More Children’s Books We’re Reading with Black Characters


I discovered a few new books with Black characters this week and wanted to share for those of you looking to expand your libraries. I love seeing our bookshelves increasingly lined with characters and heroes of color.


Not Norman, This book came as a recommendation and is super cute. I’m pretty sure I have to get Miles a goldfish now, though–and I have mixed feelings about that. Growing up, I had a fish who got pregnant and had a bunch of tiny little baby fish that the bigger fish in the tank promptly ate. Eww. Still grosses me out.


Salt in His Shoes, My husband bought this one because one of his heroes is Michael Jordan, and this is a children’s book about MJ’s story. It’s a little old for Miles right now but we’re reading it to him anyway. Inspirational, just like the great Michael Jordan himself.


Marvelous Cornelius – I found this one at the library and am glad I checked it out. It’s the true story of a real man named Cornelius from New Orleans who brought joy and laughter to all as he worked to help clean up in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.


Squeak, Rumble, Whomp, Whomp, Whomp, A Sonic Adventure by Wynton Marsalis – I love Wynton Marsalis’ music, and Miles is really into music right now, so I was excited to see this at the library. A story about the music in our everyday lives, it’s a fun and cute read–especially if you get really into the sound effects.


Marvelous Me, Inside and Out is a cute tale of learning to love yourself for who you are. I hope that Miles smiles this big every time he looks in a mirror–and that he always loves and is proud of his beautiful Blackness.



How to Tell When It’s Time to Take a Break from that Online Adoption Group


* Based on feedback I’ve received, I have decided to edit this post. I never meant to target any one group, nor did I intend to blame birthparents or adoptees for my need to take a break from these sometimes intense discussions. That was not my intention, but it came across that way to certain people whom I did not mean to offend. So, let me try this again.

** I have decided to close comments on this post after receiving word that members of one of these groups are “campaigning against me” to invade my online and personal space and life. These people have been saying truly hateful, derogatory, harmful, dangerous, and disrespectful things about me in this group. This kind of viciousness is toxic to everyone who encounters it and I will not give these people a platform on my blog. **

I want to begin by saying that I have learned so much from online adoption groups. I have benefitted tremendously from these groups and from hearing other people’s experiences and perspectives pertaining to issues that I’m dealing with. I’m truly grateful for all of the people who take the time to participate in these groups.

But these places are not always easy spaces to be in and I think they can sometimes do a person more harm than good. Even the most well-moderated groups can get off track because there are so many mixed emotions in adoption and these groups typically include all members of the adoption triad, (birthmothers/fathers, adoptive parents, and adoptees) all who have different backstories and opposing opinions. This is a good and necessary thing because hearing/reading other viewpoints is how we learn. Ideally, we would all listen to each other with compassion and understanding and gain insight into aspects of adoption that we hadn’t considered.

But it doesn’t always happen that way, and sometimes it can all just be a bit much. When that happens, when people are burned out or stressed out or angry, discussions tend to dissolve. In my opinion, a little time-out to gather your thoughts is the best way to get yourself ready to come back and learn with a positive attitude and your defenses down. Literally, I have been doing this ever since I was a young adult and learned how to control my anger: leave the room, count to 10, take a deep breath, return. It works, and it’s all that I’m advocating here.

Here’s how to tell if it’s time to take a little break from that online adoption support group:

  • You start feeling bad about your decision to adopt. A lot of issues come up in these groups, some of which may be hard to hear. If you’re starting to feel bad about yourself for adopting or wanting to adopt, it might be time to take a short break.
  • You forget that every adoption and the people and circumstances surrounding it are different. 
  • You’re angry, and starting to let that anger consume you. I’ve seen so much anger in these online groups and some people don’t seem to be able to let it go. If a group you’re in is upsetting you to the point that you feel this way, it’s time to take a break.
  • You’re hearing so many different voices that you have forgotten how YOU truly feel and why you wanted to adopt in the first place. The more noise surrounding you, the harder it is to hear what your heart and gut instincts are telling you. Listen to everyone but when it gets to the point that you don’t know how you feel, you need to take a break even if it’s just to think.
  • You’re spending too much time there. Are you constantly replying to comments or engaged in endless, unresolvable arguments to the detriment of the people in your life?  These groups can be totally engrossing, and I don’t think that’s healthy. Unplug, log off, put the phone away and connect with the people in your life. Meet some other adoptive families in your community; talk to adoptees and birthparents in person.

