Tuesday, October 29, 2019

If Your Child Struggles With Anger, Meltdowns, and Tantrums From Autism, ADHD, or Sensory Processing Disorder--Try This

Meltdowns, tantrums, and anger outbursts are nothing new to many parents who have children with special needs. ADHD, autism, and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), as well as kids from trauma who tend to go into fight-or-flight mode, can struggle immensely.  

I am one of those parents who didn't know what to do for my child. I understand the idea that when the "downstairs" brain is triggered, the "upstairs" brain isn't able to properly function. Until we can calm the downstairs brain, we cannot appeal to the upstairs brain.

But what does that mean? How do we regulate the downstairs brain when our children are triggered--and that manifests as anger, tantrums, and meltdowns? 

We have to meet the need.

Sounds simple, right? But of course, it's not. It never is. 

I absolutely believe in being as proactive as possible. That's why we have a home sensory gym. My kids can swing, jump, roll. Gross motor activity is so important--no only for regulation, but for overall health. 

We keep our kids well-fed. They get three balanced, healthy meals and three snacks a day to keep them off the blood sugar roller coaster. Each of my kids also has a water bottle that they are expected to drink from all day at school (or at home). They should arrive home with an empty bottle. Each of my kids has a different color of this water bottle, and my toddler has this smaller version.

We don't overschedule our children. We get them outside as much as possible--for fresh air, gross motor, vitamin D3, and sensory input. We also value sleep, because a good night's sleep is critical to how the next day will go.

But of course, these things aren't always (or even frequently) enough. Some children are prone to having struggles. And in these cases, when they "flip their lid," what are we to do? 

If your child's other needs are met, meaning, they aren't tired, hungry, or thirsty (as emphasized in The Connected Child), perhaps they need something else!

I spoke with a dear friend of mine who is a mom of seven and has several kids with special needs. She'd made each of her kids their own sensory box. It was portable and contained tools that could help soothe them. How brilliant! 

I already keep a bin of sensory toys upstairs in my dining area (of all places) so it's easily accessible to all my kids. This includes our favorite chewy necklace, a wiggle cushion, tangle toys, a suction ball, a fidget cube, vibrating teething toys, therapy putty, and more. 

But it was for the group--not solely for the struggling child. So I decided to make my child something special. It's called an Angry Bowl. 

It's simple. When the child is feeling angry (preferably on the verge of melting down/running off/having a tantrum)--the child says, "I need my Angry Bowl."

Because when the downstairs brain is flipped and the upstairs brain isn't able to maturely communicate need, I made our Angry Bowl super simple: with only three tools inside it. And the great thing is, you may already have everything you need already in your home!

Angry Bowl:

--a plastic bowl with lid

--a handmade label for the top that says "____'s Angry Bowl" and I drew a sad face with an arrow to a happy face

--dye free, peppermint gum, because peppermint can help ease stress and anxiety and chewing meets oral sensory needs

--blue tinted sunglasses (I got mine free from our orthodontist!), because blue is soothing/calming

--a spiky, squeeze ball that fits into one hand, because it can be squeezed or bounced OR this color-changing putty (that changes color from the heat of hands--so the more it's worked, the more quickly it changes color: brilliant!)

The Angry Bowl rules are simple (because they have to be):

--ask for it or take it off the table when you need it (for real--we keep ours on the dining table)

--if you aren't able to ask for it or take it, the parent might sense the child needs it and grab it or ask the child if he/she needs it

--child must use all three items in the bowl. My child puts on the glasses, pops two pieces of gum in, and squeezes/bounces the ball. We do this because initially the child realized they would want their Angry Bowl solely for the gum (when the child wasn't angry)

The goal is that spending some time with the Angry Bowl will regulate the child. THEN you can discuss what happened; what triggered the anger. What can we do next time we feel this way? Do we owe anyone an apology? What should we do next? 

A few tips:

--use the tools that work for your child. If your kiddo doesn't like peppermint gum, try another flavor of "healthy" gum such as wintergreen or cinnamon. If a spiky ball provides too much sensory input, substitute something softer and squishy such as these balls.

--see what you already have. I had a bowl, a spiky ball, gum, and sunglasses. 

--purchase multiple items. I recommend making multiple bowls. Keep one in the car, one in your house, and possibly give one to your child's teacher to use for him/her if the items are approved. You might even have the "angry bowl" added to your child's IEP or 504

--don't put too many items in the bowl. Doing so will overwhelm a dysregulated, upset child. Fewer options (that work) are better.

