November 30, 2011

New OAB Blogs - November 2011

The open adoption blogs list grows every month and sometimes additions get lost among all the awesomeness. Hopefully these monthly round-ups of the new blogs from the month will help folks connect.

Here are the blogs added in November:

Living Through Today: Some days are good days. And some days you just have to live through. This is my journey through life as a birthmother.

Emotions of Adoption: This blog is for me to express how I feel and my thoughts of being a blind birth mother. Questions and comments are welcome.

Mandy Gets a (simple) Life: I am an adoptive mommy of 2, both from open adoptions.

Our Journey to New Heits: We are learning the art of parenting (God’s way), coupled with mastering the dance of open adoption. It’s exciting. It’s exhausting. It’s frustrating. It’s fulfilling. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s as God designed for our family. And it’s all right here.

Momosapien: Musings about my life as one of two white adoptive parents to a biracial daughter through transracial, domestic, open adoption. Documenting the life and times of this queer family.

Elizabethtown: I write about life with a biological son and an adoptive daughter--from dealing with poop to learning how to respond to folks who stare at our multi-ethnic family. I'm an adoption and orphan care advocate and really like comfortable shoes.

A Tale of These Four: We are parents to two of the most beautiful children through adoption. Both are open adoptions.

JessieJingles: Adoptive Mom shares happenings in our household. We have an open adoption with our eldest child's birth family. We are navigating our way into that relationship and life as a family.

Start Spreading the News...: We are so excited and ready to adopt a little bundle of joy, and are anxiously awaiting to witness our sweet little guys face to finally hold his baby brother or sister!

The Whine and Cheese Life: Reflections on parenthood, adoption and life with a preschooler.

Dearest Jessica: A blog about a family growing together though adoption from the foster care system. We cover regular parenting issues, attachment challenges, special needs children and the fun of everyday life!

One Urban Nest: The ongoing life chronicles of one queer family cohabiting in an urban nest. This family of five is led by two matriarchs, Gus and Otto. Our house is shared by three kidlets: an older sibling pair we adopted through a public, domestic adoption, and a wee baby conceived and born at home.

Finding K - A journey of love through infertility, cancer and open adoption: I am a 30-something woman living in SoCal who has faced infertility and ovarian cancer which eventually exposed me to the amazing world of open adoption. This is my personal story of faith and strength that led me to my newborn daughter, K, and the angelic birth parents who united our family.

Our Unconventional Oven: Follow us on our journey through open private adoption and foster care adoption.

Fearlessly Infertile: We're a military family that is pursuing domestic infant adoption. We're homestudy approved and less than a month away from going active with our agency.

Fortunes Full: My name is Lindsay and I'm a mom to two year old W, a wife and a mom-in-waiting to an open, domestic adoption. We're waiting to be chosen by a birth mother and documenting the process and emotions involved.

Ellen + Shelley's Adoption Adventure: Hi! You know that old adage "Opposites Attract"? Well, we are pretty much living proof of that. But despite our differences, we share many common beliefs and goals, one of which is our desire to grow our family through open adoption. So this is our story; a little bit nerdy, a little bit witty, probably a little bit angsty, but always full of love...

Happy Adoption Story: We are a happy, fun-loving family of 3 hoping to soon be a family of 4! I am writing this blog to document our adoption journey from the very beginning, and also to get the word out about our adoption plans.

Seeking Fatherhood: Two wanna-be dads' eye-opening, maddening, thrilling adventures in the foster care/adoption system in California.

Just Let Go: This blog chronicles our journey from recurrent pregnancy loss to domestic infant adoption. I rant, I rave, some people think I'm funny ;)

November 29, 2011

All I am Going To Say About That

Normally my wish (hope? want? desire?) for a third child is like winter rainfall in here in the Northwest: ever-present, occasionally annoying, mostly just a forgettable part of the background.

Lately it has been like a hurricane.

November 28, 2011

You Cannot Be Valedictorian of Everything

I'm traveling for work this week (hello, Los Angeles sunshine!). It means full days and missing home, but also stretching out in a quiet hotel bed with a novel at hand and no laundry or dishes waiting to be washed.

The thought of cracking open my laptop right now makes me cringe. (I am tip-tapping this out on my iPod; NaBloPoMo compels me.)

I had my roughly annual breakdown the other night, ugly crying into my pillow, exhausted by the responsibilities I carry right now, certain I am failing at all of them, fearful that the only value I have is in being found competent by others.

In the light of day I don't know if I better see reality or just better ignore it.

November 27, 2011

Three Beautiful Things #24

Another Sunday means another three beautiful things post, winter-is-arriving edition:
  1. Peanut butter toast. Enough said.

  2. My happy mittens:

  3. The arrival of Advent, with its rituals and scents and sights, that annual reminder that no matter how deep seems the darkness, how complete seems the silence, there is still yet hope.
What are you finding beautiful today?

