Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is Adoption the Second Choice?

There is an adoption concept I struggle with.

There is a saying - I am not sure who said it - that I want to address today. My thoughts are a little muddled so you'll just have to struggle through with me. Here is the quote:

"Adoptive parents, their child, and their child's birth parents do, indeed, have a shared fate. Had any of them had their first choice in life, they would not be together in the adoption triangle."

Is this true?

Part of me says, "Yes, it is technically accurate."

And part of me says, "No, because this makes adoption sound second best. Like a consolation prize. And I have NEVER felt that way."

I guess what hangs me up in the quote is the word "choice." It's like saying if I had my first choice in life, I would not be an adoptive mother. 


Even as a child, I played and fantasized about adopting children. Maybe it was because I adored the movie Annie, but I imagined going to an orphanage and picking out a child. (I know, it sounds so inhuman, but that's how five-year-old girls play.)

The concept of adoption was never a problem for me.

I always assumed I would have biological children. I often imagined having a brood of biological and adopted children.

And when Justin and I got married and decided to start a family, we thought we would have a biological child. It was "normal" (not saying that adoption is abnormal, but that biological families, as the vast majority, are the norm).

So yes...having a biological child was my first inclination.

And now for the other side of the coin...

Having a biological child was just an assumption. It was never a driving desire or need for me. Some people who struggle with infertility have to try every procedure under the sun before considering adoption. I didn't. I chose adoption over IVF, sperm donors, egg donors, childlessness, surrogacy, and other things. It may not have been my initial assumption on how to build a family, but it certainly wasn't my last choice or a consolation prize.

And another defense I have, first choices aren't always the best choices. My first celebrity crush when I was little was Hulk Hogan. Seriously. Hulk Hogan. If I had my first choice of a husband, it would've been him. Can you imagine???

Last time I went car shopping, I saw an ad for a Pontiac Vibe. I researched the car a little bit and I was certain that I wanted it. I went to the dealership and test drove it. It was...okay...but it just wasn' I saw this car across the lot, winking at me in the sunlight. I asked to test drive it. As soon as I sunk behind the wheel of that Chevrolet Malibu I looked at my husband in the passenger's seat and said, "This is my car." My body fit like a glove in the seat. I loved (and still love) everything about it. It was not my first choice...but it was a better choice.

First choice:

Better choice:

One more thing...

I love how another adoption blogger Whitney put it. I will paraphrase her a little bit, but just do yourself a favor and read her whole post here.

Whitney basically says that adoption isn't plan B. Because plan A is being a mother. So she is getting to accomplish plan A through adoption. She doesn't have to adopt. She gets to adopt.

I feel exactly the same way. My first choice is to be a mother.

I am sure birth mothers and adoptees have similar arguments for this quote.

I imagine a lot of birth mothers' "first" choice would have been not to be in a crisis pregnancy at all. But now they would never want to take back the child they bore. The world is a better place with that child shining brightly in it!

And adoptees love their adoptive parents as any child loves his or her parents. As they grow older, I am sure they often wish they shared physical features and were "normal" like the other kids. But most are devoted to their families and wouldn't give them up for the world.

If I had my "first choice" I would be married to Hulk Hogan, driving a Pontiac Vibe, and birthing mulleted, singlet-clad children. I am SO GLAD I didn't get my "first choice."

But in all seriousness, my first choice has always been to be a mother.

And I have that.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gingerbread House Tutorial and Recipe

There's nothing quite like making a whimsical gingerbread house during the Christmas season. I have fond memories of making houses with my brothers and sister and sneaking nibbles of candy all December long. We made one last year. Here's how.

First, make and bake the gingerbread.

4 cups of flour
1 cup of sugar
2 TB baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp clove
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup shortening
2/3 cup molasses
2 eggs

Mix together. Grease and flour pan; use either a large sheet cake pan, or divide dough and make thinner gingerbread in two cookie sheets. Press/roll into pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. If using the smaller cookie sheets, reduce baking time to 18 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes. 
While gingerbread is still warm and soft, cut out shapes for the gingerbread house. 
We used the same pattern my mother always used. Just do a Google search for free gingerbread house patterns, find one you like. Print it off and cut it out, then cut out warm gingerbread. (If you're a novice, I suggest sticking with a very basic pattern-like mine-and just going nuts with the candy.) 
Cool the cut out pieces on a rack.  

Make royal icing:

Royal Icing
3 egg whites (or 8 TB of water combined with 8 teaspoons meringue powder if you prefer to avoid raw eggs)
6 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. almond extract or white vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in bowl and beat on medium high for a full 10 minutes. Icing will become thick and glossy but will not increase in volume. Keep covered with damp cloth while using, removing small portions to bowl as needed. Tint if desired. To thin, add a few drops of water. Royal icing hardens with a nice sheen.

