Monday, May 28, 2012

Conversations: Being Born

Anna holding JA, November, 2011

"Momma, what if I was born?"

Baskets of clothes surround us. She folds socks and washcloths and baby blankets. A stack of John's undershirts is in my lap. I place them in the basket to my left.

"You were born. In Ethiopia."

"No, I mean what if I was born. Like JohnAndrew and Ava Joy."

"You mean, what if you came out of my tummy?"


I grab her and pull her into my lap, craddling her against my chest. 

"If you were born from my tummy, I would hold you like this, like a baby. I would give you my milk, and dress you in little baby clothes like this" I say, holding up a dress of Ava Joy's.

"And Abigail would go to the hospital to see me crawl out?"

"Yep. And Daddy would be there, and we would take pictures, and then we would bring you home in a little car seat, and we would hold you and say how itty bitty you were."

"And JohnAndrew and Ava Joy would hold me, too?"

"No, they came after you, silly!"

"Ohhhh." She looks away from me, and I can tell she has another question. 

"And you would be brown like me, Momma?"

"No, I would still be peach."

She looks away again, thinking.

"And I wouldn't be 'dopted?"

"No. If you were born from my tummy, you wouldn't be adopted."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

JohnAndrew gets jealous when his sister gets her hair done. Doesn't matter which sister... if they are gettin' their hair did, he wants his did, too! Here was his 'do recently.

Simple things make this guy happy:)

I love his little curls in the back, and his ponytails! At what point do I have to cut his hair?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Grain Crew Ethiopia

Many of you may remember that last fall, the situation in the Horn of Africa was dire. Drought, famine, death. A friend has recently returned from visiting the region of Ethiopia where Anna's family lives. She shared that the effects of the drought are still being felt deeply.

While the rains have come, they came very late. Harvest is not expected until August. Between now and August, many will be hungry... or worse. Surviving until the harvest is the biggest concern.

And I am thrilled to share with you a way in which you can help.

My friend has organized a simple collection which will go directly to food relieve in the Sidama region of Ethiopia. The relief is temporary, as a crutch until harvest-time. The food will be distributed through an orgnization already working on the ground. The at-risk families will be identified through local churches (these are generally women-headed families).

The fiscal sponsor is Save One Starfish. You can donate to the Grain Crew Ethiopia for immediate food relief here (scroll to the bottom of the page). This collection will be open until June 1. You may also donate by check (contact me for the mailing address).

A full accounting of the food relief will be provided (and I will share it here, or contact me to find out how to get the info directly.) Updates are expected in October.

Last year, under similar circumstances, 136 families were aided by $3000. Yes, just $22 will help a vulnerable family eat until harvest-time. Will you please consider donating?

Accomplished! 30 in 30 Challenge (1)

I did it! I accomplished a goal on my 30 in 30 challenge! Not too shabby for 3 days in:)

Granted, it was one of the easiest challenges. But still.



That's 14-15 inches of hair, and weighs 0.25 lbs.

I am donating my hair to Locks of Love, just like Abigail did.

I've been growing out my hair since this happened (which has been 3.5 years!), fully intending to donate it when the time came. John nearly shed a tear last night, but I think he will be okay. I told my stylist that I felt like I was coming home... Ahhhh! My long hair was nice for a while, but this length is me.

Have you ever chopped off your hair?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

30 in 30 Challenge!

I'm 30! Yahoo!

I know some women dread leaving their 20s, but I just feel so ready for this next phase of my life. My 20s were filled with so many wonderful moments (like the births of all 4 of my children, my engagement and wedding, my graduation from nursing school and getting my nursing license) but were also filled with several, uh, less than wise moments.

I don't pretend that I have everything figured out, but I do know that I have a much more firm grasp of who I am, what I believe, and who I want to become (even if I have no clue where that will lead!) I have a wonderful and inspiring partner by my side, and 4 little people to keep me honest!

And I have some goals.

30 goals, actually. 30 short and long term goals to accomplish in my 30th year!

