In the Throes of Grief
artist mom me to leave. My gift to him was a good life and his gifts to me continue to come into clarity. Grieving, Artist Mom
Artist Mom: on being legally freed for adoption
Boys, When I'm having big feelings your mother tells me to just let them come. To breathe into it. This week I left for a couple days to do just that. I want you to know that the woman who gave birth to you but could not raise you did a very brave thing this week. Instead of keeping you in foster care any longer than the near 2 years you've been in it, she agreed to let you be adopted. By us. The two people you know as your parents. The magnitude of her choice causes me to feel both great relief and enormous sadness at this time. We have sat with her for many hours through the lengthy process of her trial. We have come to appreciate the things about her that are good & worthy & human. This, in contrast to the choices she made which will impact all of you for the duration of your lives, is a dichotomy not easily balanced or reconciled. You will always know where you came from & we will always be transparent with you as your development will allow. On the day your birth mom relinquished her legal right to parent you, we were not there. This pains your mama, as not only did she wish to tell you about that day from her own perspective but more, because neither of us wanted your birth mom to be alone. This is a very sad thing. No one should have to do a thing like that all alone. You will always know who she is & you will see her as you age, if you wish. Know that we will support your individual choice & your relationships with her however they may shape over time. When your mama & I were first dating, I recall a conversation about luck versus destiny. A pragmatist, I am not a proponent of the former & she, an optimist, does not believe in the latter. And while I still feel mostly the same, as evidenced by the tattoo on my chest, her argument won me over regarding one exception. At the time, we were both working intimately with families in crisis & kids in care. She said to me, "your theory of everything happening for a reason does me no good when I'm talking to kids who've been treated so poorly. What am I suppose to say to them - this was your destiny? No. This was bad luck." And this is where I say to you that this news of your being legally free to adopt also brings to the foreground that we are choosing to adopt you boys and not your older brother & sister. We know that this may not make sense to you. Perhaps ever. You will someday know my story & that my siblings & I were separated & this is not a thing I would wish for any kid. We also know that we cannot do for all 4 of you what we can do for two of you. That is no more your destiny than it is ours. It's just the way things turned out. It is just luck. We got you. You got us. And while this brings me unspeakable joy, the scenario makes me so very sad right now. We are hopeful that your brother and sister are adopted by parents who will be what they need & that they will wish to continue building on the foundation we are laying & the bond you are creating. Boys, you have made me a mother. I imagined my first round of this very differently only because I was limited by not having known this type of journey an option. Adoption. Our first choice. Know that you are loved. Let us move forward. -Mom (the artist) Read the Therapist's response here artist mom Artist Mom: on being legally freed for adoption
Visit Day (part 2)
It's a visit day. We didn't tell him before dropping him off at school. Sometimes we do. But today we didn't. He's been so anxious lately. Perseverating over food, where we are, where tiny is, where the dogs are, struggling over small limits. Getting easily frustrated, then spitting or throwing things. He traverses loving, hugging, cuddling, "carry me carry me carry me" with the opposite, total shutdown. Sometimes we just sit with him. Sometimes we breathe with him. Sometimes we hold him accountable in the moment. Often we read and talk about feelings when his brain is in a place where he's a more available learner & less flooded with emotion. But today we didn't tell him. And we're not picking him up before nap so he can have grounding time at home before a chaotic visit. We'll pick him up post-nap. Give him more good food. Sing songs on the drive & hold for him that feelings get big, bigger, biggest, and then they come back down. After his visit, we'll jump back into our evening routine & do what we do. Because part of foster parenting includes helping him figure out his relationships. Part of parenting him is helping him manage the tough stuff. And part of loving him, is loving all of him. Artist Mom artist mom
A better parent: my life's work
my behalf while I spend my life working endlessly to meet it in the middle.   -Artist Mom artist mom
Magic In My Kitchen
I witnessed magic in my kitchen this morning. There was something about the crayons and then there was a body checking out and then there were tears. It wasn't about the crayons because it's never about the crayons. But the tears came and the tears stayed and we let the bus pass us right by and showed up late for school. Because when the tears come, you let them. We have a kiddo who cannot cry. Who only rarely rage sobs. A kiddo who actually tries to push the tears back into her beautiful eyes. A young lifetime of unpacked sadness beginning to bubble to the surface. That's the thing that happens when you feel safe. That's the thing that happens when you begin to think about receiving love and trust and when someone can help you put words to the feelings. This is the beginning of the road to healing. These are the moments that invite change. We are headed to see their birth mom today. The woman who delivered them into this world. Who carried all 4 of them in her worn body at such a young age and who could not ever take care of them in the ways they need. That's the narrative now for where they are developmentally. Open adoption was never a choice for us. As in, we don't believe in an alternative. Kids have the right to know and be in the know. And. Visit days are unbearably painful. They're a lot for everyone. The kids, us, their older brother, his pre-adoptive dad, and their mom. Everyone's deepest feelings around loss and sadness and anger and pain and guilt and anxiety manifest in a variety of ways across the spectrum. I saw magic in my kitchen this morning. I am the support team in these most difficult moments where therapist mama has all the words and all the touch. I could never have these hard conversations in the ways that she does. I'm just not that skilled. But I'm so glad that she is. -Artist Mom [CHANGE] #30WriteNow artist mom
Boys, a letter to your big brother
You came to live with us in the summer of 2016 when you were 5. You had been in foster care for two years and the older woman who took care of you and your sister had a large home, but things in her life had changed and she needed the whole of it for her growing family. You spent many weekends with us before then and so you knew our home well, and you knew your baby brothers lived with us, and you knew we loved you all. In this year of 2016, in the state we live in, there are many people and many houses but there are not many people with foster homes. When children are born to parents who cannot take care of them, the government looks for other people to help. Right now, there are not enough helpers for the number of kids who need safe and caring and loving grown ups and homes. There are not enough blended and brave families with kids who are born to their parents and kids who are adopted by their parents and kids who live with their foster parents until the right family is found for them. We know that the world is full of beautiful people who have yet to discover they they are the family I am talking about. We are hopeful that more grown ups think about and fall in love with children who need families but we know that right now this is not happening fast enough. In the summer you came to live with us, you and your big sister moved in for a weekend, while the grown ups in charge searched for a home for the two of you to live and grow up big and strong in. They were looking for a family that wanted to adopt you and be your parents forever. We had a plan that weekend, which was for all of us to go on vacation for the 4th of July, and after the holiday, we would help the two of you move and then in the future you would come over for sleepovers on weekends and our family and your family would spend special holidays and create rituals together. Though your brothers lived with us and we were in the process of adopting them, we thought of ourselves as your aunties and that seemed to work for you, but it was also very confusing for you. That long weekend came and went and there was no family and immediately we were having conversations with the grown-ups in charge about how long we could take care of you. We were very worried and this was the beginning of a very difficult period of time for your younger brothers and for [therapist mom] and me. At this time in my own life, you may remember, I was at work a lot. I left early in the morning and sometimes could sneak in a hug and a hello before sliding you back into bed. You had a lot of nightmares and sometimes slept good and sometimes slept bad and when you woke up early in the morning, it was very hard for you to be in charge of your little body. You may also remember [therapist mom] was home with you and your brothers and sister a lot. We called her a college teacher and she was on her summer break from teaching with lots of time to cook and play and bring you and your sister to and from camp and parks and museums. We wish we could have lived like this all the time, except with me home more often, but this was an adventure we could only embark on for a short period of time; this became clear very early on and we pushed through many things which felt impossible to hold you in our home for as long as we could while a family was found. They still have not found that family, and tomorrow we drop you off with your social worker, where you will begin a new chapter in your very young life. That’s some of the logistical stuff. Now, let me tell you how I’m feeling. After your baby brothers and big sister were sleeping, we gave you a special goodbye book full of pictures from your summer adventures. You looked at it twice, deliberately and smiling so happy. You said, “this is so great.” And you meant it. (You are a genuinely kind and insightful kid-really advanced in this area for your age). There is a photo for everything we wish for you to remember from this summer. After our special time (you, me and [therapist mom]), I tucked your very small body into bed, sprayed your special keep-the-monsters-away spray and kissed you goodnight. I went into the bathroom and thought I would be sick from the pain of all this, and instead, cried and cried. In fact, all day today and for many weeks now, we have both snuck away to find quiet places to cry and release the sadness that we feel in our tummies before returning to the four of you and moving through this period. I wonder how you will remember this summer. You grew so much. You tried and fell in love with lots of food like spinach and seaweed and hard-boiled eggs and hummus. You also loved your cheese pizza and pasta and ice cream, of course. You slept better over time and practiced so hard using new skills to share toys and tell people what you needed. When you are a grown man you may understand that there are choices which grown ups have to make that are very hard and feel very unfair. We have to steal ourselves from spinning our wheels in the soft shoulder of all these big feelings and think about what is best for all of us. That is also what grown-ups do. They have to think about what is best for everyone. Your moving on tomorrow is an agonizing choice that we made together and I believe it is the right one for you. I believe it is the right one for your brothers and sister. And I know it is the right one for [therapist mom] and I. You deserve a family that can give you all that you need and by prolonging the process that sets that journey in motion, we are setting you up for failure and we are setting ourselves up for failure. And because your future is so uncertain and because we love you so very much, we are very, very sad. We are hopeful, but we are sad for many reasons. Some of which are deeply private and some of which are obviously human. I’ll end with this. You will know us as you grow up and I keep thinking about that. I keep thinking about what its like to be in a position to rally for you and all that you deserve in this world and to do so from the sidelines, because I do believe some force will step in and you will call them mother and father or mother and mommy or dad and poppa or some loving variation thereof. And they will want to know what we learned about you while you were with us because they will be so invested in your little heart and your little mind and your healing body and we will always know how tall you are and what your favorite dance moves are and what things you are curious about. In this great season of change and uncertainty these are the things I’ll be thinking about. And though this is likely not a letter I’ll send and more a cathartic release for me during what will surely be an era to change me forever, I wish to thank you for making me a better mom. A fuller person. A stronger fighter. -Foster mom (The Artist) artist mom
