Monday, November 30, 2015

National Adoption Month: Some of My Favorite Birth Parent-Centered Resources

I love learning from the different adoption triad members, and today I want to share with you my favorite resources that focus on birth parent perspectives.  Some were created by birth parents, though not all.   All of these are available on Amazon:



Juno (Single-Disc Edition)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

National Adoption Month: Some of my Favorite Adoptee Resources

Hi, Sugars:

If you are unfamiliar, the term "adoption triad" refers to a triangle, it's corner points representing birth (biological/first/natural) parents, parents who adopted, and adoptees (people who were adopted).

There has been much talk in the adoption community in recent years about the silencing or ignoring of adoptee voices.  The argument is often that adoptees matter the most in the triad, yet they are often the ones whose input is pushed aside by the other triad members (biological parents and parents by adoption) as well as by policy makers, educators, social workers.

My dear friend Madeleine Melcher is an adoptee and mom through adoption.  She once shared with me that I need to, above all, listen my children; not because they were adopted, but because they are my children, my responsibility.  And because when it comes to the things associated with adoption (visits with birth parents, for example), what is most important is what my children want, not what the other adults involved want.  (Madeleine has written two excellent books, in case you are interested, and also has a blog.)

I have seen a shift in the past few years among parents who adopted.  They are more willing to listen to adult adoptees.  In my experience, besides face to face, authentic relationships (which trump everything else, in my opinion), reading and viewing material can be incredibly beneficial to parents by adoption.

Here are some of my favorite adoptee-focused resources, most of which were created by adoptees:


ADOPTEE BOOKS/FILMS: all available on Amazon

The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom


What are you favorite adoptee-centered resources?  I'd love to add to my list!  

Monday, November 23, 2015

National Adoption Month: Best Non-Sappy Adoption Picture Books

I'm going to tell you here and now, I'm not sap.  I hate the "born in my heart" adoption sentiment (and others).  Hallmark and Lifetime movies have me rolling my eyes.   Kitties and puppies have pretty much zero effect on my tear ducts (babies are WAY more precious).  I very rarely cry.

I carry my non-sappy attitude to choosing adoption books for my kids.  Not because it's not ok to have emotions surrounding adoption, but because kids like things that are funny, vibrant, and different.  Pastel illustrations do very little for most young children.  (Thus why it was SO important to me that my children's books, Black Girls Can and Poems for the Smart, Spunky, and Sensational Black Girl had colorful, fun illustrations.)

Even though all adoption books don't apply to your particular situation (special needs, transracial, sibling group, international, etc.), reading about the different types of adoption can be interesting to kiddos.  We have such a large diverse group of friends, may of those children adopted via foster care and international adoption, that my kids love learning about their friends' stories!

So in no particular order, here are our favorite non-sappy adoption books, all available from Amazon:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

National Adoption Month + Adoption Talk Link-Up: Tickled Pink

November is a month saturated with thankfulness.  For a few years now, I've seen FB friends posting daily one thing they are thankful for.

To me, it feels a bit inauthentic.  Forced.  Expected.  Demanded.

Which is exactly what some people (some even within the adoption community) expect from adoptees: to be thankful.

This idea comes from the belief that the parents who adopted the child are somehow superior. Majestic. They are superheros and saviors.  They live on a pedestal.  

(This is dangerous, as I explained in Come Rain or Come Shine---my first book---because we parents who adopted our kids ARE NOT the things many believe us to be.  We are parents.  Just parents.  And the pressure put on us, especially when we are new to parenting, can be detrimental to us in many ways.)

And therefore, if someone is on the mountain (the parent), someone else must be in the valley (the child), and that someone in the valley is the adoptee, he or she should be looking up in admiration, in reverence, in expectation, and in thankfulness.

Now no one has ever told my kids, "You should be thankful you have a family who adopted you."  It comes more "fluffy" and directed at us, the parents, such as, "How wonderful that you adopted kids who needed a good home" (to us with our kids present), or more generally, "So many kids need a good home."  Or they say, "Your kids are so lucky to have you as their parents."  Or we even, as parents get, "God bless you for adopting!  That is so inspiring!"

I want to be labeled a "good parent" because, well, I make good parenting choices, not because of how my family was built.  And mostly, I don't want my kids to get the message that they should somehow feel indebted to us for adopting them.  The truth is, we adopted for a pretty darn selfish reason:  we wanted to be parents.  Period.  That's it.


