Friday, December 20, 2013

I Wish You A Merry Christmas

Dear Readers,

Thank you for your support and encouragement throughout this past year.  We've had many exciting things happen:  the birth of Baby Z, my book's publication, various media appearances to discuss transracial adoption (including being on MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry), and more.    

I wish you and your family a very magical and merry holiday season.  I pray your family is cheerful and thankful, your table is heaped with all your favorite foods, and your heart is full of the peace of knowing that Christmas was a miraculous beginning to the gift of salvation, a gift available to anyone who accept it.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Brown Like Me": Why Santa Can Be Black

I wasn't going to blog anymore this year, but I simply cannot hold back on this topic.   So, here goes:

I'm sure by now you've heard about a few recent stories where Black Santa has come into question.   First, Aisha Harris' blog post about the need to diversify our vision of Santa followed by a rather unintelligent and disturbing response by Fox News, concluding, that both Santa and Jesus are historically, factually White.   Then there was the Black high school student who dressed as Santa.  The response from one of his teachers?   The student shouldn't dress as Santa, because Santa is supposed to be White.

I'm bothered by the assumption that Santa is/was/should be White for so many reasons.

#1:  My kids are Black.   Don't dismiss my children's need and desire to see and admire people who look like them.     Baby E, who just turned 3, is excited to see others who share her skin-tone.  She'll explain, "Mommy, she's brown like me!"    And it doesn't matter to her if the fellow brown-person is an actual human or book or movie character or a doll.  

And being the only child of color in a situation is noticed by my children.  And it's noticed by me, too.  You know, like the classic navtivity scene where everyone is White except the one Wise Man and sometimes, just for kicks, creators will throw in an Asian.   Diversity, baby.    Eye roll.    

 #2:  Racism is learned.  Telling kids that Santa MUST BE White is racist; it clearly conveys a discomfort with a popular figure, like Santa, being represented as a person of color.  Don't tell me it's about "historical facts."  Most people I know aren't expert historians...and if they were, they wouldn't cling to White Jesus paintings like they are gospel.  Sorry Megyn Kelly, Jesus wasn't a White guy.   Please, don't pile more colorism on our children's heads.  There's plenty of that garbage.  

(My daughter's Sunday School art project, where she colored baby Jesus' skin brown).

#3:  Color matters.   I've never heard a person of color say that "color doesn't matter" or "kids don't notice race."  But I've sure heard plenty of White people say it.   Because some Whites want to believe that the world is colorblind.   But any person of color (or, transracial families like mine) knows that color matters.  It matters in if a missing child case will receive national media attention.  Or not.   It matters in something as simple as the color of bandages and dance recital tights.  (Ahem:  "skin tone" = peachy.)  It matters in hiring practices.   (How "ethnic" is the name on the resume?)   I can't think of an area of life where color isn't a factor.    Why are White people demanding that Santa be White? Because they want to suppress the oppressed by making sure "White is right."  

#4:  The media---well, you kind of suck.  You glorify people who look like my children when they are athletes or singers.   You praise them when they are sidekicks in movies to White heroes.   And you capitalize on their hardships when they are prisoners, criminals, orphans, and welfare-recipients (and in fact, you almost always use a person of color to represent people who fall into these categories).   But when it comes to successful, professional Blacks, you criticize, you mock, you ignore.    Because a successful Black person makes you really uncomfortable---even when that glorified figure is IMAGINARY.    But guess what?  There's no need for hierarchy here.   Black and White Santa (or any other race) an co-exist.    In fact, I asked my five-year-old the other day,"What color is Santa?"  She said, "Mom, he can be pink or brown." 

 (a few favorite Christmas ornaments)

Listen.  Five-ish years ago.   I was a White woman living a happy White life.   Santa was White.  Jesus was White.  The President was White.   I was never followed by a cop in a mall or while I was driving down the road.   No one asked me to verify the signature on my credit card by showing my ID.    I blended in everywhere I went.  I was also taken at my word, always believed and trusted, because I'm a clean-cut White chick.  

But things changed, radically and instantaneously, when our first child was born:  a tiny Black girl with a 'fro of dark, kinky hair.   Then another baby girl arrived.  Then a baby boy.   And when we go somewhere, we are the minority-minority.   Minority #1:  White couple (minority within the fam) with three Black kids---who screams ADOPTION and TRANSRACIAL by appearance alone.   Minority #2:  People of color in a White world, even when we are amongst a majority of other people of color....because Whiteness still prevails and is preferred and is perpetuated.  

The election of President Obama, the honoring of Nelson Mandela, the successes of Oprah and Beyonce, the shrieks of joy over the popularity of Princess Tiana and Doc McStuffins, the raving reviews for films like The Help and The Butler...these are simply glimpses of hope.   They are not indicators of drastic, permanent change, colorblindness, justice, or freedom from racial barriers.  

So yeah, this Black Santa debate, it's a big deal to me.  Because it's not about Black Santa.  It's about White people insisting that things remain as they always have been.  

I'm not forcing our Black Santa onto you and your tots.  It's about inclusion.  It's about options.  It's about imagination.  It's about opportunity.  

And for you, White person who believes Santa HAS to be White, it's about your heart. 



Monday, November 18, 2013

Adoption Music Videos

So, there's a few adoption-minded music videos out there.   I'm sharing them during Adoption Month.  What do you think?  Are these types of videos good or bad for the adoption community?  Do they teach the general population what you want them to know about your family?

Children of God

Find Me a Baby

Everything to Me

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Identity Crisis

I've wanted to write on this topic for some time, but I couldn't find the write words to convey my feelings.  Then I realized, there are no right words.  This is messy.  If I wait for the perfect way to share my thoughts on this issue, I never will.

So, here goes...

I have been having, for some time, an identity crisis, and not a cliche one where I'm getting tats and piercings and going to parties on weeknights and buying myself a younger-person car.    (Though all of those things to sound mildly appealing, especially the going somewhere on a weeknight, if I weren't so tired by 6 p.m.). 

I've been thinking a lot about transracial adoptive families and what we are, racially-speaking.   A racial identity crisis, of sorts.

(For the purpose of creating examples, I'm going to hash this out in terms of our family:  White parents, Black kids.)

If a White couple adopts a Black child, the family becomes transracial.  This means the parents should be thinking in terms of how to nourish the children racially, using resources (people, literature, activities, etc.) to give the child what many other Black children receive organically, when being raised in Black families.   This provides the opportunity for the child to develop a healthy racial identity.  

But what does this mean for the parents?   Their skin is White, obviously.  But are they still fully White after adopting a child of another race?  Because they, if they are parenting to the fullest (in my opinion), are changing to empathize with people of their child's same race:  to understand their struggles, to deal with their challenges.  They are evolving into someone else and not remaining the same.  They find being White a bit discomforting in some ways:  recognizing White privilege, for example.   They are conflicted.  Caught between being White but having the concerns of the Black community.  But being able to continue to be protected and privileged by White skin.   The covering is White, but the heart is...something else?  Black?  Black/White?  White/Black? 

Is race a matter of skin?  A matter of heart?  A matter of culture?  A matter of upbringing?  A matter of someone else's perception or personal perception?

