Sunday, February 28, 2010

Adoption Semantics

"Wait...what? You guys are adopting?"
If you missed the blognouncement, click HERE to read the story behind our new adventure!
Those of you who have been pregnant know that it is a very eye-opening experience--in many ways. One thing I remember was the realization that comments I had made to pregnant women in the past were totally not appropriate. I remember a gorgeous, superskinny acquaintance I had who became pregnant. This gal was such a supermodel, I thought her self-esteem (pre and during pregnancy) would render my new nickname "Chubby" totally hilarious to both of us, as we had a very teasing relationship. But when I tried it out, she wasn't really laughing. Hmmm--duly noted.
FYI, pretty much THE ONLY acceptable comments to make about a pregnant women's appearance are "You're already ____ weeks?!" (Thus making her feel small) or "You look (fantastic, adorable, glowing, teeny, amazing, beautiful, etc.)." NEVER say "You look like you're about to pop," or "You're ONLY ______ weeks?!" thus making her feel like a beached whale.
As I mentioned previously, we have been doing lots of reading about adoption. (OK, I read, then pass on the really good books or chapters to Trent.) So far I've read (or thoroughly skimmed) How to Adopt Internationally; The Lucky Ones; I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla; The Family of Adoption; The Essential Link: Attachment Information for Adoptive Parents; and The Complete Book of International Adoption. The last one had a really interesting table in one of the chapters that dealt with adoption language. Total "a-ha" moment for me! So, as I'm determined to become the new poster child for adoption awareness, welcome to my first blog lesson on adoption: adoption language. (Adoptive parents or adoptees, please feel free to add or edit any of these from your own experiences.)
Inaccurrate language: Real parent/real mother/natural parent
Accurate: Birth parent/biological parent
Inaccurate: Blood relative
Accurate: Birth relative
Inaccurate: My adopted child
Accurate: My child
Inaccurate: My own child
Accurate: My biological child
Inaccurate: Adoptive parent
Accurate: Parent
Inaccurate: Gave up for adoption/ put up for adoption
Accurate: Chose or made an adoption plan
Inaccurate: Illegitmate
Accurate: Born to unwed mother or unmarried parents
Inaccurate: Keeping your baby
Accurate: Deciding to parent/raise child
Inaccurate: Foreign adoption/foreign country
Accurate: International/Intercountry adoption/birth country
Inaccurate:Handicapped child/hard to place
Accurate:Child with special needs/waiting child
Inaccurate: track down parents
Accurate: search
Inaccurate: adopting a pet
Accurate: finding a pet
The author also talked about how to have a conversation or pleasant stranger-in-the-store-chitchat with a family who has probably adopted internationally. The first rule of thumb? Always start with a compliment--a compliment about ALL of the children if there are more than one. Cute kids, well-behaved--pick a feature. Do not point, don't draw attention to the kids, and don't talk about the children like they are not there. Ie: "Where did you get those two?" If you are curious, then ask permission to ask. You know the drill: "May I ask..." then remember the lingo previously mentioned. "May I ask if your family adopted?" It also never hurts to say WHY you want to know. If you are just plain nosey, then perhaps MYOB and stop after the compliment. If you or someone you love is pursuing international adoption, then tell the adult as much in one sentence or less. But whatever you do, KEEP IT BRIEF! She's there to shop and if she has a kid with her, it's already a big enough challenge!
Interesting stuff to ponder, huh? I know it's already changed the way I speak about this topic. I hope you enjoyed your first lesson. :)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A long story about my awesome husband is.

