a return to what matters

Monday, January 28, 2013

Today I will drop our little sunshine boy off at the place which will become his new home for a two-night overnight visit. Other than three nights that he spent with his mama this summer, this is the only time he’s spent the night somewhere other than our home. I have a couple boxes of tenderly packed clothes and special toys loaded in the van ready to be moved forever. When we wake up this morning, I’ll pack his stuffed animals and his blankies into the diaper bag. Double-checking for the binky, putting the blanket to my cheek so I remember the silky Snuggle-scented softness.

Tonight, when we go to bed, we’ll have only four children again. Baby D will be back to our home for only four or five more full days over the next two to three weeks. I don’t know how to do this well; I don’t know how to say goodbye. I don’t know at all how to grieve this loss, so today, I do the only thing I know how to do. The thing that helps me cling to what’s good and real and true. I need to not only count gifts, but also to record them. Put them here in black and white so I don’t lose track of what matters…

- the way his golden hair falls across his forehead, dusting the tops of his infinitely long lashes
- bedtime giggles in his fire truck footie pajamas
- our last Sunday at church as a family of 7
- the sweetest goodbyes from the young men who have loved this little baby so, so well
- freshly cut little girl bangs, framing her sweetheart face
- a little brown hand stroking the side of my face
- hearing my 8-year-old re-tell her favorite anecdote, one that isn’t hers at all, but she believes it’s the funniest story in the world
- a five-year-old little boy who shows his stress in such different ways than the rest of us, yet who still seems to be assured that he isn’t going anywhere
- my other little boy, who somehow turned into a big boy overnight, cracking jokes to cheer us up
- smelling his hair, freshly washed with ‘man-soap’ since he’s all grown up now, you know….while he sits on my lap, because he’s still my little boy
- watching him practice jump shots in the kitchen
- yelling at my ever-patient husband in a faux-argument, relieving the tension and pain with laughter
- a sweet, sweet friend: somehow knowing exactly what I need even though I didn’t realize it myself. Faithful in prayer, courageous in suffering, beautiful beyond measure. She’s God’s blessing to me right now.
- the anticipation of not having three fighting children in the minivan backseat. Could this mean a return to more peace in the car?
- a little boy who just wants to hug us because that’s the only thing he knows to help him deal with big feelings
- a husband to hug me every time I need it, so pretty much all the live long day
- a planned night out with an old friend, the perfect distraction for my week
- praying with someone else after church, remembering life is not all about me
- learning to lay it all down, again and again and again
- living a life that means something

friday five: things I’ve been doing of late

Friday, January 25, 2013

1) Enjoying my new computer keyboard: my space bar has been broken for most of January. Thus the slow blogging. Really, it’s wasn’t even about blogging – I’d live without publishing, but I need to write. I’m so happy to be able to write again. (at least at the speed at which I mark down words. I recognize I could go longhand, but I can’t write nearly as much in the same amount of time.)

2) Coming to terms with my innate childishness: I watched The Following this week while Wendell was out of town. Big mistake. It was terrifying. I’m not even quite sure why – you’d think The Walking Dead would make me immune. I think it’s because I’m not scared of zombies. Or sci-fi stuff. I am, however, scared of normal people who might be serial killers apparently. Let’s just say I didn’t go to sleep very early that night. And I might have run up the stairs as fast as I could after I turned off the lights like I was seven years old. Anyone else do that still? Just me? Sigh. I’m a child.

3) Eating avocados: It’s avocado season. Or it’s not. Probably it’s not, since it’s winter. I actually don’t know when avocados are in season, only that now is the time of year when they’re super cheap in the stores. As a result, I’ve eaten my share this week. On sandwiches. With eggs. With tacos. In salad. Plain with just some salt and pepper. Yum. The only thing I haven’t had yet is guacamole. It’s on my to-do list.

4) Planning a “I liked Masterpiece Theater and BBC dramas before Downton Abbey” club: I know Downton is all the rage. I really like it too, but it’s just one drama in a long, long line of quality television. It’s super trendy, but soon it’ll be over. Who’ll stick around once it’s done? Me. That’s who. I’m there for the long haul, BBC. (I’d love a new Forsyte Saga – I liked that better than Downton anyway) Want some recommendations? You can get nearly all the old stuff from the library. Start with Forsyte Saga, move on to Wives and Daughters, then Cranford, any of the Jane Austen stuff, Birdsong…I could go on forever.

Related: Call the Midwife. Just as good as Downton, yet no one is really raving over it. It’s so lovely, and I can’t wait until March when it comes back on US television! (Chummy is my very favorite. I have such a crush on her.)

