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I Don’t Get My Way at Christmas

I think most of what makes it FEEL like Christmas is based on our childhood memories.

For me, I love a leisurely Christmas morning, with just Chris and the kids. That’s how we always did it growing up, because we lived in the same area as all of our extended family.

However, Chris and I haven’t lived near family in over 13 years. Christmas usually involves traveling.

This makes laid-back Christmas mornings almost impossible.

We have opened presents as a family on Christmas Eve and then headed to the airport. Some Christmas mornings, we’ve woken up in a hotel to a “complimentary” Christmas breakfast. There’s been times the kids opened stockings in the car. We’ve attended Christmas services at the grandparents’ church. One year, we ate Christmas dinner at Waffle House, because it was the only thing open on the way to family.

Every holiday is different. And rarely like Christmases I remember from childhood.

A few years ago, we didn’t travel anywhere for Christmas. I was thrilled. Finally, my nice, peaceful Christmas morning! On the correct date. Just the family.

Except, the kids weren’t impressed. “This is boring.” “I wish we’d gone to see family.” “There’s nothing to do.” “Why did we stay home?”

And I realized my “normal” Christmas wasn’t theirs. To my kids, Christmas is road trips and visiting grandparents in another state. It’s hotels and airports. Luggage and presents all jammed into the trunk. Exploring in the woods of Arkansas or playing in Wisconsin snow.

So now my Christmas expectations are a lot more flexible. We still set aside time for just our family. But it’s ok that we have to work it around the road trip.

It turns out, having a more open mind about what is a “real” Christmas is a good thing.

This year, our traveling took us through the city of an adoptive-mom-friend, so she and I were able to have coffee and chat in person, which was a huge treat. Next, we are headed to spend Christmas with Enoch’s birth family. And we will finish up our holiday trip at Chris’ parents’ house.

So, as much as I love my nostalgic holiday customs, I’m learning that beauty comes in opening up to new kinds of Christmas traditions too. Especially when I see my kids’ joy in making their own memories.

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SheaMoisture and My White Privilege

As a white mom to a little Black girl, learning to care for her hair over the past couple years has been a big deal.

The Black natural hair world is really cool! There are countless bloggers and vloggers who teach hairstyles and share tips on the best products. Not only do they look at the science behind the ingredients, but also the ethical side, with a big emphasis on supporting Black owned businesses.

We had recently switched to SheaMoisture brand at the advice of friends and Phoebe’s hair really liked it. I was thrilled, because the product had a lot going for it. The company is partially Black owned, uses natural ingredients, and is easy to find in any store. It seemed like our hair routine was set for awhile.

And then SheaMoisture released their latest commercial:

My Black friends were offended. The people in Black haircare groups were offended. Black Twitter was offended.

And they had good reason to be. The ad for a company that has been supported and promoted by Black women for years, put a heavy focus on white women (who already have a million products marketed to them). And it made white women’s dislike of their own hair comparable to how Black women’s hair is systemically shamed in our culture. (I mean, Black people can legally be denied a job for wearing a standard Black hairstyle… but tell me again how you don’t like your hair color.)

I listened to Black women express pain over being brushed aside. I heard them vow to never again buy from a company that was so quick to sell out their loyal customer base for a dollar. And I agreed with them.

But I had finally found something that worked on my daughters hair…

I 100% knew the commercial threw Black women under the bus, but I sat there rationalizing why I could still buy their product:

“I don’t know what to use instead. I can’t spend a fortune trying other products. Phoebe’s hair health is more important. When she’s older, she can decide what products to buy. SheaMoisture is so accessible.”

Guys, I was literally saying, “I can put my own convenience over the concerns of Black women who are being marginalized, because this doesn’t directly affect me.”

I know better. But this is what a lifetime of white privilege teaches us. And it takes a lot of deliberate soul searching to unravel the layers.

So this isn’t really about a haircare product. It’s about my reluctance to be inconvenienced in order to stand with those that our society typically ignores. If I can’t sacrifice my comfort in something as simple as not buying a product that bypassed Black women (especially when I’m raising a Black woman in my own home), how do I ever expect to speak up when I see other forms of oppression?

