8 years old! A look back through my twins’ birthdays

It seems like yesterday that we stepped off the plane and my daughters, clinging to me, arrived in Canada, on their third birthday. But it wasn’t yesterday… It was five years ago yesterday. How time does fly!

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In other ways, it does seem like the girls have been with us forever. I don’t think anybody in our family can imagine what it would be like without them. Not only have they completed Jason and I, but they have found irreplaceable places in our extended family’s heart.

It’s amazing to see how they have grown over the years… Mostly straight upwards. We look back to the pictures when they first arrived and they were so tiny, compact, and soft. Their skin is still like a baby’s bottom, but they are all arms and legs when they crawl into my lap now.

Enjoy the pictures from this time of year, for the last eight years. Most of the pictures were taken within a week or so of their birthday. Their “paper birthday,” that is. They came into care on August 28, and so that is their birthday on paper. (Their true birthday is on Meskerem 3, which is a couple of weeks ahead into September.)

Happy birthday, my darlings.

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My dream in reality: Pounce & Hound Fine Pet Goods Open

Today day for me. For the last four years, Jason and I have been working on opening our own veterinary clinic and pet store. Today, we open our doors to Pounce & Hound Fine Pet Goods for the first time.

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It’s a dream that we have been working on so long, we can barely comprehend that it is actually coming true. We’ve had numerous stops and starts along the way… The biggest of which, was the building we were going to that went into bankruptcy. So we had to move locations. That means we have literally been planning this little space of 2500 ft.² for four years.

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Jason has to wait another week or so until the veterinary clinic opens, as we have another veterinarian inspection to do first. But today, my shop, Pounce & Hound Fine Pet Goods, will be open.

I love it when people walk inside, and gasp with her beautiful it is. It’s been such a creative work, from picking out the products to designing the space and I love it that it brings others as much pleasure as it brings me.

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If you’re ever in Kelowna, please come by and visit… Least furry friends are very welcome too!

Pounce & Hound Fine Pet Goods
2720 Richter St., Kelona, BC
www.PandosyVet.com

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Just do it! Learn to care for your Black kid’s hair

Reposted from AfricaSleeps.com

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Before we went to Ethiopia to pick up our daughters, I was determined to learn how to do their hair. I had ordered a curly haired mannequin head off of ebay, but never got to practice on it, since our adoption agency went bankrupt. Suddenly, on six hours notice, I was heading to Ethiopia for an indeterminate amount of time, with only a pick and a comb to rely on. Despite the best of my internet I ons, I was underprepared to tackle twin two and a half year old’s African hair.

Not a week had gone by after meeting my girls, that I realized I was going to have to learn to cornrow… And fast. Luckily, I shared a guest house with a lovely young mom from Ghana, who had worked for West African royalty as aesthetician. Saved! Merry plopped Spice down on the steps, and proceeded to explain to me the basics of braiding. Ten minutes later, Spice was crying and wanted to escape Aunty’s rough combing. But that ten minutes of instruction was crucial to my ability to care for my daughters’ hair.

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Not a day or two later, I did my first cornrowing. I started with one daughters, and the next day, did the second.

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I totally laugh looking back at these photos, because it really was quite horrible. My parts were messy, the hair wasn’t pulled straight… But you know, the girls thought it was awesome. “Konjo Sharuba!” They would cry, when seeing themselves I the mirror. Beautiful braids!

I also thought it was awesome! And the Ethiopians and other Africans I was living with congratulated me on my enthusiastic braiding. So I paraded those kids all over Addis, and after a week when their hair was falling out (really, they were the worst cornrows ever,) I started again.

I found that little micro styles were my friend. It got me used to working with their hair, and I actually got some cute results.

Then, on holiday a month or so later in a cabin in the Ethiopian forest, I tried cornrowing again… With beads! With no distraction except the roving baboons, the girls has shorter attention spans, and I found it very stressful. We took many breaks, until I finally had their hair “done.” I think it last another week, lol.

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We all start somewhere with hair… I started in Ethiopia. Thanks to a gracious hair mentor, support from the locals, and my blind enthusiastic pride, I learned to care for my daughters’ hair. If you are just beginning and are overwhelmed, take heart; if I can be an entirely adequate cornrower with that start, you can too!

I think it is all parents’ responsibility to care for their children’s hair. For transracial families with non-Black parents and children of African heritage, this is doubly important. Caring for your child’s hair and skin means cultural fluency for your children, and acceptance of your parenting by members of their birth culture. It’s not easy… But it’s important.

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You may not have a Ghanaian aesthetician at your disposal, but if you can read this blog, you have access to Youtube. Hair blogs such as Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care and adoption haircare Facebook groups are also wonderful resources. And don’t forget to connect with your local African, Caribbean, and Black communities for support!

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Most importantly, give yourself time and an occasional pat on the back as you fall into the hair groove. Cornrows, as Rome, are not always built in a day. Try try try, and make hair time as pleasant for yourself and your kids as possible. Congratulate yourself when something turns out, and when it doesn’t… Go swimming. Then no one will notice.

