Sunday, April 13, 2014

Books that Highlight Our BIG and Beautiful World

I don't know about you, but as a trans-racial adoptive parent, I am ALWAYS looking for books that I can share with my daughter to show her that our family is the same in so many ways as other families, but that there is also uniqueness in our adoption history together as well as our family make-up.  I recently stumbled across Usborne books, that produces and sells some books that I have never heard of or saw, but was excited to look through as soon as I had the chance.  I wanted to share those books with you as well.  Below are some of my favorites on adoption, non-white heros/heroines, cultural awareness as well as a healthy does of fun.  

Teaching our kids to see how big and beautiful the world is doesn't have to be hard, or stressful or too serious.  Have fun and help show our kids that we are all different and we are all the same with these fun new books!

To order or view more details on these books {and many, many more}  Click on the links below the descriptions - to suggest more - use the comment box below


The Best Family in the World
Carlotta anxiously awaits the arrival of her new family. What will they be like? She imagines all kinds of wonderful families…astronauts, pastry chefs, even pirates. How nice to find out that they are all that and more ... the best family in the world.

Guji Guji
An original in his own family – never mind the rest of the world – Guji Guji proves to himself and others that family, no matter where or what that family may be, is worth protecting and cherishing. This award-winning, modern-day classic combines a child-friendly, playful text, vivid characters and muted illustrations in a story of love, acceptance and self-discovery.

Nina Bonita
This beautiful and charming story deals with a sensitive subject in a sensitive way. "Black is beautiful" to a little white rabbit and while trying to discover the secret that will make him black, readers get a funny, yet educational introduction to basic genetics.

You Be Me, I'll Be You
Anna, the interracial child of a white father and black mother, explores questions and yearnings she has about her identity by "switching" skin colors with her father. With ease, wit, and compassion, You Be Me, I'll Be You examines issues of concern to all children who have ever worried about differences.

Splash, Anna Hibiscus!
Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa.  Amazing Africa.  Today she is at the beach with her whole family. The sun is hot. The sand is hot. The laughing waves are splashing! Who will come and splash with Anna? Another joyous Anna Hibiscus picture book featuring warm family relationships fromBoston Globe-Horn Book Honor winner Atinuke!

Anna Hibiscus' Song
Anna Hibiscus is so filled with happiness that she feels like she might float away. And the more she talks to her mother and father and grandfather and grandmother and aunties and cousins about it, the more her happiness grows! There’s only one thing to do … Sing!  From the author and illustrator of the acclaimed Anna Hibiscus series, this stand-alone story highlighting Anna’s warm, loving multigenerational family and life in modern Africa will have fans singing with happiness!

Marc Just Couldn't Sleep
It's bedtime, but Marc just can't sleep. He's scared. He's worried. What if a giant mosquito gets into his room? What if he falls out of bed? What if the moon melts? Mom to the rescue! A mosquito repellent teddy bear, notes to the wind and the moon, mountain climbing ropes…nothing works. What's a mom to do? The solution turns out to be simple enough to help even the most reluctant sleepy head off to dreamland.

Fashion Dolls: Africa, China, India, Japan & the Islands
Filled with interesting facts about the food, holiday traditions, clothing , flora and fauna, the Fashion Dolls series takes paper dolls to a whole new level, allowing children to learn about culture and customs with creativity.  Each Fashion Dolls book contains blank silhouettes as well as stencils and stickers … everything a child needs to create the beautiful fashions of our world.

The Nights of the World
We're pleased to introduce five children from five different regions of the world. You're invited to discover how each child sleeps and then, once the tab is pulled, the shutter opens to reveal the same child and the same place during the day.  Everyone closes their eyes the same way, but then what? An original way in which to discover other places and people and to learn about similarities and differences.

