Thursday, December 31, 2015


I love the end of a year.  If it's been a great year, I love looking back at the wonderful memories.  If it's been a particularly painful year, I enjoy the opportunity to bid it farewell and hope for a better coming year.

2015 carried more ups than downs, and for that we are thankful.

Here's some of the highlights...

The first time back on her bike...

After her fall, broken wrist, AND surgery in 2015, it was a beautiful moment to watch her begin 2015 by conquering her fear and getting back on the bike.

 Pop and Mamie coming to visit

It had been years since my parents had traveled due to my dad's health.  And even though the reason for their visit wasn't a happy one (my grandmother's passing), it meant the world to have them here. 
Sweet Briar's "Closing"

Of the lowest points of our year came when the 114 yr. old Sweet Briar College preemptively announced its closing.  And even though it was ultimately saved and reopened, we lost almost all of our Sweet Briar girls and our staff and dear niece, Callie, through it all.  

1820 house

You might have expected this, but it's becoming our habit when life deals us painful blows to buy a house.  (Some people go for ice cream.  We go for real estate.)  With the sadness and stress of Sweet Briar's closing, we bought this diamond-in-the-rough 1820 house and spent our summer renovating the basement apartment into an amazing rental.  (and at some point, we still have the entire upper house left to do!)

 Her henna tattoo...

I can't explain it, but this was a 2015 moment for me.  It was like looking alopecia in the face and saying You don't define our beauty.  Caroline looked like a princess.  And it was so cathartic to crown that beautiful bald head.
ministry team members spreading out across our house practicing one-on-ones

RUF Ministry team...
With the loss of Callie and most of our Sweet Briar girls who transferred to other schools, this year felt very much like a 1st year for RUF as we moved our meeting location to Liberty's campus for the first time.  But one of the highlights of the year was watching our current ministry team truly begin to grasp what real, honest, messy community and transparency look like as a group, and God is beautifully at work in and through this group of students and our new intern, Taylor.

Day at the farm...

A simple, quiet day in the year, unplugged from technology.  (except the camera, of course) :)   Riding the tractor to the pumpkin patch.  Playing in the corn maze.  Eating a picnic dinner.  It was glorious.

Outer Banks 4x4...
When Caroline found this amazing shell on the first evening of our family vacation to the remote 4x4 area of the Outer Banks, I knew it was going to be an awesome week.

But the wild horses on the beach....

and the dolphins dancing in front of us truly made it MAGICAL.

Cabell St Collective...

Starting a band, Cabell St Collective, and bringing down the house in our first gig was a major highlight of my year.  It served so many purposes beyond the music itself, like loving our city and bringing more culture into it.  (You can "like" us on facebook!  Our next gig is Feb 13th!)

Batman and Wonder Woman...

Halloween is one of our favorite holidays of the year.  We love  the fun of dressing up, of getting out and loving our neighbors, of watching our children receive candy, and the joy of giving out candy at our door.  I've always said Halloween is one of the most Christian holidays of the year!

Christmas Day...

Kids make Christmas awesome.  It makes me so happy to watch them receive and squeal with delight and thankfulness.  

This year, after spending a few days doing Christmas with our South Carolina family, we enjoyed a peaceful Christmas Day as a family opening gifts and playing together.  I was feeling a little insecure at how little I'd actually bought for my kids this year, only to find out one of our supporting churches, Redeemer Pres, showered their missionary families with Christmas gifts this year.  I was moved to tears at their generosity.

Goodbye, 2015.  
Happy New Year to you all!  May God pour out His mercies and grace upon you in 2016.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

walkin' in a winter wonderland...

I've laid low on the extra curricular stuff thus far in Caroline's life.  Every parent knows the crazy pressure there is to enroll your kid in every imaginable thing from the time they begin walking.  And while I'm all for giving my children enriching opportunities, I'd like to pace myself and only do what is truly manageable for our family, both time-wise and money-wise.

Kindergarten was enough for us.  The poor girl was exhausted at the end of a school day, and afterschool trips to the library or park were about all we could handle.  School WAS the extra-curricular thing added in our life that required a major adjustment for all of us as a family.

In first grade, we found a free weekly ukelele class and a one hour of "open gym" at a gymnastics place (for $4) that we would do when we were able.

And now, in second grade, we've embarked on Caroline's first official extra-curricular: DANCE.

1st dance recital
We've signed up for a jazz dance class at the downtown ballet studio less than one minute from our house (!!), and my mom has graciously offered to help pay for the classes.

With only 3 months of dance EVER, she had her first recital a week ago!

And can I just say as a side note, it's always interesting how alopecia affects normal life stuff.  Like, for this recital, I had to figure out how to do full make-up on my daughter for the first time, and with no eyebrows and barely any eyelashes, it's a CHALLENGE, lemme tell you!  At some point, I need to learn how to draw on some natural looking eyebrows...

