Thursday, May 31, 2007

Childhood Memories Meme...

I was tagged by Deb to recall 10 childhood memories. Hmmm....

1) My kittens "Mindy & Mork" (ah come on, you remember them!)

2) Our family vacation in Eastport where all my mother did was complain about the motel, and when we went to the (beautiful sandy) beach, it was covered with jellyfish!!

3) Sleepovers at my friend Aisling's house. She had a real treehouse... I loved that place.

4) Borrowing my friend Bonnie's earrings... and bracelets... and necklaces... and... you get the idea.

5) Intensely disliking Kellie in Grade 2. She sat in front of me in class and I used to pull her hair. She's one of my closest friends now!

6) Tennis lessons when I was about 10 years old with the cutest teenage boy I had ever seen! All the girls were in love with him.

7) Going to a provincial Girl Guide camp with my friend Bonnie when I was 10. It was the first time I was away from home for longer than a couple of days.

8) Our music teacher, Mrs. Kearsey. She was short and round and wonderful! She used to wear 4 inch platform shoes- even with them she must have only been about 5 feet tall. And she had a toy poodle named Coco who she brought to school to "perform" for the kids!

9) Performing "Edelweiss" and "My Bonnie Lassie" with the girls in my Grade 8 class on a concert. My friend Andrea & I played guitar and the rest of the group sang. It was either a disaster or we were pioneers in pushing back the boundaries of syncopation and harmony!

10) Getting the German Measles. I hallucinated about the "green blob" seeping out of our freezer, creeping across the kitchen floor and enveloping me. I think that was about the time that the movie "The Fog" was on the go.

This was a cute meme. I'm going to tag some others. Let's see... how about Ms. Dragonfly, The Seventh Diamond, and Tracey...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Phew! We got the Passports.

The passports arrived today. Big relief!

Thanks for the comments on my previous post. I know as adopting/adoptive parents, many of us would dread to think of having any suspicion cast on the circumstances through which our children will come/came to us. But I also believe that anyone who is adopting a child from another country is morally obliged to honestly consider the social, political, and economic situations in that country and to come to terms with the circumstances under which children are abandoned. Do all would-be parents that are trying to adopt a child do this? I doubt it. And I can understand why. Sometimes the desire to have a child transcends the need to think about any more lofty and esoteric ideals that one might have.

There is no doubt that we have seen corruption in international adoption. Only a few years ago, Vietnam closed its IA program to deal with the fact that pregnant women who were poor, young, dispossessed, and policitically powerless were being bribed into giving away their babies. Significant efforts have been made to prevent these kinds of things from happening anymore, and the program has re-opened.

Do such practices occur in other countries? It's possible. Maybe even likely in some places. There is no question: in its most base form, international adoption is a type of economic transaction, and, as such, lives and dies by the principle of "supply and demand". If there is a market, there will be a vendor. If there is no supply, there will be criminals who create one. Come on, we live in a world where there are countries in which children and women are kidnapped everyday and sold into slavery for the sex trade- we can't be naive about the possibility that children in some countries become "available" for adoption under suspect conditions.

However, is this the norm? I believe it is not. But what does the public- those outside the adoption community- hear about international adoption?

They hear about the bad experiences, and about the scandals. Which are, of course, stories that need to be told. But do these stories describe the majority of international adoptions?

The public hears about Madonna swooping in to get her son from a country that doesn't participate in international adoption. OR Angelina adopting yet another child in record time. Now, don't get me wrong. I think its great that Madonna and Angelina have kids. I'm happy for their kids. But does their experience reflect the "typical" adoption experience? We wish!

Really, how can we expect the cashier in the supermarket NOT to think that its appropriate to ask "How much did she cost?". Courtesy of the media, the public gets a very one-sided and biased view of international adoption.

So, I think we need the "good news" stories of international adoption to hit the presses. The stories about regular families who decide that adoption is a wonderful way to form their families. The stories of adoptees who are basically well-adjusted and as happy as any other angst-ridden teenager! These stories exist- we all know them *within* the IA community!! Now, how do we get them out there?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

International Adoption Gone Wrong

I came across an interesting article written a couple of months ago in Toronto Life magazine. It's called About a Boy. It chronicles the very difficult experience that a Toronto couple had while adopting their second child from India. Local corruption and greed almost resulted in them not being able to bring their son home. The orphanage director basically extorted money from them. But, in the end, they got their child and returned to Canada with him.