Sticker Dolly Dressing Dream Jobs
Meet best friends Leyla, Katy and Becca, who are dreaming about the kinds of jobs they might do when they grow up. Use the stickers to dress the girls as they imagine caring for elephants in Africa, designing costumes in a blockbuster movie, being a doctor in a busy hospital and lots, lots more.

Peoples of the World
This superb book takes a continent-by continent journey through the everyday lives of the six billion people who inhabit our planet. Stunning photographs and detailed maps will help you to gain a better understanding of customs and traditions, religious beliefs and festivals, how governments work, and how people travel.

Sticker Dolly Dressing Around the World
In this book you will find dolls from different countries in the world. Use the stickers to dress them in their traditional costumes, from beautiful silk sari at an Indian wedding to the elegant flamenco dresses in Spain.

To order or view more details on these books {and many, many more}  Click on the links below the descriptions - to suggest more - use the comment box below.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Adopt a... a highway, a road, an idea, a pet, a family, a school, a block, a park or a classroom

Language is a funny thing.  We have words that can only mean one thing, like a circle.  A circle in all of its various forms, is either called a circle or it has a different, more descriptive name.  We call things that are in the shape of a circle, the name of the thing - ie. a ball, a hull-a-hoop, a face, a wheel - not simply circle.  Its simply not descriptive enough.

But for some of our most meaningful concept words, we apply them to all sorts of things.  Take love for example.  I love my daughter yes, but I also love coffee, walks, my wrap, sleeping in and meaningful conversations.  I love all those things - to lesser or greater degrees.

Adopt (and Adoption) is another one of those words, that we use in all sorts of ways.  I never thought of it before I adopted myself.  Oh wait, I should be more clear, until I adopted a child.  A human being.  Not a highway, a road, an idea, a pet, a family, a school, a block, a park or a classroom.  Before I adopted a child.  Of course those who have been a part of the journey know that there is a human being involved, but looking at google, you might wonder.

Here are the top -55 or so results when I goggled, "Adopt a..."

As far as I can tell, 3 out of the top 55 are about adopting a child.  And this bothers me.

I know what a powerful, life altering, not-to-be-taken-lightly thing adoption is.  For ALL involved, and to see it literally in the same category as "Adopt A Hottie"  and "Adopt a Hydrant" is surprising.

So, in my little corner of the world, I am asking people to choose a different word if they are talking about anything other than the most serious process of giving a home to a child who literally doesn't have one.  You can support your school, clean up your highways, be the best darn owner of a pet out there, but I feel like the word adoption should mean something deeper.

So, I for one am taking the word back.

Has anyone else felt this way?  What have you done about it?  Does it make a difference what word people use?  Am I being silly?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Christina Perri - Music that Keep Me Sane: 2

Not a twilight fan, at all really, but this music is beautiful! And haunting. And I love it.

Christina Perri - A Thousand Years

Heart beats fast
Colors and promises
How to be brave
How can I love when I'm afraid
To fall
But watching you stand alone
All of my doubt
Suddenly goes away somehow

One step closer

I have died every day
waiting for you
Darlin' don't be afraid
I have loved you for a
Thousand years
I'll love you for a
Thousand more

Time stands still
beauty in all she is
I will be brave
I will not let anything
Take away
What's standing in front of me
Every breath,
Every hour has come to this

One step closer

I have died every day
Waiting for you
Darlin' don't be afraid
I have loved you for a
Thousand years
I'll love you for a
Thousand more

And all along I believed
I would find you
Time has brought
Your heart to me
I have loved you for a
Thousand years
I'll love you for a
Thousand more

One step closer
One step closer

I have died every day
Waiting for you
Darlin' don't be afraid,
I have loved you for a
Thousand years
I'll love you for a
Thousand more

And all along I believed
I would find you
Time has brought
Your heart to me
I have loved you for a
Thousand years
I'll love you for a
Thousand more

What music (songs, artists) is keeping you sane right now? I wanna check it out - post a link in the comments!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Teaching my toddler to say NO!

