Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

So here it is, the last day of 2009!

I hope this year has been good for you all, and that the new year will hold blessings for everyone.

Some pictures of our holidays so far:

Making Gingerbread Houses on Christmas Eve

The Tree

Gift Opening @ 6 am Christmas Morning (yawn!)

Raiding the Stockings

Getting the "Dinkies" Opened
(little toy cars- what do you call them?)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Homemade Gifts

This is the Irish Hiking Hat- made for my friend as a birthday gift, actually, not a Christmas gift. We got to go on a date with our husbands the other night- we saw a fantastic award-winning local band receiving critical acclaim across North America- Hey Rosetta! Check them out on myspace...

Here are some hand-made pillows by my friend Tracie Brown that I absolutely LOVE!! They are for my 2 nieces and nephew:

Tracie has a website, and can take orders: check her out here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sunday, December 6, 2009

First Snow Storm Dec 09

Remember when shovelling used to be fun!?! (Especially with a new Lightning McQueen shovel!)

It's also great to help make this:

The Dad Hat

Originally uploaded by china-calling
For my brother...

The Mom Hat

Originally uploaded by china-calling
For my Sister-in-law.

The "Little Girly" Hats are for her daughters.

Little Girly Hat #1

Originally uploaded by china-calling

Toddler Republic Hat
(while blocking)

Now, the finished version, being modelled by my son:

Little Girly Hat #2

Originally uploaded by china-calling
For the baby...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christmas Is A-Comin'!

I've been knitting up a storm lately. It is my new obsession. At some point this fall, I think I crossed the line from casual knitter to knitting fanatic! And, I'm getting much quicker- that's maybe why after 30 years or so (my grandmother taught me as a child) of knitting on-and-off (mostly off!), I've suddenly developed a passion for it. I guess we'll see where it goes.

Right now, I still need to finish DX's vest and a hat for my niece. That's all that I *have* to finish in the next few days or so. Shouldn't be too hard. I'm trying to do mostly hand-made gifts for Christmas- even if they're not ALL made by MY hands! SO, I might add to the knit-for-Christmas list yet. After all, its still November.

Here's the back of DX's vest:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

What a Fall!

It's been one hectic fall so far.

I've had a big project at work, my youngest child started half-day Kindergarten, we've all had the H1N1 flu (except dh), and my father-in-law passed away rather suddenly last weekend.

But, such is life, right?

I've still had some time to knit my sister a sweater for her 40th birthday, though. And the kids all had costumes to wear for trick-or-treating last night (NOT hand-made, mind you!).

I think I'll focus on the positive, and hope that as fall moves closer and closer into winter, we'll be wrapped in family warmth and love, able to brave the cold and snow as we wait for spring sunshine to come again.

Monday, September 21, 2009

One Week of School Down, Less Than 40 to Go!

So, we've gotten through just over one week of school, including 3 different Curriculum Night sessions. I'm still trying to get totally into the pattern of Kindergarten half-days. In the mornings, while we're in morning sessions, I'm trying to work from home, to save an extra 40 mins/day of communting time. It's working mostly- except when the kids have a dentist appointment, or a doctor's appointment, like today. That throws me a bit off schedule. But its mostly working for me. I'll get really into the routine just in time to change to the afternoon sessions.

Here's first day of school (before the tears!). Is he a big kid now or what?

I also have to mention that one of our local Moms has started a fabulous little website, where she is offering embroidered fleece items for sale. Click HERE to get to her site. I've ordered some of her adorable shoe bags for my nieces- great for ballet slippers or anything at all. I'm also going to order some fleece pillows from her, but I'm trying to finalize what colours/designs go with what kids! She has Chinese-themed and non-Asian themed designs, designs for boys and girls- something for everyone. Check it out!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Relaxation Week... is over

We had a full week to recover from our trip to Toronto before going back to work (yesterday) and school (today for the girls, tomorrow for my big Kindergarten boy!). It was a much needed week of relaxation. Here's some of what I did.

