Archive for March, 2011

Explaining Racism to a Child

I have been thinking about this post for so long and don’t know if I have the words to do justice to this, but it’s been a few weeks already since this happened, so I have to write what I can before I forget the details.  (better settle in with a tea because I have the feeling this will be a long one!!!)

We were watching Oprah’s Master Class with Condoleezza Rice with some of the kids in the room and the image of the second plane hitting the twin towers came on.  That image is something that most of our kids have grown up with.  September 11th happened three months before Gracelyn was born, five months before Josiah was born, and three years before Eliana was born and yet, it is something they have always known about.  They have seen footage from that day and still images and we have talked about it in passing here and there.  For our older boys, they have memories of the actual day, of seeing it for the first time.

Elijah and Sedaya had never seen or heard of September 11th.  I had never thought about it until Elijah piped up, “what happened Mommy?  Why that plane crash into that building?”  I felt myself hesitate.  How do you explain to a child hatred so intense that it causes the deaths of thousands of people?  I don’t remember exactly what Mark and I explained, but it really struck me as significant that two of our kids were completely unaware of a day that had quite literally changed the world.

Later in the same show, the subject turned to racism and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.  Again, Elijah asked a question.  I paused the show and turned to him and as I tried to explain, I fought back the tears.  How do you explain racism to a nine year old?  Here in my living room were my children, three of them just happen to be black.  How was I to tell them about a time in history when there were lynchings, segregation, slavery, hatred all because of race?

I first became interested in U.S. black history when I was in the seventh or eighth grade and we read Underground to Canada.  Over the years, I did my own research and was especially moved by those who fought so hard for civil rights, even willing to give their lives for the cause.  In the early years of homeschooling my older boys, I taught them units on slavery and on the civil rights movement.  They watched movies such as Selma, Lord Selma and Ruby Bridges.  We used to get quite the stares when we would go for walks and my two caucasian boys would be singing freedom march songs as we went!!!  But I have not done those units with the other kids yet, not because I was putting off teaching them, but because while we were waiting for Elijah and Sedaya to come home, we studied Africa for two years and then when they were first home, we were concentrating on teaching them English and about Canada.

So now here I sat, my black children wanting to know about Martin Luther King Jr., one of my personal heros, and me, at quite a loss as to what to say.  Over the years, I had touched on racism with Josiah here and there, explaining that there were some people that believed that the colour of our skin determined our worth and he quickly agreed how silly that was since God made us all.

As I began to tell Elijah about how things used to be in the United States (and many years before that, even in Canada), about Rosa Parks and the bus (“The only tired I was was tired of giving in”), slavery, separate lines, separate schools, unequal rights, and hatred (I could not bring myself to find the words to explain horrors such as the KKK – even writing those letters makes me feel sick to my stomach and worried to have them on this site).  Then, I told him about a wonderful man who loved God and his family and wanted his children to grow up in a world that would judge them for who they were, not by the colour of their skin, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  I tried to tell him about the “I Have a Dream” speech, but got choked up, as I always do when I try to recite any part of that inspired address.  There is just something about a man who knew what was right and was willing to lay his life down so that his children and the children of others would live in a better world, a world that would someday have equal opportunities for all people that touches me down to my very core.

I told Elijah about this amazing man and how what he fought for made it so that this woman on the TV show, Condoleezza Rice, could do anything and be anything, and that because of him and people like him, the United States now has a black President.  (I did cry when I said that – how could I not, when just 40 years before, there was such injustice and it does show that those who died for the cause did not die in vain.)

I tried to explain what we believe about God making each of us in the way He designed, but that some people still today would judge because of skin colour.  I worded things the best way I knew how and tried to keep it easy for him to understand, knowing that there would be many more talks on this topic in the weeks, months, and years to come.  I think I did okay until this…

“But mommy, why they kill him?”

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Website, Book, Busy

I am still alive; I promise!  Between the Adoption Magazine website which has taken me way more time than I originally anticipated and editing my book and preparing to write the Epilogue, I have been more busy than usual, but I do have a post brewing.  I am just trying to figure out how to word it.

Other than being a much bigger time commitment than I realized it would be, the website has been going really well.  It’s obvious that Canada is really lacking in adoption resources and information because I have been getting some wonderfully encouraging e-mails from across the country thanking me for starting it.  There is still much work to be done on it, but it is a work in progress and for now, I have to be okay with that.  I also have had my first few bumps along the way, but thanks to Mark and my friend Denise for being my sounding boards, nothing turned into a major issue.