Put into a piping bag with a basic tip or just be lazy like me and put into a Ziploc bag with the tip cut off.

Coat a cookie sheet with tinfoil. Use the royal icing like mortar and build your house. Put down a layer of icing, place the gingerbread on top of it and hold it for a minute. It sets up fairly quickly and it sets up hard. Build your base.

Then add the roof.

Now it's time for the candy! We get a variety of objects at the bulk candy section at Winco. Fun ideas include using Necco wafers or mini Shredded Wheat for roof shingles, using rock candy for a stone wall, and building trees with green gumdrops.

Use the icing like glue and place your candy.

A light layer of powdered of powdered sugar creates a dusting of snow.

You gotta have Santa on the roof with presents.

You're done! Enjoy your masterpiece (and sneak a piece of candy!).

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's a Dinosaur! Rawr!

Tonight, Joci went number two in her little toddler potty. As I dumped it into the toilet to flush it down, Joci looked at it with great interest - she doesn't normally care about this part of it. But today, she looked at it and got all excited.

"Mom!" she proclaimed, "It's a dinosaur. Rawr!"

"Your poop?" I clarified.


Perhaps it had a vague resemblance to Littlefoot from Land Before Time.

I just about died laughing.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hacking Aftermath

My email account was hacked early Thanksgiving morning. In case anyone got an email from me, I did NOT take a last minute trip to London. I did NOT get mugged. And I do NOT need money to settle my hotel bill.

Anyway, I changed my email password.

And now I can't get into it. With my new password. I will have to call an eight hundred number to get it cleared up and frankly I am not up for that right now.

Oh, and my Facebook password was changed too. I did not authorize a change, so I froze my account. In order to reset my Facebook password and re-secure my account, I need to access the email account associated with it - which happens to be teh email that I can't get into right now.

Remember how I said I was grateful for technology? Right now I am not. Grrrrrrr.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pie Heaven

"If when you die you get a choice between pie heaven and regular heaven, choose pie heaven. It might be a trick but if not mmmmboy." - Jack Handey

We had two pumpkins, banana cream, lemon meringue, pecan bars, pumpkin cheesecake dessert, chocolate cream, and coconut cream.

And don't kill me, but I honestly could live without pumpkin pie.

What did you have? What are your favorites? Is pumpkin a must-have?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

So Much to Be Grateful For

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. I've enjoyed reading so many people's daily gratitude proclamations on Facebook and on their blogs. Last year I did a daily thing. This year, I thought I would just do a mega-gratitude post.

A couple of weeks ago in church we had a lesson on gratitude. Gratitude is such an important and basic virtue - it's the reason why one of the first things our mamas taught us was to say "thank you." One thing that struck me as new during the lesson was not only is it nice to be grateful and acknowledge the abundant gifts of God, but it also is a protective shield for us. So many "evils" in life come from selfishness, vanity, attitudes of entitlement, coveting for more, greed, etc. Being grateful, truly, sincerely grateful for what we have protects us from those things.

I could go on and on and on about the things I am grateful for. Here are just a few:

  • My family (all of, dad, siblings, in-laws, husband, daughter, birth parents, cousins, etc., etc.)
  • My (usually) sweet pets
  • The internet/technology...I love me some Spotify, blogs, Facebook, Zuma, 
  • Diet Coke
  • Modern medicine
  • My health...I am naturally a very healthy person. Being married to someone who has to fight for his health, I know I take this for granted a lot. 
  • Contact lenses
  • Ball point pens
  • Safe car
  • Warm, cozy, home that really is spacious for my needs
  • Working for a secure company that has no debt (no risk of layoffs or bankruptcy) and has continued to grow during the recession
  • My husband's job
  • My education
  • Chocolate
  • Texting
  • Food
  • All my needs and most of my wants are met...exceeded, really
  • Adoption
  • Potential
  • Friends and coworkers
  • Great bosses
  • Being able to work at job that does more than supply a paycheck - it inspires me and fills my soul
  • Electric blankets
  • Travelling and seeing the beautiful, amazing, diverse world we are citizens of
  • The ability to read 
  • Good books
  • My talents
  • I am thankful that I like who I am
  • My relationship with my Heavenly Father and my savior Jesus Christ

Honestly...I could go on and on and on. I am looking around my kitchen right now and everything I see inspires a feeling of gratitude. 