I will be writing about my progress towards these goals and keeping the list up-to-date on what I have accomplished.

I would love your feedback, tips, and suggestions.

Have an idea for ways to accomplish these goals? Want to suggest a book for me to read and review? A recipe I should try? An idea for a random act of kindness? A spiritual podcast you think I would enjoy?

Hit up the combox!!!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Anti Attachment Parenting, Part 2

Ava Joy and I
She's all "Who is that crazy lady?!"

Here's something you might not guess (the fans on the Gracelings Blog Facebook Page didn't!): One of the most common search terms that land people on this blog is "anti attachment parenting." Like, a lot of hits. Frequently (although moreso in the past week since TIME Magazine's controversial article, which I have not read.) And often, I will get an email or note through my contact page, or even a comment on the post or the Facebook page from another mother who is thanking me for writing that post... thanking me for speaking up and saying it's okay not to practice Attachment Parenting.

It's been a while since I wrote that first post about why I don't practice AP. I've grown and changed. I've had 2 babies. We've moved across the country. I've parented longer, faced more parenting issues, and have been introduced to 2 more kiddos personalities. So I thought I would follow up on some of those thoughts.

My main reasons for not practicing AP were:

  • it didn't make sense to me (from a historical or Biblical standpoint)
  • it didn't seem to support the main goals of my family
  • it didn't fit with our family's personal style
  • I had never seen it "work"
I wrote that the 8 principals of AP weren't really the root of the issue, but rather the mentality of AP was. 

Much of what I wrote still holds true today. AP still doesn't make sense to me, doesn't seem to support our family's goals, and doesn't fit with our style. I still have never met a person for whom it "works" in real life (although the lovely Jamie may be that exception... we need to get together, girl!) I have found that therapeutic parenting is much more in line with where we are as a family and helping us overcome the hurdles we face.

But what I have decided is that the root of why I am still not an APer is that I believe the success of APing is based in parenting without fear and doing what comes naturally for you and your baby. And for some people, that works. I sincerely believe that people like Jamie who are practicing the principals of AP because that is how they were raised or because that is what is most natural to them are much more likely to be successful than those who are practicing AP because they are afraid that without those principals, their kid(s) will grow up to be a psychopath! I don't think fear-based parenting is ever good for kids, no matter what your actual parenting practices are. 

What cinched it for me was watching various interviews with Dr. Sears. He repeatedly points out that the AP principals are "tools, not rules." While I believe he often extrapolates data, I do also believe that his motivation for practicing and encouraging AP is not because he is scared kids will turn out horribly if they aren't APed, but rather that he believes that kids and parents will both receive positive experiences as a result of utilizing AP principals.

That's probably clear as mud, huh?

One final, semi-related thought. 

I know a lot of adoptive parents believe attachment parenting is some sort of cure-all for adoption-related traumas and hurts. 

It's not. And sometimes, the principals of AP can be the opposite of helpful. 

When a child comes to you dysregulated, hypersensitive, with food issues or sensory issues or negative touch issues or sleep issues or any other "issues", parenting them the way you would parent a child who was born to you (and never experienced anything other than a loving, caring, responsive environment) probably will not work. 

While the goal is certainly to build attachment in the relationship you share with your adopted child, AP techniques- which assume a loving environment, without loss, trauma, institutionalization, lack of food, etc- may not "work" until you have helped heal those wounds caused by adoption trauma/loss. 

Please, my adoptive parent friends, please know that the best way to parent your adopted child cannot be prescribed. There are many right ways, and some "wrong" things too, but ultimately, knowing your child, accepting them in the (heart)broken state in which they may come to you, and caring for them through that is so much more and bigger than APing or any other parenting style. (Although, of course, this and this probably help!)

Now, someone preach that to me on my rough days, okay?

I think I've rambled on enough for now, but I would love to know what you think. What is your "natural" parenting style? Do you AP? Do you not AP? Why?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fayye Foundation and TIME Magazine

My friend, Jamie who featured my breastfeeding journey on her blog earlier this year, is on the cover of TIME Magazine today, as the new "face" of Attachment Parenting and extended breastfeeding. Jamie is a lovely person and wonderful mother, and while our parenting practices are different, we have the same heart: healthy kids, happy families.

