5.15.2017

mother's day

Mother's Day rolled in with it's (thankfully broken) promise of all-day thunderstorms and accompanying chaos. We made it to the beach before nine o'clock in the morning, thinking we would have to beat a rainstorm that never actually ended up being more than looming black clouds on the horizon. We ventured to a beach just minutes away from where Carmen was born, and it was hard to not think of the woman who will always bear the c-section scar from the surgery that pulled my daughter from her body. I certainly couldn't answer any of the cutesy Facebook questionnaires about peeing when I sneeze or epidurals or if "daddy" was in the room during my delivery (also, no thank you on that heaping helping of heteronormativity), but none of that is what it means to be a mother. In my own heart, birth is the least of what makes someone a mother and that much is apparent in the day-to-day moments that come with mothering Carmen. Yet a little over one year ago only minutes from where Carmen splashed in the Intracoastal yesterday, another woman had only her birth to claim her motherhood.

Life and all of it's intricacies, all of the constant remolding we go through to be humans -- some days it's all more apparent than others. Perspective shifts and feelings that tap at your heart but for which you have no adequate words to explain to others.

Sometimes I pee when I sneeze, but the cause of that is not my son born via c-section as much as it wasn't my daughter born to another woman's body. It was thanks to the delivery of the child who died and was born nearly three years ago on a date that is creeping up quicker than I'm ready for. My wedding anniversary and also the day that we said goodbye to the baby who never got to come home with us. Motherhood -- it simply cannot be defined in saccharine Pinterest quotes or graphics about coffee consumption. Motherhood throbs deep inside my veins and defines who I am despite the journey that spun me around until I was too dizzy to really answer that for quite some time.

My babies. These babies. These beautiful, fierce world-changers with their laughter and stubbornness. I can't get enough of them.

They are joy. They are peace. They are love. They are my motherhood journey, the roots that hold me in place.  photo signature_zps5tftxxmn.png

5.08.2017

grabease: baby's first self-feeding cutlery set

I was first introduced to Grabease when I saw these adorable self-feeding utensils for toddlers tagged in a photo on Instagram. Carmen never liked being fed and has always preferred to feed herself, but usually with her hands (or by shoveling fistfuls of food in her mouth, let's be real). Typical silverware is too large for tiny toddler hands, so I assumed I would just deal with her heaping handfuls of self-feeding and the mess that accompanies it all -- until I discovered Grabease. Grabease utensils are recommended by occupational therapists and designed to promote self-feeding in toddlers. Each set comes with both a fork and spoon, each with an ergonomically designed handle for a natural vertical grasp. As a total neurotic mom (or shameless helicopter mom, you decide), I also want to point out that I love the choke protection barriers that make it impossible for little ones to swallow or choke themselves with their Grabease utensils.

From the first moment I presented her with the Grabease, Carmen seemed to know just what to do. Lately, Carmen is at that stage where she mimics what she sees us do and that includes use utensils to eat. At first she was a little frustrated that she could not get the food onto the Grabease fork, but after a few tries, Miss Independent was totally getting it. It was really cool for me as a parent to watch her successfully feed herself dinner with her own utensils!

We've always had some issues with Carmen and her weight. Having been born a few weeks premature, we had a hard time getting her to cross the threshold from underweight to normal weight. Throw in the fact she is just too busy to take time to sit and eat, mealtimes were a little bit of a struggle (and a whole lot stressful). Grabease -- and the thrill of letting her independence blossom -- have totally made meal and snack times fun for Carmen. She loves learning to use her Grabease to feed herself and will polish off an entire plate of strawberry slices if I include her Grabease fork along with them. "It's exercise for her brain," as my five year old says.

We are loving Grabease around here -- and are really, really excited to get the opportunity to offer a super-exciting giveaway, too. 15 winners will get the chance to win their very own set of Grabease for their toddlers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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5.06.2017

adoption isn't a punch line

"That's it, I'm putting you up for adoption," joked the mom at the playground splash pad with her on-purpose messy ponytail to her unaware toddler, sharing a round of uproarious laughter with her friends. Just a few feet away, my two children wandered into the splash pad: my son, running in excitedly but cautiously, and my daughter, still crawling but far more adventurous and less concerned with safety. I felt my stomach tighten to the point where my knees felt weak under me, and I felt the familiar feeling of heat flush into my cheeks. I tried to discreetly stare at them, to assess the faces that looked nice enough and yet could be so unintentionally cruel. It wasn't the first time I'd heard adoption as the butt of a joke, and it sure wouldn't be the last time. "My sister doesn't look anything like the rest of us," a mom at the library joked to her friend, "so when I'm mad at her, I just tell her she's adopted."

