Monday, June 27, 2011

Privacy matters relating to adoption

I came across this article on and wanted to talk about it a little and share the portion of the article with suggestions for friends and family.

It is understandable that many people are curious about adoption. Adoption is a curious thing. No two adoptions are the same. However, when it comes to information specific to a child's background, we do feel that that information is part of their personal story, and shouldn't be spread like gossip or used in conversation. Adoption creates families, but it only happens after there has been a considerable loss, both for the birth family, and for the children themselves. We want our children to know their stories and share when/if they want to. 

As a visibly adoptive family, we have many people ask questions or tell us about people they know who have adopted. Occasionally someone will feel it necessary to include why their cousin's neighbor's adopted daughter's birthmother 'gave her up' <---this phrase is a big no-no, the correct term is 'placed' or 'chose adoption for'. I know they aren't purposely gossiping, I think they just don't understand that some things are personal. After all, nobody tells a story about how their neighbor's cousin's c-section daughter was conceived, do they? ;)

If you do know information about our children's background or birth family, you must be a trusted friend or family member :) However, this information is personal and we ask that you not share it. As an example, if you are telling your friends about how adorable our children are and the topic of adoption comes up, a safe story is that Jenavieve was adopted domestically and we have an open adoption with her birth family. Information about the birth family is not ok to share. Journey and Little Boy were born in Ethiopia. We do know their backgrounds and have information about their birth families, but that information is private and we don't talk about it outside of our immediate family.

 If the friend you are speaking with is curious about the adoption process or interested in adopting, you are welcome to give them my email address or the link to this blog. I am more than happy to talk to others about adoption and the process and to encourage others who are considering embarking on such an amazing journey. Otherwise, that information isn't necessary in telling the story of how they came to be in our family. Besides being their own personal story to share, it really isn't anyone's business. 

Here I have copied and pasted the last part of the article (the beginning is a bit long but you can read it here)

For Friends and Family, a Few Suggestions:
Not in front of the child
Critically, no matter what adoption questions you have, try no tot ask them in front of the child. It's a recurring complaint among adoptive parents that people ask inappropriate questions in front of their children (as in me asking about the birthmother in front of the child).  Even if you feel assured that any question you have is legitimate, the parents will thank you for asking it out of the child's presence.  Remember that even a child's adoptive status is not a matter for casual conversation (i.e., "Was he adopted?"). In fact, many adoptive parents, though they may make significant eye contact or vague comments indicating a mutual recognition when they encounter other apparently adoptive families, say they try to respect the privacy of their children and other adoptive children and don't comment on or question their apparent connection with strangers.
Ask yourself: Why do you want to know?
There's an important new person in the life of your loved ones and you want to know everything about them.  But before you ask a question about the child, in order to determine whether it may be relevant, one strategy is to ask yourself, "Why do I want to know this?"  If you don't have a good answer, maybe it's not information you need to have. Ask yourself if you should know about things like the existence of siblings or the role of the birthfather before the child is able to know and understand it himself. Remember that it's the child's information first, even if he doesn't yet know all of it.
Don’t take boundaries personally
Do try not to take it personally if you're told, hopefully graciously, that certain information is off-limits to you. You don't mean to intrude. But parents have to let you know where their boundaries stand. It's part of their responsibility to the child. If you have questions, consider framing them so that they show you to recognize there are boundaries around some information: "Please let  me know if I’m overstepping, but I wondered…"
All of the child’s information is precious
Finally, it's helpful if those who hold any private information about the child are careful not to treat it casually. It's not fodder for small talk; rather it's precious and should be treated as such. Sometimes you will have the opportunity to discuss the child's adoption with someone who doesn't know the family or the child. Remember that you show respect for the child and for adoption by preserving the child's privacy, even when you don’t have to. When it comes to protecting a child’s privacy, you can provide tremendous support to your loved ones: by understanding what information is personal, by respecting the family’s boundaries, an by protecting information on behalf of the child.
What you can do:
  • Understand the child’s right to own his own personal history, some of which he may not even yet know himself.
  • Differentiate between secrets and privacy. Adoption is not a secret. But some information about an adoption will remain private. Recognize what information is and is not necessary for you to know about a child’s background.
  • Understand the parents’ responsibility to protect their child’s privacy until such time as the child can do so for himself. Don’t take it personally when they enforce boundaries around information.
  • Refrain from asking about the child’s personal history in front of the child.
  • Demonstrate respect for the practice of adoption by maintaining the privacy of others, even when you don’t have to. Avoid sharing the family’s personal information, even with people who don’t know the family.
For more information or to buy “In On It,” you can or Amazon at

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Congratulations Eric!

