Representation matters.

Being a member of the dominant or majority culture means that I see reflections of myself all the time. Walk the aisle in any toy section to see this on display. In the Target that I frequent, (that is located in an area that has higher than average Black population) I am lucky if I see one or two Black dolls. And by Black, I just mean an exact replica of a white doll, but with a slightly darker shade of skin. I have yet to find a doll in a store that matches my daughter’s gorgeous dark skin tone. It may seem like a small thing, but it isn’t. When one body type, hair color, eye color, skin color is celebrated more than others, it is what we try to become. It is what we see as the standard. Those who are other than the ideal feel like they are less than. As a child, I spent a lot of time staring in the mirror wishing that my brown eyes would turn blue so that I could be beautiful. Representation matters.
It is so important for our children (and adults too) to see themselves reflected in positive, beautiful ways. To know that they (and others who look like them) are cherished and celebrated. Most children can look at their parents and other family members for this. In a transracial family, it is even more important to surround your family with reflections of themselves. I don’t want Maya to look at me, wishing for my board-straight hair, I want her to see her gorgeous curls and brown skin reflected in our beautiful friends, in what we do (and do not) watch on TV, in her toys, books and dolls. Such a simple concept, but so very important.
These days, when Maya and I go shopping, I end up avoiding the doll aisles altogether. I steer away from the rows filled with white faces staring back at us, telling us what is beautiful and valued. As a mom to a beautiful Black girl, something as simple as walking the aisles in Target can almost bring me to tears. I watch as mothers of white daughters linger as they choose from the seemingly unending choices of dolls that reflect their race. When you are white, it isn’t something we have to think about. The books in the book store, the blockbuster children’s movies and TV shows again reinforce these ideals. I hope that as time continues on we will see more and more representation in the media for people of color. There are glimmers of hope for the future.
Etsy has been a great place for me to find great products that reflect my children and our family. Maya has been wanting a real lunch box for a while. Soapbox Theory is my newest discovery. I am obsessed with this store. Such adorable, empowering products. There are some awesome boy options too!!!

The custom family portrait was done by another amazing Etsy-er. My dear friend Beth. Check out her store HERE. For a 10% discount in Beth’s store, use the code JENNSFRIENDS.
maya lunch box

A quick iPhone photo of my beauty headed off to school this morning. I can’t believe how big she looks!

beth cupitt - holy smokes, they even have a black cowboy!!!

Hannah - Check out I got an amazing print for me and my two daughters. You can choose skin tone and hair color, lots of options. My black daughter is blind so it is an interesting situation. I want all of the black stuff for her even though she doesn’t know!

Sevi - I love this so much and already saved the etsy shop for viewing later. I remember when I was younger always having the hardest time finding a doll that represented my culture and the way I look. Slowly we are making progress, slowly.

The simple things.

I love my little family. As the weather is warming up, we are spending many nights working on and enjoying our backyard. My sweet husband is amazing at landscape design. We are so blessed to be able to have such a fun space to spend time. I often forget to get out my camera for the everyday stuff, but these are the real memories of childhood, of family and I want to remember our little family just as it is. Maya loves to camp in the backyard and Alain cooks amazing food on the fire. Here are some photos of our simple, backyard fun.


Maya is 3 {Pancakes & Pajama Birthday Party}

Seriously y’all, where does the time go?! I can’t believe that our tiny baby is three. She reminds me every time I call her baby, “No, I’m not a baby. I’m a big girl.” I can’t deny it anymore. Although I still carry her often (probably more than I should). I’m dragging my feet to get rid of her crib. This beauty is growing up. She is a talker…so dang smart and has a memory like a steel trap. She remembers which way to turn to go to the zoo and what happened 3 months ago at a specific restaurant. We all adore her. I’m sad to see my baby go, but loving each new stage.
She LOVES PJs. She will change into multiple pairs throughout he day when we are home. So we decided to celebrate her PJ love with a Pancake and Pajama Party. Here are a few photos from her birthday party.

