Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Opportunity Needed: On Target, the New Annie Movie, and Representing Black Girls

Several years ago, I babysat a child who was behaving rather badly.  I tried all my tricks ranging from threats to hugs to bribery, but nothing worked.  The child simply refused to get it together.

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

Very Merry: My One December Blog Post

It's December!  One of my favorite times of the year is Christmas.  We decorate, we bake, we shop, we wrap, we read, we smile, we celebrate, we eat, we lounge, we listen.  It's sparkly, magic, miracle. It's joy, peace, and hope.  It's blessing after blessing.  It's family. It's remembering and looking forward.

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:

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  ~Luke 2:10 (emphasis mine)

I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas.  I hope this season has you looking up and relishing in the best gift: a savior.  Thank you for using a few moments of your precious time to read my blog.  I'll be back blogging in January.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I'm the Second Mommy, and That Is OK

Check out my guest post over at Carissa Woodwyk's blog.  Carissa is an adoptee who grants wisdom, honesty, and compassion into the lives of her readers.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Follow Your Heart": That Time When Abraham Got It Right

The story of Isaac and Abraham has always made me uncomfortable.  I mean, who wouldn’t feel uneasy about the almighty, loving God commanding a parent to sacrifice his child?  It’s weird.  Gives me the feelings I had watching the first Hunger Games: dread, uneasiness, and a sense of pending doom.

A few weeks ago, I was doing afternoon homeschooling with my girls. We try to start off each session reading a devotional: one story from The Jesus Storybook Bible.

Today was the day Isaac and Abraham made their appearance.  And I skipped the story without hesitation, moving on to when Jacob married Leah and Rachel.   I mean, what was I going to tell my girls about a father putting his son on an alter, preparing to sacrifice him, because God ordered it?  What follow-up questions could I possibly ask my girls to soften the story’s blow, put a positive spin on the whole thing?

As we completed our devotional, the easier, subsequent story of Jacob marrying Leah and Rachel, something dawned on me about the story I purposefully skipped.

Sometimes God asks us to do really, really hard things, because He is preparing us for something great. Will we obey and trust, or will we give in to the whims of our emotions and grasp sand?

Here’s the deal.  Choosing to adopt is hard.  Almost no one comes to the decision without some soul-searching, agony and dread, excitement and anxiety, fears and insecurities, loss and grief.   Almost no one goes through the process without facing a roller coaster of choices and emotions (and second-guessing both one’s choices and emotions). Almost no one adopts and then skips down a path of rainbows and butterflies.

Adoption stems from loss. Someone loses something. Arguably, all triad members lose something in adoption, though some of those losses are obviously much greater than others. To succumb to adoption takes tremendous sacrifice in many ways, whether one is a biological parent or adoptive parent.  And then, of course, there is the one adoption centers around: the child. 

In the midst of making choices about adoption, adoptive parents have a tremendous amount of power, though simultaneously, they have no control.  Their dream of becoming parents is contingent upon a biological parent (or parents) losing their child. Even when this loss is voluntary, it is nevertheless difficult. 

Because adoptive parents have so much power---which agency they use, how much money they have (Can they pay expenses? Afford to travel? Pay to use a more visible and active agency or attorney?),  openness or not to certain situations (openness after the adoption, openness to the sex, race, age, and needs of the child, etc.), and more---they elect to be part of a situation that requires many choices to be made, choices that can change the trajectory of the lives the adoption situation involves.

The adoptive parents are likely very eager to adopt, perhaps enduring years of infertility and miscarriages, their reasoning can be compromised. Their hearts on the line with each possible adoption situation.  They may not see the bigger picture: what their choices mean for the child they will adopt.

Our hearts can be incredibly deceitful.  Despite all the cheesy “follow your heart” canvas prints I see in almost every department store, choosing to follow one’s heart is one of the worst choices an adoptive parent can make.

Adoption shouldn’t be about self-affirmation. It’s not about rescuing a human being or receiving a gift. It’s not about ministering to a woman in a crisis pregnancy and then “helping” her by becoming her child’s parent. It’s not about being “called.” It's not about trying to create a magical healing from all past pain for oneself.

Adoption is, ultimately, complex and bittersweet.

