Posts for Foster/Adoption Category

6 Ways to Welcome an Adopted Child into Your Extended Family

Forever Family, Foster/Adoption, Parenting - Allison Kenny - June 7, 2016

So, last week we packed up our little Squirrel and hit the road. By now, we were old pro’s at traveling together and navigating the potential stress of hectic airports. She had her stuffy. Lollypop in her mouth. Mama Lynn’s hand. Special snacks in tow. We were ready. What I was not ready for was how beautifully, generously, and authentically my AZ family would embrace her when we arrived. Here are 6 things they did to make my girl feel like their girl…even if they aren’t related by blood. Continue Reading

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Adoption Poem #13: Wild

WILD

What does it mean to be
Raising a black girl
While
Beyonce
Brings us
Lemonade? Continue Reading

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10 Reasons Why Every Mom Needs a Nap Every Day…and How to Get It

Foster/Adoption, Parenting, Self-care, Tales from the Maxi Pad - Allison Kenny - May 2, 2016

Daily naps? Oh, please. Who has time for that? Well, I will tell you that my stress levels got so high that I didn’t have time NOT to take them.

We ALL deserve daily naps because…

  1. We’re f%@king tired. We don’t sleep well enough at night.
  2. Depth of processing. We are taking in information at the speed of light. We are thinking 2 steps ahead of our kids. This is exhausting.
  3. Our houses are cluttered. And that’s okay. It’s part of the deal. But it creates visual overwhelm. And we’d rather play with our kids than clean it up.
  4. We make so many decisions. And decision fatigue is a real thing. Choosing how to respond to the 35 questions a minute wears us out.
  5. We are constantly learning new skills. Each phase of parenting brings new issues to wrap our brains around. Perpetual learning curves take a ton of brain power.
  6. We’re tracking other people’s needs as well as our own. Tuning in to the needs of those depending on us is draining. And it’s what makes us amazing.
  7. Empathy. We feel what our kids are feeling. We model emotional language and coach them through the roller coaster of their hearts. It’s depleting.
  8. We solve problems. In our homes, in our families, in our own lives…all day long.
  9. We forget to feed ourselves. I’m talking food and non-food hungers. We forget to play enough, laugh enough, have enough sex, or take enough adventures. If we’re starving for the things we need, we don’t have enough energy.
  10. We are overstimulated. By the sounds of cartoons and crying, kid songs and light up toys. Our phones are buzzing and our Facebook feed is blowing up. Our brains are fried.

So what do we do about it? For me, finding answers had a sense of urgency. When I’m exhausted, I’m irritated. When I’m tired, I’m yelling. When I’m overstimulated, I truly believe that mothering is too hard for me to do and I better find some way to quit. Not possible. But napping is.

Every day, for somewhere between 10 minutes and an hour, I put on sweatpants (if I’m not wearing them already), turn off all the lights and climb into bed. I turn off my phone. I ignore any mess or anything I have to do. I just close my eyes in the dark and breathe. I don’t usually fall asleep but I lie there and just let my brain relax. I enjoy the silence and the solitude. I truly, deeply rest. Even on days that feel too hard to do. And it’s changing my relationship to stress.

If my kid was too little to go to school, I’d nap during her naps. If she didn’t nap, I’d let the TV babysit her so I could. If I worked out of the house everyday, I’d curl up in my car in a sunshine patch and nap on a lunch break. On the weekends, I ask my wife and daughter to excuse me while I go nap and explain how I am not be interrupted.

Can you see where I’m going with this? Nap at any cost! That’s my fierce belief. Maybe you are not an introvert or as highly sensitive as I am. Maybe you are invigorated by all the stimulation, adrenaline, and multi-tasking. If that’s the case, please offer to take the kids of friend for an hour so they can nap.

Honestly, I value this time above all else because it makes me a saner, happier, more flexible, more playful, and more peaceful version of myself.  Everyone in my family likes this version of me the best. They know Mama’s gotta have her naps. Go get yours!

