Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Black Friday & Cyber Monday Deals for Natural Black Haircare Products

Leave it to the awesome folks at Happy Girl Hair to put together a wonderful list of coupons / discount codes for natural Black / African-American hair care products for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Go to their post for discounts on everything from Jane Carter Solutions (I always lust after this stuff at Whole Foods!) to Blended Beauty and Oyin Handmade.

Here are two more natural Black hair care sales for you...  


Use the code "bethankful" for 25% OFF your order at Curls, the company that makes the wonderful Curly Q's Coconut Dream Moisturizing Conditioner I reviewed in this post. Many of their products use only natural fragrances and they have a whole line of products for kids specializing in mixed-race curly hair. Good only through Thanksgiving (expires 11/24).

Aubrey Organics

One of my favorites for my own straight hair as well as my boys' mixed-race African-diaspora curls. Don't hesitate to check this out even if you're not of color - They have lots of options that are perfect for all hair types and are one of few "natural" companies whose ingredients are truly natural.

November 24-November 27: Get 15% OFF a $50 order or 20% OFF a $75 order. Discounts automatically applied at checkout. Free shipping on orders over $25.

Additional deals on November 28th only:
  • All 2-ounce trial sizes and all lip balms are just $0.99.
  • Buy one conditioner, get a shampoo 90% off (1 per customer)
  • Buy one hand and body lotion, get a second for 50% off (1 per customer)

Deal Alert: $10 Off at Shoes.com + 15% Off = Big Savings!

Mama needs a new pair of shoes. So do the kids, who are growing like weeds. Right now if you use this link and also the promotion code "15OFF" (no quotes) you should be able to get both $10 off your subtotal and a further 15% reduction as well as free shipping if your order is $50 or more! If there's an even bigger discount code released tomorrow for Black Friday, you can also use the link above to get $10 off in addition to using the new discount code. It's like stacking coupons, but for shoes!

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook for more great deals!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Finding Multiethnic Christmas Decor

For those of us with families of color or multiethnic families, the holidays are another time when many of us seek to reflect our family members' varied apeparances, cultural history and ethnic origins in our celebrations. In that vein, I thought some of you might be interested in a new post by the blogger The Krazy Koupon Lady on Where to Find Ethnic Christmas Decor. She links to Christmas stockings with brown-skinned children on them, African-American santas, Black angel Christmas tree toppers and other Christmas items depicting people of color.

There are also many sources for inexpensive Mexican Christmas ornaments and Feliz Navidad decorations.  You might have seen this Doorways Around the World: Mexico ornament from Hallmark's Doorways Around the World series.

We don't celebrate Christmas in our home, but if I had a Christmas tree I think you'd find it would mostly be decorated with homemade ornaments and artisan-made hand-crafted ornaments rather than mass-produced ornaments. Homemade decorations are a great opportunity to really reflect your family members' interests and identities. I also  remember as a child seeing beautiful, inexpensive Mexican nativity scenes in the shops in the Southwest when I visited my family. They were beautiful handmade ceramic creches and were both inexpensive and plentiful. A great place to find cultural crafts is in the grocery stores and gift shops of immigrant communities near you, whether it's the local Korean market or the gift shop at the Ethiopian church in your area.

If you know of any resources for cultural Christmas crafts, decorations or recipes, please leave them in the comments!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Toy Hacks: Give a Cheap African American Doll a Natural 'Do!

Now, this is what Fostering Thrifty Families is all about. Are you are as tired as I am of passing by Black dolls because you just can't handle giving your child a doll that looks like a white doll dipped in brown paint? Do you roll your eyes at how the "African American" dolls nearly always have pin-straight or slightly waved/ringleted hair with no texture, and want something better to help your kids appreciate the gorgeous texture of natural Black or biracial hair? You don't need to buy the few, hard-to-find dolls that have more realistic hair (and are nearly always more expensive). All you need a straight-haired doll, a pot of boiling water and a package of pipe cleaners! As the awesome natural African American / biracial hair care blog Beads, Braids and Beyond writes in their Natural Hair for Dolls Tutorial:
The search is over. No more buying expensive dolls just because they have curly or natural hair. Parents and caregivers, I have discovered the hottest thing since sliced bread..... This tutorial details the steps for giving a straight-haired doll a curly style that approximates the tiny twirls of hair that are associated with African-diasporan people all over the world. The curly of African hair is said to the be "the only perfect circle in nature."
This is so exciting that I'm getting ready to go out to our local discount store to buy a $10 Black babydoll I passed up the other day because its hair was so darn straight. What a great, inexpensive holiday gift this could make!