1) I read this:

You have to love the quaintness of Agatha Christie novels. So British. For the record, I also used to watch Angela Landsbury in "Murder, She Wrote", and I love the PBS Mystery shows (especially "Rosemary and Thyme", the English gardening and crime-fighting crones who make me look forward to being in my late 50s!).

2) I pinned together the layers for my daughter's quilt. I has been a wip (work in progress) for over a year now. All that is left is to machine quilt it, and put a binding on it. I expect it might be ready by Christmas 2010.

3) I resurrected this knitting project:

If you can't tell, it is a simple scarf, making use of short rows to change the orientation of the knitting in a consistent pattern. I made a scarf using this pattern last winter for a friend. I might keep this one. It's made from sock yarn, so is really soft and a bit stretchy. DH thinks its a bit 1970's psychadelic, but I don't think so.

4) We (DH & I, not the kids) also started watching Season 1 of this HBO series:

I'm pretty sure it is horribly inaccurate in a historical sense, but it is entertaining and I particularly enjoyed watching episode 7, directed by Tim Van Patten. (Remember the Van Pattens from te 1970s & 80s? Tim is Dick's half brother and Vincent's uncle).
And that is how I decompressed after the family vacation we'd rather forget. There were also a couple of nice and calm family outings, proving that, we can be a functional family unit- most of the time!

Friday, September 4, 2009

"Don't Call Me Mother"

This is a book written by Ms. Dragonfly, aka Elizabeth Elias, whose adoption journey I, and many others, followed in her popular blog "DragonflyandLadybug". You can find the link to her blog over on the right.

Most of Elizabeth's adoption blogging ended soon after she brought home her beautiful daughter- much to the disappointment of many. The reason why is at least partially explained in her new book. She suffered from one of the issues not often raised in the adoption world: post-adoption depression.

I will admit right now that I haven't read E's book yet. However, in my compulsive drive to learn everything I can about adoption and adoptive families, I did read Karen Foli's and John Thompson's book "The Post-Adoption Blues: Overcoming the Unforeseen Challenges of Adoption" 2 or 3 years ago. The realization that adoptive parents can suffer from depression after the much-anticipated arrival of their child is not new. But it hasn't gotten a lot of air-time in what I'll call the mainstream adoption community, either, which leaves many sufferers feeling alone and bewildered.

"Don't Call Me Mother" is a memoir that I believe will reach out to other parents who find themselves in a dark place after their child's adoption. Thankfully, post-adoption depression has not been part of my life, but I want to walk a mile in the shoes of a woman who has experienced it and is able to tell the tale.

Elizabeth's book is available HERE.

This is Elizabeth's second book about adoption. Her first is a delightful children's tale called "Lovebug". I'm not sure if it is still available, but its worth checking out.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Family Vacation...

We just returned from our worst family vacation ever. For the first 3 days, I fought off a migraine while the girls, now 10 and 12.5 years old, fought each other constantly in the way that only pre-teenagers do... nasty... Our 5 year old was more interested in asking "when are we going back to the hotel?" and "when are we going home?" than in the zoo, or the museum. Sigh.

There were a few bright spots. We met friends while there and did the CN Tower Tour with them. Those few hours with someone else seemed to distract the girls from quarrelling with each other. Then we had supper at the Marche Movenpick (now the Richtree Market) on Yonge. Did I mention we were in Toronto? Fabulous place to visit. We even used to live there- for 3 years prior to having kids. After spending a week on the 401 and 400- in traffic that wasn't even bad, by TO standards- I'm happy to be living much farther off the beaten track. Like I said, fabulous place to visit... and shop in.

Two other bright spots to mention- I dragged the whole family down Queen Street West into the "Fashion District" where there is a wool store called Romni Wool. Here it is:

So, I would have preferred to go myself, but that wasn't really in the cards. So, we all walk from Osgoode station (because we had to see the CityTV/Much Music building), all the way down Queen West until we get past Bathurst. Finally, there is the shop. I spent about 20 wonderful minutes staring at and feeling wool that I can never buy in person here (e.g., Berroco, Debbie Bliss, etc. etc...), until my little people (and my one big person) got too restless. So, I quickly bought 9 skeins of Berroco Ultra Alpaca in an orangey-burgandy and left. Oh, to spend an hour or two there. Someday, maybe. I'll have to check for upcoming conferences in Toronto so I can get there by myself. So, the wool is stashed for a few weeks until I finally decide on a sweater pattern.

