Lifestyle

And then the phone rang… 

 

Abboud SA 1

I have been waiting to write this post for a while now, actually for 17 months and 6 days.  That’s how long our dossier has been in South Africa waiting to be matched with that perfect little someone.  In some ways, the wait has been even longer.  We embarked on this journey officially January of 2014.  Whatever way you look at this wait there’s no denying that it’s been long, but here we are, a beautiful match in hand and headed off to meet our daughter at the end of the month.

Last Thursday I was busy at school, I mean really busy at school. I hadn’t had a chance to eat lunch, I had supervision and I was working with colleagues to iron out the details for our upcoming Diversity Week. I taught only two classes that day but I was run off my feet.  In my last class I decided to take the final 20 minutes to sing some karaoke in Spanish and to practice pronunciation.  Karaoke with students is a long process, so when the bell rang I knew I had at least a 10 minute clean up ahead of me before heading back to my office, and hey, there hadn’t been any news in weeks and so what was the rush?  When I finally headed back to my office I checked my phone and there it was, a text from Tony that read, Call Me BIG NEWS.  Never in a million years did I assume it would be the adoption, I thought Tony had received a promotion, or a big order, or something, but never did it cross my mind that he received “the call”.  When I spoke with him on the phone 5 minutes later I was in shock and tears were rushing down my face.  I can’t begin to describe what those moments felt like.  Time stood still, and everything felt surreal.  Tony said, “we have been matched with a girl, she’s 12 months old, check your email there are a few pictures”.  I sat back and thought about the weight of his words, we have another daughter.

On the way home from work I called my parents and Tony called his.  We told them the news, obviously overjoyed, they were now all sworn to secrecy until everything became official.  We had been matched but there is a still a process to the match process and it had only just begun. Needless to say I didn’t sleep much Thursday night.  In fact Thursday night was a complete write-off as we were both so anxious we basically paced the house until bedtime.  The next morning the perma-smile was still plastered on our faces from the night before.  Actually the perma-smile is still plastered on our faces almost 5 days later and I don’t expect it to fade any time soon.  We are headed to meet our daughter a world away in a month, and I will have the privilege of calling her mine.

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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!

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Lifestyle

Life is just so busy

Some of you may have noticed that I have been quite absent from the blog for a few or even several months. I assure you, we are all alive and well in this neck of the woods. Honestly, priorities have changed and I haven’t put the time nor the energy into sitting down at the computer and blogging.  We have had lots going on, moves, renovations, home study updates for the adoption and of course my favourite, summer.
Here’s a little recap of what we have been up to during the past months.

  • We moved in April, a double move. We moved and so did our nanny who then welcomed her family to Canada as new residents. The whole move was a little stressful and so was the transistion from our lifestyle in our former community and home to this one. My daughter struggled the most. It was heartbreaking to see how she struggled with our beloved nanny moving out and leaving her friends in Parkland.  She cried the first night in our new house for most of the night. She is much more adjusted now, and even tells me that this is her favourite house despite having left her friends.
  • We renovated the house. Not to the extent of our last home which was a major overhaul. This reno was minor. We took possession on a Thursday and had one week to complete the work. In the end we had the cabinets and backsplash sprayed in the kitchen, the entire house including all the doors and trim painted, the basement flooring pulled and carpet and tile installed, and the main floor hardwood refinished. The refinishing ending up happening a month later as we just didn’t have the time to get it all finished in a week. The following week the moving truck arrived and the next day we moved our nanny out and into her new appartment. It was one seriously crazy week.  We have continued to work on the house with smaller jobs. We have replaced light fixtures and spent 3 full days painting the exterior brick and trim work.     
  • We updated our home study for the adoption. Surprisingly, the wait aside, it was relatively painless. It had to be done for two reasons. The first, we had moved and the home study must reflect your current home. The second, it was going to expire in August and we must keep everything up-to-date within three months and so an update was due anyways. After the 2 hour interview and tour of our new home, the addendum was written, signed two weeks later and then a mere six weeks later (definitely some sarcasm there) the Alberta government had finally read the entire 2 pages and approved it. Once we got it back we immediately forwarded it to our agency in Ontario who then forwarded it to South Africa.
  • We also went on holidays. For some, you might be thinking, aren’t you saving everything for the BIG trip to SA? Yes, we are, but that was the problem. We had moved for the adoption, we had been watching our spending for the adoption and Tony had revved up his consulting all for the adoption, but what were we doing for us? We have always travelled with Mia and last year we forwent a holiday to save. This year Tony and I both decided we needed a break all together and so we chose, the happiest place on earth, Disneyworld! It was a amazing!  We spent 10 days in Orlando at a great resort and enjoyed 4 full days at the parks. Mia was in heaven and Tony and I were happy to see her so happy. There is nothing better than seeing your child happy and engaged and appreciative and for sure you don’t need to go away to get that, but we did go and we had the best time. We met and had pictures taken with 10 princesses, with 1 fairy and with 2 cars. We saw multiple parades and watched the fireworks most nights from our condo a few miles away. It was great! 
  • Time spent at home this summer has been great. For sure we love going away and have, Orlando and Radium, and are, we leave Wednesday for a family wedding in Vancouver, but we have loved being at home. Regardless of the fun spent while away, we have thoroughly enjoyed coming home and hanging out. This summer Mia and I have spent the most time together just the two of us than any other summer. We have our nanny twice a week unlike other summers where she has worked full time. Mia and I have loved that time together, well mostly. She still is my child which means she is super independent and sensitive and the combination of the two make for some interesting moments!       

We are now looking ahead. We continue to remain focused on our adoption goal and to raise funds and save for our journey to South Africa. I also go back to work on the 21st and I’m not going lie, I’m not really looking forward to it at this point. We have had the most amazing few months and part of me thought that maybe I wouldn’t have to go back because our daughter would be home. Either way, I’m back in a couple of weeks. I’m also anticipating Mia’s first day of school as a kindergarten student. I’m not sure how we made it to this point. It seems like yesterday she was learning to sit and clap on her own and now she’s going to kindergarten and will turn 5 this fall, that’s a full hand.  I do intend to blog more once the school year starts and we are all back in the groove. I’m sure I’ll post on the first day of school tears and how not to look like a fool at the kindergarten drop-off when you are crying but no one else is.  I hope everyone has enjoyed the summer as much as we have. Make sure to take in those last few moments, before you know it school will be starting!

Adoption, Lifestyle

Our house was a very very very fine house

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 gofundme.com.  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.

 

Lifestyle

A new year, a new outlook

I’m not much of a resolution maker, actually, not much implies that at some point I did, but I have never. I should restate that. I’m not a resolution maker. I don’t like disappointments and I especially don’t like when I disappoint myself. That’s what resolutions feel like to me. It’s as if you are setting yourself to be let down at some point in the year when you stop that insane exercise regimen two months in, or you start drinking milk when you decided to be lactose free or anything. Who needs that build up and then let down? I realize that it’s late in the year for all of this new year resolutions stuff but I needed time to think, 11 days to be precise

This past year has been a great year but at the same time difficult in many ways and in several situations I had hoped that I would have reacted differently or not stressed over minor details both in my personal life and in my career. I allowed myself to become obsessed with the outcome of things that were totally out of my control. We, as a family, have had a year of preparation and organization. Gathering documents for the adoption and applying for approvals. In this process there have been times where I have worried, cried knowing it was getting me nowhere and just plain agonized over things that were completely out of my control. Adoption, domestic or international takes patience X3 and I don’t have a lot of that.

In light of all of this, and that we continue to wait for a referral for our adoption, I felt that this year would be a great year to set an intention. An intention is something that I intend to do or accomplish. It’s not a resolution. A resolution implies that I was doing something poorly in the past and need to fix it or I wasn’t doing anything and need to start. An intention is more of a mindset which is always going to be a work in progress as changing your mind, your thought process or how you live your life day to day is not an overnight quick fix.

This year’s intention is simplify. Simplify my life. This does not mean sell everything and move to some remote island in French Polynesia; although, that could be nice. This is about looking at life in a more simplistic fashion. Basically, I want to have less. I want less stress in my life which means that for me when things heat up I am going to have practice mellowing out. Easier said than done for a chronic worrywart. I want less stuff and more experiences. I don’t want a closet full of trinkets in order to remember where I went last summer, I want to be present each day so that the memories are real. I want to do simple things everyday that help me maintain my health. I want peace and tranquility, in my home and in my heart. I want to be present and to simplify my life so that presence becomes the norm.

So there it is. The intention has been set in motion and it’s now out there. Time to start acting on it and keeping it in mind when I make decisions this year. Who knows how it will go. It’s the first intention I’ve set, ever, but I’m ready to make a go of it and see how it turns out.

Have you set an intention or resolution? How’s it coming along?

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!