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I Can’t Wait to Hold Your Hand

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

Photo Credit: Licensed under the Public Domain by the National Cancer Institute.

Photo Credit: Licensed under the Public Domain by the National Cancer Institute.

Ah, sweet summertime… those lazy, hazy days. The days are lighter and brighter, the pace of life seems to slow down, and families get to spend more time together. And that’s what all moms and dads look forward to, right? Time spent with their children.

Funny, though, I don’t always hear that from parents. In fact, many times I hear quite the opposite. In May, I attended a fellowship dinner for my church. The conversation soon turned to children—about how fast kids grow and about the many changes they go through.

I sensed where all this was going because many times while talking with a friend or family member, at some point during the conversation they begin complaining about their children. Now, I do realize that this is likely not ever meant in a derogatory way; nor is it an expression of these parents’ true feelings for their kids. They probably just feel comfortable venting their frustrations to me, and unloading their feelings about their children’s antics and behaviors. Sometimes, these parents may even use humor in their ranting in order to defuse conflicts with their children when they later interact. That is actually a positive approach to dealing with many family situations.

Honestly, though, I have never really known how to respond to this manner of complaining simply because I don’t share these feelings about my son. My husband and I were no less than tortured for years by the many circumstances, and seemingly unending losses, surrounding the building our family. When our child was finally born and ready for us to adopt him, we were so overcome with emotion and filled with joy that we didn’t even have words. Although perhaps it will be hard for some to believe this, my husband and I used to “argue” over which of us wanted to get up with our son for the next middle of the night feeding. No, I am not kidding!

Sometimes, we would resolve to getting up together and sharing in this late-night ritual because we knew it was a special, treasured time that would all-too-soon be gone. And, it was. For our son began growing—sometimes in faster spurts than others—and never stopped. He has continued to grow up and fill out. We also know that once he reaches his destined height, he will continue his growth emotionally and spiritually.

We never can turn back the hands of time.

Speaking of hands… In reference to her children’s rapidly growing bodies over the years, one woman in our fellowship group said:

“One day you go to hold their hand and you see that it is actually—a hand!”

The talk continued, round the dinner table, with every member contributing toward the “kids these days” conversation. It seems that at every stage of my child’s life, I hear something from someone about how I should prepare for what lies ahead – what lies “in wait” (cue the Evil laugh–heh heh heh–here). I have already passed many of these supposedly dreaded stages – the terrible two’s, which is the year of public meltdowns and tantrums; the threshold three’s, which is when your child is older yet not old enough; the ferocious four’s, which is the year of independence wars; and the stage I’m in now ….. the fighting five’s, which is a year that will bring more I-can-do-it-myself battles. And through this all I wonder: Just when will these behaviors drive me to the brink of, well—complaining?

I do recognize that all of the behaviors observed and described by child development experts, and many parents, are categorized as general attitudes and behaviors that will likely be seen at some point during a child’s second year of life, third year of life, etc.; as well as in varying degrees of frequency and intensity, within that given year. However, I truly do feel as though my son and I do not fit in with the: My-Kids-Drive-Me-Nutty Club simply because… well, he doesn’t.

From the moment I brought my son home, and as I have watched him grow, I can honestly say I have enjoyed every age/stage/phase/and “fad” that has shown itself in his development. Initially, I did think I would have a hard time “Saying Goodbye to the Baby Years,” especially since my son is an only child.

Yet, it seems that as he grows, my son only becomes more wonderful—more adorable and fun to spend time with; more intuitive and sensitive; more curious and inquisitive; and more helpful and loving. So, I honestly can’t complain when the complaining wheel begins turning around my social and professional circles.

As I wake up each day to my beautiful little boy, growing big... I look at him, grin, and think:

I can’t wait to hold his great BIG hand!

We're "keeping it under our hats"... truth is, we have no complaints!

We’re “keeping it under our hats”… truth is, we have no complaints!

How do you handle being on the receiving end of parents’ complaints about their children? Do you perceive these “vent sessions” as a healthy, positive coping strategy? Or as having a negative effect on one’s parenting? Do you participate in, or even initiate, these kinds of discussions? Also, do you have tips for dealing with the inevitable growth and moving on of our children? How can we keep our relationships with our kids warm, loving, and strong – without causing them to feel “smothered?” 

We look forward to reading your thoughts!

