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.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Our little...big drummer boy

When Scott and I tell people that Juwan loves to drum, they give us that "oh I'm so sorry for you" look.  Then we tell them that his grandpa gave us a full drum set and they give us the "I hope you know what you've gotten yourself into" look.  I find this amazing.  Parents that buy pianos, violins, or flutes for their kids do not get the same reactions.  More often than not they are praised for broadening their children's horizons by giving them the gift of music.  Drummers, on the other hand, I feel get a bad rap. As if they are only going to create a whole lot of noise!  Now, there are times when I  am glad the drums are in the basement, but they are still loud.  I must also confess that I am often reminding Juwan that he has a drum set down stairs if he would like to drum, instead of using his silverware and plate.  For it seems that Juwan is constantly drumming on something.  He really does love music and making his own percussion.  But he is also, five years old and painfully shy.  I don't say this as if it's a negative characteristic.  When he makes up his mind about someone, he is not the least bit shy.  However, it usually takes him a while to get to that point.  If we were to get him into drum lessons he would probably not let go of my leg long enough to even pick up the drum sticks! So, thus he is our little...big drummer boy.

Juwan is such a great kid.  He loves to tumble, play basketball, drum, sing, dance, and be silly.  If a smile could cure the woes of the heart, then all anyone would have to do is look upon his great, big smile and all would be well!  He also loves our cat Philamina.  You can often find him holding her or playing with her.  Many nights she is asleep curled up at the end of his feet.  Another thing that has changed with my Juwany-boo is how tall he is getting!  Yes, everyone grows, but he is getting so tall. He is already taller than his big brother Brennan who is almost 7.  I feel bad for him because often people expect older behavior from him when he is still only five years old.  Next year he will be starting kindergarden.  Time truly is flying by!  It seems like just yesterday he was in my bed singing Jesus loves me, in his sweet baby voice.  I can't wait to continue to watch God mold him into the man he will become.  Yet with all my hopes and dreams for him, also come fears.

All too soon, I fear that the world will not look on him as this sweet, shy little boy with a wonderful smile.  Instead I dread that too many will see him as a tall, black, young man that they fear.  Or that they will look on him with hate and distrust, simply because his skin is brown.  In that respect, I long for the years to slow way down before he has to face the ugly truths that still lurk in the shadows. Or experience the scary realities that do not hide but rear their ugly heads in plain day light.  But today, he is five. Today he is my little...big drummer boy.  He is my Juwany-boo who laughs his infectious laugh and changes his clothes five times a day depending on if he is a ninja or a basketball player.  Today, I will stand on God's truths and pray His protection over my sweet little boy like most mothers of little boys do.  Today, I will pray that Juwan will not become another sad statistic, that he will be judged by his character and not by the color of his skin, that his spirit will not be tainted by the ugly realities of racism in our world, and that his life will be protected from the irresponsible acts that arise from this most mothers of little black boys do.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Roses are red violets are blue...

Roses are red violets are blue we like poems, how about you? Cheesy I know! I remember writing silly little poems for my mom and most of them began with the "roses are red" bit.  The other poems I would write were the type you would use the letters of someone's name. For example I'm sure I wrote a poem for my mother that might have gone something like this; Magnificent Oh, so wonderful Mom. Cheesy again right? In school I do not remember poetry playing a major role in my education.  Yet, with my kids I have really found the joy of poetry. There are poems that rhyme, those that don't, silly poems, serious poems, and nonsense poems.  Shel Silverstein is probably my children's favorite poet because his poems are funny and even gross at times, but he has a few that he slips in that make me teary eyed.  So, when Samuel had to come up with some poems I was really impressed with his hard work. His poems are not quite as cheesy as mine.  But he is an 8 year old boy, so they definitely are silly.  I hope you enjoy them as much I did working with him and hearing him come up with ideas.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Baby of the Family

Newborn me (plus what's up with the eye?)