There is something to be said for financially supporting companies that make culturally appropriate, self-image-affirming dolls for kids of all races. I'm not saying that it's not worth supporting some of the awesome companies that make dolls with textured hair. When I can afford it I love to buy handcrafted toys or toys created by truly multicultural companies that use environmentally friendly materials to make diverse and beautiful toys. We do not love having lots of what I call "plastic crap toys" around. But when money is tight, this is a budget-friendly alternative for helping provide dolls that will help our kids appreciate the beautiful and unique textures and hair-dos of Black and biracial hair.

 What the blogger calls "fusilli-style" - Very cute. [Photo from Braids, Beyonds & Beyond]

No more permed-looking dolly hair! [Photo from Braids, Beyonds & Beyond]

Click here for the tutorial. 

To purchase the doll used in the demonstration photos, click below.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Combatting the Holiday "Gimme Gimmes" with Foster & Adopted Kids - Part I

Do the holidays transform your foster or adopted child into Veruca Salt?

Those of us who parent adopted or fostered younguns have all probably been exposed to this commonly held idea that somehow our children should be "grateful" to us for "saving" them from a life of [insert something awful here - poverty, addiction, homelessness, abuse, neglect, etc.]  Most of us who have taken the time to learn more about foster care and adoption roll our eyes at people who tell us how lucky our kids are. We either tell them "No, we're the lucky ones", or we regale them with a lecture about how even though adoption or foster care can be positive things they are also rife with grief and loss. Or we grit our teeth and just move on. We certainly do not expect our kids to be grateful towards us for "saving" them, we don't expect them not to feel grief or resentment about their being with us instead of their birth family, and we try not to expect them to be any more grateful than a non-adopted child would be. But what about when our foster or adopted children actually act the exact opposite of this myth of the grateful adoptee? What about when they act downright spoiled and entitled?

I have noticed with my older foster son that the holidays bring up all kinds of issues. One challenge for us is that he starts to get the "gimme gimmes" (also known as the "I wants") and seems more than a little like Veruca Salt from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory:

No matter what we buy him, it isn't enough. It's not the right thing. It's not as much or as good as what he should have gotten.  In fact, a full two months before Christmas and Chanukah, he was telling us that he already knew we weren't going to get him anything and that the holidays were going to suck. He even tried to tell us we didn't get him anything last year (um, yeah, right!)

It's early November and I can see the selfishness rising, rising, rising like a tide that is about to attempt to flood our family life emotionally. But is it really selfishness? Sure, it's bratty, spoiled, and entitled behavior... but I have some suspicions about why this is the case with so many foster and adopted kids:

