Saturday, May 8, 2010

What Were They Thinking


I've been telling the staff at my sister's group home about my adoption plans since they began. Last month when I knew I'd be going to Uralsk, I told the staff that I would be away from Canada for roughly 3 months. They responded that my sister would miss me.

Something seemed to be missing. I would have liked to have discussed some plan to help my sister who is profoundly developmentally understand that I am away and I will return. We've lost both our parents, Dad 9 years ago and Mom almost 6 years ago. I want my sister to know that I am coming back. Leaving Kathryn and not having a means of communicating with her is a huge worry for me. Kathryn can't use the telephone, and I don't think she'd understand seeing me on a computer via Skype, she might think I'm really some where close, it would be more upsetting than helpful I fear.

On Tuesday Kathryn had a dental appointment, she sedated so it is a LONG appointment for us, we arrive at 8:30 and got out of the office around 2:30. While we sit and watch her sleep, her main care giver and I have a long time to chat. So I revisited the issue of me being away for so long.

Hello, the staff at the home didn't put it together: Me away = Kathryn doesn't go home on the weekend. What were they thinking??????

As I type this Kathryn is lying on the couch watching her favourite tv show Lawrence Welk. It has always been MY decision to bring my sister home on weekends. There is a lot of work involved with caring for my sister, something I love to do. But think of this, my sister's abilities are equal to a 2 year old. She cannot take care of herself or any of her personal needs. She can feed herself, but again, think 2 years old- how does spaghetti sauce get all over your hair, an unexpected 3rd shower to wash hair at bed time isn't totally unusual. And the laundry, well it isn't unusual for me to find myself doing 5 to 7 loads of her laundry on the weekend, and this is only the stuff she uses when she is with me. This to me is normal. I've dealt with it my whole life. I'm not complaining, just stating a fact.

I live with my brother, and it is with his support that I am able to care for Kathryn. BUT the group home staff thought that my brother would continue to bring her home like usual while I'm out of the country. I don't bring my sister home if my brother is away for the weekend. You cannot care for a profoundly developmentally handicapped adult alone and work at a full time job. Oh, never mind that we, my brother and I, might actually like to have a life. The staff member actually got mad and said my brother had to step up.

Taking my sister home on weekends is a choice, it is not a requirement. Of her 7 housemates, only 3 of the other girls go home, and that is to with their parents. We are Kathryn's siblings. We adore her, but we do not have to take care of her. My brother is ever so patient with my sister, and I know he will be wonderful with his niece/nephew. But that's the point, he will be an uncle, not a parent. Truly, what are our obligations as siblings?

I now have to make an appointment with the supervisor to discuss how we are going to deal with the fact I'm going to be away for such a long time. You'd think 4 years would have been enough prep time.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

5 Years Ago

This week marks the fifth anniversary of one of the most difficult weeks of my life. I was teaching grade 2/3 at the time and helping my students finish their unauthorized biographies of their mothers. (I have to tell you those books were the most precious texts, and the best idea I'd ever had for a Mother's Day gift. Many of the Moms tell me the book is their most prized possession. The children wrote about their mother's likes, dislikes, goals, fears, favourite and most hated things, all from their 6 and 7 year old perspectives.)

Anyway, back to why that week was so bad. My mom had passed away the year previously and I had moved my little sister into her group home 8 months earlier. I was feeling very down. Then some trivial thing happened, can't remember what exactly, and I started crying and crying (luckily I got myself out of the classroom and had a friend take over). For anyone who doesn't know me, this was completely out of character. I'm very much in control of my emotions, I've even been called cold by some 'friends'. I'm the kind of person who tears up a bit at a sentimental commercial or sad movies, but with my own life I'm more likely to be making a joke and laughing.

My principal at the time brought me into her office and made me a cup of tea. She tried consoling me but I kept saying I didn't know why I was crying. She finally said I was probably grieving my mother as the weekend would be the first Mother's Day without her.

I knew that wasn't the case. Don't get me wrong, I really miss my mother and I think about her every day. Even though I lived with my mother, I still called her multiple times a day to chat and in her final few years I worked close enough to come home for lunch a couple of times a week. Mom and I were very close. But we never celebrated Mother's Day in May. In our house, we celebrated in on September as that when my brother and I were born.

As I told my principal, that no it wasn't my mother that I was missing, the truth hit me. I would never have a child make me a Mother's Day gift. I'd never have a little one to love and raise as my own. At that point the tears really began to fall.

Practical and blunt as she always was, my principal said, "Well, why don't you go out and get yourself pregnant." I looked at her in shock. Oh, maybe I should mention, besides being single, I actually teach for a Catholic school board.

She laughed at my shocked face. And then she said, "If being pregnant and single isn't for you, why don't you adopt a child? You are a wonderful teacher and you would be a wonderful parent."

That night I began researching adoptions. I didn't begin my actual journey/paperwork right away as I knew I still needed to do some healing with the loss of my mother and my feelings about moving my sister into a group home. But that night, I began those first steps to motherhood, 5 years ago this week.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Return for Refund

I can't stop thinking about the family who sent the little boy back to Russia. It is totally inconceivable to me that someone would put child onto a plane for such a lengthy flight with a stranger solicited on the Internet to go to the airport to collect. I'm still struggling with my thoughts on this issue. I keep asking myself how someone could do that, why would someone feel that was the only option available to them. And how is that little boy ever going to survive with this additional strike to his concept of self-worth.

