11:30 AM

2013 in Review

I have been answering these same questions about the new year for 17 years now. Ya, some of the questions sound like something a teen would ask... I considered looking for a new list, but my love of tradition and consistency won out and voila, this year's year in review:

1.What did you do in 2013 that you'd never done before?

I started my own business.  To be fair I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit.  I took the concept of road side lemonade stands to the extreme when I was a kid, setting up shop not in front of my house, but in front of the bank, to maximize foot traffic.  I also had a homemade oven clay jewelry shop that I ran out of a pop up box at recess and also that time that I was selling my own custom designed greeting cards to family. For the purposes of this exercise though, let’s say that squeaker & yoyo PHOTOGRAPHY is my first business. 

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I resolved to be more active.  I would say I did achieve that because I went from no exercise to exercise once a month, so that’s more.  Still not ideal, but got to give credit to the fact that it is in fact more, and that was all that I was hoping for.  I don’t think I will be making any resolutions, although I am setting myself some business and career related goals.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Not this year, but I did get to meet some cutie patooties at the airport again this year. 

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, but a friend of mine who was murdered finally had his assailants arrested and charged, four years after the crime.  I was feeling so unsafe knowing that these criminals were out there living their lives in my town.  I remember when I first heard I wanted to never allow my children to leave the house, I never wanted them to be out in a world where this could happen and where no one would be punished for it.

5. What countries did you visit?

We were in the states this year for our annual trip to KV and for the first time in Naples, Florida.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

The time management skills of an intergalactic time traveler.  Seriously, I am a pretty organized person.  But no amount of slowcooking, freezer mealing, calander updating, check box checking is keeping my laundry at bay or my house clean.  I have taken on a lot and 2014 is only going to give me more to do so I am pretty worried that my dirty house won’t be the only thing that starts to show some wear and tear in the months to come.

7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Sending my little squeaker off to his first day of school.  I bawled for about 3 days straight.  He did amazing.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

My biggest achievement was having my photography featured in theHuffington Post.  It was so exciting I could not even sleep that night.  It was just this moment when I really understood that when you put all of your passions together (and a lot of hard work) that success will come.  I always thought that was just something people like Oprah could say.  But it was finally true for me.  I found my calling this year.

9. What was your biggest failure?

My biggest failure was not having the patience and attention for my family that they deserve.  All too often I found myself trying to cuddle and edit photos at the same time, answer customer emails while doing ponytails, and begging the kids to play quietly for just one more minute so I could finish something I was working on.  Just trying to get by.  I know that lots of moms work this many hours successfully but this work load is new for me and I was not very good at managing it.  Me and my kids are used to having more for each other.  Here is hoping I find the magic balance in 2014.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

No!  We are a healthy bunch J

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I got yet another new camera.  I upgraded to a more complex version that has even better low light abilities.  I was so excited to actually be able to photograph Elora outdoors after sun set.  I now have an image I never thought would be possible, my baby girl in the wild flowers outside with no need for sunglasses on. I was so thrilled I sent Canon a thank you letter.  Technology rocks!

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

I have to give some props to my son’s kindergarten teacher.  She has been amazing with me and the challenges that this year have presented for my little boy.  She is also so on board with being Elora’s first teacher next year and I know we could not have them both in better hands.  She is the only reason I did not lose my mind and camp out in front of the kindy class windows.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Russia tops my list again this year for bad behavior.  I really wish that we had globally stood up against them more this year, maybe even take the Olympics away from them.  A close second goes to Rob Ford .  I can’t even go there, Toronto must have been in a “drunken stupor” when they elected them so I guess we are all obligated to forgive them.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Happily our money did not really GO anywhere, just into savings and a those trips mentioned above.  My money stayed home J

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

The Huffington Post article.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?

Goodbye, Goodbye – Tegan and Sara

You never really loved me
Never really, never really loved me
Loved me like they did

You coulda told me
You coulda told me

You let me try
Knowing there was nothing I could do
To change you

You coulda warned me
Knowing there was nothing I could do
To change you

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. happier or sadder? Happier

ii. thinner or fatter? Maybe slightly slimmer?

iii. richer or poorer? Richer

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Date nights, I think we did not take as much time for each other this year.  I firmly believe that a strong marriage makes a strong family so I always try to invest in us and we did not get as much in to that bank as I would have liked.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Nothing really, I was so busy this year that anything that was a time sucker, energy zapper or less then desirable just got outsourced or chopped off totally.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

This year we had an epic ice storm and we were without power, heat and water.  We toughed it out at home for two days before calling it quits and moving the whole family up to my in-laws.  The power was out for four days total for us.  Our fish Nemo died from the cold, Christmas was rescheduled, and Elora was just a hot mess from the entire ordeal.  It did not really feel like Christmas at all this year.  Ah well you can’t win them all. I am still living on last year’s Christmas memories, it was beyond amazing.  On that note here is our very late holiday card, from me to you!

