Talking with our adopted children about their first family

Joy for the Journey panelAt the adoption retreat that I attended last month, the organizers put together a fabulous panel of birth parents and adult adoptees who talked about their experiences–  Robyn Afrik, Dr. Fran Edwards, and Darrick Rizzo were just some who spoke. Very often in the adoption ‘triad’, the voice of the adoptive parent is heard loudest, and birth parents and adoptees are sometimes not heard, or are marginalized, so it was really meaningful and rich to hear from others about their experiences with adoption.

There was a wide range of experiences among the adoptees. It was moving to hear about the hard and the good, and about the variety of relationships they experienced. Some adoptees shared stories about reunion with their first family. Others talked about rich relationships with adoptive siblings, or parents.  Some relationships with both first family and adoptive family were excellent and others were less satisfying. But I got the impression that those who were able to make contact with first family were glad to get some questions answered and know at least something about the people from which they came.  Even if someone is very happy with his or her adoptive family, it’s a really big, hard thing to not know anything about your first family.

Also hugely interesting to me were the words of the birth parents. There was so much longing in their voices as they described the agonizing decisions that led to not being able to parent their children, and also so much pride as they talked about their children now.  It seemed so obvious that they’re still parents in their hearts, even though they made the hard choice not to parent. One birth dad, Darrick Rizzo, signed papers as a teen because he was promised an open adoption including contact with his son, only to have the adoptive family disappear and not allow any contact.

I know that it can feel intimidating to adoptive families sometimes– the idea of having open relationship and contact with birth family, and in other cases it isn’t even an option.  But I came away from that discussion convinced that it was deeply appreciated both by the adoptees and the birth parents who were able to be in reunion.  I’ve read that it can be a key to emotional wholeness for many adoptees. I think we as adoptive parents would be wise to understand that, and to foster connection whenever it is safe and possible, even if it can sometimes feel scary to us.

Those brave story-tellers also left me remembering how important it is for us as adoptive parents to be honoring in our words about our children’s birth family.  I know there are birth parents out there whose choices are less than stellar.  Some children even need to be removed from family due to neglect or abuse.  Especially in situations like that it might be tempting to lay blame, or to be less than honoring in our descriptions and words. Our momma-lion instincts rise up and feel angry on behalf of our precious ones, and all that they endured before they came to us.

But still we need to remember this:  our children came from their first family. Their very DNA is entwined. If we disparage their first family, we’re also disparaging our children, whether we intend it or not. And our children will feel it. For the sake of our children, it’s up to us to find ways to honor the very real relationship that already exists between our children and their first family.

Denying it doesn’t make it go away.

Talking about it doesn’t make us less their parents.

It just shows our children that we’re brave enough and strong enough to be trusted with their feelings and wonderings and thoughts. Not all kids will choose to talk to us about those feelings.  In fact, some of the adoptees that I spoke with said that many adoptees feel disloyal even broaching the subject.  But that truth makes it even more important for us to be the instigators (at least sometimes) of such conversations– proving to our children that it’s okay to wonder, and to have questions, and longings for the loved ones in their mysterious past.

