Tuesday, December 30, 2014
The child, in a fit of rage, turned to me and said, "I need an opportunity!"
The exclamation has stuck with me for years, as I'm parenting, as I worked with my students at the university, as I dealt with difficult customers in some of my other jobs, and most recently when I took my daughters to see the new ANNIE movie.
One of Annie's songs is called "Opportunity." And it's resonating with me today as I share this article with you, a piece over at My Brown Baby, which focuses on Target's Annie clothing advertisements in their stores which feature not a single brown girl.
For a hundred reasons, this bothers me.
The greatest is this: my girls deserve to be represented rather than dismissed, ignored, and pushed aside.
This is one reason I wrote BLACK GIRLS CAN: AN EMPOWERING STORY OF YESTERDAYS AND TODAYS. Because Black girls and women CAN and DO great things and should be recognized for it.
And we sure don't need any more messages of BLACK GIRLS CANNOT, whether that comes from an advertisement, a tv show, a book, or anything else.
Monday, December 1, 2014
When Steve and I were first married, we put up a tree that was decorated in coordinating glass, silver, and gray ornaments. It was balanced, symmetrical. It was tidy and well-planned.
As the years passed on and the children entered our lives, our tree began to evolve. We added ornaments from our own childhoods, plus ornaments gifted to our children. Ornaments symbolizing first Christmases and favorite activities and characters. We began to display several Black Santa ornaments and brown-skinned angels, grinning each time our kids exclaimed, "That one looks like me!"
Our tree went from silver and gray to a palate mirroring the rainbow.
In essence, our tree became symbolic of our family: non-matching but more beautiful than it was before.
This year has been one of incredible blessings for our family. My oldest started kindergarten, my middle child started preschool, my son turned one (and is almost two!). We started homeschooling the kids (part-time). I published a second book, wrote for both Scary Mommy and Babble, shared part of our story on Portrait of Adoption, got re-published on abc.com, went on NPR and Huffington Post Live, and continued to write for adoption.net. I found out that Melissa Harris-Perry recommended my first book! And I'm happy to share that my first book has sold over 1,000 copies! And Steve and I successfully went on a date every month (except October). That's huge, ya'll, when you have three kids! We visited our kids' birth families twice, and we spent a fabulous week at Disney with Steve's parents.
We have so much to be thankful for.
2015 will no doubt be a great year! Exciting things are coming, including my third book (co-authored with a really fabulous writer). Meanwhile, I'll be getting my Christmas on, doing a daily devotional with the kiddos, baking cookies, wrapping gifts, and relishing in the celebration of Jesus' birth and the promise that starry night offers us all:
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Monday, November 17, 2014
Friday, November 14, 2014
The most complex, draining, joyful, interesting, demanding, and ironic job I believe one can ever have.
Parenting is many things, but able-to-be-simplified is not really one of them. Many books (and the experts or everyday parents who write them) have often attempted to create the perfect, easy guide to all-things-parenting. But every one of them have failed.
The authors I love, and trust, are those who don't claim to have it all together or claim to have perfect answers. Rather, I trust the authors who are realistic and forgiving. Humor helps, too.
Here are my current, top 6, favorite parenting books that have influenced me and why I love them:
The Hands Free Mama: The author, first off, lives true to her message: less screen time, more in-the-moment-time. Her blog is simple, her posts are reflective and honest, and she doesn't post very often because she's busy being in-the-moment. Like most moms, I struggle with balancing all the electronic distractions (which begin as necessities for work and safety and communication) with living in the moment and relishing in the blessing of being my children's mother and my husband's wife. And just being ME and enjoying who I am and what I'm capable of. This book offers heartfelt messages, truth mamas need to hear, and practical steps to live hands free.
The Connected Child: There are so many books that tell parents how to discipline their children effectively, but few get to the heart of parenting: connection. This book is written for adoptive parents, but I have found that the methods can be helpful to any parent-child relationship. I greatly enjoy the tone of the book: honest, firm, and heartfelt. And the fact that when we wipe away all the discipline methods that do not work (at least not long-term) and get to the heart of the matter (the heart), connection and healing can happen. I also love that though this book is about connection, the authors aren't "fluffy" or hokey.
No More Perfect Moms: As a type A lady, this book resonated with me on many levels. First, unlike a lot of Christian literature, I felt that the author didn't put forth a perfect Christian front. She's realistic, kind, and forthcoming. The author reminds readers that they don't have to be perfect because Jesus is the perfect One. We need to chill out, stop trying to take the Savior's place, and enjoy the children we have. This was a refreshing read in an age where perfectionism is expected.
The Girls Who Went Away Fair warning: this is a hard read. The author shares the stories of women who were coerced into placing their children for adoption in the 1950s and 60s. What does this have to do with parenting today? The author takes readers into the depths of manipulation, abuse, societal expectations, stereotypes, loss, and secrecy: things that resonate with most women. We are reminded of the bond between mother and child and the importance of demanding, seeking, and adhering to transparency and justice.