And because adoptive parents hold much of the power, I believe we should take our role very, very seriously.  We need to submit to God’s every leading as we take baby steps (pun intended) toward meeting our forever children. And this means throwing aside preconceived notions and selfish desires. It means choosing to be ethical NO MATTER WHAT.  No matter if we have to wait more months or years to become parents.  No matter if this means we never adopt. No matter how subversive we seem to the majority of the adoption community or the public. No matter how many times we have to say no to those in power who urge us to push when we know we shouldn't push.

We sacrifice what means the most to us, our desire to become parents in a particular, pre-determined, planned way, in lieu of the greater good.

It’s a big pill to swallow. And it’s not until we are in the midst of making decisions, the ones where we are caught between our heart’s desire and what God is telling us to do, that we realize how big adoption is, how life-changing it can be. In this moment, when we choose God over self, our heart changes. 

And God smiles.

Give God something to bless, friend. 

Lay it down on the alter and see what happens.



Monday, November 17, 2014

It's Adoption Month: And Here's What I Want You To Know About My Family

I’m not an adopter. I’m a parent.

My kids are my kids. Not my adopted kids.

My kids are real siblings.

Our adoptions were ethical.

We love our children’s birth families. We visit them. We honor them…

And we respect their decisions. And no one else can tell them or us that what they chose to do was wrong or right. No one else knows the circumstances of the situations. Nor should they.

We celebrate adoption in our household. The adoptions of our children, the family tree becoming an orchard. We recognize the joy and the pain, the ups and downs. We cry and mourn and laugh and dance.

We are honest and empathetic with our children.

We are not saviors, villains, heroes.

We are a real family.

We are always learning and evolving.

We are honored to be our children’s parents.

Adoption is bittersweet and complex.

Our children…well, our cups runneth over.

They are an intricate, beautiful blend of nature and nurture.

They are loved and wanted.  They always have been.

They are going to grow up and do great things, because they have the love, encouragement, and support of two families who love them each dearly.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The 6 Most Influential Parenting Books This Mama Has Ever Read


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

God and Adoption: Where This Christian, Adoptive Mama Stands

I am a Christian.  A Christian who has grown to become quite critical of adoption and the adoption industry, particularly when involving fellow Christians.  (You can read more about adoption ethics here, which is my second most popular blog post of all time).

So, here goes:

First, I do not believe I was “called” to adopt. 

Christian terminology usually makes me very uncomfortable.  Because I feel like a lot of talk about “the Lord” is really about the people uttering those words in a twisted way to self-bless their choices. The whole “called to adopt” phrase makes me cringe. 

I absolutely believe God tells Christians to do (or not do) things.  I do believe that God can bless any situation, including biological parents who choose to parent their children rather than place them for adoption.   

I knew we would adopt.  It was March 2006 while I was in the hospital, just a few days after an ER doctor told me I had this horrible forever disease called type 1 diabetes.  I wrote in my first book about the moment when my first CDNE (Certified Diabetes Nurse Educator) asked Steve and I if we planned on having kids and how we still could, despite of/with, type 1 diabetes.  As she proceeded to share what type 1 diabetes and pregnancy might look like, one word popped into my mind:


Was it God who put adoption in my mind? Was it my own desire becoming evidently and suddenly clear during one of the hardest moments of my life?  I can’t say yes or no to either with certainty. 

But I do believe the choice to adopt was entirely up to me and my husband.  And we did it for one reason: we wanted to become parents. 

Second, I do believe that Christians need to be financially responsible. God calls Christians to be good stewards of their finances.   This means that when it comes to adoption, some hard financial choices need to be made.

I also believe God wants Christians, who choose to adopt, to be discerning in the adoption professionals they utilize. 

I do not believe in selecting agencies that prey on expecting parents and prospective adoptive parents with sneaky fees, astronomically high fees, or sliding scale fees based on a child’s race or the income of the adoptive parents. 

Adoptions cost the agency the same money, on average, regardless of the race of the child, the income of the adoptive parents, or the needs to the expectant parents.  Agencies that charge high fees are predatory and are in adoption for the money, not the adoptees, adoptive parents, or expectant or birth parents.

Bottom line: An adoptive parent’s selection of an adoption professional can change the trajectory of many lives. The decision to work with a particular professional should be taken seriously. Unreasonable adoption fees are a red flag.