5) Listening to The Lone Bellow: I was first introduced to The Lone Bellow back when it was Zach Williams and the Bellow. I have a Christmas EP that I thoroughly enjoyed, so I was glad to see a full album. It’s fantastic, and I concur with everyone who’s saying they’re the next big thing. Give them a listen – I don’t think you’ll be sorry. This music makes me so very, very happy, especially during a week where I desperately need happy dancing music.

and finally…we truly begin the goodbye

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sunday evening, I filled two pages with schedules, food likes and dislikes, favorite things, sleeping patterns, discipline, anything I could think of that summarizes the last ten and a half months with our sweet Baby D. It’s disconcerting to see your entire parenting ‘life’ laid out on paper as if that’s all this time has amounted to, a list of preferences and habits. Today, we gave it to the relative that he will be moving in with in a few weeks. We’ve moved toys and clothes to their house already, every item making this whole thing a little more real.

The irony of it is that I’m not sure they’ll even need it at Baby D’s new home. He is ridiculously happy there. Today was the longest visit he’s ever had – 9 in the morning to 7:30 at night, and he was…well…fine. He ate, he played, he loved on his baby sister, he took a nap there. In his bed. Without tears.

I don’t know what it is about this particular baby. He is bonded to us, sure, but he seems to have always known this wasn’t his true home. It’s the strangest, most inexplicable thing. Children’s Services always looks at me like I’m reading too much into things, but I’m sorry, they only see him once a month for an hour. They don’t see the difference between our house and this new home. They don’t see his goofy grins and hear his happy jabbering in the car once he knows that we’re headed to a visit at the relative’s house. They don’t hear him talk about his baby sister here at home.

Writing out that sad little list made me think once again that I can’t do this. Send him away. Live without him being part of our family. The thought of it takes my very breath away.

Seeing the picture of him sleeping peacefully this afternoon reminded me that this is exactly what we’ve hoped and prayed for. I am surprised, shocked actually, by the ease with which this transition is going. I am beyond sad that he can’t return to his mama, but I could not be more at peace with where he is going, with how he will do there, with how he feels about this family, and how they feel about him. We couldn’t have hoped for a better ending given the situation.

Tonight, I’ll work on his baby book. Curating pictures, writing down memories, praying that it will someday be treasured by him because he won’t remember us. He won’t remember how we held him, rocked him, sang to him, prayed over him those first few nights (and since) while he grieved for his mama. He won’t remember his siblings while he lived here, how they kissed him and played with him and chased him around the living room. How they catered to his every whim. He won’t remember how he would run as fast he could to the door when Wendell came home. He won’t remember that I taught him where his nose was and kissed him until he was overcome with laughter. What I pray he will remember is how it felt to be loved, how it felt to be safe, how it felt to be a part of a family. Hopefully those are memories that we’ve built into his soul. Memories that make this time with us worth it.

inaugural day

Monday, January 21, 2013

Today, I sat with my four children in our living room, immensely grateful for the legacy of one man who represents a whole generation of people who gave their lives (some of them literally) for the cause of equality and freedom. I love Inauguration Day in general, and the fact that my biracial daughter could sit with her brothers and sisters of another color to watch the first biracial president be sworn into office for not just once, but the second time, was especially moving.

Everyone is familiar with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, but fewer are familiar with his very last speech, given just hours before his death. It’s this speech and, in particular, the last part that’s speaking to me lately. This man, who was faithfully following after God, who knew what that obedience might cost him, was supernaturally aware that he wasn’t going to see the fruition of all that he was working for. Yet, he still walked towards that goal, unafraid of any man.

Today, we saw a bit of fulfillment of that goal. Today, my children sang the words from this speech, and I prayed that all of them will have the courage, tenacity, wisdom, and obedience of Martin Luther King, Jr. I prayed that they echo his prayer in their hearts today and always, “I just want to do God’s will.” The God we serve is faithful.

“And then I got into Memphis, and some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out of what would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers. Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place, but I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will, and He's allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I've looked over and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. So I'm happy tonight, I'm not worried about anything, I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…”


my first hair care post

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

No worries, this isn’t going to turn into a hair care blog, and I know the percentage of you readers who are parenting transracially is fairly small, so consider this one of those posts which mostly for historical record. Let’s be real, this is just so Raniah can look back one day and laugh at her mama’s ridiculous attempts to care for hair and skin she knows nothing about.

Through much trial and error, and even more research – blog after blog after blog that I’ve read, I think I’ve finally hit on a hair care routine that works for us. A couple of notes: I’ve been slowly switching most of the hair products in our house to only natural/organic ones. The amount of chemicals that we put on our scalps scares me a bit, and I’ve also noticed a big difference in the health of my hair since I’ve switched products. They are more expensive, but I also use less, so the cost is off-set a little bit. Especially with Niah, since we use SO much product every single day, it felt extremely important to me to not put a bunch of unknown chemicals on her head constantly.