If you are nodding your head yes to any of these, maybe it’s a sign that you could use a break. Just a little hiatus. You don’t have to leave the group entirely, but maybe turn off notifications/unfollow the group for awhile and resist the urge to participate for a few days. Then, when you’ve had a chance to gather your own thoughts and emotions, you’ll have the strength/will power to have meaningful dialogue with others.

** Editing to add that if you are part of a group where you feel your personal safety or the future of your business or career could be at stake simply by speaking up or challenging majority opinion or that of the admins, it’s my personal opinion that that is not a healthy place to be. This is my first experience with cyber bullying and/or cyber harassment and, frankly, it was a little scary. I don’t need that in my life. **

This Adoptive Mother’s Secret Fear

imageAt 21 months old, Miles is still unaware that our family was brought together by adoption, or what adoption even is. I’m just ‘mommy’ and we’re pretty much always attached at the hip (my hip, because he still looooves to be carried). There is nothing in his life right now that a hug from me can’t fix. I can kiss away boo-boos and frustrations, tears and nightmares; you name it.

Right now, everything is so perfect and simple.

But I have a secret: Lately, at night, when the house is quiet and everyone is asleep, I’ve been getting a little scared. Not of the dark. But of adoption.

Not of adoption itself, but of the way Miles may feel about it when he understands what it means. All too soon, he will become aware of the one thing that I won’t be able to kiss away: the fact that he was not born to me. And I worry about how he will feel when he realizes what that means.

Like every other parent, I want to protect my child from the world. But unlike every other parent, I know that there is major heartbreak in his near future: the loss that he will experience when he becomes conscious of his first family. I have always known this was coming but it has always seemed so far off. The closer it gets, though, the more I’ve begun to think about–and secretly dread–it. The day when he understands will be here sooner than I’m ready for it to be.

Part of me is also a tiny bit scared that his feelings for me could somehow change–or become complicated, at least–when he realizes that our family was formed differently than other families and that he has another mother out there. It’s not that I’m jealous or don’t want to share him or his love. That’s not it at all. I love his birthmother. She gave me the greatest gift that anyone possibly could and she changed my life for the better forever. He is and always will be part of her and vice versa and I will always honor that and do what I can to support that relationship. I know that he will always love me. I’m his mom. I know this.

But I just don’t want the way he feels about me to change at all. Ever. I don’t want anything about our relationship to change.

Will he say mommy differently or settle less comfortably in my arms? Will he feel differently somehow about our little family? Will it be the same? Will he still run to me when he’s hurt and scared, tired or upset? Will he still light up when he sees me after I’ve been away, yelling my name and jumping into my arms? Will he feel as positive about his adoption as I do?

I know that I am being silly. I love the fact that our family was formed through adoption, and I love him more than anything in the world. I am confident in our love. Our bond is as strong as it could be. I know that we will grieve his loss together and that he will be okay because he is strong and resilient. I’m trying to prepare him by telling him his birth story and introducing the concept of adoption long before he understands. I know that I shouldn’t be scared of this.

And I’m usually not. But sometimes… every once and awhile… I am.

I’m sharing this with you because I imagine it’s pretty common for adoptive parents to feel this way. It’s a reality that our children have to deal with big, complicated emotions at a young age and that it won’t always be easy. I think the most we can do is to be strong, love them the best we can, be honest with them, and create a safe space for them to share their feelings with us.

Any other adoptive parents ever feel this way?



One Powerful Way White People Can Spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day

This year, use your day off to do something simple, yet truly powerful, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day: learn about and acknowledge your white privilege.


