Adoption Adventures

Follow Cory and Rebecca on their quest to adopt!

Just the facts, Ma’am

On the list of things that cheese me off, people and resources purporting to espouse “facts” that are, at best, poorly researched and, at worst, downright lies, rank right up at the top. When those resources are targeted toward people who are especially vulnerable and looking for reliable information to make life-changing decisions, it’s even worse. This is one of the reasons that so-called “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” (CPCs) are so nefarious.

CPCs have physical locations throughout the US, and they also run websites. The pickle is, those websites are often affiliated with otherwise legitimate adoption websites. This can end up creating all sorts of confusion. It lends credibility to CPCs to be associated with trusted organizations, and that connection can lead potemalarkeyntial birthmothers to take CPC lies as truth. It helps perpetuate the all-too-common myth that folks who support adoption must be anti-choice. (The funny part there is that “choice” is the important part of “pro-choice.” That means that someone who is pro-choice supports a woman’s right to make the choice she feels is best for herself and her family–and for some women that choice is adoption.) Not to mention, it makes it very difficult for potential adoptive parents to find adoption agencies with pro-choice sensibilities.

There’s a particular website that claims to be the “#1 Registry of Adoptive Parent Profiles” that advertises widely. They seem to do a good job of getting the word out about the families who pay them a decent bit of money to be marketed to potential birthmothers. They have a very small amount of profiles of families living in our state, so if we were to pay them to promote us, I think that it would greatly increase the number of people who see our adoption page. In addition to the profiles, they have information pages on a variety of topics ranging from prenatal care to talking with friends and family about adoption. Unfortunately, this includes a page about abortion.

I’m not going to link to the site, but here’s one of the sections from the page on abortion. This list of “risks” is similar to those found in most CPC literature:

Abortion Risks:
As with any procedure, there are risks involved in getting an abortion. As mentioned earlier, in order to make an informed decision, you must understand what you’re agreeing to. When it comes to the risks of abortion, there are both physical and psychological risks to consider. Here is just a small sampling:

  • Death
  • Infection and Inflammation
  • Lacerations and Perforations
  • Higher Risk of Breast, Cervical, and Ovarian Cancer
  • Complications in Later Pregnancies: Pre-Term Labor and Ectopic Pregnancy
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Post-Abortion Syndrome
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Feelings of Loss, Guilt, Shame, and Depression

They start off strong, with “Death” being at the very top of the list of abortion risks. (Suffice it to say, there are no footnotes on their site.) In truth, a woman in the United States is far more likely to die from complications in childbirth than from a legal abortion. This article on the NIH website from 2012 shows that “The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion.” This doesn’t show that childbirth is exceptionally dangerous in our country; just that legal abortion is very safe as far as medical procedures go.

An increased risk of breast and other cancers is also a common myth that anti-abortion organizations and individuals tout. In the most extensive study ever on this theoretical link, the medical records of 1.5 million women in Denmark were researched. There was no connection found between induced abortion and a higher risk of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society cites this study, and several others, on its website before concluding that “the scientific evidence does not support the notion that abortion of any kind raises the risk of breast cancer or any other type of cancer.”

The assertion about PTSD, depression, and negative mental health impacts similarly doesn’t survive scrutiny. The American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion released a report in 2008 that took into account all published literature on the subject since 1989. They found several things. One is that the majority of research done on mental health and abortion was (and most likely still is) methodologically flawed. However, “The best scientific evidence published indicates that among adult women who have an unplanned pregnancy the relative risk of mental health problems is no greater if they have a single elective first-trimester abortion than if they deliver that pregnancy.” Additionally, “the prevalence of mental health problems observed among women in the United States who had a single, legal, first-trimester abortion for non- therapeutic reasons was consistent with normative rates of comparable mental health problems in the general population of women in the United States.” (Eighty-nine percent of abortions occur in the first trimester.) This study and others noted that the stigma that we as a society place on abortion, and the lack of support for women who choose abortion, can lead to negative post-abortion feelings.

awesome_scienceI won’t go through all of the points, but are you noticing a pattern here? The Guttmacher Institute has a nice fact sheet from February 2014 with even more science-based information on abortion in the United States.