I think these kind of stories need to be told. The reality is that there are many places where corruption is a way of life- bribery is expected, under-the-table deals are the norm, and sensibilities about the value of human life differ dramatically. And I'm not just talking about Bay Street! ;) The boy in the above story was 'too dark' to ever be adopted within India, so international adoption was his only hope of survival.

But, maybe these stories need to come with some disclaimers. For example, this couple did not appear to attempt to use an adoption agency. Rather, a relative who worked in India helped find the child and connected the parents to the orphanage. There are accredited adoption agencies in Canada, the US, and Europe that have successful adoption programs in India. I would bet money that the orphanages which participate in these programs do not behave in such unscrupulous ways. IF they did, they'd be cut from the program. In fact, there are lots of examples of successful and relatively uneventful adoptions from India. But it always seems to be the one that goes wrong which attracts the most interest.

What bothers me is that this kind of story feeds the public fear about international adoption. The kinds of things described in that article do not happen in international adoptions that are carried out through reputable adoption agencies.

WE all know that babies are not bought. WE all know that parents are not extorted for more money once they meet their child. But the public doesn't necessarily understand this. How many of you home with your children have been asked "How much did he/she cost?"? We haven't even got our son yet and already I've had people remark to me about how expensive this adoption must be. To which I reply, "Well, it will cost us a bit- especially that trip and 2 week stay half-way around the world for 4 people. I mean, you know how much it costs just to go to Disney!" Maybe that gives them some perspective. Maybe not.

So, I'm really conflicted about articles like "About the Boy". I hope it serves a purpose- like warning prospective families not to try a Do-It-Yourself adoption. But a little balance- just giving some facts about the run-of-the-mill, routine adoptions that help create families nearly every day- would be nice. Maybe that would give the public a little perspective. Maybe not.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Where are the Passports!?!

We're still waiting on the children's passports. They are supposed to arrive by the end of May, but there is no sign of them yet. I guess we have a few more days before May is done. BUT, if we don't get them Monday or Tuesday, I just might lose my mind.

You see, we just found out that our LOA is sitting at the CCAA awaiting the signature of the Director. He is out of the country right now, but is expected back "in the office" next week. I'm not privy to his Day Planner, so I don't know when he actually might sign our LOA, but it seems *possible* that we'd get it in a couple of weeks. Once we have the LOA, our agency can start working on our travel arrangments, visa, etc... and to do that, they'll probably need a copy of the passports of ALL the people travelling... which has to include our kids!!! So... I'm biting my nails and just hoping that the passports arrive before the LOA. Because we can't go to China without them!
So... cross your fingers for us...

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Meme from Ms. Dragonfly

Here is only my second ever meme:

What is your salad dressing of choice?

What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of?
Chocolate, and Toast... but not together...

What is your wallpaper on your computer?
1) home desktop- an Il Divo collage (you can download these from their website!)
2) home laptop- whatever came with the computer
3) work- picture of Daniel (centered)

How do you listen to music?
On my iPod Shuffle (I can't bear to break down and buy a "real" one!)
On my computer

What’s your best feature?
Oh gee, my freckles? Ha!

Have you ever had anything removed from your body?
Only wisdom teeth, I think.

Which of your five senses do you think is keenest?
My sense of smell. I'm a regular Bloodhound!

If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die?
Not really. I always liked the story about St. Francis of Assissi (my Catholic education rising to the forefront again!). Apparently, St. Francis was asked while he was hoeing the garden what he would do if he found out the world was going to end that day. He allegedly replied , "I'd continue hoeing the garden." Nice approach.

Is love for real?
Oh yes...

If you could change your first name, what would you change it to?
My alter ego is "Juanita"...

Have you ever saved someone’s life?
Not that I know of.

Has someone ever saved yours?
Not that I know of.

Would you walk naked for a half mile down a public street for $100,000?
In another country only! Then I'd do it for $100.

Would you kiss a member of the same sex for $100?
Why not?

Would you allow one of your little fingers to be cut off for $200,000?
No... unless I really needed the money.

Would you never blog again for $50,000?
Sure... I'd find another outlet. Maybe a Podcast!

Would you pose nude in a magazine for $250,000?
Man, I don't think this is ever going to be an issue for me!!!

Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1,000?

Would you give up watching television for a year for $25,000?
In a heartbeat.

What is in your left pocket?
I got nothing.

Is Napoleon Dynamite actually a good movie?
Not in my opinion. And I've tried really hard to figure out why it's a phenomenon. Maybe I don;t like it much because I know people like him irl.

Do you have hardwood or carpet in your house?
Mostly hardwood. Carpet on the stairs only.

Do you sit or stand in the shower?
I only sit in there when I have a migraine.

Could you live with roommates?
Yep. I'd actually love to live in a commune setting.

How many pairs of flip-flops do you own?
One- if Birkis count!

Last time you had a run-in with the cops?
About 15 years ago. And it was a female cop. She almost rammed me with her patrol car and then said it was my fault. I told her off. My sister was in the car with me and was mortified. But I was right and she knew it! She backed off.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I'm still changing my mind weekly on that.

Last friend you talked to?

Last person you called?
My sister

First place you went this morning?
Downstairs to let out the dogs. THEN, the bathroom.

What can you not wait to do?
Experience the "furnace city" of Nanjing to get our son.

What’s the last movie you saw?
On video, "Happy Feet". At the theatre, "Shark Water".

THANKS, Ms. Dragonfly- that was fun!

I didn't mean to disable the Comments!

I don't know how/why you can't comment on the post below. Maybe if you have any comments on that one you can leave them here! (If the comments work for this post-lol!)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Watoto Children's Choir

We saw the Watoto Children's Choir this morning. The choir is made up of eighteen beautiful Ugandan children between the ages of 8-14. All of these children are orphans as the result of the AIDS epidemic that is truly devestating sub-Saharan Africa. In the entire African continent, it is expected that AIDS will produce 25 million orphans by the year 2010. That's only 3 years away. Can anyone even fathom that number? I sure can't.

The Children's Choir is part of the Watoto Child Care Ministries, a faith-based (Pentecostal) organization that is saving children in Uganda. Their philosophy involves supporting what are essentially foster-care villages, where children are taken in and cared for. This group believes that they are creating the future leaders of Uganda. I have no doubt that they are.

While I have a great deal of respect and admiration for the work that this ministry is doing, I find myself oddly conflicted on a couple of fronts. First, the evangelical indoctrination to which these children have obviously been exposed makes me a little uncomfortable. Their well-rehearsed testimonials about the real tragedy they have experienced in their short little lives are moving, but somehow their words seem a little too stilted, too professional- not the kind of life assessments that I expect to hear from the mouths of 8 & 10 year olds. Although I know these 8 and 10 year olds have had no regular childhood. And maybe it is just that this type of worship is not really my thing. However, I do have a lot of tolerance for faith-based groups that put their money where their mouths are- and this one sure seems to.

The second thing I find myself wondering about is the solution to this unbelievably difficult situation of HIV/AIDS and the children that are being left in the wake of its destruction, particularly in Africa. Obviously, the long-term solutions are "simple": educate people about the transmission of HIV, normalize the use of condoms, empower women to protect themselves from contracting the virus, make generic anti-retroviral drugs available for treatment so that becoming HIV+ does not automatically mean a death sentence ... you know, all that "simple" stuff.

But in the meantime, there are millions of children who have lost and will lose their parents to AIDS. Millions of orphans. What about them? How are African countries going to cope? What can people living vastly different lives in other nations do to help?

I absolutely believe that if children can be cared for by families in their own countries, then they should be. Supporting the grandmothers who are often the only ones who are left alive to care for the children, and supporting foster care villages, has to be a major part of the solution. Here are a couple of links to groups that I'm aware of that are trying to support these kind of initiatives: The Stephen Lewis Foundation, and Keep A Child Alive. You'll probably know of many others.