 

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Grafting Onto Your Family Tree

No matter how "rooted" your family tree is in blood ties --  there is always room to grow lush, beautiful branches that sprout from true friendships! Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

No matter how “rooted” your family tree is in blood ties — there is always room to grow lush, beautiful branches that sprout from true friendships! Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

*In collaboration with Chris Little

When I think about family trees, my mind naturally drifts to how different so many families look than they did in the generations of our parents and grandparents. The “faces” of families today are much more diverse – for reasons such as interracial marriage and building a family through adoption. Nowadays, a family is often comprised of different skin colors, ethnicities and cultures.

As I think about this concept further, I also consider what – or should I say who, really makes up a family tree. Is it biological members of a family – those with only true blood ties to the family line? Or, can a family unit be more than that? I wonder too … if family is also supposed to be about love for one other, and about taking care of one other, and about respecting one other – then what if that is not happening with certain so-called “family members.” Then, are they your family? And then further … are the special people in your life who “make up for” those sour relationships – who do love, care for and respect you, are they your family?

In other words, is a family bound by blood … or love?

I will be very bold and say that I do not consider every person in my blood-related family to be my family. There are a few members in my family who do not exhibit the traits I consider to be worthy of family; and therefore I avoid them as much as I can, and certainly do not let them know much about my life nor infringe upon it. Yes, I feel they are that toxic.

Aside from this, our son is adopted. If I thought that family was only about blood ties, I could not possibly have become his mother. In my opinion, a family is less about blood ties and more about a culture. The term culture encompasses ethnicity, racial identity, family structure, economic level, language, and religious and political beliefs – all of which profoundly influence a person’s development and relationship to the world, from birth and childhood on. And, therefore, also how they integrate into a family and take part in that family unit. So in my mind – and in my world, family is built by choice. The “family tree,” therefore, is not so much about where the trunk of the tree first took seed, or how the roots took hold in the ground – rather about the many thick branches and lush leaves that grew from that initial form.

It is so very difficult for me to understand how others cannot see beyond how a child comes into a family and simply acknowledge that it is a true blessing that the child is there. Perhaps, though, that is because I have experienced the love of those family members in my life with whom I share not one ounce of blood. When I look back on my childhood, I see clearly how in many ways those special people were more of a family to me in the true meaning and experience of the word than many of my “blood” relatives. Just as some people remark that they “don’t see race” (I laugh heartily when Stephen Colbert humorously states this on his television show) as a factor in how they interact with people from ethnicities other than their own, I don’t see how inherited physical and personality traits such as daddy’s eye color, mommy’s nose, and grandpa’s sense of humor are at all relevant in how a family lives and loves together.

The credit for my point of view on this subject really must go to my amazing mother. Unknowingly, she is the one who taught me about the beauty of building a family through adoption. My mother was an “only child” and since she grew up without siblings, she built her family through friends with whom she became close over the years. Therefore, my aunts and uncles on my mom’s side of the family were introduced into my life from those friendship bonds. And guess what? I was none the wiser. There was no talk of how “Aunt So-and-So isn’t my ‘real’ aunt,” nor lengthy explanations and justifications as to why “Mr. and Mrs. X” became my grandparents. I did not find this at all unusual – it just was.

My mother's dear friend who became my aunt holds my son when he was a baby.

My mother’s dear friend, who became my aunt, holds my son when he was a baby.

As an example, there were two wonderful married couples who were very good friends of both my parents, and who then became my aunts and uncles – Don and Louise, who were my godparents and have both since passed away; and Bob and Nancy, who continue to be such a delightful presence in my family’s life.

Two sets of other “relatives” in particular influenced my life in some very profound ways. I can tell you that I have definitely “inherited” my Aunt Mary Alice’s flair for entertaining masses of people in my home without breaking a sweat. Her grace and class, and the way her home made an open, welcoming haven for traveling family and friends no matter what else she had going on in her life, astounds me even to this day. She also imparted to me the importance of moisturizing one’s entire body with lotion daily – clearly a beauty regiment necessity!

I remember my mother once remarked to me about Mary Alice saying, “She saved my life,” as her eyes welled up with tears. You see, Mary and her husband, Bob, had become more than just my mother’s dear friends – they became her family when she had none. It is amazing to me how anyone upon hearing this story could continue to think that a blood tie alone to another person makes them family in the true meaning of the word!