--if at first you don't succeed, try again! Experiment with the number of items, the types of items (don't forget that color and scent might play a part in the success of the bowl), the rules.

--I've linked multiple must-read books throughout this post. Read them! I've learned so much from authors such as Karyn Purvis (The Connected Child) and Dan Siegel

Remember, you can't reason with a dysregulated child. Until they are brought back to a state of calm and regulation, a "lecture," yelling, etc. are pointless. Plus, a reasonable discussion is so much more productive. Lectures and yelling and chastising and over-disciplining only lead to more dysregulation.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

5 Things Young Adoptees Need Their Parents to do for Them

After a decade of parenting adoptees, I've learned a thing or two (or a hundred) about what I need to be doing for my kids. Not only do I have a tween, but I also have two elementary age kiddos, and a toddler.

Remember, love isn't enough. It's a powerful, necessary foundation, but a child who was adopted needs so much more.

Here's what I make sure to do for my young adoptees, and you should, too:

 1:  Initiate adoption conversations.

When we were first waiting to adopt, a friend of mine who adopted one child internationally, shared with me that she and her husband use every day situations (including stories in the media) to bring up adoption to their child.  She shared that we can't always rely on our kids to bring up their adoption thoughts to us. 

By taking the initiative to start open, empathetic conversations, we are teaching our kids that it is safe and healthy to talk about adoption. 

You need to get comfortable using adoption vocabulary. 

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2:  Tell the truth about their adoption story.

Of course, we don't give our kids all the details when they are infants, toddlers, or preschoolers, but as their maturity builds, they deserve to have their entire truth.

Read that again: THEIR entire truth.

Yes, there are some not-so-pretty details to some of our kids' stories, which is why you need to have an adoption competent therapist on-hand for your family. You also need to never stop learning about adoption--reading everything you can get your hands on. Get educated and keep getting educated so you can be the parent your child needs you to be.

3:  Read adoption books.

I’m so thankful. ⭐️ spoiler alert: The other day, after watching “Dead to Me,” it dawned on me that the reality is that my husband could have left. Bowed out. Backed out. Things got tough. Really really tough. ⭐️ He could have left when I almost died. Or before. When I was wasting away and depressed-with no answers. ⭐️He could have left when I said, I don’t want to put my body through the hell of a pregnancy. ⭐️He could have left the day the doctor told me I had cancer. ⭐️He could have left when I had a mastectomy. ⭐️He could have left during the three (plus) month recovery when he had to do EVERYTHING for our family, as well as strip blood from my surgical drains for three solid weeks. ⭐️He could have left when I had subsequent medical trauma anxiety. ⭐️ He could have left. But he didn’t. ⭐️ plenty of partners do. They bail. They can’t handle the pain, the work, the relentless commitment. ⭐️ he could have left. ⭐️ Last night I captured him reading to our son. Every night. Usually the same book. And it’s one of those longggg bedtime books. Then they cuddle and pray. My husband listens patiently to our son’s run-on, imaginative stories. they kiss goodnight. Magic. ⭐️ My kids have a daddy who shows up every single time. I have a husband who shows up every single time. He’s our glue. ⭐️ . . . #daddydoinwork #dad #husband #breastcancer #mastectomy #type1diabetes #dadlife #faith #marriage #marriagegoals #whitesugarbrownsugar #husbandandwife #whataman #type1diabetes #sunday #sundayvibes #weekend #bigfamilylife #bigfamily #thankful
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Reading to your child has so many benefits. For one, it promotes attachment and connection. It helps your child build vocabulary, enhance their listening skills, and in the case of adoption, learn about adoption itself. 

I have several book lists available to you to help you get started. Here's one adoption book list along with discussion questions to ask your child after reading. I do recommend you preview any book before reading it to your child to make sure it's appropriate.

4:  Learn about trust-based, attachment parenting.

I'm a fan of Empowered to Connect, which is trust based parenting that build attachment. There are many ways to build attachment with an adoptee, and the book The Connected Child (which I consider the #1 book ALL parents of adoptees must read!) can help you get started. I also recommend reading The Whole Brain Child.

5:  Protect their privacy.

I've said it many times: do not hand out your child's adoption story like a grandma hands out cookies. The story isn't for anyone and everyone. It is sacred. It is private. And it belongs to your child. 

