Adoption, Lifestyle

An adoption update

Wow, I can’t believe I haven’t posted in over 3 months.  If that isn’t an indication of how busy life gets then I’m not sure what is.   Typically the fall is busy for us, but it starts to wind down mid-October once we are in the swing of it.  This year, given the fact that Mia started school and is involved in more activities than previous years, we haven’t slowed down and I’m sitting wondering where did the months go?

I can’t believe it’s already December 1st.  Of course, we welcomed our Elf, Sparkle, back this morning.  She will be sticking around for the next 24 days, which means that we need to be creative for 23 more nights and find some unique hiding spots for this elf.  It’s actually quite a stressful job, and no, I won’t be Pinteresting hiding spots, because who has time, and let’s be honest, energy,  for all of that?!  Along with Sparkle’s appearance we have started getting the house ready for the holidays.  We got our tree up, hung the stockings and strung the lights on the house.  We are basically set, we just need the jolly man in the red suit to show up and we are good to go.

This holiday season is bitter-sweet for our whole family. We learnt back in early October that we would not receive a referral before the new year.  Honestly, both Tony and I felt that we would have our daughter home with us to celebrate this holiday season.  I had imagined Christmas morning and all the festivities with our daughter so many times and felt that this year would be the year for us. This will be the 3rd Christmas, since we set things in motion, that we are without her.  Several people have been asking about the adoption lately and so I thought I brief update before the holidays was in order.

While you wait you are constantly worried that your documentation will expire. In order to avoid this, you are constantly updating and double checking dates. Up to this point, our updates included mainly police checks, RCMP and Interpol checks. At this point; however, within the first few months of the coming year several of our documents are set to expire. These are documents that we didn’t think we would need to update at any point as they were valid for 2 years, but without a referral we cannot let any document in our dossier expire. We are now back into the throws of paper work and processes. We just completed our medical documentation, have called on our reference families for new letters and will need another police and RCMP check. At the same time, we are updating our family profile. This document is the heart of our dossier and highlights who and what we are as a family. This is a large document that actually doesn’t expire; however, when we first wrote it our little Mia was 3 and she is now 5 and doing so much more. She can also articulate what this process means to her and how excited she is to welcome a sister.

As a family we continue to prepare our home and of course our finances for our journey to South Africa. We have slowly started to put her room together, but it is difficult to know what we need when we are unsure of so many things.  When will we get the call?  How old will she be?  Will she sleep in a crib or a bed?  We will ready what we can, and leave the rest of it for when we are 100% certain.

It is an interesting wait, it’s almost like being pregnant (minus the cravings and weight gain) but with no due date. We are so thankful for the support that we have received towards our adoption and our family, be it financially or emotionally.   It takes a village to raise children and we have are surrounded by an amazing village!

We want to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season spent with loved ones.  We look forward to being able to share our good news in the coming year!


Adoption, Lifestyle

Our house was a very very very fine house


If you know me personally or have read any of my posts you’ll know that I’m madly in love with my house, or at least I was in love. Over the Christmas holidays when we had plenty of time to ourselves while our daughter napped, my husband I got serious about finances and our impending adoption.  It’s interesting, we have been considering a move for over 6 months but the houses we were interested in prior to the holidays were all bigger and better, and with much larger price tags.  Thankfully, we didn’t act on any of those homes we saw 6 months ago because in fact, after evaluating what we plan on doing once our adoption is finalized we came to the conclusion that we actually wanted to downsize. There are a lot of financial reasons for the downsize, but mainly, I am hoping to be able to stay home for at least a year once our daughter is in Canada and parental leaves in Canada only allow for 34 weeks.  We aren’t sure what the adoption will bring and we both feel that we need to be prepared to spend more time at home with both girls if that’s what’s best. If the goal is to ensure that the family is taken care of we both felt that we needed a home where I didn’t feel like our finances were making me rush back to the classroom before the family was ready.

Once we had decided that yes, a downsize was in order, we got to it.  We hired a realtor whom we have worked with in the past, cleaned our closets, got rid of some junk and then listed it.  We were a little worried considering the current market.   The housing market in Calgary is definitely not where it was last year at this time and we were trying to sell in a buyers market.  To our surprise the day it was listed we had 4 showings and one of those couples put an offer in 3 days later.  We had to concede a little on the price, but if our goal was to actually downsize in terms of mortgage we needed to take the offer.  We had a conditional sale within 6 days of listing and a firm sale within 12 days.  Our buyers take possession April 10th and so we were a little pressed for time in terms of buying something.

