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

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Backpacking on the Bay

Hard to believe I've already been home for a full week since the now-annual 3-day girls' backpacking on the Bruce Trail adventure. We had the absolute most perfect weather EVER this year - could literally not ask for anything better. Warm (but not hot) during the day, with a consistent breeze - wonder of wonders. And no rain. Makes such a difference - so much less sweat-dripping, head-pounding suffocation while struggling along with 35 pounds on the back during hot and humid conditions! I had my very own brand new tent this year, which worked out very well (bought the extra-long version of the REI Half Dome 2 - the 2 "Plus" - so that I can sleep with my feet on the sleeping pad rather than on my pack. No particular misadventures - other than a seagull yanking my pepperoni stick from my hand and then saucily devouring it right in front of me. I now have an arch-enemy with amazing super-powers. All I could do was try to stare him down so he didn't steal something else.

Gorgeous sunsets and great views from the rocky beaches where we camped along the way:

At some point during the hike I invariably wonder what on earth I was thinking, doing this thing I detest so completely. And then I usually recover a bit (well, except for year two. That was tough all the way along), re-group, and continue on. Felt so good the third day, I could have gone a little further. But getting the pack off and rinsing off in the lake which greeted us was nice, too!

Been a BUSY week since the hike. We are presenting on our Thailand trip at church tomorrow, and I spent many, many, many hours choosing and inputting over 200 photos into Powerpoint. We are desperate to organize things at home a bit. After breaking a vertebrae part-way through last summer, changing jobs a year ago, and then having septic "renovations" this year, the yard, gardens, and house are in some chaos. I thought working half time would mean lots of accomplishment at home...but so far I keep spending those days off preparing for trips and presentations, cleaning, "researching" and taking care of personal business, socializing, etc. It's also time for that home study update we've been postponing since choosing Ethiopia. Not going to get any further with this adoption business with an outdated dossier and homestudy. Still trying to come up with a final and concrete decision around our age and sibling request, but I think we're getting there. Will be nice to have things settled again for a while (as settled as it gets in adoption, anyway).

Monday, 14 June 2010

Theory, Reality, and Acceptable Risk

Having some deep thoughts here.

When signing up to adopt a healthy infant through international adoption, I wonder to what extent adoptive parents REALLY consciously consider the unknowns and say "yes" to those possibilities. You know, anything from attachment issues to genetic/organic developmental delays which might not be immediately apparent, to unknown biological family mental health histories which could surface in our children. I suppose anyone who has a child, no matter how that happens, is saying "yes" to some of those risks, and to others, and hopefully in a conscious way. Generally, is it that we hope for the best, and figure we will cope with the worst if it happens? I suspect that it is really difficult to dig deeply into ourselves in regard to these issues and questions when everything is so hypothetical - "if" and "when" we eventually adopt we will "hopefully" and "most likely" have a healthy child, with no major surprises. At some level we (meaning we adoptive parents) must know that we could eventually be living with some pretty serious stuff, or at least some stuff we had not ever pictured ourselves living.

In international adoption, things are complicated in part due to the possibility of very limited family and developmental history, and the inability to meet and interact with a child before adoption decisions are finalized. And, so far we have said "yes" to all that. All those unknowns. And maybe it is somehow comforting to know that "what will be will be" - We signed up, but after that, the matching - with the little person or people who end up becoming our children - is out of our hands. We can only trust that an appropriate match is made based on the information available.

But what about when something shows up in a referral (or domestically, as more information is gathered about a proposed child, or one identified through a photolisting) that is a little (or a lot) outside of our initial scope, based on what we felt comfortable with, or how we pictured our child?

How do parents decide their "actual" limit when faced with a scenario involving a specific child - one whose face and identity are known, and who has been identified as a possible match? What then?

I really do believe that to adopt, parents must recognize and be OK with unknowns, and with various issues that reflect where our children have come from so far. But that's relatively easy to do in theory. Reality, however, may be different. In theory, to say that your child "could" end up with a lifelong developmental disability, or conduct issues, or a mental illness - that is one thing. When something is flagged with a specific child, that gets complicated. What if the child has lots of qualities and characteristics you like, but also presents with an issue you really never would have actively sought? Does that automatically mean the opportunity should be passed over? I doubt it...but I am sure that deciding where your limits actually lie could be a pretty tricky thing.

On one hand, stretching original boundaries could be totally appropriate, if you spend time working through thoughts and feelings, and any tweaking of your concept of child and parent, family and future, and realize that you are comfortable moving forward. In life, I fully believe that we sometimes need a bit of a push outside our self-imposed limits to experience things we would never have chosen on our own.

On the other hand, you are still making a theoretical decision. You have no way of knowing how you will actually feel, or what life will actually be like, if you move forward with this child. You don't want to end up resenting that you stretched your original boundaries. You don't want to be caught up in a moment, perhaps not wanting to let this match go because there are things that seem good or appealing about the child, or because you don't want to say "no" and let others down, or because you feel selfish saying that you really don't want to take on this unexpected issue (it's not you, dear child, it's me, the self-centred adult that I am who wants a "perfect" son or daughter according to my pre-conceived definition), or because you have some idea that this is your "chance" to become a family, and don't want to let it go.

When the illusion of the ideal child fades in the light of reality - even if that reality is still just on paper - and you realize this is a real child with real issues, how do you discern which issues are OK, and which are legitimate reasons to close the door and move on? You don't have to say "yes" when theory becomes reality. But you don't want to say "no" flippantly, either. What if that controlling, instigating behaviour isn't at the core of a child otherwise described as kind and polite and thoughtful, and can be overcome? But what if it is...what if it is so rooted that there will be more and bigger issues...? What if the developmental delays are life-long, and will impact education and career planning...but what if they're not? What if you say "no" to a wonderful child who would do really well in your family, or "yes" to a child whose troubles overshadow them and your family in painful and difficult ways? What is acceptable risk, and how do parents make that call?

Over to you...

Friday, 4 June 2010

Pick Me!

One of the things I hadn't really thought about, having gone the route of international adoption, is the whole idea in domestic situations (including at least some public adoption scenarios), of the "Profile" - which it looks like we will need to be doing if we step further into this new territory.

I think it's much less stressful to let others write homestudies and reference letters, trusting they've done their best to paint a truthful, compelling picture of us, than to come up with something ourselves. So much pressure! Thinking that the photos and words we choose can directly impact someone's decision to consider us or not! Makes me feel a bit queasy. Even more queasy than the thought of social workers meeting my two, barking hounds at the door. "Really, they're friendly...look at all these pictures of them resting quietly and hanging out with people"

One thing I liked about sticking with the same international adoption program and process was that the uncomfortable stuff - meetings, visits, etc. - was all over. All except the outdated medical forms, which need to be re-done no matter what, which are on the agenda for next week. Guess 'tis the price to be paid for expanding opportunities.

Now, I'm off to sift through hundreds of photos for just the right ones (you know, enough variety to tell a story, but not an overwhelming amount), and come up with the right blend of sincere (but not sappy), enthusiastic (yet not alarmingly so), creative (but balanced...not misleading..."look at all those daily fun adventures!..."), engaging (but not pushy...just trying to be ourselves...but not boring either), comprehensive (but also concise...not my forte), inspired written content to go along with the pictures. But first, an energizing snack, and maybe a nap.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Retreat, Renew, Resume

Ah, the campground. Our summer retreat. Last year was our first experience having a seasonal site to visit whenever we wanted, and it was lovely. I had just made the transition to part-time work, which made weekends away a nice break, rather than a source of increased stress being away all the time. I had a couple of days off at home, then a couple at the campground. Geoff, while working full-time, loves this as a way of making the most of down time, and really relaxing. Home, sadly, is a hard place to relax. Ok, I can do it (although often with some guilt about all the tasks and projects I can see vying for my attention), but Geoff is a busy type, not one to while away the time at home when there is work to be done. So, we hit the campground, even if just for a quick Friday night through Saturday visit (during May-June and September-October we feel pretty committed to being at church every week - July-August we give ourselves permission for more full weekends away, and we can attend church at camp if we get ourselves up and ready, which is a cozy, rustic experience taking place in a large shed-like building). Anyway, bottom line is that we have been making good use of our trailer!

Retreat is important, isn't it? That mental and physical space, removed from everyday chores and "to do" lists. The time to read, talk, reflect, and focus. We have had some worthwhile adoption-related discussion and reading on these weekends in addition to leisure time and (mostly satisfying) outdoor projects on our camp-site. While I'm not sure I feel great about being so undecided about our adoption plans for the past many months, we do seem to be united in our indecision. Hmm. Trying to see the up-side!

Anyway, we have talked about lots of options and possibilities, and we are both of two minds at the moment. One is that we are still committed to our Africa adoption goal. The other is that, after living so much uncertainty with international adoption programs, we may not want to be quite so exclusive in our adoption process at this time. So, we have been tip-toeing into learning about things like public domestic adoption. We are currently in a more specific exploration/decision-making/waiting process in that regard. Lots to discover, ask, etc. Not wanting to make any unnecessary changes or rush any decisions along the way, but wanting timely responses and information to know whether, or whether not, to move along with anything new. Other options can still be long and complicated as well, so patience and fortitude are still necessary! And...along with progress, or potential progress, I see signs of distraction, nuisance obstacles - nothing big so far, but those little things that creep up to get in the way of clarity, peace, and even pleasure in the process. At least, I suppose, I am starting to recognize the pattern, and to expect it. Hopefully that makes it easier to more effectively respond to the distractions and set-backs as they come.

After 2.5 years+, three countries, and various updates along the way, we are doing more thinking than we did before starting out. Things seemed so simple - do a homestudy, sign up, and wait for a referral. Some of the reflecting I have done recently has lead me to realize that our early dive into adoption, while sincere and based on a true commitment to adoption, was perhaps also romanticized, limited in scope and possibility, and certainly somewhat naive. Through the waiting and change, we have been able to examine our adoption motives, interests, and decisions more critically. I really believe that whatever route we take from now on (even if little changes in fact and detail) will be more intentional, better-informed, and more reflective of who we are, and why we chose this journey toward family, deep down, in the first place. And that will ensure our adoption, when it happens, takes into account everything that is important to us and the reasons why we are doing this. Perhaps more on that in another post - but I am referring to issues like choosing an age range, choosing a country, identifying particular "special needs" we are and are not comfortable considering - so many things we didn't know about or consider when we started out, but which could lead us to a more exciting and fulfilling conclusion, again, if only because we are more certain and intentional about what we are doing.

So, currently, here are our hopes and prayers:

  • Patience and peace for the waiting, even savouring the moment, realizing that at some point things may change quickly - just letting each day come and go as it will.
  • Timely responses - yes, we want to be patient while waiting, but it would be lovely if there are a minimum of unnecessary delays in information-gathering, communicating, decision-making, etc., from this point forward
  • Logistics - we cannot possibly predict or strategize how pieces of our puzzle will come together. One factor impacts another, and we have to allow the unknown domino effects to happen as they will, also hoping and praying that details and situations come together in workable and lovely ways
  • For the "right" to prevail - for obstacles or distractions to be powerless to inhibit what "should" be, or to prevent enthusiasm, hope, and clarity of purpose
  • Wisdom and discernment, in asking good questions, and in considering what is the path to travel at this time - to understand that which we need to learn/sense/hear, and to invest our energy and time where it will be best used - what to read, what options to delve into further, what to discuss, who to consult with...
  • Acceptance of this process, and of the knowledge that we really can't predict where things are headed (as we have seen over the past 2.5+ years) - and then resting in that as contentedly as possible, with expectation

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are those who wait for Him.

Isaiah 30:18