Chalkboard art by Maya’s “Bubba”
Donut Birthday cake.
Maya’s biggest present ever – her own house!!!

I tried to get a photo of all her friends. TRIED.

When you know better…

As a follow up to yesterday’s post and all that I am learning as a parent and as a transracial adoptive parent.

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” -Maya Angelou

There are so many things that I didn’t know that I didn’t know when we got married 6 years ago. When we sat down and applied to adopt Maya over 4 years ago, we knew that it wasn’t the traditional way to create a family. We knew that there would be bumps in the road. We knew lots of things in abstract ways, but nothing at all from experience. The couple that started the process is very different than the couple today, but also very much the same.
When I was growing up, I was a straight A student, president of this and that, didn’t get into trouble and was never, never good enough for my father. This makes me strive for perfection even in the areas that I cannot be perfect. Parenting is not a science. Although I want so deeply to do it well, I have to accept the fact that I will make mistakes. However, I am realizing my biggest mistake is the guilt I feel for not being perfect. The times that I freeze in place staring at the past instead of pushing toward the future. I love Maya Angelou’s quote: ” Now that I know better, I do better.” It is freeing. Such a great reminder that we cannot change the past, we can only do better in the future.
While I did not understand all of the positives and negatives, pro and cons of being a transracial family before we became one, I am discovering now. While I thought very little about all the situations Alain would face in America before we asked him to be a part of our family and leave his country, I am becoming aware now. While I didn’t know that by the age of 2, Maya would begin to notice that she and I are different, I am understanding that now. While I had no idea what it means to be Black, yet became the mother of Black children, I am learning now.
Not knowing is part of the process of life. It isn’t something to be ashamed of. I want this to be an encouragement to all parents who are learning, trying, seeking, growing, as parents, husbands, wives, siblings and friends. Don’t sit in the muck of guilt, don’t refuse to move because of shame. Don’t stand still because of fear. Try, fall down, get up, try again. Put yourself out there. When you know better, do better.
To our those dear ones around us and around other families like ours, please don’t think that we expect you to know all of the things that we are learning. Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t buy into the lie that we are hawks soaring above waiting for you to make a mistake. We are walking this journey, sometimes quickly and sometimes as slow as a snail. Don’t be afraid to talk us, to ask questions. Chances are we will make a mistake, we are learning. We would love to learn together. All we desire of those who love our family, is to be willing to learn. And then, when you know better, do better.

Because I need a reminder each and every day of my life to continue to let go of the past and push forward to a bright future, here is a free printable to remind you too.

do better free printable

Shewit - Thank you for expressing these sentiments. Although I wish that more individuals would clearly understand about what it means to be be black in North America, especially when adopting black children, it’s lovely to see someone who cares about understanding the ‘black experience’ if you will.


I wrote this post nearly 3 years ago, but never published it.  I didn’t post it because I still had (and have) so much to learn. I didn’t post it for fear of the criticism. Keeping quiet for fear of not saying something perfectly may stop your critics, but it is not always noble. Waiting to speak up until every word is perfect, means never speaking up at all. Today is the 3rd anniversary of Trayvon’s death. May we learn something, change and start talking about racism in America. In the past 3 years, I have learned so much about race in America. I have learned that who we are greatly affects how we view the world and how the world views us. I have learned that I haven’t had to think about these things for the vast majority of my life because I am white. Mostly, I have learned that I have so much more to learn. May we all come to the very basic understanding that our view of the world, it that – our view. Not the right view or the only view, but one perspective. May we learn to listen more, to hear the voices around us calling out for justice. May their voices continue to rise.


For the past several days, I have been reading post like this and this. Discussions about the tragic loss of beautiful Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old boy shot down in his own neighborhood because he “looked suspicious.” What is even more tragic than the man who did the shooting is the fact that this man has not been arrested. He is still free. This is Trayvon. My heart is broken for his family and for our country. (Edited to update, he was not convicted.)