November 26, 2011

In the Window

A little over one year ago, Eddie sat in the bay window of our front room, blinking into the sunlight as he waited and watched for his little sister (Kelly's daughter) and her (or, rather, their) grandparents to arrive.

"I have two sisters and you only have one brother!" he told Mari that morning.

By the next day I was kneeling before him to tell him he actually had two sisters and one brother, feeling his weight as he clung to my neck and thought about that new fact.

This morning he climbed into the bay window again. This time he waited for that little baby brother to come to our house, to play with our toys, clamber over his adoptive parents' laps, and laugh in the sunlight.

BabyBrother and his family were in our home--in our lives--in a real and wonderful way today. My heart is overflowing.

November 25, 2011

Anyone But You

There was an open adoption roundtable last year that asked what you don't want shared in your open adoption relationships. I started a response but never published it. In a nutshell, it said that there's not much I wouldn't want shared with me if it were shared honestly. If folks were willing to trust me with something, I would want to hear it. We all know that a relationship in which everyone just pretends everything is peachy keen is about as deep as a rain puddle, which is not what I want for our open adoptions.

Everything that is, except for this one thing.

I didn't ever want to know that one of the kids' first parents regretted placing their child with us. Us specifically, not adoption in general--not that they wished they hadn't placed their child at all, but that they wished they had chosen different adoptive parents. If Beth, Ray, or Kelly feel that way, they have every right to their feelings, I just want to live in ignorance. If there are issues to raise with me, raise them; specific things I could change, by all means let me know. But if deep down you feel that you picked the completely wrong parents for your child and nothing will ever change that, I hope I never know. It's hard to imagine any good coming out of knowing; I wouldn't know where to take a relationship from there.

Four months after that roundtable and the post I never published, we learned that Eddie had a little brother whom Kelly placed for adoption. And it felt like I was indirectly being told the thing I hoped never to hear.

I didn't know then, and still don't know now (nor do I think she has any obligation to tell me, to be clear) why she didn't ask us to raise BabyBrother. In my head I know there could be any number of reasons. But the deep, tender (and self-centered) part of me read it only as rejection of me and her decision to entrust Eddie to us in the first place. Because it is not that Kelly would never place another child for adoption, it's that she apparently did not want him adopted by us. She got her chance for a do-over and picked better this time around.

And that is what tears me up inside when I think about BabyBrother's adoption, what I'm still searching for a way to process: that if I had done something differently, said something differently, been someone different during the five years we knew Kelly before BabyBrother was born, that Eddie would have one of his biological siblings here with him, a brother in more ways than one. But she didn't want him with us.

There are very few true failures I feel I've had in my life, failures that couldn't somehow be at least partially made right. But this is one of them. And I've been astounded by how deeply it's shaken me.

(Again, I want to make it clear that my feelings are my own and I don't hold Kelly in any way responsible for them.  Nor am I questioning the decisions she made around BabyBrother, which she had every right to make completely independent from our family. This is about my emotional reaction to the adoption, which hit me intensely and has not lessened over time. This is me trying to understand it and process it for myself so that it doesn't affect my long-term relationship with my son's first mother. I owe it to Eddie to have the healthiest relationship I can with Kelly and this is work I need to do on my side in order to have that.)

November 24, 2011

The Simple Things

One of the nice things about having a six year old is that you've had enough years to turn repetition into tradition. This Thanksgiving morning the kids woke up all excited, knowing there were pumpkin cinnamon rolls baking and soon we'd sit around the table, gobbling down rolls and making our big thankfulness poster. This year we drew a row of handprint turkeys across the bottom and filled the rest with all sorts of people and things for which we're grateful.

This probably crosses into only-the-parents-find-it-amusing-please-put-away-that-seventieth-picture-of-the-baby territory, but I wanted to capture some of what Eddie and Marian contributed. I love hearing about the tiny things that make them happy.
  • Building Legos
  • Gourds
  • Blankie
  • My stuffed animals
  • Rubber bands
  • Chairs and rugs
  • Fire
  • Nativity set
  • My pants
  • Rice
  • Toy story undies
  • Target
  • Lollipops
  • Library
  • Outside
  • Glue
  • A blue sweatshirt
  • Colors
Whether this was Thanksgiving for you or just another Thursday, I hope there was something that made you happy in it. Your pants, perhaps? Gourds? Rubber bands?

November 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Thanksgiving Eve

(I'd give a credit, but it's bounced around the Internet so many times I haven't the foggiest idea where it originated)

November 22, 2011

Five Confessions

  1. I totally watch Gossip Girl. In fact, I'm watching it right now.
  2. I totally say "totally."
  3. And "dude."
  4. I am also eating Christmas cookies. Two days before Thanksgiving.
  5. After telling the kids we couldn't open them until Friday.

