Thankgiving amidst waiting

Life is a never ending period of waiting and preparing for what is to come.  Adoption epitomizes this seemingly endless prepare and wait cycle for adoptive families….  I call our adoption process “The Hurrry Up and Wait Dance.”  Update this, update that, wait for a match, wait for a referral, wait for a court date, wait to travel, wait for visas, wait, wait, wait….  I don’t know how many times I have said, “Surely by next ________ we will have a referral/traveled/our child home/etc.”  And then the following month/holiday season/year/etc. rolls around and we are still waiting.

Over on the Sparrow Fund Blog, Stephanie Smit wrote about her experiences on the topic and learning to trust God’s timing and understand that no part of this process is within your control.

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The other side of the adoption waiting game coin are of course the children waiting, praying, hoping for a family of their own.  A quirky family of their own to sit around the table and eat mashed potatoes with.  Please read Mary Lee’s beautiful narrative in the Huffington Post on her journey as a teen from foster care to adoption.  You can find the piece here.

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Practicing gratitude and recognizing how incredibly blessed we have been this year – even if things don’t look as we had expected.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving: Hors d’oeuvres or Hors don’ts?

I think we all can agree.  Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and whatever else makes up your holiday feast is plenty of food.  The kind of “plenty” that results in days of turkey sandwiches.  In my family, if you don’t leave the thanksgiving table feeling stuffed beyond all reason, then you haven’t done it right.

So, as a host, should you offer drinks before dinner? Yes, absolutely!  But, should you offer appetizers on the day of food abundance?  Here, I am torn.  Do we need to offer more food?  Not in the least!  But, do my dad, husband, brother, uncles, and cousins (yes, mostly the men) meander around the kitchen looking for items to sample or graze on while the turkey is finishing its last few minutes in the oven?  You betcha!

Herein lies my conundrum.  Do I offer hors doevres or don’t I?  On one hand, I don’t want to fill guests up on appetizers before the meal even begins – which I am not saying I have ever done (cough, cough).  But, on the other hand,  I don’t want to make the hungry wait in-case the turkey takes a few more minutes than expected.

My solution this year is to offer a couple of very light – appetizers that are set out on petite serving plates so that folks don’t stuff themselves.   I am avoiding my typical go-tos entirely: No filling baguettes and no heavy cheese.  We will get more than enough starchy, heaviness from the meal itself!  So light, bright, acidic flavors are my friends here!

Secondly, Thanksgiving is the most labor-intensive holiday to host, without a doubt.  If you are a brave enough soul to host the masses, then its about coping with this reality not working around it.  Even if you approach the holiday potluck-style, the hosts still bear the brunt of the load!  So adding an additional questionably necessary task or dish to prep is pretty low on my ladder of priorities. So my solution is easy make-ahead items or items of the open and serve variety!

This year we will be serving this impressive looking, but surprisingly simple Mussel Escobeche from Sunset Magazine (LOVE this one by the way!)and these Sweet and Spicy Candied Pecans that will serve a dual purpose as a salad garnish.  Both can be made several days in advance.  And, my husband will be making the world’s most simple Smoked Salmon Carpaccio with crostini when the guests arrive!  Recipe below.

Smoked Salmon Carpaccio

  • 4oz. Cold Smoked Salmon, lox, or similar (not hot smoked or jerky style
  • 1 hardboiled egg (make ahead and chill)
  • 1-2 tbl. creme fraiche
  • Fresh dill
  • Fresh coarsely ground pepper
  • Crostini (or crackers) for serving

Arrange smoked salmon as one thin layer on serving platter.  Drizzle a little creme fresh over the top.  Discard the whites from the hardboiled egg and crumble the yolk over the top.  Chop and sprinkle some fresh dill and a little ground pepper.  Serve with a few Crostini!

Voilla!  You have a fancy looking but crazy easy appetizer that won’t fill up your guests before the big feast!

 

Adoption from the eyes of Adoptees

November is National Adoption Month. So each week for the month of November, I be posting some adoption related info, links, books, and shouting from the rooftops that our beautiful world sadly has many beautiful children in it without families!