Honestly, we didn’t even start looking seriously until we had a firm sale.  We were a little worried that we would fall in love with a home and not be able to put in a strong offer with our other home still sitting on the market, so we waited. Once everything was signed we spent two weekends looking at homes.  The first, my husband went alone with the realtor as I was sicker than a dog.  He was less than optimistic when he came home that first Sunday.  The next weekend we lined up 12 houses for Friday and again were disappointed.  At that point we figured what the heck and left Calgary and headed up to the mountains for the weekend assuming nothing of interest would come available that weekend. Of course, on the way up to my parents home in Radium BC something does come available that peeks our interest.  We quickly texted our realtor and asked him if he wouldn’t mind going to look at the home and doing a FaceTime tour for us during the scheduled open house.  Needless to say, we put an offer in without ever seeing it in person and unfortunately we lost the home to another buyer.  We were upset. Actually, upset doesn’t even being to describe how we were feeling.  We were feeling duped. The other offer used the same realtor and we felt that it was an unfair advantage.  We had even asked over list, which in this market is crazy.  Determined to find something we created a new list of 15 homes to see and expanded our search.  We packed up our stuff and headed home early from the mountains hopeful that something in the next group would catch our eye.  The following day our realtor called bright and early.  To everyone’s surprise the deal from the previous night and previous buyers fell through and the house was back on the market.  We headed over and put another offer in, this time having actually toured the home.  Of course, the offer was accepted!

Although I will miss our current bungalow and backyard, there are some pros to this new house that we can’t deny.  It’s a bigger home.  Yes, we did find something bigger for a lower price tag.  It’s a split, which means that we can actually talk at a decent volume once the kids go to bed without fear of waking them.  It has a walkout basement.  It has a mountain view and a downtown view.  Lastly, it’s a 5 minute walk from my parents which means a 5 minute walk for Mia to get to her grandparents house. There’s even a park in the middle where we could meet.  Some of the cons are that it needs some TLC, and by some I mean a lot.  The home has been well used and so it’s not exactly what I would call move-in ready, and the laundry room is off of the main bath.  Looking at it as whole; however, there are definitely more pros than cons, so it’s perfect!  We take possession April 2nd and have a laundry list of things to do before our actual move-in date of the 8th.  Before the 8th we are hoping to:

  • paint the entire interior of the house including the baseboards and new doors
  • re-finish the main level floors
  • re-carpet the basement
  • install new window coverings

After we move in and before the summer we would like to:

  • paint the exterior brick and trim
  • install air conditioning
  • spray the kitchen cupboards

It’s a long to-do list, but I know that once we complete these projects the house will just feel so much more like us.  Now with 5 weeks until the move we are busy packing.  We have packed and unpacked so many times that we should be pros, but we aren’t.  We have a few boxes that we have never opened in the 3 years since we lived here and I plan on not bringing any of that crap with us to this home.  So, we are in the process of sorting our junk and selling it or giving it away.  Once we have sorted through our crap and hopefully unloaded several hundred pounds of stuff we will start the packing process.  This move will be systemic and I will definitely be posting my how to’s for an effective move, so stay tuned!


Adoption, Lifestyle

To fund or not to fund…it’s a big question

By nature, I am a do-er and basically a do it alone kind of person.  Perhaps it’s because I feel it’s easier to do it myself, or it’s a control thing, or even still an ego thing.  Whatever it is, I find it hard to reach out when I’m in need and ask for help from those around me and those in my support system.

These past few months while we have been anxiously finishing the endless sea of adoption paperwork we have also been saving our pennies.  As eluded to before adoption isn’t for the faint of heart or for those with tight wallets.  It requires you to give of your time, your patience and your money.  When we signed up and began the process we were given an estimated budget of costs, and for the most part what we have paid up to this point has been right on budget.  That being said, even though we embarked on this journey fully aware of the costs, we were somewhat naive to when these costs would be paid and what the payment structure really looked like.  This definitely caught us off guard, and what seemed manageable became a little harder.  We have done things to help us save.  We recently sold our home (more about that later) in order to downsize our mortgage, we keep to a monthly budget and we set aside every penny from my husband’s consulting.  We have really worked to make it all work.

Once we are referred we have one last payment to make in order to process all of our paperwork in South Africa.  This large sum will help pay for any costs incurred on their end, legal fees, reports, etc. After that payment we have paid for the adoption or at least the paper part of the adoption.  We will still have things to pay for and here’s where my “to fund or not to fund” comes in.