I have heard people make racist jokes, likely because I'm white and they have no idea that my daughter is black, and they wrongfully assume that such jokes are funny if no one in the audience is impacted firsthand. I wholly reject that ignorant theory with everything within me. Racism, rape, misogyny -- these things aren't funny, regardless of the experiences of the person listening to your joke. The same goes for adoption. The pain and life-altering turmoil and sacrifice that my daughter's birth parents had to make aren't a punchline to some silly joke that does nothing but perpetuate the stigma that one must be defective, somehow, someway, in order to be placed for adoption. Adoptees grow up bearing the brunt of a lot of that stigma, sometimes believing themselves that they were unwanted, unloved, not good enough. Older children sometimes believe that they did something wrong, something bad, something that warranted them placement -- and I can't blame them, because these are the jokes we hear on a regular basis. The notion that an adopted child is loved less than a biological child -- that learning of ones adoption is an insult -- has been perpetuated a thousand times over in the memes I've seen pop up on my timeline last month alone.

I'm not an adoptee, but I am an adoptive mother. I know that in my daughter's brief year of being a part of our family, I've gotten countless stares and inquiries over the fact she looks different from the rest us. I am sure that soon she will feel the stares herself, and internalize the comments from well-intentioned strangers who are eager to know in the inner-workings of our family dynamic. I am sure that in her quest to know herself, as all adolescents go through, she will find a more intricate path to trudge through than most. And if she had been a little older that day at the splash pad, I can only imagine the way that stranger's joke would have held onto her heart and not let go.

Adoptees aren't throw-away children. They aren't children who were unwanted, or unloved. I can empathize with the ache in my daughter's birth mother's heart that she will have to live with for the rest of her life, and sometimes this is what I think about when parents make jokes about placing their child for adoption over a tantrum over a cookie or broken toy. I think of the battle that my own family fought to get to the point of bringing our daughter home with us through adoption -- the pain, the tears, the moments of feeling like our lives would forever be incomplete. I think of the struggles my friend faced in multiple failed adoptions before bringing home her beautiful daughter, and the level of heartache there that most people will never be able to comprehend. I think of the infertility treatments, the needles jabbed just to the side of my belly button, and the physical pain that paled in comparison to waking up with a half-broken heart and empty arms each morning. And I think of my daughter and the other adoptees just like her -- innocent, loved beyond measure, just trying to exist in a world that turns the very essence of who they are into a joke.

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4.27.2017

your white kid doesn't deserve a trophy for playing with a black doll

I'm just going to say it: your white kid doesn't deserve a trophy for playing with a black doll.

It's the strangest thing, this fascination we have as a society when white children step outside of themselves and -- gasp! -- select a black doll off of the shelves. Somehow posts about this very thing go viral on social media, sometimes even spawning into news stories about the colorblindness of children who have no problems playing with a doll with darker skin than they possess. It weirded me out when my white son was two and didn't leave home without Baby Boy, his beloved dollar store doll that happened to be a person of color. "Oh, how nice he doesn't even mind," people would say. "Children are so innocent," people would smile. All the while, I would leave very confused as to how these thoughts came to be formed in a response to what is simply a child clutching a plastic doll in a check-out line.

Can I also just point out the white-washed world we expect children of color to live in, with one black doll for every fifteen blonde dolls on any given shelf at Target? One Doc McStuffins for every Disney princess with flowing, golden locks? Do we applaud and back-pat our black daughters and sons for taking home an Ariel the mermaid doll, or for wanting Elsa pajamas?

The short answer is no. We expect our black sons and daughters to live in a whitewashed society where they should be grateful for characters like Doc, or (my personal favorite) Ms. Elaina from Daniel Tiger (she's the cutest, toots!). We expect them to be Anna and Elsa for Halloween without praise or applause over their tolerance and acceptance, because they're just supposed to be okay with the marginalization. We recently collected children's items for a shelter in lieu of gifts for my daughter's birthday. There was a huge need for dolls and children's books that represented children of color -- things to let them know that they belong, that they are a vital part of our society, that they matter. Can we think about that, for a minute, through the eyes in which a child sees the world? The insignificance they're made to feel by way of plastic dolls and illustrated picture books -- or the lack thereof?