And as silly as it sounds, I really am grateful for blogging. I thoroughly enjoy it. It is a fun, creative release and it can be very therapeutic. I've been able to keep in touch with dear friends who live far away and I have made some cherished new friends--some of which I haven't even met in real life but I love just the same. 

Happy Thanksgiving, all! 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dirty Jobs: Motherhood

As I was attempting to scrub out the stench from a high chair that probably should be fumigated, I was thinking about how disgusting of a job it was.

I mean, I have cleaned the high chair before. I wipe it down at least three times a day. And sometimes I even pull back the vinyl seat cover and wipe away crumbs and dried noodles and stuff.

Today, it stunk. It really stunk. I started wiping it down with my arsenal of cleaners. I pulled back the vinyl and began wiping. I pulled it back further. Oh my great goo. It was stringy. It was shiny. It was multi-colored. As Flynn Ryder said, "Overall, it just smells like the color brown."

I am about to offend every environmentalist out there. There are some messes that require waste. Lots and lots of waste. I used like a whole roll of paper towels cleaning the chair. I actually removed the vinyl covering (am I bad mom that I have never done this before?) I used three different kinds of cleaners (all of which are biodegradable and concentrated, so that's one for the environmentalists - right?). I turned the high chair upside-down to get all the nooks and crannies. A letter "a" from Alphabits cereal fell out of the high chair when I did that.

I have never bought - or even eaten - Alphabits cereal.

By the way, I got this high chair off Craigslist.

It's a fancy, expensive Peg Perego high chair. All the consumer reviews say it's super hard to clean. Yup.

Do they even make Alphabits cereal anymore?

I was gagging. I want to singe off the ends of my fingernails because I don't think I can get the goo out of them.

Motherhood is gross, I thought, as I opened my second roll of paper towels to sop up the goo.

And you know why I started this all?

Because Joci had an upset tummy today. And that meant that I cleaned up 3  sick-tummy-poop-accidents. I won't even go into the color...but for the record, fecal matter should NOT look like that. One of these accidents occurred in the high chair. So I was cleaning it before I discovered the goo-that-should-not-be-named under the vinyl covering and the Alphabits A.

Oh, and guess what else happened to me today?

Just before bed, Joci grabbed a baby carrot and proceeded to chomp it down. Mostly. She took her time. We said prayers, we did goodnight kisses, and then I just made her sit on my lap to finishing her mouthful because I didn't want to lay her down and leave her to choke and die. I sang a few more songs to her, continually prompting her to chew and swallow. The solution? Finally, Joci spit a mouthful of carrot that she had been chewing for seven minutes into my hand.

And then it was onto laundering the diarrhea stained clothing.

Motherhood is gross.

Mom, I am sorry.

Still Waiting to Begin Waiting

So where are we in our adoption process?

A lot of people has asked me variations on that question a lot lately.

We are still waiting to officially start waiting. We had our homestudy a month ago. Our caseworker wrote up the report but we weren't able to review it until we got back from New York at the end of October. So we reviewed it and made a few suggestions. Our caseworker updated the homestudy with our suggestions and then turned it into the agency, which will then go through it one last time.

We are waiting for agency to do their thing and then we will be officially "on the list." I've been working on my parent profile/birth mother letter so it can be ready when the agency is. The agency had a staff change recently and that's kind of holding things up. I am anxious to get it all completed, but I am also happy because the staff changes mean we get to work with the same program director who helped us during Jocelyn's adoption.

My emotions on this adoption are different from the last. I was going full-throttle to get our homestudy done last time. I was gung-ho about getting the nursery done. This time...I am just taking my time. I am not stressed or anxious. What's the difference? Am I less excited? I think not. I think maybe I have less nervous energy. Am I still nervous? Absolutely. Our last adoption was text-book perfect and I highly, highly doubt we will have so good again. But I am not scared. I don't feel as desperate as I did the first time around.

I am getting pretty baby hungry. I can't wait for more moments like these:

Getting the call that our baby is being born, packing the diaper bag and heading out!

First bath

Placement - officially ours!

Newborn naps


Sealing day

We've been talking about starting the nursery after the holidays - sorry visitors, the guest room will soon be located in the basement. We have begun talking baby names. Joci prays for the new baby at her night time prayers. And when I ask her if she wants a baby brother or a baby sister, she says "baby sister" (as if she even knows what that means!). Justin says he thinks the next one will be a boy. I...well...I don't know. But I am excited, at peace, and calmly waiting.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Adoption Blogger Interview with Semi-Feral Mama

This month I participated in an a interview project organized by Open Adoption Bloggers. I did it last year, too (check out that interview here). I love getting to know new bloggers.

This year I was randomly paired with Semi-Feral Mama. I have really, really loved getting to know her. And don't you just love her pseudonym? Semi-Feral Mama. Grrr.