Maybe even to be brave enough to take steps to help our kids unshroud some of that mystery.

~~~~

Our son’s meeting with his first family

Friends and Ferguson

yes, they're sisters

A few weekends ago I went to Pennsylvania to speak at the Joy for the Journey retreat for adoptive mommas.  Some of the most memorable and sweetest time on the trip turned out to be visiting with a new friend named Adrienne who drove me to and from the airport, a drive of about two hours each way.  As embarrassed as I am to admit it, this was probably the third time in my entire life that I’ve visited at length and talked in depth with an adult African American woman.

As a momma of Black kids, it hasn’t been anything I consciously chose.  It’s just how it happened. We live in a predominantly white area.  I am surrounded by white friends.  It feels awkward to try to hunt down African American women in our area with whom to form friendships that in the beginning might be based just on color.  And yet I do long for more diversity in my life, and wish that my past efforts to connect hadn’t been so ineffective.

I saw such humor and beauty and strength in the women that surrounded me that weekend in Pennsylvania.  I long for more connection with adults who look like my own children.  And if I long for it, I can only imagine my children must wish for it even more deeply. I came away from the weekend with a deep conviction that I must do better at broadening my world and my friendships. Be braver. Be bolder. Step out of my little comfy white box.

I actually wish that for all of us– that we all could live more integrated lives- the type of life where we’re just as likely to be friends with someone who doesn’t ‘match’ us in skin tone as one who does.   I think we all would be blessed to know people of every color who we honor and value, whose opinions we respect, and whose hearts we know and trust.

That’s actually one of the cool things that adoption has done for our church family.  In a Sunday school of 40+ children–ours is a tiny church–  there are 8 African American kids, along with a couple Korean Americans. I really hope that the early friendships all these children are enjoying will make them less likely to later make snap judgments about the people around them on the basis of skin tone.  I want them all to grow up to be the type of people who know and love people for who they are, and who will base merit on character and worth in Christ, not color.

I really appreciated listening to this 30-minute podcast In Wake of Ferguson:  Brant and Sherri talking about racial tension.  In the podcast they spoke frankly about reality of racism and racial profiling, and our place as Christians living in this imperfect world. Sherri acknowledged the frustration that can come from hard experiences but says that any anger and hostility is best placed in God’s hands.  It’s well worth a listen.  I also really appreciated these thoughts from Journey Mama.

Have a blessed Monday!

How to Fund Your Adoption

For those of you interested in adoption but wondering how on earth you’d ever afford it –and I KNOW there are lots of you out there!  –here’s a great little book just released by my friend Lauren Casper.  Check it out: How to Fund Your Adoption: Dispelling the Myth That You Can’t Afford to Adopt.

Books, frugality, birthdays, and an awesome pencil sharpener (do these topics actually go together?)

My birthday girl, a few years ago...time flies!Life has been nutty around here.  Wednesday alone I had three different interviews for Forever Mom.  By the end of the day both of my phones had dead batteries and I felt certain I had lost all ability to construct a complete sentence.  Whew!  What’s really cool is that people are interested in Forever Mom–here’s a review on adoption.com. (By the way, if you go read it, will you also share it on facebook so more people can see it?  Thank you so much!)  I am so humbled and so grateful that folks are appreciating the message of the book.  And also relieved.  Because, honestly, my heart went right out there in every page. I’ve never felt so trembly-kneed when sending something out there.  So thanks for all your support.

I don’t have many frugal thoughts this week– it was kind of a fish sticks and corn dogs and cereal kind of week around here with all busyness. I did bookmark this great-looking blog post sharing 52 Meatless Meals so that I can intersperse all the rich holiday food with some frugal and good-tasting meatless dinners. I also earned a free turkey at Winco.  (They have a promo where if you spend  $100, you get a free turkey– yeehaw!)  The man in line behind me looked in my heaping cart and told me I should have gone through the line twice and gotten two turkeys.  He was right.  I actually ended up spending $300 on groceries yesterday– apparently I’ve skipped shopping lately too, because we were out of so many things.  So I could have gotten THREE free turkeys, but ah well. Now we are stocked up and I hope that I remembered most of what I’ll need for the next couple weeks.  Potatoes were on a screaming good sale 99 cents for 10 pounds– so we currently have about 4o pounds in the pantry, and I am signed up to bring mashed potatoes to every Thanksgiving gathering we’re attending.  (That reminds me– I still need to buy sour cream.  Because in my opinion, mashed potatoes reach greatness through butter and sour cream.  And maybe garlic.  But I’m aware that not everyone agrees about the garlic.)

 

For those of you who asked, I am in the process of getting an email subscribe feature added to my blog.  I should have done it a long, long time ago but somehow never got around to it.  I will let you know when it is up and running, since I know a lot of people prefer to read blogs in email form.  Thanks to those of you who emailed me lately and encouraged me to get it together.  :)

 

