Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Time!

We have a Harry Potter, a Brain Cell and Cavity Sam at our house this year!

Picture to follow of me wearing the Cavity Sam Costume.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Carnival III: Photos of Adoption

What is your most treasured adoption photo (or two)? Block out faces if you have to, find a scanner, or simply tell us about it if you can't post it. We do understand that. Adversely, if you don't have one, tell us why you don't.

Check this thread out for more Carnival entries.

My most treasured photos are the 2 photos that we have on our family wall. One of Iris, my first mother and one of Madelaine, my half-sister and Iris together. I spent the first 30 years of my life wondering what they looked like. Were they tall (I'm tall), were they big (cause I sure am!), did they have straight dark hair, brown eyes, did they tan easily?

I finally got to meet my mother when I was 30ish. She sent me pictures of both her and Madelaine. I scanned every square inch of them for some resemblance. I don't see any, but everyone else does. And then on one of my visits to see Iris she gave me 2 pictures, 1 of just her and 1 of her and Madelaine. Madelaine had these done at a studio for Iris's 75th birthday. And now they hang on our family wall where I can see them everyday.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Adoptees who adopt

Be warned, this is a rambly type post that may or may not make any sense!

"Andy....I read this post and I go, "Those are my parents." They'd want Cupcake back in a second. And I think it keeps me from telling them....."

Thanksgivingmom's comment has been rattling around in my head for the last few days. It highlighted something for me that I have struggled to put into words. I live in the unusual position of seeing and processing adoption from 2 sides. By no means do I think that I'm unique. There are other adoptees out there who have formed their own families through adoption. But I do think we are in the minority.

The struggle I'm having is looking at my own adoption and and Liam's and seeing them from 2 different and contradictory view points. If I look just at my own, I see no reason for having been adopted (social stigma of the unwed mother of the 1970's aside), I've had many times when I felt that being "returned" to my first family would have been the right thing to do. Not that I don't love my parents and wanted to leave them. I just felt that I should never have been put in that situation in the first place. And a part of me wanted my parents to take the moral higher ground and give me back.*

The me who is an adoptive mom starts having breathing problems at the idea of having to give Liam back. I can't even think about it. And that leads me to trying to empathize with all the first moms out there. I can't even think about it and they're actually living it. Then I look at his specific adoption and I also see no reason for him to have been adopted. I think that if I knew then what I know now I would have advocated for "K" to keep him and helped her overcome the obstacles that she felt were in her way. But maybe I can only say that, not because of what I know today, but who I am. Today I am a mother. Back then I was not, and I wanted to be one. If I were not a mother today, could I overcome my selfishness in order to help keep a family together? I want to think I could.

So I'm torn. I would not say that I am anti-adoption, but more that I am pro-family preservation. That is a hard place to be, especially when you have to try to explain it to people. How can I be adopted (and therefore should be thankful for being "rescued", "taken in", "given to a good family" say the people outside the world of adoption) and how could I have adopted my son and not think adoption is all rainbows and unicorns? Shouldn't I believe that adoption is the solution to so many problems?

The thing is I don't. I might have once upon a time, but reading and talking and learning over the last 7 years has given me a new point of view. I believe that children should stay with their first families whenever possible. And I don't think "impossible" reasons are money, location, age or marital status. Young unmarried woman who don't make gobs of money and live in a small apartment can and SHOULD raise their babies. Adoption is a long term solution to what is often a short term problem. We just need to give them help and support.

* up to a certain time, and I have no clue what that time is... if my first mother had asked for me back at 1 week, 6 weeks, 6 months, 6 years? The theory of this sounds all very easy, but the emotions and bonds don't make it easy at all. Is there really a right thing to do there? No matter what, someone is getting hurt - who should decide who that should be?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Primal Wound Book Tour

National Adoption Month is just around the corner. Fellow blogger and adoptive mom Lori has come up with a great idea to generate conversations amongst adoption bloggers (and comment leavers - so no excuses!) Lori writes on her personal blog as well as at Her great idea is to hold a book tour based on Nancy Verrier's The Primal Wound.

First published in 1993, The Primal Wound has become one of the most controversial books on adoption out there. It tends to generate two camps of people: Those who love it and those who think it's hogwash. I've followed many a heated discussion on various adoption forums as people from both camps have tried to persuade others to join them in their thinking. And sometimes it's gotten pretty ugly!

Confession time: I've never actually read the book! And until Lori asked me to join the tour I had no plans on ever reading it. All the controversy, the fighting and arguing was enough for me. I try to avoid conflict in all areas of my life, and this has been one discussion that I just never felt up to getting pulled into. But I'm willing to give it a go. Admittedly I've always been curious. So I ordered my copy and it arrived on Friday.

