Sunday, July 31, 2011

Our Adoption Agencies

I have been fairly private about the adoption agencies we have used, mostly because each person has a different experience and my praise might not mean our agency is the right one for your family.

With our first adoption, we were rather naive. We figured, if an agency has "Christian" in its name, it must be good, right? (Turns out they were VERY expensive in comparison to other agencies. Granted, the fees were higher because they employed more people and did a lot of advertising, but later, I learned how unimportant and unnecessary that really is). I also didn't get a call back from one agency, which I found out later, would have cost less money. After waiting for about six months with our first agency, I started researching secondary agencies. I researched many agencies in our state, but I came up with nothing. I also looked into waiting with attorneys, but again, I wasn't all that impressed. So I started researching agencies in neighboring states.

Eventually, I found THE one for us. We liked them because one, they were a small agency that had reasonable fees. They seemed to be ethical and Christian (Christian doesn't always equal ethical, sadly!).

The second agency (not our home-state agency) was the one that placed us with Miss E.

With our second adoption: We chose a home agency (a non-Christian agency) that had very reasonable fees, an excellent social worker (who knows her stuff!), and could provide us with a well-detailed homestudy. We then, without hesitation, joined our secondary agency (out of state). As you recall, this adoption journey went very quick!

You might be thinking, How the heck do I choose an agency?

I think, especially if you're adopting for the first time, that the best way to get started is to first get educated on adoption. You can't possibly know what questions to ask if you don't understand what you are asking about. Read, read, read. Talk to adoptive families. You can check out this guide as a starting point. (Just remember, most adoptive families who get a placement RAVE about their agency, but you should suspect they are raving because they got a baby, not because the agency was extraordinary).

Then, generate a list of questions to ask agencies as you call them. Remember that adoption isn't all about us as the adoptive parents. You want to find out how they treat expectant moms and birth parents. Do they provide support after the placement for you, as the adoptive couple, and to the birth parents?

Sit down with your spouse and discuss the pros and cons of each agency. Obviously, cost is a major factor for some couples. Other important questions we asked included: Do you allow us to work with more than one agency? What types of "networking" do you encourage (which told us how ethical the agency is)?

A red flag for us was unavailable social workers. If it takes forever to get a response (like the agency we called that never called us back!) Adoptive families should know that social workers are often overworked and underpaid. They are BUSY. But, they should respond in a reasonable time frame based on the question or concern they are presented with. Remember that when it's your turn to be placed with a baby, you want that SW's full attention. You don't want him/her answering less-important questions. So, I think it's important to ask your SW, what is the best way for me to reach you and at what point do you wish for me to contact you a second time (and how?) if I don't hear back in a few days?

Also, read the agencies literature (online, brochures, etc.). If they are always pumping up adoptive parents but constantly tell birth mothers/expectant mothers how adoption is SO much smarter/better than parenting, think again. A woman in a crisis pregnancy isn't going to be a bad mother by default.

Ultimately, you are paying big bucks for a service and a process. You will have your agency in your life for a significant period of time, if not forever should you continue to work with them in order to communicate with your child's biological family members. So be demanding, diligent, and most of all, prayerful in your decision. It's a BIG deal.

So, it's with all this that I tell you, with our second adoption, our primary agency was Lutheran Child and Family Services. Our secondary agency for our first and second adoptions, which placed us with Miss E and Baby E, is The Light House in Kansas City, MO. AND, I'm pleased to share with you that LH is having a community baby shower. I LOVE that LH helps support moms who choose to parent their babies. :)

Note: I have not been paid in any way to tell you about these agencies. I'm also not recommending that any reader use these agencies. Remember----each situation is very different.



Good luck choosing an agency!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Online Shopping

I'm an Amazon fanatic---mostly because the items I purchase are usually 10 to 40% cheaper than stores, plus there's always deals to get free shipping. And, the items usually arrive within TWO days!

