Book Review | The Stovepipe

The StovepipeThe Stovepipe, by Bonnie E. Virag

The Stovepipe is a heartrending and heartwarming story of a four-year-old girl, who, along with three sisters and a brother, is taken by force from her family farm and placed in the foster care system. As time passes, they are often separated and later reunited as they are shuffled from one foster home to another. The four girls spend their most formative years on a tobacco farm where they live in abject fear of their foster parents who show them no affection, force them to work as common farm laborers, keep them locked in unheated attic bedrooms, do not let them partake in the family meals, and deny them access to the inside sanitary facilities. They are constantly threatened that they will be separated again if they misbehave. Their strong sisterly bonds and the pranks they play to get even with their foster parents help the girls to keep their will and spirits from breaking and to endure the years of willful neglect and unspeakable abuse.

When I was contacted to review The Stovepipe, I was really excited. It’s been a while since I have done a book review on the blog and it just so happens, I had made a commitment to myself to do more reading in 2014!

From the very first paragraph, I was captivated. My stomach knotted immediately empathizing with the fear that Bonnie felt at becoming a foster child.  Throughout the book, I smiled as her and her sisters made the best of a very bad situation, but also felt intense anger towards the adults (and older children!) who not only did not protect her, but who also purposefully abused her. Sadly, I don’t think her story is isolated to her generation, but rather something that still permeates a very broken system. I finished the booking feeling like Bonnie was an old friend… someone who I am very proud of for not only surviving a childhood of abuse, but who rose above and blessed us all by sharing her story in this book. I highly recommend this book to any one with an interest in the foster care system (past or present) or with a love for children.

About The Author

After immigrating to the United States in 1964, Bonnie Virag enrolled into the prestigious Academy Nvart School of Dressmaking and Designing to pursue her life-long dream of being a fashion designer. After graduating in May 1968, she went on to open her own home-based business. Several years later she entered the field of home decorating to design and fabricate customized window treatments. Failed surgery on an injured hand caused the closing of her business. It was then, while using an old typewriter for physical therapy, she decided to write her memoir. She is retired now and lives happily with her husband in Michigan. Bonnie can be found here on the web.

Have you read this book? Please feel free to leave me a comment with your thoughts!

Would you like to have your foster or adoption related book reviewed on my blog? Please contact me at fosteradoptionblog@gmail.com!

Book Review | Searching for…The You We Adore

Searching for…The You We Adore, by Valerie Westfall

“Our Love searched the whole world for the you we adore. We longed to open our hearts to the one we were waiting for…” In The You We Adore, love circles the globe climbing with pandas and swimming with dolphins searching for a child already loved from the heart. The author provides parents an opportunity to dialogue with young children about their unique adoption story and express, “You are loved and adored.”. Children will be captivated with the joyful adventure and playful illustrations. Lyrical text makes it a fun read-aloud for families. This is a heartwarming love story written for the joy of every adopted child.

Daffy & I were thrilled to receive a copy of Searching for…The You We Adore! In the past few weeks, we have read this book countless times. It has been a great segway to talking about how much we adore Daffy and how much we value her being a part of our family. Daffy was able create enough ownership of the story that she cut out her own picture and glued it to the heart on the last page of the book!

This book is a timeless addition to our collection of adoption themed books! The illustrations are fantastic and Valerie does an amazing job of connecting children of all different walks of life through the places the parents search for their child (city, ocean, jungle). This books tops my list of highly recommended adoption books for children.

Freelance writer Valerie Westfall holds a degree in Business Marketing. Her career choices demonstrate a common thread of love for art and children. Since graduating college in 1983, Valerie has managed an art gallery, imported art and furnishings for The Phoenician Resort, worked with first graders, and now writes for children. The author lives in Texas with her husband and two sons. Searching for…The You We Adore is Westfall’s debut picture book. While her inspiration to write this story was drawn from a childhood friend with adopted children, Valerie has long understood the important role that love plays in a child’s life.

Have you read this book? Please feel free to leave me a comment with your thoughts!

Book Review | The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale

The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale, by Grace Lin

A king and queen should be full of joy and contentment, but they both feel a strange pain that worsens every day. Then a peddler’s magic spectacles reveal a red thread pulling at each of their hearts. The king and queen know they must follow the thread.

The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale is a children’s book with a stronge message that children of adoption are “meant to be” with their adoptive parents. Daffy, age 9, really enjoys reading this book and reports that her favorite part of the story is “when they find the baby.” While the message can pertain to the adoption of children of any age, whether domestic or international, the artwork will be most relatable to those adoptive parents who have adopted infants from other countries.

