November 30, 2007

Is Mine

Puppy is quite into the idea that things can belong to people right now. He is constantly asking, "Is mine? Is Mommy's? Is Daddy's?" He questions the ownership of just about everything: books, toys, the dustbuster, a box of brownie mix, the cinnamon shaker. Save for clothes and toothbrushes my answer is almost always, "It's ours." Because we're faux-hippies and I'm naive enough to believe I can partially head off sibling rivalry by convincing him that the mountain of toys doesn't belong solely to him. Just let me stay in my oblivion a little longer.

Anyway, the other day he was watching the slideshow that serves as our screensaver on the family computer. He was doing his usual thing of pointing out all the pictures featuring him. Then a photo came up of K reading to him and he asked me, "Is mine?"

A thousand conversations about objectification in adoption and the offense of "our birthmom" and the trickiness of claiming family briefly zipped through my mind. As well as the thought that maybe he was asking about the book she was holding. But I just gave him a sqeeze and answered, "Yes, she is yours." And the screen faded into the next picture.

November 29, 2007

Review: "The Daring Book for Girls" (with giveaway!)

When the debate over The Dangerous Book for Boys happened earlier this year, I was firmly on the side of everyone rolling their eyes at the idea of that book being just for boys. There is nothing gender-specific about coin tricks or marbling paper, for Pete's sake. So when I heard about a possible version for girls, I admit I got my eyes ready to roll again. I imagined a book with all the cool stuff from the boys' edition replaced with dumbed-down recipes and tips for making phone calls to the boy you like (squee!).

I'm so glad to find out I was wrong.

The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz is a compendium of craft projects, games, and stories mixed with sports, history, and science for good measure. I would have loved this book as a kid. Picture a little girl in ponytails and glasses geeking out over the Greek and Latin root word chart, making a half-dozen sit-upons and poring over the stories of real-life princesses and spies. Age the girl twenty-odd years and you've got a pretty accurate image of me with this book this past month.

The brief sections are consistently engaging and the book encourages dipping here and there in repeated readings. Page after page took me straight back to my childhood. There were the friendship bracelets we churned out in junior high and the cootie catchers so popular amongst the fourth grade set. A suggested book list full of beloved titles (Island of the Blue Dolphins, anyone?). Lemonade stands and God's Eyes. Then there were all the things I wish I had known. How to make peach pit rings or a homemade flashlight. Five basic knots and the rules of darts. Variations on hopscotch I had no idea existed. And basketball tips that would have come in handy during my ill-fated year on the seventh grade team (season total: 2 points).

The book has the retro look so popular right now, but I think the content also taps into the nostalgia of parents like me who remember a mostly unscheduled, electronic-free childhood. It's a book inviting kids to explore, imagine and create. Admirably, it achieves that without seeming dated. Vintage content with modern sensibilities.

But what truly won me over was the fact that the authors place no confining expectations on the girls who will read it. They assume they will be equally interested in making the ultimate scooter as in learning to chain daisies. They talk about tools and hardware and basic finance without treating them as exotic topics for a girls' book. All the while celebrating friendship and the accomplishments of real women throughout history. It's honest empowerment instead of treacly Girl Power. In short, just what an egalitarian mom like me looks for.

I do think a lot of drama could have been avoided if the first book had just been marketed for kids, not only boys. But now there are two books instead of one, giving us twice as many creative activities and interesting trivia to peruse. In our house the twin books will sit in a pair on the shelf and I'll pull them both down when we're looking for some lazy summer fun.

Just don't ever tell the boys that I think our book is cooler.

Now for the give-away!

Thanks to Mother Talk and Harper Collins (the nifty sponsors of this review), I have an extra copy of
The Daring Book for Girls to give away! Enter by leaving a comment on this post before Friday, December 7 telling us all what you would do with a copy of this book. I'll choose a winner in a random drawing.

November 28, 2007

Dan Quayle Was Wrong

When T and I were considering different domestic adoption agencies, we decided that we wouldn't use one which required potential adoptive parents to be married. It was important to us when adopting the first time, and again when choosing an agency for our second adoption.

