Sunday, May 1, 2016

Got a Poem in Your Pocket?

Do you have a poem? Well here's some of our favorites for you to enjoy or hey even put them in your 
"pocket" to come back to when you need a smile! Our local library does this neat thing every April for National Poetry Month where you can submit a poem.  Well, unfortunately we missed the deadline to submit our poems, but since the kids filmed themselves reciting their poems I decided to post them here again on my blog.  Especially since Juwan actually allowed me to film him.  We also went to my mom's work and handed out poems for National Poem in Your Pocket Day.  The three oldest found poems that they liked and wrote them down.  Then we made copies and rolled them up to hand out to people.  It was nice to share our love of poetry with others and it was good for the kids to be stretched a bit by handing out poems and explaining why they were doing it.  We really enjoy poetry in this house and we hope you also enjoy these poems.  

Lige 3 years old

Lola 10 years old

Samuel 9 years old

Juwan 6 years old

Brennan 7 years old

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Six Years Old Already!?!

I remember bringing home Juwan; he seemed so tiny as if the carseat would swallow him up! The blue pacifier was huge compared to his precious dollop of a mouth.  Samuel and Brennan appeared giants next to him, even though they were only 4 and 1 at the time.  These images are so fresh in my mind that when I look at this tall, curly headed boy I can hardly believe he is the same baby we brought home 6 years ago.  Now, he is towering over his older brother Brennan and not far behind his oldest brother Samuel.  His infectious laugh and smile can still capture the heart of anyone.  He loves basketball, tumbling, music, and running around like a gorilla with Brennan and Lige.  Sometimes if he doesn't know you are watching, one can really see him getting into the music.   Yes, our little boy is six years old already!

We had a beautiful, warm, sunny day to celebrate his birthday with family and friends.  Juwan chose a cool combination of a cake.  It was tie-dyed in the middle, white icing, covered with tons of sprinkles and balloons as the topper.  It was fun and the kids all helped with the rainbow inside.  Lola and Samuel even helped run little stations.   Lola was in charge of glittery tattoos and Samuel was in charge of straw rockets.  We ended the party with a minion piƱata.  Juwan enjoyed himself even though he is still a little shy at birthday parties.  Yes, even his own.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Birthday Months

The summer and early fall months are what I consider the birthday months in our household.   You see 4 out of our 5 children have birthdays starting in July, then August, and ending in September.  So, for three months straight we are talking about cakes, games, presents, friends, food, and dates.  I love my children and I relish in the celebration of their lives, but by the end of September I am thankful that there are no more parties to plan until February when our Juwan gets to celebrate his day!  We do not go all crazy for birthdays.  Yes, we try to do some sort of fun cake.  This year Lola wanted owl cupcakes, Brennan and Samuel had s'mores cupcakes, and by the time we got to Lige (and our foster daughter) we were tired of cake so they had tractor cookies with apple crisp.   Each party we try to have some sort of theme, but we usually make some small decorations ourselves and definitely do not break the bank to accomplish this feat.  Since Lola wanted owls each table had a little thrift store owl figurine with a saying like, "Owl always love you."  Even though it was rainy we managed to do a scavenger hunt with clues.  Samuel and Brennan's party didn't have decorations, but who needs that when you have an obstacle course complete with zip line and bow and arrow practice.  Then Lige and baby still being little needed only some tractors and green pinwheels to complete their party.  It was great having lots of helpers decorate tractor cookies and make pinwheels.  The only negative to their party was that Scott was sick and couldn't participate.  Anyway,  I'm sure I could make the parties a little less work intensive, but there is something about putting the labor of love into making each party a little special.  I hope that looking back the kids and I will remember and see these parties for what they really are: an expression of love and thankfulness for each one of them!