This morning, Eric graduated with his master's degree with a 3.78 gpa. All that hard work, on top of a full time job and being an awesome husband and daddy, we are so proud of you!

They handed out stickers to the children of the graduates, Jenavieve didn't want hers on her shirt, but Journey wore it proudly :)

They were so excited to finally see Daddy in person after waiting a loooong time in the overflow room watching for him on the tv.
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In the garden

We're having some progress at the new house, and, surprise surprise, it's NOT inside the actual house. Literally nothing has changed since my last post about the inside of the house. To jog your memory, we have tile in the bathroom, and the tub is installed (but not the faucets). Yeah, we have passed move in date #4 now. Once we can be sure that he won't hide smelly cheese inside our walls, I WILL be publishing his name so you can all make sure you don't hire him. But that's all another rant. I mean post.

This post is really about our garden! After weeks of watering, we're starting to see some food growing in the garden. Nothing close to eating yet, except a couple of raspberries. We did have some strawberries that were starting to turn red, but they have been nibbled away. One of this weekend's projects is putting a fence around the strawberries.

Here we have some lovely tomatoes

This plant we have been calling mystery meat. It happened to be growing out the side of another plant we bought from Destiny Farm in Brighton (which we highly recommend!). We're not sure what it is, other than something in the squash-ish family. We have watermelon, zucchini, pumpkin, buttercup squash, 2 kinds of cucumbers, and none of those plants look quite like this. Hopefully soon those flowers will turn into something recognizable!

This is a cherry tomato plant called Jellybean. They are supposed to be small, sweet, and jellybean shaped. I'm pretty excited about them!

Our 3rd red raspberry. They are fenced so we have actually eaten the other 2. Really good flavor! These are all plants from Destiny Farm in Brighton.

And here's a strawberry that is not yet red, so our rodent enemy hasn't eaten it yet. Although I'm sure he's checking them every night because he knew right when to come eat all the red ones!

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Sleepy heads

I sleep between the girls at night, but I got up early this morning and left the room. When I came back in, I found this :)

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Waiting for daddy

The girls like to stand in the window and watch for Eric to come home. I snapped these pictures while we waited today :)

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We have become pretty settled into a new routine as a family of 4. We are still working on some details, like Journey needing 1-2 naps a day and Vivi beginning to outgrow naps, but for the most part we are on a 'schedule', which is a pretty loose term in this house, we prefer to 'follow the child' a la Maria Montessori, but we are all figuring out our new roles and the adjustments that need to be made.

Journey is doing great, she is no longer clingy and I am able to leave her in the play room with Vivi (or without) while I get dinner going or start a load of laundry. If she does find herself alone and isn't happy about it, she doesn't just sit and cry, she fusses while crawling to find me. Our house is coming back together with more time to clean and do chores. We were living out of a pile of clean laundry for awhile while my time was focused elsewhere (at least it was clean, right?) but that pile has gone down significantly. We are doing at least one load of laundry every day because we are cloth diapering both girls, although Vivi doesn't wear one during the day at home, but that's another post.

 Journey's 2 teeth have come completely in, so she isn't having the angry biting teething fits (although she only has 8 teeth so we will see that phase again I'm sure!) and her hair seems to be growing and getting thicker and healthier. Between the conditioner we use and the full and healthy diet, I think we'll really start seeing some growth.

I'm excited to see what kind of hair she has, as Ethiopians hair texture ranges from course and kinky to soft and wavy. Little Boy's hair is thick and wavy, not curly at all. Journey's hair is pretty soft right now, but I seem to remember Vivi's being pretty soft at this length too, so we'll see :)

Jenavieve is so far loving having a sister around. She greets her cheerfully every morning (we co-sleep or family bed) with smiles, hugs, and kisses, all of which are returned with a grin from baby sister. She so far hasn't been bossy or mean about sharing toys (or sharing mommy), she even shares things like dessert unprompted and with a smile. She loves to help with everything from 'Joey's' nighttime bottle, feeding her with a spoon or from her hands, and even washing her hair. Luckily Journey isn't bothered by water in her face, and Vivi is very good at pouring and actually made washing Journey's hair easier for me! Getting Vivi's hair washed is a completely different story though...

