Rocco’s Birthday Wish


A year ago today at 11:22am, I received the best text message of my life.

“Meet baby Rocco!” Attached a picture of a very fresh newborn baby boy.

A few hours later he would be in my arms.

Fast-forward 10 months to Tuesday, July 30 – our adoption day. Rocco legally becomes our son. Forever ours. A 6-year journey and dream realized. Best day ever.

Our dream came true because of Mercy Ministries. Mercy Ministries exists to provide opportunities for young women to experience God’s unconditional love, forgiveness, and life-transforming power. It is at Mercy Ministries that Rocco’s birth mother received extraordinary care, love and support. It is at Mercy she found hope, healing, and chose us to be the parents of her unborn son.

Words cannot express how grateful we are for Mercy Ministries. Because of Mercy we have Rocco. Because of Mercy we have a beautiful open adoption with a young woman who has found freedom in Christ. Because of Mercy our lives are forever changed.

We want to give back to the ministry that made our dream come true. This weekend, please help us celebrate Rocco’s 1st birthday and adoption, by donating to Mercy Ministries on Rocco’s behalf. Our goal is to give Mercy $1000 on Rocco’s 1st birthday. (That is only 100 of our friends and family giving $10 each).

If you would like to join in the celebration, please click on the link below.

Thank you for your support!

Have you read your brand’s story today?

Twitter, Google, Yelp and directory style websites have given us all a platform to share our experiences, and in the sharing we write a brand’s story.

In the modern age of social media, many people will read your story online before they ever step through the doors of your church. From sound levels to parking, sermon topics to door greeters, there is a good chance your story has already been written.

Have you read it? If not, here is how you get started.

1. Search for your brand’s story. I google our church weekly, and check for reviews online. I do this to gather information that can help us better serve people, and make sure our story is being told accurately and appropriately Make sure to go beyond google and search for your brand on, and

2. Listen to what people are saying. Online reviews and Twitter have been a wealth of information for our weekend experiences. Through Twitter we are able to know when parking is a challenge, meet a first time guest in the lobby and pray for the bed-ridden mom in her last trimester. Reviews (though sometimes hard to read) have helped us improve our signage, have conversations about the sound levels in our auditorium, and better equip our volunteers to serve first time guests. Listening to your online story gives you the opportunity to make your weekend experiences better.

3. Join in the conversation. The best way to let people know you are listening is to respond. As you join in the conversation, you become one of the story-tellers of your brand. Reply, comment and make improvements when you can. Make sure you are not defensive. People are extremely opinionated and loyal to their experience. Saying thank you and you are sorry can go a long way.

Once you have joined in the conversation, be proactive in writing your brand’s story. Make sure you share more than information. People are looking for inspiration and connection. Your brand can provide it.

Love Letters

Marquee Love Letters

Earlier this month our team had to develop a stage design that would look great on video for a relationship series.

We didn’t have time to build, but thankfully found a vendor on Etsy that had vintage looking LOVE letters, and could get them to us in time to do a photo shoot for the relationship series promotion.

I just wanted to thank Vintage Marquee lights for their help, and let people know where they could purchase LOVE letters similar to the ones used on our stage in February. Check out their Etsy shop at

If you are in the Southern California area, Scott Coppersmith Designs has some great marquee light pieces and will rent them out for events. You can also check out his work at an upcoming Unique LA Event.


Sweet Toes

Avoiding the Awkward: What Not To Say To Adoptive Families

1. “What country is he/she from?” This is probably the number 1 question we have been asked as foster parents and adoptive parents. Someone actually asked this question to me in front of our 12-year-old foster daughter, followed by, “Does she speak English?”

Celebrities have raised awareness about adoption. Sincerely, thank you Brangelina. However there are other types of adoption – domestic, foster care and the adoption of step children.

If a friend or family shows up to an event, church or gathering with a new family member, walk up to them, give them a big hug, offer congratulations, and welcome the new one to the family.

An appropriate question to ask is, “Who is this gorgeous baby?” or “When did your family get a new addition?” Allow the adoptive family to lead the conversation in what they want to share.

