Bill 42 vs. The Labyrinth

I suppose it’s time for an update, although there isn’t too much to share from Adoptionville. Things lately are a little bit like the TV shows Lost, The Amazing Race, and Let’s Make a Deal. No idea what’s happening, but we have to clear a gazillion crazy hurdles to get there, and no guarantees for what’s behind doors #1, #2, or #3.

Our biggest challenge right now is dealing with Children’s Aid Societies. I realize I risk quite a bit by speaking out about our experiences with them, but I also don’t believe in silence. Yes, there are many people there who work hard and don’t have an easy job. I can’t even begin to imagine the situations they witness. Still, I have questions.

There is no independent oversight of CAS. There is currently an effort in Ontario (Bill 42) to place CAS under the review of the Ombudsman, but that is still in debate. For more information about Bill 42 – click here.

At the last ARE (Adoption Resource Exchange), two profiles looked like good matches for our family. We eagerly submitted our interest via our social worker….in May. We heard nothing back until I lost my patience last Thursday and called CAS X directly to determine our status. (Note: I’m withholding all CAS locations in this post). This phone call was a bold move and I put my Mamma Tiger on full throttle. I was passed from person to person, and then to a supervisor (for anonymity, I’ll call him John) who seemed to have some appreciation that four months was a very long time for a response.

My conversation with John was quite enlightening, in the way that you call learning not to place your hand in a pot of boiling oil enlightening. Basically, he did not know the status and no, we could not register with CAS X as you can only deal with the CAS that matches your postal code. So this begs two questions:
– Why were able to apply for this particular child at ARE, no matter what damn address we have?
– The AdoptOntario database is supposed to match children with families across the entire province. So what difference do our GP coordinates make if we might be a great match for a child less than 20 KM away?

Within five minutes of speaking with John, the phone rang. It was a social worker from CAS X. She informed me that no efforts had been in the case of the child we expressed interest in. I was told that the person in charge of the profile had been on leave and now on vacation, but that fourteen families had submitted applications. She did not have a timeline for when the cases would be reviewed.

This little boy is considered a “hard to place” due to his age and other factors. Yet, there are FOURTEEN families interested in finding out more about him. A homestudy is about twelve pages. Multiply that by fourteen and it’s about 170 pages of reading. Of course there are many, many, more steps taken before a match is considered, but I also know that the longer a child is in foster care, the harder it is for them to adjust to a new, permanent, home.

The cynical part of me doesn’t really believe the explanation for the delay, which I know is harsh. But take into consideration the following: we also applied for a young girl in another region at ARE. Do you think anyone has called us or our social worker back? No. Likewise, only one of the families that we are connected with from ARE received an update. CAS is supposed to respond to all applications, even in the case of a decline. So now you know why I’m doubtful.

Back to our local CAS. I have to be fair and say that after getting past the dragon at the gate who answers the phones at CAS (the one who basically said don’t bother, we aren’t interested, and you aren’t the right race, and you wouldn’t be able to parent any of our children anyway) the woman (I’ll call her Grace) who manages adoption in-take made a considerable effort to get in touch and answer our questions. This was greatly appreciated and has been extremely helpful. Still, individual efforts can’t change the fact that (to quote another show, Laverne & Shirley) this is still quite the schmozzle.

CAS does not accept our current SAFE homestudy that has been approved by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services. According to the dragon, CAS takes at least another year to complete an additional homestudy. Luckily, this was clarified by Grace as a misnomer, but that yes, additional homestudy elements are required. Our current SAFE homestudy isn’t enough.

Secondly, adoption in-take is only twice a year, and by invitation only. If the need to place children is so great, then why isn’t more of an effort being made to enroll parents more often than every six months? Likewise, if MCYS has approved our homestudy, which is extremely comprehensive and took a year to complete, why does CAS require more investigation? Yes, we ALL want to operate in the best interests of the children, but something just doesn’t seem quite right.

The next CAS in-take meeting is in October and we haven’t received confirmation that we are eligible to attend. Until then, I’ve discovered another hobby – contacting any political representative I can about Bill 42. There needs to be impartial, independent oversight of how CAS operates in Ontario.

