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Move Over Elf on the Shelf! The Kindness Elves are Here!

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I have not gotten on board with the whole Elf on the Shelf thing. I don’t have anything against him, it just seems like a lot of work, for little return. What I mean by that is that there is no real lesson in Elf on the Shelf…as a matter of fact, he’s quite a naughty little elf.  When I came across the idea for Kindness Elves, I thought ‘now this is a tradition I can get behind! Yea, it’s probably even more work, but I will get behind anything that helps instill kindness and compassion in my children.  With this said, tomorrow our little elves will appear. We happened to have these sweet little elves tucked away already. I think they will make perfect Kindness Elves.  You can use any elves…you can even use the real Elf on the Shelf, and just rehabilitate his ornery habits.

Beginning tomorrow morning…these sweet little elves will appear with an act of kindness for my children to complete. Every night they will return to the North Pole to share with Santa these compassionate deeds.

I have compiled a tentative itinerary forall 24 days leading up to Christmas..here it is!

Day 1: The Elves will return the Santa sacks from last year. The kids will fill these sacks with underused and unwanted toys to be donated back to Santa (local shelter). Santa will return these bags Christmas morning full of Christmas goodness.

Day 2: Write letters and drawings to send to the military

Day3: Draw pictures for Color A Smile. Color A Smile is a nonprofit organization that collects cheerful drawings from volunteers of all ages.  Every month they distribute thousands of these colorful drawings to Senior Citizens, Our Troops Overseas, and anyone in need of a smile.

Day 4: The kids will make birdfeeders for our feathered friends.

Day 5: Donate to KIVA , a non-profit microlending organization with a mission to alleviate poverty

Day 6: Tape quarters to parking meters.

Day 7:Make salt-dough Christmas ornaments to deliver to friends, family, and our neighborhood.

Day 8: Decorate oven mitts that will be used by Meals on Wheels delivery drivers.

Day 9: Log onto Rice.org and log some rice points. For every answer the kids get right, The United Nations World Program donates 10 grains of rice to help end hunger.

Day 10: Sweep the leaves off our neighbor’s porches.

Day 11: Build fuzzy-sock care packages for the homeless (make a dollar store run for these)

Day 12: Nominate a family to be their secret Santa, or give them a 12 days of Christmas. You can follow this on Instagram @CincodeMami

Day 13: Make reindeer out of candy canes to pass out.

Day 14: Pass out the reindeer candy canes to kids at a Christmas Parade we will be going to!

Day 15: Pass out ornaments to homes that are part of a Christmas home tour we are going to

Day 16: Make placemats and  lunch bags for Meals on Wheels recipients.

Day 17: Write letters to VA. Recovering American Soldier C/o Walter Reed Army American Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue, NW Washington DC, 20307

Day 18: Make no-sew fleece caps for children going through chemotherapy

Day 19: Volunteer to clean our schools classrooms before the winter break

Day 20: Bake Cookies and deliver to police officers, fire departments and nurses

Day 21: Decorate holiday cards for soldiers overseas. Red Cross-sponsored Holiday Mail for Heroes

Day 22: Collect used towels to donate to the local animal shelter or make pet toys for them.

Day 23: Make no-sewew fleece scarves for the homeless

Day 24: Adopt a “grandfriend” and make regularly scheduled visits just to offer company….

Follow our Kindness Elves on instagram @CincodeMami

While looking for service projects I came across this great site.

http://www.bigheartedfamilies.org/

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Today I am Thankful

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Today I am thankful for :

Lost socks

Random sharpie artwork on floors, ceilings and furniture

Early morning wake ups (and late night, and any other time I am trying to sleep)

Not being able to make 4 different school lunches without at least one complaint.

Nonstop talking and questions before I can get through my first cup of coffee

A bathtub full of toys

Not being able to pee, shower or dress in private

Hours of homework help

Boy Bands, Taylor Swift and Tween Music

Cooking for what seems to be like a small army, all with different likes and dislikes

Sitting through hours of theater performances and soccer games

Naked kids that refuse to wear clothes

Potty training

Broken windows, furniture and doors

Wet beds

Forgoing any enjoyable music for Disney Pandora and Kids Bop

Having to escort a child to the bathroom, just when my dinner arrives at a restaurant

Piles and Piles of laundry that never ends

Are we there yet?

