Friday, February 28, 2014

Christianity and Anti-Depressants

My husband is a family medicine physician. He'd be the first to tell you that there are too many people on anti-depressants. They are over used and they over prescribed.

However, he was also the first person to tell me that it was okay to take one when post-partum depression threatened to suffocate me after the birth of my second and third children.

I am always leery of Christians who make blanket statements regarding health and choices people make. If you have not experienced depression, or even if you have, be very careful in telling someone what they should or should not do as they battle this wicked disease.

I recently stumbled upon a fantastic article entitled "Christian and Depression." I encourage you to take a moment and read it. The author discusses how he often counseled people away from medicating their depression, especially after he battled depression without it. And then, suddenly, he found himself hit so hard that he had no choice but to take the very medicines he told people to pray there way out of.

I am not saying that the Lord cannot heal you from depression. I am not saying that you should not try to avoid medication for this disease. What am I telling you is that it is very important to understand that depression, in its truest form, is a disease.

In Darkness Visible, William Styron writes: "It was not really alarming at first, since the change was subtle, but I did notice that my surroundings took on a different tone at certain times: the shadows of nightfall seemed more somber, my mornings were less buoyant, walks in the woods became less zestful, and there was a moment during my working hours in the late afternoon when a kind of panic and anxiety overtook me…”

I can honestly say that I know why people kill themselves.

I have felt so deep and dark that there have been moments that death seemed like it would feel better than alive.

I have sat on the end of the bathtub, bathing my child, stifling sobs coming from the deepest part of my being.

And not knowing why those sobs were coming forth.

I have sat in a room full of people and felt like I wasn't there.

I have spent entire days feeling like I was walking through waist-high mud.

Something as routine as peeling an orange took all I had in my being to muster.

If you have never had a moment where death looked better than life, than I encourage you to not counsel friends on what to do in depression. Hug them. Love them. Turn them toward help. Encourage them.

And remember that depression IS a disease. A REAL one.

And one that it is OKAY to seek medical attention to help make better.

Adoption Commercial

A tad corny but worth sharing:

Friday Funnies

Me: "Oh! Are you Spider Ninja?"
Sidge: "No Mom. I'm Ninja Spider."


Shortly after the above discussion regarding Ninjas, Sidge picked up a sword and told me he needed  to take it to Elijah Storey's house for Bible Study. I told him we were not going to bring weapons to Bible Study.
Sidge: "But a ninja needs  a weapon," he said.
Me: "Not tonight."
Sidge: "Okay, well," (And as he said this he put his hands up in a very traditional ninja pose similar to the picture above), "Well, maybe I can be a ninja without a weapon."


Me: "Sidge, you get to pick. Do you want to clean up the train room (play room) or the sun room?"
Sidge: "Which one has the lestest stuff to clean?'


In the car on the way to tennis we were playing a game.
Sidge: "I'm thinking of an animal."
Me: "Does it eat meat?
Sidge: "Do dogs eat meat?"
Me: "Yes."
Sidge: "Okay. Yes. It eats meat."
Me: "You just told me that it was a dog."
Sidge: "No, I didn't. Maybe I just wanted to know if dogs eat meat."
Me: "Okay. Is your animal a dog?"
Sidge: "Yes, you guessed it."


Me: "What country is Florida in?"
Isaac: "The Azores?"
Sidge: "Tennessee?
Isaac: "San Francisco?"


While listening to an online audio story about George Washington, the narrator told Sidge that Washington's wife was the first first lady. "Mom," Sidge said. "That's not true. Eve was the first lady."


After her nap, JB took off Abigail's pants and pull-up and planned to replace it with some underwear and pants. However, he got distracted, she ran off, and he totally forgot that she was in just her t-shirt until ten minutes later when she went running through the kitchen -- bare buns streaking behind her, singing, "Naked buns, naked buns, naked buns."


After Isaac had done a lesson on the ipad on George Washington, I asked him what he had learned. "Well," he said. "You could just listen to the story and find out for yourself."


Isaac came into the room telling me that despite my instructions, Abigail was going to take a toy to the Storey's house. "What do you think we should do about that?" he asked me.


Whenever we read a story about Ariel (from The Little Mermaid) I try to sing the song that she sings when the conk shell is broken. Abigail kept putting her hand on my mouth.
Me: "You don't want me to sing it?
Abigail: "No."
Me: "Who do you want to sing it then?'
Abigail: "Ariel."

Do you know someone who has had a miscarriage?

Sent to me by a friend who recently had a miscarriage, I thought this post worth sharing. While infertility and adoption are big words on my blog, miscarriage isn't, simply because I haven't had one, in the technical sense, and I don't preach on what I don't know. 

But I thought this article was outstanding in encouraging people who believe life does begin at conception, to truly rally around a woman who has lost a real, had a beating heart, baby. I've had many friends lose babies, and because I have dealt with infertility, I've learned what is good to say and what isn't. 