Caroline thought she might want to wear her wig in a bun to perform, but after she considered how hot and itchy that would be, PLUS she realized that dancers pull their hair up in order to get it out of their face, I think she realized she actually had the upper hand.  (he he!)

Who knows what the audience thought when they saw a gorgeously bald dancer on stage!  Bet it was a first for them!  I did hear a few "aww"s in the audience when they first saw her, but you couldn't help but keep your eyes glued to her BEAUTY!

I was a little nervous for her.  Not because of alopecia, but because she's in a class with two other girls who have both obviously danced for years, and I didn't know if Caroline would be able to keep up!

But check out her performance!  She did a great job, especially for having only 3 months of class!

Bravo, Caroline!

We love you and are so very proud of you, our beautiful gal!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

a week in review...

Oh man.  We have just survived a week without daddy.  That's a big feat around here.  And as soon as he came back into town, I (Amy) have fallen down sick with a nasty stomach bug.  So we find ourselves just trying to hold it together and survive this Christmas season.

It's ten days until Christmas.  And I have not Christmas-shopped.

How about some highlights while Daddy was in Colorado at his annual RUF staff training?

This girl BEGGED me to go to the Humane Society where they'll let you hold and play with kittens to our hearts content.  She was in HEAVEN.  Too bad her Daddy is allergic to them.  And too bad her Mommy can barely keep two children alive, much less think about adding any animals to the mix...

A trip to the library is always a winner.  I love how engrossed Jameson is with these moving beads right now.

Caroline had been telling me about how her class pulls out their "eye-pads" after their work is finished.   I cracked up when I saw this was what she was talking about.

I love that my little guy still snuggles with me after naptime.

Tuesday night, I felt like I'd hit the jackpot when the three of us pulled up to a restaurant we had decided upon, completely unaware that it was KIDS EAT FREE night!!!  The three of us ate for a grand total of $9.03...woohoo!

 Mercy Pres worship team rehearsal

As a musician and worship director, Christmas is definitely my busy season.  And the week Marc was away was my busiest week of the year preparing for our church's annual Lessons and Carols service.  I must brag on this special group of musicians who led our congregation this past Sunday.  They did such an amazing job.  I am beyond blessed to lead this sweet group!

I also had some extra hours to meet up with a few RUF girls and friends.  Aaaand a few extra hours to binge-watch past episodes of "The Voice" to catch up to the season finale.  (he he...)

We made it through the week, counting down each day until Daddy returned.  Staying busy and having something fun to do each day made it a little easier for all of us.  I wish we could say that we're functioning again, but literally DURING our Lessons and Carols service on Sunday, I began coming down with the stomach bug.

Perhaps one of these days we'll find ourselves back at normal.

Friday, December 11, 2015

a first with racism...

I think I've had my first brush with racism.

I mean, I hear plenty of racial comments regarding our son, and it is what it is.  Like the time the lady saw Jameson playing with a football in a store and looked up at us and whispered, "Football is just in their blood."  While she could've been a little more tactful and thought before she attributed a generalization to an entire ethnicity, I don't believe her intentions were meant to insult my son.

As a transracial family, we know to expect these things and we seek to be gracious with others who don't always know the appropriate things to say.  (because we're still learning along the way, too!)

But the other day felt different.   The day when Jameson and I popped into our local Goodwill because we had a few minutes to kill before picking up Caroline.

Jameson wanted to look at the toy section, and I wanted to look at the houseware section 10 feet away.   He was in my eyesight the entire time, and ironically, I didn't get to look at a single houseware because of what happened next.

An older woman shopping there appeared around the corner and she must have noticed my son standing at the toy section alone.  I watched as her eyes searched down the aisles trying to figure out who might have left this little preschooler by himself.  She didn't see a brown-skinned mama to match him.

Little did she know he was completely safe in his mother's care at that moment.  (It kinda feels like I'm an "undercover mom" at times like those!  Ha!)

But instead of becoming concerned for the safety and well-being of a child who might have been separated from his parent, she became irritable.  She looked around wildly, catching my eyes.  Her eyebrows furrowed.  She shook her head quickly in judgment.  She was visibly becoming disgusted. What misperceptions is she believing in this moment? I wondered.  She continued to stand there, her tension escalating.

It was surreal to be an onlooker to what was appearing to be a racially-motivated situation.  Perhaps I was just reading race into it.  So in my mind, I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt and I kept watching.

Her gestures and reaction continued to increase, and when a Goodwill worker walked by without saying anything or noticing this woman's conundrum, she looked directly at me in utter disbelief and anger, still shaking her head.

"What?" I asked.  She was wanting me to join in with her disgust of the situation, but I wasn't exactly sure what it was about.

