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What is “Good Hair ” Anyway?

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I subscribe to The Root, The Root is an online newspaper that describes themselves like this:

The Root is the premier news, opinion and culture site for African-American influencers.  Founded in 2008, under the leadership of Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., The Root provides smart, timely coverage of breaking news, thought-provoking commentary and gives voice to a changing, more diverse America. 

I like to stay in touch with the pulse of the African American community since three of my five kids are black, and I was raised and live in a predominantly white and hispanic community.  Today, I came across an article:  Are ‘A Whole Bunch of White People’ Adopting Black Kids? The article was written in response to A black Alabama lawmaker’s challenge to state residents regarding the adoption of black children into white families. I found it refreshing that they chose to  focus on Adoptee Stacey Patton, and her insight into the positive side of transracial adoption. They have even omitted the lawmakers name, as not to given him/her further attention.

It wasn’t the article that made me go “hmmmmm”, but the 500+ comments from the mostly African-American community that posted. This was a great peek inside the black community to witness and read how our family may be viewed.

For the most part it was one of acceptance. There were a few comments that noted that if you have not adopted, don’t bother commenting! Of course there were the ridiculous haters that mentioned such things as “…To raise an army of completely brain-washed Black People who will allow them to touch their hair, take their organs or be able to tell Racist jokes and say, “I’m not racist, I have a Black daughter’….What I’M wondering is WHY don’t white ‘people’ want their OWN white children? I mean, there are MILLIONS of white kids without parents, why not adopt them?!

Then there were the children who grew up in a white home, or hoped for a forever home and instead just “aged-out” of the system like Daryl: ,  “unless you are going to adopt them “Watch Ya Mouth & Mind Ya Bizness” growing up in an orphanage is NO JOKE, being turned out into the world ALL ALONE at 18 is NO JOKE – having NO FAMILY is NO JOKE”

The biggest ‘take-away’ I got from the comments was it was ok, just teach them their culture and learn to do their hair, “The only problem that I have with it, is a very small one, and doesn’t negate my overall opinion that it’s a good thing. I just wish that when people choose to adopt black children, they would learn how to maintain their hair. Too many times I’ve seen black children looking a complete MESS because the parents (of another race) have just given up.”

Here are my thoughts on that final comment;  Hair.  Wow, in the community I grew up in, with the hair I have hair was never a ‘thing’. Growing up, the biggest question was “bangs or no bangs?.” and since it was the 1980’s…”how big are those bangs going to be?”. I have five nieces that I babysat often. They had straight blond hair. I could not even brush their hair into a basic pony-tail, nevermind any ‘fishtails’ or anything fancy like that. Poor girls looked a mess when they came to stay with Aunt Carrie.  I remember a picture of their special ‘Brownie Bridging Ceremony” and I couldn’t do anything with their hair, so I just left their hair a stringy mess for their special day. My sister would have styled it real cute, but that is the price they had to pay for me babysitting. Fast-forward 20 years and I am the Mami to two beautiful African-American girls with hair I have never even touched, let alone  styled or taken care of.

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The first thing I did, was reach out to some friends that have experience with  black-natural hair, then I went  to Target and browsed the aisle of African-American hair products, and just asked some black women that were also shopping the isle. The next thing I did was rent Chris Rock’s “Good Hair”.  I have come a long way since that first styling of Bug’s hair, and I have improved my skills (didn’t say I mastered this). I know I have a long way to go, but here’s my throw back at all those Naysayers: As Moms I think we are all doing our best, don’t assume that us white Moms aren’t even trying. I can speak for myself anyway and say that I am not only trying, that I actually stress about this more than I should. As a white mother, I didn’t grow up with this texture of hair, I didn’t have all these years of practice I didn’t have Moms, Aunts or Sisters teaching me the tricks and tips that have been lovingly handed down from generation to generation. I also know that even the black moms that have stopped perming their hair or their children’s hair struggle with it at times.

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What I do know is that I love my girls more than life itself, that I would do anything for them. That I tell them how beautiful their hair is, and how beautiful they are. I have never mentioned whether they have “good hair” or not, because I don’t know the difference, and maybe that is just as well. So next time you see a white mami and her baby girl, (whether biological or adopted) tell them they are doing a good job, and know that they are probably already criticizing themselves enough for both of you!

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Signed, Sealed and Delivered…I am Yours!

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When we adopted Lola and Diego there was a lot of hand holding through the process. We adopted through a private agency in the United States. Our agency gave us a sheet typed out in ‘comic sans’ that gave us a step-by step account of what to expect during the process. I remember sitting down with that sheet of paper and going through each step with our case worker and asking her how long for each step. Even with that, they said the PGN process could be between 2 weeks and 6 months (yes…we got the 6 month end of that deal).