Remember, your allegiance is to the child you were chosen to adopt. You can educate others without disclosing your child's private adoption story.  Plus, imagine how damaging it would be if your child learned an important part of their story from someone you disclosed the story to--someone who didn't deserve that sacred privilege. 

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

3 Items Adoptive and Transracial Families Should Donate to Their Child's School

We've been talking a lot on social media about diversity and inclusion in our kid's classrooms. Today, I'm sharing with you three items you, as a transracial and adoptive family, can donate to your child's school to promote diversity and inclusion.

Now, I'm not saying that these things have healing, magical powers to eradicate racism and adoption-ism issues. NO WAY. Not even close.

What I am saying is that donations are important to schools, and who better to donate items that promote diversity and inclusion than the families who are most affected by these?

You can click on the images to learn more about the suggested products.

1: Skin tone art supplies.

Gone are the days of the two options: peach or brown. (Thankfully!) Crayola makes "multicultural" markers, crayons, and colored pencils. There's also skin tone paper--great for portrait projects--and these skin tone face silhouettes.

2: Skin tone bandages.

Tru-Colour Bandages are our absolute favorite! Created by a dad-by-transracial adoption, these bandages offer three different skin-tones to match the melanin of children of color. (Psssttt--they are also cruelty-free!) We purchased one of each shade, then divided the bandages up into baggies for the kids to give to their teachers and school nurses.

3: Books.

I mean, can you ever have too many books?  Donate to your child's classroom library, the school library, the office (our school office has books for the kids to read while they wait to receive awards or need to speak with the staff). 

Also, volunteer to be a reader in your child's classroom!  (Our school has parents sign up to be mystery readers---which the kids LOVE!) 

Here are some lists, organized by category, to help you choose:

Last night, my daughter asked me to read her our book. Of course I said yes. πŸ“– There’s a poem in it that’s all about her-so she picked that one first. πŸ€“My Santa” is my personal fave-so we read that one, too. πŸŽ…πŸΎ Our book is #poemsforthesmartspunkyandsensationalblackgirl - and we created it together. πŸ’“ 20 poems, all inspired by my daughters. Their experiences, emotions, and dreams. πŸ‘©πŸΎ‍πŸ¦±πŸ‘©πŸΏ‍🦱 Paired with gorgeous, bold, detailed, diverse illustrations by @coilyandcute 🎨 Available wherever books are sold. πŸ“š Do you have a copy yet? πŸ‘‡πŸΌπŸ‘‡πŸ½πŸ‘‡πŸΎ . . . #childrensbook #poetry #representationmatters #melanin #multiracialfamily #whitesugarbrownsugar #daughter #mommyandme #bedtime #nightnight #goodnight
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What do you think your child's classroom needs? Ask the teacher how you can support him/her in inclusion and diversity! 

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Easy and Inexpensive Meal Planning for Big Families

When we went from three kids to four, we became a big family. And not only are we a big family, but my kids can eat...a lot

We struggled for years to figure out how and when to meal plan and grocery shop. We were blowing so much money on running to the grocery store multiple times a week to get "just a few things." It was also stressful to realize at 5 p.m. that we didn't have a dinner plan.

Sure, we could run to town and grab some drive-thru food. But it's expensive and unhealthy. Not to mention, a sandwich and fries doesn't fill my kids up. 

If you face a similar struggle, I have good news! We finally figured out how to meal plan for our big family. Easily. And conveniently. I'm excited to share our method with you.

Creating a meal schedule eliminates the "what are we going to eat?" drama, excessive trips to the store (which always blow the budget), and complaints about the meal.

Here's how you can plan meals for your big family-easily and inexpensively.

1: Write down all dietary restrictions and preferences.

Don't skip this step! It's important to have this foundational info so you don't waste time and money on meals your family won't eat.

In our family, we have one person who is gluten free, two who are dairy free, and one who has a tree nut allergy. I also have a child who is super sensitive to pineapple (of all things!). We also prefer vegan or vegetarian meals with a few exceptions. 

We are big-believers in eating lots of fruits and veggies, buying organic when possible, and making easy meals that don't cost a lot. (Yes, this IS POSSIBLE to eat frugally AND healthfully--especially since we don't buy meat).

I suggest having a family meeting and asking family members what they don't and do like. Have them be very specific. State which individual foods are preferred (this includes fruits, veggies, entrees, etc.) as well as recipes. 