We got pretty deep into each other blogs and our interviews are both pretty long, but totally worth it. Her story is awesome, she is so intelligent and witty and has a HUGE heart. Well, I will let her words speak for themselves.


Tell me a little about yourself.
I am the 44 year old, stay-at-home mother to a three-and-a-half year old bio daughter and a two-and-a-half year old adopted son.  My husband is also 44.  We moved to Missouri in May of 2010, the same week we brought our son home from Ethiopia.  Prior to that we had lived in the Pacific NW for most of the last 20 years.  My husband, daughter and I are all pink, our son is brown.

Why did you choose to adopt? What led you to adopt from Ethiopia?
Our reasons for adoption are a little different than the norm.  We do not have fertility problems, nor are we Christians that felt biblically called.  However, adoption is always something we considered a possibility.  A big deciding factor was probably that I had worked in animal welfare for years.  I consider it tragic that so many animals are family-less and could not understand why anybody wanting a pet would not adopt one that needed a family (rather than buying from a breeder or, worse yet, a pet store.)  It seemed obvious to us that there are also kids that need homes, and we had room in our home and our hearts for another child. 
This does not mean we feel that we should be glorified for adopting.  In fact, it always bothered me when people told me that their adopted animals felt grateful.  And I never knew why it bothered me.  Now I know it makes them seem “less than.”  On the other hand, I always thanked people who I knew adopted their animals rather than purchasing them.  And I know it bothers lots of adoptive parents when people thank or “bless” them for adopting.

And in case I haven’t offended ever reader yet with the previous analogy, I will also say my husband and I have big concerns about human over-population.  (Everybody offended now?)  Yep, PART (big emphasis on part) of the reason we adopted is because it felt like a responsible environmental decision. 

We considered all types of adoption (that we were aware of) when we were researching how to continue building our family.  Eventually international just “felt right.”  Then as we researched and discussed countries, I just woke up one day and told my husband, “Africa.”  At that point Ethiopia seemed to have an established and ethical program so it became our obvious choice.

Once you settled on international adoption, what led you to Ethiopia? How much did you know about Ethiopia before the adoption?
We were reviewing every type of adoption that we were familiar with.  One morning I woke up, looked at my husband and said, “It’s Africa.”  If I was a religious person I would probably say something like, “Jesus put it in my heart.”  As an agnostic, I don’t have a poetic explanation.

Once I narrowed it down to a continent, I started doing more detailed research.  I wanted a country with a fairly well-established program so I could choose an ethical agency and not worry about corruption.  Unfortunately, those who are paying attention to the Ethiopia program now know that my idea was overly simplistic.  But at the time we started, based on the vast majority of current information available,  our process was a legitimate way to make an ethical choice.  Ethiopia had an established program.  There were agencies with amazing reputations (also many without that we avoided). 

While I didn’t realize it at the time, I think I was also drawn to Ethiopia because of the famine there in the late 80’s.  I had an awareness of the country and an empathy for the people that developed when I was in high school.  Additionally, I have a number of friends that had been to Ethiopia and loved the country and her people.

Beyond what I knew from the famine in the 80’s and what my friends told me, I knew very little before I started.  I knew a fair bit by the time I was on a plane going there.  I learn more everyday.  Fortunately there are a number of very entertaining fiction books that also help readers get a sense of Ethiopia (Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese ).  There are also great, modern memoirs (Held at a Distance by Rebecca Haile), awesome biographies (There is No Me Without You by Melissa Faye Greene – herself an adoptive mother,) and mind-blowing autobiographies (This is A Soul: The Mission of Rick Hodes by Marilyn Berger). 

International adoptions aren't usually thought of as "open" adoptions. In what way is your son's adoption open? How can international adoptions be open?
If we had gone with a domestic adoption we would have absolutely sought out an “open” situation.  It seems very clear to us that kids knowing as much about their history as possible is a good thing.  As we narrowed down our choices, one of the things we found so appealing about the Ethiopia program was the possibility of meeting our soon-to-be son’s first family.   Many people who adopt from Ethiopia meet members of their children’s first families and maintain long-term relationships with them.  The nature of these relationships varies widely based on many factors.  It would have been our goal to maintain as close of a relationship as possible.

Unfortunately, we were not able to meet any of Little Dude’s family members when we were in Ethiopia.  We are currently pursuing a way to open up lines of communication.