“I don’t have white privilege–I worked hard for everything I have.”

White people say things like this a lot in regards to white privilege. Most of us don’t want to acknowledge that white privilege is real. Some of us will straight-up deny it, saying that we grew up poor and never took a hand-out so how could we be privileged? Some of us will say (and truly believe) that we’ve never gotten a leg up in the world just for being white.

But the absolute truth is: yes, we have. Simply having ivory skin has given us privilege beyond most of our understanding. Not realizing it and not having to think about race and racism is in itself white privilege. You and I have always been treated like we were white, because that is our reality. We have never had to think about what it would be like to be black or how we would be treated if we were. We have been shielded from racial issues, and that’s why so many white people will also say that racism is no longer an issue: because we have never experienced it.

This is not to say that white people don’t face hardships, or that we haven’t earned or don’t deserve where we are today. We have issues, problems, heartbreaks, illnesses, addictions, losses. Some of us grew up poor. A few of us were born rich. Most of us have worked our tails off to land somewhere in the middle. White privilege does not mean that everything is handed to us on a silver platter. It doesn’t mean that you or I have had it easy and/or don’t deserve where we are today.

What it does mean is that, as white people, we do not experience the racially motivated hardships that people of color do each and every day. No matter what our problems are–and they might be numerous–we have no idea what that feels like.

“Ignorance of how we are shaped racially is the first sign of privilege. In other words, it is a privilege to ignore the consequences of race in America.”
― Tim Wise

My life can be full of challenge and turmoil, but I still enjoy (usually without even realizing it) the privilege that inherently comes with whiteness. We all have axes to bear, but Black people and people of color have additional burdens.

I think the reason most white people get confused about white privilege is because they equate it with privilege in general. White privilege refers to racial privilege — basically, that white people have advantages over people of color that occur due to institutional and systemic racism. There are other kinds of privilege, and people of color can enjoy those types of privilege if they fit the bill. For example, a straight Black man with a college education, a good job, and money in the bank will benefit from heterosexual, male, and socioeconomic privilege.

But no matter how high he rises, he will always be black. Some people will automatically assume that he got where he is only because of affirmative action laws. If he decides to wear a hoodie shopping on his day off, he might be followed around the store by suspicious security guards. If his teenage son gets stopped by police for a traffic violation and appear confrontational, there is an exorbitantly higher rate that his child will be killed by that police officer than if his son was white. By now, you have heard that Black mothers and fathers have to teach their children as young as seven and eight to not affirm their rights if questioned by police and that there are numerous things that white kids can wear or say or do that black kids can’t. The list goes on and on.


At the end of the day, arguing over whether or not white privilege exists is a waste of time that would be so much better spent trying to relate to Black people or people of color. It’s called empathy–something that Martin Luther King Jr. preached daily. In his memory, let’s each of us, right now, try to imagine what it’s like to walk a mile in a person of color’s shoes.

What would it feel like to be judged solely on the color of your skin? What if your resume was thrown away because your name sounded “too black?” What if your child had to grow up way too fast? How would your self-image suffer if someone called you a racial slur or clutched their purse and crossed the street as you walked by? How would those things make you feel about yourself?

Think about other ways that you have benefitted–even subtly–by the fact that you have white skin. Turn on the TV or go to a movie–what color skin do you see reflected back at you? Which race is featured in marketing advertisements? What do these subtle messages tell you about yourself? Even small, seemingly inconsequential things like this are examples of white privilege.

White skin is held up as the ideal by our society and that leads to disadvantages for people of color. It’s as simple as that. We didn’t cause this, and most of us don’t knowingly contribute to it. There is no reason for us to get offended by the term white privilege. No one wants us to apologize for simply being white, but the world will be better if we realize what it means and has meant today and throughout history. We don’t have control over the course of events that brought us to this point, but we do have control over where we go from here.

