Monday, September 30, 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

a transracial family...

While transracial families have been around for decades, in recent years, the number of adoptions across racial lines has greatly increased.  I never knew I'd be one of those statistics, honestly!  But now that I'm here, I'm LOVIN' it.

On Friday, Marc and I are speaking to some prospective adoptive couples on transracial adoption, so it's got my brain reflecting upon all of the wonderful and challenging things about parenting outside of your own race.

After finishing a great book on transracial adoption (Come Rain or Come Shine: a White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children), I've been tossing around and intrigued with this idea the author mentioned toward the end of the book:

We are not a culturally white family with a black baby. 

Now sure, that's what it may look like from any outsider's perspective based upon our skin tones, but here's what I mean by that...

Jameson is not the odd man out in an all-white family.  It's not an "us" (white parents and sister, Caroline... who is actually half hispanic!) and "him" (Jameson, who is black).

We, collectively, are now a transracial family.  A black/white, white/black unit.

What that means is that we aren't trying to ignore Jameson's race and culture and make him squeeze into the racial culture we already possess.  I do not want him to be a white man in a black man's body.

I love his heritage, I love his culture.  I not only want him to have it, but the rest of us as well. 

On the flip side, Jameson will inherit a heaping dose of white culture, by nature of growing up with white parents.

In other words, now our family has embraced and is continually working to integrate another racial culture into our own.  The four of us are now a cultural blend.  (a "mocha," if you will?.... he he)

 "Combined, we have a single identity composed of merged traditions, backgrounds, and experiences." (page 199 of the book)

I love this thought.  It means that my son will not be completely alone in navigating his African American and Haitian culture- we are all committed to immersing ourselves in this endeavor together.

Transracial adoption is a crazy, complex, lifelong journey, and we are just getting started down the road!, so I clearly have so, SO much to learn, but even in the past 10 months, adopting my chocolate-skinned baby has opened me up to so many new experiences, new perspectives, and new relationships.
Falling in love with another culture reveals many idols and sins in your own, and it's funny how I'm finding myself feeling a little in-between cultures now.   Of course, Jameson's identity is SO much more than just his dark skin.  I don't want to over-emphasize race, nor do I want to ignore it, as it is a large part of who we are.

Practically speaking, that will affect the neighborhoods where my family will choose to live, the way we can't ignore Black history month now, the places we will frequent, where we'll have his hair cut, the schooling we'll choose for him, the community events in which we participate.  Our church is currently lacking in the diversity department, but I'm hoping for more color.  I've already researched black churches in our town, wanting to attend special events or vacation bible school, etc.

It's important that Marc, Caroline and I know what it's like to be in Jameson's shoes, to be in the minority in a majority-dominated society.  Jameson will need opportunities to be in the majority as well.
Now, hear me out- I'm not saying our lives will suddenly be centered around black culture, but now that it's part of my family's culture, it will most definitely play into each decision our family makes.

Many of you know our story, and how growing up, I would never have imagined my family to look the way it does, but God has graciously given me eyes to see how my children picture a much greater Kingdom than that of this world.  Diversity is beautiful because it was HIS idea to begin with.  Look at the array of colors and cultures that HE established in His own image!

While I'm proud to be a transracial family, the future is a little overwhelming to me at times, too.  As you can imagine, there are many critics of transracial adoption on both sides: some are outspoken, but most are not.  It's usually more of a subtle, underlying belief that people carry, thinking families should match.  I know there are whites and blacks who think we have done a disservice to Jameson by adopting him as our son.

I've read the stories of adult transracial adoptees, and not a single one of them were "I was raised by a white family that loved me and we lived happily ever after."  But what consoles me is that in every family, biological or adopted, there are issues, aren't there?  Who of us ever has a story that is "and we lived happily ever after"?

There will most certainly be challenges, issues, experiences of racism, questions of identity.  This is the hard stuff of transracial adoption.  We already get stares, questions, misperceptions, and inappropriate comments and questions.  As Jameson grows and starts to resemble a black man instead of the cute little black boy, some may not be as sweet and loving towards him as they are now.  Just as every black family must prepare and train their children to wisely navigate a racist society, transracial families serve their kids well to do the same.

