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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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Why Black History Month is Important

I have heard criticism regarding Black History month, and why it exists. I have also heard the argument that how come there isn’t a White History month. Well, there is a White History month, and it lasts all year, it’s called History. We learn about famous inventors like Thomas Edison, politicians like Benjamin Frankiln, and even Ely Whitney that created the cotton gin. Not once speaking of those that fought for the rights of those that were forced to toil in the fields picking that cotton beaten, raped and often killed, but always treated like property. Black history is US history, and until everyone can describe the important achievements of these great African Americans  it is necessary to dedicate a month highlighting their achievements. How many do you know?

Langston Hughes

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Charles Hamilton Houston

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Nat Turner

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Mary McLeod Bethune

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Booker T. Washington

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Ida B. Wells

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Frederick Douglass

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Black History is important, because it is dangerous to omit facts and people from history. It is important for our society to know that African Americans have made equally great contributions to this country, and deserve a place in our history books. Lastly, it is important to me as a mother of three African American children that they know about these great achievements, that the history of African American greatness isn’t just sports figures, actors and musicians. They deserve to learn about these achievements in the classroom along side their White counterparts, and experience what it’s like to be proud, and be able to relate to the heroes and role models that look like them. Omissions in histor make a profound effect on our children and how they measure their self worth. When every person they read about in history is white, it can be easy for them to come to the conclusion that African Americans are not capable of greatness. This is crap! So I urge you to learn about these great leaders and their accomplishments, if you have children I urge you to share this history with them, so they too know the greatness that ALL human beings are capable of, regardless of skinskin color.color.

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My Children Don’t Share My Family Narrative

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I had a realization while reading a Facebook post by Benjamin Watson, for those of you that are as in the dark about football as I am, he is a football player for the New Orleans Saints. It was a very thoughtful post and he has gained my respect not by how he plays the game of football, but for his words, how he expressed what lives in his heart. There was one particular passage that caught my attention in particular:
I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

It occurred to me that my children will grow up with a family narrative very different than the African American or even Guatemalan American experience.

I have heard (white) people remark “Why don’t they (African Americans) just get over it, slavery ended over 100 years ago.  But what they aren’t taking into account are that the injustices continued, and still continue today.

Our family narratives help to shape our opinions, decisions and how we view the world.  The stories that are told and retold are the triumphs and injustices that families tell generation after generation.

My narrative is simple, and comes from a very White-European family: Here are just a few that I have carried with me, that continue to be told within my family.

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My Irish Grandma entered a park in Boston around 1915 and found a sign that read “No Irish Allowed”. I also know that my relatives from Oklahoma experienced a lot of “Oakie” name calling when they came to California in the 1940’s and 1950’s. I know the hardships of the breadlines of the 1930’s, and I know every detail of the injustices and rudeness that my Dad endured as a Vietnam Veteran upon returning home.  This is my narrative. These are my family stories.

My husband’s narrative includes WWII wartime Paris, and the story of a favorite Puerto Rican Uncle, not able to vote in US elections, but being drafted into the Vietnam War.

I guarantee every African American living in the United States has a very different narrative.  Tales of family members being forced to the back of the bus, or use a different door, or being denied access all together, or the terror of waking to a cross burning on their front lawn, or the worst yet…lynched. So when a Mother is denied her murdered sons day in court, when she does not get the opportunity for a jury of her peers to hear testimony and participate in the US judicial system, remember it is from this family narrative and history that the African American community responds.

My children will not grow up with this narrative, so their response to racism and injustices will be through a white family’s narrative.  I am not sure what this will mean or how this will shape their experiences.  We can explain the struggles of the Indigenous Guatemalans and African Americans, but I don’t think there is anything more convincing than a family narrative. On one hand they will not grow up with the struggle of injustice in their heart, but on the other hand, will they need this to survive in the world, to face racism and injustices that are sure to come? As their Mom, I wish I could keep them in this protected bubble for ever, but I know that in doing this, it doesn’t set them up for the future, so I try to feel, empathize, and pass on some of these injustices.

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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!