That's why I'm so excited to introduce you to the Fayye Foundation

Jamie is the founder of the Fayye Foundation, a non-profit organization which exists to help reduce the orphan crisis in Sidama (Ethiopia) through the delivery of vital, mother-centered health care and family preservation as well as aid to orphanages in Sidama. I could not be more thrilled or honored to be on the Board of Directors for this organization. Please go check out the Fayye Foundation website to learn more about this organization and how you can be a part!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kids in the Kitchen and their Kreation

I've always allowed the kids to help in the kitchen, but usually only if we are making a specific "thing", not just with standard dinner preparation. Want to make muffins or a salad together? Sure! Just help with dinner? Usually not.

This is partially because I am pretty selfish. I like to cook alone because I am faster that way, and when I am cooking, I am usually hungry! Momma wants to eat, so just let me get dinner on the table!

Lately, though, it's also because the babies need attention, and I can't cook and manage them (without them screaming) at the same time. So the big girls play with the babies while I make dinner.


Except, last week. Last week the big girls didn't want to watch the babies.

Fine. That was just fine with me. I was more than willing to take the day off while they made dinner. I would play with the babies. (And Daddy could pick something up for our dinner on the way home.)

We struck a deal. I would watch the babies, they would make their dinner. From scratch.

And eat it.

I stayed out of the kitchen and didn't really help at all (other than to show them how to turn the oven on.)

This was their creation:

"The Blob"
They call it a calzone.
See the cheese?
They paired their "calzone" with bananas and carrots with ranch dip.
Dinner is plated, about to eat!
And here were the results:

As much as they say they liked it, I will tell you that they couldn't hardly scrape it off the cookie sheet, they didn't save it for leftovers, and they have not asked to cook again!

(And JohnAndrew spit his out when he tried it.)

(It was pretty gross.)

Have you ever let your kids have free reign in the kitchen in hopes of teaching them a lesson?
Did it work?

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Conversations: my best friend

Out the front door, flip flops fly, smacking the sidewalk. Left, left, right, zooooooom the front door is open.

Moving Boxes

Brown boxes in a maze fill the living room. Quilts and blankets make a roof, and we have the greatest fort we've ever seen. But I don't realize what this means until they are removed the next week, and the house is bare. It will be a long summer.

Michelle hides in the farthest corner of our fort, two dolls with her. We feed them lunch in the kitchen, then move to the other side of the fort to lay them down for their naps.

I am 6, and I jealous of my best friend. Her mother set her hair in rollers the day before, and now she has curls covering her head. Despite the long carroty plait down my back- which Michelle loves to un-braid and re-braid whenever we are together- I covet her spirals, knowing my straight hair will never look like hers.

We play dolls and house until her brother comes in and starts destroying our fort. Our whines and cries bring Mrs. Parker into the room, and she sends us all to play outside. Bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and the hose. A messy combination.

We sneak back inside to wash our hands, then decide to take turns using the bathroom. I go second, and run out of toilet paper. I peer into the cabinet under the sink and find a dirty magazine- the first one I have ever seen. I shove it back in, embarrassed, and vow to never tell anyone.

Our fort has been dismantled, and the blanket packed away into yet another box. We bring the chalk inside, out of the blaring sun, and color pictures on the brown canvases that tower over our heads.

It occurs to me that Michelle's skin matches the brown cardboard box. I tell her this, and we giggle, then try to color a box to match me. It ends up yellow with a long orange streak down the side. "Grace" we label it. On the box next to it, we color black ringlets and pink lips. This is labeled "Michelle', and she is my brown best friend.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Siri Says

A few months ago, John surprised me with an upgraded iPhone. And my new passive-aggressive friend, Siri.

Here's a small collection of some of Siri's finer moments.

