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.
-Jenn

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

Speechless…

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.
-Jenn

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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…
-Jenn

New Season.


“It’s a new season, it’s a new day…” I have sung these words at the top of my lungs, having church in my car, for many years now. This year, I sing them again and with more fervor. There have been some stressful and overwhelming goings-on in and around our family as of late, but we believe that what looks like destruction can just be making way for construction.
What has been amazing for me in the last several weeks is that throughout this rough season, there are beautiful signs of new life like the tiny sprig of green pushing through the snow. Each time that I begin to despair, it isn’t long before I pass another sign of life…a new friend, a kind word from a stranger, a sweet conversation with my children, the reassurance from an old friend.  Isaiah 43:19 says, “Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” I love this promise. I love the question, “Do you not see it?” I feels a bit sarcastic. Can you not see? Are you not looking? Look. Look what I am doing! It is new. It is beautiful. Push on.
For our family in this new year (I can’t believe it is already February!), we are holding on to this promise and doing our part to make it happen. Chris and I have always had big dreams for our family and for our future. Many times I think that I am waiting on God when really He is waiting on me. Waiting on  me to open my eyes, to start walking down the path that he has paved for us.
Last year, we joined a new church, but haven’t gotten involved. We have been waiting on someone to come to us, for some door to magically swing open, but it doesn’t work like that. During the summer, we planned a block party and started a Facebook group for our neighborhood, but haven’t taken it much further. We want to expand our circle of friends, go deeper with the friends that we have and grow together as a family in the direction that God is leading us. I want this year to be a year of purpose. In order to have your dreams fulfilled, you have to pursue them. So here is to a year of passionately and purposefully making it happen. To a new season.
-Jenn

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As a reminder of my word for this year, I bought this adorable art from my dear, sweet friend Beth.
You can check out her etsy shop here: Beth Culpitt Art (https://www.etsy.com/shop/BethCupittArt)

Kaylinn S. - Yesss! Love you! Proud of you and the amazing mother/wife/person you have become (and are still becoming)! -K

PanAway Oil blend {Essential Oils}

PanAway is one of the reason that the Premium Starter kit is such a great deal. The bottle that comes in the starter kit is $32 if purchased separately. PanAway is a blend of wintergreen, clove, peppermint and other essential oils that help sooth skin while promoting muscle recovery. We use it often for sore muscles and apply it directly to the area of pain. I can feel relief within 15 minutes most of the time. I also use it as the last layer when applying several oils for stress related muscle aches. If you are interested in learning more about essential oils, please message me or check out this post.
-Jenn

panawayblog

The information in this blog is not intended to diagnose, prescribe, treat or cure any disease, illness or condition and should not be used as a substitute for seeking professional medical advice. I am not a doctor. Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the FDA. The testimonials provided here are for informational purposes only. You should not stop taking any prescribed medication without consulting your physician. I am simply stating are family’s experiences.

ABC Me Flashcards.

When I find something awesome, I want to share it. I love these cards.  First of all the art is beautiful. And secondly, they are educational. It is important for us to have mirrors of our children in our home. Our art, media, and music should reflect back to them images of themselves. Maya cannot look at me and see herself reflected. She needs to see beautiful women of color to know that she too is beautiful. The creator of ABC Flash cards, Leilani Brooks, says, “I wanted not only my children, but all African American children to know that they are not defined by the images they see in the media. They come from a long line of leaders and rule changers that broke through and are still breaking through barriers.” Love it so much.
GIVEAWAY: I have an extra set of cards to share. Leave a comment on this post and tell me who you would love to share a set of cards with to have a chance to win! I will draw a name and contact the winner on Monday, February 2nd.
-Jenn

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Carrie Barker - I LOVE these! Where can we buy these? Would you be willing to donate a pack to our adoption auction fundraiser if we bought a pack for ourselves? Either way I would like some!!

K. Alderton - We just got home from Uganda with our 6 year old son. He is learning english and also teaching us the language of the Tororo people. How fun are these cards to learn english with!

Carling - God has blessed my husband and me with 3 amazing children! Our younger 2 have been with us for over a year now, what a growing year it’s been! They are the first two African Americans on either side of the family! We would love a set of those beautiful flash cards to help us all learn more about the African American culture! Thanks for this opportunity!

Catherine Bertossi - These are beautiful, and so is your family! Thanks for sharing.

Cindy - These have been on my wish list for a while! I’d love to have them for my boys!!

Bridgette - My husband and I are adopting from Ethiopia, and I would love to win these amazing flash cards to use to teach our child not only the ABC’s, but also about what each card stands for! I also teach kindergarten, and would love to incorporate these into my classroom, which is very diverse. I am constantly looking for books with characters from different cultures/about different cultures, and these flash cards would be a great addition!

Erin - I would love these for my precious daughter who is from Ethiopia. What an amazing way of teaching!! Thanks for always sharing in ways that encourage and challenge!!

Katie - These are just perfect. Thanks for sharing! I will have to get a set for Quinn. I think it would be a great giveaway at the adoptive/foster conference I’m organizing too!

Ginny - These are beautiful! Thank you for sharing such a wonderful resource. I will be adding these to my gift list, especially for friends with little ones.

Allison - Thanks for sharing this! I’d love to share this lovely set of cards with our future son or daughter from Lesotho. We are in the adoption process right now and excited for our little one to come home.

Jessica - i would love to share these with my two children, who are children of color. They can never have enough examples of positive role models, especially if they are people of color. These look awesome!

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