Grace Lin grew up in Upstate NY with her parents and 2 sisters, whom are featured in many of her books. You can visit her website at gracelin.com for more information about her books (behind the scene stories and pictures) as well as other amusing anecdotes!

Have you read this book? Please feel free to leave me a comment with your thoughts!

Book Review | I Wished for You: An Adoption Story

I Wished for You: An Adoption Story, by Marianne Richmond

I Wished for You: an adoption story follows a conversation between Barley Bear and his Mama as they curl up in their favorite cuddle spot and discuss how they became a family. Barley asks Mama the questions many adopted children have, and Mama lovingly answers them all.

I Wished for You: An Adoption Story is quickly becoming one of Daffy’s favorite bedtime stories! In fact, we have read it every single night since we received it a couple of weeks ago. Sometimes she reads it to me and sometimes I read it to her, but either way, we always enjoy it and often use it as a spring board to talk about Daffy’s feelings about adoption. Marianne Richmond does an amazing job anticipating the feelings of adopted children and answers the questions through Mama in such a way that they could apply to many adoptive situations (whether international, domestic or through foster care).  The key message is that it’s not where you are from, but rather how well you are loved that makes you a part of a family.

This review wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Marianne Richmond’s amazing illustrations! Daffy, age 9,  has quite a talent for art and she is mesmerized by the watercolor illustrations in the book. (She even copied two of the illustrations by hand the first night we read it!)

I would highly recommend this book to any adoptive parent looking for an easy way to start conversations about many of the questions adopted children have about how they came to be a part of your family.

Beloved author and illustrator Marianne Richmond has touched the lives of millions for nearly two decades through her award-winning books, greeting cards, and other gift products that offer people the most heartfelt way to connect. Visit her website at mariannerichmond.com or find her on Facebook here!

Have you read this book? Please feel free to leave me a comment with your thoughts!

Telling A Story

I started this bog primarily to have a safe place to share our personal story. I wanted to document every step, every challenge and every success. While my goal for this blog remains the same since I began it in November 2011, it has also evolved into something much more. The stories I share I here allow me to connect with others in similar situations, some of whom leave me comments with amazing suggestions because they have been there, some simply to say they care and still others to thank me for sharing my experience so that they don’t have to feel alone in this crazy process of adopting through the US foster care system. My hope for the future is that I will be able to add valuable resources that will inspire others to take this incredible journey, one that will not only change a child’s life, but also their own!

I’ll be the first to admit I am not a great writer, but I have always enjoyed the process. Writing things out helps me to process my own thoughts and feelings. It helps me to keep things in perspective and helps to guide the choices I make after seeing the written words.

While adopting from foster care is one of the toughest challenges I have faced on a day to day basis, my life has always been filled with dramatic ups and downs. From the time I was in elementary school, people would often comment that I should “write a book!” Having heard this so many times throughout my life, I think it has become a part of who I am. I am not yet a “published” author (well, actually I am, if you count the scrapbooking craft book I wrote in 2005, but that’s really not the same), but I AM an author. I do have a story to tell…  a story that has value and a story that could impact others. I haven’t figured out that path just yet, but I have plenty of time to get there.

On that note, I would like to share with you an exciting new book project that I am considering submitting to called, “Undeniable Love: Heartfelt Adoption Stories“. This project sets out to share with the world the heart wrenching and undeniable love that affects all involved with adoption.  Their goal is to share all sides of the adoption spectrum with the world, as well as those that will soon be or have previously been blessed by adoption. This book will serve as an inspirational tool showcasing the real and raw emotions associated with each journey. It’s intended to reach the hearts of everyone impacted by adoption.

If  you have an incredible adoption story that you would like to share with the world, visit their  Submission Guidelines  for details. The final due date for all submissions is October 31, 2012. I hope to see many of my foster and adoption friends published!

Book Review: The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide

The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide, by Carol Lozier

I have been following Carol on Twitter for some time now and have always found that she shared valuable tips and information regarding foster parenting and adoption. When I realized she had written a book, I just knew I had to read it!

Carol’s book, “The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide” is perfect for those considering foster care or adoption as well as for those with more experience! Just in reading through the Tables of Contents, I could see that she would cover some of the burning questions I have found myself asking over the past few months since we transitioned a sibling group in to our home. In reading through the book, she provided many examples, questions and exercises to uniquely personalize the experience to our own children.