When it comes to miscarriage, here's what you should say. 

"That stinks."

Because it truly does. Instead of trying to open our mouths and make "encouraging" statements that are only hurtful and not helpful, let's just tell them we wish this hadn't happened. They don't need to get over it in a certain amount of time. They don't need to be told that they shouldn't name the child or count them amongst the children they have. 

Here's a link to the article:  Why miscarriage matters when you're pro-life.

Adoption Congratulations

On February 24, our friends Kristen and Aaron welcomed their third adopted miracle: Caleb James joined their family weighing in at 5 lbs 8 oz and 19 inches long. Aaron and Kristen were friends of ours in Rochester and are two amazing people. I am so excited for them that adoption has blessed their lives yet again!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Beyond "Happy"

When you finally bring your child home, yes, you will feel elated. But many new adoptive moms and dads are surprised by the complex emotions that can sit on the outskirts of that joy—from lingering sadness about infertility to echoes of failed matches to becoming a parent literally overnight.

By: Joni S. Mantell, MSW

To read this article in its entirety, click here.

You are finally home with your newly adopted child, and you're thrilled—but what are those other feelings layered behind that joy? Adoptive moms and dads may have experiences and emotions, like previous failed expectant mother matches, unequal maternity leave, or residual feelings about infertility, that can complicate the passage to parenthood.

Unlike full-blown post-adoption depression syndrome (PADS), in which overwhelming despair, panic, a sense of disconnection from your child, and sometimes even frightening feelings and thoughts occur, the sadness of post-adoption blues is more subtle, and alternates with, or exists right next to, truly positive feelings about parenting. These lighter shades of blue, which are much more common than PADS, can be just as isolating. After all, your dream has come true! Any tinge of guilt, sadness, shame, or dissatisfaction during what is supposed to be a joyous time is unexpected, and makes the blues hard to talk about.

Understanding the unique factors in adoption that complicate new-mommy or new-daddy feelings, and knowing that you're far from alone, can pave the way for self-compassion and, often, swift relief. Adoptive parents share what they experienced, and how they worked through it.

Becoming a parent after infertility is profound and unique. Facing infertility involves grieving the pregnancy and birth experience, and a biological connection with your child, and these feelings may not be fully resolved by the time you adopt. If such feelings run alongside your joy in your new baby, understand that being human involves having more than one feeling at a time. As a mom from New York City says, "I felt some incompleteness because I didn't go through the birthing process. At the same time, I feel deep gratitude for a successful adoption. I think it's a part of coming full circle to acknowledge both the joy and unexpected sadness that comes."

In fact, newer grief models recognize that grief is not linear; it does not need to reach a point of punctuation. It naturally ebbs and flows over the life cycle as different aspects of the loss emerge. We've also learned that acknowledging these feelings is the best way to get them to diminish over time.

Residual feelings take time to heal. "I was so shaken up by the failure of our medical treatments that I could not stop thinking about what might go wrong during the adoption process," says Alison J., of Princeton, New Jersey. "Now I want to enjoy our daughter, but I feel anxious and worried about her." Deborah, of Lambertville, New Jersey, says, "After we brought our son home, I would cry easily for no identifiable reason. It was as if I had tapped into a deep pool of emotions. Everything I'd held in for so long was released."

Losses may be triggered. Michele P., of Cranbury, New Jersey, says she was "stunned when the finality of our never having a biological child hit me at exactly the same time our baby came home."

Our society's welcoming rituals, and even its policies, can be very different for adoptive mothers, compared to those typically enjoyed by pregnant mothers.

Different treatment from friends and family. Women may feel slighted when friends and family don't throw the same kind of baby shower they threw for their sister-in-law. Frequently, it is the preadoptive parents who ask their loved ones to hold off on throwing a shower or buying baby gifts, due to their trepidation. All the same, embarking on parenting without the typical fanfare can sting.

Some parents find that others amplify their anxiety about the adoption. A New York City mom says, "When I told my mom that we made contact with a birth mom, were making an adoption plan, and preparing for the arrival of our son, she said, ‘Don't buy too much.' It felt like she had said, ‘Don't get your hopes up, it might not happen,' and that hurt." A pregnant friend said something similar to Nancy, in Skillman, New Jersey. She replied: "What you are saying to me is akin to my saying to you, ‘Yeah, but you don't need to buy that because you might have a miscarriage.' I just want to feel like a normal mom. If the adoption fails, it won't be the drawer of baby clothes that upsets me."

Samantha, a mother from Princeton, New Jersey, concedes, "Almost nothing people did or said would have been ‘right.' I felt like a failure after losing so many pregnancies, and I was very sensitive to reactions that might be construed—by my paranoid mind—as judging me or my child to be ‘less than.'"

