on having and raising children in a beautiful multiracial family

Friday, August 22, 2014

With all of the current events bringing race to the forefront of our consciousness as a country lately, I've been inundated with so many emotions I've never really known how to deal with or how to express. My husband and I have had our fair share of issues to overcome being in an interracial relationship and marriage. However, I feel like we've been sheltered in a way from how negative the world can really be. As events in Ferguson and around the country escalate and I find myself confused and afraid for what we haven't experienced yet as an interracial family and what lies ahead for our little tan skinned boys. 

Chikezie and I met in college at Iowa, not exactly where you'd expect to see buddings of many interracial families. Although we went through a few uncomfortable situations or garnered more stares than any other average couple, to me it never really felt like us being together was a big deal. To me, he's always been just Chikezie. Yes, he's a black man, but I just don't really think about it. We've been together for so long it just doesn't even register to me what other people think about us. He's my husband, I'm his wife, we're just different colors; like any other couple with different colored hair or eyes.  
When the boys were in my belly I'd often wonder how dark or light their skin would be. Maybe they'd both be different shades. Would their hair be light or dark? And their eyes? Probably brown like ours. We chose to give them both two middle names. One representing their Nigerian heritage and one passed down from an uncle on both sides of the family. We wanted them to always be proud of the mix of cultures they represented. One thing was for sure, how they would experience their lives from a racial standpoint, would be nothing like how we experienced our lives. They wouldn't be white or black, they'd experience their lives as biracial men. How do you prepare your children for something you've never experienced?

In their 4 short years of life I've had a few situations that really opened my eyes to what other people see when they look at my babies and me. I'm almost always asked by strangers if the boys are mine. Shortly after I'm asked in a round about way what color their dad is. I kid you not, this is almost every time someone stops me to talk because of the boys. You know, because it really matters to a stranger what race this child is that they're looking at. I try to take it in stride and not get ruffled by their somewhat offensive curiosity. Once in a check out line at Target a woman straight up told me my kids didn't look like mine, they looked Mexican. (I then told her the race of my children was none of her business and that she should be ashamed of herself. And I was applauded by the people in line behind me.) I don't get so angry now because I can protect the boys from this. They don't understand yet and I can shield them from others' insensitivity. 
As they get older and this issue of race starts to bubble to the surface again, I'm afraid. Since they've been born, especially now - we live in an extremely diverse area. Our friends are all different colors. The boys are constantly surrounded by a rainbow of different cultures, languages, colors. But I start to think about how or when do we teach them about who they are? As they grow up, I know we will always reinforce to them that they aren't just one thing. They are so much more than the sum of their colors. 

I'm most afraid of how society will choose to label our sweet boys. If their future is anything like what it is in this country now, I'm terrified that we won't prepare them for what they could face. Do we tell our kids all of the negative things that they could face based on the color of their skin or do we continue to teach them to be confident in who they are and not worry about what other people think? 

It will happen. At some point, someone is going to say something highly offensive to them, whether it's other kids on the playground, or a school bully, or some dick-of-a-person when they're older. It breaks my heart to think about this but at the same time it feels like such a huge responsibility to create and help mold these little beings of change. When the going gets tough, will they truly understand that people who judge others are only doing so as a reflection of their own fear and insecurities? How they react in the future to being judged by the color of their skin will be a telling staple of the kind of men they'll become.

How the rest of the world teaches their children to act toward people of all colors will be the base of how all of our children's futures will be. Don't say you don't see color. Diminishing our differences will never help us to accept and embrace them. Teach your children to see color, to see a whole rainbow of colors. And teach them that all of those colors are beautiful in their own way but all just the exact same thing; they're all just colors. If we don't start changing how we think about and speak to each other, my children are going to grow up in a world where things like this happen, and I don't think there's a thing we can do to prepare our beautiful boys for that. 

Life Lately.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I feel like we've been moving in fast forward this summer. How are we nearing the end of August already? I feel like it literally just started, but when I try to think back to the beginning of the month it feels like so long ago. Time, I do not understand you. (insert Hootie and the Blowfish song here)

Here's a little bit of what we've been up to in the past few weeks via Instagram.

Our neighborhood had it's yearly ice cream social. The boys chowed on some ice cream and played with these other boys that live on our street. We live on a small cul de sac and only 2 other families with kids. One of the other families is another set of twin boys! They speak mostly French so it was hilarious to watch them interact with the boys. 

*On a side note- I took some old clothes and toys over to their messily-beared, strong french accent father (he looks like a gray haired version of Santa lol) the following day and he answered the door in his extremely tight underwear and continued to stand there and talk to me in the driveway in them like it wasn't a thing. It. Was. Weird.

