Monday, May 26, 2014

We're not "black" & "white" but BROWN

image from www.macmakeup.us
Last spring I was out shopping with the family. I saw a beautiful orange floral skirt and tried it on. When I came out of the dressing room to show my husband, the response was something about needing a tan (he was right). As I changed out of this beautiful yet not right for my skin tone skirt, I chuckled to myself. I had picked out a color that would look AMAZING against my daughter's beautiful dark skin and apparently forgot how pale I am! Then I marveled at the thought of how much money is spent at tanning beds so people can achieve darker skin tones yet it really wasn't all that long ago that people were (sadly) divided because of how dark their skin was or wasn't...ironic!?

When I was in Middle School in the early 90's, my church youth group attended "Young Christians Weekend" at Silver Dollar City. I wish I could remember the name of the speaker we had that weekend so I could give him credit but I'll never forget him holding up his Bible with a black leather cover and white pages and asking us what colors his Bible was made up of; then relating that to the words we so often use to describe the color of people's skin. His point was, if he held up the pages of his Bible to someone we called a "white person" they wouldn't actually be as white as the pages in his Bible. If he held up the cover of his Bible against someone we called a "black person"they wouldn't actually be dark enough to match the color black. Instead, we all have varying amounts of brown in us. His analogy always stuck with me. Fast forward a few years (just a few ;) ) and as we prepared to grow our family, I thought on this analogy many more times.

Wes & I had talked some about what we would try to do when our kids asked questions about our different colored skins. We thought a lot about Luke 18:16-17:

"But Jesus called them to him, saying, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.""

Based on this verse, obviously Jesus thinks a lot of child like innocence and I wonder if he would ask them questions just to enjoy hearing how they would respond...I digress. We decided that rather than being politically correct with what we should call our skin colors, we should remind them of our similarities and see how they define it in their own words. What can be more innocent and less offensive than that? 

As their language skills developed, they initially referred to the difference as light skin and dark skin. As language developed more and we learned more about colors, they used the words "pale" and "brown." Even more recently they've used the word "tan" which I'll gladly let accept over pale (!!) and since they've had some other ethnicities in their classes and friend groups, they'll talk about those friends being a little darker than mommy but not as dark as they are. I can't help but smile when Amiya is coloring a picture of our family and is frantically searching for the Tan crayon, not the white one. I also had to laugh when a friend and I were wearing similar colors and the same color boots. The kids noticed those similarities so we started pointing out others similarities and differences. Our friend said "Is our skin the same color?" The kids thought about it for a long minute and Malakai said "you're a little bit darker than mommy, but not a lot."

When I think about Genesis 1:27, how many people there are in the world and how each and every person is different yet still created in His image, I can't help but be in awe of how creative our God is...to think, no 2 people look exactly alike...I don't think I could draw 10 stick people that look different!

Genesis 1:27 "So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them." 

I'm oh so thankful for the variety of browns and knowing those shades were purposeful...especially as we creep up on shorts weather again (sigh). I find myself more and more sensitive to the terms "white/black person" and uncertain how to feel about those labels (if you will). I also find myself describing people differently than I used to. My husband said I need to finish this post with a point. I don't necessarily have one, just have these thoughts stirring around in my head and they've been there for a while. If I need to end with a point, it would be to remind you that we are each created in God's image and lets celebrate our similarities and differences rather than trying to define people by them. Which would bring me back to my favorite verse in Psalms 139


For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16 ESV)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

the Snowpocolypse in Alabama!

We often find ourselves in a "do/fix it myself" culture where we can often fix problems by ourselves or with very little contact with other people. This week has shown us how much better we can be when our community works together, when we allow ourselves to be the arms and legs of Christ to use our God-given talents, gifts and resources to help each other.

Growing up in the midwest and making the decision to move SOUTH for college, I never thought I'd find myself STUCK due to snow in Alabama!! Y'all, seriously! We've been joking about all the cold weather we've been having and calling it the "Snowpocolypse" but Tuesday really felt like it!

