Wednesday's Child: Evan

Every Wednesday I feature a child recently highlighted by a local Wednesday's Child newscast to share the stories of children from around the country who are waiting for a family. My hope is that this can broaden exposure for the children highlighted, but also serve as a reminder that these children represent thousands of children currently in the foster-care system. Perhaps their stories will inspire you to consider opening your home to a child needing a family. For more information and to learn about other waiting children, visit AdoptUsKids.

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When fulfilling our kids' dreams goes too far . . .

This post is in partnership with Warner Bros. Pictures.

We've all been there - your kid shows a passion for something, and you go to great lengths to make their dreams come true. Whether it's overpaying for a space-themed summer camp or lining them up for drum lessons with the local rock-star teacher, we've all gone to extremes to try to be the hero for our kids.

There is a new movie with Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler (HELLO two of my favorites) that explores this very theme . . . the lengths we will go to in order to make our kids' dreams come true. In The House, two parents set on sending their daughter to the college of her dreams, only to discover it is way beyond what they can afford. They set about to raise the money in some unorthodox ways, and hilarity ensues. I can't wait to see it. The movie opens June 30 nationwide.

I usually tend towards the "good-enough mom" role. I'm fine being a bit of a slacker. I don't need my kids to be stars, and I don't feel the need to buy them the latest and greatest stuff. They still lament that their iphones are ancient and our Wii is first generation. But my weakness is when my kids show an interest in theater. I'm sure this is in large part due to the fact that it's also a passion of mine, so I get all sentimental and excited that they share it, too.

I saw Hamilton in New York when it opened, with the original cast. As I was watching, I started thinking about how much I wanted my kids to see it. My daughter Karis was 6 at the time . . . a bit too young. But we started listening to the soundtrack and immediately, she was hooked. She started begging to see the show. She memorized the soundtrack. She poured over the photo book. She was obsessed.

Soon after, the whole world became obsessed, and tickets were sold out as soon as they went on sale. So last summer, when several months of seats were released on Ticketmaster, I decided to go for it. I got tickets for her 8th birthday in April - almost a year after I bought them. I got a ticket for her sister, too. I held the secret for months. I told them on Christmas morning. And I booked flights to New York . . . totally knowing that this was overboard, but also thinking that this would be a dream-come-true.

We flew in the night before the show. Our plan was delayed, which landed us in New York in the wee hours of the morning. We made our way to our hotel but got very little sleep that night. And I started to panic that they would be too tired for a play that starts at 8pm and ends at 11. What if they fell asleep during this show I'd invested so much time and money into seeing? With these fears in mind, I made both girls take a nap before the show. They fell right to sleep, so they clearly needed it. Except . . .

When I woke Karis up from her nap, she was drunk-tired and crabby. She wanted to stay asleep and wanted nothing to do with Hamilton. She was confused and deliriously tired and OUT OF HER MIND. I had a daughter kicking and screaming about doing the very thing we flew to New York to do. And I realized . . . I'd gone too far. I flew too close to the sun. This experience was too much for an 8-year-old. 

She was angry and wanting to go back to bed the entire way to the theater. Forunately, just as the play was starting, the grogginess wore off and she was back to her usual self. She enjoyed the play, and didn't fall asleep. Crisis averted. But still. If she hadn't pulled it together, we would not have been able to see the show at all, after all that planning.

Hopefully I've learned my lesson, and I won't feel the need to engage in illegal activities to get my kids into the college of their choice, or any other such nonsense.

Have you ever gone to extremes to fulfill your child's dream, and had it backfire?

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When a "not-guilty" verdict in the shooting of a black man becomes predictable . . .

The other day, Jafta wanted to walk to a friend's house at dusk. He was wearing a hoodie over a baseball hat . . . a look that he likes. As he walked out, I yelled after him.

"Hoodie off! And take your hat off. Try to look less . . ."

And as the words came out of my mouth, I was mortified with myself. What is the end of that sentence? Did I just ask my son to look LESS BLACK?  And yet, he answered back.

"I know."

And he did know. Because of the talk. The talk that we continue to need.

My boys are growing so fast. My oldest is taller than I am. It's a milestone most mothers will feel bittersweet about, as we watch our boys turn into young men. But for mamas of black boys, it's also tinged with fear. My boys aren't as "cute" anymore. They don't look like little boys. They are nearing an age when their skin color becomes a liability to their safety.

