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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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Mittens & Mittens all Hung in a Row.

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I posted a few years ago about our Mitten tradition. When Lola & Diego were about 3 or 4 I felt so bad, becuase the house was all decorated for Christmas, and every morning they would wake up and ask “Is it Christmas yet?” So I came up with the idea to hang Christmas stockings with a fun surprise inside, and take one down everyday. This way they could see for themselves how many mittens were left, and how many day before Christmas!

Since this will be our 4th or 5th year now doing this, t really is  a tradition! I have learned that since I actually put memory makers in the mittens that it takes a little planning. I thought I would share this years Memory Mitten ideas. You can follow us on Instagram @CincoDeMami

Dec 1: Make Bird Feeders  for the Kindness Elves

Dec 2: Write Letters to Santa

Dec 3rd: Start a new holiday chapter book, and continue to read it all month

Dec 4th: Watch “The Year Without a Santa Claus”  (1974 version) and have popcorn and a cocoa bar

Dec 5th: Make gingerbread houses

Dec 6th: Winterfest

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Dec 7th: Messiah @ Cary Westwood Baptist

Dec 8th: Watch “Elf” and have pancakes for dinner! (special occasion meal :-)

Dec 9th: Make a reindeer craft and watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Dec 10th: Skype Santa with Portable North Pole

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Dec 11th: Make candy cane reindeer for the Kindness Elves

Dec 12th: We will be out of town, but I found this great Virginia Beach light show 

Dec 13th: We will still be in Virginia Beach, so tonight we plan to go to the Parade!

Dec 14th: Oakwood Candle Light Tour. We went on this home tour before we had kids. We have continued the tradition every year since. No, don’t worry, we don’t drag our small tribe into peoples meticulously decorated homes. the great thing is that the homes are decorated just as much on the outside, so we stop and get Krispy Kremes and walk the neighborhood enjoying all the outside decorations and the music playing!

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Dec 15: Decorate Placemats for the Kindness Elves

Dec 16th: Get our tree at the Jordan Tree farm, where we get to pick out and chop down our own tree!

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Dec 17th: Decorate the Christmas tree, and have hot coco and listen to Christmas music

Dec 18th: Make no-sew fleece caps for the Kindness Elves!

Dec 19th: Watch “Home Alone” and make Santa Pizzas

Dec 20th: Visit the Tanglewood Festival of Lights!

Dec 21st Bake and decorate cookies!

Dec 22nd: Benson Meadow Lights!

Dec 23rd: Wendell Wonderland!

Dec 24th Christmas Eve! We have Fondue for dinner and everyone gets to open new PJ’s, we then play a new family board game.

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If you noticed, most of the this list is free activities, but the great thing is the memories that they will create will last a lifetime and are priceless!

 

 

 

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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

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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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What’s in a Name?

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What’s in a name? Well, actually a lot! A name can hold your past, present and future. It’s how others identify us, and often how we identify ourselves.

When we had a therapist suggest that we offer letting T change his name, leaving the trauma of his past behind with it, and moving forward with a fresh start and a new name we weren’t sure what he would think of the idea. To our surprise, he embraced it! He Immediately chose a new name! The name he chose was Kai, which I later looked up and the meaning of Kai in Hawaiian is Sea. After a little more research, I also found this:

In Basque, Kai is a common word meaning “pier of a harbour” and a variant of the first name Kaio (from the old Latin name Caius) In Burmese, Kai means “strong” or “unbreakable” In Chinese, Kai is a common name that can have one of several meanings, including “triumphant.

I think this is very fitting! After several weeks, of letting Kai sit with his name, and encouraging us to call him that, we went ahead and publicly announced it. I sent a note to the principal and his teacher, letting them know what has happened and the ‘why’ behind it.

It was about 3 weeks later, that I was standing in the ‘walk-up’ carpool line at school, when one of the TA’s ran towards me yelling, yes yelling! “T does NOT want to be called Kai, so why don’t you just let the kid be called T!”. Completely taken back, and understanding that this was not the place or time to discuss this I just stood there dumbfounded.  It wasn’t until I got home and sat with the heaviness  of the day, that I began to cry. I am the first to admit that I don’t always know what I am doing, and rely heavily on the advice of ‘experts’, and what speaks to my heart. Parenting is challenging, parenting five kids is more challenging, but trying to navigate the healthiest path for my five children that have been through varying degrees of trauma can be down right exhausting, and at times lonely.  This attack felt like a kick while I was down, I was already working through Kai’s latest school transition.  I later wrote a letter to the principal outlining what had happened today and restating how we came to this decision, and that it was Kai who chose the name. The reply I got back was shocking:

Good morning,

Sorry for what happened yesterday.  I looked into the official file we have and we do not have an official name change for T/Kai.  Until we have such document, legally we need to call him Torrey.  Once you have the document, please give us a copy as soon as you can.
Thank you,
So, basically, children can not be called by their nic-names or shortened names? I call Bullsh*t! I pointed that out to her and let it go.
At this point Kai has switched schools again. The Montessori program he was in was not a good fit for a child that has never had structure in their life. He is now at a public school with strong EC resources.
As for me, I will continue to grow that thick skin, and advocate for my children….whatever their names are!