Tuesday (1/28/14) started much like any other day they've predicted flurries. I had a child sick at home and figured they would probably let school out early. The snow began to come down at our house around 10:30am. It was a beautiful snow but falling much quicker and sticking more than usual! Around 11:15, you could see it begin to stick to the roads as well, school was closing at 11:30. Great, I'll pull my car down to the bus stop to pick up Amiya. Next we heard they canceled bus service so off I go to pick her up at school. I slid into the curb at the first turn I had to make. At this point, I realized this wasn't an ordinary Alabama dusting, and was real glad I had a stick shift so I didn't always have to hit the breaks to slow down. The urge to hurry before the weather got worse set in; only I couldn't hurry, I was sliding everywhere! Oh have I mentioned Malakai and I haven't eaten lunch yet because I thought this would be a quick trip (mom of the year, right here)!? We live off of a windy, curvy back road and as I made my way about 3 miles from the house, I began to slide into a ditch around one of those curves. I backed up and tried again and slid again. There were already 2 cars in this same ditch so I knew where I was headed if I tried again. A kind man that was trying to assist those already in the ditch started bumping my car with his whole body to get me off the spot. Amazingly it worked & I didn't hit the cars on the other side of the road! I began shaking I was so nervous... HOW am I going to make it all the way to school! I got to a stop sign where I needed to turn left and it was a parking lot, cars had slid and were piled up facing all directions. Cell phones weren't working very well but I was able to text a friend who lives between our house and the school, very near where I was and asked if we could stop at her house. I thought it'd be for a short time while those cars got straightened up and cleared out a little. She let us raid her cabinets for some lunch while we watched and listened to news. It became very clear that it would not be safe for me to get out in this (my car slides in the rain...I'll be re-thinking all weather tires next time)! A few times I thought about trying to go back out in it but after talking to Wes about it, decided not to. He was out in it trying to help people and said not to go. I'm glad I listened and stayed put.

first slow down...those tire tracks are ICE!
We thought Amiya was going to have to stay the night at school. That was becoming reality for more and more parents. It feels miserable to think about the impossibilities to reach your child and that they might be sleeping at school, it doesn't help thinking about all those teachers who are already taking care of so many children throughout the day and now staying overnight but they were just as stuck as the parents were. Between moments of tears, I also had to remember that she was in a safe warm place that has food. This would be so much worse if we were stuck in a car somewhere without food or the proper clothing...many were stuck in that situation! Wes was finally able to reach Amiya around 8pm. A co-worker of Wes' who just moved here from Pennsylvania and had a 4 wheel drive vehicle and saved the day for us and a few others along the way. We all reached our house around 9:30pm. Both of our vehicles were in other locations but we were glad to be home.

Unfortunately that wasn't the case for everyone. Over 4,000 students and teachers in the area had to spend the night at their schools. Lots of people stayed at their businesses, fast food restaurants, hotel lobby's and in their cars overnight. It has not been pretty and it has not been fun but it has been encouraging to see how the community comes together to help complete strangers in a time like this.

A local Chick-fil-a used the resources they had on hand to feed drivers stuck on a major road turned parking lot. No strings attached, no money required (they could have held onto it, who knows how long they'd be stuck). I heard later that the Whole Foods just up the road from this Chick-fil-a was also allowing people to eat for free.

Icy roads street...is this REALLY Alabama!?
A friend who works at the Embassy Suites wrote on Facebook that they opened up their ball rooms for stranded motorists, A Homewood Suites did the same (as I'm sure others did).

We heard news stories about people who were walking (in business attire) and people driving by giving them extra clothes they had in their cars to stay warm (that they may have needed later). People using their 4 wheelers to help people get home, strangers being welcomed into strangers homes etc.

A Doctor who walked 6 miles to perform emergency brain surgery and save a life. We even have friends who were flown home & to get their son via helicopter! Teachers, administration and cafeteria workers who spent the night with children/students, comforting, feeding them and trying to make it as fun as possible.



finally all home together & taking advantage of the snow!
Here's a roundup of what some of our roads look like in pictures. Meteorologists may have totally missed this storm but they did the best they could with the technology they have available which is usually pretty accurate. To blame them to the degree many of them are getting blamed I don't think is fair. We've all had technology fail us at some point and it's NEVER convenient! No one could have thought it would be as bad as it was but I believe so many went above and beyond and it was an opportunity for our community to remember the things that are most important and to come together to help each other out. We've still got a lot of clean up to do and still a lot of people still separated from family members. There's still abandoned cars and maybe you've seen the picture comparing some of our roads to scenes from the Walking Dead. Wow!