The book… well, ten months ago, I began writing a book of our experience with our last adoption.  I was able to finish it in a few months except for the Epilogue and I had to wait to do that because I wanted to wait until the kids had been with us a bit longer so that I could say “it was really difficult in the beginning, but now, they have adjusted really well” or that kind of thing.  I also needed to wait until Mark returned from his trip back to Ethiopia so I set it aside.  If the book were on my desk instead of in my computer, a very thick layer of dust would have gathered on it by now as I have not even glanced at it since about September!

In the meantime, I began writing articles online.  What I found happened is that, inevitably, with practise, my writing got better (though you’d never guess it from this thrown together post!) and so now that I have figuratively dusted off the book and prepared to write the Epilogue, I have had to start at the beginning and tweak a few things.  In this re-writing, I have only gotten to page 53 of my 187 pages and have yet to begin the Epilogue, so I will be not be done at the end of the month as I had planned.

But when you can only write one day a week (I have a babysitter on Mondays), slow going is inevitable!

 

Fireman Birthday Party

Josiah wants to be a Fireman when he grows up, so he wanted that to be his birthday party theme.

the cake

stick the badge on the firedog

the craft

The Birthday Boy

 

Adoption Magazine Launch

I have been working on a project for a few months now.  I have been feeling frustrated with the lack of adoption resources for Canadians in all stages of the adoption or fostering journey.  There is a lack of information about adoption in general for those who are interested in adoption and not sure where to start and then for those who are in the process or whose children are home already, there is limited access to important information about things like Post Adoption Depression (yes, there is such a thing and the numbers are high), Attachment and Trauma, Identity, adoptive breastfeeding, hair and skin care, common Special Needs such as FASD, RAD, and SPD, and other issues.  This causes a lot of stress for fostering or adoptive families and there is no need for this type of stress in a world where the internet is so accessible for people.  Honest adoption information is particularly lacking for Canadians.  Most of the online resources are directed at Americans.

Another thing I have noticed particularly since entering the world of International Adoption is that there tends to be little niches where people who are adopting from a certain country may know others adopting from that same country or be aware of blogs of others adopting from that country, but not have access to people (even people who live in their community) who are adopting or have adopted from another country.  Some adoption related issues are country specific, but not most, so I feel that it would be beneficial to have a general adoption resource that encompasses foster care, orphan care, domestic adoption, foster-to-adopt, open adoption, and International adoption from any country.  This would also be helpful for families who have experienced multiple adoptions and can relate to a mixture of these descriptions.

My hope is that this resource will increase adoptions and will increase the success of foster and adoptive families.  There is a general misconception that adoption is increasing in popularity, but that is false.  Though the numbers of orphans worldwide are continuing to increase and the number of children available for adoption who are in foster care and adoptable in Canada hovers at 30,000.  Obviously, there is still a lot of work to be done as far as adoption advocacy goes!!!

So, I need your help.  On Monday, Adoption Magazine will officially launch.  What you can do to help:

1.  Do a post on your blog announcing Adoption Magazine.

2.  Add a link to it on your blog’s sidebar.  If you are more technologically advanced than I am, add a button to your blog.  (sorry, can’t help you with that as I can’t even figure out how to do it on my own blogs!)

3.  Go to the Facebook page and “like” it.

4.  Put a link to Adoption Magazine as your Facebook status.

5.  Tweet about it.

6.  Suggest books, online resources, or helpful posts for me to add.

7.  Be a contributor.  If you have a story or experience that you feel would benefit others, send it to me.  If there is a book or movie or seminar that you found helpful, write a review and send it to me.

8.  Spread the word in whatever way you can.  At some point, I’d like to get some bookmarks printed up with the URL on them for people to hand out to adoptive families in their area or to people who ask questions about adoption in the line at the grocery store, but I don’t have anything yet.

9.  Become a Follower of Adoption Magazine.

10. Buy from the Amazon store on the site if you were planning on ordering one of the books or movies anyway.  It will help offset the costs associated with the site.

So that’s the project I’ve been working on for the past two months.  Starting Monday, there will be regular articles from many contributors and in time, hopefully it will become a really valuable resource for families.  Thanks in advance for your help in making it a success!