One strange behavior we are seeing with Journey is that she wants to bite our cats. Being around Vivi for 2 years, they aren't bothered by kids touching them, so they will walk right up to Journey, who grabs whatever part of the cat is closest and lunges at them with her teeth bared! She doesn't do this to any humans, so we aren't really sure what that is all about! Our cats are really good natured and don't fight back, although she did get one cat to yelp as he jumped out of her mouth's reach and hid.

We are still 'laying low', although we are increasing our trips out of the house. Journey gets a little bit fussy when we've been away from home too long so our trips are short. We have been running errands and just happening to run into friends and family so a few people have gotten to meet her. It's hard to explain to people who aren't avid readers of our blog why they can't hold her when she is reaching for them. We noticed that she most often reaches for women, especially older women. This is an orphanage reaction to get attention. You go to whoever will take you because they will give you attention. Even though she gets many hours of focused attention from each of us at home, it is a hard habit to break, and she hasn't been with us long enough to learn that this is forever.

And so, we continue coasting with our new normal...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Journey's first week

A week ago right now, I was trying to sleep, but failing. I was so excited because Eric and Journey were on the plane heading home and I would be seeing them in a matter of hours. This past week has seemed like a blur. Lots of coasting and adjusting and not a lot of sleep!

The first couple of days she was on her own schedule, and went to bed really early, meaning she also got up really early. Vivi is a night owl and Eric went back to work right away to save his vacation days for bringing Little Boy home, so I was up late with Vivi and up early with Journey. Thankfully they are now on a similar schedule for bedtime and nap time, which makes life easier!

Journey was a bit confused about all the changes during the first couple of days and wanted to be held constantly. She cried when we put her down, and she cried between bites of food if we didn't feed her fast enough. As the days have gone by though, she has started to cry less, and laugh more. She has a very joyful personality! The first few days she would wake up in the morning grumpy and fussy until she was halfway through breakfast. Now she wakes up cheerful and is (mostly) patient while I make her oatmeal. She has started to feed herself, rather than crying until I scoop more food off of her plate, and she even tries using her spoon and fork. The changes we are seeing in her each day are amazing!

A big part of her adjustment has been Vivi. She loves her big sister and smiles when she sees her. If Vivi is doing something, Journey (or Joey, as Vivi calls her) wants to be a part of it. If Vivi is laughing, Journey laughs. Vivi is doing a GREAT job of being a big sister. She is learning to share and loves to help out. Every morning when she wakes up and sees Journey, she gets a big smile and says "baby sister!" I think she still can't believe she's finally here either :)

I took Journey to the pediatrician this week for her first visit, which happened to be the day after she turned 15 months old. She weighs 21.85 lbs and is 29 inches tall (although I think the nurse measured a bit wrong, she looked about 28 inches on the yardstick today). For comparison, Vivi at 18 months was 22 lbs and 32 inches tall. They are definitely different shaped babies!

We got a prescription for amoxicillin to hopefully get rid of the recurring upper respiratory infection once and for all, as well as referrals to an ophthalmologist (that word has wayy to many extra letters in it, I get it wrong every time!) and a pediatric plastic surgeon. You have probably noticed that Journey has a lazy eye, and may have also noticed that she is missing 2 fingers on her right hand, and has 3 fused fingers on her left hand. It hardly slows her down, and with some reconstructing and therapy she'll be good to go!

Because she spent most of her little life in an orphanage, she is a bit delayed for her age. She was well fed (as you can see in the pictures) and well loved by the many adults who came into contact with her, but there are so many babies that need love and care that it is hard to give enough one on one attention to help them develop to American standards. Journey doesn't walk yet, but she's a great crawler, and likes to pull herself up to standing. She can cruise along the couch, the wall, Eric, etc. Today she pulled herself up to standing using my dad for support and let go and just stood for a solid few seconds. I think now that she is getting more opportunity to practice, she'll be walking very soon!