 

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If I took care of myself like I take care of my daughter…

Foster/Adoption, Gay Parenting, Girl Power, Parenting, Self-care - Allison Kenny - January 26, 2016

…I would…

Rub lavender oil on my feet at bedtime

Cheer myself on when I’m learning a new skill

Add extra hot water to a bath so I could stay in as long as I wanted

 

If I took care of myself like I take care of my daughter, I would…

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What Halloween is teaching me about the power of choice

Foster/Adoption, Girl Power, Tales from the Maxi Pad - Lynn Johnson - October 28, 2015

power of choiceFor Halloween this year, the Squirrel is going to be a cat.  A “spy kitty,” to be exact.  Yes, that means a cat who spies on people.  How cool is that?  

We bought the costume – one of the only age appropriate/not hyper-sexualized cat costumes for young girls – at the Halloween Super Store back in the beginning of October.  She loves it and she can’t wait to premiere it this Saturday.

Last year, just weeks after the Squirrel coming to our home, we got her both an Elsa and an Ariel costume a few days before Halloween.  She couldn’t decide which one to be so, she wore both.

A lot has changed in a year.

Imagine you had to choose between 2 costumes.  In your mind, they are both great ideas.  You love both the dresses.  They both represent what you love most in the world.  How do you decide which one to pick?

Now, imagine that this is your first Halloween in a new city.  In a new home.  You don’t know anyone else your age in the neighborhood, let alone what costumes they will be wearing.  You have no idea who will open the door when you press the doorbell and yell “Trick or Treat!”  And, you are not exactly sure they will be giving out the kind of candy you like.  How do you pick a costume?

Finally – stick with me- imagine that, not only are you in a new city, you are in a whole new family.  Everyone you have ever known is gone.  You are being asked to accept two total strangers as your new parents.  You have no sense of time and space and don’t know if you are coming or going.  You are desperately trying to grab onto anything that you can feel some semblance of control over.

You don’t exactly remember what happened last Halloween and you can’t possibly imagine where you will be next Halloween.  Now, how on earth do you choose a costume?

Researchers studying the impact of trauma on decision-making define decision-making as:

“a complex process that requires identifying alternatives, evaluating their probability and estimating their consequences”

Based on this definition, it is no wonder that both small and large decisions can allude most of us – especially us women and girls who struggle with perfectionism.  Decision-making puts us in the position of having to choose the “right answer” when one rarely exists.  When we are caught up in our own mess of wanting to appear flawless, please others, and avoid the challenging emotions associated with making mistakes, making a choice becomes an extremely difficult thing to do.  Take that perfectionism and add a dose of trauma and you can become completely paralyzed.  

It is no wonder that the Squirrel had to be a Disney Princess mash-up last year.  I remember a time about a year ago when the 3 of us were in a café and we asked her to pick out the sweet treat she wanted.  She couldn’t do it.  She literally worked herself into such a terrible fit over a scone vs. a muffin that we had to leave the café.

What surprises me is how much has changed over the last year.  Just the other day, we were all – once again – in a café.  When it was time for the Squirrel to decide what she wanted to eat, she promptly replied, “A yogurt and a cinnamon roll.  Oh, and one of these fruit snacks!”

“That’s too much.  Just choose 2 things.”

“Okay.  I’ll just have the yogurt and cinnamon roll then.”

On the surface, deciding to eat a cinnamon roll or be a spy kitty for Halloween may seem like no big deal.  But, let’s all remember how complex a process decision-making is.  It’s something all of our girls are practicing and struggling with.  “I’ll have the cinnamon roll” should be greeted with celebration and encouragement.  “Great!  Way to go! Good job making that decision.”

I jumped for joy when the Squirrel chose her Halloween costume this year – and not just because I was completely ecstatic over such a creative, original, non-Disney-licensed choice.  I was excited that she made a choice.  Making this choice shows me that she is much more at peace than she was a year ago.  Her brain has calmed down enough to identify alternatives, evaluate their probability and estimate their consequences.  Her life is stable enough that she is beginning to trust that each choice is not her last choice.  She is easing into the comfort of knowing who and where she is, that there is often no “right answer,” and that she has the power to explore, experiment, and try again.

Like I said, we bought the cat costume weeks ago.  Now, she is beginning to waver on the “spy” part.  “I think I just want to be a regular cat.”  Ugh.  My guess is that, as she is discovering what her friends’ costumes are, she is starting to feel embarrassed by her incredibly unique idea.  We’ll see what happens.  We still have a few days left.