Tattle-tales

Throwing 5 Birthday parties within 3 months

snot, vomit and pee

Hours of being stuck in the car, taxing kids to soccer, dance and theater

The words MINE! I didn’t do it! and the famous Not Me!

5am weekend wake-ups, yet having to force them out of bed at 7a on school days

10 minute intervals of potty stops while on long trips

Five kids screaming at once!

For all this I am thankful. Because one day my children will be grown, moved out, and I know that I will miss this, and long for these memories!

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National Adoption Day

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Yesterday was National Adoption Awareness Day. This has become the day that counties across the United States invite families that have come together through adoption to join in a celebration at the courthouse. The adoption process has been streamlined to just a lot of paper shuffling, signing and notarizing. As a matter of fact, it was just an ordinary Tuesday when our paperwork arrived in the mail telling us that we are now a forever family! I love that judges and courts now celebrate this moment with families!

We were hoping that the formality of the court celebration would help the kids understand that this is now their forever home. Kai has still been holding onto the hope that reunification with his bio-mom is possible, and Imani just doesn’t understand permanency, and is still concerned that she will have to leave and go live somewhere else.

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Among my joy and celebration, I had to set my feelings to the side.  “Why?” you ask. because for our little 7 year old, this was not a celebratory time. His face said it all, mixed feelings of loss and the new feeling of safety and security he has been experiencing for the last two years.

His bio-mom will always be his ‘mom’. I understand and respect the love he has for her. I try to keep the fading memories he has of her alive, with questions and observations thrown into our conversations; “Your voice is beautiful, just like K’s”… It’s difficult to process fostercare for children. It’s more difficult to understand foster-adopt. All they know is that this parent they loved is all of a sudden gone from their lives, and new parents, strangers are inserted. When you try to look at it through their eyes, it really is a strange idea.

The heart of a child is an amazing thing. It’s loyal, unconditional, and tender. So with this I held my children tight, and balanced my outward emotions with my inward joy, knowing that one of my children was mourning his past, while I was celebrating his future!

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It Takes A Village: The Guardian Ad Litem

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In the county I live in, right now there are over 600 plus children in the foster-care system. Each one of these children will be appointed a Guardian ad Litem. This is a volunteer position, and currently our county is in desperate need of people willing to step up and become a child’s advocate.  Guardians ad Litem serve as court-appointed advocates for abused and neglected children who come to the attention of the juvenile court system. Judges depend on testimony and reports from the Guardian ad Litem to inform their decisions about how to protect each child from further harm and meet their needs.

We were very lucky! Our Guardian ad Litem was/is an Angel. She took this position seriously, and never missed an appointment, court date or home visit. She did it with a smile on hr face and love in her heart. She has become an extended family member, and knew and fought for the protection of our children before we even met them.

A lot of people I encounter are concerned about the amount of children in the foster-care system, but are unable to adopt or foster a child. This is just one more way that someone can help the children without making a life-long commitment to the child.

What exactly does the Guardian ad Litem do? This is taken from the website:

Volunteer Responsibilities

  • Visits the child and keeps the child informed about the court proceedings.
  • Communicates with the Attorney Advocate to develop legal strategies to further the best interests of the child.
  • Gathers and assesses independent information on a consistent basis about the child to recommend a resolution that is in the child’s best interest. 
  • Interviews the parents, guardians, caretakers, social workers, and other service providers, and reads records related to the case.
  • Seeks cooperative solutions with other participants in the child’s case. 
  • Writes fact-based, child-focused reports for court hearings.
  • Attends and participates in court hearings and other related meetings to advocate for a permanent plan thatserves the child’s best interest. 
  • Testifies, if needed, to inform the court of the child’s situation.
  • Ensures that the court knows the child’s wishes.  
  • Keeps all records and information confidential.
  • Monitors all court-ordered services and keeps the court informed about the needs of the child.
  • Consults with local program staff for support and guidance.

If you have love in your heart,  passion for justice and a little extra time these children need YOU!

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They’re Ours!! Adoption Finalized!

