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NO! We are the Lucky Ones!

 

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It happens at least several times a week, we all hear it. “You’re a Saint”, “These kids are so lucky”, “You’re so great for doing this (adopting)”.  When we hear this, we cringe. Yes, we actually cringe! Ask any adoptive parent, I am pretty sure they will all tell you they hate to hear this.

We get it, we understand why you are saying it, and we realize that it is coming from a good place, but these words are not what we want to hear. Adoption is neither a badge or a scare. It just is a different way to build a family.

Here is why these words make us feel uncomfortable…we are not special. We have decided to grow our families in a different way than you. We get that this is not your path, and there may be things about adoption that you don’t understand, but that’s why we chose this path and you didn’t

Any adoptive parent that takes delight in hearing these words is in it for the wrong reasons. To say that we ‘rescued’ our children, means that they needed rescuing, and the truth is, our children rescued us. They rescued us from a black and white, mundane life without giggles, playfulness and the joys of being a parent.

It becomes offensive and damaging when people actually say this within earshot of our littles. This is counter productive to the stories we have told them. Most of our stories include the idea that they grew in our hearts, we loved them before we met them, we searched for them, and they made our lives complete. This scenario of the parent is a saint, and the child is lucky contradicts the story we have told them. It replaces their story with the feeling  that the children were “saved” and are indebted to the parents.

We love our children just as you do. It’s easy for us. Next time, consider telling us how lucky we are to have such amazing kids!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dancing in Joy, and Other Things Homeschooling has Taught Me.

 

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I had so many fears about making the leap to homeschooling. I still have some of these fears, since not all five of my littles are home yet.

It’s been about a month and a half so far, and I have learned so much already. About my children, about my kids and societal expectations that we live in.

I have had the advantage of having a great tribe of beautiful mamma (and one papa) friends that are seasoned homeschooolers. They have been involved in the local homeschooling communities for over 10 years. Their support and guidance has truly helped with the ease of this transition. The best advice so far has been “Don’t stress, you are doing it right, and they are learning”.

  1. I am Calmer and less stressed: I don’t feel as rushed.  I am not hurrying to make lunches and breakfast before 7:30 am. We aren’t rushed to fit homework in between after school activities, dinner and evening routines. I feel a lot of the stress to get things done ‘before school on Monday’ disappearing.  As a result, my kids don’t feel rushed and hurried. Our house is experiencing more peace and everyone is breathing a little easier.
  2. We own our schedule: Our schedule and routine is now our own. We follow our own holidays and breaks. We follow our daily schedule. We take yoga breaks when needed, not when the clock tells us too. We don’t have to rush to get permission slips, weekly folders, and homework checked off. No more rushing out at the last-minute to bake cookies for the bake sale or buy supplies for a project due the next day.
  3. Leaning happens everywhere: Many of our friends told us “You are already homeschooling with all the educational field trips that you go on”. We are in control of their education, and this means we can create learning opportunities everywhere, all the time. Learning is happening all around us, if we take the time to see it.  I know exactly what they are leaning and can bring this into our daily conversations and activities. I am now the one that gets to see their faces light up when they learn something new, or feel accomplished.  I am loving being part of their education process.
  4. It takes less time: A normal traditional school day often consists of a lot of lining up, quieting everyone so that the teacher can be heard, re-direction, turning in work, retrieving supplies. This doesn’t happen in homeschool, or if it does, very little time is spent on these activities. This frees up their school day. Actual work only takes about three hours. This frees up the rest of the day for creative play and activities. (Free time does not mean video games. They have a list of educational games and activities that are allowed before 4:00 pm).
  5. Spontaneity is the name of the game: Being in charge of our school day means that we can have a spontaneous field trip, or we can decide to move around our studies. We have a co-op we attend once a week, but the rest of the week is ours!
  6. BONUS! I am leaning so much! We could all use a refresher in our studies. I love that I am learning right along with them!