Last year, a man named Philandro Castile was pulled over for a traffic stop. He was asked to provide his license and informed the officer that he had a gun - as gun owners have been instructed to do in the presence of police. He had a permit to carry. He did not reach for the gun, and yet, he was shot. He bled out in his car in front of his daughter as his wife filmed. Yesterday the police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter. He also was acquitted of two counts of intentional discharge of firearm that endangers safety. He killed an innocent man, and was not held accountable.

It's a story that is all too familiar - police officers reacting quickly - assuming a greater threat and using greater force than a situation warrants. We've seen so many stories like this recently. An unarmed man shot during a traffic stop because he followed the instructions to present his drivers license. A man shot and killed while holding a toy gun in a store. And Mike Brown, stopped for jaywalking, and a confrontation leaves him dead.

I am growing so weary of posting about these tragedies and having people rationalize and excuse the completely obvious lack of safety inherent in being Black and male in this country. I'm so tired of people finding excuses, minimizing, and victim-blaming. I'm sick of people perpetuating the idea that these people brought death on themselves, or somehow deserved to die, because they weren't following the right script.

 I feel like every time these stories emerge, I get the initial wave of fear and sadness, thinking about my own sons and the world they have to navigate. God forbid they engage in pot-smoking or shoplifting or talking back to adults as teenagers - behaviors I myself did in high school - because for them, it might be the thing that someone cites as an excuse for being shot. But then, to compound those feelings of grief, I also have to deal with round 2: the anger that emerges when our society, and oftentimes our justice system, fails to acknowledge the problem. When police officers are not held accountable. When excuses are made. When I'm told, repeatedly, that this isn't about race. When moms of black boys are viewed as too paranoid or too sensitive or too "obsessed with race."

I could tell you plenty of personal stories about how I've observed the bias against black males manifest towards my own sons. I could share instances that have occurred at their school, in our neighborhoods, and in our community. I could share about times that they've been assumed to be menacing or threatening . . . about the double standards we observe towards them . . . about the way my kids are treated more harshly than others, how the expectations of them don't match their age. I could share, but these stories are painful and private, and more than that . . . I don't want to expose my kids to the predictable character assassination that comes with any discussion of racial bias, as people try to find excuses that wave away the reality of racism in this country. But suffice it to say, when moms of black children are in safe spaces, we discuss these things together. We observe the same patterns. We share the same fears. And while most of us are dealing with micro-aggressions that hurt our children's psyche more than their bodies, the fear of violence is ever present.

But the thing is, I shouldn't have to share our stories to be believed, because there is a plethora of empirical research that illustrates the phenomena so many of us observe. The APA reports that Black boys as young as 10 may not be viewed in the same light of childhood innocence as their white peers, but are instead more likely to be mistaken as older, be perceived as guilty and face police violence if accused of a crime,

The bias inherent in law enforcement has been well documented as well. In repeated psychological tests conducted by the psychology department at the University of Colorado, researchers illustrated the implicit suspicions people hold against people of color: Participants shoot an armed target more quickly and more often when that target is Black, rather than White. However, participants decide not to shoot an unarmed target more quickly and more often when the target is White, rather than Black. In essence, participants seem to process stereotype-consistent targets (armed Blacks and unarmed Whites) more easily than counterstereotypic targets (unarmed Blacks and armed Whites).

This graph, by Mother Jones, illustrates that black individuals are shot during arrests at a much higher rate.

So when you see people rioting and protesting . . . when you witness the tears and anger in the faces of the family as they learn that Philandro's killer will not be charged . . . remember: this is not just about Philandro Castile. This is about a community who has witnessed a clear pattern of violence towards men at the hands of people charged to protect our citizens. Violence with racial bias that is well documented. And the decision to fail to even charge the officer in in the death of a man is yet another blow. It's another perceived message: black lives don't matter.

If the anger around the decision made yesterday is confusing to you, it's time to listen. It's time to research. It's time to pull your head out of the sand and face the cold, hard facts about racial bias and police brutality. No one is saying that all police are racists. In fact, it's quite possible that many of the cops who have slain black boys weren't themselves racists by the general definition of the word. But they were living in the context of systemic racism . . . in a country that socializes us to be afraid of black men. Whether we like it or not, society conditions our impulses. We can try to counteract the systemic racism we're living in, and many of us do, but research indicates that racial bias infiltrates our first response, before logic takes over. Please read the psychological studies I linked to above the post to understand more. We are all susceptible to this kind of bias, and that bias is life-threatening for my kids, and the kids of people you know. And nothing will be fixed until we acknowledge that it's there.