The other bright spot was a concert. The Jonas Brothers concert, if you can believe it! Our oldest daughter is a fanatic. I mean completely fanatic about them- and has been for about 2 years. Every inch of her bedroom is plastered in Joe, Kevin, and Nick. Last year, we had tickets to see them in the Ampitheatre, but backed out of the trip a few weeks before, due to my work committments, mostly. Good things come to those who wait, it seems. The concert was in the Skydome/Rogers Centre this year and was a real piece of work.

Now, I am saying this as a disengaged observer- I am definitely not a Jonas Brothers or Jordan Sparkes fan. But the production... totally top-notch. Very impressive. Of course, they are of Disney pedigree, so its not too surprising, I guess. It was also the loudest concert I've ever attended- thanks to the high pitched screaming of at least 30, 000 pre-teen girls (most of the other 26, 000 had to be their parents, right?)! I have to admit, the boys are kind of hot. If I was 25 years younger, I'm sure they'd be my Rick Springfield, Scott Baio, and Eric Estrada ;) And I almost have my daughter convinced that Joe's offering to the parents in the audience of "Sweet Caroline" was really just for me ;) (LOL- how old does he think we are!?! I consider myself more of the Simon LeBon than the Neil Diamond era, thank-you very much.)

Anyways, here's a tip: if you haven't seen the romantic comedy "The Proposal" with Sandra Bullock, do yourself a favour and go. I watched it on the plane on the way home. In fact, now that I think of it, maybe that was the best part of the trip...
Naw. It was the wool shop.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I imagine that in a previous life, I was a pioneer woman, working on the homestead, raising children and hens and making everything from scratch.

I just get so much satisfaction from creating physical objects- some useful, some not so much.

My most recent project started as a gift for my in-laws upcoming 50th Anniversary. I found a design in one of my favorite magazines (that I buy, fawn over for days, stack on my bedside table, and then sometimes find the time to make something from): Quilting Arts magazine. This was the Holiday 2008-2009 edition- and it is called "A Quilted Family Tree", designed by Virginia Cole.

Basically, it involves patching together a miniature quilt top from approx. 1 inch blocks, backing it with muslin and then quilting. Then, in the shape of a tree, you paste on words- cut from books or printed- that are relevant to your family. Here's mine:

Since the miniquilt was made bigger than I needed, there were some fairly big scraps left over. As it turns out, one of my best friend's mother was having her 80th birthday party on Sunday past, and I decided to make her something similar out of the scrap pieces. So, I cut out 4 pieces, sewed them together, quilted them onto a muslin backing, and then put a small binding on the whole thing. I found a "quilt quote", dug into some of my scrapbooking embellishments, and the whole thing came together:

Not bad for a few days of off-and-on creativity!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy Summer!

So, I missed the opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Canada Day (July 1st) and a Happy Independence Day (July 4th)- but better late than never!

We had subdued Canada Day celebrations this year- the weather was cold, the holiday was on a Wednesday, I was recovering from a migraine... but we took the kids to our community celebration as a way to mark the day. I'm not a typical flag-flyer, but I am very grateful to live in this country and proud to be Canadian, so its important to us to remember that, at least once a year.

It has been a busy summer for me at work. We have a lot of projects on the go with graduate students, but that's a good thing. In spite of this, I've managed to squeeze in a few leisure activities- like planting my "red, white and blue" flower box. I call it my "Obama Garden"- in honour of the first African-American President of the United States of America! Take a look:

My 10-year-old has been bent on having me make her a recycled "Kool-Aid" bag. We don't even really drink Kool-Aid at our house, but we bought a couple of boxes of the and her cousins donated some of their leftover pouches. This is the result:

So, it took me the better part of Thursday evening to do that, but it was kind of fun. I also broke off a needle in my sewing machine (which I just had serviced) and ended up shifting the bobbin casing, requiring that I take the bottom plate apart and fiddle a bit, but it all ended up OK. LOL- I can't believe I'm making Kool-Aid bags! Oh my.

