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I'm a 30-something wife and mom. My boys are my pride and joy. Together, we are navigating being a forever family post international adoption.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Unadoptable is Unacceptable

This month, Wendy’s Canada and The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption Canada reached an incredible milestone—200 children have been adopted through the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids. 

The program focuses on children who have traditionally waited the longest for adoption or were most likely to age out of care — older youth, sibling groups and children with physical or emotional challenges—using dedicated recruiters who exhaust every avenue to find a forever family.

By the time they are referred to a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter, nearly 70 percent are older than age 8, 30 percent have had six or more placements, and 50 percent have been in foster care more than four years. Some have never had a plan of adoption and have simply been on a track to age out of foster care at age 18 or 21 without the security and love of a permanent family.

Wendy’s Wonderful Kids has 206 recruiters working for children throughout the U.S. and Canada who work on caseloads of children the system has forgotten . They employ aggressive practices and proven tactics focused on finding the best home for a child through the starting points of familiar circles of family, friends and neighbors, and then reaching out to the communities in which they live.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is driven by a single goal: finding a loving family for every child waiting in foster care to be adopted. They are North America’s only national nonprofit charity dedicated solely to finding permanent homes for the more than 130,000 children in foster care.

The program’s success to date underscores the Foundation’s mantra: unadoptable is unacceptable. 

To learn more about how you help over 30,000 Canadian children waiting in foster care for their forever families, please visit www.davethomasfoundation.ca.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

My Thoughts on Buddy's Thoughts on Adoption

The Adoption Social has list of "interview with and adopted child" questions on their site. I read a few of their interviews awhile ago, but at the time there was no way Buddy was ready for such a frank talk about adoption.

Last weekend, Buddy was bored and looking for something to do. I figured I'd give it a shot and offer him the chance to answer the questions and be a guest blogger. He was eager to give it a go.

Since Buddy sometimes feels pressured when answering questions face-to-face, I wrote them out for him to take outside and answer privately. When he was finished, we read it over together and I asked a few follow up questions to fill some gaps. He was very open, engaged and willing to discuss his feelings.

I'm actually shocked at how insightful and honest Buddy's answers are. I'm also really impressed with his reading comprehension and writing skills. This kid has been using English for less than two years!

What do I think about Buddy's thoughts on adoption and being adopted?

I think that Buddy is allowed to feel how ever he does about adoption and being adopted! But I am glad that we have come to a place where he feels safe discussing it with me.

I got a lot out of the activity, and I hope Buddy did, too. The more we talk about his adoption, the more comfortable we get.

My favorite part of the questionnaire is this:
What would you tell someone who didn't know much about adoption or being adopted? That it's scary at first but later it gets better and better.

I love my Sweet Boy!

If you're interested in checking out Buddy's thoughts on adoption and being adopted, follow this link. I think it's a great read!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Buddy on Adoption and Being Adopted

What does adoption mean?
Adoption is when some other people become a family with a child who doesn't have a really good life with their birth family.

Why would a kid not have a good life with their birth family?
If the kid's parents die or if the parents run away and leave their child.

Why do kids have to be adopted?
Kids don't have to be adopted but I think its is better for the child to be adopted. They could go to an orphanage.

Do you think it's better for kids to live in a foster family or in an orphanage?
A foster family because in an orphanage teachers can't be nice to everyone, there are too many children. But in a foster family there are only a few children.

Is it a good thing or a bad thing to be adopted?
It is a bad thing if somebody is getting adopted even though they don't want to be. It is a good thing to be adopted if you want to be and if the people who are trying to adopt you are good. It really depends on the person.

Do you think it's good or bad that you were adopted?
I don't think it's a bad thing or a good thing, it just is. 

How does it feel to be adopted?
It feels different at first but after a while it feels like you're my birth parents.

Does adoption make you different than your friends?
Yes, because they don't know how it feels to be adopted.

Do your friends know you're adopted? 
Some of my friends know that I'm adopted and I'm perfectly fine with them knowing. I don't want to tell everybody because I don't feel comfortable telling everybody.

Should birth parents be given help so they could keep their children?
Yes, they should. But if they have to do something bad to keep their children, then no. Like kill someone or sell drugs or steal money.

Do you ever think about your birth Mom or Dad?
Yes, I do think of them sometimes, when somebody reminds me of them. If somebody says something about them, but probably nobody does. Or if I remind myself.

Do you think it's good that people want to adopt?
Yes, because people who are adopted probably don't have a good life before.

Should every family adopt?
No, because some families want only birth children and some families want only to adopt and some families want both.

Do you think kids should get to pick their adoptive parents?
Yes, they should. Because if they get adopted by the family that they don't really want to get adopted by they will probably have a worse life than before.