Maternity leave is a hot button. The leave women receive from their employers is commonly called "maternity leave," but technically it is "short-term disability leave" and is tied to pregnancy and birth. Some adoptive parents are fortunate enough to work for a company that offers adoption leave. Parents who work for a large enough company are entitled to FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) time, but that is unpaid leave. Parents who don't qualify for FMLA generally have to cobble together vacation time and sick or personal days, and still rarely get the same amount of time off to bond that mothers who gave birth are routinely granted.

A mother from New York City says: "Our lives were turned upside down in a span of three weeks—virtually no time to prepare a nursery, hire a reliable baby nurse, or even pick out paint colors. I found it blisteringly ironic that this was not considered a ‘disability' worthy of paid time off, while time off after giving birth was a given. Sure, we were ‘allowed' to take time off, but it was not paid and it was not equal."

When you become a parent through adoption, you know that there is another parent, or set of parents, who might have been parenting save for a different set of circumstances. Whether or not they know these other parents, many adoptive moms and dads feel guilty or sad on their behalf, or feel obligated to them.

Empathy for birth parents is common. "It was a terrible feeling to want to be a mother and, at the same time, feel that I had hurt another woman who might have been a wonderful mother to the same child under different circumstances," one new mom says.

Julia, from New Jersey, recalls, "When my daughter's birth father described his hopes for her and talked about how much he loved her, tears streamed down my face. When the day came for them to terminate their parental rights, my daughter's birth mom signed her first name, broke down, wept, and then pulled herself together to sign her last name. I can't tell this story without crying myself. Taking custody of my daughter after this, I felt incredibly relieved, but I did not feel happy for myself. My heart was grieving for her birth mother and birth father." After she was home with her child, says Julia, she "began to enjoy my child and feel happy that I finally was a mom."

A mother from New York City says, "My son's birth mother had become like a sister to me during our match. When he was born, I could not hold him or go to him—I only cared that his birth mother was OK. Upon returning home, I was extremely sad. I was able to care for my son, but I had to admit that I was not in love with him. I felt like I was raising someone else's child and, even worse, that I had taken a child from his mother." She reports that she fell in love with her son after a few months. It helped to "understand that his birth mother needed us to raise him as much as we wanted to be parents."

Wanting to please your child's birth parents. Diane, from Bordentown, New Jersey, reports that her child's birth mother visited at the hotel several times. "I felt so anxious that she feel confident that I was the right choice to raise her baby."

Kevin O., from Brooklyn, says, "Our son's birth mother went into labor two months pre-term, so he spent five weeks in the NICU, during which time I was never alone with my son. When I got home, I found that, for a long time, I felt ‘watched.' The twist was that, at home, I felt monitored by the imaginary eyes of his birth mother, too. I wondered if other adoptive parents felt the ‘auditioning' continue after winning the part. Our first post-adopt visit with our son's birth mother released me of a lot of these feelings. I could see that she trusted me to raise him well."

Sorting through etiquette and setting boundaries. Carla, of central New Jersey, felt confused and upset when her son's birth mother referred to herself as his mom and said, "Call me if he is sick." She was finally able to discuss this with her directly, saying, "I am just getting used to being his mom and I feel uncomfortable when you call yourself his mom, too. Can you use a different term?" The conversation was difficult, but it paved the way for an honest relationship going forward.

In adoption, it's common for the timeline to be unclear, or even nonexistent. When the process and match happen sooner than expected, the "insta-parents" feel a great flood of emotions while having to deal with practicalities—scrambling to get everything they need, prepare a nursery, learn about baby care, and find a pediatrician, all with a baby in tow.

Feeling guilty about being unprepared. "Our adoption came with very little notice," says a mother from New Jersey. "While this was nothing short of miraculous and thrilling, it was tinged with anxiety and apprehension over how ill-prepared we were to actually bring the baby home."

Deliberately avoiding preparation. Even with an expectant mother's due date or a timeline for receiving a referral, it is not uncommon for pre-adoptive parents to protect themselves with an "if-this-works-out" mindset and to avoid taking any concrete steps, or even thinking of themselves as parents-to-be. Jane R., of Somerset, New Jersey, says, "While we had many months to prepare, we didn't. When we got the call, it was like an emergency situation. Friends and family had to buy everything for us while we flew off to meet our new son."

Diving right in with an older child. Feelings about insta-parenthood can be ramped up when the child you bring home is not a baby but a busy little boy or girl. "Jumping right into being an older parent of a mobile and very energetic toddler who wanted to experience everything was tough," says a mom from Skillman, New Jersey. "Carrying her, chasing her, dealing with bedtime was exhausting—I lost 10 pounds the first month she was home!" She notes that her feelings were compounded by a sense of isolation: "Before we adopted I worked, and had a lot of personal freedom. It helped to talk to other mom friends who had adopted, and find that they had the same feelings."