Background: I actually wrote the first half of this post in October. I was waiting to get the photos to go along with it. Then Trent got anxious about patient privacy and asked me not to post it. I had to wait 6 months, but last night I was able to ask the patient and her family for express permission to post this, first name included! So, here's the first half of the story. I will try to post the marathon pics soon--they are still in someone else's possession.
The funny thing about being married to someone in the health field (Trent is a physical therapist in neuro-muscular rehab) is that my glimpse into his work life is limited. He can tell me about his day, his coworkers, and sometimes he tells me he had a rough or a rewarding patient, but because of patient confidentiality, he can't tell me much more. And he absolutely never tells me the name of any of his patients, even if I know them and they've said it is OK!
Then last spring he told me he was thinking about offering to push one of his pediatric patients in the Portland marathon. He explained that he had been working with this girl for 5 years and had gotten to know her and her family pretty well. She'd always wanted to be in a race, but her disease left her wheelchair-bound. Her uncle, who was a runner, had the idea to push her in a marathon, and Trent volunteered to share the pushing duties over the 26.2 mile course.
Finally, when all this was set in stone and the newspaper had been called, Trent agreed that I was going to find out anyway, so he could tell me this special girl's name is Sarah. Sarah has arthrogryposis multiplex congenita. I'm sure I will give incorrect details if I give too many (and probably will anyway), so I will summarize and say that AMC is caused when any condition leads to lack of movement in utero, which causes the joints to fuse incorrectly. It's characterized by multiple contractures (like fusing) of joints throughout the body. In Sarah's case, long-term therapy (with Trent) helps her obtain and perhaps improve her movement abilities. I wish Trent blogged so he could tell you more! You'll have to ask him in person.
Trent and Uncle Gary were both of the same mind that this marathon was all about Sarah! She had her own entry number and her name was on her special jogging stroller (that weighed about 100 lbs, mind you.) Trent said that virtually every person they passed was cheering loudly for Sarah! Other runners came up to meet her and cheer her on and encourage Trent and Gary. Having her name on the stroller was genius, because thousands of complete strangers were hollering her name for five straight hours! What an amazing and wonderful experience for her first race! He said it was everything they had hoped it would be. Trent and Gary switched off pushing the stroller about every mile or so, and they finished in just about the time they had expected. This was Trent's eleventh marathon, so he's had the rush of completing before, but he said getting to see Sarah with her own medal around her neck was rewarding on a whole new level. It probably goes without saying, but of course I will say it: I am so proud of Trent--not only for doing this selfless deed, but because it is an example of his passion for his "job." It is that passion that makes him so very good at it. And I'm so glad to have a name with this beautiful person! Congratulations, Sarah, on your first marathon!


February, 2010:
Last month, we found out that Trent's boss (whom we love) had nominated him for a big award at the hospital, called the "Service Excellene Hero" award, because of the marathon. There are about a dozen people who get the Service Excellence award (WHICH, btw, Trent got 2 years ago already) and then 1 or 2 who get the hero award. Last year it was given to a nurse who broke hospital protocol and let a wife come and lay with her dying husband who was about to be taken off life-support so that she could say goodbye. (I KNOW, I'm crying just writing about it.)
Trent was actually a little embarassed when he found out he was getting this award. He said his loving co-workers were never going to let him hear the end of it! (Sure enough, they've all been teasing him about being their "hero"! But one told me last night that Trent is such a good guy that they really can't be mad when good stuff happens to him.) I was thrilled to know that Sarah & her family would be at the awards banquet, & Sarah was called up on stage to help present it to Trent.

Because of the microphone situation, the board chairman didn't have Sarah say anything, but did present the award first to her.

Trent didn't KNOW he was going to be asked to say something! He graciously said that Sarah and her family were his inspiration and that they were truly the heroes. (Oh, did you just ask if I was crying? Um, why do you think these photos are blurry?) Here's a shot of Trent and Sarah after the program.

I can tell Sarah's whole family loves Trent. Her big sis had previously requested to sit next to him at dinner. :) I had a great time getting to know them last night. Afterwards, I talked to Sarah and said "I thought they were going to have you say something! Were you nervous?" She said, "I thought they might, but they didn't." So I asked her what she would have said if they gave her the microphone. She told me, "I would have said, 'Thank you, Trent, for pushing me in the marathon. I will never, ever forget it."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Adoption Decision part 2

Thanks everyone for the congrats on my last post about our decision to apply for international adoption. And despite all the positive things said, I know that there are a wide range of opinions about adoption in general, inter-racial adoption especially and any and every detail related to this process. Not that I'm asking for criticism, because I actually don't handle that very well, but I just want to state up front that we are educating ourselves as well as we can, reading anything we can get our hands on regarding issues that affect adopted children, interracial families, worse case scenarios and such. We may be taking a leap, but it's not a BLIND leap. But thank you for keeping your comments on this blog uplifting and encouraging. :)


