Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Author Interview: Foster Care, A Book, and Community

Whew---just in time, before the end of the month....I want to share with you an interview with the author of my November Book of the Month. 

Meet Vanessa Diffenbaugh, the author of The Language of Flowers

R:  Tell me about yourself and your family.

V:  I was born in San Francisco and raised in Chico, California.  I met my husband at Mount Madonna Center when I was twenty years old.  Mount Madonna is a community in the redwoods near Santa Cruz, California, built on the principals of yoga and selfless service.  My husband was raised there, and I was attending a yoga retreat with my family. I think Mount Madonna has had a profound impact not only on my husband, but on the family we have created together. We have two biological children and have been foster parents for nearly six years.  Tre’von is now a sophomore at NYU on a Gates Millenium Scholarship—we are, of course, very proud of him!

R: I have read hundreds of adoption books, some of which were fiction.   Many of these books are filled with negative stereotypes regarding social workers, birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents.  Your book's characters, however, seem realistic.  You do not sugar coat the hardships the characters face, nor do you smack your characters with stereotypical labels and personalities. Did it ever cross your mind that your book, though fiction, might become a resource for adoptive parents?  Did you have a goal in mind when writing your book?

V:  I set out to write the best novel I could write, and never thought of my book as trying to send a particular message. In fact, I imagine that if I had been trying to make a statement, the novel would have felt much more preachy and a lot less genuine! However, I am thrilled that my book has encouraged interesting conversations and thinking on these very important subjects.  It was certainly always a goal of mine to bring these issues to light!

R: Your book has received praise-filled reviews from prominent authors.  How do you react to the publication of your book and the positive attention it has received?   

V:  It has taken me some time just to get over the shock!  When you are writing your first book, people tell you over and over again how hard it is to sell a novel.  They recite statistics of how many authors ever find agents (I’ve heard 2%!  No idea if this is true) and tell you that even if you do sell your book you’ll never be able to “make it” financially as a writer.  But I did sell my book, and now people all over the world are reading and responding to it.  It is very humbling to have created a story that has touched so many people from such vastly different worlds and experiences.

R:  What are you working on next? 

V:  My next novel isn’t about flowers or foster care, but I hope that it is another topic that will be interesting and relevant to my readers.   I am writing every morning and it is coming along—very slowly, but coming along nevertheless.

R: Tell me about the Camellia Network.  What can my readers do to support your organization?    Why are you so passionate about foster care adoption?

V:  The mission of Camellia Network is to activate networks of citizens in every community to provide the critical support young people need to transition from foster care to adulthood. Youth that age out face astonishing challenges: by the age of 24, 31% will have been incarcerated, 25% will have experienced homelessness, less than half are employed, and only 3% will have a college degree.  The reason I am a passionate advocate of permanency is simple: if all children in foster care were connected to lifelong families, no one would ever have to “age out” of the system.

n terms of how your readers can help, thank you for asking!  We are building a national network of people who have raised their hands and said yes! I want to help young people aging out in my community.  We already have thousands in our network and are growing daily.  Go on our website to join the movement.  If your readers sign up, they will be kept informed as we grow and begin to offer more and more opportunities to help.

Last thing: if you are in a book club sign up on our book clubs pageIf your book club will support Camellia (it doesn’t matter how much or little your group can raise, we need everyone!) I will call in to a future book club meeting to answer questions.

R:  At the very end of you book, in the last paragraph, you thank several people, some of whom are not your children.  Can you tell me about the individuals you listed?   

V:  My novel is so much about mother-child relationships, that I wanted to thank all the children that have taught about the depth and complexities of these relationships over the years.  Graciela and Miles are my biological children, and others are those I’ve fostered, and still others are children I’ve mentored or who I’ve known only briefly, but who taught me things I’ll never forget.

R:  What advice can you give a person or couple considering adopting a child from foster care?

V:  I think it is important for people or couples to know what they can handle in terms of age, numbers of kids, and behaviors—and then stick to it.  There is such a shortage of people willing to adopt kids out of foster care, specifically older kids and sibling sets, that I often hear stories of social workers putting pressure on potential adoptive couples that are outside the bounds of what they are looking for—for example, a couple wanting to adopt one toddler may end up being asked to consider a large sibling set.  All to often people say yes—because their heart is in the right place, and they want to help as much as possible—but if they don’t have the support or resources (internal and external!) these adoptions are more likely to fail.  Better to take on what you know you can handle and do it well, even with the overwhelming need in the world!