If you’re in a similar situation with adoption in Ontario, please reach out via comments, or drop me an email. If you are interested in changing adoption in Ontario, please reach out to your MPP and urge them to enact Bill 42. You’d not just be helping us, but the thousands of families and children caught up in the system. Thank you.

In other news, we had to update our RCMP Interpol clearance. Here’s hoping I get a better photo.

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Origami Paper

We were warned that one of the hardest times during adoption is when you are AdoptReady but still waiting for your match. Actually, I don’t think anything can really prepare you for the frustration, the anticipation, the tears, and the feeling of futility.

About two months ago, we were matched with a child in Lithuania. It was an extremely exciting time. We gazed at the photos and profile sent to us and made the very dangerous leap into hope and action. We were going to be parents! The joy was all encompassing. It was on our minds every morning, afternoon, and evening. Little things like preparing meals meant conversations on what type of food would we need to start buying for a toddler. Trips to the bookstore meant a stroll into the kid’s section for an indulgent purchase of one of our childhood favourites. Queuing at Starbucks meant watching children run around while parents placed their orders with a quiet glance and smile between us: that would be us someday soon! In a word, all of it seemed delightful.

We knew something was wrong after we stopped receiving emails from Lithuania. Weeks passed, then a month. After two months it was pretty clear. On a Friday afternoon, we got a call from our international adoption practitioner – we had been rejected. I don’t remember much about the rest of the day other than just leaving my office and crying the entire subway ride home. The tears continued for days – in the kitchen, the shower, the garden. Martin and I clung to each other for the weekend, fragile and exhausted.

After awhile, we knew we had to collect ourselves and get started again. And for those who know me, when I get disappointed or frustrated, it turns into an annoyingly unstoppable force and pursuit of goal. Now that we knew our chances in Lithuania might now be less than we originally hoped, we decided to reignite our efforts in Ontario.

Many people have asked why we are pursuing international adoption instead of local. We actually always wanted to adopt in Canada. Unfortunately, the system, as I have ranted before, isn’t easy. Sorry, did I say “isn’t easy”? I meant, it’s broken, shattered, and completely incomprehensible.  Yes, this is another diatribe on the faults of the Canadian adoption system – I apologise that you’ve probably heard much of this before, but it seems like the only thing I can do is get the word out and hope for change.

Twice a year, there is an event called the Adoption Resource Exchange (ARE) here in Toronto. Profiles of children available for adoption are presented in handouts and videos. We’re veterans of this conference and decided to prepare. Because I couldn’t attend due to a travel conflict, on the advice of our social worker, we built our own profile to hand out, complete with a link to a video about us. We professionally printed out 100 glossy, two-sided, flyers to present to all of the social workers at ARE.

ARE has come and gone and we have 99 flyers leftover, and zero views of our video.

What happened? Well, basically not much. Either there wasn’t interest, we didn’t live in their region, or were told to register on the AdoptOntario database….

Let’s talk about that database for a moment. I certainly applaud the efforts to build a single Ontario system that would match prospective parents with waiting children. Right now, Children’s Aid Services are completely divided by region, meaning, there is no formal connection between say Toronto and York Region CAS despite a difference of 20 km on a highway. So this database is a terrific move forward and we have eagerly registered.

Remember that number I mentioned about 30,000 children waiting for forever homes in Canada? 47 of them are registered, as of this morning, on the AdoptOntario database. Forty. Seven. Not even 50 children.

These are direct quotes from the AdoptOntario website:

 “On average, adoption matches when the child has been placed on the Databank take approximately half as long as placements where the child was not in the databank”.

“Currently, over 20,000 families are registered to view the photolisting”

How many children are NOT on that database being connected with the 20K+ registered families? I’m just guessing here, but in not so scientific terms I’d say a helluva LOT. That means children not being matched; thousands of children at long-term risk; and many, many, forever family opportunities lost.

Yes. This system is broken.

I’m not a social worker. I’m only involved from the outside looking in and I know I’m wearing my project manager hat whenever I try and detangle this web. However, I would be extremely grateful for someone in the system to explain to us how exactly this mess happens. Are we missing something completely?

I have sent emails and follow up emails to Toronto and York Region CAS explaining that we are AdoptReady and looking to be matched. There is no work required on their part to do a Home Study; we aren’t seeking a newborn (most available children are older) AND are open to either gender, any ethnicity. Basically, we could be potential parents for a child in their region needing a home, if there is a match.

No replies. Nothing. Not even an Out-of-Office notification.

I’ve since found out from my own research that we cannot register with York Region CAS (we live 20KM away in Toronto!). As for why Toronto CAS hasn’t replied, no clue.

I could go on and on, and likely already have said too much. There are also experiences I could share that aren’t suitable for a public blog (but happy to tell to anyone interested).

There is a time when we will need to respectfully say “enough”. Our adoption story might seem fresh to those around us, but is has been a few years in the making for us. We hope friends and loved ones will understand our decision and allow us to quietly let go, should that moment arrive.

Until then, we have 99 glossy, full-colour, adoption profile flyers kicking about our house. Anyone interested in origami?

Sanity Check

I know I exposed a lot in my last post; ripping open a vein that cannot be sutured. Many of you reached out to see if we are okay, to offer encouragement and love. I have personally been doubled-up over all of the kind words and support. Thank you. And to my wonderful mother, who after reading said, “it doesn’t even sound like you”, which made me really take stock of where I am right now. Time for a sanity check.

Anger is a perplexing emotion. I’ve always perceived it as an irrational, unbecoming, state that no one particularly wants to be associated with. After a long time of soul searching, I can concede that yes, this anger is uncontrollable and uncontainable…but it is also an energy. I’m harnessing it.

Today a reporter, Lorna Dueck, had an interview with His Excellency, Governor General David Johnston, about the “adoption crisis” in Canada. According to her statistics, there are 30,000 children and youths available for adoption in our country. I’m not sure of the validity of the numbers, but the notion that there is a shortage of available homes is a truth (link to interview).

Now, Lorna Dueck brings a specific Christian slant to her reporting, and I’m not personally comfortable with the role the Christianity movement plays, at times, in adoption rhetoric. But I do not fault her, as an adoptee and reporter, for raising awareness. I encourage her.

So, how is it that we are AdoptReady and have to search outside of Canada to find our child when there are so many children here? Likewise, why do so many parents who want to adopt, give up on the system? I cannot speak for all, but here are my observations…

Last May, we attended our first Adoption Resource Exchange (ARE). This is a twice a year event where Children’s Aid agencies across Ontario share profiles of available children. It’s a sobering experience to see profile after video clip after medical report.

I’m going to make an uncomfortable observation here that I hope does not reflect badly on how I strongly believe in diversity….the truth is, we are white and European. Many available children are either Native/Aboriginal, or of a multi-ethnic background. For that disparity, we are considered “not the best” match family. Despite speaking multiple languages, both immigrants ourselves, each having lived abroad and with an extremely diverse group of friends, we are not “ideal”. Which is true.

Yes, adoption should first be about the rights of the child. I know how important cultural identity is to positive self-esteem and a sense of belonging. Maybe it isn’t ethical to place a child with parents who don’t have the same skin colour?

We have registered for ARE this year, which means we can view profiles of children, online and in advance of the event (a great progress – kudos!). My heart sank when I saw some of the same profiles from last year. Is it better to be long-term in foster care, or matched like a paint chip? Yes, it sounds crass, but remember, I am Angry Lori these days, and I’m harnessing it.

So back to the 30,000…it is very difficult to adopt in-between provinces (something I have never quite understood) and the majority of Children’s Aid Societies do not communicate with each other or have a common database. Now, Adopt Ontario is making efforts to build a database to match families with children, but CAS and CCAS are still nebulous organisations to try and work with. This is not blame – they are underfunded and overburdened. This latter fact is also why getting a Home Study done by CAS takes so long and why many families pay for private – word in our circle of adoption is CAS is 3 years for AdoptReady. That’s a mighty long time and many families cannot afford the thousands for private.

It takes an incredible effort to become AdoptReady. The Adopt Ontario website describes it as a two-step process, which is grossly misleading. Basically, you start by completing PRIDE – this is a 27-hour course on everything from the process, to case studies, to adoption triad issues. Ours was an excellent experience and very informative. We’ve heard from others that theirs was not as positive.

