Wednesday, January 31, 2018

10 Diversity Minded Products for Kids, from Barefoot Books

As a mom by transracial adoption, diversity is ALWAYS on my brain.  Whether it be #representationmatters or inclusion of a diverse cast of characters, I'm always searching for the best children's media that shows that all of our children are beautiful, valued, and worthy of celebration and representation.

Today, I'm sharing with you my top ten favorite diversity-minded products from Barefoot Books. Click on the title to learn more.  

Mindful Kids:  50 Mindfulness Activities for Kindness, Focus, and Calm

-Since a *little* thing called breast cancer last year, I've learned a lot about the power of mindfulness.  When our brains and bodies are trained to be calm and "in the moment," the zen, the joy, the peace we experience is astounding.  But unless you're a trained mental health counselor, yoga teacher, or naturally peaceful person (which is like NO mom I know), it can be overwhelming.  That's why I love the Mindful Kids activity deck.  You don't have to figure out how to start your day, find calm, focus, open your heart, and rest and relax (those are the card categories, by the way!) because the cards lay it all out for you and your kids.  Mommy calm, kids calm=win win!  Designed for kids ages 4 and up.

The Barefoot Book of Princesses

-Tired of the one-size-fits-all princess?  This book and story CD set features princesses from around the world, including China, Kenya, and Denmark.   Great for ages 4-9.  

Children of the World Memory Game

-I love memory games because a large age range of kids and adults can play them.  It's so stinkin' simple!   This game, designed for ages 4 and up, is a way for players to "meet children from cultures across the globe."  The illustrations are whimsical and colorful.   

Shopping With Dad

-A father and daughter shopping trip turns a bit...interesting.  The moral of the story?  Personal responsibility!  Text rhymes.  Best for readers ages 3-7.  

Skip Through the Seasons

-Start in January and then continue to "skip" through the rest of the year, focusing on the seasons.  This book is great for the youngest readers all the way up until about age 7.   Colorful illustrations and rhyme keep the reader's attention.  The book also includes learning pages about months of the year, days of the week, and the seasons.  

Fast and Slow

-Attention Ezra Jack Keats fans (oh how we love The Snowy Day!).  Here's a board book starring a brown boy that teaches kids, using transportation illustrations, about the concepts of fast and slow.  Geared toward babies to children age four.  

Dr. Potts, My Pets Have Spots

-This one is for you all animal loving families!  The Betts family pets have a problem:  they all have spots.  But taking them to vet only results in spots turning to stripes.   The text rhymes, and the illustrations are bold and colorful.  Best for readers age 3-7.   

Space Song Rocket Ride

-3.  2.  1.  Blastoff!   A team of child and animal astronauts zoom through space, learning about space facts along the way.  This book includes an audio singalong and video animation!  Best for children ages 3-7.  

The Fairy Game

-These fairies need our help!  They must work together to save their flowers before Mr. Winter frosts them.  My daughters and I love playing this cooperative game.   Best for kids ages 5 and up.  

My Friend Robot!

-This book + CD combo features a brown-skinned girl and her friends, all young creative people, and their friend Robot.  They work together using building and inventing skills to create a treehouse.  The book is all about teamwork, empathy, following directions, and the joy of creativity.  This is a great book for children ages 3-7.  

Motherbridge of Love

-This adoption (!!!) book is the beautiful story of a Chinese (transracial) adoptee learning the many ways both her parents (birth and adoptive) have contributed to her life and how much they love her.  I love this book for any age child.  Simply stunning, truth-telling, and full of love.  

I can't wait to hear which ones you love!  

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

5 Easy and Practical Health Tips for Busy Moms

So, it's then end of January.

That means most of us have quit our new year's resolutions by now.  Because they were probably ridiculously lofty goals like lose thirty pounds in two seconds, attend hot yoga three times a week, or never eat carbs again.

As a busy mom of four, a breast cancer survivor, and a type 1 diabetic (got all that?), I KNOW that health is important, but I don't have TIME to do much about it.  (Meaning time to make an incredible health plan AND follow it through.)  Plus, doesn't being healthy seem so darn complicated these days?  Every week, there's a new fitness fad, innovative diet, supplement suggestion, and magical must-eat food.   