21. Did you fall in love in 2013?

I think I gave myself some extra love this year.  I always strive to find myself, to be more authentic in myself and to love and appreciate my strengths and achievements.  This year I made big leaps forward in self-actualization.

23. How many one-night stands?

Zero, that was so 2001. See what I mean about the irrelevant questions :)

24. What was your favorite TV program?

Anything with Karl Pilkington in it.  I have had the pleasure of watching his Idiot Abroad 3 series this year and his Moaning of Life series.  I have never wanted so desperately to be friends with a celebrity.  His shows have got me though some seriously tough times; there was a point when Idiot Abroad was the only thing that could make me laugh.  Literally. 

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

No, hating is one of those things that went out the door.  It is seriously an energy and time zapper

26. What was the best book you read?

I am pretty disappointed in the amount of reading I do any more.  Unfortunately reading is low on the priority list these days.  I finished a few historical fictions about China and the rest of the Paulina Simons Tatiana series.  They were all great but nothing this year really stood out.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I love the new Tegan and Sara album.  Kudos to them for making such kick ass albums year after year.  I have loved them for over a decade now and I am impressed with their work.

28. What did you want and get?

A family beach trip!  That was our first attempt at traveling as a family and it went amazing, so smooth with all the changes.  I think we have excellent traveling companions in our kids and I see a return to travel in our upcoming year, I am thrilled.

29. What did you want and not get?

I need more space in our house… work in progress.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

Any Day Now.  It is about the true story of a gay couple in the 70’s who are fighting the system to gain the right to adopt a young teen with special needs.  It is a sad movie, but a great eye opener about how far we have come in adoption systems and how far we still need to go.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 34, and we took the kids on our winery bike tour this year.  Yes I take my children to bars, remember I am a certified parent in two countries so just save your judgy looks for someone else. 

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably satisfying?

This year was immeasurably satisfying. Wow that is two great years in a row.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

This year I discovered high waisted jeans.  The teeny boppers wear them with crop tops.  But did you know that they come with industrial strength  6 inch elastic panels? Ladies these are pants with BUILT IN TUMMY CONTROL!!  I call them Spanks Pants and I own them in every color.  I obviously do not wear them with crop tops, I hide the spanks part under normal shirts.  These are the best thing to happen to me since maternity pants, because there is only so long you can get away with wearing them, and once your “baby” starts school is definitely the time they should be retired.  I also discovered the adult onesie.  Takes comfort to a whole new level.

34. What kept you sane?

Jeremy, my husband extraordinaire.  He has been very patient as I spend every waking hour growing my business.  He has been supportive in a way only he can be.  Between him and my mom I have had the freedom to give this my all.  I wanted to go big or go home and they propped me up on this journey.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Karl Pilkington, see above.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

Russia’s homophobic laws.

37. Who did you miss?

I missed my dad a few times this year.  I often wonder what he would have been like as a grandfather.  What he would have thought of me and my brother and our lives now as adults.

38. Who was the best new person you met?

I really enjoy that I get to meet so many new people through photographing them.  My clients have been a great source of inspiration to me this year, I love getting to know them, telling their stories, watching their kids grow like living works of art.  Many of them I have developed friendships with and we only came to know each other because of photography.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013:

Passion can achieve dreams but hard work and constant learning achieve goals.

Happy New Year!!!

11:21 AM

Happy Birthday Baby Girl

You are the best adventure.

We reached many milestones in Elora's life this year.  She has now been with us longer then without us.  She talks in complete sentences, telling long winded detailed stories of her days, to any one who will listen.  She runs, jumps, walks a balance beam, climbs and could likely fly if she put her mind to it.  She has over come sensory issues with sand, water and grass and thoroughly enjoyed her summer outside this year. Her manners are improving and her concentration skills too.  We had a very successful seven hour road trip and she watched a whole movie at the theater! I know I tend to underestimate her, and to hover, so I am learning to let her try more, to be braver, because she can do anything, and even if she can't it's okay to fail.

We recently had a month where she was grieving a lot.  Now we are on the other side of that and I can see that during that time she transitioned from grieving the loss of her nanny to now grieving the loss of her first family.  She first mentioned her birth family during a swaddle, and for a while it seemed she could only talk about them when she was in that safe spot.  Recently however, talk of them has come up more and more. She has asked me to invite her China family to her birthday party.  I have tried to explain that I can not because I don't know where they are.  Each day she comes to me with a new proposed solution for getting them an invitation.  "How 'bout call China family?"  "How 'bout ask nanny call them?" "How 'bout when I grow up bigger can they come?" "Ask them on computer?".
Then yesterday at McDonalds she found an Asian man hugged him and invited him to her party with great joy!  We had to have a talk that night again about the fact that even though we do not know where China Baba is we can be very sure he is not at our McDonalds.  It's just heart breaking.  She just can not quite understand how they could be her family but not reachable.  I worry about her party this weekend when the cold hard reality will come crashing down on her, I think she still expects that they will come.