The biggest thing about homeschool is that there really isn’t a right or wrong way to do it. This is the part that my friends have stressed to me. Just enjoy this time, and if a favorite song comes on, by all means stop what you’re doing and have a spontaneous dance party!

 

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Our Top 5 Reasons for Homeschooling Our Kids

If you had told me a year ago, or even 6 months aFresh Blog (4)go that we would be homeschooling all five of our kids, I would have told you that you are riding the crazy train.  It always comes back to this simple thought, We do what we gotta do for our kids.

I first began to see homeschooling in action about 6 years ago when I joined a beautiful circle of women who were mostly all homeschooling their children. These mamas I count among the best, loving, patient, fierce and present. I was in awe of their love and dedication, but thought “Oh I could never do that”. To spite having taught  several freshmen courses on World Religion at San Diego State University, and loving it. I imagined homeschooling to to be completely different than teaching a University class.

But alas, here we are. Although we have only begun to dip our toes in, and not all of our children have left their traditional school yet, we are loving it. We are breathing easier and soaking in the love and learning.

So what lead us to this journey? Here are just a few reasons;

  1. BULLYING When I have mentioned that my kids are being bullied, I have had several parents jump in and share:  “Oh I was bullied, everyone gets picked on, it builds resilience” or “I just teach my kids to handle it, or fight back”. I even had the Head of School tell us that her grandsons get bullied and she just tells them to ignore it . These words are not helpful, our kids are still working on recovering from their histories. Our kids were in a collective 15 homes before becoming a forever family. We are working very hard to build their confidence and instill sold self identities. When they experience bulling, it sets them back in their healing process. We understand that they will encounter bullies in life (I even encountered another mom bulling me online when I stated in a forum that my daughter was being bullied). It is not a level playing field, our children didn’t start out with the same advantages as most of their peers.
  2. TRAUMA INFORMED SCHOOLS Most schools are not trauma informed. Ours was no different. If you are lucky you may find a trauma sensitive school, but a school like the one Oprah talked about in a segment on trauma she hosted for 60 Minutes.  is rare. We have had some great teachers that ‘get us’ and then we have encountered others that don’t. There were the teachers that let my children get away with everything because they didn’t want to trigger them, or because they ‘felt sorry’ for them, knowing that they were in fostercare. On the other side of this, we have had teachers blame my children for everything, and labeled them as a problem. When a child acts out, a trauma informed person asks “What is going on behind this behavior? What does this baby need?” This is not letting them off the hook, but examining the root of the problem. With a trauma informed/sensitive school the needs of all children are considered. Fire, tornado, and lock down drills can be triggers for kids that have experienced trauma. Safety is always at the front of their minds, many exist in a fight, flight or freeze state. When their perceived safety is at risk, they will be triggered and go into FFF. To completely overlook and dismiss the needs of these children is a huge oversight.
  3. LET THEM BE KIDS With the emphasis on Common Core it has taken much of the creativity and flexibility away from teachers, and causes them to teach to the test. Here in NC we have House Bill 950 (Read to Achieve). This is the test of all tests for our third graders. They are told “Pass it you don’t move on to 4th grade”.  I had 3 children not pass this test (luckily it was resolved in a week with two of our kids, and overlooked with one because he has an IEP). This test is stressful for kids, especially for those with anxiety. What are we doing to these littles? One of my children sited for a reason to wanting to be home schooled as not feeling so much pressure anymore. Being pulled out for IEP work puts unnecessary attention on them. When they return to class they feel rushed to catch up with the lesson plan that their classmates have already been working on. Most kids feel the struggle to keep up from time to time, but our kids with IEP’s the struggle can create severe anxiety.
  4. SCHOOL ATMOSPHERE I am pretty sure that everyone is in agreement that the atmosphere in schools has changed. The Everytown website reports that since 2013 (Sandy Hook) there have been 308 school shootings. If you examine the data, many of these did not include injury, but that’s really not my point. It’s the atmosphere that’s being created in our schools. Our school had 3 threats in one week. This created an atmosphere of elevated stress, caution and frustration on the part of the parents to know the details of what was going on with these investigations. The kids felt it. They felt it from their parents, from their teachers and from their peers. There was no escaping these conversations when a police car is parked out in front of the school. Many parents agreed that it made them/their children more comfortable knowing that the police were on campus. Here’s that trauma reminder: Not all children associate police with safety. Their histories have proved to them that police equal problems.
  5. WE ARE IN CONTROL OF CURRICULUM I have to give praise to our school for offering a very diverse and inclusive curriculum. My children never once came home with the white-washed history of Columbus Day. The curriculum emphasized POC in history, and their music and art class was full of multicultural activities and songs. But, schools have limited resources, and there are still times when reading lists or histories miss the mark on being inclusive. So for our 5 year old we get to pick Zooey and Sassafras for our read-aloud and science. She sees herself in Zooey, and representation is so powerful. For our older children, we will not brush over the tough parts of history, we will not make heroes out the men that caused pain and devastation in our dark history. Will will celebrate the great achievements and contributions of the men and women that have made this country great.