We’re all familiar with Bible verses like Isaiah 1:17.

Learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.

But what if it is uncomfortable? What if seeking justice means we need to have difficult conversations? What if correcting oppression costs us more money? Do we still do what’s right or do we rationalize why it doesn’t really matter?

So I won’t be buying SheaMoisture any more. Even if it seems like “just hair stuff,” it’s actually a big deal, because I need to work on my heart and shake off some attitudes I hadn’t seen before. And thanks to this great list (click here), I’ve got some options to try!


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Eavesdropping at Chick-Fil-A

The other day, I took the babies to Chick-Fil-A, because I didn’t have enough time to go home between appointments, but couldn’t handle another minute of sitting in the car with whining children. Chick-Fil-A’s play area door is super hard to open for people younger than 6, so I could sit in a booth and read Facebook in relative peace, while they got their energy out.

Maybe it’s because we have so many seminaries and churches in Louisville, but there’s almost always Christians meeting up at our Chick-Fil-A. This time was no exception. In the booth next to mine, a couple of young guys were discussing ministry and theology.

I was a bit intrigued. (Like when you’re in a foreign country and see other Americans. You don’t necessarily introduce yourself, but you listen in to what they’re saying, just because the conversation is in English and they’re kind of your people.)

So one of the guys was sharing how his mom had asked him, “Do you know anything about Charismatic theology?” He went on, “And I told her, ‘It’s not good! His friend listening to the story reiterated, “Yeah, not good.

The thing is, my church upbringing was Charismatic. So my eavesdropping brain was thinking, “Wait? What is ‘Charismatic theology’?” Last I checked, we come in a lot of different flavors, with a plethora of theological perspectives. But apparently these guys could write every one of us off with one broad brush stroke.

It kind of made me sad, there in Chick-Fil-A. Because the other bits and pieces of their conversation sounded like stuff I would agree with, from their theology to their politics.

Really, we had more in common than we had separating us.

But I think we all do this way too often. Most of us have a group of other Christians we dislike. There is some segment of brothers and sisters that we write off, because we dislike their views.

We roll our eyes. We say, “Can you believe they think ____________ ?”

Now, I’m not saying we can’t discuss non-biblical theology. It is important to bring correction to errors within the Church. I even recognize that we might disagree so strongly, that having a friendship with those on the other side of the discussion would be a strain.

But maybe we should still give each other some grace. We could try to celebrate the places where we do agree and still hear where they’re coming from when agreement isn’t possible. We should let love cover the weaknesses we perceive and choose to learn from their strengths. Really, we must speak about our differences from a place of love, since that was Jesus’ prayer for us (John 13:35).

Because probably, we have more in common than we have separating us.

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC
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How Family Photos Fell Apart. Again.

Every year, around Christmas time, we attempt family pictures. And every year, I wonder what the heck we were thinking.

Like seriously. Whether it’s a photo shoot with a photographer, or using the timer on an iPhone, one of the kids always breaks. Always.

At first glance, the pictures usually turn out OK, but if you look closer, Chris and I are smiling with angry eyes. Or we’re holding a kid’s hand down. Or a child’s cheeks are red from crying. Or the only reason they’re smiling is because we’re tickling their ribs.

Every year, I swear we’ll never do it again. But by next Christmas, the allure of casually matched outfits and the hope of smiling children’s faces does me in again.

This past Thursday, we decided to give it another go. I was optimistic.

Except, the babies wouldn’t nap. And we needed to meet the photographer at the park by 4:00.

At 2:00, they were  jumping around in their beds and I felt a bit concerned. By 2:45, I was basically panicking. At 3:00, they both fell asleep. And at 3:15, I had to wake them up to get ready. However, Enoch usually does OK with very little nap, so I thought we might still make this time the one to remember.