A couple of years toward the end of my Aunt Mary’s life, I had the pleasure of flying to Colorado from time to time where my aunt and uncle lived. My dear Aunt Mary had been very ill for some time, and along with her physical ailments, had begun to show early signs of dementia. Although my Uncle Bob had weekly help in his home and was able to take breaks from caring for my aunt round the clock, I wanted to be present during this difficult time for them both whenever I could. I wanted to help too. I wanted to give something back – no matter how small, to the people who are forever bound to me through love. To my family.

As I stayed present with my Aunt Mary while Uncle Bob played cards with his friends and went to the movies; as I helped to feed and dress her; as I looked into her eyes and smiled; I was overcome with emotion. These people had become my true family and I was so much closer to them than many of those who share inherited traits with me. When my aunt passed away, my heart broke in places I didn’t know it could – I had lost a big piece of it.

I had a similar experience growing up with my grandmother and grandfather. Both of my parents’ fathers had died before I was born, and my paternal grandmother passed away after having seen me only once when I was just an infant. My maternal grandmother battled cancer throughout my childhood and passed away when I was in the ninth grade. So the grandparents I refer to were not the biological parents of either my mom or my dad – they were actually our neighbors.

When my mother returned to work after raising us, she turned to a retired woman in the neighborhood who babysat regularly for help with our afterschool care. To our family however, Edna and her husband, Septimus, became so much more – they became our grandmom and grandpop. I cannot put into words what a special part of my life they became, sharing everything from school days to birthdays. Septimus passed away when I was a freshman in college and when my beloved grandmother passed away in 2001, I felt as though a piece of my life had died too. I assure you that in all the years I was blessed to have her in my life, her homemade cookies, cakes and pies tasted no less delicious; and her presence in my life was no less special, because we were not related by blood.

My "family tree" continues ... my dear friend Alice has now become an aunt to my son!

My “family tree” branches out … my dear friend Alice has now become an aunt to my son!

Now the same need for family must be fulfilled for my son. He too is an only child, and my husband and I are not close with all of our immediate family members. So we are forming a family for him – growing and adding branches to our tree trunk. We have looked outside of our family members for those special relationships of aunts, uncles, and cousins. My best friends and their families have been very present in my son’s life. In fact, my son calls them aunts, uncles and cousins; and just as I did growing up, doesn’t seem to think anything of it. For they are the ones who make the effort to stay in touch across the miles, to send my son special gifts, to visit or host us when we visit them. They are the ones who support us in raising him, uplift us when we experience life’s challenges, and celebrate when we share our joys. They are our family and we treasure them!

The expression, “Blood is thicker than water,” is a misrepresentation of family life. It simply is not true. Although it is sad to say, when you go through a really difficult time in your life, you may well find that those still standing by your side at the end may not be your blood relatives!

In my blog, “Blood is Thicker Than Water and Other Misrepresentations of Family Life,” I share a story which illustrates further my thoughts about true family

My husband and I had been following the Camelot television series and during one episode, Arthur spoke to a man who was afraid of losing his daughter if she ever discovered that he was not her biological father. When Arthur spoke, my husband and I just looked at each other and smiled – finally, a script writer who truly “gets” adoption, who truly understands that families can be built by choice as well. To the man, Arthur said, “It’s not blood that ties you together; it’s the memories you share. Everything you taught her, everything you gave up for her – it’s your love, that’s what flows through her.”

Enough said!

Do you have a special person who has become family even though they are not related by blood? Are there people in your life you consider family members just as much as your biological relatives – and whom you would add to your family tree? Our OTMGR community would be interested to hear your story about those treasured relationships!

Recommended Reading: Children’s Book List for Adoptive Families

Photo credit: Lutheran Services of Georgia

Photo credit: Lutheran Services of Georgia

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

When your family is built through adoption, it is natural to want some of the literature in your child’s book collection to reflect positive story lines and images of this special way to create a family. Yet, believe it or not, families searching for positive children’s books about adoption need to be very cautious in their choices. There are children’s books about adoption that do not use positive adoption language throughout the text; nor portray adoption in a consistent positive manner through the story line, and illustrations and images used. Whether your adoptive family members are all of the same race, or you are a multi-race / multi-cultural family, it is important to help your child develop a healthy perception of how he or she came into this world and became a part of your family. Therefore, the concept and portrayal of adoption must be presented in a positive light, and positive adoption language should be used throughout the entire story.