Third, I do not and will not every ask God to help an adoptive parent get a placement faster or get a particular placement.  By praying these things, is to pray for biological parents to lose their children, for children to lose their biological parents, and for loss, grief, confusion, and harm to be created.  

I love an article I once found over at Adoption Voices (one despite an hour of searching, I was unable to locate), where the author sets up this analogy.  How is it ok to pray for a biological parent and child to be separated for the “gain” of an adoptive family?  That’s like praying that a wife and husband get divorced so that someone can then swoop in and marry the man or woman.  It’s disturbing. 

Fourth, I do not believe in promoting a hierarchy when it comes to triad members.

All are equally valued by God.  All are worthy of redemption, redemption that yields freedom, forgiveness, joy, and abundance. 

But many believe that adoptive parents are saviors to be glorified, birth parents are a myriad of living stereotypes which warrant disrespect and dehumanization, and adoptees are things to be given and received.

I once heard a pastor say, “Every person you meet is a person for whom Christ died.” 

Repeat:  every person.

Every person was created by God, loved by God, and wanted by God.

Though the adoption industry, in general, thrives on supply (children) and demand (adoptive families), capitalizes on the desperation of both adoptive families (their desire to have a child) and the expectant parents (perhaps a crisis pregnancy situation), and gains money in exchange for a placement, Christians are called to higher thinking and better actions; we are called to ethical behaviors and Christ-like love for all people.

If Christians are to be the “hands and feet” of Jesus and the “salt and light,” we have to view all triad members, all people, as God does.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Three Bowls of Chili: Getting Grateful

It’s a Tuesday evening.  My three kids are all expressing various degrees of hysterics. My toddler, with his infinite ability to consume, is moaning “eeeaaattt” while collapsing at my feet. My daughters are wandering through the house, paper grocery bags over their heads, claiming they are headless.  You know, in celebration of Halloween.  I have spent much of the afternoon on the couch, my blood sugars refusing to stabilize, while the kids enjoyed watching back-to-back viewings of Frozen.

I’m grabbing toppings and the water pitcher out of the fridge, glancing at the clock.  My husband should be home any minute to take our middle daughter to her swimming lesson, and I get to entertain the oldest and youngest during the hour before bedtime, also known as hell-time.  I have yet to pack my daughter’s swim bag or dress her for class.

I’ve made chili, excited to start using the slow cooker again.  But instead of a chilly fall evening where we laugh over steaming bowls, it turns out to be one of those unpredictable Midwest fall days when it’s almost ninety degrees outside.  The heat makes us irritable. 

Today is also the day my phone has stopped working.  Like not just frozen where a simple restart remedies the problem, but the face is the dreaded Black Screen of Death.   My oldest is getting her hair braided tomorrow, and I need to check in and make sure the appointment is still set.  I cannot, however, because the braider’s phone number is stored in my phone, the phone that has picked today not to work. 

I wrangle my son into his highchair and hand him a piece of cheese and a Disney princess sippy cup, the only one clean.  I call to my daughters to get into their seats. Ten minutes to eat dinner, I notice.  I place cheese and crackers in front of them, and they reject the crackers made of pumpkin seeds, flax, and other things that are too brown and hearty.

I’m wearing a t-shirt that is at least five years old and says in cracked, screen-printed letters, “Stop diabetes.”  It’s ironic given the unstable blood sugars I’ve experienced the past few days. My hair, which was freshly cut and colored the night before, is sloppily braided in the front to keep it out of my face. I have on no makeup and have no energy.  No selfies today due to the resemblance to a scary Halloween lawn decoration.  Oh yes, and because my phone isn’t working.

I suddenly realize we have family pictures scheduled for Saturday morning, and despite today’s heat wave, Saturday is going to be significantly cooler, by approximately forty degrees.  And yes, my girls are wearing sleeveless shirts.  When will I have time to go get shirts to wear under (or over?) the sleeveless tops?  But won’t that look ridiculous?  But I don’t have time to choose all new, coordinating outfits for our family of five.