I get myself quite worked up every time I hear racially-charged stories of prejudice, injustice, negligence.  I bawl every time I see another interview with Trayvon Martin's parents.  I feel my blood pressure rise when I hear stories like the young man who innocently purchased a belt in New York and was taken to the police station simply because he was a Black boy with money.  Or the story of the precious little girl who was shamed by her school for wearing a protective hair style.   Or when a teacher identifies a student as "black boy" instead of using his name.   Every time I read a book about a Black person's experience where racism has prevailed.  Every time I hear of another Black child who remains in foster care for years, while thousands of couples line up, eager to snatch up the next healthy, White infant placed for adoption.   Or what about when a school uses slavery as the subject of math problems?  And what's up with the super-racist Halloween costumes (Black face?  What?) that seemed to dominate this October? 

And it's not just the overtly racist stories, but what about the ignorance of toy companies who refuse to create one or more than one doll or action figure that represents Black children?  What about the lack of tv characters or book characters of color?  Clothing?  Another example.  Bandages----yet another.  "Flesh tone" tights for girls---yep, they are for White girls.  

I'm burdened by these things and more.  Like the adoption agencies that charge more for the adoption of a White child than a Black child.    Why are the adoptions of Black children discounted?  Or is it that the fees of adoptions of White children are inflated?  

Why are "ethnic" hair care products often quarantined to a dusty, dimly-lit corner of major discount stores?  

So, here's my point.

My White friends with White, bio kids, aren't all up-in-arms over these things.  They aren't burdened by the culmination of these examples. 

But I am.  And so are other transracial adoptive parents.  And, we are just beginning to get what people of color have known and have been trying to share all along.

So there's the injustices.

The oversights.

The dismissals.

The dedication to raise racially-confident children.

The weight of not being Black and never being Black, yet teaching kids to be Black.

The knowledge that there are gobs of resources, and the excitement of their availbility, yet the constant awarness that all the resources in the world cannot change the fact that there is a color difference between family members that love can't (and shouldn't) "hide" or "heal."  (As I believe race should be celebrated and not ignored). 

The fear that we, adoptive parents, may not be doing enough, or may not be going in the right direction.

The overwhelming love we have for our children.

What are we?  Where does that leave us in terms of our race, our feelings about race, and our ability (or not) to take what we know, what we are still learning, and channel that into the betterment of our families and of the world around us who is watching?

I took part in a radio show this year.   One of the other guests was a Black woman who was raised by White parents.  She said something rather simple, yet profound, when the host asked her about what effects her parents had on her.  She said that above all, she was taught that she is valuable and beautiful because she's a child of God.   Having that knowledge and confidence, first and foremost, has given her the confidence that she needed to be an adoptee, a Black woman, and a child of White parents.

Sometimes I let my fears get the best of me.  There's no right way to raise a child who was adopted transracially.   I think there are some things that should be done and done well (ahem, that's why I wrote a book about it!).    But if the very foundation isn't there, the foundation "on Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand," than isn't everything else going to be on unstable ground?

I know that I cannot let the fear, guilt, uncertainty (this racial identity crisis) burden me into becoming paralyzed and ineffective.  I refuse to let it.   But I also sense that this ever-present sense of wondering and unease can push me to be the best mom possible, the parent my children need.  

Race doesn't define how much I love my children or how I love them.  But adopting transracially has changed me, deeply, and continues to do so, which in turn pushes me to be a better parent, a different parent, certainly, than I would have been had "transracial" never become part of our family definition.

Crisis usually stems from confusion/lack-of-foundation.   So as I think through these things and always think through these things, I will choose a firm foundation, knowing that no matter what else comes our way (things will inevitable come our way), we will stand strong.

Luke 6:46-49
46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.[c] 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”


Sunday, November 10, 2013

"Peace and Quiet"

Peace and Quiet.

It's a tall order for any mother.

When I was younger and living at home with my siblings and parents, we'd ask my mom what she would want for her birthday, Mother's Day, or Christmas, and her response was always (jokingly) the same:  "Peace and quiet."

Serenity is hard to come by when you are a mother.  Even when you schedule opportunities for yourself, at least 50% of the time, the plans have to be cancelled.  A child gets sick.  You get sick.   You forget about a prior engagement, usually something the opposite of relaxing, like a yearly gyno appointment or a dental checkup.   Or there's that project you forgot you agreed to help with.  

This has been a weird past few months for me, adoption-wise.   A lot has been going on, and it's been confusing and frustrating and emotional.  I feel pretty isolated at times in these struggles, since I always honor the privacy of our children and their birth families and there are very few who truly get (and whom we trust) these struggles.  And I just am a bit burnt out on all-things-adoption.    I spend a lot of time filling the cups of others:  recommending articles, discussing agency options, writing articles about ethics, reading books, talking to prospective adoptive parents.   I do enjoy these things---but I'm feeling the need to take a step back and find my "peace and quiet" for the sake of my own sanity.

Even though I'm a strong advocate of the oxygen-mask mentality (you know, putting the mask on yourself first in order to best serve the person next to you on the plane)---I haven't been practicing it as much as I should.   I've been giving a bit too much, which, to my detriment, hinders my own growth and understanding of adoption and adoptive parenting.

There's been some major changes this year for our family.   Baby Z was born in January.   We have three kids under age five.  That's a game-changer:  three kids.   (Granted, I feel like the fuller my house, the fuller my heart).  Then in March, my book was published, and I've spent a lot of my "spare" time promoting my book through guest blog posts and tv and radio show appearances.    Then I just decided last week that I'm done teaching at the university for awhile.  I cannot fathom teaching a few classes, keeping up with my house and my three kids, continuing to write for and promoting my book and writing freelance articles, and being a decent human being who has friends.   Plus, November, December, and January are VERY busy months for our family between four birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas (plus two birth family visits and a huge adoptive family Christmas party we host).  Oh yes, and then there's the ever-present chronic disease...   Something has got to give.   And I've decided it's teaching.  

So, how do any of us, who need and desire "peace and quiet" gain those things when our plates are so full?  

I'm going to choose peace.  

Yep, it's a choice.  

Circumstances come and go.  There are always challenges and confusion and unpredicted rain showers.  There are always moments, if not seasons, of discomfort and guilt and discord.   There are always "haters" (whomever or whatever yours are) attempting to steal your joy.   Tamper with your soul.   Distract you from what matters most.    Sometimes, you are your own hater. 

It's a choice to let garbage in.  And you know the saying:  garbage in, garbage out.  Once garbage takes hold of your life, it can't help but come out:  in your emotions, in your words, in your actions, in your thoughts, in your relationships, in your parenting, in your job.  

That garbage could be a particular person or group. That garbage could be foods that don't nourish and energize your body for the tasks you have to handle that day. That garbage could be media (tv show, social media, magazines that tell you to hate how you look). That garbage could be too much clutter in your home that hinders you from being thankful for what you have and enjoying your favorite things. That garbage could be saying "yes" to commitments you aren't truly passionate about. That garbage could be a bad habit: gossiping, overspending, overcommitting, self-depreciating.

So the only way to keep that stuff out is to never let it in.  Don't even flirt with it.

Choose peace.

Eliminate distractions.

Nourish your priorities:  those essential relationships (God #1 trickles down into all other relationships), your health, and your life callings. 

By doing these things, you create quietness:  in your spirit.  

Be still and know that I am God
~Psalm 46:10

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
~It Is Well With My Soul (Horatio G. Spafford)

Peace and quiet is possible. 