So how can parents who adopted their kids make sure that the children receive the RIGHT messages about thankfulness?

One thing I believe strongly in is affirmations and repeating things to our children that will stick with them for their entire lives.  It can be as simple as telling your child, "I'm so thankful that I get to be your mommy."  And, "I'm so thankful your birth parents chose us be your mom and dad."  Even, "I love being your mom."

It also includes affirming the things that are special about our children (as I tell my oldest daughter, "You know why you are special?" to which she smiles and says, "Because I was your first baby."  To my middle daughter:  "Do you know why you are special?" to which she ways, "I was your surprise baby."); this includes things they are good at, their personalities, and the good choices that they make.  These remind our children that they are wonderful JUST as they are.  Not because they were adopted---but just because they are who they are.  (My sweet son says to me all the time, "I love you just the way you are.")

Combating the things that others say (others who don't "get it") is a BIG job.  But our kids should know that their entire lives, there will be those who say ridiculous, uninformed, unfair, and rash things. And we parents will always be there to build our kids (back) up when those words hurt, when they speak lies, when they seek to discourage.  The constant is LOVE.  The constant is THANKFULNESS---thankfulness from a mom and dad who are "tickled pink" to be parenting their kiddos.

Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!

Today's topic is Names. Grab a button for your post and join Erin, Jamie, Jenni, Jill, Madeleine, Rachel, and me!
New to linking up? We'd love to have you join us, here's how.
No Bohns About It

Monday, November 16, 2015

National Adoption Month: Jump OFF the Bandwagons

Hi, Sugars!  Today we're going to talk about bandwagons.

My loathing and resistance to bandwagons began back in high school.  I had landed my dream job: selling books at Barnes and Noble.  I was the youngest employee at the store, and I absolutely loved being surrounded by books five afternoons a week from 2-6 p.m.

Until, until, the first Harry Potter book was to be released.  We (booksellers) were encouraged to wear wizard hats.  We took pre-orders from hundreds of customers.  The books, which arrived just a day before the release, we wrapped in about 10,000 layers of plastic with big bolded signs saying DO NOT OPEN.

The day the book released, I arrive at work at 8 a.m., an hour before the store opened.  As the manager opened the door to let me in, a few crazies tried to barge into the store, hoping to snag the first copy of the books which had already been displayed throughout the store.  Apparently, about a hundred customers had been lined up for hours, long before the sun came up, to get to the books first.
I didn't put on a wizard hat.  I didn't read the book.  I have still never read any of the Harry Potter books or seen the movies or understood any references to the book's characters.  

Dealing with customers who felt that the Harry Potter book release was the equivalent of meeting Jesus Christ was just too much for me.  And I'm a passionate, enthusiastic person.  It was just overkill.  The craziness outweighed the excitement.  I just couldn't.  

Since that point, I have never been a bandwagon kind of person.  Everyone and her mom has a tattoo now.  I have none.  I've never tried a pumpkin spiced latte (mostly because it has an insane amount of sugar in it, and diabetics don't handle all that sugar well).  I just bought my first pair of leggings and my first leopard print item.  Why?  Because I like them now because I like them, not because someone else told me to like them or raved about them.

There are some things in adoption that with time and experience and research, I implore you not to jump on the bandwagon.  And if you are already on the bandwagon, consider jumping off.  It's not that these things are the evil of all evils; it's that I need you to take it down about twenty-five notches and hear me out before you decide if the bandwagon is best for you and your family.

1:  Open adoption.

We have three open adoptions.  They are each very different and present a lot of joys and challenges. This was not a decision we took lightly.   Open adoption seems to be something trending, like a cool thing on Facebook or Twitter, but I see a lot of posts online by distressed parents (who adopted) not knowing what to do because they've friended their child's birth mom on Facebook before the child was even born.  Because they've felt equal obligation to the birth mom and to the child, and it's not working.  Because guilt drives their choices, not love and certainly not a lot of common sense.  To jump into anything without being properly prepared and informed, without having the right MIND-set and HEART-set, isn't healthy, no matter how popular that choice is.

Recommendation:  Read Lori Holden's book The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption.  Take open adoption slowly and organically.  Take risks, but don't be foolish.  And always follow your child's cues.

