Journeys and Adventure

My youngest five children and I have visited for nearly a week in another state with extended family and we’ve had a wonderful time. It is very inconvenient for us to travel and expensive and exhausting. Our life is challenging enough for us to manage on a day to day basis. After all, we are an #xlfamily and not like the ones on tv. We have a constant state of trying to catch up in homeschooling and housecleaning and bill paying. We have our little homestead and entourage of animals that includes goats and chickens and a giant breed dog (plus more). Throw in traffic, weather, packing, money and nine different personalities, schedules and etc. you’ve got the perfect recipe for chaos.

So, we haven’t traveled much in the last five years, practically not at all. It just didn’t seem doable. But, this year I was determined to change that. And here we are, well six of the nine of us, hundreds of miles away from home.

We’ve had a grand time. We’ve seen family members, hugged necks, had bonfires, roasted marshmallows, ridden horses, celebrated birthdays and feasted together. We also visited the grave of my loved and cherished grandmother for the first time. I chose the flowers to take to decorate her stone and we gathered together and in an unplanned moment of unity sang Amazing Grace with great abandon. I shed a few tears as tender memories flooded my mind and heart.

Tomorrow we will make the long trek home and return to our oft times chaotic life of too much to do and too little time. But, for this week, we stepped out of the whirlwind of normalcy and retreated to the comfort of making new memories. We have had an adventure together.

I am already thinking of the next time, the next journey when we will come again and explore old trails and new paths together. I will broaden my children’s world and minds by leaving our little homestead. I’ve already seen an impact on their way of thinking.

The girls told me that I seem so much younger, like a little girl. Jeremiah told me I need to write a story in honor of Grandma and her favorite scene of an angel helping children across a broken bridge. Jonathan said he feels safer knowing we have an emergency house (the guest house we stayed in). Jared just doesn’t understand why we have to leave.

When we do drive away in the morning I’ll be leaving Jeremiah for his first solo visit away from us. He will turn 15 while we are apart. He will be treated like a prince. He will have his own adventure, his own stories to tell. I am excited for him as I recall my own visits with grandparents as a young person.

Here’s a thought for those of you who, like me may need a little nudge. Make the effort. Stay connected. Take a journey. Go on an adventure. Be the better for it.

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Learning Curls

Adoption is full of unique challenges and learning curves. In some cases, it’s full of learning curls.

Before I became an adoptive momma, I was a foster momma. The color of a child’s skin was never a determining factor for whether we would take them. Among the first children we were asked to care for was an African-American premie infant that absolutely stole our heart and would later become our first adopted child. I remember commenting to the nurse at the hospital about his very very straight hair. It was thick and soft and silky. I also remember what she said back. “Oh, that’s just temporary. It will get nappy soon.” She was also African-American. I wasn’t. I took her word for it and she was right.

Looking back on our very intensive GPS foster care training, I find one gaping hole and that is how to properly care for ethnic hair. With the boys (we adopted five total) at first it was just a matter of finding a good barber and later learning to handle the clippers myself. We had some experimental moments where they allowed their hair to grow a little or even tried a bit of relaxer. But, for the most part, fades have been our friends and my goodness, they are so handsome.

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Our first African-American foster daughter was about three years old and I had a lot of fun doing fanciful parts and simple braids and puffs. Her birth mom saw her regularly and participated in the more detailed styles. Then, we had two sisters arrive with Geri curls. They were cute as they could be but, I was clueless. I recall the social worker who was also black telling me she was also clueless as to what to do. The birth mom had sent a message to please not mess up their hair as she had spent a lot of money and time having it done. They didn’t stay long before being placed in another home so, I didn’t fully experience that learning curve or perhaps I should say, learning curl.

Our last two of forty-five foster children were our two daughters that we would adopt. They were ages six and seven. They arrived with very tightly braided cornrows and unhealthy scalps. They also had experienced pain and injury during hair care which had led to medical treatment. Here they arrived in our home with so much healing required and let me tell you, hair did not seem like a high priority at that point.