Needless to say, we will not be using this company’s services. We believe that big, life decisions (and even tiny, daily decisions) are best made when a person has all of the facts and is able to weigh her or his options. However much working with a company like this one may increase our chances of adopting, it’s not worth it if they’re lying to potential birthmothers in order to coerce them into a continuing a pregnancy. We want to be matched with a birthmom who thinks adoption is fantastic and right for her, based on nothing more than her own feelings and the truth.

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Well, how did I get here?

This post has nothing to do with adoption, which is fine because a good number of people aren’t looking for adoption when they wind up on this site. Here are just a few of the search terms that have led people to our blog:

  • Describing people and things (This is the #1 most searched)
  • Money fun
  • Weird science
  • 1952 heavy equipment pictures
  • Children mistreating cats
  • Your family isn’t really your type
  • 1952 sports for woman
  • Interesting way of serving mash potatoes
  • How is one hundred and eighty degrees in shortened form
  • Awesome tortoise

In an effort to keep the odd keywords coming, here’s a triumphant water bear dressed as an astronaut:


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We’re live! But what does that mean?

Our adoption website with our agency is finally up and viewable!

It’s been a long road to get here, and we’ve still got miles to go. Since we’ve gotten lots of questions about where we are in the adoption process, here’s a handy timeline to give folks an idea of where we’ve been and what’s likely to be ahead of us.* (Click the timeline to enlarge it.)


In short, we’re at the point now where potential birth parents (and anyone else) can read about us on our website. They can send us messages through the site, call us on our 800 number, or specifically talk about us when communicating with the adoption agency.

Coinciding with the website launch is our agency’s ability to send information about us out to potential birth families. If a potential birthmother calls the agency and says she’s seeking placement for her future child with a certain type of family, our agency can send her a print copy of our brochure (aka our Dear Birthmother Letter) if we fit the bill. For example, if she’s looking for a same-sex couple living in Oregon who is fluent in French, the agency would not send her our brochure. But if she’s seeking a heterosexual couple in the South, our brochure would go with those of other couples into a packet mailed out to her.

The average wait time for families like ours with our agency is around 15 months. However, it’s up to the potential birth parent to choose a family**, so we could get a call tomorrow, or we may not hear from anyone for years.

For now, we’re closer than we’ve ever been–even if we have no idea what that means!

*If you’re interested in pursuing domestic infant adoption, yourself, don’t be concerned about our multi-year timeline. You could jump right in at our March 2013 point and be just fine.

**Potential birthmothers and potential adoptive families have to both agree in order for the adoption to occur. So while she will be the one choosing the family for her child, the family can decline if they don’t believe it’s a good fit. Relationships count for a lot in open adoption, so it’s important for everyone to be on the same page.

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Bring it on, Potential Birthmoms!


It’s a mystery!

As we’re inching ever-closer to going “live” on our adoption agency’s website (after updating our home study, background checks, and taking some other steps that sound small but actually take a while), I’ve begun thinking more about this whole adoption thing actually becoming a reality. As with most parents-to-be, my emotions range from excited to somewhat freaked out. The complete uncertainty in adoption timing definitely feeds the latter feeling. Although the average wait time for couples like us is around 15 months, technically a woman could pull up our website on her phone while she’s in labor and we could have a baby faster than we could put together a crib! And what if she’s having triplets?!? Or we could go for years without anyone expressing interest in us at all. Who knows? One thing I am definitely getting excited about is the opportunity to talk with potential birthmothers.

A couple of years ago, I was really worried about having conversations with potential birthmothers. Cory and I were still trying to adopt through foster care and in a moment of frustration with the process, I called up a friend who works at the agency we’re with now to talk through private adoption options. I confessed that I thought I’d be horrible at “marketing” us to potential birthmothers because I’m such a prochoice resource referral nerd.

Options are awesome!

Options are awesome!

What if every woman I talked with ended up going with another option because rather than sticking with talking points about what great parents Cory and I would be, I would be helping the woman brainstorm local resources that could help her parent if that’s her preference? Or referring her to a clinic if it turns out that what she truly wants is not to be pregnant at all? After I dumped all of that on my friend, she said something to the effect of, “Actually, that’s exactly what would make you really good at this. You’re not just trying to get a baby–you care about women and want them to be confident that they’ve made the best possible decisions.” She assured me that the agency does options counseling with everyone who contacts them, as well.

