14 years ago I got “the call”

On his birthday last week Tea (Sammy’s birthmom) texted to let me know she’d reached Sam to wish him a happy birthday. She said he told her he was “skating w/ a bunch of white ppl. Lol.”

I wrote back; Wait did he tell you that was his idea?! 😜 Going to a movie with a bunch of not white ppl later tonight.

She texted back; 😂😂😂 Bumblebee was good. See y’all soon!

I replied; Can’t wait!

Everything about our exchange makes me happy:

  • Her and I are texting about him on his birthday.
  • He’s telling her like it is.
  • She’s telling me about it, and offering her own insights.
  • We are headed to see her and the family next month and everyone is talking about it with excitement.

Co-parenting across the country open adoption style.

Fourteen years ago this week I received the call that the baby who would become Samuel was born. Both his birth mother and the son I would raise and love on were healthy and resting. “And there’s more great news,” the adoption agency placement director said. “She wants you to call her. Do you have a pen?” It was 5:40AM and everything was spinning; “Wait? What?”

You see for the months leading up to this day I was told she was not interested in an open adoption and did not want to be asked to talk about it again. While I was disappointed I could not imagine the experience she was going through and fully respected her choice. Learning I was who she wanted to parent her son (because like her I would be a single mother and at the time I was a teacher which she aspired to becoming) was enough. I wasn’t going to say no because of her lack of interest in open adoption. Maybe in time she would change her mind?

Gazing down at the hospital phone number and instructions for handling the hospital paperwork I hung up the phone with the agency and proceded to run around the apartment screaming my awe and joy to the ceilings. The suitcase was packed, the car seat was by the door. I had plane tickets to buy, and family and friends to contact…

But first I had to call her. Doubt came crashing into the kitchen, and sat on my lap nearly tipping me over. What if when I called her she changed her mind? What if when I arrived she and I didn’t connect? What if I wasn’t really up to this after all? Was I going to be a good enough parent? How could I presume to know how to parent a Black boy as a white woman?

I’m sure I reached for the phone 16 times. When I finally had the courage to enter into this new miraculous life I had worked so hard for it unfolded with care and quiet ease (at first). The hospital room phone was ringing.

I don’t even remember my awkward introduction. But I’ll never forget her first description of him;

“He’s the biggest boy in the nursery. I call him Fatso. He’s scaring all the other babies cuz he’s so big.”

I asked after her. Did she need anything?

“I need you to get here. And he needs a name.”

Oh right. The name.


If you are wrestling with doubts about your family’s open adoption journey, or are looking for some additional support navigating any part of your 20th Century Family story I’m available for individual coaching. Learn more here.

Mama C Calls It Forth

Recently I went away to one of my favorite places in the world (so far) for a weekend with a single-mama friend to meditate, write, swim, laugh, and listen to God.

I connect to my visionary spirit, and my soul in this healing spot that I’ve been coming to since I was seven. When I get quiet, and a respite from my parenting modality I return in a palpable way to what I know to be true.

This time that truth cleary took shape in three distinct areas:

  • First is a deepening commitment to my sons feeling celebrated and accepted for exactly WHO THEY ARE today. (Middle school requires ferverent monitoring. Who are you-vs. who do you begin to believe your peers/teachers/ society or family says you SHOULD be.) This demands my being fully present, compassionate and flexible.
  • Second I heard that I will return to my dream of creating a one woman performative event (monologue/story telling+poetry) celebrating and exposing my first fifty years on the planet, and the events and people who shaped it.
  • Third, a new direction calls for my fifteen years as a transracial adoptive, biological, single and partnered parent. I will be unveilling this in more detail soon, but for the time-being it is already thrilling to announce it simply as a “Coming soon: Mama C Coaching and Consulting”. How can you help? If a particular post, conversation, article, or anything “Mama C” has been of help to you on your transracial/adoptive single or partnered/parenting/blending/ donor or other journey will you consider leaving me a comment I could use on my promotional materials?

I look forward to hearing from you, and hope everyone can create a little quiet space for themselves in the near future.

Two weeks and counting!

Sammy and Mama C in California in 2005

Soon Sammy Sammy will be flying across the country on his own to spend a few days alone with his family in Tacoma, Washington.

I’m really curious and a little nervous about how this will shake out. He is closing in on 13, he is an old soul, the child has lived. But he is a child, still. He is a child moving between two mothers, two families, one love. He is journeying at a moment where the world feels volatile and unsafe. But his is the world he is entering into as a young adult. It is what he knows, what he must know. He is no longer that little in my arms. His will always be that little in my arms.

I’m also so thankful that all of this is possible in every way.

