Thursday, January 30, 2014

a date with the future...

This blog has really turned out to be a virtual baby book of sorts, and the other day, Caroline and I got the biggest KICK out of watching old videos of her from this blog.  Seeing them, it reminded me just how important it is to pull out the video camera, even when I don't feel like there's anything super-amazing to film.   Poor Jameson is such the 2nd child!  (Here's the video that cracked Caroline and me up the most- she was almost exactly the same age as Jameson is now!)

So I grabbed the camera, and here's what I got.

Jameson, I'm sure we'll be chuckling together years from now.  I love you!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


 One of the sweetest times of the day is "afterbath."
Clean baby, snuggled in a towel.
Lay down, dry off.  Share a few giggles.

(meet Jameson's new teeth, world!)

(okay, I can't explain exactly why, but I LOVE this picture.)
This afterbath, Jameson noticed the family picture of his godparents.
Ahhhh, pj's ON.

We looooove afterbath.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Most days there is little difference between my peachy pink and your mocha brown.

But there are days like yesterday when these colors feel worlds away.

I'm your mama, yet I feel inadequate to be so.

Because behind my peachy pink and your mocha brown, we know there is so much more than color.

There is history.  There is hatred.  There are assumptions and there is oppression.

After hundreds of years, this doesn't go away quickly.

White mothers don't have to teach their children what black mothers have been doing for generations.

Don't walk outside on the street after dark, my son.  Watch how you speak to a police officer, and keep your hands at ten and two.  

And so, so much more to which most of the white community is oblivious.

At times, being a transracial family is sobering.

The peachy pink people don't understand that raising a mocha child is not the same as raising a peachy pink one.  They entertain so many false assumptions about what it's like living as a minority in a majority culture.  They have no awareness of their own privilege and the benefits of it.  They tell me not to worry.  They think love is enough.  In some sense they're right.

But love simply isn't enough to prepare my son to live as a black man in a terribly broken world.

The mocha people know what it's like to be mocha, and perhaps some perceive my son as missing out.  He will be missing out in some ways.  I grieve that for him.  I read the experiences of adult transracial adoptees and know better.  No amount of education or effort on my part will ever allow me, a peachy pink mama, to teach Jameson how to be mocha brown.  I am forever limited.  But that doesn't mean I won't try my darndest to do what I can.

Every parent has challenges with every child.  Every child has challenges with every parent.

There will not be a "happily ever after" story this side of glory, no matter how hard I try.

But some days, like yesterday, I'm overwhelmed by the chasm I'm trying to cross.  I look into my sweet boy's eyes and feel so unworthy of him.  I feel especially "peachy pink" compared to his beautiful brown, and it gives way to my inadequacies all over again.

Then, in comes reassurance, in some form or another.

Yesterday, reassurance came from the lips of my son as he looked at me and for the first time ever, formed the word "MAMA."


There could not be a more beautiful word exit his mouth.  Or a more beautiful time.

Reassurance came through a brown-skinned woman stopping Marc and Jameson in the parking lot of the restaurant, only to discover that she, too, was a transracial adoptee with peachy pink parents and LIVES IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD.

Thank you, God!

Reassurance came remembering it was both of Jameson's birthparents that picked us.  Lord, how can it be that they wanted their mocha skinned boy to be with peachy pink me???

Reassurance ultimately comes when I rest in the One who gave me this great task of transracial parenting to begin with.  I checked the box of willingness, but it was He that formed my family, not me. He doesn't give this calling to everyone, but He's given it to me.

So I'll continue on, trusting that He'll continue to provide the beautiful reassurances He's given along the way.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

livin' the dream...

Before we became a transracial family, MLK Day was nothing more than a free day from school or work.

Funny how things changed when this guy came on the scene!

This year, for the first time, we anticipated MLK Day and celebrated it together as a family.

I'm not sure that black families do much to celebrate this holiday.  I'm sure some do.  An african american friend of mine told me he never celebrated it growing up.  