November 21, 2011

Why I Do This, Part Three

Read parts one and two before reading this, if you haven't already.

This story has been coming out jumbled and I feel like I'm twirling around without actually saying what I want to say. But press on we will! Somewhere in this mess I'll hopefully convey why I feel so strongly about social media as one (of many) valuable means of post-adoption support and education.

Sometimes people talk about the fact that they went online to find an adoption support network for themselves as a failure of the agency/professionals to support them. That is not exactly my view.

I do not think that all post-adoption support needs to come from professionals. In fact, I’d even say most of it shouldn’t. I think of the role of an adoption agency somewhat like I think of our family's pediatrician. The pediatrician definitely has a role to play in maintaining my children's emotional and physical health, an important one. I rely on her professional knowledge when the kids are sick. I trust she has expertise that I don’t to spot potential health problems and I put a lot of weight on her advice. When the kids were babies and things seemed fragile and swiftly changing, we saw the pediatrician more often. But now that the kids are older and we have some parenting experience to rely on, we don’t need the pediatrician as much aside from crisis points and occasional check-ups.

But there is so much to parenting than looking after their basic health. There are all the day-to-day choices I make about discipline and food and education and potty training and values. There are the idea swapping, asking for emotional support, and plain old venting I need to do sometimes. And for help with all of those things I don’t turn to the pediatrician. Instead, I turn to my friends and family members who share my values. I turn to books or magazines. Sometimes I search for information or folks with similar experiences online.

In my mind, the adoption professionals are like the pediatrician. When things are fragile and new, they should get us off on the right track. They should be there to help us with counseling or mediation when we hit big adoption road bumps. They should be skilled in pointing us to other resources. Their convening power can be used for community building and advocacy, especially on the local level. But for day-to-day adoption support, I don't need an agency counselor, I need friends--friends who "get it."

Finding friends who not only have personal experiences with adoption, but who value openness and share my ethics would be really hard, if I were searching just in my little city. But online I've found my adoption tribe in spades: on Twitter, in my feed reader, in my email. They're a mish-mosh of adoptive parents, adult adoptees, and first parents. Even the "adoption friends" I have locally are people I first met online. And my tribe's combined knowledge and experience is phenomenal.

How many times have you heard someone say they found support online that they'd never been able to find offline? That they found people who shared their circumstances or values or worries?  People who could offer up a quick word of encouragement or advice in the middle of a visit? People who challenged them to take a risk or see something from another perspective? How many times have you said it yourself? Just think of the difference we're making for each other.

I don't think any one of us has all the answers. I think precious few among us deserves any "adoption expert" label (I'm certainly not one of them). But all of us put together? We can be a life-changing resource for each other.

That's why I spend my nights copying and pasting entries onto the open adoption blogroll or dreaming up ridiculous projects. I want to open up spaces in which it's easier for people to discover new perspectives or make real connections with others in open adoptions, because my parenting was changed for the better when I did. It is all in hopes that somewhere in that big list of open adoption blogs something will resonate for a reader and she'll leave a comment and begin to form her own tribe. Someone will read a roundtable response and think, "Wow, I've never thought of it in that way before." Someone will click with her interview partner and a new friendship will bloom. And we'll all be a little more open-hearted, a little better educated, and little less alone.

November 20, 2011

Three Beautiful Things #23

Another Sunday, another three beautiful things list. Let's call this the oh my, aren't we glad NaBloPoMo ends in ten days edition.
  1. Blanket on lap, book in hand, tea at the ready, fire in the fireplace
  2. A clean and empty kitchen counter
  3. A home filled with the buttery sweet smell of a baking pie
What is beautiful in your world today?

November 19, 2011

Why I Do This, Part Two

This probably won't make much sense unless you've read part one

So when we last left off, Eddie was a wee babe and I was faking it in the hopes I would one day make it in our open adoption with his birth families. I was confident open adoption was best for Eddie and sure that the internal struggles I was having with it were all because I was a horrible person. I was bound and determined to make this best damn open adoption ever, no matter how much I had to pretend that everything was happy and wonderful.

(This never would have worked, by the way. Kids can see through their parents' false emotional fronts like they have x-ray vision. And in the end I would have emotionally closed myself off to his first parents, which would have tanked the whole thing.)

Then at some point I found people writing about adoption online. There weren't many of them back then. It was an accident--a click off a click off a completely unrelated blog. For the first time I heard other adoptive moms expressing some of my deepest joys and sorrows about adoption and fertility, some of them things I hadn't even been able to put into words before. I read about open adoption from the perspective of first moms. From adopted adults I got insight about what it was like to live as an adoptee in a non-adoption world. Some of it made me feel defensive. But I kept coming back, because something told me the things that made me defensive were probably the things on which I needed to dwell.

