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.

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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.

Lovely summer style… Super easy threaded Bantu knots

We made a little video for Africa Sleeps on how to do this easy summer hairstyle.

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Hope you enjoy it!

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Harambee 2014

Another year, another fabulous week long culture camp. This year had its truly special moments… And some unexpected surprises.

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The two biggest changes from previous years were events that took place right before camp. First, our regular location, the Naramata centre was embroiled in labor dispute, and the entire place was shut down three weeks before our camp. Can you imagine moving 88 families and 500 some odd people to a new location on three weeks notice? Well, that’s exactly what we did. We ended up in Sorrento, at the peaceful and quiet Sorrento center. It was very different than Narmata. Our former location is right in the middle of town, and we’ve had some positive and negative experiences being in a very small town with more than 300 children color. And I am not just talking about the heat graffiti that made provincial news. We also have 300 children on bicycles, and there can be a lot of clashes with the locals when you have 300 children getting about the village.

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In Sorrento, the center was outside of the hustle and bustle, in a secluded place to itself. There were no bikes allowed… Which was a total positive, if you ask me. There were very few locals to deal with, except for the very appreciative merchants who made special note of thanking our camp for the economic impact over the week. We stayed in very humble cabins, forgot to bring our dogs, which was a real treat. Maggie is getting too old to put in a kennel, and both of the dogs just really appreciate being with us. So we stayed in this little cabana with electricity, but no running water, and just have a lovely time.

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The other unexpected event before camp was a connection with a boy in Newfoundland. You may have heard about Torrence Collier, and the extreme bullying and racism he encountered in the small town he was living in in Newfoundland. Well, our Harambee families heard about him as well, and invited him and his mom and dad to come to camp. Together, we raised enough money for the flights and some expenses. I had a few discussions with his mom over the week, and it was so wonderful to see them be embraced by their peers, Torrence come out of his shell, and to hear about their plans for change in the future. It speaks to our community that we were able to fund raise, and welcome him and his family within two weeks of camp. I think it had a positive influence on a bunch of other children there… And you will see a picture below of him dancing up a storm and feeling very much part of our community. We hope they will return next year!

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As for the rest of camp, it was the same dizzying array of drumming, dancing, swimming, soccer, and other family and cultural activities. This year both Jason and I felt like we got a lot more time with the girls, even though we had to jail them in the cabana if we wanted to see them. They have a few super good friends there, and wanted to spend every waking minute. But a tip from the wise, (that’s us!) Little family time goes a long way to helping them cope with an extremely stimulating camp environment. We made them come home for every meal, and spend one hour in the afternoon, on their beds, just doing nothing. I swear that is what helps them keep it together over a week of complete excitement.

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We also trying to take a field trip every year, in an attempt to get a little break from camp. This year, our visit to Sorrento timed perfectly with my aunt, uncle and cousin seeing at the cabin down the lake. My little cousin S had just come back from Sierra Leone, where she lives, and it was wonderful to catch up with her. My uncle drove us around the lake in his boat and they made us supper too. Delightful!

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I brought some of my Africa Sleeps products with me, as a couple of people wanted to see what I had. Little did I know that there would be a vendor fair, on the short two weeks notice of moving camp, and countless others who were interested in my products. Many many thanks to those families that supported our organic haircare and skincare business! How are cabaña was like a revolving door of hair consultations and I enjoyed every minute of it.

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There were some other joyful moments, just small things that made our visit. We got to hosting you family to supper, and it turns out that we have a ton in common with them and their Haitian kids/adoption. I also felt that I had more time to sit around and have drinks and visits with our friends, since it was not volunteering doing a lot of things this year. It was really lovely just relaxing and chatting with the people in our transracial adoption community.

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There were some other joyful moments, just small things that made our visit. We got to hosting you family to supper, and it turns out that we have a ton in common with them and their Haitian kids/adoption. I also felt that I had more time to sit around and have drinks and visits with our friends, since it was not volunteering doing a lot of things this year. It was really lovely just relaxing and chatting with the people in our transracial adoption community.

If you are interested in joining us another year, please visit www.Harambee.ca

Groovin the Adoption Process


The last few months, I’ve made a bit of a hobby of adoption. I mean, we’ve been so completely busy with the clinic opening in (gasp!) three weeks, when I am too tired to sleep, and just need a topic switch, I troll the waiting children lists.

Like I said… a hobby. I’ve been cool and collected, and not too terribly crazy. This isn’t like our first adoption, where I didn’t breathe for a year. This time, despite all the bumps, I’m pretty relaxed about the whole thing. As far as my personality relaxes, anyway! I’ve been taking the search for our next kid/kids one bite-sized step at a time.

I’ve placed many inquiries, and a couple of social workers have  asked for our homestudy. But nothing has panned out so far.

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But today, as I sat in the salon waiting eternally for the girls’ braids to be finished (their annual visit) I was in the groove, and relaxed, and open… and I think I may have found the match for us.

8 hours later, when we finally came home with extensions swinging, I showed Jason and the girls, and they smiled and chuckled. It was so obvious.

Cross your fingers… it’s not exactly what we had planned. But it might just be the match for us…

Surprising Adoption News: a new file, a new country

Last year we were very excited to open our file to adopt again from Ethiopia, and now we are excited to say that we have opened a file in the USA for fostercare adoption as well.

Ethiopia was, in fact,to the third country we had tried for our second adoption. First, there was the DRC (Congo) that we pulled out of within a matter of months. I could see the writing on the wall, and sure enough, the program is closed now.

So we switched to Lesotho, a small boutique program run by a fantastic agency in BC. Due to the country’s elections, politics and eventual compliance with The Hague Convention, the adoption process slowed to a trickle. We were just poised to receive a referral, when, The agency for Ethiopia started accepting applications again.

So we made the hard choice, and jumped ship to Ethiopia. (A little summary of our adoption timeline.)

At first, it seemed like things were progressing well. But now I’m honestly not sure if anything is going to happen. We took a risk pioneering a special needs program, and it doesn’t look like it will pan out anytime soon. And the general waiting list has a very, very long wait time. Ethiopia is an outside bet, at the moment.

Anyway, the kids are getting older, and I’m feeling the urge more and more strongly to add to our family. Jason would be fine with just the two girls, but my urge to add kids isn’t going away… It’s intensifying.

We’ve had many discussions with the kids about their priorities, and most important to them is that they have a brother, and that he (or they) have brown skin. It’s very important to them that they outnumber us, and we are totally down with that. Since their are precious few kids (read: almost none) of colour in BC, and we aren’t up for a baby (I have changed one diaper in my life, and I’m not about to start now…) so that leaves US fostercare. And through a strange twist of adoption rules, we can have our file open in both the US and Ethiopia at the same time.

I’m actually very excited about adopting through US fostercare. Like most crazy adoptive mothers, I’ve spent late night trolling through the waiting child website, imagining kids faces superimposed in our family picture. There are so many beautiful kids, funny kids, shy kids, outgoing kids, and normal kids… And they all deserve a family. There are an inordinate amount of black children in fostercare, and black boys are most overrepresented.

I’d always been told that you can’t adopt through US fostercare to Canada… But that isn’t actually the case. It’s totally possible… It’s just hard. The individual child’s casework at the county level has to agree to work with one of the extremely few Hague-approved-for-outgoing-adoptions agencies that actually does fostercare adoptions. I can count these agencies on one hand, in the whole USA, by the way. And then our agency in Canada has to be cool with it, and have a good working relationship with a US agency.

Luckily, so far, the starts have aligned as far as agencies go. Now we just have to find the kid… And convince their county social worker that Canada is a good option! Lol

Wish us luck in this next leg of our adoption journey!

One (or two!) sons from America (or Ethiopia,) here we come!

Lemonade Stand: Learning the value of money

Today the girls set up a lemonade stand at the end of the block, to make some extra dough. It’s certainly a great experience to learn about hard work and business.

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For a few years, our girls have had an allowance. They get five dollars, which is a lot of money! But they have some restrictions on it. Sugar and Spice put one dollar in their “learning” jar, which is for their education and travel, one dollar to a “giving” jar, from which they donate money to a cause of their choice, and then three dollars into a “fun” jar, their discretionary income. In the beginning, we had to give them loonies, to teach them relative value. But now they make change!

Anyway, having their own discretionary income means that we say “no” to just about everything they ask for, and they have to save up if they want toys. I don’t remember the last time I’ve bought them a toy. They even treat us occasionally to icecream or frozen yogurt, which is lovely.

Sometimes the girls want to increase their income, however, especially if they have their eyes set on something. Apparently it’s a play mobile veterinary set right now. So they get entrepreneurial; we totally support this. For a little money, they can do extra chores around the house, like wiping baseboards (with so many pets, we always have baseboards to wipe.) But sometimes, if they want to make more money, they set up a little business.

They’re so experienced, they’ve already had a failed business. Sugar came up with an idea of making hair ties. They bought yarn (out of their own money.. I don’t do capital investment…) but after selling a few on credit, realized their friends were never paying them. They lost their investment.

A lesson well learned. “Never sell anything to someone before you get the money first,” Spice will tell anyone who needs business advice. “Especially your friends.”

The tried and true business model is the lemonade stand. First, they save enough for ingredients. Frozen lemonade mix, then sugar, flour, butter and chocolate chips for cookies. They have bought premade cookie dough in the past, but they realized the higher costs were cutting into their profits. So now they make the cookies from scratch. Luckily they’ve found out that Daddy is a cheap employee… For two cookies, he’ll help them bake. Sucker.

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They figure out their advertising and distribution. Today, Spice was thinking about selling the cookies door to door. After carefully consideration, she decided that “we might sell more cookies to one family, but some people will also say no. I hate that. And we’d have to lug a tray from house to house. So I think we should just sit on the corner and they will come to us.”

The advertising is a big poster that they make, with prices clearly marked. Then, they chose their location wisely, which is beside the synagogue parking lot at the end of our street. It has good drive by visibility, and good parking. “People just stop because we are cute and we have cookies,” pronounces Spice, without a lick of sarcasm.

So, today was family day, with the girls choosing the activity. And guess what?

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Jason helped make cookies, I helped with the sign, and we all sat out in the sun. In an hour, they made $42. There were a few tips in there, and some people even just drove up and handed them money. I kid you not.

Playmobile vet set, here they come!

“We didn’t actually make $42 an hour, mommy,” my daughter Spice reminded me after I read her this post. You forgot to count our baking time.”

Such a smart cookie.

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