Your son was 13 months old when you adopted him - much different from adoption a newborn. What was it like to meet him? How did he react to leaving Ethiopia? How did he transition from leaving the care center? How did he do meeting his new family?
I do not love everything about the agency I used, but I want to give them credit for the way they handled family introductions and the transfer of custody.  When I went through the process adoptive parents only took one trip to Ethiopia (now two trips are required).  Our agency arranged for us to meet our children, but only spend a few hours with them the first day.  This was in a group situation and at the care center they were familiar with.  Adoptive parents then went home for a few hours and came back later for a longer visit.  Over the course of almost seven days, the amount of time the kids spent with their parents versus the amount of time that the kids spent at the care center slowly reversed.  Eventually, the parents have sole custody and there is only one last, fairly short visit, to the care center.  At that point, most of the children were ready to really start to bond with their new parents.  Of course all children vary and for those who had already endured the most trauma or attachment challenges, this seven day period was not long enough.

For first time parents, or those taking home more than one kid, I would think this type of gradual transfer of custody would be amazing. My son, fortunately, seems to have the right combination of a resilient personality, and a solid attachment prior to coming into care.  So, he didn’t want anything to do with me the first time we met.  He didn’t cry, but pictures tell the story.  By day two we were moving in the right direction.  By the last day he wanted nothing to do with the nannies.

As I am answering this question I am on an airplane.  It has me thinking about him getting on a plane with me eight days after we met and flying half-way around the world.  What a bizarre thing.  At his age he certainly did not comprehend air travel.  Not sure what the culture shock felt like for him. 

Because we had just moved to Missouri (my husband actually moved us while I was in Ethiopia), he met my sister, her kids, my mother, his sister and father all at the same moment.  Less than 24 hours later he was on another long car ride and began a time of being fairly isolated socially – just him, his new sister who is 11 months older than him, me and my husband.  I shouldn’t forget our pets – who he loved immediately. 
I think having a sibling relatively close in age was probably very, very helpful to his transition. Also, I think he was very, very, very happy to be able to go outside as much as he wanted.  We spent tons of time outdoors and we just followed his lead.

There were a couple weeks of bad nights, probably a combination of jet lag and trauma, but things quickly normalized.  We have been very, very lucky but we also practice attachment parenting and stepped up our efforts with him.  We wore him tons, put him back on bottles and still co-sleep with him.

Tell me a little about your international adoption experience.
I can tell my story about our adoption, but it was an unusual story at the time for how fast it went, and it would be unheard of today.  UNLESS the prospective adoptive parents were going with an unethical agency.  Right now a short wait time in Ethiopia should be a giant red flag.

As a whole, the program in Ethiopia is changing very rapidly as the government and agencies try to get a handle on corruption.  And probably for a variety of other (capitalistic – although no one dares to talk about it) reasons as well.

As for us, we sped through the process for a few reasons.  Our home-study social worker worked directly for our agency.  We wanted a boy.  Our agency’s Ethiopia program was fairly new so they didn’t have a long wait list.  Our agency had just entered into a relationship with a new care center.  Our son’s case passed court on the first try.  Blah, blah, blah.  From the day we first saw our son’s picture until he came home was three months.  The total time from entering contract with our agency to when he came home was about nine months.  We prepared our dossier quickly.  I bullied our way into Parent Preparation classes to keep our timeline moving.  Because we thought we might be moving, our agency helped keep our file moving. 

We did not pick our agency based on time-lines.  We picked them based on ethics.  It cannot be said enough, if the time-line is short – CHOOSE ANOTHER AGENCY.

We paid for our adoption ourselves.  We had to borrow money from family members and sell my beloved jeep.  We were able to “buy” our plane tickets on points.  Because we only had to take one trip, and my husband didn’t actually go, we saved lots of money in that area. 

Overall I am sure we spent more than $20,000, but I honestly am not exactly sure.  I guess I should look at the taxes my husband filed, but that will just make me outraged at the IRS for auditing us, and so many other adoptive families this year.

How hard/easy has it been to infuse your life with Ethiopian things? What are some ways you do that?
We live in a community with almost zero adult Ethiopians which causes us concern.  We are reaching out to other adoptive families.  We cook Ethiopian foods.  We acknowledge Ethiopian holidays.  We watch Ethiopian music videos.  But we know our community is not going to be an easy place to immerse ourselves in the culture.  As our son gets older we will go to culture camps as a family and we plan to travel to Ethiopia as many times as we can afford to.

If I do see someone that I believe might be Ethiopian I greet them by saying, “Selam.”  This has opened a few doors for us, and also led to many humorous interactions.