I hope that today, you and I both have the courage to take steps towards peace and quiet.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"Just a minute."

Welcome to one of the phrases most commonly heard in my home.  

It starts out with one of my children asking for a drink, a hug, a mediator, assurance, a potty-partner, etc.   "Mommy, _______?"

Me:  "Just a minute."

With three little ones, each just two years apart in age, I'm constantly dealing with the most-demanding/pressing child first.   

Other phrases uttered/yelled/blurted:

"Let's go.  Today."

"Hands are not for hitting."  (Feet are not for kicking, teeth are not for biting, etc.)

"That's unaccectable."  or "That's not appropriate." 


"That's one.  That's two.  That's...three.  Corner." 

"If you cannot listen and obey me, you are not going to _____, because I know you won't listen and obey your teacher there either."  (Fill in blank:  hip hop class, gymnastics, Sunday School, preschool, a friend's house.)

I used to read a great blog (that is no longer being written, because the mama is homeschooling and parenting three very young kids---and is a bit, well, busy), where the mama suggested creating a family purpose and parenting goals, because choosing not to do so means you are pretty much just winging it every day without knowing what you are creating, heading towards, or establishing in your children's hearts. 

Sounds good.

But, as with all-things-parenting, it's easier said than done.

Some days I feel like a complete failure as a parent.   Why?  It comes in many forms.   Maybe it's because someone posted a picture of their kid on Facebook doing something my kid, the same age, cannot yet do.   Or maybe it's the fact that I haven't read my children a book in three days (something I highly value doing).  Or maybe it's that I'm giving my kids scrambled eggs and an apple for dinner AGAIN.  Or maybe it's that I feel like I just cannot catch up, and I can never, never get ahead.   Or maybe it's the fact that I just cannot sit down and speak to my husband for five minutes without someone demanding a drink.  Or it could be that I let my child watch more than the one hour of recommended time of television that day. 

But I'm trying to fill my mind and heart with good stuff.   Peaceful stuff.   Affirming stuff.  Because there are a lot of things out there that are trying to tell me to do more (not better, just more), to move away from my motherly instincts and instead invest my mental energy in comparisons, and to be really good at everything (to have it all)---which, we all know is a total myth.  Impossible.   No one has it all and has all that together. 

Something has got to give.

Every day.    Every minute.

I was talking to a mom the other day about the fact that we always feel stuck, always a bit chaotic, always a little bit guilty.   But the truth is, our kids are probably doing really well.   They are blossoming in their own ways in their own seasons.   They have great parents.  They are talented and beautiful and creative and smart.  

They are ok.

I recently wrapped up a study of Sally Clarkson's book Desperate.  And in one of our study sessions, we were talking about how hard it is to be a "good Christian lady" (whatever that is) when we are so buried in the demands of motherhood.   I said that I'm not the woman who lights a candle while sitting in her cozy chair and sipping hot tea at 5 a.m. (before everyone is up) and pouring over my Bible and humming old-school hymns.     I'm not the Christian many of the books say I'm supposed to be.   And one of the mamas said, "You know.  Don't you think God cuts us some slack?  Don't you think that we might be doing the right thing right where we are?"    And I thought, whoa.  She's right!  I mean, if we are always worried about LOOKING and APPEARING right, but aren't ever really just being us and staying focused on the few things that matter the most, does it really matter what our Jesus-time looks like?    My real Jesus time is a mental prayer when my children are driving me up the wall or someone cuts me off in traffic or someone says something nasty about me or asks an annoying and intrusive adoption question...and it goes like this, "Jesus, help me right now, in this moment, to do the right thing."

My motherhood is my ministry right now.    Even when I do tell God, like I tell my kids, and my husband, and everyone else who wants just a second of my time, "Wait a minute."   Those minutes are sometimes just minutes.  But sometimes they are days.  Sometimes they are hours.    But I'm working on that.   Embracing the moment.  Listening to God's whispers throughout the day as I cuddle, discipline, encourage, guide.

As the holidays approach, routines will be upset, food will tempt me to fake-forget my diabetes, my kids will be spoiled with gifts and will likely say many wrong things and the wrong times to relatives, and my home will be turned upside-down and inside-out with planning and preparation and partying. 

I'm going to say, "Wait a minute" more times than I want to admit.

But I'm going to work hard to give those precious minutes to who matters most.   And I'm going to try my best, with the help of God, who is always with me even when I tell Him to "wait."    Thankfully, He doesn't listen.  He gives me what I need, when I need it, no matter what.


During the craziness of the upcoming holidays, it's easy to slip into ineffective discipline practices with your children.  Check out this post on creative ways to correct your littles.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Adoption Month + Diabetes Month = Sweet November

November is a particularly special month for me.  

November is hailed as Diabetes Month:   to create awareness of the disease and to prompt individuals to give to organizations that are fighting for a cure, particularly for the type of diabetes I have (type I diabetes, which is often diagnosed in children and young adults). 

November is also Adoption Month.  The main goal is to shine the spotlight on the number of children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted into a forever family.   Statistics range, but on average, it's believed that there are about 130,000 children in the United States who are legally free for adoption and are waiting to be chosen by an adoptive family.  Many of these children are minorities, part of sibling groups, older children, or are kids with special needs.

For me, this month signifies two of the most major events in my life:  being diagnosed with type I diabetes and subsequently, choosing adoption instead of becoming a mom through biology. 

And, two of my three children were born in November.  I became a mother in November of 2008 when Miss E arrived. 

So, there's a lot going on in my mind this month.  A lot in my heart, too.

For certain, during this month when we celebrate Thanksgiving, I have much to be thankful for.  Yet I'm still remaining hopeful that God is going to continue to do awesome things in our family and hopefully, in my lifetime, allow my disease to be cured.   

Peace to you as this month begins.   And thank you for your readership.    

Monday, October 21, 2013

Never Say Never

I look at Baby Z, and he's so grown!   He just turned 9 months old, and he's doing all these new tricks...and I want him to stop and be a baby.  He's cruising on furniture, and crawling everywhere, and saying "dada" and his oldest sister's name, and he can wave hi, and feed himself, and he has two (soon to be three) teeth.    And I'm buying him 12-18 month clothing.

When I was in the sleep-deprived early days, when he would wake every 3 hours to feed, I wanted time to hit the accelerator and give me a break.   It was winter.  DEAD of winter.  Cold.  Gray.  Bleak.   I had three children under age four, stuck indoors, for weeks and weeks on end.  It was tough, to say the least. 

And now that those days have past (they seem so long ago), I yearn to cuddle a newborn against my chest again.  To dress him or her in tiny sleepers.   To gaze at tiny fingers and toes.  

I asked my husband a few weeks ago about adopting again. 

He says we are done.

So I said, "You know I've always had a way of knowing about adoption, about our family.   We aren't done." 

Then I asked him, "Did God tell you we are done adopting?"

And he said, "No."  (Sigh of relief....interrupted by...)   "I told God we are done adopting."

I laughed.

Three kids is tough.  I've heard having three is the hardest number.  And our three littles are young, each only two years apart in age.   Every day is a challenge...

But mostly, it's an incredible blessing.

Three kids.  Three birth families.  Three wonders of God who rely on me to feed them, clothe them, encourage them, discipline them, read to them, sing to them, play with them, tuck them in, bathe them.   Three young souls who need nurturing, love, lessons, listening. 

Let me tell you about some knowing.

