November Is National Adoption Month

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And in the spirit of promoting adoption (and the spirit of not continuing to neglect my blog), I am going to try my best to blog something adoption related every day. I will be focusing on Foster Care adoption, being that is where my heart lies. But I encourage everyone, to pursue any type of adoption that speaks to them. A child in need of love, is a child in need of love. It doesn’t matter where they come from, or how they came to you. The important thing is they find a family to give them a soft place to fall.

So to kick off the start of Nation Adoption Month, I thought I’d share an advertisment from one of my favourite ad campaigns from AdoptUS.org. I love their light hearted approach, and ultimately their slogan:

You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent. There are thousands of kids in foster care who would be happy to put up with you.

One of the misconceptions a lot of people have about adoption is that in order to be eligible to adopt, you have to have a big, beautiful home, in pristine condition, great paying jobs, and money to burn. That’s actually not the case at all. People from all walks of life can be adoptive parents. Honestly, what they’re looking for are people who are real, and can love a child or children unconditionally.

So without further adieu, enjoy…

You don’t have to be a perfect parent…

Errands, Fish Burgers and Snowstorms

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tumblr_lzmcd3MzpL1ql1etfo1_400So today’s post isn’t about adoption. Well, in a roundabout way it touches on it, I guess. Ultimately, it’s about childhood memories, love, and someone very dear to me.

Growing up, most of my memories aren’t of where I was raised. Instead, they’re of a small village, two hours away from home. A village of around two hundred people, where I’m related to pretty much everyone, somewhere along the genetics trail. This is where my Mom was raised, along with her twelve other siblings. We would travel there every other weekend as I grew up. When we would go up, we stayed at my grandparent’s house. There were only three siblings besides my Mom that moved away, and like us, if they lived close, they would come and stay at my grandparent’s house on weekends like we did. If not, they came home for summer holidays, long weekends and the big holidays like Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving. I always felt very lucky that I saw that side of my family so often. My Dad’s family was more spread out, and sadly we didn’t get together with them as often. Many of my friends would only see either side of their families once or twice a year, and some barely knew their extended family at all. So I grew up with an early appreciation for having the family I have.

Most of my memories center around spending time with a group of cousins who were around the same age as me. We played from the minute I got there on Friday night, to the minute I left on Sunday night. I lived for the weekends. So there was always disappointment as we waved good-bye to everyone standing in the driveway. We’re all grown up now, and have families of our own, and sadly, don’t see each other near as often as we used to, but when we do, it’s like picking up where we left off the last time we got together. That bond is still strong.

As much as I loved hanging out with my cousins, there was someone else who I loved spending time with; my Aunt Yvonne. Not unlike many of my Aunts on my Mom’s side, she is funny, loves to laugh, dance and carry on. She’s not afraid to be silly. Yet as boisterous as she can be, she also has a shy and bashful side. Generally, just a sweet and fun person to be around. I have so many wonderful memories of spending time with her. Probably my favorite memories, are when she would call down to Gram’s house on Saturday morning and as if I wanted to “go into town” with her. I can’t remember a time I ever said no.

We would drive out to one of the neighbouring towns to do errands like running to the bank, grocery shopping, or picking up something in particular that my Uncle Kenny needed. I didn’t care where we were going because inevitably, somewhere along the way, we would go on “a little adventure”, as she called it. These adventures led us to yard sales, or antique shops, or a visit my favorite little bohemian store, “Grumblin’ Ganny’s”. Other times it was stopping at the Dairy Bar for lunch and ice cream. But even on the rarest of occasions when it was a quick trip, and we couldn’t go on an adventure, we still had the best time.

It wasn’t just the destination that I enjoyed. The half hour drive each way was equally fun. I have such vivid memories of us driving with the windows rolled down, allowing the smell of the truck to mingle with the fresh country air. Her turning up the radio extra loud when a favourite song came on, singing at the top of her lungs, all while grooving in her seat. Sometimes I would join in, but other times, I would just stick my hand out the window, smile, and enjoy feeling the wind blowing through my hair, as I just absorbed the happiness surrounding me. Those are probably some of my earliest memories of being cognisant of just being in the moment. I can remember the exact feeling I had on those trips. Thinking about it right now, I’m a kid again, and I’m back in that truck. I can see her glancing sideways periodically to smile at me, as she belts out the tune on the radio.

Then there are the yummy memories. Some people are great cooks, and some people are great bakers. She’s both. It was always a treat to stay for dinner at Aunt Yvonne and Uncle Kenny’s. At one point, they had opened a restaurant, attached to their house. So whenever I was up playing with my cousins, Aunt Yvonne would come into the house and ask us what we wanted to eat. We were able to order anything off the menu. How cool is that?! My favourite were her fish burgers and Boston cream pie. To this day, I have never found a Boston cream that wasn’t full on disappointing compared to hers. I gave up trying years ago.

My most recent memory is from this past winter. She was admitted to a hospital here in Ottawa after having broken bones in her legs. The trek for my parents to visit was only an hour, but my Mom came down with a bad cold/flu, and didn’t want to bring that into the hospital. It was longer than that for anyone else, and two hours for her husband and sons to get down. Even longer with the snowstorms that kept hitting the forecast. For me, it was only about fifteen minutes, so I tried to get over every day to spend time with her. The first few days she was sleeping a lot due to medication, so a lot of my visits consisted of sitting and reading, and watching her sleep. But one of the last days I visited, she was wide awake for a long while, and we had a great chat.

During that conversation, she asked about Mike and I adopting, and told me how excited she was for us. We talked about it for a long time. She had all kinds of questions about how it worked, and how we would get matched with a child. She told me that I would love being a Mom. She talked about how excited she was when Derek and Jason were born, and re-canted some adventures in motherhood, from when they were little. (They were both little handfuls.) She also told me how special that time is, and how quickly it goes. She glowed when she talked about her grandchildren Michelle and Daniel, who meant everything to her. She told me I was going to be a great Mom.

We talked about a lot of other things that afternoon. The remainder of which will stay between her heart and mine. I will always remember that afternoon. An afternoon when I was selfishly thankful for a snowstorm that made it just the two of us.

Sadly, as I write this, she is back in the hospital. This time, there are no snowstorms to keep family at bay. They take turns keeping a bedside vigil as she clings to the last days of her life, after a long hard fought battle with cancer. She’s managed to stave it off for some time, but unfortunately, the scales are fatefully tipping in cancer’s favour.

As losing someone often does, it’s had me thinking instead of sleeping. Contemplating in the dark why this is happening to her and her family. Silent pleas quietly dampening my pillow, despite the fact I know there is no answer. At least not one we’re to be made privy to. Even if there was a definitive answer given, it wouldn’t be enough. So tears will continue to flow in the wee hours and random moments at the unfairness of it all.

Maybe it’s an attempt to lessen the pain in my heart, or maybe it’s because there’s no answer, but I find myself trying to focus on how lucky we all are to have her in our lives as long as we have. All the treasured memories we have had time to create with her. Memories are a beautiful legacy. What if when someone was gone, all of our memories went with them? How doubly tragic would that be? For a time memories are just a reminder of our loss. They sting and make an already seemingly broken heart, break a little more. That heartbreak never goes away, but eventually, it intermingles with reminders of love and blessings, making the pain slightly more palatable than it is early on. Although I’m bitter that all I’m about to be left with are recollections of her, at the same time, I’m so very grateful for all that she has given me, and all that she will leave me with.

My deepest sadness though, lies in the fact my children will never be afforded the same blessing of having her in their life as I did. That was not meant to be. But they will know about her. They will learn where our “little adventures” to their favorite places stemmed from. They will spend time in the truck with the windows down and the radio up, and know the pure, unadulterated happiness of singing along to your favourite tunes with all you have. And they will learn that there is no point in hunting down the illusive and sinful Boston cream pie, because sadly, there are no more to be found.

How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard? ~Winnie the Pooh  

Edited to Add: It took me a couple of days to post this, because I just wasn’t happy with it. I actually wrote it on Monday, but didn’t post it because I felt like it didn’t capture just how special she was. After many reads and futile attempts to edit it, I realized I wouldn’t ever have the perfect words, because there just weren’t words to do her justice. Yesterday afternoon, I gave up. I thought, the hell with it and posted it. A couple hours after I did, I received the call that she’d passed.

It’s funny, grief is a very private thing, but there was something in me that just had to put this out to the world. Many people who read my blog don’t know me, and obviously don’t know her. Many that read are friends who don’t know her either. So why was I compelled to post something? Why did I later post the link on my Facebook page? Why did it matter so much? Maybe it was my way of trying to get it right; publically wearing my heart on my sleeve. Maybe I needed something tangible to be out there, when she no longer would be. Maybe it’s all of that and a whole bunch of other stuff my heart doesn’t understand. Whatever the case, she was a beautiful soul. I wish you all could have known her. You’d have loved her too.

London, Ontario ARE

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A mini Adoption Resource Exchange (ARE) on Saturday, June 8th for those in the London Ontario area. It’s a very small ARE; only 17 children will be profiled from 4 area agencies. Not surprisingly, although the age range spans from 4-16 years old, the majority are older children. The need for families willing to adopt older children continues to be a growing need everywhere.

So if you’re in the area, or willing to make the drive, check it out. Your child might just be waiting….

London Mini ARE

How To Adopt Webinar

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ACO LogoJust wanted to post this for all those Ontarians looking for more information on how to adopt. The Adoption Council of Ontario (ACO), held their first webinar earlier this week, and it was apparently a resounding success based on all the feedback they received. So much so, they’ve decided to make it a monthly feature.

The seminar gives an overview of how to adopt in Ontario privately, publicly or internationally. There is also info on the homestudy and subsequent PRIDE training required to be eligible to adopt. They feature adoptive parents who share their personal adoption experiences. There will even be a Q&A period at the end. Cost for each enrollment is $50.

The next session will be held on June 13th. No time was posted, but I’m assuming it will be the same time slot as the first one, which was 7:00pm – 8:30pm. Registration is not yet open, but coming soon. There is nothing yet on the site for the upcoming June session, but you can check out what was posted for the May session here.

So keep checking for registration to start. Go people! All you fantabulous potential parents out there looking for info, sign up and get your adoption know how on!

Four Little Hearts

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Adopt Mark, Isaiah, Adam and Jacob from foster care in Florida These three beautiful little boys, and their baby brother (seen in the video), are looking for a forever home that will adopt all four of them together. Such sweet little brothers with such love between them. If they haven’t already, I hope they find their forever home soon. When they do, their parents will be so blessed.

Adopt Mark, Isaiah, Adam and Jacob from foster care in Florida.

Please share this link to help them find their family. ❤

The Beauty Is In The Eye Of The One Wearing Hip Waders

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My latest blog follow is Millions of Miles. I’ve had it posted here on the site for a bit, under the “Blogs I Follow” links on the right hand side of the page. Just in case you haven’t clicked on the link to this blog yet, I just wanted to give it a shout out, and share my latest favorite discovery.

I could say one thing to you about this blog, that totally sums up my feelings about it in one short sentence: you must read this blog. I could leave it at just that, and not one word more. If you check it out, you’ll agree that’s reason enough. But I imagine you’re expecting a little more from me than that, so here goes.

A Million Miles is well known in the blogging world, and really needs no introduction. But for those of you, who haven’t discovered it yet, here’s a quick bio. Megan and her husband Kamron live in Kentucky, with their three super cute children; Sadie and Noah are her two are biological children and Miles was adopted in 2010 from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. They have just completed the training and glorious mounds of paperwork to become licensed foster parents, and are hoping to adopt a child from foster care this year.

I must admit, I don’t follow too many blogs on international adoption. I read about international and private adoption, before we decided to go the public route. But since deciding to go public, I’ve more so been seeking accounts of experiences that will be more akin to ours in the future. But I stumbled upon this blog, and read the first entry, and then another, and another…. I couldn’t stop reading. So I flipped back to her first entry in 2009, and began my journey with Megan and her family where their blogging journey began.

I just finished reading it last night, and I was tempted to write my shout out right away, and actually did start this last night, but it was after 3am, and I wasn’t finding the right words to express how awesome a blogger I think Megan is. So I’m back at it again, and I really hope I do her justice.

I’m not a Mom yet, but I have this vision of the Mom I’d like to be, and I’m going to strive to be. But as I’ve said before, I’m a realist. I know that my vision is not one of blissful perfection. I know that there will be moments that are crazy and stressful, and harder than I could ever imagine. There will be days where I wonder what the heck I was thinking taking all this on. I also know that this will likely cause me to be out of the running to be the posterchild for model mother behaviour. But I hope, that for every falter, I do at least two things right. And above all else, I want my kids to know that through everything, they are loved no matter what.

Which brings me to the main reason I loved this blog, which was that I could relate to her. As cheesy as it might sound, reading her writing, I just totally could see us hanging out and having a great time doing absolutely nothing but gabbing away. She is the type of Mom who is in awe of her kids one day, but that doesn’t mean they don’t drive her out of her ever loving mind the next. She’s devoted to her family, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t super psyched about going away for a blogging conference which allows her to watch whatever she wants on TV and “eat dinner nekkid in her bed”. (Which she did, by the way.) Who wouldn’t want to hang with a girl like that?! I know I would! Not eating dinner nekkid necessarily, but maybe I’d try it on my own and we could compare notes later how sensational it was.

But seriously, she’s got a generous heart, she’s hilarious (can’t tell you how many times I chuckled out loud), and she’s down to earth. She’s real. I like that. She puts it all out there, and admittedly, it isn’t always pretty. But I think that there’s beauty in truth, even if you have to wade through the ugly bits to find it sometimes. And I couldn’t think of someone I’d rather wade along with than Megan. I’m pretty sure you’re gonna feel the same way. So throw on a pair of hip wader boots, and head on over to her blog. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

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The Myth vs. Reality of Foster Care Adoption

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Okay, school’s back in session and I’ve decided to talk about some of the myths people have about Foster Care also known as adoption through Children’s Aid, Children’s Services and/or, public adoption. A lot of people have some serious misconceptions about what Foster Care is and how it works. When people ask me about it, they’re quite often surprised that what I share with them usually isn’t what they thought it was at all. With so many people misunderstanding what it’s all about, it undoubtedly prevents some potential adoptive parents from considering Foster Care, and in turn, prevents so many beautiful children from finding their forever families. So here are some of the common myths and truths, about public adoption.

MYTH: All forms of adoption are extremely expensive, and therefore, you have to be financially capable of footing these costs.

TRUTH: Foster Care is the cheapest form of adoption. There are very few costs involved in adopting through the public system. The only costs you will incur are the cost of police checks and the cost of a medical report, if your doctor chooses to charge you at all. Some doctors will not charge, or will at least lessen their fee if they know the report is for adoption purposes.

Even the cost of the homestudy and PRIDE training (which are both required in order to adopt), are covered through the various Children’s Services agencies throughout Canada. Some choose to pay for these themselves in order to speed up the process, or to pursue various adoption options. They will pay an adoption practitioner to perform their homestudy which costs on average $2000-$3000. The cost of PRIDE training is on average about $1500 per couple, or half that if you’re a single person looking to adopt.

If choosing to foot the bill for a homestudy and PRIDE, you are still usually under $5000, which is still far less expensive than private domestic adoption which averages $10-$20000, or international adoptions that can range anywhere from $20-$50000, or more.

MYTH: Children in Foster Care are there because of something they did.

TRUTH: Children in care are there through no fault of their own. Sadly, they have no control over ending up in care, and equally sad is that they usually enter care due to abuse, neglect, inabilility of their biological parents to parent them, or in some instances, even through the death of their parents.

MYTH: Children in care are considered special needs due to severe physical or mental illnesses.

TRUTH: The truth of this statement is that all children are indeed special needs. But the definition of special needs does not refer to health issues. All children in care have special needs solely due to their life experiences that put them in care, whether it be a child that was abused, or siblings who lost their parents. Special needs just means they need adoptive parents who are dedicated to loving and helping their children work through what they’ve been through.

MYTH: All the children in care are “unadoptable”; having severe behavioral isssues, medical or mental issues, rendering them undesirable and unadoptable.

TRUTH: There are no “unadoptable” children. There is a parent or parents for every child in care. All children have special needs, and some do need higher levels of care than others based on past experiences and health issues. No child deserves the label of “unadoptable”, and every child deserves to find their forever home.

MYTH: It’s easier to adopt a healthy child, through private adoption than public.

TRUTH: Many pre-adoptive parents assume that because they choose the private route to adoption, with a birthmother who chooses a birthplan for her child, they will receive a healthy newborn. The reality is, that a birthmother may not be honest about prenatal care or indulging in drugs or alcohol during their pregnancy. Also, like any birth, there is the possibility a child can be born with health issues or learning disabilities, despite the birthmother doing all the right things for her child in utero.

MYTH: Biological parents of children in care are all drug addicts, alcoholics, abusers, etc.

TRUTH: As mentioned earlier, not all children who enter the system are abused or neglected. Some children lose a parent or parents to death, and sadly do not have family available to adopt them. Other parents are unable to parent their children either due to mental capacity, mental or physical illness.

MYTH: Biological parents of children in care don’t love their children. This is probably one of the biggest myths surrounding Foster Care children. Most people when told this, can understand that children of parents who have mental illness, may be very loved, but their parents are incapable of providing proper care for them. They don’t doubt their parents ability to love their children.

Where the myth is harder to disprove is when you’re talking about an abusive parent. Now there are no doubt rare instances where children are victims of parents who are incapable of love or empathy. But for the most part, even parents who have abused or neglected their child, still love them. They may not have shown it through their treatment of their children, but in their own way, they do love them.

MYTH: A biological parent can come back and decide to reclaim their child.

TRUTH: Children in care who are available to be adopted, are available because their parental rights have been terminated by the courts. Once a parent’s rights to their child have been legally terminated, they do not have the ability to come back and try to regain custody of their child.

MYTH: Older children and teens in care are already set in their ways and behaviors resulting from their past experiences. This makes them more difficult to adopt than say a toddler.

TRUTH: There are unique challenges with any age of child, adopted or not. In the case of children in care, there are a lot of advantages to adopting an older child.

Toddlers do have memories, just as older children do. However, unlike older children, they do not have the mental capacity, nor the capability to process and grasp those past experiences and the process of adoption. They also don’t have the ablility to express their emotions verbally, which often offers up it’s own set of challenging behaviours.

Older children may have been shaped by past experiences and have more life experience. However, an older child can express and process their emotions surrounding adoption. You are able to converse with them about what they are going through and verbally reassure them. This is not to say that older children are less challenging, but that the challenges they present can be managed differently.

MYTH: In order to be approved to adopt, you have to meet a lot of stringent criteria. You have to be financially successful couple, who have a large, beautiful home in order to be considered acceptable.

TRUTH: This is so not the case. Single, divorced, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transexual, and older individuals can be approved for adoption. You don’t have to be financially wealthy, or have a large home. You just have to be able to demonstrate that you can financially care for a child or children, in a loving home, and provide them with the emotional support they need.

MYTH: A lot of Foster Care children don’t want to be adopted.

TRUTH: Children in care just want a loving home with a loving parent or parents they can call their own. They want to live in a home that isn’t temporary. They want someone to tuck them in at night, and someone to see them off to school in the morning. Someone to be there for all the big moments, and the little ones. Someone who’s there for them through thick and thin, who will love them no matter what. They’re no different than you and me. We all want to be loved, so why wouldn’t they?

These are just a few of the most common myths, but unfortunately there are many more out there. And I know that if any of you who are reading this are already parents of children adopted from care, you’ve heard ’em all. I’d be happy to have others share their experiences with misconceptions. The more myths we can dismiss the better. These kids need people to know that they’re just as deserving of love as any other children out there waiting to be adopted. And potential parents need to know that they don’t have to be perfect to be parents. One of my favorite quotes is from AdoptUsKids.org:

You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent. There are thousands of kids in Foster Care who will take you just as you are.

I think that pretty much says it all. ❤

What Will This Year Bring???

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Happy New Year. Another Christmas come and gone, the end of one year, and the fresh faced promises of a new one. My holiday was fairly quiet as I was off between Christmas and New Year’s but hubby wasn’t. So I had a lot of time on my own, which should have lead to blogging *cough, cough*, but obviously didn’t. But one thing it did lead to was daydreaming about the possibility of next Christmas being a little different.

Even though I know that next Christmas would be the perfect scenario, being we haven’t even submitted our application yet, I still couldn’t stop myself. Besides, who knows? For example, on one of the adoption chat boards I visit, a family is just in the process of transitioning with their new son after only nine months of starting the process. Logically, I know it will likely be longer, but a girl can dream, can’t she? Dream of how much better it will be sharing the holiday with one or hopefully, two little ones full of excitement and awe. Christmas baking with little hands…packing up the car to go visit family…tucking them in on Christmas Eve…their little faces on Christmas morning. I cannot wait for all the holiday traditions that will start on purpose, or even better, by accident. Just can’t wait.

It’s amazing how much I love these little people and I don’t even know who they are. And when we actually do know them, the day will come when they will one day invade our mundane adult lives, and inject it with all the things children bring. That includes the good, the bad and the ugly. All are welcome. Obviously the good is more fun to daydream about, but as weird as it may sound, I’m excited for all of it. That said, I may be a dreamer, but I’m also a realist. I’m sure that one day in the not so distant future, I will write a blog cursing myself for ever daring to imagine we could take all this on. But for now, I’m just going to enjoy the dreams as they come.

Photo courtesy of me. :)

Photo courtesy of me.