It was partly in support of equal access to adoption for the unmarrieds: partnered couples who couldn't marry or chose not to marry, and single people. We wanted to support an agency which did not discriminate against potential adoptive parents for qualities which--we felt--had no bearing on their ability to parent. And in private domestic adoption, in which expectant parents most often choose the adoptive family for their child, we especially saw no reason to exclude unmarrieds from the pool of potential adoptive parents. After all, if someone felt strongly that their child should be parented by a married couple, there would be nothing preventing them from only considering married couples. And if someone connected with, for instance, a single person it should be their prerogative to choose them. We simply thought such decisions should be made by the placing parents, not pre-emptively by the agencies.

But there was another, perhaps more significant reason. We were concerned that presenting an unmarried expectant parent with only profiles of married couples sent an unspoken message that two-parent households are inherently better than one-parent households. It must be difficult to believe that parenting your child is a legitimate option if profile after profile is tacitly telling you that you're less worthy simply because you're single. We did not want to be party to that, especially knowing how many people were likely already hearing that message from their families or religious communities.

People have very different views of single parenting, marriage, etc. stemming from everything from religious beliefs to political positions to cultural mores. The danger is in trying to apply those views universally. I don't fault anyone for holding to a strict personal ethic in this arena. T and I ourselves are part of a faith tradition which frowns on sex outside of marriage. But we don't believe that those precepts should be forced on anyone else, and we definitely don't believe that people can "redeem themselves from sexual sin" by placing the resultant children for adoption. Sure, sometimes pregnancies are the result of mistakes. But there is no reason to compound mistake upon mistake with an unnecessary adoption. Or a rushed wedding, for that matter. People get so caught up in their moral agendas that they don't see the very real people in the middle of these situations. And that is how people get hurt.

I've known women who unexpectedly became pregnant and decided to embrace single parenthood. I've also known women who felt that single parenting was not right for them for a variety of reasons; a couple made adoption plans and others terminated their pregnancies. And I've known single women and men who have pursued parenthood through adoption. Those were all complex and intensely personal choices. They deserved to be able to make them free of pressure from those who didn't have to live with the consequences.

November 26, 2007

Eight Things Redux

I have been tagged again for the eight random things meme, this time by the awesome Cloudscome. What is the etiquette here? Can you do a meme twice? I am not knowing.

Eight random things, not necessarily about me:
  • There was a woman at the grocery store today with two little girls, and all three wearing fuzzy pink slippers. They weren't even full slippers, just those half-foot kind that leave your heel exposed. It was pouring rain outside.
  • K had to call off her plans to come visit in early January, due to some legal stuff. (She's okay.) It's always a bummer when things fall through, but there was an extra layer of disappointment. If the potential adoption happens, this would have been our last visit together with just the four of us (K, Puppy, T and me). I'm not sure why that feels important to me, but somehow it does.
  • But! Tonight Puppy's first dad brought up the idea of flying up to visit during his winter school break. T has been good-naturedly poking him to come for months. R is one of those super-busy people balancing school and work and family. I think it's also been a slower process for him to have the good kind of entitlement, the one which convinces you that you have something of value to offer your kid. I hope this works out.
  • You know how toddlers sort of cycle through a few months of eye-gouging annoyance followed by a few months of nearly unbearable cuteness? Right now Puppy is three feet of pure, effortless charm. We're in a good family groove right now. It's awesome. It's also been going on for over two months, so I'm sort of gearing up for the downswing.
  • Puppy is into counting right now. Or at least he thinks he is. It usually goes something like this: "One, two, three! Four! Six! Eight, nine, ten! Sixteen! Two! ELEVEN!" At which point T and I are obliged to say, "This one counts to eleven." Because we are nerds.
  • Karen from The Naked Ovary is blogging again! She's the type of writer who has me snorting with laughter one minute and weeping the next. Her daughter's referral information from China came while we were vacationing in Hawaii. I went out of my way to check her blog because I didn't want to miss seeing the pictures and joining in the celebration. See above re: nerd.
  • That is one of my favorite things about online community or the blogosphere or whatever you want to call it. The way people come together in celebration or comfort for people they have never met. We have all been in those spots before and know how much it means to have others there with us.
  • I'm a big hypocrite, because I like being tagged for these things but never tag anyone else.