Marcel and I leave on our journey two days later to visit with his donor and family in California. (Knowing that I will be on the same coast as Sammy is going to bring us all ease I suspect.)  I’m equally curious how this Marcel moment will unfold, and what new understanding Marcel will gain about who his radiant, beautiful poetic self is in this lifetime. He will hold his little brother, who just turned one. He will be with his donor and his donor’s family. He will be invited into a new layer of understanding about what the word “family” holds for him.

Marcel and “Tree” in 2011

I’m also so thankful that everyone involved is all about the YES in this moment too. The everyone includes my husband who has been holding the YES in his own way.  I can not begin to imagine what his experience will be having us all across the country navigating this extended family foray away from him. (Of course he was invited to come, and would very much like to join us another time.)  And, yes,  part of this story began long before he came into our lives. One day we all hope that those markers will fade into the background, allowing this to just be a shared breath at any one moment of who we just are.

A dear friend reminded me to reach out on the blog to readers encouraging them to contribute to the GoFundMe campaign.

Or, for those of you who prefer to use PayPal and make a donation to this epic adventure that way-you can do so here for a generous $10.00 donation:

or here to pay for the pre-travel line up for both boys, or the tank of gas for the rental car for $25.00:
or a day of driving from the airport to Sammy’s family and back to the airport thirty-six hours later with $75.00 here:
or several hundred miles on the airplane for one of us with an over-the-top hugely appreciated $100.00 donation you can do so here:
Or finally because you just feel crazy moved by all us on this courageous, family-making, more-love is more-love adventure and want to support this being paid for outright with ease and love with a $500.00 donation here:

Ready or not…

Bring it 2014!
Bring it 2014!

Clearly this year has big designs on Mama C and the Boys. For starters, Shrek and I are getting married this year. This means, among other things that I can no longer say; “We’re planning on getting married sometime next year.” Never has the switch from December to January seemed so significant.

Shrek presented me with a stack of the final old school co-designed and home printed “Save the Date” cards wrapped lovingly in plastic wrap yesterday morning. I’m mailing them out Catherine. I am marrying you. It is happening you know. 


It has been a year and half since he proposed.

It has taken us that long to agree on much of anything, let alone a date, a place, and loosely on what such a celebration might actually sort of look like.

OK, the truth is that is has taken me that long to believe that I am really cut out for the long term committed relationship thing. I was just becoming so competent at getting along well with single mother me when he came along. I’m only half kidding. Learning how to be a half way decent (adoptive, transracial, and donor assisted) parent, with a professional life, who managed to practice a little self care, maintain a few friendships, write an occasional poem or blog post, and take care of a hundred year old house was no small potatoes. To do all that and still find myself to be agreeable company at the day’s end was heroic. I was a rather impressive solo act on the dance floor. The music doesn’t just switch from the Flashdance theme song to Louis Armstrong’s ‘Bout Time like that.

It takes time. Time, patience, and perseverance from both of us.

I am slowly realizing just how hard I have been fighting against this for the last two years to be completely honest. Having never experienced a long term committed relationship before (this is the longest relationship I have ever been in) I was, and still am very new to the lexicon of long term love. My dating dictionary was pocket sized, and honestly did not even have a definition for intimacy in it. Or at least one that applied to someone over the age of twenty-five with two kids and a whole lot of Hallmark Movies dictating her idea of the perfect relationship. I sense that I believed on some level that to lean into this relationship, meant that I had to abandon my identity as SUPER SINGLE ME which had come to be the only me I could really count on and trust. It is only in the last few months that I have experienced a merging of the capable, independent, creative, dynamic, relational, multifaceted me, with the partner, co-parent, lover, creative, dynamic relational multifaceted us. Follow me so far? It’s OK if you don’t, because I’m just getting the hang of it too.

Here’s an example: this time last year I had the HARDEST time sharing Shrek with his grown kids. I would act out when he seemed to disappear when they came into town for the holidays. I needed constant reassurance that I was important too. I put on my best bonus mom face when they were here, but then when we were alone instead of celebrating his marvelous love for them, and them for him, and all the ways everyone was thriving I would either pout, withdraw, or argue some minutia.  It was as if I was always looking for evidence that he wasn’t REALLY in this with me and my kids…

Now forward a year, and you would see a completely different emotional and relational landscape. The arrival of his kids in town was exciting for both of us. It meant more connection for me and my kids, and a sense of ease and balance for Shrek for the brief time he had with them. As his relationship with each one is it’s own entity it meant seeing different sides of him too. My independent self enjoyed the alone time I had with my two when he was off with one or two of his five. My relational self loved planning meals, shopping for the perfect bonus kid gifts, and showing up for Shrek in a way that made him feel supported and loved. In turn he was of course very loving and affectionate with me while they were here and in a super happy mood for most of the last two weeks. No wonder he was all hearts and twinkles when he handed me those “Save the Date” cards.

And, all this time I really thought that Shrek was the difficult one. Huh.