But, as a mother in the midst of adopting a child from an orphange in a country with its own unique challenges concerning the care of its children, I have to wonder: what is the role of international adoption?

Obviously, there are families who want children, and who would dearly love to have the opportunity to adopt a child from Africa. But, as far as I know (and I'd love to know more, so please feel free to inform me) the only African county with a significant IA program is Ethiopia. I know there are several other countries with smaller programs, and I know that one of the major Canadian adoption agencies (Children's Bridge) is in the process of developing a program with South Africa. But, my sense is that many African countries are not all that crazy about permitting their children to be adopted transculturally and transnationally. Am I wrong?

Given the expected decreases in the number of children available for IA in China, there are predictions that Africa will become the destination of choice for parents to adopt their children. It seems like there will certainly be a need for parents, but I wonder if we're going to see the same type of diaspora of African children that we've seen over the past decade with Chinese children. And can the numbers of children who might find families through IA even make a dent in the enormity of the problem? Which brings me to another issue that I struggle with...

One of my big concerns with IA is that there are some families which seem motivated to adopt in order to "save" a child. Now, I don't think that this motivation, in and of itself, is necessarily terrible. We all should want to "save" children that are in need; children in our own cities as well as children half-way around the world. But, as far as I can figure, the primary motivation to adopt a child must be the desire to parent, the desire to raise a child. I can't even imagine the emotional and psychological baggage that a child who comes to learn that he or she was "saved" by adoption would carry. So, this worries me, since I'm sure there are and there will be more groups that will promote IA of AIDS orphans using this kind of angle. Are they wrong to do so? I don't know. Certainly, the alternative for some of these children- life in an orphanage without a family- is far worse than life with a loving family who adopts as an expression of their faith or missionary zeal. And I'm not suggesting that this is mutually exclusive with the desire to parent a (or another) child. But, for me, it is a tough one to reconcile...

So, I guess the Children's Choir really got to me today, and they've made me think a lot. If they ever perform near you, be sure to go see them.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Oh ya! Oh ya!

The Ottawa Senators are going to the Stanley Cup!!! Oh ya!!!! That's our team, baby... and let me take this opportunity to send my sympathies to all the Leafs fans out there.... ;)
Check out the t-shirt that I bought for Daniel last night...

It's a bit big, but he'll grow into it.

And GUESS who scored the winning goal for the Sens to take the Eastern Division Championship?

DANIEL Alfredsson, that's who!

(But, no, we didn't name OUR Daniel after a hockey player. Forget the fact that the girls want to change his middle name to Alfred!)
Exciting times.... here's hoping that the Red Wings take the Western Division so I won't have to watch hockey games being played on Pacific Time!

Nothing New Under the Sun...

Based on my internet scannings, a lot of families received their LOAs on Thursday past. The LOA- Letter of Approval- also known as Letter Seeking Confirmation is a form that the adoptive parents must sign and return to the CCAA before the CCAA will issue a Notice of Coming (also commonly called TA- standing for Travel A.... cceptance?, or ....pproval...? , or ?...something like that).

This is a relatively new step in the Waiting Child Program process, but has been standard protocol with regular program adoptions. In the regular program, the Letter Seeking Confirmation is signed at the time that the family accepts their child's referral. Travel plans are then made by the agency for travel within 6-8 weeks of receiving the referral. The LOA step seems a bit redundant in the WCP, since a family already has been required to write a Letter of Intent for their specific child, who has already been identified. So, of course the family is going to "accept" the child! Am I missing something here? Anyways, far be it for me to question the wisdom of this new rule... all I can do is wait for our LOA to arrive. Once this happens, our agency should be able to make our travel arrangements. I'm still hoping for travel in early-mid July.

In fact, I think its possible that not getting our LOA with this batch might mean that some of the other families with our agency, waiting for their LOA, might get their LOA with us in the next batch. So... this might mean that we could form a small travel group with them, which would be awesome! I'm particularly hoping that we'll get to travel with Kelly & Dan, who also have a referral for a son from Jiangsu province, so they will be going to Nanjing, too. It would be great to be there with them, and then to meet up with the other families in Beijing.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Belated Mother's Day Wish

I opened the mail yesterday to find this lovely card from Jocelyn, aka the stampin' and scrapbookin' diva! Jocelyn does "lifebook workshops in a box"- and they are GOOD! You get lovely coordinated papers and embellishments + ideas about how to do your pages. Her website is here:

Monday, May 14, 2007

Counting My Blessings

I just had to share these Mother's Day cards.