I hope anyone reading this is having a great summer. I imagine my blog posts will be quite few. BTW, if any of you want to hear the story of a wonderful adoption from China's Waiting Child Program, go to the blog links on your right and click on "The Seventh Diamond". You'll find a link in Kimberly's blog to her travel blog, kept for her family's journey to Sophia Jane. Beautiful Miss Sophia is such a treasure! Seeing her with her brothers is so heart-warming. Welcome home, sweetie!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

June in Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month

OK- so let me be clear from the start: adopting a pet is NOT the same thing as adopting a child.

IMO, using the word "adoption" to describe the process of getting a pet and bringing it into your family in no way diminishes the term as it is used to describe the process of bringing a child into your life. The processes are vastly different, but they both mean that you are making a long-term commitment to another living being. The commitment made to a cat or dog and the commitment made to a child are obviously not in the same league at all! So, as an adoptive mom and as someone who has also "adopted" pets, I will use the word in both ways, without apology. (But I am sorry if I sound touchy!)

Now that's out of the way, June is adopt-a-cat month in Canada and the US. So, spread the word... there are thousands of cats and kittens in shelters all across North America just waiting for someone to find them and bring them home.

Check out the story of my cats here:

While you're there, submit a photo of your favorite feline! And if you don't have a cat in your life, you might want to consider the possibility...
As someone who lives with and loves both cats and dogs, I have to say that dogs are wonderful and rewarding, but they involve considerable work. (Actually, I always say that raising a puppy is more intense than raising a baby!)
Cats, on the other hand, are purr-fect pure pleasure.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Blog Neglect

I am so guilty of blog neglect. Over this past year, in particular, I haven't blogged much, nor have I been reading other blogs regularly. But, for some reason, I'm not ready to clue up my blog. It still feels like an old friend who you can go without talking to for months, then drop in on and pick up exactly where you left off.

At the end of this summer, we will celebrate the two year anniversary of bringing home our son. He'll start Kindergarten this coming fall. There has been so much growth- both literally and figuratively- around here since he's been home that it is truly remarkable. We are incredibly lucky with all of our 3 kids.

And now, we are at a crossroads. Do we have room in our lives for one more child? Not so sure. The hectic pace of keeping up with the schedules of 3 children when both parents work full-time (with one of them travelling frequently) is sometimes wearing. But my fantasy family has always included 4 kids. I can't help but have this nagging feeling that we might not be totally done with our family. But, then the feeling passes as the reality of getting supper on the table or another lunch box ready smacks me between the eyes!

The other nagging feeling I have is that if there is another child to enter our lives, then maybe he (I don't think its a "she") won't come to us through international adoption. I almost can't believe I've written that! I am such a proponent of adoption through China's Waiting Child Program. Our experience has been so fantastic with the WCP. It would be my logical first choice to adopt again through this program- we'd request another son, 2-3 years old, probably cleft-affected. So, I can't reconcile why I feel that I am being drawn more towards other options... especially when the other options are so unclear to me... or maybe they don't even exist at all. Sigh.

I've been reading posts on some of my adoption-related yahoo groups concerning how you know when "you're done" with growing your family. I guess it is different for everyone. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all you Moms and Moms-to-be out there!

See what my precious brood gave me for Mother's Day 2009.

First, from my 12 year-old daughter:

Then, from my 9 year-old (she was *so* excited to give it to me!):

Finally, from my sweet 4 year-old son (flowers made from coffee filters):

Am I a lucky Mom, or what?

And here's what I spent 2 glorious hours this morning making for the Nannys:

I am counting all my little blessings today. My thoughts are with those of you are who still waiting to share your first Mother's Day with your child.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Keeping up with the kids...