We have reached out to families in waiting across Canada and you would be shocked (or maybe not) to hear that many of them have fund-raised in some aspect throughout their journey.  To be honest, I was little taken aback when I heard this, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.  People fund-raise for everything be it for a cause, a trip for a sports team, money for a local brownie troupe or even for weddings (if you are from Winnipeg you’ll know what I’m referring to) and no one questions it. I guess people figure others will give if they want and if they can and won’t if they don’t want to or are unable to.

All of this said, we have decided to put it out there and do some fundraising of our own.  We have had several people ask us how they can help and we have always answered that we had it covered, but do we actually?  Yes, we have paid for the paper portion of our adoption and will continue to save for our trip to go and bring our daughter home, but we certainly don’t have the 10,000 dollars required to make the trip just sitting around.  Over the weekend we decided to open an account on  I had never heard of this site before, but my husband had and he had been looking and reading over other adopting families’ stories and profiles.  We both said, “well, let’s try and see what happens”.  We wrote our story (a shortened form of it), described our goal and how we plan on using the money and clicked ok.  We certainly don’t expect everyone who reads our story to give.  In fact, just reading our story is an important part for us in this process.  It educates people about adoption, about our family’s journey and that is just as important as the money.

So, here I am, as vulnerable as can be asking for help.  Not just help in a monetary way, but help in educating people on why couples choose to adopt, on why we chose to adopt.  I am asking that you at least read our story and share our journey with someone you know, as it will increase awareness for adoption.  If after reading our story you feel inclined to donate we would be forever grateful, but it is not expected.  Feel free to share the link to Help us bring Mia’s sister home.

To those who have already given so generously, we are forever indebted to you.  With your contribution we will be able to pay for the one-way ticket home for our daughter.



The best kind of mail

I love getting mail and I love living in a community where (for now) the mail is still delivered door to door.  There is something magical about opening up the mailbox to find an envelope with your name on it.  You know the letters I hate receiving?  Letters from the government.  There’s nothing more alarming than a thick manila envelope from the government of Canada.  I always think, did I forget to pay my taxes?  Did I not pay enough? Am I being audited?  Am I ready to be audited?  I’m sure most of you can relate to those dreaded envelopes.

During the adoption process checking the mail has become our full-time job.  We seem to always be waiting for updated documents, letters of approval etc., and with each piece of paper we are one step closer to being matched.  Mail is a big deal for us!  Today, like many days in the last week we received another piece of the adoption puzzle.  We are the midst of redoing some of our clearance checks because those expire after one year.  Last Friday I received my police clearance and today it was husband’s turn, but the biggest surprise?  The 8 1/2″ X 11″ brown manila envelope from the government containing the final piece of the puzzle.  Today we received Part 1 of our Citizenship application for our daughter.

For the average folk this may mean nothing.  To someone who is adopting internationally, this piece is huge.  This is the document that allows us to apply for citizenship of our new child.  It’s big, and it takes forever to receive.  I had just about given up ever getting receiving this approval.  Here’s a brief run-down of how this whole Part 1 application went down, so that you can understand the importance of this particular piece of mail.

We applied early July for Part 1.  We had left it a little late, but after switching programs from Haiti to South Africa, we needed to be approved with everyone before we could go ahead and apply for this.  So…July 5th was the official application date.  July 23rd, I received a letter from the CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) stating that it would take approximately 14 weeks to complete the application and that I could call the Call Centre should I have questions.  That day I took out my calendar and set an alarm 14 weeks from July 23rd.  Fast forward, it’s October 29th and still nothing.  At 14 weeks +1 day I made my first call to the Call/Help Centre.  This call left me frustrated as once you have entered a series of 6 different digits from 6 different menus a lovely voice lets you know that the volume of callers is particularly high that day and you should call again later.  CLICK. 14 weeks +2 days, I figured out how to dupe the phone system and wait for an operator; enter your series of digits as soon as you have selected English as your language.  At 14 weeks +2 days I finally spoke to someone and after 40 minutes of waiting they told me they couldn’t help me.  CLICK.  I called everyday that week until the following week someone spoke to me as if they cared why I was calling.  At 15 weeks, they finally put a note in my file, or at least they told me they did.  I repeated this every week until week 18.  At that point I was mad.  We had been waiting 4 weeks past the expected due date and I was not satisfied with the level of communication.  I asked some fellow families in waiting and they suggested I contact my MP as they can work on your behalf with the CIC.  At 18 weeks +4 days I signed an authorization form for Jason Kenney’s office to contact the CIC on behalf.  At 19 weeks +5 days I received the most depressing call back from his office.  It went a little along the lines of…”it could take 24 months to process.  It’s a case by case basis.  Why don’t you know the name of the girl you are adopting? We are trying to stop child trafficking.”  CLICK. It literally deflated me.  I cried all the way home and that night starting writing to other MPs to see if they could help me.  After 4 MPs I ran out of relevant options and my husband said “you’ve done all you can do”.  Two days later an email from the CIC stated: you are now approved!  Who knows why we were approved when we were.  I’d like to think that it had nothing to do with the MP who so rudely told me that they were protecting children and that it had to do with my advocacy.  With the fact that I called everyday for a week and then once a week thereafter.  That I showed those CIC Call/Help Centre employees that I cared about my situation and I wanted to know what I could do to move the process along.  Honestly, I think we were approved because they were sick of hearing from me.