I remember the first time I realized that things like this happen to innocent people simply because of the color of their skin. I was in my early twenties,  my boyfriend called me frustrated and angry. I tried to calm him down. He had been stopped by a police officer and his car was searched. I don’t mean the doors and trunk were opened to look inside. I mean all of the contents of his car were thrown outside the car and when the officer was finished, my boyfriend was left to return them to their place, on the side of a busy highway while other cars sped by watching. What was his crime? Being young, Black and male. I guess I knew that this happened to people, but this time it was to someone close to me. Someone I knew. Someone sweet, funny, loving and hardworking. I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. How could it be ok for the people who were supposed to protect us to be so disrespectful of someone I loved? It was the first time I realized that young, Black men have to be careful how they act, what they say, how fast they walk and how they talk for fear that someone will think they “look suspicious.”  He was innocent. They had no reason to stop him. In the end, he was free to go, not even a speeding ticket. Left on the side of the road to pick up his belongings without even an apology. I found myself telling him that he should remain calm, even though he had every right to respond with frustration. I was worried that the next time the outcome would be worse. I had to admit to myself that it was a possibility. That wasn’t the first time he had stopped  and searched. I’m sure it wasn’t the last.

Fast forward to now. This is my nearly 17 year old boy.

Since Alain has been home, I often wonder what those outside of our family think of him. Judging on appearances alone, you would never know that he has been in America for less than 3 months. If he was in a store alone in his new red, flat-brimmed baseball hat and white Nikes, I’m not convinced that he wouldn’t be followed closely. I knew that we would have to talk about racism – someday. But I wanted to do it later. Trayvon’s murder has made the necessity of this conversation blatantly obvious. Inevitably, Alain will ask “Why?” My smart boy is constantly curious. Intelligence will do that to you. You want to know how and why things work the way they do. And I will be speechless…
…Alain, just walked through the room as I was talking on the phone to Chris about this very post, about Trayvon. I didn’t think he was listening. He was in the room for less than 30 seconds. A few minutes later, he returned and said, “Who was killed?” I couldn’t avoid the conversation forever. I felt so inadequate to explain. How do to speak truth, but to tell the story without completely petrifying my child? To tell him it is ok, when clearly it is not ok.
Before arriving in Texas, he had no idea that America is not always safe, that we have to lock our cars or our houses. He laughed the first time we told him to hide his iPod before leaving it in the car. Every American he met was kind and compassionate to him. How could it be that there are people who shoot children? And people who may suspect him simply because of his beautiful brown skin? Alain is not from America. He didn’t know our history. Slavery. Civil Rights. Until today, he didn’t know that it was legal in America to carry a gun. It breaks my heart to have to explain to him that this country, the country he loves, the country that he dreamed about, the country said to give opportunity and education, is also a country where the man who killed a 17 year boy runs free. That this America is far from perfect.
Hesitantly, I decided to tell him the story. I tried to find the words, and I failed miserably. I showed him the photos of Trayvon. I told him that there are people who do not like other people because they are different from them. There are people who may think that he looks suspicious because of the color of his race. There are people who make grave mistakes. He cried. We cried together. Then we cried some more. I literally just watched my boy’s heart break. And I was the messenger.
Somehow, I have to teach my beautiful, sweet, smart, kind boy about the Black Male Code. We have to protect him, while trying to retain his confidence. Balance safety with fear. If I teach him to be careful, I will be accused of giving him a “chip on his shoulder.” If I do not, I fear that he will find himself in a situation that he doesn’t know how to navigate. According to many who want to deny that racism exists, it is the very people brave enough to speak up about how they have been treated who are perpetuating racism. What? We live in a world filled with imperfect humans, many so very misguided.
I believe every teenager should know about Trayvon Martin, to protect themselves and to protect others. Let us raise a generation better than ours and the ones before us. As parents, let us not buy into the lie that our world is colorblind. Until no parent hesitates when their white daughter brings my son home for dinner, we are not colorblind. We have “come a long way” as they say, but sometimes I think we have just become better at concealing. Let us celebrate our differences. It is what makes the world a beautiful place.  If you are wondering, Alain did ask “Why?” And I was and still am speechless…