Most parents rue the day their child learns how to say no and thinks they will disrespect the parent and everyone around them in the process. Its thought of as a bad thing, "Uh-oh little junior learned to say 'no,' we're really in for it now."

Don't get me wrong. I live with a two year old, I know how frustrating the word no (and the stubbornness that comes with it) can be. They "know" how just about everything should be done... by themselves and absolutely wrong, most of the time.

But, I think there is also a deep beauty and potential in this stage.

Our little people are becoming little people. They are learning what they like and don't like and how to tell the world. Personalities are erupting. They are separating more from their parents, so that they can stand more on their own two feet.  And from here, it just keeps going.  They gain more and more independence, day by day, year by year - they are moving farther away from us.  As sappy as that makes me sometimes, isn't that really the goal?  Babies that grow up, happy, healthy and then become adults.  What kind of adults do we want them to be?

Taking the long view of life, I have always approached the subject of 'no' in the exact opposite way of most parents, with my kids. I have actively taught them "no" and "stop".  Because I think that kids of all ages, have an opinion about things and that opinion should be considered whenever you are interacting with them**.  In the end, I am convinced it will make them better, kinder, safer more wonderful grown-ups (and kinder, safe, happier, more wonderful children along the way).

Because -

If we respect their personal boundaries and need for space, it teaches them to do the same for others, especially those littler and more vulnerable than them.

If we listen when they say no and change what we're doing because of it, it shows that their opinion matters, that they matter.

If we stop tickling, rough-housing or hugging/kissing kids when they say stop (no matter how much they are laughing), they learn that they are in charge of their bodies and can say NO however forcefully needed to get someone else to stop. 

If we let them say NO to a hug or kiss from someone they'd rather not hug or kiss, it reinforces that they get to choose physical contact or not.

If we listen when they say no and don't change what we're doing, it shows them that sometimes we have to do things we don't want to because its the right thing to do.  For example, your child might not want to take a bath and says no.  In that moment, you can say, "I hear that you don't want take a bath, but its been a week and you are starting to be fowl... its time." And then give them that bath.

Powerful stuff hu?   One phrase I love that encompasses this idea is giving our kids voice.  Giving them their voice....  And that is something worth hearing a few extra NO's over.


**This doesn't mean that the child is in charge of everything.  Respecting your kids and requiring respect in return go hand in hand - one way respect doesn't work.  Sweetie can tell me no all day long, but her tone has to be respectful and if tell her that I hear her, but we're doing, xy or z anyway, she does it without complaint 95% of the time.  This works!


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Powerful Video

If you have ever wondered why someone would do foster care or adopt tough kids - THIS is why. Right here. Right here.

check out the Behind The Scenes video:

Originally created for the 168 Film Festival, ReMoved follows the emotional story through the eyes of a young girl taken from her home and placed into foster care.

After winning Best Film and Audience Choice at the 168 Film Festival, as well as winning Best Film at the Enfoque Film Festival and being an official selection at the Santa Barbara Independent Film Festival, we're extremely excited to share ReMoved online.

"It would be impossible to fully understand the life and emotions of a child going through the foster care system, but this short narrative film portrays that saga in a poetic light, with brushes of fear, anger, sadness, and a tiny bit of hope." -Santa Barbara Independent

This short film wouldn't be possible without the help of some of my incredible friends.

First, my wife, who schemed this project up with me, and was willing to do me the huge favor of writing and producing it. Without her partnership, this would not have happened, and definitely would not have been such a fun process. We were inspired to create this film while in foster parent training.