When I look back on this year, I think I will remember most how much she gained this year in accomplishments but also that she first realized what it is she lost so long ago.  She is so much more grown up then three in that way.  She seems to me to have become a very old soul this year.  Although she is full of joy and love and light, I can see that she knows things, has begun to understand things that have robbed her of her innocence.  I am very, very sad that I can not shield her from this knowledge.  I wish I could do more to make it easier.

This is her birthday video, an annual tradition in our family to sum up the year on each birthday.  It is set to the song Candle on the Water.  Once upon a time, I used to think of my some-day-soon future daughter and how I would light her way home to us.  Recently though I now think of how she is the true candle on the water for me when I am lost and drifting, her smile lifts all the clouds away, she guides me and shows me life's purpose and the meaning of fresh starts, determination and transformations.  The light of our lives.  Elora.

5:08 PM

Connect-a-kid Adoptee mentoring

We just signed up our daughter for Connect-A-Kid mentoring! We need more Canadian families signed up to create chapters in our major cities. If you think your child could benefit please sign up on their website.

Connect-A-Kid provides post-adoption services to adopted children and their families in the form of a mentorship program. We utilize a facilitated group-mentoring platform for two main purposes:

- It allows for the children to have multiple adult adoptee mentors

- It fosters interaction amongst other adopted children in the area

The group-mentoring approach will help ensure a safe and interactive experience for each child. Children will benefit not only from the mentors, but also from their peers in their group. We believe each group offers a diverse and culturally rich dynamic that will help your child to view adoption as nothing else but normal.


12:30 PM

General thoughts and update

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree.  My parents are beautiful people.  But it's not because they adopted me.  Adoption has nothing to do with their inherent beauty, or mine for that matter.  And I can't help but wonder, does it take an equally 'special' and 'beautiful' adopted person/child to adapt to an entirely new family and country?  To be completely cut off from their roots and still smile through it all and say, yes, isn't this wonderful to not know who I look like?  And isn't it wonderful to not have any access to my genetic and family ancestry, to not know the stories of where I come from and of who I really am...?

Loved this quote from an adult adoptee, over at one world.  It sums up so much of what we have been experiencing lately.  Elora is going through another period of grieving.  Not as bad as it was at the beginning but the longest and harshest we have seen in almost a year.  She is such a puzzle in some ways.  She personifies the quote in that her ability to love and adjust is simply amazing and beautiful.  She opens her heart so often.  I wonder if that makes her grieve more freely too?  In a typical day she will list of half a dozen people in her life that she misses.  People she saw 6 minutes ago and people she saw 6 months ago.  It is making me extremely conscientious of who I bring in to her circle of trust.  I don't want fair weather friends near her, because she loves you and she misses you and she grieves your ambivalence when you did not treasure the gift of her love for you.  It can be easy for an outsider to break her heart.  She is my tornado, bull in a china shop, warrior but she has a heart made of glass and a memory a thousand miles long.

She talks often of her days in China, saying things that break my mama's heart for her.  About wanting to go to "China's home", about wanting me to come to China faster to feed her and open her door.  Her words are finally strong enough to express some of her memories and emotions.  She is telling me stories of China about her bath and how I do it wrong compared to Nanny.  We followed her direction to give baths "just like nanny" and after all this time and every solution under the sun we have almost abolished her bath time tantrums with her direction! Naming the children in her baby book photos and expressing not just that she is missing Nanny but that she is worried about things Nanny could not give her.  We are talking, talking and talking it out, going though more detailed explanations of her life book and story with her.  She is seeking confirmation from us verbally about 50 times a day that we are her family and we always come back to her. 

We stated to return to every thing that helped the first time.  Swaddling, she used to hate it, it worked but she fought the closeness it forced on her.  Now that we brought it back she asks for it.  We are working on using the soother again to help her self regulate, and even feeding her like a baby.  She likes me to re-in-act infant care on her.  We are also trying for the first time letting her sleep with a wrapped granola bar, for comfort.   She is trying to fill her gaps.  She is more emotionally aware then any one I have ever met. Although she is grieving in a text book way, she is years ahead in emotional developmental stages.  Many of the questions she is asking and expressing are more along the lines of a 5 year old. She is even testing out the dreaded "real mommy" push-pull that I was not really expecting for another 5 years or so.  I knew it would come one day, but when it happened for the first time at the ripe old age of 2.5 I did not handle it with all the grace I should have.  Cue call to adoptive mama buddies to brainstorm and cry.  

I feel confident that we will survive this with consistency  and a return to the basics.  It is so typical for my girl to do these things, as with all things, fast and furious.  That means she goes very deep into the grieving so that it is all consuming.  In the middle of it, it seems like there is no end to this barrage of crying, misbehaving, head banging, questions, whining,  heartbreaking,  mommy shopping and indiscriminate attention getting.  I find it near impossible to carve out more then 10 minutes in a day that I am not correcting, soothing or pulling out my hair.  And then one day it all melts away and she is leaps and bounds of development ahead.  I have seen this pattern before, so this time I have confidence to take each day one at a time.  It's furious but it is also fast, it's just hard here in the middle of furious.  She knows somehow exactly how to get her self out of this cycle.  I just needed the wake up call that this thing called attachment is a marathon not a sprint.  It's a journey.  After a little bit of self evaluation, I checked my self, and got back to basics.  I have peace with where we are but not always patience.  I wish I knew the trigger, in the past it was pretty clear.  Hoping we can find it together as I suspect it may be the root of this and help us to over come.  I miss my sweet ridiculously over confident girl.  She is lost in grief right now and I worry that I am ill equipped to lead her home some days, her hurt is so big.

If only I could give her a small connection to "China's home".  We write to the orphanage director, we know she keeps all our emails and photos, but no one ever writes back.  What I would not give to let baby girl skype with Nanny, to let her know the love she is sending across the ocean is being received.   Elora my darling, I know how you feel, it was a short time ago that I was pinning for someone in "China's home" in the same way you are now, never knowing if they felt my love, this one sided love can make you loose your mind, when just one word from your loved one could sooth your soul.  If only.  I try, I try so hard to give you what China doesn't want to let you have, what is your basic human right.  We are spamming Chinese social media with our messages asking for help asking people to share hoping that one day the ones who cared for you before me will find us, reach for us. We are just waiting with open doors for the day.  I want to give it to you so desperately.  You have made it clear to me from day one that you need it.  I hear you and I am trying.

3:33 PM


Well Father's day came and went and I did not post.  I was busy with the family, and with a pulled muscle in my neck that had me nearly immobile for the better part of the weekend.

I have been thinking about this post for many months though and I did want to get it out, even if it is late.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know some really incredible dads recently.  These are the fathers of my kid's friends.  It just so happens that they are adoptive fathers, these dads I have in mind.  They are not perfect, their wives can attest to that, but they have a common quality to them that I think is rare in daddies.  They are open.  They are open to compromise, adventure, fun, trying, failing, feeling and risk.

If I had a dime for every woman who ever told me that they would love to choose adoption, that they feel drawn to adopt but their husband "would never", well rich I would be.  I know this is common, so common that the adoption forums have created an acronym for such partners.  RH they are referred to = Reluctant Husband.  There are many posts and conversations where wives search the internet for tips on how to convert RH to DH.  Success stories, and divorce stories as well as every thing in between.

It has always made me wonder why women are the catalysis for so many adoptions.  Beyond the fact that they are often the instigators of family starting in general, I often wondered why lineage is often so much more important to husbands?  It would seem that the woman's experience of pregnancy vs. adoption is way more altered, her partner's role remains relatively the same.  In addition men never have 100% certainty of their paternity, as seen played out on the Maury Show day after day.  So you would think that once a man is committed to starting a family, how that family arrives would not be overly important to him.  Yet, I know that reaction is rarely the first one a woman gets from her husband when she proposes adoption.  I still wonder why.

I think this is why I see this openness in adoptive fathers and why I think adoptive fathers are some of the very best men on this planet.  Clearly though I am biased because my kids do have the MOST amazing dad. Before I give him some mad props though I just want to send out a virtual father's day card to all the adoptive dads out there.  You ROCK!  You may feel under appreciated or unnoticed in this adoption world that is so steeped in women.  But I see you, unsung heroes, silently supporting her, and them.  Knowing your kids special needs inside and out, loving tiny hands and deep dark eyes that were once those of a stranger, now your child.  I see the pride in your eyes, the bounce in your step, how easy your smile now comes.  I see.  You know it, you value it, your fatherhood is precious to you.  You can talk attachment theories along with the best of them, you have been in the trenches and you are a daddy warrior!  We could not have done it with out you.  Happy Father's Day!

To the father of my children:
Thank you a million times over.  For your calm assurance, your steadiness on the roller coaster ride of the past few years.  You recently admitted to me that that last week in China was one of the scariest of your entire life.  Look at us now baby!!!  We are in such a happy and amazing place, our family give us both so much joy. Thank you for being to our children every thing that I can not be.  For explaining molecular fusion to our 3 year old.  For doing the best voices at story time.  For remaining calm in times of crisis.  For your smile.  Thank you for doing the dishes and keeping the house clean too. I love you so much more now that you are a father of two!
This is what amazing looks like to me:

10:36 AM

Sorry I have not been around much over here

Things have been Busy, with a capital B!

I started a business!

I have taken my passion for photography and translated it into a family photography business.  Take a peak over at the website:

Click on image.

