February 27, 2011

Headed to BlogHer?

Adoption Bloggers @ BlogHer 2011Do you blog about adoption? Are you headed to the BlogHer conference in San Diego this summer? We want to know!

We're gathering a list of any and all adoption bloggers who will be there, to help us find each other. I'd hate to head home only to find out I had missed my chance to meet one of you! So add your name to the list and grab a badge for your blog.

(Since there is often bloggy crossover, just wanted to point out that there is a list going for special needs parenting bloggers, too.)

February 24, 2011

Shared Sight

Beth (Mari's first mom) came over on Saturday to visit and bring Mari a birthday gift. She had decided that she'd rather have some quiet time with Mari for her birthday than join in the bigger family celebration the weekend prior. We were glad she knew that about herself and that she trusted us enough to tell us. And, honestly, it was nice to have the time with just her instead of in the middle of a larger group.

We stayed home, made some pizza together, and just hung out. Eddie was feeling under the weather so he headed upstairs to nap fairly early on. It was the three adults and Mari, Mari loving her status as only kid in the room. (Oh, the woes of the second child.) She took Beth on a tour of her new "big kid" room. She jumped on her tiny trampoline, a birthday present. She was just her own adorable, chatty self, at home in a familiar place among familiar faces.

Saturday afternoon was one of those too-rare occasions when I could sit back and enjoy Marian. The day had already been set aside to spend with Beth, so there were no competing demands on my time. Poor Eddie was asleep, eliminating the need to referee the kids' interactions. Beth was there to visit Mari, so she didn't mind that everyone was Mari-focused.

I can't speak for all parents, but I know Todd and I see our children with biased eyes. When we spout the clich├ęs about Eddie and Mari being the two most interesting, captivating children we've ever met, we actually mean it. We delight in learning more about therm. And I'm perfectly aware that others don't think they're as amazing as Todd and I do. Even their grandparents don't have quite the same fascination. It's a parent thing.

The whole afternoon, Beth couldn't take her eyes off of Mari, couldn't stop laughing at her antics. At one point, as Mari sat feeding her baby doll, Beth said with a happy sigh, "I could just sit here and watch her all day long." I remembered then that here was the third person who shares Todd's and my bias, who sees her through the eyes of a parent. And it felt wonderful to be sharing that together, to be sitting in a room full of adults who wanted nothing more in that moment than to watch Mari.

This is the unique possibility of open adoption, at least one manifestation of it: that we had the joy of being with someone who enjoys this little girl just as much. Someone who sees her through the same adoring eyes.

* I know I need to finish this story. I'm awful. Awful.

February 21, 2011


Dear Marian,

Last week you turned three years old. You thought your birthday happened on Sunday past, the day we celebrated with family, and we did nothing to discourage that idea. So on Tuesday, the actual day, it was just me quietly remembering that night you reluctantly came into this world.

When I asked you what sort of birthday party you'd like to have you didn't even hesitate: "An orange party." You gave no further details about your vision of orange, except to request "chocolate cake with orange frosting and sprinkles." So we filled the dining room with orange--flowers, balloons, ribbons, paper cutouts on the walls. We made your favorite meatballs and tucked orange carrots by their side, found an orange cloth to spread on the table and told our guests to dig through their closets for orange to wear. And, yes, there was a chocolate cake with orange frosting and sprinkles. You loved it all.

You exploded into toddlerhood this year. You chatter and sing at home, clamber up onto the couch to listen to books, and slowly but surely climb into your own car seat and dining chair. The first things you look for in any room are baby dolls to cuddle and other people's unattended shoes to try. Away from home you are still quiet and observant. You want us close by, your unofficial bodyguards in a world filled with children and people with whom you aren't quite yet interested in interacting.

Mari, I want to remember the way you bounce up and down like a jumping bean, singing songs you learned at toddler time. I want to remember how you lean your whole self into me when you hug and the way my arms wrap all the way around you. I want to remember your love for rice. I want to remember how you wiggle with laughter and clap your hands when I carry you to the mirror after hair time. I want to remember the way you say "pen-gu-in" with three syllables. I want to remember how wonderfully interesting you find the world, as long as we are there to hold your hand.