I know that for some children life has not been a picnic, in fact their experiences are worse than many of the plots of popular horror movies. These little ones are trying to copy with abuse, neglect, FAS, PTSD, and all the trauma that international adoption begets. This is where RAD may come in, which could have been the behaviour described by the family.

What I keep coming back to is the need for education and information. I wonder how prepared the family who attempted to adopt this little boy actually was before they brought him home. And I don't mean in a physical sense. You can have a room ready in your house, toys and clothes in the closet, but that is not the real sense of readiness. One has to be ready for a child, a real living individual with needs and wants and reality separate from mine.

I heard a speaker today at a conference. He said we live in a time of illusion. Our heroes are TV and movie characters or the actors who portray them. We pretend that death is not a definite but a distant possibility. And when we can't deal with reality we are medicated with anti-depressants. It was an interesting theory, and very depressing.

I reflected on his message in light of my pending LOI and trip to Kazakhstan. I definitely have a dream of my life with my son/daughter to be. Most mornings I awaken remembering dreams involving some aspect of parenthood or the adoption journey. My dreams are warm and fuzzy filled with love and laughter, the dream every parent has for their future.

I also have nightmares. I've taught children with Fetal Alcohol syndrome and effect. I've had 7 boys with Autism Spectral Disorder in my classes over the years and know that recent figures put say that 1 in 200 children have some form of autism. I've also taught children affected by abuse, drugs, neglected, well the list could go on. I worry about my child having any of these afflictions.

But one thing I know, I will be asking for support to learn how to raise my child. This child I dream about, when he/she is my reality it will be forever.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Two Hearts For Hope

One of my favourite past times while I'm on this journey to parenthood is of course reading adoption blogs. I usually go to Lots of Kaz Blogs at least once a month to see if there are any new blogs to follow.

While on Lots of Kaz Blogs I learned about Two Hearts for Hope. Two Hearts was started by two mothers, Kim and Stacy, who created their families through adoption in Kazakhstan. Upon returning home they couldn't stop thinking about the children still living in the baby homes and children homes. They decided to start to fund raise to send shoes I believe so the children could go outside more. Now they are a large organization facilitating the regular donations of needed materials to some of the baby and children homes in Kazakhstan.

Today there is a group of people in Almaty from Two Hearts preparing to construct a fabulous playground for the children living in Children's Complex. There are about 350 children living in this home. Can you imagine their excitement at having a fabulous playground on the grounds of their home to play on?

If you want to follow the mission to Almaty over the next few days here is the Two Hearts Blog.

By the way, the Christmas ornaments I blog about on January 9th were purchased from Two Hearts to support the construction of the playground. I finally was able to give the ornaments to Loretta, Diane and MarieClaude today.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

While Wating

Now, I don't want you to think that I've some how turned into a hermit while I wait for my LOI. No, I've actually been busy, very busy. And I've had many great adventures with my fellow adoptive parents. Here are a few photos to illustrate.

On the Family Day holiday, Diane, Ciera and I went to the airport to meet Mary Lisa and Murat return to Canada with their new daughter Darya. It was fun waiting at the arrivals door, but nerve racking too as we were afraid we might have some how missed them.

Here is Darya with family. And Ciera checking out an airport dinosaur.

During March Break Sheila and family came to Toronto to celebrate Nauryz. We spent a couple of days visiting together. The weather in March was remarkable and one day we went to Pioneer Village.

XiuZhu: The gang taken by XiuZhu: Dastan and chocolate covered Alex.

Here is a nice picture XiuZhu took of me.

On the Spring Equinox we celebrated Nauryz, Kazakhstan New Year, with many others in our Kazakhstani adoption community. There were around 65 in all at the get together, 25 were children with a majority between 2 and 3 year olds. The noise level was loud. We talked, laughed, shared stories and ate some wonderful food provided for the pot luck. The children either played ball, rode around on their toys or did a ton of arts and crafts.
Here is a picture of Loretta and Alex playing with the play dough, which was also a great hit at the party. Diane and I are already talking about our Republic party in October.

Dastan loved riding on this dump truck, last year he tried to sit in the payload area. Alex loves to take pictures. Ever wonder what a picture taken by a 2 year old looks like, well here's one taken of me by Dastan

And finally on the Sunday end of the March Break we went to IKEA for dinner and then back to Sheila's hotel for swimming. While Ciera and XiuZhu enjoyed the play area (isn't that why you go to IKEA) the boys entertained each other while Shiela, Diane, Loretta and I enjoyed a great gab fest. Sheila lives way to far away.

And that summarizes February and March's get togethers with AP's.
I was also very busy knitting and watching the winter olympics. Its was fun to watch and cheer for two countries, Canada and Kazakhstan.

Do you like the hat Baby's Elephant is wearing? It is for me, but I finished it in time for our beautiful spring weather, I'll try it out next year.