“The world does not need white people to civilize others. The real White People’s Burden is to civilize ourselves.”
― Robert Jensen, The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism, and White Privilege

Simply recognizing that white privilege exists is an important first step in creating true racial equality. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, let’s contribute something worthwhile to the racial justice movement: true understanding of our white privilege and its negative, harmful effects on others. Let’s let our defenses down and see it for what it is: something that we may not have asked for, but that is real and pervasive and has indeed given us the upper hand.

Take some time today to think about ways that you have benefitted from white privilege in your own life. Gain a better understanding by doing some reading. A good place to start would be On Racism and White Privilege from the Southern Poverty Law Center, or What White Privilege Really Means from Slate, or even this blog post from Huffington Post called White Privilege Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does. For a more in-depth discussion about confronting your privilege, reference: The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism, and White Privilege.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools,” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Quote of the Week: We must let go of the life we have planned…


“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”  – Joseph Campbell

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The best decisions that I have ever made in my life have involved letting go of things not meant for me and opening myself up to the possibility of things greater. All the love that I have found–from my husband, from my son–is the direct result of me letting go, listening to my heart despite all the noise, and trusting that there was something better in store.

Ten years ago, I would never have imagined my life as it is right now. I thought I had it all planned out. But today, in this moment, I am the happiest that I have ever been and can’t imagine being anywhere else, and with anyone else, in the world. Not a day goes by where I do not look at my little boy and feel like the luckiest woman in the world.

All because I realized that my heart was trying to tell me something. And I listened.





What I’m Reading This Week on Race

Earlier this week, I posted a list of children’s books that I’ve been reading with Miles. But Mama likes to read stuff without pictures, too (when I can find the time). Of particular interest to me these days is — not surprisingly — the issue of race. I devour anything race-related that I can find and am always learning something that I can’t believe I didn’t already know.

If you’re the white parent of a child of color, it’s crucial that you learn as much as you can about race and racism, too. If you’re not, it’s still important to learn as much as you can because we’re all in this together, and some of us are having a much harder time out there than others.

What I’m reading this week on race:

10 Ways White People are More Racist Than They Realize  – Too many of us white people don’t realize what racism really is or how it impacts people of color–and it’s something we all need to understand.

In America, Black Children Don’t Get to be Children – This one makes me particularly sad as I’m discovering just how true this really is.

Fear of Black Men: How Society Sees Black Men and How They See Themselves – One day my son will be a Black man and this will be his truth.

Racial Health Disparities Start Early in Life  – I didn’t realize that there was such a thing as medical racism or that it extends beyond quality of care to include the fact that white doctors actually think Black people feel less pain than white people (seriously!).

A Black Man and a White Woman Switch Mics – This includes a thought-provoking video about both white and male privilege.

I’m Tired of Suppressing Myself to Get Along with White People – This is an interesting read written by a Black woman about how and why she doesn’t feel like she can be herself around most white people, with the exception being her “socially conscious white friends.” Let’s all strive to be like them, shall we?

I’m going to make this a regular series. If you’ve read something that you think I’d be interested in, please share it in the comments. Many thanks!





Books We’re Reading with Black Characters and Adoption Themes

Adoption booksWe read a lot at our house. Miles would rather read a book than do just about anything else (except play outside). We visit the library a couple of times a week to freshen our supply and are always on the lookout for books to buy.

One thing you notice as a transracial adoptive parent is that the majority of children’s books out there feature white characters. Growing up white, this was just the norm for me and I never really thought about how fortunate I was to have book characters and heroes that looked like me. When you have a child of color, you quickly realize how privileged that is and that you’re going to have to look a little harder to find books that reflect your child’s skin tone and hair texture.

Children’s Books with Black Characters

By far, Miles’ favorite book right now is Taye Diggs’ debut effort, Chocolate Me! He love, love, loves this book and asks me to read it to him several times each day. The little boy in the book looks just like him–something I think he notices now. Whenever we read this one, he imitates the little boy, holding or pointing to his face and spreading his arms wide when the little boy does. The message is empowering: chocolate skin is beautiful.