There’s a new book on the shelves tomorrow but you won’t see it in our home. The author’s name comes up often, in the form of, “Why didn’t she want me?” Followed by my daughter's own internal response, which remains both her deepest question and the answer to it: “Because I was bad.” My birth mom couldn’t take care of me. My Nana made me leave. They didn’t want me. Will you give up on me, too? I want this woman and her wife out of our life but they’ve been woven into the narrative that is her story and our family’s story. Which is to say, we will work out all the ways they come up for as long as it takes. And today, it feels especially difficult because I read an interview the author gave and it brought me right back to the heart of it. My birth mom couldn’t take care of me. My Nana made me leave. They didn’t want me. Will you give up on me, too? You can hide behind your online life of curated feeds and lifted quotes. Photos of other peoples’ work and an echo chamber of fans. You can bury yourself in the comfort of your fireplace reading room. Write an op-ed here or there, using big words for this or that. Co-opt hashtags and movements birthed from the death and life’s work of others. You’re deceiving a lot of people but you’re not fooling me. It may seem like you’re living your lives without a goddamn consequence in the world. But then I remember that for the rest of your lives you’re going to look into each others’ faces and know that the other person chose to abandon a kid. And you’ll find all kinds of ways to convince yourselves that that’s ok, but it takes energy to convince yourself that that’s ok. And eventually something else will happen in your life that’s going to bring up all this unresolved stuff. Nobody gets to escape from the type of pain you caused and made. It just doesn’t work that way. -Artist Mom [WATCHING] #30WriteNow             artist mom
Command Center: how to organize a busy family
artist mom (4 min read) Man, every damn day feels like an ass-kicking in our home. From the morning routine to several appointments super far away, to pick-ups and drop-offs and colds & potty training & deciding who's gonna make dinner, who will do baths. Gah! We try to divide & conquer, but...we really like each other. And mostly, we really like being around each other. Big sis is in school 5 days a week. Sweet is in preschool 3 days a week. Tiny's in speech twice a week. We have 2 dogs, 2 cars and no childcare. *grabs megaphone* NO CHILDCARE. We commute into and out of the city at least 10 times a week, an hour each way (which is actually about 11 miles away. RUSH HOUR. That's a minimum of 10 hours in the car with 2 littles M-F. We're talkin snacks, books in the car, getting out the door on time, having enough to eat, bathroom breaks, and COFFEEomgCOFFEE. We've just been plugging along in a bit of a rushed daze prioritizing the night before and, since I lost my job a few weeks back (18 days ago - but who's counting) I've been desperate for structure. So we came up with this. Step 1: Prioritize We sat down for no less than 3.5 hours last weekend (no joke) and mapped out the next 4 weeks with 4 pieces of paper and each day of the week on the paper. Hour by hour. We outlined all the nuances and decided who would do what. From this discussion we prioritized the following as most important to get organized around: Pick ups and drop offs and what time do you need to leave Picking out clothes and packing lunches (the night before) Appointments, appointments, oh my! Dinner Day-to-Day: who's doing it? Meal planning? Grocery shopping? Kids' activities and appointments throughout the week When does therapist/actually working mom need to be at meetings or grading papers or training or whatever When does artist mom/launching career in a new direction need isolated work time Weekends - how to keep them fun, have some routine so we don't all unravel and focus on family Give the kids some autonomy and opportunities to work on executive functioning skills and imagining their week Step 2: Design user-friendly, simple, dry-erase, Tiny-can't-reach-and-destroy location for Command Center We had a large-ish space of wall that's off to the side but still within the spaces we enjoy, so I got to work with a simple design that was easy to use and easy to manipulate. Upper left: Aerial view of the overall week for grown-ups. M-F is separate from the weekend bc I couldn't find an alternate clearance Michael's frame that we could fit M-Su in. Right corner: A detailed, hour-by hour of our scheduling needs 4 weeks out, for reference. And an area where we can plan meals. With templates. The kids' calendars. Our Bigs listed out all the things they think they do on a day-to-day, week-by-week basis, as well as special activities like going to the beach, visiting family, adoption parties, doctor visits, show & tell, etc. After brainstorming a list (with excessive help), Kiddos created art cards. These are basically 2/5"x3.5" cards designed in photoshop or word, laid out on an 8.5x11" sheet of paper with 9 cards per sheet. I laminate them so they last and let them decorate with stickers and markers. All of this is really for fun and buy-in. I think if they create the coolness, they'll be more likely to use it. you can also just cut out pieces of paper about the size of baseball cards and you're good. Storage of kids' art cards. Obviously their initials aren't G and S but if they were, this is where their cards would be stored. On any given day, when we are trying to plan ahead and imagine the future (dinner, soccer, feeding dogs, shower) they pick out the cards and put them on the corresponding day in about the same order they would play out IRL. Parking lot. This week, the types of things that landed here were setting up a hair appointment at a beauty salon for big sis, grocery items we didn't want to forget and car-related stuff that got overlooked. There's an extra container for dry erase markers. Not shown: the $2 IKEA clock, which we use for helping the Bigs gain a sense of time passing. How much is 5 minutes? 15? If they have a half hour to play, we use a dry erase marker to note the start and stop of that time, so they can begin to internalize when they should clean up and what the passing of time feels like when you're eating, getting ready for school, playing outside, building with legos, etc. Step 3: Use it, refer to it, move shit around as necessary, take a pic and set it as your home screen * All frames were bought on clearance at Michael's Craft store. Kids' calendars are plastic with velcro attached to cards and plastic to move cards around. Grown-ups calendar, parking lot and clear clipboards (Staples) are all dry-erase marker friendly. You could scrap ALL OF THIS and purchase Idea Paint to create one giant dry erase wall, if you wanted to. You know, like the fancy startups do. -Artist Mom
Maternity Leave, Adoption, Foster Care: A Reflection
going to be an adjustment for all however you slice that pie. -Artist Mom artist mom
Kids + Pics
I want all the kids in my care to feel like they matter. One of the things I think a lot about is how few pictures kids in foster care have of themselves. I have the luxury of looking back on albums & boxes of old photos my parents took of my brothers & I. They are the thread that wove the narrative of my youngest years. I know what I looked like with missing teeth, or was wearing at my first day of kindergarten. My baby books validate my growth & early milestones. My first Christmas tree. How my body & style & identity evolved over time. It's all right there. I can access it whenever I want. My story is documented & that makes me feel like I matter. Feeling important & worthy was so firmly part of my early childhood that I still benefit from that foundation as an adult. When a 6 week old baby boy was placed with us before Christmas last year, we picked out his first Christmas outfit & had his first picture taken with Santa. He'll always have pictures of his first Christmas tree & his first snowfall. His Mom celebrates Christmas. His older brother and sisters celebrate Christmas. It was important to us to do this very normal, celebratory thing for him. Here's the thing, though. We are two white women whom often foster black, biracial or mixed kids. I'm an artist with trendy hair and tattoos. My better half is a therapist who easily passes for stereotypical 'straight.' We get a LOT of stares in public. This feels concerning to us. Recently, we became more interested in building community & began looking for families that looked similar to ours. While hunting, we noticed there seem to be 3 schools of thought about photographing children who are in foster care: Don't. Do. And do, but don't show their faces. I get it. Totally. I can empathize with the urge to want to celebrate these precious little ones. I understand the stuff that comes up. we send pics to parents & families of origin to share their child's growth while with us? What do we pass on to their social worker for their file? Do we share pics of them with our own friends & family via social media to express our love & invite others into our journey as foster parents? And what about facial recognition software? Sometimes it feels like a tough call. I've seen some pretty creative cover-ups on Instagram; stickers, banners, shadows, text, cropping. I think people have the best of intentions. And while I can't speak to the intentions of others, I can tell you ours. With great power cometh great responsibility. In this day of digital overdrive, the opportunities for documenting our stories are abundant (obvi). There are apps for shooting & editing photos & videos we take on our phones, and social media outlets to share those moments. Instagram lets us share our images and push our creative agenda forward; Twitter gives us a voice; Facebook creates community; Soundcloud actually records our voice for the world stage. Here's where we're at with this. We believe it's important for people to see all types of families (and we happen to think ours is pretty special). We know that one way to stomp out stigma and spread awareness about blended & same-sex families is simply through exposure, & we know that images can be powerful. We take a lot of pictures. We shoot a ton of video. We do a lot of fun stuff as a family. We celebrate a lot of triumphant moments. We document difficult times when we feel it's appropriate to. That said, we feel strongly that it is (A) our responsibility to protect the identity and safety of our kids while honoring our family journey in this world and (B) to document our kiddos' growth while in our care so that their lifelong narrative includes having visual access to this period of time in their life. -Foster Mom (the artist) artist mom
Connections Between Hearing Loss, Speech, Language Development & Tonsils, Adenoids, Ear Tube Surgery