Back then I especially needed to hear from adoptive parents who ahead of where I was emotionally and philosophically in this open adoption gig to help me get out of my stuck place. They weren't afraid of the things I was afraid of, like Eddie's first parents ever expressing regret or Eddie ever being sad about adoption (because, remember, I had been taught open adoption prevented those things). And they challenged me to see how being a confident adoptive parent meant opening myself up to the reality that I shared parenthood with my child's birth parents, that it was my job to make space for him to explore in whatever ways he needed what it meant to be a child of two grafted family trees. I was trying to stuff us into the box of "totally normal nuclear family, nothing out of the ordinary, just with some extra players" when we weren't that at all. We were an adoptive family--something equally valid, equally whole, but different.

It wasn't an overnight thing. Sometimes I'd click away from a blog, angry. Sometimes I'd read something brilliant that made everything shift into place and wonder why our pre-adoption training had been so shallow. But dealing with the fear and dealing with my narrow definitions of motherhood that weren’t going to work in adoption finally allowed me to relax in our adoption and embrace my adoptive parent role. It made all the difference for me.

The support I found online wasn't just philosophical, but also practical. It was my only window into what other open adoptions looked like, because I didn't witness any in a day-to-day way in my offline life. One small example: as I read posts from first moms writing about visits with their children, I noticed that a lot of them mentioned wishing they had time alone together, or how significant it was if they did get that time. We started looking for ways to build that into our visits, even if it was just finding an excuse to go to another part of the house when Eddie was a baby. It was something that had not even crossed my mind at that point, but hearing from another's perspective changed how we thought about our visits.

I owe a great debt to adoptive mothers like Karen, Dawn, AbebechAfrIndie MumLilysea; first moms like KateriPoor_Statue, Paragraphein, Claud; and adopted adults like Theresa, Mia, AddieHarlow's Monkey. My family is stronger because of the time and effort they put into writing online those many years ago.

But beyond changing my headspace, I needed peers. I needed "adoption friends," not just writers I admired from afar. That actually took much longer to develop. For a long time, years really, I was a lurker, only reading blogs without commenting or writing myself. (Which is fine, I embrace lurkers! You are more than welcome here.) I was getting a lot out of reading in the online adoption world, but it wasn't helping me feel less isolated in tough moments. I read posts like this one when I found myself sobbing in the bedroom during a weekend with Eddie's first mom and just want to reach back in time and give myself a giant hug. I mean, listen to me:
If I were someone else, I would tell me not to be embarrassed. It was where my heart was at at the time, and I needed to deal with it so it wouldn't affect my actions toward K. But I need to figure out some way to honor those feelings and work through them in a way that doesn't leave me feeling so isolated. More than anything this weekend I wanted a peer I could call who would tell me, "I've felt that way, too. It's ok. You're doing fine." Or tell me to get over myself if that's what I needed. The point is I wanted to know there was someone who had been there before me. ... I read stories of so many adoptive parents who express nothing but joy over their relationships with their children's first parents. They make me happy. They also make me wonder what is wrong that sometimes this is all incredibly draining for me? 
I've been hesitating over this post, not wanting to look like a self-centered tool. I can't seem to wrangle the words to express what I am trying to say. But I want to put it out there so that if someone else has found herself there she can know that she isn't alone.
I had been blogging in earnest probably eight months or so at that point. It was 2007. That might have been one of the first times I was really vulnerable about what I was feeling; you can see how hesitant I am, how much I qualify everything. And if you look at the comments on that long-ago post, people showed up and showed me that I wasn't alone. Some of them told me they had felt similar things (and some of those surprised me, because they were ones I thought felt nothing but joy). It was a turning point for me, the beginnings of my online community, people I could email (or Tweet or chat with) about challenges. And ever since then I've been able to move through our open adoptions knowing that whatever comes our way, people have my back. I'm not alone.

Part three coming on Monday

November 18, 2011

Last Interview Project Post, I Promise

You rock. Seriously. Even skimming though interviews as I caught up on links yesterday, I could tell how much thought and effort went in to them. A huge thanks to everyone who participated and everyone who's reading along and leaving comments.

This is when blogging on the down-low kind of bites. I'm so proud of what we pulled off yesterday, but I can't tell anyone but Todd about it 'round here.

Now if you'll excuse me, Todd is back from his trip to his relative's funeral, the kids are sound asleep, the rain is falling on the rooftop, I just dozed off in between writing sentences, and my nice warm bed beckons.

November 17, 2011

Interview Project - November 2011

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2011Below, in no particular order, are the wonderful participants in the Adoption Bloggers Interview Project! They will be posting their interviews over the course of the day. Be sure to browse through!

To help with your browsing, links to blogs in general are italicized and links to specific interview posts are not. I will update with links to interview posts as they come in.