I turn the slow cooker dial from high to warm and remove the lid.  The scent of seasoned tomato goodness fills the kitchen as steam rises quickly into the air. I open the dishwasher, the one I still haven’t emptied from the previous evening, and find three, mismatched bowls.  I place them in a line in front of the slow cooker and begin to fish for a ladle from the over-crowded utensil drawers.   I finally discover it, faithfully jamming one of the drawers with its awkward shape, and I swiftly yank it out.

“I want to listen to music!” yells my middle child.  Then she burps, making her older sister giggle.

“I need more water.  I’m sooooo thirsty!” moans the oldest, as if she’s been traveling the Sahara all day.

“That’s not how you ask.  Try again,” I say over my shoulder.

“More water, please,” she replies in a rather insincere tone.

Meanwhile, my son discovers that if he hops in a seated position in his high chair, the entire chair moves, jumping in tiny, loud increments across the wood floor.  He’s grinning, his eyes wide with excitement, while his sisters-turned-mothers tell him to stop. When he doesn’t, the tattling ensues.

“MOMMMMMMMMMM!” my oldest belts out. “The baby…”

“I know, honey.  I’ll take care of it.” I reply, placing my hand across my eyes, attempting to channel inner peace.  It doesn’t work.  I still feel like Maleficent, ready to flip out and cast some crazy spells at any moment.  

I turn back to the kitchen counter and pick up the ladle.

And I pause.

There, lined up in all its hodgepodge glory, are three mismatched bowls, waiting to be filled with homemade chili.

And I realize that for all the things that go wrong every day, there is a lot to be thankful for.

To most of us who take on the role of parent, we know raising children is exhausting, frustrating, and daunting.  There are so many choices to make. The responsibility is great and the reward can sometimes be very little. Most parents I know are stressed and tired. We are doing the best we can, but we are often left with self-loathing, shaky confidence, and an unquenchable craving for margaritas at 3 p.m.

I am certainly no anomaly.  I spend most days in the exercise clothes I put on that morning.  I rarely have makeup on or my hair done. I spend my waking hours washing mountains of laundry, preparing meals and snacks, disciplining, cuddling, organizing, encouraging. I respond to editors’ e-mails while loading the dishwasher, supervising bath time, and wiping noses. 

Being a mom is the most difficult and most incredible thing I’ve taken on in my life so far.

For all its messiness (figuratively and literally), its emotional highs and lows, its unpredictability and irony, and its demands, motherhood is a gift.  And today, I’m thankful that I have three bowls to fill.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

New Season, New Heartset

The other night, my husband and I finally had the opportunity to watch Philomena.  The film was deeply moving, but one scene in particular stood out to me above all the others: when Philomena has the opportunity to confront the nun who hid the truth about Philomena’s son.

Philomena’s response to the elderly nun: forgiveness.

And Philomena’s reporter-turned-friend is angry at her response. How can she forgive the woman who kept Philomena from her son for so many years?

Because, Philomena replies, not forgiving, living life full of hurt and anger, is exhausting. 

Exhaustion. Isn’t that something so many women can relate to? Exhausted due to work, parenting, relationship struggles, a sick relative, personal illness or addiction, financial issues…the list of possible depletions is incredibly long.

And we all have our thing or two that we carry with us, always, that works diligently to take from us. 

For me, it’s my full-time, forever and ever disease. It is by far the greatest stressor in my life. It is emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally, and financially difficult. Even with good insurance and a five-star specialist, even with all my knowledge of medical terminology and nutrition, even with a tremendous support team (my family)---this disease is really, really, really hard.

I wear it well. I don’t look like a stereotypical diabetic. My doctor praises my efforts. I don’t often complain about my blood sugars.  I’m a warrior. Survivor. Fighter. Every single day. And even on my dark, hard days, I’m still going, because I refuse to give in or give up.

But fighting every day is exhausting. It takes so much energy not only stay alive, but to have a good quality of life.

I didn’t choose this disease.

But in other things, I do have a choice.

My second greatest battle, one common to many women, is a spiritual one.

You see, I love information and hearing the experiences of others. I love seeing an ever-changing FB and Twitter feed. There’s always a great blog post to read, a video clip to watch, or a headline to mull over.  So many ideas, so many experiences, so many thoughts and questions and possibilities.

And overwhelmingly, so much negativity that takes up too much space in my mind and heart.

We each only have so much inside of us each day. We choose what we give that to. And unfortunately, we can give it away to things and people who don’t appreciate it, or even to strangers who don’t even know you or your family or your fears or your triumphs. We can also turn on ourselves, which can be debilitating.

Take parenting for example. There are so many how-to and how-not-to blogs and forums and articles. A person who reads enough can’t figure out which way is up. Worry steps in. Uncertainty. Fear. Discouragement. The world tells us, we are never, ever good enough, therefore, we are failures.  It’s not only overwhelming, it can be all-consuming.

Adoptive parenting, in particular, can be a challenge. There’s not only the parent and child, but biological family members, social workers, lawyers. There are questions from adopted children that will bring you to your knees. There are feelings of elation followed with guilt stemming from personal joy. There’s heartache, a lot of heartache, when an adoptive parent comes to the realization that adoption is so messy, so bittersweet, and so inherently and deeply flawed.  There are seasons where we feel completely unequipped and unworthy of the children we adopt.  There are times of mourning followed by moments of triumph. 

As a Christian, I have often taken my concerns and personal conflicts to God, having conversations with Him as I sort and battle. And every time, He speaks peace and understanding into my heart. These things evolve into wisdom and discernment. He puts people in my path to guide me. He has blessed me with a family who is incredibly supportive and encouraging.

He also reminds me that in Him, I never have to reach a certain level to be “good enough.” I am already redeemed. I am already free. He reminds me of who I am in Him. He also reminds me that all things will align when I am standing on His foundation, not the world’s sand.

You see, the world loves drama.  Unhelpful, deteriorating, quickly-offered criticism stemming from personal pain. Recently, one of my children was being bullied. And after handling the situation with the help of the school principal, I had shared with my girl this simple truth: hurting people hurt people.

Distraction. Judgment. Anger. War. Fear. Selfishness. Pride.

God is the opposite.  He is peace, joy, redemption, and the very ultimate Love.  He is never-changing, always, certain. Freeing. Confident.  Wise.

As a parent, one who had adopted three times, I have found myself caught up in doubt, focusing on the wrong people and things, listening to voices that seek to tear down and infect me with everything God doesn’t want from me. Reminds me of the Bible story I was just studying with my girls: Adam and Eve. EAT THE FRUIT, the world tempts.

This is not what God wants. He wants NO competitors.  No idols. He wants all of my heart, not the leftover parts after I’ve given everything else away. 

Anxiety isn’t from God. Distraction isn’t from God. Burning anger isn’t from God. Revenge, confusion, those aren’t from God either.

Exhaustion:  you guessed it.  Not from God.

God commands Christians to guard our hearts, because everything we do comes from our hearts.

As this season of thankfulness and giving quickly approaches, I am choosing no exhaustion. And to do this, I must reject the things that lead to exhaustion: listening and obeying distractions.

I choose to focus on the people and moments God puts before me to help me learn and grow. I choose to focus on progress, not perfection, because perfection is God, and I am not Him. I choose to focus on the path at my feet.

I choose to focus on the three precious children I have the honor of parenting.  The kids who can’t stop saying, “Look, Mom!” at every freshly fallen, colorful leaf, at every new bicycle trick, at every scampering squirrel, at every new trampoline jump. The kids who constantly offer humor. The kids who desire cuddles and kisses and soothing, encouraging words. The kids whose soft hands rest on my cheeks. The kid who cannot read enough books, eat enough homemade cookies, or have enough kitchen dance parties. The kids who call me “Mama” when they are happy or “MOM!” when they are frustrated.  

I choose to listen to my village: the supportive, encouraging, heart-challenging individuals who love my family and want the very best for us.

I choose to fight for ethical adoption practices and adoption education, through my writing and my interactions, because I think it’s what God wants.

I choose to pursue my passions and use my gifts.

I choose to love God with ALL my heart, soul, and mind. Unapologetically.  Relentlessly. And to teach my children to do the same.

I choose to remember David and Goliath. David won. The victory is already mine, because God is the stones.

I choose to be reflective, like Mary, who pondered the things God shared with her.

I choose empathy, listening to my children and giving them what they need, when they need it, and how they need it.

I choose to let God and the fruits of the Spirit reign as #1.