Did you get to pick?
Yes, I did because if I didn't the first family that was trying to adopt me would have adopted me. 

What would you tell someone who didn't know much about adoption or being adopted?
That it's scary at first but later it gets better and better.

What makes you who you are? 
I am blond that's what makes me who I am and how I act and stuff like that. I don't know. 

Does who you are come from your birth family or your adoptive family?
Both. The smartness is probably from you guys. The physical stuff is probably from them.

What makes a family?
If you love your birth family or adopted family that's what makes a good family.

I've already told Buddy my thoughts on his answers, but I know he would love to hear your feedback!

These questions come from The Adoption Social http://theadoptionsocial.com/uncategorized/interview-with-an-adopted-child-questions/

Friday, July 17, 2015

Week at Wisconsin Dells

A few weeks ago, we packed up the car and drove two days to Wisconsin Dells.

We were all very happy with our hotel, The Kalahari. We stayed in a lodge suite, which had two separate sleeping areas, a full kitchen and an outdoor seating area. The only thing we weren't a fan of was the very uncomfortable pull-out couch. We got to the hotel around 5 PM, ordered pizza and watched the July 4th fireworks from our patio area. By the time the display was done (Americans really know how to put on a show of patriotism!) we were all tired from our travels and ready to turn in.

The living room area - Buddy already enjoying cable TV

We were up bright and early the next morning to take advantage of the Kalahari water park passes included in our reservation. We spent 3 hours in the morning at the outdoor water park. When we starting to get hungry, we took our first ever family trip to Wal-Mart. After a quick (and cheap) shop, we had lunch at the hotel and Hubby and Buddy headed off for the indoor park. I was in need of some alone time! They spent a few hours sliding, then we had a home cooked meal. After dinner, Buddy and I returned to the water park for a couple of hours and we finished off the day by watching Cast Away on cable.

One of the many attractions at the outdoor waterpark

Day three started at the indoor water park. Hubby and Buddy convinced me to ride the slide they had dubbed "the toilet." You shoot down into a giant bowl that swills you round and round and finally dumps you (sometimes head first) into the pool below. Buddy and I also braved the 60 foot tall, trap-door release slide with an almost vertical 25 mile an hour plunge. Good thing I wore a firmly secured bathing suit! When we started to look like raisins, we headed over to an adjoining movie theater for Terminator Genisys in 3D. Not my pick, but not terrible. Afterwards, Buddy spent some time at the small pool near our hotel block while supper was cooking. We ended the day with ice cream from the hotel sweet hut and Jaws on cable.

"The Toilet" - see how it just dumps the rider out at the end!?!

By day four, we were ready for some time on dry land. We spent the day at Mt Olympus Theme Park. Hubby loves go-carts, I love roller-coasters and Buddy loves both. Add a Starbucks on-site and you have the recipe for one happy Mama. The only ride we didn't do was the Catapult, because it cost an extra $5. A few days later, there was an accident and subsequent removal of the ride. Thank goodness for our frugality! After a long day in the sun, we headed back to the hotel for another home cooked meal. Buddy still had energy and money to burn so he headed off to the indoor arcade while Hubby and I got some much appreciated alone time. By the time bed-time rolled around, we were all ready to turn in so we would be energized for the next day.

I got Buddy set up at the arcade - he's a pro at these games!

The fifth day was my favorite. We started off with Big Foot Zipline where our guides, Rasheed and Aidan, took us zipping down 7 different lines. We got to hanging backwards, upside-down and at times even racing each-other over land and water. The longest line was almost 1400 feet, and we got as high up as 100 feet. Buddy was in heaven, and even Hubby (who is afraid of heights) had a lot of fun. After 2 hours plus of zipping, we had a quick lunch at the hotel and headed off for a duck boat tour. As an added bonus, pick up was right outside our hotels's reception area and Buddy got a free ride since we were hotel guests. The hour long half-water, half-land tour was a really fun way to see the beautiful scenery of Wisconsin Dells.  After freshening up, we had a really nice "modern American" meal at the High Rock Cafe. The service wasn't great, but the food was delicious. We finished up just in time to use the free passes our hotel gave us to the Tommy Bartlett Water Show. Hubby loves to water-ski, Buddy thought Aqua the clown was hilarious and I appreciated the dry, self deprecating humor of Dieter Tasso. We all marveled at the water-jet propelled FlyBoard and the steel cage motorcycle riders. It was long past bedtime by the time we got home. We just had enough energy to brush our teeth and crawl into bed.

We broke down and bought this amazing shot - priceless!