It may sometimes be difficult to explain to your young child or children how they came to be a member of your family, and to tell them their “story.” It may also be hard to explain why the members of your family have different skin colors, or even different skin shades within the same color. In my family, we have found it helpful to be open and honest with our son about his adoption “story” from the very beginning. In addition, we celebrate our different skin colors and heritages. Letting our little boy know that the way we became a family is special, yet not unique to just our family, has given him a tremendous sense of appreciation – and even pride, for who he is; and for our close-knit, loving family. Our deliberate efforts to communicate positive feelings of adoption to him, and to educate him about the concept of adoption (dispelling some of the ridiculous myths out there!), has also been supported by positive adoption literature.

There are so many books with adoption-related themes for young children that it can be overwhelming to sort through them all. Photo credit: NestedUniverse.net

There are so many books with adoption-related themes for young children that it can be overwhelming to sort through them all. Photo credit: NestedUniverse.net

There are so many adoption-themed books for children of all ages and types of families that you could spend an eternity trolling through them online. In addition to ones I am familiar with, in putting together this blog piece I found an overwhelming amount of others I was interested in exploring further – yet far too many to review in a short block of time! After you explore the book list I have to share, feel free to conduct your own online search as I think you will be surprised at the variety of literature that exists. I just caution you to choose carefully from among them as some can be deceptive.

An example of a book that “looks good” upfront is When God Found Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren (Ages 3 – 7). For any adoptive family, the words you choose to explain your child’s adoption / birth story will greatly impact how they feel about themselves and how they came into this world. It is bad enough listening to the words complete strangers – even family and friends, utter that just perpetuate the myths about adoption. In this story, when Little Fox asks his Mama why he couldn’t stay with the mother who had him (referring to his “birthmother”) her response is, “She must have had very big reasons to give you up. She must have thought it was best for you.” What??! Ugh – This book is so beautifully written otherwise; and in other places the book does positively explain the “concept” of adoption. That is why it greatly disappointed me to read those three words: “give you up.” Now you may think, “Well, I know what the author is trying to/means to say, yet the reality is that she isn’t saying it in a way that uplifts what adoption really is all about. Those three words perpetuate a major myth, and perhaps one of the most misunderstood concepts, of adoption: that a birthmother simply “gives up” / “gives away” a child she has given birth to – an easy-as-pie decision, right? Wrong! Anyone who has been through the adoption process (on either end – birthparent or adoptive parent) knows the decision to make an adoption plan and to adopt a child are far from frivolous, spare of the moment … or easy! If the author would just revise this part of the book it would be much improved! Do you see how just that one little word or phrase in a story can make all the difference in what determines a “positive” children’s book about adoption?

Another such example of a negative portrayal of adoption actually comes from a very well-known book called A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza. I would like to say that is due to its copyright date of 1992, though I am sorry to say that even in the year 2014 adoption myths have not changed much. It appears that this story is helping children to see that in the end family members do not have to look the same to be a family – definitely a positive theme. Howeverin the story, Choco the little yellow bird sets off desperately looking for a mother. Now, that is not a typical adoption scenario for a baby or young child – even for an older child. I just found the story line odd, and depressing – at one point in the book, Choco cries, “Mommy, mommy, I need a mommy!” How heartbreaking

One thing I found helpful before considering the purchase of any of these books is to listen to a reading on You Tube. Whereas I could not locate all of the stories, and sometimes the people reading the books weren’t always – well, shall I say, “readers” this was a wonderful way to preview the complete book and view the illustrations to get a truer sense of the story line. I listened to I Wished for You: An Adoption Story by Marianne Richmond (listed below) and discovered it is a beautiful book – now in my Amazon shopping cart! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSCYO1aGims) Other adoption book titles that may be worth exploring, since the online reviews from professionals and readers were overwhelmingly positive, are: A Blessing From Above by Patti Henderson (c 2004 – Little Golden Book; has a religious theme), Over the Moon: An Adoption Tale by Karen Katz (2001; explores international adoption), and Sweet Moon Baby by Karen Clark (2010; explores adoption from China).

My son's birth and homecoming were very special, and we want to be sure he knows that!

My son’s birth and homecoming were very special, and we want to be sure he knows that!

Below is a list of books which beautifully reflect two concepts: 1) adoption and what a special way it is to build a family; and 2) how differences in skin color, race and culture actually unite us in a global heritage. Through supportive, uplifting and inspirational language, imagery and pictures, these books help you and your child celebrate your special family (which may be a glorious mixture of colors and heritages, as is ours) in a joyful way!

Children’s Book List for Adoptive Families

1) Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born

Copyright 1996 by Jamie Lee Curtis

A young girl asks her mother and father to tell her again about the night of her birth, a cherished tale she knows well. This is a heartwarming story, interspersed with humor shared through the illustrations; not only of how one child is born, yet of how a family is born. Rather than delving into the complex dynamic that adoption brings to a family, the book simply affirms family love and how excited children are to hear the story of their birth and adoption – over and over again! Recommended Age: 4 and up.

2) I Wished for You: An Adoption Story

Copyright 2008 by Marianne Richmond

This beautiful story follows a conversation between Barley Bear and his Mama as they curl up in their favorite cuddle spot and discuss how they became a family. Barley asks Mama the questions many children who are adopted have, and his Mama lovingly answers them all. Recommended Age: 2 and up.

3) The Day We Met You

Copyright 1997 by Phoebe Koehler

This is a special picture book that takes a peek at a couple lovingly preparing their home for a baby whom they will adopt. Children who are adopted really enjoy and appreciate hearing their homecoming stories over and over, and this book encourages those retellings. Recommended Age: 2 and up.

4) Happy Adoption Day!

Copyright 2001 Lyrics by John McCutcheon

This book shares an adaptation of McCutcheon’s song which commemorates the day when a child joins an adoptive family. It also comes complete with musical notation and full-color illustrations. The joyful, rhyming verses reassure children who are adopted that they are special! Recommended Age: 3 and up.

5) All the Colors of the Earth

Copyright 1994 by Sheila Hamanaka

A celebration of children and all the beautiful colors they come in – the colors of love!

6) My Little Miracle

Copyright 2002 by J. Beck

A delightfully written little book welcoming babies of all colors and cultures to the magic of discovery this world holds.

7) The Skin You Live In

Copyright 2005 by Michael Tyler

A wonderful rhyming book showing how very special it is to be in the skin you are in – no matter what its color!

8) The Colors of Us

Copyright 1999 by Karen Katz

Bold, delightful illustrations and a wonderful story celebrate our diversity, and deliver a poignant message: Love the skin you have!

9) Whoever You Are

Copyright 1997 by Mem Fox

A beautiful and poignant book, this links us all together despite our different appearances, languages, interests, and lives.

Has your family been built by adoption, or do you have ties to one that has? Do you work in the adoption field in some capacity? Or, have you simply discovered any “must reads” for children that reflect adoption in a positive way – with words and through images? If so, please help us grow the list above for our readers who are part of the adoption community!

A Gift from My Father

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

On Thursday, October 3, my father passed away. He was not only an accomplished individual, yet he was a wonderful dad. A hole has been left in my heart and a special part of my life is now missing because he was a dedicated follower (and fan!) of Off the Merry-Go-Round. In my life, he was the biggest supporter of all my writing pursuits and professional accomplishments. He was also the person who supported me most as an adoptive parent.

That now sometimes makes it hard for me in both these areas of my life because they are the two most important things to me, and I am missing his words of encouragement. On a positive note, though, as he knew he was becoming weaker he began writing me more letters than usual with encouragement in those areas – all of which I saved. When I feel ready to re-read them, I think it will be then that I fully realize that I still and always will, have his love and support with me.

Dad was my biggest supporter as an adoptive parent.

Dad was my biggest supporter as an adoptive parent.

In the end, my family and I were blessed to have Dad with us for as long as we did – he was 94 years old and fully cognizant until his last breath. His heart basically just gave out that morning as my mother sat down beside him on the bed to ask how he was feeling that day. So, he left this world with my mother by his side and, though he was transported to the hospital, for the most part his last moments were in the beautiful farmhouse they lived in for 49 years, and which he treasured so much.

As my Dad got older, I used to think that although of course I would be sad when he passed away I would feel more matter-of-fact about his death because he had lived so long and, well, “that’s life.” Now, however, I realize that no matter how old your parents are, it hurts to lose them and though of course that raw pain will soften over time, it will never completely go away.

Despite my father passing away when my son was 4 years old, his memory will live on in the every day little things my son and I do together - which are similar to what Dad did for me.

Despite my father passing away when my son was 4 years old, his memory will live on in the every day little things my son and I do together – which are similar to what Dad did with me.