I choose counter-cultural love

All else will fall into place.






Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Art of Chanel Christoff Davis (and a Coupon Code!)

Welcome our newest advertiser, Chanel!  She's the owner of a fabulous art company that sells notecards, canvas prints, art prints, greeting cards, home goods, apparel, and more

Chanel shares:

I grew up in the most amazing and magical city in the United States. Visiting my hometown of New Orleans is like opening a wonderful, colorful, vibrant, and musical living art history book. With such a creative and colorful beginning, having some sort of artistic talent is almost guaranteed. I have dabbled in all sorts of visual arts my entire life. I have taken up photography, scrapbooking, crocheting, and sewing to name a few.
I started painting to fill the walls of my first adult home after I got married. I never really picked up a paintbrush before that time. From that first experience of painting, I knew I was on to something special and I have not stop painting since.
My muse for much of my children’s art is my daughter. You will see her likeness in a lot of my paintings. In fact she inspired my series “Meme and Friends.” I wanted to fill my home with positive and joyful representations of people of color so that my daughter would see those images growing up.
My art is very colorful and vibrant, that’s why my tagline is “A Splash of Color to Brighten Your Heart Everyday”.
I will be working on new holiday themed paintings for the next couple of months, so check back often to see all of my latest creations.
Want something you don't see? Email me at: chanel@christoffdavis.com
Chanel has offered White Sugar, Brown Sugar readers a 10% off coupon code (use SUGAR at checkout) on their first purchase of small or large notecards.
Learn more about Chanel's art by connecting with her on Facebook, Instagram (ChristoffDavis), and Twitter.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Online Privacy and the Adoptive Family

Recently, I've had several new adoptive parents and adoption and education professionals ask me about online privacy when adopting and parenting children who were adopted.  I've written on this topic several times. 

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

What A Man

A friend captured this moment between my oldest and her dad at our church's fall party.

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 It Happen, What Would Happen?

This week, my daughters both brought home envelopes from school containing a single sheet of photo paper.  I opened each of them, and my heart skipped a beat each time as I glanced over the paper in my hands.

"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

Monday, October 6, 2014

Ridiculous Questions, Black Girl Power, and Reluctant Family Members

Fall has finally arrived here in the Midwest, and I'm swamped with writing projects!  Here are some of my favorites to read and share: 

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

Jacq's Dolls: For Kids of All Colors

Welcome to our newest partner, Jacq's Dolls

Meet owner Jacqueline Bryant: 
I did not start out as an artist; I am a recovering economist. I worked for a number of years in development, concentrating on west Africa, and then more years as a public health consultant. A lot of my contract work dried up during the recession, however. I had been making art quilts and dolls for a few years, but mainly as gifts. Economic upheaval gave me the push I needed to start my business in 2010. 

The tag line for Jacq's Dolls is "inspired by you." Though I am generally inspired by the sweetness of children, I was specifically inspired by my daughter. When she was about 5, she asked me if I could make a doll for her. Because I made art quilts, it made sense to her that if I could sew a quilt, I could sew a doll. This was not true, and the first doll was only successful because she loved it. I felt compelled then to make better and better dolls, and to have them look like my daughter and her friends. That is why I decided to hand-dye the fabric for their skin; commercial fabrics did not reflect a true range of skin tones.
Jacq's Dolls are customizable and come in a variety of sizes. People sometimes email me a picture of the child so that I know who I'm making the doll for. I have even had moms send me an outgrown favorite dress from which to make the doll's dress! Making the dolls is a true labor of love, and I hope that love comes through in the finished product. 
Want something you don't see? Email me at jacq@jacqsdolls.com
You can find Jacq's Dolls on Facebook and Twitter, as well.
White Sugar, Brown Sugar readers...
get 10% off your first order by entering the code SUGAR10

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


My first children's book went live this morning on Amazon!  Keep up with the latest news on the Black Girls Can Facebook page. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Open Adoption: Beautifully Broken

Recently, I was asked to blog about the hard parts of open adoption.

Deep breath.