2:  Birth mother gifts.

First, let's clarify, a birth mom (or first/natural/bio mom) is someone who placed a child for adoption.  She is not someone CONSIDERING adoption or someone who has made an adoption PLAN.   I used the words "birth mother gifts" because this is what I see on social media.  Here's an example:  "Our birth mother is due in a month.  I want to get us matching birthstone necklaces and give the birth mom hers at the hospital."   Or, posts about "meeting a birth mom we are matched with" and wanting to give her a "basket of goodies."   Here's the deal.  The baby isn't yours yet, the mom doesn't owe you anything, and extravagant or "leading" gifts is unethical.

Recommendation:  You can show support by a simple card or a blank journal.  Getting overly-zealous is pushy, something an expecting mom, or a mom who has just given birth, doesn't need.Your presence, if requested by the mom, means far more than your presents.   And sometimes your presence is simply you praying for mom, sending her a text that says "I support you no matter what," not necessarily standing by her hospital bed.

3:  Believing a particular person or triad member is adoption gospel.

There is no gospel on adoption.  Each person, each adoption, each situation is very different.  To obsessively read and "obey" a particular triad member or person is irresponsible, no matter how much you agree with them.  Listen, I've read almost every single adoption book published in the last twenty years.  I follow adoption authors on Twitter, and I have friendships with some of them.  I love hearing different perspectives and experiences.  But not a single one of these individuals (or triad groups) can tell me how to best raise MY child.  Why?  Because my child is a unique individual with a story of his or her own.

Recommendation:  Read and read a lot, but remember to guard your heart.  Education is power, empathy is encouraged.  But please be wise.  Please tread carefully.  What you allow to fill your heart is what you will in turn use to parent your children.

4: More money, more possibilities.

I believe instead, more money, more problems.  Money complicates any situation.  The more money, the more "hands in the pot," the more ethical dilemmas I believe you will face as you try to adopt.  I am against agencies that charge $30,000 for the placement of a baby (or higher), agencies that charge parents based on the race of the child, agencies that allow parents to essentially hand-pick their babies (bi-racial healthy girl), agencies that provide little education to their parents, agencies that demand parents contribute to "birth parent expenses," agencies that charge parents for every piece of paper printed.   These agencies prey upon baby-hungry, desperate families who in-turn, make terrible financial (and in turn, terrible ethical) choices.  They take out second mortgages, borrow money from every friend and family member, borrow against their retirement funds, etc.  

Recommendation:  Read Julie Gumm's book Adopt Without Debt.  Remember that money is the #1 thing couples fight about.  You may get your baby, but you'll be left in a terrible financial situation that will plague you for years, if not decades.  

What I want you to know is that IT IS OK TO SAY NO.   That standing up for what is right, instead of what seems easier (joining a bandwagon), will benefit you more as a family.  That one day you will answer to your adoptee as to the choices you made along your journey.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

National Adoption Month: Pee or Get Off the Pot

Hi, Sugars:

One thing you should know about me is that I'm a decisive person.  The downside is that means at times I can be prideful and stubborn, but the upside is, as I say, I "pick and stick."  I'm committed, dedicated, and passionate once I make a decision I believe is best.

Over the course of my time in the adoption community, I've had communication with blog readers, friends, and family members who are uncertain about what to do when it comes to family-building. There are those who say "I've always wanted to adopt" but were never brought to a place in life or a point in time where adoption was a REAL option or consideration for them.  They had a few biological children, put their adopting fantasies on the back burner, and moved on with their lives. But what of those who aren't able to conceive a biological child or aren't certain (due to past miscarriages or stillbirths, due to personal health reasons, etc.) having a biological child is safe or healthy option?  

They are in a place of purgatory.  They simply cannot, cannot decide what to do.  They are tortured.  

"Adoption isn't easy, and it is not the same experience as having a baby biologically. Despite the fact that my children and I share no biological connection, we are a real family, knit together with love and commitment to one another. I wouldn't trade our tumultuous path to parenthood for anything, because after the rainstorm awaited the most vibrant, beautiful, unique and unforgettable rainbow."

Today if you are in that place of purgatory, or you know someone who is, please share my article with them.  It's really a love letter.  A cheer.  A reality check.  It's all of these things.  

And it's also a kick in the pants.  There comes a time when you really do need to pee or get off the pot.  Indecisiveness has a season.  