So that leads to an important point:  adopting transracially IS NOT for everyone.  I had a guy tell me how selfish his sibling was for wanting to adopt a baby in the same race as him.  "There's no difference between adopting a white baby and a black baby," he confidently said, probably thinking I agreed with him,  "You just open your heart to love a child, ANY child."

Oh, if only it were that simple, right?

The truth is, there are soooooo many factors to consider as to whether it would be best for a family to adopt outside of their race.

Is the family ready to incorporate a child's race and culture into their own?
Are extended family members supportive, or would a child be disowned or shunned?
How often would the child have opportunities to be around members of his/her own race?
Is the town or community in which you live racist?
Would the child be welcomed and loved in your setting?
Are both spouses and children on the same page with this?

Adoption itself is a lifelong journey.  Adding transracial into it brings further complexities.  It's quite the commitment.  It requires tough skin.  And speaking of skin, when your family has different ethnicities, everyone's suddenly going to know you're the "adoption people" now.  With that comes a lack of anonymity.  (but hey, with a bald daughter, we never had that to begin with!)

It's a little humorous how everybody seems to come out of the woodwork to talk to you.  Even during the quick trip in your sweatpants to the grocery store, you'll hear tales of who adopted who, what child was in foster care, etc.  In a way, transracial adoption means you'll forever be a lifelong spokesperson for adoption.

But I can't say enough about how Jameson coming into our family has changed me for the better.  I notice a culture so much more than ever before. I NEED their wisdom.  I value their experiences and stories.  (Of course, we actually needed them in our lives all along, but now I really know I need them...)  Their struggles now become our struggles, too.

Nothing has brought us more joy than opening up our hearts to that which the Lord had for us.  And to think, He knew which child was OURS before we ever marked "yes" or "no" on any adoption form.  He knew before we ever did how diverse and colorful our family would be.

And we couldn't be more thrilled.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

potential career paths #19...

Can you believe it's been over a YEAR since we've done one of these posts?  (Where has the time gone?)  And now we have a SECOND child to observe and guess where his future might lie!....

Will he or she be...

A select taste tester?

A fashion model?

A baseball player?

A plumber?

The next Stevie Wonder?

Or a sunglasses salesman, perhaps?

A period actress?

A costume designer?  (you forgot your hat, ma'am)

A telemarketer?

Or.... ????  Got any creative guesses for this one?  Leave a comment and we'll pick a winner!
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Friday, September 20, 2013

where she needs to be...

Well, I must say, as difficult as the adjustment to school-life has been for me, I can't neglect to tell you all the wonderful things about it, too.

This girl is LOVING school.  She was made for it.  She comes home with so much new knowledge (in kindergarten!), and so many new, sweet friends.  One of them is the little girl in her class without a hand... how precious is that?

And for her to have an amazing art teacher that is beautifully bald like her... how could I be more grateful?

So even though the change of pace has been difficult, every day confirms that she's exactly where she needs to be.

Here's what they're working on this week alone. (this is a classical Christian school, fyi, from a reformed episcopal background, though students and faculty are from over 40 different churches in the area)  

We've got a ton of papers in the folder each day, and I love how she adds her own Caroline "signature" by putting a flower headband on top.  :)

On a little side note, I'm actually having fun with the school lunch thing for now!  (I know, I know- I'm sure this eagerness won't last too much longer...)  I spent an ungodly amount of money for this lunchbox (called a Laptop Lunch), but it's seriously been AMAZING for us.  In addition to school lunches, we take it on trips and pack snacks in it, and I don't know if it's the bright colors or the little, separate containers, but I can pack a bunch of veggies in there and they'll surely be gobbled up.

If you search on Pinterest, you can find parents who get a little crazy, over-the-top obsessive about this lunch packing thing, but for me, it's kinda fun to think of what simple things I can fit into each container, and the best part is- it miraculously comes home EMPTY every time.  (that probably makes it worth the investment...)

Here's a lunch I packed the other day-- 1/2 turkey/cheese sandwich, Pirate Booty, cucumbers & carrots with ranch to dip in, a pickle, blueberries, and a cookie.  Not to shabby, eh?

Here was yesterday's-- 2 hardboiled eggs, salad with ranch, a muffin (just taken out of the freezer-- made these with her several weeks ago), veggie straws, grapes, and a cheese stick.

What's also nice about having big sis in school is that I've gotten much more one-on-one time with this handsome fella.