I had prepared so well, guys. I had extra outfits. I had stern talks with the big kids, which may have involved some guilt that they’ll need to process as adults. (“If you love me, you’ll smile in these pictures!”) I packed toys the babies could play with, that would look OK if they ended up in the pictures. I picked the big kids up early from school so we wouldn’t be rushing. We even asked our beloved babysitter to come along and help control the chaos.

But I could not have accounted for the real problem we faced. Never, in a million years, would I have guessed that Enoch would fall in love with the Ohio River.

He got out of the car, saw the sun glistening on those muddy banks and he had to have it. He needed to hold it and love it and no one was going to stop him. But because he is two, he didn’t say it like that. Instead, he refused to walk, his body went limp, and he wailed at the top of his lungs.

We tried to convince him to explore fallen logs and handed him sticks that would normally have thrilled his soul. But all he could do was cry, “Wa’er! Wa’er!”

Our photographer was great at figuring out how to make it work and suggested we let him have that river. So she snapped candid pictures of our family frolicking along the craggy edges of the water, like we were super-outdoorsy people who put on our nicest clothes to do fun stuff like that.

And listen. When we’re taking family photos, it’s not about parenting. It’s about doing whatever it takes to make that kid happy. Parenting is for when there’s no camera.

Which is why our next effort was to try to bribe him (with raisins) to sit on a blanket next to his little sister. It worked pretty good for the 2.5 seconds that he was fisting the raisins into his mouth. And then he was crying for the “wa’er” again.

But our photographer kept telling us, “These are turning out great!” and I believe her. Especially because, look at the preview she posted!:


Years from now, I won’t remember which kid was freaking out in this set of photos. I probably won’t even be able to tell that I’m internally praying that someone will pull it together so we can all look HAPPY.

I’ll just see the cute little faces and I’ll want to book another family photo shoot.


Previous years’ attempts at family pictures. Some professional, some not. But all very stressful at the time, and now treasured forever.

family00 family01 family02 family05 family06 family07 family08 family09

Thanks to Michael Will Photographers, Dalila of 1986 Photography, Matthew of 1979 Photography, and Anna May Photography for helping us capture some of these moments!


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The REAL Fall Fun

Thinking of Fall congers up images of bonfires and trips to the pumpkin patch, hot apple cider and pumpkin pie, Fall festivals and corn mazes.

But really, guys. Really.

When we were growing up, what do we REALLY remember? It wasn’t the Instagram-perfect Autumn moments. Because our parents didn’t have Instagram and they were smart enough to realize kids don’t need someone to create magic for them. So they shoved us outside to play…

In the leaves.

Leaf piles and leaf houses. Crisp dry leaves, unfortunate damp leaves, rogue sticks waiting to poke us. Leaves in the hair, leaves down the shirt. Cold fingers and noses.

Today was leaf day at our house. Chris raked up a big pile and then called the little people out to play. Enoch’s favorite part was wielding the rake. Leah vainly tried to keep leaves out of her shoes. Phoebe was unsure at first, but got into it quickly. Isaiah probably would have thought he was too big, if he hadn’t had the babies to play with.

And we tried to get a picture of all the kids in the leaf pile together. Unsuccessfully.

fall4 fall5 fall7 fall8 fall9 fall11 fall13 fall2 fall10 IMG_8163

Happy Fall, everyone!

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What Moms Don’t Tell

I was super young when I had my first two kids, so most of my friends hadn’t even thought about babies yet. I didn’t have a group of fellow moms in the trenches to unpack the woes of parenting with. Friends with older kids had already forgotten what it was like. So I thought I was doing it wrong most of the time.

When you are the only one who can’t pull it together, it’s pretty depressing.

Phoebe cryWith our second two babies, I’m older and hopefully a bit wiser. I still feel like I’m failing a lot, but thanks to social media, I know that I’m not the only one.

All the blogger moms out there, telling their traumatically funny toddler stories and epic Pinterest fails… they are a gift to us moms.

But I still see the other side of motherhood conversations too. We have plenty of moms projecting the “have it all together” image, with their success stories and perfect little birthday parties and their mommy guilt.

