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.”

An older sister and a younger brother – both vibrant, funny, determined, and so supportive of each other. Lovely kids… in their mid and late 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’ Wendy’s Wonderful kids 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. The kids are getting older, and it gets much much more complicated if the older sister ages out. She’s got to be making plans that don’t include coming to Canada.

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 :-)

 

Tango Lessons

Tonight Jason and I started tango lessons!

tangoI was very excited… Jason was very trepidatious. It’s been literally a decade since we’ve taken dance lessons together. Back then, we did a lot of fighting over leading (I know, I know,) and although we enjoyed the results at all the weddings we went to, it wasn’t that super enjoyable at the time.

Latin dances also scare the bananas out of him. My husband doesn’t have hips, let’s just put it that way.

For me, I’ve danced less and less over the years, because my knees couldn’t take it. Especially dances with high impact and going backwards all the time (like the two step) were downright painful for me. But I love latin dances – little known fact: I actually danced Flamenco for two years in university. I loved it because you need to be as strong as you are sensual and graceful.

Tango is our perfect answer – it’s slow, gliding with low impact, very little hips, and all about the attitude.

We loved our first lesson. And we did really well… look, they taped us at the end of 55 minutes:

I have a feeling after 6 lessons, we will be even better.

In the meanwhile, we will enjoy our weekly date night – and since we are not allowed to talk while dancing, one whole hour not talking about the kids or the business!

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!

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