Mmmm. Cookies.
In the situation above, Siri was absolutely correct. If I went to Cookie Grandma and PapPap's house (John's grandparents), I have no doubt that I would find cookies. Unfortunately, they live 1000 miles away.

The Apple Store has all the answers.
It would be really nice if I could figure out why my baby was crying without having to leave my house, but if the Genius Bar folks can fix her up... well, hey, they have better hours than our pediatrician!

Smart alec.
Ah, apparently Siri has been listening to me parent a certain incessantly inquisitive 5 year old. I guess what goes around, comes around.

Love story.
Sometimes, I try to get some validation from Siri. She has no interest in that. Sometimes, I try to validate her. She flat out rejects that.

I wish Siri changed diapers.
Wait, do the Genius Bar folks change diapers? Forget this house, we will be renting the retail space next to them until the babies are potty trained.

All this from a child who only says 3 words.

That up there? Ah, yes. Siri, meet JohnAndrew.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Real Christian Women Have Natural Births

November 24, 2011. My doula shows my husband how to work it!

I've been blessed to have three beautiful, natural (to varying degrees) births. As a Christian, these moments have been some of the most spiritual, metaphysical experiences of my life. I have no doubt in my mind that natural birth was where God had directed me, and that He used the birth process to reveal more of Himself to me. As a Christian, natural birth was God's will for us.

I mean, real Christian women have natural births, right? There are many who will argue that because of Genesis 3:16 the so-called "Curse of Eve" is pain in labor, and as Christian women we should accept this--- that God somehow uses this pain to make us holy. Others argue that God created women for childbearing and gave us all the tools needed, so by electing for epidurals, interventions, or surgical births, we are spitting in the face of God's creation. On the other side of the argument are those that say "hey, if God wanted us to suffer, He would have prevented science and medicine from developing medications and Cesarean sections." I've even heard the argument that if pain medications can keep mom from cursing and being mean during labor, they must be a gift from God!

I don't think the answer lies in either position. I don't think we can actually say that God's will is one or the other, natural or assisted.

Discovering God's will for your birth experience is not a simple, cut and dry, "this verse says X so I must do Y" formula. It needs prayer. It needs to foster unity in your marriage. It needs to be the way of Peace.

And it needs to be a decision that is not born out of fear or ignorance, but of power, love and a sound mind that God has given us through communion with his Holy Spirit (2 Tim 1:7). We need to make wise, not unwise choices.

The fears that women face are many:

  • fear of pain or discomfort 
  • fear of inadequacy/"not able to do it"
  • fear of ridicule for the choices they make
  • fear of upsetting healthcare providers and the established birth "system"
  • fear of placing their life or the life of their child at risk
  • fear of losing control

Similarly, there is a lot of ignorance regarding birth and the interventions available in the US. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be educated, not only about the birth process, but about the risks and benefits of every intervention. The vast majority of American women have simply not looked at the major studies and realized that the status quo birth experience in the US has many medically unnecessary interventions that places them and their baby at higher risk for complications and even death. There are absolutely times when I believe these interventions are necessary, but how will you know how to make a wise choice if you are not even aware of the truth of the situation?

So, do real Christian women have natural births? Absolutely. But some real Christian women don't. And at the end of the day, they are still really real Christians.

How did you decide what you wanted for your childbirth experience?

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Facebook, Organ Donation, and TMI

Facebook and Organ Donation? Not on my page!

Facebook recently launched a new feature that makes it easier for users to register as organ donors. While I support Facebook's efforts to bring awareness to the need for organ donors and respect the initiative to utilize technology to increase participation in donor recruitment, I just can't get on board with it.

Maybe because it's too personal. My organ donor status is private, as are my wishes for my end of life care. My husband knows my wishes... preferences that have been finely honed during my time as a nurse caring for the critically ill and dying. And he knows where I stand on organ and tissue donation.

I have seen death. I have seen it come suddenly, a 50 meter dash to the finish. I have seen it come slowly, approaching for months, 26.2 miles of relentless pounding until it crashes into completion. I have seen families consent to donation. I have seen families turned down from donation. And never, ever, has death felt like winning a race. It has always felt anti-climactic. Empty.