Taking advantage of the snow & ice on Wednesday 1/29/14







I do think it's a little interesting that the "snowpocolypse" hit shortly after we started seeing this report on the Most & Least Bible-Minded Cities in America!

Friday, January 17, 2014

6th Birthday Preview!

We now have 6 year olds in the house! It was quite an exciting birthday...more to come soon!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Card Alternative

Well, we didn't exactly get around to ordering our Christmas cards and at this point you might get them in time for the new year! So we decided to wish you all a Merry Christmas online and donate the money we would have paid for cards/stamps to Compassion International instead. So...

Merry Christmas from the Sullivans!
Picture taken by the AMAZING Allison Lewis and while you're at it, check out the 2014 Faces of Adoption Calendar (and order one!)

And since I have lots of space here, I thought I'd cover some of our highlights from the year.
 The kids had snow on their 5th birthday in January! They were so excited, ate lots of snow and now think it should snow on their birthday every year!!

 GiGi and Grandpa came to visit for their birthday!

 
 Easter


 Performing (in some sense of the word)

 Pre-school graduation



Made our first trip to the ER, thankfully everyone was fine

The kids were in a wedding that Wes officiated!


Lost lots of baby teeth (Malakai: 6/ Amiya: 5)

 We took a trip to Washington D.C.
  Thought it was pretty awesome these states were next to each other at the World War II Memorial
Went to the beach and there was great celebration

First day of Kindergarten!

 We dressed up and chaperoned a Homecoming dance


Trick or Treat...it's great to be an Auburn Tiger in 2013
 

Visited the Peanut Capitol of the World (and had zero peanuts while we were there!)

 Visited family for Thanksgiving

Getting ready for our 3rd Christmas together!!







Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Kindergarten

We're still here, livin' the dream one day at a time and trying to navigate new waters called... KINDERGARTEN!

Beginning of the year was...well...exhausting. Waking up earlier (5am is an actual time!?!?), lots of learning and fewer toys to Malakai's disappointment, new friends, new routines, buying "hot" lunches at school, walking down the school hallways by themselves! While I looked forward to many of the changes and challenges, it rocked my world to realize how independent these precious kids are getting.

In addition to all the new, we decided to sign the kids up for soccer too...you know, just in case they weren't tired enough after a long day of learning. I'm glad we did it but we definitely learned some things about our kids...like who should play soccer again and who needs to just go to gymnastics!
 This gem (missed kick) gets me every time...


We're seeing and understanding so many more of their interests & personalities. Amiya really enjoys coloring and drawing, a little artist! Many of her pictures of people are so much better than I could ever draw! Malakai on the other hand has very little interest in coloring, he's too busy figuring out how things work or tackling something, someone or some animal! He's a sweet talker, a clown and still just as loving as always.  Amiya keeps up with the rules and organization. Sounds like their parents!!

With lots of new, we've been thankful to be surrounded by so many families with lots of children! Lots of children means lots of different personalities, learning styles and awesome parents who roll with the punches! These families have willingly and a lovingly listened to various struggles or situations and always relate to at least 1 of their children and pass on some helpful insights!

With the new school environment being removed from our "adoptive world bubble" and with the natural curiosity and maturing of children, we've had a lot more questions about the difference of our skin colors "not matching." The questions are curious and innocent and I feel like inquiring minds and listening ears deserve answers. I know I shouldn't be surprised by the number of comments we've gotten, it's inevitable, but each one catches me off guard. I know my kids are listening to the response, they hear everything anyway, and I know one day they will start answering this question. I hope they do it with grace and love. I hope it's an opportunity for them to share what God has done in our family. For now, I try to just point out the similarities (nose, fingers, hair etc.) while reminding them that God makes everyone unique, different and perfectly in his image.

13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16, ESV)


Here's a few pictures of the things we've been doing! 
First day of Kindergarten

one of the many faces of Malakai
Flower girl and Ring Bearer (now Amiya thinks she's a wedding professional)


Homecoming Chaperones!