When we started the paperwork to adopt a second time, we did so before we felt 100% ready because we knew we'd likely wait awhile. After all, we already had one child, and many expectant mothers choose families who have no children.   Our paperwork was 99% done when one day, I felt an incredible urging to call our our secondary agency to share that they could go ahead and show our profile book because we were so close to being ready.

Our social worker said, "Funny you called.  We have a couple looking at profiles tonight.  The baby is already here.  Do you want to be shown?"

I felt the familiar tinge of adoption excitement, followed by a good self-talking-to.  (I mean really, what are the odds?  We had a child already.  It was our first profile showing.)    I told the SW I'd ask my husband and let her know.   My husband, much like me, was like, why not?   So we said yes.

That evening, we attended my husband's grandfather's visitation.   While my husband and his family greeted guests, I, of course, entertained the children (my two nephews and my two-year-old daughter) with art projects, snacks, videos, and toys.   I kept my cell phone close by, feeling increasingly nervous with each passing hour.   We could know something soon.  Any moment.  

The visitation drew to an end without a call or text.   I packed up the kids' toys and threw trash away.  I picked up my phone to place it in my purse when I saw I had a message.


Day #1 of waiting. 

And what's even more incredible is this.  The couple was supposed to look at profiles the day before, but it was too hard, emotionally for them, so they decided to put it off a day.

The day I called the agency.

I share this story to tell you that there's no way I could have planned or plotted such a union:  us with our daughter.   That I never could have anticipated that as we got our paperwork done, we did so just in the right time frame to be shown and selected to adopt our baby.    That it's pretty much a good idea to listen to God when He prompts you to make a call.

My story is just one example of how God has prompted us to make certain decisions throughout our adoption journey.   There was, if you recall, how God moved us to get our paperwork in order for adoption #3.     Or how God turned the pain of my type I diabetes diagnosis into a stirring to consider adopting.  

So what does the future hold for this adoptive family?

My motto:  never say never.

There's no way to know what God has in store, but I know one thing:  we couldn't orchestrate it if we tried.  So I'm just going to wait and see what happens. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like... + Adoptive Breastfeeding Confession

Well, it may not be looking like Christmas, but I'm already getting in the spirit!   Here are a few new options for your little one who would enjoy a Black doll this Christmas:

Doc McStuffins Family:  includes dad, mom, Doc, and Doc's little brother.    Exclusively at Toys R Us.  $29.99

African American Holiday Limited Edition 30th Anniversary Cabbage Patch Doll:   Exclusively at Target, soon will be available.  $39.99.   (I bought last year's African American doll on mega-clearance for $11 after Christmas last year, so be sure to keep an eye out for it right after the holidays are over and store it for the following year!).

Disney's "It's a Small World" Doll, Kenya:    $29.95.  This doll sings "It's a Small World" in Swahili and English.  My favorite part is her natural hair!  


I'm excited to share that one of my favorite blogs shared my adoptive breastfeeding story today!  Check it out! 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Goodness for Ya

Happy Monday, readers!

First, I'd like to share my new job with you!   I'm pairing with to write a column called Asked the Adoption Coach.   Starting tomorrow, you can post your burning questions to their Facebook page.   I hope to hear from you all soon!  

Second, I had the honor of sharing the last chapter of my book on My Brown Baby!    MBB is a fabulous resource for those parenting Black children.  Denene is an adoptee herself.  :)   

Third, check out these fabulous blogs, both of which I've had the privilege of writing for.  There's Slow Mama and Traded Dreams.    And if you're looking into adoptive breastfeeding, swing by The Badass Breastfeeder for some encouragement from other milky-mamas. 

Fourth, did you hear that The Little Couple will soon bring Zoe home?  This is the second transracial adoption for the couple. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Pink Or Blue: Round 2

Last year I wrote this post on selecting the sex of the child you wish to adopt.    And more recently, I've been writing posts on ethics in adoption, including this recent post on what adoption agencies need to start and stop doing, which included a paragraph on selecting the sex of baby adoptive parents desire.  This post, which I shared in various adoption-focused FB groups, elicited a slew of responses, particularly on the issue of sex-selection.    

Since Baby Z was born in January, we've heard, many, many times, "Oh!  You finally got your boy!"   And, "Isn't it so awesome having a son?"   And asked, "Isn't having a boy just so different?"

And my response is that we would have been happy no matter the sex of our third child.  In fact, his bio mom thought he was going to be a girl, until her second "find out" ultrasound revealed otherwise.   We had already been brainstorming girl names.    

Having a son, right now, has been no different than having daughters.  (Well, I guess there are far fewer cute clothing options...).  A baby is a baby who has the same basic needs.

Of course, we think Baby Z is pretty awesome.   But that's not because he's a boy.   It's because he is ours. 

Here's why, with rare exceptions (mentioned in the the above linked post), why we won't specify the sex of the child we will adopt (domestic infant adoption):

---We don't believe in telling God or a birth parent or an agency who we can and cannot be blessed  with. 

---I'm not ordering up a sandwich at Subway.  I'm trying to adopt a child.  It's about becoming or growing in motherhood. 

---I'm not going to exclude myself from a possible adoption because of the child's sex.  I'm not going to lose the opportunity to support an expectant mother, whether she parents or places, based on the sex of her baby.   

---I'm not going to set up my future child to "be" or "fulfill" MY desires.    I don't feel that there's anything wrong with having an inkling of preference, but having a preference and then checking a box for that preference, thereby excluding other babies from being ours, doesn't sit well with me.

---Boys and girls are equally valuable and worthy of a forever family.  They can bring equal joy into a family. 

---Jesus told His disciples to let the little children come to Him.  Not the boys first and the girls second (or vice versa).    No, I don't think Jesus was speaking about adoption in this Bible passage, but I do think the verse shows that children are all precious in God's sight.

---How could I possibly say "no" to a child based on his/her sex when God might have great purpose for that child in our family?

---Adoption generally offers adoptive families too many choices, making adoption more parent-driven instead of child-driven.   It gets ethically murky to start rejecting children based on their sex.  Slippery slope, friends. 

---What if a family did have a preference, and the mom thinks she's having a boy, for example, and ends up having a girl?  What do families do?  Dump the mom and baby for the baby they REALLY want? (It happens, readers.  Can you imagine the devastation that would bring upon the mother?)   Gasp, you think. No way would I do that?  How are you NOT doing that from the get-go by pre-selecting your child's sex?   Adoption is about commitment, ethics, and least it should be.

---It's not fair to have projecting expectations onto a child:  which is hurtful to the child.   Like, "I want a son so we can a part of Boy Scouts together like I did with my dad."   Or, "I want a girl whom I can buy tutus for."   It's not ok to have expectations of a child based on YOUR selfish desires.  Doing so is quite dangerous for the child's well being.   It shouldn't be done to a boy or a girl, a biological or adopted child, a child of a certain race, etc.   Parents who have expectations of children based on a certain characteristic are setting children up to fail and setting themselves up for disappointment.   (A whole different rant on gender nonsense might come at another that boy or a girl should like certain toys---and not play with others---and should be in certain activities, but not others...blah blah blah).

Parents, if you truly believe that you are MEANT to parent a specific child (as I once heard an adoptive mom who was adamant that God had a bi-racial girl for her), than you have nothing to lose by being open to all races and both sexes.  What's meant to be will be.