The familiar adoption narrative is almost always told through the eyes of the adoptive parents.  These narratives often focus on the positive and redemptive aspects of adoption experience, as seen through the parents eyes.  We rarely hear the adoption story through a lens of loss, confusion, frustration, heartache, and even anger that are experienced by the adoptee.  Many adoptees learn to “parrot” the redemptive,positive adoption narrative as told by their parents since it seems to be the more accepted perspective and also because this is the narrative their adoptive parents prefer to hear.

Especially for children adopted internationally, their entire wold was virtually flipped upside down when they were adopted so their perspective on the adoption experience is typically one of fear, unfamiliarity, and confusion.  In other words, the opposite of their adoptive family who are overjoyed after waiting and waiting to bring this child home.  These “homecoming” stories however are not where the experience of adoption end for the adoptees.

Psychologists, therapists, and counselors will all tell you that hushing of the adoptee is the wrong way to approach the adoption narrative. Children and adult adoptees alike should be free to voice their experience and their parents should be there to help facilitate and welcome those discussions, even if they are painful for both parent and child.  As Patty Cogen states in her book Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child, “what is mentionable, is manageable.”  Parents and communities need to open our minds to hearing about the adoption experience through another lens.  This is how the healing process can begin for the adoptee, and adoptive parent’s fears that talking about it will make it worse are completely false.  The fact is that having the airwaves open for these discussions will help the child to feel more, not less, connected to their adopted family.  They will feel more understood and accepted by their adoptive family, which is why these discussions are such an integral part of the process!

You don’t have to take my word for it, even though I could talk your ear off on the subject for hours, but I won’t…  BUT if you want to read more check out the book referenced above or this one!

Hearing about the adoption experience through the eyes of adoptees shouldn’t be something new, but unfortunately, theirs is often not the version of the story we hear.  If we as communities, families, & churches are going to throw our support at friends and family who decide to adopt, then we, as a community, should also be listening to the adoptee’s stories and learning what we can do to support them through their healing process and beyond.

Now, I will step down from my soapbox, but please lets hear adoptees voices during National Adoption Month!  #flipthescript on adoption!

See what they have are saying in some of the video clips below…

Or view the extended version of the above video here.

 

World Adoption Day

Thats right, it’s World Adoption Day.  Social media is full of links, stories, and adoption love.  Check out #worldadoptionday on Twitter and Instagram!

What is it?  Check out why the founder of Adopt Together, Hank Fortener, says we need #WorldAdoptionDay

Then check out this excellent post written by Kristen Howerton from Rage Against the Mini Van about starting a family through adoption: Always thought about adopting?  Here’s why you should do it FIRST

The BEST Homemade Granola

Last month, Tim took me on a surprise weekend away to San Juan Island.  He booked an adorable B&B – that I have secretly been eyeing for years – all on his own!!  He got some big time points from me for that!  In case you might make your way out to the San Juan Islands, The Tucker and Harrison House Suites cannot come highly enough recommended from us!  Not only are the rooms adorable but this place is known for their 3 course brunches!!  Dessert with brunch?  Yes, please!

When you first arrive to the table they have dainty little bowls of yogurt and their famous granola for you to whet your appetite for the next 3 courses!!  HA!

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But, their granola is some pretty incredible stuff.  It will convert non-granola eaters into granola lovers – ask Tim.

I made the recipe the hotel posted a few years back on their blog, which is supposedly the same as what is served, but I have to say, it falls a little flat for me.  Maybe their delicious recipe has changed since the Harrison and Tucker Houses joined forces recently?  Maybe I lack the magic touch?  Maybe its my non-island-kissed ingredients?  Nonetheless, I was unwilling to give up.  I have tweaked and tweaked until the end result is something reminiscent of romantic weekend get-a-ways on a beautiful island!

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And, so easy!!  If you can combine nuts and oats in a bowl, drizzle some deliciousness over the top, and stir occasionally while they bake, then you are only a short while away from granola heaven.  Bonus that its easily customizable with your fave mix-ins.

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Oh and did I mention it makes a TON, looks adorable in jars (hello, Christmas idea!), and keeps for up to 6 weeks!!