I know you won't remember much of these years. The specifics of your days, the routines and items that are so important to you now will fade into fuzzy, half-remembered impressions. But I hope you carry with you always the memory of how deeply you were known and loved by your family near and far, how from the moment you entered the world  you were surrounded by people who became family to each other because of you, who will forever call you beloved.

With love,

February 16, 2011

Meet Racilous of Adoption in the City

Our second interviewee in the "meet the open adoption bloggers" series is Racilous of Adoption in the City. She jumped into the blogging world in September. I love finding her thoughtful reflections on her open adoption experience in my feed reader.

Please take a few minutes to get to know Racilous and leave her a comment!

February 14, 2011


A lovely editor from Adoptive Families magazine emailed me last week with the news they that they're including this here blog in their first-ever list of twenty top adoption blogs. Wow, right? I'm hugely honored to be included. The whole list will be published in the upcoming March/April issue. Many, many thanks to AF!

I don't know anything about how the list will be presented, but I'm crossing my fingers that it mentions all of you Open Adoption Bloggers. By the by, I am making a mess of that page lately trying to give its own look. (Click the link to see, if you dare. It's pathetic, I know.) I have to work within the confines of my blog template, so there's only so much I can do, but truthfully my nonexistent coding and graphic design skills are the true limiting factors. So I'm in that frustrating place of knowing it could look better, but that I don't know how to make it look better. Meanwhile my fiddling has (a) made my blog look goofy on Internet Explorer and (b) thrown my template columns out of alignment, which is driving me batty.

If that last bit made your eyes glaze over, just ignore it. Heavens knows I want to ignore it at this point. Would that I had the talent or the money to make it stunning.

What well-intentioned project have you made a mess of lately?

February 13, 2011

Briefly Standing On My Soapbox

I usually try to be vague about where we live, for the sake of my family's privacy. But I'm making an exception today for a political issue (gasp! politics!) that's very dear to me as an adoptive parent.

It's not exactly a secret that we live in the Pacific Northwest. I grew up here and returned a few years ago with a spouse and child in tow after a long stint out-of-state. Marian, in fact, is our family's sole native Northwesterner, having been born in Oregon.

When Mari grows up she'll be able to request and receive a copy of her original birth certificate, no strings attached, just like everyone else born in Oregon. (Her original certificate being the one issued prior to her adoption, the one that names Beth as the mother who gave birth to her on that warm February day.) She has that right because of the work done over a decade ago by supporters of Ballot Measure 58, a voter initiative that restored Oregon-born adult adoptees' access to their original birth certificates.

A new bill introduced by Speaker of the House Dave Hunt--HB 2843--threatens to effectively repeal Measure 58. It would require birth parents to submit a consent form to the state before adoptees could have a copy of their birth certificate. I don't know about you, but I don't need my parents' permission to get my birth certificate.

Simply put, I care about open records because I believe that restricting Eddie and Mari's access to their birth certificates is a violation of their civil rights. As an adoptive parent and a supporter of openness in adoption, I also care about open records because I believe that locking pre-adoption birth certificates away perpetuates the myth that there is something shameful about adoption--that having been adopted, having placed a child for adoption or being a family formed by adoption is something that needs to be kept hidden. Closed records keep those stigmas alive. (The way we amend birth certificates is a whole 'nother issue, but let's stay focused, shall we?)

If you live in Oregon or have a direct connection to adoption in Oregon and don't want to see Measure 58 repealed, please courteously and positively write (rep.davehunt@state.or.us) or call (503-986-1900) Rep. Hunt and state your support for Measure 58 as it stands. Measure 58 is working. It has been recognized as model legislation. Ten thousand Oregon-born adoptees have requested their pre-adoption birth certificates since the law took effect. Ten thousand! Oregonians should be proud of Measure 58, not trying to dismantle it.

For more information, follow the new Oregon Adoptee Rights blog and sign up to receive updates. You can also follow them on Facebook.