It's about faith.

It's about ethics.

It's about doing what is RIGHT even when it's not easy.

It's about not giving in to the "I'm paying the big bucks, so the agency needs to pony up and fulfill my heart's desires" and instead, seeing adoption for what it is:  human hearts, on the line.   

You know the ol' pro-life slogan?  I think it applies to adoption too:  It's a child, not a choice.

Monday, October 7, 2013

It's Not Enough to Just Braid Hair: On Taking Chances and Making Friends

On a Transracial Adoption FB group I frequent, an adoptive mother brought up an excellent point:  Do White transracial adoptive parents focus too much on things like hair, and Black history, and soul food, and Kwanzaa, etc., and not enough on developing meaningful relationships with people of color?  

If you've never had a real relationship with a person of color, and your only education about people of color is from BET and the NBA and the evening news, you might be White.   And you might be intimidated.   Aren't a lot of Black men criminals?  Job-less?  Fathering three babies in one year with three different women?  Aren't Black women curvy and really loud and have some sort of thing about their hair?  Aren't Black kids sort of suspicious?   Aren't the majority of welfare recipients Black?   (Way to go, media...)

Like, how do you do it?  How do you befriend someone you are scared of and intimated by?

Is it racial-targeting to purposefully seek out and attempt to befriend people of color for the benefit of yourself and your adopted child?

What if you are laughed at, ignored, or worse, rejected? 

What if it's just easier to focus on things we can find out about elsewhere---an online message board, or a blog, or a book (like from anywhere but from conversations with people of color)?  

Here's the deal.

You chose to adopt transracially.

You chose to become a parent.

(You didn't choose the easy route).

You know what you need to do.

So, are you going to do it?

You might be a quiet, private person.  Or you might be someone whose not all that educated on politically correct language.  You might be a person who is very fearful of rejection.  You might be someone who feels a bit overwhelmed with transracial adoption.  You might be sensitive.  You might be timid.  You might be easily embarrassed.  

But transracial adoption isn't about you.  (Hint:  It's about the little person next to you).

But it does, often, start with you.

Without risk, there is little reward.

You, adoptive parents, you have to get over yourselves.  You have to do what is best for your children.   And in doing so, you might learn a thing or two and form some really great friendships.

It's like this.  Say your child contracted a horrible disease.  There was a cure, but it would require you do something you are terrified of doing.   Would you not face your fears to save your child?

I'm going to be cliche here and say:  practice makes perfect.

The more you reach out, the more likely you are to hear "yes."  

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." 

I understand that the media makes is really difficult for Whites to feel they can trust, like, or even love an adult person of color.     For hundreds of years, people of color have been isolated, mistrusted, wrongfully persecuted and judged, harshly scrutinized. 

You are, as my mother taught me, in charge of yourself and your children.  Your kids are trusting you to make the right decisions for them.   To embrace possibilities.   To take chances.  To confront your own fears, prejudices, and skepticism.

I have found that when I began to push my fears aside (and still do), I was able to find treasures that exceeded my hopes.    The friends of color that I have made have enriched my life beyond what I could have imagined.  They have blessed me with knowledge and advice and encouragement.   I am more blessed than ever.  I'm developing authentic, kindred relationships with people because I took a chance and said hello.  

Try it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Here We Go...Again

I’ve heard it once. 

And once more.

And a thousand times more. 

And here’s why I don’t feel so warm and fuzzy.

“My child was born in my heart, not under it.”

Don’t disregard or attempt to “one up” the child’s first mother.   Doing so only makes you look jealous and petty.   Don’t diminish the importance of a woman carrying a baby for months and months on in, giving birth to that baby, and handing that baby over to someone else…forever.     Don’t try to align yourself with the birth mother by comparing your heart to her…uterus?   I mean really, the birth mother had the baby “grow” in her heart, too.  

“It doesn’t matter where you come from.  It matters who you choose to become.”

Where a person comes from does matter.  Even a child who, just a few days old, is handed to adoptive parents.   The in-utero months of a child’s life are powerfully significant and shaping.   Breaking the physical tie between a biological mother and her child creates a Primal Wound.   Furthermore, who you were shapes your perception of who you choose to become.  

“God never gives you more than you can handle.”

Not true.   It’s not about what we can or cannot handle, whatever your definition of handle is.  Jesus died on the cross, rose again, and offers forever-peace to those who receive Him because we, as humans, cannot handle so much in life.   (I mean, honestly, some days I cannot even handle a crumb on the floor...)  We cannot get our crap together.   We are going to have heartbreak, face failure, and deal with confusion.   God also isn’t up in heaven attempting to put plight upon plight on individuals as a game or a test or a joke.   Bad things happen (to good people…blah blah blah), and it’s up to us if we lean on God and His power and His guidance, or not.

“Your baby was created just for you!”

Adoptive parents, listen up.  Your child was created by human beings.  Those human beings couldn’t or chose not to parent for a variety of reasons. This created a sever between the biological child and the biological parents.  No matter why the child was placed for adoption, that sever has created a loss and a trauma in the child’s life.   I don’t believe God magically created a child (this isn’t Jesus’ birth, people) in order to bless an adoptive family.  If the child was created and meant to be for the adoptive family, they would have conceived and given birth to that child, not received that child through someone else’s loss.  Granted, I do believe adoptive families can be blessings to the biological mothers they form relationships with.  And I believe an adoptive family can fall completely in love with a child who was birthed by someone else.   And I do believe a birth mother can be both deeply saddened by the loss of her child but also feel joy for the child being with a great adoptive family. 

“Your child is so lucky to have you as his parents!”

Lucky?   I don’t know.  Is loss and grief and confusion and unknowns lucky?   You might be looking at the fact that we provide a nice home, and Disney vacations, and music lessons, and Martha Stewart style Christmas dinners, and yes, it’s cool.  But that doesn’t make my child lucky.  My child didn’t ask to be adopted.  My child didn’t ask to be separated from his or her biological family.  My child didn’t ask to be labeled as “adopted” by every other stranger.     I realize you are attempting to compliment me:  my parenting, my material belongings, even the joy you see on my face when I beam at my child.   But hear me:  my child blesses ME.  I adopted because I wanted to be a parent.  I didn’t do it to be a savior or a superhero.   
What adoption questions and comments have you heart a thousand times that drive you bonkers?  How do you respond?  



Monday, September 30, 2013

Raising a Reader...Without Electronics

My girls are both November babies, and my son was born in January, so as you can imagine November, December, and January involve lots and lots (and lots) of gifts.

Every year, my kids receive some sort of toy that will apparently help teach them their numbers and letters.   And each year, I return these gifts.  


1:  Electronic toys annoy me.  There's enough noise in this house without hearing A A A A A A A A A A A A A (you get the point).

2:  Electronic toys eat up batteries.  Batteries are both bad for the environment and expensive.   And who here can I get an amen from when I say that most toys that take batteries are crazy-difficult to open?

3:  Electronic toys serve as a mediocre replacement for creativity, parents teaching (interacting, holding, speaking to, and listening to) their children, and children learning through natural play.

4:  Electronic toys are addicting.   Right?  I mean, I greatly enjoy my Twitter, Facebook, blogs, e-mail, texting, etc., but really, they do not ultimately fulfill me or make me happy, and they are incredibly addictive, creating isolation from the people sitting right next to us or right in front of us.