The boys started at the new Montessori preschool by our house. It's only 4-5 blocks away so on days I don't have errands to run after I drop them off, I can take them over there on the bike. They go 5 mornings a week now instead of the 3 mornings they were doing at their old preschool. They've been going for a week and a half and it's amazing. They love it there so much, they often don't notice or care that I'm there to pick them up and when I drop them off there hasn't been a single tear. Often times they don't even stop to hug me before they're off to play. I was nervous about the transition, and it's a little more expensive than their last preschool but it has been amazing so far. Really a decision I'm happy we made for them.

They sat completely silent looking through color books for a good 10 minutes. This needed to be documented and I'll never forget it. Complete silence is like a unicorn. 

We got a piano! Best purchase of the year. The boys love it, love singing and playing songs on it. I've spent so much time at it this week just trying to get myself back up to speed since it's been so long since I played. My hands and wrists are tired but our hearts are full of music. 

We took the boys to the circus. (And had fantastic box seats thanks to a work friend.) I'm never quite sure how I feel about the circus and haven't been since I was little...but we had the opportunity so we went. The boys really liked it and ate their weight in popcorn. I left feeling a little guilty and depressed. Not sure we'll take them again. 

I used the dirty piano box to make the boys a fort. They loved it. There's about a million Pinterest tutorials on how to make these super intense cardboard box forts for your kids that require lots of money and time to create. Come on, it's a cardboard box. I cut a hole in it, used the cardboard from the hole and made a sign. Done. 

the importance of knowing music.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

There's a home video somewhere at my grandma's house that I remember seeing a few years ago. I'm sitting at the grand piano in my grandma's dimly lit living room, the one with the red shag carpet. I'm wearing a blue sweatsuit, my tangled wavy hair well past my shoulders. I'm about three. 
The grand piano in grandma's living room.

The video is a few minutes long and it's me happily pounding on the piano keys, making up songs about Santa Clause, driving cars, and a bunny named "Hopper". (Ask my aunt, she'll still laugh about the Hopper Song.) I make up the words as I go, I wiggle my little self all over, happy to be entertaining my aunts and mom sitting on the couch beside me. 

Fast forward a few years and I'm play at home on our upright, we got either very cheap or from someone we know. At one point, before we owned it, someone had spilled something which had leaked down into the pads and hardened them. When you played any notes around Middle C, there was a resounding "CLANK" with each stroke. We bought the house from my grandparents and this piano was in the same place as the grand piano my grandma once had. I still played in the evenings by the dim light of the lamp on top of the piano. 

I eventually I begin piano lessons with my aunt. She's a strict teacher, and I hate practicing. I hate reading notes and just not feeling good enough. I have to remember to keep the tops of my hands flat and she places a penny on top of them to ensure I follow this rule. I often don't know the piece I was supposed to be practicing because while at home, I'd get bored of the same piece over and over and just start making something up on my own. 

There are piano recitals every spring. My mom sews me a new dress each year (that also doubles as my Easter dress) and I nervously play my memorized pieces in front of our family and friends. Each summer we travel to Omaha to compete in the "Piano Olympics". Here I play one of the same solos in a small practice room in front of a judge. I'm nervous, hoping I don't completely make a fool of myself. If I do well, I'll get a trophy later on in the day. After a few years I end up with quite a few trophies and pins. 
An amazing outfit to compliment my killer piano skills.

In junior high and I play the piano in jazz band. I love learning the different styles of music but hate being put on the spot. I never feel like I can improvise as well as I think I should, I have trouble learning chords on complicated jazz scales. We travel to jazz competitions each year and I enjoy being part of an ensemble, where it's slightly harder to hear if I miss a note or two. 

In high school I continue with the piano lessons and with the jazz band. By this point most of the kids in band have dropped out. It's just not as cool in high school, I guess. Parents have been satisfied with their children's "trying it out" for a couple of years and don't push them to continue. We continue to have concerts and attend jazz competitions. One year I even win an "outstanding soloist award", although I never thought the solo was that difficult or outstanding.

Posing by the grand piano, in my prom dress naturally.

Fast forward quite a few more years and I'm now a mom. I miss music. I miss just sitting down and letting out whatever comes to mind based on however I'm feeling. I miss making something beautiful instantly. 

I'm now on the scout for a full sized electric piano for our home. I want to be able to play music for my family again, like I did when I was a little girl. And more importantly, I want to start to teach the boys. It's so important for children to learn an instrument, almost everyone I know who has never learned to play something always wishes they could. I'm blessed to have grown up in a family who placed a lot of value on music and the arts and intend to instill this in the boys. I want them to have these memories and to feel the joy of being able to create something beautiful instantly.

Isaiah playing the piano with his Uncle Josh at my mom's house. 

#Stitchfix Number 11

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My favorite time of month arrived! Yes, it's Stitchfix time! 