A online store I've discovered is called Zulily. The company offers sales that last a few days. Sign up is free. Check the website daily for new deals. I recently purchased umbrellas for my girls, one of which features ballerinas of several races, including AA! Another great feature of this online store is that when you invite friends and they place their first order, you get a $15 credit to shop. :)

I've been Christmas shopping for months now, when I stumble upon good deals online or in-store. Get alerts on fabulous sales from my favorite coupon site. She recently posted an alert that Target had some women's clearance jeans for $4.98, and then combined with Target's online $3 off one pair of adult denim coupon, I scored a pair of jeans for $1.98!

I'm all about saving money!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Favorite Adoption Books

I have a long, long, long list of resources on the subjects of adoption and diversity. You may get a little lost and overwhelmed when you see that list for the first time. :) So, here are my current favorite books for adoptive families.

Adoption Books for Adoptive Parents:





  • In On It: What Adoptive Parents Would Like You To Know About Adoption (Elisabeth O'Toole)


  • The Girls Who Went Away (Ann Fessler)


  • Adoption Nation (Adam Pertman)


Adoption Books for Little Ones:





  • It's Ok to Be Different (Todd Parr)


  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes (Mem Fox)


  • My Family is Forever (Nancy Carlson)


Diversity-Minded Books for Little Ones:





  • I Like Myself! (Karen Beaumont)


  • Cloudette (Tom Lichtensheld)


  • How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World (Marjorie Priceman)


Happy reading!



Saturday, July 23, 2011

Let the Fun Begin (School Forms, That Is)




I was so excited to receive Miss E's packet of preschool paperwork a few weeks ago. As a teacher, I'm all about the backpacks, pencils, bulletin boards, and paperwork. Yes, I am a weird-o who enjoys paperwork. :)

Some of the paperwork reminds me how unique our family is. For one, we are asked to bring a family photo to our child's first day of school for a special project. I immediately started thinking, should I include one of us with Miss E's bio mom and siblings? (Husband says, no.)

Then I started filling out forms. One of which asks what else I can share that would help the teachers better understand my child. The first thing that popped into my mind after "very social" and a "strong leader" (yep, already, at 2.5 years old), was "adopted."

I don't want Miss E to be labeled as "adopted," yet it's so obvious. And, we are proudly an adoptive family. And because we have open adoptions, Miss E might be bringing up the names of birth family members to classmates and teachers. Should I clue those teachers in?

How much of an adopted child's life demonstrates they are unique and celebrated due to that uniqueness and how much of it makes them stand out "like a sore thumb" to where it becomes detrimental? And as an adoptive parent with a young child, what sort of standard or tradition do I set now, this early on, in terms of what we share with teachers?

Miss E proudly tells people, just as she did at the library yesterday to a 3 year old little girl, her name followed by, "I'm adopted!" :) She loves all the books we have on adoption, and in fact, knows, I would say for her age, a fair amount about race. She says, "I'm brown" and tells me that I'm "pink." She loves a new children's book which focuses on the Underground Railroad where the word "FREEDOM" is stated time and time again. (She walks around whispering it. So cute!)

I guess one of my fears is that if I don't share enough of Miss E's story, the general population (including educators) who are naive about adoption might try to "fill in" or teach Miss E something that isn't accurate or could even be offensive (unintentionally, of course). I want to, to some degree, beat them to the topic so I can, from the get-go, present adoption in a positive, confident way.

Maybe I just leave it up to Miss E. She's well-spoken for her age, oddly adult at times, and confident.

Perhaps I sit back and wait. See if there are questions or concerns. And if there aren't, fine. And if there are, fine.

I'd love to hear from experienced adoptive parents on this topic: your stories, your thoughts, your questions.

At the end of the day, we all want what is best for our children.

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GREAT blog post on black hair. It's a letter-of-sorts to people who think they can touch a brown kid's hair. LOVE LOVE LOVE this post!

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Another great blog post from my friend Crystal whom I had the pleasure of meeting IRL last month. Forward the link on to family members and/or friends who try to make you feel "less than" because you are adopting.