So come on an join us! Below you can find out all about how the book tour works and where to go to sign up. We hope to get some great conversations going and want to include all types of people from all sides of adoption. I'm really looking forward to hearing everyone's opinions and questions. I'm sure I'm going to learn a lot.... what can you come teach me and what will you learn?

How will the Book Tour work?

  • Sign up for the tour by November 30. Sooner is better -- why not now? EVERYONE wanting to explore the mosaic that is adoption is invited to join.
  • Get the book. Buy it or get it from the library. Soon. Read it.
  • Come up with up 1 or 2 discussion questions (not Yes-or-No), which are due to Lori by November 30.
  • By December 5, you'll receive a list of questions from other participants. From this list you will choose any 3 to answer on your own blog or space (one option is simply to comment on the Examiner page the day of the tour). You do not have to have a blog to participate.
  • Have your answers to your chosen questions posted by December 12.
  • On the tour day, links to participants' answers will be on the Examiner page. You can then read and comment on the answers from other people who have read and are discussing The Primal Wound. The tour is designed so that each person reads and comments respectfully on the thoughts of other participants.

To participate: please complete this form. If you have any questions at all, please contact Lori at bestlightlori at the gmail place.

The purpose here is to shed light rather than to make heat. A panel of three people living in various corners of adoption will help set and maintain a respectful tone for this tour. They are:

  • FauxClaud from Musings of the Lame Claudia is a firstmom who has reunited with her birthson after 18 years apart -- truly an amazing story.
  • Luna at Life From Here has embraced open adoption with open eyes and an open heart.
  • And me! I'll be wearing my adoptee hat for this, but I know that I can't completely keep my adoptive mama thoughts at bay.

Friday, October 23, 2009

For once it wasn't really about adoption

It seems some weeks that every TV show I watch touches on adoption somehow. Sometimes it's a subplot that carries on through many episodes or sometimes it's the bad guy portrayed as the crazed adoptee out to kill everyone.
So when we sat down to watch Criminal Minds last night and I read the 2 line write up, I joked with Hilary that for once a show wasn't going to be about adoption. Well, it kinda ended up being about adoption after all. Just an adoption story with a twist.

As much as I try to portray myself as this big, strong WOMAN - hear me roar, I'm really just a big ole softy! I cry at Canadian Tire commercials for bicycles. (and yes I just got teary eyed again watching it now). Hilary frequently has to pre-screen and censor my tv viewing as certain topics are just too hard for me to watch. Adoption story lines either make me angry or reduce me to tears. Last night's Criminal Mind was well written and managed to take me from anger to tears in one 30 second scene.

Without spoiling the whole show for you I'll just tell you about the scene the really struck me. An abandoned baby had been adopted 4 years ago and the grandparents (first mom's parents) had just found out about her. The Grandfather was all indignant, insisting that the adoptive parents give him his granddaughter right away. "that is my blood, they have no right to raise her, she has to come home to us." This is the part that angered me. As an adoptee my back goes up when I hear people spouting about how blood is thicker then water and so on. I've lived my whole life without having a single family relationship with someone who shares my blood. So I don't see it as the be all end all of what makes up a family.

The camera shot then pulled away from the Grandfather and focused in on the Grandmother. You could see the emotions and struggles she was going through. And just as you thought she was going to back up Grandpa, she gave him that look. You know the one. The look a wife can give her husband that can get him to stop talking instantly. And then Grandma asked the important question that almost never gets asked. "Would we be doing her more harm by taking her away from the only family she knows." And then my tears started. Tears for the pain that the Grandparents felt at maybe never knowing their only granddaughter. Tears for the adoptive parents who might lose their child. But especially tears for the little girl at the middle of this mess. As an adoptive parent it hit so close to home. I could not fathome losing Liam. But another part of me screams "but it's the right thing to do". Ultimately though it needs to be about what is best for the CHILD. It was so nice to see a mainstream show get that. They rarely do. In the end the Grandparents did not try to get custody of the little girl and the adoptive parents agreed to include the grandparents in her life.

A win-win for everyone!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable #8

Heather has set up the next Open Adoption Roundtable session. This time the question is:

Write about a blogger (or bloggers) who influenced your real-life open adoption, and how. It might be someone who became an offline friend who supports and challenges you. Or a writer who makes you uncomfortable, but gets you thinking. Maybe a blogger who doesn't even know you are reading. Tell us about them and how they've affected you.
You can check out everyone else's entries here.