Interview with Jasmine of Weaving Love Untangling Confusion

One of the Interview Project's goals is to get us reading outside of our usual blog circles. That was definitely my experience this time. I met a very kind blogger whose writings I don't know that I would have come across otherwise. As you'll see, I think she took a big risk throwing her name into the virtual hat to be paired with a random blogger. I hope you'll take in her interview with an open mind and give her a respectful welcome in the comments.

Jasmine, who started writing at the beginning of the year at Weaving Love Untangling Confusion, is an artist, a wife, and a mom to two children. She was adopted as a baby after spending her first four months in an orphanage and grew up in a closed adoption. She reunited with her first parents five years ago.

The unusual twist in her story, which is also the focus of much of her blog, happened this year when her (adoptive) mother passed away. As she was intensely grieving, she and her (biological) father became very close and genetic sexual attraction entered into their relationship--an experience she notes is "rare, but very real."

The term "genetic attraction" describes an intense attraction between two people who are (knowingly or unknowingly) biologically related but did not meet until adulthood. "Genetic sexual attraction" (GSA) is that, but with an added sexual component. Jasmine wrote to me that it is "a natural response to a broken situation" when biological family members have been separated, whether by closed adoption, the use of donor gametes, or other reasons. One helpful description I came across is that there can be very intense emotions that can happen in reunion, including a need to bond and connect. In some cases, for some people, the only way the adult brain knows how to categorize those intense emotions is as attraction.

Reading through Jasmine's blog, I really came to admire her bravery in sharing her story so honestly. That takes guts. And as someone who frequently fails in self-care, I was so impressed by her unwavering commitment to find healing, health, and wholeness for herself, her marriage, and her bio family relationships after a tumultuous and confusing year.

And now for the interview:

November 16, 2011

So Cal Meet Up!

Thanks to the lovely Kristin's organizational skills, an actual get-out-of-the-house-and-have-a-drink Los Angeles meet-up is on the books! Bloggers, blog readers, friends and family of bloggers are all welcome. We'll be meeting up at Magnolia on Lake in Pasadena on Tuesday, November 29 at 7:00 p.m.

Let us know in comments or by email if you're going to join in the fun so we can adjust the reservation.

November 15, 2011

Why I Do This

The things I've been lucky enough to be part of in our little corner of the internet make me so happy, you don't even know. The Interview Project. Open Adoption Bloggers. The Open Adoption Roundtables. I love what we together have turned those projects into.

They also take a lot of time to organize. Time I could be spending with my family or my friends. Or, ahem, the pile of clothes in permanent residence on my bedroom floor. Todd is ridiculously supportive, but I know sometimes he wonders if it's worth it, especially when I'm creeping into bed at 3:00 a.m. after matching up interview partners or glued to my computer screen during those scarce hours we have when the kids are asleep. I wonder myself sometimes if I'll look back and wish I had chosen differently.

But the thought of not working on those projects, not writing here, not reading your blogs--it deflates me. Because I believe so strongly in the ways we are collectively using social media to augment and create adoption support and education. And I can't imagine not being a part of it.

Social media changed the very shape of my family. Todd and I went into open adoption waving our pom poms and cheering to beat the band. We were open adoption cheerleaders to the core. I haven't lost that certainty that child-centered openness is the healthiest approach, but I want to bury my face in my hands at how naive our enthusiasm was. We really thought that open adoption solved everything; that there were problems and long-term pain the way infant adoption used to be practiced, but open adoption had changed that. (Agency #1 was responsible for a lot of that view, but I won't put all the blame on them.)

Because open adoption was a magical panacea, my mental version of a successful open adoption was one in which no one struggled. Everybody involved would be confident, happy, and secure. Reality hit for me shortly after Eddie was born. Being around his first family, especially Kelly, pushed all sorts of buttons I was horrified to find that I had. Then a really awkward thing happened with Kelly's parents and I was scared that if I responded the wrong way I'd blow my son's chance to grow up knowing his family of origin. I worried a lot. I chastised myself a lot. I was frustrated, anxious, and feeling like something must be wrong with me because my experience didn't match the success story I had in my mind.

I tried reaching out to the agency, more than once. They were the opposite of helpful. No one was talking about these sorts of challenges at Agency #1 or in the literature they recommended. I didn't feel like I could talk to my friends about it, because I worried they'd pity me and not understand why we wanted to forge on with open adoption. Todd and I were pretty much the sum total of each other's adoption support. So I pushed it all down inside and pretended everything was great, all the while knowing there was no way I could do this for years on end.

Our naivete almost cost us so much in our open adoption.

This post is already too long. Part two tomorrow.

November 14, 2011

Three Books from Three-year Old

I just don't have a post in me today; I'm feeling pressed in by offline responsibilities and some sadness in our family after a relative of Todd's passed away yesterday.