Our oldest child is now 12 years old. Can you imagine? Almost a teenager.

When she was born, I was a graduate student. Still a grad student when our second daughter was born. I have always been a studying and working mom and, because of the wonderful social support I have, balancing the needs of a young growing family and a relatively demanding career has been more than manageable. The addition of our third child did not make our lives any more hectic. In fact, after DX was adopted, I was actually able to take parental leave and still have an income (whoo-hoo!). Once my leave was over, and DX went to preschool, we pretty quickly adjusted to this new daily routine. Three kids- three different drop-offs in the morning. My husband took one child, I took two... no problem.

THEN, all of a sudden, life got CRAZY BUSY! Mostly, I think, due to our 12 year old's activities. She is in school band, school choir, on the school basketball team (which her Dad coaches), takes after-school piano lessons, and is in the school's spring musical production. While band and choir mostly happen during school hours, basketball, piano, and "the show" involve a LOT of after-hours time- and a lot of ferrying her around! Our younger daughter is involved in basketball, music, and gymnastics- but, so far, her schedule hasn't been quite so demanding. DX takes music during preschool and did swimming before Christmas. SO, the younger two kids' activities definitely contribute...

Now, this is all good. We want our kids to be involved in sports, music, and the community. But, I can't help but feeling we're entering a whole new era in our family balancing act- time together vs. activities. Down-time vs. van-time. Sane vs. strung-out? (that's me, of course).

I guess this *is* a new phase in our family's life, calling for us to pull out some new tools from our parental toolbox. Ai yi yi! Who'd have figured that parenting preteens would be more busy than parenting toddlers!?!

My mother, that's who.

But do I listen to my mother?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Some Disney Snapshots

We had a fabulous week in Orlando in February. We escaped from home in the middle of a snowstorm, and were very, very appreciative of the wonderfully warm weather (even though the Disney park attendants were wearing their winter clothes!). It was our first Florida trip... and we can't wait to go back!

Here are a few pics:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

World Health Day 2009

This year's theme: keeping hospitals safe in emergencies. Click on the post title for more from the World Health Organization.

Of interest to those of us who love China: Jet Li has been appointed the Goodwill Ambassador for WHO...

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Complexities of Adoption in China (click on post title above for a hotlink to the article, complete with pictures)

In a small coastal town in Guangdong province, a baby was found at a hospital identified only by a birth date -- April 22, 2005 -- written in ballpoint pen on her stomach. She was 3 months old.

Chinese Orphans Find Adoptive Parents Close to Home
China's one-child policy has contributed to a rise in adoptions, including some by single Chinese women. Jane Lanhee Lee Naville tells the story of 4-year-old Baosha and her adoptive mother.

Like most abandoned babies in China, she wasn't well: cherry angioma, benign skin tumors made up of blood vessels, were spreading on her groin. Her parents had most likely left her because they feared her medical bills would crush them, a common cause of financial ruin in China. And she was a girl.

By chance, a month later, Mui Koh, an unmarried Guangdong native who teaches English at a vocational school, started to volunteer her time at the orphanage where the baby had been sent.

"The baby was crying so hard and I felt so bad for her," says Ms. Koh, now 38 years old. "I was told she cried like this each time she urinated because it caused the (pain) to flare up."

Back home in the two-bedroom apartment she shares with her parents, Ms. Koh couldn't stop thinking about the baby. The next day she went back to the orphanage and took the baby to see a doctor at a public hospital nearby. For 300 yuan (about $44), he removed the tumors.

Every evening after that, Ms. Koh visited the orphanage after work to care for the baby. She called her Portia, after the heroine in Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice." In Chinese, she was Bao-sha -- bao for treasure and sha for the first character in Shakespeare's Chinese name.

Samantha Sin for The Wall Street Journal
Mui Koh and her adopted daughter Portia at home in Guangdong province

Two months went by and Ms. Koh's love for the baby grew. Then the orphanage warned her that unless she adopted Portia -- now perfectly healthy -- the baby would be adopted by someone else.