So maybe we're a little overboard.  Maybe not.

But it's one thing to grow up as a black son in a black family, and another thing to grow up as a black son in a transracial family with white parents.  It's one thing to be submersed in a culture you share with your family.  It's another thing to live in a family of a different culture, while being expected to navigate that of your own.  

As a transracial family, we've got to be a little more intentional in bringing Jameson's culture to him and into our lives.  We've got to be purposeful about where we live and places we go.  I don't want Jameson to always be the "token black" in a sea of white culture.  As we've begun learning more about black history, (which was honestly glossed over or ignored in our educational textbooks) I'm amazed at all I missed.  And I'm ashamed by how little I knew or cared.

I can't imagine how much different Caroline's experience will be to grow up with a beautifully chocolate-skinned brother.

But you know?  Maybe it makes sense that our family would celebrate MLK day a little more than most.  

Because if it weren't for Martin Luther King Jr, my family simply wouldn't be what it is.

On the holiday morning, we awoke to the quick footsteps of our daughter entering our room. She bent down and whispered loudly into Marc's ear, "Daddy, it's Martin Luther King Jr. Day!!!!!!"  

(Now, I was ready to celebrate the day alright, but not quite at 7:00am in the morning...) :)

As usual, when she heard Jameson begin to stir in his room, she rushed in to wish him a good morning.  "It's Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jameson!" she announced.  I couldn't help but smile at her excitement, still laying in bed listening to their interactions across the hall.

When I heard this happening, (above) I rushed to grab my camera.  Caroline was reading our two MLK children's biographies to her baby brother.   And he was all ears.  How precious is that?

(By the way, knowing what I know now, I'd encourage white families to enrich their children's lives and perspective by teaching them about important people like Martin Luther King Jr, too.  Buy dolls and toys with various skin tones for your kids so that they learn to value people of all color equally.)
After our day got going, here were some easy craft projects we did with Caroline to celebrate MLK day.  I printed off a free coloring page of Rosa Parks, and while she colored, we had an amazing conversation about being brave and doing the right thing, even if it meant getting in trouble for it.

We glued cotton balls down in the shape of a cloud and made this "I have a Dream" page.  We talked about MLK's dream of black and white people being equal, and then Caroline wrote out some of her own dreams:

  • I want to be a Christian when I grow up
  • I want it to be fun when I grow up
  • That I am a mom
  • I want Jameson to learn about Martin Luther King Junior   (he he!)

This craft project I found online was especially meaningful for our family.  We picked out shades of paper that matched each of our skin colors and traced out everyone's hand.  (I'm thinking this could also be done with all different colors of paper and talk about how beautiful God made people of every color.) 

Our family.  Held together by love.  

(yes, Marc really does have crooked fingers)  :)

This was Caroline's favorite part of MLK Day-- 
going out for ICE CREAM!  

To think it wasn't too many years ago that these two wouldn't have been allowed in the same school, 
or drink from the same water fountain, 
or play on the same playground.

I don't care how downhill you might think the world has gone or how we should get back to the "good ol' days."  Some things have gotten much, much better over the years.

My family is a picture of MLK's dream. 
And I love it.
Thank you, Martin Luther King Jr.

"I have a dream that one day... little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers." ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, January 24, 2014

the great IN-doors...

When it's too cold to play outside, sometimes ya just gotta improvise and make life a little more interesting.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

best start to the new year...

We just passed the 4th anniversary of Caroline's hair falling out.  I can't believe it.  She's lived longer without hair than with it.  How crazy is that?!  She doesn't even remember what it feels like to have hair.

At that time we were hearing about this thing called "alopecia" for the very first time in our lives.  We had no idea what it even WAS.  A fellow RUF campus minister connected us with a former student of his who also had alopecia, Molly.

Turned out, Molly was (and is!) a godsend to our family.