This time we are adopting domestically, through the fostercare system. This has been a very different process, and I have never really known where we are in the process. After something BIG , happens I will ask…What next? about when do you anticipate this being final?

The difference is, we have our babies here with us. I get to hug them, hold them and kiss them goodnight. The adoption paperwork is really a matter of formality (don’t get me wrong, I will be excited), but it’s not like when we were waiting for Lola and Diego. Everyday that passed, was a day lost. It was excruciating knowing that they were somewhere else, and not knowing how they were being taken care of. I already loved them, they were already my children. I had several women that had gone through childbirth, try to commiserate with me over the fact that they were a week or two past their due date. Although, with all things relative, and I am sure that really sucks and is physically uncomfortable, i would think to myself “yea, but you had your baby, safe, warm and in the comfort of your womb”

That is why I am not stressing over the details of the ‘when’ the adoption will  be finalized, in my heart, it’s a done deal. What will finalization mean for our family? It will mean that we will no longer have 4 different last names, it will mean that we can make any decision regarding their education, health, diet or even hair (yes hair) that we want. We will be able to travel anywhere in the world we want to go, and we won’t need special papers and permission just to cross the state line. It will also mean that we will not have home visits (except for just a few post-adoption visits) anymore, even though we have been very fortunate to have the best GAL (Guardian ad Litem) we could ask for, and our case worker has been one of the great ones.

So for those that are curious about when all this will happen, here is where we are at:

Georges and I need to have a stack of files signed in front of a notary, and then we file with the County Clerk Office.  The county clerk has 30 days to return it to our case worker, then she has 60 days to to process and submit to the state. they don’t have a deadline, but turn around on that is about 30 days. We just watch the mailbox for the next 3-4 months for the decree to come in the mail. No Judges, No courts…just the mailman bringing us the paperwork one day.

 

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I Might Regret My Tattoo, But Not For The Reasons You May Think

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This has been a very difficult few weeks for T. The last few weeks have included an increase in lies, throwing things, hitting and overall disobeying ‘house rules’ and school rules. I began looking back to try and figure out just when the trouble began, and what could have triggered it. The better we can understand the triggers the easier it is to cope with and be prepared for the emotions, or if possible avoid the triggers all together.  I ask myself, “When did it start? Did anything change?”

I got a new tattoo a few weeks ago. It’s a memorial to my best friend, Annette who passed way last November. I came home that night, after getting my tattoo, and T ran up to me, greeting me at the door. “Mami did you get Bug and I’s name tattooed on your arm?”. I have a tattoo on my forearm in Sanskrit, it translates to “Sacred Family: Georges, Lola Diego”. All the kids know what it says, and I have told Bug and T that I would add their names to it.  Honestly, I was just waiting for the adoption to be finalized.  I could see the disappointment in his little face. I felt bad, but I had no idea, how deeply he was dealing with this, until I had a conversation with his therapist and we were trying to figure out the trigger for his latest emotional downturn. I mentioned this situation and she offered “He told me, Mami got a Tattoo for her friend that died”. Boom! there it was!

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We figured out the trigger, now to figure out the emotion behind it? The tattoo is a permanent public statement of my love for my family. He still feels a little insecure about his place in the family. He still has doubts that he will stay with us forever, and that we love him. The tattoo would represent  a commitment and a forever family, written in forever ink!

 

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The Red Thread of Fate

I am often asked “When did you decide you wanted to adopt?” Truthfully, the answer would be, I always knew. From a young age when other children were playing Mom or Dad to their baby dolls, so was I but all my baby dolls were adopted. I would sometimes change up the scenario and play the older sister that was orphaned and had to take care of her younger siblings.

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From a young age I was fascinated with anything adoption or having to do with orphans. One of my first books I remembered reading was Baby Island. I loved this book and acted out this scenario of being lost on an Island having to care for a handful of babies.

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The Boxcar Children was also a favorite. I remember once when I was very young, my cousins and I found an abandoned trucking shell. This became our ‘boxcar’. I have such vivid memories of this experience I can still feel the dust in the dirt lot that became our playground for months.

In 1974 I was 7 years old, and a small movie came out titled Mixed Company. I loved this film, it was about a family that adopted several children with various backgrounds. Although I was only 7, and have not heard of the movie since, it has stayed with me.

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When I was in high school I abandoned the idea of having children altogether, it wasn’t until college that started thinking about it and began collecting articles about adoption. When Georges and I got together, we discussed adoption right away (biological children wasn’t out of the picture). We agreed that we would like to adopt at least one child.