And then there's the next inevitable news report to roll out, in which a little blonde girl from the suburbs is being praised for telling a cashier that her black doll is "just like me." There are about five days worth of blog posts and news articles that typically follow praising the colorblindness of children. "Children don't see color," people celebrate in their self-congratulatory Facebook comments that they believe to be a stark contrast from the racism of the cashier who inquired about the race of a toy. Can you see me cringing from here? Because I am.

Racism is a spectrum and colorblindness lands you on it, even if your intentions are pure and you believe that you would never let a person get away with racism. To imply that you don't see color is to imply that you don't see blackness, that you don't see the melanin in ones skin, that you see them just as white as you. To feign colorblindness is to say that you don't notice their blackness as if it is a defect, that you may notice their hair color or eye color but certainly not their skin color because it just simply shall not be spoken of. My daughter is black, and my son is white. Long before my daughter came into our family, my son's dollhouse had a conglomerate of black dolls and white dolls inhabiting it and although neither of my children are into Disney movies or characters, my son has asked me why the only person of color on Blue's Clues reruns is Tyrese on an episode about Kwanzaa circa 1998. We have a mess of white dolls and black dolls piled up on the shelves in each child's closet and I've never felt compelled to alert the media when my white son chooses a black doll to tote around for the week -- it's almost like black people live in the world, and he doesn't deserve a cookie for acknowledging that.

Sometimes, but thankfully not often, people will see my black daughter's face in our otherwise white family photograph and say that they "don't even see her color." Sometimes, but again thankfully not often, people will say how nice it is that my son doesn't see his sister's skin color. I cringe, I laugh, but I am always quick to correct them: of course he does. Her blackness, her roots, her culture and her place in the world as a black woman matter. They are crucial to her identity. I mean, it's 2017 and black women are paid 65 cents to the white male dollar. I'm not going to stick my head in the sand and pretend my daughter doesn't have an uphill battle ahead of her, a fight for validation and equality that I, as a white woman, can't even begin to comprehend despite all of my empathy. In a few years, she will walk through the aisles of a department store and see the single black dolls placed in between rows of fifteen white dolls. She will inevitably be presented with the opportunity to choose Anna or Elsa at a playdate and will look less like either of them than some of the other girls in attendance. But she belongs just as much, despite the lack of representation. And your white child certainly doesn't deserve a trophy, a Nobel prize or evening news accolades for being "tolerant enough" to carry a plastic doll resembling a child of color around with her.

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4.26.2017

stomach bug solace

The first day my husband went back to work and left me at home with two kids -- a four and a half year old and a preemie newborn -- we went to the park. It was abnormally cold outside. We were all bundled up. I wrapped the newborn up close to my chest and hoped she wouldn't freeze. It was Florida, after all, and we shouldn't be having these thoughts -- why did it have to be so cold?! My four and a half year old skipped ahead of us, bundled in a jacket and slinging a stale loaf of bread around in hopes we would see ducks. It was too cold for the ducks, but we trudged on around a lake as the chilly wind whipped us in the face. "There are no ducks," he whined. The baby cried. I wondered if she was freezing. For about thirty seconds, I resented my husband for going back to work and secretly cursed everyone in our lives who trusted me alone with two kids and no back up. We got back into the car, and my four and a half year old asked to go get a bagel. "My sister is boring," he said, staring at the tiny infant who had instantly fallen asleep once the car began moving. "She won't always be," I said.

It only took us a couple of weeks to find our footing. Being alone with the two kids felt as natural to me as breathing, and watching them together quickly became my greatest joy.

As quickly as we found our footing, it's coming loose again as things will when change begins to happen. Ethan is almost six and wrapping up his year of preschool faster than I would like, and Carmen and I are trying to find our own routine and new normal in the hours which he is gone. It feels like practice for the fall when Kindergarten will swoop him up and force us to create a schedule that doesn't include getting him at noon. I'm not sure who will feel the impact of that loss of togetherness the most, myself or her. In the meantime, a stomach bug has kept us all home together. No preschool and no extracurriculars and no plans. Just us together, puke buckets lined with plastic Publix bags and beach towels draped across the tile. "My sister drives me up a wall," Ethan says. "She's so crazy but she's my best friend." I hope she will always be, I think and I remember that unusually chilly March morning last year when a new layer of life was freshly exposed.

I hope so much she will always be.

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