False starts in adoption can range from never hearing back from an expectant mother after a first phone call to being at the baby's birth, and perhaps taking custody for a short time, before learning that the adoption will not go through. Experiences like these take time to get over, and can haunt a subsequent match.
  • Recovering from dashed dreams. "I got so excited the first time we were matched," recalls Madeline S., of Hopewell, New Jersey. "I started to picture myself as a mommy, strolling with my baby in the park, dressing her. Then, when the expectant mother changed her mind, I had to abruptly switch off these feelings."
  • Difficulty trusting in the match. It's common for parents to try to shut off their emotions after a failed match with an expectant mother, or to become hyper-vigilant. This kind of behavior, whether conscious or not, can turn the next match into an anxious or confusing time. A mother from central New Jersey says, "We thought our first match was perfect. I would say to people, ‘You never know with adoption if it will work out,' but, in truth, I was not preparing myself for that reality." When she later adopted her daughter, she "could not stop reading something into every little thing, as if it were a sign as to whether this would be our baby or not. I was exhausted before we brought her home."
  • Letting go of what might have been. When one mom met her son, she carried sad memories about the disrupted adoption of a newborn she had held and cared for at the hospital a year earlier. "I felt guilty loving my son while this little girl was present in my heart," she says. "Knowing of this girl's difficult family situation, I also felt guilty about not being able to parent her. My husband and I kept checking Facebook to see if the family was OK." Her son is now four, and she says, "Honestly, it took a few years to stop thinking about the little girl. Then I felt guilty for not thinking about her, all the while adoring my son and feeling some disloyalty to him for such thoughts."

When you adopt a child beyond the newborn stage, you were not there for his first cries, first tooth, first steps, and so on. Although it's natural to think about the firsts you missed, many parents choose to focus on (and document!) the firsts they're a part of: first ice cream, first day of school, first bike ride, first time driving a car.

Feeling sadness on your child's behalf. "My four-year-old, whom we adopted at 11 months, often asks to see her baby pictures and hear stories ‘about when I was a baby,'" says a mother from New Jersey. "Although I feel sad that the stories I can tell her are about when she was one year old, not an infant, she's OK with that. She loves any stories about herself at younger ages."

A mom from Skillman, New Jersey, says, "I do regret that we missed two-and-a-half years of my daughter's life. I feel bad that I didn't get to rock her and hold her as a baby and go through all those milestones…but mostly I feel sad for my daughter that she missed out on having that with us, too."

Wanting to make up for the time you missed. A New Jersey mom says, "I often think about what I missed in my daughter's first year. It's as if she's grown up too fast, because I didn't have that time with her. I babied her a bit, probably to compensate, and gave her a bottle until she was two. So, I clearly had sadness about not having experienced my daughter's infancy."

Your baby is here, and you're ready to join "the club," but some adoptive parents feel that they don't quite fit in when they begin socializing in this new context. If possible, befriending other adoptive parents can help.

Joining the world of families can be hard. "Feeling like I ‘belonged,' that I was a mother, was one of the hardest things for me," says a mother in Brooklyn, who adopted domestically. "There are babies everywhere where I live—something like 52 born in November just in my immediate neighborhood. I left the first gathering of November moms in tears. I couldn't relate to any of the conversation—labor stories, breastfeeding challenges, and so on."

Deciding who and how much to tell about the adoption.  Moms are quick to ask each other, "Where was he born? How was the delivery?" This kind of small talk brings unexpected social pressure to some new adoptive parents. Rachel, from New York, says, "I just want to blend in and be like all the other moms. Answering, ‘Texas' and ‘the delivery was fine' may be factually correct, but it feels disingenuous."

Laura, of Princeton, New Jersey, shares the adoption of her son "with everyone, to pre-empt the questions and reduce my awkwardness." Erin, of Robbinsville, New Jersey, strikes a middle ground, stating, "I decide whom I want to be intimate friends with and who is just a playground friend for now. I trust my instincts about whom to open up to." Parents who adopted transracially, of course, may not get to decide whether to share or not.

Time to adjust, compassion for yourself, loving your child, busying yourself with the everyday demands of parenting, and connecting with other adoptive parents will get you through the blues.

It helps to keep expectations realistic. Some parents-after-infertility feel guilty when they are tired or overwhelmed by caring for their babies or miss having a quiet dinner, as if they are not entitled to normal new-parent feelings, since they went to such great lengths to adopt their child. Being a parent is exhausting at times. Period. You are entitled to grouse about 3 a.m. feedings.

Your family's happiness can feel like pressure. "All my friends and family were SO excited and happy for us to finally have our daughter home. When they asked, ‘How is everything going?' no one wanted to hear about the screaming at night, the grief my daughter had, the adjustment and difficulty of the bonding process. They wanted to hear, ‘Everything is great!'" says one mom who adopted a toddler. "Even during the trip to Korea, when I was playing with my daughter on day two in the hotel, my stepmom said, ‘Oh, look, she's already bonded to you.' Of course, nothing could have been further from the truth, and I knew that, yet everyone around me seemed to expect immediate bonding and over-the-moon happiness."