 

Big Hair!!!

Just because sometimes you just need a little something to make you smile…

(yep. that’s all her real hair and that’s not even all of it…the back half was still in braids!)

The Grocery Challenge

A few years ago, Mark and I decided to get out of debt and we were almost able to do so by using the system in Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover”.  When we were close to our goal, a series of circumstances beyond our control including an unexpected crisis with the adoption we were in the middle of (agency went bankrupt, stranding our kids with three days of food left half a world away), a real estate holding disaster, the area of Mark’s work being hit hard by the economy, and Gracelyn becoming gravely ill, led us back into a debt as large as the one we had just clawed our way out of.  Dave Ramsey’s system is not a “get-rich-quick” scheme or a strategy of getting out of debt easily.  It is hard work and just as it took time to get into debt, it takes time to get out of debt.

After we descended back into debt, we abandoned Dave’s system, largely because Mark’s income could not be counted on and because of how overwhelmed we felt.  Even though we knew the system worked, we were afraid to look at the numbers (ie: the truth!) and create another budget and debt repayment plan.  Things only got worse.  Burying your head in the sand helps no one!

Finally, we decided that we would begin Dave’s Total Money Makeover again on the first of March.  This week, I sat down to run the numbers and fill out the worksheets and come up with a plan.  What I found is that we will need to be very creative to find extra money to put down onto our debt.  I came up with a few ideas and the first is a grocery challenge, whereby we could cut $1000 off what we normally spend a month for groceries, cleaning supplies, and toiletries and apply that onto a debt.  The way we would do this would be to eat out of our pantry and freezer and buy as few groceries as possible for March.

I have set the amount we are allowed to spend on groceries at $200 for March.  Considering that we have seven children, including two teen boys and two pre-teen boys, this is no small feat!  What I did was to inventory everything that is currently in our freezer and pantry.  I then tried to create as many meals as I could from that list.  My goal was to come up with 31 suppers and 31 lunches.  Breakfasts will be oatmeal and perhaps eggs or pancakes on Sundays (if we can fit syrop into the budget!)

Dinners:

Chicken Fried Rice

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Mexican Lasagna

Not-so-chili pasta

Basa topped with Salsa, Rice, and frozen vegetables

Shrimp Stir Fry *will need peppers and mushrooms

Chili

Chicken Teriyaki, Wild Mushroom Rice, and Corn

Beef Hash

Soup made from leftovers

Asparagus and Asiago Quiche

Cod and French Fries

Tamale Pie

Frittata and Hash Brown Casserole

Sweet Chicken Tostadas *will need tostadas

Tortellini Soup

Meatballs and Rice

Soup made from leftovers

Beef Hash

Lemon-Mustard Chicken, Basmati Rice, and Green Beans

Chili

Ham, Scalloped Potatoes, and Peas

Tamale Pie

Beef Stew *will need potatoes and carrots

Lemon Mustard Chicken, Green Bean Casserole

Meatballs and Rice

Teriyaki Chicken, Wild Mushroom Rice, and Creamed Corn

Macaroni Casserole

Pinto Tortilla Soup

Baked Pasta *will need mushrooms and peppers

Beef and Bean Burritos *will need peppers

Voila!  31 Suppers!

For the lunches, the list is mostly soups, (Pumpkin Soup, Minestrone, Black Bean, Mushroom Cheddar, Lentil Soup, Tomato etc.), Bean Casseroles, and Pastas.

Snacks will be the most difficult, but I do have some baking in the freezer that can be used and some of the applesauce left that I made in the Fall.

The only things that are on the” approved list of things to buy” are milk, eggs, Good-Night diapers for Sedaya, and the few items needed to finish the above dishes.  I am excited to see how it goes!

Not only will this free up a big chunk of money to put towards a debt, it will also clean out the pantry and freezer and ensure that none of the food gets wasted.

I think that this grocery challenge will really get our new financial life off to a great start.  I will let you know how it goes!

Here are some of the soup recipes I will be using:

http://notecook.com/soup/crock-pot-tortellini-soup-recipe/

http://notecook.com/soup/soups-using-leftovers/

http://notecook.com/soup/spicy-lentil-soup-recipe/

http://notecook.com/soup/healthy-lentil-soup-recipe/