For awhile, it was a little difficult to get back to life – especially to my writing, and I basically cancelled writing, and life, for October. My OTMG colleagues were wonderful to fill in for me, and I am so appreciative of all they did for me and for my family to honor my father’s memory.

I dedicate this blog piece, and the rest of my writing (and living!) career, to my beloved father, R. Winfield Smith. Below is a piece I had published in the Summer 2006 edition of Faith & Family magazine in their Summer Lights section which was titled, “Daddy’s Girl Still.” The poem that accompanies it I had written shortly after I received the necklace mentioned.

I love you, Daddy – always.

“Daddy’s Girl Still”

For a little girl, a father is a very special person. He can be her light in a world of darkness. He can be the rock she clings to when she is battered about in life’s storms. He can be a constant presence in the changing seasons of life.

On my 12th birthday, my father gave me a garnet necklace accompanied by a note explaining that the garnet is my birthstone. This year, I am 38 years old, and my beloved dad turned 87. After all of this time, he still has a handwritten note I scrawled in pencil as a “thank you” for that gift. Although the writing has faded noticeably over the years, it is still legible.

Dad still has my thank-you note, and I still have his necklace.

A Gift From My Father

Books that Help Nurture Your Child’s Faith

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

A Bible you can sleep with!

A Bible you can sleep with!

No matter what your religious beliefs, practices or denomination, if you are looking to nurture your child’s faith there are some wonderful children’s books that can help. You may also find that one or more of these books would make a nice christening or baptism gift, or would be welcomed by family and friends and their little ones on any occasion!

Below is a list of books which retell familiar Bible stories and set Biblical themes in accurate historical contexts as far as the culture and people of those times. Likely, Jesus was not as fair skinned as some artwork and pictures in books portray, nor were all the people of the region He lived in! Babies, young children, and families from different cultures and countries are represented in these beautiful, true-to-life books. Additionally, many of these books retell a prayer or Psalm against the backdrop of various cultures, or within a particular situation. Through uplifting and inspirational language, imagery and pictures, these books will delight and comfort children while developing their knowledge of the Bible and promoting their religious growth.

 

There are wonderful books that can help you nurture your child's faith.

There are wonderful books that can help you nurture your child’s faith.

1) Baby’s Hug-a-Bible

Copyright 2010 by Sally Lloyd Jones

Yes, a Bible you can snuggle withThis board book with begging-to-be-cuddled cover shortens and retells familiar Bible stories in a rhyming format for babies to enjoy too!

2) The Beginner’s Bible

Copyright 2005 by Mission City Press

Timeless Bible stories are shortened for your toddler to enjoy with lots of colorful illustrations – complete with dictionary in the back.

3) Children of Color Storybook Bible

Copyright 2001 by Children of Color / Illustrated by Victor Hogan

For the older child, this is the first translation of the Holy Scriptures for children. It relates their current heritage and history to the events and stories in the Bible, helping them to understand that these stories are a part of that heritage. A wonderfully written introduction helps parents and religious instructors with suggestions for how to best use the book.

4) Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Copyright 1994 by Debbie Trafton O’Neal

With large, bright illustrations, this is a truly fun book to enjoy with action prayers, poems, and songs for bedtime.

5) My First Prayers and Psalms

Copyright 1999 by Random House Lap Library / Illustrated by Anna Curti

A sturdy board book for little ones to enjoy prayers and Psalms throughout all times of the day.

6) The Lord’s Prayer

Copyright 2000 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers / Illustrated by Tim Ladwig

A beautiful book illustrated in watercolor using a glazing technique, The Lord’s Prayer is based on the true life of an African American man and highlights the way he gives back to God’s Kingdom. A positive role model for us all!

7) Psalm Twenty-Three

Copyright 1993 by African American Family Press / Illustrated by Tim Ladwig

This amazing book, by the same illustrator as The Lord’s Prayer, is set against the dramatic backdrop of the inner city and features an extended family raising two children in a safe home filled with an abundance of love. These powerful images bring this prayer to life for us all, no matter what our race or background.

8) A Child’s Prayer

Copyright 1989 by Jeanne Titherington

Featuring a beautiful little boy, this book takes a familiar prayer and turns it into an exciting bedtime adventure that will uplift your spirits and lift up your faith!

9) My Spiritual Alphabet Book

Copyright 2000 by Holly Bea

This book is a wonderful way to introduce and teach the alphabet to young children within a biblical and multi-cultural context.