So, how can you cultivate a love of reading in your home without the use of electronic toys?

1:  Place books everywhere.   We have "potty" books in the bathroom (like Bear in Underwear and Dinosaur vs. The Potty), book baskets by the kids beds (which contain their favorites), a basket of library books in our living room, bookshelves (one for hardcover and softcover books, another for board books), and in the car.     Make the books accessible to your children at a moment's notice.

2:  Read yourself.   Yep, you are the best example.  It doesn't matter if you read a magazine or a book, but let the kids see reading material in your hands.

3:  Make reading a daily activity in your home.   Whether you read a book to your kids before bed or sit and read to them during the day (or both!), make reading a predictable, expected activity.  Use funny voices, pause and ask questions, do movements, whatever you need to do! 

4:  Have letter-friendly toys.   Alphabet magnets and a cookie sheet, letter puzzles, even a letter footstool (where the kid's name is spelled out) is a great way to teach them how to spell their own names.

5:  Make up songs.  I can't sing very well, but I have, since my kids were little, made up a tune that spelled out the letters of their name.   (As I would sing it to them, I'd point the letters out on their walls---you know those popular wooden wall letters).

6:  Play word games in the car, before bed, when sitting in a waiting room.  Try the rhyming game (you say a word and the kid says as many words as he/she can that rhyme with that word); don't forget to be super silly when playing this!  But if the child says a word that isn't an actual work, it's ok to tell him or her.   Have a letter of the week where you ask your child to say words that start with that letter.   You can also point out where that letter is on signs, in magazines, etc.   Practice writing that letter and sounding it out.  You can also teach your children vocabulary words in every day conversation.   It's so cute to hear young kids use big words in the right context!  

7:  Have children dictate letters (or e-mails) to you that you send out.  For example, on President's Day, we wrote a letter to the President.   During Women's History Month, we wrote letters to strong women we knew.     During Black History Month, we sent a letter to Ruby Bridges.   Allow kids to also illustrate something from the letter to include.

8:  Encourage your child to create art.  This helps them develop fine motor skills needed for writing.   Scissors, glue, crayons, markers, pencils, paint brushes.    Let them cut out letters from old magazines.

9:  Take your kids to the library.  Often.  Let them get to know the library staff.  Go to free story times.   Let them check out gobs of books, books on CD, character puppets, etc.  Borrowing reading materials gives kids a chance to learn about whatever they want (not limited to the books in the home) and learn how to treat loaned materials in a respectful manner.   Make reading-places happy places.   Go to local bookstores.   Get the kids a hot chocolate inside the bookstore.  

10:  Pretend play is a great way to learn letters and practice writing.  Play restaurant, and let your kids take your order.  Give kids a spare keyboard so they can play office (locating letters).  

11:  Use pictures as inspiration for comprehension and creativity.  One of my favorites is the eeBoo story cards.  The matching games are great, too.  (For younger kids, play that matching game with the cards face-up).    Though there aren't letters on these items, the discussions increase vocabulary.

12:  Take your kids places.  Any place can become an opportunity to learn about reading.  The grocery store is full of signs (including numbers).    And don't limit yourself to kid-specific places.  Take them to a museum, a festival, a farmer's market.  

13:  Let kids read whatever they get their hands on that is appropriate and interesting.  The cereal box?  Fine.  Shampoo bottle?  Fine.  A board book when they are six?  Fine.   Any love of reading is better than none at all!

There are endless ways to help your child celebrate letters!   It doesn't take much effort at all to work these teaching moments into your daily routine, and the reward is great! 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Why My Kids Play Outside

I know, seems like a silly title, right?   I mean, don't most kids play outside?

Well, I don't think they do.

Two days ago, after my daughter got out of school for the day, we headed to our local park.   It was a gorgeous, I mean GORGEOUS, day.  Blue skies with puffy white clouds.  Mostly sunny.   75 with a breeze.   Stunning.  It was about 3:00 in the afternoon.   On the way there, my four-year-old says, "We're going to make some friends at the park!"  For an hour the kids played.  We fed the fish.   They swung.  They sat inside a tee-pee style rock wall and ate a snack.  They meandered around, mumbling to themselves, taking silly steps, and daydreaming.  

The entire hour and twenty minutes we were there, no one else besides a group of teenagers, came by.    The park's many attractions (water feature, lake with hungry fish, playground, basketball and volleyball courts, dog park, and walking trail) didn't lure any other guests, despite this park being a favorite play spot for babysitting grandparents and stay-at-home moms of many young children.   The park is in close proximity to many neighborhoods chalked full of children.  

Where were the kids?  

I'm not a lover of the great outdoors, necessarily.  Unless I'm on a beach or in a swimming pool, the outside isn't my favorite place to be.  For one, mosquitoes adore me (must be all the sugar in my blood).  For another, I get hot VERY easily.   And when I get hot, I get irritable.   And finally, I'd rather be on my couch, curled up with a good book and a mug of herbal tea. 

But I grew up playing outdoors.  My fondest memories include making birdseed pies with my siblings, swimming, riding bikes.   (I swear all my outdoor play gave me the space to embrace and cultivate creativity.)     

So imagine my disdain for all the books at my library and at bookstores that are to teach parents how to take their kid outside.  Like 200 pages on what to do with kids outside.    I mean, it's really simple.  Just go outside.  

So, in no sort of order, here's why I take my kids outside:

1:   Kids are made to move and go.   What better place than the great outdoors?

2:  Kids are made to make messes.  Outdoor messes take care of themselves.  

3:  Kids NEED physical activity to avoid diseases like type 2 diabetes (which, by the way, 50% of minorities kids born the year 2000 or after will end up with type 2 diabetes, a disease that is heavily influenced by lifestyle choices).

4:  Kids need the freedom to play without adults directing them on who/what/where/why/how they should play or learn.    I teach composition to college freshman, and I cannot tell you the number of students who cannot brainstorm and expand their ideas.   They've been in so many classrooms and adult-directed activities their whole lives, that they are crippled when it comes to thinking for themselves, creating new ideas, and expanding on why they feel they way they do.    (I remember seeing a book at the library a few years ago.  The title was something like How to be Creative.  How sad!!!)  

5:  Parents need a break.    So many parenting books push parents to be on top of their kids 24/7, directing them, teaching them, correcting them, and guiding them.   Parents, listen up.  It's ok to grab a good book or magazine, plop in a chair, and just enjoy some time while your children play nearby.  (As my kids' former nanny shared, one day she was at an open-gymnastics play session with her son, and so many parents were standing over their children showing them exactly what to do and how.   Our nanny was the only one who was off to the side by herself, doing yoga poses while keeping an eye on her son who was toddling about).     You deserve a break!

6:  Kids need the freedom to meander.   If they are poking trees with sticks, or making a pile of grass, or hoping in place, for the love of God, do not interrupt them!    When kids meander about, they have space to think and learn and grow and feel.   They learn that stress-free time is important.  They get to see the beauty in nature.  They get to feel the presence of God and admire His creation.   Parents, they are learning very important life skills that will cultivate in their hearts a love of relaxing and relishing in beauty.

7:  Kids who play outdoors learn to cooperate and share.  They can push one another on swings, catch a friend coming down the slide, play hide-and-seek or tag, wait their turn.    They can learn these things organically. 

8:  Taking kids outside is almost always free.  A sculpture park, a friend's back yard, a walking trail, a playground.  

