Friday, February 28, 2014

the white mama at the black salon, #2...

Well, lest I begin to think I know what I'm doing raising a black son, there'll always be one subject that will expose me for the clueless, white mama that I really am...


I'm trying, I really am.

I've read up on it.

I've sought out the advice from my dear black sisters and tried my darndest to do what they say.

At times I'm rather proud of myself on the subject, too... until I take him into the salon for his second haircut.  :)

Thankfully, sweet Andrea (that also cut his hair before) didn't say anything to me directly about the matter.  She didn't have to.  But as I watched the steps she had to take just to PREPARE my kid for a haircut... like picking out all of the tangles from where his hair was knotted up in the back... I quickly realized I'm not doing something right here.

I consider myself a fairly bright person overall.  But black hair is not yet a subject I can say I've tackled.  :)

In hindsight, I wish I would've observed Andrea more closely.  I was mostly trying to soothe the poor little guy pressed up into my shoulder whimpering as Andrea got everything detangled and moisturized.  You better believe all eyes in that salon were on us!

It was sweet and funny and embarrassing all at the same time.  I started to feel the weight of my own shame.  What do you know about black hair, Amy?  What makes you think you can raise a black son if you can't even do his HAIR?!  You guys know I already carry around a sense of my unworthiness when it comes to raising Jameson, but as I sat in the midst of his culture, I was humbled all the more.

I want to be accepted by them... I want to make them proud.  I want them to know I'm not just another white person that overlooks them or devalues them.  I want them to know I'm sitting here unWORTHY of them.  I want to learn from them, and I need them.  

"I am so sorry, you guys," I said, deciding the whole salon (and really, the entire black race) deserved to hear a sincere apology at the lack of awareness and understanding in this white gal, "We're learning."

And almost at once, they answered as one voice together:  "It's alright.  You'll get it, Mama."

I'm not kidding.  Every single one of them said the same thing at that same moment.  Without hesitation.  Their corporate solidarity stood in unanimous agreement:  I'll get it someday.

I began tearing up as I cradled Jameson.  Why would God count ME worthy of this child?  To think that so many would look at Jameson, simply because of his skin color, as less-than, as a less-valued child than one with a light, peachy complexion.  I count myself all the more privileged to be united to this culture that has so, SO much to teach me.

Over dinner, I asked Caroline what she thought of watching Jameson get his hair cut.

"It was great!" she said casually between bites.

"What'd you think of the place where he got it cut?" I asked her.  I was curious to see what she thought of US being the minority for once.

"Mom, were we the only light-skinned people in there?" she asked.

(By the way, if you proudly say your kids don't see color, it's probably because A) they're not around very much of it to begin with, or B) you've subtly taught them to see differences in race as a shameful subject instead of an exciting one that God designed.  So pleeease teach your children to see color and how beautiful God made it to be.  That is the only way we will combat racism in our children rather than promote it.  Love, A Transracial Mom.)

"Yes, we were the only ones," I answered.  "What did you think about that?"

Without skipping a beat, "It was AWESOME!  I LOVED it."

How beautiful is that? I thought, and then she and I talked about how cool it would be to walk into a room of only bald heads.  :)

Oh Jameson, I'm busy trying to teach you the ABC's.

I'm trying to teach you not to play in the toilet,

and to obey when Mommy says "no."

But YOU, sweet Jameson, without speaking a word,

are already teaching me more than you'll ever know.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

does it matter...

So I'm at the Y this morning, in the little back room where I normally do my strengthening exercises for my physical therapy program.  (I'm doing better!  So grateful the chronic pain is subsiding.)  The room is somewhat divided by a large, free-standing petition wall, and on the other side of the wall is the personal training studio.   And as I'm laying on my mat doing my silly looking leg lifts, I can't help but hear a group of 3-4 women hee-hawing in the personal training studio next door.

"Oh, I hate Dr. Oz!  My mother-in-law listens to every word that man says like it's the Bible!" one woman blurted out, which was quickly met by a cacophony of voices.  Somehow the conversation then led into a lively recap and analyzation of last night's episode of The Bachelor.  (which I actually enjoyed hearing because, I'll admit, I've recently been sucked into the ridiculousness of that show...go ahead, roll your eyes.)

I grab the exercise ball next to me and begin another set of reps.  And my ear perks up when I hear one of the women say, "I don't know, I think I'd like to adopt one day.  I think it'd be really neat."