Finally, I have meaning for awhile to tell you about a REALLY neat pencil sharpener. Let me tell you, as a homeschooling mom of many, I have bought SO many pencil sharpeners over the years– from the old fashioned manual kind that you mount on the wall to the really nice electric kind.  I don’t know if it is just a function of having a lot of kids, but every sharpener I’ve ever owned til now has always ended up disappointing me. So when I heard about this one from Classroom Friendly Supplies, I was all attention.  This sharpener is different in that it holds the pencil for you, which I think makes it much more likely that the pencil will enter the machine straight and be sharpened properly. (Watch the video to see what I mean– it’s a little different.)  I also need to disclose that I was given a sharpener for free in exchange for a review. The bottom line is we’ve been using this sharpener for several months, and we really like it a lot.  It makes pencils SO sharp! The only thing I don’t love is that the clamp that is supposed to hook it to a counter is a little chintzy– we can’t make it stay. But since the sharpener holds the pencil for you, it’s not a big deal to just hold the sharpener steady with one hand while turning the handle with the other.  I am working on getting a freebie to give away here on my blog, but I don’t have it yet. I will keep you posted.

Anyway, we are off to homeschool craft day and then we are celebrating my BABY’s tenth birthday– oh be still my heart!! There she is above several years ago with a PENCIL in her hand, which is my very best attempt at making this post actually hang together.  Pencils.  Birthday girl.  Books. You get it?  OK,  that’s all I have for you today. But as usual, I’d love to hear about your frugal successes for the week! So comment away!

Chat with me?

Remind them how precious they are

Hey friends, THIS afternoon on FaithGateway LIVE at 2pm EST/ 11am PST I’m chatting about my new book Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting! Whether you’ve adopted, are considering it, want to support loved ones, or just want to hear more about our adoption journey, come join the conversation!
Here’s the link: http://www.faithgateway.com/author-chat-with-mary-ostyn/  Hope you can join us.

releasing

Tattoos

 

If you ask my teens how I am at releasing, they’d be quick to tell you it’s not my forte.  The youngest three teens in the house are 16, and still I remind them to wear jackets in 35 degree weather, eat protein every meal,  turn off the xbox at 10:30 and take Emergen-C when they have colds. I make them finish school before facebook, ‘force’ them to hang out in the living room with us for an hour during story time in the evening, and don’t allow phone use after 10PM.

SO there’s that.  But here’s some of what I have released. They’ve been allowed to have jobs and cars two years sooner than any of our others, which means some of them missed most of our family camping trips this summer. They are free to take a class or two at the local community college each semester during high school. They drink coffee quite routinely.  And awhile back I finally relented and let them read Harry Potter and the Hunger Games.

I am a person who appreciates nice-looking stylish clothing, but these days I bite my tongue while kids wear huge ratty sweatshirts and tired batman t-shirts over and over and over, when in closets reside heaps of nice stylish clothes. I let them wear jeans to church (unheard of during the growing-up years of our now-grown kids).  Some of them wear shorts all year unless it’s snowing.  At least one kid goes around long-haired most of the year, and on this particular day four of my kids are walking around with ball-point pen’ tattoos’ on their arms.

And yet, when a new friend the other day asked me if my teens were ‘running amok’, I quickly and laughingly said no.  Overall, they’re good kids.

I’ve released my own wishes in other harder areas tho.  I sometimes (at least temporarily) allow disrespect from teens to a degree that was unheard of from our now-adult kids.  It pains me, but with this particular batch of teens, the needs are different, and the responses to correction are vastly different.  I’ve found that with them correction is much more effective when gently stated awhile after the fact, instead of rushing in to offer a consequence when we’re both upset.  Come to think of it, that’d probably have worked better with my big kids too, but they somehow responded okay to the younger-momma ham-handed me, the girl I can still sometimes be.

I’m like any mom, playing it by ear– giving this tremendously hard job my very best, most prayer-filled, most on-my-knees guess.  But I am realizing more and more that even within the limits of God-honoring parenting, there is tremendous latitude.  There’s not just one proscribed, perfect way to respond.  God is the one who made all my kids different, with different needs.  And in this particular phase of life, it seems that God is teaching me that sometimes the most effective path is to release some of my ideas about what is right for our family, and to value my people more highly than I do my own longings and desires.

Oh, this growing-up is painful stuff.  Maybe by the time my kids are all grown up, I will be too.

Created for Care winner

Freebies if you order Forever Mom by Nov 4th

Happy Monday! How I wish I could send all 280 of you to an awesome Created for Care conference. I hope some of you find a way to get there soon. But rafflecopter has decreed that the winner is Christy Largent.  Congrats, Christy!

We are all learning and growing

One of the many freebies you get when you order FOREVER MOM by November 4th

You have ONE more day to get the freebies when you order Forever Mom.  Click on over to watch a video about the book, or to read what folks in the adoption community have to say about the book. To get those freebies, just send proof of purchase (ie- receipt, order confirmation, etc) to ForeverMomBook@gmail.com, and the free package will be emailed to you.  And once you’ve read the book, by all means, please add your own thoughts about Forever Mom on amazon.  I’d love to hear from you, and I know that others considering the book would appreciate additional feedback as well.

And thanks to everyone who shared about the book on your facebook and/or requested it at your local library.  I so appreciate all your support as this little ‘baby’ of mine ventures out into the world.

 

FOREVER MOM giveaway!


Just wanted you all to know that Lisa Qualls of One Thankful Mom is doing a giveaway of Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting over on her blog this week. She’s also sharing her impressions of the book, so if you’d like a free copy, go sign up for the giveaway and read what Lisa has to say about it. And remember that if you buy a copy of FOREVER MOM anytime between now and November 4th,  and want the freebies described below, just send proof of purchase (ie- receipt, order confirmation, etc) to ForeverMomBook@gmail.com, and the package below will be emailed to you.