Monday, November 9, 2015

National Adoption Month: My Favorite Adoption Quotes

As a mom whose children have open adoptions with their birth families, I adore this quote.  There is a belief that adoptees have to choose between their biological families and their forever families.  I guess it's a question of loyalty?  Or of creating a hierarchy of love and devotion?  But it's unnecessary and unfair for anyone to demand this from our children.   If our children love and respect both their families, isn't that a beautiful thing? 

I have written about this before, and this quote perfectly summarizes my thoughts.  The word "magnitude" resonates in my heart.  The poem i carry your heart with me (ee cummings) is another way to put the complex feelings I have regarding my kids' first moms.  

What are you favorite adoption quotes, songs, or poems?  Why?  I'd love to add more to my list!  

Thursday, November 5, 2015

National Adoption Month + Adoption Talk Linkup: No, I'm Not Angie's BFF (among other things)

Hi, Sugars!  Today on the Adoption Talk Linkup, anything goes!  I want to share with you, as a mom-by-adoption, some "nots":

  • I'm not best friends with Angelina Jolie. She didn't inspire me to adopt.  Never met her. Probably never will. 
  • I'm not one who believes "money is no object."  I'm a strong proponent of ethical adoptions, which includes financially responsible adoptions.
  • I'm not ever going to ask my kids to choose between us and their birth parents.  We can co-exist.  We do co-exist. 
  • I'm not ever going to shy away from correcting those who ask me why I didn't have "my own" kids.  My kids are my own.   
  • I will not succumb to strangers demanding that I divulge my kids' personal adoption stories. Yep, we are a real family, the kids are real siblings, and we are their real parents.
  • I'm not ever going to say that open adoption is the best choice.  Every adoption, every child, every situation is different.  Open adoption is hard.  It's complicated.  It's bittersweet.  For us, it's working.  
  • I will not ever going to stop worrying about the racial tensions and injustices in our country. Racism is deeply personal to me.  
  • I am not ever going to stop appreciating the advice (on parenting, on hair styles, on skin care, etc.) bestowed upon me by Black men and women.  I'm deeply thankful for those who grace us with their wisdom.
  • I will not cease to pray for my kids' biological families, both on my own and with my children. We are thankful for their birth families, we love them, and we are thankful they chose us to parent the children.  
  • I won't ever believe that there are blurry lines when it comes to adoption ethics.  Some things, to me, are black and white.  I want to be able to tell my children that I made the right choices, even if sometimes it was uncomfortable and the outcome of those choices was uncertain.
  • I'm not down with the adoption absolutes that some like to tout.  There is no adoption gospel. Every adoption is different.  I will weigh what I read and hear carefully, but as a mom, I'm going to do what is best for MY children.  
  • I do not agree that just because a mom is young, because the biological father goes MIA, because the mom struggles financially, because she's unsure who the father is, or because she's of a certain faith, that adoption is the best choice for her baby. Young moms, single moms, moms without much money, moms of any faith:  they can be good moms.  And if they choose to place, I hope that choice is made with a clear mind and peace, never out of coercion from a social worker, mom or dad, partner, or anyone else.  
  • I do not believe that adoptees should have to choose between nature and nurture because the "nature" part makes their parents uncomfortable.  My kids are a beautiful blend of both their first families and us.    

Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!

Today's topic is Names. Grab a button for your post and join Erin, Jamie, Jenni, Jill, Madeleine, Rachel, and me!
New to linking up? We'd love to have you join us, here's how.
No Bohns About It

Monday, November 2, 2015

National Adoption Month: Signs

It's a topic that comes up frequently in online discussion groups:  signs.

I remember while waiting fourteen excruciating months during our first adoption journey.  I would find signs EVERYWHERE.

  • I can still remember the vivid dream I had about walking into a hospital room and seeing our baby: a white little girl with a head of reddish-brown hair.  
  • I can remember walking a three-mile loop each morning and looking up one day to see a street sign that featured the first word of the name of our adoption agency. 
  • I remember seeing three weed-flowers poking up from the same stem from a crack in the sidewalk, and I was certain this meant that soon we'd go from just us (a couple) to being parents.  (I went as far as to re-walk that route and take a picture of that flower...which is somewhere buried in my 2007 picture folder.)