I now see talking with potential birthmothers as getting the chance to do some of my favorite things. I love helping people make solid decisions and life plans that make them feel good about themselves. I love helping people realize that they have options and opportunities. And I’m especially sensitive to the pressures and expectations that our society puts on women who are dealing with unplanned pregnancies. It will be fun to share the hopes we have for our future children and maybe we’ll even find enough common ground that it will lead to a solid adoption down the road!

Those calls are still a little while off, though. We’ll put up a post when we’re on the agency’s site and open for business. At that point, we can truly say:

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Adoptees seeking adoption. A very small club?


We have been reading (and re-reading, in some cases) books recommended by our adoption agency to prepare us for adoption in general, and specifically open adoption. I think our agency does really well with their training and support, and obviously an information/resource hound like myself is impressed by a required reading list! Currently, I’m re-reading Children of Open Adoption and Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother. (The latter boasts a recommendation from Jamie Lee Curtis on the cover, so that has to win some bonus points, right?)

Not surprisingly, neither book includes perspectives of adult adoptees from closed adoptions who are now seeking to adopt in a country where open adoption is the norm for private, infant adoption. That scenario wording is too cumbersome even for a proper acronym! Coming from this perspective, I find some of what is in these books (and similar blogs, articles, etc.) to be unrelatable at best, and challenging-to-a-tad-enraging at worst.

Grieve, dammit!

A close approximation of our “fantasy child”: pale-to-transparent skin, prone to stress vomiting, allergic to a wide variety of things. Just add darker hair and a pair of glasses.

In order to be effective adoptive parents and to accept adoption realities and issues, adoptive parents must first come to terms with infertility. … Infertility is a loss–it is  loss of the imaginary or fantasy child (the child the couple imagines would have been born to them). -Children of Open Adoption

Adoption involves saying good-bye to dreams, hopes, and real people. One woman says good-bye to her baby. Another woman says good-bye to her dream of giving birth. -Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother

When I read this one recent evening, I turned to Cory and let him know that we’ll need to make time to grieve our “fantasy child” that we cannot have due to our supposed infertility. He agreed to pencil that in. (In all fairness, we did once make a list of attributes that a biological child of ours would likely have, and the result was a slightly modified Wendell Borton. We are not grieving his loss.)

Lots of people come to adoption because of infertility challenges or medical issues that aren’t compatible with healthy pregnancies. That’s what led my own parents to adoption–and I’m selfishly glad that it did! People who find themselves in this situation should certainly be given the time and support to grieve in whatever they see fit. But infertility is not the only reason people choose adoption. The blanket assumption that only a person or couple physically incapable of bearing a biological child would adopt isn’t flattering to anyone. It’s also a false assumption in many cases.

For our part, we think adoption is pretty swell. Neither of us feel as if we need to pass our DNA along in order to expand our family, and we have no concerns about loving an adopted child any differently than we would a biological one. As an adoptee, I look forward to being able to share the adoption experience with our own child one day. We’re also both very pro-choice and appreciate the opportunity to support a woman in the adoption plan that she believes is best for her and her family. Adoption has always been our Plan A, and there are probably more people out there in our situation than you may think.

Funny–I don’t feel damaged

The adopted individual lives with a multitude of questions. … The secrecy inherent in traditional adoption practice provides no answers to these questions. What results is endless wondering with no available answers. Many adopted children become troubled (yes, some even become emotionally disturbed) as they try to cope with these unknowns.  -Children of Open Adoption

There are lots of advantages to open adoption. The child’s birth family needn’t be left wondering if they made a good decision, the adoptive family can be appraised of their child’s biological family’s medical updates in a timely fashion, the child can have questions answered directly by their birth parents, and so on. I’m partial to discussion about open adoption that focuses on the many positive aspects, rather than those that denigrate closed adoption. Oftentimes, the latter is achieved through attempting to show how emotionally damaged the children of closed adoption are.