It’s easy for us moms to buy into that projection of “normal.” Always showered, a clean house, dinner (organic) on the table each night, and magical days filled by fingerpainting with your toddler.

Guys, nobody sane is able to pull that off. Not perfectly.

But I think, in the back of our minds, we all feel we are supposed to. So we post our few perfect moments. We only share our successes. Or we just stay quiet and suffer in silence.

Having more perspective this time around, I’m a lot better at reading between the lines.

I don’t feel intimidated by the mom who only posts her Instagram perfect moments, because I can see the edge of despair creeping around her tired eyes in the perfectly staged selfie of sandbox time with her toddler.

I know when a tired mama says, “Long day. So glad I can finally sit down,” that’s just the tip of her iceberg. The part she’s willing to share with the public.

Friends, I don’t blame us for posting our perfect, happy pictures of smiles and fun. That’s what we want to remember. And that’s what we will remember when the babies are big. Those moments are what last, when all the weariness is a distant memory.

But don’t be afraid to be real when you need to. And don’t ever think the rest of us have it all together.

We’re all drowning a little bit.

enoch cry  grumpybigkids

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How to Respond to Racial Unrest

I grew up thinking racism was dead, outside of a couple of backwards thinkers in the deep south somewhere. I mean, the Civil War ended slavery and the Civil Rights Movement ended racism, right?

If only.

The more I read history, I see how little we’ve really changed. Our laws may be different, but our hearts are still hard towards each other.

As a country, we have been in a heightened season of racial unrest for a while. There is so much sorrow, which ever way you examine the situation.

But our hearts. Our hearts are what I can’t stop talking about.

There are people who would walk old ladies across the street, who would shovel their neighbors sidewalk, who would buy a single mom some groceries, who would fundraise for disabled veterans. But when they see a struggle that is outside their own homogenous community, their words become harsh and ugly.

Guys. Calling someone a “thug” is name calling, not too far from the “N-word.” Calling people “animals” is pretty close to calling them “monkeys.” When we see a grieving family and our only comment about their loved one is “they got what they deserved,” there is a hardness in our heart. When we say, “Those people…” we’re reinforcing the very attitudes that kept segregation alive for so long.

In my own little social sphere, I find those expressions almost nonexistent in a few distinct groups:

  • People of Color (meaning anyone non-white).
  • Teachers and social workers who serve multi-ethnic communities.
  • People in interracial relationships.
  • Adoptive families, especially transracial ones.

Why? Because they either experience life as a non-white person or they love someone who experiences life as a non-white person.

When we love someone, we see things through their eyes. We have compassion for their struggle, even if we don’t understand it.

If one of my girl friends comes to me with a story about a guy that just dumped her, I don’t say, “You brought this on yourself,” or “I’m sure he didn’t mean it when he called you fat.” Nope. I’m all, “Let’s get a taser and go after him!” (more or less.)

When you love someone, you have their back. Love changes everything.

There are so many Black people that are hurting right now. They don’t live in Ferguson or New York or Baltimore. They aren’t on the streets protesting. They would never dream of setting things on fire. But they are afraid to live in America. Their hearts are broken for their community.

They are in our neighborhoods, at our workplaces. And when we spit out, “Just a bunch of thugs, got what they deserve,” their hearts break again. Because when we say, “those people,” it includes them too.

I don’t care how many Black people we claim to know. If we don’t love them enough to take the time to understand their perspective, we have no right to tell them how they should feel about events across our nation. If we don’t love them enough to grieve with them, we’re still missing it.

Let’s lay down our defensiveness about an opinion shaped by our own experiences. Let’s lay down our need to be right. Instead, let us choose love.


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Vacation Withdrawal

caboTwo weeks ago, my husband and I went on vacation. Just the two of us.

It was a perfect, perfect time in Mexico. We spent our days eating tacos, drinking coffee, talking about theology and walking along the beach. So, it was basically the same stuff we always do, with a lot better scenery. And a lot less children.

We came home to the busyness of Easter weekend, followed by the big kids’ spring break. Two weeks ago feels like two years ago.

Guys, we have never done a vacation like that before. So I didn’t know.

I didn’t know how bad the withdrawals would be.

When I look at my pictures, I feel a nostalgic ache in my heart. When I open my cupboard and see the bag of coffee from the coffee shop we discovered, a twinge of sadness passes over me.

I unpacked my luggage (two weeks later, because I’m a stellar housekeeper). One of my shirts smelled like the aroma therapy lotion from the spa we visited and it was just TOO MUCH.

Yesterday, I was watching a TV show set in the Caribbean and the scenery… I couldn’t even handle it!

I left my heart in Cabo.

But it’s OK. We have plans to go back.

In like 10 years.



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One night, not long ago, during family devotions, the book we were going through asked the question, “Do you think of Jesus as a friend?”

father and son matching outfit formal semi formal from flickrIsaiah answered, “I think of him more as a father. But like a father that’s our friend. Like how Daddy is our father and our friend.”

Our father and our friend. Let that sink in for a moment. This is who God is.

Sometimes I think we paint God as a father who is angry and just wants us to pull it together. Or we go the other way and think of him as our buddy to kick back with. No responsibilities, just junk food and video games.

But he is neither a dictator nor is he our bro.

He cares that skittles are our favorite and that the guy at work really hurt our feelings. But he also believes we can be so much more than we’re shooting for, so he’s always stretching us and encouraging us to be who we’re supposed to be.

He is a father and a friend.

Conversations with my kids make it clear why Jesus told us we needed to have the heart of a child to come into the Kingdom.

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Hard Things, Survival and the Big Kids

Guys, I’m not going to lie. We’re in a hard season right now. There are just so many people (and animals) in our house. And so many things that need to be done every day. Lunches, and homework, and diapers, and baths, and naps, and laundry… And so much noise. Always the noise.

I have a sneaking suspicion that everything feels really big right now because we are sleep deprived. Probably, when all the kids are in school (or at least potty trained), I’ll be the one saying to sleepless new moms, “Enjoy it now, because it goes so fast.” Or, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” Because I’ll have already forgotten how hard it really is.

But when the Lord asks us to do hard things, He gives grace.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetOf all the grace we’ve been given, I cherish the grace given to our big kids the most.

Those people, who fight over the Xbox and argue about taking baths, can somehow serenely roll with the real stuff.

When we adopted Enoch and Phoebe, Isaiah and Leah’s comfortable little world was invaded by a couple of loud, needy babies.

As an adult, I could see so much room for the big kids to complain. The babies have completely changed our way of life and their needs come before anything else. They cry and they make us late (OK, that’s mostly me, but babies have made it worse). They get all the attention. We don’t even go out as often, because it’s just too much.

But Isaiah and Leah just love those babies with everything in them.

Leah’s baby calming tactic is to sing them songs she makes up on the spot. The lyrics typically involve some combo of the following:

Don’t worry baby.
You will always be in our family.
We love you so much.
You are our baby.
You’ll never be alone.

IMG_4133Lately Enoch has been in full-blown toddler specialness. The other day, I was feeling pretty done with all the chasing and the whine-diffusing and the crisis averting. But I got a perspective shift when Isaiah, who was playing with Enoch, looked up at me and said with a laugh, “It’s so fun having babies!”

I’ve also been amazed by the big kids’ grace to unconditionally accept these new little people as equal members in the sibling group. They have NEVER questioned if Enoch and Phoebe are their “real” brother and sister. That hasn’t even been on the table.

Isaiah and I were discussing the concept of ancestors the other day. I was holding Phoebe, and Isaiah expounded, “Phoebe has a lot of ancestors. She has her ancestors and she has ancestors from our family.”

Of course she does. But the fact that it seems normal to him is so beautiful to me.

I’m not saying they never complain about having to hold a baby so I can cook dinner. But in the grand scheme, it’s so delightful to watch the big kids’ open hearts, fueled by a grace that’s beyond than themselves.

Grace doesn’t necessarily make the hard things less hard. But it weaves an undeniable beauty into the story.

And when we come out the other side of the hard times, the beauty is what remains.

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