Many people have asked how/why we chose Thailand and which agency we're using. Those 2 decisions were kind of made at the same time. Trent's sister is an adoption agent (convenient!) and told us about some very reputable agencies that specialize in intercountry (another word for international) adoption. Around the same time, I found a very helpful website, This is the website for Shaohannah's Hope, the ministry dedicated to caring for orphans through aid and adoption that was started by Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth. The reason I liked this site is because a)they offer grants--yeah! And b) they gave tons of helpful links and even an entire "How to Adopt" packet. The Chapmans and the foundation do not endorse one specific country or one specific agency, but link to several with good reputations, and even more links to other grant possibilities. We received online info packets from about 5 agencies. 2 of the most well-known and reputable were here in Oregon: Bethany Christian Services and Holt International.
Both Bethany and Holt are licensed to place children from about a dozen countries. Here's something that I didn't realize: every country around the world that allows US parents to adopt can create their own criteria. And the criteria varies quite a bit and is very specific. The Jen&Trent criteria was also specific! As I mentioned in the last post, Haiti was our first choice, but that's not an option right now. So, our process was largely done through process of elimination.
Fortunately, our age and length of marriage fell into most countries' criteria. (Except Haiti! We'd be too young.) We are requesting a healthy child under the age of 2, we are willing to wait about 2 years, we only want to travel to the birth country one time, and when we travel we can stay no longer than 2 weeks maximum. Most South American countries require the parents to stay 6-8 weeks when picking up their baby. Most Eastern European countries (& Russia) require 2 trips, each 2 or more weeks. Korea & Taiwan are only taking applications for parents interested in adopting a child with special medical needs. China's wait time right now is 50 months and expected to lengthen in the next year. Uganda, Mongolia and India are only adopting children ages 3 and over. These are somewhat generalized, but it shows you how we were able to narrow it down.
According to those logistics, our top 2 choices were Ethiopia and Thailand. We were both genuinely open to either country. I think what pushed us over the edge was some blogs I found by parents who had recently adopted from Thailand through Holt. (I hope to get their permission to link on my blog soon.) I got in touch with a couple of them, and they SANG the praises of Holt and the entire process. I learned that Holt has a para-organization in Thailand called Holt Sahathai Foundation, working on orphan aid and adoption since 1975. " HSF serves a large number of vulnerable children through a variety of programs including adoption, pregnancy counseling, foster care, educational sponsorships and outreach services for children in hospitals and orphanages. Many of these programs help birth families to stay together through counseling and assistance." We also learned that Thai children in the HSF program are placed in foster homes until the day of adoption, rather than orphanages. They are followed closely and individually by social workers from HSF, who also assist the adoptive families every step of the way while in country. More than one of these families I found on the blogs are on their second adoption in Thailand through Holt. They primarily work with babies whose unwed birth mothers chose adoption, rather than abandoned babies. This means that there is usually a larger amount of medical information on each child, including prenatal information. One Holt family was from the NW and talked of the ease in finding Thai culture connections for their child. All of these factors just kind of tipped the scales, I guess. (BTW, we also heard wonderful things from families who had adopted from Ethiopia. It's still on our application as our second choice.)
Another thing I like about Holt is that they offer summer camps for children who were adopted internationally. That's a great post-placement program. THEN, we found out that our Becky's grandfather was chairman of the board of Holt for years. He and his late wife, 2 amazing and godly people, volunteered frequently to escort Korean orphans to their new home in the US. Grandpa Jagger would not have devoted so much time and energy into a cause that was not extremely worthy. Having this information just seemed like a confirmation seal on the deal with Holt.
So, now you are caught up on our decision process. You may have (probably would have?) done something different, but we are excited about our future with Baby Thai. FYI, girls are more commonly requested, so the fact that we have stated we are open to either gender means we'll probably be getting a boy. Although he thinks it will happen a lot sooner than it really will, looks like Carson will eventually get the little brother he's been asking for. He's already got the bunk-bed situation planned. :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Seriously big news.