Breastfeeding Without Birthing The author goes where no author has gone before: an in-depth, experienced explanation of the possibilities a mother has when it comes to nurturing her baby at the breast even though she hasn't given birth to that baby. The author, an adoptive mother herself, and an experienced lactation consultant, gives women exactly what they want: truth, advice, and encouragement. (See my blog's most popular post on the same topic this book covers)
The Honest Toddler This book is hysterically, laugh-out-loud funny. The author doesn't hold back one bit, sharing what all moms know to be true; motherhood is nothing like a Hallmark movie. Sometimes we need to shush the critical voices and just laugh. Laugh at ourselves, laugh at the parenting situations we find ourselves in.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Thursday, November 6, 2014
Saturday, November 1, 2014
God is the opposite. He is peace, joy, redemption, and the very ultimate Love. He is never-changing, always, certain. Freeing. Confident. Wise.
God commands Christians to guard our hearts, because everything we do comes from our hearts.
All else will fall into place.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Check out this Virtually Speaking: Respecting Open Adoptions over at Open Adoption Bloggers, this article over at adoption.net called The Case for Keeping the Private Private, and you can also check out chapter two of my first book, Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children, where I have a section on privacy. My views on respecting your child's (and their first famlies') privacy aren't necessarily popular these days, but I have found that holding firm to my standards has worked well for our family.
Happy weekend, everyone! And check back next week for a coupon code for some pretty fantastic African American art!
Monday, October 20, 2014
I'm thankful for my incredible husband for many reasons, but one of the greatest is this:
When I got sick, really really really sick, he was there for me.
On the day I was knocking on death's door, he drove home from work, took me to the ER, and sat beside me as the nurses took vials of blood from my arms.
And when we sat in the ICU for a few days, and later, in a regular room, and the diabetes nurse educator asked us if we wanted to have kids,
we both said yes, without hesitation.
And when "adoption" grew in my heart, my husband listened as I shared why I was certain it was the right choice.
He got on board.
And now we have three, beautiful, funny, talented, rowdy kids who look nothing like us but are in many ways, mini versions of ourselves.
My husband is the kind of guy who is the only dad chaperoning the field trips or helping at the kids' school holiday parties. He's the kind of dad who doesn't think twice about changing a diaper, giving a middle-of-the-night bottle to a newborn, playing My Little Ponies, or preparing healthy snacks. He's the kind of dad who will soothe the little one who is having a bad dream, even if that means spending the entire night in her tiny, toddler-size bed. He's the dad who tells his kids, "I love you. I'm proud of you. You are beautiful." He's the dad who shows up and pays attention. He's genuine. He's affectionate. He's patient and mindful. The kids all shared the same first word: "Dada."
He's a rock star. A knight in shining armor. My Superman.
He's the real deal.
As we approach a season where thankfulness takes center stage, I'm very, very thankful for my guy.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
"Should your child go missing..." it began.
Of course, no parent wants to think about the possibility that their children could wander off or be lured by an abductor. But it happens. And we've talked to our children about strangers, about what to do if someone tries to speak to them or lure them into a car, and we've practiced the appropriate ways to respond.
But seeing the instructions and their smiling faces on a card stamped "GIVE TO POLICE" scares me beyond belief.
I am an overprotective mom. I think part of this is my type A personality paired with the fact that I have three young kids. I can't let all hell break loose. I have to know where my kids are and what they are doing, and I have to keep them fairly contained. If I do not, I could have each of them running in opposite directions.
And there's also the race factor.
My kids are more likely than their white friends to be blamed for things they didn't do, suspected by adults and kids alike upon entering a room, and less likely be receive media attention if they go missing. Thus, the Black and Missing Foundation was created in order to highlight missing black children.
If my one of my children were to go missing, would the police listen to me? Would the media display their photos as quickly, as frequently, as urgently as the photos of missing white children? Would my kid's photos get the same number of shares on social media as the white child's?
Getting the kids' photos and the missing child instructions added "fuel to the fire" of my already heavy heart, anxious mind, and restless soul. The racial climate here in St. Louis has been simply frightening these past few months. I fear for my children, and the many children who look like mine. I feel pending injustices, I listen to unspoken words.
I cut out the kids' photos, as instructed, and slid them into my wallet. And I whispered a prayer for their safety---that I never have to use the cards and that my kids will respond appropriately (and as practiced) if anyone ever approaches them. And I also prayed that as my children get older, and more just-in-case photos arrive year after year, that I don't ever have to use them for another reason: to show I am their real parent or to cry out to the media when one of my baby's is unjustly harmed because he or she is simply Black in America.
God be with our children: clothe them in wisdom, discernment, and divine protection.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Check out this segment on transracial adoption over at Huffington Post Live. I was honored to participate today! It was great to "meet" Miss Lisa Marie Rollins. She's a transracial adoptee who is well-known in the adoption community and has some pretty awesome YouTube videos.
Also, if you head over to adoption.net, you can check out my article on some of the best family adoption films.
Thanks for stopping by!
Monday, October 6, 2014
Check out my post, Please Don't Ask Me, "Why Didn't You Adopt a White Baby?" over at Babble.
And "The 10 Most Ridiculous Things This Adoptive Family Has Ever Heard" over at Scary Mommy.