November 25, 2007

One Reason We Chose a Local Agency

A social worker from our adoption agency called the other day with a story to tell.

She was picking up a pizza with her kids last weekend. They were waiting in the lobby when she heard them call out the name of another customer to pick up his order. The name happened to be the same as the dad of Ms B's child.

When the guy stepped up to pay for his pizza, she realized it wasn't just that he had the right name. He was also the right age. The right color. The right build. They were in the right neighborhood.

She's been diligently calling him for a couple of months, trying to engage him in the process. They've talked once or twice over the phone, but he didn't show up for the one appointment they scheduled. She watched him walk out of the restaurant and thought, "If that is him, I can't pass this up." So she stuck her head out the door and said, "Excuse me. Do you know a woman named [Ms B]?"

It turned out to be him, the father of Ms B's baby. The social worker introduced herself. They had a little chat right there in the parking lot while her kids waited inside. He was polite. He asked for her card and said he would call her.

It may turn out to be nothing; he may never call. But the social worker feels that now they've at least met she can be a little more direct in talking to him. Trying to communicate that even if he doesn't want to raise his daughter, he doesn't need to give up the chance to be part of her life.

The morning of her call to me, I had actually been thinking about him quite a bit. Wondering what was going on for him, how everything was going to play out. Thinking about how hard it would be to explain why--when faced with such similar circumstances--R chose to commit to his kid and this guy didn't. Making a mental list of information to grab now to set her up well if she ever wanted to find him.

Although my particular faith compels me to believe that God at times orchestrates events both large and small, I am not one who sees meaning in every coincidence. But part of me so wants to find a purpose in this chance meeting. To be able to look back and realize this was a turning point.

November 21, 2007

Fighting the Good Fight

It is last Thursday afternoon and I'm going through security at one of the smaller Los Angeles airports, collecting my things from the conveyor belt after clearing the magic doorway. Out comes my laptop, my coat, my shoes, my bag. But no suitcase.

I look over to see two TSA screeners huddled together examining the x-ray of my little suitcase. "Do you see that?" one asks. "What is that dark void?"

He grabs my bag and motions me to a table. "We're going to need to take a look at this," he tells me, pulling on a glove.

He starts going through my things, heading straight for the suspicious void. It doesn't take him long to find it.

It is a hardback copy of Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban.

"Ah, Potter," he says quite seriously. "The only thing scarier is two Bibles on top of each other."

So to all you traveling to your turkeys by airplane, fly with confidence that the TSA is keeping us safe from the twin horrors of Harry Potter and those who double-pack Bibles.

November 19, 2007


Yesterday I bought a wee purple jumper from the baby girl clothes section.

But only after making sure February sits well within the store's window for returns.

I must have picked up that dress (so cute! so tiny!) and put it back down ten times before realizing IT'S JUST A PIECE OF CLOTHING. An Ethica SWAT team will not come banging down my door because I dared buy a dress for a girl who is not yet (and may never be) my daughter.

I have never regretted our decision to start our family via adoption. But it sure can make me crazy in the head sometimes.

November 16, 2007


I've been on a business trip this week, working my cute little ass off and missing my boys. Meanwhile all sorts of disturbing, blog-worthy things were happening on the internets. Oh, my.

I'm back home today, thinking about our outing with Ms B tomorrow (she's meeting Puppy for the first time) and what to feed the nine people coming for dinner (I was nuts to put those two things on the same day). Puppy is putting his wooden train cars into a teakettle.

Just wanted to pop in to say hello. I am nodding along with so many of you as I catch up on my blog reading.

November 12, 2007

Just clearing something up...

Open records are not the same as reunion. And open records are not the same as open adoption.

Open records are about information. Open adoption and reunion are about ongoing contact. Having information doesn't automatically equal having contact.

Open records don't force anyone--first parents or adopted adults-- into unwanted relationships. And they certainly don't force potential adoptive parents into open adoptions. They just let adoptees know the identities of their birth parents. Knowing someone's name is not the same as having a relationship with that person. Just ask any adoptee or first parent who has searched only to have the door slammed in their face.