And then of course Tony Cruz. I asked him early on if he'd be willing to tackle this with me. I wasn't sure if I was really going to pursue it unless he said yes. He graciously agreed and was, to me, a huge source of confidence in knowing this project would turn out well. He and i discussed everything during the pre-production, and i counted on his creative mind to keep me on the right path. He even persuaded another key creative on the project, Greg Pickard, to join us. On Set Tony was my right hand man. On set, if I just wasn't feeling it, I had the trust in him to be able to just hand the scene off to him and know he would make it work. And he stepped in plenty of times when i just needed a break, or a separate perspective. Some of the best moments in the film are of his doing. Go check him out at

We were very fortunate with Abby White, the young actress. Without her we wouldn't have a film.
Her parents were so amazing as well. I don't think they anticipated how much involvement it would take on their end, but they stuck with it the whole way. Abby's dad, Andy White from Good Times Guitar, even recorded Abby's Voice Over for us in his studio.

Monday, March 10, 2014

No Blurred Photos for Me Please

There a few things in the world of foster care that rub me the wrong way.

There is the obvious - unnecessary moves, unqualified foster parents who don't real like kids, disrespect for birth families who are fighting to get their kids back.  

And the not so obvious - blogs that over-share about kids personal stories and the ol' I-can't-actually-post-a-photo-of-my-foster-child so instead, I will still post the photo but blur out their face or put a sticker right smack in the middle of their face to "hide" their identity, thing.

--> like so

I've blurred a face once or twice in my time.  I get the temptation.  The children we have been entrusted with are precious and adorable & we want to share them with the world!

But seeing a sweet child with their identity masked, as if they had done something to be ashamed of, actually hurts me.  As if we're ashamed, as if we should be ashamed.  The rest of the family can smile away and have their photo proudly displayed.  We can see their smiles, their tears, their sas-a-frash-i-will-NOT-smile for another photo attitude.  

Yet, the foster child's face, their expression, who they are is hidden. They are there and yet they are not. 

That type of photo gives us the ability to show off the child we love, but not who they are.  Not really.  And all of us who have known a child whose been through the system, knows what amazing, full, and complete people they are.  With a whole story before, during and after their time in foster care.   

I want my child to know that I have always been proud of in all her intricacies, sass and realness.  I want people to see her face for real, her whole face (in photos or in person) the first time they see her.  She is a whole.  Not a body, but no identity.  So I didn't post ANY pictures publicly until I could announce that she was officially adopted.  And I still do only very, very rarely on public sites.  Because she isn't the poster child for adoption, foster care.  She is her own person, every hilarious, wonderful, personable inch of her.

We can debate all day long if photos in general should or shouldn't be allowed on blogs/social media/etc.  I realize regulations are different in every area.  And I understand the reasons behind the regulations - these are children that we have been entrusted with but are not OURS, its for the safety of the children and for our families.  And to maintain the privacy of the entire birth family.

But I would ask, beg even, you to not share pictures at all until you can share all of them or pass them all on.  The blur or the cute heart sticker, takes away from the person-hood of the very child you are trying to make more real.  

Wait - I promise it will be wonderful on the day when you can share (if they are adopted) or on the day when you can no longer share (but can give all of your wonderful, un-blurred photos to their birth family or to their adoptive family).  

Either way, you are giving that child and their forever family a gift, the precious gift of honoring the intricacies and beauty of each individual, precious, unique little life (and face).

Saturday, March 8, 2014

When the child you hoped to adopt, leaves

In my area, if it looks highly likely that a child will not be able to reunify with their birth family, the social workers make an extra effort to get a commitment from the foster parents that they WILL adopt this child if necessary, before the child is placed.  Its called a CONCURRENT PLACEMENT.  It is not the usual situation.  After saying yes, one could back out and choose not to adopt, but it would not be looked upon favorably by social workers (and of course not good for the child to be moved again). 

For me, there's always been a huge heart difference (but hopefully not an love or interaction difference) between "my" child and "their/our child".  I treasured all of my children, but with one of my past kidos, Baby Girl, I was attached.  I was invested for the long haul, for kindergarten round up, for summer camps, for sleepovers, for first dates, the whole shebang.  

I was her Mom and she was my child.  Until I wasn't and she wasn't.