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A little bit of progress

Hmmmm… Looks like something may be happening with our US adoption after all. We’ve been talking with an adoption recruiter, and our homestudy has now gone to the kids guardian ad item and their case worker…. Excited to see if we will get to the next step!

$5 off coupon for Organic Skincare from Africa Sleeps

It’s almost time for school, and a gorgeous September. If you’ve been waiting to try our Africa Sleeps products, or just want to stock up for the fall, here’s your chance!

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Just for you, a $5 coupon for our lovely Africa Sleeps ORGANIC SKINCARE products (such as shea lotions, aloe lotions, suncare lotion and lip balms!)

Simply enter the coupon code BACKTOSCHOOL5 at checkout. Offer expires September 31, 2014.

Happy shopping!

Gramma and Grandpa Skills

The fun continues on the other side of the mountains. Today Sugar and Spice went fishing with Grandpa, and cleaned up! None of those fish are grandpa’s, by the way…. He was too busy assisting his outstanding anglers.

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Then at the house, the girls read with Gramma, and then worked crocheting scarves for their stuffies. Apparently they each got a little scarf done in an hour or so. I should add that I was the one who taught them to crochet, but I’m sure they will have way better skills after gramma helps them! Where I am a wild crafter, she is careful. My mom always used to yell at me when I was using the sewing machine “slow down!”

But I digress. Don’t they look all relaxed and country-esque?

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Not a bad day! I wonder what adventures tomorrow will bring…

Girls on the Road: Adventures with Gramma and Grandpa

This week was the girls’ road trip to visit with Gramma and Grandpa in Creston, coincidently coincided with our moving into the clinic!

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They love spending time with their grandparents. It isn’t just the daily amounts of icecream, although that does help. We just let them the girls… Whatever. If they are taking care of our kids and loving them up for free, grandparents deserve the pleasure of spoiling them.

Sugar was building a chicken coop with Grandpa, and Spice was canning cherries with Gramma. They run and roam free on their acreage.

This weekend they also took at little fieldtrip to Invermere. My sister, accomplished face painter, art teacher, visual and graphic artist, is now apprenticing as a tattoo artist. The girls must have been delighted with her body art that she painted all over them… Looks like Gramma was pretty excited too. We have some cat toys made by the Snow Leopard Trust at the clinic, and after they arrived, Sugar got all snow leopard-crazy. :-)

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I’m sure I’ll have even more pictures and stories to share later this week…. In the meanwhile, back to a long day of work!

Our Family Braves the Chaos

Summer in the Okanagan is always a time for family. The first summer we were here, we were completely overrun. But now in the midst of construction and a crazy busy summer, only the truly devoted brave visit to our house.

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My BFF was so awesome… Not only did she bring her three kids including the little newest baby to see us, but she also stayed in a hotel nearby. I felt so bad not having her in our house, but it really wasn’t safe for the small children with all the medical equipment. Probably wasn’t safe for all our medical equipment to be around the baby and 2 4-year-olds either! Plus, we look like hoarders right now. The boxes filled several rooms and hallways…

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Auntie Von and her namesake, Sugar

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Anyway, their baby sleeps all but 6 to 8 hours a day, so it was nice for them to have some peace and quiet as well. We had one of the twins come over and play with the girls, had some beach time, and a nice long visit on the balcony of her hotel room. We polished off a bottle of wine and did that wonderful catching up that you can only really seem to do in person.

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Anyway, their baby sleeps all but 6 to 8 hours a day, so it was nice for them to have some peace and quiet as well. We had one of the twins come over and play with the girls, had some beach time, and a nice long visit on the balcony of her hotel room. We polished off a bottle of wine and did that wonderful catching up that you can only really seem to do in person.

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My brother also came to visit, on his annual summer voyage through Central British Columbia. We appreciate that he takes the time to CS, as it’s virtually impossible investment in time to travel up north for us at the moment. Uncle B chilled on the sofa bed and survived the chaos of living at our house with all the boxes around. We had some nice beach time, and he enjoyed some much-needed catch-up time with the kids. They have a blast when he’s around… He’s like a big child himself!

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We also had lovely visit with friends from Alberta, of which there is no photo documented evidence. Both our friends are vets, and he was great talking about the construction of our clinic with them, has been going through the same thing within the last two years. They also have the nicest kids… And ours got along so well.

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Another honourable mention went to our friends who organized to meet outside our house. We just set the night, and J booked the bowling lanes for us. Super fun… And no guilt on our part about not working, and no set up time, either! So fun, and so easy. Thank you!

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Only a couple days, and our house will be empty of boxes, and have room for more friends and family!

My New Favourite Sisters Song

For you, my sister!

Adoption tennis: Are they interested too?

Adopting through fostercare is very different that adoption through a traditional international adoption process. Most of our friends who have adopted from Ethiopia, China, etc. can relate to suddenly seeing your kids’ faces one day in an email, and then affirming that you do, indeed, want to adopt these children proposed to you.

(a little trip down memory lane..)