Instead I asked Mari what her three favorite books are. Punt to the three-year old! Here is what she picked:

Tumble Bumble by Felicia Bond, a fun little sing-song, rhyming story that starts with a tiny bug out for a walk and ends with ten new friends bouncing on a bed together. Mari has this one memorized and likes to "read" it to me. It's great for learning about sequencing, too.
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers: page after page of babies doing everyday things and being loved on. In other words, Marian's perfect book. The illustrations by Marla Frazee are very realistic and lively. I love that as you study the detail you see all sorts of family structures and people represented. A definite must for any multiethnic family, for sure. Marian really likes all the different expressions on the babies' faces.
Hush Little Baby by Sylvia Long is an antidote to the traditional "Hush Little Baby" lullaby, with its litany of material gifts. (Full disclosure: I sang that song all the time to baby Mari, too.) This version focuses on the small comforts all around us, from the evening sky to a favorite quilt: "Hush little baby, don't say a word/Mama's going to show you a hummingbird," and so on.

November 13, 2011

Three Beautiful Things #22

It is Sunday, so it is time for another beautiful things post.

  1. The full stillness of a house after all the children have fallen asleep
  2. A compliment from someone you admire (and secretly want to grow up to be like, just a little)
  3. A three-year old's sweet, tiny singing voice

What is beautiful in your world today?

November 12, 2011

For the Parenting Tool Box

A quick (and completely unsolicited and uncompensated) plug for Crayola's multicultural art supplies, in shades that more accurately reflect various skin tones than the usual classic colors:
I'm so glad I impulsively picked these up while out shopping one day. They have completely changed the way Eddie approaches coloring books and his pictures of people. Giving kids the tools to portray the world around them is pretty dang empowering.
The colors in the crayon box are all in the 64-count box, but the markers and colored pencils are unique shades. They aren't stocked in the big box stores--at least around here--but I found the whole line in a teaching supply store. They are also available online in more than one spot.

November 11, 2011

One Veteran (repeat)

This is something I wrote in 2008. I wanted to re-post it on this Veterans' Day, for my dad.

He doesn't want to be in a parade or be hailed as a hero. But he has the Vietnam ribbon on his car. He gives to Amvets.  And every Veterans' and Memorial Day he wears his old Army jacket and remembers.


During my dad's final year of college, he was drafted into the Army. Not by lottery, but by a draft board who looked over the young men in his small Michigan town and decided which were expendable.

My dad did not support what his country was doing in Vietnam and did not want to fight for a cause in which he didn't believe. Faced with three options--prison, becoming a fugitive, or fighting in a war--he decided that risking his life in the jungle was the least frightening. Soon after graduating from college, he entered the Army.

In my parent's wedding photos, his neck is thick from basic training. My mom and dad spent part of their first year of their marriage on an Army base while he completed officer candidate school. Then she moved back in with her parents while he went off to Vietnam. He went with a single goal: don't get killed. Not to be a hero. Just to not get killed.

Growing up, my dad's veteran status was just another bit of trivia for me. It was the pieces of useful army gear we used when camping and a dad who jumped at sudden loud noises. Already knowing the ending of the story--knowing that he obviously survived to father me--made the information tame. My brother and I would string up his old green army hammock between the trees and spin ourselves around and around.

Several years ago, my dad took my brother and me to visit Vietnam. He wanted to finally learn something about the country he had been in so long ago, experience it without the fear and violence. It was right after I got engaged and my mind was full of dreams about my future life with T. We traveled across the country, taking it in. There are stores where you can still buy the detritus the US military left behind thirty years ago. I bought a green hammock for myself and thought about camping with my own kids someday.

One afternoon, after some searching and help from locals, we stood at the edge of road looking out at an expanse of grass and trees where my dad's base camp once was. There on that strip of gravel under the bright sun, just a few years older than my dad had been, the reality of my father's experience, his youth, his separation from his new wife, finally hit me. My god, they sent my dad to a war.

So this Veterans' Day, thank you to those who willingly sacrifice for the honor of serving their country. And thank you also to the ones who feel forced into service by circumstances out of their control and who find no glory in it. You all have my respect.

November 10, 2011

Adoption Doesn't End

I was flipping through a journal the other day, looking for some notes I had taken during a workshop. On an otherwise blank page I came across this single sentence, hastily scribbled on the diagonal: "Someday Marian will likely be pregnant and I won't be able to share that experience with her."

It was jarring, a little strange to see it. I can't recall now why I wrote it or how I felt at the time. It came in the middle of the presentation notes, completely off-topic, apparently a random thought I felt compelled to get out.

At the time Mari was just a few months old. I would have been settling into the idea of raising a daughter. I sound saddened by this thought. Was I troubled by the idea that we wouldn't be able to swap morning sickness stories, that I wouldn't be able to stand by her side during labor and know what it was like? Reading it now, I don't have any emotional reaction (other than to roll my eyes at my self-centeredness and fretting about something decades away). But clearly it once was, at least for a moment, important enough to me to write down.

Back when we adopted Eddie, I had that "positive adoption language" list memorized. One that I really grabbed onto was saying your child "was adopted" instead of "is adopted," to signify adoption as a past event rather than an ongoing descriptor. I liked that idea that adoption was over and done. Completed.

Then I started listening to people who had been living with adoption a whole lot longer than I had, both birth parents and adopted adults and adoptive parents. Over and again I heard that adoption was an ongoing reality for them, not a distant event. Sometimes it was at the forefront of their mind, sometimes deep in the background. It meant different things to different people and at different times. Often it popped up when they didn't expect it. But adoption had never stopped being part of their lives and their identities.

It's been five years since we finalized Eddie's adoption, over three years for Mari's, but adoption is still as present in my mind as the day they were born. It's always going to be part of the warp and weft of our family life, of my life as a mother, of my children's lives. There's nothing negative about that fact, no reason to avoid it by insisting on the past tense. We are an adoptive family. My children were adopted and are adopted, the same way Todd and I were married on our wedding day but are married every day.

Adoption is still here with us because their first families are here, in our conversations and our lives. It's here in the stories they love to hear about themselves. It's here as my kids work out their self-identities and what it means to be part of overlapping families as they grow. It will be here if they have children themselves one day, as we share grandparent-hood not just with their partners' parents but with Kelly and Ray and Beth. (Won't that be a shock to our kids' partners' parents. Although in this age of blended families, perhaps not so much?) And of course the flip side to that random thought I scribbled years ago: it will be there with Mari if she is pregnant one day, in the different ways she might turn to the mom who carried her and the mom who raised her.

I think that random thought I left in my journal is evidence of a little lightbulb moment for me, one more realization that I'm going to be experiencing new aspects of what it means to be an adoptive parent even when I'm 50, 60, 70. We--Eddie, Mari, their first families, Todd, and I--will be discovering new layers of what it means to be part of these adoptions our entire lives. Sometimes it will be challenging. Sometimes it will be a joy. But it is something we will carry with us, always.

November 08, 2011

Interview with Eddie

Eddie let me do this little interview with him that I've seen floating around the internet. His answer for #20 may be my favorite.

November 07, 2011

California Girls

I'm going to be in the Los Angeles area the week after Thanksgiving. No family with me this time. Let's party! Or, you know, have quiet conversation over coffee.

I know a lot of you cool people live there, so let me know if you'd like to get together some evening.

November 06, 2011

3BT #21

It's been awhile since I did a three beautiful things post. What better month to revive them in than November, as we look forward to Thanksgiving?

Three beautiful things, autumn weekend edition:
  1. A pile of brightly colored felt--orange and aqua, red, blue,and gold--glowing in a half lit room on a cloudy day
  2. Your nose cold and the rest of your body cozy warm as you stroll outside wrapped in a jacket on a crisp afternoon
  3. A single maple tree ablaze in orange and ruby against a deep green backdrop of towering fir trees
What is beautiful in your world today?

November 05, 2011

Saturday Fluff: DIY Outdoor Scavenger Hunt

I wish I knew how to take
pretty pictures!
Eddie turned six last month. He decided on a nature theme for his birthday party. One of the biggest hits, as an activity and as a party favor, was a little set of scavenger hunt cards to use outdoors.

Years ago I saw something similar on Etsy and thought it was a great idea. Alas, that Etsy vendor is no longer selling, so I used her set as a starting point to create my own. They weren't as pretty as hers, but the kids didn't know.

The kids had so much fun with them that I thought they might be worth sharing. There are 32 cards (31 items to find + a cover card) with illustrations to help the pre-readers. All of the items are things you could find fairly easily in a park, yard, or even grassy landscaped area outside of a building around here. Keep them in your bag or car and you always have an outdoor game on hand. Bam--you're a super parent! Heh.

November 04, 2011

Q&A: Beginnings, the Basics

Monika says:
Since I've missed most of the beginnings of your story, I've been curious about some things. If you'd rather answer in an email to me, that's fine. :-) How did you come to choose adoption? Did you know right away you wanted an open adoption? Did you get matched through an agency or online? If through an agency, which one?
You didn't really miss out on the beginnings of the story, since I didn't start writing here until after Eddie was born. (Six years ago! I'm still wrapping my mind around the idea that I have a six-year-old.) A few other people asked about "the beginnings," so I'll be writing more about that this month. The short version of how Todd and I decided to adopt goes something like this:
  1. Got married knowing we both wanted to be parents eventually
  2. Talked about having both kids by birth and by adoption
  3. Had some great years just being married with no children
  4. Woke up at 29 (me)/28 (him) and decided that now we were ready to be parents. By this time we know that there are some things wrong with me that would make a pregnancy really difficult, if not impossible. Since we already had vague plans to adopt someday and no interest whatsoever in getting into the world of reproductive technology, we started our family via adoption and thought we'd work on having a baby by birth later.
There's a great deal there you could analyze and critique in our choices. But that's where we were then; I might as well be honest about it. We just really wanted to be parents and had this general, not closely examined, notion that adoption (of any sort) was a good thing and adoptive parents were always needed. We were very excited and very chipper about the whole thing. I'm sure the other prospective adoptive parents in our training workshops--all of whom were coming out of years of unsuccessful fertility treatments and all the emotion that goes along with that--probably hated us.