These are OUR reasons for turning to home education. This is where our hearts are leading us. Every parent needs to make the decisions that are right for their families, and at the right time. When my kids were first entering school, my circle of friend included more HS families than not, but we had very specific reasons for choosing our school.  I also know that it is a huge privilege for us to have the ability for me to stay home with our kids. We do sacrifice a lot, but the fact that not everyone is in the position to make this choice is not lost on me, and I am absolutely grateful for this.

Next week…Dancing in Joy, and other things we have learned about homeschooling.

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I picked up the pen and began to write.

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After taking a break for the last two years, I have decided to return to my blog (among other related projects on the horizon). Why did I stop? Well, life. Specifically my children’s lives.

The last two years offered up many challenges. The details are not my stories to share. I was in the trenches with them, barely able to come up for air. I am grateful for an amazing life partner, and friends that showed up offering their hearts, time and relief from the chaos.

Trauma is a peculiar thing, it manifests in people differently. Trauma is contagious. Whether it’s second hand trauma, or it awakens buried trauma from the past, one does not live with someone(s) with PTSD without experiencing it.

What have I learned in the last 2 years? I have learned that there is absolutely nothing I wouldn’t do for my children. I have learned that no matter what they do, how empty my cup is, my love for them still grows. Sometimes slowly, but it’s always moving forward with them.

After gaining weight, eating bad, and generally not taking care of myself, I learned self care is not just important, but critical, and required of caregivers. Compassion fatigue is real.

Mostly though, I have learned all about the brain. I have devoured anything trauma related. I went back to school  and earned a certificate in holistic mental health. I spent 32 hours in trauma-focused parenting classes.

At one point our family was in therapy 14 hours a week. This does not include alternative therapies that we were involved in. But, the truth in that, is that we were getting help. When other Moms were shuffling their kids between dance and karate, I was shuffling between IEP meetings, therapy and  trauma-focused classes.

I joined facebook groups looking for support and answers. I learned what resources were hard to come by, and which resources were non-existent for parents.

We made big changes, this included tightening our circle of friends. Letting go of relationships that no longer served our family. We created new habits, and let go of old.

Our lives are calmer now. Healing will do that.  Looking forward, we still have a lot of work to do. This isn’t a quick-fix, and this is a life long journey. We still don’t have all the answers, but we uncovered enough to find a little peace, and let go of the chaos.

Welcome to the next chapter on our journey.

Turn! Turn! Turn!
The Byrds, Words-adapted from The Bible, book of Ecclesiastes
Music-Pete Seeger

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too lat

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How to Talk With Your Children About Adoption: LOVE Makes a Real Family

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We have spent a lot of time guiding our children through their adoption stories. This includes unwanted questions from their peers, and even adults. We empower them to use their words, and remember they have the strength of their entire family behind them when they are confronted with these uncomfortable and intrusive questions. We recently learned the W.I.S.E method, and I frequently remind them of this tool.

