BLACK DOLLS: special order only | On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from December 2008.

On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from December 2008.

Some days, I think we are living in a new era, in a world that doesn’t see color, in a world more and more like the one Martin Luther King dreamt about.

And some days, I remember that we’re not.

There were a myriad of reminders about this for me today, most of which I can’t really disclose on my blog. Let me just say this: in therapy, the filter comes off. And some people say stuff to me having no idea that I have an African American son. (or that I would be completely offended even if I didn’t). It’s all cool until one of them wants to date your daughter. Nuff said.

Even though it’s complete ignorance, that stuff sinks my heart a little.

After work I made a Target run, because I wanted to grab a few stocking stuffers for the kids. I thought it would be cute to get them some High School Musical dolls that they could play with on our plane ride.

One of the things I LOVE LOVE LOVE about High School Musical is the racial diversity of the cast. So it was a little surprising to find that Target was only carrying dolls of the white members of the cast. Where was Chad? Where was Taylor? Not at my local Target. There were at least 20 versions of Troy, Gabriella, Sharpay, her brother, and the random White girl who plays piano. Rows and rows of these kids, but no representation of the African American cast members.


Now, it would tempting, and maybe even reassuring, to think that a bunch of race-conscious parents had swept up the minority dolls already. But given the fact that there are very few African Americans living in Orange County, somehow I doubt that.

Which leads me to conclude that Target just didn’t order them, because they figured they wouldn’t sell. The same way last time I visited Pottery Barn at South Coast Plaza, the blonde-haired Harrington Family (Caucasian) was full-price and almost sold old, while the nearly idenitical but ethnic Thompson Family was drastically on clearance. Hmmm . . .

So this Christmas, I ask you: Are there dolls under your tree? Are any of them representing a minority race? What message does it send to our children when minority dolls are cast aside, or not even available at the store? Or when parents show racial preference in their toy selection? Something to think about as we all strive to move towards racial acceptance.


The Christmas Letter || On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from December 2008.

On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from December 2008.

One of the things I love the most about the Christmas season is getting all of the Christmas cards in the mail. I love catching up with friends this way, seeing photos of everyone’s growing families, and reading about what everyone is up to. Over the years, I have heard a few people mock the tradition of Christmas letters, wondering who really reads them. Um, I do. I read every one of them. I love them. I’ve always been a fan of mail correpsondence, and took my pen-palling VERY seriously growing up. This is just a fun little extension of that.

I also love keeping the Christmas photos and looking back at them over the years. I have a big scrapbook where I crop and glue each year’s Christmas photos, starting in 2001, and it is so fun to pull it out every year with the rest of the Christmas stuff. I love looking at the pictures and seeing how much everyone has changed, and also reflecting on our longstanding friendships that we value so much.

There was a period, though, when I wasn’t in love with the Christmas letter thing. When Mark and I were going through a tough time building our family, it was actually a little painful to get pictures of new babies and growing families year after year, as we remained the “childless couple”. It became more and more difficult to compose an update for our own family that didn’t seem to be a screaming announcement of our lack of children. So . . . I did what I usually did, and turned to sarcasm. I started writing a Christmas letter of the perfect life, with footnotes that clafiried our actual reality. I called it The Howerton’s Fabuluos Fabulous Lives. While I’m sure a few people found it mocking of all that is holy, most people found it pretty funny. So I continued every year, and every year more and more people would tell me they read it at a friend’s house, or had someone read it to them on the phone, and ask to be put on the list.

It’s become a fun little tradition, but like all things with expectations attached, I also kind of dread writing it every year. What if I let people down?? I start getting asked about it in early December, and usually find that I have absolutely nothing funny or interesting to say. And then I stress about it for several weeks, and avoid it, and then somehow every year I finally get the thing done.

So I am happy to say that, with a whole 6 days to spare before Christmas, I have finished my Christmas letter. Then came the assembly line of stamping, labeling, sealing, and sending. We got everything off to the post office, and I am finally DONE.

Now, on to this present-wrapping issue I need to tackle . . .

A gift and a challenge || On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from December 2008.

On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from December 2008.

I woke up to a gift in my email inbox this morning – some amazing new photos of Keanan. My blogger-friend Jamie Ivey and her hubby are in Haiti visiting their own kids who are waiting to come home, and they took some amazing shots of our little boy. It is such a treat to see pictures of him and hear reports of how happy he is. It makes the waiting so much easier. Thank you, Jamie!!

Jamie’s husband Aaron wrote some pretty profound sentiments on his blog today. He was musing about how kids are kids, no matter where they grow up. Click here to read it – adoptive parent or not, I think you will be moved. But perhaps grab a tissue first.

He also reflected on feelings about the coming Christmas season as he witnessed the poverty of Haiti. I think these words are so important for us to think about right now:

You want to know what really pisses me off? being unable to convince people to even think about something like Advent Conspiracy… and hearing friend after friend say they’ve had the hardest time getting their own families to want to sacrifice gift-giving this Christmas so that others can simply have clean water and/or bread in their belly. i was furious today as i saw nine year old kids working in the street to get a few pennies…hopefully adding up to purchase bread or a cup of rice. really? we want to hold on to our $15 gift exchange this Christmas instead of pooling that money together to actually KEEP SOMEONE ALIVE? seriously SO angry today as i passed children with swarms of flies around their face holding out hands for anything. KIDS. and families all over the country refuse to say NO to trading Old Navy giftcards, discount scarves at Target, and I-tunes gift cards. seriously? in Haiti, that is translated to “merde.”