I'd love to hear from you on the Great Outdoors! 

Monday, September 23, 2013

What Agencies Need to Start and Stop Doing: Ethics (Again)

Three adoptions. 

Three agencies.

Dozens of phone calls and e-mails.

Hundreds of books, blogs, and articles.

And here's what I've gathered.

A great adoption agency, one that is ethical, one that is truly a ministry (first and foremost), one that is supportive of all parties before, during, and after a placement (or parenting, too)...well, it's pretty hard to find   If not nearly impossible.

Agencies are run by humans.  Humans make mistakes.  Humans are subject to directors and boards and lawyers.   Humans are incurably flawed. 

But to me, there are some glaringly obvious changes that need to take place in the adoption agency realm.

Starting with:

  • Agencies need to require families to carefully consider and justify why they are choosing transracial adoption.    Agencies need to implement training sessions for families adopting children of color.    These trainings need to not only create awareness, but prompt families to action (action that NEVER stops).    There are too many White couples adopting kids of color who think love is enough, the world is colorblind, and it'll all be just fine.    And the agency never questions their motives and asks how they plan to embrace and create their child's racial identity.  The same goes for special needs adoptions.

  • Agencies need to push families adopting newborns (and, of course, older kids too) to learn more about attachment and ask them how they plan to implement those practices into their parenting.    There needs to be more education and support around adoptive nursing, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, crying-it-out vs. "spoiling" the baby with immediate responds to crying, etc.   Newborns aren't blank slates. Newborns have needs.  Newborns come to the adoptive family with trauma from being separated from the birth mother.  

  • Agencies need to stop giving adoptive families so many choices.   Bi-racial OR "full" African American?   Um, color is color.   A bi-racial baby can look African-American or White.   A bi-racial baby is still part-color.   This colorism business is disgusting.   What sex do you want?   Boy or girl?   (I remember when our profile was shown to one birth mother we know, and several families said they didn't want their profile shown because at the time the mom didn't know the sex of her baby.)   Listen up, yo.  A BABY ISN'T A SUBWAY SANDWICH WHERE ADOPTIVE PARENTS SHOULD GET TO PICK AND CHOOSE WHAT'S INCLUDED.   Agencies need to put this firm belief in place, so that adoptive families get it out of their heads that they get to pick because, after all, they are paying the big bucks---and instead focus on heart-issues, not financial.  

  • Agencies need to stop charging fees based on a family's income (adoptions don't cost the agency more because the family makes more money---hello!) and/or the child's race (charging less for a child of color's adoption lures less-wealthy families to parent children they may not prepared to parent or accept children who are "second best" to White kids).  Agencies need to charge reasonable fees for their services.  $20,000+ for a domestic infant adoption is baby-selling. 
  • Agencies need separate representation for an expectant or birth parent and the adoptive family, both within the agency and legally.  It's too messy otherwise.

  • Agencies need to hire quality workers who know about adoption and have an education and have experience in counseling.   Agencies need to pay these workers a reasonable salary for the work they do.

  • Agencies need to support moms whether they place or parent.    And train adoptive families to do the same.  

  • Agencies need to clearly convey to adoptive parents that a match isn't a promise of a placement.  Expectant and birth parents have rights.  And so does the unborn child. 

  • Agencies shouldn't minimize the birth father's rights and role.   

  • Agencies need to have open adoption agreements, even when it's not legally enforceable, so that adoptive families and birth parents take agreements (promises) seriously.   But, of course, first there needs to be more open adoption education.

  • Agencies, even where it's legally allowed, should stop asking adoptive families to pour more and more money into "birth parent expenses" which ultimately just puts pressure on the expectant parents to place and/or encourages the occasional manipulative expectant parent to prey upon willing and desperate adoptive families, draining those families financially.  Paying birth parent expenses simply shouldn't be allowed.  Ever.   It's too tit-for-tat.  Messy.    Agencies should work to get expectant parents on public aid and in programs that are set up to help those in need of them.  

I want to hear from you.  What would make the adoption agencies better?   What needs to happen? 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Open Adoption: The Guide You've Been Waiting For

I get asked, quite often, about open adoption.  How does it work?  Am I not fearful the birth parents will want to take their children back?  What would I do if a birth parent showed up at my door?  Won't open adoption confuse the kids?

I have my own responses, but I admit, I'm not an open adoption expert.    We have three open adoptions.  I'm very thankful for them:  the relationships, the access to information, the possibilities, and yes, even the challenges.      I do enjoy being part of Open Adoption Bloggers, but when people come to me asking about open adoption, I usually point them to resources like The Open Adoption Experience.

And now, yay!, a hot-off-the-press book on open adoption written by an adoptive mom and featuring her daughter's birth mother.  What an impressive and important combination!   I devoured the book in a day and contacted the author to learn more.  

Enjoy reading, friends! 


Tell me about yourself: personally and professionally. What's your adoption connection?I'm a mom to my tweenagers Tessa and Reed, and with my husband we live in Denver, CO. I come from the world of academia and I've been freelance writing for several years. My book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, written with my daughter's birth mom, was published in hardback by Rowman & Littlefield in the spring. I'm embarking on a 4-state speaking tour with a workshop called "Don't Split the Baby!" -- about embracing openness no matter what degree of contact you have (or don't have) with your child's birth family. We're excited that adoption agencies around the country are beginning to use our book in their training curriculum. By now everyone seems to know why it's important to "do" open adoption; our book guides parents how.

Your book's co-author is your daughter's birth mother. Tell me about including Crystal's perspectives in the book. What was it like writing a book with her?

Crystal and I talked for years about how we might help others develop the kind of relationship we stumbled into with each other. First we had to take a look at what we did and didn’t do and what has made our efforts a openness successful. For years we have taught classes in the Denver area. More than anything we say in these sessions, people seem to get a lot just out of seeing a template for how an open adoption can look.
The framework of the book is mine. Crystal and I had extensive interviews about her thoughts and emotions at various points of our journey, as well as her own deconstruction of how we got to where we are. For a book that is largely about how adoptive parents and birth parents can be on the same “side,” rather than the traditional concept of competition between the two sides, it seemed important for us to work together on this book.

People have asked us which came first, her words or a space for her words, and it was mostly the former. We had a few jam sessions in which we put as much on the table as we had in us. I took notes and the book began to take shape. Sometimes the book fit around her words and sometimes her words fit into the book.

I suppose in that sense, the way the book took its form is much the same way Crystal and I have taken our form.
Define open adoption.
I think the de facto definition, what everyone seems to agree on, is that "open adoption" means some sort of contact with a child's birth parents or birth family. We have a construct, an open adoption spectrum, in which people see zero contact on one end and full contact on the other.
But contact is only part of the picture. And the measure of contact can leave out families formed by international and foster adoption, and families in domestic infant adoptions who want contact with birth family members but are not able to have it.
So instead, I'd like to talk about openness in adoption. When we add a second dimension we turn the spectrum into a grid, and then we see 4 quadrants. While we have only partial control over the degree of contact we have with birth family, we have full control over the degree of openness we parent with. Whereas "open adoption" addresses the relationship between the adoptive family and birth parents, "openness in adoption" is more about how open-hearted we can be with our children as we parent them, as they process their adoptedness over the years.

On page 5, you talk about open adoption being a "heart-set." Explain what this means.