Original post date: February 23, 2010
I've realized (more than ever) in the last month or so that I am not a very private person. We've had some major things going on in our family, and I've wanted to shout it out! I wanted to get feedback. Mostly, I wanted to WRITE! So I got a journal, which I haven't had in years, and wrote like crazy. It was mostly a prayer journal, and already I've seen answers. So since you are probably skimming this paragraph for the news, here it is: Trent and I have applied to adopt a baby from Thailand.


We told our immediate families first, then I wrote a letter to our extended family. (So, family, this post may be a little repetitive.)

Here's the story. See, even though it may sound sudden to you, this has been stirring for years. Even before Trent and I had our own kiddos, we talked of adoption and that we're both interested in it. Then, if you were following along, I did NOT particularly enjoy being pregnant the last time. We both were fairly certain we wanted 3 kids, so last year when Sydney turned one, we decided to pursue adoption more seriously. We learned a few things right away. First, we were told that a birth mother in the US will usually choose a childless couple to adopt her baby. A couple with a healthy boy and girl has little chance of being chosen from a notebook of other families. [post edit--we have sinced been corrected by a few adoption social workers, that this is not necessarily true.  There are some birth mothers looking for siblings, it's just not as common. Don't want to scare anyone away from domestic adoption.]  International adoption had been closer to my heart, especially, so this was not a disappointment, just a confirmation of which direction we'd go.


But the second thing we learned was that international adoptions cost between $20K-$40K. Not even kidding you. The average we were seeing everywhere was $25K-$30K.


Big disappointment.

Seeing those figures was a shock to us and, especially doing our research in the summer, when I have no possibility of helping with our income, we freaked out and put the idea on hold indefinitely. I remember thinking we'd just have to have that third kid the old-fashioned way.


Fast forward to January 12. In case you didn't notice by my blog post here, here and here, I was a TEENSY bit emotionally invested in the earthquake in Haiti. I was particularly upset about Kristen (which--full disclosure, some of you think KH and I are BFFs, but really I know her best through one of my true BFF's, her sis-in-law Sarah) who was there with her 9-month old visiting their son whom they'd been trying to adopt. The weeks following the earthquake I became blog-obsessed and vicariously participated in several emotional and dramatic reunions with adoptive families and their Haitian children. These are my 3 fave: Kembe, Amos and Ronel. I resonated with those mommies something fierce. During those first 2 weeks there was all kinds of talk about hundreds of Haitian orphans being brought to the US for foster or adoption, a la the Pedro Pan situation in Cuba in the 60's. We, along with about 473 gazillion people watching the news, felt totally compelled to be one of those families. Now, I think we all can recognize that sending hundreds of kids to people whose only qualification is "I want one!" is ridiculously dangerous and not in the best interest of anyone. So, I can respect the fact that the Haitian & US government did not start shipping out plane-loads of orphans to anyone with a nice smile. (I CANNOT respect the other things UNICEF and the govs have been up to.)


Back to our story. We felt that no one should foster or adopt a child without going through the proper procedures, so we started researching and investigating international adoption--going back to many of the same sites we looked at last year. We read about home studies, country criteria, I-600A's, dossiers and tax credits. Our interest was definitely peaked. After a few weeks and conversations with several adoption agencies who work in Haiti, it was abundantly clear that no one will be able to apply to adopt a child from Haiti any time soon. For some, this was frustrating and even devastating. For us, it wasn't. We talked it over and realized that for the two of us, this horrible tragedy renewed in us a heart for adoption. It confirmed that we want another child--and that I don't necessarily need it to grow inside me. For our family, it wasn't about a Haitian child, it was about us having room in our home and our family and our hearts for a little person who deserves nothing less than a home and family. We spent MORE time online and checked out MORE books from the library about adoption, attachment, inter-racial adoption, etc. We faced the financial aspect in the face. We prayed. Hard. A lot.


During this time, as I was asking God to give me answers, I was trying to listen for those answers. I totally randomly ran into my cousin at an indoor playground; my cousin who last year adopted 2 little Haitian girls. I got in touch with a college friend who told me she was considering international adoption and asked if I'd ever considered it. I got a very pointed email from a blog friend (oh yeah--you know who you are) that God had been putting ME on her heart all week, and He'd been hinting that maybe our third kiddo would be adopted. She thought I would think she was crazy, but I didn't. At least 2 other unplanned conversations happened that truly seemed like divine encounters regarding our family & adoption. But still--SO MUCH MONEY!

I shared with some girls at my Bible study about this huge pull I'd been feeling, and I admitted that "the only thing" stopping us was the money. One friend looked me straight in the eye and said "Money's not a good enough reason." I talked to Trent and we agreed. Money was not a good enough reason to refuse to provide a loving (and, if I do say so myself) pretty darn good family to a child. (I include our extended families with that statement, not just that we are such stellar parents.) We agreed to make this HUGE leap of faith. Together. I honestly felt a peace with the decision that I've rarely felt. After talking with our closest friends & family, I felt like God was telling me over and over: you will not be in this alone. My favorite day was after I had specifically journaled about wanting to make sure that Trent was on the same page with me on this. I tend to get excited and drag him along on things, and this is not something towards which to be dragged. (drug?) That night at the dinner table, he looked at me and said "I'm ready. I want to do this." I, of course, burst into tears.


It's permanent. It's forever. It's scary. It's amazing.

It's just beginning!


I have way more to tell you, like how we chose our agency, how we chose Thailand, how we've been in contact with other adoptive parents already, how God provided for our application fee, how we plan to finance this thing and other facts I've learned about adoption in the last 5 weeks. So, keep reading!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Aw, gee.

Man, I love these kids.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Only myself to blame.

Have you ever heard of this movie: EXACTLY.
Neither had I. And now it is very likely that this crudely animated, straight-to-DVD cheapo will be mine forever after I pay $19.95! YIPPEE!
(If you're not sensing the dripping sarcasm, you must be new here. Welcome!)


You see, I really want to blame this article I read in Parents magazine a few weeks back, about bribes and rewards. It said that if you discuss a reward with your child before entering into a tricky situation, you know BEFORE the bad behavior starts, then it can still be considered a reward. But if the discussion of the "reward" happens DURING the bad behavior, it's really a bribe and, you know, bribes are kind of frowned upon in the parenting world. (Of course we've all done that too, but, you know, it's something to strive for.)


I also want to blame American Consumerism, which affects even my angelic 4 year old. (Dear new reader: that also was sarcasm. Just making sure you are keeping up.) Because of commercials we've seen and the placement of oodles of Valentine's Day candy, or fruit snacks he's seen on television commercials, making a trip to the grocery store is always rough, and occasionally it is agonizing. Thinking I was one step of the game, I talked to Carson BEFORE we went to the store about his behavior and asking for treats. If he listened and obeyed, and asked to put only 2 things on his wish list (a very clever idea I read somewhere--he can put anything he sees on his "wish list" but we're not buying it today. Although I'll be screwed if he ever asks to see this list, since I haven't written anything down and he's asked for about 2,145 to be put on it) then we could get him a movie from Safeway's little RedBox-Knockoff by the registers.

Speaking of, I also really want to blame Safeway's little RedBox-Knockoff. This clever little moneymaker has plenty of new releases for adults (although they are often out of stock) but only about 3 kids movies. Their DVD sleeves are totally incompatible with RedBox and you have to park and walk into the store to return it. What was I thinking? So, from our 3 choices of kids movies, of course he didn't want anything REMOTELY entertaining (and people, I'm admitting here that I would rather have seen "Snow Buddies"), Carson chose this ridiculous little Sasquatch flick.


I kind of want to blame Carson too for my new predicament, because he was SO EXCITED to watch this spectacle of film quality that I'm pretty sure he took the DVD out of the sleeve before we even got home. And in the craziness of unloading children, unloading groceries, changing poopy diapers, putting the new movie on so I could use said groceries to make dinner....that special little black plastic sleeve that allows me to return the Sasquatch movie has DISAPPEARED INTO THIN AIR. I have no way to return it.


But, I'm afraid when my logical, adult brain kicks in, I realize I have no one to blame but myself. All of those other entities performed their role, and I, the Director of Development and Smooth Functioning Operator of this house, has dropped the ball a bit. So, if any of you are dying to borrow The Legend of the Sasquatch, it's all yours. Just don't expect to hear anything about it on March 6th.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I love this place. It's teeny, the floor plan is totally bizarre, the paint is fading, the appliances are starting to fall apart, and one of the neighbors enjoys parking 13 run-down trucks in the street. But it is home. It is our first house and where we live our life. Where we got snowed in and where we sweat out the summer heat with no air conditioning. Where my kids have puked and pooped and laughed and cried. Where we have a roof over our heads and we sleep well in our warm beds. Where, with a little tightening of the wallet, we can afford our monthly mortgage AND an occasional visit to Baja Fresh. And all I need to do is read one blog about Haiti's recovery or watch the nightly news about the state of the economy and I fall into a deeper level of contentment for this little piece of land that is mine. Thank you, Lord.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Feeling cultured.

I'm going to see Cosi Fan Tutte tonight! It's a famous opera by Mozart, about 2 sisters, their finaces and lots of love, deception, costumes, fake suicides and eventually: forgiveness. I'm familiar with this opera (thanks to my college voice teacher, Dr. Cho and my almost-music-minor!) and excited to see it. My father-in-law has a second cousin who is performing in it, so he offered to buy tix for those of us who were interested. (Are you surprised Trent is staying home?) It's sung in Italian but will have English subtitles on a screen. My only reservation is that it is 3.5 hours long and doesn't start until 7:30, then we have a good 45 minute drive home. But I think it will be worth it. I'm feeling so cultured!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

My Happy Place

I'm not a super messy person, but I'm not necessarily a very tidy person either. I've commented on this blog previously about my housekeeping skills--or lack thereof. Every day I spend some time tidying up, starting at the front door and working my way to the back of the house. And I never make it to the back of the house, which is our master bedroom. Right before Christmas, I set out a little table in a corner of our room to stash my crafty supplies for several projects I was working on. And the table and the stash never got put away. In fact, it grew and morphed into something that was
TOTALLY. OUT. OF. CONTROL: We are on a very strict budget right now, but if I had a few hundred extra bucks, I would buy armoires and shelving for my whole house and garage! I love new storage, especially in this little house with closets half the size of the showers. So, I've been patiently combing craigslist for some afforadble sort of storage for my mountain o' crafts, and found something just about perfect for $45. It's smaller than it looked online, but it will get the job done. TADA!
Hiding is the same as cleaning, right? Looking at this takes me to my happy place!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

I can't do it.

UPDATE as of Wednesday, 02/03, 7pm: I don't have all the details, but Troy Livesay posted on twitter that he saw Ronel and Ernest on the tarmac at the Port-au-Prince airport, getting ready to head to the US! Thanks for the letters, calls & prayers!
I can't leave a post about cupcakes (as adorable as they may be) on my blog when I read
about Ronel.
I can't leave a post about cupcakes on when I think you should read
Do you have email? Have you written a letter to the Secretary of State or the US Ambassador to Haiti? Have you called? Information at the bottom of this post.
PLEASE SPEAK. If you don't have time, just choose one contact and tell them to release the Haitian children who were already in the process of being adopted, including Ronel.
The situation in Haiti is far from over. The news coverage is slowing, and the focus is lessening. But what if you lived there? What if people were bringing their broken children to you, day after day, begging you to stop the pain, heal the enormous burn, amputate the crushed foot?
Please be reading Tara's blog. She's one of my new best friends, she just doesn't know it yet! The best thing about Tara's blog is that she is speaking the truth about the horror, but when you finish reading it, you aren't left depressed and helpless. You are left with a feeling of hope: thankful for the opportunity to know and understand some of the situation, and empowered by the ability to pray and give. I hope you will do both.
Raymond Joseph
Haitian Ambassador to US
p 202-332-4090
Kenneth H Merten
US Ambassador to Haiti
Tabarre 41, Blvd 15 Octobre
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
P 509 22 29 8000
F 509 22 29 8028
Hilary Clinton/Dept of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Main Switchboard:202-647-4000