Soooo... we’re working hard here to eat a mostly plant-based diet. Our exceptions: eggs and wild caught Alaskan salmon. πŸ₯šπŸ₯¬πŸ₯πŸ’πŸπŸ₯¦πŸ†πŸ πŸ₯’πŸ…πŸŒ Why?! Dairy and meat are inflammatory. Expensive (we buy organic). Bad for your heart. Dairy causes all sorts of digestive issues. Gut health matters to the entire body. Don’t get me started on estrogen. (yes, we supplement b12 and vitamin d3!) 🧘🏻‍♀️🧘🏽‍♂️ Fiber is where it’s at! And all the nutrients in fresh fruits and veggies are magical! 🌟 We stick to mostly gluten free whole grains, because I’m gluten free. One for all. All for one! ☝🏾 You might be wondering, what do we eat?! Lots of veggies and fruits. Black beans galore. Some tofu/soy milk. Nuts (switching to almond butter). Quinoa. Organic brown rice. Lentils. Water, water, water. Green tea. Stevia and erythritol for sweetener. Olives (my kids LOVE olives). Hummus. Etc etc etc. πŸ—’ We are not interested in shakes, supplements, potions (lol). So don’t bother DMing me. I don’t want to be on your team or buy your stuff. πŸ’΅ This is a new adventure for us. One that’s going to require some work. Feeding six people is a challenge given all our needs, health histories, allergies, sensitivities, and preferences. πŸ’ͺ🏼πŸ’ͺ🏼πŸ’ͺ🏾πŸ’ͺ🏿πŸ’ͺ🏽πŸ’ͺ🏿 Anyone here vegetarian? vegan? Favorite accounts I should follow? I need recipes that are gluten/dairy/meat free. πŸ‘‡πŸΌπŸ‘‡πŸ½πŸ‘‡πŸΎ . . . #breastcancersurvivor #plantbased #vegetarian #vegan #recipes #bigfamilylife #dairyfree #glutenfree #whitesugarbrownsugar #type1diabetes #eczema #adviceplease #tuesdaythoughts
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2: Get organized: purge away!

Get rid of all your outdated and unused cookbooks and recipes. I had two folders full of recipes I'd torn out of magazines that we never even tried. I kept the two cookbooks hand-made by our moms (wedding gifts) and two other specialty cookbooks. 

Donate what's leftover--to the library or to a donation center. If the book is warped, stained, or very outdated, recycle it or let your kids use it for an art project. 

Take a look at what's left. This is your getting-started point. What recipes do you have now that you can put into your meal schedule? 

3: Create the master list.

I created a Word doc, using the table feature. (I told you! Easy!) Across the top: the day of the week and category. Downward, columns to type that day's recipe title.

We decided to create a four-week schedule using categories. Ours are as follows:

-Monday: Asian 
-Tuesday: chili 
-Wednesday: pasta
-Thursday: soup
-Friday: easy-peasy 
-Saturday: potato-centric
-Sunday: Mexican

Have fun with the categories! Notice we have a "potato-centric" day and an "easy-peasy" day. Also, depending on your family, it might be easier to create a two-week schedule versus a four-week schedule. Definitely start with two weeks; you can add more recipes later.

4: Add recipes to your schedule.

This is the part of the planning that takes the most time.

Start filling in your schedule based on your categories. Use the recipes you already have. Once you fill in those, start searching for new recipes. 

There are so many fabulous blogs that offer free recipes. You can also order cookbooks from your local library to browse. I recommend printing or copying the recipes you want to try. Try these new recipes once to see if your family likes it or not. If it gets the stamp of approval, you can then add it to your binder (see step #5). 

Also, some "recipes" aren't even recipes. For example, on Sunday, one of our Mexican meals is a rice bowl. It's this easy: organic brown rice, black beans, sliced black olives, sauteed peppers and onions.  The additions are salsa of choice, guacamole, and cheese. This makes for great leftovers and can be personalized. 

We also have a lot of buffets. For example, a Pad Thai buffet. I prep all the ingredients and set out the sauces. The kids go down the line, one at a time, and create their own. This way no one can claim they don't like the meal--and I can make sure there's healthy options.

5: Create your binder.

You can create a sturdy recipe binder for less than $15! (I told you: inexpensive!) You need a three ring, pocketed binder, plastic sleeves, and divider tabs.  (I put recipes-to-try in the pocket.) 

At the front of the binder (in a sleeve) is the master list. After that, the tabs keep the recipes organized. My categories are: breakfast, chilis and soups, sides, desserts, and other main dishes. You can always divide your recipes by day-of-the-week or category. Do whatever works for you! 

