Happy Birthday Honeybee?

Sorting candy from the pinata at camp

In the process of adopting Honeybee, we got to choose a birthdate for her. We knew she was probably born in 1998, but we also knew she was very small and had limited education. We were told her birthday was approximately in September, but who could really know?

Ladybug’s birthday is September 20, 1998. She desperately wanted a twin, but we thought that being twinned with Ladybug might put a lot of pressure on Honeybee. In the end we decided to keep her birthday in September, but age her down one year. Trust me, we put a lot of thought into it. We opted for the very cool birthday of 9/9/99.

Then…we went to Ethiopia and met Honeybee. She was tiny, she had not had much education, but she also knew quite clearly how old she was and she was ten. That posed a little problem for us – not the least of which was that her birth certificate now stated that she was nine. Then we brought her home and she and Ladybug rejoiced over being “twins” and decided they would share the birthdate 9/20/98. We celebrated their tenth birthdays a month after Honeybee arrived home.

On paper she is turning ten today; in her mind she is turning eleven in eleven days. The advantage to leaving her birth date as 9/9/99 is it allows her to be younger in terms of school and Childrens Hospital. She probably won’t mind too much when Ladybug turns thirty and she can be 29 for one more year. The year that Ladybug gets her Driver’s License may be more of a problem.

There are many issues when adopting older children and guessing at birthdays is only one of them. We believe that the date we were given for Dimples’ birthday was actually one year earlier than it should have been. We aged her down by one year and it appears to be perfect. Her uncle also confirmed the year we had chosen.

Then there is the issue of names. Both of our little boys have American first names that we have never gotten around to using. I expect that most of their lives they will sign their names with their first initial followed by their Ethiopian names. When we go to the doctor, I always have to remember to give the boys’ American first names or the receptionist is very confused.

At least we learned our lesson on our little boys and only gave our daughters American middle names. For us, our children’s Ethiopian names were just right.

Honeybee just came to me and said, “Mom, can I make lemonade?” When I hesitated she looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and said, “It is my birthday,” and burst out laughing. She may get a lot of mileage out of this.


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Anonymous
    September 9, 2009

    Happy Birthday Honeybee and love the story!

    Mommy to 6 including 2 daughters from Ethiopia, Dimples and Dagmawit home May 2009

  2. Andrea
    September 9, 2009

    Happy Birthday!!!

  3. Marissa
    September 9, 2009

    Happy Birthday to Honeybee!

    She looks fantastic! I can't believe how much she's grown.

  4. Andrea H.
    September 9, 2009

    Happy Birthday Honeybee!!

  5. Laurel
    September 9, 2009

    We will be at your house on the morning of Sept. 20th … and we also have a lovely young daughter with that birthday. Hosanna will be 13 on the 20th. So, we just might have to have a birthday breakfast for 3 young ladies, before we hit the road that morning.


  6. KT
    September 10, 2009

    Happy Birthday-ish Honeybee 🙂
    That is Journee originally given date, 9/20/98. Funny, huh 🙂 Now its 9/20/93. But she knows she was ACTUALLY born on ET Easter Morning, so…. 🙂
    True or not, they share something!

  7. Thankfulmom
    September 10, 2009

    Thank you for all of the fun "sort of" birthday wishes.

    Laurel, it is so fun that we will have THREE birthday girls at our house that morning. Let's definitely plan something special for breakfast before you all hit the road.


  8. Chris
    September 10, 2009


    I'd love to hear more about naming your kids?? We're trying to decide that right now. We're thinking about new American first names and their ET names for middle. Mostly because, thinking of the future, the boys name on a resume might be hard. Thought an easily pronounced american name would be better. SO, you don't call your boys their American names? Is that their choice, or yours? We're also thinking of doing the same for our daughter, so she won't think, "why did he get a new name, and not me?" Oh the decisions!!

    Thanks for any pointers & veiwpoints!

    Chris in Auburn, WA

  9. Kathrin
    September 10, 2009

    Happy Birthday from Germany Honeybee!
    I'll be back to wish you the same again on the 20th. 😉

  10. Audra
    September 12, 2009

    Our son from Ethiopia is also 9/9… same reason, he knew he was born around Sept, so we made it easy and cool. My b-day is 12/12 and I loved that growing up. My other daughter from ET is 5/5 and my other son from Ethiopia is 6/6. It makes it easy for this scatterbrained mom to remember all the birthdays!

  11. Kelli
    September 12, 2009

    We've had similar birthdate issues at our house with our newly adopted daughter. We didn't know her exact birthdate, but had seen her on video & she seemed to believe it was in May. According to our agency, she was born in 1997, so we chose May 18, 1997 in order to bless my mom – who had lost my brother at birth on that date. Well, when we arrived in Ethiopia all had been changed & her paperwork stated that her birthdate was November 30, 1998. This 1 1/2 year gap seemed huge and baffling in our minds. We struggled with how to handle all of these issues of how & when to celebrate, what to say when people ask how old you are, and what to do about her grade in school & medical records. We have landed on meeting in the middle. We have found that it is more legal work than we can handle to switch the birthdate, but we can pursue changing the year by confirming physical age by doctor & dentist records. We arrived on Nov. 30, 1997. This means our T. will have 2 birthdays this year and has been "10" for 3 years. We laugh because she says, "That's crazy! 10 for 3 years?!"

    We just try to grieve with her over the "loss" of information and have tried to help her see some logical reasons for the discrepancy.

    In terms of names, we kept her first name & gave her an American middle name as a gift for her birthday. We wrote out her name & it's meaning and wrapped it up in a box for her to open. We saved it for last and told her it was a gift she would always keep. She absolutely loved it. Now when playing with friends she will use it as her "pretend name" and loves to sign using both. I think it is a reminder that she really is Ethiopian and American.

    Happy Birthday, Honeybee! & thanks for all of your encouragement, Lisa!


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