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So Excited for our World Changing Webinar Tomorrow

Foster/Adoption, Gay Parenting, Girl Power, Learning, Parenting - Lynn Johnson - August 4, 2015

Camp 2015 collage

I gotta tell you how excited I am today.

It has been so incredibly satisfying and rejuvenating for both Allison and me to have this opportunity to share our stories on this blog as we make our way down our path to raising a Go Girl!.  We have made this space to write about what we know, what we certainly don’t know, what we wished we had known, and what we are working hard to figure out.  The response we have been getting has been inspiring and has motivated us to keep sharing.

And now, we are taking our storytelling up a notch.

Tomorrow, we will be hosting a free webinar called Raising a Go Girl! where we will share our stories live as we present the art and science behind the learning philosophy of Go Girls! Camp.  We just did a test run of the webinar to work out all of the technical kinks and…can I just tell you…I am so friggin’ excited!  There are dozens of folks signed up ready to hear what we have to say about how the heck we can come together to raise girls to be both powerful and peaceful.

I just can’t wait because I predict this webinar is going to change the world.   I know.  When I say this, it sounds naive.  Like a 1-hour webinar could possible change the world.  When I say this, though, I mean that it will change my world…and that counts.  It will change my world because for years now, I have wished and wanted to be able to share more of my philosophy about raising girls with more people.   But wishing and wanting don’t get us very far.  Doing and planning and intending and trying and expecting, however….that’s what moves mountains.

So, I am excited because I am standing at the base of my mountain and I am ready to push.  I am even going to treat myself tonight to get ready.  Take myself to the mall for a little eyebrow threading and perhaps a new top.  We’ll see what Old Navy has in stock that says “world changing webinar” for about $30 or less.

As readers of this blog, I hope you join us.  Let me know if I picked the right shirt.

 

 

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“This is Hard!”: A Go Girls! Moment

Foster/Adoption, Girl Power, Learning, Parenting - Lynn Johnson - May 7, 2015

It’s okay to try something hard.

This is a phrase you will often hear around Go Girls! Camp in response to “This is hard!,” especially when said in that slightly high pitched, complain-y way with a touch of whine.  “This is haaard!!!”

You have likely heard this said before.  I heard it the other day when Allison and I decided that we would walk the dogs around the block while the Squirrel rode her bike.

When you come out of our house and turn right, there is a slight incline to our street.  The Squirrel was struggling with this incline on this particular day.  She had navigated this route before but, for whatever reason, she had decided that, on this day, “This is haaard!!!”

“It’s okay to try something hard,”  I say.

When faced with a challenge, humans who lack or are not able to access their advance level coping skills go into the fight, flight, or freeze mode.  9 times out of 10, our Squirrel freezes.  Upon hearing my “It’s okay to try something hard,” she stopped riding her bike in the middle of the sidewalk, dropped her head as low as it would go, crossed her arms, and pouted.  I tried coaching her to jump off her bike and push a while.  I encouraged her to ask for help.  I even tried to give her a little push to get her started again.  Nothing.  Just like Queen Elsa, she was completely frozen.  After a few attempts to start again, I ultimately wound up taking her back home while Allison gave the dogs their much needed walk.

“It’s okay to try something hard” is such an essential part of Go Girls! culture that, if you were to ask a camper, “What makes you a Go Girl!?,” you would likely hear “I try my best even when it’s hard.”  This past weekend, Allison and I ran our annual Go Girls! Leadership Team (GGLT) retreat for the middle school girls who work as counselors-in-training at our camps over the summer.  Our opening ritual was that each of us brought and shared a photo of a “Go Girls! Moment” with the rest of the circle.  Pretty much each of the 18 girls shared pics and stories about overcoming some kind of challenge; paddleboarding for the first time; jumping from a tall cliff into a waterfall below; giving a speech; winning a sports competition.  I was so proud of these girls in the this moment, and throughout the weekend, as they continued to say yes to new people and new experiences and build their identity as someone who is ready and willing to accept anything that comes her way.