"blue day" at school...how could they NOT wear those awesome shirts!?

cool cat

Trick or Treat

Monday, May 27, 2013

First ER trip

Not all firsts are fun, exciting & full of warm fuzzies.  Saturday we made our first ER visit. Malakai ran flat into the truck. He hit it with so much force it knocked him off his feet & hit the back of his head too! This was obviously followed with the most harrowing screams parents could hear.
the bump on his forehead

Within seconds of scooping him up His forehead blew up like a balloon and his nose was bleeding inside & out! I've never seen anything like it and panic set in. Wes was holding him, I was looking at his back when I noticed the back of his head was also quickly swelling. We knew we'd have to head to the ER. I ran inside to get my purse, told Amiya to get her shoes on we had to go to the hospital. She got her shoes on so quick & ran downstairs, put her buckle on in the truck quicker than the rest of us got in. Don't know if it was twin intuition or she could just tell something was wrong. I don't think she saw Malakai's "boo boo's" yet.
huge bump on forehead and the swelling had gone down some

On our way to the hospital I was texting with Becca, one of the many 'professional' mom friends in our lives, she was giving great information, call pediatrician after hours service, is he vomiting and a slew of other helpful/re-assuring things. Wes was driving, talking to another friend who's a MD, emergency lights flashing and trying to keep Malakai awake. Everytime Wes would tell him to stay awake, he'd answer with a soft & sweet "yes sir." Suddenly we see flashing blue lights pull up next to us. Initial thought "oh no, not now!" The unmarked vehicle asked where we were headed and escorted us downtown. Thank you God for reminders of your presence even in blue lights! And thank you sir with your blue Super Hero Squad shirt on, you're our hero! Shortly after, the aftercare nurse called back. We told her we were already headed downtown to Children's. She asked where we were and that she would call ahead for us.

bump on the back of his head



Once back in a room and initial paperwork (insurance) completed, one of the Dr's came in to start asking questions. I know it's a necessity to check for child abuse but oh my, I quickly felt like we were being re-evaluated by every entity domestic & international that signed off on our adoption paperwork! She was great and we know she was just doing her job but that was hard! The first Dr. wanted a second opinion since he hit both front and back. As the 2nd Dr. walked in, we felt so much comfort, she said "Thankfully God created our heads to be the toughest where we hit them the most." She checked out all his bumps & cuts, compared his bumps to some others she'd seen and discussed a possible CT scan if he was showing certain signs but said they prefer not to do CT scans because of the radiation and possibly causing cancer in a child later in life. Malakai wasn't showing any of those signs so they decided it would be best for us to stay just a couple more hours to be observed (for any worsening signs) since most of those appear within 4 hours. Thankfully for us, Wes grabbed the BBQ wings & legs he had been smoking right before this all happened and threw it in the truck. So, while we waited for those 4 hours to be up, we at least had some delicious food!







taking a picture of himself

We got home LATE with 2 of the sleepiest kids ever. Amiya was the biggest champ. She never once complained about being hungry or tired although she was getting real tempted around 11pm. We both affirmed her at separate times for acting quickly and behaving so well while Malakai was being taken care of. What's funny ironic is 2 days before this happened, Malakai told Amiya that  he bonks his head better than she does. And that was true before this happened!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A very Mickey 5th birthday!

The kids turned 5 years old this week. It's so hard to believe how quickly they're growing up! It's their 2nd birthday with us and I feel like they still need to be little snuggle bugs but never the less, those arms and legs are growing quickly!

I'm a little bit of a fan of Mickey Mouse, love Disney World and if Wes would let me, the kids room or bathroom would be Mickey themed. However we both decided against going in that direction for more logical reasons. Somehow I managed to talk Wes into a Mickey and Minnie themed birthday party. I guess you could say themed, I'm not a very creative person and all those posts on Pinterest are amazingly intimidating. But, what's a better boy/girl twin themed birthday party than Mickey/Minnie Mouse!!

Mickey Mouse cupcakes



We filled their room with Red, White, Yellow & Black balloons while they were asleep, they were a little confused when they woke up!
A sign a friend made for her daughter's party!

a basket someone gave me one time. Red & White polka-dot napkins I found at Walmart!

a Banner I downloaded from here



snow globes a friend gave me a looong time ago!



Mickey breakfast
puffy Mickey stickers
don't forget ears!!


Best of all, it snowed on their birthday! They got out of school a little early allowing us to go home and play in the small amount of snow that my friends back home are making fun of us for! Never the less, they thought it was great and said "Jesus gave us a surprise on our birthday! He made it snow!" 

They had a great birthday and got to spend some time quality time with one set of grandparents!