My real life adoptions are not open. It's something that I struggle with and find it hard to find folks who are in the same position as I am. People are usually at either end of the open spectrum: completely closed, with no info or open with back and forth contact (even if that contact is not as frequent or detailed as they would like). Being in this limbo land can be hard. But I still draw from the experiences of many others from all sides of the triad. Here are some of the folks who have influenced me the most with their insight, their wise words and their shoulders to lean on.

  • M de P at Reservado para futura mama: Here is someone else who is in the limbo land of open adoption. Finding another adoptive Mama who wants an OA but can't have that right now helps me to realize that I'm not the only one cruising down this road.
  • Thanksgivingmom at I Should Really Be Working: Since I can't know what Liam's Mom might be feeling or thinking, I reach out to Thanksgivingmom to help me see things through the eyes of a First Mom.
  • Chronicles of Munchkin Land is another blog I turn to for wisdom and truth in adoption
  • Dawn from This woman's Work let's me live OA vicariously through her and her relationship with Pennie
Really though, there are so many others. Every blog that I stumble upon gives me something, whether it's laughter or tears, insight or just a deep thought to make me think. I'm so glad I found this great community of bloggers.

Thanks everyone.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Another project that comes up in school is using your own family to track how genetic traits get handed down. What is dominant, recessive, X-linked? Can you predict if your kids will be bald?

This one is just loaded with potential problems and not just for the adoptee! Imagine if your mother had an affair and you might really be So and So's kid? Is ninth grade science the best time to be figuring that out?

Below is the true story of what happened to me in ninth grade science:

This post 0riginally appeared Bridges - An awareness Consortium

But they can’t have blue eyes!

One of the best things that my parents did for me as a child was to be open about the fact that I was adopted and to share what limited knowledge they had with me. I have no conscious memory of finding out that I was adopted, I just always knew. This was pretty advanced for the early 1970’s, a time which was known for secrecy and lies in adoption.

One thing that I’ve never understood is when parents try to hide the adoption from their child. Like any secret, it will eventually be found out. And from the adoptees that I’ve talked to or blogs that I have read, where they don’t find out until later in life, it has been devastating. All trust of their parents is lost. And in the cases where they don’t find out until after their parents have died, a lot of time all information is lost too.

I can’t imagine what would have happened in my grade 9 science class if I hadn’t known that I was adopted.

We were studying recessive genes as they relate to eye colour. We had to fill out a Punnett Square based on our parents eye colour to show the probability of what our own eye colour could be.*

Both of my adoptive parents have blue eyes, which is recessive. I however have brown eyes, which is dominant. Using what we learned in that science class, my eye colour was not a possibility from my parents. As it were, I was a bit of a smart ass in high school. I knew full well going into the assignment that our family was genetically impossible. But luckily for me I knew why. Because my teacher did not handle it well at all. When he was handing back the assignments he pulled mine from the pack and used it as an example of work that was obviously wrong. When I smugly told him that it was indeed correct, he went off on a tangent about how my blue eyed parents could not have possibly me, a brown eyed baby. A few kids in the class were shocked, snickering jokes about the milk man and other wild guesses as to how I came to be. And the whole time, my teacher just kept going on, looking at my eyes, “but they can’t have blue eyes! They can’t!”

Eventually I spilled the beans. “Of course my parents can have blue eyes! I’m not genetically related to them. And this is a stupid assignment! I’m adopted, so what does it matter what colour eyes my parents have?”

I wish I could say that my teacher was contrite or apologetic, but he was not. He was smug in the knowledge that he was right. 2 blue eyed parents could not and did not produce this brown eyed kid.

I have shared this story with many people over the years, including adoptive parents who had not yet told their kids that they had adopted them. And still these folks were not spurred into action. They continued to live and perpetuate a lie, focusing their energies not on sharing the truth, but on covering their tracks and spinning the web of deceit wider and wider. Their solution to the school project dilemma? Tell the teacher that the child is adopted and doesn’t know and request alternative assignments for the class. I’ve lost touch with this family over the years, so I don’t know what eventually happened. One of the kids also had a variety of medical problems, so I can’t imagine that they could hide the truth from him forever.

Kids are a lot tougher then most adults. Growing up knowing we are adopted is in no way as scarring or damaging as finding out when we are a teen or and adult. The first time I told my son his adoption story he was 4 hours old. He was bundled up in a pile of hospital blankets and I was pacing the hallway with him. And he’s been told it many, many times since then. There are enough other secrets in my own adoption that I don’t need to make new ones.