Our last full day started at the Timbavati Wildlife Park. We are normally not into zoos, but since we had free passes from the hotel we decided not to let them go to waste. We wandered around for a few hours checking out the lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), feeding the giraffes and goats and answering the burning question "what the heck is a coatimundi?" (it's basically a long-nosed raccoon). We had been planning to go back to the water park in the afternoon, but by the time we got back to the hotel and scavenged up lunch from our left over groceries, we were all exhausted. We decided to spend the last half of our last day vegging out watching Shark Week on Discovery. We had room service and then hit the hay.

Did you know giraffes have black tongues? We sure didn't!

We made the lofty decision to travel home all in one day. We were up bright and early the next morning, loaded the car and hit the road. After 13 hours or so, we were happy to be home.

Hubby, Buddy and I all had an amazing time in Wisconsin Dells. It was well worth the long journey and the uncomfortable hideabed (we ended up all taking turns - misery loves company!). While we all loved the water park, it is unanimous that the hands-down favorite of the trip was zip-lining. I think our next vacation will have to involve more death-defying feats!

Of course, the real best part of the trip was really spending time together as a family having fun and making memories.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Weirdest Letter I've Ever Written

Right now I shouldn't be blogging, I should be writing a letter. But I need to organize my thoughts, so here I am.

I am working on a letter for Buddy's birth Father. Or rather, I'm fumbling my way through it. Re-writing, re-wording, re-working. And lots of delete, delete, delete...

When we adopted Buddy, we had the chance to met and form a relationship with Buddy's maternal birth family. The opposite was true of his paternal side. We had no information on his birth Father. Not even a name.

About a month ago, Buddy told us he wanted to know who his birth Father is. I had heard from a fellow adoptive Mom about a woman who specializes in doing birth family searches in Buddy's former region. We hired her to find Buddy's birth father.

And she did.

So now we have a face, a name and an address.

But what do I write to the man who fathered my son but doesn't know him at all?

I know for sure we will write and send a letter. I know we will include some pictures of Buddy and our family.  I know we will send some of Buddy's artwork, because his birth Father is an artist. Other than than, I'm at a bit of a loss.

There are so many questions: How did he not know he was Buddy's Father? Does he want to be involved in his life now? Does Buddy have any brothers or sisters?

There are so many things I want to say: Buddy is smart, handsome and funny - he's amazing. We love him so much and are doing all we can to give him a great life.

But I also don't want to overwhelm him. I can't imagine what it is like to find out you have a child, he's already a young man, and he is adopted and lives half the world away. That is a lot to process, I'm sure.

Hence, here I am, blogging instead of writing.

Does anyone have any advice for me?

Monday, July 13, 2015

A Major Case of the Mondays

We had a wonderful week off, but today I have a major case of the Mondays. Glad I have good times to look back on!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Buddy's First Concert

The year was 1990. I loved NKOTB and especially Jordan Knight. My Mom surprised me with tickets to the New Kids on the Block Summer Magic Tour.

My first concert. I will never forget how happy and excited I was to see my favorite band live.

Fast forward 25 years...

A few weeks ago, the seminal punk-rock band Bad Religion came through our city on their most recent tour and we took Buddy to his first concert. We had an awesome time together.

In true punk rock fashion, it was loud and hot inside the all-ages show. In not so true punk rock fashion, we chose to sit instead of getting in the pit. Maybe next time.

We missed a lot of firsts with Buddy. Music means a lot to me, so I'm happy to have been able to share his first concert with him. 
Hubby explaining equipment set-up
Me explaining the concept of a mosh pit
Bad Religion - still amazing after 35 years

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Punishment vs Consequence - What's the Diff?

When Buddy gets really upset, he gets destructive. We discovered this shortly after getting home and, while he has gotten much better at controlling himself, it is still true today.

Buddy breaking things used to make me mad. Not upset, not frustrated, straight-up furious. It was one of those things that pushed me over the edge. Toy cars, pencils, books, clothes - I reacted like Buddy had spit in my face. And when he realized how upset his actions made me, it only gave them more power.

One of the things I am most proud of as an adoptive parent is I have learned to remain calm despite Buddy pushing my buttons. I finally realized that losing it when he displayed poor behavior only made the situation worse. It just isn't worth it.

The other week we had some kind of family argument. I don't even remember what about. Buddy went to play with the neighborhood kids afterwards. He was still upset but we thought it would be good for him to go out, have fun and blow off some steam.

He came home shortly after with a broken watch.

None of his friends were out so he decided to come home, but not before hitting his watch against a tree until it broke. This was the third time he had broken a watch, by the way.

Hubby and I didn't issue any punishment. No yelling, no lecture. Nothing.


The one stipulation we have about Buddy going off with his friends is he has to wear a watch so he can be home when we ask him to be. Normally he plays outside where there are no clocks and he doesn't have a phone or any other way of telling time.