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That's what SHE said: finding your food-safety IQ, the guilt behind grandma's heirlooms, celebrating dads through their hilarious tweets and a whole lot more...

Here are some things I read this week that made me think. (These are just snippets - click on the title to read the whole thing.)

10 Things That Changed Me After the Death of a Parent from Lisa via InspireMore

"When you see your friends or even strangers with their mom or dad, you will sometimes be jealous. Envious of the lunch date they have. Downright pissed that your mom can’t plan your baby shower. Big life events are never ever the same again.

Relationship and life strategy coach Lisa Schmidt lost her parents and wrote a powerful tribute to what that truly feels like. She tells of how it’s affected her in the long run and in every day life. She also tells us positive thoughts she still takes away from losing her parents. Her vulnerable story and the wisdom within it are truly inspiring."

Freeze the miso, rinse the chicken? Test your food-safety knowledge. from Bonnie with the Washington Post

"The FoodKeeper app helps you understand food and beverages storage. It will help you maximize the freshness and quality of items. By doing so you will be able to keep items fresh longer than if they were not stored properly. It was developed by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, with Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute."

See how you do on the Washington Post's quiz. I got 8/9.

Lots of great information on the USDA site too. 

The sense of sudden liberation that could push you to do something crazy; the worry that you might be acting outlandishly; a flooding of goodwill through the veins that makes you want to hug strangers.

People often think that their personalities change when they’re drunk, and they might even feel very different. But according to new research from the University of Missouri published in May in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, most of that doesn’t show—even when people are closely watched in test conditions by a small battery of trained observers.

12 Hilarious Tweets From The Funny Dads Of Twitter from Valerie with Scary Mommy

"Father’s Day is this weekend, so it’s time to celebrate dads. Well, we kind of always celebrate dads for doing minor things that moms do every day, but we digress. We still love them and need them and they deserve a special day recognizing their contributions."

"Somewhere along the way, the effort involved in entertaining and hosting dinner parties became too much. We could barely keep up with basic tasks of survival, and the thought of adding extra chores to my list of to-dos — extra grocery shopping, extra cleaning, and extra meal preparation — seemed like too much work. So we stopped hosting casual dinner parties. Instead, we meet friends at restaurants and bars. We have date nights alone. And we save entertaining for special occasions, like birthdays and holidays.

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about those dinner parties of days gone by. I miss them. I miss my friends. I miss the way conversation unfolds when people sit around a table. About a year ago, I heard about Friday Night Meatballs, and a couple months ago I read an article called “5 Rules for Hosting a Crappy Dinner Party (and Seeing Your Friends More Often),” and I thought: Why am I making this so damn hard? Maybe there’s a way to gather together with friends without the hassles? Maybe there’s a way to socialize without spending my kids’ college fund on babysitters? Maybe there’s a way to have a kick-ass time at a half-ass dinner party?"

Why Poor People Stay Poor: Saving money costs money. Period. from Linda via Slate

"It’s amazing what things that are absolute crises for me are simple annoyances for people with money. Anything can make you lose your apartment, because any unexpected problem that pops up, like they do, can set off that Rube Goldberg device...

Here’s the thing: we know the value of money. We work for ours. If we’re at 10 bucks an hour, we earn 83 cents, before taxes, every five minutes. We know exactly what a dollar’s worth; it’s counted in how many more times you have to duck and bend sideways out the drive through window. Or how many floors you can vacuum, or how many boxes you can fill."

"For generations, adult children have agreed to take their aging parents’ possessions — whether they wanted them or not. But now, the anti-clutter movement has met the anti-brown-furniture movement, and the combination is sending dining room sets, sterling silver flatware, and knick-knacks straight to thrift stores or the curb.

And feelings are getting hurt, as adult children who are eager to minimize their own belongings — and who may live in small spaces, and entertain less formally than their parents did — are increasingly saying “no thanks” to the family heirlooms."

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Friday Finds: Rompers

1. Off-the-Shoulder Cover-Up Romper | Madewell 
2. Long Sleeve Split Neck Romper | The Gap 
3. One-Shoulder Romper | Nordstrom 
5. Contemporary Floral Romper | Forever 21 
6. Cooperative Cabana Striped Surplice Romper | Urban Outfitters
7. Linen Cotton Tie Romper | The Gap 
8. Surplice Romper | Nordstrom 
9. Pom-Trimmed Off-The-Shoulder Romper | Anthropologie 

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