Unfortunately, due to our lack of organization around here all I could find was a brief video from Samuel and Brennan's Birthday, a video from Lola's actual birthday, but nothing from the party, a video of the zip line used for the boys' party, and a blurry picture from Lige's birthday party.  I guess that's what happens when your either busy enjoying your child's birthday, hosting your child's party, or trying to do it all while your husband is sick and no one else seems to care about taking pictures of your child's party....  Yes, as I type this post I'm feeling frustrated!

Lige 3 years old

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Just a Little Leg Room

"I'm glad Lola's not here," were the words that came from the backseat of the van one evening after we had left Lola at our good friends' house to spend the night.  I was about to whip out the Mama response.  You all know what I'm talking about.  The voice that is filled with disappointment, scolding, and disdain.  The one that can invoke instant shame and remorse...umm yes that one, the one that really doesn't work.  Anyway, it was on the tip of my tongue, when suddenly something in me said, "Wait a minute...don't jump to conclusions, let's see what he means."  WOW, I know right?  I mean this doesn't often happen.  I usually am quick to speak and quick to bark! But in this rare instance I didn't bark, I simple said, "Brennan what do you mean?"  Then in the sweetest most innocent voice, without hesitation Brennan said, "Because I have more room back here when she is gone."  After a moments pause the car erupted in laughter.  Samuel, Juwan, and I just couldn't stop laughing.  We all expected some nasty response from Brennan, but instead he completely surprised us! We have five kids and one foster child at the moment; all of which are smashed tightly into our van.  There are two car seats in back and then Lola.  Then in the middle there are two car seats and Samuel.  This does not leave much room.   He didn't hate his sister, he didn't rejoice in her absence because she aggravated him, he wasn't exhilarated because he would get to ransack her room while she was gone.  No, he just simply loved having a little leg room!
Isn't that the case in life?  I mean sometimes we just need a little space, a little time, a little peace to stretch our legs.  No matter how much we love our families, our friends, our jobs, or our church, sometimes it is so refreshing to have a little time to ourselves.  I know that this is the case for me.  Here is one reason I completely relate to what Brennan was feeling that evening.  When Lige, our youngest son, was about 4 months old Lola came back to live with us.  Now, we decided it would be a good idea for Lige to move into our room in order to give Lola the space she needed.  There was not room in the boy's room for a crib; thus he ended up in ours.  Well, for many of you who have been in this predicament, you know that a baby who wakes up in his crib, which is in his parents' room, instantly knows that his parents' are in that room.  He will not go back to sleep in that crib for anything!  Then begins the long road of co-sleeping!  Needless to say, there is no leg room in a full bed with two adults and a baby.  Even less leg room when that baby is a two-year old!  In the morning, when Lige would wake up,  Scott usually got up with him.  I would stay in bed and just stretch my whole body out!  I loved even those 5 minutes when I could have all that leg room to stretch, unencumbered by my clingy two year old and  husband.  Don't get me wrong, I love my husband and Lige, but sometimes you just need a little room to move, a little time to just be.  As a little side note, Lige is now sleeping in his own bed with his brothers.  Even though most nights at least one of us has to go snuggle with him when he wakes in the night.  But this is progress believe me!
Whether you're a 7 year old boy who comes from a big family, a mom who has a clingy baby, or fill in the blank.  We all can rejoice in a little time to ourselves now and again, and not feel guilty about it either.  It doesn't mean we don't love our families.  We just need a little leg room from time to time!

Couldn't Ask for a Lovelier Day

Lola and Samuel posing in the photo booth

Beautiful, warm, sunny May day, shared with family and friends made for a very lovely day! A day where we came together to celebrate Lola being part of our family.  We called it her adoption day party, even though her adoption was finalized awhile back.  We call it a celebration, her party when in reality maybe it should be our party.  After all we are the ones that have been truly blessed to be called Lola's family!

