December 31, 2011

The Top Ten of 2011

It's time to look back at the ten most popular posts from 2011. I left out Open Adoption Bloggers projects (roundtable prompts, blogger interviews, interview project, etc.), since people visit those posts for the sake of finding writing by someone other than me!

December 29, 2011

Review: The Magic Room

My mama's dress
I suppose I should confess upfront that I've never been shopping for a wedding dress. I had always liked my mother's wedding gown, so when Todd and I got engaged and it turned out that her dress fit me, I considered that item easily crossed off my planning list. (My mother and I both, in turn, would have killed to wear my grandmother's stunning 1940s wedding dress. But she, ever the practical WWII-era bride, cut it off soon after the wedding and gave it a second life a cocktail dress. Darn frugality.)

The latest read in the BlogHer Book Club is The Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow. The "magic" mirror-lined room of the title, where brides go to pose in potential dresses, is found upstairs at family-owned Becker's Bridal in tiny Fowler, Michigan. Zaslow alternates the story of four generations of Becker family store workers (this was the most interesting part, for me) with profiles of recent brides who visited the store.

Prior to reading, I wondered if my lack of wedding dress shopping experience might make it hard for me to connect with the book. But in the end it was the author himself who was the stumbling block. I never got past his disdain for women who had sex or even (gasp!) children prior to marriage (They shouldn't wear white? Are you kidding me?); his near-fetishization of four sisters who chose not to kiss anyone until engaged or married; his unexamined fondness for a "traditional" past in which daughters deferred to their parents and people stayed married, no matter how awful those marriages were. Nor could I get past the total lack of acknowledgement of the women who were glaringly absent: no bride (or family member, for that matter) is gay in this book, nor (from what I could tell from the pictures) are there any people of color.

In his opening, Zaslow said that he wanted to write about love between parents and daughters. A look at societal changes in various individuals' and families' attitudes around marriage could have been an interesting way to go about that. Instead, the book struck me as judgmental and shallow, celebrating only a narrow set of values and experiences.

Disclosure: This post is compensated as part of the BlogHer Book Club. I got $20 and a book--whoo!

December 28, 2011

Open Adoption Roundtable #33

A straightforward prompt for the end of the year:

What did you learn about open adoption in 2011?

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don't need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you're thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points--please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

Write a response at your blog--linking back here so your readers can browse other participating blogs--and share your post in the comments here. Using a previously published post is fine; I'd appreciate it if you'd add a link back to the roundtable. If you don't blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.


Excerpts from the responses (so far):

Kate (adoptive mom) in the comments section: "Finally, I realized that I love my daughter's birthparents. Not 'love them 'cause they made me a mom', not 'love them 'cause they're my daughter's birthparents', but actually love these two people for the human beings they are. Huge to realize this. I think it's the essence of family - love without a reason for loving."

Sparklejenna (adoptive mom): "This sums up another thing I have learned through the process of open adoption, and that is that our children don't belong to us, no matter how they come in to our lives. They are these amazing little beings of the universe and we are just lucky to have the opportunity to be a part of their unfolding."

Debbie (first mom) @ Complicated Debbie: "I've learned that my heart is capable of breaking daily over the same things."

Racilous (first mom) @ Adoption in the City: "I think from all the stories I’ve heard this year, all the people I’ve met, I have opened my mind to the far reaches of what adoption can look like. And I am finding a way to not only understand that different isn’t bad, but I have learned that those who may approach things differently than me can teach me a lot if I only open my eyes and pay attention."

Elizabeth (pre-adoptive parent) @ Happy Adoption Story: "This adoption process is going to make me a better person. It already has. I have, in the past, allowed my own insecurities, my tendency to be overly-sensitive, and just plain hurt feelings, make me angry at others. I am quickly realizing that there really isn't going to be much room for that when it comes to this adoption."

Katie (pre-adoptive parent) @ Removing Roadblocks: "This is a big one-I want to spend time with our child's birthmother and her son. They are super-fun to be around and easy to get along with."

Lynn @ (adoptive mom) Open Hearts Open Minds: This year, I learned that relationships in an open adoption, as with any type of relationship, are fluid and evolving.