Each "sign" was met with disappointment.  Nothing went smoothly or as planned.  Our profile was shown over ten times (mostly for white baby boys, oddly enough), and each time the answer was "no" or the child's parents chose to parent.

I even went as far as to one day, when we were being shown for a black baby girl, venture to Kohl's and purchase a pink sleeper size NB.  I was certain that if I wasn't going to get a sign (like a cloud in the shape of a pacifier or something ridiculous like that), I'd make my own sign!   Brilliant!  Because it's perfectly reasonable to think you can somehow magically make a baby appear by buying a sleeper at Kohl's.  (I know, I'm a total weirdo.)

We weren't chosen for that baby.  I took the sleeper back, feeling like a complete fool.

Fast-forward and newsflash:  I don't believe in signs.


  • Because a mom has every right to parent her baby, no matter what plans she made while she was pregnant.  
  • Because a "match" isn't a promise or a guarantee.  
  • Because you can turn anything into a "sign"---even something as ridiculous as three flowers in a sidewalk crack.  
  • Because humans are flawed, and our interpretations of signs is about as reliable as the weather report.  

In December of 2012, my husband and I took our girls to church.  The sermons were focusing on the upcoming Christmas holiday, the celebration of Christ's birth.  Our pastor began each sermon by reading the verses he would be referencing.  We were trying to focus, but we had been matched with a mom due with a baby boy in January.  We were counting down the days, wondering if this little boy would become our son.  We were distracted by the match; it was all-consuming.  We were also, and always, distracted by the needs of the kids standing beside us.  A snack.  A toy.  A potty break.  A nose-wiping.

A single word caught our attention that day.  The pastor said he would be preaching on a few verses from the book of Isaiah, the name my husband had seriously considered for our future son.

He and I looked at each other, both displaying a shaky smile and tear-filled eyes.

NOT because of a sign.  Or a coincidence.   But because of a reminder.

God speaks to people in different ways.  His reassurance is bestowed upon us in the most perfect of times (usually in the most desperate times).   And this is exactly what happened to us on that cold December Sunday.

To me, the reminder said something like this, from God:

I am with you.  I won't leave you.  I know you are anxious.  I know you are uncertain.  I know you have a good heart and believe that this child is only yours if his mom chooses you again.  I know you are praying for her, and not in a "give me a baby" way, but in a way that wishes her wisdom, patience, grace, understanding, and peace.  I know you are having a hard time deciding what to tell your daughters about the match; it's confusing for these two little girls to understand the complexities and uncertainties of adoption.  I know you love this little boy and want the best for him, even though you have yet to meet him.  I know you feel faith-filled one minute and doubt-filled the next.  I have never left you.  I will never leave you.  I am with you no matter where this journey takes you.  

I share this to say that signs to me are more about superstition, not faith.  Signs are abstract.  They are distracting and misleading.  They can make those waiting to adopt completely crazy.  They lead us to focus in on ourselves and not on the bigger picture.   They offer false hope.

Why?  Because when you are waiting to adopt, you are crazy.  You just are.  It's sort of like a disease with adoption causing the onset.  You cannot see clearly.  You either have on rose colored glasses or those drunk driving glasses cops use at demonstrations.   You are all over the place.   You are on a roller coaster.

But reminders, reminders come from God.  Reminders might come to you as the right song at just the right time on the radio.  A reminder might be a friend who brings you a surprise cup of your favorite coffee (naturally, she brings you a venti, because she's KNOWS how hard this adoption thing is).  A reminder might be your husband holding your hand at an unexpected time.  Or, in our case, a reminder from a Christmas service, a Bible verse shared by our pastor.  These aren't "signs" that everything is going to be ok or work out perfectly in your favor (as you deem in your limited knowledge of any situation); they are reminders from God to show you that He is here for you, that He wants you to make the right decisions at the right times, and that He is never, ever, ever going to turn His back on you.

If you are waiting to adopt, I know I can tell you a thousand times to not look for signs, but you might be peeking around anyway.   I get it.  But after you spend too long looking for a shooting star, certain that one is a sign that your baby is shooting his or her way into your arms at any moment, remember who is the beginning and the end, the steadfast One, the promise-fulfiller, and the life-giver.

for more encouragement along your adoption journey,
check out my book, co-authored with Madeleine Melcher (adoptee and mom through adoption), available today on Amazon