Visit our facebook page, and like me.  Oh, I hope you like me.  This is nerve racking, putting my art out there in the world like this.  But I am putting my big girl panties on and as they say go big or go home.

Thanks so much for all your love and support through the years!

More adoption related posts to come soon, and family and photography related posts are over here on the business site now.

2:39 PM

Another Mother

Mother's day took on a whole new meaning when I became a mother my self for the first time.  That time I became a mother in the most traditional way, I gave birth.  Since then I have become a mother again, this time through adoption and I have found that Mother's Day has taken on yet another level of significance.

We all begin our understanding of Mother's Day at a young age.  The one day a year in your young life that things are reversed and you care for your mom in the way that she cares for you every other day of the year. You string a necklace, "cook" breakfast, or glue macaroni on something and call it art.  You give coupons that promise that you will clean your room, give hugs or not fight with your brother.  These are never used, but packed away in her jewelry drawer for a decade or more.
One fine day you are mother your self and then you understand your mother better, and you take your place among the honored.  You look forward to every glitter infused card you will get from loving tiny hands and count your blessings.

This year I am an adoptive mother.  I share this day of honor with my own Mother and my daughter's first mother.  I have not always had perfect relationships with these mothers.  I have had periods of wanting to prove how different I am from them, how antonymous I am.  This year I am thinking very much about HER, the one I don't even know.  The one I wonder about, search for.  This day is not celebrated in China so this day we may not be particularly high in her consciousness, but I am sure Elora is there every day in some way.  I wish that the messages in a bottle that I have been sending across the ocean via social media, searchers, posters and friends has reached her ears.  That the photos of our girl, strong, happy and beautiful have reached her eyes.  I wish her peace.  I wonder if we are the same age.  Does she have a son too?  Does she want more children? I am overwhelmingly grateful for the gift she left for me, and on this Mother's Day I honor her, I remember that with out her, I would not be the mother I am.

She also gave me the gift of life, she is my other mother.

Sunday Snap Shot.  I am trying to be in my photos more often.  This self portrait was my mothers day gift to my self, taken with a remote shutter.
Ni Hao Yall

1:33 PM

play - i heart faces

Photo Challenge Submission

2:46 PM

Hey look at me I'm a guest blogger!!!


How exciting is that!

2:57 PM

Searching Update

We recently got back our results from our search for more information for Elora’s past. We did not get anything huge. We did get a contact person who is willing to communicate with us at the police office that she was processed at, that alone made this search worth it to me. I am in the process of trying to foster that relationship. We also got over 100 photos and videos of her home town and finding spot as well as other locations in town that the searcher was searching for us. I asked for the weather on the day she was found and got that as well as other tiny mementos from her home town that are so precious to me, since we had no time to see the town or get to know the people.

I think the one thing that did surprise me from this venture was how no one who the searcher spoke to remembered a child being left at what we are told is her finding spot. It is so odd to me because she was such a phenomenon when we were in China, we were gawked at and photographed and followed and pointed at and stared at and crowds gathered where ever we went. I had this vision that her finding would have caused a great wave of on lookers, a sea of camera phones snapping away because that was what leaving the hotel with her was always like. I cannot believe that this little neighborhood full of small vendors and residential buildings and no one had heard of a baby having been found. They remembered me though, they all remembered a foreign lady coming a pasting up a poster about this child. Yep that was me, and I was on that street for about 7 minutes. I spoke to no one, I pasted up one solitary poster, took two photos of the poster and left. But a white haired baby all alone on the street did not get noticed or remembered?

Finding places have been known to be falsified all the time. At any number of points along a child’s path to the orphanage a little fib could be told. I have no reason to believe that the orphanage did not tell the truth, from what I can tell no other children from this orphanage are known to have false finding spots. So if it was not the orphanage fibbing, the next most logical point of misinformation is the person who reported her found. We still do not know the identity of this person. But that is one BIG assumption that this is a fib at all, maybe her finding was a quiet affair but that is just so contrary to how I envisioned it. I know I am not supposed to make any assumptions, but I just cannot help letting my mind wander. What a mystery.

5:56 PM

One whole year

This anniversary has snuck up on me, how is it that time went by so, so very fast. I am still awe struck by the whole events of this past year. In just 12 months time strangers became family. Think about that, really think about it. We were two strangers, personalities already formed by our life’s experiences, and what drastically different experiences they were. Different languages, cultures and challenges and now we are mother and daughter. There is something so very, very magical about this love we have for each other. I think maybe because it was not an assumed love. We chose to love each other. At the beginning we made little choices over and over to let this love happen, as we learned about who we each were we discovered we were soul mates and fell head over heels for each other, so now we are mother and daughter. Out of nothing came the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced.