I am (first dad) @ Statistically Impossible: "I don't have it all worked out. I don't know where this adoption process is going. And I'm not afraid. That's just how relationships go. We never know where they're headed, and in truth, I think I'm glad of that."

Robyn (adoptive mom) @ The Chittister Family: "So, what did I learn about open adoption in 2011? I guess I learned more about what open adoption is like through other people’s eyes."

K (first mom) @ 100 Letters to You: "I hadn't really realized just how much my relationship with O's parents had changed until I started reading through the emails we sent just prior and right after O's birth. We were EXTREMELY close at the time. And now, well, we're just not. But it's a good change for us, and I think we're both pretty comfortable with where we are."

Amy (first mom) @ Ramblings from Real Life: "I learned that open adoption never gets any easier when it comes to emotions. I think that in the past almost eight years I have learned what my emotional triggers are, but there are some that will always pop up that I am not aware of."

MommySquared (adoptive mom) @ Our journey to parenthood and the years that follow: "Also, we did learn never, never close the door on a relationship! We kept that door open never closing it for the possibility of meeting up with our older daughter's birth father...and this summer we reconnected in person spending the day with him, his wife and his daughter during our family visit to Minnesota where he lives and our daughter was born."

Monika (first mom) @ Monika's Musings: "But I learned there is more power in me than I thought. I did more letting go this year in my relationship with my daughter & her parents. This is not to say that I'm abandoning the relationship. However, I'm worrying just a little bit less that the investing I've done in the relationship will be for naught."

Kelly (adoptive mom) @ Making Monkey Soup: "We still haven’t come to a place where we have decided one way or another to open our adoption, but I know that I have people out there who can be a resource for us, and a support group of other parents who have been successful in opening what had been closed foster care adoptions. Just learning that there are families out there who have been able to make an open adoption happen, when the social workers have stated they thought it would be better to keep things closed, makes me feel that my gut feelings about opening our adoption up could work."

Jenna (first mom) @ The Chronicles of Munchkin Land: "But it comes down to this: I won’t apologize for my family. I won’t change how we do things just to make you feel better. I won’t quit doing what I’m doing just so you feel better about the path your life journey has taken."

KatjaMichelle (first mom) @ Therapy is Expensive: "Lesson 2: I have a voice and I need to use it."

Venessa (adoptive mom) @ A Journey of Love: "I am so thankful for that we still have a relationship with the birth mom and birth father. I want them to continue to be part of our daughters story. So no matter what, I will do what I can to make this relationship work. Many people dont agree with me or my husband on this but again, it is our adoption and only we know what is best for us in this situation."

Barb Sobel (first mom) @ Sideshow Barb: "Finally, at 38, I discovered that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. My Jr High math teacher would be proud. Aristotle, too. And my therapist."

DrSpouse (pre-adoptive parent) @ What am I?: "It is possible to be too open - I had a very early lesson in how even seemingly innocuous information can be misinterpreted."

Karen (adoptive mom) @ Karen's Adoption Journey: "Seeing those photos, I realized with a clarity that had escaped me prior to that moment that we did not leave his family behind in Ethiopia. Despite the hardships of distance and communication, we are not two separate families, but rather one large one, joined by our love for one little boy."

Danielle (first mom) @ Another Version of Mother: "I will always be a 'birthmother'. I cannot take back anything that happened to me almost a decade ago. A thought that both comforts me and renders me feeling so helpless that I wish I could crawl into bed and sleep forever."

Amber (adoptive mom) and Ashley (first mom) @ Bumber's Bumblings: "I've been thinking about where to go with this topic for a few days and when Ashley, B's birth mom came for a visit today, it popped into my head. I know you have so enjoyed hearing from her in the few blogs she has written or participated with me on. I randomly asked her the question above today."

Cat (adoptive mom) @ Cat's Litterbox: "If you would have asked me a year ago, if I thought our relationship with his side of our family would be what it is, I would have said no. I didn't think it was possible... but I was also basing my opinions on the way L acted in May and June. She was upset and scared and lashed out and I'm just thankful that we were all able to get past that."