The more complicated part is the Home Study, or Structured Analysis Family Evaluation (SAFE). We did our SAFE privately and it took us a full year, which is considered fast. But that doesn’t mean the task was any less onerous. Every aspect of your life, relationship, and family history will be under scrutiny. Your hobbies, habits, routines, diet, etc. While we had an excellent social worker, it is still incredibly emotional. Hurdles pop up out of nowhere. For example, I have taken a medication for 15 years that millions of others take – that’s a negative. We are estranged from one family member – yellow card. I’m turning 40 – that’s another strike. Martin runs his own business – they don’t like that either. The list goes on.

Then comes the paperwork…In addition to the usual identification, we also needed, in no specific order, Police Clearance, Interpol Clearance, Polish Police Clearance, translated and notarized Polish Clearance, (same for Martin, who is German), notarized birth certificates, marriage certificate, financial statements, CRA records of assessment, Canadian Citizenship papers, full medical report, employment records, full family tree, fire escape plan (yup), home assessment, housing records, veterinary report (for the cat – she wasn’t immune), library list of the books and reports you have read on adoption, how many visible minority friends you have (true), how culturally diverse your neighbourhood is, record checks from the CAS, CCAS, Aboriginal Child and Family Services, and one from the CAS in Kingston (where I went to school). There’s more, but I think the point has been made.

Then the two parts of SAFE that I personally found hard:

  • Humbly asking five friends to write letters on your behalf to vouch for your character (a HUGE thank you – you know who you are)
  • The final visit test – this is when you are put into a room separate from your partner and have to answer about 10 pages of questions on topics like whether there is a history of abuse (alcohol, drugs, sexual, physical), up to grandparents, and your own histories (remember that joint in university? Yup, you have to fess up). We passed.

These few paragraphs only give the highlights and certainly don’t include the emotions, the waiting, and the fear. It’s the reason why so many couples simply give up. And I truly believe we need to make it more reasonable for parents to adopt.

Notice I did not say easier – no compromise on the safety of a child. But reasonable so that parents are encouraged to become AdoptReady, instead of jumping through every hoop (really, being vegetarian is a problem?).

We just received our confirmation to attend ARE with a request to build a printable profile to hand out. It explained, “this small effort can go a very long way towards making an impression with an adoption worker recruiting for a waiting child”. Yes, we also have to market ourselves. Pick the right photos, font, and phrasing. There are actually business who will do this for you professionally. Welcome to Adoptionville.

I have written this post not only explain the process, but also to engage in dialogue to challenge a change in the system. To people like His Excellency, Governor General David Johnston and Lorna Dueck, I do applaud your efforts. Still, this machine is broken. If the criteria for adoptions is so extreme and the process lengthy and intense, only to end in heartbreak, then there will not be more homes available. It’s time for a sanity check.

The Tweet That Broke The Angry Camel’s Back

I haven’t posted in awhile – a few months, to be exact. At first, I tried to tell myself that I was busy. This evolved into what I defined as “procrastination”. It was not until recently that I could be honest enough with myself to acknowledge what was really going on.

I am angry.

Not just upset, or frustrated. I am raw. I am raging, furious, and seething. I want to scream, run, and empty out all of the anger I feel inside. And I can’t.

Anger is not an emotion I am at all comfortable with. I have always approached obstacles with a stubborn resolve to figure it out, come hell or high water. So I’ve kept much of this inside because I really don’t know what to do with it.

Yesterday I was on twitter browsing my adoption feed. It’s Foster Awareness Month in the US, so there were loads of tweets encouraging foster parenting and adoption. Of course, this is a good thing. There are thousands of children needing homes. But my anger bubbled up to the surface and if I could go beyond the 140 characters in a tweet, this is what I would’ve replied:

Congratulations on making the decision to foster/adopt! You’re ready to open your hearts and home to a child. Here are just the highlights of your next 18 months. Let’s start with the paper-work, which will not only take you months to collect, but will have to all be verified, notarized, apostilled (you can look that one up), and cost you thousands. That’s done. Okay, now you will spend hours with a social worker over the next nine to twelve months to whom you will have to divulge every detail of your life, personality, heartaches, and secrets (we were lucky to have a great social worker, but other couples, not so much). Your home will be inspected, your medical history examined (good luck if you are taking any sort of medication), and financial/tax records placed under a microscope. Phew! After a year you’ve hopefully made it to the submission phase – this is when the Home Study completed by your social worker is sent to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. Then you wait. In our case, our Home Study was sent back with the following (paraphrased) – Since Lori is vegetarian, we are concerned whether she will be able to adequately provide proper nutrition to a child. We responded with a lengthy declaration on every possible way we would feed a child and all of the resources we would consult on nutrition and the multitude of methods that we would use to nurture our new toddler. Home Study now approved, that’s Phase 1 complete”.

Yup. Phase 1.

Pause for a moment. All of these procedures are done to ensure the safety of the child. But, having gone through it, one does ask the question of whether it is all too much? Likewise, we did our Home Study privately, so we were Adopt Ready in just under a year. This comes with a large cost. If you go via CAS, the timeline is much longer, due to few resources and funding, but it does not have a fee.

I can name three couples who have all given up on fostering/adoption because of the process. And these are good, strong, people. The UK now has a programme to push potential adoptive parents through the process in under six months. They are not cutting corners on the Home Study, rather, they are streamlining the process to get waiting children into available homes because they know that the longer a child is in care, the higher the risk long-term.

So back to the anger (the black slurry in the space behind my temples that keeps me awake at night and churns my stomach).

Six months ago, I was on a website for adoptable children in Eastern Europe. I came across a profile that completely blew my mind. I was so drawn to this little girl. I showed the profile to Martin and wrote an email requesting more information. Instant reply: she could only be adopted by Evangelical Christians living in the U.S.A.. Denied. I’ll write more someday about my thoughts on Christianity movements in adoption, but the moral of this story? That little girl is STILL on that website looking for a home.

Anger.

At a holiday party, we had a fantastic conversation with a social worker from Hamilton. We explained our situation and she said that there has been a recent influx of children in her region, particularly newborns (although we are approved up to five years of age and aren’t set on newborn). Exciting news! Not really. We are in GTA and not eligible. Their goal is to keep children near to families. Hamilton is 40KMs away. We have the wrong postal code.

Anger.

Our adoption practitioner gave us the call we had been waiting for – there was a profile of a child that had been selected for us. To say our hearts swelled would be an understatement. For privacy, I cannot share details, but I can say we fell in love. We wrote our letter of intent to Lithuania and allowed ourselves the dangerous emotion of hope. For the very first time, we dipped our toes into the possibility of parenthood. I bought the first books to start their library, and an elephant stuffed animal to put on the shelf – even though I knew it was too soon.

And it likely was too soon. We have since been told by our practitioner that this profile has also been shared with other potential parents, so it is a selection process. It’s been six weeks since we have heard anything. Six weeks of being tethered to email. Six weeks of looking at the same four pictures. No reply. We’ve been told to keep hoping. Me, I’ve put the books and elephant away on a back room shelf. I can’t look.

So yes, I’m angry. Irrational? I don’t think so. My point in all of this is that enough isn’t being done to shorten the time from foster to forever home. Yes, the child’s interest should be at the centre, but I sometimes wonder if we haven’t swung the pendulum too far and we have gone way off-centre from practical.

I know I have so many supportive friends, family, and readers – if you do want to help, write to your leaders, your MPs, and well, maybe not our Mayor Rob Ford.

For more information on the UK process, there are several new documentaries airing:

The Practical Stuff

Martin and I married a decade ago in a lovely, chic, restaurant, surrounded by our closest friends and family. That upscale venue has since been replaced with a mighty tasty authentic Mexican restaurant. Bonus points? The exact spot where we took our vows is now adorned with an awesomely tacky Tequila advert mirror. Olé! Margaritas for all!

We make a point of visiting the tequila mirror on New Year’s Eve. This year, looking at our own reflections behind the gold lettering, it was pretty clear things had changed since we rang in 2013. Back then, we had just had another failed IUI and adoption was no longer a word hinted at with the careful preface of, “well, what about, you know, maybe…”

Fast forward 365 days…..we’ve completed our PRIDE training, done our homestudy, fulfilled every possible security clearance, obtained a gazillion pieces of paper work. We are sitting on the runway ready to go.

So as we wait, engines revving, there are a million practical things that I’m starting to realise we know nothing about. Things that, I’m not going to lie, can make me break out in a pretty intense cold sweat!

–          What do I say when I first meet them? I mean, “Hey, we’re your new parents” sounds pretty sinister. A simple, “Hi” in Lithuanian, plus a smile enough? I know we aren’t supposed to overwhelm them, but how will it feel to hold him or her the first time?

–          How will I know when they need the bathroom?!?!  Seriously, this one concerns me.

–          Food. Nothing here will taste the same as in Lithuania (and no jokes about my awful cooking).

–          How do we clear customs on the way back through Canada? “Anything to Declare?”…”No, I had this child in my carry-on when we left for Lithuania. Really”.

–          What do I say to neighbours or my Starbucks barista when we go out for the first time? I don’t want to be thought of as the lady who kept her kid in a basement for three years!

The list of questions goes on and on. Do we get a crib or a bed? What size shoes do they wear?  Allergies? Are they afraid of thunderstorms, like me? Do they like football like Martin? Will they hate the yellow we painted their room?

(And the very quietest of questions I only allow myself to ask when I feel brave enough: When will this child look at us and think, “Yes, you are my Mum and Dad”?)

This New Year’s Eve, after a couple of margaritas, Martin and I came up with another one of those “practical” questions….the name. For a number of reasons, we’d like to respect the original name (although, we may anglicize it for ease of pronunciation).  Still, we don’t have any idea what it might be. So like two giddy kids peeling off a corner of wrapping paper for a quick peek, we Googled “Lithuanian names”…

When we decided to have a family, of course we spent a few gooey hours talking about baby names. It was comforting to see that some of our favourites were on the “Lithuanian List”. Many names are similar to the Polish names I grew up with and are in my family. It was also warming to be introduced to new, wonderful, names that we never even imagined.

(Side note, one Lithuanian boy’s name is “Tadas”, which sounds like “Ta-Dah!” with an “S”. We’re secretly hoping for this one because how cool would it be to say, “Here’s my son – TA-DAS!” Or, “Look who just learned to ride a bike – Ta-DAS!” Or “Show us the picture you drew, TA-DAS!” Yes, we were a wee bit giddy by this point).

There’s a lyric by ColdPlay that seems to be by mantra of late: “maybe I’m in the gap between the two trapezes”. We have made this huge leap of faith. Now we are waiting for what’s out there to greet us.

Not too shabby for a couple reflected in a tequila mirror.

Another Difficult Post

I struggled with sitting down to write this entry, mostly because I feel as though I am doling out criticism to the community that has so warmly embraced our decision to adopt.  Please believe me: this is not my intention.

When we first started to share our adoption news, it was with trepidation. It was like opening up a very private box to the world.  Luckily, we were avalanched with love and support. I am truly honoured to be a part of this amazing community of friends and family.

I know it’s hard to know what to say when someone says they are adopting. For many, it’s unfamiliar terrain. There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll blurt it out: there are some statements I know are well-meaning and intentioned, that can do more harm than good.

“You really need to visit my….(insert naturopath, homeopath, therapist, etc.). I promise you can get pregnant”

I get these in my inbox and it is a toughie. I know you are trying to help. Generally speaking, I take the details and quietly move on. I know it is coming from a good place. However, after awhile this advice hurts. I’ve been told by people very close to me that we are giving up hope. How can I respond?

I suppose with honesty – Hope is what we live and breathe these days.

We grieved our infertility, but never gave up. Now we are really damn excited about adoption. As in every single day is like waiting for Christmas. So please don’t be offended if I don’t try a recommended therapy or diet.

“As soon as you adopt, you’ll get pregnant”

You hear of these stories – someone adopts and they become pregnant at the same time; a woman thinks she is infertile and menopausal, but *SURPRISE!* she’s pregnant.

People know these stories because they are anomalies. These are not our story.