Complicated feelings are understandable because, as one mom from New York City says, "Your world changes completely, sometimes literally overnight. You know that you love this little being looking up at you, and you think, 'I wish I had had you,' because the bond is so real. Making peace with the fact that you did not give birth to this wonder can be a tough pill to swallow. With time and perspective, you realize that you DID give birth—you gave birth to the idea and to the process that landed this little miracle in your arms, a labor of love that often takes much longer than nine months. And all that ‘I wish it had been me' turns into ‘it is me. It is me every day.'"  

Our story (with three more kids)

I keep having people post this story on my facebook and blog. Like us, this couple was infertile. They adopted. Then they got pregnant. Exactly our story. Only they adopted triplets. And got pregnant with twins. Can I imagine this? No. It literally gives me heart palpitations to think about it. Click here to read this story for yourself.

"Mommy, can you take pictures of us flying?"

Today was 65 degrees. Nearly hot. In fact, the boys had to take off the clothes they normally wear under their costumes in order to prevent overheating. All last winter I don't remember a day like this ever. It was glorious.

We spent the morning with MOPs -- first in the Community Center -- and then, when the sunlight streaming through the big windows became too great a lure for us -- at the big park next to Daddy's Clinic. From there, we headed back to the house. Just in time to get Abigail and Hannah down for a nap. 

The boys were thrilled when I told them that instead of "Quiet reading time" (or Wipe-Your-Own-Butt-Time)  they could skip it if they'd agree to play outside. They immediately agreed.

"But Mommy," Isaac said. "Could you come outside with us? We want you to take pictures of us flying."

I agreed. After each photo, they would stop and say, "Okay, can we see that one. We need to see if we look like we are flying."

They moved on to another part of the garden. Isaac was the leader. He kept telling Sidge what to do. And Sidge would quickly agree, almost as if he thought it up himself. "Okay, yeah Isaac. That's what I am going to do. That's a great idea." Here, Isaac is trying to explain to Sidge that he needs to hold his arm up like the real Iron Patriot does. (Oh, didn't you know? This costume Sidge is wearing is not Iron Man. Apparently there are distinctive differences.)

From there, they wanted to get somewhere higher. So they moved on to the slide. I bought this slide for $10 on the yardsale page when we first moved here. Man has it been worth its sale price.

Tired of the slide, they asked if chairs would get them high enough to fly. I didn't have the heart to explain that none of these would quite look like flying. I told them to try whatever they wanted, and I'd do my best, with my one class of photo journalism in college, to make it look like they were truly soaring.

Could I take a picture of them just smiling and not jumping or doing any sort of superhero moves? They agreed to one:

Then Sidge asked if I could please take a picture of his face "bigger". I assume he meant a close-up of his face. So I tried that:

And because Sidge did it, Isaac asked if he too could see a "big face" in the review window:

"And Mom," he said next. "Could you just get a big picture of my symbol? Everyone needs to see that."

It was one of those afternoons in which I was aware, with every second, that I won't get many opportunities to photograph my children in Superhero costumes.

"Would you please not grow up anymore?" I asked them both as we walked back up to the house.

"We can't help it," Sidge said. "We just keep growing."

Don't I know.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

If at First You Don't Succeed...

Before trying to have kids, I'd never failed at anything. Though I still believe in planning and hard work, it was something else that brought me my two beautiful boys.

By: Emily Liebert

To read this article in its entirety, click here.

My parents always told me that I could accomplish whatever I put my mind to as long as I worked hard enough. Surprisingly, I listened. So when my husband and I decided, after two years of marriage, that we were ready to have kids, it never occurred to us that we couldn't make it happen. Sure, we'd heard stories from friends and family about how it took so-and-so a year to conceive. But, obviously, that wouldn't be us.

Three months later, when I held my positive pregnancy test in the air like a badge of honor, neither my husband nor I were particularly surprised. Immediately, we told everyone in our family, and I called my OB/GYN to make what I assumed would be the first of many appointments over the next nine months. The following morning, just for kicks, I took the second test from the box. I figured a little confirmation never hurt. Only this time, the test read: NOT PREGNANT. Huh? It felt like an affront. How dare the pregnancy test speak to me that way! Clearly, it was wrong.

Only it wasn't. And that was my introduction to the "chemical pregnancy"—a term applied when a woman miscarries less than a week or so after a missed menstrual cycle. Naturally, my husband and I were discouraged, but we were not defeated. Sure enough, three months later I got pregnant for the second time. But, again, I had a chemical pregnancy. I started to get anxious.

After seven months of Clomid with no results, I decided I needed something stronger, better, something that would work. Enter the IUI. A dozen of them, to be precise. And still, NOT PREGNANT. Why was this happening to me? I was working hard at it! According to my parents, that was the secret.

In the meantime, it seemed like everyone I knew was calling me with the "exciting news" that they were expecting. Everywhere I looked—on the street, on TV, even at my own family gatherings—all I saw were women with swollen bellies. I was a failure; something I'd never been before.