preorder-banner

 

Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting (and free wall art)

preorder-banner

My new book!

I wanted to tell those of you who are interested a little about my latest book Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting.  It is coming out on October 28th, and I must confess to a crazy mix of excitement and tremulous nerves about this book.  My greatest longing is that it will encourage and equip moms along this adoptive parenting journey.

This book is very vulnerable, a true window into my heart as an adoptive mom.  There’s been so much joy– adoption is an incredible gift– but also much struggle, much lurking fear that I wasn’t doing this hard job well enough. But praise God, He’s been strengthening and growing me all the way. Even as I wrote about our journey, God was gifting me with more growth, more compassion for my precious ones, and a greater ability to more clearly see my own personal ‘stuck’ points. I’ve come to a much better place as a mom, better at releasing my desire to control outcomes and speed healing and growth, instead leaning on God’s providence in my kids’ lives as well as my own. But wow, it has been a long hard path. I hope that sharing my struggle will help other moms know they’re not alone, and that there is a way through difficult waters.

If adoption is a topic that interests you or you’d like to read more of our story, I hope you might consider pre-ordering Forever Mom?  If you know me, you know I feel really funny about doing the pushy sales-person thing. But in the publishing world, all pre-release sales on amazon are counted as first-day sales of a book. It really helps a book gain more attention (and more orders in stores and from libraries) if those first-day sales are strong.  I’d love for this book to be widely available to prepare moms before adoption and to come alongside mommas who may be struggling, letting them know they’re not alone.

And here’s some really fun news– everyone who buys Forever Mom before November 4th gets some neat freebies!

  • Freebie#1– A little e-book I’ve written called ’50 Things Adoptive Parents Should Know’
  • Freebie #2- 8 custom Forever Mom downloadable prints for framing  (see samples below)
  • Freebie#3- all 8 of those same custom prints as phone lock screens/screensavers!

To get those freebies, just send proof of purchase (ie- receipt, order confirmation, etc) to ForeverMomBook@gmail.com, and the free package will be emailed to you.

Here are some additional ways to support this book:

  • Mention FOREVER MOM on facebook or your blog
  • Pin this post on Pinterest, mentioning the freebie
  • Request FOREVER MOM from your local library
  • Give it as a gift to adoptive families that you know

Feel free also to share the video and graphics below, either on your blog, pinterest, or on facebook.  Thanks so much for your support!!

Remind them how precious they are

 

 

FM_Lock_growing

 

Back home again

OH my goodness. I am so very out of it, people.  I feel like I haven’t been here on the blog forever.  I have NO frugal things to tell you about, no recipes to share, no wise thoughts.  So I think I’ll just catch you up on what’s been keeping me so darned busy.

I mentioned that last weekend I went to a retreat in the Seattle area, a lovely precious time. It was so wonderful, in fact, that I felt intimidated, expectation-wise, about the retreat I’ve been planning for some other adoptive moms in McCall. The Seattle retreat was very low key.  No real agenda except fellowship, conversation, and a few times of Bible study.  It was just wonderful, so relaxing.

I had been planning my retreat in McCall to be more structured, since I’d been planning to share some DVD’s from the Created for Care conference that I attended in Atlanta last spring.  And, frankly, there was this tiny fear that I’d get all these lovely people gathered together, and then have no idea what to do with them. That they’d stand around bored, making stilted, polite conversation, the kind that happens in a room full of strangers.  Which they mostly were, before this weekend. So my subconscious thought was to keep them busy.

When I came back from the awesome retreat in Seattle, I decided McCall needed more empty space, more time just to BE.  I ended up sharing just three DVD’s.  The rest of the time was free for visiting and talking.  And, praise the Lord, my worrying about them not enjoying the time was totally unfounded.  The talking started instantly and never let up the whole weekend. Very little sleep was had, but, oh, the conversations we had. It was just a constant roar all over the house.  SO rich.  So good.

I felt almost apologetic interrupting those conversations to gather everyone together for the DVD’s.  But it turned out that those were appreciated as well; talking together on the last day many moms mentioned good tidbits they’d gleaned from the DVD presentations.  I really should not have worried.  They were a really, really neat group of ladies.  And God was obviously right there in the midst of us, personally meeting our needs in such encouraging ways.   I am so thankful to have gotten to know each of these ladies better.   And if you can believe it, this group of 21 ladies has a combined total of 102 children.  Neat, huh?

These mommas represent a combined total of 102 children!

As you can see in the photo, there were also three infants in attendance, who did a great job tolerating our noise and managed to sleep and nap OK in the midst of it all.  The house where we stayed turned out to be really neat too. Here’s a link if you’re interested– I’d highly recommend it for anyone planning a retreat for up to 30 or so people.

My wonderful husband John came along, and did a TON of work in the kitchen so that I could really just sit and visit and enjoy the retreat myself as well.  Due to the late nights, I suspect that nobody went home very well rested.  But we had a really great time getting to know each other.  Such a blessing.

I hope to get back to a more regular blogging schedule this week.  I have some Stitch Fix clothes to tell you about, and a recipe to share.  I also really need to get back to my old frugal ways.  Being crazy-busy is just not very conducive to thoughtful spending, ya know?  Hope you had a good weekend and are doing well!