Audiobook GIVEAWAY!

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The audiobook of EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED is available, read by yours truly! To celebrate, I’m going to do a giveaway of a signed copy!

Reviews really help books– even just a few words. For every review of EVERYTHING you post online, I’ll enter you once in the drawing.  Multiple reviews get you multiple entries! Yes, you can cut and paste. Just LEAVE A COMMENT HERE and tell me where you left the reviews. Here are some suggestions:

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1. Amazon, obvs.

2. Barnes and Noble

3. Powell’s

4. Goodreads

4. your social media

5. If you haven’t read it yet, you can just share on social media about this giveaway!

THANK YOU so very much for your continued support!

The (not rock but still pretty cool) Tour!

tourHello from Olympia, Washington! I’m about two-thirds of the way through my book tour and it’s been amazing, surprising, exhausting, exasperating, enlightening. A friend threw a beautiful party for me last night, and I literally showed up on her doorstep with a giant bag of laundry. Cuz glamour.

T and Scott  were with me through the first week and we had a blast in NY going to readings and parties, staying up late and eating junk food, visiting with friends and family. Tariku came to some of my events and I got to read to him the section of the book that chronicles the magical day we first met him. I’m shocked that I didn’t break down and sob.  He insisted on standing by my side afterward, painstakingly signing each book in cursive, next to my signature.

Friends, I have nearly torn my hair out many, many nights over the difficulty of balancing writing and motherhood, and I know I will again. So I really tried to slow down, breathe and pay attention to how it felt to have my child throw his arms around me and tell me that I made him proud. If I live to be a thousand years old, I will never forget it. Then he told me that I shouldn’t read aloud any more chapters that mention diapers. So there’s that.

They’re back at home now as I tumble through these final cities. It’s been fun seeing old friends and new in Woodstock, Austin, SF, Portland, Olympia…but I miss my guys madly and I’ll be happy to get back to them. After which, I plan to promptly invent a rare illness and pull the covers up over my head for three days.

readingAside from getting to share some of this tour with Tariku and with my parents–who showed up and have been very supportive–  the most meaningful part so far has been the opportunity I’ve had to meet so many other members of the adoption triad (that’s adoption speak for adoptees, birth families, and adoptive parents). I’m so moved by people’s willingness to be vulnerable and share their stories with me. There have been lots of tears. It’s been incredible to connect with people and to talk about our losses and our blessings.

At every reading, one question I get asked without fail is, “What do you imagine your son will think about the book?”

My answer is that I imagine he’ll have lots of different feelings about it as he grows. Ultimately, I hope that he sees it as the gift to him that I mean it to be.

Bloggers and authors catch a lot of criticism for writing publicly about our kids and our family struggles. I agree that living in such a public way isn’t the right choice for everybody. But we all have a right to our stories, and to our voice in the world and or some of us, that means sharing about our lives. What on earth would I have done in my darkest moments, if it weren’t for the storytellers who came before me, whose experience and hope lit the path in front of me? I’m honored to be a part of that conversation.

Look at these cuties. These are Tariku’s first friends in the world. Or, as he calls them, his brothers and sisters. Thanks, always, to our friends from our adoption trip to Ethiopia, for all their fantastic support:

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Everything You Ever Wanted Release Day!

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Well, as of yesterday, my new memoir is finally released! Dropped, as they say. Birthed is more like it. Thanks for all your support along the way. Without this blog– where I first began to feel for my voice writing about parenting– the book wouldn’t have happened. I’ve treasured the support this space has offered me, along with the freedom to explore and make mistakes.

If you’d like a little teaser, there was an excerpt in last month’s Elle magazine.

Another excerpt just came out today in Harper’s Bazaar.

And here’s an interview with me at Hip Mama.

All of my tour events are listed here on the website. Please come see me when I’m in your city!

I couldn’t be more thrilled to share with you this book about our family’s struggles and triumphs. I hope you read it. I hope you love it.

Being Counted

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In October of 2008, Scott was on tour in Seattle and I was sitting at my dining room table working on my first memoir, when the number of our adoption agency flashed on my phone. We had been waiting a solid year since we finished the last of our paperwork. I picked up with a shaking hand. The voice on the other end said, “We have a beautiful ten-month-old boy for you….”

I opened my computer to find an email with two photo attachments, which I forwarded to Scott as I dialed his number. The blurry photos were of a gorgeous infant with dark, thoughtful eyes, a wide forehead, skinny legs and a face like one of the famous Ethiopian paintings of wide-eyed angels that adorn the ceilings of their churches.

“There’s my son,” said Scott. “Look at him. He’s perfect.”

I was smitten. I wore my little angel around my neck in a locket. I blew the pictures up and put them in every room in the house. I carried them around in my purse and shoved them in the face of everyone who would look.

“Look! My son! Isn’t he terrific? Isn’t he beautiful? Isn’t he clearly a genius?”

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One day, I met my friend Joel for coffee and began our chat by enthusiastically foisting Tariku’s pictures on him. He oohed and aahed appropriately, and then he said, “I’m here for you if you need help. And you’re going to need help. For instance, someone is going to have to teach this kid how to handle the police.”

I said, “He’s not even a year old, Joel.”

He said, “It goes fast.”

I thought he was being a tad hysterical. But Joel is a black man, and now, a few years later, as Baltimore is smoldering and I can’t look at pictures of Freddie Gray’s face without crying for that young man’s mother, I see that Joel wasn’t being hysterical. Not remotely.

Tariku is seven now, reed thin, goofy-toothed, adorable and all wild boy. He’s taller every day, all of his pants two inches too short because I can’t keep up with him. And as I watch him lope through the park like a gazelle, I think, How soon before he’ll be mistaken for a teenager? How soon before it’s not a mistake and he is a teenager? With every inch he grows, how much less safe is he?

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This should not be a mother’s first thought upon looking at her growing boy.

I’ve found myself stuck every time I sat down to write this past week– unsure how to write about Baltimore and unsure how to not write about it. For such a big mouth, writing about race doesn’t come easily to me.  I’m personally terrified and politically enraged about the brutal institutionalized racism in this country, but when it comes to writing about it, I feel overemotional and under-qualified.

Then I read this sentence from Kevin Powell’s amazing “Why Baltimore is Burning:”

“They know it is madness that so-called progressive, liberal, human-rights, or social-justice people of any race or culture have remained mightily silent as these police shootings have been going down coast to coast.”

That’s me, I thought– the mightily silent. I acknowledging my privilege, cry over pictures of Freddie Gray, make it out to a protest or two once in a while, read books by people smarter than me, retweet people more clever than me… It’s really not enough.

I joined some amazing women at a blogging conference this last weekend, including Kelly Wickham, Luvvie Ajayi, and Kristen Howerton (see: the people I often retweet who are more clever than me), and walked away feeling inspired. These women challenge me to read and write more about race. To reach for my own voice in the dialogue, even if I don’t have anything new to say. It’s not an originality contest, it’s about being counted. This is how I begin.

Making Music Practice Less Annoying

Tariku loves music. He’s a terrific drummer and an even better dancer. But lately his music lessons have been becoming more and more of a pain, with whining and wheedling and foot-dragging and falling off the piano bench onto the floor once every 30 seconds. Even with Scott’s monk-like patience, it’s enough to make you want to gouge out your own eyes with the nearest drumstick.

There are a lot of reasons why practice is challenging for T. First of all, learning an instrument is just plain hard. If it were easy, we’d all do it. I personally took three years of piano and all I have to show for it is one scale, a C chord, and the lyrics to “Good King Wenceslas,” so that’s useful. Secondly, T works hard holding it together in school all day, and when he gets home he lets it all hang out. Right around dinnertime we can usually count on some bonkers behavior. We generally try not to pay it too much attention, but in this case we needed to figure out a way to address it or his practicing was going to go out the window. I wasn’t willing to let that happen, both because he’s really talented and because I think it’s important to lean into the tough parts of valuable endeavors. It builds self-esteem. Having the grit to keep at something not immediately pleasurable is a learned skill. Plus, music is important to our family, and playing together is something T and Scott love to do. Every time I watch them jamming downstairs, I know they’re creating really special memories.

So how do you get past the epic annoyingness of trying to strong-arm a kid into practicing their instrument?

I found that threatening him with taking away his TV time didn’t help all that much. It was usually just followed with more bargaining and whining. I could see that we were going to have to rethink the whole thing, so Scott and I sat down to try to come up with some strategies. These moments give me a new level of respect for the creative, out-of-the-box teachers who have really made a difference in Tariku’s life. Because you know what? I don’t feel like being inventive about his practice. I just want him to sit down and do it while I get dinner ready. But no one asked me what I wanted (see: parenthood)…

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A couple of months ago, T started working therapeutically with horses. It’s profoundly regulating for him, and gives him a chance to address his feelings in a non-threatening way, by talking about the animals. He has a lot of responsibility at the horse ranch, and keeps track of all his tasks with a whiteboard checklist. He LOVES that checklist. So I dug a little whiteboard out of the garage and have been making a checklist for his music lesson every day. I make sure to build in choices for him. He has to play 3 songs, but he can choose what songs those are. And in between piano and drums, he gets 5 minutes of indoor soccer, so he can get his sillies out.  Then we incentivized his practice with little treats for ten completed checklists, so he has both immediate and long-term goals.

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Btw, this method is also pretty much exactly what I do to keep myself disciplined and motivated about my work. I feel overwhelmed and distracted and don’t generally want to sit down and write in the morning, either. I use checklists and timed tea breaks and little treats and big goals and it gets me through.

So far it’s working! We’ve had a few straight days of non-obnoxious practice. I’ll let you know how it progresses. What do you do to encourage your kids to develop the habit of practicing?