An elusive balance

Unicycle Sam
On our way

The family has just arrived home from a whirlwind trip to Delaware to visit and celebrate various birthdays with my side of the family.  We drove over 1,000 miles between Thursday night and this yesterday morning. Well, Shrek did the lion’s share there, and I book ended the trip. Driving that many miles amounted to saving that many dollars and then some in airfare. By driving through the night the boys were able to sleep allowing for minimal management and discomfort, not to mention the almost total absence of negotiations involved since they were asleep. Marcel slept for almost eleven hours strait, waking only once when we stopped for a break. Sammy watched the Empire State from the Tappan Zee and then fell back into his book for half an hour before crashing again.

Of course Shrek takes a big hit physically the next day, but bounces back with a little TLC. He kept telling me he was cranky. I was thinking to myself, “if this is your best cranky, we’re in good shape.”  Having a day to recover is something we always do after a trip, never taking “vacation” to the last possible day. Writing this post helps me to ground in my home self again.  Blogging always balances me somehow. It becomes a conduit for my own arrival in ways.

It has been lovely to notice, two years after we started dating how genuinely Shrek has become woven into the fabric of the larger family. He takes on the cooking of a dinner, or the interception of the pass at the family football game with ease, and something akin to grace even! What I witnessed more than anything on this trip, was how much he saw me within the larger family portrait. By “seeing” I mean seeing all of me within the family dynamic, and really knowing how to support, joke with, listen to and be with me and not to hover on the margins looking in.

Of course this is also about my showing him and them how integral to our happiness he is- with the easy hug here, or the cozy up on next to him at the bench while we are all at the beach. Marcel tossed the “my daddy” phrase out there as easy as he kicked his cousin’s football across the field over and over again. A ten hour car trip completed with ease is clearly another indication that we have deepened in our seeing ourselves as a family unit, and not as two adults and two kids making the best of it. There is an ocean of difference there. We have paddled some seriously rough waters to get here. Both of us taking our little dinghy in circles over and over again insisting our paddle was going the right way… On land for the moment anyway, we are digging the view from year two.

Speaking of accomplishments, I have a new piece published in Adoptive Families Magazine this month.  I’m very pleased with the piece, an opinion piece titled; “Certificate of Live Birth and Parentage”  where I weigh in on the question of what a birth certificate really should say. The link just went live last night, so feel free to be the first to chime in, and get the conversation going. I very much appreciated my exchange with the editor about this piece, and felt like the magazine is working hard to represent a broader range of voices in the triad. There are moments when my experience as both an adoptive and biological parent offer me a lens that seem to complement each other, and this is definitely one of them.

Like Sammy on his unicycle above balance is by no means a given, but an elusive goal that requires practice, practice, and more practice. In my relationship, parenting, transracial mind evolving, and part time working for starters I am feeling as if getting a few solid rotations moving forward before the wheel goes flying out from under me, is indeed an accomplishment. I’ll see if I can get Sam to volunteer a few lines on mastering the unicycle in less than two weeks to inspire all of us to keep on keeping on. In the meantime, hold on to something, or someone steady as you launch, and have a great week.

Overhauling the expectations: We can do better family

yucky yucky yucky faces
mama reacting to Mr. Lips
all aglow
all aglow

After being up till way too late talking with Shrek about parenting (and what we could do to dramatically, and effectively help the boys extinguish some behaviors, and develop others)  I needed some deep laughter Sunday morning.  Marcel was pleased to present the impetus for an all out laugh and love fest as pictured above.

Parenting is hard.

Continue reading “Overhauling the expectations: We can do better family”

Bring it!

This the best you got Maine?
This the best you got Maine?

Good morning all. Yesterday we had the pleasure of a lovely afternoon with friends of Shrek a little west of here. Part of the deliciousness of the day featured a stroll on their land in the crunchy snow. Land. trees. No properties for miles. This is the way much of the state is, although I often forget this, living in the “city”. I love that the boys are as at ease racing through the woods after a lumbering glove snatching golden retriever as they are taking in all the majesty of a gospel concert celebration for MLK day at the theater.

A few other sweet moments captured below include Sammy belting out  A Sick Day for Amos McGee to his brother before bed, and he and Shrek finding their groove during a little harmonica and guitar duet. The weekend also featured all sorts of craft things like sewing, looming, and drawing by the lot of us. One source of great pride for the two of us as co-parents (yes I did just write that) is our commitment to no television before 10:00am on the the weekend.  It’s not that we object to screen time–it has it’s place over here indeed. It’s that we both objected to the intrusion of the sound of it, on our combined living space early in the morning. Over time we have helped the boys learn all sorts of other things they can do–electronic free until then. Reading, drawing, and the ukelele are on the top of the list. Connect the dots, playing with the million figurines Marcel has amassed, looming, and cuddling are up their too. It seemed like an uphill battle at first, but come around here at 8:45 on a Sunday these days, and you’ll think you’re on the set of Little House on the Prairie or something.

reading to my brother
reading to my brother
Blues duet
Blues duet

The sounds of little feet coming towards me signal the end to this sweet little start to my week with the MamaC extended family. Thanks for sharing the morning with me, I feel you out there, and miss you when I don’t write. To being seen, reaching out to others, and believing in the best in all of us today. Bring it on Monday!