For Christmas, my brother got Miles The Snowy Day, a classic Caldecott Medal winner by Ezra Jack Keats. Miles really likes this one, too, about a little boy who gets bundled up and enjoys a beautiful snowy day outside.


Spike Lee and his wife Tonya Lewis Lee teamed up with Kadir Nelson to write and illustrate another of our favorite books, Please, Puppy, Please. The illustrations are awesome in this one–we love the kids and the puppy (the kitty, too).


Books about Adoption and Family (for tots)

Now that Miles is getting a little older, I’ve started looking for books with adoption themes as well. On a recommendation, we got two books by Todd Parr, a children’s writer who tackles tough subjects in sensitive ways. The Family Book is all about the many different kinds of families. The illustrations are basic — stick figures really — but it’s colorful and Miles seems to like it.


We Belong Together is a book about adoption and families, similar in style and looks to The Family Book but focused on adoption. I feel like these two books are age-appropriate for Miles right now (not yet two) and a good introduction to a complicated subject. He’s not ready for too many details but it’s time that we start talking about adoption and family in ways that he can understand.


We’re discovering more all the time, so I will write regularly about what we’re reading. If you have recommendations for books about adoption or with characters of color, I’d love to hear them. There’s no such thing as too many books!

p.s. These books would be good to read to white children, too, and kids with traditional families–it would serve them well to see characters of color and diversity in families so they can learn to be empathetic adults.


Christmas Magic

It was still dark outside when we crawled out of bed on Christmas morning, but the tree glowed brightly, illuminating the brightly colored boxes beneath. At only 21 months old, I don’t think Miles can possibly grasp the concept of Santa Claus and I’m not sure why he thinks there’s been a tree in the house for the past month, but he took one look at the living room that morning and fell in love with Christmas forever.


I used to think there was nothing better than being a kid on Christmas morning, but being the parent of a kid on Christmas morning just might be better.


Miles ran from one thing to another with a look of pure joy on his face. He was so excited. I just sat back and watched as he took it all in, trying with all my might to freeze the moment forever. It was the first, but not the last, time I teared up that day. Sometimes I still can’t believe how lucky I am. I always feel blessed and thankful to have him in my life, but I felt it doubly so on Christmas day. He is the greatest gift that I have ever received.



It was so fun watching his little body fill with adrenaline. He could hardly contain himself, but he stopped fast in his tracks when he noticed the toy kitchen. The kid is obsessed with watching me cook and has been playing with my pots and pans for months. We had all been sick (talking full-on, laid-out ill) in the two weeks leading up to Christmas but I convinced my husband to drive us two hours to Ikea one day to get their kid kitchen because I knew Miles would LOVE it.  It was totally worth it. He hasn’t stopped playing with it. (And I can now find the frying pan when I need it.)


We also found a stuffed boy doll at Ikea who looks just like Miles, right down to his skin tone. He was a huge hit.

IMG_0969Miles got several books, including The Snowy Day by Ezra John Keats and a couple by Todd Parr – The Family Book and We Belong Together which are both about the many different types of families out there and how they come together. He especially loved Curious George Goes Camping and the new Dr. Seuss book, What Pet Should I Get? We’ve been doing a lot of reading.


Because Miles and I had been super sick for two weeks and Jamie was still sick (though he did a great job of pretending he felt fine–thank you babe!), we basically quarantined ourselves, which turned out to actually be quite nice. It was a quiet Christmas with just the three of us–and though we missed being with family and friends, it was one of the most special of my life.


With plenty of musical entertainment…

I hope everyone is enjoying the season, whatever holidays you celebrate. Here’s to a happy, healthy 2016 for all!









Cutting Down a Christmas Tree and Other Stuff White People Like

Last weekend we made our annual trip to a Christmas tree farm in the country to chop down our own tree. Last year, Miles was so small and still in a baby carrier, but this year he was running around like a little monster. I know that everyone who’s ever had a kid says this, but it really is amazing how fast they grow up.

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I love this age so much. Miles is talking but you can’t always understand him and everything he says is just so freaking cute. I could watch him run around all day with those short little legs and that goofy toddler wobble. He had a lot of fun following Dad around looking for the best tree.