Here’s the thing: I’m no more emotionally disturbed than the next person. (You’ll just have to trust me on that one.) I know a good number of other folks who were adopted as infants through closed adoption and the times adoption-related problems seem to arise are when adoptive parents aren’t honest with their children. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that if you wait until her 18th birthday to tell a child that she was adopted, she may develop some trust issues. Likewise, if a white couple raises an Asian child and refuses to talk with him about race or insists that he is also white, he may develop identity issues. I just don’t buy that a child raised in a loving home that openly talks about adoption in a positive light is destined to be emotionally scarred simply because they don’t have all the answers about their biological family–in large part because of my and my adopted friends’ experiences.

Similarly, not all birthmothers lead a life of emotional instability post-adoption. The stigma they endure from a society happy to both put birthmothers on a pedestal and somehow simultaneously denigrate them for “giving their babies away” seems unfathomable to me. Again, it seems to come down to honesty about their lived experiences and the ability to be open among family and friends that would make the difference between a positive and negative adoption experience. I haven’t checked out their full site, but the vlogs by this group of birthmoms about “redefining the stereotype” are a step in the right direction on this front. It’s awesome to see empowered birthmothers who are encouraging other women in their struggles, and showing them that despite popular assumptions, they can go on to live full lives after an adoption.

It can be challenging to strike a balance between supporting open adoption and trying to combat misinformation about adoptees of closed adoption–especially when we sought out and are signed on with an open adoption agency.  But I’m confident that if we were with a closed adoption agency, I’d be working just as hard to combat the stereotypes about children of open adoption or birthmothers there.




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Spooked by “Open Adoption”?

People can get pretty freaked out about the concept of open adoption. Ask around and you may be surprised at what you hear. Some are concerned that a child can’t understand who their “real” parents are if they have any contact with their birth parents. Others believe that birth parents are just waiting in the wings to swoop in and take a child back. And then there are those who still believe that all adopted kids are destined to become troubled adults. I’m not going to spend time here debunking these common myths, because others already have. Additionally, as an adoptee, I know these concerns are unfounded. Although I was born at a time when closed adoption was common, I know from having been raised aware that I’m adopted ensured that I was never confused about who my family is. It’s not a stretch to understand that adoptees who have contact with their birth families aren’t confused about who Mom and Dad are.

OpenSignMy own concerns about open adoption have dealt more with the possible problems of knowing a would-be birth mother or birth parents before a baby is born and before their final decisions are made. As I’ve said previously, it seems like things could get mighty problematic when a couple with the resources to adopt an infant and whom an official agency has deemed to be “fit parents” is brought into a situation where an often young woman with less access to resources is trying to make a life-altering decision about an unplanned pregnancy. Years of advocating for women’s reproductive rights have taught me: a woman’s personal choices about her pregnancy are up to her and her medical provider. As soon as you start factoring other people into that equation, you could be asking for trouble in the form of coercion. I was worried that open adoption could go against my personal beliefs, as well as put Cory and I in a difficult position if the birth mother should change her mind after giving birth. I remember hearing a colleague years ago talk about an adoption that didn’t work out for her and her husband, and she spoke so negatively about the mother for changing her mind. I understood the woman’s pain (that situation would be amazingly difficult for anyone to go through), but her anger at a woman for making the completely valid choice to parent the child she birthed… It was stomach-turning. Just as I was afraid of coercing a woman into an adoption she didn’t 100% want, I was afraid of becoming that woman.

All of this is why it pays to choose a good adoption agency that shares your values! Through working with ours, I’ve found that they do comprehensive options counseling with every potential birth mother who calls them. Birth mothers and families typically aren’t matched until her sixth month of pregnancy–beyond a time when she would be considering abortion. The birth mother chooses the adoptive family for her child and the adoption plan is a joint effort between the two parties. If a birth mother (or adoptive parent) feels like the relationship isn’t working out, she can “unmatch” from them at any time.

Learning more about the process has shown me that it actually dovetails perfectly with my belief system. If a birth mother chooses us, we’ll be helping her fulfill her own plan for her pregnancy and her child’s adoption. What’s scary about that?