Conflating these issues whenever the subject of open records comes up is a favorite tactic of some major players in the adoption world:

Nationwide, one of the major foes of open records is the National Council for Adoption, which represents many religiously affiliated adoption agencies. Its president, Thomas Atwood, says any reconnection between an adopted adult and a birthparent should be by mutual consent — which is the policy in most states.

“I empathize with anybody who feels the need to know their biological parents’ identity,” Atwood said. “But I don’t think the law should enable them to force themselves on someone who has personal reasons for wanting confidentiality.” (source, emphasis added)

I actually agree with Mr. Atwood on one point: any relationships between adults should be by mutual consent. But open records don't preclude that. Trying to force someone into a relationship is called harassment, and there are already laws against that. Giving adopted adults access to information about their origins makes contact possible, but it doesn't make it mandatory. Mr. Atwood makes it sound like open record laws give adoptees a free pass to stalk their biological parents.

If you are a supporter of open records, check to see if your local paper ran the AP story today about the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute report on open records. Leave a comment on the newspaper's website or write a letter to the editor. This is a chance for us to affect public opinion and encourage follow-up stories in the media.

November 11, 2007

Review: "I Love You More"

My parents-in-law are unbelievably the slightest bit competitive. So when they sent Puppy a copy of the well-known book "Guess How Much I Love You," T and I exchanged a chuckle. Let's just say that the daddy rabbit's constant one-upsmanship every time his baby rabbit tries to say how much he loves him would fit right in my husband's family.

Which is why I was so glad to crack open the review copy of "I Love You More" with Puppy and discover a story celebrating how nice it can be for a parent and child to give and receive expressions of love.

The story begins with a little boy taking a walk with his mother. "'Mommy, just how much do you love me?'" he asks. She is quick with her answers...
I love you higher than the highest bird ever flew.
I love you taller than the tallest tree ever grew.
At the end of the mom's declarations of love, her son whispers "'[K]now what mommy?...I love you more!'" And here is where the neat little gimmick comes in: you flip the book over and do it all again from the little boy's point of view.
Walking along a path one day, a mother turned to her son and asked, "So, just how much do you love me?" Ready for the question, the little boy took her hand and began...

I love you quieter than the quietest caterpillar ever creeped.
I love you further than the furthest frog ever leaped.
It is a sweet and creative book perfect for reading with your kiddo snuggled on your lap. Puppy enjoys the dual sides, what he calls the "Mommy side" and "baby side." And I enjoy showing him that the most meaningful expressions of love are reciprocal, not competitive.

My only complaint is that the typeface was a bit distracting. But that is a tiny nitpick about a book which more often than not has Puppy saying when we reach the middle/end, "Read it 'gain, Mommy."

Listed for ages 9-12, but my guess is that should be moved down several years (Puppy enjoys it now at age two). The mother and son are both Caucasian.

(written by Laura Duksta, illustrated by Karen Keesler, Sourcebooks, Inc., 2007)

November 08, 2007

Eight Random Things About Me

I've been tagged for the eight random things meme by Natryn and MrsEGallagher. Here goes!

Rules: Once tagged, you must link to the person who tagged you. Then post the rules before your list, and list 8 random things about yourself. At the end of the post, you must tag and link to 8 other people, visit their sites, and leave a comment letting them know they’ve been tagged.

  1. I have a weird habit of holding my breath when I read. I don't notice I'm doing it, but it drove my mom nuts when I was little.

  2. Like Robin Sparkles, I have spent time wearing spandex and sequins in a mall. During my senior year of high school I was part of a little group of performers chosen to visit our town's sister city in Japan. We spent two weeks touring, staying with host families, and performing more times than I'd like to admit in a giant shopping mall. The opening act was a teen who sang country songs. We were a fresh-faced, all-American dance squad. The thought that pictures exist from those performances kind of horrifies me now.

  3. I make a mean chocolate chip cookie.

  4. I'm terrible at spending gift certificates. I get super excited about receiving them, then hang onto them for years. It really makes no sense.