ETA: Great news! Representative Hunt's office dropped the bill on Monday after listening to advocates who brought information into his office last week and doing more research into the issue and the potential ramifications of the bill. (It was presented originally at the request of a constituent.)

February 07, 2011

Wherein My Children Argue Like They're On the Internet


Sunshine streams through a large bay window on a casual living space in a family's home. The room is comfortable and warm; toys are scattered across a large open play space on the floor. A two-year old GIRL sits eating a snack of yogurt at a dining table, her back to a five-year old BOY playing with Legos or similar building toy on the floor ten feet away. He is turned sideways to the girl, not looking at her. The scene is calm. Both children are happily focused on what is in front of them.

Throughout the scene the children neither look nor move toward one another.

Look at what I made! I spent a long time working on this, so don't touch it.

I have yogurt!

You're not looking. Are you looking? Don't break it. I spent a long time on this.

(not looking, her back still toward BOY)
I see it, brother. I touch it.

No! Don't touch it! I'm hitting you.

The children are still ten feet apart, where they began the scene, focused on the snack or toy in front of them while talking to one another. They do not look at each other even as their voices rise. GIRL continues eating, BOY continues playing.


I'm hitting you!

Stop hitting me! Stop hitting me, brother!

(not even miming the action)
I hit you! I hit you!

Noooooo! Mommy! Mommmmmmyyyyy!

I didn't do anything.



February 03, 2011

The Julie Project

An award-winning, eighteen-year project by photographer Darcy Padilla has been making the internet rounds this week after cropping up on Metafilter. The Julie Project documents pieces of Julie Baird's life from her days as a nineteen-year old new mother to her death this past autumn from complications of AIDS. She wasn't even two years older than I am.

Julie with her eldest daughter
It's brutal to take it all in, in that confrontational way statistics have when they become embodied in a single human story.

Writes Ms Padilla:
I first met Julie on February 28, 1993. Julie, 19, stood in the lobby of the Ambassador Hotel, barefoot, pants unzipped, and an 8 day-old infant in her arms. She lived in San Francisco’s SRO district, a neighborhood of soup kitchens and cheap rooms. Her room was piled with clothes, overfull ashtrays and trash. She lived with Jack, father of her first baby Rachael, and who had given her AIDS. She left him months later to stop using drugs.
Her first memory of her mother is getting drunk with her at 6 and then being sexually abused by her stepfather. She ran away at 14 and became drug addict at 15. Living in alleys, crack dens, and bunked with more dirty old men than she cared to count.
For the last 18 years I have photographed Julie Baird’s complex story of multiple homes, AIDS, drug abuse, abusive relationships, poverty, births, deaths, loss and reunion. Following Julie from the backstreets of San Francisco to the backwoods of Alaska.
I don't dare comment too much off the cuff on something so multi-layered. But I wanted to point you to it because it's not just a project about addiction and AIDS and inescapable poverty. It's about a child who wasn't adequately protected from abuse. Who grew up to have five of her own six children removed from her care by the state and eventually adopted. And into that comes a story of an opened adoption, a son who entered foster care at birth meeting his birth parents after his adoptive parents track them down through the photographer.
Julie's son with his first dad
This is a woman many might want to diminish, might label a "birth person" or worse. Looking at the facts, some might doubt her maternal love; after all, her children were variously removed due to abuse and neglect, raised in deplorable conditions, born addicted to drugs. They were hurt. I have listened to those who would say a mother like her doesn't deserve to know anything about the children she lost, that she isn't stable or healthy enough for contact to be anything but damaging. Yet against those voices is the a recording of a little boy saying goodbye to his first mother days before she dies,* his small voice breaking as he says, "Mom...thank you for having me...Mom, Mom... I love you."

Four of her other children won't have that chance.

Neither of my children were adopted from foster care, but there are elements of Julie's story that parallel parts of the complex history that led to one of their placements. Perhaps that is why I am not able to stop thinking about Julie as a child, her life in the margins, the children who were there with her, her son's first letter to her.

It is never not complicated.

* I'm conflicted about something that intimate being public, since her son is so young. I wonder how he will feel about that years from now. That said, the recording is undeniably moving.
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