We're wrapping up 2 grueling weeks of surgery and post-op for our littlest guy. Here's what we learned and wish we'd known. Hearing Test If your kid talks like he's hearing impaired, he probably is. Ours was. We would comment to each other that when he was sick, it was worse. His words sounded throaty, or mumbled or something else despite being attuned to both of us, communicative, holding eye contact, using his hands and body language. He would stare at our lips or seem like he didn't hear us — but it was inconsistent. His speech and language were not progressing at pace with his development and he had seen speech therapists from years 1.5-2.5. He passed his 1 year and 2 year hearing tests but failed the 3rd at his 3 year old check-up. At that point, his 3rd winter with us, we had also noticed a pattern with chronic ear infections and strep for half the year (fall/winter). This fluctuation in hearing due to fluid build-up in his ears and ongoing illnesses has been a critical barrier in his speech and language development. It wasn't until he failed his hearing test, in combination with polling the internet and talking with friends, that we realized there were connections to be made between speech, language and chronic ear infections and strep. This was when we pushed for a consult with a pediatric Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. Sleep Challenges It's no secret we've struggled with sleep in our house. We were in crisis in this area at the onset of fall 2017 and saw positive impact after making significant changes to our diet, but with mild change for our littlest guy. Since his arrival in our home at the age of 6 weeks, he has slept largely in 3 hour cycles. Down by 7p, up by 10p. Up by 1am. Up by 4am. This cycle continues, though he's usually just looking for one of us by 10p and needs his diaper changed by 2a, otherwise he'll soak his bed. Another mystery to us. As part of trying to arrange the best sleeping plans for all of us, at some point in the last year and a half we swapped out sound machines for fans in each room. The power went out in the middle of the night not long ago, and for the first time, we could really hear how loudly Tiny snored and how frequently uncomfortable he was. We carried this information forward and along with his frequent ear infections and strep, we opted directly for what was recommended - tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy and ear tubes. Tonsillectomy, Adenoidectomy & Ear Tubes I'm just going to drop this thread here because this was the most helpful information we got and it came from followers and readers who had lived experience with these surgeries. If you're wondering if your kid (or you!) is working through the mystery of sleep and sickness and speech and the like, these shared stories were HUGE for us and may be useful to you. There's more here and here as well. The Surgeries - What You Should Know Once we decided a tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy and ear tubes were the way to go, we waited for the call. Our options were right away (while we were prepping our house for listing) or at the end of summer. We didn't want to delay any improvements to his health, hearing and speech so we opted for immediately. He went in early (7am) on a Tuesday morning, with no food or liquids after midnight the night before (we were told small sips of apple juice or water were ok). He was with us until they needed to anesthetize him, at which point the separation from us to them was traumatizing for him. We learned later that he was so upset he vomited and had to have his stomach suctioned empty before safely moving forward with the procedures. There was also concern he may have asphyxiated and we needed to watch for pneumonia symptoms the following week. We've learned since that a better plan for him would have included sitting with him until he fell asleep. Obviously. Moments after tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy and ear tube surgery. He was under for 45 minutes and coming out of anesthesia and transitioning from morphine during the surgery to regiments of acetaminophen (tylenol) to ibuprofen (advil or motrin) every 3 hours ate up the rest of the day. He also slept almost the entire day after leaving the hospital. While in the hospital, he needed to be observed for a couple hours, where they gave him popsicles and juice. Little man only wanted his clothes back on and his mama. So we sat there, the three of us, fully clothed and sipping as much as we could. He went to the bathroom and once all vitals were normal, discharged from the hospital about 3 hours after the start of the surgery. In and out. And then hell at home. Post-Op, Days 2-6 After sleeping all day on surgery day, Tiny was up for big chunks of the night thereafter. He slept with us (as in — our bed— for most of the week). We did tylenol/advil every 3 hours for the following 9 days. Clockwork. Even he knew when it was coming and would ask for it 15 minutes before it was due. Days 2-6 were a roller coaster. Some moments he seemed fine and full of life and energy, but not eating much. He was clearly in a good amount of pain and that energy didn't last long. We alternated popsicles with pudding, ice chips, apple sauce, yogurt and water, water, water. Juice, juice, juice. He also slept with a humidifier. The goal was to keep his throat moist and to keep fluids coming. He had a low-grade fever early on, which nurses attributed to mild dehydration. I disagreed with that over-the-phone assessment because I knew he was peeing hourly or every other hour and he was pooping without trouble. Had it gone over 101.5 we would have had to take him back in and we wanted to avoid that at all costs. So we hydrated non-stop. Everything liquid counts. We administered 3 ear drops (antibiotics) into each ear 3 times a day for 3 days and he hated this. We tried to time it 30 minutes after giving him advil, to curb the sting. The first 2 days this looked a lot like one of us holding him down while the other got the job done followed by cheering, snuggles and another popsicle. Cold stuff. We avoided anything acidic or sharp (would burn or cut) and anything red, just in case there was bleeding. We were told to get back to the hospital or to the ER right away if there was any bleeding. He also wasn't allowed to run around — or get his heart rate too high. Keeping a 3 year old still is a lot like nailing jello to the wall so we snuggled while watching movies, had activity books and honestly, feeding him was so hands-on and laborious, he had to slow down for that. We would sit him on the counter to attend fully during moments when he really needed to slow down. See also showers and baths. We don't have a bath tub but showers were awesome — steam, multi-tasking, and water is just a great sensory experience for him. We kept water off his face. Dragon Breath, Days 7-10 Hell. These are the days you prepare for. For us, they were only 3 days but at a time that came at a high cost. We were exhausted and injured with the marathon of getting the house ready, the commute into/out of the city for Sweet's school, and our daughter had a very high temp during this time as well. Suffice it to say we were all on "E" at the part of the song when the key changes. The part of the race where you either gear up or give up. Since the latter wasn't an option we just pushed through the best we could. Early bedtimes, simple dinners, mismatched outfits. Late for everything and underperforming across the board but showing up none-the-less. When Tiny's breath took a noticeable downturn, we understood we were entering what was probably the most painful period for him. Scabs on his tonsils were going to be coming off, exposing raw skin at the back of his throat. His drool got thicker, his cries changed from typical to just sad and helpless moaning and whining. He even kept saying, "I'm so sad. I need my mama. I need my mom-mom." We felt largely helpless but what did help was recognizing that the cold stuff wasn't as more painful than helpful at this point. Luke-warm for 2 days was the way to go. We shifted from ice-chips etc. to lukewarm, pureed, organic chicken soup delivered via syringe. Over and over and very slowly. He stayed hydrated, semi-full and was getting plenty of liquids. A total champ in this department but wants NOTHING to do with the smell of chicken soup right now. Other things we did for comfort — chewing gum in the car. Sugarfree, light and minty, he LOVED it and it gave him some agency over managing his own discomfort. Also driving in the car for naps. Nothing puts my kid to sleep like a long drive on the highway with the hum of a little wind or air from the vent. We managed to sneak in a 4 hour nap on day 9 and I think it was really well timed because he woke up after that seemingly much better. All things day 10 and on That's where we are now. He woke up the morning of day 10 like a whack-a-mole, ready to rock and roll. Day 11, He's still a little uncomfortable and we're doing tylenol/advil 6-8 hours apart (the advil really upset his stomach) but he seems mostly back to his old self, but better. He's demanding pancakes while singing a mashup of "This is Me," "All things Minions," & "Frozen," of course. And back to punching his brother and stealing his sister's dolls. It's fine. We're hoping the biggest rewards for him will be better sleep and speech. Already his voice has changed SO MUCH! It's a totally different pitch and he can hear way better. "I CAN HEAWW IT!" He repeats regularly. The smallest sounds from another room. The subtle sounds like heaters turning on, fans turning off, keyboards clicking, zippers on jackets, the birds in the morning. He is energized by all of it and developing language rapidly! We'll keep you posted in another month or so and report back in on his sleep and speech. -Artist Mom   artist mom
We were asked on Instagram about our thoughts on fostering siblings, so I thought I'd weigh in here on the blog, then ask you all to do the same in the comments here or IG should you feel inclined. For context, Tiny moved in first, when he was 6 weeks old. (We knew he had 3 older siblings, but hadn't lived with them). Mr. Toddler came about a month later at age 2. We hadn't intended to foster any kids long-term. At that point, we were a hotline home for emergency placements, which worked better for our schedules. We also thought of it as a way to get our feet wet. Challenges for Us Here were some of the challenges for us. Developmentally, the boys are in separate worlds. Not only because of their chronological ages, but because of their trauma history & the amount of time each had spent in their original home before being placed in protective care. This poses a variety of challenges; work schedules, daycare pick-up/drop off, appointments (we essentially doubled the number of appointments with doctors & providers & the boys were very sick all winter), food and sleep. Tiny slept on & off, as one does when they're a newborn. Mr. Toddler had night terrors & was up 1-2 times an hour every night for a few months. Sleep deprivation was (and still is!) a real challenge. It has certainly taken an unexpected toll on our professional lives & has challenged our relationship in unforeseen ways. We've also grown in remarkable ways. A couple other things. Tiny had straightforward baby needs for a long while like eating, sleeping, snuggling & pooping. Mr. Toddler was behind developmentally & had some catching up to do. He had also experienced some big transitions in various homes & daycares & was separated from his older siblings. A number of our earliest photos on Instagram capture this period of time. Very sad. Very tough. Visits with bio mom & siblings were emotionally difficult, uncomfortable & kinda generally heartbreaking. We blogged about them as well. We were quick to put rituals & routines together for consistency & he slept in our room with us until he slept solidly through the night. We also changed his diet over time to help heal some hair & skin issues & to give his guts a chance to loosen up. Little man was in rough shape. So sharp. So sweet. So earnest. So precious. We weren't sure if we were a good match for him at first & initially thought he might do better as the youngest kiddo in a 2 parent home with older kids or zero kids. Now, we wouldn't have it any other way. Mostly, for the pros. Pros It is a sacred & beautiful thing to witness two young brothers getting to know each other. These two are inseparable now. It took Mr. Toddler about a month of being in our home to even acknowledge Tiny. It was as if he just didn't see him. He was so confused. Still is, but in different ways. About 3-4 months into his new life with us, he started nurturing Tiny by mimicking what we would do. If Tiny cried, he'd yell, "Bottle!" And demand of us that we take care of Tiny straight away. He'd say "Bee-bee cry! Bee-bee cry!" And watch us help Tiny. He would bring him toys & coo & eventually rub his face & arms in a soothing, albeit toddler, kind of way. He also started to really let us hold him. Like, his weight would drop in that only-a-toddler-weighs-this-much kinda way. Heavy. Soft. Vulnerable. Beautiful. And he has been able to move his little mind & body & heart forward in healing ways that allow for him to continue catching up developmentally, but not rush into the world of "big boy" just yet. He missed a lot of his own baby time and having Tiny around is a great opportunity for all of us to appreciate this once-in-a-lifetime period. And Tiny has benefitted in immeasurable ways. He has an older sibling around to be silly with, to learn from, to wrestle with, to share toys with. They are keen to where the other is when they're both in the same room. Sometimes doing their own thing, always doting on each other. Our hope in the near future is to arrange sibling visits with their older two siblings, when the time is right for them & when the time is right for us. When you commit to raising 2 kids under 2 until further notice you become, what I now refer to as, a pop-up family. You don't get 9 months to prepare your body or your house or your friends & family. Everything changes. There is no real way to fully prepare for it emotionally, financially, spiritually or otherwise. If we could change a couple things we would have talked more with our support system about our plans so it wasn't such a shock across the board. We would have started couples therapy earlier in order to have a place to talk about this new life & lifestyle. We would have identified people who could help with watching the boys on occasion to give us breaks & to allow for us to keep some consistency for our two dogs, who've equally made the ultimate sacrifice for us as new moms. And. We would have probably put together a baby shower (x2!) to help us acquire the things you need to properly care for babes when you're a family of 4. If I could offer one slice of advice, follow your gut. If you're not ready, say that. If you're unsure, say that. Don't be pressured into taking more than one kid if you and your partner don't feel ready. Or, at least, mostly ready. What about you? If you're a foster parent(s), what say you on this topic for inquiring minds? -Foster Mom (the artist) artist mom
Foster Adopt Family Finding Their Way: Spring 2018 Update
artist mom It’s come up a few times lately… “What’s going on with your family & how the hell do I keep up?!” Ok, fair. There are times in our journey as a transracial, foster adopt, LGBT family of 5 when a snapshot can be handy for all. Namely, us. If you're feeling a little lost about what’s going on in our house - you're not alone. Actually, you probably know more than we do. So, let me catch you up in 5 minutes or less. Maybe 10. Ok, 13. But I swear a few times - so consider yourself warned.   To understand where we are in this moment, I need to talk about how we got here. This granular building from the ground up and all these life-changing, fork-in-the-road events unfolding simultaneously. There are 3 biggies and some random good-to-knows. #1 Becoming a family of 5 was never our plan until it was our plan It was not our original intention to adopt our daughter. She knows that - this was always something we talked about at developmentally appropriate levels while she lived with us originally. Let me qualify what follows by stating out the gate, this was devastating for us and not a decision we came to without lots of discussion with people close to us. We believed strongly that this deeply traumatized and neglected precious group of 4 would have more opportunities in this world if they were in resourced homes with families who could provide them all the necessary interventions & supports they would need over the years to make sense of their lives, to heal their bodies head to toe, inside and out, and to have a shot at forming healthy attachments with others before growing into adulthood. Obviously, the hope is always that siblings will find permanency in homes that will keep them connected to one another all their lives. This is an unpopular line of thinking. There are laws written to keep kids together. As someone who was separated from her own siblings growing up, this is not a topic wholly unfamiliar to me. Nor one I approach lightly. I get it. And. Children have the right to be viewed with nuance, context, individuality and boundless compassion. All the more for kids removed from their families of origin and thrown into a system not designed to facilitate their success. I digress. The boys were 1.5 and 3.5 at the time we started fostering their sister, who was chronologically 7. They’re now 3.5, 5.5 & almost 10. The plan was for her to live with us while permanency in a separate family was sought by the department. For nearly a year, we were intentional in how we ran our home while she was with us – for everyone in our home. We practiced what it was like to be part of a family; cooking & sitting down together for meals, sharing, laughing, snuggling, creating rituals & routines, bonding with her brothers, building life skills. We worked on developing prosocial skills. We celebrated and worked through milestones; playing soccer, her first bike, ditching the training wheels, skateboarding, visits from the tooth fairy, visits with birth mom, updating medical records. And we worked closely with the school district in order to capture a more accurate learning profile; neuropsychological testing, an updated IEP (individualized education plan), a move to a new school and a supportive classroom environment. We framed our relationship in this way: "We are your baby brothers' parents and we will all always be your aunties. We will always be family. We will know you as you grow up and we will know your family and you and your brothers will know each other and make special birthday memories and we'll have holiday traditions. We'll celebrate all the important stuff, we will know when things are hard, how much you've grown, your favorite foods and we will do sleepovers and playdates," etc. This was not fluff or bullshit. This was the real deal and the only way we could imagine things playing out. We were well aware of our limitations. And we were aware of their individual needs now and could project lots, not all, of their future needs. We were hopeful the right family would surface as a good match and that she would get all she needed from that family. And if you've followed our journey for the last year, you'll know that, indeed, a pre-adoptive family did surface that looked great from afar. She transitioned into their home and after 3 weeks, they abandoned her. It’s called a disruption. A shiny word that sounds a lot like, “It just didn’t work out.” Or, "It's not you, it's me." The truth is, they gave up on a child they were adopting from foster care without asking for help in navigating such a thing, and that meant they could move on with their lives while she had nowhere to go that very moment they decided to end it. At this juncture, we knew the hardest thing would also be the right thing and, in the end, the best thing for she and her youngest brothers. So, we made arrangements and picked her up from the homeless children’s shelter she was living in and we started the process to adopt her asap. When we made the choice to adopt our daughter we knew our lives would never be the same. And neither would hers. Or her brothers. We were forever changed. And we are chronically under resourced, overstressed and financially strapped with very little support. The work of family is lifelong. A commitment and responsibility to evolve and persevere. When you make the choice to adopt from foster care you are not shopping for shoes or a wall fixture or a token child. You are making the choice to paddle against the current for as long as it takes to form pathways of trust and consistency and compassion so that a wounded little one might grace you with their trust in you one day. Children in foster care often have experienced traumatic things and need grown-ups willing and able to commit to the long game of loving, living and learning. This is God's work - something much larger than one's self in order to manifest a life and future for little kids whom so few expect greatness and opportunity and upward mobility and joy. As Brene Brown would remind us all, “Our capacity for wholeheartedness can never be greater than our willingness to be broken-hearted. It means engaging with the world from a place of vulnerability and worthiness.” And that is what we’re doing. This is who we are. We love the life out of these kids and literally all that matters moving forward is that we stay connected in our love to one another while raising kind, compassionate and resilient kids into the healthiest adult versions of themselves possible. With immeasurable help along the way and lots of big life changes. Like number 2. #2 We need to move. Now. It’s been almost a year since we made the choice to raise 3 kids, instead of 2 kids, with complex needs. After the 2016 election we learned a lot about our neighborhood. None of it was new, per se, but the expression of vitriol for families like ours was suddenly more socially acceptable and the tension and very real bodily threat on any given day exceeds our ability to be part of the solution here. Frankly, it's totally unsafe. Add to that a public-school system full of homogeneous kids being raised by said racist/homophobic neighbors and subpar (IMO) special education services means our #1 priority is to move. In order to move, we have to sell. Which is daunting. It was our intention to sell last spring, but we were totally overwhelmed with our expanding family & joblessness at the time, along with some other barriers, that we couldn’t pull it off. Now, the foundation of our success & safety as a family rests fully on our ability to sell and buy elsewhere. Here’s what we’re up against and fragments of what you've seen play out on social media: My shitty credit from a lifetime of learning the hard way A recent coastal flood that resulted in us needing to evacuate for 3 days Terrible winter weather with lots of school closings Surgery for Tiny My new career trajectory Getting approved for a loan on new house in safer, more diverse neighborhood with better special education services for all 3 kiddos means we’re looking at buying a house 2-3x as expensive as our current house What to do between selling and buying if there's a big gap, particularly if we don’t have an address in the city where our biggest kiddo receives major support services at school and attends an after school program Purging, donating & selling lots of our things to travel light Putting 99% of what remains in storage An April 2 deadline to have photos and a video taken of our finished house Open House – April 7 & 8 (p.s. at the time of this writing it's March 24) Anything thereafter – keeping house presentable for random realtor showings OMG the repair work #3 This old house – fixing it up When we first moved in we had lots of ideas about how to structure a home environment that met the needs of kids in crisis. We were emergency foster parents. We had our bedroom, the kids’ bedroom, my art studio/office space, an open kitchen & living room concept and 2 full bathrooms. But everything was crazy outdated, and we needed to make some minor structural changes & wanted to make major cosmetic changes. IKEA hacks for bigger closets, wainscoting and a runner up the risers, a darker floor that would hide