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The BEST Homemade Granola

  •  7 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup almonds (raw)
  • 1/2 cup pecans (raw)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (raw)
  • 1/2 cup cashews (raw)
  • 1/2 cup flax seed meal
  • 1/2 cup millet
  • 1/2 cup bran
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

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Combine all dry ingredients in an extra large mixing bowl, adding cinnamon and salt last.  In a separate bowl, combine sugar, honey, vanilla, and olive oil.  Pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until evenly mixed in.

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Divide onto two separate baking sheets and bake for approximately 45 minutes.  Stir every 15 minutes.  When lightly toasted, remove from the oven.  Allow to cool on the baking sheets.

Store in airtight containers:)  Best if used within 6 weeks.

National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month. So each week for the month of November, I be posting some adoption related info, links, books, and shouting from the rooftops that our beautiful world sadly has many beautiful children in it without families!

Adoption is all around us whether we see it or not. Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes it’s not.

Based on a recent survey, nearly 40% of American adults have considered adoption. Now if we do the math, 40% of American Adults is roughly 80 million people. I was surprised when I learned that adoption was so widely contemplated.

Today in the U.S., there are more than 423,000 kids in the Foster Care system. Of these 423,000 kids, roughly 115,000 of them are available for adoption. Or in case I’m not being clear, we have roughly 115,000 kids that, by definition, are orphans in the United States. These 115,000 children are 100% legally adoptable. If their birth parents are living, their parents’ parental rights have been terminated, leaving these children without a family to call their own. Every year more children become legally adoptable than are adopted, adding to the 115,000 waiting.

Are you ready for a really hard truth? This one stings a bit. Last year 23,000 kids aged out of the U.S. foster care system with out an adoptive family. 25% of these kids were without a high school diploma and based on statistics, only 6% of these kids will go on to complete a 2 or 4 year college degree. 40% will spend time homeless. 33% will not have enough food at some point within the year. Only 48% of them will be employed in their early 20s, and of those who are employed, they will make lower wages than their similarly aged peers. Additionally, 50% will have some sort of substance abuse problem. The conclusion that I draw from these statistics is that, despite a well-intentioned foster care system, sending an 18 year old out into the world on their own does not result in a high level of success.

I have heard far to many people respond by saying “So what?” to those statistics. To those who respond this way, I have a few questions: How many of you were truly on your own at age 18? Even if you were, how similar did your situation truly look to a foster child who lacked a permanent living situation? What things did your support system do to prepare you for the world? Do you think most children who grew up in the foster care system were equally as well prepared? And, wasn’t it nice, after you turned 18, to have a parent’s home to come to for Thanksgiving or Christmas? How about health insurance? Whose plan were you on when you were 19 or 20? I could go on and on… But the fact is that turning 18 is not the same for a foster child as it is for other kids.

My intention with the paragraphs above is to bring some clarity to the realities of those not legally adopted by the age of 18.  With that said, not every Waiting Child is nearing 18 years of age. The age of Waiting Children is one of the largest and most prevalent myths about adopting from the foster care system. In truth, the average age of a Waiting Child from the U.S. foster care system is 8 years old. Allow me to be the first to say, that adoption in general is not for everyone. And similarly, adopting a teen is also certainly not for everyone, but children of all ages are in need of a family. It’s easier to naively believe that orphans are only in far off lands, but nope, many are right here in our own backyards. In my state alone there are over 1,500 kids waiting for families. How many are there in yours?

Now lets go back to those 80 million Americans who have considered adoption and how they connect with the U.S.’s Waiting Children. If just 1 out of every 500 of those individuals who considered adoption were to adopt, then every Waiting Child could have a permanent family. One out of every 500. That’s just 0.2% of the adults who have considered adoption and out of roughly 200 million total adults in the U.S., this would equate to only 0.08% of them choosing to adopt.

While the number of waiting children in the foster care system is far too large, the tiny percentage of our population that it would take to reduce that number to zero is the even more incredulous statistic in my mind.

My goal for November is simply to honor the many children in the US and elsewhere who are without families by sharing some of the facts and a few of their stories. I hope that this information might cause you to pause. Hopefully you will share something you learn with someone you know! Who knows, maybe you will spark a discussion that strikes a chord with someone out there.