Frankly, it's exhausting and defeating to try to keep up.   

But there are some basic health things that never change.  And they really aren't that complicated, expensive, or difficult.   I promise.   

So from me to you, here are five easy health steps you can take as a busy mom: 

1:  Drink a smoothie a day.

I love smoothies because they are:  healthy, inexpensive, energizing, hydrating, and easy.  For the on-the-go lady, it's nice to to create an on-the-go breakfast or snack.  I pour mine into a cup, add a straw, hop into my minivan, and go about my day.  Smoothies keep your digestion regular, too.  

Now there are no fewer than 1,000,000 smoothie recipes out there, but it's really NOT complicated. First, I make mine in a generic Magic Bullet (yep, it's true!).   My smoothies are pretty basic, too.  I use one scoop of protein powder (I prefer this one, approved by my integrative cancer treatment center's dietitian), water or green tea (cooled), frozen fruit of my choosing (usually berries, because they're low on the glycemic index, but sometimes I'll use mango or kiwi), and spinach leaves (they have NO taste in smoothies but are so healthy!  I usually add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed (as part of my anti-cancer diet).  I choose to go all-organic with my ingredients.  That's it!   

Just experiment.  Some people like a peanut butter and banana smoothie.  You can blend this with your favorite milk and some cinnamon.   Some prefer a fruity smoothie (like I do).  Others even go for a coffee-based smoothie (though it's not as nutrient dense without the fruits and veggies added). (I drink my smoothie and a cup of coffee every morning.)  I recommend making your own, as the smoothies sold via a drive-thru tend to be FULL of sugar and calories that aren't at all healthy.   

2:  Make your checkup appointments, and then SHOW UP.

It's early in the year.  The calendar is WIDE open.  Make your yearly appointments now.  That means your gynecologist, your dentist, your eye doctor, and any specialists you see (a skin check by a dermatologist is a good idea!).  You might even pick a single day or two days and do all of your appointments in that time period.   And please, don't cancel the appointments!   Remember my story?  Because of my persistence and the timing of my appointments, I caught my breast cancer early. Don't procrastinate, because you'll convince yourself later in the year that you are "too busy" for your health.

3:  Choose exercise you like.

A lot of my mom friends are runners.  Let me be clear:  I HATE RUNNING.  (You know this if you read my latest book.  I go on a RANT about it like a toddler.  You're welcome.)  But I love outdoor walks (not power walking either: bleck).   Light weight lifting.  And I play dance games on my kids XBOX.   These all count.

What gives you energy?  Clears your mind?  Lifts your spirit?  That's what you need to be doing.  Don't worry about what's trendy!  Exercise doesn't have to be misery-inducing or expensive. Nor is there a magical length of time to exercise.  If you get in fifteen minutes, consider that a win for the day!   

Benefits of exercise include:  strength and endurance building, confidence boosting, anxiety reducing, sleep improving, mood balancing.  And of course, if you're not working out and then pigging out (or have an underlying medical issue), exercise helps you maintain or lose weight.   When I work out, my personal goal is to feel stronger and healthier, to have more stamina for my day-to-day activities, and to reduce my anxiety.  I'm a scale-snob, honestly, and rarely ever weigh myself.  

4:  Get some fresh air.  

Many Americans are vitamin D deficient which is NOT good considering vitamin D is vital to good health!  Get outside and get some sun exposure.  And when you're at your yearly check up with your gynecologist or GP, ask for your vitamin D level to be checked.  You may need a supplement. (Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin:  because of this, I prefer this supplement as a two-in-one.) But back to fresh air:  it does WONDERS.   I know, some places it's REALLY cold right now.  But bundle up and walk to your mailbox.  Take some deep breaths.   Fresh air gives you energy and mental clarity.   

5: Address mental health concerns.