This book is written in an easy to understand format, making it more relatable. Some of my favorite topics included:

  • Defining the 4 Attachment Styles– This is the #1 struggle I feel I face as an adoptive parent. How will I know when my adoptive children have attached? Carol’s thorough list of examples for each attachment type has helped me to more clearly see where we are in this process.
  • Roles of Family Triangles– I know its common that adopted children will naturally become closer to one parent over another, but are there things I can do to change that? To build both relationships simultaneously? Carol has give me some new insight and tools in this chapter!
  • Behavior Plans & Charts– This terminology rolls off the tongues of the staff in group homes but meant nothing to me until I read Carol’s book. I feel like I now know how and why to implement a behavior plan!
  • Defining the Team Roles– Our team is at an almost unmanageable size between the two children in our care. This section clearly defines who should be involved and what their role is. This is definitely a reference tool I will refer to over and over.

I would highly recommend this book to any foster or adoptive parents looking for a practical idea-driven approach to parenting foster or adoptive children with complicated traumas.

Carol Lozier is a psychotherapist in private practice who specializes in helping foster and adopted children and families. She graduated from Florida State University in 1989 with a Masters degree in Social Work. Carol can also be found here on Facebook and on the web.

Have you read this book? Please feel free to leave me a comment with your thoughts!

Would you like to have your foster or adoption related book reviewed on my blog? Please contact me at fosteradoptionblog@gmail.com!

5 Days & Counting!

We are well underway in the transition process. This week we met with the kid’s new counselors! I didn’t learn nearly as much new information as I had hoped. The counselors received the same reports we were given (which are too vague in my opinion). We set some goals including parental attachment, reduce anxiety and process trauma. Seems pretty standard to me. They did recommend the book “When a Stranger Calls You Mom” by Katharine Leslie so I am eager to get that ordered when we have some extra money. The kids will be meeting with their counselors each at the same time to cut down on scheduling conflicts which is completely awesome!

We also met with the school to discuss Donald’s IEP and the general transition. Fourteen of us squeezed into one tiny to room. The first thing that came to mind is what an awesome team we have to support these 2 children! It takes a village, right? It was great to see staff from his current school working with the staff from our school to create a plan that will work for Donald. I am nervous, though, that there wont be enough time to implement the plan is just a few short days and that Donald’s transition will be even tougher because of it.

The only frustrating part of the meeting is when we discussed the kid’s names. Both kids, but Daffy especially, want to use our last name. We understand that the LEGAL name in the files needs to be their LEGAL name, but there shouldnt be ANY reason why they can’t use our last name in conversation or on their papers. After all, other kids use “nicknames” (like Becky for Rebecca) so how is this different? Its important to Daffy that she not be singled out as “different” from our family. She doesn’t want people to know she has been in foster care- she wants them to think she has always been our child. The school was adamantly  against this. The sped coordinator all but insinuated that we would eventually give the kids back and that having used our name would make things more difficult. It was extremely insulting, particularly since we had the state case worker in attendance at the meeting supporting he kid’s choice and offering to write a letter of approval. The most the sped coordinator would budge is that the kids could use their legal last initial only since it happens to be the same as ours. Some of the staff commented that 4th and 5th graders dont know each others last names and that the staff dont use them. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?????? My older kids have been teased over the years by teachers and students alike because we have a long hard-to-pronounce last name. How could that have happened if “no one” knew or used them? Ugh. I am completely frustrated.

Last night I had a visit with the kids at the group home. It was odd how standoffish Daffy was when I first arrived. She got a book and went to read alone while I did Donald’s homework with him. That is completely unlike her, she is normally bouncing off the walls. Once he & finished, we decided to play “Sorry” and she stayed on the couch playing with a Leap Pad. Once the game was done, I made her give up the game to Donald and told her to choose a game we would play. She resisted at first but finally selected Candy Land. (She beat me twice.) We went our to get a donut for dessert after dinner and then came back and read several stories before bed. It’s hard to believe they will only sleep 2 more nights in that home before the discharge on Tuesday.

In rather exciting news, we learned today that we will receive respite pay for all the weekends we have had the kids during the transition! Obviously none of this is about money, but every little bit helps in this economy for sure!Maybe this will help defray some of the wages I have lost being available for so many visits and meetings over the past 2 months.

Tomorrow they will be visiting their new schools and meeting their teachers! I will be sure to post an update!

The stickers only stick if they matter to you….

We were invited to read this book by our (adoptive) children’s current caretakers. They read this book to each foster child as they enter their home. This book includes a wonderful message  for all children, not just those in foster care! My favorite line? “The stickers only stick if they matter to you“… I suggest you take the time to read the full version of the book online here or listen to it here!