Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas 2013

Our Christmas tree this year is pure hilarity.  The girls bent the lower branches beyond repair.  Abraham broke about a dozen ornaments and removed the rest that were in reach.  He would ever so sweetly walk up to me at least once a day each day in December, hand me an ornament, and tell me "tank you".

Each year's attempt to get a picture of all the kids together results in some of my favorite pictures ever despite how frustrated I get while trying to take them.

It sort of sums up the last busy month around here.  The girls being up to mischief: swaying minute to minute from either loving each other's company or pulling each other's hair out.

And Abraham, my dear sweet little boy, being a holy terror.  I didn't know what it was to have a such a busy one-year-old before Abraham.  I can't hardly take him anywhere unless it's somewhere set up for toddlers.  The child is into everything constantly and there is no sitting still being entertained for this one.

We had a pretty crazy Christmas schedule as well this year.  We started with our family Christmas in KC on the Saturday before Christmas.  We had a fun day of homemade banana donuts, playing in the snow, drinking hot chocolate by the fire, opening presents, and watching movies.

The next day we drove to Iowa to celebrate with Scott's parents and siblings.  The following day we headed to my parent's house to celebrate with my family and siblings.  Then finally on the 24th we celebrated with my extended family.  Four Christmases in four days was more than enough for us!  We had exhausted kids, so on Christmas day we took it easy.  Scott had to drive back to KC for work and my mom and I took the girls to the movie theater to see Frozen.

I didn't even Christmas cards sent out this year through all the crazy.  So don't feel left out if you didn't get to see my family's picture show up in the mail.  Here's what you would have gotten.  Feel free to print it out and hang it up with your other cards, or toss it in the recycling bin in a week with the rest of them!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Evolution of Abraham's Hair

Just scroll and sob along with me.

I gave him his first, ever, haircut at home.

Prepare your heart.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wrapping Up National Adoption Awareness Month

For National Adoption Awareness Month, Kansas City Moms Blog did several pieces on adoption. I was interviewed for one here.

My interview for the Open Adoption Bloggers Network with me answering Amber's questions is now up.

And a few more posts I didn't author that I'm reading right now.

A Beautiful Soul

To so many people adoption seems to be a synonym for  “not real children/siblings,” or “charity cases”. None of those things were true for her though. These children were her children. They were just as much her children as her older four. She was so beautiful. 

Interview with an African American Adoptee Who Was Adopted by Caucasian Parents

 I’m here today to talk to you a little bit about my experiences of being adopted as an infant into a Caucasian home and into a predominately white or Caucasian community.

Why It Matters That Angelina Jolie's White Child Plays With Black Dolls 

recent photo of the Jolie-Pitt kids seems to reinforce that Jolie and Pitt may be more conscious of racial and cultural diversity than the average parent. The widely published photo captured the couple’s biological daughter Vivienne carrying a black doll with short, tightly curled hair. This may not seem like a big deal but it is.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Open Adoption Bloggers: Interview Project 2013

Open Adoption Bloggers is a group I've been a part of for almost 2 years now, but until this year I hadn't taken the initiative to join in their yearly interview project.  Through what sounds like a logistical nightmare to me, they pair up any of the bloggers in their network who want to join in and have them interview one another.

I was matched up with Amber at Bumbler's Bumblings.  She's a mom through adoption of 2 beautiful children, one of which she has a very open adoption with his birthmom.  So much so, that her son's birthmom has even written some posts about adoption for her blog.

So here goes...

1) What led you to a place that you decided adoption was the right choice for your family and was adoption even a blip on the radar before that?

We were one of those couples that talked about this in pre-marital counseling.  We both agreed that if we were not able to have biological children, that we would pursue adoption.  Both of us had cousins that were adopted and I had a close friend in high school that was an adoptee. When interfertility became a reality in our lives, we took some time and space and dealt with the loss of biological children.  It helped that I switched careers in the middle of that time and wanted to be stable in a new job before we started the adoption process.  

2) How has the experience of adopting inter-racially differed from the experience in adopting a child of your same race?

The experience has only been different in small ways so far, since our daughter is only one. I definitely have been reading and preparing myself for the differences.  We watch a lot of shows like Little Bill and Doc McStuffins. I also try to make sure she has bi-racial or African American baby dolls.   Our son has some different heritage as well, that we try to incorporate into his life.  

3) The relationships you have with each of your children's birthmoms is very different, what sort of insight has this provided you into the various levels of openness available to birthparents?