So many of my mom friends are struggling with anxiety, and too many of them try to push through it instead of addressing it.  Treat your mental health just as you would your physical health.   I've been quite vocal on my struggle with anxiety, but how sharing my story has helped others (including one of my own children who also has anxiety).   Gynecologists and general practitioners may not be mental health professionals, but they are great starting points for seeking resources for further treatment options.   Don't continue to struggle in silence.   Reach out for help and consider the options you have to take control and feel better.    Dear one, being a mom is HARD.  Adopting is HARD.  Even thinking about adopting is HARD.   It's OK to admit that and confront it, head on!  

Finally, just know that there are NO MAGIC FIXES for health.  Don't buy expensive products that promise amazing results, subscribe to the "perfect" diet, decide you're going to go from "tired mom" (that's me) to fitness champion in three weeks with the help of some supplement your girlfriend has tried.   Healthy living for the long-haul should be reality-based.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Teaching Your Kids About Money

New year, new goals! 

In November, a few of my Facebook followers encouraged me to turn a picture into an entire post.  So here goes!

Each of my kids gets an allowance.  And here's how it works for us.

-We "pay" them at the beginning of every month.  (We tried weekly and failed to remember, if you want to know the truth.  So paying monthly works well for us).   We pay in $1 bills.   Each child gets $8 for spending, $8 for savings, and $4 for "Jesus money." 

-Each child has two clear jars:  one for savings (which goes to the bank when it's full enough) and one deemed "Jesus money."   The spending money goes immediately into their purses which stay in the car for shopping trips.   The clear jars are nice, as the kids can see them fill up. 

-Their spending money can be spent as they choose.  One of my daughters loves to buy herself special snacks (think a cake pop at Starbucks).   Another one of my girls obsessively buys art supplies.  One child is a saver.  The other is a spender.   Our son (5) just recently started receiving allowance like his big sisters, and he's enjoying the process! 

-There's no breakdowns at stores, asking for us to buy them things.  It always goes back to one question:  "Do you have your allowance?"   This teaches personal responsibility, delayed gratification, and money management.  

-Allowance is given no matter what.  It cannot be taken away as a punishment.  However, occasionally if a child makes an irresponsible choice, they might be expected to pay for something out of their allowance as a natural consequence.  (Say one child purposefully breaks another child's toy.) 

-Allowance isn't earned by doing chores.  It is expected that our kids pitch in when asked, with a good attitude, because they are part of the family.   Now I get that in the "real world," you're paid to work...but we aren't too worried about that right now.  However, the kids can earn extra money (not allowance) occasionally by doing something above and beyond that we need help with.  For example, one day my oldest, who likes to organize and sort, cleaned out our "junk drawer."  It took her close to an hour and she enjoyed earning a few bucks!  Another day, she helped me clean out two pantries.   

-Birthday money goes into savings, while gift cards can be spent.  Our reasoning for this?  Our kids have four grandparents, six aunts and uncles, and many cousins:  they get many, many birthday gifts.  So any money given to them should be saved, not spent on MORE "stuff."  Since this has always been our rule, it's really no big deal.  The kids know what to expect.  However, if they're given a gift card, they are allowed to spend it as they wish. 

-The savings money is not for a "rainy day."  It will be to help pay for a bigger purchase (like a car) or college fees. 

-Now, on to the "Jesus money."  As a family of faith, we believe in tithing.   However, we believe that the child should be able to see the "fruits of their labor," meaning, not just hand over their cash into a collection plate being passed around (unless they feel so inclined, like when my oldest chose to give some money for hurricane relief), but rather a more active act of faith.   Each November or December, my kids buy gifts from an angel tree choosing OR we buy gifts for a birthday child through our local foster care organization.   Our kids LOVE going to the store, choosing the gifts, and paying for them---yes, in $1 bills!  (God bless the Target cashiers!)  During this activity, they have to think what others may want to receive, keep track of how much money they can spend (lots of math), and practice making decisions.  

Thinking about giving your child an allowance?  Here are a few tips:

1:  Don't overthink it.  Just give it a whirl and see how it goes.  Stop delaying it because you fear you'll mess up.    Let your kids know that you're trying out something new, and they should expect that you'll be adjusting and adapting as need be until you find your groove. 