Our Go Girls Moments

GGLT’s Go Girls! Moments

I thought about how annoyed I had been at my own daughter’s  “This is haaard!!!” and unwillingness to keep going up that hill.  I thought, “I can’t wait until she gets to camp and can spend time with older girls like these.  I need their Go Girls!-ness to rub off on her.”

Then, I thought about it again.  Okay, the Squirrel didn’t continue up that hill on that particular Tuesday afternoon.  But, what about all of the other hills that she has said yes to throughout her life?  Sure, jumping off a cliff is hard.  But so is leaving behind everyone you have ever known to take on a brand new life in a brand new city.  Our Squirrel has never given a speech in front of her classmates, but she has, in just the last 7 months, dared to say yes to new mommies, new dogs, grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, a whole new wardrobe, set of toys, and a brand new community of people.  Every day, she learns words she has never heard before, tastes food she has never tasted before, dances to songs she has never heard before.  Every day, she makes the choice to take one more giant step into this new life that has been thrust upon her.  I don’t know about you, but I would say “This is haaard!!!”

I am excited that the Squirrel will be coming to camp this summer and will be inspired by our amazing GGLT.  I do think that these older girls will have a lot to teach her about being a Go Girl!.  I do hope the experience will help reduce the amount of times she freezes in challenging situations.  However, I also imagine that she won’t just be the student.  I imagine that our Squirrel will have a bit to teach us all about what it really means to try hard things.  I imagine that we will all grow from her example.

What about you?  What’s a time that you are your daughter have faced a challenge and said yes to try hard things?  I’d love for you to share your #GoGirlsMoment with us.

And check out more highlights from our GGLT Retreat…

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The Squirrel finds the Squirrels

squirrels

Our good friends, Doug & Johnny, who gave us last week’s date night, have given us many gifts over the last 6 months.  One of which was this amazing set of squirrels in honor of our own little Squirrel.  Like a squirrel hoarding her nuts, I have kept these little cuties locked up tight.  Mine!  I didn’t want her to have them.

This morning, she found them.  I told her, “Doug and Johnny saw them and were reminded of me.  You know…how I like to call you “Squirrel” sometimes.  She smiled.  She loved that.

Dammit.

She played with them for sooooooo long.  In fact, I left her with them to take my shower and, as I am coming out of the shower, I hear Allison’s voice say:

“No hitting.  Hitting hurts.  Please stop.”

…and…

“You two have to work on your relationship problems.”

…and…

“Even though you are hitting, you are still a good squirrel and I love you.”

She had entered into an imaginative play scenario where the two squirrels were fighting.  Allison grabbed my stuffed elephant, Mai Tai, and made her the teacher, helping them work through the conflict.  Not only did the Squirrel immediately take to these new toys, she was able to access that magical inner wisdom that kids get and use the squirrels to get to work playing through her own hitting issues at school.

Oh. My. God.

Well, I guess I may have to give up my squirrels to the Squirrel.  They are clearly her power animal.   At least I still have Mai Tai.

me and mai tai

She can’t take her away from me.

 

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I’m sorry my kid beat the sh#t out of your kid

Foster/Adoption, Learning, Parenting - Allison Kenny - April 29, 2015

School is hard on lots of kids. I know it. For a long time, my work during the school year was to run friendship circles for girls, present Kidpower in classrooms, and provide social/emotional support during recess. I see what happens when kids get over or under stimulated, when they don’t have enough tools for emotional processing or simply when supervision is limited. School can be a place where emotions run high and hitting feels like the only way.

michelle rodriguez girl fightStill, when I go to pick up the Squirrel from school and she’s in the office…again…my heart sinks. The secretary and her teacher have that harried look like they’ve tried everything and are at their wits end.

The hitting started back in January. Every once in a while, the Squirrel would lash out at a kid who did something she didn’t like. Then, it escalated. Pushing kids out of their chairs, kicking them on the ground, pinching, kicking other girls in the crotch, beating kids with hard plastic jump ropes, hitting the same girl over and over…this has been happening every single day. For months.  Her school threatened suspension. I didn’t know that could even happen in kindergarten.

What is causing this level of acting out? What do we do about it? How out of control she must feel.  Is it the environment? Her past trauma? Frustration over a learning disability? Being away from home too long? All of the above?

Of course, we had an SST with the principal, her teacher and our social worker. We all agreed that, as the Squirrel deepened her attachment to Lynn and I, being away from us for a whole school day, was just too much. She needed to be able to picture where we were and what we were doing. She needed to know we still existed. Like a toddler who circles back around to her mother’s lap 1000 times a day.

So I volunteered in the classroom more, presenting Kidpower skills every week to all the kindergartners. We set up a daily phone call for the Squirrel to hear our voices each morning and picture where we were. We gave stickers and special time with us for each day she kept her hands and feet to herself. We practiced great ways to deal with big feelings in therapy. We repeated how much we loved her and were there to help. Nothing, however, seemed to actually help. The daily beatdowns continued. And she was crying every morning and faking sick to get out of going to school at all.

Finally, our therapist suggested I stay at school with her for a few weeks, like a behavioral aid, and find out more about her triggers. Frustrated and exhausted, I agreed. I saw that the Squirrel behaves very much like a two year old in her classroom. She wants things her way and when they don’t match up, she freezes, fights or flees. It is heartbreaking. Our kid is nowhere near ready for school. There is not enough containment or support in a traditional classroom. And there is not enough mommy. She wanted to be in my lap all day. Being her aide wasn’t sustainable, of course. I lasted less than a week. But I learned a lot. And I switched to picking her at noon every day instead.

Investigating new schooling possibilities has been at the forefront these days. Public school? Private school? Charter school? Homeschooling is not allowed until we formally adopt her. We are not in charge of when that happens. Most folks who have been parents for 6 months don’t have to deal with school at all. I miss that opportunity to get to know my kid at home with the curtains drawn. No sad and sorry looks from teachers with the best intentions. No pressure for the kid to make friends before she actually knows how.

One morning after Spring Break, the Squirrel announced that she had decided not to hit anyone at school. Great choice! She’d never said anything like that. I admit, my hopes were up. Could it be this simple? Did all our interventions finally sink in? Sure enough, the hitting stopped. 4 days of no hitting. 5 days…I started picking her up 30 minutes later each day.

Yesterday, we got to pick up another little girl in class for carpool and the Squirrel was so happy she could barely stand it. They ran down to class together holding hands while I watched. This had never happened! Maybe we’ll make it through the next few weeks to summer and she’ll feel even the littlest bit connected and successful.

But the Squirrel was in the office when I came to pick her up later that day. She had pinched and hit and kicked the very same girl we picked up for carpool. I’m back to picking her up at noon. And I’m up at 4:30 in the morning writing this blog post.  I’m noticing how triggered I am about her hitting. I’m noticing how much I want her to “be a good girl” in school. Mostly, I’m just tired and out of answers. But I’ll help her write her apology card this morning and give it to her friend. I’ll help facilitate the repair and try to trust that at some point she will grow through this. However, I am so frustrated… I could hit someone.


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Wow, thanks Wells Fargo

Foster/Adoption, Gay Parenting, Media - Lynn Johnson - April 28, 2015

This commercial made both Allison and me cry.  Have you seen it?  What do you think?

This is the first commercial in Wells Fargo’s #WhyIWork campaign.  This post on Ad Age says that Wells Fargo “wanted to create a more personal connection with consumers and highlight why people actually work.”  I know.  After all that we’ve gone through with big banks recently, it sounds a little like bullshit.  We’re cynical and jaded, aren’t we? Banks don’t care about us!  They don’t want a personal connection!  All they want is our money.

But, here’s the thing.  I am totally taking my cynical hat off for this one.  Many of us, when asked to describe why we work, would share an answer that has something to do with our family.  I am beyond elated that, in Wells Fargo’s attempt to connect with consumers (whether the connection is authentic or not), they have dared to travel outside of the traditional family box.  They have taken a stand that they intend to hawk their wares to all kinds of families.  So there.

I can say that, as a interracial, lesbian, adoptive family, I have never ever ever seen a family that looks anything like mine on a major commercial.  Big bank or not, I think this is really friggin’ cool.  Thanks Wells Fargo.

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