No more tangles! Organic detangler sale

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Africa Sleeps has a sale on detangler! Yeah!

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This delightful, botanical concoction sooths frizz, and adds slip to hair for picking and styling. The detangler is made of organic, Canadian botanicals and is super easy to use in a trigger squirt bottle. We can’t do without it on free hair days! It’s extra useful now that Sugar and Spice are picking out their own puffs.

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Have fun shopping, and thanks for supporting our family business!

Our little puppy, now 120lbs

You’ve likely seen him on my Instagram account (my daughters say all I post there any more is Tully,) but I thought I’d do a little post on how our wee pup is doing.

Tully's MOSTLY awesome with the kids. They don't like his stuffie stealing habits, though. Nothing drives an 8 year old girl more crazy than stuffie theft. Oh, and drool.

Nothing drives an 8 year old girl more crazy than stuffie theft. Oh, and drool.

Tully is doing great. He’s sweet and gentle, and loves to get hugs several times a day. He just settles his massive bum on your lap, or sidles up to you and leans in, expecting your arms to wrap around his neck.

A lap dog...

A lap dog…

He’s is bigger and bigger, although his rate of growth has slowed now at seven months.

That's a kind sized bed...

That’s a king sized bed…

I’m expecting when I take him to the clinic today for him to weigh in around 120lbs. That’s a whole lot of muscly dog. As Jason commented, most of the time he takes up less space than his size. Tully will curl up in a ball on the bed (yup, that no-bed pledge went out the window) or sprawl across the then floor and we simple step over him. But sometimes his size is a thing. Despite his usual heeling and good behaviour, I found about 20lbs ago that if he sees a squirrel, or wants to meet someone, then it is hard for me to hold him. So I got a no-pull harness, which really helps. I love it so much, I started selling them at the shop. Last night, though, I took it off and got into a peck of trouble. I was running him around the park on a 30foot long leash, and had attached it to his collar instead of harness, so he wouldn’t trip. Mistake. He saw a shitzu on the other side of the park, and took off straight for it (to say hello in his friendly huge way,) and I got dragged across the park on my knees/belly. Not pleasant. I am so bruised up today, and have now pledged that we won’t have any park exercising without the harness.

Walking the big boy on the dog beach in Summerland. Note the no-pull harness...

Walking the big boy on the dog beach in Summerland. Note the no-pull harness…

Other aspects of his bigness are just management issues, however. Oddly, he eats a lot. lol. We actually had to take him to the dentist, because his bottom canines were growing into the top of his mouth. Yikes! So for the last few weeks, he’s had to eat mush, and I’ve switched to an all raw diet before I really wanted to. But to give you an idea, every day he eats four pounds of ground chicken, four eggs, six cups of brown rice, a couple of cups of squash and green vegs, kelp, vitamins, minerals and calcium. When he gets his dental appliance out (right after Harambee in two weeks!) then he’ll be eating more chicken necks and tripe for meat, which will cut the food costs in half, and I won’t have to additionally supplement with calcium as much.

Handsome boy!

Handsome boy!

Tully still fit in the back of our station wagon… Mostly. He has to do a bit of a squish dance. The only trouble in the heat (we are into our hottest summer ever in the Okanagan, so this is a real problem as next week is supposed to be 38-42…) so I’m thinking of getting a little fan that pushes our AC from the front of the car to the back, just to help him cool. Generally, he doesn’t handle heat well, so we practice siesta at home and he just goes out in the morning and night. Whereas the other dogs can dig cool holes under the back deck, he doesn’t fit! So Tully has been working on some craters in the back yard, and mostly hunkers down in the shade of the apple tree.

Downward dog...

Downward dog…

His training is going well.. Tully can sit and lie down and the like. But more than that, we’ve been working on skills that make our lives easier. Since his head is more than counter height, he’s learned to lie down in the kitchen whenever I’m making food. When he does this, he gets a little nibble thrown down to him ever now and then, and that keeps him off the counters 90% of the time. His shoulder is table height, so we do the same thing at the table… Make him lie down, and then he gets something, at some random point during the meal. It works pretty well, actually. Otherwise you can imagine he’d be helping himself constantly.

Sofas are his favourite. He's claimed this chaise as his own in the living room.

Tully’s claimed this chaise as his own in the living room.

When we are at the clinic, Tully has a mat behind the counter. He lays on the mat, and if someone comes in, I either let him slowly meet them or put him hastily in the back. He would much prefer to meet people, as he is SUPER friendly. And he’s great with people. Everywhere we go, people stop us and ask “what breed is he?” Or occasionally, “is he an Irish Wolfhound? I’ve always wanted one!” He gets so much attention, it’s almost like when the girls were little and everyone wanted to talk about them. But it is a lot easier, since I don’t have to worry about Tully’s privacy. I just have to worry about his manners. “You can pet him! But please wait until he sits down first.” It’s a work in progress.

I have no idea who broke the pillow!

I have no idea who broke the pillow!

I think Tully has a lot of potential as a working dog. He went to the girls’ grade three class once a month for the last five months, to visit, and be measured and weighed. They made a class project out of him, and practiced all sorts of math. “How much did his tail grow from last month?” He was an angel, honestly. He’s so amazing with kids.. I think that’s his real strength. If we were to do any special work, I would likely get him to work in schools. He’s suited to being mauled by 20 kids at a time.

Sugar and Tully

Sugar and Tully

My previous dog, Hamish, was a therapy dog. We used to volunteer at the U of A hospital. Those who have been following my blog for a long time may recall that our dearest Hamish (really, our first kid,) died tragically of cancer just a year before the girls came home. Hamish left a gaping hole in Jason and I’s hearts… We loved him so much. Even though Tully looks nothing like Hamish did, there are so many similarities, we find that hole being filled up, six years later. He goes to work with me, like Hamish did. Just like Hamish, Tully is very empathetic, and seeks you out if he thinks you are hurt or feeling sad. He’s smarter than we thought possible, and plays some of the same games that we played with his predecessor. Like the finding game, where I show him one of his many stuffies, and then hide it for him to find around the house. He’ll bypass his other toys, just to find  the one I’ve showed him. Pretty cool. Any mainly he’s just an easy pup (drag across the park as the exception.) he wants to please, is easily trained, and share his love with all that meet him.

At five and a half months... Tully and me!

At five and a half months… Tully and me!

In short, Tully is a joy. I’m so glad I got him, and happy to spend my days in his company.

Even if he's huge, he's still a puppy!

Even if he’s huge, he’s still a puppy!

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The end of Ethiopian adoption: how it happened

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It was almost exactly 6 years ago the Jason and I became the parents of two beautiful little Ethiopian girls. Aren’t they growing up beautifully?

This last week, we learned that there would be no more Ethiopian adoption for Canadian families.  Both programs are now closed … And no more children will find families in Canada.

Although it wasn’t a surprise, the email that came from the adoption agency had sad note of finality to it. When I shared the news with my almost-nine-year-old daughters, one of them commented wistfully “that makes me sad, because there are so many children in Ethiopia that really need homes. I’m not sad for us, but I’m sad for the kids who will live in orphanages and who won’t have a family.”

I have to admit I feel the same way. Since I am in Ethiopia every year, and have had an active role in this last adoption attempt, we’ve known for a while that it was highly unlikely to adopt from Ethiopia again. My sadness for those unadapted children was more nuanced though, because I see a system that has failed them. Some families will likely be much more surprised that there is no more Ethiopian adoption. What went wrong? How did adoption stop, when Ethiopia sent thousands of children to live in Canada only a few short years ago?

Here’s my take on why there won’t be any more new adoptions from Ethiopia to Canada.

First… The big picture. In the early 2000s, international adoption kicked off in earnest in Ethiopia. As has happened many times across the globe before, the demand for children catylized a system into overdrive. There was real social need for childcare and for non-institutional, long-term placement solutions, as this was the height of the HIV epidemic. Adults were disappearing, neighbours and grandparents were overrun, and domestic adoption wasn’t on the radar for the average Ethiopian.

Due to the demand, more orphanages and agencies popped up than anyone could oversee and handle.  Adoption agencies started getting competitive, and more than a few resorted to bribery, child solicitation and other horrid forms of corruption. Meanwhile, there were other agencies doing good work, checking and ensuring the authenticity of the adoptions. We can’t forgot those! And then, there was the grey area. As someone who has spent a fair amount of time in Ethiopia around child care organizations, I know there are a lot of well intentioned people who brushed aside the complicated ethical concerns of international adoption to ensure children were placed in a home. A change on the paperwork to make the children more adoptable, or easier to pass through the courts. I heard stories like this over and over, from both sides of the pond.

Of all our friends who adopted children from Ethiopia,  I would say that roughly half of those adoptions were tainted with some lies, or shortcuts along the way. Ours is one of the others… The legitimate, honest adoptions where everyone knew what was going on. Since we have an open adoption with our girls’ family, we know that the big information information we received about the girls’ background was true, and they really did need to have an adoptive family. But a complete pre-adoption story was the exception, not the norm. All those other fibs, lies and outright injustices Started to come out as children got older and could talk, and the international adoption parenting community got rightly pissed off. Many people hired investigators to find their children’s birth families and true stories… All which should have been clearly shared by adoption agencies and orphanages in the first place!

With all these pissed off parents and investigators running around, and the cracks showing in some agencies’s methods, the government started cracking down on adoption. Regions had backlogs. Judges weren’t available. The ministries issued statements. Meanwhile, the government was auditing the heck out of the agencies, and (good job Ethiopian government) managed to close down many of the more blatantly corrupt orphanage and agencies.

Back in Canada, things were going amuck for the two adoption agencies that had open Ethiopian programs.

First, the Imagine Adoption bankruptcy. If you haven’t been following my blog for six+ years, then you may not know that we were caught in the middle of that fiasco with our girls. In fact, I was the one who had to break it to the Ethiopian staff that their employer was broke. Our twins had become legally ours July 3, and then on July 13 I found out that our adoption agency was bankrupt. My mom and I flew to Ethiopia on six hours notice (not knowing how long we were staying…) and the rest is history. But that bankruptcy was due to the director of the agency spending the money, that was supposed to be feeding and caring for our children, on a new pool, horse and house renos. Oh by the way, she finally was “sentenced” this year. It’s amazing how she got away with stealing from the mouths of orphaned children in a third world country. There is a special place in hell for that kind of person. Eventually, another agency took over the Ethiopia adoption licence and the program limped along. They aren’t taking new clients for Ethiopia

The other licenced agency had financial difficulties not a few years later. We put in our oar with them for this second adoption, but heard this past week that they are closing their program. For the last couple of years, we had two organizations barely making it along. What a mess.

Back in Ethiopia, enough adoptive families had stayed at the Hilton and Sheraton where the politicians hang out to cause concern over the mass exodus of children leaving the country. Many of the families didn’t stay to learn about their children’s culture. They just flew in, ate $30 salad buffet lunches at the overpriced luxury hotels, and flew out again with their babies in tow. The wealthy Ethiopians, government officials and hotel staff were astounded.

Orphanages and agencies closed their doors, and also routinely didn’t get post-placement reports back to the people who had placed the kids for adoption in the first place. Many birth families didn’t get any information about their kids, and told their painful stories of loss to the media. Justifiably, people were outraged. Culture is so important in Ethiopia, and for children never to connect with their birth families again and to be disconnected from their culture was a loss for the families, but also for the country.

And then the horror stories started filtering in. I was in Ethiopia when the story of Hannah Williams broke. I was sitting in a cafe, meeting with some of our partners for the NGO I run. One man mentioned in grief about “all the kids that were dying that had been adopted.” I was confused, and didn’t know what they were talking about, until I managed to get wifi the next day and learned about the tragic death of that poor little girl. It was horrible. And it forever changed the way the average Ethiopian saw adoption.

Thousands of Ethiopian children found loving homes overseas. Many of those adoption were honest, and good solutions for children that needed homes. But there was also corruption, financial mismanagement, lies and deceit, pissed-off parents, concerned government and judiciary systems, grieving birth families, a horror story of one beautiful little girl, and a proud Ethiopian people wondering why their children weren’t being raised as Ethiopians. So bit by bit, the house of international adoption in Ethiopia came falling down. And now, in Canada and many other receiving countries, it’s gone.

International adoption doesn’t solve orphan crises. It can be a good solution for some children that need a home, and don’t have other options. however, adoption never does address the root issues that lead the children to need homes in the first place. Now, more than ever, we need to help our Ethiopian friends fight poverty, foster social equality, spread education and keep families together. If you were considering adopting from Ethiopia, or had children from Ethiopia touch your life in some way, I hope you’ll consider helping one of the many organizations take care of the country’s children. They need your support more than ever.

We appreciate your donations for our charity, Vulnerable Children Society‘s work on behalf of children and families.

On a personal note, I am so grateful the people who safeguarded our children, and enabled them to find a home with us. I am thankful for the girls’ family, who saw a way when there was no way to care for the girls. I’m grateful to the orphanage that shared everything they knew about the girls’ family with us. I am grateful to the judge who gave me a complete heart attack as we went through seven court dates, just to ensure that the reason for adoption was actually true. (It was.) And I’m grateful that our first adoption agency, in the throes of bankruptcy, didn’t have the capacity to intervene in our relationship with the girls’ family. Lastly, we are grateful to our girls, who have enriched our lives in countless ways, and who we love more than anyone in the world.

Fathers Day Diner

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I was so proud of my little girls on Father’s Day. They are so considerate sometimes! As a special treat for their daddy, the girls dressed up as a 50s style diner waitress and proper French chef.  Then they made a delicious breakfast all from scratch, complete with excellent service.

First, Spice set the table…

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Sugar made cinnamon buns and chopped pineapple, two of daddy’s favorites. image

Daddy was properly appreciative. The girls dined him and made him feel very special.

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The funniest part of the day was when Spice the waitress to exclaimed, as she made daddy a mocha for the table, “these heels are killing me!”  Quite obviously, they were not entirely necessary to the outfit.

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After breakfast, we went for a long walk with the dogs, and then daddy went off to the hardware store to buy lumber for his new poker table project.

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It’s funny, all the moms I know want for Mother’s Day is to have a day where they do absolutely nothing. But Jason is  like most of the dads I know… He wants to spend some time with his kids, eat a nice meal, and spend some time with power tools. Mission accomplished.

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I asked the girls tonight what they live about their daddy, and here are the answers:

Sugar: I like him because he’s funny and he’s nice. If we do something wrong that he will not get mad at us, but he doesn’t yell very loud.  Hes super funny and likes to play with us playmobile.   He’s a really good daddy and he loves us very much.

Spice:  I love my daddy because he appreciates what we do for him like this morning and I love him so much, no matter if he yells.  I like spending time with my daddy and I love working with my daddy picking fruit.