Ms. Koh was stumped: "I didn't even know the concept of adoption at the time," she says.

No wonder. While China is known overseas as a place many go to adopt babies, until recently adoption was uncommon among Chinese families themselves. That's partly because of limited financial resources, and partly because the country's Confucian culture emphasizes family and filial piety.

"In China, society operates on blood relationships," says Yu Hai, a sociology professor at Fudan University in Shanghai. "So if families can have their own children, they aren't going to adopt."

But change is afoot. Local adoptions are on the rise, thanks to economic progress and evolving social attitudes. Adoption also provides a way around China's family-planning policies, which aim to limit most urban couples to one child.

There aren't any official nationwide data on domestic adoptions. But according to Ji Gang, a director at the central government's Center of Adoption Affairs, they have been "clearly growing" since about 2003 in affluent cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. In provinces where the economy has grown quickly, says Mr. Ji, "domestic adoption has grown quickly, too."

In China, there are no limits on the number of orphans a person can adopt, he adds, provided the prospective parent can support them financially and passes certain age, health and education requirements. "Once people have the money, they can afford to raise a second or third child."

Samantha Sin for The Wall Street Journal
Ms. Koh plays with Portia, on the bicycle, as the grandparents look on.

The shift toward adoption is also partly due to developments of another kind: Couples are marrying later, and may not be able to conceive. And some women aren't marrying at all. Another factor: Older couples whose only child has died want another.

"Adoption demand created under (these) circumstances is actually quite large," says Zeng Fanlin, a psychologist and associate professor of special education at East China Normal University in Shanghai.

Foster parenting is taking off, too, says Prof. Zeng, also as a result of budding prosperity in bigger Chinese cities -- plus a growing sense of social responsibility. Nodding to the trend, the government implemented nationwide regulations on foster care in 2004.

"Some mothers in their 40s and 50s...they don't have to work and they have time. That's an important precondition," says Mr. Zeng. These financially stable women also want to give back: "People feel that they can help solve a small part of the problems in society," he adds.

Last June, Zhang Min, a 33-year-old Shanghainese, started a small foster home for disabled orphans -- really a three-bedroom apartment in the city's outskirts -- with nine other Shanghai mothers. Ms. Zhang, an administrative worker at a property developer, was moved to action by appeals she read on a Chinese-language Web site that told the stories of sick children. "I never realized that there were so many people in difficult situations. I wanted to find a way to help them," she says.

The mothers -- all middle-class Chinese who can't afford to adopt children, especially those with medical problems, but want to get involved -- take turns helping out at the foster home, called Baobei Zhi Jia, which has six full-time employees (four on hand at a time) and currently shelters eight babies.

Besides the added cost of raising an adopted child, Chinese families typically are expected to donate several thousand yuan (a fortune to most Chinese families) to the orphanage from which they are adopting.

Sharron Lovell for The Wall Street Journal
Zhang Min plays with an orphan at the foster-care center, Baobei Zhi Jia, that she and nine other mothers established in Shanghai.

Because the concept of domestic adoption is relatively new in China, it's still a sensitive topic. Some parents keep the adoptions secret for fear the child might be teased by other children, or treated differently by adults. Others worry that birth parents might locate them and cause trouble or try to take the child away.

For Bao Nan, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Shanghai Children's Medical Center, the sticking point was day care.

Dr. Bao, 41, operates on many orphans with spina bifida, a birth defect that involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord, often resulting in hydrocephalus, in which fluid collects in the brain. It's work he does on behalf of the Baobei Foundation, a Shanghai nonprofit organization (unrelated to Ms. Zhang's group) that helps Chinese orphans suffering from critical neurological or gastrointestinal disorders. With timely surgery, many of these children live normal healthy lives and are adopted internationally when they recover.

Over time, Dr. Bao had an "aha" moment. "I was so touched by the families caring for these orphans, I decided I would also like to adopt one of these babies."