We used two different agencies, one for Eddie's adoption and one for Marian's adoption. We did know we wanted an open adoption from the very beginning and tried hard to find an agency we thought would support one. Unfortunately, Agency #1 talked a good game around openness but not much else. I don't name the agencies we used on the blog because I'm too lazy to get in a fight with Agency #1, but I've always shared names with anyone who's asked by email.

We did absolutely nothing to advertise ourselves or find a match or however you want to phrase it. Agency #1 definitely suggested we try to "network." We said, "No way," and that was the end of it. We had little online profiles on the agency website both times around, but I don't think any of our children's first parents even looked at them when they picked us. Our matching was pretty old school!

November 03, 2011

Overlapping Family

Eddie came bounding out of school one day last week all full of excitement over a little photo album he won when his table group collected the most points for following directions. He knew exactly what he wanted to do with it: "Fill it up with pictures of my family."

I set him up with the laptop, open to Picasa. He paged through the last year diligently, pausing occasionally to ask me to add a photo to his print order.

He added pictures of Todd, Mari, and me, of course. His grandparents, cousins, and uncle. A photo of himself on his first day of kindergarten. One from a ridiculously exciting trip to a Star Wars museum exhibit.

He added pictures of himself with his first dad, Ray, and his first mom, Kelly, from this summer.  No surprise for an adopted child who has grown up with his birth parents present in his life.

Then he searched for a photo of Marian's first mom, Beth, and added it, too.

"Pictures of my family."

That's how it is around here: my son counts as kin his adoptive sister's biological mother. There isn't any official familial relationship between them. There aren't any easy labels to describe who she is to him. I haven't the foggiest idea what a genealogical chart would make of it. But she's his sister's first mom and an important part of his life. That's enough for him right now.

I used to think the untidiness of "family" in open adoption--the way it doesn't neatly fit on the standard family tree--was sort of an unfortunate, but necessary thing. Something to be accepted as part of the bigger package. But the opposite is true; my family is stronger because its tent is stretched wide. It has created a space in which my son can claim Beth as his family just as easily as he claims his own first mom or me, the mom he lives with. In our house family is the people you live with and the people whose heritage you carry, but it's also the important people love you and are committed to you. It's hard for me to see anything unfortunate about that.

November 02, 2011


The random sequence generator and I got very friendly over the weekend. Then I spent some quality hours with my email account today and yesterday. End result: 124 bloggers are now paired off and ready to interview each other for the big Adoption Bloggers Interview Project day. I am so excited for November 17!

Let me say that number again: 124. Just shy of doubling the number who participated in 2010. How cool is that?

Thanks to everyone who helped spread the word! We never would have gotten so many folks involved without your efforts. The winner of the Target gift card for sharing the link is Muzik. (I've been lurking at her blog forever, so it was fun to see her name pop up.) Congrats, Muzik!

Too tired to segue, so: there are some good questions coming on the NaBloPoMo post. Add your own, if you're so inclined.

ETA: Forgot to say that you can see the list of Interview Project participants here.

New OAB Blogs - October 2011

The open adoption blogs list grows every month and sometimes additions get lost among all the awesomeness. Hopefully these monthly round-ups of the new blogs from the month before will help folks connect.

Here are the blogs added in October:

November 01, 2011


It's NaBloPoMo (or National Blog Posting Month) and I'm jumping on board. Long story short: I'm going to try to post every day in November. The last time I did it was 2008.

Liz wrote something at Six Year Itch today about writers withdrawing themselves from their blogs. I read that and thought, "Yes, that's it. That's how I feel about myself in relation to my blog." Not burnt out (I'm so energized by what's happening with the interview project). Not bored (I love this space and all of you who interact here). But withdrawn.

I want to be here. The way I used to be, in the old days, when I laid it all out here. Surely writing thirty days in a row will force me to show up--really show up--at least a few times, right?

If there is a piece of our story you've wondered about or a question you have for me, now is the perfect chance to ask. Deep or fluffy, I'll take 'em all.

* Why "blopping"? Because I always mispronounce (mis-think?) it as NaBlopMo in my head.
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