How did you prepare to become a trans-racial family? 
There are so many books on the subject and anyone going into the situation needs to read a variety of them (as well as blogs).  I think you also need to take a very long hard look at yourself.  Become aware of your own prejudices and don’t be afraid to re-examine this issue again and again.  Most of all, I think this is a personality issue.  How do you feel about being the center of attention from strangers?  Are you willing to be the only white person in a room?  And, if necessary, are you willing to cut off friends or family members that you have known and loved for years if it turns out that they will be harmful for your children to be around?

Have you experienced any funny/frustrating/aggravating/heart-warming reactions about being a trans-racial family?
I studied, studied, studied about being a trans-racial family before we even committed to adopting from Ethiopia.  At the time we were living in a small city which was predominantly white with a small Hispanic population, an even smaller Asian population, a very small African-American population, and a teeny-tiny, minuscule African population.

The week we brought Little Dude home we moved to a community that has much higher population of African-Americans and a fairly significant number of trans-racial families.

In the 18 months our son has been home we have had no significant run-ins.  I can count on one hand the number of times people have said something stupid to us.  And I almost NEVER catch people staring at us.  I do see it happen more often when we are visiting my sister in the suburbs of Chicago or my parents in a small, very white, vacation community in Michigan.

Also, my personality probably minimizes these situations.  If someone is staring at us, I assume they think we are beautiful.  And, I have no problem with attention or talking to strangers.  I am concerned that as the kids get older, they might not be as comfortable with situations that might arise.  However, so far, so good.

Did it rename your son? Why or why not?
We planned to rename our son for a few reasons.  Sadly recent studies show that resumes of candidates with ethnic names or names perceived as “minority” do not receive equal consideration as resumes of candidates with names perceived as mainstream/WHITE.  This is wrong, plain and simple.  At the same time we want to give our kids every advantage we can.

Also, and this is harder to explain, but I have a really bad “ear” for unusual names.  I can ask and ask, study a person’s lips, repeat the name, and still not get it.  It is embarrassing.  But it gives me empathy for others who might not actually be ignorant bigots, but might actually have the same problem I have.  (There should be a name for this stupid problem because I swear it is real.)

And yet, when we learned our son’s name it was very similar to another currently popular name that we like.  And the shortened version of his name is much like another one of our favorite names.  In fact, the shortened version is also the name of a popular (and very hot) African-American actor.  So we decided to keep the name and Anglicize the spelling.  We tried to make it so easy that anyone reading it would know how to pronounce it.  We gave him a middle name from the Old Testament.  It is common in both black and white communities in America, and in fact variations of it are popular around the world. 

What advice do you have for anyone interested in pursuing international adoption? Ethiopian adoption?
My major piece of advice would be to get involved on the internet.  You will be able to read a million people’s opinions.  Eventually you should be able to gather enough info to filter through to start to form a legitimate, well-informed opinion of your own.

After that, if you still think IA is for you, you need to pick your agency wisely.  Some of this stuff is very cloak and dagger.  You will need to set up new email accounts so you can have anonymous access to special internet groups.  It sounds so ridiculous, HOWEVER, there is a big power differential between agencies and adoptive parents.  It is hard for adoptive parents to be honest as they fear repercussions from agencies.  So there are agency review boards, etc… that adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents try to keep agency reps off of.

Bottom line – there is no reason to EVER go with an agency that has multiple, serious complaints against it.  And please don’t be na├»ve enough to believe that agencies that have religious names are therefore ethical.  Some of the worst agencies in Ethiopian adoption have the most Christian names.   Sure, anyone can have a bad experience, but it is very easy to see patterns.  There is no reason to ever engage with an agency that has to explain away anything.  Just move on until you find an agency that has nothing to explain except the run-of-the-mill complaints.

If an agency is promising quick referral times, RUN THE OTHER WAY.
With all the information available, if an AP chooses an agency that has a bad reputation or promises a quick turn around they are implicit in corruption.  There are no excuses.  


Hop on over to Semi-Feral Mama's blog. Her diary of her time in Ethiopia is fascinating - look back through posts from the end of April to the beginning of May 2011. So eye-opening and heart-warming. It's just another example of how awesome adoption is. How families come together. Just meant to be, you know? 

P.S. If you aren't sick of me yet, check out my interview on her blog.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to Support Friends and Family Through Adoption

I got a question through FormSpring the other day. The reader mentioned that she has a family member who just started the adoption process and asked how family members and friends can show support.

For the sake of this post, I will give advice based on my situation - infertility resulting in a domestic infant placement. And I mention ways to support after placement too. Hopefully you all can glean out what won't be relevant in a different situation.

First, here are the do's

Say She Is Expecting
One of the most meaningful things that my mom did (without knowing it) was refer to me as "expecting." My mom would tell people she had two daughters who were expecting; she was expecting two grandchildren, etc. (My sister was pregnant at the time.) I felt very included and I loved it. I think any hopeful adoptive mom would love it too!