The natural consequence to Buddy breaking his watch was that he wasn't able to go out with his friends after school and on the weekends until it was replaced. Neither Hubby nor I would lend him one of ours, due to his track record with his own. We also weren't going to buy him one, because the one he had was perfectly fine when he broke it.

We explained to Buddy that we can't control his actions. He is growing up and is able to make decisions for himself. But they have repercussions, and so when he makes a choice he has to live with the fallout.

After about a week, there came time when I was going to a store I knew had inexpensive watches. Buddy came along, took his time choosing a new watch and paid for it himself. The minute we got home he read his watch instructions, set it, and headed out for the first time for over a week to play with his friends.

Buddy didn't grow up in a traditional family and traditional punishments don't work with him. They re-inforce a tucked away "me-vs-them" mentality. Hubby and I have learned the best course is to have consequences that directly relate to the behavior in question.

In this case, we didn't once use the word "grounded" although that is basically what happened. Instead, we framed it as an aftereffect that related to the decision Buddy made to break his watch.

I doubt Buddy will break his watch again, but I can't say that he will never break anything in the future.

The point isn't to stop Buddy from breaking things. It's to teach him he is free to make choices, but he isn't free of the consequences of his choice.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Google Chromecast Media Player Review

In my very first post, I talked about how much I love TV but that we have cancelled most of our channels and I rarely have time for it anymore. Since then, I have discovered the beauty of Netflix. Well, actually my Mom has gotten herself a subscription and allowed me to piggy-back.

The wonderful thing about Netflix is that I can watch on my phone when I have a moment. The thing that isn't so great is that sometimes we want to watch as a family. While I have a relatively large phone and a great laptop, neither is conducive to Friday night family take-out and movie night.

For my birthday this year, Hubby bought me a Google Chromecast Media Player. By plugging it into the HDMI input in our TV and installing the Chromecast app on my phone and laptop, I can view my favorite online content on my TV.

Besides working for Netflix, YouTube and more, I love that I can use my phone as a controller. This means I can put something on for Buddy, walk away and know that he will not be tempted to click away and get himself into trouble.

Ours was about $40 on Amazon (US, Canadian and UK versions are available). For our family it's well worth the cost.

*This is not a sponsored post

Friday, July 3, 2015

Graduation Day

This was Buddy's last week of school. It was also the end of his time at this school. Next year he will move on to a new junior high school.

Last Friday, Hubby and I both took the afternoon off work to attend Buddy's elementary school graduation ceremony. They celebrated the kids' achievements and on top of his end-of-year certificate Buddy also earned a sports award. Afterwards there was cake and punch for the students and their families.

The graduating students were free to leave school early. Buddy loves his school so much he decided to stay until the end of the day. What kid wants to be in school when he doesn't have to be? We are so thankful to the school for making the last year-and-a-half so enjoyable for Buddy.

School had a rocky start. We made the hard choice to switch schools mid-year and it worked out well for all of us. 

Buddy was initially assessed between kindergarten to grade 3 when he started school in November of 2013. He finished his current school year working at grade level getting mostly 3s and 4s on a 4-point scale. He still struggles with problem solving and critical thinking, but the progress he has made is remarkable. 

While there are a lot of factors that contributed to Buddy's success, I have to hand it to his school. Especially his teacher, Mr. Black, who found the perfect balance between understanding Buddy's unique needs and helping him achieve his potential. He was also very willing to listen and learn from us, just like we were from him. Together, the four of us made a great academic team.

We are all nervous about Buddy moving schools next year. He doesn't like new places or new people and still isn't able to handle the stress associated with them in totally healthy ways. But we are in a better place for him to succeed now than we were about 2 years ago when he was first adopted. 

We will all miss Mr. Black, Buddy in particular. But an open invitation has been extended to Buddy to come back and visit any time. Especially if he ever needs someone to talk to about anything.

There really is no replacement for a good school and a great teacher.

We are so proud of our young man and excited to see what the next chapter will bring.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy Canada Day!

July 1st is Canada Day, when Canadians celebrate our country's birthday. It's the anniversary of the enactment of the British North America Act of 1867 (now called the Constitutional Act) which united the three original British colonies into a single country called Canada.

Today, all across this great nation, we celebrate our colourful money, love of hockey and poutine. Our universal healthcare and excellent schools. Our  tolerance and politeness.

We celebrate our two national languages, French and English, and how they co-exist side-by-side. We also celebrate the unique way we turn a phrase (I got 20/20 - true Canadian, if you're wondering).

We also celebrate our diversity. We are lucky to live in a country where people not only embrace our son for his differences, but welcome him into a shared community. It's like a home away from home for those from places near and far.

So, to all you Canucks out there: Happy Canada Day / Bonne FĂȘte du Canada!

(If you don't know who Chris Hadfield is, you're missing out on one great Canadian!)