Hopefully this helps put into perspective what a small piece of paper means in the eyes of a family in waiting.  It means that we can accept our match and not have to wait for further approval.  It means that once our court date is set in South Africa we can hop on a plane or two and make our way to our daughter.  It means that while we are in South Africa we can apply for our daughter to become a Canadian citizen and a passport can be made for her.  This one small piece of paper, 21 weeks in the making, literally means everything.

Adoption, Lifestyle

What Not to Say…

Happy Wednesday!  I can’t believe it’s only mid-way through the week.  It seems that the closer we get to winter holidays, the longer the weeks seem.

A few months back this video appeared in my inbox.  We had just shared our adoption news with some of our closest friends and had shared our concern about what others might say to us about our adopted daughter.  My words must have resonated with my girlfriend as a few days later she sent me this video and said “maybe this’ll help!”.

To be honest, when I first saw the title I was a little taken aback, but as I watched I was amazed at how powerful and thoughtful the video was.  It aims to educate those around us who do have questions about adoption but are unsure how to ask them.  It is difficult when talking about race.  No one wants to come across as racist, but friends and family are and have been curious and this video is a great tool to help educate on how to ask questions related to adoption.  Adoption in general can make some people uncomfortable and generally speaking most questions come from a place of curiosity and love but people are unsure how to frame their questions.  This video is not a cure all but it does expose some of the most common questions asked and given alternative forms to asking them.

I hope you enjoy!


Adoption Option


I wrote this post while laying in a Winnipeg hotel room and watching Something Borrowed on TLC. My husband and daughter were home in Calgary and I was in Winnipeg to lay my amazing grandmother to rest in the town in which she grew up.  It’s Thanksgiving weekend and we are gathered to give thanks for having had one of the most amazing woman in our lives.

While in Winnipeg I visited with friends and family and their first question was always “what’s happening with the adoption?”, and of course my answer was always the same, “we are waiting to hear.”  Sitting in that hotel room alone of course had me thinking, and when I think, it’s usually about one thing, my family.  Family was a big part of my late grandmother’s life.  She was invested in all that her children did, in what her children in-law did and what her grand and great-grandchildren did.  She was one of the most genuine and caring people I have ever met and when I first told her about adoption all she could say was “when is she coming home.”  In the late stages of my grandmother’s life many things needed to be told and retold to her; however, she remembered my mentioning the adoption back in January and asked me about it every time I visited.

In the last number of days and weeks I have had several people ask us about the process of adoption and I thought I would share the main points when it comes to adoption, and the answers to our FAQs.

  • There are two types of adoption. Domestic and international or inter-country.
  • Domestic adoptions are mainly open adoptions meaning that the birth parents do have some contact with the adopting parents.  At the most basic level the contact would be the birth mother choosing the adopting family.  Contact after the birth and placement in some cases remains and in others contact after the placement is lost.
  • International adoptions are mainly closed adoptions, meaning most children have been abandoned or are orphaned and contact with the birth parent or parents is minimal if at all.  In fact, in South Africa, seeking the birth parents out is extremely frowned upon.  Any contact that may occur is done through the social workers.  Contacting the birth family can have serious consequences in South Africa.  This is not the case with all international adoptions.
  • Adopting does cost money.  In international adoption there is no transfer of money to the birth family for their child.  You are not buying a child and  I really want people to understand that.  You are simply paying the overhead associated with caring and providing for a child in an institution and again for administrative costs and salaries both in Canada and in the country from which you are adopting.  Cost varies from country to country and it is very important that you investigate all costs associated with adoption, be it domestic or international.
  • Birth certificates, passports and all identification for a child will be changed to reflect the adopting family’s last name.  The children who you are adopting are your children.  You may even change their first name if you so desire.
  • Adoption is a lengthy process that requires a whole-lot-of patience.  We are just about at our 1 year starting date and this year has flown by and crept by all at the same time.  The process involves a training session, a home-study and interviews, visits to the police and RCMP units for clearances and fingerprints, paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork.
  • Yes you can choose gender and age.  Keeping in mind that if you specify you may have to wait a little longer.
  • You must work through an agency.  There are local agencies and in the international adoption route there are also international agencies.  If you choose inter-country adoption and you live in Alberta you will need to work with two agencies, one local and one other (located in Canada) depending on the country you choose.  Alberta is not licensed to do international adoptions and so you will need to find an agency that adopts out of the country that you have chosen.