  5. I dig long walks, but hate jogging.

  6. I've worn glasses since I was four years old. Apparently when I walked out of the ophthalmologist's office with them on for the first time, I stopped dead in my tracks and said, "Mommie! The trees have leaves!"

  7. I kind of dread talking on the telephone for reasons I can't explain (not because they're secret but because I don't really understand them myself). So I'm sucky at returning people's calls, even when I really want to talk to them.

  8. One summer I worked in the laundry room of a camp for a bit. Ever since then doing the laundry has been a peaceful, relaxing task for me. Which reminds me, I need to go move a load into the dryer.
I'm not so good at the tagging thing and lots of you have done this one already. How about this: if you're already hard up for a NaBloPoMo post idea consider yourself tagged.

November 06, 2007

Why Open Records Still Matter in Open Adoption

There is a single copy of Puppy's original birth certificate in the fire-safe box in my office. Because both of his first parents continue to be part of his life he also has access to whatever information they will share with him about his origins.

For awhile I thought that was enough. I thought that the openness in our adoption negated his personal need for open records. If Puppy had his first parents in his life in the flesh, why would he need to see their names on a piece of paper? Open records would just give him access to information that he already had, and while I supported open records in principle I was grateful my little guy didn't need them. I thought it was ridiculous that the state sealed those records, but ultimately unimportant.

Then I started thinking about his life as an adult. And I thought about trying to nurture openness in his adoption. And I realized open records were actually very important.

At the most basic level, I believe Puppy has a civil right to the legal record of his birth. Adult Puppy should be able to contact the State of California and receive copies of both of his birth certificates--original and amended. The fact that he cannot is simple discrimination. He shouldn't have to rely on my fire-safe box or on K and R's willingness to share information with him. There is already quite a bit of informal privilege denied adopted persons. But this denial is codified into state law. And, as an adoptive parent, that pisses me off.

I also began to see how sealing records works against those of us advocating for open adoption. They are simply an outdated and unwarranted part of adoption. Closed records arose in most states within my parents' lifetime. (Closed records--available to no one--are distinguished from confidential records, which are available to involved parties but not the general public.) They were premised on the idea that adopted children needed to be protected from the wayward parents who conceived them and the stigma of illegitimacy. First parents needed to hide their shameful secret from prying eyes. Adoptive parents needed to be able to pretend they were a biological family. Sealing birth records provided a legal framework for all these purposes.

Maintaining closed records perpetuates those stigmas and, in doing so, works against open adoption. Closed records play into the fiction that there is something shameful in adoptees' pasts, something which needs to be hidden away for everyone's protection. They reinforce the idea that first parents should disappear into the shadows after relinquishment if they know what's best for them and their child. They suggest to adoptive parents that the only way to be their child's real parent is to see themselves as replacements for the biological parents. Those are baneful ideas in open adoption.

Keeping records closed perpetuates the myth that open adoption is a fringe movement, flirting with the potentially dangerous idea of not cutting adoptees off from their families of origin. Closed records and the system built around them are why so many people ask, "Isn't it confusing?" and "Doesn't it make you nervous?" when they hear about open adoption. Because they've picked up the notion that the only way adoption can really work is to erase one family completely and create another in its place, shrouded in secrecy and anonymity.

So I advocate for open records for two reasons: because adult adoptees are being denied their rights and because I care about open adoption. The openness in Puppy's adoption doesn't change the fact that the State of California still treats him as a second-class citizen. And there are far too many others--including Puppy's first mom, also an adoptee--who have neither the openness nor the access. That is wholly unfair.


You're killing me with your NaBloPoMo, friends. My feed reader is stuffed to the gills each day. Couple that with being swamped at work and you've got yourself one quiet blog.

Although I'm (clearly) not participating in NaBloPoMo, I am working my own little challenge: National Blog Commenting Month.

The best part of NaBloCoMo is that you get to make up your own rules. My personal challenge is to leave at least one comment each day somewhere that I normally wouldn't. So either on a new blog I've discovered or somewhere I've been lurking. I'm generally pretty shy about commenting and I'm hoping this force me to leave better, more frequent, and more substantive comments.
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