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

Bandages for Kids of All Colors

Meet our newest advertiser, Tru-Colour Bandages!  Here's what creator Toby Meisenheimer has to say about his new company.                                                                       

Rachel: Tell me about your company.
Toby: Tru-Colour Bandages exists to promote Diversity in Healing.  For nearly a century, the world has accepted the fact that bandages come in one main skin tone, and relegated ourselves to cartoon characters when that didn't seem to fit.  Our mission is to address that imbalance and change the way bandages are sold forever.  I might just wear a dark bandage myself for the next 95 years until that becomes a reality!

Rachel:  What inspired you to create bandages for various skin tones?
Toby: My aha moment as an adoptive dad. We have 5 kids...2 that look a lot like us, and their 3 younger adopted siblings who don't.  I'm admitting failure as a white person to have lived nearly 40 years on earth and not noticed that entire cultures and people groups were being ignored (intentionally or not) by the bandage industry.  It's not right.  I'm sad to say that it took a personal encounter with me putting a bandage on my son Kai's forehead about a year ago and seeing for the first time the ridiculousness of it all.  I mean, the cosmetic industry has dozens of shades and skin tones.  But not bandages?  Not cool.  
I'm actually a financial planner by trade, with no hobbies, but I do enjoy business startups. So I went back to my alma mater and started asking some college students (my 11 year old son is the ball boy for the Wheaton men's lacrosse team) what they thought of the idea and if they'd want to be a part of it.  Their enthusiasm, ingenuity, and entrepreneurial spirit astounds me.  They are a generation that "gets it" and wants to see this solved.  We're not the first to try this, but we want to be the first to scale this.
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."  
"I want my kids to have a choice when it comes to bandages.  Putting a bandage on my son or daughter when they are hurting is a huge thing.  It says, 'I'm here.  There's a fix for your hurt.  It's my job to help you forget your pain, overcome it and move on.'  When they already feel different than other people, it's nice to send them a message that there's a special bandage just for them and made for their uniquenesses.  Plus, let's be honest: If I can cut the crying down by a few minutes and it only costs me a dime, then sign me up!
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:
1. Help non-profits potentially use bandage packs as fundraisers.
2. Partner and advance other startups looking to address other potential products that are inadvertently targeted to white kids, when they could be made more attractive to a more diverse audience.
 Find Tru-Colour Bandages on

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In Response to Michael Brown's Death

My name is Rachel.  I’m a St. Louisian.  I live in a middle class community that is safe, clean, and friendly. We have excellent schools, manicured lawns, and pristine parks.

But I’m still really scared.  And disturbed.  This bubble doesn’t protect my family members.  This bubble doesn’t exist. 

I’m a mom of three young children: two girls and a boy.  Right now, we are preparing the kids for the start of a new school year.  One is headed to kindergarten, the other to preschool.  

My life as a stay-at-home mom, wife, author, and freelance writer is busy. I run my kids to activities, I fold laundry and clean up spills, I prepare meals, I make appointments, I read to my kids and kiss their hurting places.

But right now, I’m really distracted.  I cannot easily focus on the tasks before me.  Because when I look at my children, I cannot stop thinking about Mike Brown.  I think about looting, about guns, about dark skin and light skin contrasting, about perception, about the media, about history, and about the future.

I’m white. My kids are black.  And we live just 24 miles from Ferguson. 

As my children meet their new teachers for the year and we begin a new session of gymnastics and swimming lessons, I keep thinking about people of authority and asking myself, “How can I teach my children to obey and respect authority when I don’t know if I can trust that the authority figure has my child’s best interests at heart?”

This isn’t a rant on the police.  This is about any person of authority who holds power and exercises that power over my three precious children and children who look like them.

Right now the news channels, Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, co-workers and the couple next to us at the restaurant, our hairstylist, our friends:  they are teaching us with their photos, their opinions, their lack of comments, their shares, their likes.    There seems to be many arguments that divide Americans on the death of Mike Brown, but one of the most prevalent is this: was the shooting about race? Overwhelmingly, people of color are saying yes while white people are saying no.

My children love the police and what they believe cops stand for. They love to put on police hats and “arrest” one another and their playdate friends with toy handcuffs.  They love to give out “tickets” for speeding and stealing stuffed animals. When we have the opportunity to speak with a police officer in our community, the cops offer my children sheriff’s badge stickers, high-fives, and even a quick viewing of the red and blue flashing car lights. 