If you haven't heard of Stitchfix here are the deets: 
1) Go the link, sign up and fill out all the info they ask for about your personal tastes, they'll hook you up with a stylist who'll send you a box with 5 items that they think will look great on you, based on what you tell them.
2) Pay a $20 styling fee which includes the box shipped to you and goes toward your purchase should you choose to keep anything in the box. 
3) Get your box (which you can set up on auto for once a month or schedule them as you wish) and try on your items! You have 3 days to decide and there's a free shipping bag included to send back what you don't want.

I want to first touch on some drama that's come up lately with Stitchfix and their pricing. Stitchfix items are priced generally higher than what I'd been used to paying when I started using the service. However, at the time I started using the service I was still struggling to find my post-kids style. Over the past 5 years my body has changed and so have I. I struggled for 4 years to find a style that reflected who I felt I was. It doesn't seem like a huge deal to a lot of people but to me, how I dress certainly gives me a sense of confidence in myself and really changes my whole demeanor. It's a way to express who I feel like on the inside. 

The stylist sends with each item a little card with 2 ways the piece can be styled. In the beginning, it really helped me start to explore what worked with what, and in ways that felt like me. Over the past year Stitchfix has really helped me find my style. I feel so much more confident in the way I dress and much more focused when shopping on my own. I used to shop just for whatever I felt I wanted. I now shop with what I already own in mind. I can kind of mentally put together outfits and find quality pieces that are versatile enough to fit with other things I own.

While I understand there is a mark up on many of the items they send, to me it's every bit worth the convenience and the lessons I get each month. Sure, some things could be found elsewhere but I'd have never even had the idea to find these pieces if they weren't sent to me each month. And once I find something I really like in a fix, I start to look for similar things on my own. I also notice I rarely buy items anymore that I don't love just because they're cheap (which is something I think many of us are guilty of). I've learned I'm willing to pay a bit more to have less in my closet, but it is a closet full of things I really love and things that work well together.

Choosing a service like this really is about personal preference and what you feel comfortable paying. If it's something you can't afford to do on a regular basis, it's can always be something to do for special occasion or to treat yourself once in awhile. 

One trick I've learned and why I think I've had such an awesome experience with the things I've gotten through this service over the months is because I'm very vocal each month about how things fit me, what I like and don't like, what I'd like to see in the next boxes, etc. I've even sent them my measurements. I keep my style boards on Pinterest updated each month so my stylist has new, seasonally appropriate ideas for me. It's really an interactive experience that requires input from both sides.

That being said- let's get to the clothes! (I've switched my fixes to come every 3 weeks so there are a couple items in here from my previous box that I kept as well.) And actually, since I've been getting fixes more often, I'm much more picky about the things that I do chose, helping me to REALLY find things I love. 

Last month's box keepers, I don't have the info on these because I can't find the card! 

 Seriously. This shirt is so freaking comfy. I need things a little heavier weight so they hang better (if it's too thin it clings to every lump and bump) and this lays perfectly. Oh, and these are the pants I got in a fix quite awhile back. Also super comfortable, albeit a bit long.

Heart eyes. I wear this all the time. It's like scarf-weight, but just right for the cool ocean breezes here.

For this month, haven't figured out what I'm keeping yet. I'm going to start including the price of the items as I've seen some of you requesting it! I haven't mentioned there's a discount if you keep the entire box, I believe it's a 25% discount, which on more than one occasion has actually been cheeper to keep the entire box than just a couple of things.

I love me a good drape front cover up. I also love that it's a print. Most of my clothes are fairly basic and one way to spice things up is to have just one simple yet bold statement piece that makes the outfit stand out. It's a fun take on my usual uniform of stripes lol. This is a good outfit for everyday wear. I'm also holding a mint leather tote I got in a previous month's fix. 

When I opened the box I squealed when I saw this vest. Upon putting it on, I'd probably prefer for it to be a bit more tailored at the waist. I have an hourglass/pear shape and kind of need some waist definition to even out my silhouette. This would be a fun outfit to wear for a girl's night out or to a concert. Oh who am I kidding, I'd probably wear it any/all the time. But for $78, I really need it to fit properly.

Wasn't too sure about this when I opened the box. Not typically my style. I like the use of plaid on the shirt since it seems to be trending right now. The back of the shirt is like a stretchy blue jersey, which makes it, like most pieces I get from Stitchfix, very comfortable. I put my own spin on the outfit with some ripped jeans, studded shoes and gold hoops (hard to see) and kind of started to like this one.

This tank has little blue bicycles on it. I didn't really like it on it's own, but under a blazer it wasn't too bad. It's white and kind of see-through so I had to wear a cami underneath. 

Want to give it a try? There's nothing to lose, even if you only do it once, it's a super fun experience. GO HERE to read more and sign up!
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