We are so much the same, she and I, add that to the list of amazing things. These similarities do cause us to bump heads sometimes, but they have also lead me to understand where her mind is at. Daddy really “gets” her from years of learning how to “get” me, bonus and only fair since our son is a clone of him, now the playing field is even. I think this feeling of sameness has really sped up the family connection; we really feel that she belongs, a natural new cog in our family wheel.

Now for the most amazing part of all, the power and strength of one little girl who has jam packed 24 months of physical, emotional and cognitive development into 52 tiny little weeks. I wanted to make a list of all the things she can do now that she could not do this time last year, but when I sat down and thought about it, it is EVERYTHING! She was originally graded somewhere between a 6-9 month old for development when we met her at 18 months old, now she has met all her age requirements and more! Not to mention she did it while grieving her losses AND learning a new language AND being visually impaired. She has grown 6 inches and 7 pounds since we met her, I did not think that was humanly possible. I think some of the most impressive gains she has made are in the emotional area. She has learned to trust and how to regulate her emotions and to communicate her feelings. Can you say the same thing for most adults you know? This girl is UNSTOPPABLE! I am so excited to see what she will accomplish next year when many of these barriers will be gone, I fully expect world domination.

She has given me so very much, this experience is better than I ever thought it could be. I am so excited for the year to come.

“It is your time, yes my angel, It is your time

So just run my darlin’ with ribbons undone”

-Tori Amos

11:11 AM

The perfect child

We have very exciting news.  Elora had a mobility test, a test to see how she can navigate her world, and passed.  She will not need to start training with a cane at this time or possibly ever.  We had always thought that her vision was very good, but with out the language to tell us exactly what she was seeing we were preparing her and expecting the worst.  Detecting poor vision in children can be tricky because they use memorization among other work arounds and tricks that help them adapt to the world.  It can seem like they are seeing something when in fact they are just adapting to the situation.
I was not worried at all about having a cane, but being able to see as much as she can is just like winning the lottery.  The thing is that since last year I feel like we have won the lottery over and over again.  She can do so many things already, there were times when I thought we had reached our best case scenario, then she proves me wrong, she exceeds expectations, and then tops that new best case too.
She is an amazing child and we are so lucky to have her as our daughter.  It can be hard in these moments of celebration because I think of how people in her past misjudged her potential, and how much loss resulted in that judgment.  From my point of view it is near impossible to think of any parent making the choice they did, to be so fearful of albinism. I am a part of a online forum for adults with albinism and pigmented parents of children with albinism. Until recently I was only in touch with other adoptive parents who have children with albinism.  We are different in one very big way, we all chose to have albinism in our lives, we are excited about children with albinism.  The folks in the other forum did not choose albinism.  To them albinism is an unwanted surprise, a source of worry, something to be avoided.  I recently also heard a conversation about genetic testing for a fetus to determine if the child would have albinism so that you could have the option to terminate the pregnancy.  These were parents in North America with every resource on the planet available to them.  They were scared, they were grieving.  

In this documentary posted in the group http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/episodes/2013/02/18/the-imaginary-albino/ a Canadian mother of a grown healthy self sufficient adult with albinism is obviously still grieving.  We hear her wistfully talk about how all her other friends had "perfect children" about how she felt they could not have a second child because it would be irresponsible when there was a 25% chance they would have another child with albinism.

I chose to have a child with albinism and I struggle with anger and understanding at times for the choices our daughter's first family made. The way I see it her special needs are 98% about her time with out a family and only 2% about the symptoms of her albinism. It really hurt my heart to hear a mother describing a "perfect" baby. 

I do have a perfect baby and I have never grieved for one millisecond that my perfect child has albinism, it's just a simple fact of adoption I suppose. We had been approved for several special needs when we were adopting and our first thoughts on seeing that she had albinism was how lucky we were, like we won the lottery, she was so healthy! We knew nothing about her vision at that time but I had friends who's children were so delicate medically that they died before their parents could finalize the adoption, we could at least be some what confident that she would be safe until we arrived. My experience with albinism has only ever lead us to feel lucky.

All of that being said, I am still happy to hear these words and scenarios because they help me see to the emotions and fears of Elora's first parents. If these privileged parents are so impacted by having a child with albinism I can better understand what Elora's parents were facing emotionally, maybe they did not have access to correct information when they looked for help and support.  Myths about "albinos" are prevalent and it is rare enough that most medical professionals are by no means experts in the condition. With understanding comes empathy and I hope, for me and her, some peace.

P.S. I highly recommend that radio documentary, it is great!

4:13 PM


3:43 PM

Sunday Snapshot - Self portrait

I have been toying around with my camera toys that I got as gifts this holiday, a new lens and a wireless remote.  I hoped to be able to get into the photos more often instead of just be behind them.  This photo is a happy accident of my self, yet it is one of my favourite photos of me ever.  The most impressive part is that it was taken with my camera strap between my toes legs over my head dangling the camera down and then a click on the remote.  So, yep I was doing photography yoga for this shot yet I some how look so happy and calm.  I guess I really just love shooting :)

Ni Hao Yall

11:25 AM

happy new year!