I wasn't expecting to hear the ladies' unanimous reaction to that statement.

"Oh, I don't think I would ever adopt," one quickly spouted off.
"Do you know what kind of emotional problems those kids have?" the next gal said.
"I know a family that adopted and the girl has severe, like, OFF-THE-CHARTS bipolar and now they're having to pay for all this girl's healthcare," another shared.

You could almost hear them all shuddering at the thought.  Adoption.... 

(Poor gal who was just sharing her heart, only to get knocked down by everyone surrounding her.)

Suddenly the conversation was lost when the super-fit diva working out next to me began panting so incredibly loud(!!) from all of her exertion in her whatever-you'd-call-them exercises.  Another lady was perched on her exercise ball, facing the wall and doing crunches, which then made loud rubber-ball-against-a-wall noises.  Shhh!  I was thinking.  Don't you know I want to hear this conversation?   Such a voyeur, I am.

At the end of Panting Lady's next set of jumps, squats, and leaps, the women were still swapping stories about adoptions gone wrong.

"...and it was her ADOPTED sister, not her biological one, that..." blah blah blah.  One woman then wrapped up the conversation with a concluding statement about how, "You know?   It's just better to have your own biological children than to adopt because you just know what they'll be like."

Really?  Do you?

Is that what these women would tell a mother of a biological child fighting leukemia or cancer?  Did they know what they were signing up for when they conceived?  Do biological children not also struggle with severe bipolar and emotional issues?  Is adoption to blame for every struggle in a child?

At the end of the day, does biological vs. adopted really matter?

Though I was more than finished with my exercises, I went back to my leg lifts, deep in thought.

Now, I'm not naive, and I don't want to paint a picture of adoption that is only rose-colored.  I've written many times about how the adoption triangle is born out of deep pain on all sides, and how it (similar to the Gospel) can bring redemption out of the ruins.   Every adoption is different, though.  Different circumstances, different expectations, different cultures and countries and ages, and different kinds of people involved.  Some times there will be an amazing bond, and others there won't.

But isn't the same true with biological families, too?

What I wish those women could've acknowledged is that "biological" child does NOT equal challenge-less and misery-free.  (maybe that's what's good about adoption-- perhaps you're more prepared for there to be challenges??)

Often we hear the crazy stories about adoption that seem more intense and heartbreaking than many of us can imagine or think we ourselves could handle.  And they scare us.  Those stories reveal the deep crevices in our hearts where the desire to be safe and to be comfortable reigns above all else.  And if being safe or comfortable is the god we worship, adopting a child (or even having one biologically, for crying out loud!) would never be an option.  Too risky.  Too uncomfortable.

I'm so thankful Jesus didn't think that way when he went to the cross.  He could've looked at all of us hopeless, messed-up, fatherless kids and said, "No way."  He was greatly afraid, actually.  He even asked His Father if there was any other way these children could be rescued apart from his suffering.  But his love compelled him on.  To redeem his little ones and adopt them as His sons and daughters.

Adoption isn't comfortable, just as having biological children certainly doesn't call for a life of comfort, either.  Raising children is HARD. WORK., no matter who's tummy they come from, right?  (though adoption does pose some additional issues that biological parents don't have to intentionally address)

But just because something is hard doesn't mean we need to shy away from it.
Just because something is uncomfortable doesn't mean we should walk away.

When love compelled the Savior to rescue His children, it can certainly do the same to us in adopting our own.

I wish those women hadn't placed so much distinction upon how a person got into the family.  "That was the adopted sister," they had to specify.  Now, we don't walk around proclaiming our children as "the vaginal birth child" or "the cesarean birth child," so in some sense, does it matter how they GOT there?  The point is that they're THERE now!  And that makes them FAMILY.  The label doesn't matter.

I have days where I'm overwhelmed by my children's differences and all the challenges they place upon us as a family.  But my friends with biological kids have their days, too.   My kids won't have issues just because they're adopted- they're going to have issues regardless, because they're KIDS.

But somehow, the Lord gives each of us the grace to handle the specific challenges that He brings into our families to grow us, to strengthen us, and to extend His purposes if we receive them as such.

Friday, February 21, 2014

fancy shmancy...

If you know my Caroline, you'll rarely see her in a pair of jeans.  So far in life, it's all dresses and sparkles, baby.