We turned to IVF. Three rounds. Roughly 200 shots. The result? One more chemical pregnancy. I hit an all-time low.

A Change of Plans
That's when a flash of inspiration hit. Adoption! Why hadn't I thought of it before? My husband and I wanted to start a family. It didn't matter to us whether or not the child was genetically related. I almost felt silly for having wasted so much time and money pursuing fertility treatments and hyping myself on hormones for so long. I started to research adoption agencies that day.

In April 2009, we attended an information session at our chosen agency. Squeezing each other's hands through the various speeches, we knew our prayers were finally going to be answered. For the next four months, we worked feverishly to fill out stacks of forms, collect character letters from friends and colleagues, and complete our home visit, among the many requirements in the adoption process. We were trying to sprint, knowing full well that we were running a marathon. By August, we were finally dubbed an "approved and waiting family." They told us 15 months was the average wait time. Of course, we hoped it would be shorter, but were comforted by the fact that the result could be nothing but positive.

Two Curve Balls
Two months went by and we heard nothing from our agency. We went about our lives as usual until the morning of October 15, 2009. As I lay in bed, waiting for my husband to get out of the shower and head to work, so I could do the same, the phone rang. I picked up and heard my OB/GYN's urgent voice: "Emily, my colleague delivered a baby yesterday. The mother wants to place her child with a loving family. If you and Lewis want the opportunity to adopt him, come to the hospital right now."

Suddenly, our marathon turned into the sprint we'd unknowingly been preparing for. Four days later, we took home our son Jaxsyn. One week after that, I got pregnant the old-fashioned way with our son Hugo. Two boys, nine-and-a-half months apart. I dare you to try to make it happen!

If we've learned anything from this experience, it's that you can work hard, you can set forth a plan, and you can hope that it will produce the desired outcome. The thing is, life throws curve balls. In our case, two. The most wonderful curve balls we've ever fielded. EMILY LIEBERT is the author of Facebook Fairytales and the novel You Knew Me When. She lives with her family in Westport, Connecticut.

Pre-walker toys

I have done past posts on:
I decided to be a little more exclusive with this post. These are items that I really, really love for babies who are between 5-9 months of age. This means items designed for the baby who is now moving around a lot and holding things but not walking. Here are my favorites:

Munchkin Twisty Figure 8 Teether Toy

I recently received this as a gift and just love this toy. So does Hannah. It bends and twists and with different textures it sort of fulfills a bunch of purposes in one toy. I can also hook it onto the "links" pictured below when we go out to prevent it from hitting the floor!

2 Pack Fresh Food Feeders

I'm a recent convert to these! Not sure if they existed when the boys were little, but man do I love them now. You put a piece of fresh fruit or vegetable or any other item you like inside, and baby can suck on them without a choking hazard. Brilliant!

Silly Buddy Pacifier Holder

 I am a HUGE fan of these pacifier holders. They make a great toy, and with Abigail, we never ONCE lost her darn pacifier. In addition, in the middle of the night, it's much easier for baby and parents to find the missing pacifier when it is attached to something as big and familiar as the bunny. I've been buying these in bulk and giving them as gifts in pink, blue, or yellow.

There are a gazillion variations on these toy. It doesn't matter which one you get. What I like about this toy is that when they are little, they can just shut the toys' lids. However, as they grow, they can learn how to open each individual one.

Rock a Stack
What I love about this toy is that when the child is little, the rings are a perfect thing to play with. And as they can sit up and grab things better, they can start stacking them on and playing with them. Here's a video of Abigail playing with this classic toy. (You'll also see the pop toy above in this video too.)

Lotsa Links

I am a huge fan of these connectors! I use them to connect to each other and then I'll put a pacifier on the end of it and a toy on the other. They are especially good when we go out because you can connect them to a stroller or car seat and prevent them from hitting the floor ever five seconds.

I would love to add to this list! Please leave a comment with baby toy items that are your NUMERO UNO. Obviously there are a ton of so-so items. But what I want are the things you would give as gifts and don't want to do without!

Wee-wind Wednesday

Let's rewind six years shall we? Let's go back to February 26, 2008. I was still only a mother to one silly pup but for one day, I became the mother to two little pups. Click here to read how Jack found his way into our home, and why Scrubs definitely could not run on the furniture with the same ease that this little dog did!

Our princess

Abigail has started to express interest in what she wears. This means that she is picking fancy dresses when it is time to go outside and play. I long ago decided I would not stress what my kids wear. It is just not worth a big fight to me. As long as it is appropriate for the climate, I'll basically support it. (Although we have put a limit on wearing superhero costumes out in public just because that is all they would wear.)

Here is Abigail in her outfit of choice for Tuesday. This is actually a dress with matching baby doll dress that Daddy picked out for her on her first birthday. (I buy all my clothes used so I was pretty aghast when he came home with this number which was only marked down 25%!)