I was happy for the final spot she ended up.  But it didn't make it hurt any less, because it wasn't with me.  It is one of the risks we take loving kids who need to be loved, when they need to be loved, for as long as they need to be loved.

I fell hard and I fell fast for this little chunk-a-monka.  From the timing of the first phone call, down to her name (the one suggested by my Dad as a good name for my daughter someday), everything just felt "right".  I canceled all my upcoming plans and said YES, YES!  She was the happiest baby I have EVER met.  She was also the chunkiest.  When the social worker brought her to my house, I had a hard time believing she was only 8 months old, as she already weighed 23 lbs and was rolls head to toe.  For about a month, I wrestled withe the questions of is this my daughter?  Will she stay?   We took picnics, went camping (just the two of us), had coffee dates with friends to show her off and I tried to contain my joy.  And oh the pictures.  I took SO MANY pictures, monthly pictures, pictures of her smiling, crying, funny faces and everything in-between.  I was falling in love.

Around the month mark, her birth mom started working her plan.  She was doing everything she needed to do and wanted her baby girl back desperately.  I am not going to sugar-coat it, it was hard.  Beyond any one else I know, I am a cheerleader for birth families.  A champion of reunification and healthy relationships!  But selfishly, it was hard for me to hear how well she was doing.  We waited.

She continued to do well.  We increased visits.  She was a amazing Mom.  Everyone starting thinking this might work, I talked to baby girl about her Mom with a smile on my face only to cry myself to bed at night.

She had an overnight and then a weekend with baby girl.  They both were thriving.  I knew it was going to work out for them.  I was so happy for them.... so sad for me.

Baby girl moved back in with her after 2 1/2 months with me.  It wasn't a long time, that doesn't mean it wasn't hard. 


I got an email yesterday from someone who is walking through a similar situation right now and wondered what advice I had, since I've been through the trenches... here are some of her questions and some of my thoughts -

What is the "typical" process for a move?
  • Well, there is the typical and then the ideal.  I always recommend that you advocate as strongly as you can for the ideal, but help to support the child through whatever happens.  
    • Typical:  The decision is made that the child will move on Tuesday, you pack up their stuff and they move on Tuesday (with or without visits before hand).
    • Ideal:  Visits will start with whoever the child will be moving in with about a month before (if not sooner) 1-2 times a week.  Then one overnight or two, then a weekend.  Always returning to the foster home, in-between.  Then moving.  Then visits from foster parents 1-2 times after move, but always with the permanent family present.

How do you help prepare young children for a move (to a relative or back with birth parents)? 
  • The easiest way you can help prepare kids for a move is to talk about it with them.  Even if they are young, talking is the best thing.  Words like, "In two weeks you will be living with Auntie Jane.  She is nice and is going to take good care of you.  I like Auntie Jane."  Giving their little hearts the knowledge that its coming and that you are "okay" with it even if its hard.  Make sure your face/body language match the words you're saying in front of the child as much as possible.
  • Make a board book for toddlers, ages 1-3, that outlines the move, using photos and a story as much as possible.
  • A more detailed social story about the move can also be really helpful for older kids.
  • Have the kids help pack, so that the move isn't 100% a surprise.

How did you prepare yourself for a move?
  • Have a friend who is willing to listen as you process the sometimes roller-coaster emotions of a child leaving - your glad for them, sad for yourself, hopefully everything will work out splendidly, worried it won't.
  • Journal about our time together, highs and lows.  Memories I want to keep.
  • Work on their life-book, gather stories and photos to send with to their next stop (and save a copy for myself).
  • Let myself be sad.  Grief is a normal response when someone important to you is not in your life anymore.

Can I still have contact with kids once they move?
  • Legally, there is no requirement for the children's next placement (whether back with parents, adoptive home or foster home) keep in contact with you.  The reason I've been able to keep in touch with so many of my kids is that I have developed good relationships with their birth/adoptive families.  I've always kept my heart open for the best placement for kids, even when it hurts me.