Oh this is a loaded question. I am such an advocate and cheerleader of open adoption. I think it’s wonderful for our children and I want it for everyone.  I have had to grieve the “loss” (in my mind) of open adoption for each of my children’s bio families.  Though we have a wonderful open relationship with our son’s birth mom, I’ve had to come to the place where I’ve realized that not everyone is ready for that open of a relationship.  Openness in adoption does not always equate visits.  Sometimes it just means that the adoptive parents are open to contact and open to conversation with our children about their origins, even though their birth/bio parents are not able to handle day-to-day contact with our family.  

4) What is the worst thing you've had said to you in a grocery check-out lane (where all the most awful, awkward adoption based questions from strangers seem to happen)?

I have to say that lately people have been really amazing. I don’t know if people are becoming more sensitive or I just haven’t run into many rude people lately.  Last summer I wrote a soapbox blog post that garnered a lot of attention and then followed it up with another one in the spring, about someone telling me that my daughter was too dark for me.  Since then, people have been so kind and complimentary about our children that I just am breathing a huge sigh of relief.

5) And on a non-adoption note, in what ways are you a different mom than your pre-kid self pictured you being?

Oh I had a difficult time coming up with answers to this one. I guess I was like any pre-kid woman, my kids will always obey and behave perfectly at home and in public. Bahaha, funny, I know!  

 Be sure to check out the other interviews (many were posted in the last month, we were in the last group scheduled to post) to hear from lots of amazing adoptive families.  Also, her interview of me should be up on her blog within the next week!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

National Adoption Awareness Month Part 2

To help bring some more awareness this adoption thing, I'm going to let you in on some things adoptive families talk about when hanging out online with only other adoptive families.  As I said in Part 1, its a sort of inner circle, and I think being able to be a fly on the wall of these conversations is an amazing way to see what's really going on in the hearts and minds of those parents who have adopted or are adopting children.

I'm going to paraphrase and not give names, because no one wants their privacy outed.  And surprise, surprise, you get to hear what I think too.  I'm never short on opinions.

"We are debating going from being ok with a semi-open or closed adoption, to being open to an open adoption.  We're just scared that it will be confusing for our future child.  What do you think?"

I think that open adoption has been an incredibly challenging and incredibly rewarding experience for us.  But the reality is, that we didn't chose open adoption for us.  We chose it for Abraham and for his birthmom.

Let's take 2 scenarios.

Scenario 1: Abraham grows up and we have no contact with his birthmom.  He potentially has questions about where he came from, what she's like, how she made her decision, what her health history is, or whatever else.  He has no way to get answers to those questions.

Scenario 2: Abraham grows up hearing about his adoption and birthmom on a somewhat regular basis. Her name is used freely in our home without and shame or secrecy.  We are excited to share his milestones with her and he gets to witness us loving her and caring about her.  When he has questions we text or call her and ask them.

In which scenario is Abraham more likely to experience confusion?

"We're talking to an expectant mom tonight who may chose us and we're so nervous!  What do we say???"

My first thought when I read this is just thankfulness for correct language.  A woman who is pregnant is an expectant mom regardless of her plans for the child post-birth.  She's not a birthmom until she has given birth and relinquished her rights to that child.  Incorrect usage of the term birthmom for a woman who is pregnant and not placed her child yet, is a pet peeve of mine.

This is a huge source of stress for basically every potential adoptive family.  The first contact with someone who has such power in your life and who will potentially be such an immensely important part of your life is not really describable.

The first time we talked to K (Abraham's birthmom), was over the phone with our adoption agency the phone as well.  That really helped, but even with that, it was an adrenaline-loaded phone call.  The reality is though, that I think she was more nervous than we were.  She wanted to make sure that we were what she was looking for, and was facing such an enormous decision of picking the right family for this baby she was growing.  I'm sure she felt fear of being rejected by us as well.

"I'm not sure what I would do without this group."  
"I'm so happy I have you all to go through this with."  
"This week has been unbearable, I don't have anyone in real life to talk to about all of this, thank you for being here for me."

I hear this all the time from other adoptive families, particularly those in the period of waiting to be matched or waiting for a child to be born.  That time is hard, and there's really no comparison for it.  It's not like being pregnant and waiting for a baby to be born.  There's little to nothing you can do to speed up the process of being chosen.  And in the end, there's no guarantee or timeline that the wait will be over.

Having other people around you who GET IT is invaluable.  No one is offering platitudes or giving unhelpful advice.  Just commiserating and encouraging as only others those who have been there can.  So if you're starting in on the adoption process, I highly recommend finding a community in real life or online where you can talk openly.

"How do I respond to people who say things like, 'I just don't know how those moms do it, I could never give my baby away!'?"

