Featuring Joy & Geoff, Big Brother , Little Brother , Sis , and various household (and outdoor) critters...

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Spring Trilliums!

It's Trillium season - and for once I actually happened to be in a forest at the right time!

First Hike!

Some lovely weather on May 25 enticed us to set aside garage sale preparation & take Hesper for a lovely hike at our nearby provincial park! She did beautifully - even fjorded the stream with minimal coaxing - and we're looking forward to a lovely, outdoor summer together!
Our little family in November 2007 - memories of the first phase of life at our home. Our canine friends, Gatsby & Phineas, enjoying their last fall with us. Cats Scat & Motet managing to at least be in the shot!

Friday, 23 May 2008

Getting Crafty - Africa Bags For You!

Somehow, while waiting for Spring, and procrastinating on my thesis (correction: as a balanced way of spending time while also working on my thesis), I spent some time making Africa tote bags/purses with some extra (i.e., lots of extra) fabric I had lying around. The result is handy little bag with rustic charm, and it has done well in field tests so far!

Most are taupe twill with various combinations of cotton calico linings & Africa silhouettes. There also are (and will be) a few black houndstooth/plaid ones, a few hot pink ones, bright blue ones, and a number made of light blue twill with white pinstripe. Might be tricky to specify lining & Africa silhouette colours, unless you see me in person - but feel free to ask. I am also open to making silhouettes other than Africa - your favourite dog breed, for example!

Each bag is $15, with $1 going to charities supporting African development work (particularly in the areas of water and AIDs development) and Africa children's programs. For now, that will be Kids Alive (of interest to us because of people connections we have locally), and Jars of Clay's Blood Water Mission (AIDs support & water development) - see my web links to check out their sites! I'll work out shipping costs as I get further along in planning...lots of you are likely within hand-delivery distance.

We have a few other creative ideas in the works, provided we find the time to get crafting, so stay tuned!

If you're interested in having a look at the bags, send me a comment with your email address & I'll email you the photo album from Facebook where I've posted the pics!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

My Travel Skirts

Bottom line is, I'm terrible at packing. When I try really hard to pack light, I regret everything I didn't bring, so generally I stuff in as much as possible. And in Canada, who can say that's a bad idea? Even August vacations mean anything from sundresses to mittens. But for Africa, I want to be able to bring home as much as possible, thereby leaving as much space available as I can. I'm also disinclined to have to worry about ironing, finicky laundering, etc. while away. And then, of course, there are heat/UV factors. Enter the Macabi skirt - http://www.macabiskirt.com/ - long, lightweight, easy to hand wash & hang dry. I'm very excited. I may be falling heavily toward looking a bit 'tourist-y', but the Macabi, with a pair of Birkenstocks, a cute polo T, and my new hemp Tilley looks pretty fun & travel-friendly, if I do say-so myself!

Ah, Baby Stuff - Random Ramblings

Preparing for little new family members means...shopping, decorating, & just generally making lists and plans!!! My laptop (yay Google), my funky notebook and I are in our glory (other than the fact that work and my thesis are really interfering :)

So, if you turn your attention to the sample photo, above, you will see Motet graciously modelling one of our Beco Baby Carriers (this is one of the last of the retired "4th Generation", and we also have another in the new "Butterfly" model). These are "soft structured carriers" that are bit more ergonomic than slings and wraps (I've got that residual whiplash to consider, after all), and carry children from newborn to advanced toddlerhood (i.e., 45 lbs) - unlike most other structured carriers that only go up to 20 lbs or so (if one feels so inclined to carry an older toddler, and if the toddler is inclined to be carried). Anyway, I've been getting sort of earthy here and there, and have been reading a bit about babywearing and attachment parenting - not likely to become a guru or anything, but there are some good points to be made, and in trying to facilitate as much healthy attachment as possible with adopted babies, we're thinking we'd rather wear them than push them as much as we can (yes, we'll have the stroller along, too, just in case - realistically, wearing a heavy baby in 30 degree Ontario weather while trekking the zoo isn't really something I envision as part of my future). For one mom's experience with the Beco, see http://www.bostonmamas.com/2007/09/baby_wearing_with_beco.html

Ok, so for all those stroller times, I don't think anything quite compares to the beauty of our marine blue Bumbleride Queen B! This gorgeous and classic multi-terrain pram-style stroller is no lightweight, but looks perfect for meandering around our mostly sidewalk-free town in ultimate parent-child comfort. One of our main requirements was the ability to have baby facing us (more attachment parenting stuff) or the world, and we also considered things like adjustable handle height, bumpy ground versatility, etc. Now, we do expect to be in the position of being a multi-stroller family, given that a twin stroller will likely be needed for a time, whether we have twins or siblings...but we also figure that a single stroller is handy, too, even with twins. AND, this stroller comes with an optional toddler seat that attaches to the handlebar (a pretty neat, sturdy design), turning the Queen B into a double for shorter rides (no headrest on the attached seat). In the double stroller department there's the whole tandem vs. side-by-side debate - good points on each side, but I think we're more tandem people (less potential for wrestling/physical altercations, easier doorway fit). I LOVE the Inglesina Domino & plan to get my hands on one to have a look at, but it's not at all compact (not that tandems really are petite, generally). The Kolcraft Contours Options double looks really neat, too. Both have multiple seating configurations, which is a major criterion for us. The Joovy Caboose is not bad, either.

So that takes care of the stroller discussion. Cribs are another story altogether. I am much less passionate in this department. Cribs are not really all that interesting to me, and are used for such a short time that I can't get all excited about them. What is exciting, though, is that we (meaning "I") made use of http://www.kijiji.ca/ to find a great deal on matching cribs & matresses (matching mattered since we've decided to have a shared nursery for now) - the cribs are in beautiful condition, are a current model despite being 4 years old, and as a bonus, they provided the opportunity for a lovely drive to Kitchener area with Hesper, including a side stop for some delicious cheese & curds at the Bright cheese factory. But I digress...In cribs, I would have picked cherry tone, but maple will do the job nicely...

Thanks to a friend clearing out baby items, we also have a jungle animal themed Pack n' Play & a cute vibrating bouncy chair. Ok, and I've collected a few more baby clothes over the years than I realized...but hey, I was just being forward-thinking. Eventually we'll need car seats & feeding seats (the type of high chair seat that straps to a regular chair - we can't possibly put two full high chairs in our kitchen) - but I think I can hold off on those items for a while (just a little research here and there to satisfy the need)!

We do have some work ahead on the nursery...my sister managed to live in that room for a while, but it's definitely in desperate need of some love. Window upgrades, baseboards, floor refinishing, doorway trim, repainting, etc. are all on the agenda over the next few months. The cribs look great in the room, though, and the finishing touch is a very quaint, rustic antique dresser that a friend bought & painted for me for Christmas - it sets the tone perfectly!

New Details

Looks like the Zambia program is getting closer to being up and running, now that the suspension has been lifted & the process is being clarified there...

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Ethics, International Adoption, & Transracial Families

While we haven't really had anyone express many concerns or questions around our plans to adopt internationally, and to adopt transracially, I'm sure that some of you reading this may have uneasy feelings, or may at least find it worthwhile to spend a moment considering some of the issues facing potential adoptive parents who are considering their decisions.

As I wrote previously, I have always wanted to adopt both internationally and transracially - I don't know if this desire is a childhood fantasy that has never been let go, or a calling of sorts, but it has deep roots, and certainly continues to feel like an appropriate and important thing for us to do. I know that our desires are shaped by our experiences, and also that they can reflect directions we are meant to follow. I think our experiences are not necessarily coincidental, and that they can act as means through which we recognize our paths in life.

Now, international and transracial adoption are not without critics. There are valid points to be made on both sides of the issues. Even advocates of both, strongly support the necessity of internationally and transracially-formed families to create family and social contexts that ensure children grow up with a strong sense of cultural identity and awareness of their roots. Concern about international and transracial adoption is expressed by those who wonder whether the "western" world is simply trying to be "trendy" in creating globally and racially diverse families through adoption (i.e., following what is seen by some as a celebrity trend), and by those who feel it is always best for children to grow up in their culture of origin, and at the very least, their race of origin. Advocates of both international and transracial adoption argue that, for now, some countries are not equipped to fully meet the needs of their orphans by having them grow up in nuclear family units in-country, and that international adoption provides a means for meeting children's basic needs to have a home and parents of their own. Research does support that children who grow up in nuclear families do better in various areas of physical, social, and emotional development than children who grown up in (even stable) foster and/or group living environments.

Knowing that adopted children, even in transracial families, and even when adopted from another country, generally become healthy, well-adjusted adults, makes us comfortable pursuing this option, with the awareness that it will be essential for our children to be exposed to elements of their culture (i.e., traditions, music, food, social networks) in order to develop a strong identity and sense of wholeness. We believe that, globally, much needs to be done so that issues of poverty, AIDS, and other factors influencing the need for adoption, are reduced. In the end, we know that adoption is a best solution for an imperfect situation - both in meeting the needs of children in Ontario and abroad. Ideally, all biological parents would have the necessary inner and social resources to raise their children. Ideally, all countries would be able to support adoption of children in need within their own culture. We believe that in committing to international adoption, we are also committing to supporting the needs of our children's country of origin, so that eventually children within that country do not need to be adopted out, and so that the need for adoption becomes no greater overall than in any other part of the world. For now, though, there are children living, and soon to be born, who will need a family. We believe that it is best for these children to become part of a nuclear family from the soonest possible moment, in order to promote healthy development and the ability to form loving, attached relationships. For now that means adoption, even international adoption.

So in the end, I think that both are true - international adoption is an important and necessary situation for now, AND, international adoption is not the ideal long-term solution to orphan issues. Transracial adoption has a place as well, when children would not otherwise become part of a nuclear family. And that is where I will stop for today - these are complex matters, with no tidy answers. I can respect arguments on both sides of the issues. We are doing what we are confident is a good and right thing - for us - at this point in time. I certainly have not presented (and am most definitely not fully versed in) a comprehensive discussion of relevant ethical and social issues influencing matters of international and transracial adoption, but hopefully these comments are in some way a valuable response and introduction...

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Africa Adoption Options

So, our agency is currently working with Ethiopia and Zambia for adoptions, although they are always looking at new opportunities as well. It's such a difficult decision, because so many factors are important. Zambia is appealing because time from referral to travel is likely going to be shorter than Ethiopia - since we would attend court on our own behalf, we would travel 90 days after referral for the court process and wait in Zambia for the children's permanent resident visas to be issued. In Ethiopia, a representative attends court for us, and we wouldn't travel until court was done AND the visas issued. But that's not the only consideration by far...we really want to feel a connection to our children's country of origin, and with Zambia we know so many people in our city who work with Zambian programs and are familiar with the people and culture. As well, our World Vision sponsor child lives in Zambia, and it would be a wonderful experience to meet him in person! The Ethiopia program has been running smoothly for a long time now, and so the longer wait for a referral may be a trade-off for a more predictable process. There has been news, though, regarding Zambia: since last summer/fall, adoption has been suspended in Zambia while they review adoption practices to ensure that all children are adopted in a completely legal manner. This has meant that so far, no one (even in Zambia) has been able to accept referrals for children. The following link will take you to the news report:


However, the suspension has been lifted, which is very exciting for families who are simply waiting for referrals at this point, and since there are children already living in our agency's transition home in Zambia, we expect to hear about child referrals any day now for those whose files are already waiting in Zambia!

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Puppy Side Note...

Just in case you are wondering how we came up with the name "Hesperantha" for our new basset hound, here's the scoop:

Being a bit compulsive & always trying to cover every detail, I was really hoping we could find a name that reflected our future connection to Africa AND that paid homage to puppy's birth name, "Star"

After much googling, I found a list of plants that grow in Southern Africa (then decided that wasn't quite good enough - ideally the plants had to be native to Africa, not just grow there as well as in other parts of the world). On the list was "Hesperantha" - the evening flower. I had already come across the name Hesper, meaning "evening star" (from the Greek, Hesperos) but had not given it much attention. Needless to say, Hesperantha quickly made the short list for meeting both the "star" and the Africa criteria. It took a few more days of deliberating, then during another internet search (yes, it's a bit of a sickness) of "evening star" I stumbled on evening star-themed poetry by Poe, Blake, and Longfellow, to name a few. Well, our other dogs had literary names, and I appreciate a good classic for sure, so that pretty much confirmed it.

The end.

Back-tracking...The History Behind our Adoption Plans

Particularly for those of you who are just finding out about our adoption plans, but also as a summary for those who know already, I want to provide a bit of background about what we are doing and why we are doing it!

I have always wanted to adopt - literally since late childhood, at least. I have four adopted cousins, and grew up with two close friends who were adopted. My desire has been to adopt from Haiti or Africa, and Geoff quickly grew attached to the idea as well! Of course, we married young, and had plenty of time to think about whether & when we wanted children. Over the years, we became wrapped up in renovating, master's studies (my fault - it was only supposed to be 3 years - really!!!), and so on, and kept procrastinating. In August 2007, during one of my sporadic adoption-related Google searches, I came across a nearby Ontario adoption agency I had not seen before (check out http://www.imagineadoption.ca/). In October they were offering a free information session. Well, we registered - it was free, so what was there to lose? During this session we learned that in January 2008, the Ontario government would be implementing 9 weeks (3 hours/wk) of mandatory parent education training at a fairly significant cost - that was, unless you had started your homestudy in 2007...Now, those who know me well know that I am a sucker for education, so while we would have been quite happy to take the classes, the cost savings were appealing, and the thought of adding that time to an already overloaded schedule (think: thesis, sick dog, ongoing renovations, etc.) seemed daunting. So, we got some names of local homestudy practioners, found one who could meet with us in late 2007, and all of a sudden we were taking action! (By the way, the perpetual student/occupational therapist side of me needs to stress that we really do value the education part & have been doing lots of self-study on all kinds of adoption and parenting-related issues - I absolutely believe it is essential to be well-informed and well-prepared). Anyway, a little external boost always helps me...just like an assignment deadline...(explains some of the thesis delays...few deadlines). Since then we have felt confident about moving forward, and I am even coping ok so far with the thought of serious travel (not totally my thing - but I think my backpacking experience last spring helped me toughen up a bit in that regard). So that's the "rationale" and story of how we got into this.

When we tell people we are planning to adopt "children" from Africa, they are always curious to know what that means! Geoff & I both feel strongly about adopting siblings so that our children grow up knowing at least one blood relative. While there is a small chance that our children will have a living parent, there are no guarantees that we would be able to have or maintain contact (although that is sometimes possible), and some children are, of course, "double orphans" (meaning that both parents will have died). I must admit that the thought of coming home with two little people I've just met seems a bit overwhelming, but we are sure that this is what we want to do! We plan to adopt either twins (under 5 months at time of referral) or siblings (the oldest no more than 15 months at referral, youngest no more than 5 months). We have not specified gender, as we are open to any combination of boys and/or girls! Before children are referred, they will undergo medical testing to rule out serious conditions (like HIV), and they will live in an transition house run by our agency, or a partner orphanage, until we are able to pick them up.

Well, that's our story so far...

Monday, 5 May 2008

Phase 2 Begins...

Welcome! It's about time for an update regarding our adoption plans - we're hoping the blog format is a convenient way for everyone to stay updated along the way.

So, today marked the official end to (the unexpectedly long) wait for our fingerprint clearances to come back from the RCMP (we were pretty happy the day those came in the mail - as you can see by the picture to your right!) so that we can keep moving forward with our homestudy.

So far we have been really pleased to receive so much positive feedback about our adoption plans. I'm sure there will be some difficult responses from others, but at this point we are simply quite thankful for all the support and enthusiasm that surrounds us! We look forward to the next few months of continuing to prepare our home, and ourselves, for our children. In doing so, here are some of the things on our minds, for you to be aware of:

1. Continuing to save money, spend wisely, and think creatively in order to make the best use of our financial resources and opportunities.
2. Thinking of our children (perhaps one born already, perhaps not, and quite possibly at least one on the way) and their mother, who is, or will be, in such difficult circumstances that will lead to her children becoming ours.
3. Becoming as fully prepared as possible to love & parent these children, whatever their needs and circumstances.
4. Prioritizing and planning clearly in regard to household and travel preparations.
5. Focusing and working diligently in other areas of life, while we wait, to make the best use of our time, contribute fully in our commitments & relationships, and accomplish what must be done (i.e., renovations & thesis - going fairly well despite recent paperwork & puppy preoccupations).

Well then, I expect this is enough to digest for one day! Thanks to you all for your interest & investment in our adventure...