One of the first things I did was find her hair type. You can use this resource to figure that out. It helped me narrow down what products to try. Niah’s hair is somewhere between 3B, 3C, and 4A. My best guess at this stage is 3C, but I just don’t think there’s quite enough of it yet for me to make an accurate assessment.

One of the other things we’ve tried is a sleep cap. It worked for quite awhile, but she won’t wear it anymore. She is beginning to use a pillow, so I’m hopeful that a satin pillowcase will serve the same purpose. Either way, it’s difficult to protect her hair from frizzing and drying out and breaking at night. I’m sure that’s part of the reason her hair isn’t growing in more quickly and evenly. We’re just learning as we go…

1) Do not wash the hair. Every single time I use shampoo on her hair, I am sorry. It’s just ingrained in me to shampoo hair (my own hair is so diametrically opposite of hers that I ONLY use shampoo 95% of the time), that it’s hard for me to remember. Right now, I’ve moved the shampooing to about every 3 weeks or so, and it seems to be working ok. The rest of the time, we co-wash (that’s what you call it when you only use conditioner). I try to only do that once a week. We’re using Mixed Chicks Kids Shampoo and Mixed Chicks Kids Conditioner for right now. They just seem so-so to me. They’re not bad, but when I’m finished, I’ll be trying a different product.

2) Do not dry the hair. I don’t have the right kind of towel, and her hair isn’t really long enough for it to matter, so currently, I’m not drying her hair. Immediately after the co-wash, I stick some Mixed Chicks Kids Leave-In Conditioner in it. And that’s all.

3) Daily Routine: Every morning, I detangle with a generous amount of Kinky Curly Knot Today. First with fingers, then once the major knots are out, with a wide-toothed comb.

After detangling, I spritz well with a water/olive oil mixture that I put into a spray bottle. The water moisturizes, and the oil helps seal that moisture in. Before I did this mixture, we were using coconut oil, which was delightful and lovely, but just way more expensive. After the coconut oil, I tried Oyin Handmade Juices and Berries which worked delightfully, but was even more expensive than the coconut oil. I’ve found this homemade mixture works just as well. I still occasionally use coconut oil as a pre-wash treatment, but that’s about it right now.

After the spritz, I moisturize with Curls Curl Creme Brule. This has been the hardest step for me to figure out. Either her hair turned out too crunchy, too dry, too greasy…I just wasn’t reaching a solution. This product is working really well for the winter right now. It defines the curls, keeps them moisturized, and they tend to frizz less throughout the day. If she needs a refresher during the day, which she often does if we’re out and about, and she’s been wearing a winter hat or hood, then I’ll just do a quick spritz and sometimes another round of moisturizer.

4) Extra stuff: Niah’s hair is quite long, but there isn’t a ton of it yet. As a result, I’ve been robbed (spared?) of most of the pleasures of hair styling black hair. When I do succumb to her constant requests for pony-tails, we use Darcy's Botanicals Madagascar Vanilla Styling Crème. A very, very tiny amount of it. It goes a long way in my girl’s fine hair. Both she and I are looking forward to the day when we can do more styling, but I’ll be honest, I’ve seen some adults recently whom I feel like share her hair type - they were wearing theirs loose and natural, and it was BEAUTIFUL. I’m eager for a full head of hair on her so we can see what it’s going to be.


Questions? Recommendations? Do you have a curly headed kid whose hair just won’t grow? I’d love to hear some advice on that! And skin care….well, that’s gonna be another post entirely.

return of the friday five

Friday, January 11, 2013

I haven’t linked up in awhile – I’ve been collecting far too many posts to catch up quickly, so I thought it would be best to start out slowly…

Unfortunately, it won’t be light reading. Hope you have time for some philosophical meanderings today! Please click through to read the whole post as I’ve only posted snippets here. As is typical of the links I share, these aren’t necessarily representative of everything I believe about any certain subject, but I did find them to be some of the more interesting things I’ve read on each subject. I like things that make me think…


On being pro-life (fair warning – this one is breathtakingly beautiful):
when you say to me pro-life - See Preston Blog

I am holding her, under the stars promised to Abraham with one twinkling light now gone dim, and we are caught in the void of an impossible, tangled mess of shattered hopes and crag-rock uncertainties, a circle that at times seems to be without us, without God.


On guns:
The Gun God - Michael Gungor

I am not under the delusion that the government can fix the human heart. You cannot regulate away violence. But we can do little things to safeguard that limit the carnage when the violence comes out. Again, I don’t claim to have the answers to what those things are exactly. But I do hope that Christians will stop worrying so much about ensuring that they can acquire firearms without any inconvenience to them and start trying to figure out a way to limit the pain that our weapons allow us to inflict on each other.