I’m not gonna translate that word for you, but I think you get the point. How can we respond to this poverty that seems so far away, and yet is so real for so many people? I am feeling challenged today.


Fear, Faith, and Motherhood || On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from December 2008.

On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from December 2008.

I was directed to a blog post this morning at girl talk and it really spoke to me. The author was asked if she could parent her daughters all over again, what she would do differently. Her response:

“While I am aware of numerous ways I would want to be a better mom, one thing stands out far ahead of the rest. 

I wish I had trusted God more.

For every fearful peek into the future, I wish I had looked to Christ instead. For each imaginary trouble conjured up, I wish I had recalled the specific, unfailing faithfulness of God. In place of dismay and dread, I wish I had exhibited hope and joy. I wish I had approached mothering like the preacher Charles Spurgeon approached his job: “forecasting victory, not foreboding defeat.”

What mothering failures have you predicted lately? What fears about your children lurk around the edges of your mind—or even dominate your thoughts? Do you assume things will only get worse? Are you anxious about the future and tempted to despair?

As women, we’re all vulnerable to fear, worry, and anxiety. And few areas tempt us more than mothering. But faith must dictate our mothering, not fear. Faith, as it says in Hebrews is the ‘assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’” (Heb 11.1).

Faith toward God is the foundation of effective mothering.

I can relate to this so much. It often feels like I am literally drowning in worry for my children. I spend way too much time trying to predict how I will handle future calamaties, many of which will never come to light and remain the figment of my fatalistic imagination. I have always been a worrier, even since a young age. It’s something I am constantly fighting, and just when I felt like I got a handle on it, I had kids.

It doesn’t help that I’ve got one child living in an orphanage, and one in my not-so-friendly uterus. I often think how relieved I feel once both these kids are HERE, in their own ways, so I can see them and hold them and shower them with kisses.

But until then, I will do my best to put my worry on the self, because it really does me no good. You would think I would get this by now, but apparently I am a slow learner . . .

How a handfull of cheerios ended India’s modeling career || On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from November 2008.

On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from November 2008.


{at the rehearsal before the show. notice: Cheerios in hand = compliant toddler}

India had her first (and last) modeling gig today. It was a runway show for Simple Shoes at a swanky hotel in Laguna Beach. She had one task: walk down the runway, turn around, walk back. Let’s just say things did not go as planned, and I don’t think we will be asked back.

In truth, I really haven’t pursued any kind of modeling stuff for her, even though people often tell me I should. But I heard about the show through a mommy blog contact, and thought, what the heck? It sounded fun, and I thought India would be a perfect fit. And literally, she was a perfect fit. They were looking for kids who wear size 7 shoes, and she does. Voila. India books a runway show.

I would be lying if I said I had no ulterior motives about the day, though. Of course, in the back of my mind, there was that little dream that she would be so dazzling that a talent scout would walk up to me and offer her a Target commercial that would pay for her college. But alas, that did not happen.

What DID happen . . . well let’s just say it was not pretty. We arrived at the shoot early (as in, I had to set an alarm and freakin’ wake her up). When we got there, wardrobe gave me an outfit for her to wear, which was an adorable wintery outfit with lots of layers and a fleece hat that was as tight as a swimcap on her 97% percentile sized head. It was so tight it pushed the skin on her forehead forward, giving her a kind of neanderthal look. She was not happy with the hat, but I kept coaxing it back on her head. We did a few practice runs, and everything was great. India was adorable, she walked down and back and even pretended to be a ballerina. She was pleased with herself, and everyone thought she was really cute. We had a little breakfast, and then they rallied the kids for what was supposed to be a 9:30 fashion show.

This is where things went wrong. Apparently, there was a little presentation before the catwalk, and this gal was going LONG. So the huddled the kids into a dark backstage area that was seperated from the audience by a curtain and a screen. The presentation was still going on, so we were urged to keep the kids really quiet. This went on for a HALF HOUR. You can imagine how 30 minutes of sitting still and being shushed went over with a tired 2-year-old. Things got so bad that I finally pulled out some Cheerios, thinking I could keep her quiet for a few more minutes that way. The talking lady didn’t seem anywhere close to finishing up.

Oh wait. Turns out she was finished. As soon as I pulled out the cheerios, I hear the lady say, “and now let’s have a look at our toddler shoes”. And suddenly the room becomes chaos, and we’re being told to line up. Which means that I have to take the cup of Cheerios out of India’s hand and try to get her to line up and walk down a runway.

She was not having it.

She lunged for the Cheerios.

She started screamed.

She threw herself on the ground.

She went boneless.

She kicked her legs and banged her head on the floor.

It was a full-blown tantrum. I tried to pick her up to calm her down. I carried her to the stairs of the runway, at which point she starts hitting me, hitting herself in the face, and crying even more loudly. I’m told to please just go back out into the hallway if she won’t cooperate. But at this point, I am determined that we will finish this thing.

I have to carry her down the runway myself. She is still crying, and alternately hitting me in the face and then burrowing her face into my shoulder from embarrassment. Meanwhile, I am walking down the runway with a smile plastered on my face as if to say, “this is fine. This is all fine. Just focus on the shoes, people. Focus on the shoes”.

We escape to backstage and I hand India the Cheerios, at which point she morphs back into a charming, delightful, adorable little girl.

I leave in shame.

Oh well, I guess she will never live out the dream of becoming one of the ultimate runway models:

Just think, this could have been India!! Don’t these girls look so well adjusted?