Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Golden locks of love...

It was time. Or perhaps well over the time.... for Muffin and I to get our hair cut.
Look how long her hair was!!

Hair this long clearly meant that Mom has to comb it in the mornings, and it never looks nice unless we 'do' something with it. She was ready for a change. She decided she wanted to cut it off just below her shoulders. Our lovely stylist, mentioned that if she took a couple more inches off, she could donate it to cancer. Well what's a couple more inches?

It is a bit shorter than I would have liked... but I am glad that it didn't all go to waste, and I am happy that she is able to feel the pride of such a kind act. She made the decision entirely on her own.

She can't stop running her hands through it and loves the change. It's not a length that she wants to keep, but she realizes that it is only a matter of time before it is back to being long again.

And my hair... finally held a curl for longer than 20 minutes! Surprise, surprise... ;)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Kenya Adoption - Functions and Duties of the NAC and Societies

Because we Kenya adopting folks have nothing better to do while waiting, we dig around and try to get some details. Try to understand this program and it's process - better. For any of you coming behind us... here are some good details on the functions and duties of the National Adoption Committee and Societies. (PDF document)

It's a difficult wait for those who have had dossiers in the country for months. Every month, another NAC meet goes by (this is the committee that approves us to adopt in Kenya - the last stop before our referral), and another month goes by with no news. Granted, there are only a handful of us... (bound together by a quiet yahoo group and a more active Facebook group). It is hard not not knowing of 'others'. Not knowing if anyone is being approved... if there is any movement, anywhere.

Is there anybody out there...? (I feel like I'm stranded on a island, distressed and making SOS signals to Pink Floyd.) If there is ... our sanity depends on any information you may have. No pressure... ;) but, please contact me if you are in process and have recently been approved - or if you have been waiting forever, or whatever... any information counts! You don't have to come forth publicly or disclose your identity (I don't bite, honestly)... but you can send me an email by clicking on my profile - or just go ahead and send an email to jolenet (at) telus (dot) net.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How one small act can make a difference

We all know that adoption is not for everyone. We also know that adoption also frequently falls prey to the scrutiny of others. Adoption allows us the gift of adding to our family, but only at the loss of their own. Imagine how many lives you could have saved with the 30K you spent adopting? This money could have allowed a dozen or more children to stay in their birth families.Yes. But, unfortunately it's not that easy.

There are fundamental problems with many of these countries that are beyond our control. Most of us can only do damage control and try and pick up the pieces of the devastation brought forth from a terrible reign of government etc.

Many children in Kenya are abandoned and left for dead. Perhaps, if we were able to have gotten to the young, single Mother before the day she gave birth - we may have been able to support her and her baby. But infants are given up for many other reasons outside of poverty. Shame. Babies of incest and rape. Tribal beliefs. Many peoples are sent down the river for all sorts of reasons, maybe it was born with a tooth, or there was a great flood on the day of the child's birth. It is also quite common for a single Mother to give her children up so she will be accepted by a man. Special needs - cleft palate etc. Abuse/neglect - many children are taken from their birth parents because of abuse and neglect.  AIDS - many children are orphaned because their parents died of AIDS.

So you see, it is not as easy as taking that $30K and handing it out to families in need - there will still be babies who need families. But there are families that do stand to be helped and supported by sponsorship. Families that may have been forced to give their children up without sponsorship.

We currently sponsor a 9 year old girl and her family in a remote village outside of Nairobi. With the help of Plan Canada, we will visit her while we are there.

As sponsors, I don't think we are able to fully understand the impact we may have on these families.
A Small Act is an inspiring documentary filmed in Kenya about how one person can make a difference. The ripple effect or domino effect - how one small act can compound very quickly.

A young Kenyan is sponsored as a child by a Jewish teacher in Sweden. This sponsorship afforded him education, which resulted in  a scholarship to Harvard where he became a successful lawyer, who then decides to give back the kindness he once received.

I really enjoyed this movie. If you are a sponsor or contemplating sponsorship, please watch this.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

To Kenya With Love - Video - WXII The Triad

Unfortunately, I don't have much of an update. Our dossier still sits at Foreign Affairs. I was hoping that since they made a mistake and missed stamping some documents that 'fast track' would mean they would get to it in a day or two. At this point, it could take weeks for all we know.