He is growing by leaps and bounds now at 10 months, and everyone concurs that he is the most content, happy baby around.  (Thank you, God.)

He's having a good time exploring the house on his own and taking a couple of naps before it's time to go pick up sister.  He is usually cracking up laughing at her on the way home-- his way of saying he missed her.

I'd say the feeling is mutual on her side, too.  :)

Still trying to figure out how to help decompress the after-school exhaustion and irritability.  (Whew, it's hard!  Some days I feel like my child is possessed!)  But it'll come.  (...right?)

Still.  Even amidst the craziness, God has been gracious to pour so much blessing upon our heads.
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

trapped on the train...

Nobody told me it would feel this way.  No one warned me about this.  (well, maybe they did, but not sure I was listening...)

Sure, I've seen all the teary-eyed mommies waving goodbye to their kindergarteners on the first day of school, but it seems like it doesn't take them long before they've got their head in the game again.  They're texting on their phones in the pick-up lane after school.  They're settling into the routine of the year just fine.

Everyone posed school as "it'll be SO great when she's in school!  You'll finally have some time to get things done," to which I would longingly dream of the day... oh, if only school would get here faster...

But now that I'm here, many days I'm feeling like I'm in constant tailspin.  Maybe it wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

(I guess it's similar to how we tell singles "oh, it'll be so much better when you're MARRIED!  You won't struggle with loneliness or anything anymore!"  Umm, why do we lie like that?  Who is going to be honest with them, that marriage, though it is AWESOME, is very difficult and hard work, too?  Aren't we setting them up for some major disappointment in life when their expectations are false and unrealistic?  Just a side note, from working with college students, I guess...)

I suppose I don't see those other moms crying alone on their beds at night, (do they?) or hear their conversations with their closest friends.  And it's not like anyone's going to post their own loneliness issues on facebook.

So I'm just going to go with the assumption that I'm still not the only one struggling with this adjustment to school.

Three weeks in, and school is great, don't get me wrong.  I'm FLOORED at the things Caroline is learning each day-- her colors in Latin and the history of Western civilization with hand motions, to name a few.  Her school and her teacher are beyond impressive, and we couldn't be more thrilled about where she is and how much she is flourishing there.

Every day she gets in the car and has so much to tell me (mostly with me asking 50 questions, of course).  What new friend she made, what her music teacher did to make the class laugh, how she got a "Resting Rooster" award for being still at naptime, what new phonograms she learned or what new game they played on the playground, who she sat with at lunch, or what she learned.

My heart rejoices to hear how she's growing, learning, thriving.

But that's not what I get to see.  What I see most often is an exhausted, hungry little girl who has worked hard behaving herself enough all day.  One who comes home and struggles with her tone, her choice of words, her lack of sleep (no, she's not sleeping at nap-time), and her lack of time to just PLAY.

I know she needs a soft place to fall.  I feel the same way.  But there's just not the TIME.

This school-thing is so TIME-demanding.  I know it's typical for working adults to be up everyday at 6:30am, and no one ever complains about it, but our household is just not adjusting to it well AT ALL.
Due to our jobs as a campus minister and a part-time worship director, we've got things going on many evenings.  How does this fit in to our new schedule where we are a constant state of exhausted mess, I wonder?   Jameson is the only one getting all the sleep.  (just not at the same time WE'D like to get sleep...ahem...)

Caroline and I went from sixteen hours a day together to FOUR.

Four hours a day.

And boy, those are quite the intense four little hours.  Even those hours are determined by the school schedule and demands-- washing the lunchbox, getting dinner ready, eating dinner, cleaning up from dinner, getting showered and ready for bed so we can do it all over again tomorrow...

I'm feeling locked-in.  Like I'm on this train that we can't get off, and there's no end in sight.  A train that goes for twelve more years?!  What happened to the days where we could just take a long weekend to see family, or plan a trip just because we needed one?  We're not able to go like we used to.   This train has a few little stops here and there, but even then, it's still dictating the when and where of our life.

I'm feeling acutely this loss of freedom, the loss of family (Marc's parents, who are our closest family, are not able to visit due to his father's severe dementia), the loss of time, and generally the loss of connection.

Oh, and all my jeans don't fit, either.

I'm ready to jump off this train, and I can't.

How long does it take until I will "enjoy the ride?"