The first one is from my oldest daughter. She's 10 now. A real "tween"- caught between childhood and adolescence, and already showing signs of angst (I'm just hoping to make it through the next 10 years!). She made the card in school. Inside it is this poem, written by Rebecca Armstrong, May 1998:

I am your little flower, Mom

Please help me grow and bloom;

Take the weeds, but leave the roots

And give me lots of room.

Mom, you are my gardener;

My sunshine and my rain.

Too much will make me wither

With enough, I'll bloom again.

I am your little flower, Mom

I'm different from the rest;

Don't pick me Mom, just help

me grow

To be my very best.

Very appropriate advice for a mother on the verge of parenting a teenager- LOL!
Then, there is the card that my 7, almost 8, year old made me. She drew (from left to right):

Big Sister (A), Little Brother (D), one dog, two cats, and then herself (C). When she gave it to me she said, "And Mom, look- I drew Daniel in there, too!". She was so pleased with herself! I think she is going to be really close to her little brother- they'll be about 5 years apart in age- which is how much older I am than my "little brother".

I really counted my blessings this year on Mother's Day. I realize how lucky I am to have 2 wonderful and amazingly unique daughters. And I'm so grateful to have our son's referral, to be able to look at his sweet face in his picture, and to know that we'll have him to hold in real life within a couple of months.

To those of you still waiting to see your child's face, hang in there. Mother's Day must be so very hard, but you WILL see a Mother's Day when you are able to look at your child and count your blessings, too.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

For all mothers and mothers-to-be...

Some quotes to ponder...

Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother's love is not.

~James Joyce

With what price we pay for the glory of motherhood.

~Isadora Duncan

An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.

~Spanish Proverb

Wishing all moms & moms-in-waiting a wonderful day!!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A picture that changes your life.

It is amazing that one's life can be changed by a picture of a child.

A child born to another woman, perhaps in another country. A child who becomes YOUR child as soon as you lay your eyes on a picture of his face. Legalities aside, this child is now YOURS. You haven't met him, you haven't felt his silky hair or breathed in his baby smell, but somehow you know him. At some fundamental level that you can't really understand, you know that this child was meant to be your child, and that you were meant to be his mother.

This is one way that an adoptive parent can experience seeing her child for the first time; it is my experience. But it is not one that every adoptive parent shares.

I was recently reading an article by a mom of two daughters from China. When she received the referral and pictures of her first child, she started to bond with her immediately. The child in the picture became HER child, even before they met. Her experience was drastically different with her second daughter. Even after they met in China, this mom did not really feel connected to her at all. It took a few days for her to start "falling in love" with her daughter. Gradually, their bond to each other became stronger, and the relationship between the second daughter and mom is just as close as the one between the mom and daughter #1.

There's no reason we should expect that every adoptive parent will look at their child's referral picture and feel an immediate and overwhelming connection to the little face staring back at them. Some of us will, some won't. Some people are a little guarded, a little more practical about the pitfalls that can sometimes occur in adoption, and can't allow themselves to be so vulnerable, just in case. I have one friend who did not dare paint a nursery for her child until they returned from Guatemala! And that's OK. You just have to move to the rhythm that feels right for you, and have a little faith that things will eventually work out. They usually do.

Whatever your first reaction to your child's photo, there's no doubt that this picture changes your life. In every way imaginable!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Not quite 3 years ago...

... but 2 years and 5 months ago, we decided that our 3rd child would come to us by adoption.

In February 2005, we went on a 'wait list' for our province's mandated pre-adoption preparation course called PRIDE.

On February 8, 2006, yes- one whole year later- we started our first PRIDE class with 8 other couples.

And guess what I just realized?

On February 8, 2007- EXACTLY one year later- we saw our son's face for the first time, while sitting in our provincial adoption consultant's office, where his file was officially "proposed" to us.
And guess what else? This is cute...