Don't skimp on buying the plastic sleeves! These keep the recipes protected when you're prepping and cooking.

When I prepare a grocery list on Saturdays (we grocery shop on Sunday afternoons), I pull out my binder, look at the schedule, then write down the ingredients we need from each scheduled recipe. It doesn't take long at all. Practice makes perfect.

πŸ‘‹πŸΌ it’s been awhile since I introduced myself- so here goes. I’m Rachel. I realized the other day at preschool pick up that I’m one of the old moms! 🀦🏼‍♀️ my husband and I have been married 16 years, and we have four kids from a tween to a toddler. Yes, they were adopted. Yes, they know this fact. And yes, they know they’re Black and we are white. No need to whisper. 🀣 I’m a type 1 diabetic - which is why we adopted. I also have anxiety and, a real doozy, I’m a breast cancer survivor. πŸŽ€ writing and speaking about race, adoption, health, faith, and special needs is my passion. I have a blog (link in my profile), I’ve written hundreds of articles (often for @scarymommy , been on podcasts with @jamieivey And @michellemadridbranch And @jamiegraceh , and appeared on @cnn @msnbc @cbstv @npr and more. My most recent book is #thehopefulmomsguidetoadoption and my most popular book is#poemsforthesmartspunkyandsensationalblackgirl - co authored with my oldest girls and illustrated by @coilyandcute πŸ“Ί πŸŽ™ ✏️Most days, I’m wearing my hair on a top knot with no “makeup” other than @burtsbees lip balm. I eat mostly vegan. I think The Office is hysterical. I’m a woman of faith who leans left politically. Gray is my fave color. My weakness is cheese fries. I love pumpkin but I think the PSL is nasty! ☕️ πŸ’„πŸ‘±πŸΌ‍♀️ whether you’re a new follower or a long-time friend, tell me three things about you! πŸ‘‡πŸΌπŸ‘‡πŸ½πŸ‘‡πŸΎ . . #whitesugarbrownsugar #introduction #type1diabetes #breastcancer #author #speaker #adoption #multiracialfamily #adoptivemom #mondaymotivation #mom #christian #theoffice #bigfamily
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Other tips that work well for us:

-I cook dinner during the day. As a WAHM I have that flexibility. I hate cooking when the kids are "starving" and complaining. 

-Keep fruits and veggies on hand. When my kids get hungry before a meal, they know the rule: get a piece of fruit from the fruit bowl. You can keep baby carrots in the fridge for this same reason. The fruit is enough to curb hunger enough without filling them up so much they won't eat dinner.

-Double recipes that freeze well. Soups and chilis are easy to double and freeze. Plus, if you're like me, I sometimes need a day off from cooking-and the freezer meal comes to the rescue!

-Change up your meal rotation based on season. Soups and chilis are awesome for winter and fall, while salads work great in summer. 

-Utilize the appliances you love. I'm a Crock-Pot kind of girl. I don't own an Instapot or Air Fryer. You do you!

-Make a double serving so that you have lunch the next day for the fam! Invest in good thermoses for your kids to take warmed food to school.

-Spend money on what matters most. I just bought a new, jumbo cutting board. I'm also eyeing these copper-bottom pots and pans because ours are sixteen years old. 

-Replace your dishes. I donated our dishes (also sixteen years old) because they were bulky and breakable. Instead, I bought white Corelle dishes. They're lightweight, they don't break, and they stack easily. Corelle has a variety of designs to choose from.

-Decide who-does-what and stick to it. Kids can help with grocery shopping, planning, and prepping. Though if you're like me, I sometimes proclaim that everyone (including my husband) needs to exit the kitchen NOW so I can focus. 


Here is a fave (vegan or vegetarian) meal of ours from each of our categories to inspire you!

Monday (Asian): Hearty Vegetable Miso Soup

Tuesday (chili): Homemade Vegetarian Chili

Wednesday (pasta): Loaded Greek Chickpea Pasta Salad

Thursday (soup): Vegan Winter Lentil Stew

Friday (easy-peasy): frozen pizzas + frozen veggie + fruit 

Saturday (potato-centric): wild-caught Alaskan salmon patties (Sam's Club), Alexia frozen fries (bake 'em!), and a frozen veggie

Sunday (Mexican): Sweet Potato Quinoa and Veggie Enchilada Bake

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