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

putt putt...

Her first time at putt-putt.

This gal was in town again.  We love her!

And she loves us well.

Daddy was particular on how to swing.

Ahem, very particular.

And she swings...

And she scores!

(as her always-happy brother was content to watch from the stroller)

Sweet memories.
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Sunday, September 15, 2013

milestone makers...

We're in two different stages of parenthood... early school age and baby.

Which means we've got lots of firsts and milestones happening all around us.

Whenever this little guy reaches a milestone, he isn't content to just have one, so there's usually a grouping of them altogether on the same day.

So, within 24 hours of one another, he...

1) figured out how to hold up his sippy cup to drink.

(He loves it.  At least for a few minutes, until he gets bored and lets it drop to the floor.)

2) He also figured out an honest-to-goodness clap.  Before, he was wildly swinging his arms vertically next to one another, hoping for a sound.  But yesterday, the hands came together just right.

AND... (watch this 7 second video, if I figured out how to upload it correctly)

3)  Jameson is blowing kisses, now!  Watch out world!

This gal is also making some milestones, too.

1) She's got her first loose tooth.

2) She had her first day of bad behavior in school.  (I know, not a great milestone, but a milestone, nonetheless...)  Apparently the boy she sits next to in class wanted to play something on the playground that she didn't want to play, so naturally?  She kicked him.  :)

Now, this is usually a "red light" offense that will immediately send her to the principal's office, but because it was the first time, her teacher gave her grace.  (So I guess I'd better brace myself for the next time...)  Though Caroline and the boy worked it out, she had big tears about it when I picked her up from school.  Hence, this note she wrote to give to him tomorrow:  "I'm super-duper sorry I kicked you.  I like to sit next to you though sometimes I do silly things."  ha ha!

They're growing and changing way too fast.
I love them, I love them.
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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

a lesson for the kids...

Go ahead.  Grab your kids and gather 'round the computer.  This post will surely give you lots of good things to talk about!

Hello!  My name is Amy.  (and that's my baby, Jameson)

I'd like you to meet my daughter, Caroline, (she's 5) and our friend, Mark.  (he's a college student)

What do you notice about them?
Can you see something different about each of them?

That's right!  Caroline doesn't have any hair, and Mark doesn't have any legs!
You probably want to know why, so let me tell you.

Caroline has alopecia.  She is allergic to her hair.  It all fell out!
That makes her different.
But it's okay, because do you need to have hair to enjoy life?  No!

Mark was born with legs that didn't work right.  They got in his way and slowed him down.
When he was seventeen, he had a surgery where the doctors took them off his body.
(Now he can get around alot better!)
That makes him different.
But it's okay, because do you have to have legs to enjoy life?  No!

People without hair can do the same things that people WITH hair can do!

And people without legs can do the same things that people with legs can do!  Like drive a car!

This is how Mark drives his car.  He presses on special handles that push the pedals for him.  When he wants to go faster, he pushes to the right.  If he needs to slow down, he pushes on the left side.

He walks up stairs and even climbs high mountains on his hands!  (isn't he amazing?)
He swims and goes to school and has friends, just like you.
He has a job and he likes to cook.
He's so outgoing and funny- you would really like him!

God makes all of us different from each other, and that's a good thing!  
Some people have brown or blonde hair.
Some people don't have hair at all!
Some people have problems with their bodies on the insides.
Some people use wheelchairs.
Some people talk differently,
and some people don't have "thinkers" that work right.
Some people have to take medicine every day,
and some people have to wear glasses on their eyes.
We all have different eye colors and skin colors,
and they are all beautiful!

God makes each of us different from each other.  He doesn't want us to all be the same!

So what makes you different?

God even makes families different!

There are big families and small families.
Families that grow when babies come out of their tummies and families that God grows through adoption.

This is my family.
My children didn't come out of my tummy, but they are still my children.
We adopted them into our family.  (our friend, Mark, was adopted from India, too!  Isn't that neat?)
We love each other so much.

We have different skin colors.
My skin is like creamy vanilla. Caroline's skin is peachy caramel.
Daddy's skin is tan.  Jameson's skin is like rich chocolate.

Our skin doesn't have to match to be a family.

God makes us all different, and He wants us to be that way!
So let's praise Him for all of the ways He makes us special.