2. “Was his/her mom young?” Yes, this really is the #2 question we have been asked. Adoption is a life long journey. My son is 5 weeks old, and I have not had the opportunity to tell him the details of how we became his parents. He doesn’t know yet how brave his birth mom is, her hair color, her age, yet, everyday I look at him, and I can see her.  I am grateful for this. I want to honor my son, and the amazing woman who gave him to us. The details of their life are sacred, and I am guarding them fiercely.

Despite what 4 seasons of MTV’s Teen Moms might have taught us, not all birth moms are drama queen high schoolers. A classic adoption book to read is Dear Birthmother. It shares letters written by birth moms, birth fathers and adoptive families of all ages. It is very insightful, and shows the many different reasons and life situations surrounding domestic adoption.

I highly suggest not asking details about the birth family. Again, follow the lead of the adoptive family. If they want to share with you they will.

3. “Don’t worry, someday you will have children of your own.” I know this comment comes with good intentions, but it can be so hurtful. For us, adoption has always been part of our plan. Originally we thought we would adopt in our 40’s. We began saving and researching, and realized we could adopt sooner. With a great need for adoptive foster families in our city, we chose to start with foster care. Every child we welcomed into our home, we hoped would be a part of our family forever. Know that for adoptive and fost-adopt families, the children in our care are “our own.”

Many adoptive families have struggled with infertility. You do not know why a family chose adoption. Please don’t assume.

Years ago we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility. After being poked, prodded and having every possible system in my body (and my husbands) checked, the doctors came to the conclusion that everything works for us as individuals, but for some unexplainable reason not together.

Being infertile never bothered me until after we gave our first foster son back. People would say, “Don’t worry, someday you will have children of your own. I bet you get pregnant soon.” I considered my foster son my own. Not to have him anymore felt like a death in the family. Then followed up by the reminder that I can’t have biological children… for the first time in my life I felt barren.

When you have a friend in the adoption process, waiting for the call to say they have been selected, or if a friend has a failed adoptive placement – please don’t say “Don’t worry, someday you will have children of your own.” Instead encourage them not to give up, and ask them how you can help or pray for them.

4. “Was he/she a drug baby?” I have been asked this question with every infant I have cared for. For both our state and private foster agency social workers, 100% of the cases they managed involved drug use. Drug use by parents, doesn’t necessarily mean the child has been exposed. I can’t describe how frustrating it feels to be holding an absolutely perfectly designed by God baby in your arms, and someone ask you if your child is a drug baby.

Just don’t say that. Trust me.

5. “Did you get to meet the birth mom? Do you have to stay in contact?” These two questions seem to come as an awkward couple. Meeting our son’s birth family was one of the most emotional and beautiful experiences of my life. It is deeply personal, so “yes” is all I am willing to share at this time.

When I dodge the first question, the second comes right away. Most domestic adoptions today are open or semi-open. That could range from face-to-face meetings, or updates and photos exchanged between attorneys or agencies. Many adoptive families want to stay in contact with the birth family. It is not a “have to”. Continued contact or correspondence can provide helpful information for the child as he/she grows and healing to the birth family.

So what part of our story are we willing to share? Honestly I am still figuring that out.  I want to share our story to encourage and help families on the adoption journey. I know what is like to fret over what to put in your adoption scrapbook. What pics? Do we include the dog or not? I know the tension of joy, excitement and fear after hearing the words – “you have been chosen.” I will never forget the butterflies in my stomach as I met my son’s birth mother, the tears I shed on the plane ride home or the countless times God answered our prayers.

I don’t want to provide details just for the sake of details.

This is me leading the conversation in the best way I know how.

Just Say Thank You…

In the 5 weeks that we have had our son, there have been countless awkward moments with strangers. Let’s start with Rocco’s 1st outing, the Franklin Farmer’s Market. With permission of our doctor to go out in public (as long as no one held or touched him), we bundled Rocco up in the baby sling and headed out on a gorgeous sunny Saturday morning. Being from LA, I was not prepared for the Southern hospitality, curiousity and assumptions we would encounter.

“What do you have in there? Is that a baby?”


“How old?”

“10 days.”

“10 days!!! What and you are up and about already?”

“The doctor said it was ok.”