scratches and look cleaner, a kitchen with a wider layout. We were new homeowners. Well, I was. We had big plans. And all that changed very quickly once newborn Tiny moved in on the same day I was starting a new job in a new career. Most of those things never got finished and in order to take photos and a video of our house in 9 days (that the world will see and send us all the buyers) we’ve been non-stop hustling to finish those projects – now with several years wear and tear added to the mix. We’ve been at it 2 weeks (along with floods and school closings and sick kids and traveling for work and me starting my own business). Here’s our to-do list, also some of which you’ve seen pop-up in our stories on Instagram: Kitchen: cabinet trim, redo DIY concrete countertops, window moldings, toe kick, stain exposed floor where once was covered by a cabinet, spackle and paint. Living room: cut couch in half, dog scratches on all windowsills, screen replaced on sliders, replace ripped blinds, remove rugs, staples and sticky tape from risers, refinish, remove tape from living room floor from that one day we had so much fun playing cars with that cheap road tape from target. Paint wall and ceiling. Bathroom 1: Please god send help. Bathroom 2: I can’t even think about it Kid bedroom 1: floor trim where there once lived a closet, patch ceiling. Paint. Kid bedroom 2 (former studio/office/playroom): Same as kid bedroom 1 Laundry room: just close the doors and lock it. Paint. Master bedroom: Closet nightmare, more blinds, biggest room in the house to paint or not to paint, that mess by the metal thing on the wall and about 4 feet of flooring that came up but needs to be put back but we lost some of the pieces because the kids had a pretend campfire one night roasting pretend marshmallows ITSFINE. I think that’s about it on the inside. Outside: the dogs used our yard as a toilet + recent flood is there anyone who will do a spring cleanup before spring weather? Also, can we get the city to pick up all this debris from said flood. Power wash deck upper and lower. Fix retainer wall. Cellar: lock doors. Clean: We had a cleaning team come out yesterday and we’ve never seen the house so shiny. The kids literally didn’t understand the transformation. I think they thought we’d already moved (post forthcoming on talking to our kids about the actual move). Boxes are everywhere and it’s time to find that storage unit. While all this is playing out and because there is still life pumping through our veins, here are a couple other biggies adding to the overall sense of “WTF is going on with your family these days no one can keep up.” #4 Tonsillectomy, Adenoidectomy, and tubes in ears: Tiny’s surgery Many of you know we’ve made some radical changes to our diets since last October to help our kids’ bodies heal and for all of us to sleep better. That’s a really nice way of saying we don’t eat anything shitty and our bodies are thanking us for it. Mostly. And we do a ton of supplements and some medication. I chronicle my take on it here and updated our overall progress awhile back, here. We’ve been inching our way toward wellness with a few outliers we’re still trying to get to the bottom of. With the help of our functional psychiatrist, individual and couples’ therapy, and hopefully some future partnerships, we are finding & funding our way. And while many, MANY things have improved, our little guy has been a mystery in many ways. Until he 'failed' his 3 year check-up hearing test. As it turns out, his sleep issues are not only blood-sugar related but also adenoid, tonsil and fluid-in-the-ears related. The poor kid hears like he's underwater. In fact, a number of dots have been connected for him, which you can read about here, that should result in better hearing, better language development and better sleep. Unreal. We got the call to schedule the procedure 2 days ago. The only availability between now and the end of summer for him to have the surgery is…you guessed it. In the middle of selling our house: April 2. With 1-2 weeks of recovery and missed school thereafter. How much more could we complicate this period of time while reaching for the best for our family? #5 Mom & Entrepreneurship I’m starting my own business – A Digital Consulting Firm housing hybrid web development & design, professional photography and digital marketing. NBD, right? When we had 2 little boys, the vision was for me to climb the corporate ladder. I was not the type of kid allowed to pull things apart and put them back together and I was often harassed in math classes by my teachers. Also, my own childhood was traumatic. Ergo, social work. I was better at helping other people than I was at healing myself. Holler if you hear me. For 15 years I worked with under-resourced kids and families living in the margins. I managed a variety of residential treatment facilities and I helped found one branch of a nonprofit using art as a vehicle to teach pro-social skills to kids in care. The former troubled me. The latter felt like I was onto something - at least the right path. I travelled all over the state working with kids and their caregivers, training the model, and institutionalizing it. This was when I made my first website. As it turned out, I had a knack for it and coding brought me joy. It organized & relaxed my brain. Much like Lego, mosaic and puzzles. So I pivoted professionally, switching careers from social work to web. I knew my partner and I would one day be foster parents. I didn’t want to work in the field and come home to kids involved in the system. I knew I would not be able to attend fully to a healthy work/life balance and I wanted to make a better salary. So, I left the nonprofit world, became a foster parent, took some front-end web development, HTML/CSS & Photoshop classes, finished my degree (16 years in the making) and launched myself into the corporate world. That was 2013. My goal at the time was to be in business for myself in 3-5 years, but that plan did not take into account adopting, of course. I wanted to provide for my own family. At the time, I couldn’t imagine the family we would have, so the plan made sense. Until it didn’t. When you have 3 young kids, it’s hard to also have 2 full-time, out-of-home working parents. When you adopt a sibling group from foster care, it’s impossible to have 2 full-time, out-of-home working parents. There are just too many needs and variables flying around that make a 9-5 (really, with the commute and expectations, 6a-6p minimum) possible. After a recent birthday retreat, I gave up my search for the right next corporate job and decided to go into business for myself. I’ve had several word-of-mouth clients while I get my sites up and running, digital profiles aligned, contracts worked out, my CRM nailed down and build a base. A handful of you are helping me get on my feet, which I find unbelievable and am indebted to you eternally for. Thank you for that. I have exciting updates coming privately from me to those folks in the coming weeks, as there is much taking shape...including a potential podcast with a few of my favorite people in similar places. #6 Other There are other good things weaving their way throughout our days, which I’ll keep brief for now. Upcoming work changes for my wife and a potential advanced degree. (!!) Some of my own social justice work within the blogging/influencer community with Like2Action, daily inspiration to counter the news we wake up to from the multi-racial, multi-dimensional team of parents working with me on HOTY, and our Sunday Series, which gives me life every Sunday as I get to know the folks gifting their voices on so many incredible topics (@lashawnwiltz is tomorrow!!). And lastly, speaking at Altitude Summit last month and gearing up to speak at the 10th anniversary of Mom2.0 Summit in early May – all big things. All good things. All things you’ll find us talking about! That’s a wrap for now. The next few weeks are gonna be bananas! Best way to stay in the loop will be our Instagram stories. Best wishes, y’all, Artist/Entrepreneur ;) Mom  
The House That Love Built: Before and After
If you know anything about our family, then you are aware we did not expect to adopt from foster care — we were foster parents focused on family preservation & permanency. You probably also know that we are full swing into our next big transitional moment as a result of becoming a family in the ways that we did — which means we've been working nonstop for the past month to sell our house and move. You've seen fragments of this play out on social media with some additional context last week. Well, the work is done. The house is listed. Open house is tomorrow. And the before/after photos are here. But before I go there, I want to go somewhere else for a minute. On this concept of home. For those of us who did not grow up in safe homes, creating one as an adult finding my way, then as a parent responsible for the lives of little ones whom also come from hard places will be my life's work. A lot has transpired in a short 4 years here, and my body memory and mind have to work overtime to sync it all while evolving as a person, parent, partner, someone on my own healing journey. I lived in over 30 homes before feeling like I actually created a home, this one: Our first actual home together was the first time my house felt like a home. I was in my 30's. Our first home as a couple with our dogs. It was 650 square feet with pink carpet, pink flower boxes and pink shutters - it looked like a candy shop and felt magical. We rented there while deepening our love for one another and firming up plans for the future. It's also the place we began the paperwork to become emergency foster parents - a 2 year process. We gutted it without permission and when we moved out the owners, who'd inherited the property and felt it was a burden, were not angry at the beautiful hardwood floors we unearthed and polished, the built-in bookshelves & closets we added, the stripped floral wallpaper and freshly painted walls. We were clearly nesting for something bigger. Bigger came in the form of our current home in the summer of 2014 (seen below). Nestled alongside a salt marsh a few miles outside a major city, we fell in love with the proximity, the huge master bedroom and the view of the ocean off the second story deck. We envisioned creating a nurturing home with a revolving door for kids in transition. The plan was to live here a few years while I fixed up my credit, changed careers, we'd start fostering and work toward getting pregnant. We nailed 75% of that. And there's this, as I've spent much time now reflecting (in therapy and while painting, of course) on how we got to where we are. When you become connected to families involved with foster care, you find yourself in the mix of competing needs playing out in real time. Families made up of human beings — children and their parents — whose lives are mixed up with the complicated socioeconomic, spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical layers of multi-generational transmissions of trauma. Folks whom, for one reason or a million others, often lack access to the resources that would lift families out of that cycle; equity, safe and secure housing, transportation, nutritional food, food security, career opportunities, a reformed criminal justice system, quality education, a community of support, mentorship opportunities, quality medical and mental health providers, and an invested government, to name a few. The system is not designed to help families stay together. Add to that, folks are up against the bureaucracies charged both with protecting parents' rights and keeping kids safe — the latter of which often gets short-changed for the former. It's complicated and unjust more often than not any way you slice it. Anyone who argues otherwise is not confronting their own privilege in America. So in 2014, after we had just moved into our new home, when the department asked us to consider fostering long-term the youngest child in a sibling group of 4, a newborn, we thought deeply about what role we might play at the onset of his life. Which is to say, we considered the resources we could offer in the earliest days of his developing body and mind. We also knew there was a very good chance he would not be returning to his mom. At a time in our own lives when we were only set up to foster school-age kids for the weekend, I cannot say what compelled us to say yes, except to acknowledge openly that we were very aware that this kid, now our 3 1/2 year old son, had the right to a life not available to his 3 older siblings which we believed we were resourced to offer, and we simply could not morally, ethically or emotionally turn away. Just as we could not walk away when they called again 2 weeks later to ask if we'd consider fostering his 2 year old brother. Just as we could not walk away when the boys needed permanency and we inched toward adoption. Just as we could not walk away the next summer, when the boys' big brother and sister were kicked out of their foster home. Just as we could not walk away the summer after, when we made the choice to adopt our daughter. 2014. 2015. 2016. 2017. 2018. We haven't stopped running a marathon inside a marathon in all that time. Now a transracial family of 5, headed by two white moms — 1 full-time working parent out of the house, 1 full-time parent working from home and 3 kiddos who are not neurotypical; 3, 5, 9 — our most important job right now as the parents steering this ship is to leave this house we've turned into our home and move somewhere safer with a neighborhood school system that can serve the unique needs of all our kiddos, and where we can have more day-to-day friends and family support. A lot has to happen in a short period of time in order to sell, buy and move. So, after 3 ridiculous weeks of sanding, scraping, hammering, building, packing, purging and painting non-stop (thanks to Sherwin Williams), without further adieu, I bring you the before and after of a house that shined up real nice. Thanks for witnessing the unfolding of all this and cheering us on along the way. -Artist Mom BEFORE:   AFTER: artist mom
Mom, Mama, Mommy & Supervisor
We're still painfully new at this mom thing. In recognition of Mother's Day, we hash out a few things. First = Therapist Mom. Last = Artist Mom. In our home there are three of us to celebrate on Mother's Day. Three women who comprise the mothers in our boys' life. Two women are raising them and around every day, and one who is around twice a year and present almost every day in some way. I've been thinking today about how becoming a Mom happened for us, for me. I became a Mama when my 2.5 year-old began calling me Mama. Before that I was the adult responsible for him, loved him something fierce, felt bewildered by him, protective of him, and was sure we were a temporary life for him. He called everyone "Ma" when he moved in. Cashiers, ladies on the street, other Moms at playgrounds. There was not an intimacy demarkation to the name, just what he called all friendly women. He called me Ma until he learned my name. Almost every kiddo we have had in our home takes far longer than I would have expected to hear our names. I knew we were getting somewhere good when he began calling me my first name, and then Ma, as in Mama [Therapist] and Mama [Artist] to help him distinguish which Mom he wanted. He stuck to that for awhile and then eventually dropped the first names and we became Mama and Mom. He did go back and forth depending on how his day at daycare was, or how tired or how recently we had a family visit. Once a relative heard him calling me Mama and that went rather badly. I tried to help him out by not escalating the fight, but not backing off either and making it sound as if he was just out of line here. So hard. And during this time I had to travel. I have to travel for work every few months, and it is terribly hard on all of us. I red-eye there and back, I FaceTime, I leave surprises and letters and countdown visuals around but it is hard for little people when one of their parents leave, so I have cut back as much as I can and travel maybe three times a year now. Last summer I went away for the first overnight since Mr. T moved in and when I walked in the door he was excited to see me, confused and then immediately began calling me by my first name again. It was as if he could intentionally withdraw the intimacy we created, or withdrew to protect his heart. It was so fast and iron clad it felt intentional, but we know 2.5 year-olds have nowhere near that much self control. It was visceral and he pulled way back for weeks. He and I moved back into a routine, built up rhythm and over the months I became Mama again. We have had a few setbacks, and when we do I gently tell him the story of families again with dolls, and dollhouses and visuals. I have one house where kids and a Mom live, we talk about how he lived way back with his birthmom, we talk about what happened and why he left, then he moved to many homes, then a foster home and the story that happened there, then the story of how he moved in with Mama and Mom. And now he lives with Tiny and Mama and Mom in a house and we are a family. It feels important to me that I orient little kiddos to the who/what/where of their lives. It's so confusing, and they are so little, he needs a story about his life, he needs details that are age appropriate and clear and don't change over time. I wanted him to have a clear story about who we are, what a Mom or parent is, and what friendly strangers, social workers or other foster Moms were. In typical development, kids do not grow up open to the possibility that anyone can become their Mom. That role is filled and finite. My kids have had several Moms of varying intimacy and safety, and now us. They need a story and clarity, and I'm also a firm believer that kids need to have intimacy demarkations - Moms help you in the bathroom, feed you, take care of you when you're sick, kiss you and are your people in the world. Some kids get one Mom, some kids get a few Moms of different kinds. It's confusing and not necessarily the ideal developmental construct to have muddied when you're young. So I was a Mom, and was called Mom way before I felt like a Mom. We were not looking to adopt when we became foster parents, we weren't even looking to have kids in a forever family way for a few more years. I was so happy and ready to love and care for little people and then help them on to their next step. And then I became a Mama and we became an adoptive family. It was probably last Fall that I began to really feel like a Mom to both my boys in a permanent and primal way. Commitment, care, becoming a parent in the kids-first-everything-else-waaaaay-second sorta way came easy for me, and maybe the word I'm wanting to find here is the terrifying love that Mamas have for their babies, that terrifying love came when I felt myself becoming their Mom. I look at Tiny sometimes and he feels like an extension of my heart, like a part of my body is just woven into him. It's so intense and so crazy. I was hugging Mr. T tonight after putting on his jammies and he hung around my neck being silly for a few minutes, and I just stood there with him for as long as I could until he let go. A part of my heart steadies almost every time I get to hold them close; it's not even conscious, it just happens. My whole body craves their little hugs and sticky fingers and beautiful smiles. I say this all to my Mom friends and they nod knowingly. This is just a part of the wild world of falling madly in love with the kids in your life. And I do believe it's falling in love, you all come together in this work of building a family with previous lives, beliefs and internal templates. There is no welcoming kids to your life in foster care or adoption- there is only the life you all create together, all together. Life is merely the stitching together of many moments, and likely building a family is no different. To all the Mamas in my life, to all the Mamas in my boys' life: your love and life gave me permission to be right here. Thank you. Foster Mom (The Therapist) You can always move forward but you can never go back. And you have choices about how to move forward. For me, those choices require learning a thing I did not previously know how to do or that I believed I possessed the capacity to fulfill; being a parent. Becoming a parent has unearthed a wealth of shit I didn’t realized I needed to work through. I always knew I’d be a mom, though I’m not sure if that’s because I wanted it or because I understood that this was what girls do. I suppose now I feel like a member of some elite club, but because there’s not much about me that’s traditional, I imagine it will take time to feel fully affirmed by this tribe and comfortable within it. Sometimes being a mom feels as natural as my skinny jeans and vans while I’m dancing. Other days, it feels a lot like I’m wearing a dress while shootin hoops - foreign, uncomfortable, ridiculous. There has always been a yearning deep inside me to care for kids. I was a gentle child. I played with my Barbies and their babies. I played with my own baby dolls. I played with the baby brothers and sisters of my friends. And because I come from a home where there was minimal supervision, little structure and no parental oversight, my role as the oldest sibling in a group of three was such that my real life care-taking was never about pretending. It was about surviving. It was about fighting and scrapping and never giving up and wanting for my brothers the best that I could give them so that they would be ok people. It was about logistics and being practical. It was about finding resources where there was none. It was fully sacrifice. I was terrible at it of course, because kids make terrible parents. But it set me up for what was to come next in my life, which was taking care of a lot of other people's kids. First by babysitting, then through internships with young people who were incarcerated, and then in my first career as a supervisor in residential treatment facilities. For 12 years this was my gig. I thought I would crush the parenting thing - until we started fostering. I thought I would be a shoe-in for foster parent of the year because of my background. I fell into working with kids in crisis because I was a kid in crisis myself. It seemed like a natural progression but was likely not the smartest life choice. I had to do a lot of work & growing up to reach a point where I could move through the vicarious trauma and do good work. I never really got there emotionally but I did get really fucking good at my job. I was a young supervisor and my first big job was overseeing a dorm of 10 girls, ages 5-10. 60 kids lived at this place and I was responsible for 10 of them. I worked 12 hour days and had a salary of $26,000. I did not have my degree and I was an external candidate. Many of the folks I was hired to supervise had applied for the job internally and did not get it. I was eaten alive by both the kids and the adults. I lasted 6 months at this facility and it impacted me deeply. I don’t think I fully understood the nature of the work, nor could I get on board with the magnitude of the damage a place like this does to children. This was the type of last resort place for kids with severe emotional disturbances, major mental health issues or behavioral challenges and whom also do not have parents or family to care for them. This was an institution. A step down from hospitalization & a step up from lock-up. And the problem with institutions is that they're great at manufacturing outcomes & not so great at raising kids. A lot of kids stuck in foster care end up in residential treatment facilities where they eat, play, live & grow. It's crisis-driven, fast-paced & the wrong model for nurturing childhood. Though I left this place shortly after arriving, I merely moved on to a larger, more dysfunctional agency because I believed I was meant to work with these kids and the adults charged with their responsibility. In doing so, I allowed myself to be shaped into the type of person that got results at the expense of nurturing. In this type of environment, there is a lot of talk about de-escalation techniques. Positive reinforcement. Behavior management systems and sticker charts. Privileges and punishment. Time in and timeout. Kids have to demonstrate compliance, ask for permission to go up & down stairs, they're never out of a staff person's eyeshot & frequently physically contained. There's the hustle and bustle of the shift change from the folks who woke the kids up in the morning, got them off to school and cleaned up the house, to the folks to come in at noon for staff meetings, get the house ready for the kids to come home after school and prepare for the toughest part of the day; evening. There are transitions, transitions, transitions. Snack-time, free play, ADLs, dinner, movie time, bedtime. My philosophy in helping kids succeed was a combo of skills-building, confidence through competence, collaborative problem solving, experiential learning, art therapy, wilderness therapy & straight up humor. My skill-set was coveted & for kids who didn't have parents actively in their life - I was the next best thing. This is what I told myself. You could pair me up with the toughest kiddos & I would transform them. I believed this to be the good fight and birthed a parenting ethos out of this. But in a place like this, you’re not allowed to hug kids. I learned a way to be with kids in ways that were very effective in that environment and that environment only. I learned how to nurture a child's well-being and self-worth without touching, or having physical contact, because you're not allowed to. You don't you hugs, you do side hugs. You don't hold hands, you make up funny handshakes. You do high-fives. Kids don't sit on the laps of grown-ups. There is no carrying kids on your back or your shoulders, and any occasion which you would carry a child or otherwise touch a child is followed up with an incident report to justify the action. There is no love here. Parentified at a young age, I moved into a career which felt like an obvious match. By the time we began the process of becoming foster parents, I anticipated another natural progression, which would transpire into full on parenting. I suppose I could not have known how terribly wrong I was or that so little of what I’d practiced most of my life would not translate into taking care of other peoples’ children and eventually raising my own. Though I was making guardian choices daily, I had no idea what it meant to be a parent. And I certainly didn’t know what being a mother would look like for me. This is our 2nd Mother’s Day with the boys and in many ways, it feels like the first. I have a lot to figure out. Then again, who doesn’t. Foster Mom (the Artist) artist mom
The paradox of choice
The arguments for and against keeping siblings together in foster care are strong. What I hear mostly is folks leaning toward the former. Though both elicit strong reaction, the latter enrages people. As many people know, the boys have two older siblings. We are in the process of adopting Tiny and Mr. T but not their older brother and sister. I'm unclear if I'll ever articulate how awful this feels. Worse, I don't know that it'll feel better with time. I'm not sure it's suppose to. I don't know. I can't quite reconcile it. And so here I am, on the eve of picking them up for their second sleepover, unable to sleep. I'm ruminating over why we do this, whether this is the right choice, how difficult their departure will be and the joy and weight in the responsibility of it all. This weekend and always, I suppose. The 2 of us with the 4 of them for the larger part of the weekend is the weekend. The workweek remains exhausting as we still search for our stride. On the weekends, I often just want to lay low. Catch up on all that I missed from the week. Be present with my family. I know getting the kids together is important. I know this because I was a kid separated from my siblings. It occurs to me from time to time, that if I ever had to call up Sally Field tears on a moment's notice, I could refer to the deep-seeded pain and anger I feel in my core about the loss of my brothers. And yet I know we are making the right choice and the best we can do is get them together and create a situation where they can develop relationships with one another. Big bro and big sis don't really know Tiny and Mr. T hasn't spent much time with them for the last couple years. And none of them have ironed out how to play together. We also have them over so Mr. T can see that big bro and big sis are okay. He needs to lay eyes on them. My toddler boy is working things out in his head constantly, and asks about them almost every day: "You call [foster parent's name] and see if ____ and ____ can come ovah?" "I play with ____ and ___?" "Where ____ and ____ come from?" "Where'd they go?" ... To the best of our knowledge, there is no family identified for the boys' brother and sister. And there might not be one in the near future. Kids get stuck in foster care. And we're unsure if they know visits with their birth mom have ended. I don't think anyone has told them yet. There are a lot of things I wish to be different about this scenario. Here's what's keeping me up: Are we doing the right thing by having them over and then sending them back? What message does this send to Mr. T? What questions will they have tomorrow and how can we answer in a way that will be helpful at minimum? Are we doing damage? I could go on. We got into foster parenting to provide respite and emergency care to latency-aged kids. We were really good at helping 11 year olds understand what was happening while they transitioned from their homes to foster care. I don't think I could have imagined then, where we are now, with these dynamics unfolding. They asked us if we wanted to adopt the boys' older brother and sister and we said no. We made that choice. We know we can't do for all 4 of them what we can do for 2. I have to keep telling myself this. I believe it fully, because it's what is best for us and for the boys. But, if they aren't adopted in the near future, I don't think its what is best for them. The reality of this feels irreconcilable. -Artist Mom       artist mom
The most wonderful time of the year...almost!
It's always felt important to us to create experiences for our kids. Day-to-day routines that ground us in our familial rhythm. And seasonal rituals (my BlogHer friend, @Jumpingwithmyfingerscrossed is a huge inspiration for me on the latter). We want our kids to grow up feeling connected to each other, to us & to enjoy the variety of adventures each season brings. In the summer, we do beaches & bad food, fall is very much about apple picking & orchard life, along with warm layers, walks in the woods, and baking apple crisp. Spring...still have to work that one out. But the first half of winter...OBVI THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR! Last year we had so much fun building up the holiday excitement in our home (and setting up those dinosaurs XMAS eve!). From cooking & baking to a post-Thanksgiving visit to "Santa's Workshop," to Christmas & Holiday music on the daily. We celebrated full on for an entire month and took our time stepping away from it come January. Tiny was too tiny, but Mr. Toddler - the spirit fully moved him. One thing we super wanted to do but didn't pull off - partly schedule, partly the boys were so young - was an advent calendar that offered something small & special every day of December. We were aiming for "time together," and not necessarily "things." Make special cookies one day, craft together another day, drive around in pj's listening to XMAS music & looking at decorated houses, maybe even the Polar Express. We did not pull it off but we've been inching toward our 2nd season as a family & I think we're doin alright in the planning department, so far. The fall will always be busy for us; Tiny's bday, Halloween, TxGiving festivities with extended family, Mr. T's bday...plenty of time to plan for a CHRISTMAS MONTH. This year, we wanted to incorporate our love for the smells & sounds of the holidays with our love of reading and have been on a thrift quest to collect a used Christmas book for every day of our advent calendar. We read to the kids every night & they're starting to read to us. What better way to combine great loves?! We've got 21 books so far - 10 more to go! What about you? We'd love to hear about your favorite family rituals this time of year (or any, for that matter!). Drop a note in the comments here or here! -Artist Mom artist mom
My First Talk About Race With My 8 Month Old Son
I was running errands with Tiny today & I noticed a black woman staring at him with hearts in her eyes. He sees her, too. Gets all "shy guy" and smiles while leaning into me, his security blanket. He then stares right back at her & they lock in for what feels like 5 minutes but is really only 5 seconds. They were having a moment together, from afar. A moment that I didn't quite fit into as his white, tattooed mom. They share something I'll never belong to. And I'm ok with that. Variations on this scenario happen frequently. I often don't know what to say at this juncture in my parenting travels. When we recently spent a month reflecting on race, class & our transracial/fosteradopt family, one of my biggest takeaways was to start talking to my kids about race & racism at a young age. So, as we're walking out of the store & waving goodbye to her, I do that. Tiny is sitting in the cart & we are making our way to the exit. I nuzzle his nose with mine, then say to him loud enough for her to hear, "She has the same beautiful skin color as you." This was my first conversation about race with my youngest son. -Foster Mom (the artist artist mom
Vegan Chocolate Kale Smoothie (dairy, soy, fructose, gluten & grain free)
As has often been the case with kiddos who come into our home from foster care, their palette is shaped by sugar & processed foods & their bellies & minds suffer all the more as a result. It's hard for them to focus, blood sugar & mood are all over the place, and the power struggle is real. No judgement here. When Sweet moved in, he was a tiger of a 2 year old. He had a lot of health stuff going on that impacted his skin, hair, tummy & his overall development. We worked diligently to untangle the whole of it. Records were spotty & info shared with us was pretty sparse. He was also in a daycare from very early in the morning to early evening, so his diet & his people were all over the place. We didn't want to blast his gut but we did want to reset it & shape his pallet for life in a healthier direction. Enter: The kale smoothie. We experimented with a few iterations on this & in our house, this is one of the few things I "cook." I make a double batch, about 8 cups or 1/2 a gallon so it lasts to days & serves all of us. We top it with omega swirl. I consider it a fierce combo & up the protein for a post-workout recovery meal as well as a daily dish. 2 year old Sweet started drinking it about a week into his life with us & up until this summer, nearly one cup every single day. This past week we added ice chips & vitamin D drops to the mix (dubbed croup soup) to feed Tiny while he battles a megs sore throat. Below is is the recipe I use to make 8 cups. Add or remove water/almond milk for desired thickness. Enjoy! -Artist Mom   EDITED 12/16/17 TO ADD: We now add chia seeds, hemp seeds, K2 powder, turmeric powder and date syrup (because it's easier). We also make a triple batch of this so we're only making it every few days and it is part of breakfast almost every day. We also add organic coconut milk (the kind with the hard chunks, which are higher in fat) at bedtime on occasion to help sustain blood sugar overnight and prevent kiddo from waking up due to feeling hungry. Chocolate Kale Smoothie (dairy & gluten free) Serving size: 8 cups Ingredients: 1 avocado (adds thickness) 2 cups almond milk 1 cup water 3 medjool dates (to sweeten the deal) 2 bananas 2 tbsp local bee pollen 1-2 scoops chocolate protein powder 2 tbsp cacao powder 3 stalks of crisp kale (leaves only) Steps: Blend liquids & kale until puréed. Kids (and me!) hate the chunks, otherwise. Add remaining ingredients; powder stuff first, then the thicker stuff. Blend until smooth & to desired thickness. Serve with fancy omega swirl designs on top (the man with the yellow hat for the overzealous, simple stars for the rest of us). artist mom
That's a wrap. Just kidding.