I am my mother's baby.  Now to give my sister Shelbi credit she is the youngest of us four sisters, but I am the the biological baby of our mother.  Confused? Well, to fill those in who aren't privy to my family's story my mom married my sister's dad when we were about three years old.  So, with that said, I am the baby in many ways.  Being the baby of the family has a lot of privileges to be sure, but one negative aspect is a lack of baby memorabilia.  The last born often ends up with an empty baby book.  I always give my mom a hard time because my baby book has pretty much nothing in it, no photos, no entries.  Now, to her defense she was raising three girls by herself, working two jobs most of the time and then later she was raising four girls! In her defense, she has given me many memories and taught me invaluable lessons that are more precious to me than any baby book.  Also, I must admit, I too have become one of those mothers!  My baby is going to be three in September and I do not have a baby book for him, nor has he made any appearances on this blog.  Why is this?

My beautiful mom with me.

I believe that time gets the best of us.  We want to have play time with our kids,  quality time with our husbands, quiet time alone, time to fold laundry, time to keep the house from falling apart, time in God's Word, and the list goes on.  Sometimes, I feel like the weight of being a mother is a heavy load to carry.  Not because it is drudgery, but instead due to the great importance placed on that role!  Not only are we called to be tender caregivers, chauffeurs, maids, cooks, nursers, playmates, referees, educators (both academically and spiritually), etc. but we feel the need to also be the historians of our children's childhoods.  Maybe, it is just me, but in this age of social media, of Facebook and blogs we can almost become overwhelmed with documenting every moment of our lives with photo posts, tweets, and texts.  For me personally, the feeling to "keep up with Jones'" can become overwhelming.  The feeling that "oh man, I need to do this with my kids..." or "I need to post this picture,"  otherwise I am not validated in my parenting.  Now, this is not me berating those who use Facebook or anything else.  This is simply my take on it all; how it has made me feel.  After all, here I am on social media writing a blog post.  However, blogging for me in many ways helps me remember that I am more than a mom or a wife.  It helps me keep in touch with the person I will continue to be even after my beautiful children are having little ones of their own.  I blog because I like to write and I blog because I to want to preserve in some small way the history of myself and my family.

Being a historian, I think, is part of the human condition.  There is a historian in all of us...we all want to leave our mark in some small way.  We want those who come after us to know that we existed. I mean look at trees, bridges, train cars, and sidewalks for example.  You can't go anywhere without seeing some sort of graffiti where someone has left their mark.   In many ways that is how I am also.  I want people to know that there was a girl named, Emily, whom many knew as Kati. She loved God, enjoyed reading books, was passionate about children, and was interested in anything foreign. She grew up wanting to convert Eddie Veder of Pearl Jam, so she could marry him. She was good at running the mile for track, but absolutely hated every race she was in.  She thought she might go into music, but instead ended up living in Romania for a while and coming home to study Sociology.   She married a wonderful man and became the mother of five great kids.  She lived and breathed and had an impact, maybe not an earth shattering impact,  but she did leave her mark on those she loved.

Me probably 3(what happened to all that blond hair)

So, with all that said, I too feel a little guilty about neglecting my baby Lige.  I will try in the next five blog posts to come up with a short update about all my children! They are precious to me and maybe in writing about them they will some day be able to look back on their childhoods and easily recall the blessings they were to me and many others!

Me with my kiddos

What are your thoughts?  Are any of you babies of the family with baby books lacking?  Are you mothers or fathers who feel the heavy load placed upon us?  How do you feel about the impact of social media on you as a parent?  Let me know, I'm curious.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Baby Lige...not a Baby Book, but It's a Start!

Baby Lige August was born on September 27, 2012.  Now, even though he is no longer a baby, but getting close to three years old, he is stilled called baby Lige by his siblings.  This all began even before he was born.  We knew he was a boy and that we were going to name him after my great grandfather Lige Earl Brush.  Thus, he remains baby Lige to this day.  Who knows how long he will be referred to as baby Lige; only time will tell.