Special thanks to Vanessa for her time and talent!  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas at Our House Has Begun

 Christmas Little People sets!  So much fun!   We got some at a yard sale this summer and the others were gifts.  These are the perfect toys for both my girls. 
 Baby E wanted to help decorate the tree.  Because she is challenged in the listening department, we bought a baby gate to put around our big tree this year.  
 Miss E placed a tractor ornament right over Mary's face.   Hmmm....
 A gifted ornament we received last year that makes its debut this year.  Fabulous!
 My latest AA Santa.  I got him for $15 (on sale and with a coupon) at JCPenney.   They have a great variety to choose from.
 I found these jars (in various sizes) at a Goodwill last month.   I'm filling them with cinnamon sticks and candy canes.   The smallest jar is still waiting to be filled.   In my kitchen I'm doing a food themed tree and we have cookie cutters hanging from ribbons from our dining area light fixture (so inexpensive and cute!).
 Another new ornament this year.  This AA ballerina was purchased at Macy's.
Love the multi-racial Santa tins from IKEA.  Only $5.99 for three tins.  

Friday, November 25, 2011

What to Buy? + AA Christmas Decor

Many adoptive parents struggle with open adoption, particularly around the holidays.  What is an appropriate Christmas gift for birth family members?   Adoptive parents don't want to give too much or too little, making the situation uncomfortable.

Here are some ideas:

---Start with a card.   Have your child sign it if he or she is old enough.  If not, trace your child's hand print.  :)  

---Choose something meaningful to your child.   My friend Miss S, who happens to be an adoptive mother herself, gave me a fantastic idea.  Each year, we buy the girls' biological parents an ornament, and we buy a matching one for ourselves.   It's neat to think that when we are looking at our Christmas trees, we are sharing a view.  :)     Miss S buys an ornament that represents something her daughter is into that year.

---Make something, or have your child make something.    This year, we are giving stitched hand prints in a frame.   Thanks so much to Passionate Homemaking for this fabulous idea! 

---Give a photo.   My favorite place to buy frames is Kohl's because I always have a coupon, and there is always a great selection of clearance items. 


Check out my latest article for the Krazy Coupon Lady on where to find AA Christmas decor this season! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Interesting Article on Adoption + Hair Care Resource List

Check this out.  Adoption has a rocky history.   Is it getting better? 


Need hair care resources for your kiddos?  Check out this list recently posted on Adoptive Families magazine. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Selling Babies?

Last month, Old Navy had a sale on baby clothes.   This was the sign on the front display of one of my local stores.

Apparently, you can get a baby "from $5." 

As an adoptive mother, I have participated in discussions surrounding this question:  Do adoption agencies sell babies?

It's easy to put up our defenses and say, "No way!  We are paying for an adoption process.   We don't buy babies."

My response to adoptive families is this:   It's tough, very tough, to find an ethical agency that exists as a ministry and not a business, an agency that doesn't sell babies to the people who can afford to buy them.

Many organizations and businesses exist to bring in money for personal profit.  Those that can be most successful use something deeply emotional, such as starting a family or fighting a disease, to bring in the big bucks. 

The abortion industry, for example, is a money making machine.   They meet a woman at the point of crisis, offer a quick solution, money is exchanged, and poof, problem gone (or so the industry claims).

It's sad that the comparison can be made between an abortion clinic and an adoption agency, but the truth is that both can exisit to provide a service that is sought after during a crucial, desperate time in a woman's life---be it the woman who chooses abortion, the woman who places her baby for adoption, or the woman wanting to adopt a baby after she's waited months, years, or even decades to become a mother.

I think adoptive parents have a responsibility to choose their agency wisely.  You have a right to ask a lot of questions, no matter how "intrusive" they may seem.   You have a right to know how the adoption fees are being used.   You have a right to question any agency practices  You have a right to ask how birth parents are treated, how it's handled if an expectant mom chooses to parent instead of following her "placement plan," etc.  You have a right to receive complete and honest answers.   

I love transparent agencies, honest social workers, and down-to-earth, knowledgeable birth parent counselors.   They are quite hard to find.   But don't stop until you find that stellar agency---because, I do believe we are responsible for our choices and we will be judged one day by God for those decisions.  

And, if you are working with an unethical agency, don't be afraid to go elsewhere.  Yes, you may have given a lot of money to your current agency, but luckily, God allows U-turns. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

ADORABLE AA Christmas Decor On Sale (Only a Few Days to Buy!)

One of my favorite websites, Totsy, is selling AA Christmas decor, which is incredibly hard to find.   Click on the Totsy link and then search "Holiday Elements."   I suggest ordering ASAP as items sell very quickly.   It is free to join Totsy (no hidden fees!).   Happy Christmas!

Home for the Holidays Info

Encourage your family and friends to watch this TV special featuring some fab celebs who promote foster care adoption! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Adoption Month Celebrated at My Library!

A very special thank you to Miss Alison for creating a display of adoption books.    Adoption awareness and education is very dear to my heart.  

How are you celebrating National Adoption Month?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Birthday Banner

I am no seamstress.

But, a few years back, I asked for a sewing machine for Christmas, certain I would automatically become an expert pillowcase dress maker.   I bought fabric, ribbon, thread, and some other items.  I hired a sewing teacher.

I made one dress with wayyyy too big arm holes. 

The end.   Or so I thought.

Then I went to a party (hosted by, ironically, the woman who gave me the sewing lesson) and saw beautiful banners hanging throughout her house.    I asked her how she made them, and she said it was very easy.   Easy, I thought.  Right.  Easy for someone who used to own a sewing shop, can quilt, can smock, can craft basically anything out of nothing.

But I decided to give the project a whirl.   I purchased three different fabrics for each banner (one for each daughter), allowing my then two-year-old to choose one of her fabrics (a monkey pattern).  I then bought ribbon to match.

I created a triangle stencil using a file folder (as recommend by my sewing teacher) and spent a few nights cutting triangles with my sewing scissors.  I then ironed my triangles and stacked them in order of how I wanted them to line up on the banner.

Finally, a few weeks ago, I pulled out (and dusted off) my sewing machine.     I didn't touch a single setting (gulp!  who knew what would happen?) nor did I change the thread (change the thread?  are you kidding me?)  and holding my breath, sewed the triangles to the ribbon.

It worked.

I was so happy.   So I pulled out my second ribbon and set of triangles.   About four triangles into the project, I realized something was awry.

Three You Tube videos later, I had wound a new bobbin (whew---listen to me using sewing terms) and was back on track.  

With the leftover triangles and some ribbon I had on hand, I created a third, shorter banner to give as a gift.

What I love about this project is that it's easy, it's inexpensive, and it's homemade.  Plus, you can customize it for any holiday or celebration, and you aren't purchasing a one-time-use banner that will go into the landfill.   And finally, you don't have to do anything perfect.  In fact, the minor "flaws" give the banner character.

(Please excuse the poorly taken photo---the only free and long-enough space I had to lay out my banners was the kitchen floor). 

You can use fabric and ribbon scraps to add to or create a sensory box for your little ones.  

If you give this project a whirl, let me know what you are celebrating! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tidbits You Can Use

I've been coming across some awesome websites lately that I just have to share with you!

First, there's an online comic website called Adopted:  The Comic.     The comics usually center around adoptee experiences.  I found this one to be so true of adoptive parents and how we sometimes just don't know what or when or how to talk about adoption.   Happy browsing!

Second, I got a catalog in the mail the other day from Personal Creations that has many ornaments featuring African Americans and Hispanics.   You can select your ornament and then their skin tone and sometimes hair color.     There are so many to choose from!    Their rag dolls are really cute.

Third, I continue to read My Brown Baby online.   I love the variety of stories and the overall beauty of the website.  

Finally, If you haven't checked my resources list in some time, swing by.  I'm always adding new titles.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Book of the Month: November

I'm starting a new blog series called Book of the Month.   I'll feature a title that I found intriguing, a must-read, on the subject of adoption or diversity.

This month, I suggest you order The Language of Flowers (Vanessa Diffenbaugh) from your local library.     This first-time novelist's book had me captivated.     Yes, the book is fiction, but the author did a fabulous job of capturing the complexity of a child's experience being stuck in the foster care system and the ramifications of that life.

If you have a few moments, read the author's bio.   So inspirational! 

Get your reading on!   

Share the Sugar!

Hey, readers!

I'm so thrilled with my new blog design.   My designer made me a button code, which is located below my profile info on the right, which you can copy and share on your blog.       Thanks!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy National Adoption Month: How You Can Celebrate

You can celebrate National Adoption Month by...

1:   Asking your library to create an adoption-book display.

2:  Participating in your local foster care agency's birthday buddy program (where you purchase birthday gifts for a child in foster care).    (This would also make a fabulous Christmas project). 

3:  Donate items or money to local crisis nurseries, children's homes, maternity homes, etc.

4:  Spread the word about your adoption support group.

5:  Start the process of becoming a foster or adoptive parent. 

6:  Support foster parents.  Take meals, offer to babysit, buy some items their children might need.  

7:  Offer to speak as an experienced adoptive family at your agency's family training sessions.  Share what you know about adoption.

8:  Purchase adoption or diversity-minded books (see my resource list) for your child's school, the local library, or to your local agency (to give to new adoptive parents).  

9:  Host a drive for an organization that supports women, babies, and children.

10:  Include adoption in your Christmas letter.    

What ideas do you have? 

The list of possibilities is numerous!