But he and his wife, a cardiovascular surgeon, would have to rely on his mother-in-law to care for any child they adopted. Because the mother-in-law already baby-sits their 9-year-old son, she didn't want the extra responsibility of another child. "We don't have room for a live-in nanny and would need to move to a bigger apartment for that," says Dr. Bao, who hasn't given up on the idea.

For Ms. Koh, there was no choice: She couldn't let Portia go.

With a monthly income of 3,000 yuan (about $440), Ms. Koh had to borrow from one of her brothers to pay the required 5,000 yuan (about $730) "donation" to Portia's orphanage. (That money is used to support the mentally or otherwise handicapped babies left behind.) She didn't tell her brother what the money was for because she feared her family would try to talk her out of the adoption. In fact, she didn't even tell her parents until the day the adoption was finalized.

Ms. Koh made the announcement after dinner that night, as her mother watched TV and her father brewed a pot of tea. "They remained silent. And neither one of them said anything when I finished talking," says Ms. Koh. Their silence was a rebuke.

Two days later, in January 2006, Ms. Koh brought the baby home.

Today, no one in the neighborhood knows Portia is adopted, except the Kohs' next-door neighbors, who keep it a secret. Ms. Koh says if anyone asks, she'll tell them the truth. But nobody has. "I think in the beginning, (the other neighbors) just assumed she was my brother's daughter who came to live with us, or some just assumed I was the godmother."

Finding parents for special-needs children is difficult anywhere. But in China, as in many developing countries, disabled children often carry a social stigma. Plus, the potential of high medical bills make them hard to place outside orphanages.

After last May's massive Sichuan earthquake orphaned more than 600 children, tens of thousands of Chinese families clamored to adopt them. Most, however, were placed with family members; 88 were put up for adoption. But only 12 have been placed with new families so far, according to the Sichuan Civil Affairs Bureau. Many of the kids who haven't been adopted are disabled.

In 1997, the city of Shanghai started China's first official foster-care program after psychological studies showed kids in foster-care were better off than those in orphanages. Of the 2,000-plus orphans who are under the city's care, 60% to 70% are with foster families, according to Prof. Zeng, and many of those children have disabilities or other health problems.

A handful of the foster families in Shanghai are couples who would like to adopt, but can't afford to or aren't ready to. Take Yollanda, a 38-year-old mother in Shanghai who asked that only her English first name be used. In October 2007, on a regular volunteer visit to the pediatric ward of the Shanghai Children's Medical Center, she met Li Yun, a baby with a severe disability who had been sent for treatment from a Guangdong orphanage. The baby had been born with anal atresia, a birth defect in which the rectum is malformed, which requires surgery. She had undergone two unsuccessful operations already. A third one came too late and today she requires a daily enema.

"I saw this baby and she seemed so helpless, so alone," says Yollanda. "I felt I had to help her and take care of her."

With the full support of her husband, who manages the family assets -- Yollanda earns a little over 10,000 yuan (about $1,460) a month as a manager at a mobile-phone parts maker -- she signed a foster-care contract with the Guangdong orphanage and brought the baby home the same day.

These days, Yollanda's 4-year-old daughter and Li Yun, now almost 3, play like sisters -- sharing, and fighting over, toys. The family lives in a small, cramped apartment on the fringes of Shanghai with a cousin who cares for the kids while the couple works.

In Shanghai, foster-care agreements, which can last one month or up to a year, usually come with a monthly stipend of about 700 to 800 yuan (about $102 to $117) for each child to offset food and caretaker costs. Health-care bills are covered, too. The foster family has to apply at a local welfare center, then undergo some training.

In some cases, foster parents are asked to decide after several months whether they will adopt the child they're caring for -- otherwise the orphanage will begin the adoption process and place the baby in the waiting line.

Should she adopt? Yollanda struggled for months with the question as she grew more attached to the child. Her family and friends said no. They worried that Li Yun's health problems would make life difficult for everyone involved. Yollanda fretted about whether she could deal with the child's health issues not just financially but socially: People with disabilities in China aren't yet as well integrated as in other parts of the world.