* Science has since shown that eye colour is not so simple. You can check it out here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bring in a baby picture

Bring in a baby picture so we can guess who everyone is!

Sounds like fun right?
  • Did Sally always have a mess of curls or is she the bald baby?
  • Look at what that kid is wearing! I'm glad my mom didn't dress me in Winnie the Pooh stuff.
  • Who's that goofy kid covered in strained carrots? It can't be neat and tidy Julie can it?
A simple project meant to be used for fun, maybe an ice breaker game to help kids get to know each other.
But consider what some of the other kids are thinking:
  • I'm the only Chinese kid in the class. Not to hard to guess which one is me.
  • I wish I had Winnie the Pooh clothes. All I had was that worn out sleeper from some foster family I stayed with.
  • I don't have any pictures of me till I'm 5. No one cared enough about me to take pictures till then.
Not so much fun anymore is it?

As far as school activities go, there aren't any lessons involved from this one. No one is learning anything. It's only purpose is to have fun and get to know each other. So why do teachers bother with it? One thing we hear over and over again from teachers is that they've been doing this project for years, everyone loves it and no one has ever had a problem with it. The undertone of that statement is that you, the lone complainee, are the one at fault. Well you aren't!

Just because people, especially kids, aren't speaking up against something, it doesn't mean that they don't have a problem with it. I've known an adoptee who has gone as far as using a baby picture that came with a picture frame for this exercise just so he wouldn't have to tell anyone that he was adopted and why he didn't have a picture. And no one was the wiser. People see what you tell them. By the end of the day everyone could see his eyes and ears and expression in this random kid of the shelf of the corner store.

Part of my advocating this week is to help teachers think outside the box and for them to advocate for the kids in their class. Look at activities before hand and think of potential pitfalls. Really think about the purpose of the activity and what you want to get out of it. How can you make it open ended? (in this case have kids cut a picture out of a magazine that meant something to them when they were younger and see if people can guess which one belongs to people based on what you know about them today)

Unfortunately this activity doesn't end with grade school. Year books, prom nights, work functions, volunteer dinners. People seem to keep coming back to this one. There are so many other great meet-n-greet activities out there, that we all just need to help people steer away from this one.

How have you handled the baby picture project?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Family Trees

The Family Tree is one of the school projects that gets the most attention in the adoption community. The main issue that most people have with it is that the standard tree format (either an actual "tree" if it's geared to little kids, or a true genealogical tree for the older ones) does not have any space to include first family info.

There are of course other issues about this project when you are adopted. The first big question is "do I want to share with the class that I am adopted?" In my case, everyone in my class knew that I was adopted, but that didn't change the fact that I still struggled with this question. Every time something new came up like this, I had to reexamine how much I wanted to share. It wasn't like we talked about my being adopted everyday. And kids, especially little ones, have a tendency to forget facts that don't affect them directly.

It's very similar to coming out as a lesbian. Coming out isn't a one time event. It's been 20 years since I first came out, and I still have to do it pretty much once a week. Any time I meet someone new I have to decide how much about me I'm going to share.

So once a kid has decided that they are going to share the fact that they are adopted, the problem becomes the format. Most schools send home a print out sheet of the tree that needs to be filled in. That leaves the adoptee the option to pencil in their first family info or create their own format. There are lots of formats available to use, but for me, that doesn't solve the base problem. What kid wants to be the only one in class who's sheet looks different? That just opens up the whole can of worms with that little, but loaded question, "why"?

So during my meeting at the school tonight I am going to challenge the teachers to really look at projects before they assign them and find a way to make it all inclusive from the get go. The best idea is to leave the project open ended and let the kids decide how to present it. That way each child can decide who to include, how much to include and how they want to display it. This works not just for adoptees, but kids with single parents, kids with families who have divorced, remarried and added steps or half siblings to the mix and every other family type that happens in today's world. Kids can choose to include Auntie So and So, who isn't really an Aunt but one of the most important people in that child's life. No one gets singled out and the true spirit of the project is accomplished.

How have you handled family tree projects?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

An advocate

When you become a parent there are so many facets to the job that no one has told you about. One of them is being an advocate for your child.

Whether it's at the doctor when you argue parents-intuition vs the pediatrician's 30 years experience because you JUST KNOW that something is wrong or when you defend your toddler against the sandbox bully in the park, advocating for your child becomes a part of your job description.

And so it is that I'll be wearing my advocate's hat tomorrow.

After the "incident" with Liam's school project, I had the opportunity to speak to the head teacher. Not to rat out Liam's teacher, but to offer some articles and insight into how schools can better handle projects when there are kids in the class who were adopted. She was very pleased to get my input and asked me to speak to all the teachers on their next curriculum night. Of course I agreed.