2:  Make changes as you go along, just like we did.  Remember I told you that we forgot to give our kids a weekly allowance?  So we went to monthly.  Easy! 

3:  Guide, but let mistakes happen.   For example, I help my kids count out their money at the checkout and offer reminders like "hang on to your receipt," say "thank you" to the cashier, and put the change you're given back into your purse, zipping it shut. 

BUT, I remember one time my daughter took a $4.99 item up to the cash register.  She only had $5 and hadn't accounted for sales tax.  She looked at me, and I reminded her that if she didn't have enough money, she'd have to wait.   Yes, I could have just handed her the change to finish paying for the item, but instead I stood firm in allowing her to "live and learn."  She handled it really well! She told the cashier, "I don't have enough money to buy this today" and handed the item to her.

4: Have designated money spaces.  For us, it's the jars and the purses.  Do whatever works for you, but just establish some sort of space.  This helps your child stay organized. 

5:  Let it go, as Elsa says.  Did I want my daughter to buy that guitar at the dollar store (yes, it was only $1)?  NO.  The minute she brought it home, it was half-broken.  But I constantly remind myself that it is THEIR money to spend as THEY please, and they will not learn anything if I'm always butting in.  I do issue some warnings or reminders, but they are always gentle and infrequent.  (For example, my daughter only had $2 of her $8 left and insisted on buying which I reminded her we had hundreds of Crayons at home in a bin.  She decided that she really wanted new, sharpened, cool colors:  and I said, "That's fine!  It's your money.") 

6:  Keep it simple. The reason I think adults get so overwhelmed with money management is because of how complicated we make it. Teach your kids really simple money management lessons through the gift of a allowance:  it provides opportunities for real life money management experience.

What works for you and your family?  Are you fans of allowance?  Do your children do chores to earn money, or is allowance given no matter what? 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Creating Your Adoption Profile Book: Advice from an Adoptee


That's the number of adoption profile books I created.  But not created like sipped-some-tea-while-listening-to-jazz-and-handcrafting-a-profile-book.   No.  Like agonized over.  Every word.  Every photo.  (Being a writer has its downfalls...)  For hours and hours and hours, well until 2 A.M. sometimes.  (Read more about this agonizing process in my latest book.) 

Why are profile books so hard to create?  For one, many of us feel like we just aren't good at it.  Two, writing about ourselves is just weird.  It feels braggy and awkward.   Three, we know what's at stake.  We are putting ourselves "out there" to be evaluated as potential parents.  And that's intimidating! 

If you're struggling to create a profile book, if you've been putting it off because you feel you just cannot ever get it "right" (whatever that means), you are NOT alone.  Which is exactly why today, I'm sharing with you the words of Madeleine Melcher, owner of Our Journey to You, a profile creation and review business.   Now, Madeleine isn't just a business owner, but she's also a book author, mom of three, adoptee, and 2017 Congressional Coalition on Adoption Angel-in-Adoption awardee.

Rachel:  You are both an adoptee and a mom-by-adoption.  How do these two roles impact your profile-creation business?  

Madeleine:  I think that having grown my family through adoption and having been adopted myself allows me to truly understand what families who come to me are going through in terms of the stresses of the actual adoption process and the strong desire in their heart to welcome a child into their family. As an adoptee I think I can better see the whole picture of adoption and that people are not just adopting an infant, but a person who will grow up, have questions and need parents- not “adoptive” parents.  I have a lot of empathy for my own birthmother and I think that has carried over. I have had the opportunity to speak with a number of women who have placed their children and it is important to me that these women receive the honesty and true picture of a family through the adoption profile.

Rachel:  What is the #1 mistake you see hopeful parents make in their profile books?  Why is this mistake problematic? 

Madeleine:  Many of the profiles I see online sound the same.  The text could fit a thousand other families because it is so devoid of the uniqueness that makes the families who they are. There is no doubt in my mind that all of these families are thankful someone is reading their profile, that they are excited to grow their family through adoption, etc. but the expectant family needs and deserves more than that.  What makes the best profile books is text and photos that show and tell the reader about YOU- not the you that you think they want to see, the real you.  I think that families feel they need to be some imaginary version n of perfect with a huge, spotless home, and expensive vacations- they could not be further from the truth.  