I found a great News Clip on the Orphanage New Life Homes - where we would like to volunteer as a family when we are in Kenya. (Go ahead and get your fill of cute babies!!)

To Kenya With Love - Video - WXII The Triad

Thursday, February 16, 2012

One step forward.... and one step back.

Got notification yesterday that 2 documents in the dossier were not authenticated, so they are now on their way back to Foreign Affairs instead of on the way to the Embassy. Poop.

Hope they are put through quickly!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The best Valentine's gifts!!

Yesterday we received notification that our Dossier was returned from being authenticated at Foreign Affairs and is being sent to the Kenyan embassy for legalization. Yay... another step completed. (I often envision myself climbing Chichen itza, one step at a time... )

My hubby also surprised me with a fixed pandora bracelet that I broke 18 months ago during a soccer game with Mister. I so love gifts of the heart. Gifts that require some thought are so much more meaningful to me than a last minute gift purchase. So extra points for this one!!

Then the kids surprised me with this Pandora charm (picked out by Daddy while they were in school)... Every Pandora charm is to symbolize something, and this obviously symbolizes our journey to Kenya. Love it!

And if that wasn't enough... hubby also gave me a poem he had written. It's too sweet not to share. ;)

My Valentine

You are the woman 
Who's making it happen
The winds of change
Are at our door rapp'n

We all have our dreams
That sit and get dusty
Most never followed
Until they're too musty

Buy you are a woman 
Of unparalleled drive
That takes all our dreams
And makes them alive

Now we, as a family
Will soon be expanded
Because of commitment
You yourself have demanded

One or two children 
Brought into our fold
More love and more children
To have and to hold

A much richer life
We all will now live
Because of the effort
That you selflessly give

But it isn't just us 
That your work has helped out
Your saving a child
Whose future's in doubt

Through some difficult times
We've had a dream you've provided
And towards that great goal
It's by you we've been guided

Your are beautiful woman
Both inside and out
The fact that I'm lucky
Of that there's no doubt

And now we embark
On the next stage of life
With an adventure I've longed for
To share with my wife

We'll travel and live 
In a strange foreign land
We'll offer the needy 
A strong helping hand

To do this together
Fulfilling my dream
Of adventure and helping
As a family team

To know that a child
Will be pulled from such strife
To be loved by a Mother
For the rest of her life

It really is not
Just some simple task
You've leaped all the hurdles
How one might ask?

Through love and commitment
With passion and drive
The powerful queen bee
Who tends to our hive

You make it happen
With grace and with style
Keeping us happy and content
All the while

So on Valentine's day
Here I sit and reflect
How the woman I married
Is close to perfect

Yes it's true
We may not always agree
But you are the core
of our happy family

I'll live life to the fullest
With you by my side
Who you were, who you are
Fills me with pride!

Isn't that sweet!? I am just so thankful that Valentine's was not 2 weeks ago... or I'd still be crying! Ha. Hope you all had a fantastic day!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Photo Valentine's cards...

In an effort to spend more quality time with the kids, since I have been swamped with year end/tax season... we decided to make homemade cards.

I told the kids to dress up. Of course Muffin had fun with this task -but Mister wasn't going to have anything to do with it. We tried Daddy's suit jacket, a pink shirt... a hat - he only wanted to wear our bird 'Tico'. Somehow I managed to make him forget that he was indeed wearing a pink shirt with a collar (heaven forbid).

These are the photos they each chose. I doctored them up a bit...

Add some suckers....

And you have got yourself some cute cards!

All in half an hour - with only an iphone.

The outtakes are quite funny... Can you feel his pain?

Oh the things his Mother makes him do!

Monday, February 13, 2012

It is these ones we need to fight for...

How sad ... so very sad, and unfair is it that a beautiful nine month old baby has had such a horrific past that not only does she lack the will to even try to weight bare on her legs... but that the light has turned out in her eyes? Look at those eyes... These eyes bring me straight to tears. They tell a horrific story of abuse and neglect. These are the ones we need to pray for, fight for. I am so happy that baby Elizabeth has been rescued and I can only hope that the light returns to her eyes. Poor baby girl.