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When we finally found it and cut it down, he was a little confused as to why we would do such a thing. He was stoic as he pondered the meaning of it all (or maybe he just thought the stump was cool).

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However, he quickly warmed to the idea that we were taking the tree with us.

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We had a lot of fun, but I noticed that Miles was the only black person on the entire farm. I had never thought of cutting down your own Christmas tree as a “stuff white people like” thing but maybe it is? (It also may have just been the day or time that we were there; I really don’t know. Also, that website is hilarious.)

Either way, it made me a little sad to think that he might feel like the odd man out in places like this when he’s older. The staff fawned over him, made sure he got a candy cane, and everyone was extra-special nice to us. But, in addition to having a really fun time, the experience also reinforced how important it is for us to build a diverse community and regularly expose Miles to Black culture, too–because the reality is that Miles is being raised by a white family that tends to do stuff that other white people do.

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My hope is that we can strike a balance and instill confidence in him so that he will feel comfortable with people of all races and in any situation–and that he will be empowered to do whatever stuff it is that he likes, no matter the social or racial construct.












5 Abilities Every Adoptive Parent Needs

2015-12-04 11.09.00-1First and foremost, adoptive parents are parents. We have the same challenges (please don’t take your pants off in the grocery store!) and worries (the doctor said he shouldn’t be drinking out of a bottle anymore; why won’t he use a sippy cup) as any other parent out there. But, we also have additional challenges and worries that rise above those of biological families (how do I make sure he has a strong racial identity, how will he feel on “family tree” day at school, etc).

If you’re in the process of adopting or have adopted, you are the kind of person who can handle these things because you are the kind of person who takes care of business. You’ve never met a a brick wall thick enough to stop you from finding a way through or around it. I know you–you are determined and resourceful, which is good because you need to be those things, and more.

Here are 5 (more) abilities you’ll need on your journey as an adoptive parent:

Empathy. If nothing else, you’re going to need the ability to be aware of and share the feelings of other people, especially your child and his birth family. The phrase “put yourself in her/his shoes” should be running on repeat in your head at all times. Empathy will help you treat your child’s birth family with love and respect and will help you relate to your son or daughter and share in his or her grief. It is essential to let your child know that it’s OK to feel sad and that you feel it, too. Gaining an understanding of what they are going through is crucial.


Humility. When you adopt, everything becomes about your child. There is no room for selfishness or self-centeredness in adoption. Adoptive parents do what is best for their children and not for themselves; their feelings take a backseat.  This might not always be the most comfortable thing, but that doesn’t matter. Doing the best thing for the children–whether that be working hard to have relationships with birth families or being the minority so a child can be in the majority–is the most important thing.

Strength. As an adoptive parent, you will probably hear things from time to time that might make a weaker person feel bad. You may feel like an outsider at times, when every other family is biological or people are talking about their children looking just like them or someone says something ignorant about adoption. You may be criticized for adopting outside of your race or for adopting at all. Having a thick skin, so to speak, will keep you from getting too easily bruised. Because, really, who cares what other people think? By all means, educate people and stand up for yourself and your child when necessary, but letting negativity roll off your back gives YOU the power.

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Optimism. Life is short and full of so many good things–your adoptive family is definitely one of them. There is, however, some negativity associated with adoption in various circles. We’ve all heard the adoption horror stories and read the scary articles. We must educate ourselves about the real issues that our children will face as they grow, but remember that our children are their own people and not studies or statistics. While attitude may not really be everything, it’s definitely high on the list of what defines us. Happy people are simply people who make the choice to be happy. Optimism has many advantages, from lowering stress to helping you meet goals, achieve your dreams, live longer–and be a better parent.

A Sense of Humor. Sometimes the best thing to do is to laugh about it. Laughter is one of the most fun and effective ways to bond with your child and as a family. It’s also a great release when things get too tense or serious… or when your kid takes his pants off in the grocery store. Again.