And tomorrow night it is! at 4:00 another parent and I (also a Lesbian parent with one adopted son and one son through donor-sperm) will be addressing the teachers. We will be covering both adoption and same-sex families, but hopefully we will be getting teachers to think outside the box completely as many families today no longer fit the standard mold.

So I've decide to dedicate this week on my wee blog to school projects, how they can suck when you are the adopted kid in the class and how teachers can make them better! I hope you follow along and spread the word. Also, please share your own experiences with school projects and how they affected you or your family.

You can follow the posts here:

Friday, October 16, 2009

As always, a I'm a day late

While reading through my list of blogs yesterday, I discovered that it was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance day. Woman everywhere were lighting candles in memory of little ones who never got to celebrate their life.

I read all the stories, felt the sorrow of so many women and then went on my way, not thinking that this day touched me directly. After all, I've never been pregnant so how could pregnancy loss affect me? My only child is 7. I have not gone through the unthinkable of having my child die, so infant loss does not affect me either.

But today it hit me. Pregnancy and infant loss has been around me all my life. My name is what it is today because 50+ years ago a baby girl was stillborn. My mom had several miscarriages and at least one stillbirth after they adopted me. Friends have suffered miscarriages and I've attended the funeral of one little girl who died of SIDS.

I would hazard a guess that EVERYONE had been touched by Pregnancy and Infant Loss by some degree in their life. So today, a day late, I will take a moment to think of all the lives that could have been.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Continuing a family tradition

When Hilary's Mum and Bill came to visit Liam for the first time, Bill - whom Liam is named after, brought Liam a wonderful gift.

This was Bill's mother's (or possibly Grandmother's, we're going to have to check on that) nursery bell. It is very delicate and makes the most tinkly and pretty bell sound that I have heard. Liam loves to take it out, look at it and give it a ring or two. Until this weekend he was not deemed old enough or careful enough to really handle the bell. But while getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner, Liam undertook the family child-labour task of polishing the silver. With the new fangled "magic gloves", silver polishing is nowhere near the manual labour job that it used to be.The good thing is that Liam thought it was fun! And since we inherited a couple of pieces of silver, it is a good thing as this will now be his official family job, just like it used to be Hilary's when she was little.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Smile, Sister, Smile

This summer my friend Coco did a series of great posts on old ads and how insane they were.

One of her entries focused on "woman issues". The ad for Kotex, while helping you with a blind date, a hair cut and how to get money from your Dad, had a little section at the bottom where you could write in for their book "Very Personally Yours". If you're hazy about what happens when and why - at "that time", then you need this FREE booklet (with illustrations by Walt Disney Productions no less!)

Well wouldn't you know it? I HAVE that book!! That is the VERY SAME book that my mother gave me as her attempt at having "the talk". In fact, she gave me 2:

Very Personally Yours


It's Wonderful Being a Girl

Oh yeah!! I learned a lot from those!

  • I should "keep dainty and well groomed" so that I always feel attractive.
  • Cold drinks won't give you cramps
  • It's not risky to shampoo your hair at this time, but be sure to dry your hair thoroughly in a warm room.
  • It's okay to go to the dentist, the filling will stay.
  • Girls need to bath and shower to avoid developing an odour
  • Guard against wet feet and chilling. Stay out of drafts... particularly if you are overheated. A sudden change in body temperature can shock your entire system... and possibly interfere with your menstrual flow!
  • If you get blemishes just wash your face gently but thoroughly 4 times a day.
And of course the info came with some great pictures just to help you really understand:

I got these books in 1981 when I was eleven. The fact that they were written in the 1940s and 1960s seemed to be lost on my mother. I also don't recall getting any explanation along with them. Just a box of pads and a plastic sheet for my bed. That was comforting!

Anyone want to share their "coming of age" stories?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

5 thoughts on adoption

  1. It's been 2+ months since I've heard from Iris. Not a terribly long time, but none the less, I'm back to checking Obits every day.

  2. The stories of disruption that have hit the net lately break my heart. I can't imagine. I hope that it works out for the children.

  3. I've finally finished a video of pictures and interviews of Liam for "K".

  4. It's really hard to write letters to someone when you don't even know if they are going to read them.

  5. I will keep writing the letters because I promised "K" and more importantly I promised Liam. Now that he is older and processing his adoption more, he has some input into what he wants us to tell "K". Some if it is going to hurt her and I struggle with that, but my priority/focus/duty is to Liam first.