Like I have said before, adoption may not be the choice for every family or couple, just as children in general may not be the choice for every family.  If you have questions about adoption please feel free to ask.  I may even know the answer and if I don’t I’ll help point you in the right direction.



A long journey

family africa

It’s been one hectic six or seven months and to tell you the truth (in case you haven’t noticed how few posts I’ve actually done in the past couple of months) I really haven’t been focused on the design side of things in my life.   I have done little things here and there, such as help some friends and colleagues out with colour choices, cabinet choices etc. I’ve answered questions from family and friends and reply to some photo texts with a yay or a nay, but that’s the extent.  It is a little sad that design has taken a back seat to my “real life” but that’s what has happened.  Please though, don’t shed too many tears for me and the lack of design in my life, all is good.  This “real life” that I speak of has been more than amazing and to be honest I have enjoyed being focused on my family and friends for the entire summer, and now that I’m back at school, focused on my family and friends and my new position at work.  In all of this real life we have been productive though, which brings me to the here and now and the fact that for the past 11 months we (my husband and I) have been working on a BIG project.  No I’m not expecting, well at least not expecting in the traditional sense.  Here’s the scoop on our BIG project, and how it will affect the blog for the next little while.

11 months ago we decided to adopt.  Yes, adopt, and from South Africa to boot! It was a big step for us, as would have been deciding to conceive a child.  At that time late last year, we shared our decision with our family only and waited to share any details with our friends.  This was mainly in part due to the fact that with adoption there are a lot of bits and pieces and ins and outs and we weren’t really sure how to answer everyone’s questions once they started asking, and we knew that once we opened the flood gates to questions they would come.  When the flood gates were lifted, the questions that rolled in were so supportive in nature that I wasn’t sure why I hadn’t shared earlier.  Many questions were about the process, the costs and all were questions were sensitive.  Truthfully, we have only had a handful of people ask us why we chose to adopt versus birth a child and, though I personally think it is none of anyone’s business I am going to share why we chose to adopt in the hopes of educating people on adoption, and shedding light on my experience with my first-born.

In high school at an appointment with a GI specialist I was told that if I had children it would be a miracle.  I had gone 14 years with an undiagnosed autoimmune disease and this particular disease when undiagnosed could and ultimately did, build up scare tissue in your muscles and your reproductive organs.  Let’s just say our first born was a miracle and both my husband and I thank our lucky stars every day for our beautiful daughter.   Needless to say my pregnancy with that miracle baby was not all leprechauns, rainbows and pots of gold.  The commode and I became very good friends and shared a special close bond for nearly 10 months.  After an unexpected c-section, a battle with postpartum depression and the struggles that come with being a first time mother we as a couple (a strong vote on my end) decided not to birth another child, but to adopt one of the many orphaned or abandoned children that already exist in this world.  For us, the idea of growing our family in this manner just seems so natural, and it isn’t about being a great humanitarian, it’s just about being human, being globally aware and wanting to build a family albeit via a different channel  No, adoption is not the right choice for every couple or for every family, but it’s the right choice for us, and we are ecstatic.

Although it’s been 11 months and our dossier is in South Africa we don’t expect a match any time too soon.  At some point in my adoption blog journey I will get into the nitty-gritty time lines of adoption, but for now, we are happily a family in waiting.

So what does this mean for this Never Plain Jane?  The site will remain a design blog; however, I will be posting about our adoption because truth be told, adoption blogs are few and far between, and it’s a scary world to navigate by yourself.   Thank you to the subscribers who have remained faithful to the blog.  I will continue to post about design but to a lesser extent and at some point the blog may morph into a full-on adoption blog.    If you know of someone interested in international adoption have them subscribe to the blog.  I will be posting on choosing a country, the cost of adoption (financially and emotionally) and other various adoption related topics.