GAL-ling Around

Who doesn’t love a terrible pun? Many people, it turns out. That’s why I’m having to restrain myself from making GAL puns these days.GALBlog

GAL stands for Guardian ad Litem, which is what our state calls volunteers who are trained and appointed by judges to be advocates for children who were abused or neglected, and are now in foster care. In some states, Guardians ad Litem are called CASAs, or Court Appointed Special Advocates. You can read all about what GAL and CASA volunteers do on the national CASA website.

As the regular readers of this blog know, our attempts at foster care adoption opened our eyes to the many challenges that children in care face and the need for more advocates of all types both inside and outside of the foster care system.  A representative from the GAL office came in to talk with our MAPP class last year and I remember thinking to myself, “These GAL folks are totally the badasses of foster care.” In a system where so much emphasis is put on the rights of biological family and there’s such a large amount of red tape to get through to make change happen, the GAL is able to advocate solely for the child in care. And, as a volunteer, a GAL isn’t beholden to the same people as a social worker or foster parent. The goal of every GAL is permanence for “their” child, whether that be reunification with the child’s birth family or adoption outside of the child’s biological family. Studies have shown that children with GAL/CASA advocates are substantially less likely to be in long-term foster care, they have a higher chance at adoption, and they get more support services while in foster care.

Seeing as a large part of our interest in adopting a child from foster care was to give a child a safe, loving, and permanent home, becoming a GAL was right up my alley! So I signed up, was interviewed, completed the training offered through our local GAL office (it’s a challenging course, but doable), and was sworn in last week, and got my first cases yesterday. If the stats on the CASA website ring true for me, I’ll be able to help get far more children in permanent homes as a GAL than if we had simply adopted. As with so many things, it’s all about figuring out where you can do the most good, then getting in and doing it!

Quick update: I got the opportunity to talk with a local reporter about being a Guardian ad Litem in hopes of bringing more volunteers to the program.

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Orienting Ourselves

We attended an orientation with our new adoption agency several weeks ago, and our experience there versus those through the foster care program couldn’t have been more different. Even though domestic infant adoption and foster care adoption are similar legally, they’re certainly not in other ways. First off, the other orientation attendees were closer to our age than those in our foster care class. They typically didn’t have children already and seemed much newer to the idea than folks we’ve met in the past. I think the most striking difference was in how our potential for adopting was presented. Throughout our foster adoption journey, it seemed like when adoption (rather than just temporary foster care) was spoken about at all, it was phrased as something that may happen despite all of the enormous challenges of the foster care system. During the recent orientation, the agency representative presented adoption as something that will happen–although it may take a while.

One of the more unsettling "online dating" photos I could find online

One of the more unsettling “online dating” photos I could find online

The reasons for the differences are pretty clear. One is a private agency in the business of marketing would-be parents to would-be birthmothers and providing services to make sure those connections go smoothly. The other is a government agency with the overarching goal of reuniting children with their birth families, and–in the rare circumstances that reunification isn’t possible–they try to find suitable adoptive homes for kids. The foster care system has so many regulations and so little staff and funding that it can’t afford to be nimble or make the kinds of changes that smaller, private agencies can in order to succeed. I talked with someone working within the system recently who wondered why the type of technology used in online dating can’t also be used to match up kids in foster care who are available for adoption with suitable families. Maybe there’s potential for a renegade, family-creating


Here We Go Again

For the third time in as many years, we’re filling out our paperwork for an adoption agency. This time it’s different, though. After trying to adopt from foster care for almost two years, we’re switching gears and signing on with an agency that specializes in infant adoption. After talking with countless social workers, reading hundreds of profiles of children in foster care, and meeting with various people connected to foster care, we’ve come to the realization that we don’t have what it takes right now to successfully parent a child or children who have spent years living with uncertainty in the foster care system. We have gained a monumental amount of respect for foster parents and those who push through the system to successfully adopt, and the social workers who try as hard as they can to make new families a reality. But we want to adopt and, at this point, it seems that infant adoption is a more realistic option for us.


This is how adopted babies are delivered, right?


