Friday, April 29, 2016

the river house #3: demo day...

If you love the HGTV show Fixer Upper like we do, you know exactly what "demo day" is.  Except that "demo day" is a 2 minute video clip on TV, but here in the real world, it's a day here, a day there, another day here, another week there....

Thankfully, there's not very much IN the River House to demo- no cabinetry, no plumbing or fixtures, no electricity- just a ton of old plaster and lathe boards off the walls and ceilings of the original house.  (the addition in the back of the house is obviously new construction and ready for drywall)

I feel like Joanna Gaines as I tell you this wall from the kitchen will be gone and open up into the large 24'x24' great room that looks out onto the James River. (eek!  I'm so excited!)  It's dark in there now because we'll get to design and put in all new windows, drywall, flooring, you name it.  

(Oh, and I am now the proud owner of around 18 antique radiators of all sizes and shapes if anyone's in the market for them... they weigh a TON, so if you're willing to take them off our hands, you can have them!)  

If you look closely, you may be able to see two steel support beams in the middle of the great room.  Those beams are what has slowed us down as we've had to hire a structural engineer to figure out how to move those supports out to the edges of the room.  Hopefully they'll be outta there next week!

My husband is a stud.  Literally.

It is no small job, but an incredibly FUN one to demo!  Even the ceilings have to be torn out.  We are attempting to keep and restore the original historic trim in the process, so that adds to the time element.  I should say that if any of you are interested in working out some of your aggressions with a sledge hammer, have we got the job for you...

I was so curious to see what it would look like under the plaster on the chimney.  That's where the stove will be in my new kitchen design.  Would there be old brick we could restore and leave exposed?

YES, there is!  Hooray!  This design just got even cooler.

The old temporary electric pole is now gone and no longer needed.   We've got power!  

Our neighbors purchased a portion of the adjacent lot from us, and they're excitedly working on a cute fence in between our houses now.  Our kids are friends with their kids, and they're putting in a gate so the kids can go back and forth between the yards freely.

Until next time!

Thursday, April 28, 2016


Since music is such a big deal in our family, thought we'd give you a little concert electronically. (an "e-concert" if you will...)

Here's Jameson belting out one of his favorites (with some motions!):

Next, Caroline performing her first original song while Nanny was here to visit last week.  The song is called "Magic" and when you hear the lyrics, you'll probably guess it was written by an 8 year old girl.


Here's another song Jameson looooooves, complete with a "slingshot":   

And to wrap up our e-concert, how about a sample of my band, Cabell St Collective?  (We are fun and available for hire!)

Friday, April 22, 2016

the heart of a transracial mama...

Some days I have no idea how to be a white mama to a brown son.  

In many ways, it looks the same as how you'd raise any other child-- kissing boo boo's, preparing them for kindergarten, disciplining and redirecting all that ENERGY!, struggling to survive until bedtime, etc.  

But in other ways, it's vastly different (and I think it should be) trying to help your child develop their racial identity if they don't share it with either parent.

I wouldn't call transracial parenting the "ideal" scenario for a child.  I can understand and support people's hesitations with it.    

Adoption itself isn't the "ideal," either.  Babies are supposed to stay with their birth families.  Couples are supposed to have the ability to conceive.  

But life is broken.  It isn't how it's supposed to be.  Things don't go the way we hope they will go.

And it's out of that brokenness that adoption is born.   

Every adoption is different.  There's adoption following foster care, infant adoption, international adoption, transracial adoption, open adoption, mediated adoption, closed adoption, and even embryo adoption. 

But one thing is the same: every adoption is born out of loss.  

So it's probably no wonder that with adoptive parenting comes its own set of insecurities and challenges.

From an outside perspective, I think transracial adoption can be perplexing on many levels, including why someone would even "sign up" for it in the first place.  Some people see my family and think we have a "white messiah complex" for adopting a black child.  Others think it is unfair for Jameson to be raised in a white family, and honestly?  Some days, I have to say I agree.  

Because at the end of the day, maybe I can give Jameson all the love, all the food/shelter/clothing, all the education, and all the skills to be successful, but what does a white mama like me know about giving my son his racial and cultural identity?  

As hard as I try, I know I naturally have huge deficiencies in this area of parenting.  I can't do it alone.  I know I need help in a BIG way from my friends of color and from the african american community at large.  (And that will only increase as Jameson gets older.)  

Diversity isn't just some nice aspiration.  In my family, it's a necessity.