We encourage parents to move from an Either/Or mindset to a Both/And heartset. With the former, the child may be split between her two clans because one set of parents is legitimized and the other is negated, one is considered "real" and the other isn't.

In the latter, both families -- the one by biology and the one by biography -- are valued and integrated into the child's forming identity. To make this shift we must also call on our hearts. We can't always think our way through adoption moments as our child grows, but often we can feel our way through, love our way through. The brain divides; the heart unites.

On page 21, you quote Luna, an adoptive mother, who expresses her decision to open her heart up to an expectant mother she's matched with, even if it means the mom parents and Luna experiences pain and sadness. Personally, I know many adoptive parents who choose International Adoption over Domestic Adoption to avoid any sort of pain, relationship struggles, confusion, or involvement with the child's biological parents. Can you speak to those who are on the fence, thinking about choosing IA because of birth parent fears?

If someone is pulled toward international route with the conscious (or subconscious) reason to avoid those pesky/scary birth parents, then that’s a problem that needs to be addressed. As it’s been pointed out, the birth parents are there, in the child, whether one wants to acknowledge that or not. There is no avoiding the birth parents, for they are carried within every cell of the child. To deny that influence is to deny part of the child.

The more an adoption path can be planned mindfully, with hidden motivations exposed and examined, the better these one-day parents will be able to deal with What Is for the child they eventually parent. It’s OK to have thoughts and feelings that come from fear – we all do – but by shining light on those fears, we can choose how to act in a given situation. It’s the action that comes from subconscious motivation that is likely to lead to trouble.

It's my wish that anyone setting out on such a monumental adoption journey would educate themselves on what it’s like for the others in the adoption triad, specifically the child in an adoption as well as the first parents of that child (if living). Ways to do this include reading books and blogs by adult adoptees, being guided through exercises that put you in the shoes of another, and talking with people who have held a different position in an adoption triad than the one you hope to occupy.

On page 25, you share that it's unnecessary to put nature and nurture in any sort of hierarchy. Talk to me about this idea. Why do people feel the need to choose between nature and nurture when it comes to adoptees? What should adoptive parents do as they struggle to work through ideas surrounding nature and nurture?
This is such a great question. And it speaks directly to the Either/Or mindset I mentioned above and also why I preach so much about mindfulness.
Deep down, I think that parents on both sides have a fear of not being considered real by others -- and maybe even by themselves. Birth parents have historically been told to move on as if they hadn't had a child-ectomy. Just forget about your baby. He has another mother now. Her place as an integral part of her baby/child/tween/teen/adult is forgotten, buried, negated.

Adoptive parents also may carry a kernel of doubt about their legitimacy. An adoptive mother carries the knowledge that she isn't the Only, that there is another mother out there somewhere. And what adoptive mom hasn't had someone inquire about her child's "real mom"?
So when we are acting from this place inside in which we feel small and scared and resentful of sharing the role and not "real," we may have an unconscious desire to prove our legitimacy. A strategy that's often used to build oneself up is to tear the other person down. We do this without thinking. We are on automatic, just trying to get our need met, our need for everyone to know just how "real" and how legitimate we are. How WE have the prime position in our child's life, not that other woman.
I tell a story on page 89, one that took place on my son's 9th birthday. He told me that day, "You're one of my favorite mommies!" I could have taken that in one of two ways. (1) I am in competition with his birth mom and I'm not out-and-out winning (a hierarchy), or (2) my son has a heart so big and loving that he can fit us both in it. One way fills me with pain and jealousy; the other fills me with joy and pride Which would you choose if you stopped to make a conscious choice?
It's through mindfulness that we are able to choose the response that best serves, the response that doesn't split our baby. (Side benefit: we heal and find wholeness for ourselves, as well!)

What's next for you? What are you currently working on? How can readers get in touch with you?
Besides the workshops I'm delivering this fall, I'm practicing to improve my sirasana pose as I still have fear around trying it away from the wall. I write regularly at and currently I'm freelancing as I find opportunities.

On Twitter I'm @LavLuz and my book is available in hardback and Kindle on Amazon (as well as with other online booksellers, and many local libraries). I can be reached by email at lori at lavenderluz dot com. I enjoy hearing from people who are exploring openness in adoption.

Monday, September 16, 2013

To The Kind Lady at the Goodwill Store...

This past weekend, our family ventured out to our local Goodwill to purchase a large framed canvas to Pinterest into a magnetic board for the kids.     As I was browsing the frames, my son took the opportunity to spit up (more like chunk-up) all over his Gymboree polo and the overflow hit the floor.  My husband rushed out to our car to grab the baby wipes.  Meanwhile I stood straddling the puke while whisper-yelling at my girls to NOT touch the glass figurines on the child-level shelves. 

A Black twenty-something female employee approached us and was admiring the girls' hair (to which my girls usually act some sort of weird because they just don't like strangers giving them attention about something they simply don't care that much about).   Then she smiled and asked my oldest, "Are you girls sisters?"    (For more on my #1 adoption pet peeve...check out my recent post on Rage Against The Minivan).   My girls didn't respond to her and kept doing made-up dances and closing their eyes and poking one another about two inches from the closest glass figurine.  

My husband returned and we wipe-bathed our son and then the floor...and moved on to more frames.   As we were making our final selection, an older woman, perhaps in her seventies, pushed her cart behind me and caught my attention.   She held three one-dollar bills in her hand and pressed them into mine.   "I don't have grandchildren to buy things for," she said, catching my gaze.  "Take this and let the kids buy something."  

I was dumbfounded at first.  Should I take the money?   Should I hand it back?

She then said, "How long have you all been a family?"

I smiled and relaxed a bit.    I shared a little about our crew, and then she asked what the kids' names and ages were. 

Her questions were those you might ask any family.

Her compliments weren't race or adoption-specific.  (Yes, it's nice to sometimes hear that I did a great job on the girls' hair, but when people approach my kids and constantly say, "Your hair is so cute!" and the kids find the attention embarrassing, even insulting, perhaps...).

She didn't thank us for "saving" the "children who need a good home."

As she walked away, I watched her, and whispered a prayer.  

It was really cool to see how my children blessed this woman, touched her heart, made her smile.

It's nice when humanity pleasantly surprises me.   When we are treated as we are:

a real family.  With kids with real feelings and listening ears. 

What a joy to have a gentle conversation with a stranger that didn't involve judgement, defense, insults, lingering stares, assumptions, or inappropriate questions.

So, to the kind lady at the Goodwill store,

thank you. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Starring...Brown People!: Must-See Films

If you are struggling, like many of us do, to find family-friendly movies starring people of color, check out these:

Cinderella (starring Brandy, Whitney Houston, Whoopi Goldberg, and many more).   I LOVE this version of the story because of the diversity!  The prince is Asian, Cinderella is Black, the Prince's parents are a bi-racial couple (Black and White), the step-mother is white, one step-sister is Black, the other is White, the fairy godmother is Black.   The songs are catchy.   

The Wiz (starring Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and more).   I'm not a Wizard of Oz fan, myself, but if you are, here's another version of the story with a strong Black cast. 

Polly and Polly Comin' Home (starring Keisha Knight Pulliam, Phylicia Rashad, and more).  The film not only tells an adoption story, but a story of a hopeless optimist (Polly) who overcomes many hardships. 

Please let me know what other popular films have been replicated featuring actors of color.