I've also been promoting my new book, Black Girls Can: An Empowering Story of Yesterdays and Todays, which came out a little over a month ago. And yes, Black Boys Can is in the works! If you'd like to keep up with BGC, check our FB page.
Since the release of Black Girls Can, I've seen a resurgence of sales of Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children. It's my honor to write for both children and adults! If you'd like to keep up with Come Rain or Come Shine, check out the FB page.
Finally, if you are experiencing some resistance to your adoption announcement from friends and family, check out these tips on how to deal with reluctant loved ones over at adoption.net.
Monday, September 8, 2014
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Thursday, August 28, 2014
We keep a lot of our adoption details private. Not because we are ashamed or stuck up, but because we believe in respecting the privacy of our children and their birth families. Adoption is complicated. Or, my favorite word to describe our adoptions: bittersweet.
I greatly admire our children's birth families for agreeing to be part of an open adoption. Why? Because sometimes it's easier just NOT to know. NOT to feel. NOT to "go there" (wherever there is at the moment). I cannot imagine how simultaneously difficult it is to see their child being raised by someone else while also feeling immense joy to have accessibility to their children through phone calls and texts and letters and pictures and visits.
Open adoption presents many challenges for all triad members. (Triad=birth families, adoptive parents, and the child who was adopted---also called an adoptee.) Adoptive parents make sacrifices of time and energy to keep adoptions open. For example, my family makes 2-4 trips a year to our kids' birth city which is about four hours away from our home. We usually stay 2-4 days per trip. We also, as adoptive parents, have to deal with reoccurring emotions surrounding openness. These emotions may be frustration, jealousy, and disappointment.
Perhaps the most difficult part for us, as the adoptive parents, is explaining open adoption and the letdowns/disappointments we've had to our maturing children. These disappointments include cancelled visits, no-show birth family members, or unmet expectations of what a visit should or shouldn't be. Openness also triggers questions of absent birth family members: who they are, where they are, and why they aren't available.
For birth parents, I can only imagine that it's hard to see us, the adoptive parents, making all the decisions and holding the power in the situation, even when we work very hard to "even the playing field," offering love and respect to the biological family members, accommodating their needs for more or less contact at any given time. The truth is, there will always be an imbalance, a dash of discomfort, and the reality that adoption is messy from the get-go and that messiness is always, to some degree, present. I am certain they imagine what life would be like had they of parented. And I have, at times, felt tremendous guilt for being a parent through adoption.
I admire them for the faith they have in us. I want to do "right by them." I want them to know I love my kids with all my heart, and I am beyond honored to have been chosen to parent my children.
We have promised to fulfill our end of the bargain. We keep our promises. Always. We show up, on time, with a good attitude. We are excited to see them. We take photos. We converse. We ask questions about hair care and family traditions. We celebrate their victories (a new job, a new apartment, a new baby). We encourage them to press on during challenging seasons.
Our goal in open adoption is to provide our children with access to their biological family members. And not just access (to things like health information), but relationship. The opportunity for relationship.
We don't want to ever be the ones who close the door.
So we fight through our feelings. We compromise. We make adjustments.
We realize we are incredibly fortunate to have openness. Our children will have choices growing up. Choices regarding contact, regarding information, regarding opportunities. Not all adoptees have openness.
Is open adoption easy?
Is it beneficial?
Is it hard?
Is it best?
For us, yes.
Openness is a journey through a relationship. There are ebbs and flows.
But I'm not throwing in the towel, not out of selfishness or a desire to have an easier life. We didn't just adopt and move on. We adopted FOR LIFE. We chose this path.
We chose the messiness.
The beautifully broken.
So until our children are old enough to take the reigns in their open adoptions, deciding if they want more or less, we will keep at it. And whatever our children decide in the future, we want them to know that we support them and that we always worked to keep the open-adoption door wide open.
For now, I know one thing for certain: the kids' birth families and us, we love the children we share. Deeply. We want what is best for them. We want them to flourish. We want them to do life big.
And that is the tie that binds us.
To learn more about open adoption, please check out the chapter entitled Two Mommies, Two Daddies: Navigating Open Adoption in my book Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children
Monday, August 25, 2014
Rachel: Tell me about your company.
Rachel: What inspired you to create bandages for various skin tones?
Rachel: Obviously, it's not just about bandages. What stronger message are you trying to convey?
Toby: We are successful if we change the bandage industry to match a variety of different skin tones. If we are the company that is the catalyst to make this happen, then awesome."
Rachel: Are there more products in the works?
Toby: Yes! But we're secretive about this right now. Our company is actually Tru-Colour Products, LLC, and our mission is to address skin-tone lack of diversity product injustices everywhere. We need to be successful and sustainable with bandages first, but we have a vision to:
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
My kids are black. They will face issues that white kids won’t, and my whiteness can only protect my kids for so long. They are growing up and they will be under increasingly more care by authority figures who aren’t their parents: teachers, coaches, other parents helping in their classrooms, friends’ parents at play dates and birthday parties.
There is so much noise right now. The television, the computer, the conversations (and the lack of conversations, which speak volumes). I just want to make like a little kid, put my fingers in my ears, and hide under my bed.