I know that adoption was something that I was meant to do. So my answer to the Question “When did you decide you wanted to adopt?” would be answered with a question.”When did you decide to become a biological parent?” I have always known my children were OUT THERE.

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There is a great Chinese Proverb:

 An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle but will never break.

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5 Reasons to ADOPT 5 Kids

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I read a blog post in The Huffington Post this morning. It was titled 6 Reasons to Have 6 kids. I found the the article amusing, and shared it on my facebook page. Until a friend pointed out…”At the risk of sounding really bad here, that was a pretty awful article. Those reasons are nice reasons but not important enough to have six kids sort of reasons. Are any of those children adopted? Why bring so many into the world when so many are already here? Just MHO. Not trying to start any arguments here.” She was absolutely right! originally I went through the article and laughed, agreed with most of the items, and did the mental check…

1. It’s cheaper:

Well not exactly, our grocery bill did double, but we do pass down clothes, books and toys from kid to kid. I also learned that it’s usually cheaper to purchase the museum family membership (and in some cases, it’s tax deductible).

2. You have nice kids:

Well, I don’t know about that, I hope they are. I think the spoiled thing is more about what you decide your family values are. L&D are not any more or less spoiled then when it was just the two of them.

3. You’re not sleeping, anyway:

True, but now we are sleeping even less. With 5 kids (or 6 in her situation) the odds are against you, and at least one child is guaranteed to wake up.

4. You have a built-in entertainment system.

I do agree with this. I love watching the kids play together and there are more opportunities to learn sharing and conflict resolution skills.

5. It makes them social.

Yes, and no. I can also see how my kids have kept within the ‘safety’ of their family circle at parties, events and activities

So here is my 5 reasons to ADOPT 5 Kids!

1. There are an average of 130,000 children in the U.S. foster care system waiting to be adopted & there are an estimated 153,000,000 orphans worldwide.

2. Because each one makes my heart burst!

3. You lessen the Carbon Footprint on the world (since the children are already here).

4. It’s best to keep sibling groups together.

5. Every child deserves a forever home!

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Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Feliz Navidad et Joyeux Noel !!!!

Quite awhile ago Georges began getting creative with our Christmas Cards. My only problem is that my over-anxious type A personality can not wait for him to get the card finished and sent out. As a result we often end up with two versions. Version #1: The average holiday card, with a photos or two and some sentimental message, but usually in time for Christmas. Then we have version #2: Creative, memorable, usually with a touch of humor, but arriving well after Christmas.

So, not to disappoint, we have a both versions again this year. I can’t show you the one that I mailed out last week, because it includes the kids faces and we are not allowed to show their faces on the internet while we are in process of adoption/fostercare. But I can tell you that the kids were dressed a like, smiling in a patch of pumpkins with the sentiment “Joy, Peace & New Beginnings”. Now here is Georges version:

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And here is a retrospective of his Christmas cards from past years:

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Hungry Bellies: Healthy Eating

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We talk about the emotional health of our adopted children, but an important issue that is less spoken of is the physical health.

If I followed the path of childbirth, I would have watched what I ate, become extra sensitive to the toxins in the environment around me. I would have taken my pre-natal supplements daily. I would have eaten a diet rich in folic acid and healthy oils to boost the brain power of my unborn child.  If I would have given birth to my child, I would have breast fed them, as long as I could, making sure that they received the best nutrition available to them.  I would be careful of what I ate, and didn’t eat because I would know that eventually it would reach the belly of my child.

I did not take that path, and I did not have control of my children’s emotional or physical health until they joined our family (which was 11mo, 12mo, 15mo, 2.5yr and 5.5 yrs). I know for sure that at least one of my children had a bio-mom that smoked throughout her pregnancy. There is nothing I can do about that. It happened, it’s done.

What I can do now is ensure that I offer the best possible nutrition and physical environment to my children. Teach them healthy habits. Engage them in physical play, and limit the toxins that they are exposed to. This is also beneficial for their emotional/mental health as well. There have been numerous studies that have proven the connection between diet and emotional health.

I have a list of absolute no-no’s for our house:

  1. High Fructose Corn Syrup
  2. Artificial Sweetners
  3. Artificial Colors
  4. Hydrogenated Oils

Other than that, I try to offer healthy meals, and they don’t get soda. This is not a soapbox stand about feeding kids nutritionally healthy food, it’s about undoing in some cases years, of poor nutrition in my children.  I did not get the luxury of monitoring this from pre-natal. My concerns that nutritional deficiencies in their early years may be impacting them now are legitimate.  Poor nutrition early in life can result in physical, cognitive and behavioral challenges. The impact on the child is varied, but the good news is that  with help, children can catch up and thrive!