So naturally, when I asked her months ago what kind of birthday she wanted this year, her request was that it be fancy.

Us, fancy??  We're usually anything but.

But we had a blast pulling it off and giving her a birthday to remember.

(and I think I'm done in from it all...)

Eating lunch with the birthday girl at school

The fancy birthday girl, ready for a party!

Fancy gals.

(I cannot get over her little ankle pop pose here!  LOVE her!)
 Another fancy pose.
 And another.

Do we look like divas?
Mama with her six year old.
 Daddy with his six year old.
 And little Jameson was all spiffed up, too.
One Fancy Shmancy Family

Enough with the pictures... 

 It's time to par-tay!

With a little help from the dollar store, Walmart, and lots of 15-year-old glass wedding gifts, I'd say we were lookin' pretty fancy!
 I have to admit, it was a little weird putting "666" on all these cupcakes... ha!

And this shall be my own personal contribution to the blog "Cake Wrecks," because as you can see, I have absolutely NO experience, equipment, or skill when it comes to writing on cakes... :)  

(and the picture actually makes it look better than it did in real life...)

 We had some fancy friends.

This had to be little girl heaven-- singing along to "Let it Go" from the movie Frozen while twirling around in fancy dresses around the kitchen.  Does it get any better than that?!?
 And we had lots of fancy guests, too.

(Caroline's request--requirement?-- was that everyone had to come dressed fancy.  She about died with excitement when some of our students came in formals!)
 These two were the star of the show when it came to being fancy!  (The picture doesn't even do it justice-- they were sparkling!)

I can't say enough wonderful things about Holly and John and our love for them and their family.  They have loved us so well over the past six years.  We are so, so grateful for them.
 The three girls with fancy nails.
 The moment she couldn't WAIT for... "Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you....."

Because that meant.... it was time to open presents!

She went crazy over getting my old point-and-shoot camera.

 (Like mother, like daughter?  We are honestly like two peas in a pod, it's scary...)
 She got SO many cute earrings, headbands, and crafts.

(Aaannd here's another one of this cute guy.)

She LOVED the personalized music bag and violin charm necklace from her Mamie.

"(gasp!)  IT'S GOT MY NAME ON IT!!!" she screamed as she opened it.  :)
The grand finale of the party was her "big gift" from us, a Razor scooter.  I don't think she's stopped riding it since the party.  (which made us feel really great, since it was literally a last minute gift idea when a couple of other gifts hadn't come in the mail yet due to the snow storm last week!)  

Can't believe our little girl is SIX.  
It's like I've blinked and six years have gone by.

We love you, sweet Caroline.
You mean so, SO much to us,
and we couldn't be more thankful
that you were adopted into this
crazy little family of ours.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

but first...

Before I show you all of the birthday festivities, you've gotta see the un-birthday first!

UN-birthday, you ask?  Yes, yes!

If you've been around for some time now, you know it's become a long-standing tradition between Caroline and her best friend, Leah.

Leah's birthday is on February 16th.  Caroline's is on February 18th.

So that naturally makes February 17th the UN-birthday!

And we think that's reason to celebrate.  :)  See the tradition here.

Caroline's last day of being five.  (sniff sniff!)

Leah is a proud six!
This year I bought these two matching shirts, appropriate for their little personality together:  "The Princess Has Arrived."  :)  They were ecstatic to be matching.

(I love how they naturally stuck their bellies OUT as far as they could to model their shirts.  Because when you're my age, you're doing everything you can to suck it IN!  ha!)

 These two have NO shortage of energy together.

And there's certainly no shortage of love, either.

Monday, February 17, 2014

february flashback...

Dear Caroline,

We're all so excited for your birthday to come tomorrow!

Thanks to your amazing mommy Megan, we've been beyond blessed to be with you for each one along the way.

Your birth day.  (when we fell in love with you!)

   First birthday.  (was all Elmo!)

 Second birthday.  (Sesame Street was the theme)    Third birthday.  (animals!)

 Fourth birthday.  (princesses)Fifth birthday.  (music!)

And tomorrow... will make 6!  Woohoo!  Can't wait to celebrate!!!

We love you, sweet Caroline!!!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

death and life...

I was clearing out pictures off an old camera yesterday when I found this one:

A random photo of Caroline at age 1, before alopecia, when she still had hair.

The picture itself wasn't anything spectacular, but I was surprised by the blast of emotions that imploded within me soon after it popped up on my computer screen.