  • Kids who really did not have enough when they were with their birth families, whether they were short on food or were not able to celebrate the holidays due to poverty, have anxiety about scarcity. Even though part of them knows things are different now, they are trying to prepare themselves ahead of time for the massive disappointment of going without. The holidays were always a let-down, so it's better to prepare themselves for another let-down than to let themselves be hopeful. Therefore, they start to focus on all the things they want but that their parents won't get them.
  • Foster children or children adopted at an older age may worry that they are not going to get treated equally to biological family members when it comes time for the holidays.
  • Kids who had scarcity in their previous lives may have a really obsessive relationship with the few things their birth family did provide (such as presents at holidays, or having nice clothes even if they went without meals). Kids who had scarcity before but in their adoptive or foster homes have since gotten used to having lots of "things" may have developed an unhealthy level of investment in material things, combined with lack of confidence that they will always have their needs met. Their self-esteem may be greatly based on what they own.
  • Foster kids and kids who live in group homes or orphanages rarely get to own much of anything that belongs exclusively to them and that they can trust will remain with them. If this is part of your kid's history it may cause them to seem over-attached or under-attached to belongings.
  • Children may miss what they remember of their birth family's holiday traditions, even those that have nothing to do with gifts. Perhaps a child who's acting like an entitled brat about what they expect to get as gifts at the holidays is actually a child who is simply mourning the loss of the smells, sights, tastes, and feelings of holiday celebrations with their birth family and hoping to get some solace through extra attention from you or from material comforts like toys or candy.
  • I've been told many times that kids who have been through a lot of loss and trauma often get what is dismissively referred to as a "victim complex." As they enter puberty and beyond they start to feel like the world owes them something - Maybe a lot of somethings. They may feel like having money or material things they want can help provide restitution for the ways in which they have suffered in their life.
  • Those of us whose foster or adopted kids have behavioral and emotional issues may be more than a little tempted to help quell the child's outbursts with material rewards (toys, treats, etc). This may lead them to expect that an outburst or causing a scene at the store will result in them getting what they want. Also, some kids may have had birth parents who were unable to set limits with them, resulting in kids experiencing that the way to get their desires met is to act demanding.
  • Foster kids, in particular, may be very aware of the ways in which their lives are different than the lives of their peers. Having the toys and clothing their peers have, or even more and better things, may help them feel like they'll fit in better or be able to override any stigma that comes from being a foster child.
  • Let's face it, we may bring some of this "gimme gimme" awfulness on ourselves by overdoing holidays and buying too many toys when our kids first arrive, as a way of making up for not having a lot in the house for them yet, or as a way of helping them not feel as sad about not being without their birth families for the holidays. We may unconsciously buy them more than they need in order to make them like us, inadvertently teaching them that the holidays are all about their every want being fulfille.
And let's not forget, foster and adopted kids are children first and foremost. Most kids just get crazy around holiday times, just ask any parent you know. Selfishness is a trait all parents have to teach their children to overcome because children are inherently ego-driven creatures and most of us are raising them in a very consumerist culture. This is not exclusive to children from trauma backgrounds or who are fostered or adopted. But there are many ways to teach children to question consumerism, to feel empathy for others, and to engage in acts of charity.

An upcoming post will focus on how our families can find meaning in the holidays beyond gift-giving. You can help me build that post by answering these questions and encouraging your friends to do the same!  

How do you battle the "gimme gimmes" around the holidays?  

How do you instill in your children, whether biological or non-biological, a sense of holiday meaning that goes beyond gifts?

How do you teach altruism, charity and sharing to children whose histories have led them to have a fear of scarcity?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Great Deals on Single, Double & Triple Strollers - Limited Time!

Zulily has some fantastic deals on single, double and triple strollers from BebeLove USA today. Those of you with little ones might find these useful. Here are some examples:

Blue Tandem Stroller - $150 $89.99 
40% OFF!

28% OFF!
There are also lightweight umbrella strollers with sun canopies for $49.99, plus potties and various other types of stroller (single jogger strollers, etc).

Fostering For the Money?

Reader Megan recently commented on my Taxing the Kindness of Strangers post regarding the common misperception that most foster parents are "in it for the money." Here's part of what she had to say:
I for one am really tired of feeling shame about asking for what my kids need because of the belief people have that we foster for the money. Please show me where in the holy heck the profit is in this? I spend way more than I am reimbursed, and I do it willingly and expect no one to notice or praise me for it. I only ask that you just spare me the judgmental attitude that there is some type of financial gain for me in fostering - it just ain't so...

I have to say that some of the worst offenders in thinking we do this for the money are the caseworkers. Some of them guard the available extra allowances and special rates my state offers like I am asking them to hand me money out of their own bank account. It's really frustrating and discouraging.

Have any of my other readers who are foster parents who who adopted through the foster care system experienced being treated by caseworkers like you're "in it for the money"? 

Has anyone in the system made you feel guilty for taking advantage of programs that are available for foster parents, such as reimbursement for certain expenses or rate adjustments for special needs children?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Taxing the Kindness of Strangers

Everyone seems to be discussing the Washington Monthly article by Benjamin J. Dueholm, a Lutheran pastor, writer, and foster parent in Chicago. Entitled "Taxing the Kindness of Strangers," this essay talks openly about how frustrating and even humiliating it can be to try to get one's foster child's needs met by the system. Those of us who are foster parents, regardless of our political beliefs or class status, must use programs like Medicaid and WIC and public childcare subsidies to care for our foster children. This means we foster parents are necessarily dependent on social welfare programs such as WIC and Medicaid, and therefore dependent on the whims of an increasingly budget-cutting government and electorate. The article is also one of the first pieces I've ever read that discusses the financial reality of foster parenting in a public and honest way and shoots down the social misperception that "foster parents are doing it for the money."