"In the end, I thought it would be better for her to go to the U.S. because there are good medical programs to help children like her," says Yollanda, as she cradles Li Yun in her arms in her Shanghai apartment.

The orphanage started adoption proceedings for Li Yun and she will most likely be adopted overseas in the next six to 12 months. "But now I am worried that if the adoption process takes too long, it will be hard for Li Yun to adjust...I don't want her to suffer. I don't want her to think I've abandoned her."

As for Ms. Koh, she now teaches English to middle- and high-school students on weekends and most weeknights to make ends meet. Her parents, both 73, are too old to look after Portia full-time. So the talkative, jolly toddler has to live at a local nursery boarding school from Sunday evening to Saturday morning. The care center costs Ms. Koh 13,000 yuan (about $1,900) a year.

"It's not ideal. I hope when she's a little bit older and easier to take care of, she can live at home," says Ms. Koh, who is heartbroken every time she drops off her daughter.

Meanwhile, Ms. Koh's parents, who declined to be interviewed, have come around. They look after Portia on weekends when Ms. Koh has to work. "They give her more attention than they give to my brothers' children," says Ms. Koh.

Her father, a former physical education teacher and educator, initially worried that Ms. Koh would find it difficult to marry with a child. While Ms. Koh says she isn't ruling out marriage, she doesn't need to be married to be happy.

"Portia is part of my heart. She's part of me. Life is rich and meaningful with her," Ms. Koh says.

—Jane Lanhee Lee Naville is a writer based in Shanghai.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Grammys

I usually don't pay much attention to award shows, but my girls begged me to allow them to stay up to see The Jonas Brothers. So, here I sit, waiting for The Jonas Brothers to sing, so I can shoo them off to bed.

Actually, I'm kind of enjoying it... U2 rocked. As usual- I mean, is it even possible for them to sound bad? Unless the Edge is edgy for the wrong reasons.

Oh wait... The Jonas Bothers are on with.... STEVIE WONDER!?!?! what the...? Uh-oh, worlds are colliding, Jerry.... OK, one of Stevie's 20 kids must of put him up to this. Whoa. They got a standing ovation. (Let's pause for a moment: What does that say about the audience?)

Now, Justin Timberlake and the Reverend Al Green + Boyz2Men- that's another story! I was completely awed. And I just read on the LA Times live blog that this was an unrehearsed last-minute fill-in spot for the MIA Chris Brown who is being entertained by the LAPD. Maybe that's why it sounded so fanatstic- that it was basically unrehearsed, I mean. Yep, loved, loved, loved the Rev. Not sure about his politics, but the man sure can groove. And Justin has such a boyish impiness that I just want to pinch his cheeks.
(one minute passes as I search for Al Green images on Google)

Now, one kiddo has fallen asleep on the couch, the other is begging to see if the JosBros are going to win the best new artist. Which is on right now. Let's take a guess at who will win, shall we?
Well, my almost-12 year old has thrown herself prostrate on the floor because it was NOT the brothers, but, rather, someone I had not yet heard of... Adele. She reminds me of Alison Moyet. Oh come on, there have to be someone else out there who came to age in the 80s!

So, I guess I will pick my daughters up and drag them both off to their beds...

I hope anyone watching enjoys the rest of the show (and that Lil' Wayne keeps his pants up).

The latest on citizenship for IA kids...

OK, so maybe Jason Kenny wasn't really listening.

The latest and most comprehensive overview of how the new citizenship bill will affect children who were born outside Canada was written by Doug Chalke, exective director of Sunrise Adoption agency in BC.

The quick take-home messages:
1) kids who came into Canada via sponsorship as a family-class member and who obtained permanent resident status prior to citizenship are not impacted at all

2) kids who came into Canada (or who are yet to come) under the "direct citizenship" process WILL be subject to the restrictions of the new bill (or their kids possibly will be, if that's the way you want to look at it)

3) after the bill goes into effect in April, the only way to ensure that a foreign-born child is NOT subject to the restrictions of the new bill is to sponsor the child through the PR process vs. going the direct citizenship route.

But, don't take my word for it- read the summary here: