I am an adoptive parent living in Detroit with my family. I am the author of a speculative fiction novel, Antebellum Age, now available through Barnes & Noble.

Antebellum Age
Category: Speculative Fiction, Alternate History

Nothing could suppress the utopian ambitions of Eliza and Thomas Young – nothing except for 150 years of authoritarian, racist rule. Generations after the Young’s experiment, Ambassadors Stephen Harris and Sarah Anderson uncover the Young story; finding meaning and connection in unlikely places. Now they must choose between dismantling generations of segregation or fulfilling the expectations of their society.


How to Braid Blond Hair

I wrote the following as a guest post for another blog several months ago. It was never published there, so I wanted to share it here instead.

Before our kids came to live with us, they were raised by a wonderful foster family. At the time, my daughter had very long hair and her foster sister would spend hours braiding it. I don’t mean one long braid in the back. I mean many, many small braids all over her head. I’m ashamed to say it made me a little uncomfortable. It didn’t seem right with blond hair.

The kids would spend the night with us every weekend and every weekend I would take out the braids with the explanation that she needed to wash her hair. I knew I was ruining her foster sister’s hard work and I felt bad about it – but only a little.

That was in 2009. In 2012, my daughter started second grade in Detroit Public Schools. And many of her classmates wear their hair in braids and beads. This time, I wasn’t intimidated; possibly because I felt more secure in my role as her mother, more confident in our attachment as a family. So when she asked for braids, we went for it.

Our first stop was at a beauty supply shop. I felt a little embarrassed because I had no idea what to buy. I’ve always been good at self-deprecation, and this time I used it to my full advantage. Thankfully, the cashier was completely understanding and very helpful. She showed us all of our options and gave us recommendations. We left with two containers of beads (pink and purple of course) and a box of black rubber bands.


When my daughter went to school with her hair beaded and braided the next day, her friend’s mom said happily, “she finally got the braids! She’s been talking about that for a while.”

I don’t have the patience to braid her whole hair; I usually do between 8 and 20 braids at a time. My biggest challenge has been the threader. Even after our neighbor showed us how to use it, I still haven’t been able to get it right.

My daughter’s biggest challenge is the texture of her hair. Stray pieces stick out through the rubber bands and the braids get messy very quickly because her hair is so smooth. She’s probably one of only a handful of blond-haired girls who’s wished for coarser hair.

We’ve received many positive comments at her school about the braids and beads. In fact, we receive positive comments almost everywhere, even in church, where these kinds of braids are rare.

What I’m curious about is how long the hairstyle will remain cute. I assume that by the time she’s a teenager, people won’t be as accepting. Perhaps it’s cute now because she’s a child and can be “forgiven” for “not knowing better.”

When I was in junior high in the 1990s, we had a derogatory term for someone who accepted styles like this. Typically we used it for boys who wore their pants low. I don’t think anyone will call my daughter names when she’s older, but I’m certain that people are still not completely comfortable with unexpected styles like her.

I started thinking a lot about this again when I came across an article titled, “White Women With Black Hairstyles Redefine Corporate America” that appeared in the Huffington Post. For me, the title is misleading. Unfortunately, white women really aren’t redefining corporate American by wearing black hairstyles. Instead, the article is really about an artist who photographed a number of white women wearing suits and “black” hairstyles.

“Yet the most compelling aspect of the photos is not necessarily the physical discrepancy between a white woman and her black hair, but all of the complex histories, assumptions, silences and transformations that make such a discrepancy so apparent to the viewer,” the author wrote.

Right now, I’m living with a white girl and her “black” hair, but I have a long way to go before I understand all of the complexities and assumptions that may confront her as she gets older.

Why My Kids Go to a Primarily Black School

I love this explanation of a parent’s “unlikely” school choice. It’s exactly the way I feel about my kids’ school.

Ashleigh Carroll

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Most people know that our kids go to Downtown Elementary, which is a public school here in Memphis that happens to have mostly black students enrolled. This is not an accident.

My journey started when John suggested we submit an application for Jac to go to Perea Preschool, which is a predominantly black preschool that serves mostly those beneath the poverty line. Though we lived in an urban community, I was cautious about sending my tiny white 3 year old to a school where almost no one looked like him. So we visited the school to scope out the situation and I was incredibly impressed by the curriculum, staff, and mission of Perea. It seemed silly to pass up this kind of opportunity to we packed up our preschooler with his tiny unnecessary backpack and gave it a shot.

And here’s what I learned almost immediately – Jac didn’t care…

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The interview of a lifetime

bclcWell, maybe this wasn’t really the interview of a lifetime, but I did get to interview someone that’s made a huge difference for my family: Heather Forbes. If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I am a big fan of Heather’s and her parenting model, Beyond, Consequences, Logic and Control (you can read more posts about this model in my BCLC section). Keep reading to learn more about Heather and a different approach for parenting kids affected by trauma or attachment disorders.

I’ve read volume one and two of “Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control,” and I’m so curious to know how you came up with this approach. Can you please share how you developed this model?

I originally entered this field as a mother of two completely out-of-control children who were adopted from Russia. The traditional parenting models were not only not working, they were making things worse in my home. I then sought help from local professionals and again, the dynamics in my home continued to get worse. I stretched out further and sought professional help from mental health experts from around the nation. During this time as well, I decided to go back to school to get my master of social work. The way I figured it, I was doing so much research, I might as well get credit for it with a degree! And as I did more research in my graduate studies into the effects of childhood trauma on the brain, the more I realized that there was a deep and profound misunderstanding of our children from all levels – the parent perspective, the professional perspective, and the research perspective. What was viewed as “bad” behavior was not about behavior at all. It was about fear. Everything that was being suggested to help my children was completely fraught with fear. What my children needed was love and understanding. It really was a concept that simple.

You know so much about your students’ and readers’ families – would you be willing to share a little bit about your own family?

My son was adopted from a Russian when he was 2 ½ years old. He had lived in the orphanage since he was born. Immediately the dynamics in my home started going into a state of chaos as his behaviors were well beyond typical 2-year-old behaviors as he was incredibly violent and completely defiant. We struggled and sought help from friends, family, and professionals, all to no avail. So we then did what anyone losing their minds would do, we went back to Russia and adopted again! I don’t know if that was pure insanity or complete denial. Fast forward 18 years, my children are doing very well in relation to their tough beginnings. We by no means are a perfect family (because there is no perfect family), but what got us through our darkest moments was the value we placed on relationship, not behavior. That doesn’t mean our children could do anything without boundaries, it means that when the light disappeared and darkness prevailed, we never lost the love we had for each other.

I was a skeptic about the Beyond Consequences model when I first heard of it and I’m sure I’m not the only one. What do you tell skeptics when you meet them? What is the biggest hurdle in overcoming our skepticism?

When I meet someone who is skeptic, I open my heart and simply listen to him or her. I am not here to convince anyone of this model, simply to offer it.

Can you explain the Beyond Consequences approach in one or two sentences?

(Here is my two-sentence answer). The Beyond Consequences model is a love-based, relationship-based, regulatory-based, and trauma-based parenting model. It works to remove the fear that has infused our traditional parenting approaches and helps children learn the language of human emotion and to develop their emotional intelligence.

(And here is an expansion of my two-sentence answer). It is about teaching children to learn to self-regulate through the context of a strong parent-child relationship, despite a child who has been traumatized in the past through a parent-child relationship. It helps parents to switch their thinking from seeing a child as disobedient or “bad” to a child who is ill-equipped to handling stress and unable to self-regulate. It gets to the root of the behavior rather than just dealing with the symptoms of the behavior.

In your experience, what is the best way to introduce a parent to the Beyond Consequences model?

Most of us will parent the way that we were parented, even when we try to do it differently. We say, “I’ll never say what my mother/father said to me” and then in the heat of the moment, whose voice comes out of our mouths? Yes, our mother’s or our father’s! We as a human species have a hard time changing from what is familiar. It isn’t until we reach a point of crisis that deep change typically happens. It isn’t until families find themselves at their screaming edge or on the brink that they are able to truly make a life-long and lasting change. Most of the families who attend my trainings or read my books are at this point. So while it is a horrible and unsettling place to be, it is also a beautiful moment of opportunity for families to change generations of dysfunction and it is when the door to healing opens.

Can you share what you’re working on now and what you’re planning for the future?

I have found that this model of parenting is most easily understood by experience and demonstration, not by reading a book or by hearing me speak about it in theory. Feedback from parents has shown that me doing role-plays is the most effective tool for teaching this model. I am currently working to film more role-plays for parents to use as a training tool. I’m very excited about this as I know it will help parents really understand how to make the shift from traditional parenting into a more love-based approach to help their families!

What words of encouragement can you share with those of us who feel that our situation is hopeless?

It is in your darkest moments that you are preparing and stretching yourself for a new beginning. Your children have the ability to bring to you complete utter chaos and it is natural to immediately see this as them turning your world upside down. But hang in there, because what they really are doing is turning your world right side up. The answers are there. Solutions do exist. Open your heart to your own pain and there you will find your next steps.

“Love never fails” appears on your website, newsletter, and I’m sure many other materials. Why did you choose this phrase and what does it mean to you?

I believe the only thing that truly exists in this world is love. Love is hard to see and to hold on to with all the other distractions, fear being the top distracter. But when it comes down to it and you break everything else down, love is the only reason we are here. Our parenting journeys are an experience into learning the depths of unconditional love and how love can manifest in a multitude of ways. Love isn’t always light and fluffy. It has its ups and downs, it has its strong boundaries, but when you learn to live your life out of love instead of fear, it will never fail you or misguide you.

I still haven’t participated in one of your webinars. What am I missing?

You’re missing the fun! My webinars are live and I’m there on video with you and other parents from around the world for 90 minutes each session. I present information to help you with your parenting but the best part is that I take direct questions from all the participants and we work out solutions right there to your individual problems going on in your home. I can even bring up parents (if they are willing) on their webcams so we can talk “in person” and “face-to-face” in the class. It is a very educational yet fun way to connect and get the solutions and support you and other parents are needing.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about Beyond Consequences?

My hope is that every parent finds the support and solutions they need to create the loving home they originally envisioned for their families. There are numerous resources on my website, many of which are free just to download. I have a variety of programs available to fit the various needs of families. Please check out these resources and most of all, remember you’re not alone in your struggles so never never lose hope!

Most importantly, when are you coming to Detroit again?

I’ll be there to present my full-day free parent training on Saturday, September 27, 2014. I’ll also be in a number of other cities this coming fall. For more information and to sign up for these events, go to: http://www.beyondconsequenceslive.com

Adoption Day 2014

On June 25, 2010, our adoption became legal. The kids and I had dinner and dessert out today to celebrate. We spent a couple minutes sharing our memories from the past four years. I felt good that I finally had some memories to share with them that they didn’t remember. Since I didn’t know them as babies, I’ve not really been able to tell them funny stories about things they used to do. We talked about our first trip to the water park and a silly game I used to play with BC.  In another four years, the kids will be 10 and 13. It’s hard to image them being so old. When they were 2 and 5, I definitely couldn’t imagine them at the ages they are now.

Homework Horror

BC is in kindergarten this year and the homework situation is awful. Every Monday he brings home a packet of work that is due on Friday. For him, the work is simple – one digit addition, writing punctuation, and short spelling words like “it” and “can.”

I know he can do the work, yet he seems to enjoy making things more difficult. He often claims that he forgot how to sound out certain letters when he had read them perfectly fine the night before. It takes him a very long time to get through homework and he gets upset when BE finishes before him and gets to play.

I understand that something about homework is probably overwhelming for him, and I wish I could figure out what it is. He’s not old enough yet to really put words to his feelings. If I ask why he doesn’t like homework or what bothers him about homework, he just says he doesn’t know.

As always, I was reading the BCLC monthly newsletter, and of course Heather had some great advice. A reader had asked how to deal with her teenage daughter who wouldn’t help with family dinners, which made her appear lazy. Here are a few quotes from the response:

“To solve this issue, do proactive work and develop a plan with your daughter. This is a child who needs you to join her and to assist her in order to keep her from automatically going into overwhelm…. Explore the real issue: it’s too much for her and it is threatening…. Moving a child out of a state of overwhelm happens within the context of the relationship. Focus on the relationship.”

As always, for Heather, it’s all about the relationship. She did share some ideas for discussing the issue with the daughter, but I know BC can’t have that type of conversation yet. So, it’s nice to be reminded that building our relationship will help. I think he would like more attention than he’s getting, so the challenge for me will be to figure out how to invest more time. We don’t get home from latchkey/work until 6 p.m. and there’s a lot to do before bedtime. I’ll be looking forward to July when school is out for the summer.

BC’s 6th Birthday

BC had his 6th birthday earlier this month. I keep thinking about when first we met him, he was just over a year old and still learning to walk. He’s still as fearless as he was back then. Earlier this month he delivered a monologue at a school program and the audience loved him – check out the video (I apologize for the dark images – I tried to distort the video because I generally don’t share photos of the kids publicly) http://youtu.be/lSFEwc3Lw8A.


I always make my kids write thank you notes for the gifts they receive, usually for Christmas and birthdays. BE just had her 9th birthday, so we were working on thank you notes for her friends. For the first time ever, I got a thank you note. I was so happy that she was thoughtful enough to do this unprompted and that she really appreciated her gift. I’m working hard to hold onto the positive things; I spend too much time dwelling on the negative.

She needs a little work on her past tense
She needs a little work on her past tense

BE’s 9th Birthday

Hard to believe she turned 9 this month! In BE’s words, “just one more year until she’s a decade old.”


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