The Road Not Taken

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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

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Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

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And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

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I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Natural Horsegirlship at the Dude Ranch

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Every year Jason and I give our girls a choice: they can have a birthday party, or get a birthday present. This year, for the first time, they decided to forgo the party for their special present request. They wanted to spend the night at a ranch, and go riding.

Luckily, the girls and I were able to ride the tails, so to speak, of my friend P’s quarterly getaways with her daughter. P takes her daughter to this lovely dude ranch in the Thompson region, where they have riding lessons, cute small cabins, and amazing vistas.

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So the girls and I spent a wonderful relaxed weekend with Pam, her daughter, and her two dogs. The girls went riding, first in the arena, and then out on a little Trailride. It was fun to see the girls practice their growing horse – girl – ship skills… The riding lessons over the years has paid off.

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I couldn’t believe that Spice (shown here) and Sugar Took their horses through obstacles and up onto ramps.

Wherever we go for a few days, I encourage the girls to journal about it. Usually there are pictures, and sometimes even poetry. I thought you might enjoy their impressions of a quiet hour with a horse in the field.

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When I asked them for their weekend highlights, they actually said that hiking in the hills looking for bear poo was the best part. There was fresh their plop everywhere, and the little scientists love investigating what animals have eaten. Seriously.

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Happy eighth birthday girls!

A huge thanks to P for letting us share their cabin. I have to say though, that I am gunning for for the birthday party next year… I do love parties!

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Sugar and Spice’s Playlist

Wonder what’s hot on my eight year old’s hitlist?

Every night after dinner, the girls have a little dance party, to burn off the surge of energy they get form eating supper. (I’m serious. I don’t think they would get to bed without it.)

Tonight they got to request their top three favourite radio hits, and here’s what they chose to dance to:

I have to say that Taylor Swift’s new song is SUPER catchy, and the video is 97% kid friendly.

OK, so there is some jiggling in this one, but the message of loving your body no matter what jiggles is a great message for my growing girls. (I ignore the bits about what boys like and emphasize the “every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top!”)

Our favourite to dance to, for sure, is this. Jason and I kill ourselves laughing as the girls attempt the Roger Rabbit we were around for the original 80s.

Video

Wine Wednesdays: 2011 Budget Bordeaux Worth Buying

Every year in September, Jason and I pick up our copy of the Bordeaux release booklet. We tag the pages and circle ones that we are interested in… The BC liquor store system allows us to get at excess to some decent variety of some of the best wines in the world. You may have even better selections where you live!

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Before I go any further, let me explain why Bordeaux is so special. Critics would say that there are a lot of mediocre winds and high prices. But what they may not tell you is that the most earth shattering, are inspiring were winds in the world come from this amazing place.

On our honeymoon, Jason and I had a chance to visit many first, second and third growth wineries. We will never be able to afford these wines… But let me tell you, there is a reason that Château d’Yquem is the top winery in the world. Many of the first growth and second growth produce winds of infinite character and incredible finish. I credit those tastings as the foundation of developing my own wine palette. I think it forever changed my perception of what truly is “great wine. “

Back to the October release. Some years, we afford ourselves a few investment bottles. Some years, we can’t afford anything. Unfortunately, last year was one of those years, and it was one of the best Bordeaux vintages on record. Domage!

This year, we are particularly not in the position to buy wine. But that doesn’t stop us coming through the release catalog and picking our favorites.

As a public service to all of those in British Columbia, let me highlight my favourite picks from your local liquor stores. Of course, you may be less price driven and want to invest in some more expensive bottles to stowaway. But I love finding value in Bordeaux.

The quotes are from the BC Liquor store website.

First is the budget version of d’Yquem. Chateau Doisy-Vedrines.

95 pts, Wine Spectator $60
Pure, with piercing persimmon, pineapple, white peach and quince flavors. Gorgeous floral notes of honeysuckle and orange blossom form the backdrop, while a heather accent caresses the finish. Overwhelmingly pure in the end, with a finish that sails on and on. Best from 2016 through 2035.

This beautiful little lot of land is one of the ones that we drove through when we were in Sauternes. There is a reason there is a bottle limit… Anyway you slice it, this is spectacular value for wine. If you don’t no when we would drink sweet dessert wine, don’t worry about the occasion. This will last forever, and you can easily have it with a piece of blue cheese, some pate, or just savoring on it’s own in an evening.

Next is Clos Floridene, from Graves.

90 pts, Wine Spectator $35
Very solid, with an energetic tarry edge around a core of steeped plum, blood orange and raspberry fruit. Bright floral and iron hints fill the finish, showing sleek acidity. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Best from 2015 through 2019.

Graves is a lesser known region of Bordeaux, but it includes some of the most value-laden budget wines from the region. Just like Sauternes, it is west of the Graonne River, and was named for the gravelly soils the vines grow in. I personally love the overgrown, medieval look of the farms and old castles in this area. Wines from this area typically are Cabernet based, and age well.

Across two rivers and north of the Dordogne River, you will find Chateau Fonteil, from Fronsac

89 pts, Wine Advocate $39
From the husband and wife oenologist team of Michel and Dany Rolland, this blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits dark black raspberry and graphite notes intermixed with hints of licorice and blueberries, medium to full-bodied flavors, excellent depth and texture, sweet tannin and adequate acidity. As always, Fontenil is one of the stars of Fronsac in 2011 with the winemaking skills of its owners well-presented. This beautifully crafted, high-class effort needs another year or so to resolve its tannins, and it can be drunk over the next 10+ years.

I haven’t been to Fronsac, because it was just emerging as a wine region ten years ago, when we were there on our honeymoon. Quite a few of the big wine houses are investing in this region, which is producing better and better wine. I love right bank wines, which are more feminine (it’s all the merlot and cab franc) and this bottle promises a lovely glass.

I hope these few suggestions temp you to check out Bordeaux, maybe for the first time!

Santé!

‘Shoulders’ by Shane Koyczan and The Short Story Long

A new favourite from our amazing local slam poet, Shane Koyczan

Bantu knots and the hair bully

After a four-month teacher strike, our two girls went back to public school for the first time last week. As per our usual autumn routine, we took their hair out of extensions and styled it into some cute hairstyles.

I have been working extra hours lately, as we just opened a new business, so I opted for hairstyles that could be done in 30 to 40 minutes. One daughter got wide, flat twists, while the other looked up from her movie to see that I had done Bantu knots in her hair.

“Oh no!” my daughter with the knots all over her head exclaimed. “I can’t wear this to school! Kids will make fun of me!”

I was, of course, devastated. Not only had I put in the time to do her hair, but I wanted her to feel comfortable and confident with her hairstyle. My daughters are lovely little girls, and have always felt good about the way they look. Hearing her nervous about her hairstyle made me nervous. Would kids truly make fun of her? And who were these kids anyway? Some kind of hair bullies?

I sent her to bed with a towel rolled under her neck and some melatonin to sleep through that first uncomfortable night of Bantu knots. I promised that we would take it out in the morning if she still felt uncomfortable.

In the morning, she told us at the breakfast table that she was scared about the neighborhood boys giving her a hard time about her hair.

My husband’s advice? To quip back “Well, I can change my hair, but you can’t change your face. “

I thought this was a ridiculous thing to say.

I gave her a pep talk about feeling confident and proud of her hair, culture, etc. I also reminded her that her friends love her hair, and more people would like it that would not like it.

So I walked my daughter to school, Bantu knots and all.

After the day was done, I asked her about how it went.

She looked at me and smiled.

“I got lots of compliments on my hair.” She said. “One of the boys did make fun of my hair, though, until the teacher told him to leave me alone.

Then at lunchtime, he came to bug me about my hair on the playground.

I told him that I can change my hair, but he can’t change his face. He didn’t know what to say!”

I sighed.

“Daddy had a good idea!” She grinned ear to ear. “The boy just didn’t know what to say.”

Well it wasn’t my parenting method, but the result was my intention. For the last week, she’s worn her hair to school and not had anything but compliments. The annoying boy was apparently put into his place with her witty retort.

And most importantly, my daughter is wearing, with pride, an extremely avant-garde cultural hairdo that keeps her hair free from tangles and shows off the gorgeous shape of her head.

Take that, hair bully.

No Teen Adoption – HUGE Disapointment

Late last week, we found out that we definitively couldn’t adopt the teens that we were hoping would join our family.

I was pretty devastated… I spent a couple of days crying. And then I didn’t talk to anyone about it, which is uncharacteristic of me. I just didn’t think most people would understand why I was so upset.

Partly, I was grieving the idea I had, and the plans I wanted to make with those kids. I wanted to take the girl to Paris one day, and set the boy loose in the woods with my dad to go live-trap wolves. I had plans for bedrooms and the next few years. I could see it.

But mostly, I was just so insanely disappointed and sad for the kids. The chances of them getting adopted by someone else, statistically, are miniscule. And although we were very interested and invested, we couldn’t get one BC agency to revise our homestudy to adopt the kids.

At the outset – let me be clear. I’m not mad at any of the agencies – I know they are all non-profits and trying to avoid risk, so they can continue to do the work that they do. They want kids adopted and they want the family placements to work.

It’s just such a dang shame that not one of them could step up to the plate.

One agency said they wouldn’t support adopting kids over 6 years old. The second had no problem with older children adoptions, but they wouldn’t consider an adoption out of birth order. The third and fourth didn’t have the capacity. One explained that they had a huge contract from the local ministry, and were busy with that, and the other had gone through a lot of staffing changes lately. The last agency commented that if it was 6 months from now, they might consider it, but at this time, no.

No blame – I’m certainly no upset with any of these caring individuals who make adoption their life’s work. Just so so so disappointing.

It stinks that it didn’t work for any of them. So these kids that have a place in my heart will never be able to be adopted by us.

I hope with all my heart that someone else might be able to add them to their family, and they will have the love and support that they deserve.

And as for us, well, after licking my wounds, I will get back to scrolling waiting children lists. For kids 6 and under…

Adoption update

So far, there isn’t much to report on the adoption front. We have four homestudy agencies in our province, and so far, three out of four of them have said no to updating our homestudy. I’m working on the third (again) and the fourth.

It’s proving extremely difficult to adopt any child over 7 years old. One agency has a “no kids over 6″ policy. Another is fine with older child adoption, but has a “no out of birth order” policy. (The third says they don’t have the capacity.)

As someone that runs a nonprofit, I understand risk management. I get that if you’ve been burned a few times, you put a policy in place to avoid the risk. I don’t blame the agencies at all. They are all great agencies…

BUT it seems a crying shame that no one wants to look at our particular case, or the particular kids we are interested in… We’ve been caught between policies, and two kids may or may not get adopted because of it.

Is it truly impossible to adopt a child over 6 years of age, out of birth order, into BC right now?

Guess well wait and see what agency #4 says….

Tango partner: Better with you

Tonight, Jason and I left in a furor to Tango lessons. We were in a rush to get out the door – he had a dog come in at the end of the day at the clinic, and I was trying to make dent in the chaos that was our house. So the suppertime was late, neither of us was out of our uniform, and we spent the first half hour of babysitter time eating with the kids (and the babysitter.) When we finally got out the door, I was feeling very grateful that we still managed to pull off date night at all.

First, we went shopping for fall coats for the girls, and then spent a fun hour laughing at ourselves dancing at tango.

Another video of us dancing for you – you can see we have improved. (Start at 2:25)

When we got home, Jason snuck upstairs and started watching football at an obnoxious volume. He retreated into his “nothing box” and left me to clean up dishes and air conditioners and the like. Grrr… I was pretty annoyed. It was a long day for all of us, and I just wanted some peace in the house to sleep with.

But an hour later, I’ve focussed back on the positive. I’ve decided to give his late night lackadaisical behavior a hall pass.

You know, they say that grounds for marital strife are one partner teaching another to drive, and dancing lessons. The people who make these sayings should have included higher stressors, like starting a business together! But here we are, working together almost every day, and for the most part, loving it. We are so complementary, and have been able to do something together neither of us would have alone. We are taking great care of our kids, and reasonable care of each other. And we are getting to dancing lessons, one day a week, where we step on each other’s toes and laugh at our mutual awesomeness. We’ve got it pretty good.

Feeling grateful for my partner in life, business and dancing…

Uphill battle to adopt teens from fostercare

Tonight I’m pretty bummed out. Life is generally good – the kids are doing well, our new business is picking up and Africa Sleeps is flourishing. I’m getting time with my husband to tango each week, and everyone in my immediate family is healthy.

BUT… I am so incredibly frustrated with our potential US fostercare adoption. It seems like a whole bunch of factors are against us, and I wonder why it needs to be this difficult.

First, we found them.

I watched their video late one night, by accident. I was trolling the waiting children lists for young boys to adopt. One of the county sites didn’t screen by age, and doing the scroll, I came across their video.

They were so lovely – I just couldn’t believe how much we had in common. We have so many similar interests, and our personalities seem to compliment. I laughed at their jokes, smiled ceaselessly to myself, and thought “these kids are perfect for us.”

A sister and a brother – both vibrant, funny, determined, and so supportive of each other. Lovely kids… in their teens.

The next day, I hesitantly showed Jason and the girls the video. I expected him to laugh in my face – these are teenagers that I was interested in. They were the furthest thing from our plans. But the girls’ said they thought the “big kids” were great… and soon after the girls went to bed, Jason started figuring out how to divide one of the rooms in our house. He’s not a hasty man. To the contrary – he’s always dragging his heels. But when he saw that video, and over the following weeks, he couldn’t help but he drawn in. IT was so obvious – the kids were perfect for us.

I was smitten – but I wanted to know more. The second time you adopt, you ask the hard questions. You know what you can handle and aren’t afraid to walk away. I spent the next couple of weeks on the phone with the kids’ adoption recruiter, our US adoption agency, and then the kids’ guardian ad litem and case worker. Jay and I made ourselves late for work in the morning several times, talking to the people who know them, and learning about the hell they have been through. Suffice to say, no children spend years in care without having been through a lot. But the more we learned, the more we were interested.

I talked at length with my friends, my sister, my mom. A few people thought we were nuts – but many, especially those that have a good understanding of adoption and teens, lent their support.

For the record, I know teen adoption has a large element of crazy – the transitions are extra rough and parents can never expect the same kind of relationship they’ve had with children grown in their care. But I truly believe that you can have an enormous influence on teens, even if they were parented by someone else. You can become family. I reflected on the teen exchange students and au pairs who had lived with us. One girl – I was second only to her immediate family in finding out she was pregnant. Another boy invited Jason and I to his wedding across the globe, because we mean that much to him, all these years after he lived with us. We’ve had a big influence on many of these kids. And most importantly – kids don’t stop needing parents when they turn 18. I’m 37, and I’m still being parented by my parents – it just looks different. But they are there for me, and their grandkids, whenever we need them. I want that for these teens.

There have been many obstacles since we saw the video two months ago. The biggest question we’ve been asking ourselves – do we really want to take this on, at this time in our lives? I mean, we are the most financially vulnerable we’ve ever been, and up to our ears with the new business. Jason’s practical side has since started to take over (as our bank accounts are dwindling..), and if you ask him now, he’d say they are the right kids for us, but it’s the wrong time. He’s on the fence. And this is one of those things where both parents have to be at least 80% on board.

The process – court, immigration… it’s all complicated. There is a reason few Canadians adopt through fostercare. There is no template, no program. Plus, with the older sister’s age, it is even more complicated. That said, our US agency put all the pieces together, and we’ve found a way. The process can work. We CAN adopt them. Check that box.

So then, two more big barriers… will our homestudy agency in Canada let us adopt teens? (We were approved for 2 children under 7.)

And then, will the kids go for it? I mean, it’s a huge decision – leave everything you know, and fly across the continent to start a new life, in a new country, with a new family? That’s one heck of a leap of faith.

Well, we may never know if the kids would go for it or not, since yesterday I found out that our Canadian agency isn’t on board. It’s just too out of the box for them, and they have a policy of no international adoptions over 6. These kids are way over 6…

There might be another agency who will support us, and update our homestudy. I’m waiting to hear back.

But time is ticking.

My husband is worried about money, trying to balance providing for his family and still interested in these American kids.

Ug.

Everything is saying “just throw in the towel. This is too hard.”

But I don’t WANT to. Dang it. I want to adopt these kids. I want to divide a room, and shuffle kids around the house, and register my new kids in highschool, update the family picture, and travel to Gramma and Grandpa’s with a near-death minivan. ( I would miss you, dear station wagon.) I want to parent these kids, and give them the family that thy deserve.

I just don’t know if I’ll be able to swing it or not.

“I’m not fancy – the kids have made it so”

Ok, I know what a geek I am for posting this. But if you are a cool mom (or a mom who does her best not to be cool, despite her natural cool tendancies, like me! lol) … you will love this.

Ten gift bags for ten special girls

My daughters and I had fun shopping for some very special teen girls on Saturday. Our dear friend Tawnya is leaving for Ethiopia next week, and is visiting the ten girls in Vulnerable Children Society’s Teenage Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program in Addis Ababa. For those of you that don’t know, Tawnya, I and a handful of other women run Vulnerable Children as volunteer directors.

The girls in Addis are currently getting training in hair dressing, and we thought they could use some tool! But also, we just wanted to let the girls know how much we care for them. Many of these girls have been rejected by their families, and have very low self esteem. It’s important that they know we are sending love, as well as money for their program.

I’m sure Tawnya will have a blast sharing these gift bags with the girls. If you would like to light up the lives of 10 more girls next year, we are currently fundraising to support another cohort of girls that would like to escape the sex trade. Please consider donating :-)

 

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