10) 5-Minute Bible Stories

Copyright 2006 by Publications International, Ltd. / Adapted by Brian Conway and Illustrated by Claudine Gevry

This book contains familiar Bible stories, appropriately shortened and accompanied by illustrations which feature multiple cultures and skin colors.

11) God’s Dream

Copyright 2008 by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams / Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

What is God’s dream for us – children and adults alike – and the world in which we live? Read this moving, poetic book and find out! A must-read for us all!

Please feel free to add other books to this list, and share with us any that particularly stand out for you. Perhaps that will be a book that nurtured your faith as you were growing up!

“Recommended Reading: Children’s Book List for Multi-Cultural Families”

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

First thing in the morning, we early risers welcome the day with my son's "warm cocoa dream" skin and my Irish-red "cherry topped, candy dropped" skin -- a beautiful contrast! For the record, daddy's skin shade is "butterscotch gold." (Skin shades determined from the book, The Skin You Live In).First thing in the morning, we early risers welcome the day with my son’s “warm cocoa dream” skin and my Irish-red “cherry topped, candy dropped” skin — a beautiful contrast! For the record, daddy’s skin shade is “butterscotch gold.” (Skin shades determined from the book, The Skin You Live In).

Whether your family is multi-race or multi-cultural due to an interracial marriage or adoption, it may sometimes be difficult to explain to young children why the members of your family have different skin colors or even different shades within the same color. In my family, we have found that whereas it is helpful to be open and honest with our son about his adoption “story,” it has also been beneficial to celebrate our different skin colors and shades as unique to us. Letting our little boy know that even within his skin color there are many different shades, and that his skin is special, has given him a sense of appreciation for who he was created to be and a foundation upon which to help build his self-esteem. All these books are absolutely wonderful and I recommend reading every one of them. However, if I had to pick the top two “must-reads” they would be The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler and The Colors of Us by Karen Katz.

Below is a list of books which beautifully reflect babies, young children, and families from different cultures and countries.  Through uplifting and inspirational language, imagery and pictures, these books build self-esteem while respectfully acknowledging our differences, and joyfully celebrating our similarities – and our global heritage!

Children’s Book List for Multi-Cultural Families 

1)Global Babies

Copyright 2007 by The Global Fund for Children

Brightly colored, delightful photographs of babies from countries around the world!

2)All the Colors of the Earth

Copyright 1994 by Sheila Hamanaka

A celebration of children and all the beautiful colors they come in – the colors of love!

3)My Little Miracle

Copyright 2002 by J. Beck

A delightfully written little book welcoming babies of all colors and cultures to the magic of discovery this world holds.

4)Welcome Precious

Copyright 2006 by Nikki Grimes

An African American family welcomes their new little one to the world, and to their loving family.

The Skin You Live In5)The Skin You Live In

Copyright 2005 by Michael Tyler

A wonderful rhyming book showing how very special it is to be in the skin you are in – no matter what its color!

6)The Colors of Us

Copyright 1999 by Karen Katz

Bold, delightful illustrations and a wonderful story celebrate our diversity, and deliver a poignant message: Love the skin you have!

7)Marvelous Me

Copyright 2003 by Lisa Bullard

This book is part of a series featuring different children who describe themselves, their feelings, and their worldMarvelous Me is about an African-American boy and his twin brother.

8)Whoever You Are

Copyright 1997 by Mem Fox

A beautiful and poignant book, this links us all together despite our different appearances, languages, interests, and lives.

9)Incredible You

Copyright 2005 by Wayne W. Dyer

This children’s book, featuring kids of different races, is based on Mr. Dyer’s 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace for adults.  Here, he frames those same ten ideas in language easily related to by young children – to help them feel good about themselves and know that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to do.

ImGonnaLikeMe10)I’m Gonna Like Me

Copyright 2002 by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell

Illustrated with children of different races, this book gives everyone a healthy boost of self-esteem!

11)Bright Eyes, Brown Skin

Text Copyright 1990 by Cheryl Willis Hudson and Bernette G. Ford

Adapted from the original poem published in 1979, four African American children enjoy their time together and celebrate their skin while at preschool.

12)Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

Copyright 2008 by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury

Although at first glance this appears to be a simple counting book, it is so much more. These two picture book creators help us celebrate baby fingers and toes from all over the world!

Have you come across books that celebrate differences among people and encourage us to do the same? If so, please help us grow the list and add your “must read this book” choices!