All smiles

Showing off baby

Trying to fix baby's dress

Wanting to make sure I got a picture of the boots

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Maintaining Privacy, Not Secrecy

"Children who have been adopted have the right to privacy. Privacy is not the same as secrecy. A secret is something that is kept from someone to whom the information pertains. Privacy involves sharing personal information only with people who have a relevant need to know."

By: Lois Melina

To read this article in its entirety, please click here.

Lesley was casually piling potato salad on her picnic plate at a family reunion when one of her nieces looked at her and knowingly said, “You’re not Austin’s real mother, are you?”

Caught off guard, Lesley answered, “No, we adopted Austin when he was a baby. His real mother was very young and didn’t have a husband, so she asked us to be Austin’s parents.” She then spent the rest of the time at the family gathering mentally rehashing the conversation, imagining how she could have handled the situation better.

She’d certainly encountered adults who had asked questions like, “What do you know about Austin’s real parents?” She’d been ready with a response that subtly communicated both preferred language and her desire for privacy: “You mean his birthparents? We have quite a bit of information actually.”

But somehow a question coming from a child seemed to require more information and a greater tolerance for using language that wasn’t “politically correct.” After all, Lesley felt more responsibility to educate her young niece than her acquaintances about adoption. With Lesley’s input, perhaps this niece would grow up with a more understanding attitude toward adoption than was common among the general public.

Later, though, Lesley imagined next year’s family reunion, when this niece might come up to her son and say, knowingly: “I know your real mother gave you away because she wasn’t married.”

Lesley’s situation was not unique. Just as parents use a friend’s or family member’s pregnancy to teach their children about reproduction, parents who adopt often find that their experience becomes the example by which their friends and family members teach their children about adoption.
Consequently, many adoptive parents find themselves facing Lesley’s dilemma: How can they help children who weren’t adopted develop a positive understanding of adoption without violating their child’s privacy?

Only Those Who Need to Know
Children who have been adopted have the right to privacy. Privacy is not the same as secrecy. A secret is something that is kept from someone to whom the information pertains. Privacy involves sharing personal information only with people who have a relevant need to know.

For example, if a child has a birthmother who was an alcoholic, that fact is important information for the child to have at an appropriate time. In addition to being a significant detail about his life, he needs to know that there may be a family tendency to addiction. It is also important information to give the child’s physician or even a school counselor, so that they can be aware of signs of fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effect, while maintaining professional confidence. It isn’t information that needs to be shared with other people, however, including close family members.

The adoptee might choose to share that information, but it is his choice—not the choice of his adoptive parents. Once information is given away, it’s out—no one can control how it spreads.

Children do not always know what the boundaries are regarding personal information. They sometimes ask questions that adults would be reluctant to ask. So it’s important that adoptive parents be prepared to draw the line. When the neighbor’s child asks, “Why did Cassie’s real mom and dad give her away?” parents can say, “That’s something you’ll have to ask Cassie when she’s older.” Without getting into a philosophical discussion or conveying any sense of shame, such a response tells the child that the information belongs to Cassie.

Provide General Information About Adoption
Parents can turn an intrusive question into an opportunity for learning simply by sidestepping the personal aspect of the inquiry and providing general information. After letting the inquiring child know that they aren’t going to provide specific details about the reason their child was placed for adoption, parents can add, “But I can tell you some of the reasons some birthparents might make that decision.”

In providing details to children outside the family, parents should remember to tailor their discussion to the child’s age and developmental stage.

Children can’t understand adoption until they can understand reproduction—somewhere around the age of four, five, or six. Children younger than that probably will not understand the connection between pregnancy and birth. They will probably not question why Uncle Peter is going to Texas to adopt a child, while their mommy went to the hospital when their little brother joined the family.

Like children who were adopted, children in the middle childhood years—ages seven to eleven—will have more curiosity about why the child was placed for adoption, and will evaluate whether having been adopted is a difference that matters, or one that doesn’t. They also will be curious about the “mysterious” people who gave birth to the child and then placed her for adoption.

As children reach the teen years, their questions are likely to reflect their own newfound ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes and imagine what it might be like to have been adopted—or to relinquish a child for adoption.

Talking points
Marsha and Trent tackled this issue even before their child arrived. As soon as they knew they would be traveling to Guatemala to adopt their daughter, they wrote a letter to their family members and good friends. They explained why they intended to keep personal details of their child’s story confidential.

They also gave a brief explanation of the questions children were likely to ask at different developmental stages, and requested that they use terms like “birthmother” instead of “real mother.”