And of course there are language delays. Besides typical delays from living in an orphanage, she is also in a new country. It could be awhile before she starts understanding and eventually speaking English. She doesn't say anything that sounds like an Amharic word, just babble. Although she has sounded like she's getting close to saying "mama" already :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Peanut butter and Nutella

One of Eric's favorite snacks is peanut butter and nutella (a chocolate hazelnut spread, if you've never had it, you're missing out!) Unfortunately for him, the girls saw him eating it. Eric gave it to Vivi for a bite, and instead of taking a bite with the bread and the toppings, she just started sticking her finger in the chocolate and peanut butter. Then, being the good big sister she is, she decided Journey would like a bite too.

Excuse the hair, I was in the middle of taking out a style when this happened :) Needless to say, both girls got a bath after this!

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Journey's first ice cream!

She wasn't quite sure what to think of it at first, she was very suspicious!

What better day to try ice cream for the first time than the Children's Sunday ice cream social at church?
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Monday, June 13, 2011

Sisterly bonding

Just a few cute pictures of the girls interacting during their first few days together :)

Vivi has been waiting 6 weeks to give baby sister a bottle again, she was THRILLED!

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Sunday, June 12, 2011


The girls had their first bath together on Journey's 2nd day home. She's a splasher! Both kids were splashing and laughing, it was so fun!.

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Welcome Home Journey!

Waiting at baggage claim with her big sister shirt, American flag, and the sign we made :)
Vivi's version of a hug. She kept hugging and kissing her, it was so cute!

Family of 4!

Journey kept lunging for Vivi's cracker with her mouth wide open, Vivi thought it was hilarious!

First time in a car seat! She wasn't thrilled with being stuck there but she did alright :)

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Journey is home!

Eric and Journey arrived in Washington DC this morning, where Journey became an American citizen :) and landed in Detroit late this afternoon. I'll have another post in a minute with more pictures but wanted to share this one I got with my cell phone. She's hugging her passport, which has her permanent visa in it :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bringing Journey Home

Some of you have already received this in an email, but we'd like for everyone to see it :)

Journey will be home in our arms very soon! We REALLY appreciate all of your support and prayers as we have gone through this process (and continuing through bringing our son home), and we know you're really excited to meet her, but we would like to take a moment to talk about attachment in adoption and what to expect when we bring Journey home.

Journey has been in an orphanage since she was a newborn and she doesn't really understand what a mom and dad are yet. She is used to being cared for by a team of nannies, and we need to help her learn that she only has one mom and one dad who will be taking care of all of her needs, and to help her understand appropriate behaviors toward parents, family, and strangers. If everyone held and fed her, she'd view us all as a team of nannies and wouldn't attach to us as her parents. So, we need to take some time with minimal visits, and will need to be the ONLY ones to hold, feed, comfort and care for her for a few months. Please don't take this personally, but we need to ask as you all meet Journey that you don't spend too much time touching her or give her anything directly, and won't be able to hold her for a few months. Enjoying her from a distance may as fun, but is really best for her in the long run and we hope everyone understands :) If you have kids, please try explaining this to them as well so that they understand beforehand not to get in her face too much.

While we have you captive in our email, we'd also like to say that while we do know information about the backgrounds of both kids, and we know when people ask they mean well, but we feel that it is the child's personal story and information and when they are older, they can share with whoever they want.

Below, I have copied and pasted a blog post from that gives more information about attachment and cocooning after adoption, and includes a Dos and Don'ts list with some helpful information as well.

"For those that don't know, there are some things that need to be done a bit differently when bringing home an adopted child. There are attachment issues to consider. For example, we're told to not allow anyone else to hold the child for the first 4-6 weeks and to lay low, stay home, have very limited visitors. All of this is to help with the critical period of attachment.

All of us adoptive folks have had to read books on this topic, attend workshops, etc. So, we feel pretty comfortable with what needs to be done. However, it's another thing to sometimes try and explain it to friends and family. I'll say in my case they all "get" it. I'm lucky. But, I have heard of other folks really struggling with it.