Life with Fletcher

Fletcher is a BIG Ravens fan!

Fletcher is a BIG Ravens fan!

By Ruth Topper

This is Part II of our “Fletcher” story.  In Part I, I explain how it was a very difficult decision for my family to adopt a pet. 

After making the decision to adopt, it then took us several months to find the right dog for us – Fletcher!  Fletcher’s mother and litter of puppies were rescued from a high kill shelter in Georgia and ended up in Pennsylvania, where we adopted him.  After reading my fellow blogger Karen’s post “A Dog Named Blue” last week I realize how fortunate Fletcher’s family was to escape the shelter!

Fletcher arrived on our doorstep Easter Monday 2009.   We now joke that Fletcher was the best $185 we have every spent!  Fletcher had just turned 2 years old.  He was “chipped,” “fixed,” up to date on all his shots, crate trained & house trained!  What a bargain!  However as rookie new pet owners we had some things to learn about having a dog…  Here are some things that we experienced:

I love my dog!

Fletcher gets some love!

1.  Although Fletcher was crate trained he really hadn’t been in one for awhile.  We made the mistake of adopting on a Monday instead of a Friday or Saturday.  We were able to get Fletcher in his crate – but it was like having a new baby in the house again.  He whined and cried for several hours each night.  I finally had to call our “rescue” mom and get some advice so that our whole family could get some sleep.  We ended up putting a sheet over his crate and Gary & I had to play “bad cop” and use our very stern voices to help him understand that he needed to STOP!  Fortunately Fletcher was a quick study and by the third night he was making it through the night!

2.  As I mentioned in Part I of Fletcher’s Adoption, I wasn’t too crazy about adopting a dog.  However because he came to us on a Monday and everyone else in the family left to go to work/school on Tuesday – guess who became Fletcher’s “Alpha?”  Yes, yours truly!  I was the one feeding him, taking him on walks, often releasing him from his crate after being out for a few hours, etc.  I never fear that Fletcher will run away from me even without being on a leash.  He never strays out of eyesight from me!

3.  Because I was a rookie dog owner I did sign up for dog training immediately.  Fletcher passed with flying colors – however as I think back on those weeks of individual sessions Fletcher was just like a shy toddler.  He was right by my side, whimpering and whining.  It is a wonder he learned anything!

4.  Who knew that dogs pass gas?  Any dogs Gary or I had owned were outside dogs and this is something that you just don’t notice in the great outdoors.  However – get a gassy dog in a room and you can clear it quickly!

5.  We crated Fletcher when we left the house for the first few months.  We then gradually blocked him off in the kitchen and then gave him access to the first floor, keeping a toddler gate at the bottom of our staircase.  The good news is that Fletcher never attempted to get on any of our furniture.  We would have known if he did because there would have evidence – you can see him shedding as he walks across a room!  He did get into a little mischief – eating a stick of butter one day and a loaf of bread another!  We also found out that he liked pencils/crayons left on the floor, dark colored baseball caps and tissues left in the “open” trash cans in our living room/family rooms.

6.  I never realized how important grass is for a dog to do his “business.”  The first winter we had Fletcher is the one where we had over 20 inches of snow on December 19, 2009.  (I remember this because it was my daughter’s 12th birthday!)  I walked that dog up & down our street for hours the day it started snowing trying to get him to “go.”  It failed.  Of course he waited until the next day when we were finally able to get out for an hour or two – to break through the gate at the bottom of the steps & do his business on our hallway carpet!  That February we had two big storms back to back.  In these storms Gary snow-blowed part of our front yard along with the driveway – for Fletcher!

Gary & Fletcher

Gary & Fletcher

The most important thing we have experienced over the past four years… is the joy of Fletcher!  He greets me at the bottom of the steps every morning to roll on his side for a belly rub!  If he feels I’m not paying enough attention to him and I am here at the computer he will come over and put his nose underneath my arm to get my attention.  Gary, who wasn’t any more excited than me to get a dog, gets down on the floor with Fletcher every few days to play!  The kids love being with him.  They take him outside when shooting hoops or jumping on the trampoline.  My oldest who will soon be off for college tells us all the time that he will come home to see Fletcher – not the rest of us!  (Shows where we rate!)

Seth is coming home to visit Fletcher - his best friend in our house!

Seth is coming home to visit Fletcher – his best friend in our house!

What are some joys, blessings and/or funny incidents you have experienced with your pet?