The first time I spoke with Molly on the phone years ago, I hadn't quite accepted that Caroline's hairloss was only alopecia.  (Caroline was having many more symptoms than just hairloss, and some bloodwork had come back showing the possibility of celiac disease, which is why we put her on a strict gluten free diet to see if that reversed any of the issues she was having.)

Nevertheless, I listened to Molly's story with heightened interest.  She recounted her experience losing multiple patches of hair as a teenager.  She told me what it was like wearing a wig for years, until she ditched it and felt she could live more in light of her justification in Christ without it, confident in being who she was, free from other people's approval.  

I wanted to know how her parents supported her, what they did and said that was helpful to her.  I wanted to know how she dealt with people's reactions and stares.  I think ultimately I wanted to know things would be okay.

I'll never forget how fast my mind was spinning as she spoke.  Will this be MY daughter's story, too?  Are we also looking at a LIFETIME without hair?  The thought was so overwhelming at the time.

Yet, Molly was one of the most amazing people I had ever met.  Her beauty radiated, even through the phone.  As she spoke, I realized that where she was now living in CONFIDENCE, I had been living in so much FEAR.  What she decided not to place value on, I had been placing TOO much value there.  It was such a helpful and unexpected wake up call to me. 

I'm sure that was a typical alopecia conversation for Molly, but to me, it was nothing short of life changing.  

So when Caroline's diagnosis was indeed alopecia, I decided to make a children's book and call it "Everybody's Got Something."  In it, I included a page (above) about different types of alopecia and people we had met with the same condition.  (Molly's form of alopecia, alopecia areata, where she loses and re-grows patches of hair at an unpredictable pattern, is actually the most common form of alopecia.  Caroline's form, called alopecia totalis, is a little more rare.)

Even though I've only spoken with Molly over the phone a few times and she lives many states away, she has become a household name in our family.  

So when it was time to drive from Virginia to Texas (and back) over the holidays, we decided to make a quick stop to finally meet her in person!

And I'd say there couldn't have been a better way for us to kick off 2014!   What a special and surreal moment for us to sit across the table from Molly on New Years Day!  (She actually said she was a little starstruck meeting Caroline, too!  ha ha!)

She and Caroline were instant buddies.

I'm sure we were quite the spectacle of the restaurant!, but you know what?

I didn't even notice or care.

Molly gave Caroline a beautiful gold necklace with a cross and a letter "C" charm on it.  So, so thoughtful.

(and just in case you're wondering, my last post about giving too many gifts certainly doesn't apply here... he he)

Even over a quick dinner, these girls hit it off.  (I absolutely love this picture!)  Caroline told me afterwards in the car that she thought Molly was SO beautiful and SO nice.  (You can imagine how happy my heart was to hear that.)

Molly, thank you for being both a friend and an inspiration to us.  God was so good to intersect our paths.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

crippling with kindness...

You might think that if you had a bald daughter, you'd have to shield her from people's meanness.

In our experience thus far, it's been exactly the opposite.

I'm actually trying to shield her from people's niceness.

I know that must sound crazy to you.  But come walk in my shoes.  Come spend a day with me and my daughter in public and you'll see.

Almost everywhere I go with her (apart from our usual settings of school and church where everybody knows us), random strangers see my daughter's bald head, and they begin over-doing the praise.

"I like your headband."

"I like your shoes."

"You are so beautiful, you know."

"You have beautiful eyes."

Okay, okay.  What's wrong with that, you ask?  After all, we're used to it.  She's used to it.  We smile, we thank them, we move on.  Honestly, those words probably hold little weight to her anymore because she hears them from random people ALL. THE. TIME.

Dear strangers, I know you mean well.  I can appreciate that.  I don't know that I'd have known what to say to a bald child in a grocery store either.  And truth be told, finding something to compliment is a waaay better reaction than staring and looking away.

The thing that mostly gets me is when other strangers take the niceness a step further.  It's nice, and I am certainly grateful for people's generosity, but when it's day after day and gift after gift, it is excessive.  I'm not even joking-- I should seriously keep a running account of all the stickers, candy, stuffed animals, kids' jewelry, and free meals we are given from random people who don't even know us.  (now you'll never hear me complain about the anonymous free meals!...ha ha)

Let me give you an example from last summer.

Our family chose to have a fun night out at our local minor league baseball game.

Before the game began, Caroline spotted the baseball players around the home dugout and decided she wanted to go meet them.  I agreed to walk with her close to where they were, but all the while I'm explaining how they're busy focusing on the upcoming game and you don't get to meet them, etc.

She and I near the dugout, and some type of important woman with a walkie talkie leans down to Caroline and says, "Would you like to meet a baseball player?"

Well, alright.  Being bald has its privileges.

She nodded shyly, looking up at me to see if this was okay.

The woman opened the gate, letting Caroline onto the field, where she was immediately scooped up by one of the starting baseball players.   Now, in the moment, I was really excited for Caroline.  How cool was that?!

But part of me knows what's going on here.  Time after time after time.   And it feels a little deceiving, because we don't have what people think we have.  We're not sick and we're not suffering in our baldness.  Should our family wear signs around that say "We're fine.  It's NOT cancer"???

Well, it wasn't too far into the game when yet another important couple of people who obviously represented the baseball team came up and presented Caroline with a pink baseball bat,


"Wow, that's amazing!" I exclaimed, genuinely shocked at this outpouring of kindness from the whole team.  

"All the players wanted to do this for her," they told us.

What kid gets this kind of treatment?  

Oh, that's right.

The evening continued.  Caroline had a BLAST meeting some teenage daughters in the front row next to us.  They were sooo sweet, passing written notes back and forth with Caroline throughout the game.  
Though I can't remember how that game ball got into our hands....hmmm....

I also can't remember who came up and gave us this game t-shirt, either.  Do you think the kid has enough already???  Do you see my point here?

She's come to think this is all normal.  Like she's some kind of princess wherever she goes.  Strangers just can't look her in the eye and tell her no, so she usually gets what she asks for.  (or gets things she doesn't ask for!)

But sometimes, when we go somewhere and she's not given anything, and not treated like she's the center of the universe, she can tend towards being deflated.  Insecure.  Short tempered.  The superior complex she's developing is in imminent danger of being deflated at any moment.

Is there anything wrong with praising a child out in public?  Surely not.   (You'll have to forgive me for all my snarkiness on this post.  I'm sure to some of you, this must come across as completely ungrateful.)

But dear public, I wish you were more aware of what you are doing.  You think you're doing the altruistic work of building up a child that YOU perceive has low self-esteem (or perhaps months left to live...), and so you over-inflate your praise to her and lavish her with trinkets and gifts, in hopes of bolstering up her confidence.

But you don't come home with her.

You don't walk in our shoes day in and day out.

You don't know that you may be cumulatively crippling my child rather than helping her.

Because you're corporately and involuntarily creating an addiction to praise and affirmation in my child, so much so that if there is the HINT of failure, or of disapproval, she goes hysterical at home.  She will not try things that appear too hard, for fear of not measuring up.

Everything has always come easy to Caroline.  She's extremely bright.  She's reading at least 2-3 grade levels ahead of her age level.

I'm so proud of my daughter, and I love her to death.

I know it's extremely important for those of us who know her personally to build her up, but not solely for what she looks like, and not for how well she achieves, but for who she is and the beautiful character God is at work developing in her.

But I feel sometimes like it's the entire world vs. me.  :)

I'm grateful for strangers' kindness, and I'd rather battle that any day over people's mean words, but right now I'm seeing it working against us,

and against her,

and sometimes I'd like us to be treated just like the next person.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

only He...

I should start saving up for my daughter's future counseling bills now.

Yesterday was one of those days...

Even in my BEST efforts to be a good, loving, consistent parent,

I know I'm screwing up my child.

In one way or another.

My theology tells me that she actually doesn't need much help in this department, as she'll already be screwed up without me.  Thank you oh so much, original sin.

But really.

I'm truly without any hope that I, in my own power, can produce the loving, godly woman I dream my daughter will become one day.  I refuse to believe that there is a "one size fits all" system or formula that can "save" my child.

It simply has to be an act of grace.

I'm seeing her sin all the more clearly as she is nearing age six (going on 13, if you know my Caroline.)

And I'm seeing my sin all the more clearly as I near the age.... oh nevermind.

Sin isn't something we DO, it's who we ARE.  It's a cancer eating out our insides.  It runs through our veins.  A believer in Christ is given a new nature and a new freedom to fight against this sin.  But it often feels like we're waging an uphill battle, doesn't it?

Which then leads me to once again fall on my knees and beg Jesus for help.

At the end of the day, only He can deliver us.  All the Sunday School classes and family devotions in the world can do no good to enliven a dead heart to the things of His kingdom.  As much as I pray, and encourage, and correct, and discipline, and snuggle, and teach....

only He can turn my daughter's heart of stone into a heart of flesh.  (Ezekiel 36:26)

It's days like these I throw my hands up in the air.

I give up.

I'm so keenly aware of my inability to make my children into the tender-hearted people I yearn for them to be.

Maybe this is Gospel-centered parenting.

Monday, January 13, 2014

provisions in the disappointment...

In the last post, I shared with you all the beauty of Caroline's open adoption.

The same is unfortunately not true (yet) for our son, Jameson.

It makes our hearts sad that Jameson doesn't have the same sweet connection with his birthfamily that Caroline does with hers.  In fact, at the end of our visit with Caroline's birthfamily, Marc suddenly became overwhelmed with tears, grieving the fact that Jameson doesn't have the opportunity to know and love his birthparents like Caroline does.

Many of you remember our first and only visit with Jameson's birthmother when he was one month old.  It was an amazing visit.  We loved her.  I had hopes then that this wasn't the end.  Marc and I felt that we'd see her again.

Since that visit, we've sent monthly updates and pictures to our adoption agency, and they have forwarded them on to his birthparents.  (called a mediated adoption, or a "semi-open" adoption)  We know that she has moved back to Georgia where she's from, and our caseworker said she enjoyed seeing the pictures of Jameson each month.

We've made it known repeatedly in our letters that we'd love to visit with her again and that the door is WIDE open on our end when (and if) they're ready to meet.

However, two months ago, the update and pictures were returned to the agency.

And our caseworker couldn't get a hold of them.  She assured us that this doesn't necessarily mean they don't want to receive the updates... it could be as simple as forgetting to update new contact information.  But obviously it could be more than that.  There could be a myriad of reasons.

Sigh.  I understand.  But it still hurts.

Nevertheless, I'll continue to write the monthly updates and send the pictures to the agency, and in case they get in touch with her, or she comes back seeking the information, they'll be there in a folder for her.  

Just like in any relationship, there can be times of distance and times of closeness.  And I'm holding onto the hope that just because Jameson's birthmother doesn't have contact with us now doesn't mean it will always be so.  Who knows what the future holds?

I'm not willing to close that door emotionally- I will continue to hope and pray on behalf of my son.

HOWEVER, the story doesn't stop there.

There is provision, even in the disappointment.

Rewind 25 years ago or so, and meet my dear childhood friend, Tiffany.   She spent many hours around my family, and she had one of the biggest hearts I have EVER met.  Sadly, we lost touch with one another in high school.

One day a few years ago, my mom was talking with a co-worker of hers about our family, and the man mentioned something about his wife, Tiffany, that made the lightbulb go off in my mom's head... this was the same Tiffany from long, long ago!

Thanks to facebook, Tiffany and I were able to reunite and reconnect!  What a joy!