Many experiences led to our decision, but the two most important ones happened in the past few months. One of our major hesitations about infant adoption is that these days, the vast majority of them are open adoptions. Birth families choose their child’s adoptive parents, and most often the parties meet prior to the baby’s birth. As a pro-choice person, this concept has been difficult for me since I wouldn’t want to influence a birth mother’s choice in any way. If she should give birth and change her mind about adoption, that is totally valid and she shouldn’t have unhappy would-be adoptive parents to deal with. It just seemed like—regardless of the amount of contact between the birth and adoptive families after the adoption is finalized, which we’re completely supportive of—it would be cleaner somehow if a birth mother was able to make her final decisions without an adoptive family waiting in the wings. And we had been unsure of our abilities to get to know a potential birth family and “sell ourselves” as good parents, while not attempting to sway them in any way.


However, in October, we met with family members of two children who were about to be placed for foster care adoption. Although we had no idea if we would be matched with the children, their family seemed very comforted to meet us even just as an example of the kind of parents the kids could end up having. And although we were nervous going into the meeting and didn’t know what to expect, we actually got through it very well. Cory tapped into his skills from his estate planning days, and I instinctively went into my old “women’s services director” mode. We had never talked about it, but both of us have had a good amount of experience helping people in difficult and often sad situations that require them to make tough choices.  That made us realize that we actually do have the ability to be unbiased and helpful when meeting birth parents.


Then, between the end of December and mid-January, both of our mothers got serious medical news that required immediate surgeries. We’ve tried to be there for our parents as much as possible through it all and at some point in the middle of it, I realized that there would be no way we could be as available for them if we adopted a child or children with high levels of emotional needs and behavioral challenges like those we have considered in foster care. Not that adopting a baby would give us unlimited free time (feel free to laugh, parents of little ones), but the probability of a young child needing the amount of appointments and types of intensive family therapy that were suggested for the older children we considered seems relatively low. Additionally, a family member or friend could babysit an adopted newborn if we had to make a sudden trip to the hospital, while a child in foster care can only be looked after by someone who has gone through legal screenings through DSS. Simply put, this is not the right time for foster adoption for us.


So now we’re moving forward and getting excited about another opportunity for growing our family. It’s not how we first pictured it, and obviously there are no sure things in adoption or any part of life, but we’re feeling good about our next steps.

Oh wait--I was wrong. THIS is how they're delivered. Who could forget the stork?

Oh wait–I was wrong. THIS is how they’re delivered. Who could forget the stork?


Making Connections Outside the System

We’ve been in a holding pattern all these months since the last update, just living life and hoping to get a call from a social worker saying that we’re being considered as a match for a child. Something like that call came, but it was from a friend rather than a social worker.


In early October, I got a Facebook message from a friend who remembered that we are hoping to adopt through foster care. A friend of hers had just posted a Facebook note saying that a family member was about to terminate her parental rights to two children who are currently in foster care in our state, freeing them to become eligible for adoption. No one in their extended family was in a position to adopt them, so she put the word out about the kids in the hopes that someone willing to help them maintain connections to their birth family would be interested. I connected with the family member through our mutual friend and over the course of a few days, had several email exchanges and phone conversations about the children. The primary thing that stood out over these talks is how very much their family cares for these kids. I can’t even imagine taking the time to talk with almost-strangers about difficult family issues, just days before possibly never getting to see those children again. The kids–like all of us–have some challenges, but luckily those challenges are not being unloved or unwanted.


Due to the last-minute timing of our connecting with the family, we’re not able to circumvent any of the (many) US foster care hurdles to adoption. Although I’ve spoken with the kids’ foster care case manager several times and seem to be on good terms with them, technically we’re seen as the same as anyone submitting our home study documents for consideration with the children. The case manager reminded us that this is a very long process, and we should keep our options open and not get too attached to the idea of these kids. Oh, we know, Case Manager. We know. But despite the high failure rate for this kind of thing, we’re hopeful that being a known quantity with the kids’ social worker and having their birth family’s seal of approval will mean we get (at least) a second look. Also, the way this whole connection came about feels so much better than anything we’ve experienced in the past. It’s just people coming together to help kids rather than a random couple applying online to be connected to a child who is known by their number in the great big foster care system.


Fingers crossed, folks! Maybe this time next year, we’ll have to make a couple more servings of mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner…

Ok. Maybe we won’t serve the mashed potatoes this way.


Oh, and happy National Adoption Month! Check out 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days to read about adoption from many different perspectives.

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