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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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“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” ― Søren Kierkegaard

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The last meeting I had with the school did not go well. The paths we have in mind for T are growing wider. I questioned why he came home with soda and chips “Well he bought that with his allowance” (so as long as he brings his own money he can buy whatever he wants with it?) Then I questioned the choice of chocolate milk with every meal, and mentioned that I consider that a dessert. “Well I have NEVER considered that a dessert!” “…..and this is why he has gained 18 lbs in the short 3 mo he has been here”. I shot back.  I also mentioned that he would be returning to his school next week, just for the week so that his charter-school eligibility would be secure. I could tell that she was not happy about that.

I was surprised that she did not continue the conversation with me, but instead chose to talk directly with the Social Worker. Yes, the social worker/state are still the legal guardian, but anyday we will open our mailbox and find that the adoption is final.

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The conversation began with the Social Worker mentioning two prescriptions that the school had sent home, and that I chose not to fill. It completely boggles the mind, that they are quick to medicate, but won’t even visit the idea of good nutrition, and imagine that there is a link between behavior and nutrition. I also mentioned that he is not getting daily therapy like I was led to believe he would be receiving.  “Well, no, but the counselors are more skilled at working with kids with challenges”.

Lastly, and the core of the conversation revolved around his education.  I am not happy with this school, and want him back with us, and back at his original school. I think he needs stability, security and love, (and therapy and proper nutrition).  She thinks that that our Charter school is not equipped or experienced with working with kids that come from hard places.  I reassured her that I was ready to do what ever I needed to do, even if it meant ‘volunteering’ in his class everyday so that I can help with any situation that came up.

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She continued to argue the point that a public school was better for him, and pointed out that when he was at a public school while living with his bio-mom(3 mo of Kinder) he did fine. “Well, for one, he wasn’t depressed, and missing his bio-Mom, I pointed out that  was probably the difference not the school.” Then she says…  “Besides, you know I don’t think he is comfortable at that school, you know he is where he came from, and I think that school makes him feel inferior” hmmmm, that is quite a statement  ” coming from a social worker. Then I told her “But, this is not who he is becoming…his potential is far greater than that!” besides, the school is more diverse than a public school, with the Spanish emersion component, it attracts as many Latinos as it does white and black students, and the fact that they wear uniforms also puts them on a level social-economic place.  I continued to listen and silently nod through the phone, knowing that we both have our own plan for him, and that it looks very different, until she said “You know, the kids were taking away because they (the parents) did not have their best interest in mind”…Wow, all I could say was ” “I think we can agree, that we all want what is best for him. we just have different opinions of what that looks like”

If parenting is the hardest job in the world,…what is foster parenting?

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Hello, Pity Party of One…

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 I lost it. It was one of those days. or should I say one of those weeks leading up to one of those days.

Over ten years ago, I had my thyroid removed… completely removed. Because of a combination of procrastination, chaos and yes five kids…I had gone 2 days without my medication. I stopped by the pharmacy to renew it and they said, “Oh it’s on auto-refill for tomorrow. why don’t you just come back then’  oh ok, whatever, never mind I was already 2 days late and this would make a third day, but what the hell. It just makes me tired, cranky and irritable.  When I was feeling the full-effects of withdrawal and went back to pick it up yesterday, they said they had no record of it and to come back later, citing a glitch in their computer system.

 

On to the next errand,a simple trip to fill up the gas tank. My card was declined. WHAT??  I made a detour in my errands and dragged the kids into the calm serenity of the bank…calm until my little terrorizing tribe showed up. With a few taps on the computer keyboard the teller informed me that there had been an accidental hold on my account, just a glitch! So, let’s back up a little bit.

Last week we had a second diagnosis for PTSD in our house. It didn’t surprise me, but it did make me reflective and sad. It also explains the defiant unmanageable behavior we have been dealing with for the last 8-9 months.  Then there is my job. I am a freelance marketing consultant and I am extremely grateful that my job allows me the flexibility to put my kids first, and still earn an income. But, this  last week was particularly busy, and I was on-boarding several new clients. Georges is a College Art Professor and his job does not offer the same flexibility. As a mater of fact, he works Monday-Thursday leaving at 7:30am and not returning to after 8:00 pm.  This creates a ‘single parent atmosphere’ 4 days/nights a week for me.

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 So that brings us to yesterday morning at Target. Which one of my friends mentioned, when trying to console me…”Oh I am sorry,Target should be your happy place” It should but all odds were stacked against me. By the time we began cruising down those Target isles we could add that the baby was 2 hours past her nap time, and I could not console her consistent screaming! I heard a loud crash, turned around and saw that Bug had reached  out  of the cart and brought down an entire shelf. That was the moment that I just began to cry. I found my limit for patience, tiredness and an overwhelming feeling of self-pity set in!

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Yep…underneath our superhero capes, mommas are real people too! We have our breaking points, and we all need a little support on these shitty days!

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Heartbreak of the Worst Kind….My Baby Girls

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I went to a an intake assessment to start PCIT therapy with Bug. Since many foster children ‘miss’ parts of their childhood, this kind of therapy helps them start over and pick up what they missed. In particular the parent-child relationship.

I know Bug’s history, or at least what has been discussed in meetings or what is written in reports. Afterall she was not removed and taken into care for nothing. What I didn’t know is the details, and the story that she had been carrying around with her.

I was there during the assessment. The therapist asked her many questions, from the mundane like, “What is your favorite food?” to the more probing questions like “Have you ever been scared?”

What came next was my sweet little 4 year old bug recounting what made her scared! It took everything in me to hold back tears as I listened.  When she was done, and I was able to slip out, I made my way to the bathroom where I sobbed…yes sobbed.

You are safe sweetie, no more boogie-men or monsters Mami and Papi are here…forever!

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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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