There are some great resources out there. But, for those folks that will be part of the community of people welcoming home an adopted child (friends and family), you may want to check out the list of helpful hints below. (I'm pilferring this from my buddy's blog, Thanks Porter!) It's a list of "Dos & Don'ts" for folks on adoption and attachment. It comes from a site that deals with attachment in adopted children, A4EverFamily .

Dos & Don’ts for Family & Friends of Adoptive Parents

1. Offer household help (running errands, preparing meals that can go right from the freezer to the oven, etc.) so the mother can spend more time holding the child.
2. Trust the mother’s instincts. Even a first time mother may notice subtle symptoms that well-meaning family and friends attribute to “normal” behavior.
3. Accept that attachment issues are difficult for anyone outside of the mother to see and understand.
4. Be supportive even if you think everything looks fine to you.
5. Allow the parents to be the center of the baby’s world. One grandfather, when greeting his grandson, immediately turns him back to his mom and says positive statements about his good mommy.
6. Tell the baby every time you see her what a good/loving/safe mommy she has.
7. When the parents need someone to care for the baby for a night out, offer to babysit in the child’s home. (After the child has been home for a substantial period of time.)
8. As hard as it may be for you, abide by the requests of the parents. Even if the baby looks like she really wants to be with Grandma, for example, she needs to have a strong attachment to her parents first. Something as simple as passing the baby from one person to another or allowing others, even grandparents, to hold a baby who is not “attached” can make the attachment process that much longer and harder. Some parents have had to refrain from seeing certain family members or friends because they did not respect the parents’ requests.
9. Accept that parenting children who are at-risk for or who suffer from attachment issues goes against traditional parenting methods and beliefs. Parenting methods that work for many children can be detrimental to a child with attachment issues.
10. Remember that there is often a honeymoon period after the child arrives. Many babies do not show signs of grief, distress, or anxiety until months after they come home. If the parents are taking precautions, they are smart and should be commended and supported!

Don’t1. Assume an infant is too young to suffer from emotional issues related to attachment. Babies are not immune.
2. Underestimate a new mother’s instincts that something isn’t right.
3. Judge the mother’s parenting abilities. What looks like spoiling or coddling may be exactly what the child needs to overcome a serious attachment disorder. Parenting methods that work for many children can be detrimental to a child with attachment issues.
4. Make excuses for the child’s behaviors or try to make the mother feel better by calling certain behaviors “normal”. For example, many children who suffer from attachment issues may be labeled strong-willed by well-meaning family members. While being strong-willed can be seen as a positive personality trait, this type of behavior in an attachment-impaired child may signify problems.
5. Accuse the mother of being overly sensitive or neurotic. She is in a position to see subtle symptoms as no one else can.
6. Take it personally if asked to step back so the parents can help their child heal and form a healthy and secure attachment. You may be asked not to hold the baby for more than a minute. This is not meant to hurt your feelings. It is meant to help prove to the baby who his mommy and daddy are. Up until now the child’s experience has been that mommies are replaceable. Allowing people to hold the baby before he has accepted his forever mommy and daddy are can be detrimental to the attachment process.
7. Put your own time frames on how long attachment should take. One mother was hurt when she was chastised by a relative who couldn’t understand…after all, the baby had been home six months. It could take weeks, months, even years. Every child is different.
8. Offer traditional parenting advice. Some well-meaning family members will tell a new mother not to pick the baby up every time she cries because it will spoil her. A child who is at-risk or who suffers from attachment issues must be picked up every single time she cries. He needs consistent reinforcement that this mommy/daddy will always take care of her and always keep her safe.
9. Fall into the appearance trap. Some babies/toddlers with attachment issues can put on a great show to those outside of the mother/father. What you see is not always a true picture of the child. Even babies as young as 6-months-old are capable of “putting on a good face” in public.
10. Lose hope. With the right kind of parenting and therapy, a child with attachment issues can learn to trust and have healthy relationships. But it does take a lot of work and a good understanding of what these children need."

If we've held your attention this long, THANK YOU! The next time most of you see us in person, we will be a family of 4! :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Did I mention Journey is coming home?

I'm not sharing a lot of specifics since this is a public blog that gets non-family and friend viewers, but I will be holding my youngest daughter in my arms very soon!

Can't wait until we get to look like this again: