Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dear Baby,

Today is the very last day of 2009. Woohoo! The year is over, and we're that much closer to bringing you home to us!

Today we wonder what you're like. Did you already have your birthday? Are you still growing in your birth mom's tummy? Are you still just a beautiful idea that we're dreaming of?

What will be your favourite colour? What kind of foods will you want to eat? When you first meet your silly little dog, will it be love at first sight, or will you be a little scared? (It's okay if you're a little scared, but I promise that he will love you as much as we do. And even though he doesn't know it yet, he can't wait to play with you.)

What kind of adventures will we have together? Whatever your heart desires, little one. We can't wait to show you the big, amazing world all around us, and help you find the beauty and joy and excitement that life will offer you.

We love you, sweet baby. Wherever you are, however old you are, we love you already. We'll see you soon - as soon as we can. Happy New Year, and we hope we'll be counting down together in 12 months.

Hugs and kisses, from around the world,
Your Mom and Dad.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I love this.

Legacy Of An Adopted Child

Once there were two women
Who never knew each other.
One you do not remember,
The other you call mother.

Two different lives
Shaped to make yours one,
One became your guiding star,
The other became your sun.

The first gave you life,
And the second taught you to live it.
And the first gave you a need for love,
And the second was there to give it.

One gave you a nationality.
The other gave you a name.
One gave you the seeds of talent,
The other gave you aim.

One gave you emotions,
The other calmed your fears.
One saw your first sweet smile,
The other dried your tears.

One gave you up,
It was all that she could do.
The other prayed for a child,
And God led her straight to you.

And now you ask me through your tears,
The age old question through the years.
Heredity or environment,
Which are you a product of?
Neither, my Darling, Neither,
Just two different kinds of love.

~Author Unknown~

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

And to the right of the text column, you may notice:

Help end world hunger

But what is it, you ask? How can I play AND feed a hungry person? These things seem like they'd have to be mutually exclusive?

Not so, my friends. Give that banner a little clickity and you'll come across a trivia game. Every question you answer correctly represents another 10 grains of rice that will be given to hungry people in developing nations, graciously sponsored by some very generous organizations. It's free for you, a kickass time waster at work, and lets you hone your knowledge in areas such as art, language, geography, and other disciplines that will help you look smart at parties.

So you get to play a game, and hungry people get to eat! Win win!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

History building

Last night I was up late in the name of tradition. Every year for Christmas breakfast my family eats the same delicious pastry. We're on the third generation of partakers, and not a year has been missed in all that time. Even years ago while living overseas, I'd scrape together the best substitutes for relied on ingredients that I could find and create some sort of excuse for this time-honoured tradition.

Even though these things are a pain in the ass to make, every ounce of effort is completely worth it when Christmas morning rolls around. This is the only time of year that we ever make these, and the only time that we eat them.

Sitting around the table with champagne in our hands while wearing silly paper crowns from our Christmas crackers has become our tradition. This is what my family does. This is our own little history.

When our baby comes, he'll be joining a whole new family. He'll be coming to us, leaving behind a history that he was born into. We've done a lot of talking about this, and we want him to have some sort of history with our family that existed before he did. Obviously this is a bit of a tall order, but we're doing what we can to bring some sort of sense of belonging. We want him to know that he was part of this family long before he could even join it. He's supposed to be here.

Stockings are big in our family, so we went ahead and got one for him. He's not here yet, but he will be - and this is waiting for him when he comes. Can't wait to meet you, buddy! And we can't wait till you'll be here with us at Christmas to find all the ridiculously cool stuff that we'll put in this for you. :)

And to celebrate the little one that's coming - a 'parents-to-be' ornament. We know that our baby is out there somewhere, and we can't wait to see our family grow - this will always be here for him to see that we wanted him - how much we wanted him (or her!) - and that we were already thinking about him at Christmas.

And when he comes, we'll teach him about how much we loved him before we knew him, and how big of a part he'll be in our family. We'll keep building new traditions, as well as continuing those that have been carried out for generations. Someday soon, I'll make him our family Christmas breakfast.

Happy holidays to all of you out there - may your days be merry and bright, and bring you all that your hearts desire in the coming new year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

In honour of a little more sunshine every day from here on out

I'd like to share my new favourite room in my home. Our nursery! Even though it might be an incredibly long time before we get our match, we decided to go ahead and put it together so that we could include pictures of it in our profile. We decided that if we were in the position of having to give up a child, we'd feel better knowing where he or she would sleep. We wanted to give that same sense of comfort to any potential birth mother who considers choosing us.

The entire room is based on this mobile, which I'm completely in love with. It's just so freaking cute.


I made this!

We went with the Gulliver crib from Ikea. It had great reviews, and doesn't take up too much room (so more space for playing!). And it's not too tall, so it won't be so difficult to reach over and pick up the baby. Also, it converts to a daybed later. Score!

Now we just need someone to put in it...

Adorable quilt. Yes, adorable. No, it won't stay there when the baby comes (as per Ontario's adoption safety guidelines) but I couldn't pass it up for when the baby's older.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Darkest before the dawn

View from my plane as the sun rose over Zimbabwe, with the wing in the foreground. My first real glimpse of Africa.

A very wise friend reminded me today that it is Winter Solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year. This morning this feels very appropriate. Even though the husband and I have spent the past months working our butts off towards something very exciting, there's a certain sadness that comes with it. 2009 has truly been a craptastic year. In light of the fact that the days are about to get longer and the sun is going to shine a whole lot brighter, I'm going to just let Paulo Coelho do the talking for me:

"Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worst kind of suffering.”

"We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation."

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”

“But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it's better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you're fighting for.”

“You start living for the obsession alone ... You want to arrive somewhere regardless of whether you're enjoying the road or not.”

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

I heart Paulo Coelho. If you haven't read his books yet, start with The Alchemist, move on to The Zahir, and work your way from there as your heart desires. Beautiful, lyrical novels that will speak to your soul (if you'll let them). I'm always amazed at Coelho's ability to sum up complex emotion in just a line or two of simple words.

And with that, I welcome the onset of the winter solstice and look forward to a brighter year to come. God knows that this is not where I expected to be now, but from here we can only push forward and stay focused on the amazing things on the other side of our struggles. I plan to hold on tight to my loved ones and make life happen with them by my side.

What *not* to say to someone who's just told you they're adopting

"Oh wow! And you know what, lots of people get pregnant while they're waiting to adopt!"

Um, thanks. Go play with your four biological kids now, m'kay?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bloody hell, that's a lot of paper

It's done! It's finally actually done! WOOOHOOOOO!!!! Ever wondered what a completed Ontario home study looks like?

BAM! So how does this stack up against other paper stories of people's lives?

'That doesn't help me,' you say. 'I've never read Long Walk to Freedom.' Well. You should. It's excellent.

Long Walk to Freedom v. Long Walk to Family

And good. I'm glad to see that it's at least less paper than Mandela's life story.

But still, holy crap!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Adventures in telling people that you're adopting a baby

When we first decided to adopt, the first person we contacted was a relative of mine, my kickass cousin who just adopted internationally as a single parent. We wanted to sit down with her and find out about her experience so we'd have a better handle on what we were getting in to.

One of the things that she first touched on was how to tell people around you about your decision. 'Be prepared', she said, 'and be careful how you say it because you might get some really odd reactions'. She told us of how some people had responded when she first started telling people - some were far more supportive than others, and some were even a little insulting about it.

I'm going to give her a virtual high five right now for giving us the heads up, because our own experience telling people has been pretty interesting.

First I came out to my internet community. WTF, you say? You told the interwebz before you told your friends and family??? Well, you, yes I did. I told the people who'd been with me and supporting my husband and I through all the months of struggling and discussion leading up to this very big decision. I told the people who listen to all kinds of crap from my online persona. About a dozen or so of them know me in real life. A few dozen more know my real name behind my screen name, and the rest know me only as I present myself in an anonymous forum. They don't all know me, but they all know my story.

Besides, we had to tell someone.

Anyhoo, my virtual friends thought it was fantastic, so yay! Onwards. Next up were a couple very good friends who we planned to ask to be references. In return for the news we needed to pick a few jaws up off the table and mop up too much spilled beer. Clearly we needed a little practice.

We moved on to telling our parents. We were met varied reactions, ranging from hugs and happy tears to confusion and lots of questions (which graduated to more hugs and much chatter of being grandparents as the idea settled in). By the time we started telling our larger group of friends this past weekend, we were old pros. We sprung the news on people at a Christmas party, individually at first as we could get people alone, and then when the night dwindled down to about a dozen people including the three we hadn't had a chance to tell yet, we just announced to the room.


Friend 1: Okay, I know you have big news so just tell me already! You're pregnant aren't you!
Me: No, but thank you. I won't wear this shirt in the future.
Friend 1: Okay, *phew*! Jeez, freak me out! So what's the news then?? You're already married, so it's not that! What else could it be?
The husband and I: [awkward pause]
Me: Uhhhhh well... it's big news! And we're really excited about it! We're adopting!
Friend 1: WHAAAAATTT??? Oh my God, seriously???
Me: I bet you feel pretty awkward about being freaked out about us being parents now, eh??
Friend 2: [insert venting about having to go to parties where friends have kids now]
Friend 2: Anyway, enough about all that. When are you guys heading out to travel next?
Us: Oh, soon, we hope.
Friend 2: Nice! Where are you planning to go?
The husband: Well, South Africa, actually!
Friend 2: Oh wow! But J, you've already been - any particular reason you're going again?
Me: Actually, yes. We're going to be adopting a baby from there!
Friend 2: WHAAAAATTT???
{party begins to wrap up}
Me: Shoot, we still haven't told [insert couple's names here].
The husband: Hm. Well, they're going to leave. We can't let them go being the only ones we haven't told.
Me: Agreed. Hm. Hey, everyone? We have some news, and we couldn't get around to everyone, so we're just going to spit it out. We're adopting a baby! Yay!
Guy in couple: Whoa, that's crazy! [oh yeah, he was drunk - that's important] Is it going to be an Asian baby?
Me: No, but he *will* be black!
Guy in couple: Oh yeah, like Invictus?
Me: Well, yeah, actually, he will be from South Africa!
Guy in couple: Oh wow, that's crazy!
{important note: he sent an email the next morning wishing he'd given a better reaction because he was so drunk/surprised at the time}
Lessons to be learned:
1: Have a drink in your hands when you announce. This is good for a number of reasons:
a) people probably won't assume you're pregnant and make you feel like you look pregnant
b) you can toast the news with this drink!
c) alcohol is delicious
*important addendum - the drinks shouldn't be *too* full at this point in time. Have a couple swigs first.
2: Pick your moment. The last few drunken moments of a party aren't ideal. Neither is the moment immediately following kid vents or sighs of relief that you're not going to be parents through biological means.
3: Tell people in the way that you want them to react. If you want them to be excited, make sure they understand that *you're* excited. If you want them to think it's a sad thing, then you should be crying in your drink. If you want them to be confused, you should tell a long rambling story about your Aunt Mabel and then quickly change the subject with, 'Oh, hey, we're adopting! Also, how do you feel about parsnips? Aren't they weird?'
Because that would be confusing.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Finally!! We're going to sign our papers on Wednesday! That whole mess of paperwork that I posted about a few days ago? Complete!

Next step - we submit that package, along with our parent profiles, to our agency. They take it from there, and then all we have to do is wait.

I can't wait to have this step behind us!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Last night we went to see the much-anticipated Invictus on its opening night. If you've missed the promotions, Invictus is the story of a partnership between former South African president Nelson Mandela and rugby superstar Francoise Pienaar.

In post-Apartheid South Africa the country was still broken following Mandela's election as the first black president. The separation between races had legally come to an end, but this was not seen in day-to-day life. The hostility and tension continued. Mandela recognized the need to bring the people together and in a brilliant move through support behind the Springboks, South Africa's rugby team, in a bid to give the people a common thread to rally behind. Formerly a symbol of Apartheid, the Boks became a team that belonged not just to the whites, but to all South Africans.

Morgan Freeman finally had the opportunity to take on the role that everyone has anticipated him playing for so long, and he truly did Mandela justice. Pienaar was played by Matt Damon, who approached his portrayal of Pienaar with incredible respect and honesty. Clint Eastwood directed and has once again given us a truly great film.

This movie was beautiful, and I'm so grateful for this to have been made. As adoptive parents, one of our challenges will be to help our child learn about his own personal history. We likely won't have much information about his family (sadly), but we owe it to him to give him whatever we can to help him understand where he came from and how he got to where he is now. We have been seeking out resources to help us teach about the history and culture of South Africa, and Invictus will be a great tool to demonstrate different facets of life in S.A.

You should go see this. It's awesome.

Friday, December 11, 2009

This is awesome.

And I fully intend to dress my kid in this. Come on, what baby *wouldn't* want a cape??

Thursday, December 10, 2009

PRIDE training

No, not that PRIDE.

When you adopt in Ontario you're required to complete this unfortunately named course which teaches concepts specifically related to parenting an adopted child. PRIDE is actually an acronym: Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education. When we first began the adoption process people kept telling us how it was 'too bad because they've now made PRIDE a mandatory step'. It sounded as though this 37 hour course was going to be awful. Long, boring, common sense. We were dreading these four days of sessions.

Our experience couldn't have been further from our expectation. Throughout the sessions we touched on some really important topics specifically in the context of adoption, including loss, developmental delays (physical/mental/emotional), openness, identity building, positive adoption language, and so much more.

I don't think I can possibly say enough great things about this course, but I'm so glad that it's become mandatory. One word of advice - if you are adopting in Ontario and need to complete PRIDE training, ask around ahead of time for instructor recommendations. While this was a fantastic experience for us, we've heard from others who have had the training from other instructors who didn't feel there was as much benefit. The trainers really make all the difference, so take that in to consideration when choosing which session to join.

If you're considering adoption in the province, AdoptOntario has some great information regarding the basic principles and when the sessions are offered in your area.

I'll touch back to some of the more poignant parts of the course at some points, because there's just too much to put into one post. But for those who have to go through it, I just want to stress how valuable this training is. Don't dread it! Just find a good intructor and really listen to what they're telling you. We honestly feel like we're much more prepared for what we're taking on now that we've completed this course.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Champion hoop jumper

In case you've ever wondered what kind of paperwork is involved in adoption, here's a little taste. Weeeee! Some of those are no big deal - a quick signature and you're done. Others are a ton of work. 18 page forms about you, your spouse, your family, etc. Medical reports to be completed by a physician, with a full history. Fingerprinting. Fun stuff!

Really, looking back I can't believe how quickly we got through all of that. It was really A LOT of work! And sometimes it was a huge pain in the ass. There's a lot of running around, calling references, and just...stuff. When I had all of the forms printed out and put in a pile I was definitely a little overwhelmed, but in retrospect it's all worth it. I'd do it all again 1000 times.

And now that it's done, we're that much closer to realizing our goal. Plus, who doesn't love multiple choice questionaires on their personal life?

Okay, take: 2

My previous attempt to blog this journey ended suddenly when I realized that I could no longer remember my login information for that account. I've tried every possible combination I could think of and I have failed.

So, we'll cry a tear for it, pour one out, and start over.

Welcome to our journey to adoption. Hurrah! A brief intro: My wonderful husband C and I are in the process of adopting a baby from South Africa. We're three months into it all, and let me tell you - it's been quite the experience so far.

We're Canadians - from Ontario - and I wish there were more sources for information about how it feels to go through all of this. In this space I plan to share an insider's account of Ontario's adoption process, some views on international adoption, adoption in general, and anything else that comes up.

Stick around. I'm funny, and this will probably get interesting. :D