I haven't seen that girl in so, so long.  My tears quickly turned to sobbing.  Marc rushed over to hold me.  He, too, was surprised that a single picture could trigger such a burst of intense emotion.

"There's... been a... death since then," I muttered between sobs.  I couldn't quite put it into words.

I don't know what it's like to lose a child.  I can't imagine.  I have yet to face death squarely in the eyes of someone very close to me.  But when my eyes laid themselves upon this image, in a weird sense, the grief felt suddenly more than I could bear.

It's been years now since Caroline lost all of her hair.  I am such a different person now and at such a different place with her baldness.  Rarely do I look back.  Rarely does anyone ask what it was like to watch my daughter's hair completely fall out.  We live with alopecia NOW, and all the challenges that come with it in the present.  I think about the future often, and wonder what affect alopecia will have upon her as she grows.

But what is behind us is behind us, right?  Or so I thought until that picture, and a thousand memories washed over me.  I remembered the little girl she was.  I remembered the way I delighted in her adorable appearance and put little bows in her hair.

More pointedly, I remembered the way I thought my life would be, and how I wanted it to be.

A bald child wasn't exactly in that equation.

I know it's just hair, and I know it probably doesn't make any sense to anyone but me, but between the moment that picture was unknowingly snapped and now...

Something died.

And yet, somehow a new life was begun, too.

Was it my daughter that "died"?  I feel guilty admitting that the girl in the picture doesn't seem to be the same daughter I have now.  (Though it makes sense in my head...)  There are no pictures on my walls of that little girl.  She is only a memory.  Yet every day I love and wrap my arms around a young, beautiful, bald girl I see blossoming before me.  It's hard to put into words this very real distinction I carry between these two girls.  Before alopecia and after it.

But maybe it's not her that "died," but me.

When I think back to who I was before alopecia, I am a different person.  As everything was literally falling apart around me and I feared my daughter's health was in jeopardy, it surely felt like death.  I couldn't have survived without an older woman in my life who offered to sit in my living room with me week after week, listening to my fears and my cries, and oh-so-gently offering me the comfort that only Christ can offer when we are afflicted.  She got down into the mud with me, and over a loooong period of time, helped pull me out enough to see me come to a point of acceptance with God's story for my life.

I know that our story with alopecia was not just for Caroline.  It was just as much for me.

I came to church this morning still feeling very raw from the emotional trigger of that image.  The sermon's title, "The Story Our Life is to Tell" particularly peaked my interest.  Could there have been any better timing to hear the words of 2 Corinthians 4?

"We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us...For we who live are ALWAYS being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death is at work in us, but life in you.... Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day..."

I couldn't believe my ears.  The Bible was telling me exactly what I'd been feeling all night... that we are always being given over to death, that we are not sometimes, but always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that life may also be on display.  It was confirming my feelings that with alopecia, I had faced a death (of some sort) and yet have been given new life through it.

Death and life.

The pattern of the Christian life is one of death and life.

I'm not speaking literally here (though that, too, is true for the Christian) and it's not necessarily one right after the other.  The pattern doesn't need for one to end in order for the other to begin.  Because in our stories, as we're taken through sufferings and "death," things usually don't wrap up nicely, just in the nick of time for there to be "resurrection," do they?  Rather, there is always death, but yet it's IN THAT death(!!), we experience the resurrection and life of Jesus as God SUSTAINS us through it.

That couldn't be more true for my story with alopecia.

There are times of "death" in our stories where we are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and we feel struck down.  But God intends to use those things to put on display the dying, yet the life, of the Lord Jesus, both in ourselves and to others around us.

I don't understand all that God has done, but I need the faith and confidence to believe that He is telling a better story with my life than I ever could.

Friday, February 14, 2014

here and there...

I live Here,
but I'm not from Here.
I came Here
and I want to be Here,
but I can acutely sense
that I'm not a part of Here,
and I'll never be from Here,
by those of Here.

When I lived There,
I wasn't from There, either.
But I came There
and I wanted to be There.
The difference was
I was instantly included
as a part of There,
by those of There.

When we moved There,
a flock gathered round to welcome us.
They unloading our belongings fresh off the truck.
Though we didn't know them
and they didn't yet know us,
the message was clear:
You are a part of us in There.