Please visit His Cherished Ones if you would like to learn more, or find out how you can help children like these.

From HCO - "And this is Elizabeth. Sweet Elizabeth has also been neglected during her few short months of life. Though she did have a mother to feed her and meet her basic needs, it is clear that she was missing so much. Her mother has been committed for neglect, after abandoning her a few weeks ago. Though an absolute beauty of a baby girl, Elizabeth is quite delayed in her development. Her muscles are extremely weak. Her poor little legs just flop about. At nine months old, she makes no effort whatsoever to weight bear on her legs. She is a very mellow baby who has obviously had little to no interaction or stimulation. She is perfectly content in any situation, indicating that there are no expectations as to what she wants or expects. She has obviously learned to self-sooth and be content in any environment. She is absolutely precious!

Please pray that little Elizabeth will gain strength in her body and life into her soul. Pray that she will quickly settle in and feel comfortable in her environment, and that she will progress developmentally. For whatever time we are blessed to have her in our home, may she soak up all the love that God has for her."

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Guess what Kenya has....

... that excites me (and the kids) more than hippos or lions?


Yep... that's right - Chameleons!!!! (And yes, that is a baby hitching a rid on the horns!) Are you kidding me right now? These lizards are fascinating, very rare and exotic in the pet trade here.... and soon they will be running around our yard! The one above is a Jacksons Chameleon - common in Kenya.

I know some of you may think this is an odd creature to like... but, I love em! I raised a couple quite a few years ago... but eventually had to give them up as they literally took 2 hours a day to properly care for them! With 2 babies at home, I just couldn't do it. (Not to mention the fact that I had to breed their food as well - don't even ask, unless you really want to know! ;)

Here they are...

Our Male Panther Chameleon 'Bella' (we thought it was a girl)

Their cages... Left side empty - no chameleon

Bella as a juvenile
'Fauna' our skittish female

Muffin has a good discussion with Bella in the shower

Friday, February 10, 2012

Clearly, this is the problem...

... to my 'anger issue' that only exists in my hubby's head of daisy's and white fuzzy rabbits. (Love you hunny.)

Yes... Pinterest gave me an 'aha' moment. Although I do admit that I do get frustrated sometimes with people I know... I just brushed it off as not understanding how they think. I know everyone is different, and I respect that... but I'm talking about things that I understand to be common courtesy or humanity. I do often have a tough time understanding how their views can be so different from what I think should be the norm. Does that ramble on make sense? If not - let's just capture it with the above quote. Aha... YES - could not have said it better myself. This is the basis of any frustration in my life. Upon discovering my "Aha" moment - I called hubby downstairs, knowing he would find it amusing based on some conversations we have had lately.

"I know what my problem is"... 

"To your anger issue?" (What my husband classifies as an anger issue - is me verbalizing my disappointment - I am not a psychotic fireball. ;).

He looks at the quote and nonchalantly says, "Good, now you can get over it. Move on."

Spoken just like my husband... who doesn't harbor a seed of resentment or anger to anything. Which further fuels my frustrations - because this is a man that would give his right arm for anyone, and is often taken advantage of... but yet, he never can sympathize with any of my above frustrations, which likely results in my over emphasis of frustration in an effort to be heard and understood... only to never be. Damnit! lol.

Yes dear, if this were a perfect world I could learn to:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Early Morning Pancake Animals

 The Key - Success is only defined by whether or not your animal can actually be identified!

Giraffe for Muffin

Elephant for Mister
Piggy for Daddy

Snake for Muffin - I know, this one pretty pathetic!
And, only  a boy would choose a 'Guy and a bow and arrow'? I think he was trying to make my job difficult!
Good old fashion blue berry round for Mommy
 The Secret Weapon: A recycled ketchup bottle or other condiment bottle. (I had to cut the top of this one off bit, as it was too narrow.)

Add caption

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why does adoption cost so much?

Hands down - this is the most common questions I am asked, and it's a very fair question. If there are so many orphans in the world - how can it be so difficult and so expensive?

Basically, it all boils down to protecting the child.

Back in the day, anyone could walk into an agency and walk out with a baby in their arms 15 minutes later. The process was very basic and informal. Perhaps just a signature and you were off. While it is likely that most of these families provided a safe, loving home - some didn't. I'm sure you've heard the stories (similar situations in foster homes as well). Some children were basically enslaved, others abused and even murdered. When international adoption started to become popular... child trafficking for adoption purposes started.

In an effort to protect these children, many safeguards and policies have been implemented. To ensure that we are good parents, healthy, and have the means to support a child. To ensure that no child is kidnapped and trafficked for adoption purposes, and no money exchanges hands for a child. Believe it or not, it happens all the time. More commonly found in popular programs with large wait lists. Which is one reason we feel good about the Kenya program. With a residency requirement, not very many people do adopt from here... and the 'available' children far outnumber the families available to adopt.

Here are the fees that we have paid so far, and ones that will be come due soon.

$3500 for our Homestudy Fee. This takes 5 months and includes several interviews and home visits with a 
Social Worker, several adoption education classes with the end result of a very large document describing you right down to the colour of your underwear. These fees are used to pay our Social Worker and the Agency Staff members.

$275 - for our Biometric fingerprinting, proving we are not criminals.

$300 - Standard Criminal record checks.
$50 - Medical records
$75 - Notary fees to our Lawyer
$250 - Citizenship part A
$160 - to pay for our telephone conference adoption education.

$1500 - fee to transfer Agencies paid to new agency. (We needed to change agencies in order to adopt from Kenya.) 

$4250. Which we just paid last week. Dossier fee:

Break down: $3000 to our local agency and $1250 to our Kenya agency. An extraordinary amount of work 

is required to pull all the pieces together for an international adoption. Agencies facilitate every aspect of an adoption including identifying a child, completing the orphan investigations, obtaining medical information for a child, preparing the dossier, filing for court, etc. Our Kenyan agency has even offered to help us locate accommodation, pick us up from the airport etc.

The next set of fees are payable upon referral. Referral is when we will get the picture and information of our 

Local agency fee - $3000

Africa Development Fund - $2000
Kenya agency fee -$1250
Guardian ship fee (while in Kenya) - $375
Orphanage Assistance Fee - $1500 USD (this is to pay for the care provided to our child)
Lawyer fees in Kenya - $3200

Total $11,325

Please - note to all this may affect - the fee structure was just revised/increased in Sept. 11.

In addition to the fees, other costs associated with adoption is the airfare - $8000

...and living expenses while we are there. (to live modestly in a safe neighborhood) - $16,000. Now I know this is also something that has shocked you. It's poverty stricken Africa! - how can it cost so much to live there!? Well this is Nairobi... Not only the capital of Kenya, but  also the largest city in Kenya. It is also the regional capital of Eastern Africa where many organizations base their offices out of. The Canadian embassy here looks after 12 countries in Africa! Therefore,  Nairobi has a large population of middle class expats and locals. Picture shopping malls, movie theatres, sky scrapers, nice restaurants... 

Sure, there are a significant number of very poor people too. Slums etc. There are many low cost rentals locations, but you would not want to rent there. We have been advised by our agencies and fellow adopted parents before us to live in the 'white' (I know... not all Expats are 'white') communities for our own safety- especially with consideration for the upcoming elections in December. I'm sure you can agree, that jeopardizing the safety of our children is out of the question. If I have to pay an extra $500 to rent in a safe, gated community - I will.

The average rent for a 3 bdrm house in a safe community is $1300-$1500/ month. Furnished - but no frills. This price is absolutely inflated because there is so much demand from the sheer number of expats that populate Nairobi. Unfortunately, we can't work there either, (but we will be volunteering with an orphanage) but hope that we can do some renovation work in exchange for some rent etc. We'll see....  I'm putting feelers out there...

Here is a common apartment rental example that is currently advertised for rent in what would be considered a cheaper expat neighborhood:

3 bedrooms, 1 bath, furnished... for $1490.00 Canadian!

Here are some photos of Nairobi:

Shopping Mall

photo source

And the flip side:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Paper Pregnant

In addition to the 3am pee breaks, puking at the smell of food whenever I had an empty belly, and the waddle... pregnancy also made me very emotional.

I remember hubby laughing at me when I cried for 15 minutes straight when a girl's Father forgot to pick her up at the airport in some dumb teeny bopper movie I was watching. He still laughs about it. I can't say I blame him... it was a silly movie.

 Hallmark commercials had me purchasing ownership in Kleenex and investing in waterproof mascara.

I don't know if this is a normal part of the adoption process... but lately I feel like a walking hormone! This last month alone... I must cry like 4 times a day. It's crazy. Nowhere is safe... in the shower, at my desk, in the car, at hockey games... any time, any place. Any one thing can trigger a cry fest... exactly like when I was pregnant!

My sister and I had been having a conversation online about what we could do make/raise/come up with more money for this adoption and how I have turned into an emotional wreck.

I don't think she would mind if I shared her response with you...

I can tell that today is a hard one for you. Where there is a will there is a way, and you have will like no one I know. I have a few (fundraising) ideas just trying to get some details and on them, then I will share.

You are emotional because you care so much for your child. Even though you haven't met her or even know if she is yet born, you care about her just as much as you do for the ones you have in your arms now. It will happen just have FAITH.

I think she hit the nail on the head. I don't know who our child is. I don't even know her age, her name, or what she looks like. What I do know though is that she will one day be my daughter. I will love her like mad and won't be able to fathom life without her.

When you are pregnant, your love grows daily for the little one growing in your belly. When you are paper pregnant, your love grows daily for the little growing in your heart.

Somewhere, she is out there. I hope until I am able to hold her, calm her fears and dry her tears - that someone else is holding her tight and whispering in her ear, telling her she is loved, cherished and that everything will be okay.
 (... and here we go... *sob, *sob)

Where there is will - there is a way. Adoption is never easy... after a 2 year battle with it, I think I can cut myself some slack and allow myself the freedom to exhale before I get back on my horse. I know I can't be a pillar of strength 100% of the time and I need to learn to nurture my inner self every once in awhile.... and buy more Kleenex.

Just as any pregnant Mother, a deep love courses through my veins for a child that I haven't even met. She is worth fighting for, and crying for. I just hope this is a short phase in the process, and not something that lasts until 'delivery'.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

gratitude makin me cry in my pie

As I may have mentioned earlier, we are currently fundraising for our adoption. This is not expected, and has forced me eat a little humble pie.
Thanks to that fantastic year of 2011, that I speak so fondly of... we have had to cut back our expenses, sell what we can, and now we are fundraising by selling 'something'. (Cannot disclose, as I have agreed to not sell it 'publicly'). This certainly was not on the agenda... but one cannot predict the cards that have been thrown in our direction, nor expect that the actual timing of our adoption (that has been underway for over 2 years now) would coincide with our lovely hand of cards!

Many, if not most adoptive families fundraise for their adoptions... it certainly is not unusual. In fact, it is the norm. After all, how many people do you know who have an extra $40-$50K in their pockets?

Over the years, I have supported many adoptive families by purchasing Christmas ornaments, recipe books, t-shirts, jewelry, etc... I love the idea, and I love assisting families bring their children home. BUT - you can't imagine how difficult it was for me to jump over to that side of the fence.

 I don't like to ask for help. I don't like to ask for favors (although... getting a bit better), and I don't like being indebted to someone. If you ask my friends and family, they will tell you I have never even so much as borrowed $5 from them. I have been like this my entire life though... (another Leo trait? ;) I much prefer to be on the giving end rather than the receiving end. So, I really had to do a lot of soul searching to make the decision to suck it up, swallow my Lion's pride, and fight to bring our daughter home by asking assistance from our friends and family.

Well... I think everyone should do this at some point in their lives, because there are a few lessons to be learned.

Over the last 2 weeks, I have sold 144 units at $30/piece. I am absolutely astounded at the out pour of support. Really - quite unimaginable!! With a goal of 288, I think (hope) we might just make it!

One thing that I do find interesting, is that those who support you the most will be those who you least expect. People who I have never officially met in person, and those who are in the least position to help. Students on budgets, single Moms, children (!), and those who just simply struggle to put food on the table and get the bills paid.

It's quite a lesson of  realizing who your friends are. Who truly has your back, and who you can depend on. Not that I am saying anyone who doesn't support our fundraiser - is not a friend you can count on. I understand tough times, and I know we can't do it all - all the time. Believe me! I understand it is an issue of finance and not a lack of  intention or compassion. However, it's hard to not take notice when someone in a position to help blatantly chooses not to. What does that say? Actions do speak louder than words ... clearly there is a message in there, I just haven't unravelled it yet.

A few touching stories that have brought me to tears over the past week... the woman who approached me saying that she wanted to support by buying an item, but couldn't afford the $30, and asked if she could instead give me a cheque for $10 as a donation. !?

The good friend of a family member who doesn't even know me who overpays $10 to put towards the cause.

The long lost friend of the family who wrote me a very touching note -(Giving me more credit than I deserve.) asking if she could purchase a dozen and then proceeds to overpay me $140, as a donation. Seriously?! Thank goodness for Kleenex! I washed my face with tears that night!

I cannot tell you how much these people have 'warmed the cockles of my heart'. ;)

These folks are all cut from the same clothe. They have something in common. Not only are they all dedicated family people, but they have all been there. Not 'here'... exactly, but they all know what it is like to go through tough times. What it is like to be on this side of the fence. They have lived it and breathed it. They know first hand how the smallest gesture can make the largest impact!

To all those who have and continue to support us in this journey... Many of you, who have expressed that you wish there were more people like me in the world, ... I want you to know that I think this of you! With hearts of gold, it is people like you who move mountains and define the word "humanity". Small acts of kindness snow ball and leave an impression in this world. This adoption would not be possible without you... each and every one of you were and are instrumental in our adoption. I am so very proud to call you friend and family. In my times of doubt and defeat, I look around and see all of you rallying around us, and I know that we can do this!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Please watch this beautiful video - my favorite inspirational story, I know you will all enjoy it.

For all of my 'Starfish Boy' Friends and Family... thank you for making a difference in the life of one!

A fellow soon to be adoptive Mom blogger reminded me of this story today. She is selling very cool starfish t-shirts to raise money for her adoption, if you want to check it out! ;)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Harsh Reality (Warning Graphic photo)

I have to share a story. It's a story of one, but has happened to many more before, and will continue to happen unless something is done.

The story comes from the director of the Upinde Baby Centre in Mombasa. As quoted from Facebook:

Today I recieved news from a friend in Kibera that a baby was thrown away in the slums. It was asked whether Upinde would work with Kibera and of course, we said yes. Sadly, this is the baby he was referring to, a baby boy who died there from hypothermia (he simply got too cold waiting). Upinde has offered to network so cases like this can come here but there is more to be done. We want to set up a safe place for babies so we can reach them before they die. Keep an eye on the blog as we roll out our plans... www.tokenyaforever.com Rest in Peace sweet boy

I apologize for this photo. I shared it on my Facebook ... and constantly have to quickly scroll by it. However, I think it is important to help us better understand how tragic this situation is.

We don't know if the Mother intended for the baby to die, or if she hoped someone would find him. Perhaps the Father or another family member took him from the Mother and put him there? We just don't know. What we do know, is this happens all the time. babies are left in trash heaps like this, they are left tied up in plastic bags, thrown out moving vehicles and tossed down pit latrines.

The fundamental problem - is obviously the poverty. People cannot afford to feed and house themselves let alone another child. The other problem weighing heavily in this equation is the fact that it is illegal to abandon your child in Kenya. In turn, babies are abandoned in secret, where no one will bare witness. No safe drop boxes, nothing.

(What can be done about this? I don't really know. Some law changes would be helpful... More education etc... I look forward to learning more and find out what we can do to help.)

Seriously - I just find it shocking that no church or orphanage has just built a large wooden box, painted it red and put it in the center of Kibera's trash dump... or etc. (Since all of Kibera is essentially a trash dump) Upon seeing this ... it would be obvious, and it would be used. A volunteer could do a walk thru once a day. BUT, where do you put the babies then? And, I supposed this is why they haven't done it.

So don't be surprised if I start 'operation red box' while I'm in Kenya and come home with a dozen babies!