Should we happen to get pregnant, it will be a welcome blessing in our home. However, right now, we are adopting. We have this huge, aching, space in our hearts while we wait for our child to come home. Trust me, that is more than enough to keep us busy.

“Lori, I know people who adopted – and their child did…(insert terrible story with knives, mutilated pets, drugs, or police.)”

Okay, this is one where I have to add my “unique” sense of humour….the Horrible Adoption Story (or what we adoptive parents refer to as HAS). I hate to tell you this little secret – adopted and biological children both do screwed up things. When I was a kid, I peeled the eyes off of my dolls so they couldn’t watch me sleep.

The reality is our gene pool could use a little bleach. Am I concerned my child will do something weird? Not really. Mostly because I think all kids go off the rails at some point. It’s part of learning. What’s important is guiding them back, being engaged, and holding tight. That’s parenting.

“Maybe something is saying you just shouldn’t be parents”

Well, isn’t that just a charming kick in the teeth? I imagine some Buddha/God/Karmic soul sitting there in the celestial realm yelling, “No BABY for YOU!”

I ignored this comment.

Rereading this, I really hope that I don’t sound ungrateful. I knew by starting this blog that I would be putting on display a lot of emotions. I also knew it would solicit feedback. And I want there to be healthy debate about adoption. 50 years ago, adopted children weren’t even told they were adopted! Dialogue is critical.

So what am I trying to say? I guess that I want adoption to be seen as a legitimate way to build a family. It’s not a default or a compromise. Perhaps we are naïve. I’m okay with that. I need to believe.

In fact, I need our child to know this, more than anything else.

Penguin Documentary

I’ve never been a big television watcher, with the exception of two addictions: Coronation Street (25+ years’ devotee) and documentaries. If there’s a David Attenborough feature on, I’m done for the next hour.

A few weeks back, I came across a documentary on penguins. This one was a feature on one lone penguin wandering about the ice in Antarctica. The deal was either she hadn’t found a mate, or for unknown reasons, she wasn’t able to lay any eggs.

Biology is a pretty persuasive thing and this penguin just wasn’t going to give up. She got it into her head that she could do a few things to ensure she had a baby penguin of her own. She settled herself onto other nests when parents weren’t looking; she casually stole an egg out of another nest. When these efforts failed, she built her own nest, stealing whatever she could, and defiantly sat on it long after all of the other baby penguins had hatched.

A few strange things have happened the past few months. It started slowly with rearranging closets, decluttering…then I bought a home steam cleaner and I was a woman on a mission; sanitizing nooks and crannies, scrubbing and ironing, wiping and folding. At times, it was all consuming.

Yes, I have become that deranged penguin.

I’ve been very lucky that so many of my close friends have let me into their children’s’ lives. So no, I have never had to resort to contemplating kidnapping (and don’t plan to, just in case our social worker is reading this blog!). Being an honourary aunt has been an extreme joy in my life. I don’t take my responsibilities lightly.

Still, at times like Christmas, I am raw. It’s a magical holiday for children and while I am embarrassed to admit it, sometimes I don’t even know how to carry my own limbs, because they don’t have anyone to hug or hold on to. I’m uncomfortable and lost. Yes, there’s wonderful Martin and my amazing parents, but it’s impossible to get motivated to decorate or put up a tree. I just don’t want to.

So what do I do instead?

Well, I’ve already spectacularly blown my gift budget on the amazing “nephews” and “nieces” in my life. I regret no expenseJ  Writing each card and wrapping each gift reminds me of how blessed we are to know them.

I observe a lot. I see other families and find myself goofily smiling at other children in snowsuits and mittens. I spend time with my great friends (parents and non-parents alike) who even when they can’t understand all of this adoption miasma, still graciously pour a glass of wine and a laugh. I’m grateful.

Still, that penguin doesn’t just go away. I can’t stop waiting. I keep hoping, with my mind stuck halfway around the world.

So if I’m withdrawn over the holidays, it’s not you. I’m nesting.

**Post Script from Martin – he posted this in the comments, but it is worth a highlight – this is what we will look like when we get to adopt…http://www.myamazingearth.com/2012/12/the-happiest-penguin-ever/ **