Unfortunately, it was the opposite Here.
When we came Here, with a brand new baby in tow,
not a soul was here to help,
except a sweet husband and wife that knew we were coming
and another recruit that they found.
They, too, were not from Here,
and they were soon moving There.
It was quite a different story,
and initially I longed to be back There.

Don't get me wrong,
Here has been wonderful,
and the people of Here really are, too!
I want to be close, I want to be in.
But for the first six years,
Here has seemed closed
to those not from Here
who dare to try and belong.
Don't get me wrong,
I have no desire to go There.
I love Here.  I am Here.
I press on, and hold onto the hope that at least one day,
I will truly be a part of Here.

Connection has come mainly with those here
who aren't from Here.
Funny how it's our mission and our ministry
to welcome those from There
and help them belong Here
when I don't always feel it myself.

Will it always be this way Here,
and what would it take to belong?
Is Here only a place for you
if your mama and her mama are Here?
What if you're from There, but Here now?
How does someone put down roots Here
where there were no roots to begin?
Will we always be on the outside looking in,
finding community with others from There?

I am Here.
I love Here.
I'm from There,
but someday I hope to belong Here.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

poor baby...

 If you know anything about this crazy little family of ours, you surely got a laugh at this year's "all is calm" Christmas card.

There is just always something going on, you know?  If it's not one thing, it's another.  I guess that keeps life interesting... ha!

Right now we're back in the land of ear infections with sweet little Jameson.  After his first set of ear tubes in April, we made it seven months until another infection in November.  Then a week ago, after a looong week with a very nasty cold, (which I got next) you guessed it--- a double ear infection.

Poor baby.

(Tubes are supposed to last 9-18 months, so we're wondering if we're heading towards set number two??)

 Even on the antibiotic, it doesn't seem like one of his ears is clearing this time.
 So the doctor gave us some antibiotic drops to try twice a day in addition to the medicine.  We're hoping that will do the trick.

Thankfully, Jameson's jovial, even-tempered personality is faring well for him with all these ear problems... but he's groaning during his sleep, though, so I know they must still be bothering him.  :(  Come on, drops!

Aaaannd of course, today we're expecting the biggest snowstorm in our area in years,  (8-12 inches or more- crazy!) so there will be no extra trips to the doctor if we needed it.

It's so hard to know what to do with little ones who can't tell you how they're feeling.

Probably time to schedule an appointment with the ENT again??

I'm praying for this little sweet boy of mine.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

the view...

The view at the top was enjoyable,

but the view of these two was even better.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

rites of passage...

There are childhood rites of passage.  

Firsts and experiences that mark a developmental stage in our life.   

This week we've had a few.

Yesterday after school, Caroline climbed into the car in tears, telling me she had gotten a "red light" during school, which means an automatic trip to the principal's office.  I couldn't help but well up with tears for her as I watched her little heart so devastated and broken. She had talked with a friend during nap time, and then when asked about it, Caroline tried to get out of trouble by lying to the teacher.  She knew she had done wrong, and there was no need for me to make her feel any worse.  I leaned back, gave her a hug, and told her I was so sorry that happened.  It was totally the right call by the teacher, and a good lesson for my sweet girl.  

She actually hadn't gone to the principal's office just yet.  The principal wasn't there, so Caroline would have to wait until today to see her, which left me with a sad, scared, and anxious little gal for an overnight!

On the way home, we talked about all of my experiences in the principal's office, and times when I thought lying would help me, but it actually got me in more trouble.  We talked about what it would be like to go to the principal's office and what would probably happen.  She said she felt like the teacher didn't like her when she gave her that consequence, but then the teacher hugged her and told her she loved her.   It's a crazy hard concept for my child to understand that she is given consequences because she is loved. She cannot grasp (even as hard as we try to show her) that when she is disciplined for her actions, she hasn't lost our approval or our love.  

But as you'd expect, the meeting with the principal today went well.  (I think Caroline was relieved it was over more than anything.)  And maybe, just maybe, it will help deter her from trying that again??

Trip to the principal's office...  check.  She's now experienced that rite of passage.

This little guy has gotten in his own trouble this week as well.  

Suddenly it's SOOOOO fun to find something to slosh around in the toilet water.  (ewwww....!!!)  I've caught him twice in the last two days now.  

Playing in the toilet.... check.  He's now experienced this rite of passage.  (here's to hoping he'll move on from this phase quickly!!)

Ahh, childhood.  Good stuff.