Families need to be who they are and it is the specifics of what makes them who they are that will help the reader feel like they have met them for the first time.  Families need to look at their lives and the daily moments they hope to share with a child and convey that through words, captions and absolutely pictures.  If you hang out in your pajamas on Saturday mornings and make pancakes? Awesome!  Include it and definitely take a picture of your smiley face pancake!  Do you get involved in your community with volunteer work or attending cultural fairs or the farmers market?  Tell the reader about it! What are your strengths as a couple and how will that help in your parenting together? 

Don’t give generic answers, let the reader feel like they are getting to know you- is one of you handy and will fix broken bike chains or build a jungle gym?  Is one of you the math guru who will help with geometry homework when the day comes?  If you are single, answer the questions the reader will have before they have to ask.  For example, single women should include what male role models are in their family and specific ways they will be a part of the child’s life.  Families need to stop worrying about being themselves and realize that that authenticity or the lack there of can be felt immediately and does make a difference.  BE YOU is what I tell my families, there is no one else you can or should want to be!

Rachel:  You are for ethical adoptions.  How can a hopeful parent create an ethical profile book?  What does that even mean, exactly? 

Madeleine:  The purpose of adoption is to find loving and permanent homes for children who need them, period.  An ethical profile book begins with the most important part of a relationship, old or new- honesty.  

Hopeful parents must first be honest with themselves as they work through the many pages of “preferences” given to them by their agency.  Can they handle a child with more critical physical or mental health needs? Do they live close enough to the resources they would need for a child who may have those needs? Are they prepared for the question marks of a child who has been drug exposed?  Do they have an extended family wo would welcome a child of another ethnicity?  Are they willing to do what is needed to be sure their child feels represented in their family and life? 

Hopeful families must be honest with the expectant parents who read their profile by showing their authentic selves and not making promises they do not know if they can keep.  If families don’t know if they are open to sharing letters and pictures or if they are open to visits and regular communication with a birth family they should not ever say they would. Families should not feel pressured by anyone into promising a level of openness they are not comfortable with- expectant parents hoe for as many different levels of openness as hopeful families do and the truth is, whatever families think they may want now may change depending on the family they match with and vice versa.  

Knowing you have done all you can to have an ethical adoption is important!  It is important to the family, the birth family and will be one day to the child that was welcomed through it.

Rachel:  You offer profile book creation and profile book reviews.   How does a hopeful parent decide which option is best for them? 

Madeleine:  Sometimes people know right off the bat that they cannot get a profile done as quickly as they would like or that they don’t know where to start or really what to include so they reach out to me solely about creating their profile for them.  I have a workbook for families to use that can get them started as they draft their rough text which I will make suggestions about and sometimes ask them to include more about something that would be of interest to the reader, help them keep text manageable for the reader, add lists and meaningful captions that can draw from what would otherwise be more text and go over all text for adoption appropriate language.  I also speak with the family about what kinds of photos to include, help them choose photos, caption them and do all of the layout.  The layout is created with the family preferences and the guidelines of any agency they are working with and when we are finished if they need agency approval to move to printing I ensure any changes requested are done as quickly as possible and the pages are prepared for upload to printer or Shutterfly for hardback books.  It is really important to me that my families love their profile and that it is ethical and authentic.  People who come to me about reviewing a profile have already completed one on their own and want to be sure they did what they needed to and did not make any glaring missteps, before letting go of their final draft and going to print.  My reviews give comments on the elements of layout, photos, captions, text and adoption appropriate language.  Not only do I let the family know what I suggest they change, edit or add- but I give specific options of ways they can change, add or edit if they choose to.  I have had families that initially come to me for a review decide they just want to start from scratch and they become creation clients—either way, I love to help.  There is never any pressure from me for the client to choose one path or another, I want them to have what they feel will help them achieve the truest, most authentic profile they can- period and that varies from family to family.

Rachel:  What is one message you'd like to send to those considering adoption?  