And when Marc and I found out we were adopting an african american son, Tiffany was naturally one of my first go-to's!   (What did I know about black hair, afterall?!)  :)  She was SO excited for us, and more than eager to help me!  She put some hair care products in the mail right away.   A few months later, a wonderful care package arrived with gifts for both of the kids from Tiffany and Ebed.

Fast forward to my dad's lung transplant, and the day I flew into Dallas, it was Tiffany and Ebed that came up to the hospital to visit and encourage our family.  So, so sweet to reunite in person!

Over lunch that day, Tiffany asked about our level of contact with Jameson's birthparents, and as I explained the situation, my heart saddened again.  Thankfully, this time, my sister came up with a BRILLIANT idea.... make Tiffany and Ebed what they were already functioning as.... Jameson's godparents!

Yes.  It made SO much sense.

Jameson may not have a birthfamily, but God, in his loving kindness to him, has still provided for him.  Jameson could have an extended family of his own, just as Caroline does, that loves him and cares for him throughout life.

To our delight, Tiffany and Ebed were thrilled to be asked.

Jameson, meet your godparents!

I couldn't have asked for a sweeter, warmer couple for you to look up to!

They have three older children, and they love Jesus just as our family does!

"Aunt" Tiffany was so great to hold you and let Mommy eat her dinner in peace.  (ha ha!)

I think you ate bread as your entire meal... :)

If only this picture wasn't blurry, but how sweet is this??  :)

I just can't thank God enough for how He brought us all together (and back together!).

Even in the disappointment,

He is so good and faithful to provide.
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Friday, January 10, 2014

love is thicker than blood...

People seem to have different reactions to open adoption,

the idea that both a birthfamily and an adoptive family
maintain open communication throughout life.

Some are afraid of it.  Some are confused by it.  Others are intrigued at it.

We, however, couldn't be more thankful for it.

In the olden days of adoption, most adoptees grew up 
having no connection or contact
with their birthfamilies at all.
Adoption was perceived as shameful,
and many children were even lied to
thinking they were united to their family by blood.

As if blood was the litmus test of belonging...

Thankfully, things are beginning to change
in the world of domestic adoption.
More and more adoptees
don't have to wonder where they came from
or send out a search to find their birthfamily.

We can't forget that adoption is ultimately born out of brokenness,
and there is no shortage of grief
when any parent/child relationship is severed.
But adoption brings redemption out of the ruins,
beauty out of the ashes.
And to me, that's a more beautiful picture
of a Gospel-centered love.

Afterall, those of us who are in Christ
didn't come to this family by blood, but by Love.
Each of us has been adopted into His family.
We belong.
And that's something in which to rejoice!

Marc and I are beyond thankful that our daughter
knows and loves her birthmother Megan and birthfamily.

Caroline has a relationship with her full-sibling brother, Brayden,
who is two years older than her.
He lives with Megan.
Caroline is ours.

To most folks, this might be unusual.
In our family, it's normal!  :)

It actually grieves us that we don't have
that same level of contact with Jameson's birthparents.
(more on that in an upcoming post...)

Since we live many states away from one another,
our visits together are few, but they are so, so sweet,
filled with lasting memories.

Mommy and birthmommy Megan. 
I'm so thankful she chose us for Caroline!
(We look like we could be sisters, don't we?)

We're united by our love for this baby girl!

What a joy it is to see a mother reunited with her daughter,
a brother reunited with his sister,
a daughter reunited with her family of origin.

Megan trusted us enough to place her own flesh and blood in our care.
How could I not desire the opportunity for them to know and love one another?
For an open adoption to work,
trust and respect must flow on both sides.
Like any family relationship,
communicating expectations and desires is helpful, too.

Caroline even has birth-great-grandparents
who take joy in watching her as she grows
and are so thoughtful to send both (!!) of my children
birthday and Christmas cards and gifts.

God is indeed so gracious.

Because of open adoption, our family has grown! 
Who knew we'd be related to you guys?!  :)
But we're so glad we are!

Because Love is thicker than blood.