Some choice quotes:

About the relationship between foster parents and the state:

When Scott Walker in Wisconsin sought to cut the workforce that administers foster care in his state, we went up to Madison to join the protests in solidarity, because we knew how helpless we would be if there were no caseworker on the other end of the phone to answer our own urgent pleas for help and guidance. And the threats have continued, as House Republicans repeatedly propose cutting trillions of dollars in domestic spending to reduce the debt while making room for sustained upper-income tax cuts. The way this hits home for us is simple. A foster parent joins hands with the state in order to take care of a dispossessed child. For the last year, the state has been trying to slip free of our grasp.
About being a middle class person using programs like WIC for the first time:
We adjusted rather quickly to being treated like morons and petty thieves by bureaucrats. The social anxiety that comes with buying welfare food among our fellow citizens was worse. Middle-class people like to think of themselves as self-sufficient. But after a few months of shopping with WIC coupons, and contemplating my own sense of shame at this, I came to realize that we are rather selective in the forms of dependence we disdain. People who would not give a second thought to claiming the child care tax credit or the mortgage interest deduction will blanch at getting a bag of frozen peas on the public dollar. A WIC order grinds the line to a halt and prompts me to feel all kinds of self-consciousness about my deportment, my children, and the purchases I make with my own money. I got to know which cashiers were least given to suspicion or contempt, and I gratuitously mentioned Sophia’s foster status to defuse my own irritation. I don’t relish using the coupons, but they really help.

I must also mention that it breaks my heart that foster parents in an incredibly expensive city like Chicago get less than $400 a month of help from the state. This means that unless they take in several foster children, fostering is something that a loving and stable working or lower middle class family simply could not afford because of the amount of money that would come out of their own pocket due to the living expenses in an area like Chicago. Just the difference between rent on a 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom apartment (for example) is more than $400 a month, let alone food, clothing, baby equipment, and excess daycare costs not covered by the state.

Does this article hit home for those of you who are foster parents? Is it similar or different from your own experiences?

Monday, November 7, 2011

FREE Nature's Path Granola Bars

If there's one category of freebie that makes me happiest, it's healthy and nutritious food freebies! And this is a particularly generous one. Thanks to Mara at Kosher on a Budget for cluing me in to the fact that Nature's Path is giving away free boxes of granola bars. You read that right - It's not a free granola bar, it's a whole box! By filling out the form you'll also be entered to win a $500 gift certificate to Whole Foods. That'd be enough to feed a family of four for what, one week? Just kidding.. Us thrifty families know how to get a good deal even at Whole Paychecks Foods!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Wonderful Idea for Internationally Adopted Kids & Those With Multiple Geographic Connections

For those of us with children whose roots stretch across the globe or who are strongly identified with more than one area of the country/state find ourselves on an important lifelong quest to find ways to honor and acknowledge their complex histories and geographical origins. I saw these customizable map posters today on Zulily and was so charmed by them because they seem like a lovely way to validate and make visible our childrens' complex identities and their need for a sense of rootedness. They are maps of continents, states, countries or the entire world - And include heart stickers that can be placed in the areas where your child or family's roots lie. On the bottom they read "My Roots Lie Here." I also happen to adore Children Inspire Design, and we already have several of their prints (such as their beautiful Spanish counting cards) up in our toddler's bedroom!

I imagined how these customized posters might take shape for the multiethnic or internationally adopted children in my life. Some examples I was thinking of:

  • Friends of mine have an internationally adopted child from Ethiopia and one from Korea. I imagined they might put the heart stickers on an international map, representing their childrens' countries / cities of origin as well as the states in which the parents were born and perhaps also their whole family's current home in New Jersey. As a Jewish family with deep connections to Israel they might also put a heart on the city of Jerusalem.
  • I have friends whose foster-adopted daughter made several moves throughout Minnesota before joining their family. This child's state poster of Minnesota might have hearts in all of the counties where they spent a significant amount of time and felt connected and loved. Or perhaps the child would choose to put it only on their adoptive home, where they feel like part of a family and are experiencing unconditional love for the first time. 
  • My cousin's father is from New York and his mother is from Nicaragua. They live in California. His "roots" map might show his connections to both the U.S. and Nicaragua.
  • My older foster son is extremely connected to the city he was raised in and where his mother resides. Even if we adopt him, if we were to put up a state map he might choose to put his "heart" on that city.
These map posters are on the Zulily site at 50% off their original prices until November 3. You can view or order them here. I would also love to hear if anyone has made a similar poster as a DIY crafts project!