On poverty:
The Poor You Will Always Have with You - Kelley Nikondeha at Love is What You Do

…Poverty exists because we have not chosen otherwise, we’ve decided against the hard work of economic restructuring, debt release and true economic empowerment. We are part of the poverty problem.


On depression:
Jesus or Zoloft? - Jamie the Very Worst Missionary

And then I remembered the one thing some Christians will never admit out loud, which is that sometimes Jesus isn't all you need. Sometimes you need Zoloft.


On adoption (this one is the exception to my disclaimer. every word of this one is true, yes and amen.):
Supporting and Understanding the Adoptive Family - The Kitchen is not my Office

Here are a few thoughts about supporting an adoptive family. Most pertain to families who have adopted internationally and also to those who have adopted through the domestic route. It was compiled based on our experience and also on the the experiences of a few dozen other adoptive parents who contributed their ideas and suggestions.

making space

Monday, January 7, 2013

Once again, the Christmas season found our family struggling through. It was the best we've ever done, but again and again I found myself making decisions for my own selfish desires rather than for the best of my children. Well, I did really well in making choices through most of the season. We made hard decisions, ones that we caught some grief for from others, but they were right and good and we reaped a lot of rewards. Then towards the end of the year, tired from holiday commitments and rundown physically and emotionally from illness, I just apparently forgot everything I had remembered all through December and once again made a few bad choices. They caused me pain. They caused our children pain. They made Christmas detox worse than it might have otherwise been.

So...January...fresh start...

Part of making this a year in which I can say yes means that I have to say no. With our family size and lifestyle, it means that our schedule is overwhelming and sometimes a bit frightening. I have to say no. One of the first things I plan to do is to try to protect our Monday nights. It's the only night of the week where no one has anything official scheduled. I pick Baby D up at 4, and after that, I will attempt to not plan anything. At all. Free evening.

I also want to plan only one activity per weekend. We have two kids in a couple months of overlapping basketball seasons, so there'll be games on the weekends. Even if we split up for games to try to keep the littles stable, it's still a lot. My goal was to have one extra family thing per weekend. Already, that’s become impossible. This very next weekend, we have two huge whole-family things. I hate getting off to a start like this one.

What I’ve really just come to appreciate over the past few weeks is that my kids need space. They need time to relax at home, instead of using home as a layover station for a half-hour or hour here or there while we’re getting ready to go somewhere else. It’s my priority this year to create this space for them. Writing it down for the world to see: that’s step number one.

one word 2013

Thursday, January 3, 2013

I gave up New Year’s resolutions several years ago, and last year, I focused on three words for the year. This year, I wasn’t going to pressure myself to come up with one word, but that word came to me anyway. I hate it, and it terrifies me. I just can’t escape it or explain my way out of it.

Day 2 morning copyYes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you;
your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.
Isaiah 26:8

Catch that first word? Yes.

I feel like I spent a lot of time saying no last year. Sometimes to good things. Sometimes to things I needed to say no to. Sometimes All the time to my children. Sometimes to myself. Sometimes to God.

I spent my time with clenched, angry fists and sometimes, a closed heart. Denial was the name of the game for so very many things. My inability to relinquish control cost me dearly.

No, I’m not sick.
No, I don’t need help.
No, I’m not yelling at the kids too much.
No, I’m not tired.
No, I won’t be content with a small, extremely full house.
No, I won’t give my opinion. (Because I am too lazy to deal with confrontation.)
No, I won’t do that thing I know I’m supposed to do.
No, I’m too scared to be vulnerable with that person.
No, I couldn’t ever go anywhere all on my own.
No, my feelings weren’t hurt. I’m fine.
No, I don’t want to give that up. I deserve it.
No! I can do it myself.
No, I won’t give You control.

This year is the year I say yes. Not yes in the sense that I’m going to say yes to everything that comes along, but yes in the sense of surrender. Be it unto me according to Your will, oh Lord. Yes to humility. Yes to weakness. Yes to asking for help. Yes to opening my heart fully to new relationships. Yes to vulnerability. Yes to sacrifice. Yes to my small house. Yes to my many children. Yes to my persevering husband. Yes to whatever You have for me, no matter how terrifying it is. Arms spread wide, hands and heart opened. This is the year of my ‘yes’. The yes that brings peace to my family. The yes that brings healing to my body and soul. The yes that makes it always and forever, only about Jesus. All for Him and for His glory. Yes.

P.S. Did I say I was terrified? It bears repeating.

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