Madeleine:  Please, when you welcome your child into your home and hearts- BE THE PARENT.  NOT the “adoptive parent”, not the 2nd parent—THE parent and all the good, bad and in-between that comes with it.  Being the parent means you will do anything and everything you can to meet your child’s needs – whether it is taking them to the doctor when they are sick, telling he or she they were adopted from DAY ONE, teaching them how to dribble a basketball or learn square roots, give the birds and the bees speech or wipe a runny nose—being THE PARENT means being there and helping your child with everything, adoption related or not.  The most important way to know what your child needs is to LISTEN—the more you listen the more your child will talk and when he or she is a teenager you will be glad that is already something you share.  And when it comes to adoption- there is no more important voice than YOUR CHILD’S.  Your child needs you to be the parent- I hope you will meet that need with a fierce and forever love and 2 listening ears.

Connect with Madeleine on her site, on Instagram, and Facebook both here and here.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

MLK Day Isn't Enough If You've Adopted Transracially

It happens every year. 

"Positive" MLK quotes circulate social media in honor of Dr. King's birthday.  Now, don't get me wrong.  Dr. King was an incredible human being.  In fact, my son and I share Dr. King's birthday, making the holiday extra special for us. 

However, I wonder how many people who slap up a Dr. King quote this time of year, have a social justice hat on ALL year long?

If you're a parent by transracial adoption, let me be frank.  You can't cheer for Dr. King once a year and consider yourself woke.  Just like you can't read To Kill a Mockingbird and decide you understand everything there is to know about racism. 

Parenting a child of another race means committing to a lifetime of learning, changing, and growing.  It means humility.  It means forgiveness.  It means asking and listening.  It means observing.  And certainly, it means pursuing. 

Your circle of friends?  It should grow wider and wider in the right places.  It should become more diverse, more inviting, more inclusive. 

Your media.  You should listen to and read from sources where the people reporting racially match your child. 

Your home.  Your home should reflect your child's racial culture:  books, art, music, toys.  Your home should be your child's place of comfort and belonging. 

You do not have to have it all figured out.  As a human, you will stumble, make mistakes, and sometimes feel completely ridiculous.  However, as a parent to a child of color, you get right back up, say your apologies (perhaps it's just to your own child), and move forward.  You take your child by the hand and say, "I'm not perfect, but I am your mom.  And you and me?  We're doing this together.  And I have your back no matter what."

And with your actions and words, you affirm your children. Often before bed, I have my five-year-old son repeat after me:

"I am smart.  I am silly.  I am handsome.  I am a good brother.  I am brown.  And I am awesome."

Being a multiracial family, formed by transracial adoption, is a way of life.  It's an honor.  A joy.  A challenge.  A choosing. 

And I want to be able to always tell AND show my children:  I choose you. I choose ALL of you.  Your blackness is beautiful and magical and sacred.  You were fearfully and wonderfully made by an Almighty God to be the incredible human being that you are.  You are loved. 

This choosing doesn't begin and end on MLK weekend every January.  No.  This choosing is forever.

How do you and your family get woke and stay woke all year long? 

Just because we don't (and shouldn't limit) our woke-ness to MLK day, doesn't mean we don't celebrate MLK day!  

Here are our top five favorite books to read on MLK day (click on pic to learn more):

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

18 Things to Know If You're Adopting in 2018

Can you believe it's 2018?   The holiday season was a whirlwind of food, family fun, gifts, traveling, decorating, and if we're honest, pure exhaustion.   And if adoption was on your radar before the holidays, your urgency to adopt is probably more intense after spending so much time with family (perhaps answering the question, "When are you going to have kids?"---yikes!).   To help you prepare for the journey ahead, here are 18 things you MUST know about if you're adopting this year: 

1:  Adoptive breastfeeding.

Yes, it's possible.  Yes, it's controversial.  Yes, I am a fan.  Read more about it from expert Alyssa Schnell, and read my experience here and here.   Know there are plenty of ways to form a secure attachment with a child you adopt, with nursing being one of them. 

2:  Employer financial help.