They also addressed some common errors made when talking about adoption. Among their suggestions:
  • Explain that adoption is one of many ways of forming families. Families also are formed through the birth of a child, marriage to a person with children, or with medical assistance such as donor insemination or in vitro fertilization. None of these ways of forming families is better than another. Children who were adopted are not to be pitied, but neither are they to be described as ‘special.’
  • Children may wonder if they were adopted, although they may not verbalize this question. Parents may want to address this question directly or ask the child to tell them which of these ways he joined his family.
  • Adoption should not be compared to the acquisition of a pet. Although pets are often loved and included in family portraits, they are not permanent members of the family in the truest sense, and the comparison trivializes the adoption of children.
  • It is difficult for children to comprehend the complex problems that face birthparents who make an adoption plan. In explaining the decision, parents should emphasize that it was the birthparents’ problem—not a result of the child’s behavior or temperament. Parents can say the birthparents would have been unable to care for any child born to them at that time in their lives.
  • Children shouldn’t be told that birthparents make an adoption plan because they love their child so much. While adults understand that relinquishing a child means the birthparents made a huge sacrifice and put their child’s needs above their own emotions, children can’t make that connection. They are such concrete thinkers that they may conclude that parents who love their children give them away. That can cause them to wonder whether they will be given away, too. They can be told that the birthparents probably think about their children a lot and care about them forever.
  • Children can be told that sometimes children who are adopted know their birthparents and sometimes they don’t. If the family has an open adoption, children should be clued in to the identities of the child’s birthrelatives when other members of the family are told about them.
Parents can remember that even though information can never be taken back, it’s always possible to go back and correct or add to it. Lesley might give her niece a call and say, “You know, I forgot to mention we like to call Austin’s real mother and father his birthmother and birthfather. We don’t want him to be confused because to him, we’re pretty real.”

Monday, February 24, 2014

K.I.S.S.: Make 'em early

Make 'em early!

I have really been working on making things during a slow time of the morning so that the rest of the day is easier for me!

One reader suggested: "I make juice cups in the morning (diluted juice with water) and keep them in the fridge. Then during the day all I have to do is pull one out of the fridge for my three year old and don't have to juggle the baby while diluting juice or just take the time in general. We are always ready to go!"

P.S. have a K.I.S.S idea? Please email them to me at!

Mini golf

As I have written about before on my Blog, I have been teaching the boys to read. And one of my current strategies is groupings of 20 words hanging in our hallway. There are 5 groups of 20 words for a total of 100. (Actually, the boys repeatedly remind me that the last group only has 19 words so the grand total is 99.) Either way, each time the boys were able to read all 20 words in a section, they got to go on a date with an adult of their choice. Sidge is still on his last group, but Isaac completed the 5 groups. They would take that adult to the Red Café for an ice cream cone.

Upon completion of the 5 groups, we created a last "hurrah" with the words. As soon as they could read all 99 words without a single error, they would get a very special date -- a trip to the new miniature golf course on the island.

Let me digress a moment to explain something to those of you living in America ...

I am not sure I can adequately put into words the lack of opportunities for family entertainment that we faced first in Turkey and then here. That makes four years of very limited options.

Turkey, while difficult, was not nearly as lacking as this island has been. The reason is that when we were in Turkey, we were in the Middle East. Musicians (like Chris Daughtry) and Circ de Soleil were performing for the troops would therefore make stops to visit our Base as well. In addition, there were some opportunities for things to do off Base in Turkey. There were trips to make and places to go and things to see. The Outdoor Recreation group on the Base had tons of opportunities for family trips that we could take.

This island is VERY different. At 12 x 19 miles, there are only a few things outdoor-wise to do. And, the Outdoor Recreation group does not allow children under 5 to participate in these trips. The outdoor things that are here are fun and beautiful and enjoyable. But other than a movie theatre on Base, there are ZERO "family activities" to participate in. And there have not been any visiting opportunities either. It's like we are sort of forgotten about out here in the middle of the Atlantic.

In the beginning, this did not seem like a big deal to me. I didn't really think we needed family activities. You may be saying that your family doesn't do much of these types of activities either and this wouldn't bother you. But the truth is, you probably do more than you realize.

Pumpkin patches, zoos, parks, church festivals, museums. There is NONE of that on the island. There is one large park in Angra, but that is it! Don't get me wrong. The Base tries. There are a few Base-wide activities that really do help. But overall, there truly are no indoor options. And last year, when it rained for five straight months, there were just no choices.

So you can understand then why the fact that the island has a new miniature golf course is such a cool thing to us! It was something that we could do together as a family.

I cannot even put into words what a great day we had yesterday -- Dad, Mom, and four children. To be together and doing something that we all enjoyed (even if it did involve medal clubs and hard balls that could injure anyone at a moment's notice) was so incredibly fun! The picture at the top of the page was taken by the owners. I have a feeling they took it because we were Americans, and they wanted to show off the fact that English-speakers could enjoy themselves too. But either way, it was so WONDERFUL to do something outside of the house together. We had lunch, played golf, and had dessert (all for around 35 Euro or roughly 48 USD) which wasn't bad at all.

I strapped Hannah into the Bjorn, and JB helped the kids golf. It was so incredibly fun to be together doing something new.

We ended our day at home with a casual dinner and watching the first half of Despicable Me 2 together.

It's amazing what a tiny thing can do to lift your morale!