6:40 PM

sunday snap shot

I took a Sunday snap shot break after the theft of my photos.
I just could not resist sharing this photo though because I am so in love with the subject and I miss sharing.  I can not stop taking photos of her, as a subject she is just full of expressions, angles, colours, her eyes can change from violet to near transparent ice cubes she is endlessly fascinating to document.  I come each week to look at all the other Sunday snappers and just want to show off my beauty too.

Ni Hao Yall

9:09 PM

Love without Bounderies - Moves me to action

Adoption does not get the best PR, if I were adoption's agent I would tell it to hire a good PR representative.  There are so many misconceptions about adoption in general and many outdated ideas about adoption from China.  Part of the reason for this is that the face of adoption, international adoption and China adoption are changing at lightning speed, so fast that those of us in the trenches of it can sometimes be left in the dust.  Recently Love Without Bounderies did a very informative series of blog posts about what is happening in orphan care right here and now and how things came to be from a program that mostly had healthy young girls to that of special needs program with a lot of boys.
Here is a link to the series, I urge you to read them as they are truly a fascinating glimpse into a country that is changing faster then any we have ever seen and how their population is being affected
and how the children, the babies, the most fragile of the society are paying the price.

The Changing Face of China's Orphans
Changing Attitudes
The Adoption of Boys
Domestic Adoption on the Rise
Birth Defects
"Birth defects in China have risen 70% in the last decade.  Mr. Jiang Fan, of the National Population and Family Planning Commission stated that birth defects now affect one in ten households in China, with a child being born every 30 seconds with a medical need. Chinese reports place the number of children being born with special needs each year at between 1-3 million (See Source 2), compared to the estimate by the March of Dimes that 120,000 babies are born with birth defects each year in the United States."
New Chalanges
Why International Adoption Still Matters
"Americans adopted just 2,587 children…699 boys and 1,888 girls. (Source 1). That number is just 2% of all the children in government institutional care there, and just 0.4% of the total orphaned children in that country. ZERO POINT FOUR PERCENT."

I have drawn out two quotes that really shook me.  The first regarding the sharp increase in birth defects and how many families that now impacts.  There currently exists in China strong discrimination for people who are differently abled, and very few resources or care options and those that do exist cost a lot of money.  When I read how many people are affected now by birth defects my greatest hope is that these attitudes and government support will be forced to change and improve, simply because it will be too common to ignore.

The second quote about the number of children who are adopted each year amazed me.  I thought that number was much higher, more like at least 25%.  Then I thought about it, thought about the hundreds of thousands of children.  Thought about how my daughter was one of them, about how she could have been overlooked if she had not had advocates putting her forward for adoption.  She was one of 3 albinism babies in her orphanage alone, and they told me they could only choose to invest in one of them, to give one of them the chance to have a family.  I am so lucky that they choose her, but the 2 left alone haunt me.  I met them, stroked their faces, chucked their cheeks, tried to get them to look into my eyes.  They said Elora got picked because she was the most "active" of the three.  The other two did look... well ... depressed, and rightly so.  All I keep thinking is my daughter deserves a family because she is plucky little charmer and a fighter?!?
THEY ALL DESERVE A FAMILY!!!!  A family is a basic human right

Having a family, having something and someone who believes in you would have been all that those other kids needed.  I have witnessed the power of love and family.  I have seen the miracle transformation powers in my own child as well as countless other families I have come to know.

I am scared to admit this but after reading that article all I wanted to do was call my social worker and get my paperwork going again so that I could be back in China ASAP.  Now up until reading that last post I was 99% sure we were not going to pursue adoption again, but would instead wait a long while and then become foster parents.  I think for so long I have been so focused on helping my daughter and adapting to our new family of four that I put the other children, the ones left behind in a place in my mind and heart that was just there but under lock and key.  That place is busted open now and I need to do something.  So I am starting with advocating.  Telling about my experience with adoption, in case you have not heard already it is the best thing I have ever done.  The number one reason I would love to do it again is to just be lucky enough to witness that kind of change and growth and resilience in a child again, it is AWEsome, utterly amazing.  I want to be adoption's PR rep and break down some of the myths and misconceptions.  I want to find ways to raise funds for family unification, orphanage staff training, I want to find a way for Canadians to give and get a tax receipt.  I want to share the stories of the children I hear about, so you can learn who they are, each of them, important people who are worthy of a family.  So ya, things are going to start being less about me around here and more about what I feel passionate about, the amazing power of adoption!

4:16 PM

The search

Our goal has always been to have an open adoption. We feel, and experts agree that it is the best thing for our kids. It was one of the reasons that Thailand won our heart back at the start of this journey, because of the greater possibility for openness. I learned about international adoption birth parent searching before we were even matched. Like many other parents, this possibility was news to me. I was excited by the possibility however remote, and we decided to conduct a search when our match came.