And I'm not the only one who sees it.  A few months ago, our family attended a multi-ethnic church downtown on a rare Sunday off from my position of worship director.  It was nice to be in a setting where I was the minority.  Immediately upon sitting down, my sweet Jameson pointed to the people on stage and excitedly said, "Brown!"  He's THREE YEARS OLD and now refers to our church as the "white church."   

Being a transracial parent in our house means always evaluating: Are we doing enough?  How can we learn and understand more about race?  What is age appropriate and how do we present it to him?  How can we reprogram our own past and current presuppositions about race?  How can we bring more diversity into our family?  What changes do we need to make in order for that to happen?  

The insecurities don't stop there.  

Does his hair look moisturized enough?  Does it look like a white mama did it?  Can he wear pajamas with a monkey on it?  Should he play with toy guns outside?  Will black people accept us?  Will white people accept us?  Will they still think he's that "cute" when he wants to date their white daughter?  Will Jameson be able to navigate black culture?   How do I prepare him for encounters with direct and subtle racism?

Really, sometimes it's enough to make me question what God was thinking in the first place.  I wonder if I can really do this.

I don't know what this journey looks like down the road, but my heart's desire is to be a great mama to Jameson.  I love my son to pieces.

I want him to grow up and laugh at his white mama, knowing how dang hard I at least tried.  
I want him to know I love him AND his culture.
I want more of his culture in ME, not simply just for him.
I want him to see my feeble attempts towards bridge building and reconciliation between races.  
I want him to be a man that sees the image of God stamped upon all races, despite an embarrassing history in our nation.  
I want him to learn to be gracious and forgiving for all the ignorant, unjust things he will encounter in his lifetime.  
I want him to be proud to be black, proud of his rich heritage.

Whenever I'm overwhelmed with the insecurities of being a transracial mama, it helps me to remember how I got this "job" to be Jameson's mom in the first place.  

It was Jameson's birthmother and birthfather who looked at our lily white complexions... AND STILL PICKED US. 

God could've brought me a son through conception.  He could've given us a child who shared our racial heritage.  But in His sovereign plan (though it may make little sense), He chose Jameson for us through Jameson's birthparents.

So who knows how God will use our little family in Jameson's life one day?

One thing is for sure.

How much He's already used little Jameson in this family's life.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

the river house #2: stuck and stucco...

Remember we bought the River House a few months ago?  If you missed it, here is the introduction.  

Right now we're sort of stuck in a holding pattern... you see, standing in the middle of the "Great Room" addition that the former owners began, are 2 large steel posts for structural support.  They're great. I typically like a house that stands up structurally and all, but when the room is finished, I'd prefer not to have posts obstructing my living room area.  Since this is a begin-from-scratch type of project, I'm going for that one big-ol'-happy, open room.  (call me a miniature Joanna Gaines for those of you HGTV lovers...)

SO!  We consulted a handyman friend... who said we needed an architect...who said we needed a structural engineer... who drew out what we needed to do... and we're now looking for the contractor to actually MOVE those posts to the sides of the room while beefing up the header to hold it all in place.  

Pretty much everything is on halt until we get those posts moved to where they will be, especially because their location will affect the design of the basement, which is where we plan to begin!  (with the goal of creating an apartment down there by the end of the summer!)

There have been a few tasks we began during the cold months...

Tackling the ivy growing onto the house

Go Caroline!
This is the super cool basement where we'll be laboring in this summer.  It's going to be so cute- I can't wait to keep some of the exposed brick walls!


But some of the brick walls are not in good shape, and still have stucco on them. (the gray stuff you see)


Eventually we'll be repointing the bricks to look beautiful again, but before that can happen, I decided to give the stucco a try myself.  I watched a gazillion youtube videos, put on a mask, and went over to the house for an hour or so.

Success!  It was DUSTY, but thankfully not difficult!  An hour later, the stucco was off.  I must say, I'm pretty stinkin' proud of myself!

We've also been going through a million, trillion steps with the city to redraw the lines on this open lot next to the house.  Our neighbors (and friends) have wanted to purchase that land for YEARS and they were the first ones who ever told us about the house.  (it's a crazy story-- one day...)

Right now, the open lot is counted as a separate address (there used to be a home there), but when all is said and done, it will increase both the size of our neighbors' and our actual lot size.  They're thrilled to get a larger yard for gardening, etc., and we're happy to make them happy!  (plus we'll make some money back from their purchase and not have to maintain quite so much land- yay!)

So that's where we are!  To be continued...

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

set in our ways...

Adults aren't the only ones who enjoy routine.