Lige's namesake as I mentioned above, is my great grandfather.  We chose to name him this unique name because my great grandfather was such a unique character!  He was in his nineties still riding his bicycle because he could no longer drive his car. I remember when he was still driving and we were kids riding with him, you almost got whiplash because he would put on his breaks real quick, then speed up, put on the breaks, then speed up.  He also had one of those hula girls that would wobble her hips when the car moved.  It was a riot!  When he was younger he used to be a boxer. He also became the only dad my maternal grandpa ever knew, even though he wasn't his biological father.   We would often go visit him with my mom and he had a canary in his kitchen.  He was an onry old man too.  He was also very loving.  Always after visiting we would get big hugs from him and kisses.  I will forever remember his toothless grin and his spunk.  Even when he was diagnosed with cancer and had a colostamy, he continued to be that same old onry grandpa.  So, in some ways we gave our son my great grandpa's name in order to honor a really neat man.  We also hope that maybe some of these interesting and honorable qualities may be instilled in our little boy.  The same goes for his middle name, Scott's maternal grandfather played a huge role in his life and was a man of many admirable qualities, so August was passed on as well.  Interestingly, enough the name August is also in my family history.  My great great grandfather was from Poland (Prussia at the time) and his wife also.  Their names were August and Augusta.  Well, enough said about his name.

It's interesting how with new life there is often death.  We see it throughout our lives; death giving way to new life.  The story of Jesus' death and then resurrection to new life.  Not only did He physically die and then physically come to life again, but with His death we are promised new life.   Jesus took our punishment that we deserve because of our sins.   Because He did this, we now have a new hope, a new life transformed from the death of our sins to the life of His grace and forgiveness!  Also, we are promised by His word that even though our earthly bodies may die, we will live with Him eternally.  He has gone to prepare a place for us.  Nature shows us that even though the daffodils and tulips "die" every year, they return to us in all their splendor every spring!  So, we see this cycle of death and life all the time.  Lige's birth in many ways reminds me of this circle of life.

Going into labor I had the hopes of a natural child birth this time around.  I had previously had two cesarian sections and the idea of a natural child birth was exciting and scary.  My doctor had not even allowed me to try the second time after my first c-section, so I was surprised she brought it up.  So, when I went to the hospital that evening I thought this would be the plan.  However, my doctor never showed up to the hospital that morning.  Dr. Odunsi had delivered all of my birth children and I had always trusted her completely.  I knew something was wrong when another doctor showed up to deliver Lige and said he would not allow me to try a natural child birth.  Of course I was devastated and frustrated that I was going through labor pains all for nothing.  Before I was scheduled to deliver, Scott finally confessed to me that Dr. Odunsi had died that night.  It was sad news to hear and even sadder to discover all of this during labor.  To make matters worse, once I was in surgery my spinal tap did not take and I had to be put under general anesthetic.  Neither Scott nor I were able to see our precious boy come into this world!  I must say that when I came to, I was in great pain.  This was for two reasons: One they were out of some sort of pain medicine that is normally given before the patient wakes up and two because Mr. Lige had been wedged in diagonally.  I guess the doctor had to work very hard to get him out.  So, in many ways it was a God send that I had not been allowed to try to deliver naturally.  A healthy baby boy entered into this world... Dr. Odunsi had departed this world. She will be remembered by many women.  She had a wonderful smile and laugh.  She always remembered my boys and asked about them.  She had great advice and cared deeply for her patients.  She made women feel comfortable in those situations where it is easy to feel embarrassed.  I will remember her always and know she helped bring my children safely into this world.