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1 year, 9 months and 8 days after meeting our three youngest children for the first time they are ours! Adoption complete! What does this mean for our family?

  • No more home visits!
  • We get to make all decisions regarding our children (without counsel from The Team)
  • We are free to travel anywhere and anytime with our children, without special permission and notes
  • No one can take them from us. No changed minds, or family members suddenly appearing
  • We all have the same last name! We are now the Le Chevalliers!
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My White Privilege Does Not Apply To My Children

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Before adopting I didn’t really know about ‘white privilege”. Maybe I did, but honestly, I really didn’t give it much thought. But now that my heart is intertwined within several cultures/races I am hyper aware of how races, other than whites are treated in the United States.

I would be doing my children a huge disservice if I did not try to ‘walk a mile’ in their shoes, if I did not help to prepare them for their futures, as Black-Americans and as Latino-Americans.

We (Whites) don’t like talking about race. It makes us uncomfortable, mainly because we are afraid we’ll say the wrong thing. But the conversations need to begin and continue, and not stop until the ignorance, fear and misunderstandings are replaced with love and acceptance . I have found that my children have helped me bridge those uncomfortable conversations. When it comes to our children,  we are often forced out of our comfort zone to act on behalf of them. We often do for them things we would have never done for ourselves.

The conversations I have had with my children  so far, are very generic and have just begun to scratch the surface of topics like Martin Luther King, Slavery, and the injustices against the Maya in Guatemala.  As they mature, so will our conversations. My hope is that I can stay at least 2 steps ahead of the stupidity and racism, preparing them in an age appropriate and realistic way for the future.

I don’t know what happened to Michael Brown on that evening in Ferguson, MO, but he deserves the same due-diligence we would give any one of our teenage sons gunned down in their youth.   Every time I see in the news that another Black teenager has been gunned down I think of the conversations I will have to have with my sons. They are not allowed the privilege of throwing on a sweatshirt and looking ‘sloppy’, for fear of being labeled a ‘thug’, or pulled over and asked for their ‘papers’.

Until we join hands and become that “One World, One Love” Bob Marley sang about almost 40 years ago, I will continue to weep with the Mother’s of the sons that are unnecessarily judged, harassed and yes sometimes killed because they did not posses the privilege of being white in America.

 

 

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LEGO my EGO

One of the things I have been able to take advantage of, are the classes offered on adoption, behavior and various coping skills that we can teach to our children and replace the old coping methods that no longer serve them. Recently I added a new tool to my toolbox of ‘Mom games’ that masquerades as really fun ‘regular games’.

When I first started to play, I thought “No way am I going to be able to create anything cool/interesting with these LEGO’s (this was my first lesson).  Everyone sat down with a ‘kit’ in front of them, this was not a regular LEGO kit. This kit contained webs, ladders, people, flowers, money, and various other traditional blocks (unfortunately they are not for sale. But, I am sure they would be very easy to put one together from a LEGO store). The play helps kids to express feelings and creativity and gain important skills that can be transferred to a classroom. This is how the game is played:

Choose an attitude, perspective or feeling you would like to work on or explore, (it can also work well with something as simple as ‘create a robot’ or a ‘make-believe bug’ etc…) Now, by using the LEGO-kit translate that into a LEGO model. After 5 minutes, everyone shares their model.  There are rules to sharing:

Here are the rules:

  1. Everyone shares.
  2. When done sharing the listeners say “Thank you for sharing’ (I found this to be the most difficult because I really wanted to compliment the models).
  3. Do not touch anyone else’s model.
  4. Do not touch your model while other’s are talking
  5. Questions about what is on the base plate ONLY.
  6. Do not compliment.
  7. Do not interrupt someone else’s story.
  8. If they say its an XX it is an XX

Here is my “Bug”- It’s a Momma bug and the netting is helping to protect her babies in her pouch. The tools that this bug has to help her babies include (from L-R) , The first tool pictured is a flower to add love and creativity to her children’s lives, next is a phone that represents communication with her children, the brush represents the care and grooming she needs to give to her children and  a magic wand to make all the boo-boo’s and sadness disappear……..I know you want to compliment my rockin’ model…but it’s against the rules!

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