Some employers offer financial assistance to those who choose to adopt.  (Yes, it's true!)  Maybe you or your partner's companies are among those?   Be sure to talk to your HR rep.    Usually the company offers this reimbursement for expenses (you must submit documentation) after the adoption has been finalized.   The Dave Thomas Foundation offers the 2017 "best" adoption-friendly companies list here.

3:  Adoption leave.

Some employers offer adoption leave!  My husband had four weeks of paid leave off with our first and fourth children---and it was an awesome blessing.  Companies recognize that adopting a baby matters too.  Again, check with your HR rep, and check out the list.  

4:  Open adoption.

We have four open adoptions, and I've written extensively about our experiences as well as shared some great resources with you.  Here I answer your burning questions.  I want you to know that it's OK to be scared:  but it's not OK to make decisions out of ignorance.  Get educated!  Weigh the pros and cons, and then move forward in confidence. 

5:  Representation matters.

If you adopt transracially, be prepared to fill your home with books, toys, games, art, music, and films that offer diversity.   Your child wants to see himself or herself represented!  For example, here are my favorite children's picture books featuring Black girls.   Follow me on IG where I post my newest finds. 

6:  Legal stuff.

If you're going to choose adopt, hire a "quad A" attorney to help you get through the process.  Legal stuff is nothing to mess around with or short-cut when it comes to having an ethical adoption. 

7:  Mentorship.

If you adopt, I highly recommend finding a mentor for your child.  It isn't as difficult as you might think.

8:  Saying goodbye to adoption.

Have you already adopted or tired of waiting to adopt, yet you're considering whether or not to "close the book" on adopting ?   BEEN THERE. 

9:  Profile books.

There are so many fantastic services that help you create your profile book.  Some even review the profile book you created yourself.    Consider this as an option as you budget for your adoption journey. 

10:  Faith.

Faith shouldn't be put on the back burner when you choose to adopt.  The two can walk hand-in-hand.  Check out the adoption journey devotional I co-authored with Madeleine Melcher:  adoptee and mom-by-adoption.

11:  Compliment accepted.

There are many things we parents-by-adoption hate (such as, "Are your kids real siblings?"--which tends to come about mostly in families like mine which are built by transracial adoption), but there's one thing I personally love to hear.   What about you? 

12:  Positivity is OK. 

If you spend any time on the Internet, focusing on any topic, you're bound to leave with some hurt feelings, annoyance, or anger.  Adoption is controversial and the community can be combative, leaving you discouraged.   Please, please, please read this fabulous book, written by an adoptee, directed to those who want to adopt or have adopted.  I promise you'll be uplifted and educated! 

13:  Create a home library for your child.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to instill a healthy sense of "you belong here" and "adoption matters" to your child, even from their earliest days.  Here are nine books I recommend you add to your child's book collection.   I also recommend these fabulous books which showcase the love between a parent and child. 

14:  Searching is normal. 

If your child wants to learn more about himself or herself one day, DNA tests have opened up many doors!  An adoptee who wants to know more about where he/she came from and his/her ethnicity should be supported by their parents. Three of my four children have done a DNA test through Ancestry, and here I offer you my honest review of how the process (and results) went

15:  Don't neglect the grandparents!

It's completely natural for grandparents/future grandparents to need adoption education.  Here I break down for you how to help them understand your choice to adopt

16:  Prepare the children you have now for a new sibling-by-adoption. 

Too often, your now-children are neglected when you're in the trenches of adoption paperwork and preparation.   But that's a big mistake!   Here are some easy ways to prepare your kiddos for a new sibling

17:  Consider special needs adoption.

There is always a need for those who are able and willing to adopt children with special needs.  You can register with the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network, for example.   And be sure to stock your home library with these fabulous books on belonging and difference---great for not only your child with special needs, but their siblings too! 

18:  Never stop learning.

Too many times I see new parents stop their adoption education just because they finally have a baby in their home.  Let me be clear:  the learning should NEVER stop.   That doesn't mean you live in an all-things-adoption world.  It does mean that you understand that adoption is complex, bittersweet, and evolving, and you want to be the best parent to your child by always being open to new ideas, research, and resources. 

Cheers to 2018 and your journey ahead!