Wait, she said up and about. Why is this woman staring at my stomach? Is she looking at my backside?!?!

“Suzy! Come here! Look at this woman and her baby. Look how good she looks after 10 days.”

Oh God. She thinks…

“I am still carrying some of my 1st one 23 years later. So he’s your 1st?”

In this moment I froze as I stood in front of a small gathering of friendly Southern women staring at my abs, backside and bundle of joy. What do I say?

Nope not my 1st one, actually he is my 4th child. We have been foster parents for the past couple years, and had to give back 3 children to their bio families. One we had for the 1st year of his life and it was so devastating to give him back, we were in counseling for over 9 months before we had the courage to try again. I should look good after 10 days, considering another woman (the bravest woman I know) carried him in her womb for the last 9 months, and gave birth to him. I just came to the hospital and took pictures.

“Just say thank you.”


Justin firmly whispers in my ear again, “Kristen, just say thank you.”

“He’s the 1st I get to keep. Thank you?”

In that moment my husband knew everything I was thinking. As we walked away from the friendly table of pie makers he reminded me that I did not have to share my story or Rocco’s with every friendly vendor at the farmer’s market. There will always be questions, and people with good intentions. We don’t have to share everything.

“I fell like I am lying.”

“Babe, you are not. Did any of those women ask you if you gave birth to him? You look great. Enjoy it.”

So I did. The scenario I shared played out another 4 or 5 times that day. My response each time, thank you with a big smile.

We all have that friend who is back in her skinny pre-pregnancy jeans a week after giving birth. I got to be her for a couple hours. It was fun.

PS – In an effort to avoid awkward moments, later I will be blogging about what to say and not to say to adoptive families. : )

Being A Mom Again… Now What?

It still feels surreal to be a mom again. After being a foster mom to 3 amazing children, and all 3 reuniting with their biological families (over 50% do in LA County), there is an overwhelming sense of relief to know this time it is forever. A luxury I have not known until now.

My husband and I have been hoping and trying to add to our family for over 5 years. On our flight home to Los Angeles, I kept leaning over to my husband and saying, “We have a son.” I just stared at him for 4 hours, hard to believe we had what we had been believing for so long. An absolute dream come true. I had stared at him a lot during the 12 days leading up to our flight home, but this time without the fear or worry that I would have to give him back.

I have a son. His name is Rocco.

On the plane, I couldn’t help but think… now what?

After 5 years of medical tests, a myriad of paper work, social worker visits, home studies, scrapbooks, heartbreak, waiting for the phone to ring to say you have been chosen… now what?

My now what has been a bit chaotic. The first 2 weeks we were in another state, the next week we came home to extreme water damage to our house (including the nursery), and then last week Rocco was in the hospital for 4 days with an infection. So far, we are at 6 days with life being normal at home, minus the water damage.

In between sleeping at Children’s Hospital and finding a contractor to fix our house, I have kept myself busy. I have cared for Rocco, read 3 books, made laundry detergent, done extensive research on cloth diapering and formula, started a puzzle, made soup from scratch, built and launched a blog. If I lived during Jesus time, Martha would be my best friend.

It is challenging to transition into rest when you have been fighting for something for so long. Not that caring for a newborn is rest, but if you have battled like we have, midnight feeds are a reward. Like Martha, in Luke 10, I was distracted, filling my time with tasks. I have fought long and hard to be a mom. I don’t want to miss it.

I have to admit, I was anxious (not in a good way) to be on maternity leave. I have had a job since I was 13, and never taken more than 8 days off for vacation. 8 weeks seemed daunting. Now it feels too short.

So I have decided to change how I manage the now what.

Enjoy it. Every diaper change, feeding time, blow out, burp and snuggle. Savor it. Remember it. Take a picture of it. Thank God for it. Don’t miss it. (PS Rocco is sleeping while I write.)

I know God has called me to be more than a mom. I return to work in 3 weeks. Work that I absolutely love and have dedicated my life to. The tasks will be there, I don’t need to create work today. Today, I just need to enjoy the now what of being a mom and spending this time fully with my son.

Any moms have advice on how you made the most of your maternity leave? Please comment.