Fostercare adoption is more of a two-way street. Everyone has to be interested in each other, and it goes back and forth. We enquire – the kid’s case worker then asks for our homestudy. (We’ve put in several inquiries so far on waiting children, and only a few of the children’s case workers have asked back for a homestudy back. Are we so unattractive as a family? Nope – understandably, most case workers want their kids to be adopted in state.)

Last week we sent off our homestudy for the most interesting sibling group. We saw their video, and we couldn’t get enough of it. I think we’ve watch it 20 times now. We are pretty jazzed about them… it could be an amazing match. This Monday we had a long discussion with their adoption recruiter about the kids. The agency seemed pretty interested in us, and we are even more interested in the kids, knowing some more background. Now the ball is back in their court. Will the kids be interested in us? Would they want to move so far from what they know? Would they take a chance on a multiracial family? Would they like twin 8 year old sisters?

It would mean a new life, in a new culture, and to be in a family for the first time in many years. That’s a lot of change, and a big leap of faith to take, to become permanently a part of a family.

Mid week, and counting… hopefully we will hear something positive back at the end of the week, or early next. And then, the ball will be back in our court, finding out even more about the kids. It’s kind of like adoption tennis.

Natural Hair and Skin for Kids of Colour

Check out this interview with your truly, Arnica Rowan of Africa Sleeps, and Tamara of Natural Hair Rules, written by Rachel Garlinghouse on Adoption.net!

It’s great reading about another person’s perspective… :-) thanks Rachel and Tamara!

“Arnica: The biggest challenge is the learning curve about a totally different type of hair: picking knots out from the roots up, scheduling hair time, finding products that work and developing your styling skills.The other, less talked about challenge is scrutiny from other adoptive parents. I think often we are too quick to judge and not quick enough with encouragement. Hair isn’t a competition; it’s about community and care.”

Read more!

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Creativity and hard work: the gratifying life of an entrepreneur

i am an entrepreneur

I think I was born to be an entrepreneur. When I used to get my students to fill out Cosmo-like questionnaires about their innate personality traits for successful business start-up, I would score myself too. Every time, I would score as high as possible. But there I was, teaching the class, not out exercising my passion for building and creating.

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A few years ago, I started Vulnerable Children Society with a few other women, to help kids and families in Ethiopia. I’m proud of how far we’ve come, and how many people we help… especially the teen girls in our Teenage Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program. But the other kick I get from it, is the building. Just to be clear, I don’t earn a cent from running this charity – I get the perks of a yearly trip to Ethiopia to supervise our work, and the gratification of doing something. You really are able to help when you put the effort in, and I love seeing projects come together out of our dreams and hard work.

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Really, running Vulnerable Children gave meaning to my work life, when I often searched for my impact as a professor. I have to thank my friends, supporters and partners over and over, for enabling me to conjure up projects, fund them, execute them, and see our work come to fruition.

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Last year, I significantly expanded our small family business, Africa Sleeps. I added a whole haircare and bodycare line, and have quadrupled my business since last fall.

It’s so terribly satisfying – creating labels and mixing scents, dreaming up products and experimenting with my daughters’ hair, dreaming up marketing approaches and forming satisfying partnerships with others in the natural hair world, and beyond. I’m so glad that I was able to expand our business with products that my values can really stand behind – that means a lot to me, and honestly, helps me sell them.

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It’s certainly not as glamorous as saying “Hi! I’m a professor specializing in sustainable business and non-profit management.” But it is pretty fun doing the work that goes along with “Hi! I have a natural hair and bodycare line for children of African heritage.”

In other words, I’m living a doing what I used to be researching and teaching. How bout them apples?

And now, our big baby. For the last four years, Jason and I have been working on opening our own vet clinic Pandosy Village Veterinary Hospital and pet shop, Pounce and Hound Fine Pet Goods. Our dream has evolved over the years, waiting for two developments to be built (long story,) but I love where we have ended up.

building a green veterinary hospital

As of next month, we’ll be opening the first integrative veterinary hospital in Kelowna, and an incredibly special store. We work as a team, but in essence, the store is mine. What fun work, even through the frsutrations: designing our clinic (twice!) and overseeing the construction. Figuring out our ethics, manifesto, and all the other choices that follow. Jason’s been studying herbal medicine, and I’ve been using my powers of lotion making and packaging to help him design natural medicines for the shop. I’ve come up with fashion concepts for various seasons, contracted artisans to make products for our shop, selected the most environmentally and socially responsible products I can find, and am now training our staff to take care of it all.

Jason, who scored “medium” on all those entrepreneurship quizzes, enjoys exactly the same thing as me: doing our own thing. We love that we are not following what everyone else is doing (I can’t tell you how many times the architects, conventional vets and others have kindly told us we are crazy for having a 1000 sq ft store in a vet clinic.) But we are united, excited, and so proud of what we have created together. There will be a wedding-like kiss the day we open the doors. (Pucker up, honey. Just two weeks away!)

The downside of having all these enterprises on the go is that I don’t sleep enough, and sometimes have to trade time on one project for another. This past two months, I have lived and breathed the hospital.

But I was born an entrepreneur – passion, creativity and innovation are my fuel. I wouldn’t work any other way.

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