Adoption is a wonderful thing; there is no doubt about it!  It is almost a miracle in and of itself.   A child and a family with grandparents, uncles, cousins, etc. join together to form a new family that is not biologically connected.   Now adoption is not as simple as that either.  There are hard times, adjustment, and wonderful moments too.  It does take more than love, but it doesn't take more than God!  He does make it possible regardless the struggles.  Lola is our child through and through; we are blessed!  However, with all the wonders that accompany adoption there is a sense of loss that cannot, must not be dismissed.

I will not share the details of Lola's story because this has been our promise to her.  It is her story to share or withhold, not mine, not my husbands, not her siblings, no one's story but her own!  Yet it is safe to assume that a child who has been adopted had a birth family.  This is the case with every child...maybe they were placed in foster care, maybe their birth family couldn't give them the life they wished for them, maybe there was a death of one or more parent, maybe...but with any adoption there was a before, no matter how brief that before may or may not have been.  So, even though Lola's adoption party was a celebration, we also must recognize that our gain came with a loss, a price.  We choose to honor that before, by putting pictures of her birth parents in her video, by talking about and remembering her before, and most of all by thanking God for the before because this is part of who Lola is.  This is her story and now part of our story.  We are truly thankful to be part of it.  We couldn't have asked for a lovelier day!

(note: I wanted to post this because it is long over due, but have hesitated because I want to post Lola's video also.  However, as of right now it is too long; so we have to do some editing first)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

To Be or Not to Be...

To be like our parents or not to be like our parents, that is the question.  I'm sure many of us have said or done something, that has made us think, "I sound just like my mom/dad!"  More often than not, growing up we all thought there is no way I will do that when I get older.  But as fate would have it, we usually end up with many qualities that resemble those who raised us.  I would like to think that all of my children have at least a few of my admirable qualities.  I would like to hope that they have not and will not pick up many of my less desirable ones.  But if I had to choose one child that reflects a similar character to my own, it would have to be Brennan.  Now, others may disagree and think we are not alike at all.  Or for that matter someone may even believe that another of my children resembles my character far better than Brennan.  Also, Brennan may resent this statement of mine or he may be thrilled. I do not know.  The point being, this is me making the comparison and I know who I am around others and alone.   Anyway, my hope in this post is to shine a little light on Brennan.

Brennan is our 3rd child who will be turning 7 years old this August.  He is an old soul.  I say this because he is a deep thinker.  There will be times when he says something that lets you know his little mind has been working and thinking.  The other day we were riding in the car and a song came on that I just absolutely love.  The song is I'll Keep On by NF and the chorus goes, "Oh these hands are tired, Oh this heart is tired, Oh this soul is tired, But I'll keep on, I'll keep on, I'll keep on." After the song was over Brennan says, "Mom this song just makes me feel close to God!"  And honestly, that is how I feel after I hear that song every time.  Here I am driving along, praising God, not really even sure if my kids are getting what this song is saying and then Brennan says this.  An old soul...  He was telling me about a friend of his sharing that his father is in jail and he said, "I asked him, are you sure you want to be telling me this?" He knows how we have stressed the importance of one's story and that it is not something to be taken lightly or to be nosy about.  An old soul...  It also seems to me that Brennan seeks out older people.  When my Grandma Spelbring was alive Brennan would be the one to sit next to her and chat.  In this area he and I are very much alike.  I love talking to older people.  I love hearing their stories.  I drink in their wisdom. An old soul...

Yet, with all this Brennan is also great with little ones.  He is still at that age where he truly loves to play.  His imagination still runs wild and free!  To play with little babes is not work for him.  Often we will find Brennan playing bunnies with Lige and Juwan.  He is really a good big brother when he wants to be.  We also have a new little foster baby (more about that later) who he loves to help watch and play with.

As with all my children, Brennan is not a perfect little cherub who flits around the world filling it only with ooey, gooey sweetness.  To pretend that any of my children only have good qualities would not do justice to them.  They would remain flat, unrealistic, uninteresting characters in an ooey, gooey, super sweet children's story.  Brennan is passionate like me.  His sense of fairness and injustice in the world sometimes comes across in very passionate ways.  The way he handles conflict is not quietly to say the least.  He resembles me in this way.  We both can come across as being angry, when in reality we are just being passionate about something.  Actually, I have seen this quality in most of my children.

Brennan with all of his similarities to me, has one very distinct quality or should I say talent that definitely differs from me completely.  He is a great builder.  LEGOs were created for a soul such as he.  He and his brother Samuel can come up with some really cool creations.  Ones that move and transform and catapult things.  They amaze me how they can do this all from their own little minds.  Brennan will often go back and rebuild past LEGO creations using different parts if he can't find the originals.  I can barely make a LEGO car that actually moves.

In a nut shell that is my Brenny.  Like I said I hoped to shine a little light on this little boy of mine.  And that is what I feel like I have done.  I've only shined a little light on this old soul, a little light that  only reveals a small part of what an amazing little boy he is.  To be like me or not to be like me, this is not the question.   If he resembles me in character a little bit well, great.  But more importantly I would be proud to reflect and resemble Brennan's character!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Wonderful Moment at Culver's

Sitting at Culvers eating, enjoying our meal as best as one can while making sure five kids are eating, cups aren't spilling, the youngest isn't sucking on the salt shaker again, no one is climbing around under the tables etc...a wonderful, simple, but rare moment occurred.  The whole time we had been there an elderly lady was eating daintily by herself at the table next to us.  I kept glancing every once in a while at her, wondering if she was annoyed at our slightly rambunctious group.  Yet, to the best of my knowledge she didn't seem even to notice or acknowledge our presence.  I was completely caught off guard when she spoke to me as she was gathering up her things to leave. She simply said, "You have a lovely family.  I have five children also and there are four boys and one girl."  That was it.  I think I smiled and said something, but I can't remember what.  What I do remember is how her simple comment made me feel.  Even now as I wright about it, I am getting teary eyed.  The majority of families get these sort of comments daily.  It probably seems so ordinary.  They most definitely would not be blogging about it, calling it wonderful and rare, or getting all emotional and weepy.  Yet, for our family this simple comment means the world! It shows that even a stranger recognizes that this is what we are; we are an ordinary family with four boys and one girl.  We are a beautiful family!

I think I was very naive before we began this adventure of growing our family.  I knew there would be people who would be interested about the make up of our family.  That there may be curious questions or glances.  Yet, I wasn't prepared for the unthoughtful comments or the way my children have been put on the spot by other kids wondering whether or not they were "really" siblings. I really had no idea that I would worry about strangers questioning my parenting when discipling my children in public. These are just a few of the ways I have been surprised.

 Let's start with the general run of the mill comments that may seem innocent enough, but can really be hurtful to adoptive families.  One time I was in the library when a man asked if I was the babysitter.  Hmmm...I guess this white women couldn't possibly be the mother of all of those children especially because some of them are brown skinned.  What can you do?  I simply smile and say no I'm the mother.  Another favorite comment that seems very unthreatening to the unadoptive ear is, "Are all these yours?"  Who asks that?  Even if there may be a possibility that they aren't all family, why ask the question? Yet, I think the one I hate the most is this last one, which is spoken often by people I know and love.  It is more often than not spoken when all my children are present.  Someone will say, "All your boys look so much alike!"  Or "All your boys look like their daddy!"  My heart hurts because Juwan, if he doesn't already, will someday know that he does not physically resemble Scott.  How does that make him feel?  Does this mean he is not one of Scott's boys or that his brothers are not his brothers because he does not resemble them physically?  Absolutely not!  This seemingly innocent remark however, disregards the feelings of our adoptive children who look absolutely nothing like the rest of us.  When we get these comments or questions all I can think of is how is this making my children feel?

Kids are naturally inquisitive and I admire their courage to ask questions that adults do not know how to ask.  Yet, when it comes to adoption or transracial families in general, I would think that in this day in age more kids would understand that "real"  brothers and sisters or "real" families do not always look exactly the same.  Many times my kids have been asked how can they be siblings if they have different colored skin.  Each one of my kids deals with it differently.  Samuel tends to get a little angry, Brennan feels sad about it, Lola usually just says she's adopted, and Juwan is pretty quiet about the whole thing.  We have recently had some laughs at home when discussing some funny ways they could reply.  Here are some of my favorites:  "Oh, those are my parents. They are white because they have that Michael Jackson skin disease."  "What...what!?! We are different colors?!!"  or "Oh, I just got left at the beach too long...that's all."  These are silly ways to deflect questions that maybe my kids just do not feel like answering.  They do not always want to have to educate other people about adoption and transracial families.  They want to be able to say that's my mom and dad over there, or these are my brothers, or this is my sister, and people just be ok with that because that is how it is supposed to be, especially when you are a kid!  A child does not want to have to validate the fact that his/her family is actually his/her family.  Especially when the next question for adopted children is usually, " what happened to your real parents?"  This is a very personal question and often racked with grief, guilt, loss, and sometimes embarrassment.  Lola has done a great job choosing how much of her story she wants to share with her peers. Scott and I have clearly expressed to all of our kids that each person is allowed to share his/her own story if they so chose.  But no one is allowed to share  another person's story.  I feel very strongly that this is our child's story to tell or not to tell.  (This will be a whole other blog post for another time) Even I as a parent will not share the details of their stories.  We have even told our kids that they do not have the right to say any of their siblings are adopted.  It is not a shameful thing to be adopted, it is wonderful, but it is their right alone to voice it if they so choose.  I also, had an experience with a little preschooler in Juwan's Sunday school class.  I help teach in Juwan's class every Sunday and one day not too long ago as Juwan and I were leaving a little boy stopped me at the door.  He was very sweet and not at all rude, asking with his little lisp, "Does he go home with you?"  Now, I knew he was asking if Juwan went home with me because his little mind had not been taught or exposed to the reality that a beautiful little brown boy could actually have a white mama.  I told him, "Why yes honey, he is my son, of course he goes home with me."  I am not mad at this sweet little boy who could not understand that Juwan was my son.  I'm not upset with the little girls that did not understand how two white people could be the parents to our beautiful Lola.  Nor am I angry at the kids in dance class that could not fathom how Lola and Brennan were brother and sister simply because she is brown and he is white.  However, I am disappointed with parents these days.  How is it that they have not educated or exposed their children to different types of families.  I am frustrated with children's books, movies, and media in general that portray families in one certain way...where all the siblings and parents match.  It should not be left to our children to defend the "realness" of their families.

Lastly, I have struggled with my personal insecurities that come along with being a white mother to brown skinned children.  This may seem strange to parents who have not adopted.  Heck, it may seem strange to adoptive parents also, I don't know.  I even almost hesitate to write it down because I am a little embarrassed by these feelings of mine.  But here it goes.  Not only do I worry wether or not I am doing a good enough job raising any of my kids.  I worry if I am doing enough to educate my children about the African American community that they are a part of or if they have enough opportunities to interact with those in the black community, to make lasting friendships.  I know that Scott and I are trying, but I worry.  I also often feel self conscious in public.  I worry that someone may question my parenting abilities when it comes to discipline, simply because I am white and the child I am scolding is brown.  When this happens I often wonder is someone going to think I am kidnapping this child.  I know these are probably unfounded worries, but none the less they are there, with me, in the back of my mind.

So, when that elderly lady simply said, "What a lovely family you have."  My heart smiled and those nagging worries seemed to fade ever so slightly, because she spoke the truth.  She recognized what was right before her eyes.  A lovely family, with four boys and a girl,  enjoying a somewhat rambunnctious meal at Culver's.