End of this season of my life, and this blog

The Rowan Family high up in a ancient castle in Sintra, Portugal

Some 11 years ago I started this blog. I was flush in the nesting phase of life: building a marriage with my new husband, preparing for adding two children, and focussing on the family we were building. I spent my evenings perusing adoption blogs, envisioning the life I was trying to sculpt. Jason and I were alone in rural Alberta, and writing about my own learning and aspirations as a parent made us both feel that we were part of a greater international adoption community. We felt less like the oddballs who had chosen to walk a different path, and more like members of a very purposeful movement.

When the girls first came home, I was so proud ( and still am,) of the beautiful little beings and trusted in my care. Through our family blog, we expressed our joy, hoped that we would inspire others to adopt, and shared many precious moments with our family and friends.

When the girls were little, I appreciated the blog as a place to archive pictures, curate memories and discuss the challenges related to international, transracial, adoption of older children. But as time passed, I found that the issues we were dealing with were much too private to be shared in a public forum. Instead, we collaborated with fellow parents in our local BC community.

When the girls grew older, Africa Sleeps was a growing business and my blog had become a part of my personal brand. I also used this blog to put a human face to the humanitarian work I did with Vulnerable Children Society, and thought it was too valuable tool to let go.

Noe seven years since the girls have come home, I’ve sold my Africa Sleeps business and no longer rely on my personal connections to spread the word of the good work done by our charity. Although the Vulnerable Children Society continues to thrive, it has its own deserved reputation that is independent from mine. And as much as our family and friends still check the blog for pictures of the children, it’s unfortunately a one-way communication that doesn’t fill up my cup for connection.

This last few months have been really hard for me: financial stress related to our juvenile business, long hours and lack of time off, and undermet needs of social connection and intellectual stimulation. In short, I’m in one of those awkward transitional phase is between the seasons of my life, figuring out what it looks like. I find myself evaluating everything I’m doing and it’s relevance for my life at this stage. In fact, I made myself a list the other day of the things that are good for me and my family, and what’s important to me. Have a look:

What is good for me?
Walking, especially with friends
Meal planning
New projects and challenges

What is good for my family?
Slower pace
Home cooked meals
Less technology
Steady dose of adventure and exploration

What is important to me?
Visiting with my children after school
Spending time with my friends
Talking with my husband
Learning and filling my intellectual cup
Keeping in touch with family
Making a difference and helping others
Travel and adventure
Tending our home
Creativity and projects

At this point, my blog, as attached as I am to it, doesn’t fill up any of those cups. So it’s taken me six months, but I’ve decided to fold this site up in 10 days time. With one more little dose of pictures, I’m signing off.

If you are friends with me in the real world, I’ll see you in person. And if we’ve been friends online, I hope to meet you one day and have a cup of tea.

Much love and blessings, and many thanks for your kind words over the years,
Arnica

Camel Bones and Canopy Walks: Adventures in Vancouver with Uncle B

Last weekend I went on a short notice trip to the Lower Mainland. A cultural society asked me if I’d do some facilitation work for them in Chilliwack, and I wanted to, but I had the kids in tow (Jason as doing all his ski patrol certification that weekend, so he was out of the picture.) My creative solution was to fly down Uncle B from Fort St. John, to babysit the girls while I facilitated. That definitely made the weekend a cost neutral exercise, but it was great for the girls and I to spend time with B, who we usually only see once a year. Plus, we had a weekend full of adventure in Vancouver! Thanks to B for joining us and showing the girls and I a great time.

Click on the images to embiggen…

Drive-in Movie Birthday

box car drive-in movie birthday

Sugar and Spice turned nine a couple of weeks ago, and we had the most fun and relaxing birthday party yet! With box cars and a drive-in movie, I have to say that it was the easiest birthday festivity we’ve pulled off, and the cheapest too!

The girls and I love planning their birthday, and we always try to figure out something fun and different. We’ve had a Birds and Butterflies dress-up party, a Cowgirl horsey birthday with pony rides at the stable, a Bollywood party with Indian food and Bollywood dancing, and a tropical birthday inspired by our trip to Costa Rica, with bathing suits, watersports and Central American food.

This year was the first year that it was kids only, and we wanted to do something crafty, kid-centric and great for girls and boys. The girls’ idea was a drive-in movie party!

box car drive-in movie birthday

box car drive-in movie birthday

We made up invitations that included tickets for the movie, snacks and food. The girls insisted on veggie dogs, since they once saw a documentary on hotdogs and haven’t eaten one since.

To prepare, I bought those little red and white paper bags for popcorn, some big boxes, veggie dogs and buns, and a few bags of candy for the girls to divide up. That was it!

box car drive-in movie birthday

When the kids arrived, we paired them up. Their task was to make a car out of a box. I gave them some leftover paper plates and cups, and my mom kindly drive around and found paints for them to decorate. The kids went nuts. I thought it would take them 1/2 hour or so, but at 1 1/2 hours, I had to make them stop crafting. Too much fun!

box car drive-in movie birthday

We made a little concession, and the kids used their hotdog and drink tickets to get a meal to eat in their cars.

box car drive-in movie birthday

Then after supper, the kids grabbed their cars and we had box car drag races on the front lawn. Hilarious! Half of the cars were destroyed, but no one cared. It was super fun.

box car drive-in movie birthday

Then they drive their cars upstairs to the family room and we out on an ancient movie we thought few of them would have seen… Robin Hood, the old Disney animated musical. Definitely a great choice.

box car drive-in movie birthday

The kids got to spend their candy and popcorn tickets when I came around with bags of snacks, and they munched their way through the movie.

box car drive-in movie birthday

Post movie, we had cupcakes, and then the kids went home. Our girls had chosen to accept donations for Vulnerable Children Society instead of presents, and I’m proud to say they raised almost $300 from their generous guests! How great was that! (Thank you thank you parents!)

box car drive-in movie birthday

A very Happy 9th Birthday to my sweet girls. I’m looking forward to a fun and eventful year together!

Harambee African Culture Camp 2015

It was over a month ago now, but better late posting than never!

Every year our family goes to Harambee Camp for families with children of African heritage. Some of our best friends in the world go, and it’s always an amazing time to connect and learn. Sugar and Spice feel so comfortable will a camp filled with over 120 families that look like ours… Transracial adoptive families, as well as a few African families thrown in for good measure. We play drums, dance, go to parenting workshops, play games, do crafts, talk and make memories. There isn’t a lot of relaxing… That’s for the other antidote camp, Mehaber, on the August long weekend. But it’s an intense week of acceptance and celebration.

This year was unusual for a few reasons. It was the camps 20th anniversary, so instead of the kids being in workshops all day long, there were more festival-like big audience shows. There was West African drumming, Capoera and Samba dancing, Haitian dancing, and hip hop singing. We enjoyed it, but I think we’ll also be happy to return to the more learning-focussed format next year.

Jason could only come for a few days out of the week this year, due to being busy at the clinic. This totally stunk for him, and we missed him dearly. The only plus side was that my food organization worked out perfectly, without the interference of the snacking monster!

This year was also Tully’s inaugural camp, and he was a big addition, literally and figuratively. At only 7 months old, Tully behaved beautifully, lying down when small kids were around, and not chewing I the cabin. The only exception to this was when 400 people were drumming 100 metres away. I came back from the drumming workshop and he had moved the double mattress across the room and against the kitchen counter. Oops. When a 130lb puppy gets scared, he can really move the furnture.

The other weird / interesting / occasionally annoying thing about Tully being at camp was how much attention he got. You have to realize, this is a whole camp full of conspicuous families. Most people at the camp share the experience that they get unusual attention because they are a transracial family. What could possibly garner the same level of heightened attention at a camp full of people used to being stopped in the streets? An Irish Wolfhound puppy, that’s what. It was hard to get to the bathroom without being stopped and asked what breed he was and was he getting bigger. Most of the time, I enjoy sharing him with others, but when I had to get somewhere (like the bathroom!) well… Let’s just say it was reminiscent of when the girls were cute Ethiopian twin toddlers at the mall.

There were all the usual activities, like the water fight, crafting, side trips to get icecream, and even a full dinner that all 400 of us ate tougher (thanks to our amazing friend Pam. Served in 45 min, can you believe it?)

Two other notables: first, we had a new lady doing parenting workshops, and she specialized in talking about race. We haven’t focussed on this side of transracial parenting in our workshops for a long time, and it was some awesome discussion and ideas for parents.

The other was one of my daughter’s first mutual crush. What a trainwreck. But I was grateful to know the little boy’s parents well, and we navigated it together. Due to our friendship and trust in each other, we figured it out (more or less) and used village parenting to handle the situation. I go foreshadowing of many camp years to come, though… It won’t be all drumming and dancing one day.

I hope you enjoy the pictures. And if you have children of African heritage through adoption or birth, consider joking the 400 of us next year! We are all one family. Just a really big one!

A country wedding: my brother got married!

Last weekend we traipsed off to Creston for my brother’s wedding at my parent’s house in the countryside. We took the three dogs with us (and picked up a guinea pig on the way back, but that’s another story!) so we were sort of like a pack of clowns packed into our VW station wagon. It was the hottest day of the year – yikes! 40 degrees. But we made it there, and dropped off the old two dogs at the kennel for the weekend.

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For the weekend, we stayed in my parent’s RV on their property. The kids ran around, playing and visiting, and we got a chance to catch up with some dear friends and relations.

On Saturday, we took off to Fort Steele to explore with my BFF, Von, and her brood. Little did I know that Fort Steele is totally pet friendly, but because of the heat, I was glad we put Tully in air-conditioned daycare. The clear skies made for gorgeous pictures.

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For those that haven’t had the pleasure, Fort Steele is a heritage town in the Kootenay region of BC. There are a lot of working people and animals on site. Our family has a little history there. My father, when he was working on a ground squirrel project during his undergrad, spent a summer at Fort Steele. He worked with the Clydesdales. Some forty years later, the Clydesdales are still a huge part of the place… I saw four working teams in a few hours. Amazingly beautiful horses.

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We had lots of fun with Vn and Trev and their family. It’s a weird coincidence that we both have identical twin girls.. makes for some interesting observation.

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Jason and I remarked on how different it is to visit with small kids and medium ones. von constantly had three kids around her legs. Ah, small children. Our almost-nine-year-olds went off on the wagon ride with Vona and Trev, and explored much of the village themselves, leaving Jason and I to peek at things that interested us, like the old pharmacy. He really would have loved to read what was on those bottles… we were betting many of them were herbal tinctures, like we have at our clinic.

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We ate at the bakery, panned for gold, and rode the train…

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As I took this picture, I was thinking about the hair styling to be done the next day for the wedding. Sugar and Spice’s hair had just been taken out from extensions, and was wrapped up in buns full of hair oil.

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Back at the homestead, more and more people arrived. My parents had five or six RVs parked in their yard, plus  tents full of people. The rest stayed in the hotel at the end of the road, so it was really busy around their place. Mom and Dad were wonderful hosts, and ate up all the time they got to visit. Several pancake breakfasts, a BBQ, impromptu sandwich lunches, and of course, a wedding dinner, all was made in their kitchen. Thank goodness it was renovated, just in time!

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My main job at the wedding was to make the flower girls look fabulous… which I did!

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But everyone helped out. You can see my brother and his groomsmen lifting the beer kegs outside…

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Dad drove us slightly nuts by watering the road 20 minutes before the wedding. Notice the same activity as the horses picture above? It’s a dry summer. Anyway, he did manage to get into his suit in time, so no harm done. I think he stayed in the suit for 30 minutes before he changed back into his “hippy homesteader” gear.

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We all got dapper – Jason was tying a bowtie for the first time. Finally he gave up and let me do it. I’m sure he’ll get it himself next time…

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The girls picked flowers to throw in front of the bride. Sugar raided mom’s indoor plants, below.

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And Spice with the bride, just before the ceremony. M looked lovely, in a dress her bridesmaid made for her.

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The ceremony was out in the yard, just out of reach of the shade. Thank goodness the ceremony was short! But I have to say that their vows, M’s especially, were the sweetest I have ever heard. We were all crying… or my side of the family was, anyway. You can who is in my family by how easily we cry.

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The flower girls shared the spotlight with their new cousin, super Z, (M’s nephew,) who wore a cape with a big Z on it. Very Marvel comics.

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And post wedding pictures… not the official ones, the candid ones!

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Mom really looked lovely, and trusted me that her hippy homesteader hair (done by yours truly) was indeed appropriate for the occasion. It looked gorgeous!

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I was very please how our family pictures turned out. We actually snapped them right before the wedding, before the crazy.

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My darling little sister…

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My best friend Von…

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My pseudo-nieces, the “other twins…”

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I would be remiss to describe the wedding without describing the food. M’s brother and sister-in-law are professional chefs. They own the fabulous artisan bakery in Osoyoos (check it out!) Somehow I didn’t manage to get a picture of the pulled pork sandwiches they made (smoked on my parent’ front porch for three days) or the smoked artic char, or the salads… maybe because I was eating it. Let’s just say : yum. And for dessert, pies made by my mom and cousin Dave. AMAZING…

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My sister Ena, M’s dad and brother had been part of the jam circles that happened all weekend. At some point they figured out that they all knew the first dance song, so they ditched the MP3 and did it live, much to B and M’s delight. Note the homemade dance floor made out of pallets…

Dad and another little one breaking it down…

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Jason and I both love dancing, so as long as my knees could handle it, we were up there…

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…and long after the afore-mentioned knees gave out, the girls were out there boogying. They stayed up o close the night.

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We had a lot of fun! My mom’s side of the family loves dancing too, so our cousins, aunt and uncle danced almost the whole evening too. Three of them came all the way from Sierra Leone for the wedding… so nice. It was delightful to spend time with them. My sis and brother-in-law M DJed a heck of a night!

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Since this post will be passed around, I just wanted to send lots of love out to my brother and his new wife. May you have lots of fun in your new marriage, just like the beautiful wedding you planned.

And to my parents, who are breathing deeply (but still taking care of my kids for this week!) thank you. you were the host gracious, kind and generous hosts.