Be Excited!
Expecting a baby (whether it's through pregnancy or adoption) should be an exciting time full of anticipation and planning. It's a little nerve wracking for hopeful adoptive parents though because first, they don't know when their baby will come - there is no nine-month count down; and second, there is always a chance the adoption won't go through. But even if a hopeful adoptive mom is reigning in her excitement, feel free to express yours. Show her nursery themes. Talk about baby names. Talk about the adoption process. The longer the wait grows, the more disheartening it is. Friends that stay positive, interested, and excited are worth their weight in gold!

Throw a Shower
All expecting mamas appreciate a shower. Some adoptive mothers are eager to have a shower once they have been matched with a birth mom. Others prefer to wait until the baby is home. Ask your friend or family member this. I bet she will just be over the moon to have people willing to throw her a shower.

Some pictures from one of my THREE showers (now why don't I have any pictures of the other two?)

Help Financially
Adoption is a big expense, no matter how well prepared for it you are. If you can offer someone five bucks, twenty bucks, or fifty bucks, they will be ecstatic. I often fantasized about how much easier it would be if every family member and friend gave us $5. :)

There are other ways to offer financial help without opening up your wallet. Research adoption loans or grants online and give your friend the info. Help her plan a fund-raiser like a craft fair or garage sale—or help her list items on Craigslist. If you’re crafty, you can make things, donate them, and she can sell them.

Help Spread the Word
About half of all adoptions happen through word of mouth—not through an agency. One statistic I read estimates independent adoptions (those not facilitated by an agency) as two-thirds of all adoptions. So helping your friend/family member spread the word about their hopes to adopt can be invaluable.

A lot of hopeful adoptive couples make “pass along” cards about their hopes to adopt. Offer to help pass them out. Give some to your church leaders, your doctors, your kids’ schools, your hair dresser…anyone! Slip them into bills you pay. Keep them handy so if you ever have a random adoption-related discussion with a stranger at the grocery store, you can bravely pass one along. These cards are successful. Read an awesome success story here.

There are other ways to help spread the news. If your friends/family members have a Facebook page for their hopes to adopt, “like” it. Or encourage them to make one. Encourage them to start a blog if they haven’t already. Put links or buttons on your blog.

Some hopeful adoptive parents write letters to attorneys, hospitals, family planning clinics, counseling agencies, etc., explaining their hope to adopt (a more intense pass-a-long card, if you will). Help address envelopes, lick stamps, whatever. Even in conversation, bring it up the topic of adoption when appropriate.

Give Adoption-Specific Gifts
Any hopeful adoptive mother will be so touched by a heart-felt gift that says you get what she is going through and you get that adoption will forever be part of their lives and family. Find a baby book written specifically for adoption situations (Here is a great customizable template). Another idea is meaningful jewelry—The R House Couture jewelry is inspired by adoption and run by an adoptive mama. They offer clothing and prints too.

I love The R House Couture jewelry. Justin got me a necklace earlier this year. 

Adorable clothes for babies and adults!

Learn the Lingo
There is a lot of jargon that comes with adoption. Learning some of it will make your friend/family member know you are seriously interested in their success.

Also, learn positive adoption language. Some people are quite sensitive to adoption language while others don’t care as much. Err on the side of caution and learn the more politically correct terms until you know what your friend/family member prefers. Like birth mom or biological mom rather than real momPlaced for adoption rather than gave up for adoption. A quick Google search will do. Or you can read this post on my friend Brittany's blog for a start.

Send Her Flowers, Make Her Dinner
After delivering a baby, most women get flowers from their families and casseroles galore. Do the same thing when an adoptive family adds a new member—even if the new member isn’t a baby. Adding a new person to your family is always a lot of work—and it always needs to be celebrated.

From my sister

From my work peeps

And as always, there are a few don'ts

Don't Tell Her She's Lucky to Miss Out on Pregnancy Stuff
Don’t tell her she’s lucky she doesn’t have to go through labor. Or how nice it must be to have a new baby without gaining an ounce. Or how she’s doing it the easy way. People said stuff like this to me all the time—as if they were compliments designed to make me feel better. I just wanted to strangle everyone who said this and tell him or her I would go through ten horrible pregnancies to be able to carry a child. I just wanted to say, "Oh, so the FBI background checks, mounds of paperwork, letters of recommendation, AIDS tests, months of social work supervision, thousand and thousands of dollars that insurance won't touch, and years of heartbreak is the 'easy' way? Good to know."