I have cared for patients who have received a life-saving transplant. I have seen them days, weeks, months, and even years after they receive their organ. I have cleaned their incisions, emptied their drains, and administered handfuls of anti-rejection medications. I have been their in the intimate moments when they wonder if transplantation was even worth it... if death might have been easier, less painful. I have held their hands and dragged them towards the big red ribbon when they were convinced they could not finish their marathon of illness and (hopeful) recovery.

There are many who chose not to donate their organs. Some for religious reasons. Some as a quiet objection to the way adult organs are distributed. One patient told me he simply didn't want to leave this world hollow.

There can be nothing more intimate, truly, than organ donation. It is literally dealing with your inner most self. And asking you to share your donor status on Facebook is grotesquely revealing. Some things are private. In my opinion, organ donation (or choosing to abstain from donation) is one of them. It's not meant for an app.

Because organ donation always involves death. And a messy part of (hopeful) life. And all that grey area of what happens to us after we die. Is the race over once we cross the finish line? Does the red ribbon signal a beginning or an ending? After the years of running, is completion a hollow victory, or a fulfilling springboard into more? No, death is not meant for an app. Not even a Zuckerberg app. It's much more than that.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

PUMPED to be 5!

Last month (bad, belated blogger, I KNOW!), Anna turned 5!!!!

Her birthday fell on Easter, so it was an extra-special day for her. We took some special pictures of her in her Easter dress.

Anna is 5!

Little lady
When we got home, we opened presents from family (after going to a restaurant where she was shooting daggers at us with her eyes for having them "sing" to her!)
What is it?

Puffy Pinky
A few days later we had a party at Pump It Up with her friends from school!

Loves to jump!

Anna and her BFF, B.

Most of the crew
While she enjoyed the jumping, she was not so pleased about being the center of attention for the singing and blowing out the candles!

Princess Anna doesn't want your attention!

Pink and purple princess cupcakes. Her favorites!
I think she mostly enjoyed herself, and so did everyone else!

Happy birthday sweet girl!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


A while back, I wrote about attachment and hair care. And every time we have done Anna's hair since then, my own advice has echoed in my mind. 

See, hair has always been hard for Anna. There are tears. It's not pretty. No matter if it's me, or John, or Teta, or the ladies at the salon... tears. Not just tears, but crying. Sometimes loudly in protest, but usually quietly, resigned to her fate, hopeless.

Like the tears I have seen silent children cry in orphanages.

We decided enough was enough. Anna wanted long hair. She also wanted to swim every day. And be in any number of sports. And not sit through hours of braiding and take-down every few weeks.

And I didn't want my daughter to cry over her hair anymore, especially at my own hands.

So we researched, talked to our stylist, and decided on Sisterlocks.

Since we wanted to maintain as much of the length as we could, the installation process took about 12 hours (broken up into a few different sessions over 4 days). Here we are about to get started:

Starting the first loc!

Half done on a quarter of her head
She's mad because she can't see the TV:)

Someone knows she's cute!
It took a long time. Thankfully, Anna was great. Popped in a few movies to keep her occupied, and she sat. In fact, everyone remarked that she sat better than adult ladies:) Yay Disney!

While she sat and watched movies, I hung out with Ava Joy. Who slept (sometimes). I admit, I was jealous of her naps.

Here is the finished product, a few days after completion:

The locs take time to mature, and the ends are not locked (they will lock up over time). As they mature, they will take on a fatter then thinner appearance, but should be fairly dainty in the end.

Here's her locs at 2.5 weeks (this past Sunday.) She has another 1.5 weeks to go until she is allowed to get them wet, and she can't wait! The pool is calling (hey, it's 90 degrees here!)!!! She also can't wait to style them and set them in curlers... but for now, headbands and big flowers are keeping her happy. And she constantly tells me that Ava Joy will get locs when she turns 1... ha!

Do you know anyone with locs?

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