colors, and the glitter colors from Crayola).   Dip the nature objects you found in the paint and decorate the paper.  Allow to dry and hang up.   It's fun to see which objects make what patterns.  

7:  Curl up with books and tea.

I have a crazy affinity for tea, especially Tazo's apple cinnamon (which is caffeine free---good before bedtime).   Make some caff-free tea for your kiddos, and curl up with some fall books.  These are our favorite fall, including Halloween, books featuring kids of color: click on the image to connect to the product page on Amazon.

This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Dear Sugar: "This Is Us," Doc McStuffin's Adoption DVD Release, and an Unapologetically Black Mom

Dear Sugar,

Normally I only post once a week, but there's so much you need to know right now, that I cannot hold back!

First, have you watched "This Is Us"?  If not, it's the show EVERYONE is talking about.


In a nutshell, two parents have triplets, and one of the triplets dies during birth.  At the same time, a man takes his newborn baby to a firestation, leaving the infant.  A firefighter brings the infant to the hospital so the staff can find the baby a forever family.    The parents of the triplets take home two of their babies AND the newborn baby left at the hospital.

Their adoption is domestic, infant, and TRANSRACIAL, and (shocker) there's some openness too, much of it (as episodes have hinted) dicey---as we learn the (adoptive) mother and the (biological) father had contact after the child was born---but agree that the biological father will not interfere with the adoption and the relationship the (adoptive) parents have with their new son.

And there's other stuff too---like the moment when Mandy Moore (mom of newly formed triplets) breastfeeds her newly adopted son.  MIC DROP EPIC ADOPTION MOMENT.  This moment captures the permission mom gives herself to finally bond with her new son (permission she got, in part, from the child's biological father).

Also, the parents re-name their newly adopted son Randall--a name inspired by the biological father.   (Name changing---controversial in the adoption community).

The show goes between the past and present.  The triplets are now adults, each living complicated, interesting lives.  We get to know them as individuals.

Every episode is riveting.

It's too soon to tell how it's going to go for the adoption community:  accurate representation or drama just for drama's sake.   But I'm telling you, you've GOT to watch this show!

The best part is that the triad is represented and the audience feels empathy for everyone:   the adoptee, the biological dad, the (adoptive) parents, and the adoptee's siblings (and their tight bond as two of the three babies sharing utero space and biology).

So if you want a heartfelt show that showcases the complexity of adoption, race, relationships, and parenting, this show is IT!


Doc McStuffins DVD release!

Ya'll, we've been waiting for this!    The Doc McStuffins DVD featuring all the adoption episodes is being released in days.  It's available for pre-order from Amazon for a discounted price.  Click on the photo below to order.   We cannot wait!



Unapologetic black mom tells her daughter's teacher what's up.    I cannot even deal with the incompetency of Amia's teacher (including all the errors in her note to Amia's mom).  You can read my Babble article on what went down (and my reaction as a mom of four Black kids) here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Dear Sugar: And Baby Makes 6!

Dear Sugar:

If you follow me on social media, be it Twitter, Instagram, or my very active Facebook page, you know that Steve and I are parents again!

Baby #4 is a girl, and she's so sweet!    We are very thankful to have been chosen by her birth parents and have enjoyed getting to know them.    Our children are THRILLED with their new sister, and we are excited about the upcoming holidays that are, let's face it, all about the kids!  Halloween, Thanksgiving (we have much to be thankful for), and Christmas (my fave!!!!).  

Our baby girl arrived on the last day of summer, healthy and strong, or as I like to call her, Sister Fierce!    As you know, we keep much of our children's stories private to protect our children and respect their biological families.   Recently I shared why we don't "tell all" in a piece I wrote for Babble.   I hope you'll enjoy and share it!

I want to thank all of you for the well-wishes, and I want you to know that I'm still on the path to completing my next book.   You're going to LOVE it.    I don't want to give to many details away yet, but let's say that I don't neglect to talk about carb-loading (and not for a big race), Ryan Gosling, the movie Juno, and that look you give the random stranger who asks you if your kids are "real" siblings.  This is quite different from my other books, but I promise you will get a whole lot of encouragement, education, and this, time laughter.  

I'm also posting funny, inspirational, and holiday adoption memes on Mondays on my Facebook page.   Head over there to easily like and share them!