Adoption is a different path to motherhood—it isn’t better, it isn’t worse, just different. But for people who struggle with infertility, these kinds of comments are simply insulting.

Don’t Tell Adoption Horror Stories
As soon as we spread the word that we were adopting, every other person had to tell us a story about their roommate’s sister who adopted a kid that murdered them in their sleep and sold their skin on eBay as rare leather. Or the one where the “real” mom took the baby back. These people have watched too many LifeTime Movies. Most adoptions are just fine and adopted kids aren’t any worse off than any other group of children. In fact they are often in better shape. 

Don’t Overstep into Parenting Territory (When the Baby Comes)
As a brand new adoptive mom, I felt like a second-class mother because I hadn’t carried the baby for nine months and “gotten to know her” in my womb. It was a permanent blind date. Some people treated me like I was incapable and I let them.

 On the other hand, I was very impressed (and also overwhelmed) when people—people with a ton more experience than me—left all kinds of scary decisions up to me and let me call the shots. They would say things like, “You are the mother—you know best.” I questioned their faith, but I rose to the occasion.

 I’ve since learned that every new mother feels inadequate. Pregnancy doesn’t circumvent that. Maybe biological mothers experience people treating them like they are ignorant, too. I just know that as an adoptive mom, I was super sensitive to it because I believed they were right.

Don't Say "Now You'll Get Pregnant"
Just don't. 

That’s my two cents (more like two dollars—I am never short on things to say). If you have something to add, leave it in the comments. Thanks for the question, Michelle. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Heavy Conversations with My Daughter

This was the conversation I had with Joci today after daycare - since she can kind of have a conversation now. Kind of. So this discussion happened in the car after I picked her up for daycare on the way to McDonald's and then to buy toys for our Operation Christmas Child gift box.

Me: Joci, we are going to go get something to eat, then go shopping for toys!

Joci: Shopping for toys! Yay!

Me: Do you want chicken nuggets or a cheeseburger?

Joci: Chicken nuggets!

Me: So, Joci, we have a holiday coming up called Christmas. It is about giving.

Joci: Christmas.

Me: That means some people will probably give you toys. Right now we are going to pick out toys to give to someone else because giving is nice.

Joci: Toys!

Me: Yes, we are going to buy toys to give to a friend.

Joci: Friends!

Me: Yes. Who are your friends?

Joci: I don't know.

Me: Do you have friends?

Joci: Yes.

Me. Who are your friends? Andrea?

Joci: No. No Drea.

Me: I think some of your friends are Cole, DJ, Aliyah, and Garrett.

Joci: Okay.

Me: Joci, do you know that you were adopted?

Joci: Yeah. I dotted.

Me: Yes, you were adopted. Do you know what that means?

Joci: I dotted.

Me: It means that you have another mommy, Heather. She is your tummy mommy.

Joci: Heather tummy mommy.

Me: Yep. And then I got to be your mommy!

Joci: My mommy!

Me: Yes. I will always be your mommy. I want you to know that.

Joci: One, two, free, four, fife, sux, seben, eet, nine, ten, leben, eet, nine, ten, leben, tawelve

Me: You have lots of people who love you.

Joci. Say one, Mommy.

Me: One

Joci: Say two, Mommy

Me: Two

Joci: I want chicken nuggets!

Not sure how the concepts of Christmas and adoption will stick, but, hey, at least we are talking about it!

Diva fairy princess musketeer. She is so awesome. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Doubting Hopeful Adoptive

Today I was writing the copy for our adoption profile pages.

This is the part I hate.

I never know what to say. And I have issues being concise. I don't have enough space to say what I want to say. I look at other profiles. I try to get other ideas but ultimately, I end up comparing myself to them. I am always left with a hundred questions.

What is the most important thing about me?
How do I condense all that I am and all that I feel into a few short paragraphs?
What will make a birth parent turn the page and keep reading?
What will scare a birth parent away?
Am I being too emotional? Too needy? Too sappy? Too flippant?
Am I enough?
Why would anyone ever pick me?

Some of these profiles talk about summer homes on the beach and fancy private schools. How can I compare?

It's so miraculous that we got picked once - that a beautiful family felt that we would be the perfect parents for their baby girl. Out of hundreds--possibly thousands--of families. Many better looking than us, wealthier than us, with better opportunities than us. It's a miracle of miracles that we got picked once.

How can I possibly ever hope for it to happen again?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Medieval Melaween 2011

We have a pretty awesome Halloween celebration at work every year. This year, we choose a medieval theme. We always have a loose interpretation - seeing as we had a lot of Robin Hood elements and even a few fairy tale elements.

Last year we did Wild West
The year before was Space


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