I saved the best for last.

I've heard this one multiple times in real life, and have responded in a variety of ways.  I want to have a really succinct answer to say to strangers, but even though I mostly have one, it never seems to come out right when the grocery store clerk decides to say something like this.

The long answer is this.

"Placing a child for adoption has never been your reality, that's most likely why you feel you could never do it.  During our wait for Abraham we heard of many babies being placed for adoption for a myriad of reasons, most of which many of us will never face or begin to truly grasp.

So while I may not understand what it feels like to walk in the shoes of an expectant mom who is debating if adoption is the right choice for her, I can chose to not vilify her.  I can chose to not "other" her by putting her in a category of women apart from myself who must be detached or not truly love their child because how else could they "give them away."

Instead I can be empathetic to a woman who is thinking long and hard about what her child needs and whether or not she is able to provide that.  I can be gracious to a woman who is not putting her own self-interest above that of her child.  I can be humble and realize I don't have to understand why everyone makes the decisions they make in order to respect that person.

The reality is that birthmoms are not super-human nor sub-human.  They are no different than you and I.  They love their children dearly whether or not they are in a situation to parent them and are making a decision based on what they know of themselves just like you and I do each day.

It's ok to not understand that decision.  But, the wording you use to talk about it (giving away versus placing for adoption) speaks volumes of how you view that woman and her choice."

But in the grocery store I usually say something more along the lines of, "I guess I'm just thankful I've never been in a place where I had to make that kind of decision."

Monday, November 11, 2013

National Adoption Awareness Month Part 1

November is National Adoption Awareness Month, so you all get to hear some more adoption thoughts from me.  Feel aware, or something.  In 2 parts.

I'm in several closed Facebook adoption-centered groups, some full of adoptive families, one for those waiting to adopt, and one for adoptive breastfeeding moms.  The discussions that get started in these groups are always interesting to me.  They feel like a safe space where people (for the most part) use positive adoption language and understand that unique situations that arise in the world of adoption.

Inevitably a new person will join the group and say something taboo and quickly be corrected.  For the most part, those doing the correcting and those being corrected are gracious, because again, there's this feeling of us all being in the same boat together.

One thing that comes up from time to time is how others feel about being asked while out in public about adoption.  For some, it never comes up unless others know the child was adopted.  For families like mine though, there's no real hiding the fact, particularly when we're all together.  When I'm out with just Abraham, it's sometimes assumed I'm partnered with a Black man.  When I'm out with all three children the assumptions range from me having multiple baby daddies, to me doing childcare, or that our family was built through adoption.

I really, truly don't mind educating others about adoption while I'm out and about.  Some families are thoroughly annoyed by the questions and assumptions, and while I might be annoyed with the methodology with which they are asked, I'm not bothered by helping others come to a better understanding of adoptive families.

Here are my favorite ways people bring things up with me:

~ "You have a beautiful family."  This is a good one because if I don't feel like detailing my son's history in the grocery store, I can simply respond with, "thank you."  It also opens the door to talking about my family if it's the right time and place, such as a quiet day at the park.

~ "Your son is adorable."  This is a favorite too.  The best part about it is that the speaker starts with the assumption that the adult caring for the child is that child's parent.  Perfect.  The average baby sitter is not annoyed by being assumed to be a child's parent.  The average adoptive parent would much, much rather be assumed to be the parent than the babysitter.

~ "We've been thinking about adopting/adoption, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?"  I get this one every now and again and I really enjoy it.  Getting to talk to other parents about how we built our family is fun for me.  It's so, so much better than getting asked things such as how much our son cost (gag, services cost money, people do not) or about our fertility (holy private information for strangers).

Monday, October 28, 2013

He Walks!

At 16 months old Abraham has finally decided that moving while upright just might be a worthwhile venture.

He surprised us all when he took his very first 4 steps in front of his birthmom while we were in Louisiana a couple months ago, but I'd hardly gotten one out of him since then.  He didn't even have any interest in holding onto your hands and walking around with assistance.

He's one of the fastest crawlers I've ever watched though, so I wasn't too surprised that his busy little self didn't have time to mess with walking.  But all of a sudden, in the last week, he's willing to give it a shot.

In other news, I completely cannot handle his adorable little face in this picture.  It's even worth the amount of noise he makes with his new absolute favorite toy ever.  

And the hair?  I actually had him all set up to give it a trim this week and I just. couldn't. do. it.  I've decided to let it go long for a while until my heart can handle it. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Family Pictures 2013

This year's photos were done by Chris and Amy Messenger.

I have almost 150 of these I have to pick from.  I'm in love with all of them.