I guess you can say that I have been actively searching in bits and bytes for about a year now. I started shortly after we got our referral package. One thing I have found with searching is that there is info for parents on how to try to do it, BUT it is not easy to find that info or to act on it. Clearly this is virgin territory for everyone in the China adoption community. I understand why this is a topic that is not being talked about openly much, here I am a year in, swamped in emotions and we have not learned one single new thing yet, and yet talking about it, thinking about it even is hard. I want to talk about it, connect with others who are thinking about it, or doing it, but there had not really been anything to say. I guess I will start off by telling you what we have done and where we are heading in the search.

What we did so far:

• Located our daughter’s finding ad on line (pre travel). This gave me the info we needed to visit the spot on our adoption trip

• Made up a poster and placed it at the finding spot, took a photo of the spot. We had intended to do so much more but time limitations gave us less than 10 minutes at the spot and our guide was not keen on me putting up the poster, the whole thing was a weird, scary, rushed vibe.

• Once home we plotted Elora’s finding spot in google maps to see what was nearby. The goal here is to see if any clues can be found by the location. We did get a better understanding for the possible logic of the location using the map tool.

• A well known searcher was planning a visit to our orphanage with another family; we asked if she could get a copy of our daughter’s police report. We were hoping to get the name of her finder as this has not been provided to us. The searcher was not successful, but we were told that if we came in person we could have access to the file, just not through a 3rd party.

• I have been told that our best option is to make contact with someone who lives in Wenzhou who can help us. I have reached out to expat groups, random people on facebook who list Wenzhou as their home town, our guide, people who are blogging from Wenzhou, a friend of a friend whose parents still live there, a China albinism support group. Mostly I have just been ignored, sometimes we get a polite decline.

• I searched the Chinese search engines with various combinations of Chinese characters (white baby, albinism, girl found, date, orphanage name, city name, so on and so on). Scrolling though thousands of images and articles, analyzing every little face to see if it’s maybe a younger version of the child I love.

• We asked our tutor to translate a flyer I made and she helped me to get the addresses of businesses near the finding spot as well as other places of interest I located with the map, and the police station her paperwork states she was taken to. I mailed the flyers with a questionnaire included as well as self addressed envelopes.

I am no further ahead. All that searching resulted in nothing but the finding ad.

So now we have the opportunity to hire the same well respected searcher who helped us earlier to do a search for us in combination with a few other families from the same orphanage. Although some parents feel that an out of towner, even a professional searcher, will not be able to make the needed connections to bring results, we are going to try. I feel like I am at a junction in the road. It has been two years since her finding, although I am sure she will be memorable I feel like time is a huge factor. I have done as much as I can, although I will continue to plug away at it. I need someone, anyone, on the ground asking real live people what they can remember, before there is no one left to remember.

When this search began, back before I was Elora’s mom, I did not know so many things. I did not know how emotional each dip into the search would be. So emotional that each google search required weeks of emotional prep for me. I am not too sure why, I am not really scared of the results. I think it is more a sense of failure I feel each time I try. Each stranger I lay my heart on the line to only to hear nothing. Each time I catch a glimpse of a baby photo in my search my stomach flips, wishing that I have found the most precious jewel, a baby photo of my own child. Along the way the goal of this search has changed. I heard another mother describe it as a puzzle we are trying to solve. We may never get all the pieces of that puzzle but with each additional piece that is found the image becomes clearer, if we get enough pieces we may even be able to confidently identify the image. This is my hope, just one puzzle piece will mean the world to me, will be worth it.

Another thing I did not know is how much it would hurt to not know things about my own child. Having hurt feelings about this is so illogical, so irrational my brain tells me, she was not always here, but she is here now, just the plain old facts. My heart tells me she has always been here, maybe you are just forgetting those early months, how could you forget, why didn’t you take more photos, write more in her baby book. The fact that she is so embedded in my heart and our life makes it near impossible to remember on a gut level that it was not always this way, so I get this sort of shame feeling for not having funny baby stories about her, or medical records. My heart has even tricked my brain; I sometimes think I have memories of nursing her, seeing her first baby toothless smile… I don’t know why this happened. I do wish I was there, I wish I could have spared her all those months without a parent, but my brain is really OK with how it all came to be, so I am not sure why these false memories exist. Do all moms of more than one kid mix up their memories?

I can only imagine these raw emotions of failure, shame, rejection and hurt will be the same ones Elora will experience as she matures. I hope this search will provide me with the empathy and support she will require in the future. I am glad to be the pioneer of her search. I hope at the very least I am chopping my way through the jungle of searching to make her journey a little lighter. I also hope that I am not already too late to get her the gift of a few more puzzle pieces.