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And for my d-friends, some adventures in diabetes with pictures to support my drama. :)

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Finally, this organization does some great things for kids. I hope you'll check it out and see if you qualify to host a child.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Couponing and Saving $$$







My mom had been a coupon clipper and user for as long as I can remember. After getting married, I also began clipping and using coupons, but I hardly took it seriously.

As our family grew from two, to three, and now to four, couponing has become a sport for me. My two year old points out the Kohl's that's only one mile from our house and says, "Kohl's. Coupon." Yep. It starts young, folks.


So here are my money saving and couponing tips and tricks. I am by no means an expert, nor will you see me on Extreme Couponing on TLC (a very amusing show, I must say!).










  • This is by far the best couponing website I've found. The writer offers step-by-steps on how to coupon, a coupon database, and frequent deal updates. This is a great place to get started!





  • Make a list of your family's favorite product brands. Using a Word document, type up a generic message asking that a company provide you with coupons. Be sure to state how much you love their products! Go to the "contact us" section of each company's website and paste your paragraph. (Don't forget to include your name and address). From that same list, sign up for e-mails and online newsletters from the companies. (I got a great response from my coupon requests!)





  • Tell your family members and friends that you want to coupon more often, and ask them to save coupon circulars for you.





  • Decide how much time you can commit to couponing. My couponing takes about one hour a week which includes clipping coupons, organizing coupons, searching online sale flyers, and planning shopping lists.





  • If you find an item your family loves on major sale or clearance, stock up! I recently purchased eight 64oz bottles of organic grape juice because it was in clearance for $2.08 a container. I didn't have any coupons for the organic variety, but at that price, who cares?





Saving money in general:











  • Organize, organize, organize. I have tubs in my basement (purchased in clearance after Christmas, of course!) for girls' clothing up to size 5 (the oldest is only in a 2/3 now). If I find items on major sale or get hand-me-downs, I sort them into the appropriate bin and store. I also have a bin for Christmas cards and wrap (which I got in major clearance after Christmas last year), children's gifts (items I got at a specialty toy store sale---75% off!), and more.





  • Clean green. I clean with vinegar and baking soda. That's it. I use vinegar for EVERYTHING from the cleaner for my mop, carpet cleaner, bathroom cleaner, mirror cleaner, etc.





  • Make your own laundry detergent. Here's my old recipe.





  • I use fabric napkins instead of paper, and I use rags instead of paper towels. Yes, paper products aren't very expensive, but over time they cost a family quite a bit! My next goal is to purchase reuseable baggies off Etsy and stop buying plastic baggies.





  • Rent movies for free from your local library.





  • Teach your kids to shut off lights when they leave the room, not to leave water running while brushing their teeth, etc. My 2.5 year old remembers most of the time to do these things.





  • Organize a swapping party with friends.





  • Organize birthday parties that do not cost a lot. Or have parties just for fun!





  • Plan cheap activities for kids.





  • Get rid of things you no longer use or wear, donate them (get a receipt to take a tax deduction!), and enjoy a cleaner home! You can also have a yard sale and pocket the money! Here are some tips on the whole process.





  • Rotate your kids' toys instead of buying them new things.





  • Plan your meals.






Friday, July 15, 2011

Cool Story

Adopting an adult? I guess it is possible! Check this out.


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My latest post on Adoptive Families is up.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Article on My Family

A local author featured our family. I hope you'll check it out and tell me what you think about open adoption.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tangled...Literally

Over the 4th of July weekend, we watched many movies as a family. The steaming temperatures combined with plenty of storms made for a long weekend, so we made the most of the time.

I decided to rent Tangled for the family. I enjoyed Rapunzel's ability to sometimes be the hero (unlike most cartoon princesses), the humor (her chameleon was hilarious!), and the music. And thankfully, the movie didn't feature demonic characters---good for a 2.5 year old.

However, one aspect of the movie greatly impacted me. If you haven't seen it, Rapunzel is captured by a woman (and thus, taken from her biological mom and dad, the King and Queen) and locked in a tower. This woman is known as "Mother" to Rapunzel. The woman protects Rapunzel, but mostly out of selfish gain, to keep the powers of Rapunzel's magic hair to herself. Meanwhile, the audience sees Rapunzel's biological parents mourning the loss of their daughter, especially each year on Rapunzel's birthday when the King, Queen, and everyone in their kingdom releases floating lanterns into the air.

Eventually, Rapunzel finds out who her true parents are, and she, obviously, is infuriated with her "Mother" who has been concealing the truth for eighteen years.

Call me crazy, but I saw an adoption theme in this movie.

First, I do not think all adoptive parents are evil, nor do they intend to hurt their child or the child's biological families. BUT, I think sometimes adoptive parents get too wrapped up in "protection" mode to where it isn't at all about the child's well-being, but about the emotional chains of the adoptive parents.

Recently, a friend of mine asked, "How did you choose open adoption?" She mentioned how hard it would be---facing one's own jealousy. I told her that we knew it was best for our girls to know their biological family members. Furthermore, we wanted our girls to have racial role models, something we obviously can't personally provide.

Truthfully, as adoptive parents, we so often have to just get over ourselves. Just like any parent, we need to do what is best for our family as a whole (kids included!) and not just what is best for us as the parents. It's about maturing and thinking beyond ourselves, which is truly, very hard to do in current culture.

I remember seeing a gas station sign a few years ago that said "Self-Serve 24 Hours." I thought, wow, isn't that true of life?

It's easy to go into self-service mode when an adoption agency gives an adoptive family so many options. With our first adoption, we had a five page checklist of what adoption situations we were open to. FIVE PAGES. They were five pages of pure torture. I mean, I knew we were ultimately talking about a child, not a checklist.

Race? Sex? Age? Disability or disease? Drug use in mom? Mental history of birth father's family? Openness? How open? How often? For how long?

(There are over 100 questions. I won't bore you by listing them all).

Adoption is so incredibly messy. Complicated. Tangled.

We have to sit down, reflect, acess, and analyze...often. Are we doing the right things for our entire family? How can we improve? When we make a choice, is it for the benefit of all or is it made to temporarily provide ourselves some emotional relief?

I often hear adoptive parents say, WE ARE THE "REAL" PARENTS!!! But the truth is that both my girls have two sets of "real" parents...they just play different roles in their lives. I'm not daring to lay claim on my daughters like they are a prize to be won.

Yes, they are mine. Yes, I am their parent. Yes, sometimes I get a little jealous or selfish or prideful. But I have to suck it up, put on my big girl panties, and be the mother I was CHOSEN to be by some very special individuals.

It means taking as step back, getting untangled, and remembering that ultimately, my children belong to God, are on loan to me, and I'd better be sure I'm honoring everyone involved, not just making myself momentarily feel better.

Friday, July 8, 2011

T-Shirt Winner...

LINDA! Congrats! Please see prize post for Jennifer's info. You can contact her to claim your prize.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Random Summer Fun: Routines, Recipes, and Photos

Our back yard featuring the Blue Bladder (aka, our temporary salt water pool, the play ground set, and in the very very far back right corner, our veggie garden).

I attended an event in my town called Mom Prom! The proceeds went to a children's hospital. There was dancing, drinks, food, conversation, and vendors.


Miss E checking out the Weeping Willow.


Chocolate drizzled organic fruit with nut on top. So good!


Very simple berry cobbler. Oat pie crust for the top (recipe from Baking With Agave Nectar by Ania Catalano, p. 78): Combine 1.5 cups of oats, 1/2 cup of whole wheat pastry flour, a pinch of salt, 1/4 cup canola oil, 1/4 cup agave nectar, and 1/4 cup water. Let the dough sit for 10 minutes while you prepare the fruit filling. For the filling, combine fresh fruit of your choosing with some whole wheat pastry flour (to thicken) and agave nectar (to taste). Spray a glass pan (I used 9 x 13) with olive or canola oil, pour in the fruit filling, and then, with your fingers, spread the pie crust on top. Bake at 350 until the crust is slightly brown (about 20 minutes).


Simple pasta---served room temp. Cook pasta of your choosing. I use Dreamfield's because it's very low on the glycemic index. Once done, mix in goodies like cherry tomatoes, raw pine nuts, any type of cheese (I like goat!), sauteed spinach or arugula, olives, olive oil, salt and pepper.


Want to pamper yourself without an expensive trip to the nail salon or spa? Fill a container (big enough for your feet) halfway with equal parts of vinegar and warm water. If you can't stand the vinegar smell, add a few drops of essential oil (orange is my favorite). Soak your feet for fifteen minutes while you watch a favorite tv show or read a book. Vinegar will soften your feet. To complete the treatment, slather your feet with your favorite moisturizer (I'll use olive oil) and slip on some comfy socks.

Bird One of three hatched last week. This next is hiding on the top deck of my daughter's playground. It's fun to visit the birds every day to see how much they've changed.


Baby E has discovered sidewalk chalk.



Mid-summer is tough here in the Midwest, just like mid-winter. The weather is so extreme, creating two very restless babies and one maxed out mama. Play dates with friends (2-3 a week), trips to the library, and our new purchase, a 3 ft deep, 18 ft in diameter, saltwater "Blue Bladder" in our back yard help keep us all sane. Additionally, Miss E asks for chocolate first thing every morning. I usually give in by 10 a.m. We read a Bible story from The Jesus Storybook Bible every day. These little routines help.

I have a lovely routine down. The girls nap at the same time each afternoon. This gives me time to nap (if I've had a bad blood sugar day), do a few chores, make any necessary phone calls, write for Diabetes Health or Adoptive Families, and plan my fall courses.

In mid-August, I'll return to work, teaching writing to college freshman and sophomores part-time. Miss E starts preschool (!!!). I'm looking forward to the holidays (yes, already), the girls' combined birthday party (two November babies---one fab party!),

Monday, July 4, 2011

GIVEAWAY: Custom Child's T-Shirt


Who doesn't like something free and adorable? :)

My friend Jennifer is giving one lucky blog reader a custom t-shirt. Jennifer has made customized dresses for my girls. :)

1: Tell my readers about yourself and your family.

I am a stay at home mom to two smart, funny, loving kids - Ben, who is 5 and Charlotte, who is 3. My husband and I just celebrated our 10 year anniversary. We stay busy with the constant remodeling of our fixer-upper house and our favorite hobby - eating!

2: What is the name of your Etsy shop?

I have two shops - CharlotteAugust and BenBoyClothing, though often you'll find them empty. I sew mainly custom clothes and set up reserved listings for each customer. You can see all my creations on my facebook page - BenBoyCharlotteGirl

3: What makes your shop unique? What do you make/sell?

I make and sell custom children's clothing. If you can't find what you are looking for in a store, I can make it! My shops are different from many others because almost every item I make is unique. I occasionally sell the same item to multiple people, but most creations are one-of-a-kind.

4: Why did you start selling on Etsy?

I started creating shirts for my son when I realized there were no customs for boys that fit my style. When my daughter came along, I found I loved sewing for her as well. Etsy allows me to share my styles with others and gives me a creative outlet.

5: What are you giving away to a lucky blog reader?

I am giving away a custom word shirt for a boy or girl - you choose the word!

GIVEAWAY ITEM: Custom one-word child's t-shirt.

WAYS TO ENTER: 1: Becoming a blog follower and leave a comment telling me you did so. 2: Post about the giveaway on Facebook and tell me you did so via a comment. 3: Post about the giveaway on your blog and leave me a comment telling me you did so. 4: Visit Jennifer's shop on Facebook and tell me what your favorite item is.

WHEN, WHERE, and HOW: Enter up to four times on this blog post from now until noon on July 8. A winner will be posted on June 8. The winner is responsible for contacting Jennifer to claim her prize.
 
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