Lige is such a whirlwind of a boy.  He loves tractors, actually he loves any type of machine that is humongous!  It is strange because I know this is supposed to be a "boy" thing, but I really have not gone out of my way to introduce my boys to "cars and trucks and things that go." However, they all have taken some interest in these things.  Yet, I would have to say that Lige truly is intrigued by machines and seeks them out, searches for them when we are driving, and is normally the first to spot something ginormous with four wheels.  I will forever love the memory of him standing at our front picture window watching, for what seemed like hours, the tractors working out in the field.  Last fall we were blessed by the farmer who works those fields.  He just so happens to go to our church and offered to take my husband and Lige for a ride one day!  Besides being a tractor man, he also loves books and building with blocks or big legos.  Like all children he loves and gets annoyed by his older siblings.  But he truly has them wrapped around his little finger.  He calls Samuel, Bubba and Brennan, Brenny, he calls Juwan, Ju Ju, and Lola, he usually says Lalo.  Some funny things he says are: "I have idea!"  He also calls marbles, Narbles.  Another thing he does, which he got off the movie, "Box Trolls" is he will come up to you grab your hand to shake it and say, "Nice to MEET you!'  The accent he always puts on the MEET.  Some of his favorite books have been, "Machines at Work" by Byron Barton,  "Cars and Things That Go" by Richard Scary, "Old McDonald Had a Workshop," and "Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site."

Baby Lige...he makes my heart smile.  I may not have a baby book for him yet, but this blog post is a start.  My baby, the words on this page are only a small glimpse at the awesome little guy he is and continues to become.  My prayer is that he will love the Lord with all his heart, soul, and strength!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Black History Month

What do most of us think about when February comes around? Frilly heart cards, roses, dinner with that special someone, chocolate that we really don't need, phrases like kiss me" and "be mine" or maybe if we are lucky, breakfast in bed; these could possibly be some of our thoughts that surround the month of February, the Month of Valentine's Day.  For me, this month has become a very special month! Not only do I get to celebrate the birth of my sweet little Juwan, but I get to remember a part of America's history that is often neglected.  
The month of February is black history month.  It is a month set aside to celebrate African Americans.  It is a time to remember the harsh realities of slavery and Jim Crow.  A time to recognize the amazing African Americans who fought against the atrocities forced upon them.  A time set aside to remember how they rose up and forced this nation to recognize its failure and fault! Yet, it is not only about slavery.  It is a celebration of many African Americans who have accomplished great things in science, art, music, heroic deeds and sports to name only a few.  Many of these individuals are not taught about in our history books and were never recognized by the masses for their contributions to this nation.  Some were recognized in some small way, but more often than not decades after the fact.  This is also a time to reflect on how this black narrative affects our country, our states, our cities, our families and our own hearts today. Now, I know some people will say why is there a whole month dedicated to only one people group? I would counter argue, why is their story not part of our collective history in the first place? Why is it so conspicuously missing from our history books?  This is why black history month exists. I have not always been aware of black history month.  An even sadder statement might be that I did not grow up knowing much about the history of African Americans or about racism in the United States.
Growing up in a small suburb where there were few minorities, I was very much unaware of what diversity lay just over the lake.  My first real experience with what race meant and how it affects people's lives very differently, occurred when my sister moved to Decatur.  There she had black friends and then gave birth to my beautiful niece who is mixed.  It was then I began to see and understand the role of race in this culture, but only in a small part. Now, I'm in my late thirties, have traveled and lived overseas, have lived in neighborhoods that some people might never venture in to, have married, I have birthed 3 children, adopted two and fostered others and this idea of race and what it means in our country has come to mean so much more!  
Black history month has allowed me to really focus for a month on the African American side of our history, not simply for knowledge sake, but more importantly to to make sure my kids know the worth of every human being!  I want my Adopted children to know that they have a rich history. That they come from a people that are strong, courageous and talented.  I want all my children to learn from the horrible mistakes that were made during slavery and Jim Crow.  I want them to learn that we all have our own prejudices and we need to recognize them and not allow them to govern our actions.  I want them to know that racism and prejudices are not qualities that God intended His people to have.  

So, in honor of Black history month, my children took some time to learn many things.  We will attempt to share some of what we have learned, with you on this blog. I know that the month of February has past, but after all this part of our history doesn't have to be confined to one month.  Sit back and enjoy and maybe, February will metamorphosis into a whole new month for you too!  Courage, triumph, racism, peace, unjust, slavery, emancipation, inventors, jazz, blues, skat, and hope: Maybe now these will be a few of the words that come to mind when you think of the month of February.