She then looked down at my precious little son, who was magically engrossed in a toy, and pointed at him with a look on her face that I will never forget.  It was a face that showed no care or concern.  Only condemnation and judgment.

That was all I needed.

Maybe it wasn't outright racism.  She knew better than to say anything.  Thankfully the past 50 years have taught our society to condemn blatant racism.

But now in our day, that is a form of racism.  It's subtle, but it's there.  (As a white girl, I never had eyes to see or notice how much it was there like I do now.)

But here I was, feeling the weight of this woman's racial microaggression towards my own son.

I took a few steps towards Jameson as I was having this weird, out-of-body, Mama Bear moment.  What. do. I. say. in. this. moment.  

She saw me walking towards him and suddenly had an idea.  "Oh!  Is he with YOU?"

"YES.  He's mine," I slowly replied as I looked in her eyes.   Looking back, I wish I had said, "Yes.  He's MY SON," but oh well.

Cue the self-justification.

"OH!!!  Well, I just came around the corner and didn't know who he was with....." she continued quickly spouting off her self-defense, expecting me to laugh it off nervously with her.

But it was already over.  I knew she was embarrassed.  I hope it taught her a lesson.

I love my son.  FIERCELY.  I want to protect him from all of the stupid and harmful perceptions and comments he will have to learn to endure in his lifetime, especially as he grows older and he's not perceived as quite so little and cute.

It hurts deeply when I hear white people discount the experience of minorities or even go as far to think that by talking about race, it's minorities who are creating our country's race problem.  Why can't my culture own up to our own stereotypes, call them for the sin that they are, and seek the difficult road towards reprograming our mind towards what is true, that all skin colors and all cultures are equally beautiful and designed by our Creator?

On most days, I'm just worrying about the typical mom stuff.  Did he pee in the toilet.  Did he get enough to eat.  We need to work on counting today.  He needs to understand the concept of sharing.  You get what I'm saying.

But both of my kids have some "extras" that God has given to them.  Things that require a little extra measure beyond the usual parenting.  I've got a bald daughter, and that has it's own set of issues.  But a major difference between my children is that while my daughter's difference draws a reaction of empathy and admiration from strangers, my son's will at times draw suspicion and negative judgment.

May God give me and my son the grace to face these challenges and press on towards the beautiful plans He has for us.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

celebrate race...

Today the topic of race came up with some of my new mama friends.  Particularly how and/or if you should talk to your children about race, which, of course, is a topic of fascination to me as a newbie to transracial adoption.

It struck me that both of my new friends with diverse families hadn't yet talked about race with their children.  "They haven't really noticed or asked questions yet, so I don't feel the need to talk about it until they raise questions."

One of them had watched children avoiding holding her kids' dark-skinned hands during an activity, yet silently looked on as the other moms handled the situation.  (I know that will be me at some point in time, and I can easily get anxious and heartbroken at the thought of what Jameson might have to face just because of the pigment of his skin.)

I think my friends speak for a lot of families in our country.  Race can be a polarizing, uncomfortable topic.  We don't want to say the wrong thing, we don't want our KIDS to say the wrong thing or believe the wrong thing, so we often don't say anything at all.

But I think we need to realize our underlying assumption when we do that is that we're equating the topic of race to something bad, something we should avoid unless it absolutely needs to be mentioned.

Our family talks often about race.  Maybe that's a byproduct of being a transracial family?  Since Jameson doesn't even have one parent that shares his culture, perhaps we have to be more intentional in learning about and integrating his culture into our home than my friends do.

But maybe my friends also don't need to talk about race as much because they're always around it. As I listened, it was obvious they live and choose diverse settings for their children so maybe the subject of race isn't a big deal when you're constantly surrounded by a community of multiple ethnicities.

Honestly, my world is much more colorful now than it used to be, but it's still more white than I'd prefer.  

Each family decides how they'll choose to handle the sensitive and messy subject of race with their kids.  Certainly it's a tricky balancing act for us-- I don't want my children putting too much identity into race.  People are FAR more than their color.  Or gender.  

But I also don't want my children to ignore what God has made, either.  As transracial parents, we're always learning and processing through the issue of race, and right or wrong, our family has chosen to teach our children about the BEAUTY in diversity that God Himself created!  Just as people come with different eye colors, they come in different skin colors, too.

This may be a shock, but we've also chosen to teach our children age-appropriately about the history of race in our nation by reading children's books on Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr, etc.  It's because of the efforts of the Civil Rights movement that our family can even be considered a family!

 How beautiful is it that God has redeemed such ugliness in our culture over generations that Jameson can now be called my SON.

The story of the Bible is how Christ came to unite two races that once opposed one another, Jews and Gentiles.

Our family exists as a direct result of God's kingdom moving across the hearts of our nation to unite two races.

How could we NOT celebrate?