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How many of you that have biological children have sat down and talked to your children about adoption? If your not educating them, just know that they are having these conversations on the playground, or just leaving the details up to their imaginations. Here are a few comments and questions my kids have been confronted with:

  • Why didn’t your REAL mom want you?
  • My mom told me your parents were bad, and that’s why you had to get new parents.
  • How much did it cost?
  • Why are you brown and your mom is white?
  • Is THAT your brother/sister?
  • Do you know your REAL mom?

You can imagine how painful and uncomfortable these questions can be. I encourage you to please take the time to have this conversation with your children. There are many great children’s books on the subject of adoption (I caution you, every adoption story is as unique as the child, so the books are not a one size fits all).  Here are some basic points to help start the conversation:

All families are different, but the one thing they have in common is that the parents LOVE their children very much! Some families look alike, and some look very different from each other, but inside their hearts are the same.

Sometimes families with adopted children look different, because the children grew in another person’s belly, and may look more like that person.

Many children grow in their mommies bellies, but adopted children grow in someone else’s belly, while they grow in their Mommy and Daddy’s hearts.

The other person who’s Belly they grew in is called a Birth Mother, or Belly Mom.

Their REAL Mom and Dad are the ones that they call Mom and Dad and who love them. Their brothers and sisters are the ones they love, and call brother and sister.  This makes a REAL forever family.

There are lots of reasons birth moms aren’t able to care for their children and decide to give them up for adoption. This is a very difficult decision for birth moms because they love their children. Ultimately, they decide adoption is the best, most loving choice for their children.

Adopted children have another set of parents called birth parents, but this is private information, and adopted children don’t always know their birth parents or want to talk about them. Please know it is rude and potentially hurtful to adopted children to ask them about their birth parents.

Families being different is what makes us special! Let’s celebrate our differences! Can you think of other ways families are different? (This could lead to a discussion of single-parent families, grandparents as parents, same-sex parents, step-parents, etc.)

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If you would like me to talk to your family, church group or classroom, and you live in the Raleigh-Durham area,  I welcome the opportunity to help educate about adoption!

Please share this with your friends, school, and moms groups! Please do your part to educate others Thank you!

**Special thanks to my fellow adoptive Mom, Kathryn for letting me borrow some of this text!

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Mother’s Day: A day of heavy reflection

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Mother’s Day is supposed to be filled with homemade gifts, breakfast in bed, smiles, kisses and love. This is true for me…I am so fortunate to have all these things. But with this day also comes heavy reflection.

Mother’s Day has become a day of mixed emotion for me. As the days until Mother’s day slowly close in, I feel my heart getting heavier and heavier. I don’t take this day lightly:

A child born to another woman calls me mom.

The depth of that tragedy,

and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me

~Jody Landers

I think about each of my children; their uniqueness, their smile and laughter, and then I think of the their “Belly Moms” that gave them the gift of life, but will never know that sound of their laughter, or see the smiles across their faces. It is difficult for me to fully celebrate this day knowing that somewhere there are three women mourning their loss.

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Girly-Girl is NOT a Four-Letter Word

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The other day my 9 year old daughter came home very upset. She said that one of the girls at school was calling her a “girly-girl” (like it’s a bad thing). She also told her that she needs to like superheroes more!

My daughter is strong! Very strong! Mentally and physically. She also likes doing her nails, anything pink and dresses. She dislikes bugs, hiking and apparently superheroes. These things do not diminish her strength.

It seems like everywhere we turn today (social media, commercials and ad campaigns) girls are being pushed to be strong, play sports, like colors other than pink and not be interested in how they dress. What we need to keep in mind,  is we need to create a culture where girls are free to show their strength in a way that compliments WHO they are. I believe we are swinging too far in the direction of telling our girls what we think makes a strong girl, and really most of these things are superficial. Strength comes from the inside.

Let’s not shame our girls for liking Princesses or not enjoying sports. Strength comes from self confidence, and how can our girls become confident in their own skin when we keep telling them who they are, and not let them become their authentic selves?