African American Poems

During Black History Month we also read many poems by African American Poets.  Some of our favorite poems came from the poet Langston Hughes.  Here are a few of the poems the kids chose to recite.  

What Black History Means to Me by Samuel

What Black history month means to me is that it is a day of the people that went through slavery and people that  weren't  celebrated for the things that they did. For a example Lewis Howard Latimer and Dr. Henry T. Sampson and nobody put them in the history book. Dr. Henry t. Sampson turned the gamma Electric cell into electricity, for a fact. Lewis Howard Latimer helped make the light bulb.  Also,the history of black people is slavery.  Harriet Tubman was a brave slave woman.  She ran away to the north where slaves were free.  Then she went back to her old master's house to save the other slaves and returned with hundreds to the North! Oh that's too bad for that slave master and woo hoo for those Black people! Do you know how African Americans got there?  They journeyed to the North by the underground railroad. It was an organization of  white and black people that helped slaves run away. Whenever the slaves were freed, they were almost still slaves.  Jim crow laws and share cropping kept them in poverty and other horrible things.  The Jim Crow laws were very harsh to black people.  I take that back, the laws were mega racist!  People like  Martin Luther King Junior fought against the Jim Crow laws, not with guns or hands but with peaceful protests.  He had his famous "I have a dream" speech that helped free black people from the Jim Crow laws. My hopes are that racism will stop! I have two siblings that are dark colored and I don't want anything to happen to them.  

Guest author: Samuel 
Age: 8 years old
Hobby/ interests: Video games, climbing trees, drawing, and reading
What he wants to be when he grows up: an inventor

These Jazz Men

Part of our Black History Month learning took on a musical note!  It all started by reading the children's book "This Jazz Man" by Karen Ehrhardt.

We have had this great book for many years, but this year we decided to find out more about These Jazz Men.  In this book you learn about nine great African Americans who were great musicians or dancers.  The neat thing about this book is that it is intended to be sung to the tune of "This old Man...he played one." We read the book, listened to some of their music, looked at real pictures of these greats, learned some facts about them, and even played a game called guess that Jazz Man.  The boys really loved it and it was a great way to incorporate my 2 and 4 year old in learning about Black History Month.  Here are the pictures of all the men we learned about...please ignore my blue tape :)

Here are a few projects the kids worked on to go along with our Jazz Men lessons.  Juwan, my 4 year old, (oops he just turned 5) started drawing this picture all on his own, without my prompting.  He knew his older brothers were choosing their favorite jazz men to write about and I guess he decided to choose his favorite also.  He drew this picture of Art "Bu" Blakey drumming.  It is a bit hard to see, but this is what he told me and I wrote it down. 

He is a drummer.  He would put his elbow on the drum to make a different sound.  Blakey played a song called "Drum Thunder."  I like him because he is a good drummer!  I want to be just like him. 

Brennan chose Thomas Wright "Fats" Waller as his favorite jazz man.  He looked at the picture in the book and drew his own version.  I thought he did a great job drawing.  He also wrote a few sentences on the back.  This is what he wrote.  He is in first grade and so there were some spelling mistakes and some corrections and lessons on some of the words he didn't know how to spell.

He plays the peano.  He maks faces when he plays the ivories.  I chose Waller because I think a piano is cool!

Samuel also wrote about his favorite Jazz Man.  He chose Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.  This was a very educational time for Samuel because not only did he have to do research, but he had to chose what information to include, how to organize his thoughts, and to type it all out.  He also chose a picture of Robinson to use.  This took a bit of time and it was kind of learn as you go. We talked about how good writing has an introduction and a closing.  He also learned that both need to grab the readers attention. So, for the caption of the picture, the introduction, and the closing we looked at different options together.  Some of these included quotes, stories, jokes, quotes about Robinson etc.  So with that said, he chose what he wanted for his paragraph.  I think he did a great job and he really enjoyed researching and learning new information he did not know about Robinson.