February 8 is the feast of the patron saint of orphans- Gerolamo Emiliani, or St. Jermone, as he is known in the Roman Catholic tradition. I wrote a bit about St. Jermone back then, on the morning of February 8, as I was nervously waiting for our 1 pm appointment to "meet" our son.

Even though I am RC (devoutly of the Cafeteria variety), raised by nuns in a Catholic school system, I did not know about St. Jerome. I did not know about him until the week before we received Daniel's file. Desperate for whatever Divine Intervention I could invoke so that the child's file that was being sent from our agency would be OUR child's file, I googled "patron saint of orphans" (hey, there had to be one- there's one for practically everything else!), and that was when I found out about good old Gerolamo, and his feast day. Somehow, I just knew that we'd be getting THE CALL on that day, a Thursday... and we did.

Yep, I believe in saints. I believe that there are people, from all walks of life and all spiritual backgrounds, Christian and non-Christian, recognized and unknown, those that have embraced Religion and those that have shunned it, who ALL share in common the fact that they were so KIND in their lives on earth that their positive energy still resonates, even after their physical bodies are no longer.

You can think of them as saints. Or not. It's up to you.

I know a lot of us have wildly varied spiritual beliefs and practices- which I think is just fascinating and wonderful. But isn't it all about Energy- no matter what other rituals or value systems we add on to our beliefs?

I just love thinking about the possibilities. And I recommend a chat with Jerome to anyone.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The "package" is in the mail...

I finally was able to finish off the package to send to our little tyke- we mailed it via express post to our agency yesterday, and they will bring it to China with them during their next trip. Our director probably spends almost half of her time in China, and there is always someone from the agency going back and forth. Hopefully, the package gets to him before we do!

The most important part of the package is the photo album. 24 pictures of us, and grandparents, and a few of his cousins. I hope he's not overwhelmed! I was able to find a file of Chinese picture labels on the Waiting Children China group- so the nannies can point out his mama and baba and his 2 "jie jei"s (pinyin for big sister), his wai po (Nanny, maternal grandmother), and wai gong (Poppy, maternal grandfather), as well as his nai nai & ye ye (paternal grandparents). Since he's almost 3 years old, giving him faces to become familiar with is really necessary. We'll still be strangers to him when we meet him in China, but at least we'll be familiar strangers.

Above there's a picture of the front of his album. The first symbol is traditional Chinese for "family" and the next line is his name.

We also included some Hershey's kisses for the nannies, some pencils and notebooks for the older children, a dinkie (toy car), some little socks, a really really soft small teddy bear, a disposible camera, a soft book about "Pets" ('cause he'll need to become used to that concept in our household!), and a "Canada" sun hat. We had several other items that wouldn't fit in the box. Our agency asked that we try to keep the box small, since they are carrying it. And, really, it is the photo album that is what we most want him to have.

It's hard to believe that after almost 3 years of being in this adoption process, I am now "scrambling" to get things done! Anyone who knows me irl wouldn't be surprised, I'm sure (news flash: I'm not the world's most organized person). But the reality of it all is setting in... and its both exhilirating and a bit frightening!! Plus, there is an on-line friend who is in Jiangsu (our son's province) right now, having just adopted her daughter, and I'm following her posts like a hawk (and making comments like: "ooh... there they are in the Civil Affairs office... I wonder if we'll be sitting on the same couch soon?" & "hey, kids, come quick, this is the Walmart in Nanjing" &, of course, "isn't Emmelu one of the cutest kids you've ever seen?"! ).

SO... the wild ride with all its ups and downs is continuing. We'll be ready to leave when the time comes. More than ready in some ways- the important ways. And, hey, if we end up forgetting things that we should have packed, we can always find that Walmart, right?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Moving Right Along!!!

I just got a call from our agency director telling us that our file has been moved from Dept 1 to Dept 2!!! This is PROGRESS!!!

I'm just so happy to know that things are "on track"!

It looks like travel by July is a real possibility now.

Did I say that I'm so happy!?!

(P.S. The train is supposed to move. On my computer, it will only move if I click on it. Oh well, you get the general idea, right?)