Will these same officers who high-five my children today be arresting them, questioning them, following them, or even shooting them tomorrow?  What happens when my children are no longer living in my home, or when they are driving or walking somewhere with their teenage friends, or when they apply for a job with their white-sounding last name but show up as they are, people of color?

One day last winter, I overheard my children giggling in my son’s room.  I opened the door to see that the older girls had taken my son’s hooded shirt and pulled the hood over my son’s head.  My son was furiously nodding his head from side-to-side, laughing in delight at the feeling of the hood against his short hair while enjoying the attention of his sisters. There they sat, sunlight streaming in to the baby blue bedroom, happy and safe. And in that moment, I thought about Trayvon.  And then about my son.   I could barely breathe.

I worry what will happen when my middle child, a very dark skinned little girl, misbehaves in class.  Her high energy personality can certainly propel her to be driven in life, but it may also get her into trouble.  Will she be punished more frequently, more harshly because she is black?  The statistics say yes.  

I am very concerned that so many white people refuse to talk about race with their children and instead boast of colorblindness.  Newsflash: colorblindness doesn’t exist.  And not only does it not exist, but it dismisses people.  I’m reminded of the day my daughter started at a new preschool.  I was waiting outside after school to pick up my daughter.  One little boy rushed out and said to his mother, “There’s a brown kid in my class!” And the mom shushed him.  She was unaware that I was one of the brown kids’ moms. 

She shushed him.

Colorblindness does exactly what it seeks to avoid: ignorance.

And honestly, I feel that parents who preach colorblindness do so out of a lack of racial literacy, a lack of self-awareness, a lack of a diverse circle of friends, and/or a lack of willingness to look at personal biases.  They are scared.  Uncomfortable. Uneducated.  So they pass those things on to their kids, smiling, and saying, "We are all equal."  And, "There's only once race.  The human race."

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.

I don’t know how I can tell my children to trust and respect authority, because even when they do everything right, everything we expect of them (be polite, stand up for truth, fight for justice, love Jesus, be kind, use their manners), they won’t necessarily be protected or respected by the imperfect humans who surround them. 

My only hope as a mom is that God protects my children, because I cannot always shield them with my white privilege or my motherly protection.  They will meet police officers without me by their sides.  They will be in classrooms without me by their side.  They will be in swim class and gymnastics without me by their side.  They will be at a friend’s house without me by their side.

Our family has and always will live in a sort of racial purgatory.  We love first and teach that our value comes from being redeemed by Jesus.  But we do not, we do not, ignore race, racial injustices, or racial triumphs. And we know that we have this blend of blackness and whiteness that makes a lot of people uncomfortable.  

My heart aches for this young man and his family. My heart aches because I’m a mom and that teenage boy who died shares the same brown skin my boy has.

I know this post is a jumbled mess.  I don’t know how to bring it to order. I can’t make sense of this tragedy.

What happened to Mike Brown brings out a lot of things that white people normally don’t have to confront.  But when confronted, as I’ve seen on social media, a lot of ugliness comes out. And the looting of local business, that’s just a complete distraction from the real problems and the tragedy.   Two wrongs do not make a right. There’s a disturbing lack of empathy.  

Let me be clear.  I believe every life has value.  I believe that Jesus died for every person and wants to see each of us redeemed by saying yes to His gift of salvation.  And in the meantime, we’re going to live in a world that overwhelmingly worships sin: pain, gossip, injustice, thievery, disillusion.

There is only one hope for redemption.  The only justice is in Him. 

When we see people the way Christ sees them, everything changes.  When we carry the burden of another, we are loving like Jesus.

But in order to get there, we have to push past every distraction, every roadblock, every temptation which so easily ensnares us.  And that’s hard to do.  In fact, we cannot do it on our own.  We can only do “all things” through Christ who gives us strength.
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.

Every time I have found myself teary eyed, heavy-hearted, and disgusted, angry, and confused, God has whispered Romans 12:2 (NIV) to me:

 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

God, place divine protection on my children, particularly right now as we start a new season of our lives. Help us as a family to be discerning, empathetic, and strong. Keep us from succumbing to the temptation to believe that the world will ever satisfy. Renew our minds and calibrate our hearts. We are yours. Let everything we do point to You.