Geochick (adoptive mom) @ An Engineer Becomes a Mom: "It’s up to the adoptive parents to do the heavy lifting. First-parents get the short end of the stick when it comes to adoption. They are often written off as horrible people, after all who would give away their baby? The horrors! That’s not true, but if you’re hearing from home, from your friends, from society in general to forget about the baby and move on, wouldn’t you feel tentative about initiating conversations with the adoptive parents? It’s up to the adoptive parents to reach out and indicate that contact is welcome. "

Kristin (adoptive mom) @ Parenthood Path: "The fact is, D does have two mothers, two mommies. But this was a new test, and I found that sometimes my heart (and insecurities?) makes it a challenge to practice what I preach. That was something important that I learned about my open adoption in 2011."

Meghann (adoptive mom) @ Everyday Miracles: "In 2011 I learned that our everyday life has very little to do with open adoption and is, at the same time, imbued with it. The things we do—going to the library, feeding the ducks at the park, grocery shopping, playing, cooking, reading together, eating, bathing, breathing, sleeping…—none of these has the least to do with adoption. But if it weren’t for adoption, we wouldn’t have anyone to do them with. That realization is constant, even though I am not constantly—consciously—thinking about adoption."

Momo Meg (adoptive mom) @ Momosapien: "I’ve pushed myself to be very clear in my communication with LB’s mom, and to communicate even things that feel challenging to me. As our contact has ebbed and flowed this year, I’ve also given myself a chance to notice those patterns and recognize that they likely have more to do with the cycles in our lives than with anything we have or haven’t done. I’ve attempted to be more present and authentic when we interact, instead of being overwhelmed and nervous."

Camille (adoptive mom) @ Embracing the Odyssey: "Your feelings as an adoptive parent aren’t so important when compared with what is best for your child. And so I know this may offend some folks, but it’s important enough to risk ridicule. I’ve got to say, I don’t understand the people I’ve met who are actively seeking closed adoptions when so much evidence (blogs, testimonials, research studies, etc.) points to the benefits of open relationships."

Coley (first mom) @ Living the Bittersweet Life: "I have learned that the time I have spent cultivating a relationship with Charlie before he was old enough to even reciprocate it was not in vain. He is well aware of who I am and our bond. I now think that had I not invested time and energy into our relationship from the very beginning he might not be as comfortable with me as he is."

Ginnie (first mom) @ Momma's Word Soup: "When we left that lunch I felt like that big weight with "Less Than" stamped on it had been magically lifted from me. I am not Less Than anyone. I am actually More Than many people. I may even be More Than Baby Girl's APs in some ways."

December 27, 2011

Announcing Best of Open Adoption Blogs 2011

The last week of December is always a little quiet on the internet. Folks take time off to catch their breath after the holidays. Sites publish all sorts of "best of" lists for everything from movies to toys. Bloggers look back over the year and sum up a year's worth of writing. Over at Stirrup Queens, Melissa Ford even puts together a "Creme de la Creme" list of infertility bloggers' favorite posts from the year (watch for it on January 1).

I thought it could be fun to work together on a "best of" compilation for open adoption writing for 2011. Put our minds together to collect our most powerful, intriguing, moving, thought-provoking, or just plain well-written pieces about open adoption from the year in one place.

So, without further ado, I announce the (hopefully) first annual Best of Open Adoption Blogs list for 2011!

This is a spread-the-love exercise. In order to submit one of your own posts from 2011 (don't be shy--every blogger has something worth submitting), you  need to also nominate a post written by someone else. Most of us are here online because we've been affected by others' writing. This is a chance to pat another writer on the back and tell them how much we appreciate them sharing their lives and thoughts with us. If you don't blog yourself, that's fine. You can still submit something written by someone else.

Use the online form to make your submissions. The list will go up in two weeks, on January 10. I'll continue to add submissions through January 31; in order to have your items included on January 10, be sure to submit them by January 7.

Now, to anticipate some questions:

How do I submit items?

Just fill out the submission form. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

What are the deadlines?

The list will go live on January 10. Anything submitted by January 7 will be included when the list is published on January 10.  The form will stay open through January 31 and I'll add items as they come in. So, in short: January 7 is the initial deadline, January 31 is the final deadline.

How many pieces can I submit?

Just one written by you and one written by someone else from 2011. I know it's hard to pick just one piece out of the entire year, but give it your best shot. What this year moved you, got you thinking, or simply floored you with lovely writing?

I don't have a blog or I don't want to submit one of my own posts. Can I still nominate someone else's writing?

Of course! Just enter "N/A" on the form wherever it asks for information about your blog.

Can I submit one of my own posts without nominating someone else?

Sorry, no. We're celebrating our own excellent writing and spreading the love to others. This is an opportunity to point others to writers they may not have discovered yet.

I'd like to nominate an essay about open adoption that I read on the New York Times website. Is that okay?

Sure! It can be any sort of online writing: something written for a magazine, newspaper, commercial website, or someone's personal blog. It just needs to be (a) available to link to in full online, (b) about open adoption in some way, and (c) originally published between January 1 and December 31, 2011.

Is the list judged or will everyone be included?

This is a come one, come all affair--the more the merrier. No voting or panel of judges. I reserve the right to not include an item if I suspect someone isn't honoring the spirit of the project, but I really doubt I'll need to do that.

So look back through those archives for the year and pick out your favorite posts--one written by you and one written by someone else. No matter how big or small the list turns out to be this year, I'm excited to see what wonderful-ness is on it.

December 25, 2011

Christmas Wishes

To those who are celebrating Christmas today, may your time be marked by the simplicity of his birth and the magnitude of his purpose.

To everyone who reads here, whether it's a day of celebration or not for you, may you know peace and joy--today and every day. I am so very, very grateful for you.

Photo credit: fras1977 under Creative Common license

December 20, 2011

Christmas with the Preschooler

Eddie is very into gift giving this Christmas. Very. He sat down a few weeks ago and made a careful  list of everyone he wanted to give gifts to, then had me take him around shopping. When we got together with my family last night for a little early Christmas celebration with my brother and sister-in-law he excitedly brought over all the presents we had for them to open before he even remembered they would have things for him, too. It's a nice change from a couple of years ago, when toddler Eddie saw Christmas as little more than an orgy of presents, all for him, him, him!

Mari isn't quite there yet. She's old enough to start experiencing the joy of giving, but if allowed to make her own selections she'd pick out baby dolls for everyone and be done with it. Surely everyone wants a baby doll, right? So her gift process this year looked something more like this: right before ordering a pair of slippers for Todd, I showed them to her and asked if she'd like to give them to Daddy as her Christmas present. "Sure!" she agreed. Rinse and repeat for everyone else in our family.

The Mari plan has its flaws. The other day Todd conspiratorially called her over to the laptop and showed her something on the screen. "Do you want to give these to Mama for Christmas?" he asked.

"Oh, Daddy!" she cried out happily. "That's what I got for you!"

December 19, 2011

Anticipated Memories

In a few days, we'll head out to the train station to pick up Mari's first mom, Beth. We will exchange gifts, see some pretty holiday light displays, have dinner with my parents.

Later that evening we'll pile onto the big couch in the family room and pop Elf in the DVD player. It's one of the Christmas movie greats, in my mind, with Buddy's unabashed certainty that he has a place both with the family into which he was born and the family in which he was raised.

This will be the third year we've done this little Christmas visit routine. It would be the fourth, had we not gotten snowed in on Mari's first Christmas. The familiarity of it, the feeling that we don't even have to plan it each year but rather just pick a date, makes me happy. And my favorite part of all is watching the movie together, comfortable and cozy and a little bit sleepy from a day of holiday fun. When we called Beth this year to iron out arrival times and such, she brought it up, too. "Oh, Elf! It's one of my favorite movies. I can't wait to watch it again with you guys."

I think of traditions as memories anticipated. I like that we're creating traditions with Beth, as simple as they are; memories that will be part of what Mari and Eddie's childhood.

Read other adoption bloggers' holiday memories at the latest open adoption roundtable

December 14, 2011

Open Adoption Roundtable #32

This topic is becoming something of an annual December tradition for the Open Adoption Bloggers! Last year we wrote about how open adoption intersects with our holiday traditions. Two years ago we wrote in general about open adoption and the holiday season.

This time we are going to focus in on one specific memory and record another small moment in the ongoing stories of adoption in our lives. Share a holiday memory that involves open adoption.

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don't need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you're thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points--please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

Write a response at your blog--linking back here so your readers can browse other participating blogs--and share your post in the comments here. Using a previously published post is fine; I'd appreciate it if you'd add a link back to the roundtable. If you don't blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.


Cindy (first mom) in comments shares how social media lets her witness her son's celebrations.

Amber (adoptive mom) @ Bumber's Bumblings writes about how meaningful it is to be included in one of her son's first family's annual traditions.

I Was Anne (adoptive mom) @ Tears of/and Joy recalls a poignant Christmas gift to her daughter from her first mom.

Cat (adoptive mom) @ Cat's Litterbox writes about making holiday gifts with her son for his birth families.

Debbie (adoptive and foster mom) @ Always and Forever Family talks about using Skype to open gifts "in person" and spending the holidays with her foster daughters' family.

Venessa (adoptive mom) @ A Journey of Love writes about picking out a gift for her daughter's first parents during this first year of the adoption.

Robyn (adoptive mom) @ The Chittister Family worries about the crises that hit her son's first family during this time of the year.

Racilous (first mom) @ Adoption in the City writes about her shifting thoughts about connecting her son with the holiday traditions from her childhood.

Amy (pre-adoptive parent) @ Jim and Amy Hoping to Adopt takes a moment to imagine what could be in future Christmases.

Momo Meg (adoptive mom) @ Momosapien recalls the bittersweetness of her first Christmas with her daughter, grappling with the emotional and physical distance from her first mom alongside her joy.

Jenna (first mom) @ The Chronicles of Munchkin Land looks back to the fear and hope of the first Christmas after placing her daughter.

Sonya (adoptive mom) @ The Dobbins Boys celebrates the mutual warmth and acceptance in the Christmas celebrations with her son's birth family.

Heather (adoptive mom) @ Production, Not Reproduction appreciates the comfort of familiar holiday rituals with her daughter's first mom.

Prabha (adoptive mom) @ Baby Steps to a Baby Dream reflects on the tiny shifts each year in her relationship with her daughters' first mom, dreaming of what could be in Christmases to come.

Tiffany (adoptive mom) @ Finding K shares how her new daughter's adoption represents hope and perseverance to her during this holiday season.

A Life Being Lived (first mom) @ Carrying a Cat by the Tail talks about the gift tradition she's started that will last throughout the years.

Gstf344 (adoptive mom) @ Heart Full of Love remembers a moment from her son's Christmas birth that is particularly special to her.

December 12, 2011

Another One for the Toolbox

I picked up this retort from a co-worker of mine last week and am pocketing it away for future use. Thought some of you might appreciate it as well.

Someone dropped that dreaded phrase, "I'm not a racist, but [insert racially loaded statement here]," and he came right back with, "Hm, I wonder someone who was  racist would think about that?"

December 06, 2011

Marking Her Territory

Marian's aunt--Todd's sister--is an artist with a penchant for thought-provoking installations and performance pieces in public spaces. I can only think Mari hopes to follow in her aunt's footsteps. She is in a streak of coloring on anything and everything, at every opportunity, clearly in an effort to remove the barriers between artwork and its audience by forcing an interaction within the context of the everyday experience.

Either that, or she is being a pesky three-year old. I prefer to think of her as an artist-in-training.

If a pen, pencil, crayon, or marker is on the loose and Mari goes silent, you can bet that you'll soon find something in the house all marked up. A partial list of things on which Marian has the last week:
  • Todd's guitar
  • Stair wall
  • Bathroom counter
  • Our bed sheets
  • Her bed sheets
  • Her bed
  • Preschool sign-in sheet
  • Preschool tables
  • Her medical forms
  • Eddie's bedroom door
  • Eddie's book
  • My bras
  • Family room cabinets
  • Herself
  • Her brother
  • The barrels of the markers themselves
She is in coloring lockdown, meaning she is only allowed to use writing implements with adult supervision. If you've ever tried to hide away every pen and pencil in a preschooler's life, however, you'll know how futile an effort it is.

In a similar (although much less destructive) streak with Eddie when he was little I sappily announced that love is slowly losing control of your tidy house and not minding one bit. As tired as I am of wiping marker off the wall, and as much as I'm looking forward to Mari eventually making better choices in this arena, there is still a part of me that wouldn't trade this for anything.

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