But, soon, whether it seemed important at first or not, it became a huge issue. I feel like I should cue a revision of Johnny Cash singing ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’ at this point except the words would be more like, ‘I’ve Tried Everything Man! I’ve tried everything!’

It would take much longer than one blog entry to catalog our journey and I won’t attempt that. Here’s what I do want to say to other adoptive moms who are facing the same ‘learning curl’. First, you can do it if you are willing to learn and try. It may seem insurmountable but, it is not. Second, do your research and ask for help. Do whatever you can to make caring for their hair stress free for you both.

There are so many resources available now that I did not have access to. The African-American community has also changed and natural hair is much more common. There are Facebook Groups and Web Pages and books and YouTubes that you can access. These two links below are especially good. The lady who is sharing about being careful about negative impressions is SPOT ON. The linked article is a good basic introduction to ethnic hair care and also provides many useful links.

http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=1956

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As the girls and I have traveled this path together we have shed some tears of frustration, some failed experiments, some triumphs. Their hair has become an important part of our bonding and mother/daughter relationship. My desire for them to feel as pretty as I knew they were and my determination that they would view themselves with pride and confidence kept me pressing on when I felt totally inadequate to do so.

We've done braids and bows. We’ve done short 'fros. We've relaxed and straightened and styled. We've gone natural. And lately, yarn braids are our best friends.

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Whichever style we choose, I want them to never doubt that their hair is a beautiful and unique expression of them. I want them to value every strand and realize, without a doubt that I do too. As a matter of fact, so does God.

And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. (‭Matthew‬ ‭10‬:‭30‬ NLT)

Worth Remembering

Thirty-one years ago this month my first baby was due to be born. Twenty-nine years ago this past May my second baby was due to be born. I know their names and I know their ages but, I do not know them. Yet. I do not know them yet. Our getting to know each other was delayed but not destroyed. There’s a difference. A really big difference.

I was surprised to have unbidden tears spill down my cheeks this morning as I considered them and how things might have been. We were so young. Times were so different. The best of intentioned people said to me what had likely been said to them. It didn’t help. Please weigh your words carefully when you are speaking to a grieving person.

We had the hope of others, more children without any notion that we would never achieve pregnancy again. Infertility? What was that? Whatever it was surely wasn’t anything we needed to know about. We were young and healthy and deeply in love. Of course, we were assured, there would be more pregnancies and other children. We were naive when it came to such things.

The biting remarks started early on. How can I remember some of them when thirty years has passed? I suppose that is proof of their impact.

Only years later did I realize the full impact of the losses we had experienced and allow myself to grieve. It was then that our babies had proper names and a proper place in our heart. It was then that God began to heal my broken heart. It was then that we answered the call to foster children. They needed parents albeit sometimes very temporarily. We needed children to nurture and love until we would one day be reunited with our Jacob Jeremy and Tessie Alicia. We had experienced great loss. These children were experiencing great loss. We could love them with an understanding.

Forty-five children entered our homes and lives. Seven of these became our forever children through the miracle of adoption. Others have found permanent places in our hearts. I call them my spiritual children. I am a #momofmany. I am blessed beyond measure.

Yet, today I remember my first two children. Today I wanted to tell you about them so you would remember with me. Today, my heart squeezes a bit as I consider the great loss of not only two children, but, two lifetimes of memories and experiences and opportunities. They are worth remembering. They are worth celebrating. Every child is a blessing, even when we have to wait a while to hold them.

If you have experienced pregnancy or infant loss, allow yourself to grieve. Just remember, don’t allow grief to have you. A few short days from now is a Remembrance Day. Light a candle, say a prayer, write out your feelings, seek support, remember those worth rendering. Then, wipe your tears and live your life with great hope. Our loss is temporary. Our reunion will be sweet. Then, we will be complete.

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