2012: You took me by surprise

Brown barb special in aisle five
Brown barb special in aisle five

Last night Shrek and I ended the year sitting on the couch reflecting in a round about way. “Quite a year Mama C,” he began. “You moved in with this man, you got engaged, you became a blended family of nine…” And from there we mused. We mirrored. We laughed. We got big eyed realizing that both of us climbed a few rocky mountains at break neck speed to arrive here on this couch in a calm and palpably easy space looking out a hopeful view for 2013. We had all our limbs and most of our teeth. Things look good.

Just prior to that he was playing his guitar and I was doing some journaling. He played me the song he used to propose to me among others. I scratched out a list of things I wanted to be reminiscing about at the close of 2013 (published poems, tropical sands in my toes, and microphones were on the list, but you’ll have to wait to discover the others with me). It was about the easiest New Year’s Eve ever.

Just prior the boys went to sleep to strummed lullabies and cuddles easily after a last bath of 2012. Bath and hair by candlelight to calm us from the uproarious and lovely gathering of families from the boys’ school earlier in the evening. A school Sam had only began going to a year ago this week, and Marcel in September.  A school and community that all four of us were now considered happily ensconced within her colorful and vibrant fabric. Just this week Sam had his first and very successful overnight, and Marcel his first kindergarten playdate. I’m in full swing co-organizing a school wide Martin Luther King Day celebration as an active member of the PTO. We have a school community that we all know we belong to. This is big.

When I came upstairs a few minutes after the boys I came upon a sight that mushed me right on up. On the living room couch sat Shrek with Sam under one arm leaning into him reading a book. Marcel’s toes were curled into him on the other side, as he leaned back and listened too. The lights were soft as Shrek’s voice gently narrated a very powerful story of freedom and perseverance to his rapt audience. I wiggled in next to my sweet boys all in a heap.

I took a very deep breath.

This is abundance. This is blended. This is all I need right here, right now.

This is arrival. This is part of my now larger family of nine who are also there with us on that couch in our playful memories from earlier in the week of all of us celebrating and Wii dancing together  becoming our own blended new normal.

You took me by surprise 2012. Or, I took you by surprise. Either way, it worked. 2013, we welcome you to the stage. We know you’ve got a great show planned!


Mama C and the Boys +1. Single mama dating found her Shrek (in a pink boa)

My very fine fellar with a boa

I am in a relationship with an amazingly generous, gentle, funny, socially conscious, caring, reliable and goofy man. He is pictured above. He wore that mask to meet me on a playground and be able to hug me in public. I said I wouldn’t hug in front of my students. I was being weird. He was being funny.OK, so the mask might seem weird to you. To me it was magic. It was about meeting somewhere in the middle, and laughing along the way. Continue reading “Mama C and the Boys +1. Single mama dating found her Shrek (in a pink boa)”

On Co-Parenting Matters (tonight)

I'll hold your hand Uncle!/ Mama C and the Boys

Tonight (9:30 E.S.T) I have the honor of being on Co-Parenting Matters to talk about how my brother Marc and I go about our version of a design it as you go, co-parenting relationship. A little over a year ago, I wrote about the topic here on Mama C, and over at Moms of Hue (now We of Hue).  I am super excited to be able to talk about the path we are blazing here in our own way. A sibling co-parenting model is not often talked about  in this society to my knowledge. But I can see that this would be a direction more families work towards as economic and environmental benefits of co-housing and co-parenting become more appealing to many.  I would love to know if others have seen one in action, currently or historically?

I imagine that we have evolved a bit since last yer when I wrote those pieces. Probably much of what we do looks the same too. (If the boys were older I’d love to have them on too.)  Marc and I checked in the other night on what we both think co-parenting means. He had some great thoughts and insights that I had never considered.   A few of the topics we hope to cover tonight include:

Why and when did I decide to formally enlist my brother as a co-parent?  What is different about your arrangement now than before you made this decision?

Do our parenting styles differ? And how have our roles evolved/changed over time?

How do the kids benefit from our co-parenting partnership?

What challenges do we face as co-parents?   How do we manage conflict?

If you can listen in do, otherwise, stop by here in a few days when I figure out how to embed it. Just for the record I asked Marc do take the boys out this morning for a few hours so I could post, I mean rest. There was a lot of waking going on around here last night due to stuffed up noses, accidents, and scary dreams. Lights out for mommy (and sister) for a little nap…