The Learning Happens in the Reflection One month ago, we were standing in our kitchen when my artist mom turned to me and said, "Remind me again, did you go to a school where white kids were the minority or the majority?" It turned out, we had some things to revisit. We didn't know a tremendous amount about one another's earliest experiences with different races, racism and class. We thought we did. We were wrong. So we designated 4 weeks to talk together, do some research, share and reflect. Our hope was to be intentional about developing a deeper appreciation for our transracial family while being transparent about some of that process. This week we're wrapping up and reporting on our progress. Below, a few words from my wife, the therapist. After, a few words from me, the artist. Teacher, Social Worker, Case Manager and Sometimes, Mom. This past week was a visit week for us. And among all the things I would want to talk about and debrief that occur during that hour, this week I'm really muddling through my feelings about this interaction in particular: The four of us walk into the social work office and I'm holding Mr. Toddler. The Artist is holding Tiny. The waiting room is hectic. Lots of people waiting, parents pacing, people talking loudly. Another social worker sitting in the doorway of a visit room, clearly supervising a visit, turns to me and says "What room are you in?" I say, " I don't know, I'm not sure." Because our social worker is late again, so we are out waiting with the kiddos' birth family all unsupervised and mingling awkwardly, because there is nowhere for us to go and no one to help guide us. She says: "How do you not know? Which one did you sign out?" And then it hits me what's happening here. She thinks I'm Mr. Toddler's social worker. So I say "I'm his foster Mom." She sits up and says something like "Sorry, you looked like a social worker" and we move on. The subtext here is that I'm a white, thirty-something white lady holding a black baby, and under most circumstances in the child welfare world this is best understood as the dynamics of the workplace. This happens so often I oscillate between total annoyance and surrender. I get it. I do. I look the part, and "the part" is understood as a white lady with kids of color. I even wear Birkenstocks, and I'm a lesbian, which is like a two-fer, basically. It's typical that I'm mistaken for our kiddos' teacher, social worker or therapist. Rarely is the assumption that I'm the Mom unless my kids snuggle me, call me "Mom" or I'm clearly doing Mom things (like wiping spit up off my clothes in line getting food or we are in a crowded bathroom and Mr. Toddler is asking me loudly if we are here because I need to poop or pee). There are about a dozen experiences a month which cause me to quietly thank the Gods that the kiddos in my home are not completely aware of language yet, and these situations are most often related to offensive questions about my kids' relationship to me or my gayness. "Where did you get him from?" "Did you get him when he was born or older? I heard it's better when they're younger." "Oh, foster care? Can I take him then if no one wants him?" "Could you not have kids- or I guess how would you have kids, right??!! There's no man!" Another of my favorite therapists (yes, another reference to therapists I love here- we all do what we know until we work our asses off to do different. This is one of my ways of working my ass off to be a better different) reminded me that one of the burdens of being the "difference," the identity that is outside the mainstream construct, is that the onus for education and guiding less informed folks is often on you. As in, when I was holding Tiny in the sling while shopping and someone asked where I "got" Tiny from and I honestly answered we are foster parents, and she said- "Oh! Well can I take him then if no one wants him?" What I wanted to say was angry and full of vitriol. I wanted to vent some of the big feelings I have about the way our family has and has not had support from our community. I wanted to let off some of the steam that is building in me after Mr. Toddler's grandmother yelled at him for calling me "Mama." I almost got really caught up in my own stuff here and was reactive. But instead I said this: "We want him as much as any Mama wants their baby. Don't you worry. He is loved by more people than I can count. And he is beautiful." Because I wished for her take away to be that he is not unwanted, that's an ignorant stance all the way around. His Mom would say she wants him too. And I'm not an angry lesbian trying to steal all the babies because I don't have a man. I wish to be part of the solution in this world and stand alongside those who stand on the margins. That's the energy I wanted to leave in my wake. Creative and Expansive and Outside the Everyday Normal What I'm not really pointing out here that this conversation, and most of them really, are all about race. And you know what? You know who is going to be reminded every time these conversations happen, that the world sees them as different and distanced from their Moms? My kids. I'm hoping we get some of this right and that it becomes a source of strength to feel different- like you have something creative and outside the everyday normal. Maybe that's way too optimistic. When I came out in my early 20's it wasn't easy or something I would say was "fun," but the life I'm able to live, and who I am is born from that struggle. And I am proud of the life I have and the family I am with The Artist. We mow the lawn, grocery shop, eat dinner together, sometimes go on vacation when we are lucky. It's not a gay life, it's just a life. I'm hoping someday this will feel like just a life for my kids, as opposed to their gay, interracial, fostercare life. Some days I'm better about responding to the questions and looks in a balanced manner, and some days I'm reactive as all get out. This month we chose to be a bit more transparent about how we think and talk about race, class, our family and the life we are in and for sure we are nowhere near done. I'm nowhere near done. Foster Mom (the therapist) I'd Give Us A Solid B It's unrealistic to expect that we can give a solid snapshot that will do this dialogue justice. Mostly, I think I'm moving forward with more questions than answers, but I'm glad to be thinking about this stuff while the boys are young. And there are some things I want to highlight. Like basic stuff. There are things I learned, things I already knew and things I was reminded of. Like the difference between race and racism. I know what race is. I know what racism is. Two big things I was reminded of: how remarkable we are as a global group and how deeply I believe that the best way to talk about that beauty is to not adopt a "colorblind" perspective. The many shades of our skin are so unbelievably diverse and striking to me. This is part of why I started photographing our family. During this month of reflecting, I was reminded that not everyone appreciates or values the beauty in this. And this surprised me. Not because of the injustices I see happening to black people by cops in the media, but with some of the things my own peeps assume is appropriate to share with me because we're suddenly raising brown babies. For example, I was totally caught off-guard while recently chatting with a friend, who I regard as super smart and pretty worldly. Open-minded, hip, a minority herself. She shared some exciting news about one of her kids and in so doing, volunteered that she was proud to have raised her kids to be colorblind. I didn't know what to say. And I'm not the type to mince words. I was carrying Tiny when the conversation took place and I did not see it coming. Despite this period of deep reflection, I had nothing to share in that moment. I wanted to be happy for her and her kid. I wanted to not steal her thunder in any way. I wanted to not 'go there' in that moment and I felt like shit for struggling with which route to take. And now, I'm not sure of when 'to go there' or when to not. It's problematic. I'm working on it. Moving Forward My commitment to myself and my family is to strike a balance. We are raising these little guys until further notice and maybe forever. Some days I feel like talking about race, some days I just don't. That's how I feel right now. This doesn't mean that I don't honor our familial identity or ignore our individualism. It just means it's a lot and I've got some stuff to work out so that I can talk to my kids first. It's kinda like being gay. I was born this way. It's a major part of my identity. And some days I just don't feel like making it a big deal. The same is true for my tattoos, with the exception of being born with them. Obvi. Other things I feel committed to: not raising our boys in a bubble. Talking with them about race, racism and black history well before kindergarten and continuing this dialogue forever. Which also means that I'll do my best to be the parent they need when all kinds of big feelings come up in different ways throughout their identity development and life. See also: we all have really good therapists. I don't want our guys wondering about things we may have kept from them while growing up and I'll do my best to be transparent and nurturing about the hardest things in life and hope that that's something worthwhile. Resources We came across tons of valuable resources these past several weeks that we want to share. You can find them here. If you'd like to contribute, there's a note on that page for how you can do that. We'd love to hear from you. We also upped our social media game. We get a little more political and news-worthy on Twitter and on Pinterest, well...we pin things of interest, like kickass books, ways our boys might wanna style their hair over the years and other goodies. We're starting lifebooks for the boys (which lots of people have asked about) and we'll be pumped to share our thoughts on that in an upcoming post. We also started 2 new hashtags: #AllOfTheSkintones and #LoveSeesAllColor. So you might notice your feed blowing up with those. Don't be shy. -Foster Mom (the artist) Other Noteworthy Voices: Chad Goller-Sojourner: a Seattle-based writer, storyteller and solo-performer whose recent work focuses on the social, political and historical dimensions of multi-identity construction and intersectionality. Riding in Cars with Black People & Other Newly Dangerous Acts: A Memoir in Vanishing Whiteness is the groundbreaking and crushingly honest story of what happens when a black boy, raised by white parents, “ages out” of honorary white and suburban privilege and into a world where folklore, statistics, and conjecture deem him dangerous until proven otherwise. Goller-Sojourner takes audiences on an intense and insightful journey, along the way unpacking race, privilege and policing like only a transracial adoptee can. Culture Club on Medium: "We get in the cracks and crevices of race, class, culture and identity. It's a party. Come as you are." A guy by the name of @dexdigi writes a solid response to an article you may have read in 2014 by a freshman at Princeton University entitled, "Why I'll Never Apologize for My White Male Privilege." Kristen Howerton, mom to 4 kids via birth and adoption and the mastermind behind Rage Against the Minivan has some great insight into talking to her own kids about race, as well as a great collection of age-appropriate books that might help support conversations with kiddos. Jimmy Wayne: a former foster kid turned country music singer/songwriter whose songs and story highlight his mission to bring awareness to kids who age out of the foster system and become homeless. His powerful TEDx talk here. artist mom
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