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NO! We are the Lucky Ones!

 

Copy of Fresh Blog (3)

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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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

EXHIBITION

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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